December 31, 2008

My Nativity

I've just come away from a brief discussion with a friend about my nativity. Well, one of my nativities. I have 3 now. One is large and ornate, with figures 10 inches high, and it covers my entire mantle when it's set up "properly". It's full of vivid jewel tones and encrusted with rhinestones. It positively dazzles. I appreciate that it is a "multi-cultural" set, with 1 or 2 black characters in the "wise man" department. It was a beautiful gift from my grandmother.
My second one is a polar opposite from the first. Every piece to the set is carved of a cool-to-the-touch limestone, and it was delivered to me as a gift, straight from Africa. Every piece is carefully handcarved and etched with painstaking detail, but it is, at best...simple. There is absolutely no color to it. It's stark white, and the tallest figure may possibly reach 4 to 5 inches in height. It's difficult to differentiate which character is which, because they're almost identical to one another. Each year, with a guess and a brief prayer for forgiveness if I've gotten it wrong, I set it up, making sure the character with the wide hips and full lips (Mary) gets the proper position beside the tiny manger. I love to turn the figures over in my hands and let my fingers slip across the cold smoothness of the stone.
My third set is one that I bought this year at the grocery store, for $11.99. It's made of a strong resin, by the "Precious Moments" company, and it's just the right size for the hands of a 3 year old to play with. It actually came with a short stable, complete with golden star above, 3 wise guys, 1 shepherd, 1 sheep, a kneeling angel, and of course, Mary, Joseph and Jesus...all decked out in their pastel best. You'll see it's picture above.
When you look at that photo, you might notice 2 problems. We're short 1 wise man, and 1 very crucial baby. That's where the discussion with my friend comes back into play. You see, I know where the wise man is. He's stuffed in one of my dresser drawers, with his head broken off. An altercation between a 1 year old and a 3 year old left him decapitated. But the baby, Jesus? No idea. I've scoured the house, searched drawers, closets, toy boxes...nobody knows his whereabouts. When I told this to my friend, she said that my Baby Jesus was probably somewhere with her Joseph figure.
That got me thinking. If all the Mama's who are missing a piece or 2 got together and actually found them all, we'd have a whole new look to a nativity. Maybe it would be a nativity where figures of different shapes and sizes were all together, all worshipping a baby Jesus...and dare I say it...He might not even have blonde hair and blue eyes! AND...those wise guys wouldn't be anywhere near the manger, because history tells us that they didn't show up until 2 years after Jesus' birth. Maybe we'd have dirty animals, and dusty clothing and weary faces, and an army of angels, along with some shepherds who look a little unsure as to why they've even been called in.
Now, I know it's now December 31st, and many of us have already packed those nativities up until next year, but maybe, just maybe we could all give a few more thoughts to the reality of the nativity. Maybe some of us have lives that look like my nativity...short on wisdom, and missing Jesus. What better day than today to find Jesus again, to replace some wisdom for some foolishness, and to make a new start?
Happy New Year. May you take Jesus into it with you.

December 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Daddy

He can tell some stories that you just won’t believe…and sometimes, you shouldn’t believe them.

He can stare the paint off a fence, and talk the bark off a tree.

He can whip up a Red Velvet Cake or a pot of Cheese Corn faster then you can say, “Yum”.

He can write Cowboy Poetry in the wee hours of the morning.

He can read Greek and Hebrew.

He likes his tea and coffee “Tough Guy” style.

His favorite song is “Jesus Loves Me”.

His voice is just a little deeper and softer when he prays, like talking to a dear, old friend.

His Mama was a saint.

His Granny was unstoppable.

His dogs are his favorite children.

His children are his secret pride and joy.

His laugh is sometimes a howl and sometimes a burst, but always precious to hear.

He’d rather not exist, than live a life he can’t share with others.

He bites the sides of his thumbnails when he’s thinking hard about things.

His big brother will always be his hero.

He’s proud of his hometown, proud of his state, proud of his country.

I’ve always been fascinated with my Daddy.
He often tells the story of being in college, and working, and coming home late at night to the tiny apartment that he and Mom shared. I was still a babe in a crib, with the little crib bumper that ran around the inside of it. He’d be up in the wee hours studying for those college exams, and he’d glance over to the crib (where I should have been sleeping), to find me slowly raising the bumper pad enough to peek at him from beneath it. When I’d see that he’d seen me, I’d quickly jerk it back down, instigating many a match of peek-a-boo.
Lesson Learned: Work hard, but smile while you’re doing it.

When I was 6 or 7 years old, I remember seeing him walk down the short hallway of our home, pulling a folded red bandana out of his back jeans pocket, and wiping tears from his eyes when he learned that his Uncle Jim had died.
Lesson Learned: Big boys do cry (and so do cowboys)...and it’s ok.

I remember being at his house one summer and riding along with him while he went to cut grass for a client of his. The homeowners weren’t home that day, and had left Daddy’s paycheck under the front porch mat. When we arrived at the job, I asked him if he wanted me to go ahead and get the check, while he started on the lawn. He firmly told me, “Don’t touch that check until all the work is done.”
Lesson Learned: Honesty and Integrity will take you farther than anything.

Whether it’s just a day, or even a week or two between phone conversations, we stay close and we stay in touch. For two people who love to talk as much as we do, I often think he’s said just as much to me, without words. My Daddy is a dear friend to me, and I’m proud to call him mine…My “Daddy America”.

December 3, 2008

A Good Shepherd

Have you ever told someone to "break a leg"? Have you ever asked God, in prayer, to break someone's leg? I did that today, this morning, for the first time in my life. The only reason I felt that I could ask that of God, is because I had a revelation about shepherding and I knew that He had given it to me.
If a sheep goes astray from the flock that is it's family, a good shepherd will search high and low, calling out to the sheep, hoping that it will recognize his voice, and return. When the shepherd finds the lost sheep, he breaks it's two front legs. This is not a means of abuse or cruelty. This is so that he can then lift that precious sheep to his shoulders, and proceed to carry it wherever he goes. At that level, the sheep can then see as it's master sees, feel his master's breathing, and, above all, hear his master's voice...until it's the most natural and beautiful thing that the sheep knows. It's a voice the sheep never again wants to stray from. "My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."--John 10:27 The most perfect thing about this is that, by the time the shepherd lowers that adoring sheep back to the ground, they've both learned to love and trust each other more, and the sheep has received it's healing.
Someone I love dearly has strayed far from his Master. I've asked God to break his leg, to lift him up, to carry him until he recalls and follows that voice that will always be beckoning for him.