Sunday, December 14, 2014

Child in the Manger

In the midst of the Advent/Christmas season, I find myself in the car - a lot. Not that the rest of the year is not busy what with shuttling my boys around town.  It just seems busier. More people are out. There is a sense of urgency that is missing the other months. There seems to be a common purpose or mission. More events. More doing. More active preparation.

Our life is no different.  In addition to Jackson's basketball practices and games, we have band concerts, church productions, Social and Cotillion Christmas formals, and parties.

So again, I am in the car - but now with Christmas music. I love Christmas music.  However, I REFUSE to play any until the day after Thanksgiving. I program my iPhone with Christmas playlists. I flip flop between the two stations in our town that play nonstop holiday favorites, both religious and secular. I love Christmas music. And every year, I have favorites.

My two favorites for 2014 are Michael Buble's "Cold December Night"  (Christmas, 2011) and Michael W. Smith's "Medley (Away in a Manger, Child in the Manger)" (Christmastime, 1998). 

Disclaimer: I am not a big fan of children singing solos unless it is for a church or school play, so I fast-forward to the 2:00 mark on the song - after the Away in a Manger part.

Last night, I had to drive forty-five minutes to Augusta to take Sumter and two other boys to their Cotillion Christmas Formal. (Another parent was picking them up for the return home.) While the drive with the three teenage boys was full of laugher, comradery and playful jabs, my drive home  became one of reflection and worship.  I listened to "Medley..." Over and over and over.

The words and music were powerful. They pulled me further into the season of Advent, preparing my heart for the arrival of The One. The arrival of a baby, who was born just like every one of us. Who was tiny and frail just like every one of us. Who was held and taken care of  just like every one of us. Who cried and was comforted just like every one of us.

BUT unlike any of usHe was perfect. Holy. Our Salvation. Our Victor. Our Redeemer. Our Savior. Lord. 



That baby, just like every one of us... but unlike any of us.



...Child in the manger, Infant of Mary
Outcast and stranger, Lord of all
Child who inherits
All our transgressions
All our demerits on Him fall

Once the most holy
Child of salvation
Gentle and lowly
Now as our glorious Mighty Redeemer
See Him victorious
O'er each foe

Prophets foretold Him
Infant of wonder
Angels behold Him On His throne
Worthy our Savior
Of all our praises
Happy forever
Are His own

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Beautiful Veneer

We all worry about our children feeling left out and passed over. We want them to have friends. We want them to feel included. We work on it. But what about ourselves? Do grown women ever feel left out or passed over? The answer is yes. Now this is not a pity party. It's is not a guilt trip. It's just a reminder that supposedly strong, supposedly "with-it" women have the same insecurities as a sixteen-year-old girl.

You wonder why you aren't included. Did I do something wrong? Did I say something that rubbed them the wrong way? Has our friendship dwindled and I just didn't know it? The questions abound. And in the world of social media, it is so much more in your face. I know those pictures and statuses aren't posted to hurt me. Of course they weren't even posted with me in mind. (I'm not THAT narcissistic.) But yes, even women in their forties can feel a little sting - no matter how unintended. 

In my head, I know this is ridiculous. I have a wonderful husband, two great boys, a beautiful home, a God who loves me more than I can even fathom - and a fabulous veneer.  I smile at all the right times. I give the teenage girls in my Bible Study such words of wisdom and compassion. I write words that (I've been told) give others strength and encouragement. I have a warm, beautiful veneer. Because I am human. I have emotions. I have insecurities. I get my feelings hurt.  And I mask it with that impenetrable veneer

I debated writing this. But it felt good to get it on paper. And I know I won't always feel the way I do at this moment. I know I can't be the only one. I wonder if I've unknowingly been an unwitting cause to someone else feeling the same. Did they just smile and move on? Did they mask the hurt? How many of us share that beautiful veneer?






Saturday, November 22, 2014

Solitude


Solitude. It's not a word I use - or experience - much.  As a wife and mother, I always seem to be on the go. With people. I'm always on a mission. To take someone somewhere. To pick someone up. To to help with this. To hurry up. To get this done. To check behind someone... Rarely I am alone.

There is always noise.  Drumming. Music. Television. Barking. Text dings. Sports Talk Radio. "Mom!" Cars... Rarely it is quiet.

There's always something running around in my head. The grocery list. Did I check the calendar? The boys' schedules? Prescriptions to pick up. How do I fix supper when no one is at home the same time? Jackson's shirt needs ironing for chapel -TODAY! I really need to call my mother. Organizing Thanksgving plans.  What is wrong with our country??? I really need to take these clothes to ACTS. Did I word that text correctly? Why won't Mike's legs stop cramping up every night? I need to lose weight. I should call my sister. OMG, the outside plants! Why can't the boys put their clothes in the hamper? This rug really needs cleaning. Why does that person feel the need to tell me what I should do? Christmas cards!... Rarely I feel calm.

I find the older I get, the more alone time I need. I crave. To just be. To listen to the quiet. To be thankful. To rest in the calm He is providing.  Curled up on the sofa on a Saturday morning before the rest of the house wakes up. With coffee. With one of my weekly Proverbs31 devotions that I missed one weekday morning. And this month's "Southern Living". And Maggie.

It does my heart and soul good. It gives it a much needed rest. Because just now, my youngest came in, asking for chocolate chip pancakes.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Welcome to the Gothic Interfaith Community Center


When coming back to my blog, I didn't really have an idea of what it was going to become, or what I WANTED it to become.  But I'm realizing that this outlet is allowing me to share - in my writing - what I might not be able to convey as eloquently in an everyday conversation.  I'm always the one who wishes in hindsight that I had said things differently or more passionately or with more conviction.

I've heard today that the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. has created quite a stir in both the conservative and more inclusive sets of Christians. (And I have dear family members who are passionately in both camps.)  The National Cathedral is part of the Episcopal church (of which I was raised) and (in my opinion) has been increasingly involved in more political activism than transforming lives through Christ.

The big controversy that has ensued was a Muslim prayer service that was held this past Friday in the Cathedral.  My initial response was one of little surprise.  

According to the National Cathedral's 36 page Strategic Plan, here is the ONLY PLACE in their Mission Statement that Jesus Christ is mentioned: Washington National Cathedral was established to hold a special role in the nation’s life and continues to answer that call. As it does so it commits to the ancient vision, fervently proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospels, of a building open to all who seek a place of prayer and barred to no particular religious tradition or sect.  Call me ignorant, but I can't think of anywhere in the Bible where He invited Roman pantheists to hang out with Him and worship their gods.

It appears that the Cathedral has changed its course and has become more of a "gothic interfaith community center". So the concerns of Franklin Graham are really of no consequence:  "It’s sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins.  Jesus was clear when He said, ‘I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6).”

I truly don't have a problem with interfaith gatherings. I believe all are created by God. I love learning about other's traditions and how they connect to my own.  And I have friends of many faiths.  When they have sacred holidays, I joyfully wish them a "Happy ....." By the same token, they wish me a Merry Christmas or ask me how my Easter was. There is a mutual respect for each others' faith - whether or not we share it.  But it is reported that Muslim prayer carpets were laid out inside the cathedral facing east, towards Mecca, for the prayer service. They were also to the side of the sanctuary (as reported by Voice of America, the Washington Post, and other news outlets) so that worshippers would not see the crosses or Christian icons, because “Muslims are not supposed to pray in view of sacred symbols alien to their faith.”  Why? Why? Why would a church want to host a prayer service where they have to hide the cross?  That would be like me asking my friend if I could celebrate Holy Communion in her temple - but please remove the Torah.

My concern is that political correctness (and please don't confuse that with Christian love and charity) overshadows our call to follow Christ as our Lord and Savior.  And to host Muslim prayer service to Allah in a church of believers (what is Biblically called the bride of Christ), basically tells our Christian faith, "Hey, I need a little break from this relationship."

And I'm not willing to be on a "break".

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Visiting Hours in Heaven

I was thinking this morning, that it was only one week ago that we had the "historic" snow of November 1, 2014.  I wondered if I would even remember it next year and thought how I don't even record many events on my calendar anymore as Facebook seems to serve as a virtual scrapbook of all important happenings in our lives.

I was in the shower (of all places) as these musings occurred and my mind was immediately taken back to my Muz.  As my uncle mentioned in the homily he preached at her memorial, she would have written *SNOW!* in all caps in her calendar.  It would have been an exciting day.  She would have called us all to make sure that we looked outside.  (Embarrassingly enough, we either would have let the voicemail pick up or we would answer more out of obligation than anything else.) Everything with Muz was that way. There was anticipation that something wonderful was going to happen - no matter how insignificant the moment seemed to those around her.

And it was as I was standing there - in the shower - that I really cried for the first time in three years over the death of my grandmother.  The water poured over me as I shook, my face in my hands.  I thought of all that has happened since October 7, 2011.  Little insignificant things in the whole scheme of life:  Mike and I giving our testimony, Sumter getting glasses, Jackson changing schools, my "haven" (a new room off our bedroom just for me), Sumter playing on drumline, Jackson's three-pointers in his basketball games, Maggie, Sumter's baptism, Jackson's braces, my new Explorer.  She hasn't been here.  And she would have seen these insignificant events, instead, with such anticipation and excitement and joy.  But she hasn't been here.  I can't even tell her about them.  And that makes me so sad.

It's strange how when someone dies, all the things that made you completely crazy just don't matter anymore.  Because she really did know how to drive all of us crazy with her warped sense of reality sometimes.  She could do and say the most "out there" things. (No, she didn't have dimentia or Alzheimers.). Things that would make us shake our heads.  Things that could hurt our feelings. Things that she thought were perfectly logical and appropriate, but were completely out of the realm of reality.

But that doesn't matter anymore, because I know where she I right now. And I'm not being all cliché.  I really do know where she is.  She was not perfect.  I just know where she is because of her faith.  A faith and relationship with Christ that really didn't blossom until she was about 70-years-old.  It was around that time that she was born-again (even though she would never use that term).  So even though I miss her incredibly.... and even though I wept this morning, I know where she is.

But still...


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Visions of Snow

                   

Today the unthinkable happened: it snowed.  No, it didn't stick.  No snowmen were made.  No snowballs were thrown.  But it did snow.  And what a way to wake up this morning:  beautiful big flakes quietly and deliberately falling from a gray sky. Facebook was abuzzing.  Pictures were shared, with some areas to the northeast of us having a bit of accumulation. Folks were amazed and bemused that we would see the white stuff in South Carolina on the first day of November. 

Fast forward to this afternoon. We received some bad news. A major setback. Mike was beside himself with anxiety and frustration. He was in a bad place. And there was nothing I could do.  I felt helpless - just as he was. And then I happened to see my Proverbs 31 devotion from yesterday.  It said to pray like everything depends on God. Of course know that.  But do I do it?  Was I doing it right now? Obviously, the answer was a humble and uncomfortable No.

So I stopped what I was doing, right then and there. "Heavenly Father," I closed my eyes and prayed. "We need you right now. Things are not good at all right now.  I pray that you will take away the despair and anxiety from my husband.  I ask that, in its place, you pour down your hope and promise that you will take care of him. We need you right now." As I was praying this over and over, I kept having visions of the gently falling snow from earlier today.  But why? Why did that vision continue throughout my prayer?  It was calming - and claiming me. I felt a peace wash over my troubled spirit.  

And then it hit me.  It was not snow that was gently falling.  It was manna. Manna! God's promise to the Israelites was that He would provide for their every need.  It was manna. God's promise to us that He would provide for our every need. Wow. 

Like the Israelites, what we are going through right now will not be over quickly.  It will take some time.  And at times, we will struggle.  But I will remember the manna, and I know that He will provide. And we will be alright.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Gaffe and the Aftermath

Anyone can make a gaffe, a slip of the tongue, and unintended mispronunciation. And I don't have a problem with that.  I don't look for hidden agendas.  I don't look for subconscious meanings and intentions.  Goodness gracious, I am Queen Foot-in-Mouth. I say the wrong thing all. the. time.

But what I've recently read about my state's challenger for governor is enough to make me incredibly upset and physically ill. This YouTube video has been making the rounds. In it, he accidentally uses the word "whore" instead of "her" in talking about the incumbent, Nikki Haley.  Now some may argue that it was intentional or characteristic or not surprising (given their intense acrimony against his party).

However, what he said (or mis-said) is not what infuriates me.  It was a mistake.  It could have been an accident.  My shock and frustration comes from what happens a few seconds later.  How I wish he had stopped, horrified at his slip-up and admonished those around him who were enjoying and reveling in it.  But he laughs. Giggles. Shares a wide smile. Points and encourages the audience to continue their applause. He enjoys the limelight and levity that calling a woman - even by mistake - a whore can give him and his agenda.  And given all the jovial camaraderie he is sharing with those around him, one might stereotypically guess that he was in a room full of members of the Old Boy network.  But no, you can see women in the video. What?  Women?  Laughing along at one of their own being called (even by a slip of the tongue) one of the worst words you can call a woman?

I have tried to read as much as I could to see what people's reaction was to this bit of news.  Sadly, there isn't much for me to read.  There hasn't been much of a reaction. And it makes me extremely sad.  The only person who seems to care is Ann Romney, who spoke to CNN.

Where ARE OUR voices?  Why don't we care?  I feel that many women today get so caught up in  political and "justice" issues that they overlook the day to day, personal experiences that are truly a war on women.  Because that is where the war is: in the snide comments, the laughing and revelry of belittling women, the treating them as objects.  I could go on and on.

Yes, we all make mistakes.  But it is what we do with them that really matters.  Do we use them to change and make the world around us a little better?  Or do we relish them and perpetuate the ills that hurt others?  Why is it such a conundrum?