Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday Selah: Christmas Blessings & Sorrows

You are good, and You do what is good; teach me Your statutes. --Psalm 119:68
I started my day thinking of the joys and sorrows of this Christmas season. My children were all around me...we had great times together with only a few of the inevitable conflicts when people are in each other's space for too long. We got to visit with family at the annual Christmas Eve party at my husband's grandmother's house. She is soon to be 93 and it is such a blessing that we get to share time with her. We had dinner on Christmas day at my mother-in-law's home, joined by my parents and my husband's grandmother.

But there were deep sorrows amongst all the celebrating. One of my mother-in-law's dearest friends passed away in the early hours of last Saturday. Her funeral was held on Tuesday. She was a wonderful lady and will be greatly missed. Her husband is the uncle of my husband's brother-in-law. He was the one who built the house we live in-in the 1940's. Their family lived here when their daughter was born.

On Christmas day, one of our church friends lost his mother to cancer. Although it was an expected passing, it is so painful for our friend and his family. He was unable to be with her at the end because she lived across the country. He was able to spend a few weeks with her in November.

Last night we got a call that the wife of my husband's uncle was playing with her grandchildren on the family room floor, got up and sat on the sofa with her eyes closed. She never opened her eyes again. My husband is in shock as he was just speaking with his father earlier and had learned that this same uncle was looking forward to to retiring from his job in a few weeks.

As sad as all this is, I was truly blessed by an unopened email that I clicked on this morning. It is an article on Today's Christian Woman website. I want to share it with you...somehow it has made me see how lovely it was that our friends and family were able to spend some precious moments with their loved ones. After the initial pain subsides, they have been gifted with memories that will bless them for the rest of their lives.

He Knows My Name

What an elderly store clerk reminded me about taking my name for granted

December 15, 2008 |

“Call me Bill,” the elderly, slightly stooped, sales clerk told me. He’d just handed me his business card. “For some reason they put ‘William’ on the card. But nobody calls me William. Only my mother did. But she’s long gone now.”

As I stood with this retired furniture salesman, now Home Depot appliance guru, I noticed a faraway look in his eyes. I figured it didn’t have to do with the white Maytag double oven we were currently discussing.

“She used to call me William when she was upset with me!” he said and chuckled. Then he turned serious. “What I wouldn’t give to hear my mother call me ‘William’ again. It’s been all these years since she passed, but I still wish I could hear her call my name. You still have your parents?”

I nodded.

“Well, enjoy them while you can. Time goes too quickly. Enjoy listening to the way your mom says your name. It’s the most precious gift.”

I’d gone searching for a new stove, but left with something far more valuable.

Back at home, I called my mom and chatted. I listened to her voice and enjoyed her quick, easy laugh. William was right; it was a wonderful gift and a strong reminder never to take someone’s voice for granted.

Later that evening as I was praying, William’s words drifted back into my mind. How often do I take for granted something as simple as hearing my name? Especially when God speaks it? How many opportunities have I missed to hear God whisper my name with love and acceptance and grace?

Names have such special meaning. In a sense, they define who we are. They bring comfort when spoken by someone we love. The “William” of childhood—who heard that name only when he was in trouble—now attached great significance to that name because it held a special memory of his mom.

I thought about Jesus’ names and how they bring great comfort to me when I say them: “Jesus,” the Lord saves; “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6); “Immanuel,” God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23).

I thought about Simon, whom Jesus named Peter: “I tell you,” Jesus said, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

God attaches great significance to us through our names. Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1); “I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:3).

Too often in my busy days, I go through the routine of worship and devotional time. I pray, spouting off my laundry list of needs and wants and “will yous.” But rarely do I sit quietly with my Creator and simply listen to him say my name.

In his book Life of the Beloved, Catholic theologian and priest Henri Nouwen writes: “We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved.’ Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center [God’s] words that say: ‘I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me.’”

While my head understands Nouwen’s words, too often my heart cannot grasp that the Creator of the universe knows my name. He knows me intimately and cares about me; he considers me beloved.

We have a God who loves us so much he calls us by name. I am overwhelmed.

This Christmas, my house will be filled with the noise and clutter and chatter of five adults and four dogs for a week. The stresses and joys of the holiday will compete for my time and attention. But I hope that somewhere in there, every day and throughout the new year and beyond, I will not take for granted the knowledge that God calls me by name. I pray I will truly listen and hear him say, “Beloved. You are mine and I am yours.” And I will know that he means it.

Posted at 3:54 PM on December 15, 2008.

What a wonderful Christmas gift to have discovered in that unopened email -- to be reassured that I am the Lord's Beloved and He is mine!

And to combine with that blessing, as I typed this post, my son was going around opening windows...the outside temperature is warmer than the inside this morning: where yesterday we needed coats go outside, right now it is currently 61 degrees, and expected to get to the low 70's. We're heading out in a bit to take my grandson to play at the park and enjoy this unexpected gift (as it will go back to normal temperatures by Monday).

Dear Father, please be with our friends and family as they go through these sorrows. Thank you for helping me remember to take advantage of the time You've given me with my family. And thank You for the blessed reminder that You love me. Amen.


2nd Cup of Coffee said...

Absolutely beautiful. Most holidays are bittersweet at my age because of similar events. Thanks for sharing all of the post with us.

Denise said...

Bless your heart dear one.

Shauna Renee' said...

My father was told on Christmas Day 1996 as he was eating lunch in his hospital room that he had cancer. We found out the next day after a definitive biopsy that it was a terminal type. He passed away a year later (months longer than anyone expected) on New Year's Eve morning. Although I had nursed several years in critical care and worked my share of holidays, this gave me a huge perspective that illness is no respecter of the calendar. Our family's loss still flavors the holidays with bittersweet memories. My mother is especially bitter, because she has lost all 3 of her brothers, and the large family gatherings we used to enjoy are no more as her nieces and nephews have developed other traditions. Members of my church family this year have suffered losses in their immediate families, and my heart goes out to them--and to you for sharing.

Laurie Ann said...

Beautiful beautiful post.

Toknowhim said...

Stopping by to wish you a happy new year, and may you and your family grow to love Jesus more in the new year :)