I am not a big fan of New Year's Resolutions, myself. I like to think that I don't need a "date" to take care of business, make a change, whatever needs to be done. Yet, I know that, for a lot of people, New Year's Resolutions are at least, traditional, and sometimes even helpful.
With my hesitancy in mind, I would like to offer my one, and only, personal New Year's Resolution:
February the 3rd.
And April the 9th. July the 7th. October the 19th.
Lord, help me to be as enthused about making positive changes in my life throughout this year, long after New Year's Day has faded away, as I am today. I pray that I can maintain my commitment to You and all the things - the good and even the ugly - that you want me to do this year. I just don't want to "Drop the Ball" (sorry).
Well, I guess, since this is a Christian blog, I really should have a "Christmas" post. After all, Christmas is kind of a big deal when it comes to our faith. And I totally get that - God sending his Son to earth to be our Savior, all of that. I get it, and to say I'm grateful is an understatement. Yet, in full disclosure, I have to tell you that, personally, Easter gives me the biggest bang for my buck as a Christ follower. Jesus defeated death! Booyah! The Christian Super Bowl!
I've reflected a bit on what really strikes me, spiritually, about Christmas. And it is this ---
The virgin birth. The fact that a woman, hand-picked by God, was impregnated without having been with a man. That totally makes no sense. Scientifically impossible. Unbelievable. Certainly, the virgin birth lends to the purity of Jesus, as God could have just as easily chosen an already married woman to bring the Savior into the world. But, I think there's an even deeper insight here.
As I see it, God made the virgin birth of Jesus purposely unbelievable because our entire faith is, pretty much, unbelievable. Let's see.....
Well, first of all, God sent and sacrificed his SON. His child. I don't know about you, but I'm not sacrificing my child for anybody or anything. Unthinkable.
When God forgives our sin, He forgets it. For. gets. it. Gone. Like it never happened. Unfathomable.
The God of the universe takes the time to even care at all about us unworthy bunch of whiners. Preposterous.
Jesus lived, suffered, and died for people who treated him like crap. Irrational.
We can communicate directly with the God of the universe through prayer in Jesus' name. Unimaginable.
Suddenly, the virgin birth doesn't seem all that far-fetched. I kind of see Jesus' birth as God's way of saying, "Hang on, I'm fixin' to blow your mind".
Sometimes questions just pop into my head.
Just a brief background. If you were raised in 'old school' church, you are quite familiar with singing assigned hymns out of the hymnal during song service. Most of these hymns come with 4 verses (often referred to as "stanzas" if you're really old school).
Yet, invariably, we were always assigned to sing Verses 1, 2, and 4. Skip verse 3. Pretty much every time.
Why is that?
Do Verses 3 have something in them that is existentially 'questionable'? Something in them we don't need to know?
Has there been a study that determined that singing Verse 3 in a hymn adds nothing to the altar call response rate?
Do we skip Verse 3 in order to save time? How much more time would it really add to sing just one more verse?
I think the next time I feel ignored or excluded, I'm going to say "I'm feeling like a Verse 3".
Let me start by saying that this is not a 'ghost story'. As a Christian, I don't have any interest (or business) in ghost-hunting. But, I do think there are a couple of life 'nuggets' here. I can explain at the end.....here's the story:
My mom was a dear, sweet lady. Loving, yet quiet and reserved – a lot like me (yeah, right). She held deep religious beliefs and lived by those her whole life. My mom always encouraged me and let me know that she valued and loved me. That’s not to say that we didn’t have some awful times – ah, the teenage years – but I always knew my mom loved me and I loved her.
My mom was not much of a disciplinarian; that was left to my dad and, actually, to my grandmother who cared for me as my mom was one of the few moms working outside the home back in the 60’s (at least, in our little Midwest town, she was). On those occasions when I behaved badly, which usually involved my ‘mouth’ opposed to my fists, my mom always seemed hurt and disappointed in my behavior, rather than angry with me. She had a quiet way of scolding me in a manner that let me know she was not pleased, but also included a reminder of how “pretty” (physically? spiritually? regardless, I loved it) I was to her. She would say, “You’re too pretty to act that way”, when I had my little ‘attitude’ for not getting what I wanted. Or, she would say, “You’re too pretty to talk like that”, when I used ‘un-ladylike language’ (I never heard my mom say a cuss word in her whole life). She said this phrase with such regularity, it kind of became a joke between us. “I know, I know, mom, I’m too pretty to do that”, I’d say before she could, when I knew I had transgressed.
I miss my mom. She passed away 15 years ago from Alzheimer’s disease.
A few years ago, I was in the hospital for what I guess would be considered a pretty serious illness. Sparing all the gory details, let’s just say I was hospitalized for 6 days, tube down my throat, major surgery, lots of fun. I can remember lying in that hospital bed on about day 4 thinking, "Man, I really must be sick". My husband was a rock star, rarely left my bedside the entire time. My family members all came to see me in the hospital (my sister, upon seeing me, making a comment that I looked like !@#$ - true to our lovingly competitive relationship).
One of those hospital nights, my husband had stepped out of the room, at my encouragement, to get a bite to eat in the hospital cafeteria (yum). It was one of the first times since my admission through the ER that I was in a hospital room by myself. I lay rather lifeless and flat on my back, as I had done for many days. I didn’t have the strength to sit or stand - it would have been nearly impossible anyway, with all the tubes and wires tethering me down. Even though I was somewhat apprehensive about being alone in this now not-so-strange environment of the hospital, I felt relaxed and peaceful in my dark room with only the glow of monitors for light, and the distant and newly familiar sound of nurses and patients out in the hallway.
My husband returned to my room after only a few minutes away, apologizing for not bringing me back anything to eat (nervous humor). “You doing OK? Have any of the nurses been in to check on you while I was gone?”, he asked, leaning down to kiss me on the forehead. “No, but the lady in the bed next to mine stepped over and spoke to me” I told him, gesturing toward the curtain beside my bed that divided my hospital room into two. My husband paused, with a perplexed look on his face. “There’s nobody in the other bed. There hasn’t been another patient over there”, he informed me. “Yeah there is”, I said. “It’s an older lady with white hair. She was wearing a nightgown and she stood at the foot of my bed and spoke to me”. Thinking maybe I was mistaking one of the nurses who had come in to check on me while he was gone, my husband asked, “Well, what did the woman say?” I paused for a moment, re-envisioning my visitor, with her comforting presence and kind words. I then answered, “She said to me, You’re too pretty to be this sick”.
Was it Imagination...Hallucination...Medication? I don't know, and it doesn't matter. I learned a couple of things here:
First, we never know what we might say to someone in our life that sticks with them forever. We need to make sure what comes out of our mouth is valuable and edifying.
Secondly, I think (hope) that God does allow specific moments in our life when we can receive direct encouragement from someone we love who has left this planet ahead of us. It's not a ghost thing, but it is spiritual.
We hear a lot about the value of "quality time" spent with kids (and grandkids). And this concept fits nicely with the chaos of modern life, for sure. But, I'm thinking "quantity time" is a tad bit underrated, and here's why.
Some of the most meaningful and memorable moments I've ever had with my kids and grands have not been at an amusement park or a spectacle on ice, but in the car ride home from school when I give my advice on how to handle a bully. While sitting on the sofa watching a God-awful kids' movie and answering a million "why" questions. Or, just holding the head of a puking kid in the middle of the night.
If it weren't for "quantity time", I would've missed all this.