Friday, December 20, 2013

let's stop being innkeepers

"while [mary and joseph] were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them." luke 2:6-7

my thoughts have been stewing. brewing. they've been swirling around in this head of mine, refusing to slow down, refusing to be quiet. 

it all started with a children's advent devotional. we've been reading a bible verse and an associated paragraph about the nativity story - written specifically for a child's level of understanding - each evening after dinner. december 6th's commentary was about hospitality, specifically regarding the innkeeper's lack of hospitality toward mary and joseph, which lead to jesus' birth in a stable. there is no guest room available. these words swirled together in my mind with a phrase i'd read a few days prior on momastery's blog - prepare him room.

let every heart prepare him room.

there is no guest room available.

i've let these concepts marinate for a couple weeks now. i thought god was trying to teach me about slowing down, focusing on the real meaning of christmas, not getting caught up in the spending and doing and busyness...just focusing on jesus.

don't be an innkeeper.

prepare him room. 

have you ever wondered why god chose to send his son, jesus, as a baby? 

i was at a children's birthday party recently. one of the other mothers there gave birth to a little girl six weeks ago and brought her sweet newborn to the party. every person there was oohing and awing at her adorable chubby cheeks, her tiny little hands, her puckered up lips. i got to hold her for a good while. she snuggled up into a tiny ball on my chest and i was reminded of the days when my own newborns curled up the same way. not long after i placed her back into her mama's arms i looked up to see a grandfatherly gentleman holding her. he winked at me and smiled as if to say, "ha ha i got her now." i smiled back knowingly. my own son, graham, asked what was so funny and i explained to him that "everyone loves a baby".

god is god. he was perfectly capable of designing any number of intricate plans for getting jesus to earth. he could have simply appeared as a man, a mysterious man who can do miracles. he could have been sent down from heaven in a cloud or a blinding light, like the angels tend to show up. but instead, jesus was born. he was birthed by a woman. he arrived after hours of labor. he came to earth as a precious little baby. 

just like we did. 

everyone loves a baby.

"for unto us a child is born" isaiah 9:6
"and a child will lead them" isaiah 11:6
"jesus said, i praise you, [god], because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children" matthew 11:25
"the disciples called to jesus and asked, "who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? jesus called a little child to him and placed a child among them. he said, 'i tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and whoever welcomes one such child in my name, welcomes me'" matthew 18:1-5
"jesus said, let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" matthew 19:14
"how great is the love god has lavished on us that we should be called his children!" 1 john 3:1

faith like a child.

it seems to me we all need to be a little more childlike. 

would you walk with me for a moment into the recesses of my mind? somehow i have to make you understand what's going on up in here. somehow i have to help myself figure it all out too. among my childlike faith and don't be an innkeeper and prepare him room thoughts, ugliness has crept in. it's come mostly in the form of facebook status updates and shared links. my mind has been percolating on the comments from duck dynasty's phil robertson and, more importantly to me (more sadly too), i've had to mix in my friend's and family's support of his comments. at the risk of angering those closest to me, i am here to say...

i do not share mr. robertson's viewpoint.

moreso, i don't think anyone should share mr. robertson's viewpoint.

i am a christian. meaning that i love jesus. i suppose it's safe to say i maintain "christian values". meaning that i try to live like jesus. (please note that i fail at this every single day, but i do try). i do not believe that judgement or harsh talk or opinions about how others live their lives has anything at all to do with christian values. i do not believe homosexuality should be equated to beastiality. i do not believe black people should be equated with "white trash" people. i do not believe any of it...there should not be any measuring or judging or comparing or categorizing of people, or sins of people, whatsoever.

i believe our values as christians...our stance...our commentary...should always be...

my opinion is not important. jesus loves everyone. so i love everyone. the end.

have you ever noticed - really noticed - how children see the world? they always start from a place of love. they see good in others, they find things to admire. they don't discriminate. they might notice differences between us but they don't weigh those differences on a scale of better or worse. they are fearless, unashamed to ask personal questions, to learn more about others. they are able to say "i don't know", to accept things they don't understand, to value the mystery and wonder of life. they are trusting, believing, pure. their perspectives on life, on others, always begin with love.

until we teach them otherwise.

unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

when will we stop being innkeepers? when will we stop slamming the door in people's faces? when will we stop spewing our opinions? when will we shut our mouths and open our hearts and prepare him room and see everyone as they were when they were born - as a little loved baby? when will we become like untainted children and include everyone at the table? here, you can have my seat.

the jesus storybook bible - a bible written for children (of course) - penned it so beautifully, "god loves us with a never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love". it's not a mistake that god loves every one of us with such an incredible love. it's not a mistake that he tells us it's best to be like a little child. we grown ups have a hard time comprehending such unfathomable, unexplainable things. but children don't. they simply believe. somehow they just know they are deeply, profoundly loved. and they're willing to extend that love to others.

we are five days from christmas, from celebrating the birth of a baby - a god born with flesh - who came to rescue us from ugliness.

i now think what god is trying to teach me, along with slowing down and not getting caught up in the busyness of the season, is this: this world is so twisted up and tossed out and hanging on by a thread! isn't it clear how desperately we need a rescuer? we need to be rescued from all the ugliness! we need to be saved from ourselves!

let's take these next five days to quiet down and prepare a place for baby jesus to be welcomed in. let's take time to hold the baby just a while longer, to soak up every precious coo, to allow his tiny hand to wrap around our finger, to feel the weight of him on our chest, to listen for his heart beat and take in his sweet scent. let's remember his birth and why he came.

instead of closing the door on those who need acceptance, let's shut out our own opinions and our comments and our freedoms.

let's choose to sleep in the stable and create a vacancy at the inn for someone who desperately needs it.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

a tale of two trees

last year i confessed to you my obsessive compulsive nature towards decorating our christmas tree. not long after i published that post i received an email from my aunt janet which included an idea to make future tree decorating more pleasant for everyone. once having had two young boys herself, and the longing for a beautiful tree, she described a way to incorporate both. she commented that decorating my christmas tree, taking care to hang the ornaments exactly how i see fit, can be the gift i give myself each year! she suggested asking harrison and graham to select one special ornament to hang on the tree - the very first ornaments that get hung, anywhere they want to hang them. this might be a way to honor them and include them in the decorating but then i could be free (guilt-free) to build an ornament-hanging plan around those two initial ornaments. i thought her ideas were great and would work well for our family, as opposed to what i had been doing, which was to freak out about it or just not let the boys help at all.

i have saved that email from my aunt all year. i have thought about it numerous times. i had planned to do exactly as she suggested.

but then something crazy happened.

i was not in the mood to decorate the tree. i wasn't even in the mood to get out the tree...or sort out the different branches...or put it together...none of it. my christmas spirit was running on empty.

but my boys had enough christmas spirit for us all and they wanted, needed, to put up the tree. 


and let me tell you something. it was the best christmas ever. they declared me the best mommy in the world. they worked together as a team. they were happy. they didn't fight. they had SO MUCH FUN.

do you want to see the result? here's the iphotographic evidence:

yup. they did this all by themselves. i was such a proud mama.

here's the play by play...

 i was starting to get a wee bit compulsive at this point. but i kept my mouth shut.

 i was starting to hyperventilate at this point. but i kept my mouth shut.

okay at this point i might not have been able to keep my mouth shut and i might have told graham he couldn't hang every single snowman puff ball in the same spot. so he moved one poor lonely puff ball off to the right.

 these five puff balls sure did have fun hanging out together though.

 and these six whitewithredpolkadot ornaments enjoyed being together on the front of the tree. graham likes to group the ornaments together. harrison took a more balanced approach.

i did put the bow on the top and wrapped the ribbon around. i also hung a few of my favorite ornaments, like this moose canteen from a trip to steamboat springs.

 this ski lift to remind us of our trip to crested butte.

 this royal tara porcelain ornament from my trip to ireland.

 graham's handprint ornament that he gave me last year.

i was so pleasantly surprised at the awesome job they did. i considered it a christmas miracle. 


harrison told me to turn on the lights.

and i told him there are no lights.

and he nearly cried.

people. i don't know what to say. this was not a mistake. i didn't forget the lights. i purposefully, secretively, chose not to string the lights and hoped to god they wouldn't notice. i didn't have enough christmas spirit to take the strands back and forth, weave them in and out and round and round and AAAAHHHH! so i just skipped over it.

i was this close to getting away with it too!

but when the sun set and the house got darker harrison asked "when are we going to put on the lights?" and i said "you have to put the lights on before the ornaments" and he assumed his grumpy, curlupintoaballandpout position and i honestly questioned whether or not i could just wrap a string of lights on top of everything.

but guess what i did instead...

oh yes. i clamped a light to the bottom of the tree. it cast a little glow. well, at least on the bottom 1/4th of the tree. 

in all honesty i was pretty dang proud of my ingenuity. i was patting myself on the back. high five for problem solving in a pinch!

but harrison still went to bed sad that night. 

so i did what all guilty-feeling moms would do...

the next afternoon we took all the ornaments off the tree and sorted them into piles all over living room. i dug the boxes back out from under the basement stairs, found the lights, wrapped the tree in them and let the boys hang all the ornaments again.

 here it is.

here it is all lit up.

here is the baby jesus. 

surely he prefers lying next to a softly glowing tree.

surely he is shaking his head at me and speaking to me things like...

see, they did such a lovely job decorating the tree. you don't have to be such a tyrant about it.

clearly, if you have enough ornaments it doesn't matter where you place them! it all looks the same in the end anyway!

honestly, child, why do you always have to make things harder than they need to be? couldn't you have mustered up enough of somethin to get those lights hung in the first place?

ha! a clamp light! nice try.

or probably more likely...

rachel, why do you always look for the shortcut? stop that. there is beauty in the long and narrow path. after all, it's not Christmas if you don't have the Light.