Saturday, December 25, 2010

Day 24+25: What Child, On Fire, O Come, and an Original

I posted four songs on my youtube in the last 48 hours, all of which can be found on my channel,

Last night I wrote and recorded "Manger Lullaby" and recorded What Child is This?

This morning after getting off work I went to the beach to check out the sunrise and did "Standing on the Edge" and "Christmas Morning." So take your pick as to what you want to watch. It's all different.

THUS CONCLUDES OUR 25 DAYS: We had artists from Cameroun, Poland, Lithuania, Guatemala, the United States, New Zealand, Scotland and Russia participate, and we had everything from superhero photoshop, india ink, photography, poetry, and music! Thank you all so much for your participation and inspiring works of art! This has been one of the highlights of my year, so thank you again. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 22: Nkanya Nkwai: If it were you?

If it were you?

Such is Love, who can tell?

Have you ever fallen in love?

Can love be lust? But lust can be love!

Then can we know how desperate it can be,

When we want to save someone we love,

Someone who belongs to us,

What would you do?

What if the most precious thing you ever got,

The most important thing that came from you:

Your signature and legacy

your son/daughter/sibling/parent

Is trapped, and truth is covered up.

What would you do?

The young girl was called “blessed of all”

She mothered the baby, his natal bed was a manger

But the wise worship him, with gold, frankincense, myrrh.

He was, he is “good news” to you.

Good news that the Almighty stooped down

And a wonder of his love was displayed

Such an irregular descent, who can know?

Godhead reduced to a seed

Planted in virgin territory, to grow.

He set genes and chromosomes

He made the rules and conditions to motions

Who else can do this?

Such an irregular descent, that:

We are his children, He our father!

He made the rules, he changed the rules.

Jesus is rules changed!

If it were you?

Nkanya Nkwai is a Theology student from Cameroun.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 20: Stephen Carradini: "Get Born"

"Get Born"

We are not born to be born.

We do not celebrate birthdays

because being born is spectacular

(even if a birth is unusual)

but because of the life that springs

And a birthday will not matter if

there's no life to make the birth

the start of something brilliant

meaningful, memorable, wonderful

and no matter what it has become

and no matter modern life's take

I celebrate everything after the birth

of Christ on Christmas.

For if nothing happened after that,

it's a nice show for shepherds,

some good songs, a road trip

and a freak event (or maybe adultery).

But now we celebrate the birth

all these thousands of years later

because a birth only matters

as long as your life (and death) does.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 19: Josiah Hejny: Those who mourn

Growing up I nearly always counted the days till christmas. Excited for the day I'd get to wake up at 4-6am, hastily interrupt my parents precious sleep, and tear open all the mysterious gifts under the ridiculously tall pine tree in our living room.

Of course my mom insisted that all the kids be present for the vicious ceremony. I could then be found trying my hardest to awaken my older siblings who were much more "mature" and could sleep until 8 or 9 at least without feeling the uncontrollable urge to shred innocent and colorful packaging to bits. All over the floor.

Before or after there was always an extra special gift for an extremely special person: My mom.

Most fondly I remember her receiving a rocking chair. She sat calmly and watched us all marvel at our wonderful gifts.

More love shone from that face than you can imagine.

This day was also her birthday and we made it a point to never let the hurricane of excitement overshadow it. She made it a point to never let us forget we were celebrating the birth of our Savior, something I never grasped as a young child.

My mom passed away in 2008. Every christmas since then has felt inside out, upside down, backwards, and just not right at all.

Every song is tainted with a memory.

Every day is lacking that smile.

The countdown now leads to a morning full of distant, beautiful memories that leave the heart aching.

Yet amongst all these bittersweet memories lies one that I can now, finally, grasp and take comfort in.

My mom would never let me forget it and I never will.

There's a God who loves us enough to send His only Son to as a child to live among us, teach us, and eventually take our place on a bloodied tree. Saving us from ourselves.
A God who cares about our smallest worries.
A God who can comfort a motherless child.

More love shines from His face than you can imagine.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 17: James Metelak: For the Birds

For the Birds

Three sparrows beat around the

holly bush;

Deck the halls with alcohol!

Pine needle tree acupuncture in

your living room,

Keep the nerves down.

The chickadees titter away on the scene

the past years’ goings on

While mother hen calculates

the credit card bill,

Runs the numbers again,

Equal shares for each chick.

Starlings chortle carols,

The Grouse puffs up his finest feathers,

Ravens croak “Bah humbug”

at the tappings at their doors,

Peacocks curl eyelashes,

pose beneath mistletoe,

Jays hawk wares at market stores

While the Cardinals wave their primaries,

nod so solemnly;

Turtledoves nod, hood their heads,

coo and wink.

A tizzy of feathers and torn wrapping paper,

the returns and the profits are in,

December 26th:

A nightingale lullabies

in the early morning

at an empty manger

The straw-scattered holy family

exhausted by in-laws

and fire codes

Sleep softly with God

in their midst.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 16: Chris Krycho: Joseph Holds the Son of God

Please listen to:  Joseph Holds the Son of God

This piece and the poem below are closely related and complementary, though each can be appreciated on its own. For notes on the composition of both music and poetry, see the end notes.

Joseph Holds the Son of God

Twilight, in a bright little house

        in the town of Nazareth.

A craftsman rocks an infant child;

        he feels the gaze of the stars.

Words fail him as the twinkling eyes

        of his son catch heavenlight.

No phrase conveys his sentiment:

        Joseph holds his infant son.

Sixteen weeks since the miracle happened,

        the boy is restless, colicky and noisy,

so Joseph rocks him as his mother sleeps; 

        only Heaven knows how much she needs to rest.

She rarely speaks of what God's messenger

        had told her over sixty weeks ago,

but solemnity is ever mingled

        with her joy, responsibility and hope.

Sixteen weeks, and already so much change,

        little fingers stretching,

the torso filling out with baby fat,

        and chubby cheeks for smiles.

Every passing day he is hungrier,

        less sleepy, more alert,

inquisitive and eager to explore

        his slowly growing world.

Nothing had prepared him for this terrifying joy, 

His workman's hands (and mind) tremble in expectation

Of coming years when they would shape not only a house

But a man, a man who might fulfill his nation's hope.

Nothing had prepared him for this mix of happy fear;

His skill is in creating good, simple furnishings,

Not training a leader, a prophesied savior king,

But Adonai has spoken and Joseph will obey.

Nothing had prepared him for this marvelous weight, 

To look down in happiness his heart could not contain

At his son, the child his beautiful wife had born him,

This child he'd had no part in siring, who came from God.

Nothing had prepared him for this striking, horrified delight, 

The wondrous reality of a human child, his to raise,

With all the possibilities that entailed, and nightmares too,

Yet Adonai was faithful and true, God's will be done, he prays.

Sunrise, in a dark little house

        in the town of Nazareth.

A craftsman rocks an infant child;

        he feels the heat of sunrise.

Words fail him as the waking gaze

        of his son shines clear and pure.

Delighted, humbled, awed, amazed,

        Joseph holds the son of God.

The notes that follow are not necessary to understand either poem or music; they are presented simply for those interested in the creative process behind composition and poetry of this sort.

I sat down to write the piece of music that inspired this poem eleven days ago. When I began, I wasn't sure where I was going with the piece; I only knew it was a very different direction from last year's piece...ithin a few hours, I had the opening piano section worked out, and as I got up to go eat dinner, I finally understood what I was writing:  Joseph holds the son of God: image, phrase, and feeling all in one. 

Over the intervening days, I slowly shaped the music to convey that idea. Joseph holds the Son of God:  what was he thinking and feeling, some cool evening under a Nazareth sky, the miracle itself both behind him and nestled in his arms? Fatherhood is, by all accounts, a stunning enough feeling all its own. Add that the child in your arms is God's promised Messiah, with all the national and religious hopes tied up in that...he is your responsibility to raise... how would you feel? I don't know the answer to that question, but I hope the piece conveys a little of the sweetness and the awe and the mystery that faced Joseph a little over two millennia ago. 

When I finished the music, I realized I wanted to write an accompanying poem, the poem printed above. The structure of the poem is derived from the structure of the composition. The music opens, transitions into new material which it then repeats slightly altered, introduces the main theme (a development from the previous material) and builds on it thrice over, and then concludes with a modified restatement of the opening.  The poem does much of the same. 

Slightly subtler is the structure of the stanzas: each quatrain is composed of lines whose syllabic count is the same as the number of measures in the corresponding section of the music. In some sense, then, the poem is deeply derivative of the piece of music. On the other hand, the poem stands well on its own: While the derived structure gives it ties to the music, the same structure frees it to have a unique, original feel of repetition and variation.

Day 15: Robertas Lisickis: A Gift

Pacing down
towards my home -
Gazing at the matter
ever blown -
It has a dusty
misty air to it.
Snow and flakes
heavenly are lit.

Round the corner,
ever so struggling,
is stuck a car,
through avalanche, juggling.
Skidding in one spot,
simply stands silently stuck.
Seeking a fortunate spot,
through toil and hard buck.

With no call,
not a man in sight,
I jump to push,
pursue its goal with might.
With Him was I strong,
to push it out the slip.
Right back then,
I felt my broken heart flip.

Robertas Lisickis is a Poet, a Lithuanian Student who likes to play with English while manning the University Front Desk. His wordplay is always fun and often impressive.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 14: Matt Howard: O Come

O Come All Ye Faithful

Matt Howard is a musician and photographer from Fallbrook, CA. I'm not sure what his latest band project is, but most of them are pretty sweet these days. :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 13: Georgia Brooker: Two Winter Poems

The More it Snows

Looking here
out on the snow
where every man-
made box
has stopped its flow,
while icy rivers
shiver trees
by stagnant ponds,
I freeze
to see how such
re-structured patterns
fuse in fronds
that snap
at that old frosted doubt
that tries to frame
a blurring name
or question
which will crack my lips
and chap my flaking skin.

I ask at last
if any word
or world-locked vessel
fits quite the same
outside as in.

Powercut Night

Those childhood blackouts
pulled us close;
small hands held, warmed
to the rapture of candles
‘til the sun turned up
and the chimney huffed
a thin, mean sneeze of smoke.

Still some nights now
that extinguished glow
melts the lines in our faces –
grown brittle, opaque –
to a clear, molten flow
which morning will harden,
tear-shaped by the cold.

Georgia Brooker is a Scottish Librarian and will be one of the great Poets of this generation.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 11: Greg Wilson: O Holy Night

An Orchestral Arrangement:

To listen, click the link below:
O Holy Night

Greg Wilson is a Music student from Norman, Oklahoma and a talented pianist, percussionist, and violinist.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 9: Greg McArthur: O come O come Emmanuel

How often do you feel like God has abandoned you? Don't try to pretend like it doesn't happen; it's pretty typical. He's used to us humans being disappointed with Him: Half of the Psalms are laments. As a musician, I find great comfort in that kind of brutal honesty. Music is nothing without honesty, especially when you're addressing the Almighty.

If you have ever tried any sort of a relationship with God, you've experienced that He is sometimes hard to comprehend and hard to follow. Christ told us this up front: "Simply put, if you're not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can't be My disciple." That's from Luke 14. It's not an easy thing to hear, nor does it sound like the time of your life. Yet the Scriptures are full of tough sayings and truths. We are sometimes left bewildered when we read God's precious Word.

The Jews must have felt very bewildered in the time leading up to Christ's birth: Their nation was under political oppression. Their culture and traditions stood out like a sore thumb in the empire. Numerous leaders rose up and proclaimed themselves the liberator of the Jewish people, rallying many to their causes. They were all killed and silenced.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear

Caesar Augustus proclaimed the gospel of the Roman Empire: Peace under Rome! Abundance under Rome! Simply follow Rome and all will be well! Things were not looking up for God's people. Rome's hand tightened, and the situation began to look more and more desperate. Yet there were those who chose to trust God that hope was coming; they knew that God had not abandoned the earth.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o'er the grave

Then, on a lonely night in a stable, God was born. He came as an infant through a teenage girl's womb, emptying Himself of all glory--God took no advantage of His status--In fact, He took on the status of a bondservant!

God's coming was not full of peace, as Satan is always at the ready to thwart God's plans. Satan attempted to kill the God child through the Massacre of the Innocents. Darkness attempted to snuff out the Light, but Hope survived.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Remember, though, by the time Christ child had fled to Egypt to escape Herod, very few were aware of God's now-human presence on the earth: His parents, a few shepherds, some wise men from the East, and the evil Herod. No great following, no loyal servants, no royal entourage. Not until He was 30 years old did He have devoted followers, and they weren't exactly the bravest bunch of men you could find.

You can understand, then, why so many of God's chosen people were so quick to disbelieve that Jesus was the Messiah. He had no military, no political aspirations, and no intention of overthrowing Rome through force. He was not there to bring the kind of liberation the Jews were looking for.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Throughout the Gospels, Christ is frustrated at the lack of faith displayed by the Jewish people. He performs many signs, but the people either look for more earthly signs of comfort or believe that He's a servant of Satan.

In Matthew 8, a Roman centurion approaches Christ because his servant is ill, and Christ offers to come heal the servant. Yet the centurion says, "Don't go to all that trouble. Besides, I'm not worthy for You to come to my house. I understand how these things work. I'm a man who gives orders to people all the time. Simply say the word, and I know that my servant will be well."

The centurion recognizes Christ's power over sickness. This outsider soldier has seen the might of the great Roman army and its ability to conquer nations, yet he believes that one man's words have more power than any physician of the time.

And what is Christ's response to this? "I've never seen such faith in Israel! This man is the first of many outsiders who will pour into the Kingdom from all directions, sitting at the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! The people who grew up 'in the faith' but had no faith will be out in the cold, outsiders from grace wondering what happened."

Oh how precious these words are! Christ's warning should still be heard today! If we have no faith, we will be outside of God's grace. Growing up in the faith affords us no special privileges. If we don't believe, there will be no salvation.

God simply asks faith from us, and yet we find every excuse to withhold our trust. We forget: Hope is coming. God has not abandoned the earth. He sent His Son. That same Son will come again. That same Son who healed the sick, raised the dead, forgave sins, He has not left us. We are never alone.

Just as Advent is a remembering of the time leading up to the coming of Christ, it should be a time for us to look forward to His second coming. Our faith should not waver, for we have a God who keeps His promises. No matter how dark things look, no matter how bewildered you may become no matter how hard God may be to understand sometimes, remember this: He is always with us, even to the end of time.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 4: Carl Nellis--'When Dividing the Plunder'

'When Dividing the Plunder'
by Carl Nellis

Those who walked in darkness
have seen a great light, arced
high by harkangels to prick
the hearts of blood, darken
the darkness, impart wisdom
through vision; a light
for the feet, a light
for the path, a lasting light

like the breast of a songbird,
the sun reflected in the eye,
a white star floating on the years
between creation and destination.
A light made for itself,
claimed and reclaiming
gravity in harmony and artful
dances. Light pulled by every
invisible hand, the only thing
seen and unthanked,
demanded and unvisible
until it is a blinding burden,
a painful visitor, a flame
collecting the unpaid price
of a lovely life of sight.

A light like all the white things
in the sky, floating teeth,
walls, the roundness of eyes
outside the iris, falling goose
feathers, smooth unseen skin,
a white nightslip, a nightly sailing
ship, a heavenly ghost,
a high and holy host,
men bleaching grain, the simmering
unsipped kitchen of a girl.

We the walkers have seen
this on the waters, the tombs,
the thousand fish, felt this
on the shoulders crossed
in cane stripes, eaten this
from the old men’s hands,
a pacific light harvesting
direction, light wondering
of reflection, light mighty
of perfection, royal beauty.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 3: Kelvin Fowler: Oh Shepherd Boy

Oh Shepherd Boy
(A Christmas Poem)

Oh shepherd boy who greeted many newborn lambs,
Did you realise that you greeted the newborn Lamb of God?

Shepherd boy of temple lambs,
Did you understand that you met the lamb who made your temple obsolete?

Shepherd boy,
Did you ever imagine that you would meet the Shepherd of our souls?

Shepherd boy who saves lost sheep,
You met the saviour, the messiah, your Lord.

Oh shepherd boy, who slept by night under the stars,
Did you know that you visited the Bright Morning Star?

Jewish shepherd boy of humble beginnings,
Could you conceive that the humble babe in the feed-box was your King?

Shepherd boy,

Your worship that beautiful night, it was the first Christ mass.

About the artist:  Kelvin Fowler is a Kiwi pastor, poet, writer and artist who lives in Klaipėda, Lithuania. Please do not repost this poem or painting without his permission (He says he'll usually grant you permission, just ask first.) You should check out his blog: , I personally am enjoying reading through his book "Clueless in America" on there at present, it's both hillarious and inspiring.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 2: Leslie Miller: Christmas Feelings

I have always felt that the Christmas season is when the centuries come together, the gulf of years blurs, and the ages of the past almost touch the present in a golden swell of celebration. Nowadays in the US, everything is changing at breathtaking speed; old ways are scarcely thought of. However, Christmas is the time of tradition. At Christmas there are Christmas trees, and fires, and stockings, and cookies, and carols, because that is how it is always done and how it should be. Most of our holidays are relatively recent; Christmas goes back, back to before Europe found the New World, and yet further back.

For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of Christmas was decorating the tree. My dad would string the colored lights on it, haul the boxes of ornaments into the room, stretch to set the crumpled golden angel on top, and then turn the rest of us loose to wreak havoc. Everyone except Dad had to hang ornaments; simply looking on was Not Allowed. The goal was to get as many ornaments on the tree as could possibly fit. The only other rules were that the few ‘special’ ornaments, such as pictures, were to be hung by the person they belonged to, and everyone knew not to hang a heavy ornament near the top. My younger sister, as the shortest, took it on herself to fill the lower branches, my brother would stretch to hang ornaments as high as he could, and the middle was a free-for-all. There were occasional disputes about who got to hang the prize ornaments, such as the musical mice, but nothing serious. The result was always a glorious mess. Rocking horses, baby pictures, snowmen, colored glass balls, kittens, and angels mixed together in joyful disregard for balance or aesthetics. It was great fun.

While I’ve always enjoyed Christmas, for some people it is a sad time. That is because it is supposed to be happy, but things are different or people are gone. The memories of joyful Christmas pasts thronging so close to the gates of time seem to mock the present and make it more unbearable. Christmas is a sad time for some because it is a happy season, and there is a sense of alienation if you cannot join in the excitement.

Part of the excitement of Christmas is wrapped up in the songs: Joy to The World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, What Child is This, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, The First Noel. I remember singing them with carolers at a hospital when I was too young to read the songs I didn’t know. I remember them winding among other dear silly songs on my Dad’s Christmas records. I remember pounding them out with grinning enthusiasm on the piano at home and when visiting relatives. I remember singing them in church, year after year after year, swaying and vying with my brother and sister in volume, listening to my dad’s voice make that little catch it has when he reads something that makes him nearly cry, and hearing my mom with us all. Gloria in Excelsis Deo!

Suddenly it’s 620 in Austria. An aged and shriveled monk kneels among his rough brown robes in his sparse cell to begin an especially long prayer. It’s 1806 on the high seas. Given an extra grog ration and an unusual few hours off, some of the seamen hurry below to catch some sleep, while others gather boisterously around the fiddler, heedless of the piercing wind. It’s 1915 in Europe. War-weary and frostbitten Allied and German troops emerge from the trenches and begin a pick-up game of soccer with each other. It’s 1878. The churchbell rings in a snow-covered mid-western US town, calling the settlers to meeting around a candle-lit pine tree. It’s 1750 in England. At a village pub the bartender lights a bowl of punch on fire for the guests to drink, as his wife bustles about overseeing the cooking. Why? It’s Christmas.

Christmas has the same feeling every year. Oh, things change for everyone, but there is a general feeling of happiness, excitement, and celebration. There is always anticipated delight in giving and getting gifts, always the getting together with family, and always the celebration and thanks of the child God. Someone from the past might be very confused about most aspects of our world today, but they might understand Christmas. There is still the reason for the season.

Sing the songs you used to, watch the Christmas plays that come once a year, give a nod to the joyful watching multitude from the past, and remember, remember. Remember Christmases you knew, and remember Christmases before you were born, back, eventually, to Bethlehem.

Leslie Miller is a Nurse in San Antonio, Texas with a love for life, singing, and Christmas.  

Day 1: Greta Cydzikaitė: The Third Snow

Photography by my friend Greta!!!   Greta is a student in Mažeikiai, Lithuania, and although I know her as a pianist and folk singer, she also has some pretty mean photography skills.  :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas!!!!!!!

So here we are with year two of our annual twelve days of Christmas artistic collage!!  Send your poems, songs, photographs, videos, design, paintings, compositions that have some kind of Christmas or Incarnation theme with "12 Days of Christmas" in the Title to jimtak23 (it's a gmail address, you can figure it out).


Headpiece Filled with Straw is a blog dedicated to showcasing amateur artistic talent of the highest caliber.  We value heart, artistry, and content.  Feel free to submit something, and we'll share and link to your blog/profile as well if we find your piece post-worthy and appropriate. 

All submissions are taken for posting only.  Any further use of these posts will be subject to further permission from the artists.