Old testamentI’m a big believer in all of the Scriptures.  Yes.  That means that I also enjoy reading and studying the Old Testament.  Often there are great truth-gems hidden in the genealogies and the endless lists of laws.

restOne of the law that I believe is important is the Sabbatical.  After six years of blogging nearly every day, I’ve taken a year off.  I plan to return but daily entries had become a burden and not the joy that it had been for almost six years.  I felt that the Lord nudged me to take a year of rest, as prescribed by the Law.

Of course, this isn’t good for the number of hits the blog receives or for the “Google” standing of the blog.  Yet, I daily become more and more convinced that it’s the right thing for me to do.  Thanks to all the people who continue to find the blog.  There are more than 1600 entries.  If you are interested in the mentally challenged community, you may learn a bit by reading a few entries.  Thanks again for coming by.  Take you time and review as much as you like.

last supperAfter the men had gathered for their last supper together, Jesus made a shocking statement to his followers.  In the light of who he was–mighty God, the Messiah, the Christ and Savior of the world–Jesus’s announcement is a total departure from the relationship mankind had previously experienced with God.  He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13 and 15).

building friendshipAs we contemplate and meditate on this astonishing declaration, our hearts must swell with joy and acceptance of our new exalted position of Friends of God.  This friendship must change us, however.  We come to understand the depth of the riches of God and the depth of his love for all people, releasing us to love in a new way.  Friendship has become a holy endeavor, initiated by God and perfected in His love and sacrifice.

With that in mind, as we approach people, there are some caution signs attached to friendship.  Here are nine Don’t’s of developing a committed friendship.

1.  Don’t wait for others to reach out to you.  Our lives must be an extension of God’s heart that is always ready to receive the broken-hearted, the lovely and the ugly alike.

2.  Don’t share just facts with your friends.  Share feelings.  Let people know YOUR joys and sorrows.  Your hurts and misgivings.

rejected friendship shirt3.  Don’t expect everyone to like you.  I learned that people either love me or hate me.  There is no in-between.  This became a valuable lesson in maturity.  I’m no longer hurt by folks who don’t know me but who reject me.  It’s a fact of  my life.  And harshly speaking, it is a fact of your life.  Not everyone wants to be friends with us.

4.  Don’t expect your friend’s friend to be your friend.

5.  Don’t be quick to voice your own opinions.  Some–perhaps many–things are best left unsaid.

6.  Don’t harbor unforgiveness or bitterness over offenses.  Peel away the hurt of a careless remark.  Stomp until dead the pains of neglect that come into every friendship.

7.  Don’t share negative information about others.

8.  Don’t expect a friend to be your source for love, significance or security.  Only God can give you that.

9.  Don’t let a friend take the place of the Lord.

In dealing with persons who are mentally challenged, it is vital to understand that they often do not have the cognitive ability to understand the fine nuances of friendship.  This means that certain boundaries may be necessary for you to set.  In the opposite direction, you may experience that their responses to  your friendship overtures may be overlooked.  Friendship with a person with special needs is a great privilege and joy.  Their friendships are worth taking the time and energy to develop.

who's ya daddy“One year at Camp/Retreat Agape our theme was “Who’s ya Daddy?”  Of course, it was a bit of a spin-off from the current culture in which some children do not know who their father is because they live in a one parent household.

Our purpose was to help remind our members that their Father is God.  We want them to understand they will never be without a daddy when they accept Jesus as their Savior.  They are adopted into the household of God because of Jesus’ shed blood.

The idea actually came from my son-in-law.  His father is a bishop in the Mennonite community.  He recalls that each morning as he and his brothers left for school, they were reminded by one of their parents, “Remember who your daddy is.”  The unspoken theme was “don’t do anything that would bring shame to your dad.”

This gentle reminder has become a chorus that often sings through my heart and thoughts during the day.  Especially when I’m tempted to do or say things that will bring shame to my Father God, my spirit gently whispers, “Remember who your daddy is.”

surferPerhaps one of the saddest scenes I can remember was one morning when my husband and I went out to breakfast.  It was a school day and the high school surfers often gathered at this spot after their morning surf and before school.  Four young men sat in a booth with wet hair and muscles that bulged through their T-shirts.  When a group of men in their early 30’s came in, I saw that the eyes of one blonde teenager drawn to them in a longing, melancholy way.  He stared at the men with an obvious sorrow.

In typical workmen fashion, these thirty-something men were busy planning their day.  They were completely unaware of their surroundings.  One of the teenagers nudged the blonde surfer, “Isn’t that your dad?”

“Yep,” the teenager confirmed without taking his eyes off his father.

“Go, tell his hello,”  a third teenager commanded the blonde surfer.

father and sonRather than following the orders of his friend, the surfer bowed his head in shame.  “I can’t,” he wistfully mumbled ripping his stare from his father and directing it to his hands that rested in his lap.  “I don’t think he knew me.”

We must never wonder if our heavenly Father is aware of us because his tender compassion surrounds us each moment.  As we remember who our Daddy is, there is an equally strong imperative to know that God’s love will never leave us or forsake us.

climbing without ropesEach of us has been given a plan for our lives.  For most, that blueprint remains a mystery and a puzzle.  We wander back and forth unsure of our footing or grasp.  Much like a mountain climber who has no safety rope or pick, we inch our way through life fearing each move.  There is challenge and fear because we know that one wrong move will plunge us to a certain death.

Yet, there is little doubt that God has a plan for our lives.  It is an inexpugnable promise that glares from every page of the scriptures.  God’s direct intervention our lives is a glorious road map that leads to an abundant life.  It remains a mystery to me why we so often forget the guiding Hand that desires to nurture, lead and guide us, falling instead before the idols of selfishness, doubt and uncertainty.

roadmapGod’s plan for our lives must be the destination of our travels.  Twenty years before I was asked to be on staff at The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, the Lord told me his plan.  I was reading Corrie ten Boon’s book about the ministry she had before the war.  Dante Corrie was the pastor to people in her community who were mentally challenged.  God spoke to me as I read, “This is what I’ve called you to do.”

Twenty years of training lay ahead of me before I was to do this work; yet, He never forgot his plan for me.  I must admit that I tried to bring about God’s plan and failed miserably several times.  Then after 15 years or so, I decided that I had missed the Lord and would never be able to fulfil God’s true plan for my life.  I put the plan on a top shelf and forgot.  While still following God’s direction, I forgot the plan.  But God didn’t.  He continued my training.

When His time came, I was introduced to Rev. Richard Stimson, founder and executive director of Special Gathering and I came to the ministry to write a book for him.  From the moment I walked into my first chapel program, I knew that I’d come home.

The book was never published; but I never left.  After a few months, the Lord gently spoke to my heart, “Remember.  I told you this is what I’d called you to do.”  I feel the Lord allowed me to forget that calling because when I remembered, it was another firm confirmation that I was walking in God’s plan for my life.

direction signCounselors are told that the best thing you can do is to allow a troubled person to talk.  In so doing, the person discovers for herself the true reason from her distress and the answer to the problem that lies deep inside of each person.  Of course, as Christ followers, we desire to know God’s plan for us and not our capricious way.  But we each know.  It may be hidden and lost in the training.  Perhaps, in frustration or fear of failure, we put in on a shelf, waiting for God’s timing.

But God does not forget.  If we are desiring to follow him and we love his ways, God will continue to direct us into his plan..into his way.  Then at the right time, he will nudge us and whisper into our spirits, “Remember where you are going.  This is the way.  Walk in it.”

family celebrationRemembering is a vital Christian discipline that is either ignored or taught in an off-handed, casual manner.  Most of us know that routine thinking is defined by psychologists as remembering what happened in the past and rehearsing how we would change it if we could relive the event.  Perhaps that is the reason why Christians disregard the command of Jesus to “do this to remember me.”

Why should such a common event as remembering become a Christian disciple?  But isn’t God the redeemer of all things, especially those events and objects which we take for granted, find most common or deem less valuable.

family preparing for deploymentOur memories are an essential part of who we are.  Family events often mean sitting around the table rehearsing past joys and sorrows.  We laugh again and again at Uncle Billy’s comment about Vero Beach.  We delight in Tarah’s antics telling about the ordeal of preparing for her husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. We use our dinner napkins to wipe away the tears when our laugher turns to piercing loneliness as we joke about Mama’s long, convoluted prayers that each year kept us from eating our Thanksgiving dinner until it was cold.

We know that these are times of joyful sorrow that make our hearts grow with love and appreciation for each other.   Yet, that experience is not often shared among the church family.  One of the highlights of my Christian life was when The Tabernacle Church of Melbourne hosted their 25th anniversary dinner.  It was a time of remembering and sharing the joys and hidden sorrows of a congregation that had grown into a family.

I believe that communion was to be more than a ritualistic handing out of the cup and bread.  It was to be more than the sharing of the “host.”   It was to be a time of true remembrance and celebration.

community churchOf course, there are times that our hearts are filled with the cares and concerns of our world.   We approach communion with a need for more time, more energy and more resources.  We don’t have the time, energy or resources to “rehearse” that joyful night which ushered in the heart-bending sorrow of a crucified Savior.

Working in the mentally challenged community for 24 years has taught me many lessons.  One is the value of remembering.  Saturday night, as I stood beside Keith’s hospital bed with two of his caregiver, our conversation slowly ambled toward Chris, Grace, Tom and so many others.  Young people who were snatched from us too soon. Keith slept because his medical emergency was over.  Relieved that he would go home, we hugged each other with sweet memories and conversation of our loved ones who have gone to be the Lord.

Perhaps turning these moments into a traditional ceremony will only take away the value.  Yet, it is apparent that the Lord wants to become a vital part of the joys and sorrows of remembering.

chatEven though saying what we mean is difficult, it may be harder to mean what we say.  When working with people with intellectually disabilities, I’ve found that our sub-culture is actually less prone to say things they do not mean than other segments of the population.  Yet, this is a continuing problem within our society.

A good friend of mine tells me that his wife was constantly threatening to “leave and never come back.”  He learned eventually that this was only an idle threat; but even in knowing this, it put him in continual trauma.  Finally, he realized that the sense of drama which produces trauma was her true purpose.  This is when he learned to ignore the threats.

However, threats about almost everything is a part of many people’s lives.  A parent may tell the Bible study teacher, “If that happens again, my daughter won’t be able to come back to your program.”  A member may inform you, “I’m never coming back…” if I don’t get my way.

talking to each otherOne of the great life lessons is to mean what we say.  Our members who are mentally challenged are concrete learners.  They must have truth in everything they do, especially in their relationship with the Lord. I’ve found that even some people who claim to have a vital relationship with the Lord have a little problem with mangling the truth.

Understand that I’m not speaking from the lofty tower of innocence.  I’ve caught myself more often than I care to remember torturing the truth in my speech.  When we mean what we say, there is a release that comes for everyone with whom you must interface.

“I will go” becomes a sealed covenant.  “I can’t do that” releases you and the other person from future expectations.  “If you do that, I must punish you” is a committment that should not be violated.  This week there was a conflict between two members.  One member began to curse at the other person.  I had to pull him out and ask for him to apologize.  He refused.

argueThis refusal meant that I had to separate him from the others.  Once we were in a more private area, I could reason with him.  Within a few minutes, he was able to understand what was needed and what should be done.  He agreed and could be moved back to his normal seat.  My greatest danger  in this situation was threatening something that I could not or would not do.  It was essential to mean what I said.

Only the Lord’s strength and wisdom can help us to follow through on what we say.  Asking for his help always allows us to become the people of integrity that who can be the example we need to be for our members.

waiting

Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of prayer is when the Lord answers, “Wait.”

We’ve all experienced that waiting time.  Personally, I’m quite ready for my prayers to be answered the day and even the moment I ask.  I’ve prayed for a good friend for more than 25 years to receive the Lord.  Daily, I’ve asked that He bless and help her.  Recently, I paid her a visit and learned that she had received the Lord as her Savior.

joyful peopleI must admit that rather than being overjoyed, my reaction was much more subdued.  I quizzed the Lord about my emotionless reaction.  In my spirit I felt His response, “If I’d done the work more quickly, you would’ve wanted to take credit.  I wanted you to realize that I’m the Savior of her soul, not your prayers.”  Understand this wasn’t a rebuke from the Lord but a simple statement of fact.

The New Testament records an interesting verse. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days (John 11:6).  

Jesus had received a plea for help from his best friends, Mary and Martha.  Their brother, Lazarus was dying.  Jesus didn’t rush to his bedside to comfort and heal.  He waited.  Oz Hillman wrote,

God often has to delay His work in us in order to accomplish something for His purposes that can be achieved only in the delay. Jesus had to let Lazarus die in order for the miracle that was about to take place to have its full effect. If Jesus had simply healed a sick man, the impact of the miracle would not have been as newsworthy as resurrecting a man who had been dead for four days. This is Jesus’ greatest “public relations act” of His whole ministry. What many do not realize is that the key to the whole story is in the next chapter.

Many people, because they had heard that He had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet Him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after Him!” (John 12:18-19)

The Lord was setting the stage for Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It was only after this great miracle that the Pharisees began to see that the only path to the elimination of Jesus’ influence was his death.  From that moment they purposed in their spirits to destroy Jesus.

God's plaMonths ago, I shared with a young pastor who had been elected to an important office some on the things that I’d learned while serving in a similar position.  He reaction was rejection of my ideas. Then, last week, we again sat at a meeting.  He shared his discouragement and the lack of success he had experienced in his ministry over the past two or three years.  Another more experienced pastor quietly shared what I’d proposed a year ago. The young pastor heard and adopted the plan

After the meeting, the older pastor came to me and whispered, “You said that a year ago; but he couldn’t hear it then.  He had to learn the hard way.”  Then the seasoned minister grinned, “We all have to learn the hard way–our way.”

Delays aren’t merely part of God’s great plan for eternity.  They are also part of his plan for our lives.  Perhaps the hardest to receive–yet most profitable–answer God can give us to our prayers is “wait.”

praying on her kneesPrayer is an eternal mystery that haunts even the most devote warrior in God’s kingdom.  For Frances, prayer was her bread and drink.  She spent her days and nights in supplication to the Lord.  I earnestly believe that it was the prayers of Frances that turned our nation back to the Lord in a great way in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Of course there were many others who also prayed and sought God but I experienced first-hand the result of Frances’ ministry.  I sat under her teaching and walked hand in hand with her during her times of struggle.  I also saw her confidence in prayer.  I rejoiced in what God was accomplishing through the hours spend listening, speaking, loving and even wrestling with a holy God.

tent meetingsWhile TV pundents often proclaim that everyone was stoned during those decades, there was an underground movement that consisted of late teens and young adults whose hearts pled for God to change them and our nation.  My husband and I were part that movement–the Jesus Movement.  We led a vibrant and holy group of teenagers whose sole ambition was to find a deep relationship with Jesus.  They gathered under tents and in churches.  They fasted and held all night prayer meetings.

While the focus beamed on the teens and the other young men and women who led this army of teenagers, it was the matrons and masters of prayer–such as Frances–who had plowed the ground, planted the seed and rejoiced in the harvest.  Their battle was hard-fought.  They struggled and wrestled with the enemy of our souls on their knees, weeping, laughing and facing that dreaded enemy with grace, courage and valor. The power of the Holy Spirit never failed them.  The Father’s love always embraced them and assured them that his great destiny would save even the most horrible reprobate.

These prayer warriors didn’t possess the advantages of social media, blogs or the Internet but their prayers had world-wide and lasting effects.  Somehow, Christian leaders from around the world heard about Frances and came to her humble home for prayer.  They delighted in staying in the home of Frances and her husband. eating her food, laughing and enjoying fellowship long into the night.  But they came for prayer–recognizing her vital connection to God that brought success in ministry.

joanFew of us have been given the grace Frances possessed in determined, steadfast prayer.  Yet, all of us can seek God with the grace God has given to us.  Frances died stubbornly, without fanfare.  She resisted death even after her strength and vigor had been long spent.  I asked her oldest daughter, “Why does she struggle, resisting death so strongly?”  She believed that Frances clung to a desire to be on earth when the Lord returned.

Was this woman of God perfect?  No! Was she a warrior who helped to change the world for Christ?  Yes!

7talkingTwo of my good friends are also members of Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  They are going through extremely difficult times. Last night I spent a good deal of time with them.  It was a fun outing; but my purpose was to extend our friendship.  Also, I hoped that they’d be willing to share a brief glimpse with me into their pain.

It happened.  Several off-handed remarks were passed along by both young women.  Mentally, I paused for a few minutes and took note.  I wasn’t able to be alone with one of the women. But after everyone had been taken home; and we were riding alone in the car,  the other one shared openly.

sharingI asked a question, reminding my friend, Lyleth, of the remark she had made.  Lyleth jumped in feet first and shared the painful poison residing in her heart.  I reminded her of God’s promises.  She clinched her lips and shook her head.  Her silence screamed resistance.

C. S. Lewis wrote,  “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” (C.S.Lewis, The Problem of Pain.  New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1962, pg 93.)  Explaining God’s love to a person who is mentally challenged is often less complicated than trying to penetrate the heart of a smarty-pajamas who has life figured out.  However, the kind of deep, penetrating grief that these women are experiencing is never easy to explain in logical or Biblical terms.

megaphoneYet, the hardship of pain often leaves us mute and disturbed because of our own inadequacy to understand or embrace deep hurts of the past or present.  Watching the anguish of my friend as she faces what will be the death of all she truly loves, my heart was wrenched because of my inability to reach out and heal.

After I dropped her off, I went Wal-Mart even though it was after 10PM.  I needed to pace and debrief my spirit.  I walked for an hour pushing my cart  in the security of the lighted building, praying and asking God to release my friends from the uncertainly and pain that the future holds for them.

I came home still uneasy, hurting for my friends whose pain will only increase in the months ahead.  However, during the night, God did a wonderful miracle in me.  I was able to release them into His care.  He is the only one who can heal and bring true growth.  His megaphone not only alerts us; but the pain He announces has a wonderful way of teaching, healing and releasing.

airportToday, I’m headed home from a vacation that seemed long when I planned it; but then it was over more quickly than I could have imagined.  Other family will arrive soon and I’ll need to work around their vacation schedule.  I’ve been in Chattanooga, a wonderful place, especially since my granddaughter is here. But I’m happy to be going home.

A good friend and member of Special Gathering often went with her family on cruises.  She fretted and squirmed every time she left.  “Please pray for me!” she’d plead from the moment the cruise was planned.  “I’m going on a cruise to the Bahama’s and I really need your prayer.”

bridge in ChattanoogaI would laugh at her anxiety.  “Pray for you?  You need to pray for us.  We’re staying here, working and planning and paying bills.  You’ve going to paradise.”

Then we would laugh at her situation and she would be calm for a few days.

Most of us have anxious moments when we leave the safely of our home grounds.  Routines become important whether we are small children or decades past the age of accountability.  My observations have been that between 18 and 38 men and woman are excited about wandering.  Then, a creepy feeling seeps into our bones that screams, “Wait! You are interrupting my life with this misadventure.”

I’m often fascinated by people who leave house and home after the age of 60 to roam to unknown places.  Can you imagine how difficult it was for Abraham to obey God who told him to leave and travel to an unknown place out yonder…some where?

earthAs a child, I thought it was odd that people would ask for extra prayer when they traveled.  Didn’t God go with them?  Isn’t Christ omnipresent?  I felt that people were saying that they believed that God lived only in their neighborhood and He only attended their church.  Later, I came to understand that travel sometimes means accidents and uncertainty.

Emmanuel may be the main message of Christ’s birth.  God is with us.  Whether I’m sitting by a fire in Chattanooga or watching the winter waves on the Space Coast of Florida.  He is with Natalie in Spain.  Dave and Andy didn’t leave God when they went to share the gospel in China.  Jesus has arrived and He is with me.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  Christ is born.  Emmanuel!

happy at dawnThere are few times that I don’t feel light-hearted and joyful.  My brother says that it’s only because I’m stupid.  I think it’s because God has given me the ability to see beyond present pain and embrace the joy of a new day.

Don’t get me wrong.  I went through years of depression.  In fact, at a time when I knew that I was in big trouble, I consulted a good friend who was a therapist.  “You have what is called a ‘smiling depression,'” he told me, laughing.  Even though, I thought this was a contradiction in terms, I knew that he had struck a deep chord of reality in my soul.  My life was filled with methods to hide, camouflage and disguise my real emotions, especially anger.

He gave me a book to read, Happiness is a Choice authored by Frank Minirth, M.D. and Paul Meier, M.D.  I learned how to resolve the anger that was causing the depression and work toward allowing the Lord to control my emotions.

It is interesting to me that IQ doesn’t seem to matter regarding depression.  My husband’s IQ was off the charts; but from his childhood, he battled with depression almost every day of his life.  He died weeping.  Therefore, it’s easy to see how people who are intellectually disabled (ID) can easily fall into a state of sadness that leads to depression.

christmas-familyWe are told by the experts and our own experience that more people become depressed during holiday seasons than at any other times.  Where is my family?  Who cares for me?  What wrong with me that I don’t have the joy that others seem to have? are only a sampling of the questions that dance like sour grapes through our minds and thoughts.  There are more suicides committed during Christmas time than at any other time of the year.  We become angry and depressed.

Iraq Prison AbuseMuch of our anger comes from a lack of control.  People within the mentally challenged community control almost nothing in their lives.  They live with their parents or surrogate parental figures all their lives.  Depending on their personality–rather than their IQ–this can lead to depths of sadness that would be hard for anyone to express.  Couple this with the fact that the ID community has a limited vocabulary and a limited ability to express it; and you have a powder keg waiting to ignite into explosives depression.

Yet, God in his infinite wisdom gives us a new beginning with every sun rise.  Recognizing your sadness and anger are the first step.  The second is forgiveness.  When we forgive, I am not excusing the behavior.  I am simply releasing them from my judgment and turning them over to God.  After all, he is the one true and righteous judge.

No matter how difficult and painful yesterday was.  It is gone and we have the morning.  This morning.  Great, powerful and joyful things are about to happen.  Rejoice!


starsGlory to God in the Highest

Luke 2:6-16

Central Theme:  Christmas is a time for big changes.

Introduction–I have to admit that at Christmas I go a little crazy.  I save all year and spend all December.  I blame my parents.  They worked all year preparing for Christmas for us.  Sewing cooking and repairing, painting old bikes.  The majesty of God’s gift cannot be matched but I try every year.  READ Luke 2:6-16.

       I.     Pretend that you are a shepherd.

A. They were minding their business but God had planned a little surprise for them…before the foundations of the earth. (vs 8)

1.  What we can’t imagine is that God has exquisitely exciting surprises for our lives.

Christmas costumes 2.  Last year as I was fretting about the number of hours I spend working on costumes.  I said to the Lord, “No one’s life has ever been changed by a costume I’ve made.”  Within a few minutes,  a young woman who was a  neighbor stopped to say, “I never told you but you made a costume for me and it was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I’ve always loved you for that.” 

B.  We fear the glory of the Lord getting too close (vs. 9).

1.  Songwriter Michael Card’s speaks of the “friend that we most fear.”

a.  we hide our faces from him–he can see us.

b.  we hide our hearts from him–he can change us.

II.     God comes again and again to assure us of his goodwill for us (vs. 10-12)

A. He never comes in the expected ways/expected times.

1.  Remember the times God spoke to you–unexpected, unprepared.

2.  You prepare your heart in a quiet place–He speaks in the shower or sitting at a red light.natures wonder

              B. Angels filled the heavens the night he was born; but only a few shepherds saw it (vs. 13-14).

                  1.  Would Disney put on an expensive, extravagant light show for a few middle-class herdsmen?

                  2.  Would you pour out your life in a place where no one will see–on one will know?

III.     Whatever he does, His purpose is to entice us come to Jesus (vs 15).

A. However, Jesus is not what you expect.

                  1.  Wherever our executive director preaches, people say, “That sermon was one of the best I ever heard.  You know, you could what you do for real people.”    We often chuckle and ask, “Then why aren’t you rich and famous?”

2.  However, there is not a mentally challenged person in Duval, Indian River or Brevard or Volusia County who doesn’t know him and all of them love him.

Conclusion–Going crazy at Christmas should be expected.  After all, God went a bit crazy with joy at the birth of Jesus.  Several angelic appearances.  An old couple unexpectedly has a baby they name John.  A host of angels.  A new star.  Yet, not embracing the Living Lord any time is a horror.

Christmas presentsThere are few times of the year that present the Church with a greater degree of purchasing power than the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.  I’m actually not thinking about purchasing gifts or other stuff but purchasing a more valuable commodity–time.

Christmas clockDuring these weeks, as we abandon our vocations in order to celebrate the birth of Christ, time can seem to slow to a creep as we share these hours and days with family or friends.  We are often moving in a whirlwind of activity. It is because we are thrown with our closest associates and family that we can purchase time and make memories that will last all during our lives.

family at ChristmasTime may be the most valuable thing we can give the people who live with us and around us.  I’m not suggesting that the purchasing of gifts isn’t important; but it is the time we spend playing and laughing that will be cherished as precious memories.

During these precious days, we can speak about our Savior, sharing the love of God in many abstract and concrete ways.  As I sit in the dining room of my daughter, I hear a whispered, “I love you” shared from mother to child as she hands her daughter a towel and clean school clothes.  It’s an important day in school and the preteen woman/child needs the added assurance of love and acceptance.

Time has been purchased in a minute snatch for a little one.  A granddaughter for whom Jesus came in order to purchase her with his own blood.

face to face with lionIn ancient times, few people were given the privilege of seeing God.  While we aren’t told that Abraham actually saw God face to face, we know that God valued Abraham so much that he was called “the friend of God.”  It was an amazing closeness.

However, for the Hebrews to acknowledge that a man would have friendship with their G-d was not even logical.  Jehovah’s name alone was so holy that the Jewish people dare not speak it.  Therefore, when spelling G-d’s name, the vowels are left out so it cannot be pronounced.

Understand, this is a sensible precaution considering the history of  mankind-and-God’s tentative relationship. We note that God loves.  Man rejects his love through sin.  God continues to love.  Women and men fail.  God loves.  We finally fail so completely that the only answer is to turn to God.  God forgives in his love.  God and man live in harmony for a time and then the cycle begins again.

Therefore, it is amazing that God’s mercy and grace reached out to us to give to us his son.  He is a man whom we can touch and with whom we can experience God’s forgiving love through a personal relationship.  We are no longer slaves but friends.

I often tell people that I’m God’s favorite.  Most people laugh.  Some get angry.  Yet, it is the fact that God desires to have a personal relationship with me that leads me to believe that I must be his favorite.  I know who I am and how much I must be forgiven each day.  Still, he loves me.  He desires to be my friend!

Christmas reminds us that God became a man in order that we might become a friend of God, having a face-to-face relationship.  Through our own efforts, we cannot obtain forgiveness or peace.  Ironically, achievement isn’t necessary.  Acceptance of God’s grace is.  Jesus’ birth means that we come face to face with God and we share in his love with total abandonment and joy.