Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What If?

What if Mary, Jesus' mother, wasn't like we've always pictured her to be?

What if she was still a chunky teenage girl who hadn't yet lost her baby fat and was accustomed to the torments of girls her age? Perhaps then, that was, in part, why God chose her. She'd handled ridicule well, and there was bound to be even more as an unwed pregnant girl in that culture. Furthermore, her name means "bitter." Living life with that moniker might have made her one tough broad. She may have had a strength of character that surpassed her youth.

What if she was less "cheerleader" and more "softball catcher"? Her dad and mom may have been thick, stocky people and mom may have been a fantastic cook, too!

What if she wasn't blue-eyed? Few Jewish girls are.

What if she would never have been chosen Homecoming Queen? She may not have been incredibly attractive. Her Son certainly had nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him (Isaiah 53:2).

What if she wasn't a sweet, demure, acquiescent child but a robust, confident, stubborn young woman with deep convictions?

So often, when we hear her name, we picture a pansy-like demeanor subtly accepting "the will of God." But look again at Luke 1:26-38: she's a thinking person. She wants a logical answer for how in the world she's going to have a baby, and isn't afraid to ask. Furthermore, what if there's an unrecorded pause between verses 37 and 38 where she has to consider all the implications and decide to trust an unseen God before she says, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said." And I love the fact that she fully recognizes this is being done to her. She's not naive and assumes it will all work out with no complications or difficulties. She understands this will have a profound effect on every aspect of her life as it stands right now.

What if she was shoveling manure in the barn when the angel came to her? Let's face it, we usually picture her stirring a pot over an open flame, feeding a lamb or darning socks. Women in that culture had to do the dirty chores, too.

Were any of these "what ifs" true, they wouldn't change the fact that above all else, Mary is obedient, and humbly recognizes her place as servant of the Most High God. Confident or insecure, lovely or unattractive, shy or gregarious, she willingly gave all she was to all that God needed her to be. No reservations, no holds barred, for better or worse.

God, some days I fail so miserably at giving all of myself to you, but for this moment, know that all I am deeply desires to be your obedient servant today.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Success! Sorta.

We caught Mickey tonight (using marshmallows, BTW). However, apparently we have a Minnie, too. The hunt's still on.

Mouse Update

We still haven't caught the fuzzy creature. We've now fed it four helpings of peanut butter and two peppermint pieces. The problem appears to be it's so small and light that it is able to eat without springing the trap. We're going to make a couple more attempts, but we're seriously considering buying glue traps, next. If I weren't allergic to cats, we'd ask to borrow one.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Last Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending the Ladies Teacup Exchange, as I've mentioned before. One of my favorite parts of the evening was the interactive, animated and amusing singing of the traditional carol, Twelve Days of Christmas. If you weren't there I can't describe to you how funny it was to see Ruth Price holding her cell phone as she sang, "Four calling birds," or Delight Bristow with her hands extended over her head as though she were a pear tree, or Mary NeSmith "creatively moving" as one of the dancing ladies. And whoever told those women at table five they could sing about golden rings should be shot.

Nevertheless, in commemoration of the wonderful event, I thought I'd post some trivia about the song. Unknown to most non-liturgical, or "free" churches, the twelve days of Christmas actually has ancient Christian roots. Epiphany, January 6, is a holy day observed by the Church for centuries, traditionally believed to be the day the wise men, or Magi, presented their gifts to the Christ. Thus, for the twelve days between Christmas Day and Epiphany, it became popular to give gifts and/or celebrate in some way.

The song as we know it today has a variety of stories behind it, but my favorite is that the lyrics were a memory poem and game much like our modern, "I'm going on a picnic" game. Each person mentions something new, but must also recite all that was spoken previously by other players. Thus, if you were person #7, reciting The Twelve Days of Christmas, you had to say, "Seven swans a-swimming" and remember and recite the rest of the items stated by persons 1 through 6, as well. Not too hard, since we've put it to music, but I bet I couldn't do very well without humming the tune!

Anyway, here's a link to how much all those bagpipers, dancers, birds and stuff would cost in 2008 (to get to each item, click "next" in the bottom left corner). The grand total? You'll have to sing the whole song to find out!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Don't Read This While You Eat

We saw one yesterday. It wasn't big; it wasn't frightening. It was just one of those. Scurrying past Darin's feet at a lightning pace, furry and agile, a mouse is cohabiting our garage.

I guess it's the free room and board that appealed to him. He was trying to get into the dog's food when Darin first caught a glimpse of him. Thankfully, he didn't achieve his objective, and the Puppy Chow has been saved. But I guess I've found there is one disadvantage to living by a pasture.

The only other battle I've personally fought against mice was in grad school. The rickety shack on Drew Street in Ft. Worth housed my roommate Kathy, myself, and a horrible vermin we named "Whitey." He found the pantry pretty quickly, delving into such culinary delights as oatmeal and Cherrios. I was prepared to let him have his way with our food supply just so I wouldn't have to deal with the nasty creature. Besides, I don't like oatmeal, and I could survive without Cherrios! However, when Whitey found the Kool-aid mix, Kathy announced, "I HAVE HAD ENOUGH. We have got to do something about this mouse." Cheering delightedly, enraptured by her passion and zeal for this mission, I somehow missed the fact that "we" meant "me."

Kathy, a die-hard liberal and advocate for women's equality suddenly turned into a delicate southern belle from South Carolina. There was no way....she couldn't possibly...it was out of the question that she should set a mousetrap. So, she did the next best thing: she offered to buy the mousetrap. Gee, thanks.

Well, she did, and after reading the instructions (no kidding), I set the trap. Cheese was the bait of choice, and that night around 2 AM we heard the SNAP! "Good, our mission is accomplished," I thought as I curled back under the covers. I was wrong. The next morning, I discovered Whitey had made off with the cheese. So, that night, we used peanut butter. I figured he might stick to the trap if nothing else. Sure enough, around 3 AM, we again heard the ominous SNAP! I jumped out of bed to see if we'd succeeded this time. Kathy heard the sound, too, and timidly poked her head out of her bedroom and followed me to the kitchen.

Mousetrap instructions don't include what to do with the captured creature. I think Kathy planned to leave him to rot in the trap, but intuition told me that wasn't the best plan. So, armed and shielded with rubber gloves, I prepared to open the pantry door as Kathy went screaming back into her bedroom. (I'm not exaggerating. She high-tailed it out of there.) Opening the door, I saw Whitey, eyes bulging and bloody-lipped. One arm (leg? paw? whatever), was broken from the force of the spring, and a glob of peanut butter was stuck on the floor. I wasn't one hundred percent certain he was dead, so I decided that it couldn't hurt to leave him another four hours to really die, and I went back to bed. (This is a true story.)

The next morning, again armed with rubber gloves, I picked up the end of the mousetrap, and carefully carried Whitey's dead carcass to the dumpster in our apartment complex. Then, without even a eulogy, I threw him in. Mousetrap and all.

I set two traps in the garage today. I figure since I've never claimed to be a women's libber, if and when we do catch our furry friend, Darin gets to remove him this time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dependence Day

As I've mentioned before, each Advent/Christmas season it seems as though the Lord has a particular facet of the nativity and incarnation about which he wants to enlighten me. For weeks, verses, sermons, songs, pictures, and comments will come to my attention focused on one aspect of the coming of Christ. Sometimes, it's a character: like when I played Mary in our church pageant. Experiencing the emotion and crisis of faith through her eyes was deeply moving for me. Sometimes it's about his character: like the year I was confounded by his mercy. Sometimes it's about my character: like the year I recognized selfish attitudes creeping into my giving. Sometimes it's about biblical veracity: like last year when I considered the foretold and incredibly accurate prophecies surrounding Jesus' coming. Then sometimes it's about theological doctrine. Deep stuff, but nonetheless applicable for real life. That's what it is this year.

Last night at our Ladies Ministry Teacup Exchange I had the privilege of singing and playing Chris Rice's Welcome to Our World. For more than a week, I've been mulling over the lyrics and considering them in light of scripture. The theological implications have staggered my mind. My favorite lines from the song are these:
Fragile fingers sent to heal us, tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us - unto us is born, unto us is born.
So wrap our injured flesh around you, breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy, perfect Son of God.
Having a newborn in our home this year definitely heightened my awareness of the incredible dependency of humanity. We think we are so self-sufficient, so invulnerable. As we mature, pride and egocentricity tear down opportunities for recognizing our inadequacy on a day-by-day basis.

Even my goofy dog reminded me of that this week. Anxiously standing by the door to come in from outside, he couldn't do for himself. He was literally incapable of opening the door. I mentioned to Darin how helpless a feeling it must be to not be able to even enter a room; to be so dependent upon another for even getting from point A to point B. Immediately I was struck with the thought of our omnipotent, powerful God choosing to humble himself (see Phil 2:5-8) to the form of humanity. But not just any form of humanity - a newborn, an infant. And here's the theological part: The independent, dependable God chose to become dependent upon an undependable creation. He needed someone to change and feed him, clothe and bathe him; to teach him to walk. He needed others to teach him language, reading and math. (Hey, as the son a carpenter, he definitely learned math, which only further proves Heb. 2:17-18 - he does understand our suffering!)

As an adult, Jesus needed others to do their jobs of making bread, milking animals, tending sheep, catching fish, manufacturing textiles and pottery and constructing clothing and buildings. He even depended upon the religious authorities - corrupt though they were - to lead in worship. He needed people, the same way I do. I am not a self-sufficient creation. And like Jesus, not only do I need what others can do, I need them. Who they are. Their very persons, personalities and characters. Relationships. Not in a creepy, co-dependency way, but in a genuine exchange of life lived together on this planet. Most days, I'm still trying to figure out what that looks like, what it is to know genuine relationship without pretending to be "best-friends" with everybody (a true impossibility), but I know it begins with authenticity and honesty. Two things Jesus was really good at. Oh, and there was a third thing he was really good at: forgiveness. Even though he knew they would screw up, fail him, disappoint him and ultimately hang him on a tree, he still chose to live with and love on them. And hanging from that cross, he cried out for their forgiveness and mine (Luke 23:34).

So how do I apply all this theological stuff? Daily practice authentic, honest relationships. First with him, and second, with each and every person he puts in my path. (I'm warning you, though, I'm gonna goof this up real well some days.)

Various nations around the world celebrate Independence Days, yet the day Christ was born was his Dependence Day. And he has been dependent upon this unreliable creation of humanity ever since. Even today, he depends upon me to share with others that salvation comes through him alone and to disciple believers in the truths of his word. He is bound to us as only a Servant King can be.

Welcome to our world.