God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Be Near Me Lord Jesus

When I first saw this picture of one of our little one’s praying in church, being Christmas time I couldn’t help singing:
Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever,
and love me, I pray;
Bless all the dear children
in Thy tender care,
And fit us for Heaven
to live with Thee there.
This was such a sweet picture of innocence and sweetness.  It is what we hope we are teaching our children - to spend time with God in what
seems so pure and hopeful.   As I look at our little one praying, I wonder of her thoughts and prayers.  Is she praying her dreams of the coming Christmas morning?  Is she praying the familiar comfortable words that Mom and Dad taught her to say before meals or bedtime?  Is she just still and quiet as the prayer for peace is being read?
I want this image of our little one to remain safe and whole and able to grow as God’s beloved child.  But the day after I received this precious photo, the lives of so many other little one’s were destroyed by a stranger with a gun.  Twenty children are dead and we won’t know why.  I don’t want them fit for heaven and living with Jesus.  I want them here growing up, playing, laughing, crying, getting hurt, falling in love.  During the Christmas season we don’t want to think about the killing of innocents, yet one of our Christmas stories has a very dark side.  We like to think of the joy of the coming wise men with the extravagant gifts.  These same magi brought to Herod’s attention that there is a new ruler, a shepherd king.  Herod uses this knowledge to kill every child under two.  Lives were shattered and torn apart.  As Jeremiah said:  “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled because they are no more” (Matthew 2:18).  God is crying  - as Rachel is crying - as we are crying. 
This Christmas time, as in every Christmas time, we light candles in the darkness.  We light tiny flickering flames of hope, peace, joy and love.  We light these tiny flames to remind us that in our world we sometimes find it hard to be hopeful, to believe that violence is not the last world, that sorrow will only last for a time, and that hate will not win.  We light our candles to remind ourselves that God is coming, God is always coming again into our world to light our darkness, to remind us of hope in the midst of despair, to offer us peace in the midst of violence, to offer us joy in the midst of sorrow, to offer us love in the face of hate.  Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by me forever and ever I pray.  Bless all the dear children in thy tender care.   

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chistmas, Not this Year

Not celebrate?
Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during the season?
Your tears seem to have no end?
Not celebrate?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day.
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone, for he is born this day to you.
Ann Weems, from Kneeling in Bethlehem

We turn this time of year to the celebration of Christmas - a time that for some is filled with wonder, excitement and happiness.  Children are a quiver for the arrival of Santa, cookies are being baked and carols are being sung.  Party invitations abound.  Yet, for some of us, it is difficult to celebrate Christmas to experience the joy.  You may find yourself alone without family and don’t feel like celebrating.  You may have a hard time celebrating because this is the time of year when those you loved passed away are unemployed, far from family, or worried about money.   

All of us have experienced a Christmas when it just seems to be too hard to be festive.  The first Christmas after Reed’s father and I separated, I had done all the right things.  We went to a Christmas tree farm, cut down our own tree, lugged it home and decorated.  We baked cookies and made fudge.  But it was two days before Christmas and Reed was on a plane to Arizona with his dad to visit his grandparents.  Sadness was just part of life.  On Christmas Eve, I sang with the choir for the family service; but after I got home it was hard, so I decided to attend the midnight candle light service.  I had never been before.  So there I was alone for my cousins and grandma had already headed to bed.  I got in the car and drove into town. I was feeling a little sorry for myself.  As the bell struck midnight, the service stopped and everyone began hugging each other to pass the peace and welcome in the new child.  The people who had welcomed Reed and I in were greeting me with love.  The hug from the pastor meant more than he will ever know.  The guitars started playing Joy to the world and I got it. 
I knew the joy of Christmas.   It was still hard, but God was with me.  As Barbara Brown Taylor has written, "The only condition for joy is the presence of God. Joy happens when God is present and people know it, which means that it can erupt in a depressed economy, in the middle of a war, in an intensive care waiting room."  The joy we find at Christmas is based on our experience that God is with us.  At Christmas we are meant to stop and remember that God is Emmanuel – God With Us.  Our church community can help us to rekindle our joy this Christmas.  When we sing of the glad tidings of comfort and joy, when we sing joy to the world, and sing Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.  These words we sing at Christmas give us the words we need to rekindle the joy in our hearts during the Christmas season.  These words help us to remember that God is with us always and forever.