Tuesday, November 24, 2015

the importance of hospitality

Too much. Too much on the calendar, too much to do, too much to remember.

Too many. Too many plates spinning, too many people needing, too many crises in the world.

Not enough. Not enough time, not enough energy, not enough me.

If that doesn't sum up the predicament we are in these days, I don't know what does.

My "baby" has turned seven, and when she asked how we should celebrate, I suggested we sing Happy Birthday and then throw her in the freezing cold pool. She laughed because she is old enough now to understand my sarcastic ways, which means she really isn't a baby at all anymore. {Insert one bajillion crying emoticons}

I decked the halls in Christmas glory to distract myself from the absence of an actual baby. Then some friends came to dinner with their actual baby and she delighted us all with her gurgles of joy. Babies are magical unicorns and everybody wants one. Does Santa bring babies to full-grown women? I may write the North Pole a letter:

Dear Santa, 
Bring a baby STAT. 
I'll bake extra cookies for you if she can sleep through the night and is already weaned. 
Love, Carrie

I found some old journals and I made the gross mistake of reading them while I was pulling Christmas stuff out. Lawsy. Apparently every season is "same song, second verse" around here. We are more like the Israelites lost in the desert than we would like to think. Every day we seek freedom, comfort, and home around every corner in the universe.

We are leaning into our Christmas Happy around here. We have candy out, Christmas music playing, and lights strung around the door. There's nothing like some Feliz Navidad and Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree playing while I try to get my kids to do their chores to get me in the Holiday Spirit. But every once in a while, a melancholy version of "I'll be home for Christmas" comes on and my soul sings along to every word.

It's got me thinking about a home for us all, one with a roof wide enough to cover every weary head.

There are velvet seats for the broken-hearted in every corner, tables laden with bounty galore, pillows of hope fulfilled, jars of dreams come true, and books filled with the tales of how our shame  has been redeemed. Tears occasionally flow as we sit here together because we remember the way it used to be, before we found our way home. 

We are all refugees made resplendent in this house.

Our stories are all different, but together they create a song that feels like a Christmas miracle wrapped in golden childhood joy. We can't find our way here on our own. We are carried into this place, and no darkness can force us out.

The food on our plates tastes like true belonging, and our cups run over with gratitude and grace. The walls are made of love, the roof is righteousness, and the rafters above are as strong as justice. No storm can flood us, no famine can touch us. Here we are safe, we are family, and we are truly home.

Because this house is God's own home, He sustains those who take refuge in His walls. God holds our hands and endures our tantrums, then He binds up our fears and sends them far off into the wilderness. We will never know them the same way again.

Just thinking about that place makes all the not enough of today more endurable. It also clues us in to the importance of hospitality. Surely we can make our own doors a little easier to find, our kitchens a little more abundant, and our sofas a softer, safer place to be vulnerable with one another.

Surely we have been so well-loved that we can love one another in amazing and gracious ways. Surely we can make a place at our table for abundant gratitude and sing songs of joy together.

Christmas Happy isn't just for December. It's for June and May and January and every day of the year.

Baby or no baby, cozy at home or camping out in the wilderness, we really can be happy and hospitable today. Simply because we are His.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

when the world dreams of love

We sat with friends, with some of the people God has given us, and listened to a new friend talk of his life growing up in a war-torn nation in the Middle East. He has been a refugee, and he has survived the impossible after seeing the horrific.

We were grieving for Paris, but he has been grieving the sound of explosions and guns firing all his life.

Ecclesiastes rang out over the room as he reminded us that evil has not found a new way to terrorize us. What happened in Paris has happened many times before. Death and pain know only one way to move in the world, and they always travel from one heart to another.

All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.

Last night I dreamed of France. I dreamed of our friends there, of the language that spills from their lips like milk and honey, and of the beauty born in cities built by artists, full of love and light.

It is a real place, but it is also a kind of heaven in my heart. The streets are almost gold, and the air that fills your lungs in France is full of joy.

I did not dream of war-torn streets, of rooms full of little girls being sold for less than some people pay for a new sofa, or of men who carry death in their hands.

But those are real places, too. They are where none of us wants to be, and what none of us wants to believe can exist in the places we love. But in every city on the planet, even my own city, these places hide beneath the fabric of our perceived reality. Some of us are called by God to go into them, or to open our arms to those who have fled from them.

The Bible teaches us that love is stronger than death, and it drives away fear. There is a Love that reaches out to the lost soul, the refugee, the destitute, the deceived, and the fallen without fear the consequences. That Love believes there is is a good God whose mercy can triumph and save even our worst enemy.

If hidden evil is what we battle, prayer is our first defense. If forgiveness is the question, mercy is the answer. If safety is our need, faith is a refuge. If hope is our greatest need, compassion is the road home for our souls.

Yes, evil and death are very, very old indeed. They have haunted the world for many generations, and they will try to plague us as they did those who came before us. We sit in the darkness together, thrashing about and wounding one another so easily here. We forget that we are all waiting for answers to the same question. While we wait, we must choose to live by faith or live by fear.

Love is older than all things. It has no beginning and no end. When the end of death and evil comes, Love will stand and God's faithful children will live with Him there.

May all the world dream of Love tonight, and find the strength to live now as if Love has already triumphed.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

a real God, a real marriage, and a real love

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves." 
-Ephesians 1:4-6

I used to think love makes life richer and more beautiful. But I was wrong. Life, with all its mess and muddling, makes love gain in beauty. 

The years have certainly worn on Morgan and me a bit.

This week, my soul feels empty. I have worked and fought and sung with all my might these last few weeks. I'm happy, but tired and ready for a break. 

I'm playing Christmas music in early November and lighting fires even though it's still warm enough to swim. My heart is clinging to the precious promise of Ephesians 1: I'm chosen and loved simply because it pleases God to make me His child.

I'm clinging to the man who chose me, too.

Ours is a velveteen marriage, held by a God whose love for us makes us real. He sees our wrongs, our sins, our shortcomings, and forgives us. He pours His mercy into our hearts for one another so the forgiveness can be passed on.

Like the stuffed rabbit in the proverbial tale who found that love made him real as it tattered and wore him, we can't help but be real after all these years.

Not that we're always good at loving each other. We've carried each other around and occasionally dropped one another by accident. Selfishly we dragged each other through the dirt a few times. 

At first glance, from afar, we look a lot less scuffed up than we are. But if you watch or listen for long, you learn the truth: we don't really deserve each other. We have forgiven greatly, sacrificed much, believed the best, endured the darkness hand-in-hand, and rejoiced together when dawn broke with all its glory. 

The love in our hearts is our most precious possession, growing exponentially with the wrinkles on our faces and the days crossed off on the calendar.

God's love goes on and on, never diminishing or failing. It's more real than anything else we have ever known. It never fails us, even in the darkest fears, the loneliest moments, and the angriest storm.

With that love coming to the rescue again and again, real is all we know how to be. The realest things are often invisible and rarely tangible, but when they touch you, you are never the same again.

Life slips through our hands so quickly, and the memories fade into dreams of what once was. But the love birthed in those memories is ours forever. And it is the most beautiful thing we will ever behold.

So today, I'm treasuring the new knicks and scratches on my life, and filling up the emptiness with as much love and comfort as I can. I have just this one life, this one man, this one family, this one calling, this one chance to live for and in and through Christ.

And all I want is to do it well.

"We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love." -1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (The message)