I’ll be home for Christmas

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When I was a kid, I never really got the song, I’ll be home for Christmas, until my sister moved away from home to go to school. I remember listening to the song, and thinking about her.

I remember relishing the times when my family could get together. It felt as in some small way that I belonged to something bigger than me. There was a sense in those moments when we were together that I was at “home”.

The last number of years, I’ve been apart from my family over the holidays more than I’ve been together with them. For the most part it has been okay as we’ve called each other no matter where we are. I still relish those times when we can get together whether at Christmas or at other times and look forward to that sense of coming home.

Before meeting my husband, I pieced together my own traditions that often included strangers taking me in as part of their family. I have many memories from those days that I cherish mostly because in those moments, I’ve also had the sense of being home.

Homecoming can be about being with family but it is also about something much more than that. It is about connecting on a deeper level to one another and to something outside of oneself. It’s about recognizing ourselves as human beings and realizing that we all stand together in this one thing, we are created and imagined into being by a loving God who can’t help but draw us into the home of God’s heart.

It is about finding a resting place, a place where all of who you are is known and you are loved anyway. Homecoming is about settling into feeling, an emotion, a relationship and recognizing that this is where you truly belong and you’ve had to do nothing to earn it or receive it.

Homecoming is pure gift and it is found in the babe in the manger who gave up all of who he was to help us find our way home.

Most of my life, I’ve found that feeling of belonging to be difficult; not so much because of the people around me, although I did blame them for a long time, but because of who I was and the restlessness that is a part of who I am.

As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to recognize that belonging is not so much of a place but of a moment where you recognize that you belong to something much bigger than who you are or who your family is or who your friends are. It is in that moment that one finds God entering in and becoming one with our humanity and creating a home with us.

As I look forward to spending time together with my family this Christmas, I recognize that not everyone is so fortunate. As I look forward to family traditions that have become more and more meaningful over the years, I think of those who may not experience that sense of homecoming with either the families of their birth or in the families forged through a shared life together and I pray.

I pray that that the light of Christ’s gift that came so many years ago to a stable will come to the hearts of those who need to find their own homecoming in the heart of God.

The Myth of Being Patient

If you’ve been reading my posts and have begun to think how good of a parent I am, let me disabuse you of that notion. I’m not a model parent and the one area that I have the most struggle with is in the area of patience.

Lori AngryI’m the mom who gives warnings a full half hour before we have to leave because my children are in danger of making me late. Rush, rush everywhere and no time to spend taking time to nurture my children in the process. I’m the mom who loses her patience quickly when said child dawdles instead of focusing on the task at hand. I’m the mom who several nights a week apologizes to her children for not being more patient or for getting so easily frustrated.

Hello, I’m Lori James and I’m impatient.

Before I had my own children, I thought I had your average amount of patience. Sure, I could fly off the handle with a customer service representative of a major corporation with whom I had issues, but overall, I was your average person when it comes to having patience.

My self perception might have had something to do with the fact that I internalized a lot of things and that I never had to live with anyone as intimately as I live with my family now.

That’s why I’m so struck by 2 Peter 3:9&15a which says, “The Lord is not slow about his promise…but is patient with you…regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”

Can I tell you how glad I am that God has lots of patience with me? I’m also glad that the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t say, “have patience with me as I have patience with those around me” because God would have given up on me long ago! I would have.

During this time of advent, I’m praying for more patience…and trying to live that out in the hopes that my children will know more grace…but I bet, I will still be struggling with patience next year at this time…

 

Come Lord Jesus, Come

6881651755_5ddf8a9bcb_oI’m restless these days and I’ve been wondering just what that uneasiness is nudging me towards. But this morning as I’ve been reading the news and a few other blog posts I’m wondering if the restlessness that has surfaced over the last few weeks is in sync with the rest of the world. I’m wondering if far too often, I blissfully ignore the agitation occurring around me, insulating myself in my privileged life, letting myself off the hook from having to care about others in need.

The news programs I listened to yesterday is full of stories of violence and tragedy throughout the world. Conflict and war in rage beyond even that of which is reported in the news.  Protests rage in the U.S.A around race and justice. In Canada, everywhere you turn the media is covering something relating to violence against women: Amanda Todd; Jian Gomeshi; missing and murdered aboriginal women; the anniversary L’ecole Polytechnique shootings. Even in the city in which I live, fire destroyed an apartment building housing 45 units.

In this time when the stores are decked out with holiday madness seducing us to buy, we find ourselves numbed to the reality of the pain in the world which keeps us from really knowing the truth of one another as pressure mounts to put on a false front of cheerfulness when our souls may be consumed with sorrow.

It’s one of the reasons that I think that Advent is such an important part of the church year. Advent is an opportunity to live with the reality of our own restlessness in order to prepare us for the amazing gift of love that is the Christmas story. Advent allows us to live within the stark reality in order to hear the message of hope and new life that can be found in Christ’s coming.

As I live in the reality of sorrow, sadness and restlessness, I pray with the church of all time and of all places that prayer of hope, Come Lord Jesus, Come.

 

Questions for God

2179931268_bea642da0f_oI’ve been haunted by an experience this past year that I can’t seem to stop thinking about. I went to a funeral of a woman my age with whom I attended bible college. It was the first time since high school that I went to a funeral of someone my own age which was enough to keep my mind working on overtime about the fragility of life. But what struck me the most is who we were when we first met and how we had both changed over the years.

Somehow we had both arrived in the same general geographical location but in our spiritual lives, it felt like we lived on different planes. Since then I’ve continued to wonder, how our different journeys could have brought us to two very different places. Both of us had been trying to be faithful and both of us were confident in the fact that what we believed and how we lived were faithful to where God wanted us to be.

It’s the same thing I’m struggling with now as I’m part of a community of faith where there are different views on even the littlest of things. How can we be faithful to where we believe the Spirit is leading us and at the same time find ourselves in a polar opposite place of where someone else is?

For those of you who don’t know me, I didn’t grow up in the denomination in which I now make my home. I have to say, leaving the denomination in which I was raised hasn’t always been the most pleasant experiences for me. I’ve had friends who have thought I was going down a dangerous path away from God. I’ve had people I’ve looked up to as spiritual leaders reject my calling because it wasn’t in the denomination of my birth.

But in my experience, connecting to one another spiritually has little to do with having the same mind on theological matters and more to do with connecting to one another in the ways of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).

Just as I’ve had difficult experiences, I’ve had graced filled experiences. I think of one particular person whose graciousness has touched me. My piano teacher and I forged an adult friendship when we found ourselves in the same community years after we first met. We never really talked about theology but whenever we talked about faith, prayer and following God, I felt as if we connected to the same Spirit, the same Lord. Whenever we met together, it felt as if God was in that place. I suspect, however, if we’d have talked about theology, it might have been a different matter.

One night in my living room as friends from Bible College gathered to reunite, there was a similar spirit. Although God had taken us to many different places, it was evident that God was with us when we met together. It was a wonderful time and I’m grateful to God for this and other grace filled moments.

I also have many people in my lives who are distant from the church and yet with whom I have a spiritual connection. I think of my atheist and agnostic friends with whom I’ve felt a connection of the spirit and at the same time, I’ve met church people with whom it feels that there is more a spirit of conflict then a spirit of love.

I’m not sure what to make of it all. I still wonder how following the same God, reading the same holy scriptures and following the same Spirit can take us to such very different places. But in the end,  I leave those things up to God.

Not one of us who lives life in the Spirit are God, but rather, we hope and trust in God. For my part, I’d rather put my faith in a God who makes us one in all our diversity than in myself who only sees part of the truth.

Come Holy Spirit, come.

 

A lesson in humility…

14572137880_e070006718_oMy little one and I were outside one day, shoveling the mammoth amount of snow that had fallen overnight.

Usually, my then four year old would want to shovel with me but on that day she got bored of that task and began trampling new paths into the freshly fallen snow. She climbed to the highest snow pile on the property and began to chant, I’m the King of the Castle and you’re the dirty rascal. I didn’t even know that she knew about that game.

I smiled to myself as I continued shovelling. I smiled remembering playing that game myself on the top of the highest snowbank in Dashwood ON with some of my childhood friends. I smiled because my little four year old, wanted to be on top and to push her mother to the bottom. I smiled thinking about how much that game says about human nature.

The problem with us as human beings is that too many times, we put ourselves first at the expense of other people. We put ourselves above others in order to feel better by puffing up the good, justifying ourselves by minimizing the bad. Too often we deny that’s exactly what we are doing because it’s hard to admit to ourselves that we aren’t always the most loving or gracious people.

When we ridicule other people in the privacy of our own homes for not living their lives in the way that we do, we are attempting to climb the hill of moral superiority. When we caricature the way other people parent as negligent, strict, or too lenient, we are pushing others down the hill on our way to the top. We allow ourselves to forget the ways in which we too are imperfect.

Too often as mom and wife, I need to be right rather than in right relationship with my family. Once again I realize, that even in this small domain that I call my home, I have a lot to learn. I recognize in me that little girl standing on the top of the snowbank yelling, I’m the King of the Castle and you’re the dirty rascal, and once again I’m humbled.

Martin Luther once said that ‘we are all beggars.’ We all have strengths and weaknesses but to downplay our needs and exalt our successes while climbing up the hill of other people’s faults, all we do is alienate ourselves from one another. What we really need to do is join hands and look to Christ who gave up life at the top to meet us in the most humble place, the cattle stall.

Stir up our hearts and come, Lord Jesus.