Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Christmas Truce

Picture from The Illustrated London News of January 9, 1915: "British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: 
A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches" (photo source: wikipedia)

It was the winter of 1914. World War 1, which had been predicted to be a short-lived war, was now raging on in it’s 5th month. On the battlefields of Flanders, a northern region of Belgium, one of the most unusual events in all of human history took place. The Germans had been engaged in a fierce battle with the British and French. Both sides were dug in, finding safety in muddy, man-made trenches that were six to eight feet deep and seemed to stretch forever. 

And then on Christmas Eve, one century ago, German troops began to place small Christmas trees, lit with candles, outside of their trenches. Then, they began to sing Christmas songs. From across the "no man's land" that separated the enemy sides, came echoing carols from the British and French troops. Incredibly, many of the Germans were able to speak enough English to propose a "Christmas" truce. 

The British and French troops, all along the miles of trenches, accepted. And as a result, a spontaneous truce commenced. In a few places, allied troops fired at the Germans as they climbed out of their trenches, but the Germans persisted that Christmas would be celebrated, even if under the threat of death.

Signboards arose, up and down the trenches, in a variety of shapes and sizes. Make-shift 'MERRY CHRISTMAS' banners popped up on both sides. And the most frequently used German message, penned in fractured English was "YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT."  

Soldiers continued to courageously leave their trenches, meeting in the middle to shake hands and seal this temporary truce. Their first order of business was to bury the dead who had been previously unreachable because of the conflict. Then, these enemy soldiers found common ground as they exchanged gifts of chocolate cake, cognac, postcards, newspapers, and tobacco. And in a few places this stretch of trenches, soldiers exchanged rifles for soccer balls and played friendly matches. 

It didn't last forever. After all, the two sides were at war. Soldiers eventually did resume firing at each other. But for a few precious moments there was peace on earth and good will toward men on the Western front of a world at war. All because the focus was on Christmas. There's something about Christmas that changes people. It happened over 2000 years ago in a little town called Bethlehem and it's been happening over and over again down through the years. 

What about today? Does Christmas still have the power to change us? Because what about the lines we draw in life that keep others at bay? What about those trenches we dig that serve to insulate us, separate us and make us more like enemies than people created equally in the sight of God? You know those lines right? Lines of political ideaologies or socioeconomic level. The trenches of gender and race. 

Our world needs another Christmas truce. The people who live in the unrest of the Middle East need it. The people of Ferguson, MO need it. The family of Eric Garner needs it. Flint, MI needs it. Husbands and wives need it. Parents and children need it. We need a truce that draws us out of our defensive posture and into a place of mutual trust and respect for those we may have viewed as enemy.

What if we held up our own kind of signs in the trenches of our own living? Placards that didn’t say “Merry Christmas” but things like, “TELL ME WHAT IT'S LIKE TO LIVE YOUR LIFE” or “I WANT TO HEAR YOU MORE AND UNDERSTAND YOU BETTER.” What if our signboards read “MY CONCERN FOR YOU OUTWEIGHS MY JUDGMENT OF YOU.” What if we raised banners that said “BLACK LIVES MATTER” or “CHILDREN ARE VALUABLE” or “FATHERS ARE IMPORTANT.” What if I forfeit my right to be angry and ring out an anthems of “YOU ARE LOVED.” What if we surrendered our propensity to keep score and simply held up a sign saying “I’M SORRY” or “I FORGIVE YOU.” 

What if this Christmas, the baby in the manger who was destined to bear the weight of the cross, actually changed our battle cries into words of reconciliation and justice? What if we actually lived life as if peace on earth were possible because the Prince of all Peace lay in a manger?

I say we call a Christmas truce. Not a Christmas truce because it will only last the one day of Christmas, but because this Christmas we have committed to walk the path of peace. This Christmas, let's call a truce from all the things that would keep us divided and choose to bridge the gap. Let's seek to understand more than we seek to be understood. Seek to love more than we seek to be loved. Seek to forgive more than we seek to be forgiven.

There is a God who loved each of us enough to send His only Son for this reason - that there might be peace once again on earth. Peace between God and man, and peace between man and man.

We have been a people who have walked in great darkness.  But cradled in a manger of hay, Light has come. Nestled in the town of Bethlehem, a Savior has been born. Christmas has come. And Christmas changes things. Let’s call a christmas truce and move toward peace, love, justice, and hope. It’s possible because Jesus has made His dwelling among us.

Emmanuel is here. God is with us. All is well. May we come out from behind the battle lines and climb out of our trenches and begin a new kind of Christmas truce that holds up life. All life. Everywhere.

I pray the Holy Spirit will begin and continue a work in your heart and mine that will lead us to be people who walk the way of peace and justice and compassion. It’s the way of Christ. And it is the light for our path that offers hope for our world. Light has come. It’s Christmas. And I want to call a truce.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility...His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace...Ephesians 2:14a; 15b

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Six Words on a Sunday

Daddy, Moriah, and Mommy
October 5, 2014

Some days are special and you never saw it coming.
Today was one of those days.

It was a Sunday morning.
Paul was already at the church building.
I was scrambling at home trying to get me and three kids ready to walk out the door to get to the church building.

Standing in the kitchen, 
slinging waffles and cereal,
Moriah walks in and says, 
"Mommy, can I talk, just me and you, in the bedroom?"

Inside, I was about to lose it.
Doesn't she realize we have places to be?
Doesn't she know I have responsibilities to take care of?
There is a reason why Sunday is the day that will test the very faith of any parent.

I stuffed the impatience
and simply spoke, "Okay."

I walked purposefully into the bedroom, 
joined Moriah on the bed, 
and waited.
She sat, legs forming butterfly wings out in front of her
and quietly said, 
"I want to be a christian."

All of a sudden, 
my "places to go, people to see, job to do" Sunday
got rearranged.

In the blink of an eye, 
my routine Sunday
become special, stand-out, extraordinary.

Six words.
That's all it took.
All it took to make a mundane day mark itself in my memory forever.

Six words.
That's all it took.
All it took to transform an average morning to an unforgettable moment.

My youngest daughter was ready to follow Jesus.
And she just needed a few moments to let me know.
5 years old and ready to walk in child-like faith with the One who knows her best and loves her most.

5 years old and Moriah is reborn on the first day of the week.
The same day the women journeyed early to the empty tomb.
The same day resurrection become a reality for everyone who might follow Christ.

Some days are special and you never saw it coming.
Today was one of those days.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dear Eliana (On Your 10th Birthday)

Sweet Eliana - 

Is a mother made in a decade's time?
That's how long it's been since you traded amniotic fluid for oxygen.
Ten years since I first saw your face above a green medical sheet 
that acted as a barrier during my emergency c-section.
Ten years since I walked hazy over our threshold for the first time as mommy.

I was so proud of the pink-striped nursery we prepared for you.
Did I ever tell you the first two colors I chose looked like a circus tent dripping in pepto bismol?
Did I ever tell you that your Daddy loves me a ton? I have proof.
See those lovely shades of pink? Those are not pepto bismol. 
He repainted. For me.
I hope you know your Daddy will go the same lengths for you.
He will work hard to help you realize your dreams 
and if there's a time when you realize you messed up, he won't rub it in.
He will go to Sherwin Williams and get more paint (metaphorically speaking).

Transitioning into motherhood was hard for me.
Not completely natural.
I was a foreigner learning a new language; a new way of life.
Nothing really seemed native in the land of motherhood.
Not at first.
But days of adjustments and months of acclimating paid off.
I found I was more at home with myself. And with you.
I still had questions. Lots of them.
Actually, I continue to have lots of questions.
About motherhood. and life. and myself. and faith.
I hope you celebrate your questions. 
Embrace them. Relish them. Carry them well.
Sometimes Jesus is seen most clearly in the uncertainty.

Eventually, life reoriented itself to a normal.
I got more comfortable with imperfection. Mistakes make for good company.
And somewhere along the way I realized God doesn't expect perfection.
I hope you are patient with yourself as you grow.
If you are, you offer yourself an invaluable gift
and God's love is easier to identify.

Baby Einstein turned to Curious George turned to My Little Pony.
Sandra Boynton ushered in Mo Willems ushered in Cul-de-Sac Kids.
Little People were replaced by Bitty Baby were replaced by Lego Friends.
Years passed. You grew. So did our family.
You became big sister. Two times over.
I watched you mother your younger brother and sister.
You've been teacher to them even when you didn't realize you were.
I hope, no matter how old you are, you will show honor to your siblings. 
You were blessed with a great responsibility as eldest. Wield it well.

Because of your care, constant and tender,
Levi and Moriah look up to you.
They stand in the shadow of their big sister with wide eyes and open ears.
And they are protective of you. Not wishing harm to come to you.
I have proof.
Here they are unable to watch as you faced your fear and got your ears pierced yesterday.
Your stress became theirs.
Lives connected by blood but hearts connected by love.
I hope your life will continue to be marked by true friendship
when one feels both the pain and joy of another as if it is their own. 
You experienced this first with your family.

Is a mother made in a decade's time?
Only in part for it seems that motherhood is more a mosaic.
A conglomeration of being made from moments of my undoing.
Undone in the face of indescribable joy, fierce protectiveness, bubbling frustration.
Undone as I mix moments of overwhelming failure and unsaid bliss.
Yet, I still stand incomplete.
Motherhood has not matured in me.
Not yet.
Maybe not ever.
But I am being made.
With every moment. Every memory.
I hope you know the joy of becoming.
Perhaps that is what we were made for.
The becoming.
Christ in you - the hope of glory.
Becoming mine. 
Becoming His.
Becoming you.

Happy 10th Birthday, Eliana!
I love you!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Soul Famine

I should have seen it coming.
This need to write, to emote, to express.
I've been here before.
Where creative famine dwells.
Where I am soul thirsty for the kind of life given in the process of creation.
Yes, I should have seen it coming.

My schedule has burst at the seams.
My calendar filled with responsibilities and the needs of others.
Family. Children. Church. Home Education. Sermons.
So full, but not fulfilling.
At least not for the part of me made for creating.
Sure, there is a creative process in what I do in my marriage or in parenting.
There is creative energy expended in leading others into the presence of Jesus.
Creative juices must flow to craft words to preach week in and week out.

But life's duties have a way of absorbing the joy.
The joy offered when we create simply for the sake of creating.
It is that joy, the creation simply for creation's sake, that I have missed.

And when my soul is starved of creation - 
the process that birthed me and into which I was birthed,
the process that connects me to the heart of the One who formed me from dust,
when I find my soul malnourished,
it's then that I fight hardest for peace
because I have failed to be all I was created for.
I feel small and insignificant.
You see, I was created to create.
To join in a divine process.
And I need it.
Like air.
Or water.

I need time and space and places meant for me to color a canvas
but with the paint of words.
I need time and space and places meant for me to offer my art
for no other reason than it feeds me.
No matter what another might say.
No matter if another is touched or moved.

I need time and space and places I can stare at a blank screen of white 
and delight to string words together in Helvetica font
because it moves me 
it nourishes me, 
it oxygenates me,
it inspires me.

And so, that is one of the reasons I began this blog.
To set aside a place to create.
But I have been busy.
And I have been left wanting.

And with gratitude, I've returned to this place.
Not to garner accolades
but so that my soul might live again.
Deep soul breaths.
For my sake.

Whoever you are. Wherever you are. 
I pray you, too, will find time and space and places to create. 
Whatever that might look like.
For your sake.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Tell (& Show)

Linking up with Five Minute Friday today.

Today's Prompt: Tell


You'd think that the telling would lead to answers.
But the telling that I desire inquires and ponders.

Tell me why a parent delights in giving to their children.
Tell me why pride stonewalls forgiveness.
Tell me why fear can debilitate.
Tell me why a blue sky and cottonball clouds inspire.
Tell me why elation and weariness can coexist in the same body.
Tell me why living on purpose is elusive.
Tell me why urgency conquers importance.
Tell me why ancient words long-preserved still lead to transformation.
Tell me why hope is hard found but easily lost.
Tell me how God imagined the giraffe and the blue-bellied roller.
Tell me why the Olympics generates goosebumps. 
Tell me who loves like Christ - full of mercy and void of bias.
Tell me when those I love will no longer suffer.
Tell me who I am

The telling proves my dependence, my lack.
My "tell mes" clear space for the Unseen to show up.
And telling turns divine.
Jesus tells by showing...over and over again.
Showing Himself. Revealing Himself.
I ask for the telling. He allows for the showing.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Messenger

Lately the only writing I seem to be doing here is for FMF.
I'll take what I can get.
This weekly community has provided a place to discipline myself to write at least once every week. 
Even if my other days are filled with other tasks, there is but a brief moment at week's end to come here
and write
and exhale.
Fo that, I am thankful.

Today's prompt: Messenger


The pink peonies 
were ballerinas
dancing to the flow of the wind.

The tall stalks of grass, 
ready to go to seed,
were trumpets
heralding the pulse of the air.

The green birch leaves 
clinging to white branches
were acrobats 
that floated on the currents of the breeze.

I could have missed it, 
blinded my own busyness and care.
You are not visible after all.

Today’s grace was taking notice
of the messengers along my way
that prove Your presence
by synchronizing to Your breath.

Today, Father, 
creation testified to You.
Though invisible You are yet seen;
manifest in their inevitable response to Your movement. 


Friday, June 6, 2014

To Paul (FMF: Hands)

Linking up here and dedicating this post to my husband on this, our 16th anniversary.


Today I took your hand.
Not an extraordinary occurrence as we make moments to touch this way often.

Our hands have held through courtship, 
dating as college sweethearts and choirmates
through changes in majors and growth in personhood.

Our hands held still for pictures following our wedding
as the camera captured the glimmer of our newly donned rings in the sunlight
streaming through the Park Place stained glass.
That was 16 years ago today.
All veils of white and tuxes of black.
A lifetime stretched out before us.
And we met the future with hands clasped tightly.

Our hands held through the inception of ministry
and growing pains of marriage
as we worked our way through preferences that stemmed from our origin and nurture.

Our hands held the hands of others - 
while they mourned the coming of death to one they loved.
while teenagers bowed their hearts before Jesus.

Our hands wove tight as an emergency C-section
ushered our first born into the world,
wrinkly and fresh and red.

Our hands have held little hands 
that feared ants
built forts
smeared paint
and climbed high.

Our hands have held more love than imaginable, more life then deserved, more hope then expected.

This anniversary, while holding your hand, I also stand with a hand wide open for all yet to be grasped, caught, molded by us.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Nothing

Linking up here
Five minutes.
Whatever comes to mind.
Spilled out here.

Today's prompt: Nothing


My failures flank my mind like a retaining wall
ready to keep out Your words.
It’s all I can see some days.
The impatience this momma showed at childhood foibles.
The anger this wife spewed toward a husband.
The lack of compassion this beggar extends to those less fortunate.
The resentment harbored in this pastor’s heart for faith-siblings.
The mistakes of my youth that snare and trap me.
The defeats of the soul that echo in the chambers of my heart.

How is it I escape them?
The sins that paralyze me
and let fear win.
The dark places I worry will lead You
to turn, 
walk away, 
desert and abandon me.
The transgressions that taunt.
The debts that claim they are more powerful
than payment rendered.
Untruths that use guerilla tactics to ambush my confidence.

What sin is too far-reaching?
What choices will send You retreating?
What can keep You from me?

And I hear You whisper, 
a single word,
barely audible
above the screaming fortress of the lies, 



Friday, April 25, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Friend

Linking up with Five Minute Friday.

Today's word: Friend


Today dawned rainy and cool.
A far cry from the sunny, beautiful Easter that began the week.
But today is my soul's companion
because Friday is Sabbath.
A day to break;
to part with the cares of responsibility
and set my sight on rest.
A day to take time to be.
Not rushed or hurried.

I slept in.
Hubby cooked the usual Sabbath breakfast of pancakes for the kids.
I read, and prayed, and thought.
Then I napped.
I scratched the back of my 5 year-old,
and snuggled close with my 6 six-year old
while a show played on the tv screen.

So much of life feels like it's for the taking of me.
Piece by piece.
I fall into bed at night and wonder what I actually accomplished.
This day of sabbath reminds me no accomplishments
exist apart from relationship.

And so I commit 
to forging connection
the rest of the week
sprouting from the abiding with 
my truest Friend.
The One who meets me faithfully every Friday
even when I've forgotten Him all my other days.