Saturday, December 24, 2011

Just another lullaby

O baby Miriam
There's no need to cry
When you close your eyes
Just drift away

When you see that drowsy sandman
Just invite him in
Greet him as a friend 
And drift away
To dreamland for a while.

Let your Mommy rock you in the chair
Sing away your cares
Until we say our prayers

Let the songs wash over you like water
My lovely daughter--
Close your eyes.


In these sleepy silent hours when
The daylight stretches thin
And darkness settles in--

Like a mother hen in her nest
She gathers us to rest
In peace beneath her wings....


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Thoughts

"I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round----apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that----as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of , in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

"It's not my business," Scrooge returned.  "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's.  Mine occupies me constantly.  Good afternoon, gentlemen."

from "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

Stu and I are following a 25 days of Christmas Bible reading plan---and reading a few pages of "A Christmas Carol" each night as well.  Miriam spends reading time either batting at the toys on her play gym or sucking contentedly on her paci.  Or--if we attempt to do this during the 7:00 pm cranky but don't want to eat, sleep, play, or be rocked, or do anything but cry for an hour--- time---she spends reading time in her carseat while I read and Stu drives.  Ahhh carrides----it's nice to have one ace in the hole that always, and I do mean always, soothes our little girl.  Not sure what the seven o clock hour ever did to Miriam---but it must have been something pretty awful---cause she HATES that time of night.  But hey--seven o clock is the perfect time to ride around and look at all the Christmas lights.

I noted the quotes at the top of the page, because to some extent, I can identify with them both.  The first---the warm fuzzy statement regarding Christmas made by Scrooge's nephew--that's the one it's easy to admit being drawn to.   Because I do love Christmas---for all the reasons mentioned above. During the Christmas season,  smiles seem quicker to brighten a face, a childlike sense of wonder is revived and given new life, cheerful laughter and comfortable fellowship frequent our homes and hearths.....of course, keep in mind that this is the perspective of someone who avoids malls and big stores like the plague.  I'm given to understand that one visit to Target during peak hours could very possibly undermine some of these warm fuzzies.

Still--I love how a living room can be transformed by a Christmas tree with shiny ornaments reflecting the bright lights that illuminate an otherwise dark and ordinary room.  Amazing how that dusty bag of tree parts has given us so many memories.  Here's one from this year:
We dangled a thousand ornaments back and forth in front of Miriam before placing them on the tree.  We told her the stories about where they came from---why they were special.  And she was entranced with the shiny happiness that is a well lit Christmas tree.

I've been knitting Christmas gifts.  Knitting, at its most basic, is really just pulling loops through loops.  And it has been reminding me of making those long red and green paper chains that I use to make when I was a kid;  twenty five loops linked together---and you tear off one loop for every day that passes which brings you closer to Christmas---like a makeshift advent calendar.  Because the anticipation of Christmas is almost as beautiful as the day itself---especially when you're a child.

And of course more than all these simple blessings---there is the biggest blessing---the story that truly shows us where all blessings come from---and who our God really is.  Christmas each year provides the perfect opportunity to reflect upon the true miracle of the season---the birth of Christ---God becoming incarnate---leaving heaven to become a small and helpless baby---all to come and save us from ourselves.  We tried to live apart from Him---we couldn't---we tried to keep rules and to be good and to force our way back to Him---we couldn't.  And so God came to us---to live the life we couldn't live---one of perfect communion and obedience with and to the Father---so that through his ultimate sacrifice---we could one day be the companions of God that we were meant to be.  What could be more breathtaking--more inspiring---more magical--than that?

Still---I think there is a disturbing part to that first quote as well.....when Christmas is described as  "the only time I know of , in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys." 

The only time....that's the disturbing part for me.  How often do I look around and really see the people around me?   And I'm not just talking about my family, my circle of friends, the people I am most comfortable with.  I am so guilty of holing up with the people I love most---that sometimes---I know I'm not pouring myself out to the people who might need me---my time, my resources, my compassion.....

Honestly, I understand Scrooge's statement.  "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's.  Mine occupies me constantly."  The last part especially.  I know the feeling of just trying to keep your head above water---feeling like you're juggling a thousand things and not doing any of them well.  And feeling occupied constantly---with my own selfish business.

I think it must stand to reason that if my own business occupies me constantly---then I am far too concerned with myself.  And far too oblivious to the stark need which is so deeply entrenched in our own society as well as in societies around the world.  It's just so easy to become desensitized to it.  It's easy for me to think---I can't solve the problems of the world---so I'll just go on about my merry way and worry about me, myself, and I.  I'll snooze by the Christmas tree---and cuddle my daughter---and be thankful for my husband.  I'll love my family---and my friends.  But as for the rest of this mess that we live in---I'll just pretend it isn't there.

It's cliche to say that it's difficult to turn on the news or pick up a newspaper without seeing suffering, hatred, malice....within ten seconds of watching a news clip or scanning an article---one receives the distinct impression that there is something seriously wrong with this world.  Last Christmas, I remember Ben, one of our pastors, saying that we should remember that the reason our world is the way it is---the reason that God hasn't come back to set everything straight once and for all---is for us---to give us time---to give us ample opportunity to accept the gift of Christ.  It's for love of us.

In the meantime---each year Christmas rolls around---and with it the end of the old year---the beginning of the new.  And I keep thinking---I have got to rearrange my priorities.  I have got to find a way to live like I believe what I say I believe.  God forgave me of my sins---the same sins that sent His son to the cross on my behalf....why am I so slow to forgive when I am wronged---no matter how minor the offense?  God has come after me time and again---when I am faithless---He remains faithful.  He has provided for my needs time and time again----what am I doing for others?  Jesus spent his time here pouring Himself into others---loving them, healing them, forgiving them.  He is my example---He is the one that I am supposed to be emulating if I truly call myself a Christian.  Dude, I need to get with it. And not because I'm afraid He won't love me if I don't.  It isn't that----God loves me whether I decided to pop out of my little bubble or not.  It's just---God has given me everything---and I say again and again that my cup overflows.  But does it?  Does it overflow into others?

In "The Cross Shaped Gospel"---Bryan quotes John Ortberg saying:  "If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat."  If you want to experience the miracles that Jesus wants to share with you---you have to be willing to step out of your own personal safety zone and trust that all you need is Jesus.  I want to develop the trust---the faith---the personal relationship with Christ which points me back again and again to how much He loves me---and I want that to change me------and get me the heck out of the boat.

And I want to stop and look around me---and force myself to see the things I am sometimes guilty of pretending I didn't see. Because if I don't pay attention to the disparity--the need---that is so prevalent---if I just cut my eyes towards the people who are riding around in my boat with me----then I'm pretty happy sailing along and singing my happy tune---in my own little world.  And I don't have to deal with the injustice---I don't have to deal with someone else's pain.  I don't have to change.  It's hard to get out of the boat if you're comfortable there---and it's pretty easy to be comfortable if you ignore that which is uncomfortable.

I can be more like Scrooge than I'd really care to admit.  Reading through A Christmas Carol for the first time--I gotta say---I've identified with him more than once.  He likes his boat---he's responsible to his own business---he's sarcastic and has a sharp tongue---he's unfailingly stubborn and hard headed.  Yeah---that's kinda me---a lot of times.  You may not hear me say Bah Humbug--or be quite as openly hostile as he is---but still---some of my inner dialogue can sometimes be similar to the basic sentiments of Scrooge.  Ouch, right?

Everyone knows the story of Scrooge---there are 8 million versions---you've probably seen one with Micky Mouse at the very least.  And everyone knows that Scrooge found redemption in the end---Scrooge was changed by what he was shown.  I think the reason that "How the Grinch stole Christmas" remains so widely loved is that it too shares that theme of redemption.  Look at movies that sell-----movies and tv shows that attract consumers time and again---and count how many of them have that theme in it---of people finding redemption through love---or hard work---or perseverance in the face of adversity.  We're all looking for redemption, I think.  Sometimes in the wrong places.  We can't redeem ourselves.  We can't---through sheer will of our own---rid ourselves of our sin and selfishness.  God is the only one who can do that for us---who has already done that for us, in fact.  And I want to focus on that this Christmas season--and I want to be changed by it---and I want to get out of my boat.  Hey, if there was hope for Scrooge----I gotta think---there's still hope for me too.

Just some good finds  on the web you might be interested in:
(an awesome read about keeping Christmas Christ centered)