Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hallelujah and Hope

One of the things I love to do during the holidays is listen to Handel's Messiah or, preferably,to catch a concert of the Messiah. It is the perfect time to meditate on the life of Christ, to wish and mourn and sing HALLELUJAH all in one enthralling night, and leave in jubilant hope. I love to experience Scripture in it's rightful place of astonishing beauty. If there is a way to set apart time to reflect on the "meaning of the season," this, to me, is it.

Of course the most anticipated moment of the evening is the Hallelujah chorus, when the audience stands and I love the legend attached with this moment, that at the London premier of the Messiah, King George jumped to his feet because he mistakenly assumed that the concert was over. Of course the mistake is an easy one to make, as the music culminates at such a peak that even Handel is quoted as saying when he wrote the "Hallelujah" chorus, "I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the Great God himself."

But the concert is not over, and the story is not finished. The resurrection of Christ is the Great Hallelujah in history, but we are still living the story, still anticipating part three of the concert, when at last suffering and injustice and this incurable longing we live with will end and the baby Jesus, who became the sinless Lamb of God, will receive the glory He deserves. When "death will be swallowed up in victory."

And the standing up and sitting back down part carries such significance, doesn't it?

After years and years of Handel's Messiah, how many people have risen, and been seated . . .

This year,
How many times have I risen in praise, and fallen in sin
How many times have I risen in hope, and fallen in disappointment
How many times have I risen in joy, and fallen in depression
How many times have I risen in love, and fallen in selfishness

This year,
How many kingdoms have risen, and fallen
How much progress has risen, and how much destruction has fallen
How much suffering has been relieved, and how much has been created
How much courage has risen, and how much corruption has fallen

This mistaken rising as though the concert were finished, though laughable, is oddly comforting and hopeful.

This world is not the way that it should be, nor is it the way it will always be.

The Lamb of God, risen on the Cross, laid in a tomb.
On the third day, Risen.
Now seated in Heaven.
Waiting, with us, for part three.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thoughts on Frank Schaeffer interview

So why was I so fascinated by the Terry Gross interview with Frank Schaeffer?  I'll try to briefly summarize (and by the way, I missed the first part when he apparently spoke about being pro-life but keeping abortion legal, so I have no opinion on that).

I only have time to do my best from memory, forgive me that I cannot quote him directly.  

His candid testimony of growing up at L'Abri, the son of one of the most influential Christian thinkers of his generation . . . he said that people would come up to him and want to touch him, because he was the son of Francis Schaeffer . . . but that he saw the side of his dad that Christian culture never knew, and that no one is his family ever spoke of.  His father suffered from depression, was often suicidal, violent, and angry.  He talked about seeing his father scream at and even hit his mother, and then go down and preach a sermon.  I felt that he told this very honestly and graciously, portraying his father simply as a man who struggled with sin and despair just like everyone.

His decision to leave evangelicalism and become Greek Orthodox.  He described the liturgy of the church as pebbles that the waves of time have tested and smoothed, and compared it to evangelicalism that is based on the personality of a leader.  And, because churches are so heavily dependent on that person, when there is a moral failure, or problems arise, or that particular leader leaves, the church falls apart.  This made me pause.  Though I can see the flaws of orthodoxy, I can appreciate the value of history and tradition, and I have to agree with him that there can be flaws in the way our churches can become personality-driven.

His choice to not become an atheist.  This was perhaps my favorite part of the interview.  I loved his honesty.  Terry Gross asked him why he didn't leave the faith completely, and he said that he just doesn't know why . . . he said that he doesn't know what part of him makes him want to believe in God, whether it is how he was conditioned from the way he was raised, or whether he really does believe.  All that he knew, he said, was that if he were to make the choice to become an atheist, the first thing that he would have to do is pray and ask God to help him to be an atheist, and that for some reason his day isn't right when he hasn't begun it in prayer.  I was glad to hear an intellectual, skeptic viewpoint who still found that his faith had survived.

He also said a lot of good stuff about politics, his life at L'Abri, and how the Religious Right began with great sincerity and compassion, what happened when spiritual pride and quests for power entered, and how it ended as such a wreck.

I don't know why this interview so impacted me.  Maybe it is what Frank Schaeffer represents:  the son of the man who so greatly influenced the generation of Christianity that I was raised in; a thinker, philosopher, artist . . . who has lived through much of the glory and the hypocrisy attached to faith, and has emerged honestly, humbly, admitting failure, but still clinging to something ultimately Good and True.

I grew up hearing about this man Schaeffer, who people claimed was a prophet.  I leafed through books on my parents' shelf with fascinating titles, "How Should We Then Live,"  "True Spirituality," "He is There and He is Not Silent."  In college, I was influenced by his book "Art and the Bible," one of the only books on art that I found from an evangelical perspective.  And there was Frank's book on Christianity and art, "Addicted to Mediocrity."  When I got married I poured over Edith Schaeffer's book, "L'Abri," and dreamed of ministry so natural as home, and friendship, and shared meals, and curiosity, and conversations.   

His book Crazy for God is on my list to read, and I'm buying it for my dad for Christmas.

I did try to search for other blogs discussing this interview, but aside from the typical Laodicea insults and some liberal mainstream accolade, I didn't find much to chew on.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fresh Air Interview with Frank Schaeffer

Did you happen to catch this interview with Frank Schaeffer on Fresh Air today?


The header is about his position on abortion, but that's really not the main point, or most important part of the interview.  I think I even missed that part, so it must have been the first fifteen minutes . . . the rest of the interview he talked about his book, Crazy For God; How I grew up as one of the elect, helped found the Religious Right, and lived to take it all (or almost all) of it back.

(Frank Schaeffer is the son of late Francis Schaeffer; minister, writer, philosopher).

I know not many of us have an extra 39 minutes of free time . . . but this is the best interview I have heard on Fresh Air, and one of the most thought-provoking concerning the Church, that I have heard in a long time.

If you listened, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

I'm hoping to scout Blog-land tomorrow to catch what people are saying about it, and I'll try to post what I find.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Not My Fault

This morning:

"Mommy, I got marker on the bed."

Me: seeing huge, bold, black strokes covering a ten inch square on the bedspread
"Sami!  You did this on purpose!"


"You know that is wrong."


"Then why did you do it?"

"I didn't have any paper, so it's not my fault."

Now, I confess that I am a bad mother and the first thing I could do was burst out laughing at that last statement.  Because, as much as I think she is so much like her father, in this instance, she is her MOTHER.  Those words came out of my mouth SO MANY times growing up!  I could just SEE my parents gloating as she said it, telling me that my time has come.  I am dealing with MYSELF.

"It's not my fault."

It made perfect sense, to me, that it wasn't my fault when I wrecked the car.  There was ICE and I SLID.  How could that be my fault?

It made sense, every time I dropped a plate, (which happened, oh, every night.  Adolescence was NOT a graceful time for me) that this was not something I INTENDED to do, was OBVIOUSLY an ACCIDENT, and therefore NOT MY FAULT.

And my Dad, and Mom, and brothers, would laugh, and still enjoy mocking me with my laissez-faire approach to personal responsibility.

So when Sami said it wasn't her fault, it knocked me over.  And it so related to some things that I have been thinking and praying about, that I just could not miss the application . . .

I've been thinking a lot about sin, and it's consequences, and a few of the things I had written just this morning regarding sin were so applicable:
I chose to sin when:
-I thought maybe this (temptation) was my only choice (I want to color and all there is is this bed).
-boredom (there's nothing to do, I'll just color on the bed)
-I remember longing to change, but feeling trapped even though I really wasn't. I thought I couldn't leave but I totally could have. My prison wasn't real (There is this marker in my hand.  I happen to by lying on the bed.  I have no choice but to color on it).

And here's the thing:  I am an artist.  There is NOTHING I LOVE more than to see my child coloring, or painting, and to color and paint with her . . . if she had asked I would have given her great piles of paper!  Rooms of paper!  If I have anything to do with it, my daughter will NEVER run out of PAPER!  Ever.  

And I think of the God of JOY who must surely have these vast OCEANS of JOY that He's willing to give us, and the God of PEACE that is bigger than MOUNTAINS, and LOVE, and WISDOM, and HOPE . . . all of these things that God doesn't just think are nice, but He embodies them!  He has limitless resources of these things, and gives them freely, LAVISHLY, joyfully to His children when we ask.  Surely, He even hopes we will make good use of them, that we will just try and see if we can't use up all the rooms of paper or joy or wisdom that He has to give us.

But it requires that tiny step of faith, that act of will to RESIST the right NOW; resist coloring on the bed, being satisfied with less, resist believing the lie that this is all there is, the only choice, as good as it gets . . . and come to Him.
God never coerces us . . . When we choose deliberately to obey Him, then He will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with all His almighty power.     -Oswald Chambers

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tradition, TRADITION!

This year my oldest daughter is three.  Old enough to begin to understand and appreciate Christmas.  And this year, for the first time I feel like I have the time to focus on Christmas.  It suddenly occurred to me that it is my turn now, to begin establishing traditions, to find creative ways to make Christmas meaningful and memorable, to create a calm and joyful atmosphere for my family.   So I have been putting some thought into it, collecting some ideas, and beginning what will hopefully be the first of many years of Christmas traditions in our home.

Yesterday we made this advent calendar.  I found the idea from Maya Made, (Do you read this blog?  LOVE IT) but I didn't have toilet paper rolls so I made my own little envelopes out of brown packing paper.  I was somewhat satisfied with how they turned out, but have some ideas for next year and was thinking how fun it would be to collect poems, quotes, thoughts, and scripture, and put together my own Advent devotions for each day, then give them as gifts.  Maybe next year I'll plan ahead!

Personally, I am really enjoying this online advent calendar from Christianity Today.

For this year, I am planning to write simple devotions that a three year old can understand, and I'll also include some "prizes," such as a special time with Mom or Dad, or an occasional family movie, late-night walk, etc., in the form of tickets, as suggested by Maya. 

I had hoped to do a Jesse Tree this year, and ordered a kit that never arrived, so maybe next year.  

Some other simple suggestions for family traditions that I am planning to begin this year are:
- when setting out the nativity, keep Baby Jesus and wrap him in a small box, to be opened by one child on Christmas Eve.  We'll read the Christmas story, and then place baby Jesus in the manger.
-On Christmas Eve, turn out the lights and let each person light a candle.  Talk about the past year, share blessings and stories, gives thanks as a family.
-I am going to begin a Christmas journal, that I will keep packed away with the Christmas decorations during the year.  In it I'll record the traditions we started, any special recipes that I want to remember, and write about special guests, events, or things that happened that Christmas.  Each year we can remember Christmases past, and it will help me to not forget the traditions we started!

And of course, there's cookie baking, decorating, a little shopping, and gift wrapping.  

I hope to instill in my children the value of handmade gifts.  Looking around my home, I think that this should come naturally.  Our house is filled with furniture and toys made by my grandfather (who lost one arm, by the way!), and clothes and quilts sewn by my grandmother.  I think we need to keep these old-fashioned handicrafts alive, and I really want to pass the satisfaction of creativity on to my children.  I am planning to come up with small gifts for them to make and give.  This year, so far I have only found one gift appropriate for a three year old to make:  bookmarks.  Does anyone have any other ideas?  We also did some potato-print wrapping paper, which I could also do for sets of notecards.

I am planning to make Sami this and Anna this.  (I'm not much of a sewer, but these I think I can handle).

Small Notebook has some good suggestions for creating holiday traditions.  I like her approach:
I just want to make sure our family’s traditions are truly ours, and not what’s recommended by a magazine’s “must-have” list. I’m trying to let the joy of Christmas sink in, not put on an exhausting one-woman show.      
I am sure that the most important role for Mom is creating a home that is pleasant, not perfect, at Christmas or anytime.  

(I love that "creating" word.  Being a stay-at-home-Mom is challenging, often mundane, days are long, sometimes lonely.  But it's the most creative thing I've ever done).

Monday, December 1, 2008


I happened to be out at about 8:00 on Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, and drove past our local Wal-Mart.  (Thankfully, I was not out to fight the madness at Wal-Mart, but rather to meander through my favorite Anti-Wal-Mart across the street, Big Lots!  I live in a small town people.  We don't have many options.  I seriously do love Big Lots . . . it is the best place for cereal, usually name brands are two bucks a (dented, banged-up) box, and you just never know what you're going to find there, which is part of the fun . . . ). 

So I drove past Wal-Mart and the parking lot is just totally packed, cars everywhere, and it is COLD, and late, and Thanksgiving is the next day, and I felt this overwhelming sadness for that place and the people there, loading up their carts, dragging their kids along and fighting through all those long glaring aisles.  I imagined how many moms like me were there, at the end of a long day, in a frenzy to buy all those last-minute ingredients for a meal that they don't know how to prepare but must somehow pull off.   I thought of the kids who haven't seen their parents all day and when they do they will be stressed-out, and tired, and won't have time to tell their kids what Thanksgiving means.  

I could rant and rave about all the things I hate about Wal-Mart, but Wednesday night I just felt like weeping for the country that produced Wal-Mart, for our consumerist society that requires it, and for the people shopping, who are trying so hard but only growing more frazzled, and tired, and unhappy, and bored. 
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.  Matt.11.28,29
Friday we learned about this.
God help us.