God with Us Even in Our Mess

God with Us (even when we are a mess)

 

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us)”.

Mathew 1: 23

 

God with us.

God incarnate. A  God- baby living and growing right here on the dirt of the earth.

All of Christendom stands on this reality. Most of the time I don’t stop to let these words sink into my soul. Mostly I try to put the incarnation into a box that has more appeal.  In a breath I move from God with us, to us with God. It’s a subtle switch but a far more  alluring concept.

I desperately want salvation to mean being whisked up to heaven to float around on clouds playing harps with angels. I want  an escape or at least a world where there is no infertility, no miscarriage, no sudden death, no Aleppo. And I want to be angry with God for not making it the way that I think is best.

But Mathew insists on, God with us. He starts his book out with a painfully tedious genealogy (which I usually skip over if I ever come across it) towards this point.

Abraham was the father of Isaac,

Isaac the father of Jacob,

Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,

Perez the father of Hezron,

Hezron the father of Ram,

Ram the father of Amminadab,

Amminadab the father of Nahshon,

Nahshon the father of Salmon,

 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,

Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,

Obed the father of Jesse,

and Jesse the father of King David.

David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife, etc. etc. etc.

This year I’ve been reading the Bible stories with my daughter, so some of these names are starting to feel more familiar than ever, some because we read them, others because I carefully edit them out.

Characters like Rahab the prostitute are difficult to explain to a four year old. Then there is Tamar, twice widowed and so desperate for a child that she dresses as a prostitute and seduces her father-in-law (who is the kind of guy apparently that frequents prostitutes).  Then the famous King David who takes Bathsheba to bed and when she gets pregnant has her husband  Uriah killed in battle to cover up his offense.

There are good stories too, stories like Ruth, a foreigner brought in and made part of a new people. But none of the stories are simple, few of them are what we would look at today and call “christian”. They are stories of a messy people, of real failures, of genuine pain and this list of names is recorded here so we don’t forget it when we come to this next passage,

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.  Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

 

An unmarried  pregnant teen who swears she is still a virgin. Her fiance  deciding whether to call it off quietly or have her publicly stoned (which would have been a reasonable option back then).

God with us. God enters into a  mess that has been growing for generations. He does not rescue us out. He  gives us His Spirit. And in the face of our deepest darkness and our ugliest failures He gives us light.  He so transforms the world that in the simple act of loving another person we see His face and hope begins growing out of every broken place.

This year has left me lonely, I long for more children, for the growth of a church, for a deep sense of community. Still compared to many my griefs have been small. I have stood alongside of friends who have watching their children and parents and grandparents cross over to death. I have seen bodies that I love wrecked with illness.  And I have grown ever more aware of the fragility of the world as I’ve heard the stories of immigrants  fleeing violence, traveling by foot through central America to reach our border.  I want it to be “Us with God,” I want to escape this pain.  All I can do is pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”  And He has come, and is to come and will come again, Immanuel, not us with God, but God with us.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

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Seven Quick Takes: Our Thanksgiving

Linking up with some other 7 Quick Takes today.

Thanksgiving threw me this year.  When we left my daughter’s Thanksgiving play and headed east for the holiday I was a wreck.  My mind was churning trying to reconcile the true story of Thanksgiving and the ongoing issues of racial injustice in our country with the family celebration that was to come.

It was to my good fortune that I had a 15 hour car ride to think (well I actually slept for most of it but I manged to stay awake through most of Alabama). I wrote this and finally at midnight on Thanksgiving eve I was ready to for my feast.  Holidays are like that, they stir up all the gloom and sorrow and force us to plunge into it and if we are willing we find that we can still celebrate in a way that mysteriously transcends the suffering of our every day life.

Here is a quick rundown of a few of our favorite moments and of the things for which I am most grateful.

  1. Old friends: We stopped by  Roswell, GA and made a quick visit with some of our dearest friends. We first met when we were both newlywed working in Piedras Negras, Mexico. There is something satisfying about seeing our own kid make friends with the children of those who are dear to us.

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

2.  Food. We had a bit of a mishap with the turkey, the roasting pan from the Dollar Tree didn’t hold up (should we be surprised here?) all of the fat and broth drained through the bottom of the pan, through the oven and onto the floor. Luckily I was still in bed and Michael cleaned it up.  And no worries my mother-in-law is a wonder-worker and the the turkey came out just fine.

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3.  This Family. Posed for the obligatory holiday photo.

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

4.  Fall Color: While we don’t get much of an Autumn in South Texas a week in the Georgia Hills satisfied our longing for crimson hues. This is the Riverwalk in Columbus, GA along the Chattahoochee.

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

5.  Barbecue. Georgia style, complete with a bluegrass band. This is the best, we never let a visit go by without a visit to the famous Country’s and this girl always cleans her plate.

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

6.  Decorating.  One perk of traveling for Thanksgiving is that you get a little taste of Christmas at the same time.

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

 

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

7. Amazing places.

 

This is just about the best playground I have ever seen, the kids become spiders climbing up in a giant web.

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

Stopping with the grandparents for seafood on Mobile Bay after an hour long boat ride.  We got caught in a rain storm on the way back which, while though miserably cold, only served to make it a more  memorable adventure.

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

 

Our drive home included a stop at the Boudin Shop. Can I just say I love Louisiana and all things Cajun (as long as it isn’t too spicy for this Ohio girl). Z loved the glazed alligator heads.

Seven Quick Takes, Thanksgiving. Liturgy of Life

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And now we are grateful to be home even if our suitcases don’t get unpacked until after Christmas (which is seeming more and more likely everyday).

Hope you had a great one too. I’d love to here about it.

 

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

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Thanksgiving as Prophesy

We crowded in front of the stage gripping our cameras with sweaty palms. They tottered out, girls in white bonnets,  boys crowned with Indian headdresses and we wrung our hands mouthing along with them the words we knew by heart.

In their chirping voices they sang of the first Thanksgiving, of the Indians and Pilgrims gathered as friends around the table. They finished with a bow, cheers erupted and cameras flashed. We applauded but at the same time our hearts sank.  We wanted this to be the end of the story or at least an honest indication of its trajectory. We wanted to spare them the truth, that all the opportunity they possessed had been stolen from someone else.

And then we came home to this video, filmed at a meeting of White Nationalists in Washington D.C. (yes those are Nazi salutes) filled with statements like,

“America was until this past generation a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity.”

 

 

No amount of wishing will make this or any evil act untrue. Our children must know of the Trail of Tears, the Slave Trade, Jim Crow Laws and the shooting at Charleston.They must understand that in America, freedom has only existed for those in power and that bravery is what is required of those who live on the margins.

 

Thanksgiving as Prophesy

And yet it is Thanksgiving and we have been waiting for it all year. We want to eat turkey with our families and to watch the Macy’s Day Parade and to play football and eat pie.

We want to celebrate the idea of Thanksgiving even if it is mostly myth.  We long to hear the story of a people who needed help and received it, of a table of hospitality spread before them, of two races and languages sitting down together and sharing a meal.

I hope that Thanksgiving is more than a piece of cultural propaganda.

My prayer is that this would be a prophetic feast.  Just at Israel celebrated the Passover for a millennia before its meaning was more fully revealed though the sacrifice of Christ, I hope that Thanksgiving is painting us a picture of what is yet to come.  Today we celebrate our heritage but we feast in the hope of reconciliation. We anticipate the day that our children will sing songs of truth, proclaiming justice and freedom and liberty for all.

 

 

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For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

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On meeting God at The Table

 

Where do you go to meet with God. Thoughts from the Table. Liturgy of Life Reading group, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

 

On slow mornings I sip my tea, sit at the breakfast table and listen to the dreams of a four year old. As we finish our toast  I pull out a book of Bible stories, we read and then say our morning prayers.  Today we came to a story about Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God.

God’s presence descends on the mountain, consumed with smoke and crashing thunder. The people are trembling with fear.  Moses and 70 elders ascend to worship and offer a sacrifice.  Then something even more amazing happens.  They see God,

“and they saw the God of Israel.  There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.”

And then these guys, surrounded by all this greatness, seeing God with their own eyes, the earth around them quaking, they sit down and share a meal.

 

“. . . they beheld God, and ate and drank.” (Exodus 24)

 

Not far back we were reading about Abraham and three visitors who come as angels representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Abraham recognizes them as the Lord and before they say a word he has his wife baking bread and his servant slaughtering a calf.  They sit down and eat.

 

Is it possible that something as ordinary as eating could be crucial to our spirituality?

 

Food is central to so many stories of the Bible. Sin comes into the world when Eve eats the apple, God’s first gift after the fall is the flesh of animals for food, worship for centuries is primarily through the slaughtering and offering of animals which are then eaten, dietary restrictions are a central part of the practice of Judaism, God declares His grace for His people through the Passover feast, He demonstrates his faithfulness by feeding them with manna, Christ’s first miracle is turning water into wine, and His final time with the disciples before his crucifixion is a feast called The Last Supper.  In His death and resurrection we see the redemption of eating as we partake of His body and blood in the Eucharistic feast.

 

Yet food in our culture has been reduced to fuel, something to quiet our grumbling bellies and get us through our next task.  Its’ preferred form is a to-go box or better yet liquefied into a smoothie or squeeze pouch.  We understand it by its’ most basic nutritional elements, carbs, protein and fat, devoid of any value in its wholeness.  The traditions around preparation and consumption of food have nearly vanished from our society.

 

I don’t have any genius revelations here, only the observation, that if our Christian traditions or history mean anything to us then we may want to revisit food and I don’t just mean taking another glance at the doughnut table during coffee hour.  As Christians we believe that all of the world exists as a communication of God and that in offering what we receive back to God we are drawn deeper into Him.

In the preparation and consumption of our meals we partake of God and His gifts to us.  Of course this is still true if we are microwaving a frozen pizza.  It’s not that any one food or style of eating is necessarily holier than the other. But our pace of life and even our willingness to eat food in isolation or that isn’t carefully prepared, nutritious or even tasty, is affecting our physical health and is perhaps limiting our experience of God’s grace.

What does it look like to submit our food choices and our eating habits to God’s authority? How would we cook or eat differently if Christ was physically dining with us? (Because of course He is. He dwells in you and in me).

In a world that is overheating, with red faced politicians spewing hateful messages, with bombed cities and homeless refugees, with our own mind boggling schedules it may feel insignificant to spend an hour drinking a cup of tea or preparing a loaf of bread. But in the swirling haze, in the trembling and quaking, in our deepest fears, sitting down at the table and eating together may be the very place to begin to meet with our God.

 

 

This post was inspired by my current read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.by Barbara Kingsolver as part of the Liturgy of Life Reading Group series. We would love for you to join us.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

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