Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Beautiful Surprise of Fresh Eyes

I have been praying that this season of Advent be full of expectation, in a fresh way.  I wanted to consider the Gospel accounts, the worship, the music, the traditions with a fresh sense.  The season of Advent unfolded in a lovely, but predictable manner. Nothing "fresh"--- until late Christmas Eve afternoon.   

My church has, for its afternoon Christmas Eve service as a centerpiece, baptisms.  Sometimes there are many, this time two.  I was honored to assist with one this year. 

As the pastor walked the parents through details, the pastor said, "I will finish up with a prayer where we lay hands on you and your son,
praying for the day he stands before the church on his own proclaiming faith in Jesus Christ."  

The mom started to cry, she was so moved by this moment and the hope of that moment in the future.  It was touching and beautiful to see her emotion surface;  to see the depth of faithful love expressed in a spontaneous reaction. 

That was it.  Through her, I saw the majesty and import of it all with fresh eyes.  It was not what I expected and it was the best of surprises.  I worshipped with a joy and thankfulness anew.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hardships Facing the Idle Rich

We finally shopped, wrapped, stamped and shipped a large pile of I don't even remember now to the Midwest where a large pile of kin are currently hunkering down through a blizzard.

Check off the list.

Enjoy an extra Christmas cookie.

 
Turn thoughts to the status of giving on the home
front.

It occurred to us that some of what we had so smugly ordered first week of December had yet to arrive.  No worries, three shipping days left.  Yet, we had not seen the charge on the bank statement either.

Pause for dramatic effect.

It turns out the the set of new knives that hubby JR had found for me at a great price appealed to many other people as well and will be delivered around January 18ish--just in time for the festive gift giving so often associated with MLK and the NFL playoffs.

Also, it seems the moccasins that I found for hubby JR are out of stock--they told me of this when I directly asked them when to expect the moccasins--and we should expect them by next Christmas, no problem.

So, outside some new perfume (I am guessing) and a new belt and sweater for JR, we will be exchanging our out of stock good intentions on Sunday morning

It was an odd experience.  It was a little like an overbooked flight without any remedy.  No apologies, or offer for free shipping or even notification that our orders won't be filled until well after Christmas.

I say it was odd, because it's not exactly sad, is it?   This is the kind of hardship that rich people face.  Do we cancel, wait or scramble to find an alternative gift?

If I shared this with almost anyone else in the world they would be well maybe amused at what passes for a problem in the USA, probably shocked at what passes for a problem in the USA.

Of course I am not making light of the real trials people face (see last post), but I am making light of my current dilemma, because it feels a little like a problem, but is it really a problem of too much good stuff?

So what are the idle rich to do when confronted with such hardship?   Well, we decided to laugh at it, and give thanks for the hangnails and hangups of too much good stuff.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Faith, Hope and Love: The Greatest of These is Love

I have sat on this one for a while.

Advent is the season expectation.   Words most often associated with it include: joy, lights, giving.

God interrupts time to invade the plant He made, we broke,  with a great and holy gift.  His son.

For God so loved this broken world, he gave his son.

Within this season, I received a note from a good friend.  She was passing on a note from one of her friends.  It was a different kind of interruption.  There is within the story a whisper of the great and holy gift, but also the grief and pain of the most painful of all losses.

Why am I sharing this --the anguish is real, but so is the honest beauty of faith in a living God even when confronted with such pain.  It's the kind of honesty and the depth of faith that inspires an instructs as to the realities of a broken world and how we survive with faith. 

Also, I am asking you to pray for both my friend who forwarded the note to me and for the writer--a wife, mom, daughter and friend who is hurting a great deal as she says goodbye to her husband.

First the background note from my friend:

 "I wanted to share a prayer request last night but it was too tender and I was scared I was going to burst into tears. Some of you may know of them.  The husband has been fighting cancer for over 15 years and we met them in 2000 when when my husband was first was diagnosed. Since that time, the wife and I have been through so much together and are bonded by faith and our almost exact experiences with cancer. Their faith has been an amazing witness and I wanted to share this with you because this is exactly what our study group talked about a couple of weeks ago. Exactly....This is the wife's post from their Caring Bridge website. As you feel led, please pray for this precious family and dear friends. Thank you!!!

Now:  The Caring Bridge Post from the wife/friend my fried mentioned:
"Remembering God's character--

God is good. God is faithful. God is loving. God gives His perfect peace. I can go on and on. Even when these difficult times come, I am reminded that He is able to hold us up. He is going to take care of us. He is going to provide and remain our faithful God. Everything else will be ok because of Him. But it doesn't mean it will be easy....


Today I took Tom back to the hospital for IV fluids and IV nutrition. He was admitted but as of this writing (almost 10pm) he still has not started the IV fluids! This is so frustrating!! Patience has never been my strong suit, but I am trying.


Yesterday was one of the most difficult days I have ever had, and I have had some tough ones. We had to tell the kids that Tom may not get better and that he might go to be with Jesus. Never a conversation you want to have. We had emotions all across the board- lots of tears, fears and anger. But in the end, precious time together as a family and an opportunity to say things that might get left unsaid for a lifetime. Another precious blessing wrapped in difficulty.


We hope to have a heart to heart with our doctor tomorrow and also see how Tom is responding to the fluids. I have already been in contact with a local hospice and will see if and when that transition will be made.


Please continue to pray. We have felt the Spirit move on our behalf. We have experienced His peace. But I have also felt like someone has ripped the heart from my chest. I almost can't breathe at times. I can't imagine Tom, the love of my life for over 20 years, not being with me. But I trust God and His character. I trust Him for Tom, our children and myself. He is worthy."


Thanks for lifting up this family in prayer.  I give thanks for their faith and their love for each other. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Will I Give Up for What's Behind Door #2?

I was writing away at my desk, in my bedroom and the phone rings. A friend wanted a recommendation of a Christian author for a Christmas gift.

As the conversation wandered she shared a story about a woman in New York who spent a year looking for the key to happiness and how thorough her research was for this project.

My friend then commented, “she is not just some woman sitting in her bedroom writing a blog.” No kidding. Ouch. I actually laughed because the irony was too sweet.


 
What I was writing, in my bedroom:

 
In sorting through notes, as I am in between studies and cleaning up, I found this summary of recent research on greed published in the NIV Application Commentary (Luke).

 
• Respondents said for 10 million dollars:
o 25% would leave their family
o 25% would leave their church
o 23% would become a prostitute for a week
o 16% would give up American citizenship
o 16% would leave their spouse
o 13% would put their children up for adoption.
 
Now, if you think through these hypothetical stats you see some contradictions (abandon family vs. leave spouse, are they not the same?) Also, some seem low—I think more than 25% would leave their church for 10 million dollars. However, letting go of those issues, it points to a personal and probing question:

 
At what price will I sell out my integrity? For what reward will I cave morally?

 
• If I am paid in comfort (no interruptions, no rejection, no risk)

 
• If I am paid in recognition (look at me)

 
• If I am paid in self satisfaction (it is all about me)

 
Whatever the compensation—what price turns my head away from what I should do to what I am willing to give up for something immoral, but desirable.

 
What is the tipping point that creates a change in direction—where greed wins?

 

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?