December 19, 2007

Christmas Correction

Sunday is my favorite day, even though it is my battlefront day. Sunday I have to fight the enemy on emotional and spiritual levels. Sunday is usually a 15 hour day for me. It is exhausting but exhilarating. In the midst of frequent disappointments, many mini-crisis, people problems, and sermon bloopers, there are those glimpses of God, of the kingdom breaking through, of the miracles of God occurring in our midst.

My Sabbath is Monday. It’s a different kind of battlefront. I have to battle not obsessing over the lower than hoped for quality of my sermon, the people who were absent, the problems that arose Sunday that will have to be fixed in this coming week, and the tiredness of body, soul, and spirit.

So it’s nice when things go well on Monday, but when they don’t, it’s tough because my reserves are so low. This Monday life was not fun. What should have taken an hour, took six hours, and cost me big bucks.

I had just had the boat mechanic working on our 1995 20’ Wellcraft Open Bow Boat. I went to fill the boat up at the fuel dock. It was running so smooth on the way over. After spending $4.00 a gallon on 40 gallons of boat gas, I was ready to have a relaxing cruise.

I pulled away from the dock and the boat died. I was floating helplessly in the water as I tried for 30 minutes to get it started. I began rowing the long distance to the nearest boat dock. When I was half way there, the Lifeguard boat came and pulled me to the dock.

I tried calling my boat mechanic with no luck. What was I going to do? Meanwhile the precious hours of my Monday were disappearing faster than the money in my wallet. I thought to myself, “Nice Christmas gift!”

The boat dock was deserted and so I just sat there trying to get the boat started or reach me mechanic. The call of nature arrived and I made the short walk to the restroom at the marina. In a somewhat obscured area on the side of the bathroom I saw a refrigerator box. There was a man carefully adjusting the box just right…I realized that he was preparing his cardboard “home” for a long winter’s nap. It looked as if he was happily anticipating his time of rest.

When I came out of the restroom he had pulled the box top closed. Beside the top was a huge black plastic bag, that could have doubled for Santa’s sack of toys if it wasn’t so dirty and lumpy. His entire home was in one cardboard box and one plastic bag.

There I stood in my tiredness, frustration, pity party grousing at the injustice of Larry’s world…and all the time I had a beautiful ocean view home with a festively decorated Christmas tree, and sparkling Christmas lights on my house, and a mailbox full of cards from friends and family, and a sweet stereo filling our house with Christmas music.

A chuckle started at my toes and kept rising until it escaped softly out of my mouth. Life is all a matter of perspective. Your expectations determine your contentment. He who is content with little has a continual feast. My grumpiness seemed so self-centered and trivial standing there near the "refrigerator box man" that I had to laugh at myself.

The best Christmas is found in unwrapping what I already have and enjoying that with a childlike wonder...fresh and new and grateful. That was my Christmas correction.

December 13, 2007

Christmas Dawn

It’s 6:20AM. Our new home has a commanding vista of the Long Beach bay. My study is on the second floor.

One of my favorite things is to arise in the cold, darkness of night, and then watch as the slivers of red, pink, and purple begin to slowly pierce the canvas of black.

The water catches the luminescent paint of my Master the Artist and magnifies the majestic display into a breathtaking masterpiece of light.

The advance of the colorful light is unstoppable. The darkness has no power to restrain the conquest of light. Creation begins to laugh again. The great light has dawned and triumphed once again. Each sunrise is a replay of Christmas morning.

My Master, the Poet, writes of this victory in Matthew 4:16…“the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”

Einstein said that he was able to develop the theory of relativity because of the constancy, the reliability of the one factor: the speed of light.

Each morning my life is recalibrated to the reliability of light. My darkness is defeated by light. No matter how long the night, nor how strong the inky blackness, Christ arises again to spread his colorful light display across the canvas of my life.

The prophet Malachi sings to me of the dawn. Malachi 4:2 “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

Each dawn brings His healing to me. The fresh sunrise of his love begins to warm the frozen corners of my heart. The faithful mercy of his love as demonstrated in the dawn empower me to release hurts and cover offenses with grace.

Each fresh sunrise should make me feel like a young calf who has been kept in the small confines of a stall during the night. With the sunrise the farmer opens the gate and the calf, with his youthful exuberance and fresh excitement at the coming day, leaps from the stall to kick up his heels in the grass.

The real Christmas is the sunrise of human history and of my daily story.

December 04, 2007

Catching My Sister

When I was born, Brenda was already 4. She had a head start on the looks, the brains, the personality, and the talent. I thought to myself, "no problem...I will catch her by the time I am 8!" Nope! I am 50 and she's 54 and I am now 8 years behind in all categories.

And when it comes to understanding and living the Christian journey with depth, poise, passion and beauty...well it seems I am a couple of decades back. Of course I always was the ornery one who exasperated my sister's futile attempts to civilize me.

All of these realities only made the injustice of her diagnosis of cancer seem that much more inconceivable. Yet the last four months have done everything they could to convince me of the reality of the enemy invader.

The losses have mounted...her teaching position, her hair, her energy, her feelings in toes and fingers, her color in fingernails, her appetite. Yet in the midst of the losses...she has only advanced. Her faith, wisdom, compassion for others, sensitivity to God, courage, and passion for life have marched forward.

I mentally conjectured that at least now I would be the better looking of the siblings but even without hair, she's ahead. (pun intended) So as tough as it is for a younger brother to sister is quite a whom I pay homage to. (But I am still glad I stuck gum in her hair during choir practice in 3rd grade!)