Want, Ignorance, and Adoration

I went to see the Red Hills Players production of A Christmas Carol today. As the allegorical twins “Want” and “Ignorance” swirled around Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present, I was struck by the role each one, but especially Want, has played for me this Christmas.

WANT

I auditioned for A Christmas Carol in early November. We had to sing a traditional Christmas Carol, and I had chosen O Come All  Ye Faithful. I wanted to be involved in this production. To quote Laura Kelly Fanucci, who wrote the lovely devotional, Longing Together, my inner dialogue was I want, I want, I want.

Although the basic want was to be involved in the production, what I actually wanted was more complex than that. I wanted to belong.

The challenge of social media is that we often feel more familiar with people than we really are, and that’s where I found myself with many of the people who would have been my castmates. In my mind, spending the time it takes to bring a production to life had the potential to bridge the gap between that surface familiarity and hopefully create a more intricately woven bond.

In all this wanting, I lost sight of the fact that a production first and foremost can only select the best of the best (as it should be), and I saw in the mirror of my psyche someone who feels very disconnected from her true self.

IGNORANCE

may have thought participating in the production would cure that disconnect, but as November rolled over into December, I realized:

I had been ignorant of how rewarding it would be to focus on the community service project I coordinated for my Toastmasters club. In this joint project with the Leadership Toastmasters Club, our two small clubs came together to have a big impact for a local resident who moved to Tallahassee then promptly had to have surgery and a long rehabilitation. With no rehearsal conflicts, I was able to be at her home when we delivered a sturdy, beautiful dresser for her bedroom (thanks to a friend who donated it), as well as sheets, towels, fresh fruit, and a Walmart gift card to help her and her teenage son through the challenges of this time.

I had been ignorant of how many times I am reminded how much my running friends have my back. Free from the demands of rehearsals and performances that the production would have involved, I have been able to indulge fun meals (with adult bevvies), run to the Christmas lights in Oven Park and make a new friend, and go to our Gulf Winds holiday party and dance the night away.

I was ignorant of how moved I would feel when being hugged by the mom of our Badass Fitness Christmas Connection family, how stellar it would feel to pull up in front of her home and see Santa knock on her door and tell  her 4 year old HO HO HO. The fact that her teenage daughter shares the same name as my deceased mother-in-law Barbara was not lost on me. It was a good day.

Ora Family

ADORATION

I have sung the first verse of this song many times this November and December, first for the audition, and then because I was so dissatisfied with my performance at the audition that I improved it with the help of the highly talented and flexible Rachel at Music Lessons Express in order to contribute it to the Ninth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert.

“O Come All Ye Faithful” exhorts us to pursue a place of adoration:

O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

The song doesn’t say:

O come let us adore the sound of our own voice (fortunately!)

O come let us adore the idea of what we think will make us happy

O come let us adore other people who are equally as fallible as we ourselves are

O come let us adore those eggs that we have been methodically and hopefully putting into our own baskets …

This Advent…

nativity with writing

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Helping Those in Poverty Blossom, An Advent Devotional

Each year, the parishioners of Holy Comforter create an advent reflections booklet composed of their own contributions. This is mine, used for December 18, 2013.

For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalms 72: 12-14)

Bob Hentzen

Bob Hentzen

On October 8 of this year, Bob Hentzen passed away from natural causes. I had the blessing of spending a week with Bob when Tenley and I went to Guatemala as part of a Christian Foundation for Children and Aging Mission Awareness Trip in July 2011.

As I read the psalm for today’s reading, I couldn’t help reflecting on Bob’s approach to helping people who live in poverty.

Before our trip to Guatemala, I had possessed a vague idea of the ways in which CFCA helped the “lives of the needy.” Our extended family had given $30 a month for years to help our sponsored child, Silvia, and her family have access to education, food, health care, and shelter.

Although the trip involved the incredible highlight of meeting Silvia, it involved so much more. The most eye-opening parts were when we were able to visit the homes of families being helped by CFCA. I had never seen residences that appeared so vulnerable to weather, so rudimentary from the standpoint of plumbing and waste management, so different from our orderly neighborhoods here in the U.S.

“Electricity” meant one light bulb hanging from a cord. When a homeowner was asked why she did not have the light on, she explained “it’s too hot.” I don’t know if the real issue was that she was ultra conservative about the use of power, or if she truly felt it was “too hot.” No use of resources happened without deliberation.

In addition to the tours of homes, we watched presentations about various ways in which people were given help in learning to make a living. We met women who had learned a skill, gone on to use that skill to support their families, and completed the circle by teaching other women to do the same thing. To see a woman empowered with the ability to rely on herself in order to feed and educate her children was to see a “dawn” of a new and improved life for that woman.

Carolyn Zimmerman, of Topeka, Kansas, said this about Bob after his death: “His steps and his life took him throughout the world, where he connected families across the divides of distance, privilege and poverty.”

The people I met in Guatemala were often people who had “no helper” and needed support to cross the divides that Carolyn wrote of. They were people who had been affected by violence and oppression. Perhaps not personally, but culturally. Although Bob did not treat them with the “pity” mentioned in this psalm, he saw the precious potential in each one. And through him, God helped them blossom.

As you reflect, how can you help someone in poverty blossom?

A Guatemalan Mother Participates In A Reforestation Project

A Guatemalan Mother Participates In A Reforestation Project


Photo credits: Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (www.hopeforafamily.org)

 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

Transcending Shame, An Advent Reflection

Each year, the parishioners of Holy Comforter create an advent reflections booklet composed of their own contributions. This is mine, used for December 19, 2012. Click here to access the complete set of reflections.

Transcending Shame, An Advent Reflection

Photo Credit: FeelArt

Two of the three readings for today mention “shame” and “disgrace”:

“Let me never be put to shame” (Psalm 71:1)

And

“She said, ‘This is what the Lord has done for me….took away the disgrace I have endured…” (Luke 1:24-25)

As I write this (mid-October), the orange and black of the Halloween sections of stores are already being infringed upon by the red and green of Christmas merchandise.

I was recently perusing a catalog that was selling a variety of “token” items, such as a gift set of a Christmas-themed mug packaged with hot chocolate mix and a decorative spoon. I have to be perfectly honest here and say that I always appreciate the thought behind gifts like this but I often don’t have a clue what to do with the non-edible parts after the holiday. I imagine teachers have closets full of these types of gifts.

Compare these “one size fits all” gifts with the most customized of Christmas presents: a boyfriend’s hopeful proposal after he has whisked his intended to Paris and spirited her up to the Eiffel Tower to pop the question. Gifts that involve hours of deliberating over the right approach, the perfect tangible gift to give, what would make the recipient squeal with delight and tuck away a cherished memory for a lifetime.

Just as gifts range from minor and “generic” to major and “customized,” shame has degrees also.

For an example of “relatively minor,” one Sunday service at a previous parish I was acolyting and did not know to ring the bells when the priest presented the host (our guidebook was only marked “ring” for Prayer A but not for B, C, and D – I am a pretty literal person!). During the communion, somehow without even breaking rhythm the priest asked, “No bells today?” I said, “our prayer book wasn’t marked.” He said, “Oh, I thought you had a headache.” Somehow that combination of approaching me quietly yet with a touch of humor did two things: a) taught me what I needed to do next time (ring the bells!) and b) relieved the embarrassment and shame I felt for “messing up” our service.

There are much bigger things that create shame: Succumbing to addictions and as a result committing acts that harm others while decimating our self esteem; making choices that hurt those closest to us as well as people we may never meet again. Stealing things, injuring others, and gross dishonesty come to mind.

Author Brene Brown says, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.”

Just like the range of gifts from relatively trivial to once-in-a-lifetime special, shame can create a momentary disturbance of confidence or one from which it seems impossible to recover. Whether someone in your life is experiencing a shame of the minor or major variety, help them galvanize themselves at a time when corrosion threatens their belief in their capability to change.

The psalmist said, “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge.” Let us help one another find the gift of the Lord’s refuge, even when shame threatens to block the way.
Transcending Shame, An Advent Reflection

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.

To Awake Satisfied – An Advent Devotional

Each year, the parishioners of my church, Holy Comforter, contribute devotionals for the season of Advent. This is my contribution for 2010. 
As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
When I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.
-Psalm 17:15


December 3, 2010, is the seventeenth anniversary of the death of my sister-in-law, Ann Kiger Paredes. Ann died in her sleep of an undiagnosed genetic cardiac disorder, at the age of 30. She left behind a husband, a six year old son, a three year old daughter, and a six month old baby girl.

Advent Reflection

Christmas 1993 was not an easy holiday for our family. Ann’s coworker, Faith Bass, captured the feeling in her poem, “Is There Christmas in Heaven?” from which I have provided an excerpt:

Do you exchange gifts,
have parties and such,
or is your only wish to be mortal,
to feel your child’s touch?

 

Are you watching us from heaven?
Do you feel our grief?
Is living in heaven such a relief?


Ann’s children are young adults now. How I wish she could have been here among us over the past seventeen years, marveling in their growth and, yes, grumbling about the trials and tribulations of parenthood. For some reason, God gave us, her family, that gift. When I “hang out” with that nephew and those nieces whose world was so drastically shaken so long ago, I know Ann is with us when I see Zack’s “AEK” tattoo on his arm, when Logan says something that just has that “Ann” tone to it, and when Jordan still has that exuberant little sparkle in her eye she did as a youngster.

I still do not understand why Ann did not wake up before dawn on December 3, 1993. She awoke to the likeness of God. As you contemplate the gifts of Christmas, may you awaken to a Godly likeness with every moment.

Advent Reflection
The Kiger Siblings, 1991 (Ann is 2nd from the left)


 

Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many.