Christmas Card

(This is a previous post, but it’s just worth reposting every year . . . )

I don’t usually post Christmas music videos before Christmas.  (Trying to keep Advent Advent.)  But this one is special.  And it’s for all of you who are having a hard time during this Advent season, finding it hard to be joyful like all of those around you.  This one’s for you (from Steven Curtis Chapman).

And here’s his story behind the song.

Now, go back and listen to the song again, written just for you.

“When you can’t find the Merry in your Christmas”

When You Can’t Find the Merry in Your Christmas

It’s here whether we like it or not—Christmas.

For many this season is filled with the fullness of family togetherness. The turkey with all the trimmings. It is the time for unwrapping the red-ribbon-gift we placed first on our list. It is the season of sparkly lights and the steady fragrance of evergreen. Cut trees dressed and centered in our homes displaying ornamented memories and present day mementos of our own Christmas present and pasts.

For others—like us— it will be the first without our most cherished loved one (R.I.P Dad Brown). It is the season of skipping to pay the rent in order to afford to put something under the Christmas tree. The homeless among us will seek to find a warmer cover, an even hotter cup to grip away the cruelty of the cold.

Christmas can fill you with joy and wonder and Christmas can make you feel marginalized and alone.

I’ll never forget the Christmas Mommy and I were all set and packed to visit my Grandmother Patricia in Kalamazoo, Michigan for the last time. It would be the last time because cancer… well,  cancer said so. “Gabby” had battled hard and surrendered even stronger to the fight. She was still trying to hold on for us though. Mommy and I had our tickets ready on the dining room table. We were sad but excited to have the opportunity to say our final good-bye. We were flying out of Portland bright and early the following morning, but we didn’t make it in time.

Just a few hours before “the call” I sat in our family living room, wrapped in the strong arms of my brand new fiancée. My then boyfriend of two years had popped the question and presented the ring on Christmas Eve. The same ring I was staring at when down the hall I heard my mother scream. Her daughter-griefed-weeping followed, and I knew Gabby was gone.

The sparkle of my new ring and the glare from my streaming tears were both there at that moment, right there at the same time.

Christmas can give you your most desired longing, and it can deliver your greatest heartbreak.

This season, once again I feel like I’m holding a little bit of both possibility and grief. Possibility in that this same Jewish baby Jesus who made His way through oppression, homelessness and rejection will continue to find rescue, covering and favor for me. Grief in knowing that I can’t control the timing of death, the depths and disgust of man’s broken humanity or the schemes and snares of our raging enemy.

But like my ring and my tears I will continue to hold both. This tension of both possibility and grief are calling forth a deeper vulnerability in me, a deeper desperation to both be cherished and rescued.

This Christmas I am desperate to find true meaning in both the unwrapping and the grabbing hold of our Immanuel—God with us, God with me. I’m being drawn to get closer to the Christ child and not Christmas, the holiday. You don’t have to find the “merry” in your Christmas if it’s not there. Just draw near to Him.

Jesus of our possibilities.

Jesus acquainted with our grief.

Jesus of Christmas who knows each of us—that Baby from the manger who knew just how to “be.”

Originally published here.

Bleak winters.

Witnesses to Hope

“In the lives of those who believe and pray, there are bleak winters of the spirit.  We seem to go along well for a while in prayer and relationships and life generally, but from time to time we disintegrate.  It is very painful.  You may suspect that this will prove to be a creative disintegration, that God is re-creating you, putting you together in the likeness of his Son at a new and deeper level.  Certainly this does happen: growth is not easy; there is a probably distressing period for the caterpillar on the way to butterflyhood.  We are all participants in this experience from time to time, and a chrysalis needs sympathetic understanding, so we should be gentle and patient with ourselves, as with others.  Nevertheless, they are hard to live through, these winters of the spirit.  When you know yourself to be sterile, helpless, unable to deal creatively…

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Preparing the Heart: Blossoming for Him

Barnstorming

snowygrasses

cloudmountainfreeze

He who has come to men
dwells where we cannot tell
nor sight reveal him,
until the hour has struck
when the small heart does break
with hunger for him;

those who do merit least,
those whom no tongue does praise
the first to know him,
and on the face of the earth
the poorest village street
blossoming for him.
~Jane Tyson Clement

snowyfarm

In the somber dark
of a reluctant near-solstice morning,
when there seems no hope for sun or warmth,
I hunger for comfort, knowing
there is solace only He can bring.

He calls me forth from where I have hidden,
buried face down in the troubles of the world,
hiding amid my quilt and pillows,
fearing the news of the day.

Only God can glue together
what evil shatters.
He just asks us to hand Him
the pieces of our broken hearts.

If I grab hold His offered…

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Queen of Craftsmen: An Advent Song

Witnesses to Hope

Queen of Craftsmen: An Advent Song

Blow on, exquisite blow,
The crystal hammers of her love,
Fasten the careful joinings of His bones.
Prophets have sung this craft:
How man may number
These bones, but never break any one of them.

What blueprint guides you, Queen of architects,
To trace sure paths for wandering veins
That run Redemption’s wine?

Who dipped your brush, young artist, so to tint
The eyes and lips of God? Where did you learn
To spin such silk of hair, and expertly
Pull sinew, wind this Heart to tick our mercy?

Thrones, Powers, fall down, worshipping your craft
Whom we, for want of better word, shall call
Most beautiful of all the sons of men.

Worker in motherhood, take our splintery songs,
Who witness What you make in litanies:
Queen of craftsman, pray for us who wait.

Mother Mary Francis, P.C.C.

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