Tuesday, December 14, 2004

And now for Sami’s ramblings about Jesus:

I’ve been thinking about family and what that word means a lot lately. On Sunday morning a couple told the story of how God moved them to adopt a 4 year old little boy from another country. It was so moving to hear how an independent and happily childless couple began the journey to adopt someone of a completely different language and culture into their lives. As they spoke of Brian, their son, it was evident that God had expanded their hearts so much to accommodate his presence; the love they felt for that little boy spilled out of their voices and onto ever ear that heard their story. It reminded me of Bill and Kim, my own brother and sister-n-law who have adopted their own baby boy from Russia. Konnor officially entered our family on the day that Noah was born. Soon, he would enter our hearts as well, just as he had already become deeply woven into the hearts of Bill and Kim. It has made me realize how powerful family ties are, and how family is born of love, not simply born.

Certainly the word “family” echoes more deeply in my own heart this Christmas season. As I look at the “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament hanging on our tree, I marvel that just one year ago our hearts were filled with the painful ache and longing to have a child of our own. And now Noah announces his presence in our lives in the most amazing ways: with coos, and laughs, and cries, and lots of dirty diapers! I am constantly surprised at how easily I miss him when we are apart. Last Friday night, as we made our annual Wesley Foundation road trip to Nashville to see the lights, I kept looking into the eyes of passing children wishing Noah could be there with us, dreaming of that day when he will be old enough to enjoy all the decorations of the Opryland Hotel. And while I walked around that winter wonderland, I was poignantly aware that this longing to see my son had to be like God’s longing to see us. I could feel a new awareness of the miracle of Christmas dawning in my heart; because Jesus lives there, that constant communion with my Heavenly Father is always there. God sent Jesus because He wanted to be close to us all the time. I knew being a mother would change me. I just never could imagine the power of that love. While it is the most urgent and powerful feeling I have ever had, it pales greatly in comparison to God’s love for us. His love is unlegislated. Which is to say that it simply comes to us and keeps on coming.

I know this is true because I feel His love move through me for each person He has placed in my care as a pastor. And as I enter into God’s love for you, I am deeply changed. I will jokingly say sometimes that before I had Noah, I had the students at the Wesley Foundation. But in a very real way it is true. The love of Christ that dwells in my heart for this ministry and for each of you is purely unlegislated. We are not related by blood, but the bonds certainly are as lasting. We belong to each other. Because of this calling on my life, I belong to you. It breaks my heart that anyone could live their entire lives without knowing this kind of love. It breaks my heart that there are those on this campus who don’t know this kind of belonging.

If I could give anything in the world to people I cared about, I would give them the experience of the Wesley Foundation. What this place did for me years ago as a student, it is still doing. It is a place where the love of Jesus Christ becomes real in the most amazing, funny, and meaningful ways. Nothing else tops it. Especially for those who really need to belong. We belong to each other in the miracle of becoming Christ’s body. We are family.

Christmas is really an adoption story. It is the story of a loving Father who reaches out to His estranged children through His Beloved Son. It is the story of an eternal adoption, by which those who were far away from the Father’s love are brought near by a tiny baby boy who would one day lay down His life for us. It is the story of that glorious reunion of our hearts rejoicing in the love of our doting Father, who gives us His all so that we can have all He is.

This is the miracle I experience everyday at the Wesley Foundation. Come experience it with me.



Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Now for Sami’s ramblings about Jesus:

I just put up pictures on my walls. On my message board is a card that says Enjoy the Journey. Underneath the caption is this quote: “Happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life.” As a friend of mine from seminary would say, “That’ll preach!” So many people are so miserable. It’s like they live their lives thinking, “if I could only have . . . .” And then they get that golden egg, just to discover some other void or obstacle that keeps them from being satisfied. I love the wisdom that Paul shares towards the end of his life: “ . . . . I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:11-13).

Not exactly a scripture we hear a lot at Christmas time, but it is so appropriate and so needed. As a child I rated Christmas on how good the gifts were. And even the old clay-mation specials seemed to equate happiness with getting toys. But what is beyond the stuff? I mean, stuff breaks; it gets lost or misplaced; stuff eventually gets old and boring. The “if I could only have” mentality is only a cruel illusion. We are all searching for that something to fill us up. This is natural. But that longing we feel was put their by our Maker. It is a longing to know and be known by Him. This is what Christmas is all about. God gives Himself to us in a way we can understand. The God of the universe, who cannot be seen by human eyes, came to us as a human child, living in the world we live in, growing as we grow, struggling as we struggle, knowing intimately what it is to be frail and human. This is Jesus, the only one who fills up that ache that keeps us up at night. Know Him, love Him. He already knows and loves you. And when you receive the One who offers Himself to you in all His fullness this Christmas season, you will never again say, “if only I could.” You will know happiness, not as a fleeting feeling, but as the true joy that is a method of life, a gift that never leaves, that never breaks, that never gets lost or misplaced, that never gets old and boring. You will have discovered the true meaning of Christmas.

This is my prayer for you. You are all the best gifts. I praise God for the opportunity to know you and serve you.



Friday, December 03, 2004

Now for Sami’s ramblings about Jesus:

I was standing in line at Sears today waiting to purchase some things, when I overheard others in line complaining about Christmas because of the lines. Of course I had Noah with me, and he began to need some attention. As I knelt down to find his pacifier (hoping to postpone all out wails for a couple of minutes), I overheard the gentleman behind me say, “Now that’s what Christmas is all about.” Isn’t though?

Christmas is all about a baby boy, and a new mother, crazy crowds, and crowded inns. Over the summer I spent time musing about what it must have been like for Mary as I walked uphill during my last weeks of pregnancy. I imagined her discomfort riding a donkey (the car was bad enough for me once I had been there more than half an hour). And I can almost hear the sound of her voice saying, “You want me to have this baby where!?” After 2000 years worth of idealizing it, our nativity scenes have become somewhat sanitized. We quietly sing, “All is calm; all is bright.” Try telling that to a woman who just found out her delivery attendants can only moo, bahh, or bray.

So Christmas is chaotic. The truth is that it always has been. Jesus’ birth was not idyllic. It was real. He came here real, covered with blood, peach fuzz, and vernix. The clean, smiling six month old we see gently cooing in the hay on our mantles is a bit overdone. However, there is some good theology in the real life drama of Jesus’ birth. The good news is we don’t have to clean up and sanitize our lives before we invite Him in. The best Christmas gift did not arrive on this earth neatly wrapped in a ribbon. He probably was red-faced, squirmy, fussy, and could really use that set of lungs His heavenly Father equipped him with.

I’m so glad that Jesus is right at home in the midst of crazy, chaotic moments. There are so many of them that we would never survive if His blessed presence wasn’t in them. I am so glad that somehow Jesus makes His home in the realness of our lives, but then begins making real the peace of His presence. I am so glad that inviting Jesus into our hearts has a way of settling down those things within and without, so that we are transformed by His calm love, becoming catalysts of transforming love wherever we happen to be. Oh He is so great and awesome! I am amazed at His incarnation, that He wanted to join the human race and that He still wants to join us where we are.

We can feel guilty about the chaos in our lives, guilty that there is more of the season than there is of us to go around, guilty that once more time slips away and we failed to experience that picture in our head or the scene on our mantle. Or we can stop right this moment and pray, “Even so Lord Jesus, quickly come.” This is my Christmas prayer. There is not enough of me to make life something other than it is. Sometimes I just have to shrug my shoulders in apology, and invite Jesus into, not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly.

Funny thing. He’s always happy to enter in.