Thursday, December 20, 2018

Christmas Carol Snob

Loving members of my own family have called me a Christmas carol snob, and I must confess the accusation is accurate. I can’t help myself. When I walk into a store, expecting to be filled with the Christmas spirit and am, instead, greeted with, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” piping loudly throughout the store, I start to feel nauseous.

Last week I finally got around to doing some Christmas shopping. Okay, maybe I’ve been called a procrastinator on occasion, too. As I entered store number one, my ears were accosted by strains of the ever-reverent “Santa Baby” followed by another sacred classic, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” I could scarcely keep the bile from rising in my throat. Let me be clear. I’m not above a sentimental rendition of “White Christmas” or “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but when you interrupt my holy Advent season with tripe like, “Run Rudolph Run” and “Gee Whiz it’s Christmas” I get offended.

Don’t get me wrong. I adore Christmas music. I anticipate it eagerly all year long. Handel’s Messiah, while overdone, still gives me chills. Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and Respighi’s Laud to the Nativity are a few of the exquisite musical settings that capture the true spirit of Christmas for me.

There are arrangements of traditional carols that, when performed by groups like The King’s Singers, Chanticleer, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir or the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, leave me wanting more. “Mary Did You Know?” is a more modern carol that makes me weep when I hear it sung well.

Since retiring, I’ve participated in a program through my church that ministers to shut-ins. Weekly, I visit two elderly women at a local senior living facility. Being with them is a blessing beyond words, and I look forward to our precious times together.

One woman is ninety-six and confined to her bed day and night. Although her mind is sharp, macular degeneration causes blindness, and her hearing is greatly impaired. She spends most of her time sleeping or listening to audio books. She tells me she feels “useless” and wishes the Lord would take her home.

At my last visit, my elderly friend asked if I’d help her sing Christmas carols. I pulled out my phone to Google the words in case some of them had slipped my mind. She requested song after song: “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Joy to the World,” and my favorite, “What Child is This?” among others. Despite the oxygen tube in her nose and a thin, croaky voice, she joined in with gusto, loud, strong and in no way pleasant to the ear. I half expected the staff to come running, thinking she was crying out in pain. If she forgot a strain, she asked me to repeat it again and again, helping her commit it to memory. “Let’s do this again next week,” she said. “I just love those carols, and I want to remember every word.”

We prayed together, and I left her room with tears flooding my cheeks. Hoarse and exhausted from the effort, my heart and eyes overflowed with Christmas joy. This self-professed Christmas carol snob had been blessed by the rawest, ugliest, most atonal rendition of carols ever--singing that came from the heart and reached God’s waiting ears. Surely the Lord Jesus Christ was in that room! 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Greatest Gift

Yesterday I was sitting on the floor in our great room wrapping Christmas presents and listening to the King’s College Choir singing classic Christmas music. I had spent the morning shopping, then rushed home to change clothes and attend our neighborhood’s annual Christmas tea at the clubhouse which had been meticulously decked out in festive trimmings. Beside me, the tiny lights of our apartment-sized Christmas tree glowed, joining forces with multiple twinkling candles on the mantle above. Focused on how much shopping I still had to accomplish, suddenly I was struck with how far our Christmas traditions and celebrations have departed from that first Christmas in Bethlehem.

Not that there’s anything wrong with decorating, gift-giving, or gathering friends and family to enjoy food and fellowship. But when those aspects dominate our holiday celebrations, it’s not really about Christmas, is it?

Now that I’m retired from my demanding job as a church musician, I don’t feel quite as frantic about being ready in time for December twenty-fifth. But there’s still a sense of urgency surrounding the preparations: mail the cards, clean and decorate the house, shop for gifts and wrap them, attend concerts, plan special meals and gatherings, shop for groceries ... the list goes on and on until we want to shout “stop, slow down, there’s only so much one person can do!” I would add, “Take time to reflect on God’s gift to humanity, Jesus Christ.” 

God, the Father, is not the one pushing us to rush about, checking things off our to-do lists. Rather, we humans have turned Christmas into a competition to outdo each other. Maybe that’s why we’re called the human race. We even stretch our budgets to the breaking point, making retail merchants happy but causing ourselves more unnecessary stress.

What happened exactly that first Christmas in Bethlehem? “The Word became flesh.” God in the form of a baby, fully human, fully divine, came and dwelt among us, fulfilling the prophecy foretold hundreds of years before by Isaiah, Micah and others. More than our annual reenactment of Mary and Joseph gazing peacefully into a manger, surrounded by shepherds and animals, it was the greatest gift humanity has ever known. God’s desire to reveal His plan of love and harmony to the universe was so significant that He came and dwelt among us in the form of a humble peasant boy. Knowing His plan would include suffering and humiliating death, Jesus came to offer the ultimate gift of salvation, a gift that is free to all who accept it. Now, that’s a reason to celebrate!  

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Friday, December 7, 2018

What Aspect of Writing Do I Enjoy the Most?

Recently someone asked me what I enjoy most about writing. Since I like everything about writing, I had to think carefully to pinpoint one aspect. Finally, I recognized that, both in writing and in real-life relationships, I enjoy studying the psychology behind people's words and behavior.  

Why do people speak and behave as they do? For example, why are some people uncomfortable in social settings while other seem to fit in immediately? What factors contribute to personality traits like narcissism, hypersensitivity, or extreme shyness? Why are some people timid while others are assertive?

Most adults, at one time or another, have taken a personality test, whether Jung’s Typology, Myers Briggs Type Indicator or some other assessment. I found an online test that divides humans into sixteen types within four main categories: analysts, diplomats, sentinels, and explorers. To me, it seems to use different terminology to arrive at the same conclusions as Myers Briggs.

As an educator, I know that labeling children according to their behavior is potentially harmful. I see behavior as different from personality. Children are a work in progress. Young children’s personalities may be set by the time they are six, but their behaviors are fluid, and their influences are many. Take, for example, a child who bullies others. Unless there is a preexisting brain abnormality, s/he was not born with an intimidating personality. Most likely it was his/her negative experiences in early childhood that contributed to the need to torment others. Unless this behavior is explored and interventive measures are employed, the child will continue to get a pay-off for bullying. Chances are, s/he will become an adult who seeks to control others through intimidation.

When I created Hank, the abusive character in my novel, The Dark Room, I needed to give him a backstory explaining his behavior. Most batterers have, themselves, experienced abuse. Unless this cycle is broken early, chances are an abused child will grow up to repeat the behavior. For this reason, I gave Hank an abusive father.

Often abusers can “hold themselves together” until some traumatic incident triggers their need to oppress and control others. Hank’s behavior is triggered when he loses his precious, five-year-old son. Unequipped to handle the intense grief, he turns to alcohol and drugs. Now, less able to control his anger and aggression, he begins beating his wife, daughter and granddaughter. Seemingly, his behavior changes overnight.

While domestic violence is not a subject about which we like to think or read, it is an unfortunate fact that millions of women and children, and some men, suffer abuse at the hands of someone who claims to love them. How confusing for a victim! How intriguing for an author!  

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories, a novella, Diary in the Attic, and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available through or