The Red Journal

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Since 1999 my older brother has kept a Christmas journal that contains reflections on Christmas written by members of the family. Each Christmas one family member writes in the journal and then does a reading at the annual party.

journal

I recognize each person’s handwriting. What a special tradition.

2014 was my year. 


I wrap my children’s Christmas gifts early and put them out a couple weeks before Christmas day. If the gifts are out, you may wonder, how do I keep my children from squeezing and shaking and peeking at their packages in the days and weeks before Christmas? Wouldn’t the temptation to take a peak be just a little too strong? And what about the beautiful packaging – doesn’t it get bent and torn and worn away?

Yes and yes.

In fact, in our house there is a lot of movement of the gifts (by the children) – from upstairs in my bedroom, to down under the tree, to back up in the bedroom again. As you can imagine, there are repairs on the paper from holes and rips that, “accidentally” appeared there.photo 1 (3)

None of this bothers me. You see, I know that the majority of the pleasure derived from the gifts is experienced in the anticipation of opening them and seeing what is inside. Once opened, gifts often lose their luster and it doesn’t take long on Christmas day or the days following for the open gifts to be pushed aside and forgotten. Sweet treats from the stocking are found under the couch partially eaten and collecting dust, little makeup boxes lay empty and discarded while the eyeshadow they once contained is caked on my children’s faces or, occasionally, smeared into the sofa. The device they’ve wanted all year is discarded in preference of mom’s iPhone – as usual.

That’s OK too. As much as gifts and even lovely traditions (like this journal) are important and we hope they last for generations to come, gifts and traditions don’t make Christmas – Christmas. And Christmas will certainly not cease to be Christmas if all the gifts and traditions and trappings were taken away. The Whos taught us that.

Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small,

Was singing! Without any presents at all!
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling:

Grinch: How could it be so?
It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!

Narrator: And he puzzled and puzzled, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”

-Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

So, what does Christmas mean?

I think most of us would agree that Christmas is the Celebration of the birth of a Savior. Everyone here tonight knows that. We come together at this time of year to celebrate the BIRTH of a Savior. Emphasis on the word, Birth.

Now, I am not against Jesus’ birthday, Christmas traditions or gift giving; the Bible encourages traditions and even the wise men gave gifts, but if that is where our Christmas celebration ends, our disappointment is guaranteed. We are left with emptiness, much like the feeling we experience after the gifts are finally opened and we wake up on the morning of the 26th to a house full of discarded wrappings and empty boxes. It’s not enough, it’s never enough – all the amazing and beautiful, best gifts in the world or fun Christmas events and parties can never truly satisfy the longing inside of us. In fact, once Christmas is finally all over, we are often left feeling relieved.

Now let me try to say this again, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of a SAVIOR, emphasis on the word, Savior. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

The gifts will never satisfy because our hearts are longing for something much greater and more lasting – our forever home – heaven, Eternity with God Himself. A place and a time where the celebration will not be focused on the Savior’s birth but a place and a time where the celebration is focused simply, on the Savior.

Think of the generations of worshipers from the very first; those of old who looked forward with anticipation for a Savior who would one day come, to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, the disciples, the apostles, the early church, the very first believers in nation after nation as the Gospel spread all over the world and even to this present day. Imagine all those who have gone before us, and the true believers who are celebrating Christmas all over the world far and near even this very night. We, every true follower of Christ who has ever lived and is alive today, are invited, not just to celebrate the birth of this precious baby, but, in fact, we are all members of the wedding party in the most glorious wedding supper of all time. Rev. 19:9 “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” 

This same baby, God in human form, who entered this world in a stable and was laid in a manger grew into manhood and was victorious over death and the grave in order to give us the greatest gift ever given, one that can never be damaged or outdated or unsatisfying; the gift of Grace to save us from our sins.

And this gift, He is still offering it today. At this very moment, he is calling out to the lonely. The sick. The brokenhearted, The imprisoned. The depressed. The hungry. The dying. The lost. The deceived. The fearful. The poor. The proud. The haters. The smallest child and The aged. Those near and those far away.

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. Rev. 21:3-7

It’s why we celebrate – it’s what we celebrate – not just the birth of the savior – but what his birth represents – Emmanuel – God with us – our Savior has come.

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Longing for the Apocalypse

It’s no secret that I love a good Zombie flick. Maybe they resonate with me because I consider myself a survivor, so much so, that I would never consider participating in a “Zombie Run” or the like because,

A. I would never want to “be” the zombie (I’m a Survivor of course.)

B. I have no desire to run from zombies – if you can’t kill them, what’s the point?

Since we are coming into that zombie time of year (October and the return of The Walking Dead) I decided to research Zombie origins to satisfy my curiosity. I am in no way an expert and my “sources” have been gathered exclusively from the wonderful world of The Internet, and my own brain.

Zombies can be classified into two categories:

Category A: Zombies: Corpses raised from the dead by magic or witchcraft as by Haitian voodoo.

Category B: Zombies: Fictional undead creatures originally found in mythical literature, such as that age old classic, the ancient Mesopotamian Epic Poem – Gilgamesh, where we are told “the dead will go up and eat the living.” Or, in more recent centuries, Shelley’s Frankenstein or the novelette’s of H.P Lovecraft. These undead creatures appeared in fictional written and oral traditions until the 20th century when the zombie genre expanded to include film and TV (i.e. 1968 Romero classic, Night of the Living Dead.)

The Zombies that fascinate me are the second category, fictional creatures. I believe voodoo, witchcraft and satanic forces exist in this world. Demons are real. I have first-hand knowledge. They are not funny. They are not cool. I do not choose to derive pleasure from anything satanic, nor will I ever. But that is a topic for another post.

When I refer to zombies, it is the creature who, usually by the introduction of some sort of infection or virus has killed the host (i.e. – the human is dead) and the zombie virus now inhabits the body. There is nothing satanic or demonic at work, but rather a super nasty, and deadly, disease that utilizes a corpse.

So what is it exactly that fascinates me (and literally millions around the world) about the zombie genre.

Could it be the Fear of death?  Does our fear of death present in such a way that not only do we fear our own deaths, but we take it a step further and fear those things that are dead? Possible.

Yet, I do not fear death. On the other hand, I definitely do not want to get eaten alive. That would be horrible. Zombie or shark or remote jungle cannibal – really, who doesn’t fear getting eaten alive?

As I considered my fascination with the zombie genre a little longer I realized that it was not so much the zombies themselves that fascinate me but rather, the idea of Apocalypse that I find most often goes hand in hand with modern zombie stories.

If I were to ask a stranger on the street, to define “apocalypse” I believe most would define this word to mean a specific catastrophic event in which the world as we know it is destroyed and the ensuing struggle for survival in the aftermath of the event (i.e. zombie virus, Biblical prophecy, world-wide death due to flu virus, world war/bombs, collapse of the internet/electricity, etc…) Truthfully, this has become the modern definition of the word.

However, the original meaning of the Greek word, apokalypsis (apocalypse) according to Strong’s concordance is:

def 

The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon describes apocalypse to mean:

  1. laying bear, making naked
  2. a disclosure of truth, instruction
  3. concerning things before unknown
  4. used of events by which things or states or persons hitherto withdrawn from view are made visible to all
  5. manifestation, appearance

It seems to me, the essence of apokalypsis (apocalypse) is the action of something that was once hidden and is now being revealed.

As in: Jesus revealed God to man.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father?”’” John 14:9

If this is the essence of apocalypse, no wonder millions are fascinated with it. What is more deliciously frightening than the unknown?

I believe we have deceived ourselves into believing that what we know is all there is, and what we do not yet know is simply, undiscovered – yet, discover-able by us. However, on some level, the thought of an unknown, the revelation of that which we have never known before, or ever could know on our own, terrifies, exhilarates and ultimately utterly fascinates us.

We search for truth in that which is not true (like zombies taking over the earth) because there is something inside of us that knows there is a veil over our eyes, that there is more than we could ever come to know on our own short of a some sort of miraculous unveiling.

I suppose my fascination with the zombie apocalypse genre is more than just your everyday, common fascination with creepy stuff; I believe it is a longing for the revelation to, at last, be revealed. A crying out of my flesh and my spirit, in my own unique way, for the restoration of how things were meant to be. It is a longing for an end of this temporary existence and a stepping into the eternal existence with God, through Jesus, that has been The Creator’s intention since the beginning of time.

Call me crazy, you won’t be the first, but it won’t curb my longing for the apocalypse.

 

These are my thoughts, I proclaim freely that I am no expert, just a simple soul who loves Zombie stuff and longs for the day when the veil will be removed and all will be revealed.  I welcome discussion and corrections!

I am no Greek or Biblical scholar, but until today, I did not realize that the Greek word for apocalypse was used in the Bible. (Rom 16:25, 2 Cor. 12:7, Gal. 1:12, Eph. 3:3, Rev. 1:1 to cite just a few locations.)

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Time Flies – Woosh!

Time-Flies-Use-it-Wisely

The older I get, the faster it moves. Week by week, season by season. Time is flying by. Am I the only one who feels this way?

“…time is often foolishly spent. Not just mere seconds or hours, but years and decades and in the saddest cases of all, lifetimes are wasted. Our lives are more than a handful of good deeds that if we are lucky, might just add up to enough to buy a ticket to a pleasant eternity.” 

See more on my weekly Moms of Faith article. Find the original here.

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death. Life, Living, Everlasting Life and ETERNITY

It’s Sunday afternoon and my neighbor was found dead this morning. This is not the first paragraph of a crime novel, it really happened.

A little after 8:00 AM I was on the way to the basement to get the clean laundry so we’d have something to wear to church. As I passed through my office at the front of the house I noticed police lights flashing outside and that an officer was walking toward my neighbor’s door. As I moved in for a closer look out the window I saw the body of my neighbor lying in the rain next to the trash and recycling buckets.

I ran through the kitchen and opened the front door and saw that poor Bill was not passed out as I hoped, but that he was dead in a puddle of water.

Let me pause to explain our bizarre living situation. I live in a 120 year old Victorian that at some point mid-century was divided into two apartments and offices. This unique division means that several parts of the house are inevitably shared living. So Bill was not a “far-away” neighbor but a man I saw and spoke with almost daily. The door to the basement which led to the clean laundry that we were about to wear to church, was in his kitchen.

In fact, I was the last one, to my knowledge, to speak to Bill, in person at least. The oven in my kitchen has been broken for months and it has just been easier to come downstairs and use Bill’s oven for all my baking and cooking needs. He didn’t mind, he never used it. Last night I was pulling out pork chops and baked potatoes and Bill came stumbling in from outside.

He was in his late sixties, a life-long smoker and was deeply depressed. He was alone in the world except for a daughter and a ninety year old father. Last week my dad and brother had to call Bill’s family to look in on him because it was clear to those of us who saw him on a daily basis that he was unwell, not eating and fading away. This wintery winter had been hard on him.

His daughter took him for a full check-up last week and the report was good. Bill even perked up for a few days! But last night he was not right. Dizzy. Unstable. I helped him to his seat and talked with him a bit. I asked if the medicine was making him dizzy and he said it did. I told him to call me on my cell phone if he needed me, I would come.

That’s the last time we spoke.

After the events of this morning I wish I had called my dad last night to come and check on Bill. In hindsight, I would have done things differently, yet I will live with my decision. He had been so weak for so long that his appearance was not as alarming as it should have been to me.

I am saddened that his body had to be found outside in the rain by a passerby. I am sad that he seemed to have nothing to live for and chose to fade away.

I am glad that his body was found on a Sunday morning and not a weekday when my children would have been walking to school and witnessed it. I’m thankful he died in an open place where he was found and not in his bed so that after a few days myself or my brother (who works here) would have smelled his remains.

This is raw. And this is honest.

Bill did not have a relationship with the Healer of Hearts, Jesus Christ.  That is the saddest news of all.

His death, as with all situations of this kind, has opened a door of conversation with my own children about life, living, everlasting life and eternity, so I will treasure and nurture these conversations. If there is only one glimmer of sweetness in this tragic, bitter end, those conversations are it.

death

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(E for Eternity & Everlasting Life)

 

PS – this was written last Sunday.