Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas Letter 2005

Please don't be offended if you didn't receive a Christmas card from us this year. No one did. We tried for too long to get the perfect picture and as a result found ourselves too late to send anything out, but I did write a Christmas letter and figured I'd put it out somewhere, so here goes.

Merry Christmas Friends & Family,
Just wanted to give you a little update on all things Forster for 2005. It’s amazing how much life has changed for us in the past 12 months. A year ago today, we were putting the finishing touches on the Christmas Kettle effort on 52nd Street in New York. Sydney was hardly mobile. Riley was a creative ball of energy. Well, some things haven’t changed, I guess. We’ll celebrate this Christmas in our traditional digs at 186 Massapoag.

Last Spring Riley finished out a fantastic year at the Geneva School, a true gift from God during our time in the city. She made wonderful friends and got to experience the structure of school in a fun, safe, friendly environment. We enjoyed many trips to the Park in the spring, including Riley’s 4th birthday party on the lawn overlooking the Carousel just days before we left Manhattan. Spring saw Sydney learn to crawl and immediately begin to climb wherever possible, but she waited for the summer to really come out of herself.

Camp brought out the social butterfly in our quiet second child. She learned to enjoy seeing friends and discovered her voice in a major way. And like big sister, she learned to walk by chasing the other staff kids around. That was our big excitement in July and she hasn’t slowed down since. Looking to be the next great athlete in the family, Sydney is adventurous and doesn’t back down from any challenge. Riley adores being at camp in the summer with so many friends and would regularly remind us what her favorite part of the week was, Miracle Mile. She also confided to us that the scene she likes most is Jesus’ crucifixion for two reasons: because she isn’t scared and because that’s when we see Jesus dying for our sins.

Fall brought a new school experience for Ri, the Sharon Coop where she spends two and a half days a week. Her teacher, Mrs. Forman, quickly identified Riley’s love for stories and Riley has made several new friends after an uneasy start realizing that her school friends from Geneva had stayed behind in New York. Sydney has discovered communication this fall and can say 1000 things with her eyes alone. She’s starting to become the playmate Riley had hoped for at her birth and she is very affectionate, particularly to Libby. She never lets a silly thing like dog hair stand between her and a hug and kiss.

Jen and I are settling into our positions and have been warmly welcomed back to Massachusetts. The city stays with us, though, and we’ve enjoyed a few visits back. Jen’s schedule allows her to be with the girls as much as we could ask for and we’re grateful for that.

At the end of a year when so many have lost so much, we count ourselves truly grateful for all that we have. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours.

Monday, December 19, 2005

So true

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."
from Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Family #30

This was inspired by participating in the sorting and packing of gifts for The Salvation Army's Adopt-a-Family program here in Boston. It is not meant to be passed off as an actual letter, but rather what the thoughts might be of a young man in this situation.

I'm 17 years old. Mom just got back with our Christmas gifts. 3 big garbage bags that say Family #30 on them. A couple of weeks ago, mom had this paper and asked me and my brother what we wanted for Christmas. He's 15, we're the oldest. The little ones all asked for toys and dolls. My nieces and nephews are too young to even know what to ask for, so mom just wrote something down for them. We aren't really into toys any more, so I asked for Nike sneakers. My brother thought that sounded good too, so he said the same. I'm hoping some nice family from the suburbs decides to "adopt" us and I guess I hope to get those sneakers for Christmas. But I'm pretty much done with Christmas. It's not too magical when you're Family #30 anyway. You know what I really want for Christmas? I don't want to be family #30 any more. I don't want mom to have to give our list to a social worker, so the social worker can give it to someone else and some nice lady who lives in a big house and feels badly for Family #30, all 9 of us, can go out and buy us gifts. You know what? I don't want the sneakers. I don't want to be here. I don't want to live here. News is talking about everybody getting shot. I want to live where people don't know the people getting shot. I don't want to see the empty desk where one of those kids sat. I want to live where mom and the rest of us aren't numbers. Family #30, SSI# whatever, you're next, please step forward. Maybe that's why half my boys end up in prison, cause all their lives they've just been a number. Go to the house and keep being a number. I'm not a number. I have a name. The most important number about me ought to be my age: 17. Still a boy, forced to be the man because I'm the oldest. So I don't want to be adopted. I've got a mom and she does her best. I want a safe place to live that regular people can afford. I want a school that doesn't have to choose between another math teacher and oil to heat the place. After that, I don't even know what I want, I just wish it weren't like this. Family #30, gifts in garbage bags, bought by strangers with strangers' money and then left for us to pick up. Don't get me wrong. I'm grateful. I'm sure those people are really nice. But I just wish their charity wasn't under our tree this year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Christmas in Hollis

We put the tree up last night. We found a couple of our Christmas CDs in the bin with the ornaments, so I was able to listen to and share with my family, one of my favorite Christmas songs: Christmas in Hollis by Run DMC. It was released on the first A Very Special Christmas. In my opinion, the best one of the series hands down. It's got great pop Christmas songs.

If you do not know this Christmas classic, here are the lyrics.

It was December 24th on Hollis Ave after dark
When I see a man chilling with his dog in the park
I approached very slowly with my heart full of fear
Looked at his dog, oh my God, a ill reindeer
But then I was illin' because the man had a beard
And a bag full of goodies, 12 o'clock had neared
So I turned my head a second and the man had gone
But he must have dropped his wallet smack down on the lawn
I picked the wallet up then I took a pause
Took out the license and it cold said "Santa Claus"

A million dollars in it, cold hundreds of G's
Enough to buy a boat and matching car with ease
But I'd never steal from Santa, cause that ain't right
So I was going home to mail it back to him that night
But when I got home I bugged, cause under the tree
Was a letter from Santa and the dough's for me

It's Christmas time in Hollis Queens
Mom's cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas trees
Decorate the house with lights at night
Snow's on the ground, snow white so bright
In the fireplace is the yule log
Beneath the mistle toe as we drink egg nog
The rhymes that you hear are the rhymes of Darryl's
But each and every year we bust Chrsitmas carols

Rhymes so loud and proud you hear it
It's Christmas time and we got the spirit
Jack Frost chillin, the orchid's out
And that's what Christmas is all about
The time is now, the place is here
And the whole wide world is filled with cheer
My name's D.M.C. with the mic in my hand
And I'm chilling and coolin' just like a snowman
So open your eyes, lend us a ear
We want to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Tagged, grrrr

I hate stuff like this, but I love Jocelyn, who tagged me, so here goes.

Instructions: Write 5 random facts about yourself, then list the names of 5 people whom you in turn infect.

1. I have a twin brother. I am 6 minutes older than he is. That's not really random if you know me, but this is: when I was a kid, say 8 years old, I thought I was 6 minutes older than all other 8-year-olds.

2. I love the movie "It's a Wonderful Life"

3. I've worn my Salvation Army uniform to work 2 days in a row (yesterday and today)

4. I had pancakes for dinner last night.

5. I want a digital SLR camera for Christmas.

I'm tagging Carole, Carol, Stephen, Allison and Allison.


Remember when snow was still simply magical?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Advent Cartoon Calendar

In case the Christmas season is getting too stressful for you, head on over to Dave Walker's Advent Calendar at Cartoon Church. Here is today's entry to get you started.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A New Fantasy League

Inspired by endzone prayer meetings and thank-God-for-this-home-run dances and by the ubiquitous fantasy leagues that exist for every sport under the sun, including (to my horror and amusement in equal portions) wrestling, I've come up with a new concept: fantasy faith sports.

Here's the idea: similar to other fantasy leagues, players will be chosen from various priofessional leagues. Then you watch as many games as you can checking to see how your players display their ardent faith: 10 points for kneeling to pray, 5 points for pointing skyward, 3 points for wearing a cross visisbly outside your uniform. Also this league would continue to score points after the game ends: 10 points for thanking God in the post game press conference, but only if it's a bland non-sectarian God. It would be minus 20 points if the player actually mentions my Lord & Savior Jesus Christ for the possibility of offending non-Christian fans.

It would also cost you 10 points if your fantasy faith player fails his league's drug test or gets arrested, minus 25 additional points if the arrest is for domestic abuse. Minus 20 points for mentioning God in the post-arrest press conference. Minus 100 points for mentioning God in media interviews discussing your day after Thanksgiving arrest for criminal possession because you were holding "your friend's crackpipe" so your kids wouldn't be exposed to that scene.

Obviously, there are many other sports-faith intersected instances that would need to be measured on a case by case basis.

If you want to join the league, we'll be running the draft at the potluck after church this Sunday. So pick a team name (mine is the Massachusetts Men of Faith), come up with a cool logo and study up on your spiritual sports. See you there.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Manger Throne

I don't know if you feel this way, but with so much going on, though I know Thanksgiving is over and it's December 2, I don't feel like it's Christmas time yet. I've seen snow, and still it seems like the summer just ended. Wake me up when September ends.

Anyway, to attempt to remedy this situation and enjoy the next 3 weeks in gear with what's going on, I sought out some Christmas music from our music department yesterday. I found City on a Hill: It's Christmas Time. There are some great finds on it.

I'm naturally biased toward anything by Third Day. I think Mac Powell could sing "This is the song that never ends" and I would love it, but I found the lyrics to their track on this CD particularly poignant. It's called Manger Throne.

What kind of King would leave His throne
In Heaven to make this earth His home?
While men seek fame and great renown,
In loneliness our King comes down.

Jesus, Jesus, precious One,
How we thank You that You’re come.
Jesus, Jesus, precious One,
A manger throne for God’s own Son.

You left the sound of angels’ praise
To come for men with unkind ways.
And by this Baby’s helplessness,
The power of nations is laid to rest.

Jesus, Jesus, precious One,
How we thank You that You’re come.
Jesus, Jesus, precious One,
A manger throne for God’s own Son.

What kind of King would come so small,
From glory to a humble stall?
That dirty manger is my heart, too.
I’ll make it a royal throne for You.

Jesus, Jesus, precious One,
How we thank You that You’re come.
Jesus, Jesus, precious One,
A manger throne for God’s own Son.

My heart is a throne,
My heart is a throne for God’s own Son.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hands off praying

This is from Cynthia Bezek, editor of Pray!

Back in the dark ages when students, writers, and editors used typewriters, I yearned for a Smith Corona electric portable with correction cartridge (can you believe that model was state-of-the-art when I was 17?). I made my request known to Mom and Dad, but for some reason, I thought they hadn’t heard me or that they weren’t interested in my need. So I moved on to Plan B. I’ve always been a "Can-Do, Make-It-Happen" kind of person, so I started saving my money and reading the advertisements. Eventually I found a typewriter that I could pay for myself; true, it wasn’t as nice as the model I’d originally hoped for, but it would do.

I announced my intention to buy the typewriter to my parents, who to my surprise, were disappointed. "We’d planned to get you that typewriter you really wanted! Why do you have to do it yourself and get something not nearly as nice?"

Why indeed?

Several weeks ago, I began praying about something my family and I believe we need. But when God didn’t seem to be doing anything about it, I moved into Do-It-Yourself mode. So far, though, I haven’t managed to make it happen. Yesterday I had just started concocting Plan C when the Lord reminded me about the first-rate typewriter my parents bought for me so many years ago. Why don’t you relax and let Me work? Don’t take the fun out of it for Me! He seemed to be saying.

So what does Father have in mind concerning this request my family and I have been asking Him about? I don’t know yet, but with His infinite creativity, resources, time, and power, I know I can trust Him to do a better job with this than I can. I’m taking my hands off this one, and I’m learning to live Phil. 4:6: "Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done" (NLT).