turn your eyes

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It hardly feels like Advent here, and I find myself annoyed with all the tender reflections. I remember reading a blogger once, one who tends to be tenderly reflectional, and he said he could not bear to read one more meaningful paragraph of introspection.

I don’t want to know why my soul has been hurting, why negative thoughts have been creeping in slow.  The reasons are endless and pain has no answers. It doesn’t need to be this way-or that is what I tell myself.  I don’t want to feel this.  I don’t want to be this.

The kids and I read from Luke 5 today.  There were five sections, so I had each child narrate back to me a story.  After Jesus healed a paralytic and called Simon and friends to be fishers of men, I had them take out their journals and meditate on this sentence:

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
~Luke 5:16~

I imagine Jesus sitting in a desert on a rock.  Crowds had been coming to hear Jesus teach and find healing for their sicknesses.  People use verses like this as examples how even Jesus Himself practiced “self-care”.  Some people have adverse reactions to this term.

It’s never really bothered me.  I think “self-care” is really just the concept of a “sabbath”. God gives people the gift of His rest.  Even people who don’t know God eventually figure out you can’t just continue on and on without stopping.  People need to take breaks.

Jesus doesn’t withdraw to kick back and watch tv.  He doesn’t withdraw to go spend time alone.  He actually withdraws to spend time with His Father.  I wonder what they talked about.  I wonder what he cried about.  I wonder and smile for what Jesus prayed about.

 

 

 

 

cold and dark

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Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
how we need to hear from God
You’ve been promised, we’ve been waiting
Welcome Holy Child, Welcome Holy Child
~Welcome to Our World~

December angst arrived early this year.  In my heart, I know this is right, the way it’s supposed and is going to be no matter how hard you try, but in my head, it is too many things to get done, to keep straight, and to still keep the peace in both of those places.

I’ve been dreading this trip to go out to New York.  Many months ago, when my husband said we had to change the original November dates, I wasn’t even thinking about the reality, other than the fact that my grandparents had gotten older and sicker this year. I always get travel anxiety as is, even more now in these weeks leading up into Christmas.

But when I talk to my Grandma, she sounds so excited.  I talked to my brother-in-law on the phone, who is getting their camper all ready to house us.  I just haven’t been able to get excited myself, until I asked him what, if anything, we could bring.  “Has Grandma set up her Christmas tree yet?”  No, he said.  “The Christmas spirit has yet to arrive here.”

I suddenly felt a faint wind of purpose.  If the Christmas spirit has yet to arrive

“Then we’ll bring it”, I said.

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Earlier today, it was school or start corn bags.  I chose to start corn bags.  My daughter and I had gone shopping for fabric to make corn bags, or “heat-packs” to give to our outside cats, Tom and Shadow.  It also gives me a reason to get out my sewing machine and sewing stuff Norma gave to me a few years ago.  This time of year my heart longs for old friends, and often thinks back on the special things we used to do together.

My sisters and I recently talked about making memories.  My sister articulated it so well when she said that as women, we labor to imprint these lasting images on hearts and on minds.  Our work is one of forging bonds, between God and family, family and others.  I don’t think I would ever thought to sort it out and put it that way, but it’s true.  All this December stuff we’re instinctively doing and wanting to do is for us, in part, but it’s really for them

the ones we love.

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losing my religion

Half of my family doesn’t celebrate Christmas.  They used to, but now they don’t.  It hasn’t been that long since it changed, maybe in the past two years or so.  They don’t have trees, but they do have menorahs.  They aren’t at all Jewish, but neither are they “Christian”.

I don’t mean that like they don’t believe in Jesus, although they don’t say Jesus unless they’re with Christians.  Instead they say “Messiah” or “Yeshua” or “Yehova”.  I texted my brother once, “Dude. What gives???  You can’t even say the name of Jesus anymore???”

There were three things you weren’t supposed to talk about in groups.  Politics.  Religion. I can’t remember number 3.  My family used to talk about “religion” all the time (we didn’t use that mad-made traditional word).   Now it’s just this awkward thing.

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I kid you not we had a joke at Thanksgiving.  We at least could laugh about the awkwardness this way.  Growing up the big thing was keeping Christ in “Merry Christmas”, not with my family necessarily, but on the Christian radio stations and Christmas Eve church plays.  “Happy Holidays” was evidence of the world becoming more secular, of everyone trying not to be offensive to the other religions while actually being offensive to Christians.  There was this big push to proclaim your faith by making sure your Christmas cards actually said “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”.

To this day I still shuffle through the Wal-Mart Christmas cards before buying them, and will only buy the ginormous purple box if there are enough cards with nativity scenes and doves proclaiming “Peace on Earth Goodwill to Men”.  Back to the joke, my sisters and I started saying “Happy Holidays” to one another.  We made dad laugh by reversing the take on an old familiar punchline.  “Excuse me everybody, but this year instead of the heathen “Merry Christmas”, let’s make it a point to be saying “Happy Holidays”.

But Mom, but Dad, where do you think I learned all this from?

You were the ones who taught me to love Christmas. You were the one, Dad, who took us driving through towns late at night to find lights.  You were the ones who made Christmas special, for me, and for all of my brothers and sisters.

Because of you we knew Jesus.

Because of you we knew Joy.

the human being

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Robin Williams committed suicide at the age of 63.

John Crist is 34.  He’s a comedian I came across over the summer.  My sister was visiting and showed me some videos.  I thought he was hilarious, particularly his video Check Your Heart.  I’m not sure how long the making fun of Christians can go on, but I recognize and appreciate his content material, and over all, he makes me laugh.

I struggle sometimes in the way I see the world.  My husband took me to one of his shows, and I had fun.  I’m glad we went.  But I couldn’t help but feel like we were sinning against humanity.  How is celebrity culture good for a person?  The man is tired, lonely, away from his home, possibly exploiting his soul, and here we sit just laughing along.

He says the humor is two-fold.  On one hand, it feels good to help people.  He’ll get an email from a married couple saying, “This was our first date-night in 20 years.”  A mother will write on behalf of her physically disabled child and say, “He watches your videos and in them finds laughter.”  Laughter helps people.  Togetherness helps people.

John Crist: You are loved, and you are funny.  I do believe you’re helping people.

But then there’s the other side.  It feels good to be famous.  Being a child in a large family, he was often overlooked.  His dad was a pastor, and he remembers his dad saying that it felt good to help others, but it also felt good to be the guy everybody came to for help. Humor was a way he found to get attention.  Humor is the way he deals with the pain.

I don’t want to know or face any of this.  I don’t want to know his pain is my joy.  I don’t want to think how this man needs sleep, not a show in ninety minutes.  But here we are again, the church failing a man.  Sitting in our padded seats–I don’t want to be the one to ask “Why are we doing this?”  I do not want to see my inner doubt and unbelief.

So God can work all these things together for His good, fine.  Social media. Smartphones. All these false ways we measure ourselves. Show me the good being done with them then.  Are families better off?  Do we really know our friends?  That hole in your heart, the one that killed Robin Williams? Will the laughs be enough to keep John Crist alive?