SEE, CARE, AND ACT

Frozen_lake_warning_sign_3599By Lisa Huddleston

Two teen-aged girls walked along the icy shore of the just-beginning-to-thaw Michigan lake. They probably were talking about boys they liked or other girls in their class or their families or something ordinary to their lives. They both wore long midi-coats made of plaid wool (popular in the 70’s) and furry mittens and boots and hats. And they thought it was just an ordinary day as they walked and talked.

And it really was just that until they saw the large dog struggling to climb out of the hole he had made in the icy surface of the lake. The dog was a big chow, and he bobbed up and down in the water almost lifting his body onto the ice only to break through again and sink below the surface. The panic showed in his face, and his desperation was palpable.

Without much thought, one girl left the other and foolishly ran onto the fragile ice heading straight for the tiring dog. And, of course, seconds later she found herself over her head in the freezing water, her long, heavy coat weighing her down as now both she and the dog worked together to break a pathway to the shoreline. Bouncing off the lake’s bottom up to breathe and break ice and fall under again. Flailing woolen hands and wounded paws and pounding away the ice that finally gave way to make way for both the foolish girl and the frantic dog.

The friend who had remained frozen on the shore screamed to offer moral support or to summon help or just to voice her fear. But the girl couldn’t hear anything, but her own heart and her gasps and the splashing of the dog.

Today my pastor preached a good sermon reminding us of God’s faithfulness in the past and His promise for the future. And he prayed three prayers for our congregation:

1. An attentive faith that desires to see as God sees.

2. A passionate faith that seeks to honor God.

3. A courageous faith in the utter trustworthiness of God.

And I remembered that day on the lake. I wonder if I still have the eyes to see those who are perishing? Do I still have the passion to put their rescue first? Am I still courageous (or maybe foolish) enough to trust God with whatever task is given to me despite the risk to my safety? I suppose only time will tell.

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QUESTIONS AREN’T THE BOGEY MAN (FEAR NOT!)

The Doubt of St. Thomas

The Doubt of St. Thomas

By Lisa Huddleston

What is it about questions that gets usually good people so worked up? You know, questions like why is gluttony the one sin no one wants to condemn? Or why do people often turn into self-righteous jerks when they become “believers”? Or why do we (afore mentioned believers) follow some “rules” of the Old Testament and not all? Oh, there are many more, but I’m sure you get the picture by now.

I have a young friend who has been asking these and other very good questions, and in return for her certainty that God is big enough to answer any questions she, or anyone else for that matter, may ask has been condemned and accused of being a non-believer. It makes me weep.

And so I have a few questions of my own. In what or whom are we believing? Is it in the “historical church”? Is it in the “foundational truths of our denomination”? Is it in tradition or safety or the status quo? Is it in anything that doesn’t require us to change what we know we know? Are we afraid that if we change just one of our beliefs that the whole system just may unravel like a pull in an old sweater?

God is big enough! Big enough for questions and new ideas and mistakes and half-truths that lead to whole ones and doubters and even (though it pains me to write this) arrogant know-it-alls. God is big enough for us all!

Baruch haShem.

LESS, LESS, LESS

Merry Christmas

By Lisa Huddleston

Whew! Almost all the Christmas decorations have been put back in their basement hideaways and what I could remember of the usual decorations are back in their places. Do you forget what was on the mantle and the coffee table and so on? I do. Oh well. Things are looking more normal, and I am glad.

Some things went great this year. I was glad to simplify our decorations and didn’t miss the Christmas tree at all–even though there were many ugly remarks made at the family party. Too bad. I may do even less for next year. God knows.

Other things were a little more chaotic, but we live and we learn. Next year? Maybe a sister/mother luncheon? A cousins who want to get together party? A little less stress and food and gifts and more time together to visit and really talk to people. Ah … sounds lovely.

Another change? More focus on Jesus, His love, His grace, His mercy. Less judgment, less criticism, less preaching. Ah … that also sounds lovely.

So tonight I will rest well in my newly–if oddly–redecorated house. And in my new plans for comfort and joy. To all a good night.

SOME WERE WAITING

By Lisa Huddleston (reprint)

Waiting?

Some were waiting

the day he arrived.

They had been waiting

for years,

for months,

forever.

 

The aging prophets

looking with milky eyes

to see

the light of revelation.

A he and a she.

Both waiting

to behold

the Hope of the nations.

 

The young couple

newly wed yet still apart.

Waiting for

her son,

their son,

their Savior.

 

And the hosts of Heaven

waited, too,

to announce his birth

with glory.

And he was here!

Wrapped in human skin

and cloth

and laid in a manger.

 

Some did not expect him.

They had no room in the inn.

They struggled to stay awake

as they dozed over their sheep.

They had their own children to birth

and their own dreams to nurse.

 

Yet he came just the same,

unexpected but not unannounced.

 

For those who waited,

joy burst forth in praise.

“My soul magnifies the Lord!”

“My eyes have seen your salvation!”

And their hope was fulfilled.

 

The rest were surprised

and afraid.

“Fear not, for behold!”

This Good News was

for all the people!

 

For those watching sheep

and for those watching stars.

For old prophets and young infants

yet to open their eyes.

For those he would call,

for those he would heal,

and for those he came to set free.

Even for those who had no idea that he had come at all.

 

This gift.

This Savior.

This Jesus.

 

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those

with whom he is pleased!”

THE CHRISTMAS PARTY POOPER

Sweet, crocheted snowman from a dear coworker.

Crocheted snowman from a dear coworker for whom I did not bring a gift. (Btw, this is actually a toilet paper cozy! Perfect gift for a party ‘pooper!’)

By Lisa Huddleston

I have cleaned the kitchen, folded another load of laundry, and made a pot of coffee since returning from the Adult Learning Center’s Christmas brunch. Now I am drinking the above-mentioned coffee and wasting time on the computer in order to recover some equilibrium in my soul. Parties wear me out!

This morning’s gathering was especially trying as I only really sorta kinda knew the people who are physically in the class I work with. The rest I greet upon entering and exiting the building, but I wouldn’t say I really know them. And small talk with people I don’t know is exhausting. Also many of these folks brought gifts! I know that bringing gifts to a  Christmas party is not really surprising–but some of them were for me! Who knew? Oy. So awkward.

So I stood in line with the rest as we harvested food onto our festive plates from the buffet displayed on classroom tables, and then I found an isolated seat on the stairs–strategic as I could see the whole room and overlook the pained conversation without actually having to participate in it. Waiting a few minutes after consuming my food for the sake of manners, I then stealthily wove my way down the stairs and into the office where I had stashed my purse. Planning to make my get-away, I found several teachers gathered in the front office so I paused for just a few more minutes to exchange more stiff but well-meaning chit chat.

It is funny to observe the differences in people. Some (those holly jolly extroverts)  had a wonderful time today. They brought sweet gifts and cards and asked everyone about their plans for the holiday break–and really cared about the responses. They may still be there, for all I know, visiting and hugging and laughing. Others, tight-lipped introverts like me, silently smiled and answered when addressed, slipping away as soon as it was possible to do so without being too rude.

The food was excellent, the sentiments warm and heartfelt, and the efforts deeply appreciated. Truly, it was a very, very nice party–and it was exhausting.

Now Merry Christmas to all and to all a good nap!

CROWDED BY CHRISTMAS

By Lisa Huddleston

Making room on the love seat.

Making room on the love seat.

What is it about this time of year that always brings tears to my eyes? Try as I may to be joyful, the nostalgia always gets the better of me. Always. And it really makes me sad. (Maybe it does that to others, too, accounting for the lovely, haunting, minor keys of so many of my favorite Christmas songs.)

This morning I saw clips from a long-ago Christmas episode of “I Love Lucy” and almost choked on the sadness I felt. Why? What is my problem? Christmas is a happy time. “I Love Lucy” was a comedy! My brain knows that, but my heart feels tugged into melancholy, and I can’t seem to fight against the tow.

Sweet memories and sweet babies.

Sweet memories and sweet babies.

My youngest cousin’s “Throwback Thursday” pic of my long-deceased and dearly-loved grandparents. Framed photos of my young children tentatively balanced on Santa’s lap. These treasured pictures I almost left in the basement this year along with the rubber tubs of carefully wrapped decorations and beautiful lights and even the two Christmas trees I decided to forego and replace with more subtle and less space-consuming reminders. The more muted nativity scenes, the natural beauty of the woods–these I have allowed. The pictures of the kids and some Santas here and there are okay. But I just can’t handle the crowded, the gaudy, and the obtrusive.

So I do what I must. I plan menus and feed those who gather and whom I truly, dearly love. And I try to leave room for normalcy–some sense of today and not just of memories. Room where the Christmas tree used to block my path. Room for the carefully preserved photographs on my cleared countertops. And room for the tears that come in spite of my best efforts.

Christmas just does that to me. And I have to make room the best ways I can.

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7).

HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND MERRY CHRISTMAS

By Lisa Huddleston

I know I’ve written about this topic before–heck, I’ve been writing this blog for so long that I’ve probably written about just about everything–but I just can’t let it go without addressing it again.

What is IT? The over-hyped issue of saying “Merry Christmas.” Naturally, being a believer that God came to this planet as a baby wrapped in flesh his parents named Jesus, I do not have any problem with this greeting. But I do have a problem when others who also call themselves believers use the words to assault people who do not agree with them.

In case you’ve missed what I’m talking about (as if that is possible) here is an example of something I saw posted on social media recently:

They'll know we are Christians by our love?

They’ll know we are Christians by our love?

Wow! Nothing says, “Jesus loves you” like deliberately offending someone who doesn’t believe in Him anyway. I know, you think it’s your right to say, “Merry Christmas!” And, of course, it is.

But Jesus had more than a few things to say about putting our rights before the redemption of others. Things like “turn the other cheek” and “give him your cloak also.” And in writing about Jesus, the Apostle Paul said that Jesus, although equal to God himself, did not cling to his rights but rather poured them out so that we could be saved. Not to be served but to serve.

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). And I’ll try to do the same. Baruch haShem.