Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Poem for Christmas

I've reclaimed Christmas this year in my heart. After a few years of feeling distant from the story, of feeling like our real celebration should come at Easter, of feeling like Jesus in the manger is only the beginning of the story and that Jesus on the cross should illicit the most emotion, the most praise, the most celebrating, I am bursting with the joy of Christmas. This poem is why. Well, Jesus is why, but this well-timed poem has made me rethink my faulty notions of Jesus in the manger. And it has reminded me that Jesus was Jesus before he was ever born. He was Son, Savior, Sacrificial Lamb before the foundations of the earth. And that when he came slipping into this world, our salvation was already as good as finished.

And now, I see it all differently. The carols all mean more. I'm seeing the nativity with fresh eyes. Even the star on top of my tree makes me giddy. Emmanuel has come. Redemption has been given a body and a mother and a home in this world. The tiny, infant Jesus, God in flesh, is a perfect picture of our Father's redemptive heart for us. He nailed himself to our poor plant, so that we could be free.

There is much more, but I'll let the poem speak for itself. Merry Christmas!

Mary's Song

by Luci Shaw

Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
keep warm this small hot naked star fallen
to my arms. (Rest...
you who have had so far to come.)
Now nearness satisfies
the body of God sweetly.
Quiet he lies
whose vigor hurled a universe. He sleeps
whose eyelids have not closed before.

His breath (so slight it seems
no breath at all) once ruffled the dark deeps
to sprout a world. Charmed by dove's voices,
the whisper of straw, he dreams,
hearing no music from his other spheres.

Breath, mouth, ears, eyes
he is curtailed who overflowed all skies,
all years. Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Broken Hearted

Working with high school students will break your heart. It just will. They are fickle in their affections, not just with each other, but with those who love them best. Their parents, their mentors, their God. But, working with high school students is also exhilarating. All that hope and promise. All that fight they have in them. All that conviction that they can make a difference in the world. It's one of the best jobs in the world.

Feelings run the gamut in our line of work and, in a way, we've learned to embrace the bipolar-ness of it all.

One of our Young Life students, a student Loren pursued and loved and who met Christ at camp three years ago, is dying. He has stomach cancer. Terminal cancer, at 20. And he has, at most, a month to live. So, Loren has been going over, trying just to be there. Giving him communion. Just sitting with him cause it hurts too much for him to talk. It's heartbreaking. And yet, when Loren speaks at his memorial, he'll get to talk about how Jedd's life was changed because of Christ, how he had peace in his last days, how he was ready to meet Jesus.

On Sunday night, I cleaned up the kitchen while 20 high school kids and Young Life leaders piled into our living room to study the bible. I watched them come in, many who have broken the hearts of these leaders as they prayed and pursued and waited and hoped that Jesus would woo them to himself. And now, here they are. Praying, studying, and singing lullabies of, "Holy is the Lord" as I tuck my kids into bed. It's overwhelming. To be that close up for someone else's journey into life with Christ.

What I'm learning is that my heart should be broken. There is beauty in that. A broken heart is the work of the Holy Spirit. He uses it to ignite my passion for his work. He uses it to expose me and then draw me close. And, he uses it to show himself as the only true mender of the brokenhearted. When my heart is broken, I get to share in the sufferings of Jesus. And I get to feel his delight as he turns mourning into dancing, sorrow into joy.

This year I've seen hearts smashed to smithereens. I've experienced it, too. It's been the best year of my life.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Gang

Last week Hope told me she was in a gang.

"A gang? " I said. "What kind of a gang?"

"You know, like Scooby Doo," she told me.

She went on to tell me that a gang is four or so people who hang out and play together and maybe they fight but they always make up. It sounded good to me. I think I've always hoped that my children would be a part of a gang...well, at least this kind of a gang. I want them to have a close, core group of friends, and to feel a part of a group. I know what that feels like. That's a good thing. Long live the gang!

As we talked more about it later that week, I started to feel like a "gang" in Hope's definition was also a little...well, exclusive. Some kids were in and some were out. Then, I didn't like it as much. I know what that feels like, too. And, it occurred to me that my 7 year old might not be mature enough to be in a gang. That she might not understand how it could hurt people's feelings. I told her I wasn't sure being in a gang was the best thing. Down with the gang!

Then, I wrestled with it a little. The truth is, I've wrestled with this same thing a lot in the last year or so. I mean, I have a gang, if you wanna call it that. (And I do!) Is it okay to have a small, core group of friends in the midst of a larger group of friends? How do you do that and keep people from feeling excluded? And how do I teach this to my child if I can't even figure it out for myself?

In the end, I told Hope what I believe to be true. That it is okay to have a small circle of friends that you are closer to. People that know you inside and out. And, that it's not really possible to have that with everyone. But, that we are to love everyone like Jesus loves and that means that we can see and appreciate just how special each person is and treat them that way, too. And that really, this is what your whole gang should be about.

I'm not totally sure she got it because then she went on to describe some fantastic, Scooby Doo- like, adventure that they had during recess. But, it was good for me to process and made me come up with some good answers for those questions that I know will continue to pop up in both of our lives.

Today, I get to celebrate seven years of loving my sweet Hopie. And I continue to beg God for wisdom as I parent this amazing little girl. And I pray that with each passing year, she falls deeper in love with Jesus...who blessed us with her.

Hope - "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."