Thursday, December 29, 2022

Wonderings--December 29

It has been a while since I talked Bianca on this blog. 

For those who don't remember, or have never met her, Bianca is our 8-year-old Shih Tzu. She is beyond sweet and kind and gentle. But Bianca also displays some territorial sassiness, a get-away-from-my-bowl attitude, that is so endearing. We frequently find her standing on the hearth in the den because that is the spot where Luna's dinner is served and perhaps, just maybe, if she is good, Bianca will find a morsel Luna left behind--or better yet, she might find Luna's bowl. 

But Bianca also has some issues--one big on in particular that I witnessed again today. 

She lives in a constant state of pink eye. Dr. Love gave us medicine for her eyes and it works well. But some mornings, like today, the infection is so significant that one of her eyes is sealed shut because of the discharge that comes with pink eye. Not to worry, a warm compress and a few drops and she's back to trolling for food and 'grunting' happily around the house. 

Like I said, today was not a good morning for her. Her left eye was completely sealed off and before I could get a warm washcloth for her, she trotted off toward to door. But again, she has only one good eye in this moment. So as you can imagine, she bumps into things. Doors, walls, Bianca gets too close to everything. 

I reach down to pick her up but she scampers toward the door and into the yard. 

On her way back inside, Bianca is trotting--happy as can be. She will get a treat now and that is reason for celebration. After treat-time I fix the eye and she can see again and runs off for a drink and look for breakfast. 

But as I walked over to work I wondered. . . 

We all have issues in our lives. Some spiritual. Some physical. Some emotional. And likely some are a combination of all three. They weigh us down. Blind us. Discourage us. Isolate us from each other. Their painful sting is often something we do not think other people can endure. 

But as I thought about Bianca's issue, I wondered, why is it that she chooses contentment when discouragement would be understandable? Perhaps there is something in Bianca's example that can speak to you now? What would it look like to choose contentment in the face of a discouraging moment? Where might you find God in that space? 

Blessings . . .

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Wonderings--December 28

Today is the day that we remember Herod's heinous act of killing the children in Bethlehem. I read the story from the gospel of Matthew as part of my devotions and spent some time thinking and reflecting on it. 

Can you imagine what the mothers and fathers in Bethlehem thought as the soldiers went from house to house carrying out their orders? I am not just taking about the terror and grief of each parent, but the desperation. The helplessness. Trying to keep their children silent so as to avoid being discovered. . . 

Think about how those same parents would return to God when it was over? 

What could they possibly say to God? How would they express themselves? Tears? Sadness? Rage? Feelings of abandonment? I imagine the responses were as diverse as the people of Bethlehem. I wouldn't have the words to speak to God in that moment; it might take me a while. I know that I would want to talk to God, I would know that I need to talk to God, but what could I possibly say? 

How could I express myself? 

How could I find "thy will be done" when I hurt so much? Ache so much? Want to curl up in a ball and disappear? 

And while we have not experienced the torment those parents did on that horrible day, we do experience our own pain each day that we might know is too much. Even as Christmas is still so close to our hearts and minds, we might find that we do not have the words for God today. 

If that is you, then I offer you a short little practice today to help: 

Find a quiet moment, a quiet space (even if that space is in a crowded room), and sit. . . Breath. 

Begin with a prayer, something like: "God, it's me again, And here's the messy, unsettling truth of it all. . ."

Take time to unpack the whole of it with God, every detail you feel is important, don't leave anything out, until you experience the 'sigh.' . . Finally a word of grace: be patient with yourself, 'the sigh' will find you. 

Rev. Derek

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Wonderings--December 27

It has been quite a while since I sat here and wrote about what's on my mind. But as advent ends for 2022, and the new year is this weekend, I thought about something that I read recently. 

In a recent edition of Christian Century I read the following thought and I lingered over it for a bit. 

"We have no idea what it cost God to make all things. But we can see what it cost God to be with us in Christ. The cost of our living with God forever is a cost we could never afford. . . [it is] beyond our capacity or ability to pay." 

But that cost is not beyond God. The God of heaven and earth paid the cost for us to come home in the simple act of sending his only Beloved Son to earth. And while I know that it likely did not happen on December 25, as this week begins I cannot help but reflect on what God was willing to give up for me. . . 

In a 2022 novel, Goodnight, Vienna, we read the story of Gretchen a 12-year-old girl living in Vienna in 1937 and Katya, her caregiver and physician. In the story when the Nazis take over Austria, Katya realizes that she must help Gretchen, a neurodivergent child, escape before she becomes a medical test subject for the Nazis. 

So they board a train each with forged passports and the process of the escape begins. While on the train, the two women meet Shulamit, a Jewish woman who uses a wheelchair. 

When they reach the Hungarian boarder (which is the final leg of their escape), the Gestapo guards stationed there scrutinize the passports glowering at the women. They are looking for a 12-year-old girl traveling with a woman. As the tension rises in the story, and it appears the game's up, something dramatic happens. Shulamit comes over the guards. . . 

She begins to belittle them for not noticing that she is Jewish, and what's worse, she's plotting to kill Hitler! The guards march Shulamit in her wheelchair to the nearest train and in doing so they completely forget about Gretchen and Katya. 

Gretchen can't believe what's happened, but Katya somberly says, "I think she planned to do it all along, if she saw you were in danger." 

Gretchen sobs, "I can't thank even thank her."

Katya replies, "I think she knows that you will thank her with everything you do in your life." 

Advent cost God so much. It cost God the perfect relationship with Jesus on the cross. And while that event will not happen for some time, in the life of the church, the cost must still be paid so you and I can go home. Like Shulamit in our story, God did something amazing, something self-sacrifical, something that only God could do. 

I wonder what that miracle means in your life today? I wonder how you might go about thanking God for what He did in sending Jesus to earth for us? 

Rev. Derek 

I Wonder--November 29

I wonder if you would pray with me for someone you have not met?  Today I had my yearly physical with my doctor and it went very well. Heart...