Sunday, January 05, 2014

Quoted :: Philip Yancey, Tim Keller, Max Lucado, G.K Chesterton and St. Augustine (a belated Christmas post)

“Yet as I read the birth stories about Jesus I cannot help but conclude that though the world may be tilted toward the rich and powerful, God is tilted toward the underdog.” Philip Yancey

"Christmas shows us that God is not just concerned about spiritual problems but physical problems too...because Jesus Himself is not just a spirit but also has a body, the gift of Christmas is a passion for justice."  Tim Keller

"He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. God tapped humanity on its collective shoulder. 'Pardon me, ' he said, and eternity interrupted time, divinity interrupted carnality, and heaven interrupted the earth in the form of a baby. Christianity was born in one big heavenly interruption." Max Lucado

"Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox; that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home."
G.K. Chesterton

"He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in a manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute."  St. Augustine

One Word

Last year was the first year that I joined some of my favourite bloggers in choosing a word (check out the movement - yes, it's actually a movement - at oneword365. It's pretty cool), instead of resolutions, to define the new year. The idea struck me as brilliant, really. A compromise between the a-type, goal setting personality part of me and the part of me that recognizes the wisdom of bigger picture themes and mindsets. The part of me that needs more grace than {failed} resolutions seem to allow for.

When I chose the word thrive, I had no idea how much that would change and shape my thoughts and perspectives...and how much I would need that.  2012 had been a difficult year. A year I felt that I simply trudged through and survived. I entered 2013 wanting something more than mere survival. I wanted to thrive. It’s amazing how one word can conjure up such deep, rich images. I saw rich, green plants coming out of parched earth, sipping up the water and reaching for the sunlight, growing, stretching and thriving, even in some of the harshest of conditions. In my mind’s eye, the pictures are optimistic, hopeful and alive. Little did I know how much I would need that kind of optimism. Little did I know what life would throw at us.

The truth is, in hindsight, our year was marked by loss.

Loss of my grandfather.
Loss of relationship with my husband’s children...who by choice, in my heart, are our children.
Loss of my sweet husband’s job.
Loss of health and subsequential loss of dietary freedom and some food favourites.
Loss of financial security...through some things truly out of our control.
Loss of stability.
Loss of the illusion of truly is only an illusion, isn’t it?
Loss of hope...almost...but not quite.

I know that's the not the complete list either. We all know what's under the tip of the iceberg, right?

It was the kind of year that could almost make you want to curl up on the floor in a turtle.

And still, it seems, at least, that we have done more than survive. We have grown, we have changed, we have been formed by the curve balls of life and our reactions to them, we have made (or at least tried to make) wise decisions, and we have kept the big picture in mind. We tried to keep our eyes looking up and ahead. We have made the intentional choice to look for the things that are good, the gifts we have been given, and we have held on to each other. We have attempted to thrive in an environment that was certainly not conducive to it. From the outside, it may have looked a lot like survival but, somehow, from the inside, it felt different.

That said, I have never felt so ready for the turning of a new year. I am glad to be rid of 2013. Something in me breathed a sigh of relief when the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve. Out with the old and in with the new. There was something tangible to a new year this year that I have never felt before.  This year can, and will, be different.

Now it’s January 5 and I find myself still prayerfully musing over what word to choose for 2014. Something to capture what I hope for, to capture the message that New Year’s sigh conveyed.

I’m ready for a new thing. I’m ready for peace and quiet and rest. I’m ready to renew and be renewed.

Do you feel that? Renew?

The sigh echoes in my soul with that one word and I know it speaks deep and true.

There’s an image of green again for me with that one word. Or perhaps of a turning from brown to green. I remember as kid on the farm, we looked forward to the harvest. That was the goal of each season of planting and tending...the harvest...and so it seemed to defy reason to put a field into summer fallow. Into rest. Out of production. And yet there is the wisdom of the ages, of biblical truth, even, in that practice. To continue to plant in the same land over and over would deplete the land of the moisture and nutrients it needs to be productive. The energy and resources diminish with each crop that is grown. Giving it a season off allows it to be refreshed. It also allows for additional time for residue from previous crops to break down and replenish the soil, bringing back nutrients so desperately needed for subsequent crops. In short, it allows the ground to renew.

Part of me feels some fear in front loading a year with expectation after what seems like so many difficult ones. Like maybe, even though it's not a list of resolutions, I'm setting myself up for disappointment. Then I think of last year and how much the perspective change of one word changed me and I know it's good. I think of how much I long for a chance for a full stop, a moment to take a deep breath, to pull us back together and start again, one baby step in front of another. To start fresh. I think of how much I need...NEED... to be refilled. I feel like there is not an ounce of energy or emotional reserve left to deal with any more crisis, change or loss. I feel dried out, burned out and exhausted. There are so few tears left to be cried. Old habits, positive habits, long forgotten need to be restored. Like the fields, I need to be renewed before any sort of fruitfulness can occur. Perhaps, then, it is need producing hope. It's the words of scripture, like God's promises about sabbath for everything from the land to slaves to entire communities (you know, it's probably been 6 years of "hard" for both of us in this house...hmm...time for Sabbath, you suppose?) that come to mind and bring confidence.

It's another image, of prophecy, that allows my soul to sigh deep and long again and allows the hope of my one word to settle. Of dry bones restored.  

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’"   

Ezekiel 37:1-14

And so it is that these dry bones can be filled by the Spirit, hope can be restored and a life scarred by change and loss can be renewed. I know it to be true.

It's not just blind hope, waiting for something to be done to me or for me. Already the beginnings of some tangible things are taking shape. Small things, but a start, none the less.

Welcome to 2014.

*Leviticus 25:1-5  The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai,  “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the Lord.  For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops.  But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.  Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest