Christmas "Letter"

I have always been skeptical of 'Christmas Letters'. I don't know why, but it seems in some intuitive way that I'm not getting the whole story. Christmas letters allow the writer to control the drama; only the scenes that they want revealed are played out in even brighter colors and sweeter smells. Surely your life isn't as rosey as what you speak. Nevertheless, as a source of impersonal information they seem to do their trick. But here again the skeptic in me does a double take and I feel the uneasiness of either lying or being lied to. The last temptation is to do the right thing for the wrong reason. To speak about little Susie's grades, piano recital and bug project, or big Ryan's karate prowess, academic awards and soccer MVP, can easily be informing for the sake of 'blowing your own horn.' Letters like that are more trouble than they're worth. And I for one can skim with the best of them. I want to read about how you are, what you're thinking about, what you find yourself daydreaming about, what decisions were good ones from the past year, and which were bad. I'd like to know how you managed to make it through another year without serious injury, divorce, disease or insanity...and if you didn't, I'd like to know how you managed today. I have a dear friend whose husband went to paradise ahead of her almost exactly a year ago to this day...I feel honored to be yelled at, cried on, and talked to with destiny searching despair. Am I glad to know what your kids are up to...sure, absolutely, but tell me why they're amazing people who frustrate you, make you laugh, and swear- all in the same day.
Anyway, here's my attempt at a 'Christmas Letter'...which won't be exactly true because this is public forum and, well, I also believe in safety, understand.

Looking back over the year brings joy (not the Christmas caroly kind), and relief, confusion, clarity, determination and courage. The long road of recovery from an ethic of performance to the reality of being was hard and amazingly worth it. God tapped me (and a few other people) on the shoulder and invited me/us to nurture a spiritual community- BREATHE, for people who connect with God in a more intimate, rooted-in-life kinda way. It's not always easy (but then again, why do we expect things to be easy or transactional?), in fact 'easy' isn't the word I would use. It is communal, it is frightening, it is truthful, it is authentic, it is frustrating, it is raw, it is deeply spiritual and intensely enjoyable. We pray (as with Walter Brueggemann) for ourselves and for God's whole church--courage beyond our easier timidity,
vision beyond our present tense,
restlessness beyond our ready settlements, and
yielding beyond our will to manage.
If you would like to support this ministry (spiritually, creatively, financially), please visit this page on our site. (and, thank you!)

As a family we are becoming closer friends. It is deeply satisfying to be a good friend with your children (this is not bragging, because I often suck at such virtue, but forgiveness is real). Our girls are now in grade 10 & 11 (sophomore & junior for friends and family in the USA). Learning to drive, fashion, boyfriends, tattoos, telephones, they're all more a part of our lives presently. I often tell my kids that it's wiser to settle for a lesser grade in favor of a better education. Good decisions were made: to go to camp in Colorado in the summer, to find a part-time job, to tell the truth, to set standards for dating, to exercise and to leave the party. Neutral decisions were made: to color their hair, to get a tattoo, to watch Survivor... And bad decisions were made: to skip classes, to spend too much time on the phone and to eat that expired yogurt.

Kay is still an amazing teacher, who truly cares about her students. She loves to paint (rooms in our house), read (mind-boggling fast fiction reader) and do crossword puzzles. She really does have a sharp mind. She's in great shape too, runs regularly and did another half marathon (Vancouver) this year!

We still have our two pugs (Mai-Ling & Ebony), our small car still runs, and we're learning to garden (we get by with a little help from our friends!). Sometimes I don't know how one can stay sane in such a moronic world, and at other times I can feel the sun, and am reassured. To me, running continues to be a spiritual experience. I've got (as usual) about 6 or 7 books on the go right now--it was a good year for book reading! God has literally given a vision this year for a different kind of ministry enterprise which myself and some friends are pursuing. We are excited about inspiring the imagination, refreshing the soul and nurturing the body all within the context of deep, interdependent relationships and a warm, inviting setting. We'd sure appreciate you saying a prayer for us. Snow is still better than rain. Music is more fun if you dance to it. Most movies are crap. Tattoos hurt. Cod liver oil will keep you from getting a cold.

I hope your Christmas will be a time to remember the simplicity of Jesus' birth and magnitude of his purpose.


  1. Great letter Phil. I guess maybe the "New Christmas Letter" is just to reading the last year's worth of blog entries -- though this is the first I heard of the tattoo.. :)

    Thanks, and keep up the blogging.

  2. That was a good skim... but damn is the white writing on a black background hard on the eyes! ;)