There are few things in life that I like to indulge in more than a well-deserved nap in the sunshine. Imagine me in a post-Christmas week coma on the couch while my ENTIRE FAMILY was skiing/working out/working. Their absence in the house overlapped for a full 45 minutes today, meaning the house was totally quiet for the first time in two weeks (except for the occasional sound of dynamite blasts on Snowmass Mountain — which are weirdly comforting). I tried valiantly to seize the quiet, and sit down to write this blog for approximately 30 seconds before the couch had its way with me.
How about you, dear friends? What do you do to rejuvenate and refresh your soul? You need to, you know. I often live by the “you can sleep when you die” adage but it never works well for me or my soul. I need the fullness of a busy house brimming with the nearness of voices I love, and I also need the surprise of a peaceful sunny afternoon to be in my own head and heart. Not in equal measure, not tit for tat, but always in perfect balance.
Perhaps this explains my affinity for the Old Testament scripture in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.” (Eccl. 1:1, and 12-13)
Finding satisfaction in my toil (and please know that it is my greatest joy to work for this church, so by “toil” I mean showing up and going all out with extraordinary people trying to connect to our awesome God) means finding time to balance it with the company of friends, a good glass of Cabernet, a hike in the woods, first tracks on a perfect powder morning or a noon groom in any kind of weather, and my go-to: a power nap in the sunshine. Naps are my BFF.
My wish for you this Christmas week is that wherever you are, whatever it is you are in the midst of, you find a moment to refresh your soul. It is, indeed, a gift from God.
It is hard to conceive that more than 5 decades have gone by since I was 5 years old. In one of my earliest memories I can picture myself, lying on my back, looking upward from the floor into the branches of a tall Christmas tree filled with colored lights and ornaments.
Although much time and people have passed since then, remembering Christmas time through the eyes of a child brings back moments of nostalgic delight, as I hope it does for you.
Oh if life were only so simple and whimsical. But we all know this is not the case because as we prepare for Christmas, there is more happening in our lives individually and collectively than childhood memories, charming characters in Children’s Classics, and fun, joy, and silliness.
In the midst of our many blessings and abundance, we each have unique challenges to confront. On top of that, we live in the midst of a very troubled world. A world with much that is good, and right, and true, for sure, but a humanity that is burdened by the consequences of misused and misguided free will.
As I think about this, I believe there is something that most if not all of us are seeking. Something internally we know we need. Something that is truly wonderful and life giving. Something we understand is vital to our well-being during the worst and best of times.
I sense so many of us are craving a deep sense of connection. Connection with ourselves. Connection with others. And connection with God. The birth of Jesus, I believe, that shows us a pathway to the connectedness and meaningful relationships with others and God we seek.
God could have arrived with launch codes in hand that would turn any opposition into dust particles and glass. God could have come in a state of wrath and furry with carpet-bombing in mind as a way to deal with things. God could have joined us in the flesh as a suave, good looking, quick witted, wealthy chap in a Ferrari with a blond or brunette beauty by his side.
But God didn’t. Instead he showed up as a baby, naked. Naked with nothing in hand but total and complete dependency on those around Him. Jesus arrived on scene in the most astonishingly vulnerable way possible. But why?
I believe God chose, in part, to come to us as a naked, living, breathing, dependent baby to teach us something. That something. To show us what vulnerability is all about and that vulnerability is the key to a life of joy and purpose, and ultimately the path to connectedness with ourselves, others, and God. You see, the more vulnerable we are willing to be, the more connected we become.
The path to connectedness is a willingness to be vulnerable, to risk being who we really are, not who we think we need to be, to share what is within the deep recesses of our souls, and to be real and authentic.
God put it all on the line for us when He joined us in a state of utter vulnerability as a baby. He took the first step to connect with us so that we would not have to make the first move toward Him. While we may not be in a place in which we are prepared to be vulnerable with others or even ourselves, Jesus says it is safe to bring all of ourselves to Him no matter what.
You see, Jesus put Himself as a baby into the lap of humanity, so that we would come to the place we’d be willing to put ourselves in His.
With love and prayers – Robert +
So as many of you know Tim and I had the last of our three kids fly the nest in the fall. In the span of three weeks last August, I teared up when Nick drove away for Laughlin Air Force Base with everything he owned in the back of a short-bed pickup; I sobbed the night before Ben left for a year of study abroad; and I hugged tight so as to disguise my tears in Anna Kate’s newly decorated dorm room while a bevy of girls awkwardly looked on. And then faster than you can say road trip, we were on the move. In the words of my sweet daughter to our oldest son, “Mom and dad are enjoying their empty nest just a little too much.”
And maybe it’s precisely because of all the bittersweet goodbyes combined with the playful fun of the newly realized empty nest that I am so ready for them all to be home for the holidays. Some waiting is like that. It has us brimming with excitement of something wonderful that is just beyond our reach.
As I reflect on this season of Advent, this season of waiting, I know that joyful anticipation is only one way to wait. Some waiting, on the other hand, is excruciating. Sometimes waiting is a burden that carries with it fear of the unknown, sadness that things aren’t as they used to be, regret over unfinished business, unmended relationships, things still left undone. If you are in a season of waiting that leaves you more anxious than eager, bless you. It’s a hard place to be.
But the beauty of Advent — the hope of Advent — is that even in our waiting, He is with us. Emmanuel. God is with us in the suffering and sadness, the fear and unknowing, the weariness of a warring world, the pain and the ache and the deep dark nights of our souls. Sometimes — often — we don’t know it until we are out the other side of whatever it is we are enduring. But our not knowing doesn’t change what is. God is the alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Make no mistake about it, God is present. WE are often unaware, my friends, but God is NEVER not with us, right smack in the middle of it all.
And so we wait. Not always joyfully, and sometimes with a shaky faith. But we wait and we hope and we wonder at the magnificent plan of it all. We do our best to offer kindness and gratitude and love, and we live with the hope that God’s coming will offer a Light to the world that we can’t even begin to imagine.
As we wait this Advent for the coming of the babe in the manger, may we also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that even now in this very moment, bidden or unbidden, He is here.
We are now in the midst of the Advent Season, a time in which we hopefully pay more attention to our walk with Jesus. It is during these weeks that millions of people will put up Christmas decorations of all kinds in a variety of settings. Whether done with secular intention or not, the lights, wreaths, and ornaments around the community serve to remind me to pause and focus on what it means that God dared to come among us in the flesh.
Since I was a young boy, my family has set up a crèche each Advent season. Each year, as I set each piece up, I reflect not only upon the stories of those represented, but people who have been so important to me in my family and life journey.
Last week, my husband, Tim, and I had the privilege of watching the Christ Church Regatta, which is a series of races by eight-man crew teams from all of the colleges at Oxford. (Ok, proud mom side note: our son, Ben, is on the Keble College crew team while studying at Oxford this year. Whaaaat in the heck?!!!) There were 65 teams competing over the two days, including one new to me: Jesus College, or Jesus for short.
The Jesus College Boat Club’s official motto is “Walking on Water Since 1815” and the team’s t-shirts read, “Jesus: Believed in by 2.2 billion people.” Clearly they have fun with their name. But the best part for me as I stood on the banks of the River Thames was the occasional cheer that would echo across the water: “Come on Jesus! Go Jesus! You got this Jesus!!!!!” It was so startling at first and I couldn’t help but smile.