God With Us....When We Hurt

I weep.  I ache.  I'm drawn to the news reports, and at the same time am physically nauseated by them.  Just like you, I long to believe the myth that I can protect my children from every danger.  I make sure they wear seatbelts and bike helmets, take vitamins, look both ways before crossing the street, refrain from walking home alone...and on and on it goes.  I'm a mother.  That's what I do. 

But Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School has punched us all in the gut.  We are forced to come to grips with the fact that we live in a fallen world, one that allows for another's free will to impart good -- OR evil.  As such, my personal control over my children's safety is severely limited. It's a harsh reality that shakes me to my core.

I assumed I was holding it all together, but as Dr. James Dobson and I addressed this tragedy over the Family Talk airwaves on Monday, I was overwhelmed.  We recalled the Scriptures in Psalm 112:  "Praise the Lord.  Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands."  Check.  I do fear the Lord, and I find great joy in His words.  But my voice broke as I looked ahead to what was coming in verses 6-7:  "Surely he will never be shaken....He will have no fear of bad news."  Thud.  Admittedly, I am shaken.  I do wince when I see a news bulletin emanating from my School District now.  Forgive me, Lord.  I desperately want to stand firm, but I'm incredibly frail and human. 

So, once again I'm driven to my knees.  Back to the One who truly holds my sons' and my daughter's eternity:  Jesus Christ -- not me.  The King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Emmanuel....God with us.  And I realize anew that it is precisely because of this threat of terror pressing all around us that He did come to earth.  It's precisely why I cling to Emmanuel during this hallowed Christmas season.  Oh, God, thank you for coming to save wretched, evil humanity - lost souls like me.  We so urgently need You here with us at this time.

Coffee Convictions

Ask anybody who knows me:  I'm a coffee drinker. As such, I must confess that for the past several years, 3-4 times a week I've visited a national coffee shop chain on my way to work.  Their store is convenient and consistently offers up my favorite beverage, hot and perfect.

However, a few months ago while waiting for the barista to whip up my order, a poster on the wall caught my eye.  It was somewhat obscure, but it sure suggested the company's world view:  sexual diversity wrapped in anti-Biblical terms, global awareness bordering on earth worship, and idolatry of their product brazenly encouraging a "you deserve this!" mentality.

Right then I knew the time had come for us to part ways.  In good conscience I could no longer financially support behavior that grieves the heart of God.   Amazingly, that day I went cold turkey with this coffee chain.

It was a private decision, and one that I didn't necessarily advertise.  Just a simple act of obedience that I was personally called to take.  What I didn't know was the avalanche of blessing I was about to receive.

I started frequenting another coffee shop in town -- this one privately owned.  Because of my regular 7:45 a.m. after-car-pool routine, the workers there soon began to recognize me.  Imagine my surprise the day I walked in the front door and my steaming drink awaited me on the counter.  "I saw you drive up," the young man grinned.  It was then that I heard the praise music playing over the speakers.  "Hey, I love your music," I said, and he proceeded to tell me all about the Christian youth conference he had just attended.

The owner, too, noticed my morning visits to her shop.  On one occasion I stopped by much later than normal.  "Change of schedule?" she asked.  I hesitated, but offered, "Well, every Wednesday morning a group of us moms gather to pray for the kids at our high school."  "Whoa, really??  Moms get together and do that?"  "Yeah," I answered, "pretty cool, huh?"  "That's awesome!  I've never heard of that."  The following Wednesday I arrived just as she was training a new employee.  "Hey, Josh - get this -- this lady here goes to a prayer group at her school every week just to pray for her kids.  Isn't that neat?"  16-yr-old Josh smiled and shrugged.  I couldn't believe she remembered our brief conversation.

Relationships with that staff continue to build.  I learned that the owner's house burned down in our wildfires this summer; I've met Brett who's going on a mission trip to South Africa next Spring.  Yesterday Alec was pleased to tell me he got a raise because he had impressed the boss by memorizing my complicated latte order (Uh, I think that's a compliment...), and just this morning Ashley shyly admitted that she's nervous about her college Psychology final today.  I gave her a hug and told her I'd be praying.

And finally, there's the precious young woman with the pentagram tattooed on her chest who always has crude MTV videos playing in the background.  I assumed we had little in common, but when I dropped by recently during her shift she exclaimed, "Hey, where have you BEEN?? I haven't seen you in ages!"  Wow, really?  She noticed and cares?  Forgive me, Lord, for overlooking her.  You certainly don't.

Real people.  Real life.  Souls I would've missed had I resisted that tug from God.  I'd been so focused on what I couldn't have any more (convenient, perfectly-made coffee), that I nearly missed out on what was right in front of me.

What's the Lord been prompting you to change in your life?  It's likely there's a far greater outcome awaiting you on the other side.  Give it a try.  Who knows -maybe you are just the person the Lord's been trying to send someone else's way.  Come on...it's time to share the adventure!

Mary Didn't Have a Facebook Page

Right now I have 1,756 pictures on my phone.  Mostly of my kids or family events.  I love digitization which allows us to carry these memories around with us wherever we go!  As parents, we especially want to capture every magical and extraordinary moment in our child's life for posterity.  I also have dozens of friends who regularly post photo albums on their Facebook pages or blogs.  It's a fabulous way to keep in touch.

And yet, I recently attended a significant event in which none of us had our phones or cameras handy.  I was amazed how different the emphasis was.  As I look back, I realize that my recollection of that day has been permanently imprinted on my heart and mind differently than if it were digitized.

I think Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood this well.  After all, she had neither a Smart Phone nor a Facebook page; she didn't even have an instant Polaroid camera!  She simply had to tuck the precious moments deep within her heart.  While the shepherds were mesmerized at the discovery of her Baby in a cow's trough and proceeded to announce it to the world (a.k.a. post it on their Facebook page), Mary was apparently contemplating life in a very different way.  She quietly and poignantly retreated to her own thoughts.  I'm fascinated with the account of her response to the birth of Christ as recorded in Luke 2:19

"Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully."  Other translations explain it similarly:  She "kept all these sayings, weighing and pondering them in her heart."  She "meditated on them...turned them over in her mind."  One version even suggests that Mary couldn't escape her thoughts; she kept "mulling them over in her heart."  And my personal favorite:  "She treasured all these things."  Ahhh....what a description of sacredness.

At this Christmas season, instead of constantly reaching for a camera, what if we reached for a hand? Rather than being fixated by a laptop screen or Iphone, perhaps we fix our gaze upon the child standing before us.  Admittedly, we wouldn't be capturing it on film, but we would most certainly lock the moment in our hearts.  We might just ponder it, mull it over and yes, even treasure the season.  Oh, I know these memories would not be nearly as crisp as a Facebook post, but perhaps it's a way of balancing the emphasis a bit.

I have an opportunity to do this tonight as I head out to my son's high school Christmas concert.  Of course I'll snap a few shots -- but instead of having my hand on the Iphone the whole time, I think I'll grasp the hand of my husband sitting next to me, sink my eyes upon my boy...and drink deeply of this one-of-a-kind musical memory.

The unique thing about our memories is that no two are the same.  Tonight while I'm enthralled by the trombone section, the person on my left might be straining to see the percussionist in the back row...or the little sister on the sidelines dancing to her brother's clarinet solo.  We each capture life's moments in different ways -- and that's a good thing.

What moments will you find to treasure this Christmas season?