Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Unexpected Christmas!

Christmas day is almost over here in Japan.  It has been a great day!  A completely unexpected day.  Actually, a completely unexpected week!

Sunday was an unexpected when I received a message that my coworker was not feeling well.  By 1PM it was obvious that he was not going to be able to make it to church that afternoon.  Thankfully, we had already planned the themes for advent Sundays, so planning a message in a couple of hours was not quite as difficult.  Everyone at church was understanding and helpful.  We had a good time studying about joy in the story of Jesus' birth.

Monday morning dawned with a snow squall and another not quite as unexpected message.  Influenza had taken down two more of the members of my coworkers' family, putting the count at 3.  I continued with my day off as usual which included tea time with a friend.  God prepared both of our hearts and she offered as I asked her to play piano for our Christmas Eve service at church!

With that unexpected challenge cleared, I was ready to begin preparing for the service on Tuesday.  I spent the day at church, reading, preparing, checking out the programs from the last couple of years, and enjoying delving into the Christmas story again.  My friend came to get the music and help me check the Japanese on the power point.  We had another good time of fellowship.

Unexpectedly, I had just enough cookies left at home to take to my morning exercise friends at the park on Christmas eve morning.  It was fun to see their faces and hear the "Merry Christmas" responses.

Our Christmas eve service was beautiful and full of joy.  I am so grateful for our church, the lovely people, and the wonderful celebration of our Savior's birth.

Following the service, my piano-playing friend came over and spent the night.  We enjoyed fellowship late into the night and basically all day today.  What a blessing to have a friend with whom I can spend a day sitting at the table, chatting, snacking, laughing, crying, and sharing words of wisdom.  An unexpected Christmas was just what I needed!

(Although, I missed hanging out with the Ewing family and look forward to our belated celebration!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Books

 I have a pile of Christmas books.  Most years I read several of them.  This year I have gotten through one of them.  And, it is the shortest one at that! "Christmas in Harmony" by Philip Gulley

It is a really fun read, though.  The book is written by a Quaker pastor, and it is about a pastor who lives in a small town shepherding the church where he grew up.  It makes me laugh out loud and makes me pause to ponder.

Here are a couple of quotes from pages I have dog-eared over the years...
God could have sent a lawyer who would scrupulously define the limits of love.  Instead, He went for broke, and sent a child with whom He was well pleased.  And had the good sense to tell Him that.
Christmas, I tell my wife, is not the time to hold back.  It is the bold stroke, the song in the silence, the red hat in a gray-suit world.

That is the problem of theology- instead of bringing clarity, it often raises questions too frightening to consider.

"You know, Sam, having the Nativity scene spread out like that kinda reminded me how we never really see the full picture.  We think we do, but most we're just lookin' at bits and pieces, thinkin' we're seeing the whole thing."

If you are looking for a quick read this Christmas, one that reminds you of the true meaning of Christmas and the messiness of life, this is a book you might like.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Advent Reading

One of my advent readings from Jane Rubietta's Finding the Messiah this week included this:

Dear one, 
I remember. 
I cannot forget you; 
You are engraved on my hands, 
Tattooed on my heart. 
I’ve been watching out for you 
And watching for you 
Every day of your life. 
I remember your pain; 
I know your disappointments, 
Your sadness, 
All the almosts and not- quites 
Of your life. 
I see how you show up, 
Trying to be faithful, 
To cover all the bases before you, 
And that sometimes, oftentimes, 
There’s not enough of you to go around 
And you can’t get everything done. 
And here’s the truth: 
I rejoice in you 
No matter what. 
But in this season of “I remember,” 
You remember, too: 
In your normal day, 
Your normal job, 
I am with you.