I’m honored to be among In Recovery Magazine’s new bloggers. Here is a link to the piece just published at InRecoveryMagazing.net, titled, “But it’s Super Bowl Sunday!” It explores the sticky wicket that special occasions can feel rife for drinking, and how a reality check can reel us addicts back in with the truth. The truth is that the whole world doesn’t drink on Super Bowl Sunday. And the truth is that every day in recovery is the real special occasion. God bless us, everyone!
We lose the meaning of it all, in the quest to get it right. This Christmas thing is hard to fathom, under our own might.
We know that Jesus was born in a manger, We know that animals lowed nearby, We know the wise men brought him presents, We’ve all heard of the star that guided them nigh.
But stop the Christmas rush for a moment, Silence the bells and jingling sleighs, Look beyond trees and feasts and caroling, And elaborate displays.
Remember for a moment what we most often forget, Let it rest in your heart (where it’s a perfect fit!) Christmas is about a God crazy for you …
Listen …. Can you hear him pursue?
A God who became human for a time, just to be closer to you?
The Creator of the universe craving relationship, Wanting to be where you are? That small, still voice following you Like the bright Bethlehem star?
So far across the universe, yet as close as drawing breath, What could make God’s people see This love that conquers death?
God sent his son – a part of Himself – A promise he’d made long before. And so to Mary, a son was born, On a humble stable floor.
God himself poured over bones, and under fragile skin, To draw you close and know your pain, and forever conquer sin.
God made manifest in a baby boy, Who would grow to save the world. And bring them the gospel of truth and joy, His prophesy unfurled.
Hark the herald angels sing! Peace on earth, good will toward men! Do not fear, Your God is near, Even to the end.
Emmanuel – God With Us – Yeshua, God most high! The hope for everlasting life Heard in an infant’s cry.
That’s the meaning of Christmas.
Rejoice in your heart of hearts, Where God has made his home … Your heart – the manger for the savior, Filled with peace – Shalom.
“Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who was pregnant.
While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. An Event for Everyone
There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”
At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises:
Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.
As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.
Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. The sheepherders returned and let loose, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen. It turned out exactly the way they’d been told!
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
― Thomas Merton
Who are you thankful to?
On Thanksgiving, when you sit down to feast on the turkey and trimmings,do you bow your head for a moment of reverence and thank the bird for its sacrifice, the stuffing for its grain?
Who did the Pilgrims and Indians thank?
God, who provided the bird and the grain and the corn, and all the trimmings.
Thanksgiving is a unique holiday – a formal chance to be grateful for all of our blessings. How blessed are we – in America – that we have planned feasts of gratitude?
I wonder how many tables in America will be flocked by people giving a generic sentiment of gratefulness to no one in particular, mentioning what they are thankful for – but not to whom they are indebted for such favor.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful that I am not indebted to mere man-made provision for my blessings, but by a bless-or. I am thankful that our turkey and trimmings were provided by the same force that formed the earth and set the planets in motion. Grateful that the same Being who gave all of the opportunism to afford such a meal is also the being who cares deeply about the small details of my life. And of your life, too.
Thankful to God for our bounty and blessings, grateful to him that he, himself, is our portion and prize on this holiday and every other day. Honored to thank him by name.
A pulling like the moon on the tide, darkly scooting across the earth. An undercurrent of intolerance for those who love Christ, who love God. More and more there is a cultural acceptance to bash them. And at Easter time, a growling and blatant disrespect for Yeshua – Jesus – and his lifework and ministry.
Never in history has a single King elicited such passion – both adoration and loathing.
But then, never in history has a single King come to redeem not only his own subjects, but the ones who mock him.
And mock him, they have. Internet memes, social media, and other venues for popular culture may be the latest vehicles for this derision, but on this Good Friday, we mark the day of the Crown of Thorns. We mark the event in which his contemporaries intended to make a parody of him, affixing a sign to the cross that read, “King of the Jews.” The event in which an innocent man was whipped and nailed to that cross, his body in ribbons, so that he could die a sinner’s death to bridge the gap for sinners to God.
His dying retort? Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.
And now, more than 2,000 years later, why such vitriol still spewed in his direction? Why does the very idea upset this generation so … that there is a God, and that he so adores his creation that he sent his very own Son – his flesh and blood – to die for us and draw us near while we were still sinners?
Because, in this fallen world, Jesus and his resurrection are offensive.
It offends humankind that they might require atonement. It annoys them that their deeds might be construed as “sin” at all! The natural within us wills to live bound by appetites they feel justified in satisfying.
The same culture of entitlement that parlays that we are all entitled to all the good things in life, also tells us we are entitled to the not-so-good things…self-satisfaction at all costs. The world and everyone in it? Yours for the taking. It is owed to you.
Jesus offends people because – at the end of the day – they don’t believe they need any redemption at all. Which is nothing new, of course, as evidenced by the day of the Crown of Thorns.
We live in a time in which the credibility of all things mystical and paranormal are not questioned, but all things holy and divine (and by the way, plenty mystical) are treated with disdain. Like resurrection. Like eternal life.
So much noise.
I am not offended by Christ. You see, the stakes were just too high. I’ve seen in my own life that he not only rose from the tomb, but set me free from one as well. I’m not willing to bargain on this fallen world being my oyster. I’ve seen what my appetites can do. I am hungry for much more than this meager life, and living in this skin … depending on the turning of the tides – the lucks.
The mockery is not the only noise, of course. As the tide turns on the phases of discontent this Holy Week, and the enemy ups the ante in popular culture – the noise – you can hear the rolling rejoicing from believers all over the world that the grave holds no power at all!
Can you hear it?
With no cultural constraints, it will undulate forever, just as it has for 2,000-plus years.
It roars like the sea in the lives of those who follow Christ. Just under the surface (but deeper and more authentic than anything that has ever resonated in popular culture) the thunder rises, drowning out the drums of denial and mockery for the Savior.
Forgive them Father. They know not what they do.
Yeshua, KING OF KINGS! It is finished.
It sounds like an enormous stone being rolled away from crypt, grinding and roaring and echoing from the empty chamber. It sounds like life.
This letter is a gift to someone who is a gift to my life. I asked her permission to publish it, to which she responded:
“You have full permission to publish it if you want—I hope it inspires others to have real friendships like ours!”
Amen, Sister-Girlfriend. The world would be a much better place.
My sweet Melissa,
Do you remember the first Christmas that we became friends? Our daughters – now freshmen in college – were fourth-graders who had just declared themselves Best Friends Forever. I was a struggling, single mom, just having divorced my children’s father after fourteen years of marriage. My little girl was having a terrible time. I got her a good therapist, and tried to calm her fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded.
What she really needed was a very good friend. Your daughter was that very good friend to her.
It was a horrible, awful time in my life. I was working four jobs to feed my girls after being a stay-at-home mom all of their lives. They became latch-key kids. I became a hot mess from the guilt.
When we first met, I was holding on to my four-year-old sobriety by a single thread, it seemed, and living on high anxiety. You invited me over anyway when the girls were having a play-date, serving coffee (and, I’m certain) sweets. You asked questions that nobody else had bothered to ask, and didn’t judge me when I answered honestly.
Sometimes when you stop trying so hard, God makes mystical things happen. Like our friendship.
At the time, you were wary of organized religion, and I was wary of everything. But in your guest bathroom, you had a display of decorative crosses. Every time I went to the loo at your house, I thanked God for you and your kindness. I prayed that you would trust Him again, even as I struggled to trust Him myself. Yes, on the loo! I can tell you that now, all these years later.
That Christmas, I sat with all of our girls while you went on a date with your hubby. Before you departed for the evening, you gave me a pretty little wrapped gift box, and instructed me to open it when you left. I did, and it was a lovely new wallet.
When you came back home, I thanked you, and you said that I should make sure to look inside of it. Folded in the zipped compartment was a hundred-dollar bill.
“Get your girls a little something for Christmas,” you said, like it was not a big deal.
It was SUCH a big deal, Melissa, to fill the girls’ stockings that year. Such a big deal.
Little did I know that praying for you on the loo would be the least of what we would come to discuss as our friendship deepened! No subject was off-limits, no pretending to be who we were not. No pretense, all acceptance – what a wonderful foundation for a friendship.
I have to tell you, my friend, throughout the storms, you were my safe place. And always – even if there were tears – laughter was ultimately the order of the day.
We are pretty cool that way.
Over the years, we have really been through it together, have we not? With six daughters between us, holy cow – have we ever!
Teenagers and all the stupid stuff they do. Teenagers and all the awesome stuff they do.
Through a divorce and a new marriage (both mine) you were such a support. Through your steady marriage, you taught me so much.
When our husbands drive us bonkers, we have a kvetch session, and are a-okay again.
When our kids drive us bonkers, well … together, we find the strength to soldier on.
We’ve done the Mom Circuit, and weathered the “Mom, leave me alone!” syndrome.
Between us, we’ve done new careers, and unemployment.
We’ve drowned our sorrows in Queso dip at every Mexican food restaurant in town. (Cheese plays a major role in our relationship, as well it should!)
We’ve had pajama parties, and felt the betrayal of gravity (especially me….you look MAHVELOUS!) and – as we schlepped into our forties – the reward of chasing dreams and catching them, on occasion. (Or should I say, we sashay gracefully into our forties – and beyond.)
We’ve struggled with the discovery of what is out of our control (everything, essentially) and celebrated what we which we can control (keeping the faith.)
We’ve threatened to write a book together – which, incidentally is still TOTALLY happening!
Most meaningfully, when my own family members high-tailed it out of my life, you ran towards me.
You and I …. we’ve had spiritual crisises and awakenings, stumblings and triumphs. And shared with honesty every experience.
We discovered together that we are NOT orphans after all, but beloved daughters of the Most High King….princesses, really!
And that makes us sisters. Family.
Even our husbands became MFFs (Man Friends Forever…please don’t tell them I said that,) and our daughters as close as any siblings.
Family, like I said.
Your love, prayers and steadfastness have helped keep me sober. Honestly, I doubt I would have maintained it without your support.
That love….those prayers and acceptance – they have kept me from running away from home on numerous occasions (“This parenting teens thing? I QUIT!”)
In the midst of building this friendship, you had a revolution in your spirit. When God lit a fire under you, he used spiritual kerosene!
Girl, you were on FIRE, and you are still on fire! It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been witness to.
A spark from the heart of Jesus himself caught the hem of your garment, and you just had to serve Him. You served Him by helping other women, like you helped me. By genuinely loving them – fiercely. From it came additions to the sisterhood – the WAYwards – and lots of tears and laughter.
And laughter came in handy during the difficult times.
Several years ago, when I got sick, I stayed sick for nearly three years. It was another awful, dark time in my life. Chronically fatigued. Endlessly in pain. And with no answers in sight, living on high anxiety once again.
For three solid years, I fought numbness, pain, fatigue….every single day, and bitched about it plenty. My complaining and frustration had to have tested your dedication! But you listened every time, and never gave up.
You prayed for my health fervently. Sometimes, when I was in the middle of exhaustion and complaint, you would just extend your right hand toward me and pray so hard that we would both cry – even when I was right in the middle of a bitching session!
It’s hard to be hopeless when someone is that dedicated to asking God to help you.
But sometimes – when you stop trying so hard – God makes mystical things happen.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I remember telling you. And I meant it. “I can’t!”
“God can,” you said, with no judgement. More listening, more praying, more encouraging. You listened. Like a true friend, you loved fiercely, calming my fears of loss, which were pretty well-founded. “Father,” you prayed. “Please heal my friend. But even if she doesn’t get better, we praise you. We LOVE you!”
Because you see, what I really needed was a very good friend. You were – and are – that very good friend to me.
All these many years later, how many cycles have we gone through !– Distrusting organized religion, and calling on God. Trusting God, and being there for each other.
I’m so grateful for you.
Thank you for being so steady a prayer-warrior. Thank you for never, ever saying, “This friendship thing? I QUIT!”
Thank you for all the times you still give me encouragement (and chocolate) and for being my “nothing is off limits” sister.
When I think about who you are and who you’ve become, and all God has in store for you, it brings me to my knees.
When I pray for you, I ask God to take that beautiful, bright, effervescent and glorious spirit of yours and just unleash it on the world in a way that brings him glory. I pray that the same joy your spirit brings me gets unfurled on the world, and comes back on you like a tidal wave.
I never forgot the Christmas that you folded a Benjamin in the gift of a new wallet … so that I could give my daughters a Christmas. But more importantly, I never forgot that you reached out to this hot mess girl, that you went out of your way to be kind.
I never forgot that you treated my frightened, maddeningly insecure and hurting fourth-grade daughter like your own. Now a confident – gregarious, even!- young woman, she never forgot your love, either.
I love that you never stopped praying for my healing. I love your heart, that it breaks for hurting people.
I love that the most important prayer I ever learned to pray, I learned from you – “I trust you, God. I may not understand a single thing you are doing, but I trust you.”
It was a beautiful thing to do for an old friend, to teach me that prayer.
I love you with all my heart. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for being family.
I ought to be excited about this day.
Thanksgiving is over, but there are still plenty of leftovers. And the ominous Black Friday is finished, giving way to the Saturday of Awkwardness.
For me, every year, The Saturday of Awkwardness opens up the first weekend after Thanksgiving. There are still dishes from the feast in the sink, soaking and re-soaking – but nobody is really in the mood do finish scrubbing off the residue, much less start decorate for Christmas yet. Awkward Saturday is a 24-hour period in which nobody really knows what to do with themselves, and as a result – a sort of funk can settle over us. Our bellies are still too round to carry in boxes of ornaments from the garage; we light the short wicks on the leftover pumpkin-scented candles and hope they burn down in time for the Frazer fir candles to come out. We aren’t ready for real Christmas music quite yet. We are in full-fledged holiday-flux.
Speaking personally, The Saturday of Awkwardness can even be a little depressing. I am still tired from being on my feet preparing and cooking twelve meal items, but antsy about the upcoming holidays, which are looming ever closer like a bumbling turkey float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on a windy morning.
How will we afford Christmas this year, without my income? Writing about my experiences may be fulfilling in some very important ways, but Santa’s workshop does not accept blog posts as payment…not even on Pay Pal! I thought that by now I would have a paying job; it has been seven months since my last employment. Seven months since I broke my ankle that resulted in the surgery that kept me down for more time.
Write, God had said. Clearer than I’d ever heard His voice. And down for the proverbial count, I did. Now, we are approaching the commemoration of the blessed birth of His Son, and I’ve written enough to fill a horn-a-plenty, but have not even generated enough income to fill a mouse’s Christmas stocking. This does not seem to be a problem to God, although I’ve tried making Him understand that the numbers just don’t work.
And then there is the whole family angle. How will the drama play out this year? Family and Drama go together like the pilgrims and Indians who’s coming together we replicated just a couple of days ago for Thanksgiving: two very different Peoples exchanging niceties and delicious food. But just underneath the request to pass the maize pie, someone is plotting the scalping of another before the day’s end.
The Saturday of Awkwardness makes me tired; because I know that the holidays are coming like a tsunami and I do not have the energy to dodge it. So, as I poke around the house as slow as a sloth that has participated in a competitive eating event (and won): without purpose to clean, cook, wrap, and shop or decorate the thought occurs to me: The awkward Saturday may the perfect time for resting, and maybe a little songwriting.
During the holidays, we love our festive Christmas music, and Thanksgiving has it’s oven tunes about going to Grandmother’s house (and figgy pudding…you know the one). So I decided to write a couple of little carols the about Awkward Saturday time. They go a little like this: