Tuesday, December 18, 2012

One moment at a time...

This Christmas is hard. For so many reasons...

I just found out my dad has been diagnosed with cancer again. My world was devastated for a moment. For a moment I imagined the worst and fell apart. But then I remembered...things have been hard for a while. Not just in my life - in this world. And though I live in this world, I do not operate as the world would have me to. I am a child of God. My heart is protected and filled in an unending deluge of love that causes me to overflow to others. Not just love - but hope. And though hope seems to be thin at this time, the reality is that it is not.

The Connecticut shootings and all of those babies being killed is rending hearts everywhere. Whenever I think of those parents and put myself in their place I fall apart...for a moment.

The life I live is on a moment by moment basis. If I have learned anything the last several years, it is that we have grace aplenty for the moment. What draws us to the next moment is the living hope we have in Christ...

I Peter 1:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you...

This world is a broken cup. It does not function as it was initially intended. Quite honestly - the United States is still one of the most blessed places to live - in spite of all of the ick. There are these types of horrors going on in other places, everyday, to others babies and yet we are so surprised when it happens to ours. We take so much for granted.

But this is not surprising - or shouldn't be. We live in a world that is groaning...in pain as it waits.

Romans 8:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

All of this to say...my endurance is spurred by hope and that hope lies in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And it all started with a young girl who gave birth to a child who is the Messiah - what fellow believers are celebrating this season and where this hope springs from.

And though I don't know what to pray for sometimes, I am so overwhelmed and despondent, I can know that God knows my heart. I must take the next step - for the next moment is full of hope and God will complete the work he has started...both in us and this broken world. So until he returns, I must seek the face of God, help where needed, love others well, and rest when I am tired then get up and start over again .

Because...

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6



Sunday, December 2, 2012

Home

For a long time I have felt out of place. It was my fault. I must take responsibility for my state of bewilderment and feeling of loss.

For years I have counseled others about how you cannot compare your present church to others you have been to in the past. The reason is, there are different dynamics. Fine tweeks of human nature and personality as well as focus makes each church a gift to it's community. A place that more than likely will not be duplicated anywhere in the world because of each different personality and talent at play in the body of Christ. So many wonderful parts that make up the whole is each church that calls
itself a part of the body of Christ.

It has been my pleasure to be a member of two such wonderful places. Dauphin Way Baptist Church was my previous church home. I claim many beloved family members there, My mom and my dad are still members there as well as precious friends I consider brothers and sisters in Christ. I have seen my childhood church struggle mightily over the last few years. I have cried and prayed and been burdened by each difficulty it went through. But God has seen it through each hard time. He has grown his kingdom  - not always in ways I would think he wanted but in the end, he would be glorified. I dearly love Dauphin Way. My life was shaped and my struggles moved me into the places God would have me be. I used the hard times to fuss at God for my other hard times. But God knew all along that he was getting me where I needed to be. Though my longing for my old church and the way it used to be followed me.

 I ended up in Birmingham, AL. I am now a member of a Presbyterian church. The funny thing about this is that I once thought Presbyterians borderline cult. Of course I was wrong. The problem is I was blown about by doctrine. I had struggled with the questions of doctrine that caused me to question my faith and lose sight of God in microdisecting philosophies of thought. I made it through that only to find myself a member of a church that believed the very things that shook my faith years before. I settled on being a Baptist in the middle of a bunch of Presbyterians and have been quite content for the most part. I missed my music at the baptist church. I missed being a big duck in a little pond. I loved being the go to girl for the singing and for serving but I shied away from it at my new place of worship. Mainly because I was afraid of the burnout I had brought upon myself by being all things to all people. That is just not good for you!

I was fine in my new church home. It was time for me to worship and be nominally involved. There is no doubt that I have an excessive personality. It is all or nothing with me. I cannot find a happy medium to save my life. I will work myself to the bone or sit on the couch and do nothing, allowing things to crumble around me. Part of that may be connected to the natural lows and highs I have acquired through genetics (a tendency toward bi-polar disorder it seems - nothing crazy. I am not directing traffic naked or anything - as my doctor said.  He's not worried, I'm not worried). And the fact that I had three babies in three years probably didn't help. Excessive. But so me.

All of this to say I had begun to miss engaging in the body of Christ. And to be quite honest, because of my struggles with excess, I was afraid of burnout again and I kept a distance. But I missed the fellowship that comes with working with others. I missed singing in the choir. I missed teaching Sunday School. I needed to do something. Not everything. I cannot do everything I love. But slowly and surely I started engaging again. I keep nursery. I am now back in the choir. I hung the greenery yesterday and made bows out the wazoo. All the while developing those sweet friendships with sisters in Christ that I have sorely missed. I love that. It may take a while...find a church that preaches the Word and the rest usually follows. Home sweet home. (smile)





Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hanging of the Green

We put up our Christmas Tree last night. And every year I put garlands around the house. Holly in the bathroom, wreaths on the door. We have evergreens everywhere.

And I wondered why. I think it is just pretty and it is part of our celebration of Jesus's birth. But where did this tradition come from?

I did a Google search and was lambasted (great word) with scads (another great word) of reasons, traditions and claims both Christian and Pagan.

But it seems that most of them center around 16th century Germany and the shortest day of the year. There are legends of St. Bonaface and also of celebrations of the Winter Solstace. It seems the shortest day of the year was observed and clung to by lighting fires and bringing evergreens into the house to symbolize eternal life. Candles were put on them and lit and when the new year came with the sunrise - celebrations began.

It is not a far stretch for me to see that others would adopt such tradition and work it to their own advantage. Seems the Romans celebrated the New Year around December 25th so it is understandable that the captive converted Jews would adopt their own celebration to go along with the others.

Now - I will be the first to tell you - that I am no historian. And the Google search overwhelmed me. I would like to research further.

The one that made such great sense to me and jived with my own belief - is the evergreen signifying eternal life. No matter how you believe - there seems to be a need for the belief in an afterlife. And it seems like no matter how you believe, we still long to know that this life is only the beginning of the adventure. We do.

And so we celebrate. The miracle of a baby being born to a virgin fortold by angels is extraordinary. It is awe inspiring. That a baby came to earth through human birth - to live as we do, experience what we do, to understand the trials of this life in human form, well - it is an amazing thing to me. That this baby was God incarnate blows my mind.

But I believe...

Philippians 2

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death
even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
 
So those of you who believe that this is the reason we exist and our hope for the future, it is indeed a glorious time of year! Regardless of where these traditions came from, it is lovely to hang the evergreen to remember our eternal hope in Christ.
 
There is not a day that goes by that I don't marvel at our existence. Nature itself gives glory to its Creator and I love that I can join with it and glorify God.
 
Luke 2:
 
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,



14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests'
 
Glory to God! Let's celebrate! Merry Christmas!