23 December 2008

The Gift of Sacrificial Love

We had Christmas at the nursing home on Sunday. Rather than enjoying an evening in the warmth of one of my aunt's and uncle's homes, we celebrated the gift of Jesus in a cold community room, so that Grandpa could be there. Alzheimer's continues to grip him in a downward spiral that seems to have sped up since he entered the home last spring. When Grandma wheeled him in to our gathering, I almost cried to see my Grandpa who could at onetime fix anything now not even able to stay alert long enough to say hello.

But Grandma has eyes of love as she makes daily sacrifices to care for Grandpa. She isn't in denial of Grandpa's condition, and his inability to always recognize her as his wife doesn't stop her from visiting him everyday. Although the home pays no attention to the fat content of its meals, causing her to gain weight, she eats a meal or two a day in the common room with Grandpa.

We recently watched a movie, Away From Her, about a woman (Fiona) with Alzheimer's who shortly after being moved into a nursing home no longer recognizes her husband (Grant) and falls in love with another patient. Like Grandma, Grant never stops visiting his wife and is soon relegated to watching Fiona from across the room as she cares for her new beau. He sacrificially visits everyday and eventually takes action to bring Fiona happiness even at sacrifice to himself.

Grandpa and Fiona are no longer able to respond to these sacrificial gifts, but they daily receive the love being directed to them. They seemingly don't deserve it but that doesn't stop Grandma and Grant from giving.

Anyone's name could be exchanged with Harvey and Fiona when it comes to the gift we have received from God. We did nothing to deserve, and often barely acknowledge, the love we've been given through the gift of Jesus and his death on the cross. He sacrificially gave of Himself to be born on earth with the purpose of paying the debt of all of our mess-ups and injustices.

This Christmas I hope to better understand the sacrificial love of God, which sent the greatest gift of love to this hurting world - the baby Jesus.

19 December 2008

Joy Has Come!

I admit this picture isn't one that would win any contests for depicting joy....Unless you understood how much this "guitar" means to Asher and the type of joy that goes beyond outward happiness.

Asher got to borrow this guitar at our annual Thanksgiving at the cabin and it didn't leave his side for more than a couple of minutes at a time the whole three days we were there. He dreams about guitars and as we talk more seriously about potty training he is becoming increasingly adament that he needs guitar underpants. (ideas on where to find those would definitely be welcome!) It may not be the most expressive representation, but this picture depicts a boy completely filled with joy. The very thing he had been waiting for had been fulfilled.

I have often lost sight of this, but Christmas is a time to celebrate the fulfillment of the very thing I have been waiting for.

In Mary's words recorded in the book of Luke, she praised God when she found out she was carrying the Messiah. One of the things she praises God for is that "He has filled the hungry with good things."

The good thing she talked about wasn't tangible riches or even a magic wand answering all of her dreams, but the promise of joy coming through a Baby. Not just any Baby, but one who would bring restoration to all that is broken in the world.

Even if there is no more happiness, there is joy because the Lord is come!

12 December 2008

Peace through Change

Why is it so hard to stay peaceful even when I'm trying so hard? I knew this was the Advent week of peace and was looking forward to the focus on something that is normally just out of my reach.

I see peace when Asher is (finally) sleeping and his face is so soft and relaxed that I can't keep my hands from touching him. There is peace early in the morning before anyone else in the house is awake and I can sit, reading with my coffee. And there was peace last night when both Walter and I noticed the bright moon shining up the darkness. On a small scale, there is peace.

And there is also peace to be thankful for in our country on a larger scale. Yes, our country is at war, we're fighting the fear of another terrorist attack, and the never-ending line at the post-office is anything but peaceful.

But an email from my dad reminded me this week that we do have peace in this country. While writing about an Ethiopian's perspective of the American election, and how excited they are to have an African-American lead such a powerful nation, my dad also wrote about the admiration his Ethiopian friends have that there is peace in our political process. We don't anticipate riots from Bush supporters (I'm sure there are some faithful few) when Obama is sworn in as our next president on January 20.

In fact, the president and president-elect have met peacefully face to face to discuss the transition. We will take it for granted, but it is very probable that Barack Obama will take his oath of office, move into the White House, and begin his presidency without a single gun shot being fired in protest. Even while our country is in the middle of so much turmoil, there is peace in our leadership (unless you live in Illinois, but Blagojevich's issues aren't really fitting with my example of peace here!).

So how does this fit with Christmas? Jesus, as the ultimate ruler and authority in the universe also did not make his entrance into His world with swords and shouting. As a baby born to humble parents in a barn, he came. I don't imagine the whole scene was as serene as our nativities show. Childbirth is messy and animals are noisy, but He came to the world He rules and as newborns do, He slept.

Even though King Herod was terrified of this baby king, Jesus wasn't interested in the power to be had in a palace but the power to change hearts.

Still today, He doesn't change hearts by terror or force. But in peace He speaks and in that peace which only He can give, there is infinite power.

06 December 2008

There is Hope

Hope is the theme for the first week of Advent. All week, I've been thinking about what I want to say about hope and how I have seen hope fulfilled.

Today I saw hope demonstrated perfectly.

Jesus' birth on earth which led to His death, resurrection, and forgiveness for our sins is the ultimate reason for hope, but I believe He gives us illustrations of this hope that He is working for ultimate good in everyday circumstances.

Today was one of those circumstances. Asher has been terrified of Santa Claus from the first time he was forced to sit on his lap when he was too little to move himself off. So we've been preparing him for weeks for this annual visit to see Santa at Walter's office. We gave a lot of encouragements of how he needs to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas and Asher has rehearsed saying that he wants a guitar and tools over and over.

When the big moment arrived, things did not start off too hopeful.

But then miraculously, surprisingly, Asher reached out his hand, and let it rest on Santa's chair. Our hopes had become reality. There was no screaming. Asher did not run away. He stood there with his hand (fingers?) on the chair and posed for two pictures and even smiled!!
There is hope. We may not have the most outgoing two year old living in our home, but he can be courageous when he needs to be. Today I saw a glimpse of the changes that can happen in a little boy's personality.

I am reminded of the changes that can happen in my own life because of hope that was embodied in Jesus who came to this earth 2000 years ago.