Friday, December 1, 2017

Why I Need Christmas

Let all the angels of God worship Him!    Hebrews 1:6

I just need to hit the re-set button.  I don't need a winter festival.  I don't need a whoop-de-doo year end party.  I don't need to see how much I can pile up underneath a decorative tree in my living room.  I really don't need to see how much fruitcake I can inhale just because now is the time.  

I need to re-focus.  I need to see Jesus.

More than that, I need to reflect.  I need to remember and honor the many ways that Jesus has walked with me and my family this year.  And let me tell you...this one has been a doozer.  And we've had some doozers in the past four or five years.  I'll bet you have, too.

The Bible tells us that the Word became Flesh and dwelled among us.  Think about what that means.  That means Jesus walked through His life in this world dealing with all the stuff that living here means...sickness, relationships, storms, pain, ridicule...there's just no end to what the world throws at us every day.  It's all so mundane, yet so overwhelming.  And, for us mortals, it can so easily cloud our view of The. Most. Important. Thing.  

God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to walk this world with us and eventually to greet us when we cross from this world to the next.  As the popular song of the season says, we need a little Christmas, right this very minute.  I'm sure we all get reminders all the time that Jesus is with us, God is helping us through his Son and his Holy Spirit.  But once a year, we need this big reminder that Life is not all about us, but all about Him.  

If God commanded all of his angels to worship Jesus, how much more are we - I, you - commanded to worship, honor and adore the One he sent.  This is the time to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look full in his wonderful face.  From the face of a baby to the loving face of a man walking among us every day, may we at this season join the angels and worship Him.

Friday, November 17, 2017

On Giving Thanks

Image result for freedom from want painting

Enter into his gates with Thanksgiving and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him and bless his name.
Psalm 100: 4

It was a freezing cold, blustery day in Edinburgh, Scotland.  To the people around us, it was a regular Thursday in November.  To us, we were missing our national day of Thanksgiving.  In other words, we were missing that iconic gathering day when all of America comes together for wonderful, happy communion around...a turkey.

Whatever would we do?  We knew when we planned our trip that we would be gone over Thanksgiving Day but it didn't seem real until that morning.  We made our plight known to the kindly concierge at our hotel.  Could he recommend a restaurant for four lonely Americans?  Because, even though we knew it would not be the traditional turkey and dressing and cranberry sauce, we simply had to mark the day around a table giving thanks.  Because that is our custom.

Our custom.  Enter Norman Rockwell.  He painted his way into our national spirit.  Norman Rockwell said he painted life as he wanted it to be.  And his pictures made us want it to be that way, too.  This picture is called Freedom From Want.  It was inspired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a speech before Congress in January, 1941, almost a year before Pearl Harbor.  The country had been gripped by Depression for more than ten years.  America was not yet at war, but it was coming.  In his speech, FDR listed four freedoms that he wanted every American to enjoy: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear and freedom from want.  Norman Rockwell depicted each of these in a series of four paintings.  The most well-known is this one.

His image of Freedom From Want means a table loaded with plenty and surrounded by smiling faces of all generations.  Grandma brings in the big turkey and is preparing to place it on the table.  Now notice that this table is not loaded with a lush banquet of a meal.  There are some stalks of celery, some other condiments.  The turkey is the centerpiece.  There is food enough for hunger but this is not a picture of gluttony.  Not only do we see the feeding of physical hunger, but the spiritual hunger of love embodied in family and friends.

When I look back on that Thanksgiving Day in Edinburgh, I'm reminded that our thanksgiving follows us wherever we are.  While we didn't have the usual symbols we associate with our version of the national holiday, we certainly had a happy meal.  Ed enjoyed pheasant, while the rest of us played it safe with salmon.  You never know what these strange fowl are going to taste like!  More than feeding our bodies, we fed our souls with the enjoyment of a happy time together.  I will forever be thankful for that travel time to those faraway places. 

I hold in my heart other thanksgiving days that were filled with family, boisterous children, happy confusion and exhaustion from getting all that stuff together.  Thanksgiving Day 2001 is forever stamped in my memory because it was my father's last day of cognizance.  He passed two days later.  The last thing he saw was his family gathered around him.  Thanksgiving week three years ago was spent in a children's hospital while our grandson who was five at the time was tested for everything under the sun.  On Wednesday - the day before Thanksgiving - we got the final word...he was losing his hearing.  Devastating news and yet we were so thankful he was otherwise healthy and didn't have anything wrong with his brain.

Good times...and not so good times.  1 Thessalonians 5:18 gives us this direction:  In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  I think it's important to note here that the word is not the combination everything.  It's more emphatic: every thing.

Norman Rockwell said he painted the world the way he wanted it to be.  He gave us wonderful images and poignant, happy thoughts.  But Norman Rockwell wasn't running the world.  It's not always going to be the way we want it to be.  But we are to find things to thank God for, whatever the situation.

As a child in Sunday School, one of the first scriptures I learned was this verse from Psalm 100 and the only way it ever sounds right to me is from the King James Version:
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

Whatever your thanksgiving situation is, I wish you freedom from want...a peaceful day with time to count your blessings and thank the One who guides your life.  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise! 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Get That Mammo!

Yesterday, I received one of those Facebook messages requesting that I pass on to all my female friends a reminder that this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The message is aimed at reminding everyone to get a mammogram.

Well, rather than pass on a mass message of someone else's creating, let me give this a personal word from my own experience.  To cut to the chase, I am here today because I got a mammo in the middle of a normally hectic day in 2013.  Did I want to do it?  NO.  Having my boob squeezed in that cold, hard machine was just not high on my list of favorite things.  Besides, I'm busy.  Mammos take time.  And the available appointment time was just not convenient.  It was really cutting up my day.  Yada yada yada...what a pain!

But I went.  And I'm glad.  The ensuing months were not what I would ever choose to do.  From that day in 2013, I lost control of my life for awhile.  Anything I had planned flew out the window only to be replaced by surgery and chemo treatments.  The picture here was taken the June day after I sat in the chair of a sweet lady barber and had my hair buzzed off.  Being the vain creature I am, my first question to my oncologist was "Will I lose my hair?"  The answer was quick and no-nonsense..."Yes."  Since I knew she had done this very thing herself, I knew she appreciated my feelings.  

There are those who say mammograms are not worth the time because they don't tell the whole story...if you do your own breast checks and see your doctor once a year you'll be okay.  I'm telling you that if I had waited until I felt something, I would not be here to write this today.  Get the mammo.  Right now, it's the best we've got for early detection.  With what my doctors saw on the mammo, we moved on to further tests and pinpointed the enemy.  And it was game on from there!  

So pass on those reminders on Facebook.  Do whatever you are led to do for yourself and your friends.  Just remember what this friend is telling you:


Monday, September 18, 2017

You Can't Run Away From the Storm

When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete.  Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the "northeaster," swept down from the island.  The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along....We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard....When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
- Acts 27: 13-15, 18, 20 NIV

The Apostle Paul was being taken to Rome for trial before Caesar.  Before they knew it, the storm was upon them and they could do nothing but ride with it.  They saw no sun or stars for many days...had nothing to guide them or give them any point of reference for life.  They thought they were doomed to death.  They couldn't get away from the raging wind.

In Paul's day, they had no means of forecasting a storm.  Two weeks ago, our media began the alerts which became more and more serious with each one.  Hurricane Irma was huge and it was powerful.  And it was headed straight for Florida.  We had just seen Hurricane Harvey devastate the east coast of Texas and our fears for our safety grew with every advisory.  Ed and I began to seriously discuss evacuating as we prepared our house for the blow.  Our concern was not only for ourselves but for his mother.  At 93 with congestive heart failure, Mom did not need the stress of riding out a hurricane that could eventually have us treading water in the living room.  While we had always stayed home, this time we needed to GO.

Irma was due to come ashore sometime Sunday.  Thursday morning we were in our car with Mom by 9 a.m.  Knowing that every interstate would be a bumper to bumper rolling parking lot, I had mapped out a route of good alternate roads that would get us to Georgia.  With difficulty, I had found rooms for one night in Albany, GA.  From then on, everything was booked well into the next week.  All day, we worked our way north and west because we thought that would take us away from the path of the storm.  The forecasters were guessing it would come up the east coast of Florida.  It didn't.  As it turned out, we were running ahead of it.  We arrived in Albany at 10 p.m. after spending the day on roads where gas stations had no gas and the ones that did were swamped with hungry vehicles and desperate people.  I can't even imagine what it was like on the interstates.  There are so many stories to tell and they will be told some other time.  Suffice it to say, nerves were tense and bodies were getting more and more fatigued as the day ground on into night.

And the storm was coming on, like a great monster, and changing its course with every new bit of news.  Friday's ride was more pleasant because we stayed on the west side of Georgia even though that was a long way around to get to our destination.  We were heading for our daughter's home in Tennessee.  We spent the next week there, watching the Weather Channel and checking Facebook for news from home.

The lesson is this...even though we were out of the brunt of the wind and rain, we were still tied to the storm.  It held us, like a terrorist holding a hostage.  When could we get out of this mess?  Would there be anything left once we broke loose and got back to the base of our life?  Our trip home a week later was less frantic and yet exhausting because we pushed hard to get back to our familiar surroundings.

Whatever the storm...whether it is a real live hurricane or something grinding away in life on a personal level...there is the bad blow and then there is the aftermath.  And wherever you are, you have to deal with it.  You can't get away from it.

Our Florida hometown is a very green little city.  We have one set of tall buildings on our beach but everywhere else the town is full of trees and lovely landscaping.  Right now, much of that is debris lying in piles along the streets and turning more and more brown every day.  The aftermath...the consequences...the stuff that's left to deal with once the storm has torn it all loose from its roots.

Hurricane Irma taught us that leaving is just as hard as staying.  The night we got home, I told my brother that if I ever evacuate again it will be to Maui.  As I lay in my own bed - thankfully! - later that night, I thought "That's not far enough."