Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
I wonder. I really do. If it moved us all out of our political/social/religious/personal/financial comfort zones- if it even challenged the opinions of our favorite pundits or preachers!- would we recognize such a thing?
Or do we mean: I want to see more of the way I think, the way I operate, the way I justify my words, attitudes and actions. When more people agree with me and act like I think they should, then Glory to the Gospel.
From The Internet Monk (HT Scot McKnight)
My kids love to be read to, and part of our nightly ritual is sitting on one of their beds after they are all tucked in and reading sections of a longer chapter book. We alternate between books from the library, books we own and have read before, and the big children’s Bible they love.
The big kids can have a hard time settling down at the end of the day, so one of the expectations during the reading time is that they lay in their beds, practicing being “quiet and still”. They can of course ask questions, and there is typically a fair amount of “Excuse me, Mommy…” and “Excuse me, Daddy…” and the waterfall of questions that we have come to expect, especially from Mercy. (Someone made the comment this past week that if we could somehow charge admission for entry into our daughter’s mind, we would be rich!)
At some point, either if it is late, the kiddos are extremely tired, or there have already been enough questions asked, we will tell the kids that they need to lay still, with eyes closed, and no more talking. This is often what it takes for them to finally settle down enough to come anywhere near to sleep.
The other night I had reached the point with Mercy (Aaron had already passed out) where we were at the eyes closed/no more talking stage, and I was reading for her the story of Jesus’ death. This is almost always the story she asks for when I open up the big Bible.
As I finished reading about the crucifixion, I chose to keep going with the story and I read this:
“Peter and John returned home, but Mary stayed by the tomb weeping. Suddenly she looked up to see two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had lain.
“Why are you weeping?” they asked her.
“Because they have taken my Lord away.” As she spoke she turned and saw a man standing behind her in the shadows. It was Jesus, although at first Mary failed to recognize him.
At this point, Mercy’s body grew completely tense and her face started to twitch, yet she managed to keep those eyes closed and remain horizontal on her bed. I continued reading:
“Why are you weeping?” he said. Believing him to be the gardener, she asked him if he knew where the body had been taken.
“Mary, it is I.”
“My Lord!” she cried, her face full of joy.
As I read these last words, Mercy suddenly erupted into a grin that seemed to cover her whole body and her eyes flew open. And through that giant smile, her voice breathless, she hurried to explain: “Mommy, my face just always has to smile when she says “My Lord”!”
Mercy’s joy, uncontrolled and overwhelming, at hearing about that moment when Mary recognized Jesus; when she realized that her Lord was alive, is a good reminder for me of what this Sunday is all about.
When we were deciding what to name our first child, Doug and I had a funny experience where someone made a joke about a name we could use and then commented that the nickname for that name could be “Mercy”. Neither of us said anything to each other in the moment, but later we both commented to the other that we thought “Mercy” would make a really cool name.
I have known a lot of Faiths, Graces, Hopes and Joys, but I have never met another Mercy. I have enjoyed that Mercy’s name is unusual. I have enjoyed the way it makes people stop and think about the word and what it means, because it is not familiar. I have loved how her awareness of her name has so often reminded me of this central, shaping theme in our life of faith. And I have loved how she has journeyed in her own understanding of what her name represents.
As I sat in the ER on Saturday, I noticed a little news item scroll across the bottom of whatever news channel was playing in the room, and there was a word that leaped out at me: Mercy. The announcement had to do with Madonna and her pursuit of adoption of a Malawian girl whose African name translates into English as “Mercy”.
So now with the celebraddiction that dominates our culture, I expect that Mercy’s name will have lost a bit of its novelty, and now instead of a discussion about our faith with people who comment about her name, we will instead likely end up talking about Madonna.
“Why does Aaron think there are dragons that live at Ronald Bog?”
“Oh, they don’t live there. They only sleep there at night.”
“Why does he think this?”
“Well, because I told him.”
“You told him that Ronald Bog is full of dragons?”
“Only at night!”
“Why did you tell him this?”
“Well, he didn’t want to leave Pioneer Club on Wednesday night and he was really starting to throw a fit about not wanting to go home so, in a very calm voice, I told him that I didn’t have to take him home; I could drop him off at Ronald Bog for the night, but he might startle the dragons who sleep there and sometimes when they get startled they sneeze out fire and…”
“I can’t believe you told him that…”
The View from the Hotel Fig
Fireflies caught and cozy in glass
On tables lounging poolside
Friday night lights drowsy beneath
Stretching arms of fluorescent checkerboards tickling heaven.
The corner absorbs me
A cherry in amber
Tasting this funny place that loans me a seat among Angels.
Not far the skate punks rule with baseball bats
Helicopters hang and dive like insects over the bloated light ocean
And every rough edge screams
Like infants gasping the first breath.
The music and costumes try their best to create importance here
Edges paid for, consumed and worn
Cigarettes are casually smoked and do not burn children on this side of Figueroa
Neighbors, strangers, creeping toward each other separated by price tags, papers and siren walls
The cherry tastes bottle sweet and I struggle to swallow.
There’s nothing like a week at a lake cabin for the refreshment of one’s soul.
Aaron has added a number of new words to his ever-increasing vocabulary since being here: beach, rocks, “in it”, boat, Auntie, shark (aka Uncle Richard), Buddha (his cousin, Jordan), slippery, mud, and sand. He has loved the neighbor’s remote controlled airplane (as has his father), the duck family that visits daily, all the dogs from nearby cabins, and of course the three Snorts that were working on a cabin three lots down from us.
Mercy would live in the water if we let her. She is the first one in in the morning and usually the last one out, even on the day that was cold and quite windy. Her favorite activity by far, however, is canoe rides. Once she sees the boat she’s like a dog who has seen her leash: she shadows the person with the lifejackets and oars, and as soon as the boat is placed into the water she is guaranteed to be found climbing into it.
The kids have been introduced to S’mores and hot cocoa (neither have been big hits), and they have stayed up until previously unimaginable hours beyond their bedtimes (something the Haub parents tend to not be flexible about during the rest of the year). In other words, life has been very good.
Other highlights have included great food, lots of family, watching a snort go up a set of stairs to leave the beach, no cell service and mostly no internet, spotting a giant Tiger Muskie, playing with Laylah (my brother’s Boxer) in the water, celebrating my parent’s wedding anniversary, and seeing my kids enjoy what was such a significant part of my childhood.
There has also been a surprise addition to the family while here, one that did not involve labor or hospitals. We are now the proud owners of a lovely minivan that came to us via Portland (thank you Craigslist!). She’s cute, red, and perfect for our growing family! We have been praying every night for a van, and while this purchase did involve taking out a loan which we were hoping to somehow avoid, the price for the mileage and model is one we feel good about. So now, instead of a three hour return flight we are looking at three days on the road (any advice for those of you who have traveled with small children?)!
This is my first summer out here since my Grandma passed away this past winter (this cabin has been in her family for multiple generations now). This place is soaked in memories of her and my Grandpa, and being here has been a daily reminder of how much I loved them and how much I was loved by them over the years. I can almost sense their joy as the next generation is introduced to life at the lake, creating silly games and new memories in the same bedrooms and with the same sand toys that their mommies used so many years ago. It makes me really miss them. It makes me feel so grateful for all the things this lake cabin represents.
In discussions regarding economics, poverty and the like, people will call upon the words of Jesus that proclaim that the poor will always be among us. Many people have a sense that, well, inequality is just a result of the nature and function of social and economic systems, and they are certainly right. I have as much of a sense from scripture, however, that we as Christ-followers are called to witness to an alternative of this in our respective communities. Dr. Rah made the point well in his sermon on Sunday when he said that typically Christians are actually BEHIND the culture in caring for and responding to issues of economic justice and race, rather than visionaries setting a new standard, by the power of the Spirit that is in us. (But that is another post, entirely!)
The thing I have been realizing this week is that Jesus’ words speak to me of another reality. The needy that are among us are not “quick-fixes”, and how rare it is that a need is met for an individual or family that is not followed by yet another need and then another. And this is where “life together” with people who have not had access to education, racial privilege, stable families, quality health-care, etc. can really become draining. Most of us are willing and even eager to intervene in a situation of critical need and give help that can make a difference. Helping to pay for first and last month rent for a homeless family so that they can get into their own place, or giving someone in need of transportation our used car, are examples of the kind of generosity that can feel pretty satisfying and mostly easy. It is the second and third and tenth request for assistance that can make you want to stop answering your phone or front door.
It’s funny, though. Our invitation to generosity is not occasional. It is not reduced to our tax-deductible charitable gifts that we make in December. It is daily and weekly and sacrificial and self-denying, and it goes against every message our culture gives us concerning how we should think about ourselves. And while we should of course love people in ways that work against damaging forces of dependency, we should not chafe at the continual stream of need that is brought to our feet. We dare not, like the early disciples Ananais and Sapphira, decide that it really isn’t required of us to bring all of our excess to the table ready to share.
I was just reading Brad Boydston’s blog and I learned that Fuller Seminary is now making chapel services and other campus programs available online through iTunes. I wrote a post a few days ago where I mentioned an outstanding lecture by Chap Clark on youth and family ministry, and I thought it was worth noting that that lecture is just one of many great things now available as a free download.