‘It is not a time to give God our wish list.’ -A. Elaine Brown Crawford, The Lord is Our Light
It’s that time of year. We’ve been making lists and checking them twice. I made a list of books I’d like for Christmas for Megan. I’ll find out on Christmas day which books from that list she chose for me. But I made that list. They are books that I want to read (making the wish list more of a want list?).
Megan and I have talked a lot over the years about how we might “do” Christmas with our own child. We are sensitive to the fact that Christmas can and does easily become about getting. And no matter how many times we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, we know that it easier to say “Giving is better than getting,” than it is to actually do that.
I’m reminded of a high school student who decided one year at Christmas that he did not want any presents from his parents. Instead, they bought socks with that money, went to downtown Richmond and handed those socks out to the homeless.
And it reminds me of the mom who organized other moms to clean out their children’s toys before Christmas. These toys were given to a church that is in ministry with a trailer park community with children and families living well below the poverty line. These gently used toys went to families whose Christmases were light on the jolly.
One of the things that Megan and I hope to do is to create a tradition where part of our child’s Christmas present is to do a project for a charity or mission of their choosing. And not just the “lets give money to something” (though we do do that, and value that), but more than that. Let’s give out socks or let’s purchase a gift for the Angel Tree. Christmas, after all, is not about our wish lists. Christmas is about God’s wish list.
And what is on God’s wish list?
You and I are for starters.
But perhaps Jesus has something like feeding the hungry and the thirsty; welcoming the stranger; giving clothes to the naked; and visiting the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25). This is Kingdom of God kind of stuff. The kind of stuff that you and I can do.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is often referred to as theotokos. In Greek this means God-bearer, because she quite literally bore God. God’s wish list beckons and calls to us to be God-bearers in our time to be about Kingdom work.
Here are five blog posts I found interesting over the past week and might be worth pondering. These five posts are in no particular order. Read More
Here are five blog posts I found interesting over the past week and might be worth pondering. These five posts are in no particular order.
Sometime ago a new family started attending our church. They have three children, including a little girl named Rachel.
One Sunday, after church, her mother told me that during church Rachel was calling out to me, but instead of calling my name, she was saying, “Jesus.”
After visiting my grandparents (PaPa & NaNa) one day this summer, I left marveled at these two witnesses. PaPa is 92 and Nana is 87. They have lived long and fruitful lives. PaPa stationed in Europe during World War II. NaNa growing up on a farm in rural Hanover County. They raised three children, grandparented eight grandchildren and six plus great-grandchildren. With one more on the way.
This picture has been making the rounds on Facebook the past few weeks. The first picture shows what a child did to a wall. The next picture shows what the child’s mother did to that scribble.
The mother had taken a mistake and turned it into something beautiful.
A number of years ago while part of a work camp in Durham, North Carolina, I was assigned to work with a group of young people on the house of an elderly African-American woman. Before even meeting her, I was informed that she was a cancer survivor who had adopted her two granddaughters. I decided that I was not going to get to close to this woman. I was going to be there for the young people and minister to them. That, I had decided, was my purpose that week.
“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
I have sung the Gaither-penned Easter hymn Because He Lives countless times. About fourteen years ago, the hymn became deeply personal. It took on a whole new meaning when my father died on Easter Sunday, April 2001. It changed the way I understood Easter and the resurrection.
Honor your father and your mother so that your life will be long on the fertile land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12, Common English Bible)
Every Sunday my mom goes to a local nursing home to visit with her mother. Some days she knows who Mom is, some days, she’s not so sure. Some days she is warm and comforting. Other days, she is cold and violent. My grandmother suffers, as so many older adults do, from dementia. More than 5 million Americans live with the disease, in its various expressions. It is the sixth leading cause of death, and affects one in three senior citizens. (For more about dementia, visit alz.org.)
Honor as a verb means to “regard with great respect.” It is a wide range of a definition, leaving it quite open for children to find ways to honor their parents. Scholar Terence E. Fretheim suggests, as others have, that the commandment is intended for adult children. In a time and age when care for the elderly has become a major focus for some many families. Nursing homes. Social security income. Health care.
We are called to honor our aging parents.
In the Jewish tradition, age was something to respect. We too often choose to neglect those who are older than us. Like a child who thinks his parents don’t know anything, we treat older adults more like a burden than the treasures they are. This past Sunday we took a group of third through fifth graders to a local retirement home for women. We did not have the children sing and do all the traditional things children do when they visit such homes. Instead, they went around the room asked the women questions like, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?” The kids got some really awesome answers. One woman shared how she jumped out of a plane when she turned 70. Another shared about growing up in England. The women then asked the children the same question. Everyone enjoyed themselves – both children and older adults – because someone took the time to ask them about their lives and listen.
This is why Mom goes every Sunday to see her mother. Even though their relationship has not been the best, Mom has forgiven and forgives. Even though she doesn’t always know who Mom is, Mom still goes and listens. She tells her about life and bears through her mother questioning where Dad is, even though Dad has been gone now for 14 years.
To honor our parents is to care for our parents through all the stages of life.
Maya Angelou penned some amazing words around this in her poem “On Aging.”
On Aging by Maya Angelou
When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are still and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tirer don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.