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Monday, December 23, 2013

A Series of Providential Events

 First came a note from a young man we've known since he was a wee thing. He's come to birthday parties and assorted young-people hangouts at our house, he's cut our grass, and we've taught him in Sunday school. We've watched him become a leader and always tried to encourage him. He wrote us a thank-you note. How many recent college grads do that? My husband handed it to me on the way home from church. I could scarcely get through a sentence without saying "Awwwww" and pressing the card to my chest. What a gift!
Then I was walking through Publix, snapping up the last requirements for Christmas dinner, and saw a young man walking toward me on the arm of a woman I suppose was his mother. He may have had a syndrome with a name, something that gave him small stature and an oddly triangular face that came to a wedge shape at the front. A web of thoughts zipped around my mind: "Poor fellow. It must be hard for him to connect with other people. But good that these days his mother takes him out instead of hiding him away. And there's a human being in there." I smiled at him. As I passed, he reached out and squeezed and patted my arm. The next thing I did was look up and say, "That was one of Yours, wasn't it?" What a gift!
Hanging around in the kitchen, my granddaughter Anna said, "You wanna hear what would be awesome?" Just to be silly, I said, "Nah, I hate awesome." She said, "But then you'd have to hate yourself." I hugged her. What a gift!
Cars? Diamonds? You can keep 'em. I'll take these things any day. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Life, Death, Christmas

Christmas was a little death for Jesus. Not a theme you want to highlight in the kids’ pageant, but it’s a conclusion I couldn’t avoid in Wednesday night Bible study as we discussed some similarities in circumstances surrounding His birth and His burial.
Jesus allowed Himself to be a baby, helpless in the hands of His parents, who wrapped Him tightly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a manger (a feeding-trough bed for the One who became the bread of life.)  At His death, His friends wrapped Him tightly in strips of cloth and laid Him in a tomb, a cave carved in the rock. Many believe the stable of His birth was also a cave. One of the gifts the Magi brought was myrrh. Joseph of Arimathea used many pounds of myrrh and other spices in Jesus’ grave wrappings.
We celebrate in December, but if the shepherds were out in the fields, it may well have been spring, when lambs destined for sacrifice in the temple were born, the time of the Passover. How fitting that the Lamb of God might have been born at the same time. When the shepherds, lowly workers, heard that the Savior was born, they ran all the way to Bethlehem to find Him. What the angels told them was true! They went home rejoicing. When the disciples heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, they ran to the tomb. An angel told them that He was no longer there. Everything He had told them was true! Men who had been in hiding, beaten and terrified, now became brave, willing to be martyred for their risen Lord.
Prophecies, angelic announcements and portents in the sky heralded both His birth and His death. Each was a pivotal moment in human history, and each saw Jesus moving from one world to another. We talk about His entering Heaven in glory, but we don’t talk so much about what it meant for the eternal Son of God, creator of the universe, second Person of the Trinity, to leave that perfect realm in the first place.  Angels (at the sight of which, humans are often terrified, or tempted to worship) praised and honored Him continually, covering their faces in humility. In our realm, people would call Him crazy and try to push Him over a cliff. In the end, they crucified Him.
It’s in Philippians 2, how God Himself took the form of a servant, humbling Himself in obedience, even to the point of death on the cross. He left honor and power and prerogatives behind. Omnipotent God became a man. That’s a little death. Hebrews 10:5 shows us that He knew from the beginning what He faced. “When He came into the world, He said ‘… a body You have prepared for Me… I have come to do Your will, O God.’” And human beings would be “sanctified  through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” A little death, a new life. An earth-shaking death, new life for millions. Now that's a gift.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Merry Christmas to Me

A pair of leaves atop a twig twirled in the air like a toy helicopter. It was shady, but a beam of sun spotlighted this bit of fall (in December, in Florida) as I drove past. I marveled at the momentary spectacle, staged, apparently, just for me. People often say when they gaze at the expanse of the night sky that it makes them feel “small” or “insignificant,” but I react to stars and sunsets and mountain  ranges just as I reacted to that tawny whirligig: thanking God for putting it all in place just for me.
Think a lot of myself, don’t I? Well, not exactly. I’m undeniably a crummy sinner, and nobody owes me a thing, but the Creator of the universe is like a dad to me. He’s adopted me, made me an heir and promised me the world. Now, that’s significant. He created nations and families and individuals, including some who left their home countries for America, and put them all in the right place at the right time to produce me. Long before that, He decided to love me, save me from my own flaws, and make me part of His kingdom, sensed dimly for now, but one day to be splendidly realized on this earth.
As a loving father, He sent His own Son to make it all sure. He was born on the earth, the event we celebrate at Christmas. He was crucified to pay our debts and redeem the whole world from the curse placed on it after Adam’s sin. He rose again from the dead to prove that He is God, that death has no more power over His people. No more power over this person. Me. That’s quite a gift. That’s mighty significant. I owe Him a mighty long thank-you note.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sweatin' to the Weather Report

Sorry, snowbound and freezing northern friends, but I just went shopping in a denim skirt and sandals. In December. Music pumped into the store included a (not very good) rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside." I drove home with shirt sweaty and hair sticking to my neck. The irony. 
My elementary-school teachers decorated bulletin boards with colorful "autumn leaves" in September, and enormous white snowflakes in December. To a kid in Florida, they were as familiar as craters of the moon, or rings of Saturn, often depicted, but still exotically foreign. One "winter," weathermen said there might be some snow in central Florida. Our teachers peeped out the door every few minutes. One finally said, "I think I see some," and all classrooms emptied. We stood on the playground like turkeys in a hard rain, hoping to spot a flake. "I caught one," cried a classmate, and we gathered around. A tiny bit of gray fluff sat on her hand, looking like a bit of ash. It didn't melt. Turns out it was a bit of ash. 
When temps were supposed to drop below freezing, my mother let me and my brothers set out a little dish of water overnight. In the morning, it was ice! On our porch! I've learned since that home bakers in the Dakotas sometimes store their holiday pies on the back porch, a natural freezer. Perspective. 
So, every winter, I have this cognitive dissonance. I sit here sweating, even as great fronts roll across the continent, solidifying water pipes and disguising cars as sleeping white mammoths. It's said that everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. My request for someone more wise in the ways of science: can't we rig up something that would at least average things out? I'd happily trade about twenty degrees of warmth with Michigan. Hmm? Anybody?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Woman's Right to Chew

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