What did you give?

In our senior high class we’ve been talking about the various gifts the young people have. They’re not unusual young folks…and they struggle with many issues–peer pressure about sex and drugs, family issues, homelessness… Some of them don’t feel like they have much to offer.

Today, my son taught the class. He suggested that in this season of giving, the question we most often ask after Christmas is “What did you get?” But if we really mean what we say about the reason for this season, we ought to turn that question around and ask, “What did you give?”

So we gave them a list of possible gifts they might see in themselves–some of them using talents they might have…others more simple (a smile, a hug, listening…). We asked them to find three…and then we asked them to give those gifts to their family, friends, or schoolmates in the next week and a half.

But I wondered…how many times do I focus on “What did I get?” rather than “What did I give?” at this time of year. God gave the greatest gift of love. What am I willing to give?

Merry Christmas



I wanted to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, since I don’t know how much I’ll be on this next week–spending time with family, including taking some time away with my husband for our anniversary right after Christmas.

And as much as I enjoy all the seasonal Christmas “stuff,” including Santa Claus (since I’m married to him!), I wanted to share some readings (scripture, prayer, and poetic greeting) that really focus on why I celebrate this season:

John 1:1-14 (Jerusalem Bible)

In the beginning was the Word:
the Word was with God
and the Word was God.

He was with God in the beginning.

Through Him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through Him.

All that came to be had life in Him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.

His name was John.

He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.

He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the truth light
that enlightens all men;
and He was coming into the world.

He was in the world
that had its being through Him,
and the world did not know Him.

He came to His own domain
and His own people did not accept Him.

But to all who did accept Him
He gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of Him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God Himself.

The Word was made flesh,
He lived among us,
and we saw His glory,
the glory that is His as  the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

Prayer from Peter Marshall

We yearn, our Father, for the simple beauty of Christmas–for all the old familiar melodies and words that remind us of that great miracle when He who had made all things was one night to come as a Babe, to lie in the crook of a woman’s arm.

Before such mystery we kneel, as we follow the Shepherds and Wise Men to bring Thee the gift of our love–a love we confess that has not always been as warm or sincere or real as it should have been. But now, on this Christmas Day, that love would find its Beloved, and from Thee receive the grace to make it pure again, warm and real.

We bring Thee our gratitude for every token of Thy love.

Peace on Earth

This is God’s Christmas greeting.
In the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth,
it was sung by a chorus of angelic voices.
Heard at first only by Judean shepherds outside the town of Bethlehem,
nevertheless, it is a message that the whole world should hear.
On each Christmas Day,
God repeats His greeting.

 Merry Christmas–and God’s peace to each of you.

All Truth

I belong to a denomination which is basically non-creedal. My dad always used to say that if we had one, he would say that it was “all truth.” I thought that was intriguing–and I still do…because depending on where you put the emphasis on those two words, you can get a very different understanding.

So how do I look at my church? Do I believe it has all truth? or that it’s looking for all truth?

If I believe that my church has all truth, then I think I have just limited God! There is nothing to learn from anyone else–and there is nothing else for God to share.

Or does my church seek all truth? If I look at those two words from this perspective, then I am humbled…Truth is not limited to my own understanding–or even to my own church’s or the broader Christian tradition. This allows –in fact, encourages–me to be a lifelong seeker…to be open to hearing others…to understand that each of us sees things from our own perspective–and as we share that with each other, we begin to see truth more clearly.

In some ways this can be frightening…but it is also incredibly exciting as well–and liberating. It permits me to admit that I may actually be wrong at times; I don’t have to have all the answers and be perfect.

All Truth…seeking to understand it opens so many doors and marvelous opportunities…

Tuna Christmas

Last weekend, my husband and I went on one of our periodic dates…to a performance of A Tuna Christmas at the American Heartland Theatre. Several years ago, we had seen the original Greater Tuna and just about laughed ourselves silly…enjoying the quick costume and character changes as well as the gentle humor poked at small-town living.

I was expecting something similar with this play…and it was there, but so was more that really touched me in a different way. It wasn’t all lightness and sweetness and split-your-side-laughter. There was also an awareness that families are touched by tragedies even in the most joyous of times–that behind smiling facades are often hurting people who just keep going because they don’t know what else to do. And yet there is an eternal hope that keeps them thinking that one day things will be better…

An undercurrent to this performance was that about a week before we went, one of the understudies was found murdered in his car–and at this point there’s no idea who or why.

And so, while I went expecting an evening of somewhat mindless entertainment, instead I found myself being reminded that I need to look behind the masks that people wear…be willing to hear what’s not being said…and help each one find the hope that allows us all to keep going.

What makes a family?

My grandson has been struggling with this question since his stepmom left several months ago–and it came up during the Thanksgiving holidays.

It’s a good question. What does make a family?

A few years ago, that would have been easy to answer. A family was a mom, a dad, and probably 2-3 kids. But now? Well, maybe mom, dad, and a couple of kids…maybe mom, dad, kids, and grandparents…maybe mom and kids…dad and kids…dad, stepmom, and kids (his and hers)…husband and wife…couple who are committed partners (heterosexual or homosexual partners)…single person…mom, stepdad, and kids (his and hers)… There are a number of different iterations that make a family.

Our family has some interesting dynamics… Our two kids are 15 years apart in age–one is ours by birth, the other is ours by adoption. Our son-in-law is a year older than my husband. I am 16 years older than our daughter. I’m 4 years younger than my husband, but the age difference looked more like 10 years when we were first married. (Talk about getting some interesting looks through the years!) We’ve had 3 grandkids–2 of them are still living…the other died on his 21st birthday (he was a Marine).

Some of the combinations above imply some form of brokenness–but does that mean that those who are left aren’t a family? That’s what my grandson thought…but he and his dad had a chance to talk through that. Yes, sometimes families are broken, but that doesn’t mean that they are (or were) bad…and they (the two of them) can still be a family.

But what makes a family? Is is birth? Is it a legal piece of paper? What is it?

Blood relationships don’t necessarily make a family. People can be related by blood but not care a bit about the others–in fact, can abuse those they are related to. But blood relationships can be an important part of making a family…

Legal actions can also be an important part of helping to make families–connecting together those who might otherwise have no one else.

Choice is also part of it. For many years, we had a member of our family who had no legal status or blood relationship, but whom we had chosen to draw in–and who chose to allow herself to be drawn in and connected with us.

There’s a saying I like: “Home is where they have to take you in, no matter what.” Not because there is no choice–but because family members love each other so much there is nothing else they can do…an unwillingness to let anything break the bonds that connect.

So where is your home? and your family?