Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Small Potatoes

            Burdened with overstuffed handbag, rolling suitcase, and ukulele, I maneuver around the front door and manage to pull it shut behind me. At least the sun is sort of up and it’s not raining. I safely cross the compacted snow and ice separating me from my car, unlock it, and stow the suitcase and ukulele in the back seat.
            Finally in the driver’s seat, I start my car. Only it’s not my car. My car was making a funny scraping sound and went to visit a mechanic. This is my husband’s car. It’s newer than mine, runs smoother, and the Sirius XM radio comes in clearly all the time. But I don’t like it. If I were in my car, it would already be warm. A brilliantly conceived Christmas gift from my sons a few years ago, a remote starter, means I happily press a button and the car starts and warms up while I frantically rush around inside for a few more minutes.
            Today, the hub’s car is cold. Jack Frost decorated the front windshield and vandalized the rear windshield. My hub’s pristinely empty car has no ice scrapers. He must have moved them to the rental he’s using. My ice tools went to see the mechanic with my car. So I must wait for the wires in the back window to melt the ice. I’ve always wondered why the auto designers don’t put wires in the front. I must wait for cold air blowing from the cold heater to melt the cold ice on the front windshield. 
             I’m going to be late for school.
            As small patches of clear glass appear, I run the windshield wipers in a feeble attempt to spread the warmth. Finally after an hour, or maybe five minutes, there’s more clear glass than frost and I start driving. There’s still not heat. Also the car doesn’t quite fit my body. I sit on a thick cushion. The seat is so far forward to reach the pedals that my knee bumps the steering column.
            I turn on my hub’s superior Sirius radio and I can clearly hear more drama about the White House staff. Ugh. The stress of the presidential campaign and election and aftermath and inauguration and aftermath just won’t go away.
             I turn off News and choose Symphony. Some intense pianist is beating the keys in a stress-elevating staccato rhythm. Ugh.
            How do I find Sirius’s Christian station? How do I get out of Sirius and find WGRC, my local Christian radio station? I need Don and Dave’s badinage in the morning. I need encouraging music. I need Luis Palau. All available by pressing button 4 on my radio in my car which is at the mechanic’s.
            After ten miles, the car is finally warm, but still silent. I try to remember an encouraging song I can sing to myself. A few lines from a back-in-the-day song emerge, “Reach out to Jesus; he’s reaching out to you.” I sing with my croaky morning voice and more lines come.
Is your burden heavy as you bear it all alone?
Does the road you’re traveling harbor dangers yet unknown?
Are you growing weary in the struggle of it all?
Jesus will help you when on his name you call.
He is always there, hearing every prayer, faithful and true.
Walking by his side, in his strength we hide, all the day through.
When you get discouraged and you don’t know what to do,
Reach out to Jesus; he’s reaching out to you.
            I come close to remembering the words. I sing it several more times to myself and to the Lord.
            I remember my favorite passage from the Message paraphrase of the Bible.
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 18

            The more serious NIV renders the verse, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
            It’s popular nowadays to call this kind of stuff “first world problems.” While women in other parts of the world are walking miles to get water and carrying it on their heads back to their village, I feel put out because I have to drive my hub’s VW instead of my PT Cruiser.
            But I prefer the very American idiom, small potatoes. The stuff I’m facing this morning is smaller than small potatoes. It’s smaller than a tater tot or a single shred of hash browns. 

            Thank you, Lord, for reminding me.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Who is He?

You may have read this in December 2013. Now you can read it again. 
May you have a blessed Christmas.

Who is He?

Demon bouncer
Tamer of churning seas

Grapeless vintner
Scoundrels’ crony
Charmer of loaves and fish

Medicine man
Grave pillager
Heckler of hypocrites

Betrayed brother
Sentenced outlaw
Tormented innocent

Mort immortal
Insensate corpse
First cent’ry Houdini

That night merely
Fragile newborn
Creator turned creature

Creation’s hope
Mary’s wonder
Seers’ dream swaddled in flesh

from the Nativity Story

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas Unplugged

You may have read this before in December 2013. Now you can read it again.


If they took back all the presents
And boarded up the malls,
If they unstrung all the popcorn
And undecked all the halls,
If they snuffed out every candle
And unplugged every light,
We’d still with awe remember
That holy, silent night.

If Santa weren’t coming
‘Cause Daddy’s out of work,
If Mommy burned the cookies
And undercooked the bird,
If chestnuts never roasted
And all the carolers ceased,
             Still we’d kneel and worship
             The newborn prince of peace.

If all the tinsel vanished
Along with mistletoe,
And TV Christmas specials
Were canceled, as was snow,
If reindeer never landed
On the roof above,
We would still have Christmas
‘Cause they can’t unplug God’s love.

© 1999 Roberta Tucker Brosius, published in The Secret Place, Winter 1999-2000

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thinking about Mary

            Yesterday’s reading in the Secret Place—which I didn’t read until this morning—focused on Mary’s courage, from Luke 1:26 – 38. Manny Santiago's words got me thinking about my own courage or lack thereof.

            How do I react to change, or even an announcement of change? How do I react to strange? What if an angel showed up in my kitchen or in my car on the way to work?

The Annunciation from the Nativity Story
            Mary’s first reaction was to be “greatly troubled” and I surmise fearful, since the angel’s next words start with, “Do not be afraid, Mary.” What enabled Mary to move from “greatly troubled” in verse 26 to “bring it on” in verse 38? Why didn’t Mary argue like Moses (Exodus 3 – 4) or nervously ask for proof like Gideon (Judges 6)?

            Some might point out that Mary seems to be arguing or asking for proof when she says, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” I think she’s asking for clarity. “Excuse me, Mr. Angel. Did you mean I’m going to conceive this child after Joseph and I get married? Or did you mean right now in some other way?” I think that’s a reasonable question. Apparently, Gabriel agrees, because instead of striking her mute like Zechariah earlier in the chapter, he explains.

            I notice four things in the scripture passage that suggest how Mary got past “greatly troubled.” Three of them start with the letter “p.” I really wish all four did, because I’m all about alliteration. But maybe the three explain the one.

God’s Favor, featuring
     God’s Presence—The Lord is with you.
            God’s Power—The power of the Most High will overshadow you.
                   God’s Promise—For with God nothing will be impossible. (1:37, NKJV)

            Gabriel calls Mary “highly favored” and also tells her “you have found favor with God.” Dictionary.com lists numerous shades of meaning for “favor” both as a noun and verb, and I think these fit: the state of being approved or held in regard, excessive kindness…; preferential treatment. 

            Let’s be clear that usually when someone in scripture is favored and chosen, it’s not for a trip to Disney, but for a difficult assignment. (No wonder Moses and Gideon protested.) In nine or so months, Mary will hear this warning from the old saint Simeon, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 1:35)

            Along with God’s favor, Gabriel assures Mary she also receives God’s presence, power and promise. It’s part of the favor package. 

            Now here’s the best part:  That favor package is offered to all of us! When I’m confronted with change or strange or a difficult assignment from God, I also have access to God’s presence, God’s power, and God’s promises upon promises upon promises.

            I hope I remember that. I hope you do, too.

 26In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. 
(Luke 1, NIV, from www.biblegateway.com)