By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
Although I was born and raised in Northern California, I lived in Southern California for 17 years before coming back. And while I had a lot of great experiences, made many life-long friends (including my wife!), and found some truly lovely spaces, I never really acclimated to the “L.A. scene.”
For many years while I lived there Christmas Eve was one of my busiest days of the year. The caroling group I sang with had a standing 10 AM gig at a beautiful private home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, then usually had another party somewhere in Orange County in the early afternoon. Then I’d play the 5 PM service at my church in Long Beach, then do a four-hour caroling gig at a restaurant in Newport Beach. So by 11:30 PM, I was drained physically and mentally and had put in about 125 miles back and forth on the 405 (and even on holidays, there was still traffic).
Then, I would drive on PCH from Newport Beach home to Long Beach. I would listen to a classical music station that would play lovely choral versions of Christmas carols. Because it was Southern California, the weather was usually clear as a bell, and I could drive up the coast with the lights of the city on one side, and the ocean and stars on the other side. It was not only the most peaceful part of my day, but one of the most peaceful moments of my entire year. I could reflect on the joy I had brought to so many people during the day; but more importantly, I could reflect on the glorious event that was the reason for all of the parties and feasting and celebrating. As I drove down the highway and looked out over the beach and into the calm, starry night, and the strains of Handel or Mohr played on the radio, I could envision the small village in the desert - calm, peaceful, but with the choirs of angels guiding weary travelers towards the unimposing stable where Jesus was brought into the world, bringing with him the message of hope, of love, of joy, of peace.
For that little sliver of time I could let go of all the enmity, the conflict and strife, the ego, greed, and pride that infects so much of the world, and I could reinforce my belief in the best of humanity.
Every year, when someone wishes me Merry Christmas, I remember those moments late on Christmas Eve, and that makes me merry indeed.
I hope that all of you can have that moment of clarity, of peace, where you can leave the cacophony and rush of the holiday season behind and remember why we are celebrating, and give thanks for the arrival of Jesus and his promise of love. I hope that is your Merry Christmas moment.
By Rebecca Thomas, council member
We are all taught the difference between right and wrong when we are kids. Daniel and I are currently dredging though this tough topic with 3-year-old Joshua, who defines the concept by labeling everyone a “good guy” or a “bad guy.” While I have never been a fan of those phrases (since it is behavior that is bad, not a person), I do understand why his young brain needs to label in this way for the world to make sense. Things need to be black and white. Right or wrong. Soon enough, however, he will grow up and become familiar with another concept - the dreaded grey area.
I’d like to share with you how the Council has found itself in its own moral grey area for a long time when it comes to one truly frustrating topic: what to do about Carden School.
For years the Council has agreed that, while we were happy to provide a facility for Carden to teach their students, the relationship with them was purely financial, and did not fit with our CGS mission to Proclaim, Welcome, and Serve. Naturally, it seemed that we should find a “higher and better” use for those buildings. But what about the income they bring us? Wasn’t our role as Council members to make sure we took care of this congregation? And that cannot be done without financial stability. These debates kept us in an unstable relationship with Carden, as they continued to miss payments, use more of the campus than agreed upon, and ignore our correspondence. The relationship was becoming a liability to us, just because we were trying to do “the right thing.”
Ultimately, we decided it was imperative to send a very detailed lease that would protect CGS both legally and financially. It was sent to the owners of Carden School in November, and they did not agree to sign. By not agreeing to our terms, Carden will be evicted from our campus on December 31st. This has presented us with a grey area that troubled me more than any so far – what about the poor students, their families, and the staff?
It breaks my heart to know how difficult this will be on the families as they will have to scramble to make other school arrangements. And what will happen to the teachers? Will they still be paid through the end of the school year? Have the families been told what is happening? Sadly, we don’t have the answers to any of these. Would Joshua define me as one of the “bad guys” in this situation?
We want everyone at CGS to know that we have tried everything we can think of to keep a healthy relationship with Carden, and their eviction was not something we decided upon lightly. That is why we chose to do it at a time between school terms, giving them the best chance possible to find a new classroom situation, while no longer putting us under potential financial and legal liability.
These grown up decisions are harder than anyone prepared me for when I was 3. The only way we can all get through is to pray that God continues to give us all guidance - Joshua, my family, the Council, Carden, everyone at CGS, and all inhabitants of this world we share. With God’s help, the answers become clear. Please, Lord, continue to help us out of the grey and into your LIGHT!
It’s Christmas! It’s that time of year when everyone seems get very busy in preparation for the season. We decorate our houses for days, inside and out, sometimes with unspoken competition with neighbors. We put up Christmas trees in more than one room of the house if possible, sprucing them up with a mix of new ornaments and those that were collected through the years. We make a list of names of friends and loved ones, and shop for their perfect gifts. We plan travels to spend time with family and friends. We create the perfect menu to serve, when everyone gathers around the table for that special holiday meal. We shop. We cook. We bake. We eat. Outside of home, we also help decorate the church, our work space, our community. We buy more gifts to help our less fortunate neighbors. We travel to lend extra hands in feeding the homeless and the hungry. We shop. We cook. We bake. We eat.
It’s also this time of the year that the choirs are the busiest, with the concerts, carolings, and other special events and parties that happen around the holiday. We fill the air with songs and carols to help bring everyone to the season’s spirit. We sing. We sing. We sing. We sing. But in spite of all these, all the busyness, as our Christmas concert’s focus: this time of the year we’re going to celebrate Christmas. The real reason for the season - the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. My hope is that in the midst of all the decorating, shopping, traveling, cooking and baking, the “joy to the worlds” and “hallelujahs,” we’ll take some time to rest, think, and be reminded about what Linus shared - the true meaning of Christmas.
- Rey Lambatin, Choir Director
I need to catch you up on our relationship with Carden School. If you were present at our congregational meeting in November, you might remember that Carden school has been in arrears for some time and that over the past 6 years our relationship with them has become laborious. In November, our congregation offered a new lease to the new owners of the school. This past week the new owners declined our terms for a new lease.
Finding a way forward for this relationship wasn’t easy for our council. At the very least, the council wanted to ensure that the families and students would be able to finish their semester. However, as a congregation we are not able to sustain the kind of relationship that we have had with Carden. As of December 31st, Carden school will no longer be renting property on our campus.
No matter how necessary, this is still a heartbreaking outcome. Please keep the staff, students, and families in your prayers as they head into an uncertain and difficult future. Please also keep our leadership and the property team in your prayers as they sensitively execute on the eviction in the next month. As we move forward there are many unknowns and possibilities. I encourage you to be in conversation with the council leaders and join the planning and preparation for whatever it is that comes next for us.
In Advent hope, Pastor Manda
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.