Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life is fragile, love is fragile

It's really true that we never know when our life will change in an instant. I really try to remember that and live my life with that in mind. But when it does happen, I don't think anyone is really prepared.

We got one of those calls the day after Christmas. Kevin's brother called about their sister. M is 44 and lives in South Dakota. The relationship has always been rocky and sporadic. She's had a hard time keeping a job and the only time we heard from her would be when she needed money or some kind of help. She's struggled with alcoholism and drug abuse. She was extremely close to her mom and when her mom died 15 years ago, I don't think M ever really got over it. She isolated herself and we dreaded hearing from her. Sadly, that was the reality.

Then we got the phone call. M took something to get to sleep and left a window open and almost froze to death. The EMTs were able to revive her and at the hospital they worked feverishly to raise her internal temperature from the 70's. They did dialysis to warm her blood. A couple days later and she's aware, but still on a respirator and still needing dialysis. She's been upgraded from critical to serious in the ICU. If there is recovery, it will be long and hard. Right now it's day to day.

I am overwhelmed with sadness seeing a person's life that has basically been thrown away. When a person pushes away family and friends and isolates themselves from interaction with people, what is left?

I'm so grateful that God is a God of second chances. And He doesn't give up on us, no matter what. I just don't know if M is even interested in God or others.

There is a scene in C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle. Aslan sets a banquet before the dwarves who refuse to see it. :

"Aslan raised his head and shook his mane. Instantly a glorious feast appeared on the Dwarfs’ knees: pies and tongues and pigeons and trifles and ices, and each Dwarf had a goblet of good wine in his right hand. But it wasn’t much use. They began eating and drinkung greedily enough, but it was clear that they couldn’t taste it properly. THey thought they were eating and drinking ony the sort of things you might find in a stable. One said he was trying to eat hay and another said he got a bit of an old turnip and a third said he’d found a raw cabbage leaf. And they raised golden goblets of rich red wine to their lips and said “Ugh! Fancy drinking dirty water out of a trough that a donkey’s been at! Never thought we’d come to this.” But very soon every Dwarf began suspecting that every other Dwarf had found something nicer than he had, and they started grabbing and snatching, and went on to quarreling, till in a few minutes there was a free fight and all the good food was smeared on their faces and clothes or trodden under foot. But when at last they sat down to nurse their black eyes and their bleeding noses, they all said:

“Well, at any rate there’s no Humbug here. We haven’t let anyone take us in. The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs.”

“You see,” said Aslan. “They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out.”

That's how M is and it hurts to know that.

Please pray for M. For healing, for minimal organ damage, for God to work in her heart. And for wisdom for us. And to be reminded of the mercy God showed us.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The story behind the story

Whenever I get my Christmas ornaments out, I don’t just see a pretty decoration. I see something with a special story behind it. On my tree you may see a white Styrofoam ball with a green glitter tree and the name Ruth in red glitter with a pipe cleaner to hold the hook. However, when I see that, I see a little 7 year old girl, sitting at her desk in an old fashioned schoolroom, trying to make the Elmer’s glue come out just right. When I see the ornaments that look like badly crafted stained glass, I see the first year we had all 3 girls and no money and not enough ornaments for the tree. I still see their faces as we put lots of colorful, though not that pretty, ornaments on the tree.

So come with me to see something more behind the manger scene that we take out at Christmas…..

To start with, I want to give you all a few reminders. Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem . John the Baptist proclaimed in John 1:29, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Peter talked about our redemption in 1 Peter 1:19 as the “Precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

In the Old Testament, the lamb was sacrificed for the forgiveness of sin. It had to be a lamb without blemish or spot – it couldn’t be scarred or cut or bruised. Jesus died in Jerusalem , where the temple was and where the lambs were sacrificed.

The story of Christmas has Christ born in a manger as the Lamb of God, to be the Saviour of the world and to take away the sins of the world. This would involve sacrifice. Bethlehem cannot be understood without Calvary . The manger must be seen in the light of the Cross. Birth would also involve death.

We all know the Christmas story from Luke:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lordcame upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign to you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them. (Luke 2:8-20)

Have you ever wondered who these shepherds were? Has anyone ever wondered why the angels didn’t give them any more details of where to look? No street sign, no neon light, no flag…

The Christmas story takes on added meaning when we consider that, according to multiple writings of rabbis, the shepherds who were abiding by their flocks in the fields were perhaps watching over temple sheep, sheep that were being bred and protected to be sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem. These shepherds may have been men who were accustomed to preparing lambs which symbolically represented the Messiah in their cleanliness, perfection, and their sacrifice on the altar of the temple. This gives added depth of meaning to these scriptures which tell of the angels who came to these shepherds to proclaim the birth of the Lamb of God, the Savior of mankind, who would offer the last and ultimate sacrifice.

With the establishment of Temple worship in Jerusalem , the fields outside of Bethlehem became the place where this special group of shepherds raised the lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple . The place where the angels appeared to the shepherds is traditionally known as the “Tower of the Flock,” or Migdal Edar, which is very near Bethlehem . This watch tower from ancient times was used by the shepherds for protection from their enemies and wild beasts. It was the place ewes were brought to give birth to the lambs. In this sheltered building/cave the priests would bring in the ewes which were about to lamb for protection. The shepherds who kept them were men who were specifically trained for this royal task. Being themselves under special Rabbinical care, they would strictly maintain a ceremonially clean stable for a birthing place. It could have been to this place that Joseph took Mary. It was in this special stable at “Migdal Eder” that Christ was born!

They were educated in what an animal that was to be sacrificed had to be and it was their job to make sure that none of the animals were hurt, damaged, or blemished. The shepherds would wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes to protect the body of the lambs, keeping the new lambs without spot or blemish, they would then be laid in a manger until they had calmed down.

These lambs would be offered as sacrifice at the Temple just four miles away in Jerusalem.

There was no need for the angels to give these shepherds directions to the birth place because they already knew. These were the men who raised sacrificial lambs that were sacrificed in the Temple . When the angelic announcement came, they knew exactly where to go, for the sign of a manger and swaddling coths could only mean their manger at the tower of the flock!

The Lamb born at Migdal Eder was the Lamb to be sacrificed to take away the sin of the world.

You see our Lord Jesus was born in Bethlehem where all sacrificial lambs were born, and our Lord Jesus died in Jerusalem where all sacrificial lambs were killed.

So when you look at a nativity set this year, and you see the shepherds and Mary and Joseph and then you see the baby wrapped in swaddling cothes lying in a manger, I hope you’ll think of the story behind it. And I hope Christmas will touch you a little deeper this year.

(This is a compliation of the following sites: http://www.mayimhayim.org/Rabbi%20Mike/Migdal%20Eder.htm,

http://www.cbn.com/special/thenativitymovie/articles/whybethlehem.aspx, http://www.bible-truth.org/BirthPlaceofJesus.html, http://www.templestudy.com/2009/12/18/shepherds-christmas-story/)


Thursday, December 02, 2010

We won't be remembered forever....

I made the decision this year to not put up a Christmas tree. I'm really okay with it. It used to be a fun afternoon with the girls, putting up ornaments, drinking mulled cider and listening to Christmas music. As the kids started their own families, trimming the tree became pretty melancholy and took me all day to put up and another day to take down. Then I spent lots of time chasing the cat out of the tree, etc, etc. So I've got a few decorations out and it's just right for where I am this year. But I have a LOT of ornaments that I hated leaving up in the attic. So I called Christy and asked if I could 'loan' them to her tree this year. I say loan because I'm happy to give them to her if I don't want to set up a tree next year and I'm happy to get them back if I do want to set up a tree next year!

Christy graciously invited me to join her family as they decorated their tree. It was a lot of fun - kids decorating, talking, Christmas music in the background...all the magic it used to be. As I hung the ornaments, I'd tell the kids the stories about them. There are the ones that Kevin's great-grandmother made for him, the one that my grandfather put on his tree, and even the one I made in 2nd grade. It was a plain syrofoam ball with my name in cursive glitter and a glitter tree on the other side and 1964 on the bottom. Since Christy's daughter is 'Julia Ruth', I gave the ornament to her, making her promise to take care of it. She promised me very solemnly and I know it will be taken out and I will be remembered whenever she hangs it on her Christmas tree.

Then I got to thinking about our other old ornaments. The fact that Kevin's great-grandmother made some ornaments is neat, but the truth is that Kevin only has a few memories of her. There is no emotional attachment other than the fact that it's family. I realize that there are many, many things in my home that I'm attached to because of the relationship to the story involving the thing. I have Precious Moments figurines that each have a special meaning to me because of who gave them to me or the event they commemorated.

As we get older, we begin to pass some of those cherished keepsakes on to someone who may feel the same as we do about our thing. it's a way to make a connection from out past to the future, a way to stay connected in time. One day, maybe only a few generations away, our story won't matter to the owner of the thing and the thing won't matter and we won't be remembered.

It's easy to feel like it doesn't matter what we do since it won't even be remembered in a few more generations. Feelings aren't truth. The truth is that what we do matters. And it matters to more than a few generations. The truth is that we serve a God who is so big that He takes our obedience and turns it into a big miracle to bring glory to Himself.

It matters that Kevin and I have stayed together and have loved each other all these years. It matters how we raised our children. It matters that family is important. It matters that we've offered forgiveness, grace and mercy when our kids least deserved it. It matters that we've done the best we can to model Christ to others.

It matters that we introduced our kids to Christ and all that He's offers and all that He is. It matters that we had a home environment that gave them the freedom to find their own relationship with Christ.

My stories and the memory of me will only last a few generations. My things, as precious as they may be to me now, will only last a few more than that. But that's really okay. The only things that will go with us into eternity are people, love and relationships. So trying to model Christ really does matter.

The truth is that I will have forever to get to know the generations who will come after me. My prayer is that God will take my acts of obedience and make them into big miracles that glorify Him. That will be what lasts forever and that is what gives me hope and takes away that fear of not being remembered.

About Me

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Longview, Texas
In the autumn of my life, I am very content.