Archive for February, 2015

Seven Reasons Why You Should Celebrate Your Shared Birthday with a 5-year-old

Cake

Reason #1: You get to have a Lego Star Wars Cake with Tom Brady defeating Darth Vader on it.

Candles

Reason #2: The 5-year-old is better at blowing out candles (and besides, there aren’t so many!)

tub

Reason #3: You can have a sleepover, with squirrely little boys playing in your bathtub in the morning.

book

Reason #4: You get to read really good books.

Games

Reason #5: You can make up all kinds of games.

Reason #6: You get to go see the Paddington Bear Movie, which is great—but watch out for that mean Nicole Kidman character!

Monkey-bread

Reason #7: You can have a second (monkey bread) birthday cake for breakfast.

I’m lucky to have an almost-shared birthday with my grandson Nils.  If you don’t have a shared birthday like that, I recommend borrowing a 5-year-old from one of your friends or extended family.  They really make birthdays fun! 

Snow and Ashes: So Lent Begins

Snow and ashes.  These two words seem to dominate my thinking these days.  An odd duet, perhaps.  Though not surprising when taken individually.

SnowSceneSnow.  Snow.  And more snow.  Such is this February in the land where I live.  Anyone who has watched any news or weather reports about Boston 2015 will not be surprised.  Four major snowstorms in three weeks, two of them officially “blizzards.” The snowiest one-month period on record.  The snowiest February on record—and it’s only February 16.  You know you’re in trouble when meteorologists  talk of snow in feet and not inches, when they make comments like. “This next one shouldn’t be anything significant—probably only 3-6.”

It’s causing major headaches for many people—public transportation shut down, driving hazardous, roofs collapsing. To name only a few issues. Still—dare I say it?—it is beautiful.  As I write, I look out on sparkling snow-filled woods, still (for now) pristine white.

And strangely, it makes me think of ashes.  Black, sooty, contrasting ashes.  The ashes of my sins which demand incineration.  Contrasted with the pure snows of redemption. 

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, traditionally a time when ashes on the forehead are to remind us of our mortality—and, I might add, our sin.  The longer I live, the more I’m aware of the blackness of that sin.  Seems backwards, in a way.  But somehow, the longer I walk with God, the more I see how different we are—He and I. Maybe I’m finally learning the necessity of the curate’s prayer in Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers: “Lord, teach us to take our hearts and look them in the face, however difficult that may be.”

That look makes me all the more eager for the redemption poetically described in Scripture like snow: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.  Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow . . .” (Isaiah 1:18) The psalmist pleads: “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)

So, on this brink of Lent 2015, perhaps it is fitting after all to have these two words bouncing around my head: snow, and ashes.

Speaking of Lenten words, many of you who know me will not be surprised that I already have my favorite Lenten reading in hand: Walter Wangerin’s Reliving the Passion.  I read it every year, and I doubt this year will be any exception.

But I have another recommendation that may interest some of you.  Last September I recommended a new book by my author friend Lucinda Secret McDowell: Live These Words.  Since it features 40 words in one short chapter each, it would make great Lenten reading.  Recently, Cindy (as I’ve long known her) made available a study guide to go with the book called “Lenten Words.’  You can print it free on her website www.encouragingwords.net.

Yesterday our pastor encouraged us to consider not only what we could “give up” for Lent, but what we might add.  May I suggest that either of these two above-mentioned books, one an old favorite and one a new favorite, might give you a place to start? 

Even if you don’t live in the land of the “storehouses of the snow” (see Job 38:22) as we approach this Ash Wednesday.

Seeing and Being Seen

EveryBitterThing

“I see you.”  Those words have haunted me ever since I read the chapter with that title in Sara Hagerty’s new book Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet. 

I have followed Sara’s writing for a while through her blog by the same name.   I have also followed her story a bit through my daughter-in-law, who (full disclosure) is a college friend of Sara’s.  Now what a joy to receive her book for Christmas—and to pass along a new book recommendation to all of you.

Yes, all of you.  Especially for anyone dealing with infertility issues.  But also for anyone dealing with the unexpected twists and turns of life, the things we might never have imagined ourselves walking through.  Sara’s story is a story of conversations with God through the hard times.  Through disappointment and disillusionment and lonely pain. 

Yes, lonely pain.  Especially lonely pain.  The deep-down pain that isolates you in a crowd, that makes you feel invisible, like no one else has any idea what you’re going through.

Which brings me to my favorite chapter of the book:  “I see you.”   As Sara struggles through yet another baby shower filled with women’s tales of giving birth, feeling invisible and as if she’ll never “fit in,” God whispers these words:  “I see you.”

I see you.  Powerful words.  Words to live by.  Words that outshout—if we let them—all the voices that tell us know one will ever understand, no one “gets” what we’re going through.  It may not be, for you, infertility.  But perhaps a struggling marriage.  An extremely needy child.  The loneliness of single parenting.  A medical condition no one else knows about—or no one else would understand.  A deep pain from your past.  A private battle you cannot share with others.   Does anyone see?

HE does.  God does.  And He says it over and over in Scripture—both in words and in deeds.   In her chapter Sara focuses on the bleeding woman whose story is told in Luke 8: 40-48.  The woman who came to my mind immediately is Hagar,  running away from her life in fear and misery.  Who shows up but God?   Read her story in Genesis 16 and listen as she proclaims: “You are the God who sees me.”  That’s indeed who He is: the God who sees.  Who sees an obscure “unclean” woman.  A frightened, pregnant servant girl.  Sara Haggerty.  And you.  And me.

And here’s a bonus.  Not only does He see you, but being seen by Him helps us in turn to see Him.  Hagerty puts it this way: “…knowing that God sees me frees me actually to see Him.” (Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, p. 160).  And Hagar exclaims, “I have now seen the God who sees me.” (Genesis 16: 13)

Certainly, not everyone struggles with infertility.  And not everyone’s story ends like Sara’s.  But we all can learn the truth of the Scripture on which the book title is based: “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, But to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”  (Proverbs 27:7, NKJV)

Feeling alone?  God sees.  And cares.  And offers the sweetness of His presence even amidst our “bitter.” 

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