Monday, December 29, 2008

Look at Me

In our congregation we are starting a new focus as the new year begins. The focus is on making our relationships fireproof. Fireproof means, capable of preventing or withstanding damage by fire. All of our relationships can be damaged by the fires of life. So many things can happen that ruin relationships that could have been prevented or withstood had the relationship been fireproof. We need to protect and deepen our relationships, especially those relationships closest to us like our spouse and family.
What has hit me the most as I read through "The Love Dare" a book used inthe movie "Fireproof" is the way it does not help me change other people, but it makes me look at myself. I have to look at how I love other people. As I began to do this I noticed the little ways I excuse myself for selfish behaviors. I justify my actions as I get frustrated when others act the exact same way.
I have to come to terms with the fact that my sinful nature of selfishness is still living in me. I had hoped I had killed that years ago, but it is still kicking. There are ways I can work on showing love to other people, especially my wife.
So let's see what happens as I take the love dare. And I invite anyone else to join in looking at yourself and seeing if you can do better at loving other people. Look at 1 Corinthians 13 for the model of love and I dare you to see how you compare.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Other Kitchen Tables

Yesterday for those who braved the cold temperatures I shared about finding Christmas at the kitchen table. I compared the kitchen table to the dining room table. The dining room table is where we eat when we have guests over. It is usually decorated and has a wide spread of food. It is not how we eat everyday. Everyday, my family eats at the kitchen table. That is where real life happens for us.
So I wondered where Christmas happens in real life? I shared a few examples, but one I did not share happened almost two weeks ago. I was in a hospital room at St. Luke's in Cedar Rapids. One of the families from our church was told their mother/grandmother would not live much longer. I went to be with them for a few hours for a prayer and some comfort.
I remember standing around the hospital bed of this woman I had met a few times when I felt the Spirit of Christmas hit home with me. The family was sharing memories of their mother and grandmother. They were talking about how the girls were making mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving dinner, the day they brought their mother to the hospital, and they did not make them correctly. We laughed about other silly things in the midst of the sorrow of losing this loved one. (She died the next morning.)
In that moment as I looked around at this family laughing and crying together that this was a kitchen table, this was a place where life was happening and the Spirit of God was present. I knew God was working in the hearts and lives of this family. I knew their Christmas would not be easy this year, but I also knew they would make it through with God's help.
I pray this Christmas the Spirit of God will meet you where you are and that you will celebrate anew the birth of our Savior.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blue Christmas

My message yesterday was a reminder to celebrate the joy of Christmas like the shepherds of Luke 2. They were working when an angel showed up and shared with them the message of the birth of the Savior. This begun the very first Christmas office party.
Christmas for many of us is a mainly joyous occasion as we get to spend time with family and give and receive gifts. But for some people Christmas is a reminder of difficulties in life. Some do not have great families or others to connect with during the holidays. For some this may be their first Christmas without a spouse, parent or child. So Christmas becomes a reminder of sorrow instead of joy.
I was just reminded this past week about my grandma whose health is failing. She seems to be having some dementia and is not her normal self. I was reminded of this as we ate a chicken casserole that is very similar to my grandma's turketti, which she made every year after Thanksgiving with leftover turkey. When I was growing up we would eat turketti for weeks until Christmas. This year there was not any turketti and it may seem funny, but it is a sad reminder to me that my grandma will not live forever and the end of her life here may be near.
These kinds of feelings people often hide or try to ignore during the holidays because we are suppose to be cheerful, and yet the pain is real. At some point I would like our church to have something like a blue Christmas service, where you remember loved ones who have died and the other realities of sorrow during the holidays.
I hope Christmas will bring you joy, but I also want to recognize there is pain and sorrow we remember during the holidays as well. I hope and pray you can share these feelings with others or with me because we can find comfort in our sorrow together as we lean on the Lord for strength.