January 6, 2016
This past week, our Sunday sermon title was “What is your request?,” based on the passage in Mark where Jesus asks that question of the blind man (Mk 10:51). He spoke of how we are privileged to be able to come to God with our requests. He warned, however, that our requests need to align with His will. The explanation at this point took an unusual twist compared to what I have customarily heard preached: he said that the danger of asking for what we want is that if we cannot handle that particular blessing, due to our own penchants and weaknesses, that which we have asked for will lead us into sin. This is why, he explained, we must not compare our own lives with those of others. One person, for instance, may be a good steward of financial blessing while another may end up squandering the wealth. I mused on this for a bit, appreciating the wisdom of the truth, and somewhat smugly proud to have resonated so quickly with my “truth” point of the sermon. But Then I pushed pause on that pride as I realized that I had not yet figured out a very crucial bit of the equation: namely, what it was that I was asking God for in this new year of my life. Of our life, as a couple. “What is my request?”
Asking this question in such an up front manner, however, I realized I had no idea! And as one who does not deal well with abstractions, this realization was a troubling one. “I want a concrete, tangible New Year’s request for God, dadgummit!,” was my mental exclamation [assuming, of course, that God does not mind such straight talk/thought ;-)]. Yes, I want it. Whoa, hold that thought . . . what did I just say? Eureka—that’s it! That’s what I want from Him! And so it was that I thought my way, in an only slightly circular fashion, into this year’s request for God. I want Him to be real in our lives this year, in a tangible, even tactile way; I want Him to be present in every crossing of the “t” and dotting of the “i”; I want Him to be with us. God with us. Emmanuel. Yes, may it be so. Bold, audacious, and demanding as it may be, this is my plea.
*This photo comes from our New Years’ Day party with the children from the orphanage. What better to illustrate “wanting,” I figure, than the face of a gleefully two-fisted cake-eating little one?
January 1, 2016
It rained on New Years Day and it felt like a miracle. After weeks of Harmattan dust filling our lungs and covering everything with its filthy film, the brief shower felt like pure oxygen. But even more beautiful than the cleansing of it was what the rain was falling onto: the faces of 25 orphans filling my home. I had almost postponed the party the night before, wondering what I was thinking to try to pull together a last minute party when event planning is so not a strong point for me. But I just felt it needed to happen: as I wrote to the orphanage director,
“go ahead and plan to send the children on over . . . It might not be the most perfectly planned or organized party, but we will all have fun, I think. I have water balloons, popcorn, and chocolate milk ready, at least: what more could a kid need? ;-)”
Sure enough, it was not the perfect party. I had the children sit on old drapes in lieu of picnic blankets (and the reason for the picnic being that it was the fastest solution to the fact that I waited too long to make purchases of things like kid-friendly dishes). The children drank chocolate milk out of washed peanut butter and instant coffee jars, and ate cake from their hands (granted, not a bad prospect for most kiddos!). Two belts tied together turned into a game of tug-of-war that my husband ingeniously turned into an all-kids-against-him extravaganza. A lack of dishes turned into a count-teddy-bears game.
But thanks to the help of a couple of good friends (who had only been summoned the night before as we rang in the New Year together), the party logistics came together. All the smiles were big, and genuine.
This year has been, in a word, heavy. I’m not sure why that is the word that came to me as I thought of this year as a whole . . . but that’s what it is.
The rain that fell today was a light rain. And as it fell, it washed the layer of dust off of our world, brightening it all. So as if a word was being spoken to me from He who speaks the Word, I felt as if there was a promise in the year to come. A year of lightness, and brightness: may it be so.