On December 26. 

I wanted to write something exquisite to you all for Christmas.

Something that would give your heart pause and infuse the beauty and miracle of the season with my best, most moving prose.

But I kept coming up empty.

I couldn’t figure out if I had writer’s block or if I’ve just lost the spirit of Christmas.

But then I realized, Christmas has more often than not felt bittersweet for me. I’ve always had a difficult time reconciling the glitz and glee with the brokenness and need of not only my heart, but the hearts of everyone in the whole world.

Take the other day, for instance. If you didn’t know, I am a registered nurse. I’ve been practicing for over 20 years now on busy medical/surgical and pediatric floors where pain and worry don’t stop just because there’s tinsel strung across the halls.

We had a hot breakfast with our team and enjoyed laughter and fellowship in the middle of a playroom filled with toys to distract sick and yes, sometimes dying, kids. 
Later that afternoon, Santa came and ho-ho-ho’d and grinned his best grin from under his fluffy beard. He brought his elves and a sack full of goodies into every child’s room, the pink in their cheeks belying, if only for a moment, their pain. 

We ate chocolate at the nurses’ station as the first drips of chemotherapy flowed into a newly diagnosed patient’s veins, while across the hall a team thrust a chest tube into the side of a baby who couldn’t–or wouldn’t–breathe without it.

Christmas is a human invention, and maybe we do need a little of it, as the song goes, to distract us like toys in a playroom from our dying selves.

But the problem with Christmas is December 26. 

December 26, when heartache is real again, when brokenness is as torn and wide open as the empty boxes under the sagging tree, when the lights dim and the night…is…silent.

The problem with Christmas is that hope doesn’t come with tinsel and lights and bells and songs.

Hope comes…

…with mercy, like a chest tube allowing a sagging lung to reinflate.

Hope comes…

…like the slow, imperceptible drip of life-saving medication into a patient’s arm.

Hope comes…

…in the darkness where tears stream down a mother’s face as she struggles to console her fevering child.

Hope comes.

Oh, how it comes.

Just not where we expect it.

*****

 

Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this?The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, ascrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away.

We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.

~Isaiah 53:1-6 (TMV)

 

*This post was originally published in my author newsletter. If you’d like to be the first to see devotionals and articles such as this, you can sign up for my newsletter in the right hand sidebar of this blog. 
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The inky truth of grace

The words of the old hymn caught my ear as I fiddled with the church bulletin and struggled to settle in to the Sunday service, mentally, physically and spiritually.

Some Sunday mornings are like that, after all. 

The cross hangs in the front of the sanctuary, and yet my world is spinning around it so fast I can hardly focus on it. So much grief and atrocity, illness and loss,  temptation and the subtle idolatries of daily, suburban survival cloud my mind from the peace and easy yoke my Savior offers.

And that’s just the external concerns of life.

Internally, I struggle with being good enough to deserve God’s redemptive, adoptive, unfathomably unconditional love, let alone write stories about it. 

And yet, as the words of the old hymn poured over my restless doubts, my wandering heart, and my stained and ugly soul,  I realized I’m right where God wants me.

Although God might appreciate a perfect life, He knows firsthand there is no such thing.

And so He chases after the unfettered soul.

He salves the bleeding heart.

He woos the wayward sin-whore.

He runs to the pig-sh**-laden prodigal.

He catches us with His mercy.

He showers us with His grace.

He doesn’t just put white-out over our sins and stains and pain.

He removes them.

He forgets them.

And then He co-authors a new story with us.  

A story no scroll can hold.

A story no ocean of ink can supply.

A story of grace, eternal.

There’s some glory in that, friends, isn’t there? 

Glory! 

*****

“God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him.”

Psalm 103:9-13 (TMV)

*****  

Coffee house Jesus. A poem.

you’d think the sky was falling the way

folks talk 

that Nietzsche’s right 

and god is dead

but i tell you the truth

He is alive

Alive!

In the coffee shop where I wrote all day and all around me for hours people met and sipped

soy lattes and I heard them

i HEARD 

they were talking about Jesus 

and He was there 

in the friends who embraced and 

the pastor who encouraged the sad man

and the smile of the hostess fresh back from a mission trip to Nicaragua with the nose ring like mine who served me my egg and Siracha sandwich

alive

Alive!

I SAW

Him 

there, downtown

and even the plumes of the Japanese lilacs lining the streets in front of falling down houses stretched toward Heaven 

alive

Alive!

just like the little patch of daisies outside 

my front door. 

  

“Again I resume the long
lesson: how small a thing
can be pleasing, how little
in this hard world it takes
to satisfy the mind 
and bring it to its rest.”
~Wendell Berry