Christmas is fleeting. All year long, we wait in anticipation of the holidays and then we complain the whole time. It’s too crowded, cold, busy, expensive, gluttonous, hurried. I didn’t get what I wanted. I gave everyone a present and now I’m broke and alone.
The spirit. The spirit of the holidays. The joy of Christmas. What is it? Is it lights? Is it cocoa? Is it candy, presents, cookies? Is it the promise and hope of magic? But it never comes. We wait all year and it never comes. And then the lights fade and the tinsel is taken down.
Christmas is temporary.
But it’s not. What is it we are waiting for? What is it that we miss every year and chase after time and again? It’s Christ. That’s what we are really looking for and we’re looking in the wrong places. Is it in this tin of cookies? Is it in this neatly-wrapped box? Is it at the bottom of my second cup of cocoa? Is it at my 2nd, 3rd, 7th Christmas karaoke party?
An entire season is dedicated to what started out as a celebration of giving and hope. Hundreds of years have come and gone, each renewing the tradition of Christmas. But each year some family grows further apart. Each year some person grows more jaded, cynical, greedy and Scrooge-like. Each year our eyes grow more narrow and short-sighted. Each year we try to chase our pleasure, fulfillment and that indescribable magic that only caught us as children because we were bright-eyed and open.
Years ago, at the Blue Ridge Mall, they had a display. I don’t remember now if it was all the time or just at Christmas, but I remember it at Christmas. We were in line for Santa and the line snaked by a huge oil fall. It’s a waterfall except they used oil on strings. It’s like a waterfall in slow motion. It was magical, beautiful and a wondrous summation of the holiday experience for me. I lost myself in the endless strings dripping with glowing, hypnotic oil. I felt warm, silly and excited. I drank in the luxury of it all as I waited for Santa. I don’t remember Santa exactly, but I remember the strings. I wanted to reach out and grab them. But instead I swallowed my fingers and excitement over and over again at simply being near them. At that point, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I remember Mom and Dad close by. I remember my siblings there too. I remember the sounds of cheerful shoppers as they shuffled by and their muffled packages swaying back and forth in their clasped hands. I remember the soft mall lighting and the quiet aromas of furniture, leather shoes, popcorn, clothing, carpet and mall food. I remember feeling safe, happy, joyful. The mood was love. And everyone felt it.
Now, I’ve begun a tradition with my family. We try to see Longview Lake Lights. We’ve been coming off and on for a few years now. And the best part. They have a field full of trees made from lights. Those are my favorite. They remind me of the oil fall. Delicate pearls of light suspended in the darkness, soft purple and blue, hanging on invisible strings melting into the night. For the last couple of years, it’s the most peaceful and the most child-like capture of innocence and wonder I’ve known. I’m five again. I’m eight again. I’m me before all the bad. I’m in Christmas up to my neck and in love with the world.
I wish I could take that with me. I wish I could visit the lights every night. But I can’t. The lights are even closer now that we live here, but even so, I can’t see them every night. But I can look for Christ. I can look for him every day and celebrate his birth. I don’t have to wait for “the day”. And I can try to capture his joy, his love, his intention, his gift every single moment, all year long. I can look for it as I drive, shop, eat and talk. I don’t have to wait all year and miss it. I can look and find it. I just have to be bright-eyed and open. His love is hanging right in front of our faces on an invisible string of light, dripping down and mesmerizing us with the delicate, graceful fall and we just have to reach out and grab it.
Merry Xmas! Happy Holidays! May you find many joys and love.
I’m sure, God,
Our desperate prayers
Don’t always sound
As they should.
For our cries
To be understood.
Romans 8:26-27 NIV
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
I prayed an angry, ugly prayer the other day, but thankfully, what God heard and what I said were two different things. The day started off bad, but quickly turned around after my desperate prayer.
I forget that He is working for me, unseen. Always. He’s got it figured out before I even utter “Help!” I just need to come to him.
I do pray. Daily. But I have to admit–sometimes? It’s not as heartfelt as it could be. Or as clear as it should be. Or eloquent. Or un-profane. Or correct in any fashion.
I learned the lesson of God working unseen when I was young. From the story of Job. Job is a mess of a story, but if you can get through it, so very valuable.
I think many people think of Job as patient. The patience of Job. And he was. But he was never just totally okay with everything that was happening. He complained. A lot!
He was miserable. He sobbed. And cut himself with a broken clay pot. Dragged it over his sores. Sat in ashes. Lost his family, his house, every-thing! His wife told him to curse God and die. (Thanks, Wife!) Job cried out to God, “Why?? Why me??” (Why did you give me this wife?? lol) Complained to his friends. Rejected their flawed reasoning and comfort. But Job never cursed God. Or turned his back. And there’s the difference.
Job’s body was probably pocked with scars. From head to toe. And emotional scars as well. Job had every reason to curse God and die. Job had wealth beyond compare, a happy family life and then fell a long way down. When he thought it couldn’t get worse, it did. And he got frustrated. Desperate. Wrong-headed. Subjected to and influenced by bad reasoning.
I think we can get frustrated. Desperate. But the key is to always turn to God. To His power. Submit to His control. Never turn your back and say, “God doesn’t exist.” or “God has no power.” If you say that, then that will be true. God has no power where you will not allow it.
Submitting to the process is hard. Crazy. Ugly. Seemingly not worth it. But. In the end, all you can ever do.
Trust. It’s never over until it is. And it’s always darkest before the dawn. Trusting is hardest when you don’t understand how it can get better. But it always does. Eventually.
Job 42 12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys.13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters…15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation.17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years.
If you’re going through hell, keep going. –Winston Churchill
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
The article, which I won’t link to here because I’m about to disagree (LOL), states that this could be David lamenting about his troubles. Watching a waterfall spill on top of itself, churning up bad memories and events.
This verse calls to me. Calls to the deep. Are you deep?
Meaningful calls to meaningful. Intelligent calls to intelligent. Known calls to known. God calls to those who seek Him. And those who seek Him hear His voice.
At the beginning of the psalm, David is talking about his deep yearning, thirst, for God. Deep calls to deep as thirst calls to water. Connected. Deep connection. One must satisfy the other. God must satisfy our desire. You cannot slake thirst with anything but water. Deep calls FOR deep.
The article did hit on one detail. They talked about the metaphor of water. The bible talks about water many times. The flood of Noah. The punishment of Egypt and the salvation and ransom of Israel with the parting of the Red Sea. The direction of Jonah. The baptism of Christ. Jacob’s well-the well at which Jesus met the woman. The spring of eternal life bubbling up inside. The thirst that is quenched with the words of God. Jesus as the fisher of men. The boat saved. The storm stilled. Water was used over and over in the bible as a cleansing, a washing away of sin and fear. Life-giving, life-changing water.
The article said that the use of water in this instance is a mighty force. Yes. I agree.
That force here is God. IMO. Deep calls to deep. God calls to holy? He calls us. The roar of your waterfall. The fall of your grace down upon our sin and it is washed away. Your mighty power pounds away at the rock of sin. And we don’t sink. We bubble up and float away with the hope of a full and deep river. All your waves and breakers have swept over me.
If you’ve ever been in the ocean, just at the shore, the waves crash and agitate relentlessly. The water is constantly churning the sand and shells to break over and over on land. It’s a washing machine of sorts. And so is our daily-renewed relationship with the Spirit. Grinding down the broken pieces. Smoothing out the rough edges.
The tide of the Spirit comes in and offers up treasures and fruits of the sea. Shells of patience. Drops of love. Foamy, soft breakers of joy. Rolling push-pull of generosity. Sweeping kindness. Salty spray of endurance. Permanence of self-control.
Yes. Water. God is powerful. His waves and breakers have swept over me. He calls to me. Softens me. Renews me.
His love is deep. Deep calls to deep. Love calls to love. It is not trouble I picture. It is mighty power sweeping over, overwhelming my sin. Rescuing me from trouble. Calling me above my weakness. Raising my sunken body from the floor, floating to the top of good. Calling me close. Calling to my depth. Bringing hope to the dark, still bottom that nothing but Water can reach.
Trouble and sin cannot exist where the Water and Light can touch. He has swept away trouble with His power.
Or–His function is used in our shortcomings. Does that make sense?
These are just my thoughts. I’m no theologian. But I love this verse and it means so much to me. God calls to my inmost being. The person he created and knew before my parents gave birth. He calls to my soul. He knows me. He has power over me. He rights my wrongs. He is my help. He is within me. And I am made from Him. Deep calls to deep. Kind calls to kind. And I have been swept clean by His mighty force. I have been refined by Your constant loving water.
Sorry! Sick yesterday. 😦 My foot was haunted with gout. lol And just general malaise. So, on with the campfire incantations.
These are real-life ghost stories or what I thought were ghosts. Usually there was/is an explanation for whatever occurred, but sometimes, just sometimes, I could only guess at the reason my heart was racing and goosebumps were rising. I don’t really believe in ghosts. But I also don’t not believe in ghosts. I’m a skeptic. But I would love to see, hear or record a ghost.
I have been fascinated by TV programs about ghosts from a young age. Murder mysteries, Scooby-Doo, Murder She Wrote, Sherlock Holmes, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Unsolved Mysteries, TAPS, Celebrity Ghost Stories. Anything. I watched The Exorcist and couldn’t sleep for 3 days. If I think about that movie at night, I don’t sleep for hours. That sh!t is scary. It could happen. LOL
The following story is a bit more serious than last time. Hold onto your popcorn tub.
In high school, I met a really great friend, A. She was my best friend. Sometimes, she was my only friend. A was shy, eager to please, and downright terrified. Of everyone. A was quick to laugh, but she was nervous and skittish. Like a dog that had been beaten. We had abuse in common, though we never talked about it at length.
She was the truest person I’ve known as a girlfriend. The most honest, the most loyal. She was devoted and encouraging. A thought I was hilarious and fascinating. Most people did not share her adoration. I felt like a magical being around A. She rarely criticized me, if ever, and she lavished me with friendship, praise and comfort.
But her house was a f***ing mess. Sorry, A. But she would say the same.
The house was old. I can’t say how old, but probably from the early 20th century. It was 1 1/2 stories, but full of tales. The funny, little house had a tall, wooden fence not five feet from the exterior walls. It was prison-like with the planks that close. (Prisons are usually built by their occupants, in one way or another.) But they lived in town, on the busy main thoroughfare, and it provided privacy on their small lot.
A’s family (Mom, Dad and A) lived only on the first floor of the home. The door to the stairs was always blocked by clutter of some kind. VHS movie tapes, magazines, newspapers, clothes, shoes, trash. So I thought it was just the condition of their house, not an attempt to cordon off the entire upper floor.
I had visited A’s house many times, but never stayed over. One night, it was extremely late, I was extremely tired and A offered the couch in the small room by the front door. Again, the house was tiny. So the stairs were just behind the couch room. Only separated by a wall. The couch? Where I laid down to sleep? Was backed against the shared wall of the stairs.
Right before I laid my very tired head down on a throw pillow and covered my very tired body with a scratchy-thin blanket, A thought it wise to warn me:
“I just wanted you to know. Sometimes, and this will sound weird, you can hear footsteps on the second floor. Sorry.”
“Huh??!” is all I could manage.
She explained that some nights, she could hear footsteps above. Heavy steps that sounded like boots thudding across the floor. She had a very serious look, so I knew she wasn’t winding me up. She was dead serious and sort-of embarrassed. I was wide awake.
“So…what is it??”
A offered more. She said that it was definitely person-like, not an animal, and the weird thing (weirder thing), the floor on the second level was rotting. No one could possibly walk from one side of the house to the other because they would fall through the deteriorating floorboards.
That’s. Specific. She told me that I could leave if I didn’t want to stay.
I felt bad for her, I was tired and I half-way didn’t believe this bizarre bedtime story. Plus, she had made it clear, “It doesn’t happen every night.” She just wanted to warn me in case it did. So, I stayed. I asked her to linger with me a bit longer, to laugh off the strangeness of her caution.
She was exhausted and begged off to bed. I was exhausted as well, but still uneasy. So I played Super Mario Brothers until my eyes screamed shut. I left an end table lamp burning, but I always did that. I hated the complete black. If I was going to be attacked, I wanted to see it coming. Mostly though, if I heard a noise, I wanted to identify it immediately.
A few hours later, still dark outside, I heard a loud thump above my head. I was instantly awake. I stopped breathing and listened. I heard footsteps coming across the floor upstairs.
Heavy boots. Not cowboy skiffle-shufflers, but heavy, leather, chunky-soled motorcycle boots. Or work boots. Donned by a heavy-set human. Coming closer until they were directly above me. Then they started down the stairs!
The stairs that were less than 2 feet away from my face! Behind the wall!
I listened to the steps until they stopped exactly by my ear. And we waited. Me and the ghost. For something to happen. I didn’t do a thing. I laid on the couch, breathing from time to time, eyes at attention, until dawn. No more sound.
After everyone stirred, I went to look at the door that led to the upstairs. Cluttered as usual. No one had been on the second floor.
I never stayed at A’s house again. Even when she offered.
According to A, the man who used to own the house committed suicide years earlier at another location. Did he still like this house? Is he trapped? Is it residual?
I don’t know what it was. If someone told me this story I would think they’re full of…sprite. LOL If it wasn’t a ghost, then what was it???
No. Not bear (growling animal) fruit. That would look like this.
No. As fun as that is, today, I get to bear fruit.
I am a budding tree and this is the spring of my seasons. The time for flowers and growth and fruit.
There are several fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, loyalty, gentleness and self-control. Galations 5:22 These fruits are from Jesus’ spirit that he left on Earth to help us. As a kid, I never understood that the Spirit was Jesus’ spirit. I didn’t make the connection. Now I get it. I mean, I understood the trinity, but I just thought that God and Jesus were related and then they have a good friend, Holy Spirit. I mean, I knew that they were all one, but…yeah. Now, I got it.
So, after Jesus ascended, when He went to heaven for the final time (I know it sounds weird, Non-christians!), after a few days, He sent the Spirit. To help us. He promised His followers that He would send the Spirit because Jesus knew we would need help. ‘Cause we are so screwed up. He paid the price for our sins and now lives at the right hand of God. That’s His reward. We are separate now, as He has fulfilled His purpose. When we fulfill our purpose, we can be together. Yes?
I have this strange imagination and when I think of Jesus at the right hand of God, I picture God turning to Jesus and talking about me. They probably do this telepathically. Just FYI. I mean, it’s 2/3 of the trinity. Well. They probably conference-in the Holy Spirit, or something.
“So, tell me more about Martha.”
And what Jesus says is so sweet and kind and generous. Undeserved grace. He tells God,
“Well, Dad, she’s really smart, loving, loyal and caring. But. She’s been hurt. Like, you know, everyone on the planet. She gets angry, impatient, rude, ungrateful and downright hateful.”
God, “Yeah. Got it.”
“But! She really wants to be different. When she prays, she usually means it. And she does love Us.”
So, the point of that is, I get that Jesus died for me. He would have died for me even if I was the only person on the planet. That’s pretty specific. I don’t deserve it, I don’t have to earn it, I just inherit the kingdom of God. Boom. Done. Crown. Thanks. Forever.
And I bring this up because the rest of the verse concerning the fruits of the Spirit is this:
Galations 5 “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.“
The last line gets me.
No. 1–I belong to Jesus. (D’aw!!)
No. 2–I have crucified my flesh by belonging to Jesus!
I have hung my sin and flesh on the cross and it has died! I have nailed my desire and passion to the blood-soaked wood and it has passed. Through Jesus, through His spirit.
I get that when God looks at me, because Jesus died in my place, that all God sees is Perfect Martha. Martha scattered/smothered/covered in Jesus. He sees a perfect child. The best Martha I can be. That makes me happy. And much more able to be patient. I mean, Jesus died so that I could be impatient about how long the stoplight takes? No.
Anyway, how long did Christ wait on me? Still waits on me?
I’ve been waiting today. Waiting on everything. Waiting on my husband for 2 hours while he’s getting an eye exam. Waiting on sales clerks, recycling attendants, stoplights, scanners, waitresses, phone chargers, emails, post office employees (grr! <<–there’s that bear fruit again) and endless lists of things and people.
I tried to be patient. But I usually failed.
I mean, I didn’t go crazy on anyone. And I didn’t rag on my husband all day. And I didn’t complain to a manager, call an 800 number or even give someone an obscene look, word or gesture. I certainly didn’t ram my car into the plate-glass window of Discover Vision Center.
I just had impatience circling above my head. Dark and brooding. Hovering and swooping. Preying on my thoughts. Scavenging my kindness. Vulturous and hungry. Sitting on my heart like a black crow. Waiting for me to drop my joy. Picking at my left-over love. Choking down my generosity, leaving bitter bones of resentment. Impatience stole my fruit.
I should be grateful for people, phones and cars. I should be thankful for husband, money and luxury. I should chug down a large glass of gratitude and get on with my day.
I’m trying to remember that I’m not patient. The Holy Spirit is patient. And if I ever successfully exercise the ability to be patient, it is not through my own power.
2 Corinthians 12:9 New Living Translation Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.
It is because I allow the Holy Spirit to live inside of me. For Christ to live inside of me. That’s how Christ lives. Through us.
I know some Non-christians don’t understand the living Christ. (I get it, this is another weird one.) But He lives in us. His Spirit continues through us. When we love each other and help each other and do unto each other, we make Jesus live again. That’s the living Christ.
But how many Xians do you know that channel Jesus?
Although. His spirit has lingered for over 2,000 years. Swell and ebb, live and die. The church (# of true Christ followers) and the Spirit, in this world, are like the tides in the sea. High and low, at any given moment. But the ocean remains. His teachings and mark and LOVE remain.
Paul said: Galatians 5:14 NIV
For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
And Jesus said: John 13:35 NIV By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I don’t see much love every day, neighbor to neighbor. Can I just say that I love seeing my nasty neighbor picking up her dog’s crap when I arrive home? See. That’s not nice.
I do see love at home though. I see it online. I see it in some of our leaders. I see it around the world. I find it in unexpected places. Sometimes, I don’t find it where I think I should or will. I see people trying though.
Love is still there. The ocean remains.
I will be patient.
No. The Spirit will be patient. I will submit to the Spirit. And I will bear fruit.
A day without a woman
Is a lifetime without:
Reason married to wit.
A day without women
Is a world without:
Lawful, peaceful resistance and protest.
We gather to make a difference.
We don’t loot. Or grab. Or lie.
Like Elizabeth and Maya,
We persist and rise!