Fog

It’s cold outside. Down in the 20s every morning for more than a week. No snow, however, but fog and a waning moon peering down. As I threw the ball around for Dakota this morning, I looked out over the city. I couldn’t see a thing. It was completely socked in. No Christmas lights on Railroad Avenue. No streetlight at 7th. No greenly glowing town Christmas tree down by the post office. Nothing.

I tossed the ball up and down the yard. The office light, powerful beacon outside Jonathon’s man cave, penetrated only a small halo of air. The street light high above our mail box shone but dimly. The bulbs wound around the bannisters of the front steps seemed powered by 5-watt bulbs. Nothing cut through the thick clouds.

And that’s the season I feel like I’m in. I’m getting up, going to work and church, doing what needs to be done. But I can see no farther. Christmas looms in 2 weeks. We’re almost ready for it. Two Christmas programs this week, Ruby’s band concert and the drama plus music one at church. Zac comes home for 3 weeks starting this Friday. After that, I don’t know. A new year lurks right around the corner. What’s next?

I drive to work and the fog hugs the highway in a clammy embrace. It follows the cars, obscuring distance and brake lights. I can’t see the tidal flats or seagulls soaring overhead. Then, all of a sudden, at the top of the next rise, the fog dissipates as if by magic. The sky, scrubbed free of clouds, prepares for the sun’s grand entrance.

I know if I hold on long enough, the Son will re-enter the scene. He will scatter the gloom and restore clarity.. The Holy Spirit will melt the speculation and wondering. I must keep on the path.

For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. – Hebrews 3:14

 

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Too Deep For Words

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Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S.

Thinking about this passage today:

Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open.

So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!”  – Matthew 26:40

The devotional I read today talked about these verses. I mean, the disciples couldn’t stay awake for one hour?! I always thought this snippet of the story made them sound like huge wusses. Or perhaps they fell into a carb coma. But maybe, just maybe, they were prayed out. No more words to say or scriptures to claim. Nothing else to ask for or hope for. Couldn’t examine the situation from any other angle. They were simply done. They surrendered to “come what may”.

The writer suggested that this is where the Holy Spirit stepped in and prayed with “groans too deep for words” (Romans 8:26). Perhaps, while they slept, their spirits prayed on. They waited for the inevitable yet dreaded the outcome.

I appreciate this gracious interpretation. It’s okay to have no more words. It’s alright to wait on God. We can receive His peace. We can trust Him when He’s made up His mind. In fact, it just might be the ticket to getting on with things.

Christmas Core

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We had a nice Christmas. It stretched out over most of the month. We got to see Jonathon’s folks earlier in the month. We got our tree then, and decorated it. That felt like Christmas, and we did that way back at the beginning of December.

Our church Christmas program was December 19-20. That had some magical moments. Also felt like Christmas, like we ushered it in.

Hanging out with the guys at the Public Works shop, and eating meals with them – prime rib lunch cooked onsite among them – felt festive as well. You can learn a lot about a person over a meal.

We attended Christmas Eve service at our usual spot. Sang loads of carols and lit candles and wondered at the beautiful simplicity of Jesus’ birth.

Christmas Day, extended out over a couple of days, at Dad’s and my brothers and our house, felt great. We enjoyed giving. We had a bigger Christmas budget than normal and found ourselves able to bless more than we had in the past. We got Zac the new mechanical keyboard he dreamed of. We got Ruby a do-it-yourself computer she can use with the TV screen. I got Jonathon a new orbital sander, and with the balance of a gift card Zac and I contributed on, he purchased a sound mixing board. He got me a treadmill. Lest you think a treadmill a rather unromantic gift, consider that I gave up my gym membership when I returned to work full-time. I couldn’t justify the $40-plus a month when all I’d be using is the treadmill when it rained sideways, if anything. No time for kettlebell classes anymore. Sad but true.

What I found myself doing this Christmas is thinking about the people I love. How much longer will we all be together? Zac will graduate from high school next spring. My parents, still healthy, won’t live forever. How can I maximize this time and yet let expectations go?

I take back what I said about the beautiful simplicity of Jesus’ birth. It came at a rotten time for Mary and Joseph, travelling to Bethlehem for the census. The administrator in me cringes to think of the King of Kings birthed in a stable. Couldn’t God who created the universe have come up with a Hilton-style room, just for one night? And Mary just a girl, too. Though we paint a peaceful tableau of the scene, it might have taken a touch of self-control on the part of both parents not to tear their hair out. How would they raise the son of God? How could they go back and live in their community and not be the laughingstocks? “There go Joseph and Mary, with their newest addition:  the Messiah!” Cue loud guffaws and knee slaps.

Perhaps the striking beauty of Christmas is that it happened at all. God didn’t wait for circumstances to improve anywhere for anyone. The time had come, which proved inconvenient to the mortals involved, to say the least. Mary and Joseph learned to make the most of the moments given to them. Because that’s where Jesus meets us all the time, in the midst of our stuff. Messy, unexpected and humbling in most every way, Jesus came to earth. Glory!

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

 

 

 

 

Winter Solstice

 

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Today is the shortest day of 2015. It’s clear and cold. I stepped out into the still-night a.m. and looked up at the sky. A sprinkling of stars winked at me. sassy after all the rain and even a bit of snow we got yesterday.

I ran in our neighborhood. The wet pavement glowed with the shine of stars, streetlights and neighbors festive Christmas lights. As my feet found their rhythm, I thought about darkness and light.

Today  marks the end of losing light for 2015. Tomorrow, we get an extra minute of light. One minute. Sixty seconds. Doesn’t amount to much. I liken it to putting pennies in a jar, one day at a time. It takes forever to get a pile together. But by summer time, we’ll have light until almost 10:00 p.m. Okay, we also get a boost from Daylight Savings Time in there, too.

 I’m encouraged that during this darkest time of year, Jesus shows up. You can argue that the Roman-era Christians moved the birth to winter in order to give people something to celebrate and to counteract the Winter Solstice celebrations of the Celtic peoples. I’m fine with that. Because Jesus truly does come to us when we’re at our lowest, bottomed out, completely whipped, backs flat on the mat of life.  The truth remains.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. – Isaiah 9:2

I Heard the Bells

We finished up our church Christmas program today.  Musically, we kept it pretty traditional.  We found new arrangements for carols and put them into the program. My sister-in-law brought this one forth beautifully .

This is one of Jonathon’s favorite carols.  I’d never given it much attention.  In fact, I considered it kind of…fusty. Until now.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day…

Did you know who wrote this carol? Do you know its history? The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote it. His son, Charles, joined the Union army to fight in the Civil War against Henry’s wishes in March 1863. Charles wrote him a letter in which he said, “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good”.

Till ringing, singing on its way/The world revolved from night to day…

Charles, severely wounded in the Mine Run Campaign (thank you Wikipedia), convalesced at home.  An accidental fire arose soon after, killing Henry’s wife. He wrote the poem in Christmas 1863.

And in despair I bowed my head/”There is no peace on earth,” I said
“For hate is strong/And mocks the song/Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

I can only imagine the depths of Mr. Longfellow’s despair. I’m not sure I would handle that well.  My boy, home from a war that tore the country apart and souls asunder. My life’s companion, gone on to the next life.

And yet…

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep/”God is not dead, and not asleep
The Wrong shall fail/The Right prevail/With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

I thought of this as I sat on stage this morning and mulled over this song while our excellent group played and sang. I considered all the violent shootings in the news lately. Call them terrorism. Call them acts of war. Call them senseless.  I have no better, prettier words.

What I do have is hope. God sees all. He will repay. It’s his job. He’s not dead or asleep, my friends. The bells remind us that Christmas *did* come, and peace on earth is possible because of Jesus.

 

Christmas in June

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

I want one!  Image from stagetecture.com

I want one! Image from stagetecture.com

I came across this passage in my Bible reading plan today.  At first I thought:  this is for Christmas.  It’s out of place here, us on the cusp of summer.

But is it?

On second thought, I’m rather glad to meditate on it now.  I need to remember the Christ child when the kids are whiny. I should recall The Babe when Jonathon and I communicate clumsily.  It’s good to think about Advent when things at work get explosive. Not me and my dusty boxes, mind you, but other departments. And…to remember wearing black while unfurling the ancient scrolls from the wastewater treatment plant of 1977 will net you a dust bunny-covered midsection. But I digress.

So I’m thinking about the holidays, albeit briefly. I’m thankful God gave Jesus to us. Because of Him we have hope, not just at Christmas time, but every day.