Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Unspeakable Joy!

As a backdrop to the birth of Christ, there was a woman, His cousin, named Elizabeth. Finally her prayer has been answered.

After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days He has shown His favor and taken away my disgrace among the people."  -- Luke 1:24-25

Unspeakable joy!  The Lord blessed Elizabeth with a child in her old age. For many years she was unable to conceive, a heart-ache today, but an utter failure and disgrace in Elizabeth's time.

But Elizabeth hid herself for five months.  Why?  Was it the custom of the day?  Was she afraid her joy would show before she could bear to speak of it?  Before it was safe?  What if she miscarried?  Today, being pregnant, our assumption is there will be a healthy child born.  No so in Elizabeth's day.

But he was, her baby, healthy, strong and many would rejoice in his birth, especially Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah.  Baby John was an answer to prayer and to the prophesy, as soon she would discover when she met her cousin Mary.  It was too wonderful to be true!  But there it was.

Likewise is Christmas.  God Himself leaving heaven to come and rescue us.  Not because we are good and deserving.  No, we are all on the "naughty list!"  Jesus did not come because we were good little girls or boys, but because He is good and loved us.

But yes, unspeakable joy, it is true.  He came for us, Jesus as a baby, born to a poor woman, hiding Himself in plain sight for 30 years.  In the end, as John was, the truth became manifest.  Jesus is the answer to prayer and to prophesy.

Jesus is our unspeakable joy!

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord." -- Luke 1:13-15

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

First Thought Wrong

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  ~ Matthew 1:18-21

I first heard this term, first thought wrong, in Philip Yancey's book, What Good Is God?  In his chapter entitled Why I Wish I Was an Alcoholic, Philip talks about an alcoholic in recovery who figures out that most first thoughts and impulses he has were wrong..."I need a drink---No you don't you know where that leads." Recovery for him was finding friends who taught him to have better second thoughts, and for him to stop to choose these better second thoughts.

That struck a chord with me.  How often my first thoughts are wrong!  Here I found in reading the Christmas story, that even for Joseph, his first thought, although it was one filled with mercy and integrity, was wrong.  It wasn't what God wanted.  God had a bigger thought.  A far better thought. Joseph "considered this" and the Lord was faithful to speak to him in a dream.

How often I want to think I have "arrived."  I have learned better and can go with my impulses, my first thoughts.  But no, over and over again I find my first thoughts are still wrong.  Even if they are not wrong, how much better to stop and consider and pray to God to ask if He has a better, bigger thought.  Yancey points out that alcoholics have a step up on us because they understand they are only one drink away from falling.  So they know they must be diligent, stay close to God and to their community, where they find continued mercy for failures and strength to carry on.  And tough love when they need it.

I need this too.  I need to take every thought captive, every time. I need stop and ask God for a second thought, a better thought.  His thoughts, that are always greater than my thoughts.

Father help me never think of myself "too recovered" to consider my first thought is wrong!

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5    

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Shelter in the Storm

Hurricane Sandy blew through our state and our town, leaving in its wake downed trees and power lines, coastal flooding.  Everyone has a story.  Let me tell you mine.

Monday night, we are sitting at the kitchen table, having dessert, when Debbie looks out the window and says, "What is that light outside?"

We rush to the front windows, and see there at the end of our driveway, at the bottom of a big old tree, a downed power line has fallen and burst into flames by the leaves in the gutter.  Christina, phone in hand, calls 911, Giovanni starts to cry, and basically we all start screaming like middle school girls.  All except for Al who is totally calm.  "Mom, what do we do?" We scamper around putting on shoes and jackets, looking down the street for the fire department as minutes tick by and the fire continues.  Our good Samaritan neighbor comes out with a fire extinguisher twice to douse the fire, which helps for a moment, but the electric wire connecting with the wet leaves starts the fire again.  Twenty minutes, 30 minutes, it is still burning!  We consider hopping out a first floor window. We were terrified the fire would spread to our house!

Finally, the fire goes out from the wire blowing in the breeze and that's when the firemen come down the street on foot with flash lights,  rope off the area with yellow tape, and go back up the street where they came.

About an hour later, the wire blows from the wind and the fire starts again, this time blowing sparks towards our house and cars.  We call 911 again, but this time, no one comes. Instead, after about ten minutes of white-hot light, flames, and wind swept embers, the wind blows the wire into a safer position, and the fire stops. A while later, the electric goes out and we all find a place to sleep, with one eye open, waiting for the fire to start again.

In the morning light, we find that several trees and large branches had fallen across our street preventing the fire trucks from getting to us.  During the day, the crews came in to cut up the trees and then fix our power.  So, here in Bloomfield, life is good. Our electric and cable is on, we only had leaves and branches in our yard, and our house did not catch on fire. At the beach, maybe not so much. 

Here is a photo about two miles from our beach house. See the large white building sitting on the beach front? We still call it "the Thunderbird" and we often walk to it on the beach. See how half of the community is underwater? See some of the houses seem to have gone up in smoke? 

I am not looking forward to my next trip to the beach. 

As I thought about our beach house this morning, I am remembering the new furniture we bought this year, special photos in our book case, all my bathing suits, shells and trinkets we collected over the years, beach chairs and umbrellas. They may be all washed away.

And yet, it was never the house I treasured. The house was a place to sleep and cook and shower and sweep.  It was loved because it allowed us to be close to a place of unspeakable beauty, a place to feel closer to God, a place to enjoy with family and friends.  God, in His abundant generosity, gave it to us.  In a single storm, it may have been taken away.

God does that.  He gives and He takes away.  And while I was always mindful that our house in the sand was in a dangerous spot, all of our houses are really.  The downed wire in front of our house in Bloomfield could have lit that big old tree and our house up like a candle.  Only by the mercy of God were we spared. 

There is no safe place on this planet.  It may look safe and feel comfortable, but with a strong wind and rising water, any house can be swept away.  We can build to code, we can buy insurance, we can minimize risk factors, but in the end, it is only You, Lord.  Only You can be our shelter and keep us safe. The prophet Joel shares this:

The sun and moon will grow dark,
And the stars will diminish their brightness...
The heavens and earth will shake;
But the Lord will be a shelter for His people,
And the strength of the children of Israel.

“So you shall know that I am the Lord your God..."  ~ Joel 3:15-17

In the end, the storm is a reminder of God's awesome power and His great mercy. In the end, it is a call for us to come home to Him, to His shelter.  It is the only safe place.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Disappointed again

As I opened my Bible this morning, I had a question for God.  Disappointed again, back in that place where  I wonder about my path, my self, my future.  Will it always be like this?  Should I turn back? Turn away?

Instead, I turned to 1 Peter 5:7-14:

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 

It is easy to think the world, and Satan, is out to get me when things do no go the way I want or expect. Nothing extraordinary, this is the normal expectation of the believer.  The key to the scripture is the BUT GOD part that comes next:

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. 

God is in this thing.  The Great I AM is with me.  He has called me to follow Him and I know His voice and His desire for me.  If I run to Him and submit myself to His care, casting all my cares on Him, He will care for me.  Specifically, He will:

  • Perfect ~ He is working on me.  His goal is not the thing I am doing or what I want. His goal is to make me perfect, complete, lacking nothing. Even the Kingdom expanding is secondary to the Kingdom in my heart.  My heart always comes first. Healing my heart is of utmost importance to Him because only after that can I obey and serve Him well.
  • Establish ~ He desires to put me on the firm foundation of trusting in Christ alone, who is faithful, true, loves me and never changes.
  • Strengthen ~ In the power of Christ I can do all things.  I can withstand all things.  Even hurt, disillusionment and disappointment.  Sometimes my dreams can be accomplished.  Sometimes doors close.  Either side of the door I am on, Christ is with me.
  • Settle ~ He will give me His joy and peace that is never about the stuff, always about His love and acceptance of me.
And to Him alone -- not to me or some leader, boss, pastor, family member or friend -- be the glory and dominion.  He is in charge, no one else.  And that is for ever.  And ever.

If I remain in Christ, and not do my usual routine of mulling it over, licking my wounds, complaining to all my friends, plotting other plans, or worse yet, revenge  -- then He will show Himself in my life.  If I remain prayerful, if I continue to do what I know is right, trusting in Him alone, then He will be glorified. If I keep my eyes on Him, not on anyone else, He will give me peace.

Peace to you all who are in Christ Jesus.

And all I can say is Amen!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Gay Marriage?

I started this post in May after President Barak Obama's support of Gay Marriage made headlines.  I started it and thought and thought about it, but nothing I wrote seemed right.  Recently I was reminded of the subject again when I noticed an interview with Kirk Cameron, on a CNN Program, where he was asked the question: Do you support Gay Marriage?

Although I wanted to answer the question for myself, I found difficulty with both answers.  To say no was to be hateful and prideful.  To say yes was to put aside truth I thought was clearly stated in scripture.

And then finally I asked the important question -- What would Jesus say to this question?

This question reminds me of the one asked by the teachers of the Law of Moses in John 8:5, "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?"  Jesus was never one to feel obligated to answering a question outright or directly.  He often asked a deeper and more meaningful question that cut to the heart of the issue.  In this case, I think the issue is not, does Jesus support Gay Marriage? The deeper better question is:  Does Jesus love me?  Does Jesus accept me for who I am?  Can I come as I am to Jesus?

And the answer to that question is clear.  The answer is YES, Jesus loves you, accepts you, all of you, just as you are, knowing all that you are, all you have done, and all you will do.  

I think Jesus would have something to say to to us who call ourselves Christians, standing around the supporters of Gay Marriage with stones in our hands.  Jesus would say to us "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone." (John 8:7) We, as followers of Jesus, can't throw stones.  None of us.  Because when we say it is sin, then the Gay community hear "we don't do that" but that is a lie.  We do sin.  Everyday.  For me, it is more like every 20 minutes.  The Gay community hear "You sin, we are perfect! Jesus loves us and Jesus hates you."  What a lie!  One sin is not worse than another. If anything it is the sin of self-righteousness that is the worse of all!

And to the Gay Community, Jesus would say, "neither do I condemn you." (John 8:11) Jesus is entitled to condemn us, because He is perfect.  But He does not, because to condemn one of us, is to condemn all of us.  Jesus did not come to condemn by to redeem, to restore. Jesus said, "For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47)

But to tell the whole truth, the scripture in John 8 does not end there.  Jesus adds a part, "Go now and leave your life of sin." (John 8:11)  Even as we say this, we need to remember that Jesus led with unconditional love, only at the end does He finish with truth.

Because leading with truth can mask the most important element of the truth: God's Love.

Because the biggest truth for the Gay Community is this: God is waiting for you to come home to Him.  His arms are open, the robe and the ring, symbols of restoration and son-ship, are ready.  If you would only turn to Him and make a step in His direction, begin to come home, He will run to you! He will not ask where you have been or what you have done.  He will embrace you, weep over you with joy and throw an all-out, extraordinary, extravagant party in your honor, so happy will He be to have you home.

It is not about where you have been and what you have done. We are all His sons and daughters.  He made us, He knows we are not perfect!  He not asking us to become perfect.  He asking us to come home to Him.

Come home.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him... the father said to his servants, "Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." So they began to celebrate. ~  Luke 15:19, 22-24

And when they come home, let us not forget to go into the party.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Spiritual Journaling

A spiritual journal is different from a diary. A diary is a recording of events, sometimes thoughts, feelings, impressions. With a diary we are talking to ourselves, or recording events so that someone after us can know what happened, like an autobiography.

I started to journal at age 17, as a senior in high school. Even then, before I committed my life to Christ, I dedicated my journal “to God, Who loves me even when I am wicked.” I kept a journal then to deal with the raging emotions and drama of my teen years. A journal can be that, a pathway to self-discovery, a method to nurture yourself.

Now I journal to nurture my relationship with God. If our goal with God is not religion but relationship, then we need to cultivate that relationship. Journaling is how I do that. I tell God my secrets of the heart, and I listen as He continues to love me even when I am confused and wicked! Typically women bond by conversation, the give and take that comes from sharing thoughts, feelings and intimate details of life. So that is what I do with God through my journal.

My spiritual journal is a conversation with God. It is said the Bible is God’s love letter to us. My journal is my love letter back to Him. I am talking to Him. He hears every word and wants to talk back to me. I have found as I talk to Him with my journal open, He will talk to me and I can record what He is saying.
I keep my journal and my Bible together so I can use it as part of my daily devotions.

My spiritual journal records my journey with God. I can look back on it and see patterns, habits, good and bad, cycles of behavior. I can also see what God has been doing in my life, how He answers prayer, how He is using the events and people in my life to help me grow.

Therefore, my journal entries include Bible passages, information from Christian books I am reading, sermons, conversions with friends as well as my own thoughts. God talks to me through the Bible, other books and often other people. I talk back to Him.

Journaling is a discipline, a pathway. It is not THE pathway, it is one of many. Journaling works for me but it does not work for everyone. Don’t beat yourself up if you start out using it only infrequently. However, like any discipline, the more we practice it, the better we get at it and the more meaningful it becomes. A journal can be a friend who is always glad to see you and welcomes you back, no matter how dusty your book gets between writing.

What do I write in a journal?

Remember, our journal is a conversation with God, and with any conversation, there is give and take. But someone always talks first.

Sometimes my soul will feel quiet and I can let God talk first. Sometimes I arrive at the conversation with something pressing on my heart and I will need to talk first, so I go right ahead. God is patient and kind, He knows our heart. He is perfectly content to listen to us first. So our conversation can start like this:
  • Bible study – God talks first
  • Rant – We need to talk first
  • Prayer – We need help from God
  • Questions – We want guidance from God
But it is not limited to these! Sometimes I add drawings, songs, quotes from a book I am reading, movie/TV show I saw, conversations with others, sermons I heard, a dream, an impression from something I experienced or have seen, anything that has been floating in my mind.

No matter what we write about, it is important to remember these important guidelines:
  • Be totally HONEST. Our mindset always must be – we are writing to a dear friend who loves us unconditionally, who is profoundly interested in everything that happens to us, every feeling, every thought, every hurt, and every hope.
  • Share not only what happened but feelings, impressions, questions.
  • Write fast, write everything. Allow thoughts to flow uninterrupted. Do NOT censor or evaluate while writing. It is not necessary to use correct spelling, grammar or punctuation. This paper will not be graded!
When God talks first – how do I study the Bible study with my journal? 

Sequentially studying one book of the Bible at a time is my favorite and most productive approach to Bible study. It doesn’t matter how much I read, a few verses, or a whole chapter. What matters is to take the time to absorb and reflect on it. Then apply it!

What to look for (and examples from Philippians 1):
  • Promises of God (verse 6)
  • Key Truths (verse 12)
  • Commands (verse 27)
  • Good (or bad) examples (verse 9)
  • Repeated words or phrases – signifies emphasis
Use our friends: What, Who, When, Where, How, and Why
  • Circle nouns
  • Underline verbs
  • Who is the author talking about? Talking to?
  • What is he telling them to do? Where is he telling them to go? Why?
  • How is he telling them to do it? What attitudes, timing?
After I read, I write:
  • I write down verses/phrases that impress me, seem most meaningful to situations in my life, things God and I have been talking about recently.
  • I then write what I think they mean in general, and what they mean to specifically to me.
  • I end with writing a prayer, what I need help with to change in my life from the application of today’s reading. Nothing ever changes without God’s help. And He never expects us to change quickly or without His help.
When I talk first – How do I dare complain to God?

Pastor Jeff once told me this gem that helped me greatly: Go ahead and tell God you are angry with Him. He can take it! Being honest means when our feelings are ugly, we share them too.
Sometimes when I am overwhelmed with pain, I rant first, then end with Bible reading. Ranting to God is a spiritual activity.

Giants of faith express laments as part of sacred scripture. See King David’s Psalm 55 or the prophet Jeremiah’s Lamentations 3. It is real, it is raw. We can be that way too.

I share how I feel and who I am angry with or who has hurt me and why. Then I turn to God and allow Him to speak into the situation with scripture. Sometimes I search the Bible topically using, an excellent tool. Mostly I just read the next sequential chapter/verse from my daily reading. I am always amazed how often the next chapter speaks directly into the issue I am facing.

Writing down how I feel has helped me reflect and identify the key issues in my life that need healing and/or repentance. While we do not need to rush ourselves through the process of pain, as God loves us and is not in any hurry to “fix us”, by looking back on our journaling, we can tell if we are stuck in this angry cycle and seek the help we need to get out.

My journal has been like a mirror, a place for personal discovery as well as discovery about God. Remember, unlike other friends, God already knows us better than we know ourselves and holds all our memories in His hand. When we talk to God, He not only reveals Himself but also ourselves. I find it is helpful to review my journal periodically and look back on answered prayer, emotional and spiritual growth, as well as unhealthy patterns in my life.

Now it’s your turn – Write your first entry.
No, I am not kidding. Take out a blank notebook and begin by writing your name on it. Make sure to put today’s date, then start, by writing about:
  • A Bible chapter. You can start with: Genesis, 1 Samuel, Psalm 1, Psalm 3 (need to rant), Mark, Philippians.
  • Something you heard or saw recently that greatly impacted how you looked at things or taught you something significant about yourself, life or God.
  • A dream, a night time or day dream/hope/desire you have. Tell Him all about it, what you think it means.
  • A praise of thankfulness for something you have received or an answer to prayer.
  • A sorrow and concern you want to share with God and ask for His help.
  • A deep hurt or fierce anger you want to express to God. Maybe you have questions in this regard: does He see? Does He care? Why hasn’t He helped already?
  • A choice or decision that is pressing on you. Explain in detail and then ask for God’s direction.
Explain the whole thing to Him, like He can’t see it for Himself. Tell Him exactly how you feel, all your rambling, circling thoughts about it. Draw Him a picture if that helps. If you start by sharing, don’t forget to end by getting in to the Bible and allow God to talk back to you.

  • We are all unique – there is no right or wrong way to journal. Please take all my thoughts and sift them through what you know about your own needs.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if it does not work for you.
  • But if you do journal, let me encourage you to be honest, do not censor or evaluate.
Allow God to love you as your write a love letter to Him.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Promise of the Empty Tomb

What difference does it make? So the tomb was empty 2,000 years ago, but that was a long time ago, before cars and highways, before TVs and cell phones and 9-5 jobs. What does that mean to me today?

It means that Jesus was who He said He was. Any crazy person can say they are God, or make up stories about themselves. But when you are dead, all that is over and the truth comes out, as the truth usually does eventually. But Jesus rose from the grave. He was pierced and bloodied and beaten. And He was dead, wrapped in clothes in a tomb. But then He was alive again. Only God, could do such a thing. Jesus was God's Son, and death could not hold Him in its grip.

It means Jesus wasn't a loser who talked a bit too loud and a bit too long, and so the men in power killed Him. It means the words He spoke were truth, filled with power. And in the end, He was the one with the power, not those others who thought they could fool Him and get rid of Him.

It means that Jesus loves me. And you--all of us! He came not just to take over a country at a point in time.

No, that was much to small a task for Him. It means He came to release us from the power of sin, from the power of this world, and to gather us up in His love. He came to save all of us, during all periods of time. He came and paid the price for our sins so we would be restored in relationship with Him and be within Him some day forever.

Jesus is God. His is the power of Life and to Save. Jesus broke the power of sin and death. Jesus loves us.
It means that God came near to us not to take over the world, although He could have. He came to take over our hearts. Like a lover He swoops downs to us to rescue us. He wants nothing more than our love.

And my response is like Mary, to anoint Him with my worship and thanksgiving...

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume [worth a year’s wages]; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. ~ John 12:3

And my response is like Thomas, to confess Him as Lord...

Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” ~ John 20:26-29

Even then, Jesus spoke of the blessing of those who believe today! I believe the tomb is still empty, that Jesus is worth everything, that He is Lord, and He is Love.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Return to Eden

Observe therefore all the commands I am giving you today, so that you may have the strength to go in and take over the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, and so that you may live long in the land the LORD swore to your ancestors to give to them and their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.... So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. ~ Deut 11:8-9, 13-15

Here is Israel, standing before the Jordan, only the river separating them from the Promised Land, when Moses shares these words from the Lord. Because of their stubborn refusal to trust in the Lord, and to obey Him, they wandered in the dessert for an additional 38 years, 40 in all, so that all adults who had left Egypt were dead at this time. These, standing ready, hearing these words for the first time, were the second generation.

As I read this passage this morning, I was struck again that God's desire for us is the Promised Land, and it's description here is reminiscent of Eden. Gardens planted for them, vineyards and cities, homes built and wells dug, fields of grass for their cattle, autumn and spring rain for their crops. Everything planted and done, theirs was only to cultivate and enjoy. Ah, Paradise!

There is only one catch. They need to obey. They need to love the Lord and serve Him.

But God is doing it for their good. It is in the wisdom of His Laws that there is peace. But they did not see it that way. As the Bible story continues we see Israel doing just what the Lord warns them not to do. They stubbornly insist their own ways are better. They selfishly look out for themselves and not others. In their abundance and peace, they forget about God and credit themselves for all they have.

Don't we do the same? Don't I do the same?

Father God, You have always wanted Your own to return to Eden! You first designed Eden for all men and women. Then You brought Your chosen people, Israel to the Promised Land. Now You promise the Kingdom of Heaven to all who would believe in Your beloved Son Jesus. And we who believe in Him, when we stay close to You and Your Word, when we love the Lord serve Him with all our hearts and with all our souls, then our world becomes like the world as You always intended. Like a good father, this was never only for You, to have Your way! It was also always for us!

Help me, Father, remember, love You and obey! Father, let Your Kingdom come, let Your will be done. And let it begin with me.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Funeral cards

You know those funeral cards? The one memorial homes have with the name of the deceased and a lovely photo and then on the other side, there is scripture, or a prayer, or a favorite writing? As I was at a wake today, and as I looked at the card, I decided I wanted to write my own. In her younger days, my mother-in-law told me what to dress her in when she was laid out. She repeated it so often that even now, I remember. In that vein, please place this on my funeral card. Give my body to science, to help others. It will be ok, because I will be with Him. So it won't what I wear...

I closed my eyes and when they opened, I was in His embrace.
The hug of a Father, full of passion and joy.
His face I could finally see, His eyes smiled with delight.
His arm still around me, He showed me the splendors untold,
Beauty unparalleled, perfection eternal.
And peace, peace with Him, and in the entire community.

Do not cry for me, I am in Paradise!
Instead, please find the path of Life that Jesus offers us all.
We all like sheep are lost, turn to Him and be found.
Call to Him and He will answer you.
And join me later, in His arms.
They are big enough for you too!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Nativity Controversy

One of our condo communities had a seasonal decorations controversy. The condo board, making rules as it always does, allowed a Christmas tree and a menorah as common area holiday decorations and nothing else. When one member of the community added her nativity set to the lobby, it was removed because it was against policy. Thus started the controversy.

Yesterday my boss, who is Jewish, and I discussed the difference between a nativity set and a Christmas tree. Until the next phone call which ended the discussion. But I continued to ponder this.

A Christmas tree is not controversial because, let's face it, what is there to argue about? Do we use gold balls and red bows or Victorian ornaments? White lights or colored lights? Tinsel or garland? Does any of that matter, I mean, really? It is a holiday decoration, festive, bright and colorful. Everyone loves a Christmas tree.

But the nativity is necessarily controversial, a stumbling block really. There is a decision to make, and the consequences are huge. Because the figures in the manger can only be one of two things:

Either Mary is a trampy teen and a liar, Joseph is a foolish gullible man, and Jesus is a bastard. And I am a fool for believing this fairy tale.

Or Mary is a pregnant virgin, Joseph is a young man of great integrity and faith and Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is no longer a infant, tender and mild. Jesus is King of King and Lord of Lords, and someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God. Even the condo board members who want to make this decoration go away, will someday bow before Him.

The problem is not how to make things equitable between religious groups. The problem is a choice is demanded. Only one option is true, not both.

The consequences are eternal.

What do YOU choose?

For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
~ 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 NKJ