Today I’m not only talking about Christmas as I declare “It’s almost here!” I’m also thinking of the end of 2020. Thinking of it as the “year that was” should feel good.
And with those thoughts, we can move ahead into 2021 with hope and anticipation of better days ahead.
This Christmas season will be different for many of us. Traditions set aside for safer gatherings. Perhaps one less in that family photo or at the table. Inability to visit and cheer those housed in nursing facilities or in the hospital. And likely many more.
If we love as Christ taught us to love, we are willing to accept these inconveniences.
Looking ahead, we hope for the light at the end of this seemingly endless dark tunnel to lead to better times. The vaccine is here, injections are being given, and plans established for each of us to receive it. With gratitude in our hearts, a new year is beginning with the hope of healing and diminishing numbers of victims.
Live into that Light. The Light and Love that came down at Christmas of old is still with us. We need only to live it and share it with others.
Today I’m joining a talented group of writers at Five Minute Friday. This community connects each Friday in an online, unedited free-write based on a one-word prompt. My timer is set for 5 minutes. Let’s see where this week’s prompt—PRESENT—leads me.
Likely many are thinking of the list of presents they need to buy, wrap, ship, or deliver. In our family, we’ve created a new process, thanks to the pandemic.
However, before I share that with you, I’d like to tell you about the decision my husband and I landed on some three decades ago. Each Christmas I’d make a list of things I needed/wanted, jot down the store where it could be found, size (if necessary), color, cost. Then Bob could take off shopping with a lot less frustration than if he had to come up with the list and figure out where to shop.
After watching his frustration for several years, we discussed a new way to give and receive. We asked what gift could we give each other better than we had given on August 15, 1981—ourselves! And so it has been since that long-ago discussion. We don’t buy each other gifts at Christmas or other holidays, not even our anniversary.
Now to today’s process for our kids, grandkids, and great-grands this Christmas. Since we are under lockdown in Oregon and we’re both immune-compromised, I’m shopping online for gift cards. Each family member who lands on our Christmas list will receive one inside a Christmas card via USPS. Hopefully, they can enjoy the delight of shopping for themselves online and not be disappointed.
However, with Advent upon us until Christmas Eve, present means so much more than I’ve written above. I’m stepping outside the busyness, the noise, and minimizing the financial element and stress of the season, only imposed by society and me. I’m inviting in the Christ Child, Jesus, as the presence I’m seeking this Christmas.
2020 has been a long slow slog for all of us. I think His Presence is what is needed for each of us. Being present with Christ is so comforting, soul-satisfying, and joy-filled. Why not make that the present you give to yourself on Christmas Day, 2020?
This post originally appeared in a previous blog, Sowing Seeds of Grace. For a variety of reasons, I found it hard to come up with a new post this week. So, I dug into my old blog posts and found something I enjoyed reading again. The original post was published May 7, 2014. Minor changes were made to the title and text.
It began just a few weeks ago. Intermittently they appear together because of his schedule. All are watching with amusement and charmed hearts.
He is many years her senior, but they don’t seem to notice. Just the rest of us.
This past Sunday was one of the best to date. As he moved throughout the building, there she was. Right on his heels in her red sweater and beautiful spring dress painted with red poppies and light green leaves on a white background. She even wore matching shoes—red patent leather. Continue reading “Sunday Morning Love Affair”→
Are you feeling out of touch these days? Here in Oregon, our pandemic guidelines label sheltering as “stay at home” since March 23, 2020, “until further notice.” But there are states where residents are no longer sheltering in place, or in what some call lockdown.
But there are some in our communities who live alone 365 days each year. Others live in retirement or assisted living communities and yet live alone. Still, others are, because of disease or illness, isolated from the rest of us.
So, let’s think about feeling out of touch. Even though my husband and I live in the same house, there are times we each feel out of touch because of the pandemic. We can hug each other. Or touch the other’s hand. Toss a smile across the room.
But we can’t gather with our church family on Sundays or at other times during the week. Yes, we can see them during Zoom meetings and on Facebook Live. But it’s not the same as being able to see them “real time,” or share a hug, or shake hands in greeting. Bob is also missing out on his musical groups and friends. None of his groups — two community bands and our church choir — are meeting.
For me, it’s not so difficult as I’ve had a feeling of being out of touch for a while. During my struggle to overcome chronic pain and then surgery, I often felt out of touch. That cut a great hole in my people time.
I had friends with whom I met for coffee or tea, and now our only contact is through phone calls or text messages. Oh, how I miss them and our in-person visits.
Our governor held a press conference this morning laying out Phase I of reopening Oregon. Believe me, if what I heard is correct, it’s going to be quite a bit longer than any of us believed or hoped in the beginning. But it isn’t the end of the world as I see it.
What I see is in the bigger picture. It’s not about ourselves, but about those with whom we make contact. There is that one person without symptoms who is a carrier of the coronavirus. He/she can infect more than one person in a day. That could mean an uptick in the number of people who contract the virus.
The lesson in the bigger picture is this. As Americans, most of us have achieved much. We are able to live a good life in a safe home located near good schools with a beautiful family. Others of us planned well and live in retirement comfortably. We have no problem buying what we want when we want it. And therein lies the problem. We’ve grown too secure, perhaps even complacent.
COVID-19 has settled among us to teach us that we must face a personal slow down. And the slow down isn’t related to contracting the virus. The slow down is and has been imposed on us by our federal, state, and local governments. Is it a punishment? No, it’s a safety measure to save lives. Maybe we can’t eat out, go to movies, plan vacations right now.
We need to be patient and life will return to a semblance of the normalcy we once knew. Patience is a hard lesson, and most of us don’t like to practice it.
Yet, if we want personal contact with others, patience is the prescription we need right now. As Mary Poppins sings:
A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way
Think of that “spoonful of sugar” as your dose of patience daily. If you can take a few minutes, call someone you know who lives alone and brighten his/her day. Write a note or send a card to someone who is always shut-in due to illness. Think about the goodness you have to share with others. Think of others and not so much about yourself.
Above all, hold out hope for the day you hear you can find your semblance of normalcy by getting in touch with others.
Today it is my privilege to host Brian Marsh, pastor of our home church, Moreland Presbyterian Church. In addition to serving the flock at Moreland, Brian is a loving husband and father, musician, poet, comforter, and, in his own words, an all-round troublemaker wherever he is.
This past Sunday Brian spoke to us via Facebook Live Stream on the topic of Known in Absence. Below is Brian’s 180-word poetic version of his message. After reading these words, I was moved to share them here.
known in Absence by Brian Marsh
whether from Spirit
but the Magic
is what my Spirit
to fill the absence
and hold me
and tell me
is gonna be
three were confronted
by the Absence
and the fear
to familiar safety
in unfamiliar space
and encountered Presence
revealed in absence
a new Way
flow from Strength
from the soil
out of supposedly
but not driving
grief and sadness
by the same Spirit
that enabled Resurrection
of our innately
as Beloved vessels
equally valued Voices
and transformed rejection
Children have a way of catching you off-guard, don’t they? Specifically, they have a way of asking the wrong question at the wrong time, literally.
The following incident happened several Easters ago. Yet, each Easter since it’s a memory I still recall with a combination of joy and trembling.
One of our choir members had brought his four-year old granddaughter with him to the early service (8:00 a.m. *yawn*). Her grandma was home preparing Easter dinner for the family. Monica, the granddaughter, and I were good buddies so her grandpa asked if she could sit with me while the choir warmed up and during the service. Not a problem!
As the service progressed, our pastor stepped forward to bring the Easter message. In it, of course, he made reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
At the words, “Jesus died on the cross…,” she turned to me and in a whisper others could hear said, “Jesus died?”
The stricken expression on her face told me I needed to quickly respond with something comforting. But what would a four-year old understand about death and resurrection? Talk about feeling put on the spot!
Quickly I asked God’s help and just as quickly received an answer.
Giving Monica my full attention and getting down on her level, I quietly told her that yes, Jesus died on the cross as a gift for us. I also told her God brought Jesus to life again.
I then indicated we needed to be quiet and encouraged her to ask Grandpa more about it once they got home.
Her response? “Amazing!”
Yes, Monica, it is amazing and stays so year after year.
Have you ever been put on the spot by a child asking similar questions? Perhaps you’ll be willing to share below if you have.
Header image attribution: Via Pixabay/no attribution required