Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The View From There

What must He be thinking, from there? As He looks down on his beloved creation stuck in traffic, wrapping furiously, charging beyond their means, what does He think? Is He disappointed? Is He sad? Does anger burn within?

Does He look within us more than He looks at us, and does He see that the chaos our behavior shows only mirrors the chaos that our hearts cry?

More than $2 billion worldwide will be spent on wrapping paper this year. Wrapping paper. Millions of people are starving, going to bed without food, yet we celebrate the birth of the Bread of Life by spending billions on wrapping paper. It makes no sense.

He came to earth, the cause of our celebration, and said things like, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth..." Yet we shop until the shelves are empty and our houses are full and our accounts are drained.

He said, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Yet we leave the orphans in their orphanages and the widows in their empty homes and stain ourselves with the merchandise being panned by the world.

He taught, and we ignore. 

He taught, and we justify. 

He taught, and we continue to do what we want anyway.

What, I wonder, will it take for His followers to obey? To remember that we celebrate the Sacrifice and that doing so does not require us to sacrifice months of paychecks? 

Could we celebrate Christmas with not one gift inscribed with our name? Would Christmas still be Christmas without the parties and baking and shopping and wrapping? Would Christmas be even better if we said no to how the world insists it be celebrated?

What if every believer spent his Christmas budget on caring for the least of these? Spent money on the hungry and homeless and hurting instead of the hype? What if?

When we are urged to be aliens and strangers and to abstain from sinful desires, are times like these what Peter had in mind? Has the celebration of our Savior become sinful instead of sacred?

The Lord Himself says, "If you love me, obey my commandments." Is it really that simple? Why do we complicate it so?

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Large Part of the Battle

Some days, I think my greatest talent is believing Satan's lies. It comes so naturally to me, happening with no conscious thought and requiring no effort. I have never had to work at it, never needed to force myself to hear his whispers.

His quiet, condemning statements are directed at me constantly, from the moment my eyes open in the dawn to the last moments of consciousness in the dark. Often they come out of nowhere, and I am blindsided by their presence.

"You're not good at that, you know."

"You'll never have the time or money to really pursue your passion."

"You're not pretty enough."

"You're not enough."

"You'll always be left out."

"You obviously have nothing to contribute."

"They don't include you on purpose."

He whispers in my ear that my efforts will fall short, my feelings deserve to be hurt, my life is insignificant.

He whispers, and I listen. Not every time, of course, but enough to matter. I listen to him the most when I'm with Jesus the least.

And the truth of the matter is he's right. Without Jesus. Without Jesus, I am not enough. My life will be insignificant. My passion will be unfulfilled.

Satan's lies, without Jesus, are truth.

But with Him, they are just lies. They are words with no truth to give them any weight, and they are words I can choose to reject.

Just today, Satan began to whisper to me, telling me what he wants me to believe in an area of my life where I am particularly vulnerable. And as I type, I am struggling to reject his words and to choose to believe truth. Believe me when I say it is a struggle, though. It is such a hard one. I have that cry-avoiding lump in my throat as I am typing these words, forcing myself to give reality to the emotions I wish I didn't have. That's a large part of the battle, isn't it? Admitting that there is one? Friends, there is. There is a battle in this girl's life daily to believe I can be - and can do - something of worth. To believe that I am of worth.

We each live in a battle zone, and I fear that we lose skirmishes unnecessarily because we forget that we can win. That He has won. We lose when we react defensively instead of fighting proactively.

This afternoon, I resolve to fight - and to win - this particular battle. I'm sure there will be more, perhaps even today. But I will not go down without a fight and will not lose what is mine to win. I will fight. And I will win.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Go Ahead with Your Bad Self

My sweet little first grader just had her Christmas program at school, and it was Precious. The capital letter is on purpose there, because those crazy little kids were so cute with their missing teeth and gangly legs that I could have fainted from the sheer amount of adorable-ness in that cafeteria.

(BTW - [see how hip I am there with the abbreviation? Mom, it means "by the way."] - this is NOT how she normally goes to school. Eyeliner and lip gloss are for special occasions only, like when your class is supposed to look like rock stars.)

I'm telling you. Six year olds dressed as penguins and Christmas trees and rock stars will make you grin like a Cheshire cat and simultaneously thank your lucky stars you don't teach six year olds who have to dress as penguins and Christmas trees and rock stars.  They were adorable.

But y'all.

The parents.

I have never.

As the program began, the noise level in the cafeteria lessened slightly from its pre-performance roar, but allow me to exaggerate the word SLIGHTLY. There were some loud folks up in there. People behind me were carrying on a full-fledged conversation in normal conversational tones with ZERO attempt to hush their voices. At one point I looked at my husband and whispered (because I have some decorum), "My teacher-self is about to GO NUTS."

All over the cafeteria there were people who seemed not to care one iota that children - including their own! - were performing a program that had taken weeks of practice, coordination, and planning. These people stood up in the middle of the performance, held iPhones in front of others' faces to capture shots, scooted chairs across linoleum floors that magnify sounds, and spoke - loudly - to their brother's friend's grandma about Lord knows what.

And then, my favorite part of the night.

Mrs. Music Lady, she who had practiced with the children and was trying her best to keep the program going despite the redneckery that was filling the dining hall, stopped. And stood up. And preached.

She let them have it. She said that in 34 years, she had never had to stop a performance, but these children had worked too hard to have their songs go unheard by people who were supposed to know better.

She scared me, and I fell in love with her. I was so proud that for once, someone in education stood up and said, "STOP IT. You should know better."

I wanted to hoop and holler and do that weird arm motion that Arsenio Hall did.

But I refrained.

That night solidified for me, as a teacher, why we have 96% of the problems we do in education. The trees from which the apples fall. The parental units.

Jim Trelease says, "In one school year a child spends 7800 hours at home and 900 hours at school. Which teacher should be held the most accountable?"

I think I know.