Thursday, September 19, 2013

Christmas and Choir Thoughts

Colossians 1:13-23 “(13) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, (14) in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. (17) And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (18) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (19) For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, (20) and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (21) And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, (22) he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, (23) if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”

Isaiah 9:2 “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.”

Well, it’s September, and we all know what that means right? If you’re a choir member, you probably know this, anyway......Christmas music rehearsals have begun. If you ever need a reminder how quickly time is flying, join the choir or help in children’s choir and start singing Christmas music in September. Or listen to the lady who was standing in front of me in line the other day at Walgreens and had the perverse pleasure of announcing to anyone within hearing distance that there were only 14 Sundays until Christmas. That induced a small panic in my brain for the briefest moment, for some reason. Makes it a little hard to enjoy the present moment when you’re being forced to count off days like that. Or maybe it’s just me.

Do not get me wrong, I like Christmas. At least, minus Santa, and that oh-so-horrifically-creepy Elf on the Shelf new insanity, and the hurry, hurry of secular, Americanized Christmas, I do. I think what induces that little mini panic is knowing I have kids’ gifts to shop for, and it will need to be done soon, and that part of Christmas isn’t my favorite thing, no matter how much I try to keep it simple every year. I mean, I’m still overwhelmed with the constant busyness of high school band practices and competitions every weekend. It’s only barely FALL yet, people! 

However, I love the worshipful side of Christmas a lot. But I don’t really, truly feel ready for happy, happy, happy, sentimental, sappy wishing-for-the-perfect-Christmas songs when I haven’t even gotten to welcome Fall properly yet. Actually, I NEVER feel ready for the sappy, sentimental, secular Christmas songs. I hate them. Sorry. I do. And I still have a birthday in the family to get through before I’m really ready to think about Christmas hustle. Thankfully, singing in the church choir means most of our Christmas music is of the worshipful type, so that makes it much easier to sing it in September. 

This year I have the privilege of helping with the children’s choir as they prepare a very cute Christmas musical. The young lady heading it up has a lot of energy and I’m glad I get to be there. When I first saw the promotional video for this musical I have to say I wasn’t sure I’d like it, but as I’ve listened to it, I really, really do like it. Some of the songs are more doctrinally sound than your average modern contemporary Christian radio song. Ahem. I’ve been brought to tears as I listen to the message of these songs, and I’m very glad to have to hear them over and over and over in the car as my daughter begs to listen to her choir CD so she can learn it. 

And the coolest thing about it is that yesterday in the car as I took my daughter and my 12-year-old son to school, listening to this Christmas musical sparked a GREAT conversation that has left me thinking. As we were listening to a song about the shepherds seeing a great light, my son looked over at me and said, “Don’t you think those shepherds would have believed in Him?” 

I said, “Well, they did. They went to Bethlehem, and they worshiped Him.”

He said, “No, I mean later. Wouldn’t they have known Jesus was the baby they heard about from the angels?”

Which sparked some interesting speculation, which I would probably not dogmatically present to a Bible study group, but we got to thinking that those shepherds were probably already grown men, who knows how old they were, and Jesus didn’t begin His public ministry until 30 years after He was born. He lived pretty much in obscurity during His childhood until He entered the public arena and John the Baptist said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” We got to thinking possibly not many of those men may have even lived to see that day. I wonder when we get to Heaven, will we get to meet some of those shepherds and get to hear them tell what it was like? 

Then my son also said, “Mom, you know how Jesus said if the disciples were quiet that the rocks would cry out? Well, I kind of wonder if maybe when the earthquake happened when He was crucified if maybe that’s sort of what was happening.” And then we talked about how I’d had that same thought. Again, not something I’d share emphatically before a Bible study group, but something I have thought as speculation. I told my son that the Bible does say that God is reconciling ALL things, that the creation groans because of the fall. 

And then last night in choir, our music minister read the passage from Colossians that I have at the top of this post during our devotional. You may remember that I’m working to memorize Colossians, so I perked up when I heard it even more than usual. He talked about how because of the fall everything is broken, every relationship is broken to some extent, and how understanding that should change how we think when we go to minister in the world, that God is most definitely reconciling us to Himself in the forgiveness of sin, but He is also reconciling all things, making all things right. 

And then, added to all those thoughts, I’ve been listening to some podcasts from John MacArthur preaching about the signs of Jesus’ return. 

One day Jesus is coming again. The Christmas music we began rehearsing in choir last night focused on that more than we sometimes do these days. I think we maybe don’t think enough about that fact, that Jesus is coming for us. This broken world is not all there is, He is coming again, and all will be made right. When we do think about the end times, we tend to get kind of weird and bogged down in ‘left behind’ and focused on Christian fiction books that I don’t think are wise to spend our time dwelling on. I think we do better to step back as we read the news and instead of trying to pinpoint and dissect it, just be reminded that HE IS COMING AGAIN. We will see Him and worship Him as we are meant to. Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. For some that’s a terrifying thought, for others it is a gloriously beautiful one. 

So, my prayer for my family, my children, friends, the church today, myself is that we would be filled with the knowledge of the will of God in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work, increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light, because He has delivered those of us who have repented and put our trust in Jesus from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. (Colossians 1) May we live in that light. May we persevere to the end, faith firmly anchored in Christ. He came, God With Us, and died to reconcile us to Himself, and He rose again, and He is coming again. 

So, with joyful shout, Merry Christmas, even in September.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Time, Tears, and Seasons of Life

I had a funny thing happen today while I was in the midst of one of my busier mom-taxi runs this afternoon.  In fact, I wrote this on the back of some receipts and old grocery lists I found in the cup holder of my car because, of course, I did not have my notebook with me while waiting for my middle boy to finish his drum lesson. But I didn’t want to let yet another blog post slip away unwritten within the oblivion of busyness. Don’t judge. I know I’m not the only one with an avalanche of receipts and old grocery lists in my car. :-)

Anyway, while (somewhat) blissfully in autopilot brain mode, thoughts drifting everywhere while driving to and fro this afternoon (I do some of my best thinking in the car), the lightning bolt realization hit me from nowhere that my oldest is about a month away from turning 15. (!!!!!) It’s not like I didn’t already know it, but it suddenly smacked my attention for some reason, and a huge lump choked me and I fought back tears as the last 15 years flashed back to me. 

I am immensely thankful for the young man my son is growing to be. In fact, I often find myself in tears of gratitude, on my face thanking God for the totally undeserved grace He has lavished on our family in the way He is growing all of these kids and who He is molding them to be. It is not because I’m some great kind of mom on my own, I can testify to that. God is extremely gracious and merciful, and I am grateful.

But at the risk of sounding a whole lot like those older moms who used to sort of annoy me way back when, I just have to say to those of you who may be struggling through the day to day with littles and the trials of making it through the hard and joyful days and ups and downs of toddlerhood, it really and truly is only a blink and those days are but a nostalgic memory. I won’t tell you to cherish every moment, because if you’re a caring mom you already know that, and those hard days really are hard and real and trying, I won’t sugar coat it and forget that. But, seriously, a BLINK.

And those tears I fight? They are because I know that these high school years - long as they seemed when I was living through mine - will be over in only half a blink. Then, poof, he’ll be a young man, maturing and starting out on his own. 

I am so thankful my children seem to genuinely like to be with their crazy parents, and they talk to us and listen to us.  But the time is truly so short. So, I fight that lump in my throat and those hot, bittersweet tears, and truth be told, some regrets at time not so well spent along the way. 

I know that moms who are older and wiser than I would tell me they feel the same about their grown children and would say, “Cherish this time. It goes so quickly.” Only that no longer annoys me. Now I nod and say, “I believe you.”

This is just me speculating, but I wonder if part of the curse that womanhood bears in the increased pain of childbirth may not be limited to the actual physical moment of childbirth, but may also manifest itself somewhat in this bittersweet lump and tears as we contemplate our children taking flight from the nest, and close as we may remain, knowing they will grow up and form families of their own. And then we have to step back, trust God to hold them and entrust them to Him and to His care and pray He would please in His mercy draw them to Himself, just as we have done since the first moment we knew them. 

The older I get, cliche as this may be, the more I realize how very fleeting a thing is time, how life truly is a vapor, how it just slips through your fingers and is gone before you know it.

May I use my time wisely, not fritter it away and miss the treasured moments with my head bent over a stupid cell phone or wasted time, and live this life well for the glory of God and to bring honor to Jesus’ Name, during those fleeting vapor moments as the seasons of life change and mature and during the ordinary busyness of life.