Freedom and courage….

We’ve been going back through old files, trying to pare down / clear out / get rid of…One of the things I found was notes from a Church Women United event I attended in 2008. I wanted to reread my notes from some of the event speakers, and the notes I had written from Nancy Hastings Sehested’s presentation really spoke to me today.

Over the last three years, I’ve gone through some very difficult times at work. Some of it has been tied to the larger economic times, but much of it was also caused by decisions over which I had no control. I had become very angry and frustrated…not a pleasant person to be around. But things have changed. Well…not things, but I’ve changed.

I think some of the things that Ms. Sehested said–and others–must have impacted me in ways that I wasn’t aware of at the time…burrowed them into my mind until I was ready to hear them.

Part of what she said is that the Bible is a record of God’s response to desperate people. That does seem to be when we are most receptive, in my experience!

She was talking about the woman who had the issue of blood–who had gone to doctors and spent everything she had for 12 years…and nothing had changed. She pointed out that sometimes our souls bleed for years because of various personal and institutional issues–and we have forgotten the healing road. I know that was certainly true in my case. And…we want healing to be instant–but this woman’s healing took 12 years!

And her healing only came about because of her courage–in Ms. Sehested’s comments, courage being only “nothing else left to try.” That poor woman was at the end of her rope, and she literally didn’t have anything left to try. That can be a scary place–but it also brings freedom, because when you’re there (again according to Ms. Sehested), you’ve got “nothing else to lose!”

Faith is often born out of our desperation…when there is nothing else we can do. And out of our own experiences, we have a great gift to offer–the gift of our own brokenness. The world doesn’t necessarily need another example of wholeness–something that seems out of reach. It needs people who are willing to walk with others on the road to healing…to recognize that we are each broken in some way…and we can (and must) support each other if we are all to be healed. We can’t do it alone.

Christmas…

In some ways it’s been a little difficult to get into the Christmas spirit this year. My aunt died about five weeks ago (my mother’s younger sister), and her husband died last Friday. In many ways it was a blessing for them–Aunt Earline had Alzheimer’s and so in many ways had been gone for a while before her body gave out, and Uncle Tom had severe Parkinson’s…and just didn’t want to live without his wife.

In and of itself, that would have been enough–but this time of year is also the anniversary of 7 deaths in our family since 2003. Mostly members of the senior generation, but also our oldest grandson on his 21st birthday. And so each death kind of opens up again wounds…

And yet…..

Here comes Christmas.

It’s kind of like the Dr. Seuss story How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Christmas can’t be stolen, regardless of what else is going on. There are all kinds of things that will try to take the Christmas joy away–the Grinches in our lives–yet in the end, Christmas is here.

There’s a line in a Christmas carol that has spoken to me this year more than in the past…

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

Christmas doesn’t mean a trouble-free life. We’re still going to have hopes…and fears. But in the words of a verse of another contemporary Christmas carol…

Good news! Great joy to all the earth–
The Prince of Peace is born!
God’s peace he brings to human hearts
By fear and conflict torn.

And so Christmas comes. Despite anything that we think might stop it, Christmas will come–bringing with it the message of hope…the hope of true joy and peace….the message of the angels every year…

“Don’t be afraid; for you see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”