Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Today is my grandson's birthday. The photo above was taken almost five years ago. What a blessing my four grandchildren have given me; and after the miraculous blessing of my own two children!

Today is also celebrated in much of the religious world as the Feast of the Holy Innocents. It is a time to remember the horror we all feel when we read the story of Herod having had all male babies under the age of two killed, to 'protect his throne.' What a horrible thing to do, for such a small risk! Yet several years ago our own country's leader chose to bomb another country, killing many innocent children, for another such perceived risk. I am also horrified by the loss of those children. In fact, I am more horrified, because I feel that I have some guilt in that, as it was done by a country I have 'pledged allegiance' to. I am not wanting to get political here, but I do believe we often need to take stock of, and to grieve for, and perhaps even ask forgiveness for, all of the innocents who die needlessly; all those who live and die in poverty and hunger; all who die at the hands of the Herod's of our own time; all who are abused by those they should be able to trust.

Please, Lord, bless the children in our lives today. Keep them safe, as you protected Jesus from the genocide of Herod. Open the eyes of all who have children in their care, whether it be parents or caregivers, or nations or churches. Help them to see the wonder that our children offer if we keep them safe and innocent. And forgive us for any part we have had, as individuals and as nations, in destroying the blessed innocents around us, whether by intent or neglect.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What I'm waiting for...

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (NIV)

The word 'advent' means 'come' or 'waiting for something or someone to come.' The advent season is about waiting for the Christ to come to earth as a child. The Israelite people were in waiting for a long time for this to happen. We are also in a season of advent; a waiting time for Christ to come. The above scripture from Isaiah 40:31 has always been a favorite of mine. It is especially so now, as I am having times when I need my strength renewed; when running would not only make me weary, but would be almost impossible; and when I do sometimes grow faint (as well as achy) when I walk; when I would love to soar like this eagle that flew alongside us recently in the canyons. I am waiting for a time when this aging body will not be an issue; when Spirit is all that counts.

In the meantime, I am keeping my Hope in the One who will make all that possible. As I someday soar along on my eagle's wings, I hope I am in a huge flock of all those whom I love. Won't we have fun, soaring and running and walking together with the One we have been waiting for; the One we have put our Hope in?

Of course, I also believe that these things can happen while we wait here; that our faith and hope can spiritually uplift us to keep going, when we feel like we can go no longer. It promises more than that; it promises that we can spiritually SOAR, when we would, without that hope, be spiritually weary and faint. I cling to that. May we all Soar throughout the coming year, as we hope in the Lord together.

Monday, December 20, 2010

All is calm....

In reality, it is very difficult to find calm at this time of the year anymore... or at any time, if I am honest with myself. I decided to carve out a piece of quiet for myself this morning. I treated myself to a peppermint mocha and a movie, all by myself. I have to admit, I discovered I was more than a little annoyed that other people joined me in the theater, with their loud munchy snacks, their whispers and even loud comments to each other. My 'treat' of calm time was quite rudely invaded!

How did Jesus stand the press of the constant crowds and the probably often rude demands for His attention and time? I often focus on the fact that he went 'into the wilderness' to escape all those things, but I do think those escapes were few and far between, and possibly almost non-existent after His ministry began. This morning I tried to focus on enjoying myself, using my 'treat' time for relaxing and restoring my frazzled self, rather than letting those around me push my very last buttons. I did almost jump up to say something scathing to the teens behind me at one point... almost, but not quite. I settled down, and realized they were also there to enjoy themselves, and a frazzled grandma figure yelling at them in the theater would not make for a fun time for any of us. Once I had told myself that, and pictured the absurdity of the scene and their possible reactions, I found I was more sympathetic with them, and I did finally enjoy the movie.

In truth, there is little natural calmness in our world today. We have to seek it out; we have to make it for ourselves. And perhaps we have to try to make a bit of it for those who just happen to be surrounding us. Those kids at the movie were never aware of how close I came to jumping down their throats and disrupting their movie date today. But I was. It took some true effort on my part to not respond to what I perceived to be their lack of consideration for others, but I'm glad I made that effort. What I put out into the world can make a difference, even in a small way. I can be 'calm and bright' or I can make everyone around me wish that I had stayed away from them.

I do wish you to have moments of calmness and brightness in these last advent days, even if you have to strive to find it and to make an effort to create it for yourself. It is a worthwhile pursuit in this world that is filled with a great deal of chaos and darkness.

And may God Bless us, everyone.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Who cares?

I had an unexpected reading in my downloadable daily Bible reading today. It was featured as an advent scripture, but it was from Exodus, and was the description of how the tabernacle was to be decorated, based on God's instructions. It seemed like that was chosen just for me! I have been a not-very-enthusiastic holiday decorator this year. We have no company coming here, and haven't planned any big social events to be held in our home either. So, given that it takes me a couple of days to decorate, and then a couple more to put it all back, I had decided I would just as soon skip the decorating this year. My husband didn't like that idea, so I decorated a tiny bit, though half-heartedly, and not nearly as much as I usually do, then decided that was enough, because after all 'who really cares about holiday decorating anyway?'

Well, I was surprised at the Exodus reading. It does not tell me that God 'cares' about if and how I decorate for the holidays. But I think it does tell me that He cares about beauty, as many of the decorative elements in the tabernacle, and later in the temple, were strictly for decoration; for the sake of beauty. I think what the reading tells me is that, being made in God's image, I too really do care about beauty; about making things 'pretty' and enjoyable to look at. If I am going to decorate my home, the place God has given me to live with Him, then I should care about making it a place I will enjoy, and that those who share it with me will also enjoy, if I can at all possibly do that.

I guess it is all a part of the idea that "whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men." (Colossians 3:23) The Lord loves beauty. Although I have not decorated my home with all of my holiday collection, I do hope that, when I plug in the tree and the lights on the mantle; when I light up the star in the window that is to remind me of the Light of the world; and when I set a match to the candles I so much enjoy, I will not be alone in enjoying the simple beauty of these things. It is my hope that the designer and decorator of the tabernacle, His own house, will find joy with me in the things I have put out in my house to make this season a bit brighter.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rise up!

I've been thinking today about what it would be like to be going about my work, here in my house or studio, or running the seemingly endless errands I run, and suddenly to have it all interrupted by a heavenly host of angels, coming to tell me that the Savior of the people has come, and I should stop my work and go find him.

Would I be a skeptic, even in the presence of angels? Perhaps I have been in the presence of angels before, and have failed to notice or give credence to them. I would like to think that, like the shepherds, I would drop my paintbrush or the vacuum, leave my shopping undone, and run to where I could worship Him. So why do I not follow their example anyway? I have even more reason to celebrate the coming of that child than they had - I know the whole story. He became a child and a man and lived and died for me.

Rise up, shepherd, and follow!

(The painting is by one of my favorite classical artists, Jean-Francois Millet.)