Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Spirit

Dear Christa—
Sometimes it’s hard to be in the Christmas spirit. I’ve heard it, I’ve read it on Face Book, I’ve felt it myself. The Christmas spirit—I wonder what that is, exactly…
Angels were singing. Wisemen were gazing at a star. Mary, like most new mothers, searched the face of a newborn child.
But, for most of the world, this day was like any other day. Rulers ruled. Workers worked. Priests—well, they did what priests do. Most people lived totally unaware that this was one of the greatest days in history.
I suppose it does have to do with awareness.
Maybe the Christmas spirit isn’t the clicking of glasses, the elation of music and presents. Maybe it isn’t even the smell of hot chocolate, the cookies, and pie. It isn’t at all what is or what isn’t under the tree. The handmade ornaments of small hands, the memories, or even the calm of late night.
Maybe it isn’t even the face of those you love best, or don’t love at all.
Just maybe the Christmas spirit is pondering the Light of the World and staring—and accepting—the Christ who touched the earth with his holy purpose. And because of his purpose, we have purpose—you and I.
Stare into his face because he’s staring at you—loving you.
Slip your heart in his and walk with him, trust in him.
It might be different from how many think of the Christmas spirit, but you will have it.
To give yourself to Jesus is the greatest day in your history.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Rocky Road

Dear Christa—

The saying in the fortune cookie said, “The road to glory will be rocky but fulfilling.” I laughed out loud, though there wasn’t anyone around to hear me. If there is one thing I’ve noticed as I get older it’s that there are rocky places for each of us. Rare are the days that there aren’t waves to rock our boat.
Now, is the advent season, when we wish we would take time—real serious time—to focus on the incarnation of Jesus, our Savior. So many things keep us distracted, but at least, let’s start out pondering the mysteries and incredulousness of those days so far removed from the here and now.
In a small village, not one to really even notice on the map of the world at that time, lived a man, a carpenter. Trained as a typical Jewish man of his day, I imagine him as an ordinary guy that any of us might know. Engaged to Mary, he probably thought things were looking up for him.
And they were…
Just not in the way he was anticipating.
There’s blessing in not looking too far ahead. Sometimes I think people plan too much today. Seniors, who don’t know what they want to do forever and ever, fret over the approaching graduation that’s a mere semester away. Yet, sometimes, all we need to do is to take the next step.
If Joseph and Mary’s world was going to be rocky, think about Jesus—stuck in human flesh. What happens when the Potter turns to clay? Did 33 years seem long or short for the Creator who’d never experienced time and space limitations? I don’t know.
Mary, bewildered, went to visit Elizabeth. Joseph, heartsick, decided to quietly end the engagement. On the edge of utter spectacular, the two people most affected in all the world probably spent many hours pondering where their road to glory would lead. We know the end of the story. We know that it was often rocky. We doubt they looked too far ahead because no one could imagine what was really going to take place.
The only truly important thing today is to know we’re on the road to Glory. Some days will be rocky. Some will be fulfilling. Today, I want to remember I can be on the road to Glory because Jesus left Glory. God Himself wrapped in a young woman’s womb. 
Amazing, unbelievable—when the Creator became the created.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, November 28, 2014

Genesis to Now: Faith or Fear

Dear Christa—
All of Colorado went East this year for Thanksgiving. And, all of them were going fast. I know because they all passed me going across Kansas yesterday. Maybe they had farther to go than I did, or maybe they all got a later start, which is doubtful.
As I cruised at exactly 75 mph, I couldn’t help but think of the post Stefanie had put up of four-year-old Timber as the the boys were trying to retrieve a toy from under the couch: "The hammer was too short, the light saber was too long, and the wrench was too medium to reach it."

Why is life too often preceded by a “too”?
For Lot and Abram in Genesis, their flocks were too large for a land that was too small to handle them. So, Abram brought up the inevitable: they had to separate. He appears so generous when he offers Lot the choice of which way to go. Maybe it didn’t much matter to him where he was headed because he believed that God would be with him regardless where his flocks roamed.
It’s hard to just rest in God when we’re besought by “too.” But, Abram did.
Lot did not. He lifted his eyes and chose what he thought was the best for himself. In reality, he was not choosing the best after all. In the end he lost it all. The last we hear of Lot, he’s hiding in a cave, fearing the God who had saved him from destruction.
Whether we’re traveling too fast, too slow, or the rare occasion of too medium, we face a choice: we can either fear God or trust Him.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

From Genesis to Now: God's Story

One of the things I love about teaching literature is to communicate that the essence of story is a reflection of THE story.
It doesn’t really matter which culture, which historical time period, from what worldview is underlying—the creative elements of story are a reflection of God’s plan—HIS story that He designed in eternity past and through the creation of time, is playing out on the pages of the solar systems.
And, no choice that we make will change that story. In the outcome, there are purpose and design in every smart and stupid thing that we do.
And so, we see that in the lives of Abraham and Sarah.
When Abram lied about Sarai, (Remember, this was before the name changes), Pharaoh rebuked him and sent him on his way.
As for Sarah, when she was 90 years old, God allowed her to conceive and Isaac was born—the child of promise.
Isn’t it a great comfort to know that God is writing this story? —the greatest novel ever penned. We get to be characters in that story—characters who think, decide, and act.
What a crazy, wild way to create!
And, at the end of each chapter, it all turns out just the way the Author had determined. How is that for creativity!
Novels don’t write themselves and neither is this one. That’s a hook you can hang your hat on. That’s a lifeline to carry us through the hard times—and the good.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

From Genesis to Now--Seeing Through God's Eyes

Dear Christa—
It’s easy to put Abraham and Sarah on a pedestal—after all God did call Abraham to be the father of His chosen people. Yet, it was God who set them apart from others. At their core—Abraham and Sarah were regular people with whom God chose to do incredible things.
Then, on the other hand, it’s easy to criticize Abram for going to Egypt during the famine, but really now—it probably seemed like a smart thing to do at the time. I think if I’d been Sarah, it would have seemed like a good plan to me (beats starving) until he got to the part about, “Now, you’re beautiful—so really just tell them you’re my sister, or they might kill me.”
But lest we become too critical of Abram, Sarah too looked to what seemed logical at the time—the only way that it seemed to her she could bear this promised child was to give her servant Hagar to her husband. So she did.
To be honest, these two people approached life in the same way as I most readily do—by what seems logical within the time they lived. Abraham and Sarah approached the difficulties of life through their cultural lens and answers of their time. It comes far to easy for me to take action within what seems to make sense to me—in the here and now—the 21st Century American woman.
How do I make decisions, large or small? Do I prayerfully ask God’s guidance, or do I rely mostly on what seems logical at the time? I was reminded last weekend by an interesting woman of God that I need to “look with God’s eyes.”
I wish I looked with those eyes most often.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Autumn Days

Dear Christa—
Listening to the Sunday night praise service testimonies reminded me of what Dena, fellow teacher and friend since college, said recently regarding testimonies: “Everyone has a story, and every story is broken. We are all broken, and Jesus puts us together.”
It is so true, so universal.
No matter how hard we try to be perfect spouses, parents, parishioners, brokenness will come. We can no more escape the pain of our world any more than we can jump over the moon. The pain for some seems and is harsher than others, but great or small it is there—pushing us into Jesus.
Those five testimonies were so different, yet the thread that ran throughout each one is that in the midst of brokenness, Jesus came. He sought them out, even when some were not looking, to bring healing, peace, and life.
Sometimes we look so good on the outside that people don’t realize that each of us needed a Savior. Sometimes in the moments of goodness, it’s easy to forget just how lost we were.
Then sometimes, in the hard times, it’s easy to forget that we are broken no more. Perfect? …not here, but there is much to be grateful for.
Our neighbor across the street has a tree with blazing autumn red leaves, so rare among all the Colorado yellows. It reminds me of my Midwestern roots and the beauty of fall that leads into Thanksgiving. My childhood Thanksgivings were spent among grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. It was the holiday I missed most when I went to college.
Today these autumn leaves remind me of Thanksgiving—that I am whole and I should be characterized by gratefulness.
Pack in the beauty that autumn brings like storing up can goods for winter. Breathe in clear air that’s not too hot and not too cold. I want to fill my heart with gratefulness, for winter days are just ahead. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Window Washing

Dear Christa—
A lot of things didn’t happen this summer after I broke my patella. So, even though school is pretty all consuming, we decided that we’d try to do one thing we usually do in the summer each weekend this fall. Last week I cleaned most of the windows. I finished up the last four on the back of the house this morning while Jay went to Home Depot to buy stain for the deck.
I never wash windows without thinking about the horrible aluminum windows with the nail-breaking storms that were over them that we had for years and years—and the summer I decided that I was never washing them again.
My parents had come from Illinois and brought their camper. They had taken the kids to a campground in Green Mountain Falls, and Jay and I decided to wash all the windows and storm windows inside and out. We thought it would only take a day and maybe the next morning, and then we’d join them.
So, as my parents watched the kids swim in the pool, I broke fingernails and one window-washing day turned into two. And when two days turned to four, I vowed that I would never wash those windows again—ever. In those years I only saw my parents once a year, and it all made me sad. As I was vowing to never wash windows again, Dad was deciding to never bring the camper to Colorado again. It cost too much to pull it, and his truck wasn’t strong enough to haul it over the mountains, which is why they ended up only in Green Mountain Falls.
It was a vow I kept for years. We never again washed those windows between the storms, not ever. Oh, I’d spray a little Windex on the inside, and Jay would squirt the outside with the hose once a year, but never ever did we really do those windows that I hated.
Years later, after all the kids had graduated from college, we bought new double paned windows. They don’t take very long to wash, and all the upstairs windows can be washed from the inside, both inside and out. So, generally, after the Miller moths migrate though here in June, I wash windows—except this year when I broke my patella.
So, this morning as I finished them up, I was thinking about how I hated those old windows and the visit I’d squandered on them. Dad never did bring the camper back to Colorado, although we met them to camp at other places over the years. And it’s been many years now that I’ve had nice windows, and Dad has gone to Heaven.
Today, the nastiness that Miller moths leave behind is gone—that is until they come through next year. I see more clearly now. And, I didn’t break even one nail.