The Rempe Tour of Lights: Fairview Drive

This is the second in a series on Christmas light displays in northern Virginia. To see the first entry, the house on Collingwood Road in Alexandria, click here.

As John Cleese used to say, “And now, for something completely different …”

If the first stop on our light tour was noteworthy for its technical precision and vastness, our second location is best described as an explosion of kitsch in a relatively small space. What the house on Fairview Drive in Alexandria lacks in electronic wizardry, it makes up for in sheer volume.

By my admittedly imprecise count, there are roughly 20 bajillion inflatables filling the yard … and driveway … and roof of this otherwise unassuming house. If you can think of an animated character, odds are that this house has a giant balloon of it.

The only way to really appreciate this display is to get out and among the decorations. Fortunately, the homeowners encourage visitors to walk around the display, with a well-trodden path that winds through the disparate decorations. They even allow folks to walk up onto their porch, where there are—again, rough estimate—about 10,000 animatronic Santas, snowmen, reindeer, and the like, each with a button to push, producing a merry cacophony of mangled Christmas tunes.  (I’m pretty sure my kids pressed each of the buttons, and most more than once.)

Somewhat surprisingly, there is a creche tucked away on the far side of the lawn. While I wouldn’t exactly call it “classy,” there is an odd serenity to it—an island of piety in a sea of crass (but fun) commercialism.

I’ve always wondered what neighbors of displays like this must think. There are some houses on the street that would be the talk of the neighborhood, but for the yuletide supernova next door. Others pretty much have forgone any attempts to compete. The kids across the street, however, have taken advantage, setting up a hot chocolate stand to raise money for a nearby family who recently lost their daughter to leukemia. If you visit, be sure to grab a cup or two, and tip generously.

Like the previous stop, the video below does not do the display justice. If you live in the area and have little ones hyped up on Christmas cookies and holiday spirit, it is definitely worth your time to visit.

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The Rempe Tour of Lights: Collingwood Road

At the Rempe household, it never really feels like Christmastime until we have piled everyone into the van and visited our favorite seasonal light displays. Nothing says “welcome baby Jesus” quite like a house covered in LED lights using as much energy as a moderately sized Midwestern city.

While we enjoy all manner of yuletide decorations, there are two displays in northern Virginia to which we always return, and for very different reasons. The first stop here is the house on Collingwood Drive in south Alexandria.

When a light display has its own website, you can pretty much anticipate that it is going to be an experience. However, nothing quite prepares you for how huge this show really is. The house sits across the street from a nursing home, which serves as a prime motivator for the homeowner putting in hundreds of hours in setting it up. The whole display is synchronized to music, which is broadcast on low-frequency FM radio for those driving by. But you really don’t get the full experience unless you take the time to find a parking space, get out of your car, and soak the experience in.

As might be expected, the below videos don’t really capture the majesty of this display. If you find yourself anywhere close to Alexandria around Christmas this year, be sure to make the effort to check it out. You will not be disappointed.

NEXT: From the sublime to the ridiculous …

Waiting on the Mystery

Modern man is not wired to wait. In an on-demand, same-day delivery, download now world, the idea of patiently waiting for something seems at best an antiquated idea, if not a completely foreign concept. We expect, nay, we demand that our needs and wants be gratified immediately, and we are quick to protest should there be any delay in fulfillment.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the month (months?) leading up to Christmas. From the moment the first leaves fall from the trees, we launch ourselves into the “Christmas season” with sheer abandon. Our decorations go up, the carols ring forth, and seasonal shopping begins in earnest. There are Christmas parties and rumors of Christmas parties that keep us running from sunup to sundown, so that by the time Christmas finally does arrive, all we can do is collapse in exhaustion that it is finally all over.

Amid this madness, Advent bids us to wait. Wait on God to fulfill his promises. Wait to listen for His voice. To be still, and to know that He is God.

Continue reading “Waiting on the Mystery”

The Sounds of Silence

One of the (few) good things about being unemployed is that you are afforded a certain flexibility in your schedule that wasn’t available when you were working a 9 to 5 job. In the last several months, I have taken the opportunity to do things like get back into shape, catch up on some reading that has been stacking up on my nightstand, and to spend some more time with the kids during the daylight hours. It has also afforded me the chance to do a little refocusing on what is important, and to do some self-evaluation that I have too often tried to avoid.

My devotional nook.

For the last couple of weeks, I have initiated the habit of spending an hour or so at a local park for some daily devotional time. The routine usually entails me setting up camp at a picnic table overlooking a creek, reading from a daily devotional and Scripture, and spending some time seeking God’s guidance through prayer.

But a good deal of the time spent is me simply looking out on my surroundings, appreciating God’s creation. And the more time I spend looking out at what’s around me, the more I find that God is revealing Himself to me—sometimes in unexpected ways.

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Of Blood, Soil, and a Kingdom Worth Defending

By now, pretty much every political pundit, social commentator, or dude with a computer and a Facebook account has commented on the violence that surrounded last weekend’s rally/riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.* I’m not sure there is anything that I can add to the conversation that hasn’t been stated more ably or eloquently elsewhere, but I still feel that I ought to say something—if for no other reason than to get myself on the record, and to sort through some of the things about the events (and the aftermath) that have been cluttering my mind.

The violence and identity politics on display in Charlottesville should be deeply disturbing to all who observed it, regardless of creed, politics, and ethnicity. For a county “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” what happened in central Virginia must remind us all that those values need to be actively preserved and defended, especially when challenged by those who claim superiority simply because of their race or heritage.

Continue reading “Of Blood, Soil, and a Kingdom Worth Defending”

Finding Joy in Uncertainty

Recently, during a fit of spring cleaning, Beth and I were going through a stack of books and notebooks, trying to determine which were worth keeping and those that would better serve not taking up valuable shelf space. In one of those notebooks, I came across the following—a reflection written by a younger, still-single Steve (circa. 2007) who was contemplating marriage and the future. It reminded me that there is joy in uncertainty when you trust the One who holds the future in His hands. ‘Tis a lesson worth repeating—mostly for myself, but hopefully it speaks to others as well.

It dawns on me that I often view uncertainty or lack of future knowledge as a detriment. I see it as a lack of faith on my parta result of the Fall. “If only I were more committed to seeking God’s will through prayer and devotions,” I reason, “then God would make his plans known to me.”

But faith is not the result of knowing what lies ahead, but rather in the knowing of Him who knows the future. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for,” but not necessarily a certainty that God will bring these things about in the time and manner we expect, if at all.

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Becoming Dust

Lutherans love Lent. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case, but it has been my experience that when compared and contrasted to Christians of other stripes and flavors, those in the tribe of the Great Reformer seem to have an odd affinity for the season of reflection preceding Easter. Perhaps it’s because we appreciate having a chance to simplify our lives for 40 days and to focus singularly focus on God’s redemptive work. Maybe we like convincing ourselves that making superficial sacrifices reflects well on our personal spirituality.  Maybe we’re just sadists that enjoy self-flagellation and denial. Whatever the case, it does seem to be true that Lutherans do embrace this season in a way that most others do not.

ash-wednesday-crossI was reminded of this fact as I attended the Ash Wednesday service at my church. Attendance for the evening service was good—maybe not as high as it had been on Sunday morning, but still significant, including a number of families with small children. It was actually one of those very rare instances where I was attending alone—Beth had decided that it would probably a bit of a push to get all of the kids fed and to the church on time, but granted me a special dispensation to attend, knowing my weird affinity for having ashes placed on my forehead. Still, I found myself sitting in the back of the sanctuary with the other families with small children out of sheer habit.

Continue reading “Becoming Dust”