Monday, December 19, 2011

a little holiday miracle...

Yesterday was laundry day.  Again.  I have not yet figured my way out of laundry day...  And we were going to have to wash clothes or make a trip to Walmart before our showers, so laundry day it was.

Some parts of the world don't have it so easy as simply a laundry day, so I choose to rejoice in my abundance.  But that is for another day.

Awhile back my husband, Michael, lost his ring.  Not his wedding ring - the other one.  It was his commitment ring to God.  A few years ago he was gifted a ring with a cross cut out of the center.  It was to be used as a silent reminder of his commitment to Christ.  And since that day when Michael was gifted that ring, he has worn it.  When Michael was struggling or angry with God or needing some quiet time to sort through his thoughts, he turned the cross inward.  When he felt strong enough to be a disciple of Christ working in his life, he turned the cross outward.  But every day Michael wore it.

Until recently.

Because, one day, it disappeared when he took it off to shower and get ready for work.  We looked everywhere, but we could not find his ring.  And for Michael, that was a pretty big deal.

So back to yesterday, and laundry day.  There I was sorting through the bins of dirty clothes, and I wondered why the clothes towards the bottom were burning hot.  So I pulled the bins away to look.  And the picture below is what I found.....

There was an old radiator in the baseboard that we thought did not work.  And up against that old baseboard radiator was our laundry.  And our plastic clothing bags.  And our extra bath mats.  And a painter's drop cloth - with paint on it.  And underneath this burning pile of stuff - stuff that had been melting and burning since it turned cold, stuff that had smelled, but I couldn't figure out why - was Michael's ring.  I wanted to take a picture of the ring for you, but he's wearing it and he is at work today.  It's just a normal Monday.

Could have turned out much differently, save for the miracle.  Could have been a tragic Monday instead.  See, there is a family at my boys' school who just lost everything.  Their house burned to the ground just three streets over from ours.  I bought smoke detectors, but I haven't taken the time to figure out how to attach them to an old 1940's plaster ceiling.  So this- this salvation from fire - it is a true miracle. 

I don't know why God saved us and yet our neighbors are having to rebuild their lives.  We certainly don't deserve to be saved while they suffer.  I have no answer.  But I am grateful.  And I recognize God's saving hand. 

My oldest son, Key, saw the burned pile and his first words say it all.

"Praise be to God we are okay.  Mom, Praise be to God."

Yes, Key, Praise be to God.  And thank you, God.  Thank you for guiding us to your ring.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent 2011 Week Three: Apostles Visit (and JOY)

We went home today.
Columbia home. 
Uncle Bryan and Aunt Ginny home. 
Seeing all the Hatches home.

Church of the Apostles home. 

And, oh, it felt so good to see those familial faces and feel in person those familial hugs.  We love all of our family and we miss living close enough to see them every week.  But what made it even more special was seeing genuine joy on their faces at the sight of us. 

It's honestly the mutual joy of being real together, of having life together, that makes each place home. 

What's funny is that in all of our church hopping lately, we miss the preaching and teaching of the clergy at Church of the Apostles.  So, ironically, we ended up visiting on a day that they had a guest speaker.  This guest, Wesley Hill, started talking, and he didn't sound like home.  He sounded comfortable and polished and all together, but he didn't sound like what I had come for.  I found myself looking at my husband, with me thinking, "Damn it, every Sunday we keep hearing all these smart professory people, and my husband is just soaking it all in."  I also found myself assuming that the reason God kept sending me to intellectual sermons was because He needed to talk to my husband and He needed me to sit still and be supportive.  I seriously doubted there being any purpose to today's message and me. 

But, I figured, since I was already there, I might as well try to pay attention.  I mean, I can be smart too if I want to be.

When Wesley Hill finished, the man sitting next to me abruptly got up and left immediately after the sermon and never came back.  I had been so immersed in myself and my thoughts that I started wondering if the way I had been leaning in to hear the speaker over the air conditioner had offended my neighbor in some way.  I did not consider that maybe he HAD actually listened - all the way from the beginning - to the speaker and been rattled by it or had something in his life that needed his attention. 

So, a few minutes later, when a man walked in and sat down in the seat my previous neighbor had just abandoned, I figured I should be nice.  After a few minutes I handed him my program so he could follow the rest of the service.  I explained that we would have communion.  And when he asked if he could also take communion, I explained that it was, indeed, open to all baptized people.  I also invited him the go to the altar to receive a blessing if he was not, after all, baptized. 

And this is when God laughed at me.

This sweet humble man proclaimed in the most beautiful accent (Kenyan, it turned out) that he was born again.  He was joyful to receive communion.  He then asked me what the message for the day had said, being that he was visiting for the first time and had gotten the service time wrong and missed it.  So I summarized that stranger in the pulpit's sermon.

The Kenyan, well, he quietly whispered, "Amen."

And he smiled. 

That is when I heard God's laughter.

God also whispered to me, "Welcome."

Truly, for now and maybe always, Apostles is home.

Because of our friends. 
Because of the messages we hear - even the ones delivered through the voices of the guests.   
Because when we walk in the doors, God's grace meets us. 

And most of all, because it is where I can hear God laughing. 

And that, my friend, is reason for joy.

**Coincidentally, week three of Advent stands for JOY in liturgical churches.**


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent 2011: Days 3 - 5 - It's All About the Timing

Timing is everything.  At least God's timing is.  Everything, I mean.

Back around Christmas 1985, I wanted - more than ANYTHING else - a pair of red Arabian belly dancing pajamas.  The pants flowed and moved and looked to a young girl, well, intoxicating.  I had to have them.  Needed them.  Craved them.  Could think of nothing else except those red Arabian belly dancing pajamas.

So in the weeks leading up to the B.I.G. day, I searched for them.  And I found them.  Hidden.  In the basement in a big blanket chest.  And I felt fabulous knowing that those red pajamas would be mine.

The only problem was, I had not found them under a tree on the B.I.G. day as my parents had intended.  Instead I had cheated, and by doing so, soiled the Christmas experience with a nagging, annoying, mood spoiling emotion.  Guilt.  I had messed with the timing of the gift giving.  I had taken from my parents the ability to surprise me and feel joy over making their daughter happy on the B.I.G. day.  And so I did what any good, guilt ridden, nine year old girl would do.  I faked it.  I acted surprised.  I acted as though I hadn't known that I was getting red Arabian belly dancing pajamas and that the joy on my face was R.E.A.L.  But it wasn't.  R.E.A.L.  It was forced.

I did still wear those suckers all over the place, and I did still love them, but it wasn't quite the same as it could have been.  I had shadowed, ever so slightly, the joy.

Looking back now and dealing with lots of transition and lots of decisions makes me wonder about God's timing.  I want to feel settled.  I want that dream house and that comfortable bank account and a church in an actual building that is designated as a church all seven days of the week.  I actually almost had all that.  For a little while.

Makes me want to force life's blessings like I did back when I was nine with those fabulous pajamas. And yet, I must remember the consequense of the timing.  I must turn the almosts and the not quites and I want it nows all over to Him. I must trust in His role as Father, Provider, Comforter, Teacher, Redeemer, Soul Saver, God.  I must trust and come to understand that Christmas Day will come.  Maybe on December 25th.  Maybe another time.  But on that B.I.G. day, in His perfect timing, that joy - well, it will be R.E.A.L.