2021

Now is not the time

for weak minds.

Now is not the time

to give it only one more go.

Now is not the time

for rumors and accusations.

Hindsight may be 20/20,

but now is not the time for blame.

This is ground zero.

Now is the time

to take your one broken heart

in your two worn hands

and give all the courage,

kindness,

and compassion

God will grant you.

The Christmas Star

Dec. 21, 2020 – the darkest day in a year that’s already felt so incredibly dark.

And for the first time in eight hundred years, we’ll see the Christmas star.

Here’s the thing about stars. Nothing stops them. Down on earth we’ve been thrown into chaos, but with mathematical accuracy, the stars have continued. They are so precise that not only can we predict future events, but we can rewind and see what the night sky would have looked like throughout history. The fact that this Christmas star appears in 2020 is no accident.

And it comforts me that He knew – that God knew after an unprecedentedly dark year we would need light, just like He knew that in a time of oppression and hopelessness the whim of a dictator would send Mary and Joseph back to Bethlehem, where there was no room. It must have felt like horrible timing, but in reality it was perfect timing. From the star to the stable, everything happened exactly as God had planned it, and just like in the beginning when He first set the stars in their places, it was very good.

So maybe go outside on the 21st, look at the star, and find the faith to believe that something good is coming.

Merry Christmas

The Key to a Peaceful Christmas

Why do so many of us find Christmas stressful?

We sing about peace on earth, and in the next moment give up our peace to an every growing list of holiday demands. Cookies, concerts, parties, presents – we stretch ourselves thin trying to cram too much activity into too little time. Not this year, though. This year we have to face the reality that many holiday events just won’t be possible. And that’s stressful too. Obviously, time management is not our problem. So what is?

I think we’re all worried that it won’t be enough, that we won’t be enough. Christmas is supposed to be this magical, miraculous time, and so we push ourselves make magic and perform miracles. Most haven’t been in a Christmas pageant in years, yet we’re still performing, and still falling short.

But Christmas is a miraculous time, and do you know why? Because Christmas means that God stepped down into history to do what we could never do. Yes, on some level, you are not enough. You can’t fix all the aching brokenness of this fallen world. But it’s ok because you don’t have to. Christmas is all about God being enough, even when we aren’t.

So leave the miracles to Him. He is enough.

Missing Christmas

Christmas comes every year, and every year we’re afraid of missing it.

I remember last year fighting with a tree that kept toppling over, crying because I couldn’t make it work. And this year it was my parents’ who didn’t have a tree. Finding one was a struggle, and we ended up setting it up on December 3rd, which is late for us. Many years this season has been so stuffed with events and get togethers that many feel more stressed than anything else. This year our stress comes from a different source – uncertainty regarding which events we can still safely hold. Either way, we try to cram in or clear out, attempting to make sure that the “true meaning of Christmas” doesn’t pass us by.

There’s wisdom, I suppose, in scheduling our time in such a way so we have room for what’s most important. But in a deeper, more fundamental way, I don’t think we can miss Christmas. Consider the first Christmas. Do you know who figures perhaps the most prominently in the nativity and the events surrounding it? Angels! Shining, terrifying messengers of God, sent to Zechariah, to Mary, to Joseph twice, and finally to the shepherds, all making sure that these ordinary people wouldn’t miss the extraordinary arrival of God’s only Son.

God’s not in the business of hiding the good news of Christmas, not even from the humble and unworthy. Zechariah doubted, Mary had questions, and the shepherds were the least of these. God made sure that Christmas wouldn’t pass them by. And Christmas won’t pass you by either – God is seeking you far better than you are seeking Him.

Restless

Everyone talks about spring fever. But personally? I find myself getting restless in the fall.

Maybe the back to school rhythm is just that ingrained in my soul, though I like to more poetically blame the changing colors and cool breezes. But whatever the reason, this fall, like others before it, found me restless and questioning. Am I doing the right things? No matter that I’ve only been in grad school for a few months, am becoming more involved in work, and continue to build new friendships. It just didn’t feel like enough.

And then. Then I got stuck in a very hard situation. Nursing tends to create those. I won’t give the details, but I gave someone a hug. And looking back, I know I was called that. God looked forward in history, saw that his child would need help, and sent me to be His hands and feet.

So maybe my questions over calling aren’t about calling after all. Maybe it’s just me struggling with being enough. And if I can get enough highly ranked activities under my belt, then I’ll finally feel like enough. Typing that out, I know instinctively it’s not true. No amount of activities will make will make me feel like enough. This is something I’m still working on. But I also think that my idea of calling is off. The number of things that had to be orchestrated to get me into that moment is immense. It seems so simple, yet obviously God thought it was very important.

Yeah, maybe I still feel a little restless. But I don’t think I’m missing it. I think my calling is to live every day in obedience, with my eyes open, ready to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Called to Love

Sometimes you need a little distance to see things clearly.

About six months after beginning to foster my younger sister, my mom left me a message telling me to call her back, which, frankly, scared me. Normally if she had a question she would text me. What had happened that she needed to speak to me in person? Well, it turns out she had gotten a call about another kid, a little girl who had endured more traumatic experiences in her young life than anyone should have to endure, ever. Her story was overwhelming, but when I asked her name? It was the same as mine. And I didn’t want to agree, I didn’t want us to say yes, but how could I deny that this was a God thing, that she was meant to come to us? I was almost crying in A&P, but we ended up agreeing to take her.

A lot of things about that placement were less than ideal. This kid had extended family who loved her and wanted to adopt her, but that was going to take time, two to six months we were told. She finally got to move in with her new family over a year later. Then there were behavioral issues. Major ones. And finally, it was just a lot of work. You wouldn’t think adding one kid to a household full of adults could change things so much, but it did. Ultimately, though, through the stress, and the exhaustion, and my selfish desires, we pulled together as a family, and gave this kid a home. Not a perfect home, but a safe one, where she could grow and play and learn.

Fast forward to August of this year. We’re trying to get custody of my adopted sister’s little brother, and he is finally getting to come for a visit. (Thanks, COVID.) He’d been with a foster family for about six months, and we’d been nervous. Who were these people? DSS said that they were amazing, but my DSS amazing and our amazing are two very different things.

But when I finally met my future nephew? It was so obvious that he had been loved. Even now, if he’s crying and you start to sing, “Jesus Loves Me,” he stops as if you flipped a switch. He loves men, (which I find a little offensive,) but it shows how much his foster dad had paid attention to him. He was, and is, just the happiest baby. I can’t imagine having to give him up. I can’t imagine how hard that was. But his foster family found the courage to face the hard, and I am eternally grateful. I know they weren’t perfect, because no one is perfect, but they made an incredible difference in this child’s life. And it’s got me thinking about that time three years ago, and yeah I’m not sure I’d want to do it again, but I know we made a difference. And if they can do it, if we could do it, if I could do it, then so can you.

Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but everyone is called to love, imperfectly, yet courageously. Who do you need to love today?

What Now?

I was driving home from work a few mornings ago, the same way I always drive home. It was dark and rainy, and I was trying to decide how many donuts to buy to take home to my family. Then out of nowhere there was a crack. I screamed, and threw my arm up in front of my face. And then I realized my passenger side window was gone, and I was surrounded by broken glass. Once I got myself together, I turned around and went back to see if I could figure out what I hit. My working theory is a mailbox or a trashcan, but I’m still not sure.

2020 has felt a lot like that did. We were all going about our business, doing the things we do every day, making plans for the future. Then out of nowhere, something happens, and none of us quite understand, but instead of our safe normal we’re surrounded by broken glass, and left wondering what now?

I have to thank Ann Voskamp for this, but the what now that I turned to? Gratitude. And not because I am more spiritual than average, but because I have practiced. For years now, I have kept a gratitude journal, finding a few things each day to be grateful for. So when I needed it, when I needed a new prospective on a rainy morning in late October, I had this habit to turn to.

First off, I was grateful for glass in car windows. Nothing like loosing something to make you grateful for its existence. Next, I was grateful that, despite shattered glass on the passenger seat, the dashboard, the backseat, and somehow in my back pocket, there was not a scratch on me. And the list continued to grow. I was grateful for beautiful sunny weather as I drove my car without a window later that day. Grateful for the smell of fall leaves. Grateful for small town repair shops that could serve me within days, rather than weeks. And so so grateful that my Dad brought home donuts. (He had no idea of my plan, which makes this all the more special.)

Now let me be clear. Finding all the good things in life doesn’t cancel out the bad. But neither does the bad cancel out the good. And in a society hyper-focused on our problems, I think we could all use a little more gratitude.

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

I think I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

I’ve been thinking about calling lately, and how it feels like I’m called to a million different things. And some of it is grad school and some of it is having a movie night with a co-worker, and it involves two different communities and two different countries, and I feel like maybe all these random hobbies aren’t random after all, and everything feels important, like I’m called to a million different things right now and I can’t put my finger on any I’m supposed to quit. And I was feeling so overwhelmed when one word, one title, popped into my head.

Peacemaker. I want to be a peacemaker.

This may come as a surprise. What about justice? What about all the terrible things I want to stop? Am I ready to stop striving against those things and sign a treaty, all in the name of peace?

Not at all.

The Bible talks a lot about peace. We are given a peace that passes understanding, and are called to be at peace with one another, all because of our new found peace with God. But think about how that peace with God was achieved. Did God compromise? Did He give up on what He knew was right? Did He decide to accept second best, all in the name of peace? On the contrary, He committed even more strongly to defeating evil. Our peace with God is no divine compromise. It’s more like a divine conquest.

Now, of course, there are plenty of times when compromise, or even giving something up, is appropriate. But the deep, world changing peace I’m dreaming of doesn’t happen when we cover up the problems and pretend their not there. On the contrary, real peace requires seeing all the problems, and taking action to fix them. Not temporarily, but truly.

That’s the kind of peace we need. And that’s the kind of peacemaker I want to be.

Movie Review: Enola Holmes

Author’s Note: Long time readers of this blog will instantly notice that this post is very different than my typical. I am aware of this, and perhaps this will be a single anomaly. However, I have wanted to write a movie review for quite some time, and this is frankly the best place to share it. I think you will still find the philosophical and spiritual themes I typically write about present, though in a different format.

To start off, Enola Holmes is, purely and simply, fun.

Yes, the feminism is stereotypical. And yes, the romance is predictable. But watching a spunky sixteen year old defy the odds and save the day, even beating her famous brother Sherlock Holmes – well, who wouldn’t enjoy that? Speaking of Sherlock Holmes, Henry Cavill’s portrayal of him was was superb. Sherlock Holmes adaptations and offshoots all have to find a balance between depicting the famous detective’s brain and his hidden but still present humanity. This movie shows a bit more humanity, but that’s understandable, since it deals with his family. And the relationship that grows between Enola and Sherlock is completely fan girl worthy. I would have loved to see more of it – perhaps a sequel?

However, there are two points which the movie raised which raised it a bit beyond fun, and yet I wish had been developed more. The first is the issue of political activism. I said the feminism is stereotypical. This is not completely accurate. The presence of feminism in a modern movie about a girl in the 1800s is almost universal. But the form this feminism takes is concerning, and the characters find it concerning. I risk giving away the plot if I go into much more detail, but there seems to an understanding between two of the characters that, however wrong the world is, there are limits to the lengths you can go to mend it. There was even the beginning of the idea that those we love may make decisions we cannot support. And then the issue was dropped and never brought up again. I find this disappointing, and also not terribly good story telling. Issues as big as these would have to be addressed.

The second point regards the relationship between authenticity and community. Enola’s mother, Eudoria, tells her “There are two paths you can take, Enola. Yours…or the path others choose for you.” To describe Enola and Eudoria as free spirited really doesn’t do it justice. They are eccentric – at least, Eudoria is, and Enola, raised exclusively by her, follows in her footsteps. This is, predictably, not accepted by many other characters, and attempts are made to change Enola. She is told that this is for her own good. “I want you to be happy,” Mycroft tells her. “I want you to live a full and vibrant life,” Miss Harrison, the head of a finishing school, argues. On the surface, Enola seems to be forced to choose between being herself and being accepted by society. On the surface, one choice definitely wins. But it’s actually more complex than that.

At one point, Enola recounts how she once rescued a sheep from the edge of a cliff, almost dying in the attempt. She then realizes that, although it will put her own safety at risk, she must try to help a character who she sees as “on the edge of a cliff.” And help she does, sacrificing – well, we won’t say what, but it is a great deal. We also watch Sherlock move from a “It’s out of my hands” approach to a more active involvement in his sister’s life. Contrast this with Eudoria. It is no secret that she disappears, leaving Enola behind. And when you eventually learn the reason for her disappearance, it is unsatisfactory, at best. And this irritates me, as it seems both out of character, and a departure of what I see as a deeper theme of the movie. Enola and Sherlock, however, seem to realize that however different you are, and however poorly you fit in, you owe something, if not to society, then to your fellow man.

You Can Make a Difference

I may be abandoning Walmart for good.

Yes, I promise there is a bigger purpose for this blog post. But allow me to rant a moment. My first complaint is that common items are regularly out of stock at the local Walmart I frequent. The parking lot is weird. Almost all the self checkouts have been transitioned to credit card only. There are never enough check out lines open, and last time I was there, I innocently got in line only to have a cashier inform me that the line was closed.

I almost cried.

That may seem like a extreme reaction, but let me give you some background. I work nights, but still try to live a semi-normal life. This means I’m almost always sleep deprived. I also tend to go shopping in the morning, which is one of the worst times of day. So plop my tired self in an over-stimulating environment where I have to make a multitude of decisions which involve money, and you don’t have to be all that rude to push me over the edge.

So today I went to Kroger. And let me tell you, the soft lighting, cheese section, and sushi definitely had me excited. But my check out experience was the icing on the cake. First, I realized I had an item in my cart I didn’t want. The cashier took it from me to have someone put it back. Then I handed her my gift card when she needed my Kroger card. Then she had to tell me how to use my gift card. Finally I dropped my change. But at no time did she seem irritated or make me feel like I’m stupid, or annoying, or whatever word my exhausted brain chooses to generate. Rather, she smiled from behind her mask, and said she hoped I had a good day. The grocery bagger (another reason I’m loving Kroger) did the same. An employee even took my cart from me in the parking lot so I didn’t have to take it back.

We all want to make a difference, and I think a lot of people get frustrated because they feel that their nine to five gets in the way of that. We think that unless we’re in ministry full time our ministry has to be fit into the weekends and days off. Nothing could be further than the truth. What I experienced at Kroger is commonly called good customer service. I call it kindness, respect, and loving your neighbor. You might think that checking out someone in the grocery store doesn’t make a difference, but treating someone like they matter, and like their needs are important, totally does. And since most jobs involve some aspect of customer service, most jobs have lots of ministry opportunities, if you just pay attention.

You can make a difference, even if you “just” work at a grocery store.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: