Thursday, December 17, 2009

Things My Mama Taught Me: An Ongoing List

My mom taught me how to:

make bread
fold an origami bird
make up a bed--hospital corners!
scramble an egg
make spaghetti
make chili
set a table
polish silver
sing alto
be a mom
do counted cross-stitch
be a friend
sew a button on
change a diaper
draw a love knot
weave a potholder
love my family
wrap a present
make a bow be continued...

Emmanuel, God with us

On December 25th, we celebrate the birth of the one many of us call Savior. Emmanuel, God with us. (That word means so much more to me now that I know Hebrew…)

God with us. It is in the form of a tiny babe, Jesus the Christ, that God came to be WITH us, and that God reminded us yet again that S/He is FOR us. It is that birth that we celebrate on Christmas Day.

For many of us, though, on most days, it’s hard to remember that God-with-us feeling. It’s hard to truly know and believe that God is, indeed with us. It is hard to believe that God does not leave us.

In Christ, God came to be a with-us-God. But then he left—or rather was taken from—this world. Those of us who are professing Christians believe that something pretty amazing happened following his death, and even now, some 2000 years later, we still claim him as Savior, Risen Lord, Prince of Peace. And for some reason, moreso at this time of year than others, Emmanuel.

God with us.


Sixteenth century mystic, writer, and reformer Teresa of Avila wrote:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

I loved these words the first time I heard them. And I have made it my challenge to BE Christ in the world in this way, as often as I can, and in as many ways as I can, fully acknowledging that on most days I don’t even come close, mind you. But truthfully, in this past year, I’ve simply not had the energy or the strength to even try. It has been all I can do to put one foot in front of the other on some days. Truthfully, even on the best days, I simply manage to hide my anger, frustration, or sadness under a bushel of busy-ness and a maybe a dash of sarcasm or cynicism.

But that doesn’t make Teresa’s words less appealing to me. It doesn’t, because over this past year, so many of YOU have been the hands and feet of Christ to me. You have been God-with-me.

You have sent cards and delivered meals.

You have given hugs and taken me to lunch.

You have stood with me as we celebrated my mom’s life in not one, but two services in which the sanctuary was packed. And you helped feed all those people so that we could visit afterwards.

You have listened to me deeply, allowing me to rant and rave and cry and laugh, maybe even all in a matter of five minutes.

You dedicated a beautiful dance to the memory of my Mom, and featured my lifeline song in it, The Wood Song.

You have shared with us your vacation homes and private retreats, allowing us to take time for our family when we couldn’t have afforded to otherwise.

You have offered gallons of wine and pounds of chocolate.

You have given me gifts to heal my soul and find strength again—a gift certificate to a spa and the gift of live music.

On December 25th, as much of the world celebrates the birth of Christ, I will be marking the sixth month since Mom’s death on June 25th. You have recognized that this Christmas will lack some of its usual merriness for us, and you have understood.

The past year would have been beyond unbearable without you. You know who you are. You have been God-with-me this year. Your eyes have looked upon me with compassion. Your feet have done good for me, your hands have blessed me.

And for that, I thank you.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Joy to the World

For over forty years, I sang Christmas hymns standing next to my mom's strong, sure alto voice. She was harmony when my range called for melody. She would often sing melody if my harmony was solid. I followed her lead when the alto part was just a bit too hard for me to carry on my own. And I loved it best when we could both sing the alto part confidently together.

Tonight, we sang Joy to the World as the closing song of the Christmas program at Rehoboth. I know the alto part for this hymn. But I couldn't do it tonight. There was no harmony for my melody. And as confident as I was with the harmony, all I could hear was the overwhelming absence of her voice beside me. As everyone around me sang of joy, of heav'n and nature singing, and of the glories of God's righteousness, I stood there silently, with tears streaming down my face.

Is it January yet?