Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Pennies

“That will be $4.71 please pull around to the first window.” I dug a 20 out of my wallet as I drove around to pay for my breakfast. The guy working the drive-through was in a good mood for it being so early, and so cold. He started to count back my change to me when he realized he didn’t have any pennies in his cash drawer. As he opened the new roll I heard him gasp. “Check this out” he said to me as he handed me my change. “A whole roll of brand new pennies. Aren’t they beautiful.” He asked.

And they were. Perfectly shiny. Without a scratch on them.

I thanked him, tossed the pennies in my change cup and drove away to finish my errands.

But I couldn’t quit thinking about those shiny pennies. I was their first owner. How would I spend them? What would I do with them? Where would they travel?

I reached out to grab one of them to examine it again. But instead of picking up one penny, I grabbed two. One brand new, the other obviously very old and dirty. Its coppery shine had faded to a dull brown. It looked almost sad next to the new perfectly polished penny. I flipped it over in my hand and read the date on it. 1973. The year I was born.

The old tired penny was as old as me. Looking at the two pennies I realized that the old one was a lot like me. Tired, worn, scratched and no longer shiny. I wished I was more like the new pretty penny.

Then I realized that wasn’t true after all. The old penny and I, we’ve been through a lot. Traveled the world. Experienced a lot of life. I wondered how many hands that penny has passed through. How many times it’s been counted. I wondered if it had been cherished or taken for granted. I wondered if it had bought candy, paid the rent, put gas in the car, bought lifesaving medicine for a sick child. One thing was for certain… that penny had been used!

That was clear just by looking at it.

I want to be used too. I want to be of use. To God. To His Kingdom. Like currency in His hands I want Him to be able to spend my life as He sees fit. I want to be life and hope to the world around me. Even if it means forsaking the shiny perfection of being new. Even if it means getting a few scratches and dings along the way.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” Isa. 6:8

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

The kids are all tucked in bed and the last of the presents have been wrapped and placed under the tree. All of the work that comes with being a mom at Christmas is done. Now, finally, it’s time to sit and reflect.

Christmas, to me, has always been about endings and beginnings. It marks the end of the year as we look forward to the new year, new resolutions, new promises. It’s a time to reflect on the past year and all that it held. Joys, sorrows. Saying goodbye to people we loved, making room for new friends. The struggles we survived, the surprises along the way. All of life wrapped up in memories, tucked away in our hearts.

I think God meant for Christmas to be reflective. After all, it was the birth of His Son that marked the greatest new beginning of all time. The end of silence was broken by a babies cry. Years of wondering were ended by the most wonderful gift of all. When Jesus came everything changed. The old things passed away, and all things were made new. This is the gift He offers us. New life.

I think that’s what I love about Christmas. The wonder of it all. The thought that no matter how hopeless a person or situation appears to be that there is redemption offered to us. It’s the promise, the grace, the splendor and majesty wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

And because of the hope of Christmas I sit here and think of tomorrow. Of what it might hold, for me… for you. What promise does tomorrow hold? What answered prayer awaits us? What joy sits on the other side of this dark night? When Jesus was born four hundred years of silence was shattered on a clear dark night in Bethlehem. And the world has never been the same. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

That is the gift I want this Christmas. The gift of the Word dwelling in my midst. The gift of Emmanuel, God with us. The gift of the promise of new life.

I pray that He will be your gift as well!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Secret

Her name was Sam. And we were seated at the same table for the Chamber Choir’s Madrigal Feast. She was beautiful. Not necessarily in appearance, but in spirit. Externally, you would have noticed plain brown hair, average height, little makeup, simple clothes. But then Sam started talking to us. Her beautiful British accent flitting across the table as her eyes sparkled. When she smiled it wasn’t just with her mouth but with her whole being. We were all instantly drawn to her.

As we waited for the performance to begin Sam kept a running commentary. The food… delectable. The Wassail… divine. The d├ęcor… stunning. Her assessment of our evening influenced each of us around the table. Then suddenly a hush fell across the room and Sam grew silent. Slowly the Chamber Choir began their processional singing acapella of the Christ Child and a manger.

As their voices filled the air my attention was once again drawn to Sam. Her eyes were closed, face upturned and slightly tilted, a single tear made its way across her cheek. Completely unashamed she sat fully immersed in the emotion of the moment. In a word she was radiant.

And as I watched He whispered to me “she knows the secret”.

The secret of being fully engaged. Of living, embracing, savoring every moment. The secret of joy.

She was not aware of time, or schedules, or urgent emails waiting to be answered. She was not worried about bills needing to be paid, or concerned about her child’s grades. She was simply, completely there. In that moment. Focused. Enjoying.

And I was jealous. I wanted to feel her joy. Experience her rapture. Join her in abandonment. But I simply could not silence all of the other voices in my mind. Like icy winds they whipped through my mind. Schedules, deadlines, lists, chores.

I want to be more like Sam. I want to silence the voices that aim to distract me. I want to revel in beauty. Get lost in joy. Be swept up in wonder. Enjoy the moment.

And so… I shall.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rise up Shepherd and Follow



There’s an old African-American Spiritual that has been haunting me the last few days. The words have crept into my soul and wrapped their fingers around my heart. When I wake I hear their refrain. All through the day it echoes in my mind…

Leave your flocks and leave your herds

Rise up shepherd and follow

Can you imagine it? A cold hillside on a dark night. The lights of Bethlehem in the distant. The bleating of sheep all around. Small fires surrounded by weather hardened shepherds; nomads. I wonder if they were tired. If they missed home, or if the endless pasture was their home. I wonder how long it had been since they had heard the cry of a baby, felt the smooth skin of a child, heard the innocent laughter of a little boy. Calloused hands holding wooden staffs and wooly coats. That was their life. No women, no children, no roof over their heads. Only sheep, shepherds and endless sky.

Until…

there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Rise up shepherd.

Rise up from outside the city gate. Rise up from your comfortable place around the warm fire. Rise up from the routine of your day.

And follow.

Follow the star to the baby. Follow the baby to green pastures and still waters. Follow the Shepherd of your souls.

Leave your flocks.

And leave your herds. Leave the things you depend on. Leave everything behind.

Rise up shepherd. And follow.

And they did. They did exactly what the angel told them to do.

Yet here I sit. Clinging to the comforts of my life. Glued to the seat of my complacency. Deaf to the Harkening of the Angels. Afraid to follow. Afraid to leave the flocks & herds. Afraid to rise up.

Yet, still I hear the chorus repeat. Rise up shepherd and follow. And softly in the distance I hear my Shepherd call; rise up, child, and follow.