Monday, December 24, 2012

Some people get presents under their Christmas tree.

Me? I get a family of 5. 4 children under 8 and their mother sleep on the couches and on mattresses laid out on the living room floor.

It's 5:30 am and I find a place to squeeze in between the pile of children and blankets and attempt to have some "quiet time" by the light of the Christmas tree. I am distracted. Her kids all have a cough and they breathe heavily and toss and turn all around me. Her chest heaves and a small moan escapes her lips. The rain pounds loudly on the tin roof and we need this rain so I try to be thankful for it. I dream for her future. I dream that she'll live. I fleetingly wonder if there are relative who will raise this brood of young ones if she doesn't.

I wonder what their future will hold. I wonder what this day will hold. I watch their chests move up and down and hear my precious ones begin to stir in the other room, and I wonder if I can so it again today, the 17 children and the sick and the broken and those who will come for dinner and just all of these lives with all of their needs. The house is all a-twinkle, and I remind myself of all God's promises fulfilled in a baby and breathe it deep, Grace.

And I am so thankful that Jesus meets us in these squished places. In the stretched places. In-the-squeezed-between-the-tree-and-the-kids moments, in the desperate-for-quiet-on-the-bathroom-floor-because-everywhere-else-is-full moments.

I read Luke. I think of Bethlehem and how it had no room, and I think of how His parents squeezed between the animals to place Him in a feeding trough. The shepherds gazed in wonder but Mary held all this wonder in the silence of her heart. I bet she dreamed of His future. I bet it was muddy and loud in there, but the sky was all a-twinkle with the light of that star, the heavens bursting with joy at God's promises all fulfilled, Grace.

I look around and know: this is what He came for. The King of the universe who created all things, even life itself, clothed in splendor, took off His royal robes, laid aside His crown and squeezed all of the fullness of God into the womb of a woman and then into swaddling clothes in a manger.

He calls my name right here and how I long to recognize Him here, right here.

The squished places and the stretched places, the moments that are loud and messy and uncertain, this is what He came for. The heartaches and the doubt and the wounds that our sin carves deep, that's why He is here. And all this life hanging in the dark of the morning, isn't this why we wait, why we celebrate? Isn't this why we light up the candles and the tree and the house and say with all the longing in our hearts, "Come, Lord Jesus"?

Come, Lord Jesus.

This morning in the dark, in the rain, in whatever mess or squished place or heartache you find yourself in, all God's promises are Yes and Amen, and we can rejoice in thanksgiving! The Savior is here with us, Grace.

His promise is Yes to you, friends. "Yes, I have come, and Yes, I am coming. Yes, I am with you always, even to the very end of the age."

I pray that you'll recognize His handprints all over your day today.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me 
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn.
To grant to those who mourn in Zion - 
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning;
the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair, 
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair cities,
the devastations of many generations.

Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks'
foreigners shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers,
but you shall be called priests of the Lord;
they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God;
you shall eat the wealth of nations,
and in their glory you shall boast.
Instead of shame, there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portions;
they shall have everlasting joy.

For I the Lord love justice;
I hate robbery and iniquity;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their offspring shall be known among the nations,
and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;
al who see them shall acknowledge them,
that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
mys soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with garments of salvation;
He has covered me in the robe of righteousness.
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a brie adorns herself with jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts.
and as a garden causes what is sown in ti to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all nations.

Isaiah 61

Oh, how He has loved us! Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"So these are your treatment options..." I choke back a sob and let my voice trail off. How do I present a 30 year old mother of 5 with the fact that we've already done all we can do? "...I will support you, whatever you choose." I turn so she doesn't see me blink back the tears.

"For me, I would like to choose life." The words are steady, certain. "My children are still so young. I would like to live."

I choke with all the times I have taken this breath in my lungs for granted. The tears burn hot but I try not to let them fall. Not yet. Its not over yet. Yes, dear friend, oh yes, how I want you to live.

There are days we stare death in the face around here. Sometimes the right diet and medication just isn't enough and the heart pumps too hard and the chest heaves for breath and we see it coming. Other times we blink and a life is gone. Sometimes friends cling tightly to life and are given a miraculous second chance. Other times they cling to my hand as I whisper that Jesus is right on the other side and they slip away to be with Him. I feel it coming, but I don't want to. I watch her smile at her children and I can't help but hope. I know the God who works miracles, the One who calls things that are not as though they were. I know Him, and I can't help but ask it, "Oh Lord, might she live?"

I think of a few men carrying their paralyzed friend on a mat, desperate to lay him at the feet of Jesus. I think of how cumbersome it must have been to try to get him up on that roof, how difficult it must have been to remove the tiles so they could lower him down through the ceiling to the Lord, into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus (Luke 5:17-25). I think I know the desperation they must have felt, the urgency to get him there. I remember that because of the faith of the men, Jesus forgave their friend's sin, and for His glory alone, He healed that man's legs as well, told him to get up and walk.

I know this God.

And I, too, want to choose life.
And even when I have seen one too many die of this horrible, life-sucking disease we call AIDS, I want to choose to fight. And even when temptation and despair is overwhelming, I want to choose hope. And even when man's sin and depravity threaten to be all consuming, I want to choose the victory that is in Christ Jesus.

I want to choose Life.

I know the prognosis. I read the reports and the chest x-rays and the liver panel and I knew the doctor's speech before he gave it, that the antiretrovirals meant to save her life were tearing her stomach apart and that 80 pounds is just too small for a woman of five and a half feet. I know what the world says.

But she would like to live. And I know the Life-Giver.

I want to show her. I want to show her how we hope against hope, believe against all the impossible that He who died to give us life is making all things beautiful and perfect. I want to show her the One who is Life and how we know that His ways are better and higher and that He is working all things for our good, but still we can ask for a miracle; we beg for it.

I clasp her hand and I close my eyes and tonight I want to bring her into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. I tuck them all in and I hand her a glass of milk with her medicine and we watch her children's chests rise and fall with sleep on these mattresses all over the floor as hers heaves hard for each breath.

I know the Life-Giver. So tonight I lower my friend Katherine through the roof. I beg on her behalf, on the behalf of her children that she might know Him more and that for His glory alone He might heal her, call her to get up and walk.

Would you join me?