Tag Archives: Christ

Tree Trauma

Tis the season of gifts. You have your list and I have mine. Retailers are working as hard as they can to make sure we want to give what they have. Thankfully, our family’s gift lists have been trimmed down over the years due to our intentional simplification. Today I found a picture of Christmas from about 20 years. We were in a large room and the gifts were all over the room, a huge pile in front of each person, above our heads. We were sitting down, but still. And, this was just our celebration with one side of the family. Everyone had at least 15 gifts; there were 11 of us in the picture. You do the math.

In the Christian faith, we mark this season before Christmas as a time of watching and waiting. We decorate with the focus on a few candles. Sunday by Sunday we light one candle, then two as we talk about gifts, The gifts we talk about in Advent are the ones God wants to give us: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ. That’s it.

The older I get the less I want wrapped, bought gifts and the more I desperately crave God’s gifts.

Last week, we put up our tree. I love having the tree up and lit early so I can enjoy it for all the weeks leading to Christmas. Because of our empty nest, we are short on labor around here so I decided I could assemble the four pieces of our artificial tree by myself, get the stand and skirt on it, get the lights working, add all the red ribbon by myself and then coax my husband into adding ornaments with me later.

This proved to be a very difficult task for one person. It is still hot here in Texas so I was in a full body sweat by the time I got it all up, MOST of the lights working and ribbon swirling sort of attractively around it. For some reason my dog chose that time while I was distracted and sweating to help herself to a whole bag of pepper jack cheese. This cheese thing, plus the sweating really dampened my Christmas Spirit which comes and goes anyway due to the over-the-top nature of all things Christmas.

When my husband got home I shared my work of art and told him he had just enough time to add ornaments with me before the Cowboy game. He was motivated and moving fast. Then, in the midst of it all, I had a huge wave of Missing My Children which hit without warning as we put up ornament after ornament with their preschool and elementary age faces plus all the baby’s first Christmas ones and the ones we love the most and the ones that always make us laugh. So, yes, I started crying and telling my husband no one warned me about the empty nest tree part.

He coaxed me to move onward mostly because of the Cowboy game. At the last touches the tree seemed to sway a bit, then a bit more. He quietly asked if I’d secured the stand with the three big screws provided. I told him there were no screws provided and that I was sure we didn’t need them as long as no one ever brushed up against or came even remotely close to the tree. He disagreed.

What happened next involved both of us at times prone on the floor under the tree, yelling at each other better ways to do what needed to be done, needing a flashlight, dismantling the whole thing and sweating.

It’s up now, no longer swaying and quite beautiful.

Between the heat, the dog eating the cheese, the Empty Nest meltdown and the after the fact securing, I’m back where I started, just needing God’s gifts: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Christ.

Every one of us has our seasonal challenges, some are bigger than others, of course. May God’s best gifts continue to soothe you and yours this season.

 

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Yes, Ashes

Today is Ash Wednesday.  In the Christian tradition it marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading us to Easter. In our best seasons, Christians use this time for a spiritual spring cleaning; a time of added devotions, prayer and scripture reading.  Sometimes we give things up to remind us of what Christ gave up for us.  Sometimes we take things on as a way of embodying his life and ministry in our lives.

Some Christians do something very strange on Ash Wednesday; something we rarely allow ourselves to do otherwise.  We let ourselves come face to face with death.  We admit together, for just a moment, that we know we will all die.  We allow ourselves to be literally marked with ashes to symbolize the reality that we will all become ashes some day. Isn’t that the strangest thing, especially in our world of heavy denial, perpetual youth and surface living?

Four years ago this week, I lost a friend and a colleague suddenly.  Actually, a lot of us lost him together.  He was fine one day; working, happy, joking, laughing, planning, dreaming and serving God and, in the blink of an eye, gone.  He was Senior Pastor of our large congregation, a significant leader in the larger Methodist church, a truly good guy, father, husband, friend.  The loss was huge.  The grief ripples ran wide and deep.  They still do.

The days and weeks after his death are a blur to me: the prayer vigil we had that Saturday night; our Sunday morning worship services the day after his death where we knew worship needed to somehow go on without him; his large funeral the following Friday with thousands attending; his birthday shortly after that.  And then, Ash Wednesday, just a week or so later.

I don’t recall exactly what we said during that Ash Wednesday service. I know we let the familiar Christian rituals carry us through. We marked one another with ashes. We faced death only this time, it was painfully, excruciatingly staring back at us.  Yes, you will all die, of course.  But then, this, through the ritual, through the ashes, this Word, “So live, live for Me.”

Somehow, some way, through God’s grace and mercy and resurrecting love, we have.  We will.

I miss my friend. But what I know is this, he was well acquainted with the truth of Ash Wednesday.  He knew about the ashes. He trusted God fully in life and in death. I just know what he would say to us today if he could.  “Yes, ashes. Of course you will all die, that’s the point.  So, live.”

Light in the Darkness

A couple of nights ago, it was cold and rainy here…and dark too.  Our family was snuggled up by the fire watching a Christmas special and making our holiday to-do lists.  Actually, it was more like a to-do chart.  Our doorbell rang and we looked at each other, startled.  It seemed too late for our daily package delivery but what else could it be?

It was Christmas carolers.  Carolers!  I’ve never had actual carolers at my actual door.  I’ve seen them on tv and in the movies or at the mall but not at my door.  They were young 20-somethings.  They sang a few songs, in the rain, and then one of them read some of the Christmas story from Luke’s gospel from his I-phone.  At one point, his I-phone dropped the scripture he was reading.  He floundered for a minute and then one of his buddies finished it by memory. “…for to you is born this day, in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  I thought I was going to weep right there from sheer delight, wonder and surprise.  They said a prayer for our family and were on their way.

Light.  You never know when or how it will come only that God promises it and promises to find a way to deliver it right where you are.  Imagine, carolers!