Merry Broken Christmas

“I’m getting a divorce.”  She whispered it; her voice cracking under the weight of what that sentence held. She could barely contain the sob that followed. It’s a week before Christmas and her family is broken.

I watched a funeral procession go by today. There were dozens of cars following the hearse and two limos. Obviously, someone who was well loved and valued in this life is being laid to rest today- a week before Christmas. That family will never be the same. Their Christmas is broken.

It’s been 19 months since Emma died. She was only 15. Her parents are experiencing yet another broken Christmas. There is no getting around it.  The family table is missing someone. Time does not heal all wounds. Christmas is broken.

In Peshawar, Pakistan hundreds of families are burying their children today. Mourning. Wailing. Scars that will never heal. Trauma that is too painful to relive. Fear. Jesus, come quickly. Broken. So broken.

It was 2 years ago this week that a madman ripped bullets through tiny bodies in small town America. Tiny lives obliterated. Broken families. Broken lives. Broken school. Broken nation.

Michael Brown‘s mother is a broken woman. And because her son was shot down, her city and country are broken too. Politics aside- these people will never be the same again. Violence against police. Violence against each other. Violence in the name of justice. Broken system. Broken nation. Broken world.

In Ottawa this Christmas, Nathan Cirillo’s young son will have to unwrap presents without his daddy.  He will never have another Christmas with his dad. His family is broken. These lives are broken. Our world is broken.

I could go on all day.  Every week there are more horror stories. Sydney, Australia.  Seattle, Washington. Portland, Oregon. Calgary, Alberta. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The family of Donald and Shirley Parkinson in Unity, SK…..I knew Shirley. She was a light in the community. A light that was tragically and violently snuffed out at the hands of her own husband. And now her daughters are left with this legacy of brokenness and unanswered questions.

It would be nice to say “Merry Christmas” and be completely oblivious to the world around us. But that would be lying. The fact is, more of us are broken at Christmas than whole. And I’m here to tell you that’s okay. In fact, your brokenness is exactly why Jesus came. Your brokenness is the dirty, filthy stable. Your brokenness is a manger made for feeding animals, not for a King. But Jesus will come anyway. He will come and He will stay and He will cry IN your brokenness, WITH you. Because Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.

charlie brown tree

We have to put away this notion of a perfectly decorated tree, perfectly adorned houses, perfectly wrapped gifts, perfectly planned meals and perfectly pretty people.  Jesus didn’t come for any of that. And actually, it’s quite offensive. If your world is so perfect and sanitized then you have no need or room for Jesus. You are simply the Innkeeper telling Jesus to move along because there is no room for Him. That concept shocks and scares me. I don’t want perfection to the point where I have no room for Him in my life, in my home, in my family or in my brokenness. I would rather take all the sad, scary, horribleness WITH Jesus, than perfection without Him.

Mark 8:34-37 (MSG) Jesus says…..

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Psalms 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.

Even Mary, who was so young and so unprepared for what her life would be like, knew that the coming of Jesus was not for the free and the satisfied, but for the oppressed and the soul-crushed.  Her words are powerful…these words that she uttered from deep within her spirit knowing that soon she would bear a son who would save her people.

Mary’s Song(Luke 1)

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

My husband and I had one of those epic, smackdown fights last night that don’t happen often but really shake us to our core. We are so imperfect and prideful. We lash out in defense of our own agendas. None of it is even important. But we made it more important than anything else. We’re broken.

We have four children but we rarely see or speak to one of them. Broken.

For a couple of years we have had little to no contact with my inlaws. Deep wounds. Toxic, painful memories. Dysfunctional relationships. So broken; all of us.

Money troubles, relationship troubles, family issues, job worries, houses in need of repair, unfinished tasks, assignments overdue, marks falling, everyone failing. Struggling. Barely existing. Trying too hard to get no where.

If this sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. The Saviour is coming. He is on his way to find a place to be born. Is your heart ready? Is it open?  Christmas Day is a week away but Jesus is born every day in the hearts of mankind. All we have to say is “yes Lord, I’m broken. Come and fill me. Come heal me. Come live in my brokenness.”

The woman who is getting a divorce….I didn’t know what to say. I choked back the tears as they started to fall. Her words were amazingly poignant, ” there is nothing to say- just pray. Pray, pray pray.”

All I want for Christmas is to be broken enough to be the stable and not the Inn. 

Merry Broken Christmas.

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[Some Christmas thoughts | Chris Martin Writes
http://chrismartinwrites.com/2014/12/24/some-christmas-thoughts/caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”480″] Click on this to read another blog about imperfect, broken Christmases.[/caption]

 

and a follow up after nearly 200,000 views in 5 days! Wowie!  A Viral Post and Holy Ground

I love comments but due to some unfortunate and egregious comments I am now shifting to managing comments through an approval process. I’m sorry I even have to do this on Christmas Eve but clearly the very broken are lashing out at me; someone they don’t even know. But the overwhelming majority of you have been gracious and kind and for that I am so thankful.

I Crossed the Line

When I see a really adorable baby in the grocery store with a frazzled, tired looking mom, I bust out of my introverted non-eye contact self and tell her how cute her baby is or how brave she is for confronting the cold or line ups while toting a car seat. It may only take a very short moment and I certainly don’t do it to make friends; we don’t exchange numbers or even names. I just give her that knowing nod- the affirmation she needs to press on.  I’ve been there. I’ve been that mom. And I’ve been on the opposite end of having glares, stares and “what a shame” glances. Listen, we don’t all LOOK great ALL the time. We don’t all do our shopping the same or mow our grass the same. And we certainly don’t raise our kids the same. My kids often had unruly hair, dirty faces, messy clothes and no shoes. But they’re loved and cared for- I assure you.

 

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks. Maybe months.  You see, I’ve crossed the line.  I’ve crossed over to a new way of thinking. I’ve grown up.  I used to be a black and white thinker.  I was the “what a shame” woman without children shaming the frazzled, exhausted mother.  I was the judgy woman who labeled people I did not know based on how they looked or acted or spoke. I. WAS. THAT. PERSON.  And for the most part, so are/were you.  We all make too many assumptions on people by what they wear or how they wear it.  We hear stories of little boys wanting to take “girly” backpacks to school and we poo-poo the parents for allowing such an action.  We are GREAT at our passive aggressive stance on anyone who is sinning differently than we are.  We are. Christians.  We are AWESOME at telling other people about THEIR sin and how GREAT we are at NOT DOING what they are CLEARLY doing WRONG.

 

I’m going to take a leap.  I’m going to jump from the old-school way of thinking that there is absolute black and white, sin is sin, hell is real, my need to point out your faults kind of judgment.  Do I still believe in black and white?  Mostly.   Do I still believe in sin and hell and God’s judgment? You bet.

I will tell you this- I am just as confused and concerned as anyone.  I know what my Bible says. And you know what else? Those who do not profess the Christian faith even know what the Bible says.  People KNOW what the Bible says about sin. What the general public doesn’t know, doesn’t understand is why a faith that is built on the LOVE OF CHRIST, on the foundation of LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOUR, on the premise of FORGIVENESS AND GRACE is so HELL BENT on telling them what they’re doing wrong and how bad they are. It sickens me daily. I see it played out over and over and over again, online and in real life.

 

Christians!! If you really want to reach people for Jesus, stop telling them about their sin(which they already know) and show them how you’re going to love them in spite of it! Because I hate to break it to you, but you’re a sinner too.

I don’t know when it first happened~ this idea that some sins are worse than others.  I don’t know how it happened that God-fearing , righteous holy rollers decided it was perfectly OKAY to publicly shame, yell at, berate, mock, tease, bully, hound and condemn to Hell those whose sin is of a particular nature.  You do know that all sin is selfish, right? Read the 10 commandments(which I might add are not the only 10 sins- there are literally 100s if not thousands of sins listed in the Bible).  If sin is about selfishness, then worrying about the colour of paint on my walls while my neighbour has nothing for supper tonight is sin.

If sin is selfishness, then buying supper at MacDonald’s before I pay my debts is sin.

If sin is selfishness, then pushing my way in front of a little old widow in the grocery store is sin.

We all sin.

We all sin daily.

We are all sinners.

We are all sinning daily.

Each night since I was a little girl, I fall asleep AFTER I have cleared things up with the Lord. My nightly prayer goes something like this:

“Lord, I know I messed up today.  I know I spent more time on Facebook than I did with you. I realize I was short tempered with my kids and I love them and I’m sorry.  Dear Jesus, I don’t want to hurt you or hurt my family, but I know I do- so I ask you to forgive me and help me do better tomorrow. In your name, Amen.”‘

ann voskamp quote

You see, I cannot share Christ’s love with others if I don’t realize that my need for Him is also desperate. I cannot be a light in the dark if I have surrounded my own heart with darkness.  We are only as effective in our crusade to be the hands and feet of Jesus if we are willing to humble ourselves as he was humbled, if we are willing to walk where he walked, if we are willing to touch the dirty sinners as he did. We have to be the Jesus who, the night before he died- the night before one of his best friends gave him up to the soldiers for some pieces of silver- if we’re willing to wash the feet of the ones who will hurt us.  Jesus did. That is love. That is grace. That is mercy.  Jesus didn’t yell in Judas’ face. He didn’t berate him. He didn’t have to. Judas knew he was guilty. Judas already knew that what he was going to do was wrong but he was willing to do it anyway. Because of selfishness- even in the face of his own friend.  Let your heart and mind sit on that for a while.

We have a mission:  Love God and Love others.  Jesus did NOT give us a mandate to judge.  In fact, he said the opposite: “don’t judge anyone”.  As hard as it may be for some super duper McJudgy Pants Christians to admit- your judgment and subsequent condemnation of others is actually pushing them AWAY from the throne of grace of which YOU represent!  Your theology, your interpretation of the Gospel and the words of Christ will only be heard and received if you serve them on the platter of grace and love.  If you feel it is your duty to defend the gospel at all costs- even at the cost of someone’s spiritual life, you do not represent the Jesus Christ whom I love and serve. And ya, that makes me judgy.  I am a sinner too.

This week, the internet exploded with the news that World Vision would now NOT DISCRIMINATE against those who profess to be gay. So , you know, to show the world our love and all , Christians took to their keyboards in contempt- disavowing World Vision, dropping sponsorship of small, helpless, innocent , hungry children. Because that’ll teach ’em! Right? Right…………..

I have seen some pretty ugly words. I have read things that should never, ever, ever come out of a Christ-follower’s mouth or mind. Good gracious, people, what are we doing?

Can I be honest here about my feelings on the gay issue?  I’m on the fence. I know what my Bible says.  I know that homosexuality is listed as A SIN in the Bible. I also know that adultery is listed in the same sentence.  I also know that lust(looking at someone and dreaming and drooling about them in our minds would be covered in that) is also listed.  You know what else is listed? Drunkenness. As are many other sins of the flesh. So now what? How do we move forward as people of grace and mercy? How do show the way of the Cross, forgiveness, and justice too?

I’ve crossed the line. I have grown up. I have realized that hammering and pounding my fist in profession of my faith is NOT the way to win souls and influence anyone. I have gay family members. Do I shun them, hate them, pour salt on the open wounds they are already feeling from the church? What about my family members who are in adulterous, fornicating, relationships? Do I prevent them from coming into my home because of their dirty, sexual sin? Who am I to judge the condition of their hearts? Who am I?

I suspect God is waiting for His Church to put down their slings and arrows.  Like a good Dad he is waiting for us to calm down and grow up.  The temper tantrums need to stop. The finger pointing and line-drawing has to end.  He is waiting to see how we handle the next phase…..the part where we start receiving people into HIS Kingdom with all of their messes and sins and troubles, knowing they aren’t perfect and neither are we. He is WAITING for us to open wide our doors and be people of love.  He is quite up to the challenge of worrying about who is sinning, how they’re sinning and how to let His Spirit speak into their hearts. That is His job, not ours.

1 Corinthians 13 is often quoted at weddings. But at the end of it is a curious verse about growing up….I think there’s something to that.  I don’t understand all of what God is up to. I don’t understand why we continue to sin when we know we shouldn’t, but we do. We all do.  We learn to love and then we learn to BE LOVE.

1When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I really would ask that comments remain respectful. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but comments that go the way of judging sin will be deleted. For real. Because I can. And I’m tired of Christians fighting about what is sin and how we need to tell the whole world about their sin. Over it. Not gonna have it.

Also, read these opinions and pleas from very gracious, wonderful people:

Jamie The Very Worst Missionary’s Post

Jen Hatmaker’s Post

Kristen Howerton’s Post

And this very sobering thought from Benjamin Moberg

Dear Sarah~ Jesus Made a Feminist out of Me

Yesterday was the official release date of my blogger friend’s new book , Jesus Feminist. I’ve been reading Sarah Bessey’s blog for over 2 years and from the very first word I was drawn in by her tender spirit, her poetic bent and and her love of Jesus. But I will admit, when she announced that the word “feminist” was going to be in her book title I cringed a little. But that lasted about half a minute and then I wholeheartedly embraced the term. Not because I relate to it, but because I don’t.

In true internet blogging fashion, let me continue my story in a letter to Sarah. ( I figure if I can do it for Jen Hatmaker and TroubleFace Mom, why stop now?)

Dear Sarah,

The word *feminist*  used to scare me and not because I’m scared of much of anything but because as are all things we fear- I didn’t understand it.  When I was a young girl I remember conversations overheard about  “those feminists” and “how the feminists have ruined us all”.  I didn’t really understand why or how ; all I knew was that feminism was as dirty a word as slavery or adultery.  It was bad and I should stay away. Far, far away.

But here’s the thing- I grew up in a family full and rich with love and grace. From my Grandma Thiessen who wore her heart on her sleeve, widowed while I was only a baby to my Grandpa Parke who never shied away from telling you how to get to Jesus- his words strong and mighty at the dinner table.   I come from diversity of trades and skills to diversity of life and love. And never did I feel that because I was a girl, I had less than the most important seat at the table.

I never felt worthless or less than equal to my male counterparts  but my entire life was always surrounded with a silent, almost invisible line that I dared not cross: that of being heard in church. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know who said it or how it was said. It was just there. Women were never to be in authority in a church.

Fast forward to my 18th year.  A new church was being planted across town and they needed volunteers ready to do the work and show up and be counted. I raised my hand. Single, young, a woman. Oh, did I mention this was a Mennonite church? I didn’t know if I would “count” as a family unit- they needed five. They had families and couples..and then they had me.

Biggest surprise to everyone including me was when a *meeting* of the *men* in charge decided that yes, indeed, little Juanita Dueck who was just finishing high school would actually be considered one of the five. So there it was. I beat the system. That’s really what I thought. I had done something revolutionary.

And not only that, but my mom- divorced(actually separated for 10 years) was invited and elected to be the first woman on the church board.  Maybe I was wrong. Maybe there was a place for women to be heard.

I’m all grown up now. I’ve moved more times than I can count on 2 hands. I’ve had babies and been the token housewife. I’ve been shushed and silenced. I’ve been introduced into a family where women are lesser and lower and treated as such. I’ve seen things and I’ve learned a lot.

The other day I told a friend that 30 year old me would pray down rivers of mercy and Jesus’ return on 42 year old me. I’m not afraid to say the things that I was always told “women should never say in public” . I am a rule-breaker and a peace-maker. And yet, I’ve prayed for meekness.

Actually, Sarah, you have only enforced my desire for meekness. You wear it well. It’s okay, throw back your head and laugh out loud- Jesus hasn’t answered that prayer for me and I’m beginning to doubt He ever will. I don’t think I was cut from the cloth of meekness. But thanks to you, Jesus is making a feminist out of me.

I’ve often thought there has to be more to women’s ministry than cute crafts and Wednesday morning Bible studies. I haven’t always felt comfortable with the intercessors or the kitchen clean up. I’d rather be listening to stories of love, loss, tragedy, triumph and share mine too.  Maybe that’s why I love blogging- it is in the stories of women that I am finding Jesus.  I’m finding realness and wholeness in the broken bits that once were shushed into apron strings and women-only parties.

From your book- your words….these ring so true for me: ” Women are hungry for authenticity and vulnerability, real community- not churchified life tips and tricks from lady magazines.”  AMEN!

Thank you Sarah for your words. Thank you for standing in the wide gap that has been uncrossable for so many of us. Thank you for your stories and your wonderings- for asking the hard questions and pointing us straight to the Source of all the answers: Jesus. Thank you for graciously opening the door and inviting us all to the table.

Your friend ,

Little Juan on the Prairie

(I count it only joy that I get to drive down the streets daily where your little family found Jesus).

Whenever I drive by Styles Cres here in Regina, I say a little prayer for you, Sarah.

Whenever I drive by Styles Cres here in Regina, I say a little prayer for you, Sarah.

If you haven’t already done so , please , PLEASE order Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist. It’s not what you think it is- really. And it’s not scary or judgmental. It is a love story of a prairie girl who found Jesus and Feminism.

Why The Bride Wore White….A Marriage Monday post

I’m getting ready to do 31 Days of Blogging for October again. But since it’s Monday, I wanted to sneak in one last post for Marriage Mondays (which I clearly have not been consistent in writing for!).

I was privileged to be at a rare event this past Saturday.  A wedding.  Not so rare, you say?  Well let me just tell you how rare it was:

  • it was in a church
  • simple, almost sparse decorations
  • people dressed up for this occasion
  • a lone pianist played while guests were seated
  • the processional began while a violinist accompanied the pianist
  • The first sets of grandparents were seated- all grey haired; 2 couples on the groom’s side
  • The bride’s grandparents were seated- all grey haired; 2 couples
  • The groom’s parents were escorted in by the groom- this couple, married for 23 years
  • The bride’s mom was escorted in followed by the bride escorted by her dad.  The parents, still married, sat together.
  • On the front row were these 6 couples: SIX.  All married to their original mate- a combined total of over 250 years of marriage represented for this young couple to be mentored by and to model their marriage after.

 Don’t get me wrong here- I know that death and divorce are a part of life.  I am not condemning anyone whose nuptials look nothing like this, but I am stating the fact: it is rare and it was profound.wedding program

The service was short:  a couple of worship songs which clearly state the faith of this newly-joined couple.

A simple 3 point message from the pastor.

Nervous, excited, touching vows.

A ring that got stuck, giggles, blushing and finally….a tender, sweet, 21 year old kiss.

It took me back to my own wedding.

So traditional in many ways.

I wonder why people get all crazy about weddings and the fuss made over them?  This day was sweet because two young people pledged their love, devotion and commitment to each other before God and their families. That’s it.  That’s really all there is to DO on a wedding day. Commit. Pledge. Vow.

It was a 35 minute ceremony.  And now life begins.

What I love about this type of wedding is that the expectation is for the bride and groom to learn and grow together.  They don’t have it all figured out. But they EXPECT to work at it and learn together.  There is no pre- nup.  There is no contingency for “if things don’t work out”. There is only a united, committed effort to love and be loved….till death us do part.

The bride wore white because she earned the right to do so. A couple who waited till the night of their wedding to take the next step in solidifying their bond.  It’s a beautiful thing. If you ever get a chance to witness a wedding like that, take it!

And then pray for them.  Because this world is not kind to marriage. There are voices and feelings and offences that work against the first rule of marriage: put the other person first.  Once you get that, the other stuff falls into place.

I came across a blog this weekend that I read a year ago. It is simple, from SimpleMom. Worth the read for all of us:

10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Marriage

Planting Flowers and the Rhythm of Grief

575640_10152843706565531_1400055617_nOn September 20,2012 I posted this about our dear friends in Ontario who were facing the diagnosis of leukemia for their precious Emma Grace.

Yesterday, May 20,2013, Emma received complete and total healing as she flew straight into the arms of Jesus.

My earthly, motherly heart cannot comprehend the depths of despair that her mom is feeling.

My soul bursts with grief and mourning for this family.

In my present condition~human,fleshly, selfish and needy~all that I know is I have all 4 of my children here with me but my friend is feeling the ache of empty arms for not one, but now two precious daughters.  I weep.

It was 16 years ago that we first found out that Michelle was carrying another precious bundle after only a few months earlier experiencing the devastating premature delivery of Claire. I sat in that mournful sanctuary on that day in October 1996 and saw that tiny casket and wondered how God could possibly redeem this.  And yet, He did. Were it not for that horrible loss, Emma would not have been conceived under impossible circumstances.

I visited Michelle in hospital that summer. Bed rest for months while summer heat and life continued outside those walls. We laughed as she shifted in her bed, unable to get up at all for fear of losing this precious life. There were a few times when it seemed like maybe the odds were stacked against her. We prayed. We hoped. We rallied around this young family. And when the first anniversary passed of baby Claire’s passing and the due date drew near, there was that tension of grief and anticipation. How does a mother both mourn the loss of one baby and rejoice at the life within her? A sacrifice of one for another? I was a young mother too and I always marveled at her ability to remain steadfast in grace and hope and the victory of each day. Perhaps that is why, on October 17, 1997 when that baby screamed out her first cries it was the only word that seemed remotely appropriate: Grace.  And so they named her….Emma Grace.

Borrowed from Heaven. Not fair. Not fair at all. Rage and grief. Anger and suffering. Pain and weeping. Why does God only give us a taste and not the whole meal? Why?

Questions.

So few answers.

Thankful for this family to have had 15 and a half years of Grace. But so sad that there aren’t 15 more yet to come.

Today I’m planting flowers. It’s time. It’s warm and I have these empty beds that need to be filled.

photo (38) photo (39)

And in 3 months all we will have will be the leftovers of what was. We plant knowing that death will come. We make beauty in the moment knowing that it is temporary. It is this temporary season that brings us eternal joy. We give colour and life and beauty to THIS day knowing that hail, storms, pests, drought could wipe it all out in the blink of an eye. We plant in hope. We plant for  a season. We know that winter will come again and steal it all away.

And yet, I love to feel the earth and let God use me to bring a little beauty to my neighbourhood for such a short time.

photo (40)

That is what the Stewarts have done. They have allowed God to use them to show us some beauty for a little while. They partnered with the Heavenly Gardner to sow a seed that became a flower that grew and then wilted and fell back into the earth.

We grieve. We mourn. We plant. We water. We cry. We pray. We hope. We live. We wilt and then we die. And so for today…let us live and be beautiful wherever we are planted.

This is the rhythm of sowing and reaping. This is the song of grief and mourning.

Zach died yesterday too. He is teaching a lot of people about living in this moment.

Follow up post: What to Say when Someone Dies…

A Prayer for Our Teens Writing Finals

I have slightly edited this post from last June where I’m praying for my kids writing finals~it’s all I can do to help them now.

I have  two teens writing finals this week; one who is writing her semester 1 finals for grade 12~she’s nearly done. And I know how completely overwhelming studying,cramming, and writing can be. And so……my mother’s heart is praying for my kids and all of their peers who are writing too.

Dear Lord,

You have given wisdom to those who seek knowledge and you have blessed us with strong, healthy minds that hunger to learn.  Bless my children this day, and this week, as they see the fruits of their labours culminate in the writing of exams that are designed to test their knowledge.

I pray that you would guide them to study those areas most important.  Help them to discern wisely what time they spend on each subject and when it is necessary to put the books away and just rest.

I pray that as they sit at their desks, with pencil in hand, that you would give them pause to breathe, to concentrate and to recall all that they have learned.

Help them to not be flustered or panicked.  Give them sharp minds and clear focus.  Sharpen their memories and give them the right words to lay out on that paper to answer the questions before them.

I pray that you would bless the work of their minds over this past year and that all of their late nights, long projects, boring reading and difficult questioning would not be in vain but that you would multiply what they already know into good marks for solid effort.

Give them peace about finishing and handing in their completed exams , knowing that they did what they were asked to the best of their abilities.  And help them to shake off any concerns or worry so they can focus on the next.

And Lord, bless their summers, that they would be renewed in mind and body and challenged for the next years’ work.

And bless all those who are graduating and writing for the last time.  I pray that they would be filled with humility at all that they have learned and understand that this has been the groundwork laid for what is to come but not the end-all and be-all of their lives.  Bless all that they do~that they would use their gifts, talents and knowledge to bring Glory to Your name and no other.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

But I’ve Heard All that Before~I want to Hear YOUR Story

Last week I was at a women’s Christmas tea.  The ambiance was lovely~dim lighting, white Christmas trees, soft decor.  The tables were clustered and seating was arranged prior so that your host~the one who invited you~ was with you and all of her other invitees.

The theme of the evening was Peace.  Peace at a time of year when many don’t have it, can’t feel it, don’t understand it.

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I don’t always feel comfortable in these settings. Yes, I grew up in an organized church. Yes, I’ve even organized functions like this. But sitting in this place, this year, after all that we’ve been through~~ I felt awkward.  And then the speaker for the evening got up to share.  This is the part I was waiting for. I love to hear peoples’ stories.  When someone has struggled and has overcome or is in the process of overcoming….these are the stories I want to hear. My soul longs for the connection between what I know and what I see.  As she began her talk, I leaned in.  And then, I was disappointed.  I had heard it all before.  The story of Mary , Joseph and the shepherds.  I thought perhaps she would move into 2012 and our desire for peace. I was waiting for the hook.  You know, the part where the whole story gets turned upside down and we can all relate.

But that never happened.  The story was read straight from scripture.

Let me interject here and say that I love the Christmas story. I love to hear how Mary was afraid and fled to Elizabeth’s house. I love that Joseph was wary and concerned. I love that these ARE real people and their story is supernaturally linked to mine.  But none of that was said.  Scriptures were read and then she was done.

This entire agenda for the evening~Peace~ was a huge let down.

Now, while you may be chastising and shaking your finger at me for not embracing what it was, I did. I enjoyed the evening for what it was but I was disappointed for what it could have been.

I don’t want to hear the retelling of an age-old story.  I want to hear how THAT STORY has changed YOU.  I want to hear your stories.  Because, at this time of year, more than any other, we all want that Peace. We want HOPE.  We want to know that everything we’re doing isn’t paying lip service to an historical event but rather a living, tangible Person who came in the form of a Baby to be with us in all things and through all things.

 

So, tell me your story. I want to hear from you and what this season is to you. I want to know how hard it is to be festive and jolly when life is hard and has hit you in the gut.  And I want to hear the stories of how God With Us is a resounding theme in your life, when the world is unraveling at the seams.