Monday, December 24, 2012


I couldn't leave this blog on such a bitter note right before Christmas.  God is good, giving a message of hope.

We went to church at a later service than we normally attend.  As we watched the people enter the sanctuary, I was amazed by the diversity.  I always felt somewhat uneasy about the majority of white, wealthy folks that filled our church when we first started coming years ago.  But today, especially, I noticed the rich variety of colors and races and cultures walking down the aisles, crowding into the pews.  It seemed only fitting that our first hymn was:

"O come, Desire of nations, bind
All people in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
Fill the whole world with heaven's peace;
Rejoice! Rejoice!..."

The pastor read from Isaiah 9, that familiar passage we all know: "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

Many aren't so familiar with the chapter before, when the Assyrians invaded and Israel was razed.  Chapter 8 ends with, "They will pass through the land, greatly distressed and hungry.  And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against their king and their God, and turn their faces upward.  And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish.  And they will be thrust into darkness."  God is at war with us when we rebel against him and we will live in gloom and misery. 

Yet, into chapter 9, "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined." When we realize our desperate situation, we will come come to the light and be healed and be saved.

"O come, O come, Immanuel..."  Immanuel, God with us.  He has come.  He is here now. God sent light and redemption through his Son. We have much reason to rejoice!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Just My Thoughts...

Like everyone else, I'm just trying to make sense of what is senseless.  We want answers and explanations about how this tragedy in Connecticut could happen.  And we are outraged!  And angry, and we want someone to blame.  Because if we could just figure out who exactly is to blame, we could prevent this from happening again.

Job 12:5 says, "In the thought of one who is at ease there is contempt for misfortune."  Those of us living (momentarily) in peace and safety would like to say that calamity cannot come to us because we have our lives in order and we are not like "those people."  Every single day we hear of shootings on the streets of our big city. This thinking insures our continued perfect life. But when tragedy happens to ordinary people, it shakes our world.

In my anger, I've tried to find blame too.  I came up with the conclusion that this latest massacre is a culmination of all that is wrong with our society.  So who or what can we blame?  First thought, of course, is to blame the shooter.  But we can't do that because he has a psychiatric disorder.  People are not responsible for their behavior if they have a diagnosis, and the list just keeps getting longer.

1. The media?  We live in a culture that glorifies violence in movies, on TV, and in video games played incessantly by impressionable teenage boys.  Violent themes abound, because people want this and are willing to pay for it.

2.  Guns?  Why can people go into a store and buy military-style assault weapons?  For deer hunting?  For home defense?  Let's make this political and ban guns and all will be well in the world.

3.  Public education?  It has just about succeeded in eliminating the Christian faith from every aspect of a child's life during the six hours he is sitting in a classroom. 

4.  Public education, again.  Aren't schools supposedly on the lookout for troubled kids who need help?  Why wasn't this young man given the resources and the help he so obviously needed.  But I bet the school had a great sports program.

5.  Broken families?  We heard the guy had an absent father and a mother who spent her time in bars or on the shooting range with her troubled son.  Parents oblivious to the needs of their children.  This one cuts into my heart. 

6.  Our environment?  Why do we have so many damaged kids to begin with?  What is in our air, our water, our food that causes young children to develop autism and ADD and a host of other behavior issues that no one seems to understand?  We're breathing toxins, swallowing toxins, absorbing toxins, and injecting our kids with toxins.  They're drowning in them.  And we're surprised when things go wrong in their brains.

7.  Big corporations?  When researchers try to find causes for all that ails American children, they are silenced and ridiculed if their conclusions affect the bottom dollar.

8.  Relativism?  All points of view are equally valid.  We don't want anyone to take offense.   There are no more moral values. There is no right or wrong.  But wait!  I think we most all agree that killing 6 years olds is wrong!   On that common ground, can't we do SOMETHING to try to prevent tragedies like this?

But no, we cannot.  We live in this world we've created and we suffer the consequences of it.

Some may say, you forgot to blame God.  When we want to absolve ourselves in any role we may have played, we say it was God who allowed it.  And he did.  I have no answers for that, and when Job tried to find the answer to his suffering, God's responded by asking him questions.  We draw conclusions about God because of what has been revealed to us, not accounting for all that is hidden from us.  When Jesus saw the suffering of Lazarus's family, he wept.  He cares; he knows. When Jesus looked out upon the city on the way to his own death, he cried, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!  See, your house is left to you desolate."  (Matthew 23:37, 38.)

Friday, December 07, 2012

More Sounds

Two days after Arielle's birthday some of my much-loved women friends joined me for a Christmas brunch at church.  Every year hundreds of women come together to eat rich food, to enjoy beautiful candle-lit table settings and great conversations, and to hear various types of speakers.  We never quite know what the speaker will be like, and some are better than others.  But the main point of this gathering is to just have a good time with friends and be surrounded by all the trappings of the holiday season. I love it!  And men in white shirts serve us! That always makes me smile.  Like my friend Helen said, "I can come here and nothing is expected of me."  We can just relax and get out of our regular, hectic life routine.

We toured the tables when we arrived, each decorated by a different woman who volunteered to bring in her best china and centerpiece.  We talked and ate ham and pastries and fruit.  Then we headed down to the sanctuary to hear the speaker.  All we knew about her was that she was a 9/11 widow.  What a dynamic speaker she was!  I wish I could remember all that she said. Her points were so right and true. Her story was by turns tragic and funny, but always honest and deep.  We were blessed this morning!  Testimony--another sound of this Christmas season.  People giving testimony to God's goodness in the face of suffering and loss.  I wish I could quote the one phrase she repeated several times.  Something about when the whys of life torment us and when the unknowns of the future scare us, we need to remember that what we already know about God is enough to trust him for whatever is to come.  This idea keeps coming to mind.  I've walked with Jesus a long time.  Once I left him, but he took me back.  God has revealed himself in incredible ways through the years.  I don't have all the answers, but I have enough to know that this verse is true: "the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you--so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, to whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." I Corinthians 1.

Did you notice all the times the name of Jesus is proclaimed in that one verse?  I didn't notice until I typed it.  I give testimony to his name!  It is powerful; it is divisive; it is a stumbling block.  But... "God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  Philippians 2. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Sounds of the Season

Arielle's birthday was joyous.  We celebrated with family a week earlier, so the actual day of her birthday was just hers to enjoy. She wanted to go to the mall (of course) and we had a mom-sister-daughter day full of laughter and fun. In the evening our friend Julia came over so the girls could practice for their concert at the retirement center on Sunday.  I came into Arielle's  crowded room and sat on the floor to hear them rehearse.  The lovely sounds of their guitars blending together as they played old carols made Christmas perfect for me. If that was all, it would be enough. Thank you, Arielle, for this gift.

For her birthday, I gave Arielle a different kind of gift.  It was a journal I kept since she was a baby. I started it at the time of our trip to China and then occasionally I would write more as she grew. Unfortunately, I kind of forgot about it in later years. We moms get busy and sometimes neglect what might be most beneficial to just get through the urgent needs of the day. Anyway, I hoped the journal would bless Arielle, that she would know how precious she was and still is to us.  I didn't even know if she would be interested in plowing through all that mom-baby talk.  I added one more entry at the end, for her 15th birthday.

On her birthday night I kissed her good-night with the full moon shining through her window and lighting up her beautiful face. She hugged me tight and said the journal was her best gift.  If there was ever any doubt, she now KNOWS how much she is loved!  Gift received.

On a bigger scale, do we sometimes live our lives wondering if our God really loves us?   Christmas is the time to remember that God sent his son to give us the gift of himself--to adopt us into his family, to love us unconditionally, and to be with us forever, even beyond the grave.  We need to reach out and receive this gift.  Read God's love letter to us and be blessed this season.