Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Ghost of Christmas Past....and Present


I am often asked about how things are going with the new Church, how can people be praying, etc.... It has been a hard question for me to answer more often than not, but I do have something that has been on my mind lately that I wouldn't mind inviting you into.

The Holidays.

For the past 15 years, my children have lovingly been referred to by anyone who ever grew up in the church as, "Church Rats". What that has meant during the Christmas season specifically, is that our family traditions look very different than most. During the month of December, it sometimes has felt like we are at church more then not. Well, I guess the honest truth would be that it has felt like Aaron was at church more than he was home. There were various Christmas concerts to be planned and executed, other ministries that required his services (or mine), Town Holiday Parades, Caroling, Staff Christmas Parties, Worship Team Parties, Small group parties, and obviously - the infamous Christmas Eve Service (not to mention the Sunday before and after Christmas Eve). It was A LOT. Somewhere throughout the years I began to call Aaron, Scrooge. He would tire quickly of Christmas music and anything else remotely "festive" that was required of him during the month of December. All the meanwhile, I love the idea of tradition and all things Christmas, and have tried so hard to make our December's meaningful to our kids despite our weird schedule. I did not want them to look back on the Ghost of Christmas Past with disdain for the church.

December has always been an exhausting month. For the first few years at our last church, there was a family that had the sweetest gesture - they would bring us a Honey Baked Ham on Christmas Eve. Most years, I struggled with the gesture, as I had not expected the gift and had already purchased all the food for the next day. One year we had a particularly busy December, and I was so looking forward to our Christmas Ham...knowing that I at least got off the hook for the fancy Christmas dinner. The ham didn't come that year. I was so sad. We went out for dinner to Dave and Busters that Christmas Day. I cried. The kids loved it.

That story had nothing to do with anything..... sorry....

Now, lest you think I'm bragging to the World Wide Web about all we had to do and how amazing of a mom I am to make it special for our children, let me just tell you - I did not do it well. I would complain and sulk and huff over the hours that Aaron was away from us. As for the day of Christmas Eve itself, which most years required a 10 hour day for Aaron, myself AND our children - it took a lot of effort to go into that with joy. As long as I could sing my favorite carol, "Oh Holy Night" - I would find a way to settle down. (You think I'm kidding. My poor husband has had to deal with me for 15 years. I'm not kidding.) It took even more effort to get our kids to go into it with joy (admittedly so because of the expectations I had put on the season). . Every year they would moan (just like their mother) about how they just wanted to go look at Christmas lights and eat our Christmas Eve chili at 6 pm instead of 9 pm. Turns out, letting them have the run of the church, letting them eat the food I would bring for all the other volunteers, be a part of the band, and dress up as Nativity Scene creatures did the trick.


Our Little Church Rats

She's with the Band

Oh night....Deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevvvvvvvviiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnne.

I'm sure he was singing some Christ Tomlin song in this picture...or Barenaked Ladies.

This year, for various reasons, there is no Christmas Eve Service, programs or concerts for us. (Except for our 6 month anniversary/Christmas Party.....but that's just super cool.)  We will just be a normal family this December. Two weeks ago, my kids began to realize that this year would be different. We would not be at church all of December, but mostly all day on Christmas Eve....and they were not okay with this. They truly have come to view our 10 hour "work day" as tradition, and while we all complained about it every year to some degree - they loved it....who am I kidding ..... we loved it. We are all feeling the weight of our new normal, because the last 15 years is what we have known. It's what WE did. It has become tradition. I say weight because traditions don't come quick, nor do they come easy. This year we have to get to start over.

So there was my really long story about how you can pray for us. There has been an increasingly growing amount of "new norms" for us during this season....and I'm not always doing well with it. Whether it is because I miss the people, miss the places, or miss the traditions and am not sure how to start again....I don't know. Probably some of each. But it just doesn't feel like "Christmas" this year. And I don't like that. So pray we develop new traditions, pray we enjoy being with each other this December, pray our kids (and me) do not grow weary with the many changes, and I suppose same as before - pray they do not look back on the Ghost of Christmas Past with disdain for the church.

One special little gift I have from season's past was when Aaron and I had a band with some very dear friends. We made a little 3 song Christmas Album to gift to our church that year. Take a listen. And feel free to mock us.


Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel
 
 Glory to God
 
 Jesus Came to Save
 

And if you get nothing else from this blog post, know that your Pastor, Minister, Reverend, Father, whatever...is going above and beyond this Christmas season....and his wife just may welcome a nice ham to take at least one pressure off. Me?? We'll be at Dave and Busters.







Friday, November 21, 2014

Old men, dope dealers and Pastors


When I was a kid, I remember the Pastor at our church being gifted a Cadillac. The only reason I know it was gifted to him is because he stood up in front of the church one Sunday morning in defense of his new, sweet ride. As I remember it, the rumor mill had begun about how in the world could the Pastor afford a new, luxury vehicle (Gasp!) - and he felt the need to defend himself. 1) It was a gift. 2) Even if it wasn't, how was anyone to judge how he spent his money. Sadly, I've come to understand over the years his need for such a defense.

A month and a half ago, Aaron's car (which had been basically gifted to us four years ago) died. So we've spent the last several weeks trying to find something that would fit into our budget. Unfortunately, our budget for a new vehicle is currently non existent. As I was perusing Craigslist the other day, I asked Aaron why he couldn't have been a Dr. or something. To which my cheeky son turned to me in reply and said - "Why couldn't YOU have been a Dr., Mom?" Touche.

When I told my parents that Aaron needed a new car, they offered to give us my dad's old, dying (a slow death) Buick. Um, thanks Dad - we're good. My mom brought up that childhood story about our Pastor and said that maybe someone would give us a Cadillac like Pastor Bob got. Haha. Very funny.

A good friend -a young woman at our church who also happens to live off the support of others - told us that she was praying for someone to gift us a car. Um. Right. Who does that? Outside of our close friend who gifted us her vehicle four years ago....no one really just gives someone a car, right? Well, my friend started spreading the word that people should pray for us to be gifted a car. Even Aaron and I joined in her prayers. Every day I sang in worship - "Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz!"

Philippians 4:19
And my God will meet all your needs according to the 
riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Mathew 7:11
If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts
to your children, how much more will your
Father in Heaven give good gifts
to those who ask him?



This week some friends contacted us telling us that their Grandfather was needing to get rid of his vehicle. It only had 130,000 miles on it, he was the original owner and has taken great care of the vehicle. They would like for us to have it. What?!?!? Really God? WOW! You are really answering our prayers with this ....... you all see what is coming, right? A Cadillac. Not just any Cadillac. A 1989 Cadillac Seville. In the words of our friend who offered it to us, "it is the vehicle preferred by old men in their 80's and dope dealers". Well....apparently the Cadillac is now for old men in their 80's, dope dealers, and Pastors.

Isn't she a beauty???!!! (this pic is for you Angie O.)


That was a pretty story, huh? Just perfect! Isn't it so great how God meets our needs?

Yeah....let me tell you the rest of the story. Wanna know what is NOT pretty?

My heart.

When our friends first told us about this car, I texted my friend and asked why she couldn't have been a little more specific with what kind of car to gift us. Maybe a pretty Volvo Wagon? A sharp Honda Accord? A Mercedes? I told her I blamed her for the fact that we would be the new owners of a 1989 Cadillac Seville.

I have cried about having to receive this gift...and not tears of joy. I have begged Aaron to let me drain our accounts to purchase ANYTHING but this vehicle. A Princess doesn't drive an old man, dope dealing Cadi. Why does it have to be this car? I'm tired of being a charity case. I always feel like a charity case. Why is this our life?

Yes, that really was my response to God's gift. I looked him right in the face and spat on him. I denied his goodness. I wanted to deny his gift. I wanted better. Don't I deserve better? It took him all of about 5 seconds to give me a big fat spanking in the form of conviction. He longs to give us good gifts, and he had just given us one. A safe, reliable, FREE vehicle. Pay no attention to the aesthetics.

Into my heart he brought a wave of reassurance that in his love and provision for me, he gets to do it His way. And his ways are always best. God actually had different plans for the measly $500 we had set aside for that car, and I'm so in awe of how he orchestrated the entire thing. Once I saw the actual purpose for that $500 that he had, I couldn't help but stand in awe and give him all Glory. Now I'm moved to tears of joy and thankfulness.

There are a few things in my life that have been lingering for several years that I have been begging for God's provision, his gifts, for his hand to intercede. I wonder how many times I miss his gifts to me because in my Princess mentality - I don't see them as good enough. So I keep moping around, asking for him to provide, telling him that what He's doing just isn't good enough. All the meanwhile I'm missing the beauty of the bigger picture of how he is orchestrating everything. Oh what a wretched (wo)man I am.

So I repent. And I say thank you. I may never will never love this incredibly ugly, old vehicle - but I will love what my God has done through it. And every time I look at it or (shudder) have to drive it - may I be reminded that He is the giver of all things good. In His time. In His way.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Out of joint




There never seems to be a shortage of running or gardening metaphors when it comes to our spiritual lives. I like that.

As a runner (I hesitate to call myself a runner anymore, but I'm going with it for now) - some verses and analogies just make my heart a little clearer to me at times.

I was reading in Hebrews 12 today. (And all the other Runners are rolling their eyes right now...)

Heb 12:1 (ESV - emphasis mine)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Some translations would say - "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles or ensnares us".

So that verse is kinda obvious, right? As I kept going though, another piece of chapter 12 stood out to me that never has before.

Heb 12:12-13
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

I've been in and out of this sport I've come to love for the past 2 years now due to some bad knees and shins. I've recently taken to Crossfit with the hopes that some muscle balance and strengthening will help me heal up enough to get back to running. So how very practical to read - "strengthen your weak knees....so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed".

But then I started taking this running and joint metaphor and using it as a lens into my heart. I had originally been meditating on the first part of Hebrews 12...thinking through those pesky sins that cling so closely. So when I got to verses 12 and 13, I took pause. How does one, in light of the sin that entangles us, strengthen what is weak so that it may be healed? Training of course. Just a different kind of training.

I can't keep running to strengthen my weak knees. That just doesn't make sense. (Although I've known and read about many runners who do try that...) So in the case of sin, to go on sinning in the areas we know are sin obviously does not lead to healing. There's this thing called muscle memory, where our muscles find a way they want to be (or have been trained to be), and settle in a certain way....even if it isn't the way they are supposed to settle. This can cause all sorts of pain (and things being "put of of joint") if the muscle isn't healed and retrained. Our hearts are no different.

We have a choice: to lean into sin, or strengthen what is weak. I can act out of anger, or choose to overlook a wrong. I can grow bitter or I can forgive. I can despair or I can hope. I can cling to my "vices", or I can come broken to the feet of Jesus. 

It's a choice. And as with everything, the Bible generally has the answers to my silly little questions. So how do I make straight paths for my feet? What is the Crossfit for my soul?

Proverbs 3:5-8
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

And in all of this, I'm ever so grateful that it is in repentance and rest that my salvation is found, and that quietness and trust is my strength (Isaiah 30:15), because I cannot say I've been strengthening these weak knees or lifting these drooping hands very well at all.

Clinging to new mercies today.