Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's All the Same?

Recently, I saw a commercial for a local car dealership that was attempting to be very P.C.  So P.C. in fact, that they had not only a Caucasian male saying, "Merry Christmas," a Jewish male saying, "Happy Hanukkah," and a Black woman saying, "Happy Kwanzaa," BUT they also had almost every nationality represented spouting out in their various languages a form of "Happy Holidays."

Touching?  Sure.

What actually bothered me though was that at the end, the owners of the dealership stood there and said something of the sort: "Whatever it is, it's all the same.  Happy Holidays."

It is?

I am not trying to saw that Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and whatever holiday that is out there right now is not wonderful - no.  They are wonderful, and celebrating them because of who you are, what you believe in, and even because of your tradition and lineage is a great thing.

What I want to ask is this: Is Christmas actually the same as the rest of the holidays?

My very P.I. answer is this:  NO!!!!!!!!!

Christmas is NOT the same.  The Incarnation of God is NOT the same as a celebration of lights that preserved a nation.  The very fact that God came to earth is NOT the same as a celebration of a people group.  Not that these holidays are not wonderful, but they are NOT the same as Christmas!

Because Christmas, the real Christ-Mass, is a celebration of the very fact that Jesus came.  It is remembering the night that angels bent down to earth to sing praises and choruses of Hallelujah because God became flesh.  It is NOT a celebration of mankind - it is a celebration of the God who became Man.  It is NOT about human goodness, but about the fact that finally there was a Human who was Good.  It is NOT about stockings filled with coal, but about the One True Gift that is for Everyone, those with coal and those with sugarplums.

So, while I am sure the sentiment was well-intended by this car dealership (mostly so they would get more sales this December from one and all), I am going to have to say no, NO - it is NOT all the same.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, October 10, 2011

No Line on the Horizon

U2 is by far and away my favorite band.  Even if I don't agree with Bono's skewed theological beliefs, Adam's love affairs, Larry's unbelief, or the Edge's... well, I love the Edge - there is nothing wrong with the Edge.  Even though all of these things, I love and appreciate U2 beyond measure.  Their lyrics have inspired me for years; their poetic historical accounts have lit a fire under me especially at times when I was merely a flickering flame; and who doesn't love sweet guitar licks?  I mean, come on!

I'm not sure that I want this blog to turn into a place where I am constantly revealing the process of my grief, so I do promise that more blogs on other topics will come, but something inside of me started burning this weekend as I was listening to my U2 playlist.  Next Monday would have been my mom's 54th birthday.  The irony of it all is that I rarely ever remembered my mom's age while she was alive.  In fact, on several occasions in my childhood and teen years, I remember saying, "Happy Birthday MOM!  How old are you again?"  I never forgot her birthday, but I just couldn't make the number of years stick in my brain.  Now that she is no longer here, I am not quite sure what will happen with this memory lapse, but for now, the # 54 is bright and clear.

What does this have to do with U2 and a fire burning inside of me, you may ask.  Well, the simple matter is this: It turns out that we are incredibly selfish people.  My mom would have been 54 next week; and the shock of grief at times can be overwhelming.  I miss her.  I want to talk to her.  I get angry at the fact that somehow God took her away.  How could he do that?  Didn't He know that I needed her here?  Didn't He know that she was supposed to be a witness to my life here on this earth?  Didn't He get it that she was supposed to be a grandma one day?  Did God mess up?

These are the thoughts that plague me at some of the most inopportune times.  So, it is most certainly comical to me that God would use my love for U2 to express something so deep and profound because when the grief hits, it is hard to focus.  You may ask, what does the song "No Line on the Horizon" have to do with this?


Selfishness is looking at God and telling Him that He should have known better; but He speaks to me and says that He does know.  My mom would have been 54, but now she is Eternity.  My mom would have been facing another Michigan winter with a car that always continually gave her problems, but now she is in the heavenlies - where the idea of "weather" is comical.  My mom would have been facing another stack of bills every single day, adding fear and worry to her already loaded plate.  Now she is in a place where peace, pure bliss, and joy reign.  The words fear and worry have no meaning.  My mom would have been waking up to another day of pricking her finger, writing down her #, taking a bunch of pills, and shooting a shot of insulin into her system.  She now resides in a place where medicine does not exist and never has, because there is no more disease, there is no more heartache, there is no more pain, there is no more crying - there is simply her and Him.

You see there is no line on the horizon for my mom.  I miss her with all of my finiteness, but if I cannot wrap my head around the fact that the Infinite has it all in His ever-loving Hands, then well, I am selfish.

For now, it is enough for me to say out loud, "Happy Birthday, Mom; you are in the best place possible.  I cannot wait to see you again."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Gasping for Air

I have always been one of those "sports girls."  You know the type - played basketball and can actually shoot a 3, into lifting weights at the gym and not just doing the elliptical machine, still has issues with nail polish on my fingers - that type of girl.  I'm not sure if this is the reason why, but whenever anyone finds out that I happen to have asthma, they look at me with a bewildered expression and say something like, "Really?  You have asthma?"

Yes, indeed.  I have the thrilling experience of having my lungs swell to the point where my ability to breath becomes extremely difficult (to say the least).  I know that brain function depends on oxygen, but truthfully, whenever I am in the midst of an attack, my brain is working overtime.  Mostly, thinking about the exact location of my inhaler, and then thinking about how insanely silly and stupid I look, followed up by more self-conscious thoughts, then slowly thoughts that I really need to calm down.  These all happen within a matter of a second and then are re-thought over and over again.  It's quite the vicious cycle.

Having asthma is a bit of a problem for someone like me who has major issues in the realm of pride.  You see, I try again and again to do things all on my own.  I have issues, if you will, with letting things go.  So, to be reliant on an inhaler every time I want to go work out is extremely trying.  In recent years, I've tried to just do exercises that won't require that I take my inhaler - like yoga or pilates, even light jogging.  But every now and then, I begin to think that I am doing so well with my work out, that I try to add on more and more - and then the lungs start to swell more and more.  Before you know it, I am keeled over, feeling like an idiot - gasping for air.

It is in between the gasps that I am reminded that God created my lungs.  He is the One that I live and move and have my being in; He is concerned with every hair on my head, so why would every breath that I take be any different?  Way back in the day, there was a song called "Air I Breathe."  It's funny what a simple lyric will do for a girl with asthma; but hearing that "This is the air I breathe, your holy presence living in me," did wonders for my prideful, asthmatic psyche.

Now for the abrupt shift - my mom died.  In fact, it is now just a little over two months ago that I received the phone call from my uncle telling me this.  I am not exactly sure what the grieving process is for other people, but right now, for me, I feel like I am stuck in a permanent asthma attack.  I spend a lot of my time gasping, and being stuck in my prideful state thinking that I can get myself out of this one; I can fix it; I can stop gasping for air without the help of anyone or anything; I can do this on my own.  It's a lot of silliness, really.

I know that every day is one day closer, time is the healer, and all of the other such timely phrases.  It is actually realizing this every single day, physically making a conscious effort to know that God is not only concerned with my ability to breath while I exercise, but that He is concerned that I am not gasping for air while I grieve.  We never suffer alone, we only feel like we do.  He is not far off; He is not stuck in some cosmic conversation.  He is near, ready to bring Joy in the morning.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Checking Up

So, it's raining outside.  It must be April.  As most of you know, "I'm only happy when it rains," so, April is one of my favorite months of the year.  This and October, well and of course December (my birthday month).  The rest of the months, I could really take them or leave them.

As we are entering into month four of the year, I have decided to assess the challenging situation that I have put myself in for the year.  How are my new year's goals/resolutions going?  You know, those ones that I made public to one and all here.

Well, I have to be honest.  They aren't going half as badly as I thought they would be!  I am pretty much on target for 3 out of 4.  I have been reading extensively, and will definitely have 25 books done by the end of the year, although currently I am in the problem of reading a ginormous book, and I refuse to stop reading it to pick up something slightly more easy and breezy to accomplish this goal.  So, I may not reach that goal after all.

I have been cooking on a regular basis, and really have been enjoying it.  Recently we even picked up a panini press cast iron pan, and that has opened up a whole new world of cooking to me!  Grill cheese taste so much better pressed like a panini!

And even though the incredible temptation of Starbuck's new mini Red Velvet Whoopie Pie has been upon me ever since it was introduced this year, I have not had sweets (except on my husband's birthday and when we were out of the country in February).  Surprisingly, this has not been as hard as I thought it would be.  But the summer months and my addiction for ice cream in the hot, sticky nights has yet to come.

That leaves me with the one that I am failing miserably at.  Writing daily.  Who knew it would be so hard?  Well, I did know, but I thought I was bigger than that.  Apparently not.  I have been writing, just typically not what I wanted to be working on.  I've had a lot of opportunities this year to teach, speak and preach, so I have been writing a lot of lessons and sermons, but still my book has only a page.  One page.  I'm pretty pathetic.  Oh well, I think it is time to reassess this goal and shoot to start writing once a week.

That's always the good thing about quarter year check-ups.  You can always admit defeat and try to amend your goal.  So, that is my encouragement for you today.  If you came up with goals for the year, check up on yourself and how you are doing.  And if something was dropped, then maybe it is time to try it but in a different light.  And if not, there is always next year!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Nothing Good Happens After 10 pm, 11 pm, Midnight...

I've spent most of my adult life in service to teenagers.  In the past 10 years, social networking, texting, and the ability to share every facet of your life has exploded among the teen (and adult) culture like an atomic bomb.  In my day, the saying was that "Nothing good ever happens after 10 pm."  As my testimony of my teenage years confirm this, what with the drinking and general debauchery that occurred well into the wee hours of the morning, I feel like something has shifted in the ways that nothing good happens now.

We long for transparency in the Christian life.  When someone gets up in front of hundreds and thousands of people and shares their life story, about a time when they were raped, they were on drugs, they were suicidal, they were stuck in the miry clay, if you will - we connect with this person on a deeper level.  We tear up, we partly feel their pain and agony, and maybe we even identify with the person because we are or were in that very same mire.  The testimony continues and that person has their foot set on the firm rock of Jesus now - we cry more and feel joy in the freedom of the collective life of Christ.  This is not a bad thing, this can be and should be a very good, encouraging thing.

When is enough though?  When should some things be kept private and not divulged to the entire "cloud" of witnesses that is NOT the biblical "cloud of witnesses?"

I often hear teenagers saying that they cannot sleep and that they have a struggle with insomnia.  But as my experience in having sleepovers with these teens at different camps tells me, they do not lack sleep because of insomnia, they have no sleep because they are up all night constantly texting one another and chatting on Facebook and tweeted updates about their lack of sleep.  Their minds constantly work and they have "conversations" until 4, 5, 6 am in the morning.

Let me make up a statistic on the spot - there are more teens today suffering from depression than ever before in the history of the world (and this includes teenagers with crazy, messed up families like Joseph and Rachel of the Old Testament).  Most teenagers that I talk to are depressed or have some sort of depression in the past.  So, there friends stay up all night texting back and forth, back and forth, rehashing all of the depression, talking about all of the things that make them feel horrible, gripe about their parents and living situations, and maybe, just maybe pray for a few minutes or seconds.

Is this ok?  I'm all for encouraging one another as long as today is called today.  But when is enough enough?  When is it more detrimental to the people of Christ to be constantly available for one another and no longer alone before God crying out to Him Alone?

Don't misunderstand me.  We, the church, need one another.  We need to encourage, exhort, push one another as we strive to be the Church of Christ, to be His body here on earth.  BUT...

I remember a great story that was told to me about 8 years ago now.  This Christian guy was at a missions conference, and his roommate, who he had never met, would wake up crying every night from about 2 am till 5 am.  Finally after about 3 nights of this, the guy woke up along with him and asked his crying, weeping roommate what was wrong.  The man replied that God wakes him up every night to cry and weep over his country for the lost souls that are in it, and to pray for the harvest to come.

This man did not wake up and begin to text his friends, or get on Facebook, well probably AIM at that point and time, to chat away the hours in the evening about his depressed state; no he woke up and cried to God.  His time was with his Father in Heaven.  And you can bet that this man never suffered the effects of his insomnia.  He was not tired, but constantly refreshed.

I do think that the social networking devices have been an incredible tool for people to connect and even grow together.  But can I suggest that nothing good still happens after 10 pm?  I know that we think that we have to be there for one another, even till 4 am, but shouldn't we encourage one another to seek God, shut off our computer and cell phone and then actually seek Him?  Pray, cry, weep, praise, rejoice - whole heartedly, with all your mind, with all your strength and with every inch of soul.

Just a thought.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Things That Puzzle Me

Lately I have been journeying through 1st and 2nd Kings, having realized that I have probably not read these books in their entirety since my freshman year of college (but I have read the book of Acts maybe 8 times since then, go figure).

One of the things that ALWAYS puzzles me is the situation of Elijah.  He calls out the prophets of Baal, tells them to meet him up on Mount Carmel and they would find out whose God/god was real.  Or, in his own words, "The God who answers by fire, he is God," (1 Kings 18:24).  Perhaps you have read this story before, so you know how it goes -

The prophets of Baal make their altar, pray before it, weep before it, cut themselves before it, sacrifice onto it, but there is "no voice; No one answered; no one paid attention," (1 Kings 18:29b).

There acceptable time of offering passes, so Elijah goes up to the altar of God.  He douses it with water several times, puts the sacrifice on the altar, and makes the simple prayer that God would "answer" him.  His time of offering comes, and God consumes the offering with fire.  So much fire, in fact, that it "licked up the water that was in the trench," (1 Kings 18:38).

Rain comes, Elijah is victorious over the prophets of Baal, a group of people realize that God is God, and that a god is NOT God.  Fantastic.  What a victory, right?

This is what puzzles me.

1 Kings 19:2, "Then Jezebel (the wife of King Ahab, whose prophets of Baal had just been defeated) sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, 'So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them (the prophets who had just died) by this time tomorrow.'"

So what does our mighty prophet do?  1 Kings 19:3, "Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life."

WHAT?  WHAT?  WHAT?!?!?  Ok, I'll stop.

But seriously.  You just saw your God, who actually is God, lick up even the water that was around the trench of your offering with an all-consuming fire.  He just gave you a HUGE victory over something like 850 false prophets.  And then the woman who is behind it all threatens you with a threat from the gods (lower case "g") who could not even bother to show up, who you mocked, and who ultimately was just proven DON'T EXIST!!!!  You are NOW afraid and you run and flee for your life?

This puzzles me.

It makes me feel hopeless in a way, because if Elijah, a man who was empowered to raise the dead, who was a test-proven prophet, who had great faith to pray to God in front of 850 threatened false prophets, "Answer me," - if he falters, then what hope do I have?

This would probably be the wrong reaction to have to the text.  Which is why I am so very glad that there is a remainder to chapter 19.  Now, I am not saying that if Elijah had not fled that God would not have worked this out in another way.  I find "what if" questions to be kind of silly anyways, because this IS the way it happened, and this IS the course of events.  No alternate version is available.  So, no what ifs.

So, Elijah fled and God went after Him.  He showed him in the still quiet wind (the sound of sheer silence) that he, Elijah, was not alone.  Not only was this God who can come with an all-consuming fire or with the sound of silence with Him, but this God still had 7,000 people back in Israel who loved Him.  Not only that, but Elijah continued his journey, as God instructed him, and found his helper, his replacement, and ultimately someone who would do even more for God, a man named Elisha.

Is it God's plan for Elijah to falter?  For him to run in the face of gods and Jezebel?  I don't know.  What I do know is that even though Elijah falters, his faith wains, he loses focus, God works in his life in spite of this.  He raises up another prophet, one who continues His work on earth; He restores Elijah's faith, and eventually Elijah gets carried off to be with God in a chariot.

This restores my hope.  Because while Elijah's instant lack of faith after an incredible time of victory and evidence of God's reality happened, this story is not about Elijah.  This story is about God working and being faithful when we are faithless.

God will work even when we don't.  God will still be there, even when we forget that He is.  God will still be God, even when we put others and other things before Him.  God never changes who He is, even when we blow like a branch in a hurricane.

Why do we even bother then?  Because Elijah did far greater things when he was faithful to God than when he was not.  A faithful servant will produce much fruit; so much will happen when we actually work with God instead of forgetting about Him and all He can do.

Remain faithful then.  Remain in prayer, remain in the Word, ABIDE in Him.  He will produce fruit, because a part from Him, we can do nothing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Sun Also...

On my way to work every morning, I have to stop at a corner where the sun has risen to a point that every time I look left to check for traffic I end up with a great amount of brightness flashing into my now squinted eyes.  I have tried leaving a few minutes earlier or later, but alas, to no avail - there is the sun in all of its ball-y, gaseous glory ready to blind me.

So, I have to begin the process of what I call slowly creeping - this is where I slowly, but with hesitant foot on the brake, make my way out into the intersection and hope that no one is coming from the left, or that if they are, they will be one of those wonderfully weird New England drivers who stop for everyone and everything that want to cut them off (I love those New England drivers).

From that point on in the rest of my 4.1 mile journey to work, I never have to worry about the sun's beams pointing directly into my retina.  That is, until I am on my way home from work around lunch time and the sun is high in the sky, being a blazing ball of fire and I can see nothing without the assistance of stylish, Fossil sunglasses.  This journey is made all the worse when the wonderful white stuff that I have been loving all winter is around to reflect said beams right into my eyes.

Even though I carry around this hate relationship with the sun on my drive to and from work, I also have a deep, deep love relationship with the sun.  Most mornings, I do say most, not all, I am an early-ish riser.  Enough that I have my cup of coffee in hand as I sit on my couch with a view of the cove out my window. As I read, the sun slowly peaks his head out and wonderful blues and pinks fill the sky as the sleepy New England town wakes up.  Often I am lost in thought as I stare at the beauty that surrounds me - and I feel for just a few moments that part of this was created for me, for my enjoyment, for my delight, for the fact that there is something inside of me that loves beauty and art and creation, and knowing that even the most beautiful manmade painting falls incredibly short in comparison to this moment.

As the day closes, and the sun leaves this side of the earth the sky is once again filled with all shades of pink and orange, and I am reminded that tomorrow he will return.  It's as if the sunset with all of its wonder and beauty is there to remind me of what I experienced in the morning, and to let me know what will again happen tomorrow.  For the sun is always there, and as long as the moon keeps us spinning on our tilt, we will always rotate around to see it - to have the chance to wake up early and see it, to experience its beauty, part of its very purpose, to delight and have joy in the creation of something so marvelous as the sun rise.

There are plenty of theological illustrations here, but right now, I am just going to leave it and let you explore these thoughts on your own.  For now, I am going to enjoy the view.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I've been traveling for a few days, so this blog entry has been festering in my head for a while now.  Each year we compile a list of things to accomplish or do and set out trying to make our life quality a little better according to standards set by the Food Network Channel, the Biggest Loser, Forbes, Time, and other major entities in our world.  Not that this is a horribly bad thing.  I have lived most of my life by setting goals and accomplishing them.  I even knew of some girls that went to my alma mater for the set goal of finding a husband (one of whom turned out to be one of my best friends).

As we set the goals for the New Year, we often spend time reflecting on the previous year - and usually it brings lots of regrets, tears, and heavy sighs at what we did not accomplish within the year (or even forgot to do).

Last year, I really don't think that I set any particular resolution/goal for the year, and when I sat back and reflected on the year, it kind of made me have a bit of a "Debbie Downer" moment.  I did a lot of things last year, but because I didn't actually set out to accomplish any of those things, there was no sense of swelling pride - the good kind, not the kind that comes before the fall.

So, this year, I may have gone over board a bit - but we will see.  I have set out four new resolutions, with a possibility of adding a fifth (but I really doubt that that one will happen).  What you may ask are these goals?  Well, I'm glad you asked.  There is something to publicly stating your goals that helps with the whole accountability thing.  It adds a bit of pressure also, so that maybe you will actually accomplish one of two of them, and possibly even all of them.

1. Write daily.  This does not mean that you will be seeing a daily blog entry from myself (please, never let it be).  I just need to write more.  And there are journals and a Macbook Pro waiting my musings, my thoughts, my reflections, and possibly something more substantial.

2. Read at least 25 books.  Now, I know, this goal seems to be a little low.  I'm pretty sure that with all the re-reading I did last year, I read over 25 books.  And I know, D.A. Carson read 100+ books a year, plus writes his own, teaches, and manages to be an all-around stud.  But, I am NOT D.A. Carson, as much as I would like to be.  So, at least 25 books this year it is.  I have already started my list of what to read, and it is well over 25, so if you recommend a book to me this year, it will probably be a year before I get to it.  Sorry.

3. Cook at least 4 times a week.  I LOVE to cook.  I LOVE watching Food Network and browsing Williams & Sonoma, but my major problem is that I have a insanely busy lifestyle.  So, most nights stopping at the store or grabbing take-out has been my habit.  Well, it's time to break it.  At least 4 times a week.

4. No sweets this year, except for on our birthdays.  This one was tacked on by my wonderful husband.  I think he did it because he knows that I have a tendency for a sweet tooth, so this doesn't help his diet either.  I did this once when I was a teenager, so I think that this one is definitely do-able.  Here's hoping to a mild summer so I won't want to snack on ice cream in the heat!!

Well, there they are.  You may ask why there isn't anything in there about God, prayer, reading the Word, etc, etc, etc.  My simple answer to that - my relationship with God is not a goal.  The second it is, it is no longer a relationship - it has become a checklist.

Happy New Year, one and all!