Sunday, December 04, 2016

Cousins Mary and Elizabeth and Advent

The first chapter of the book of Luke tells the stories of two cousins, Mary and Elizabeth. The prominence of women in the Gospels is part of what makes Christianity believable to me. In the first century, women had a low status in the very patriarchal society. They had no role in public life. Yet, here they are, playing such important roles in Jesus' birth.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.
11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid,Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink,and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Elizabeth is the perfect person to meditate on for Advent. She was waiting. In her society, a woman had no status without children. (Yes, I realize such a society is unjust, but that's the way it was.) Luke tells us that Elizabeth and her husband waited for years. They remained faithful to God, but God hadn't answered their prayers for a child. Zechariah got up and went to the temple when it was his turn. Elizabeth did whatever work she did. And then, all of the sudden, they find out that they are going to have a baby!

The scripture says that Elizabeth remained in seclusion for five months. Why? I think part of it may have been because she didn't want everyone to know that she was pregnant if she miscarried because then she'd have to deal with all the explanations and sympathies that are always so awkward. She may also have been doing everything possible to keep her pregnancy calm. Every society has it's own traditions about what expecting moms should and shouldn't do.


 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary was in a very different situation. She was young, probably a teenager, who was engaged to be married. Now an angel comes to tell her that she's going to have a baby even though she's not married. Yes, this is highly inconvenient. Her time of waiting is the time between  when she finds out she's pregnant and when the baby is born. Mary was obviously on God's side of things because she doesn't seem to hesitate and says, "I am the Lord's servant." (BTW, the angel talks to Joseph in Matthew's Gospel and Joseph agrees to marry Mary and give Jesus an earthly father.)


39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her

Pregnancy involved lots of waiting. Waiting to feel the baby move. Waiting for nausea to get better. Waiting for the day when you can see your feet again. And on and on. Mary took a trip to see Elizabeth while she was pregnant. Elizabeth felt her baby, John the Baptist kick in her womb, which she interprets as God favoring Mary and her baby.


   And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary's song, the Magnificat, is one of the best pieces of poetry in scripture. As Mary is waiting for her child, the Messiah, to be born, she is remembering the things that God has done for the people of Israel in the past and claiming his promises for the future.

Elizabeth waits for many years to have a child. Mary waits through her pregnancy to deliver her baby, Emmanuel. These are both pictures of Israel's waiting for it's Messiah and for the world waiting for it's deliverer. 

God used these women as crucial players in his plan for bringing his kingdom to earth. Meditate on this during this Advent season.

CCM

Friday, December 02, 2016

Advent and Chronic Pain

Advent. It means "the arrival of a notable thing, person, or event." In the Christian calendar, it is the beginning of the Christian year, the four Sundays that lead up to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus. 

Advent is waiting. We spend this time knowing that we need a Savior and knowing that God has promised a Messiah, but he hasn't yet come. But, he will.

I grew up in a non-liturgical church, so we didn't observe Advent. Right after Thanksgiving, we were in full Christmas mode. And I still enjoy my Christmas tree and lights and Nativity sets.

But, I also understand the need to be still and wait. To remember how much I need Jesus. To feel the brokenness and pray for healing. 

It's the time of year to remember the promises that God made about his coming Messiah.  

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.

I realized today how much Advent is like having chronic pain. I'm waiting. Always waiting. I know that in the end, I'll be pain-free. God will either heal me or take me to heaven, but I have to live this life that I have right now.

So I wait and I pray, like the people of Israel did for those many years. I read the words of the prophets that they heard or that they heard read in the synagogues. "The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this." Yes. God will do this. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but He will.

What are you waiting for this Advent? Jesus is right beside you and ready to walk this life with you. He may not choose to physically heal you right now, but he'll walk through whatever is hurting you right now right with you. All he asks is  that you trust him.

Over these next few weeks, read your Bible, particularly the stories of the birth of Jesus and the prophecies that they reference. Anticipate the arrival of the Savior. Pray for Jesus to have a real impact on your life this Christmas.

Thoughts?

CCM 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Lagniappe 11/19/2016

I've been home for a week and I'm so content. I'm really such a homebody these days. My month with my parents was good. They are recovering from their surgeries well. It was great to see my brother and his family again, too.

  • I got back into Wisconsin exactly a week ago. I expected Patrick to pick me up from the airport, but actually, he and both kids picked me up!! Yay! I felt very loved!
  • Patrick signed up for Blue Apron while I was gone. He made several of the meals and liked them. He and I made the last one together on Thursday and it was delicious! The only problem is that we didn't make the beet-cranberry agrodolce because the beet was all squishy because we should have made it about four days earlier. Besides, something with both beets and cranberries would have been very "challenging" for my palate. After the first of the year, we'll be trying some more of the Blue Apron meals. And, it turns out that Patrick and I do a really good job cooking together!
  • Chris got into Concert Choir for next semester!! He told me last week that the audition was last Thursday and then he let me know the audition results at the airport!! I'm so happy for him. He has worked really hard on his sight-singing and aural skills this semester.
  • Lydia is now working full-time at her job. She spent the first three months technically working for the temp agency that got her the job. Now that she's officially working for the company, she gets next Thursday and Friday as paid holidays (something that never happened when she worked in hospitality). And, a couple of weeks ago, she got moved to a job that she wanted (doing inventory) in which she is not constantly on her feet and that starts at 8am instead of at 6am. And, it came with a raise! Overall, she's pretty happy with her work status.
  • Lydia was also very excited this week because she got a turkey at work! Of course, she can't even think about cooking it in her tiny oven, but it's 12 pounds, so we'll just use it for our Thanksgiving turkey. One less thing for me to buy!
  • I spent my first couple of days at home not sleeping well and just getting a bit done here and there. Finally, on Wednesday, I decluttered part of the living room and cleaned the kitchen. I had major plans for the rest of the week, but I woke up with a migraine on Thursday that has not let loose since then. Ugh.
  • LSU lost to Florida today. It's not good for me when Florida wins. So many of my high school friends are from UF (I grew up in West Palm Beach) that my FB feed turns blue and orange when Florida beats LSU. Not good.
  • I'm knitting my fingers to the bones. It's getting time for Christmas presents!! And I've chosen some lovely yarn, so it's fun for me to knit!
  • Big news: I got all seven of the Harry Potter novels on audio from Pottermore! Yay!
  • And, I learned something while listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We learn about the vanishing cabinet in Borgin and Burkes, which I already knew about. But, we also learn about how the vanishing cabinet in Hogwarts gets broken! Harry gets in trouble with Filch and is taken to his office. To distract Filch, Nearly Headless Nick has Peeves cause a distraction, which is to drop the vanishing cabinet in a classroom directly over Filch's office. Filch exclaims that Peeves has now broken a very valuable vanishing cabinet! This becomes important in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when the Weasley twins stuff Montague into the cabinet. And, it's of major importance in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because Draco Malfoy repairs it so that the Death Eaters can enter the school. Wow. Rowling really planned this thing out.
  • Christmas Mint M&Ms are out!! I'm really trying to limit myself. Really.
  • Next week is Thanksgiving, so I'll be cooking and cooking and even more cooking!! 
More later about politics, books I'm reading, and things Jesus is teaching me. What are you up to? Comments are always welcomed!!

CCM

Friday, November 11, 2016

Post Election Thoughts

I'm still trying to work out how I feel about Tuesday's election. I'm obviously unhappy that Trump won. And I have friends who are truly scared because they are part of a marginalized group.

Other Christians are posting things like "God is still on his throne" and "Trump may be president, but Jesus is King". While that is true, it doesn't mean that there won't be consequences from the results of the election. God was still in control during the Holocaust, right?

In fact, we're already seeing racism and xenophobia already rearing their ugly heads. These are attitudes that were there before the election, but people are feeling more comfortable expressing these ideas. Check out this twitter feed.

I'm not the first to question how God can allow personal and corporate catastrophes to happen. Job (in the Bible) was one of the first and certainly not the last. But, the fact is that God does let this kind of thing happen. (I'm not a Calvinist - I think God lets them happen, not that he makes them happen.) I truly believe that Trump becoming president is a bad thing. Maybe he'll prove me wrong.

The first thing we can do is lament. Lament is a biblical response to any kind of tragedy. There are laments in the Psalms and the prophets. My go-to scripture is the Book of Lamentations traditionally ascribed to Jeremiah and written as a response to the exile of the Jews from Jerusalem. The author cries out to God asking why God could allow such a disaster to occur.

And right now, it's OK to just lament. If you are one of the marginalized groups of people that Trump has spoken against, you may need more time to adjust to the new reality. And that's just fine. Pray, meditate, be with people who love you and lift you up.

When our time of lament is over, the time of work begins. That starts with prayer. Our foundation is always prayer. Micah 6:8 tells us, 
"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God."

Justice, mercy, and humility start with God. After that, we each have our lives to live and our own work to do. What I do as a 49 year old woman with chronic migraine is going to be completely different from my daughter as a 22 year old dance teacher. 

And this, of course, brings us back to love. We must love each other. We must love the marginalized people who are understandably scared right now - immigrants, Muslims, disabled, LGBTQ friends, and even women. But, we also must love those who are acting hatefully - the KKK groups that are harassing the marginalized and putting out nasty fliers, the Confederate flag fliers who are scaring our African-American population, and all those who are speaking ill of anyone.

So, love hard. It may not be easy. But, it's the only choice we have if we're going to put this country back together. 

Anything you would add?

CCM

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

. . . And Moving On . . . .

Election day is over. For the vast majority of us, that means we go on living our lives as usual. Barring any great catastrophe, the checks and balances placed on the branches of government by our founding fathers mean that there won't be any dramatic changes in our lives based on the election results anytime soon. I am so blessed to be in a family that believes in love, tolerance, and patience. But, one of my "adopted" daughters has received some hateful messages on Tumblr because of her sexual orientation. Please remember that there are some out there who are vulnerable to other peoples' rudeness, hate, and persecution; and pray for them when you can.

My mom and dad are recovering well from their surgeries. Dad has his catheter out and had a very good visit with the urology clinic today. Mom has been able to drive since Monday, which is good since I've had an intermittent migraine for about five days. Mom still has some pain from healing, but she's managing. She likes to pick up things that are too heavy and doesn't do well with resting, but she never has . . . 

Mom bought a new microwave today at Home Depot. It was the last one of the floor model, so it came without a box. She had someone load it into the car at Home Depot. When she came home, though, I brought it upstairs, which wasn't very hard because it's not all that heavy. But, then, I moved the old microwave from the shelf to the floor of the living room. It was heavy. Then, I put the new microwave in it's spot and life was good! And my nephew gets to move the old microwave downstairs. Because I'm old. 

I've been working on some knitting projects that I'm not at liberty to discuss because Christmas!!!

Speaking of Christmas, I made a Christmas music playlist on my phone!! I'll rotate between that and Hamilton when I want to listen to music. 

I was going to recruit my nephews and work on getting Mom and Dad's Christmas tree and a few decorations up, but I woke up with such a bad migraine yesterday that I couldn't do it. We might try again Friday after school. The stuff is up on a high shelf and I think I need my 15 year old and very tall nephew to help!

I've also been reading. My brother loaned me Disinformation by Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ronald J. Rychlak. It's a book about how the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc misled the West during the cold war, but particularly about how they tarnished the image of Pope Pius XII. It's a pretty good book, but I wasn't getting much reading done. I came across Church of Spies by Mark Riebling in Overdrive, which is an audiobook also about the Catholic Church's true role in WWII. I decided to listen to this one instead since I'm doing more listening than reading right now.

My other two books are The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight which is excellent and Seriously Dangerous Religion by Iain Provain about reading the Old Testament which is also excellent. I also have The Big Short by Michael Lewis from Overdrive, but I haven't started listening.

Tomorrow, it's back to normal life. Hopefully, I wake up without a headache. Help Mom clean house. Do some knitting. Maybe check out a yarn shop. Love the people I come in contact with. Wonderfully boring. And I'm glad.

How are things with you? Anything interesting? Do share.

CCM


. . . And Moving On . . . .

Election day is over. For the vast majority of us, that means we go on living our lives as usual. Barring any great catastrophe, the checks and balances placed on the branches of government by our founding fathers mean that there won't be any dramatic changes in our lives based on the election results anytime soon. I am so blessed to be in a family that believes in love, tolerance, and patience. But, one of my "adopted" daughters has received some hateful messages on Tumblr because of her sexual orientation. Please remember that there are some out there who are vulnerable to other peoples' rudeness, hate, and persecution; and pray for them when you can.

My mom and dad are recovering well from their surgeries. Dad has his catheter out and had a very good visit with the urology clinic today. Mom has been able to drive since Monday, which is good since I've had an intermittent migraine for about five days. Mom still has some pain from healing, but she's managing. She likes to pick up things that are too heavy and doesn't do well with resting, but she never has . . . 

I've been working on some knitting projects that I'm not at liberty to discuss because Christmas!!!

Speaking of Christmas, I made a Christmas music playlist on my phone!! I'll rotate between that and Hamilton when I want to listen to music. 

I was going to recruit my nephews and work on getting Mom and Dad's Christmas tree and a few decorations up, but I woke up with such a bad migraine yesterday that I couldn't do it. We might try again Friday after school. The stuff is up on a high shelf and I think I need my 15 year old and very tall nephew to help!

I've also been reading. My brother loaned me Disinformation by Ion Mihai Pacepa and Ronald J. Rychlak. It's a book about how the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc misled the West during the cold war, but particularly about how they tarnished the image of Pope Pius XII. It's a pretty good book, but I wasn't getting much reading done. I came across Church of Spies by Mark Riebling in Overdrive, which is an audiobook also about the Catholic Church's true role in WWII. I decided to listen to this one instead since I'm doing more listening than reading right now.

My other two books are The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight which is excellent and Seriously Dangerous Religion by Iain Provain about reading the Old Testament which is also excellent. I also have The Big Short by Michael Lewis from Overdrive, but I haven't started listening.

Tomorrow, it's back to normal life. Hopefully, I wake up without a headache. Help Mom clean house. Do some knitting. Maybe check out a yarn shop. Love the people I come in contact with. Wonderfully boring. And I'm glad.

How are things with you? Anything interesting? Do share.

CCM


Congratulations, America!!

Congratulations, America!!! You are 240 years old and have managed to elect the most incompetent, unqualified, and least temperamentally appropriate person to be our President for the next four years.

I'll spare you the pages and pages of how he is unqualified. Just a few instances will suffice. The New York Times listed all the people that he insulted on a two page spread. Numerous other newspapers chose to support Hillary Clinton. The KKK loves him and David Duke wants to be his buddy. But, no, America, you thought that putting the most misogynistic, homophobic, and bigoted candidate into the highest position of leadership in our country was a good idea.

By the time you're hung over and reading this, you might have figured out that you made a major screw-up.

But, it's only four years. If you can keep him away from the nuclear codes and Twitter and keep him from insulting any foreign dictators, you can probably make it through. After all, most government stuff is run by bureaucracy anyway, right? 

Okay. I'm done being snarky. It was the migraine talking.

In reality though, we have a President who has marginalized many minority groups. We have to deal with this. People of color, LGBTQ friends, and immigrants have all been made to feel unwelcome during this campaign. They are scared. How do I know? Because some of them are my friends. It's now time for us to fix the damage that this campaign has done.

We have to love hard. Love when it hurts. Love people you don't want to love (yes, even the homophobic bigot or the immigrant of questionable legality). Love like Jesus loved.

Give. Give till it hurts. Give your time. Give your love. Give whatever someone else needs.

We aren't going to make it through the next four years if we let this administration keep dividing us. That means that people like me who see this election as a huge dumpster fire are going to have to put it behind me because many of the people I love in my family and circle of friends are happy with the outcome of the election. 

We're all going to have to love hard.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

CCM

As always, please let me know any thoughts or ideas you have in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Lagniappe 11/5/2016

My poor blog. I really should take better care of it. I'm not a writer, though. I'm more of an intermittent journaller. I post things when I have a need to write, not really to build a following. And, it's nice to have other people to read along and comment and discuss things. (I keep my more private thoughts in a "real" paper and pen journal.)

So, what's been going on?


  • Rhapsody is the kitten that I got this summer. She is a cute little thing who loves to sleep on my lap but isn't terribly cuddly otherwise. Rory, Wild Man's cat, is the affectionate one.
  • I'm currently in the Atlanta suburbs and have been for three weeks because my parents both had surgery.
  • My Dad had a carotid endarterectomy (had plaque removed from the carotid artery) almost three weeks ago. He had to have a catheter in his bladder for 2 weeks after surgery, but has otherwise recovered well.
  • My mom had some pelvic surgery (it was all benign stuff) two weeks ago. Miraculously, she has had no complications! Her recovery has been a bit slow, but that's not all that surprising given the extent of the surgery.
  • I've been driving Mom and Dad around and I'm learning the area. I even took them to vote, despite the fact that they're not voting the same way that I did. I voted before I left Wisconsin.
  • I also took care of cooking and other household things while Mom was down from her surgery.
  • Mom and Dad just moved into this house in Georgia in early August. Not only do I not know where everything is, but they're still not sure where everything is! And, some things are in boxes until some painting gets done. Life gets a little confusing.
  • I am getting to spend some time with my brother and his family. I got my nephew to play Pokemon Go with my phone to hatch an egg for me! (I've got some plantar fasciitis so I'm not walking much.)
  • On my first day here, I took the car and Google maps to find a Walgreens. Google said it was about 18 minutes away. It took me an hour to get there and then 30 minutes to get home. Suffice it to say that Google maps and I had a few disagreements on the way there. On the way back, I just  made a couple of wrong turns!
  • Wild Man's first choir concert at UWSP was the night before I left to come down here. The concert was wonderful! Wild Man was in the Choral Union and the Chamber Singers.
  • I have many thoughts that I will probably write about in the next week or two. I will probably have many more after the election.
  • The headache situation since I left home hasn't been too bad. Last night and today I had a really rotten migraine. Last week I had another really unpleasant one. Otherwise, I've been able to manage around them and I only had to call my brother once to take Dad to a doctor's appointment for me. Not bad.
So, that's life. It's a pretty good one. What's up with you?!