Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Open Up the Box!

Here's a thought. God sent Jesus to earth to show us His love. How did He do it? We are somewhat jaded these days with all the wonderful special effect movies that we get to experience regularly. So, imagining how God would send Jesus to earth seems a bit anti-climatic to many. Granted, you can say there was a light show....the Star of the East that guided the Magi and Shepherds. There was a wonderful soundtrack of a choir of Angels in Heaven, for those listening. But who would have written such a scandalous, humble story of a teenage girl getting pregnant before her marriage in a time when a very strict, orthodox Jewish family and fiance would normally ban her for such behavior. And we are to believe she was impregnated by God? Really? OK, that does have strong supernatural plot and may grab the interest of a few that's into those things these days. No vampires, but still not bad.

Can you agree that the story of Jesus' conception and birth is a bit "outside of the box"? Even in that day, King Herod was expecting the birth of our Savior, according to prophecy, but he, along with most, imagined the King of the Jews would arrive in a manner worthy of a king. Most writers would place him with a society girl for a mother, someone with connections, not a humble teenager. She would live in a nice abode, maybe even have servants to take care of her. Her parents would have a perfectly acceptable, and even enviable, story of why their daughter is about to give birth. I'm sure she got pregnant on her wedding night, I mean how much more romantic and perfect could that be? After all, we can't have all our friends talking behind our backs about any behavior that's not considered perfect, can we? And of course when the time came for His arrival, nothing but the best for our new little mother. Either a private room at the local hospital or, better yet, a house call to the manor by the premier ob-gyn of the region.

But that's not the story we got. We got a story that sounds more like an After School Special than something that should be in the Bible. An unwed teenager, shamed by those that did and didn't know her, having to travel in the ninth month, on a donkey no less, and there's a convention in town and not one room is available. We call it a manger, some will call it a cave. But anyway you spin it, it was the barn. Have you spent much time in a barn? They usually aren't the cleanest of places and the smell isn't of Lysol. The animals weren't freshly bathed or groomed, chances are there were bugs and mites everywhere. I mean, most girls I know wouldn't be caught dead in a barn like this for even a few minutes, much less giving birth there. And it was here that God guided those with presents fit for royalty and those with pure hearts. He hid His Son's birth from those like Herod because it didn't fit into His plans. He wrote a story that was, and is, unbelievable.

So, why do we keep Him in a box of our own believable outcomes for our own lives? And you know who's often the worst about doing this? Christians. We have become so boundary and rule-bound by denominational beliefs instead of God's beliefs. We read scripture and say, "See? That's what it says right there" to prove our points but we have often been so brainwashed into believing what others say it says. Are you considering the context of the story or what's being said prior and after the verse you are pointing to? Have you prayed for God's enlightenment on the Book He wrote? Does your belief go against any other commandment or belief? What you believe in one spot cannot work against a belief elsewhere in the Bible. And if it doesn't all basically boil down to love, then it's my opinion, you need to read it again. We all have problems in our lives and we may even pray about them, but we have preconceived ideas about a limited number of ways God can work something out. We are using our human brains and understanding. God's ways are not our ways. God's timing is not our timing. Our understanding is not God's. We may never understand the whys and wherefore's but we DO need to know that God's ways are BEST. Not good, not better, but BEST. And chances are, we never would have imagined how He would work it out. And just think of all the time we usually fret and worry about a situation and wait to see action of some nature. God's ways are often also unseen. They are solutions of the heart first. Save the gray hairs and stomach ulcers and put your trust in Him. This holiday season, take Him out of the box you've kept Him in and give Him permission to stretch and open up your beliefs while He stretches He works in your life. Have you ever wanted to be a writer? Hand Him the pen and see what kind of story He comes up for you and your loved ones.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Unrealized Dreams

I was watching a little show on cable that is all about human interest stories about people and places in Texas, a place I've lived in twice in my life, called "Texas Country Reporter". My husband's family hails from the Texas area before his parents moved away while in the Navy, finally ending in the Kansas City area and later in Wichita, Kansas. My own family lived there during my own kindergarten and first grade years, back in a day that kindergarten wasn't a part of of the school system. I attended a private kindergarten. My father worked as a draftsman in the petroleum plants around the Jefferson area. My husband tapes these shows and we watch them when we have time. It's usually a mix of joy and sorrow to watch these shows as they tell stories of real, incredible people, the kind of people you don't always run across or have the time to get to know in this world of busy schedules and things that aren't nearly as important as getting to know each other. Not usually fancy or famous people. But interesting, quirky and everyday, normal people. And watching these shows always makes us miss Texas very, very much. We were privileged to live there as a couple for three years and have been trying to figure out how we can get back ever since.

The reason I called this post "Unrealized Dreams" is the number of stories that reminds me of a lifestyle that I would have liked, that has eluded me. I am a small town girl, if not a country girl, at heart. I love animals. I have always wanted at last one horse. I love cows, goats, dogs, and many other animals one would find on a number of farms or ranches. But I've always lived in town.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Mom Bone

I love football. I haven't always loved it, but after I got married, I quickly realized if I was going to share and spend time with my husband during the fall months, I had better learn something about the sport. He had grown up playing it at all the different levels, peewee, Jr. high and high school. He loves the game. Now, on the other hand was me. I didn't grow up with brothers, but I loved going to the school football games, not at all because I knew anything about the game, but because of the social aspect of seeing everyone in town at the game. At the ends, I'd have to make a point to look at the scoreboard before heading home so I could tell my parents who won the game, because I often didn't have a clue.

But this afternoon, I sat and watched the Cincinnati University vs. Pittsburgh game and then the Florida vs. Alabama game. I had my favorites and was cheering and holding my breath right along with the best of them. And as their skills would bring forth the winners, I cheered for the teams I had been rooting for. I was so happy for the kids that had worked and scrapped all season long to get to the bowl positions that were due them. And then the strangest thing happened. The television cameras panned to show the teams that lost. The Pittsburgh players were shown one by one, in their own solitude, in their own very large space that belonged only to them in the tunnel. Faces weren't seen, tears were not witnessed, but emotion was so thick you could feel it. And I started crying for them. What the heck is this? I was rooting for the other team! I'm not just feeling sympathetic for them, I'm heartbroken for them. It's the Mom bone.

I'm old enough to be all these boys' mother. I have a son that could be on their team. I've learned through the years just how much emotion, hopes and disappointments ride on things of their lives, like football games. I can feel that disappointment. I know the adrenaline and hopes that are put into a competition that means so much and costs so much. And so I cry for boys I don't didn't even root for, much less know. I know, and hope, they have mothers that will be there to offer the comforting words, hugs, and plan the menu of all his favorites, if not tonight or tomorrow, when they finish finals and head home for Christmas. In the meantime, I hope somewhere, somehow they can know that there are mothers out here that cry for them and want to comfort them in their time of loss. It's one of those moments of motherhood that had someone tried to explain to me years ago, I wouldn't have understood at all. And I hope now that I've told you of my Mom bone, I hope someone else can identify and it's not just me being an overwrought mother.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hope, Joy and Despair

Tis the season of hope and joy. But did you see or hear all the news stories during the Thanksgiving holiday of family tragedies all over the country due to people that have run out of hope and joy? It was shocking to me the number of reports. It's a well-documented fact that a number of suicides that occur, do so during the holiday season. How can a season that is known for extolling the virtues of such hope and joy also be so full of despair?

First, let's look at the reasons for despair. I'm sure a percentage of those that experience despair, anger and hurt are due to mental illness. We have an entire society that is diagnosed with some sort of mental condition or disease. It's common for the common-man to go to therapists these days in attempts to gain tools of dealing with their lives. Whether they simply need the ear of a unbiased third-party or not, it seems that most are prescribed medicines for depression or something more serious. I don't mean to implicate that I don't believe in real mental illnesses, but I do believe we've become much too comfortable with the idea of taking a pill to fix all our ills and we are too ready to let a doctor throw a diagnosis on us. After all, it provides a great reason for the way we are feeling, or a great excuse. We can easily say, "See, it's not my fault, I have a condition."

We have also become a society of people that don't know how to take responsibility for our own actions or lives. Granted, life happens to all of us. Things come along that we didn't ask for. We all have hopes and dreams and many times we fall short of seeing the fruit of those desires. There can be many, many reasons why we fail to achieve, but the negatives in our lives are oh, so much easier to focus on, aren't they? Think back in your life when something wonderful happened. How long did you fly high on that blessing? Now, on the other end of the spectrum, let's think of something bad that has happened, or something good that DIDN'T happen. How long did you hang onto that disappointment? I would venture to say that many of us continue to hold onto those kind of failures. We hold onto them as if they are a fond friend and then we add the next disappointment to it, and the next, and the next till we find ourselves in despair and broken. It's no wonder the phychiatric field is booming so well with people reaching out for something, anything, to make them feel better.

The other side of this story is the hope and joy that the season offers to everyone via bells ringing, carolers singing and the hope of the perfect present from the perfect person. We dream of apologies, forgiveness and loving, functional families. The Christmas season has encompassed the religious and the secular hopes. Again, it's easy to be dazzled by the pretty sounds, glistening sights and wonderful smells of the season. It does become magical. But, again, it's pretty fleeting. How long into January does it usually take to begin feeling the isolation and cold of the winter set into your soul? The hope that the religious celebrate is much, much less attractive to the eyes, ears and nose. It is only attractive to the soul. Many find that grasping hold of a faith and belief in God during this time gives them something more to lean on and learn from and a promise of Someone that loves them. But as is the case in the rest of the world, the church has it's share of hurting, broken people that fall short of living up to someone else's expectations simply because they find them in a church. So church and Christians get a black eye overall for the fact that people naturally look to people for fulfillment and not to God.

We all experience these things. We all hope for things that are likely unrealistic to expect. We all have our failures and disappointments that we can dwell on and hold onto. But not all of us do. Some people seem to just naturally look at the positives in life, not exactly like positive-thinking, just seeing the hope in any situation. Some positive souls have it in their DNA, they come from families that are just more naturally happy and see the silver linings. The rest of us have to work at it. But we have support, if we know who to turn to. God's Word is full of hope and support. When we turn to Him and keep Him close to our hearts, He will teach us. There are also people that are encouragers. Start finding the positive and negative people in your lives. If they like to tear you down only to help themselves feel better then they probably aren't adding anything positive to your life. Some are very crafty or hold positions of authority so it would seem easy to rationalize that their criticisms and suggestions are for our good. Be honest with yourself and if you can't think of times when they extended love, friendship and support, then you need to make some decisions about their influence.

During this holiday season, let's surround ourselves with hope and encouragement without expecting anything materially specific. Our expectations should be in a hope and joy and contentment that flies in opposition to the world we live in these days. The more we seek and find, the more the negative influences this world provides will be attractive, tempting or snagging. Let's look ahead to 2010. Let's make it a year of encouraging, hoping, fulfilling, contentment and lifting up each other. I'd love to hear from all of you about the good reports that I feel is all of ours to claim.