Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Incarnation

I wrote and posted this poem last year as I prepared my heart for Christmas.  I enjoyed re-reading it, and I hope you will, too.

Jesus left his work as Creator
to live amongst the created.

Jesus left the Most High
to make himself nothing.

Jesus left equality with the Father and the Spirit
to become dependent upon Mary and Joseph.

Jesus left the community of heavenly beings
for the community of fishermen and tax collectors.

Jesus left the worship of angels
to lead disciples who doubted and denounced.

Jesus left his authority to utter God’s laws
to become obedient to man’s law and man’s death.

Jesus left all praise, honor, and glory
to take upon himself the sins of the world.

Jesus left his place in heaven beside God the Father
to take his place on a cross beside criminals.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


One of the great promises of the Bible is that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us.  This time of year we celebrate that Jesus came to earth to be with us.  God has always been with us.  God will always be with us.  He is Immanuel.  What more comforting idea is there than the idea that God is with us?

The Lord was with Adam and Eve
     when all was perfect
     when innocence was lost.

The Lord was with Jacob
     when he dreamt a stairway to heaven,
     when he feared for his life.
     when he struggled for a blessing,
     when he received the blessing of God and brother.

The Lord was with Joseph
     when he was the favored one,
     when he was betrayed.
     when he was misunderstood,
     when he extended favor.

The Lord was with Moses
     when he was alone, a helpless baby,
     when he was in Pharoah’s home.
     when he broke a 10 Commandment,
     when he received the 10 Commandments.
     when he sought freedom for his people,
     when he was insufficient for the task.
     when he wandered through the wilderness,
     when he saw the Promised Land..

The Lord was with us 
     in birth.
     in temptation.
     in misunderstanding.
     in betrayal.
     in suffering.
     in death.
     in the promise of new life.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Making the Bible a 4-year-old

For months now, my four-year-old has fought me on going to church.  Specifically, his issue is with going "upstairs," where the children's ministry is.  He's fine coming to church and seeing Aunt Mandy and her boyfriend, "Big Tristan," and his teenage friends like David and Courey, and his college friends like Rachel.  But he doesn't want to go "upstairs."  I've tried talking with him, and I haven't exactly figured out the issues.  I have confidence in what our children's ministry offers; I don't fault them.  He says the kids aren't his friends; I'm not sure what that means.  He doesn't like that they read out of adult Bibles; he wishes they read from a Bible like his.  He wishes it were like MegaCamp all the time (our summer camp for one week).  He's been asking to go to "the Big Room" with me, and I've resisted. 

As the Pastor to Students, I know the twinge of watching students go to the Big Room with their families but missing out on the age-specific ministry we offer them.  I know the Big Room worship and teaching are important for their spiritual lives!  I just want them to get the full experience and some age-specific community and teaching, too.  I want that for my son, even though he's only four.

But this past Sunday was different.  He spent Saturday night with my parents, so he came to church with my mom.  He wanted to go to the Big Room with Nana, and she agreed, because it was a special day.  I was preaching.  I walked off stage, having not seen my kids for a day, and went searching for them.  I got a huge hug from my baby girl (she gives THE BEST hugs!).  But Tristan wasn't available for a hug.  He was in the Big Room with Nana; he made it through the hour-long service.

Afterwards he came running out, smiling, and then I got my hug.  He loved it.  (If you were at my church Sunday, then you'll understand that his favorite part was the turtle video.)

Paleontologist Tristan digging for fossils
The series is about being "Stuck" in our spiritual lives.  That night Tristan asked me, "Why are we talking about being stuck at church?"  

I explained that the Bible says that when we get stuck, or when we fall down, we need a friend to help us up.

Tristan said, "Like if a Triceratops got stuck, the rest of the herd could help him get out."

"Yes, just like that."

Even though he wasn't upstairs, he heard what the Bible says, and he understands it in his terms.  Dinosaurs are his life, and I'm encouraged that he was able to put the Biblical teaching in a context he could understand.  So, I'll keep bringing him to church and praying for him and listening to his bedtime prayers, and we'll see where he ends up on Sunday mornings.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Where's the pretty Angie?

I've mentioned that last month my husband and I went away for a pastors’ assessment.  We were gone for two-and-a-half days.  A few times in the last couple of years, we've gone away for a night.  But we haven’t had two nights away, together, since having our second kid.  I didn't know how significant that would be.  It messed up the kids’ schedules, making them clingier when we came home.

And it affected me significantly.  I relaxed—really relaxed—even though we were going through a pretty intense assessment process.  My neck and shoulders didn't hurt, and they always hurt.  I was rested.  I felt smart again, as the constant fogginess in my brain cleared—sometimes a result of kids’ waking at night, sometimes a result of mentally managing a household’s schedules and needs.  I was game for real conversation about things that matter—not just the (really funny and cute) things my kids say every day.  I paid attention to my husband instead of just doing life alongside him.

At one point he looked at me, hesitated, and then said, “I hope this doesn't upset you, because I mean it as a compliment.  You’re prettier now than you usually are.”

That didn't offend me at all; I trust that he was absolutely right.  At one point I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a mirror at an ice cream parlor where we were hanging out with new friends.  Even I was struck by how attractive the girl in the mirror was.  She looked a little more mature than the girl I remember, and she looked full of life and joy.

Then, a couple weeks ago, I watched a movie, “Friends with Kids.”  The movie was hilarious, because it was so true.  It was one of those movies that made you laugh at your reality and realize that you’re not the only person who feels/acts/thinks the way you do.  There were three couples in the movie, and they were friends before any of them had kids.  Then two of the couples started families.  All three families got together, complete with crying kids, nagging moms, and lazy dads.  Afterwards, the kid-less couple looked at each other and said, “Who are those mean, angry people?”

If you watched me interact with my family for a day, then I’m afraid you’d come away saying, “Who is that mean, angry person?”

I don’t want to be that mean, angry person. 
I want my husband to see the pretty wife. 
I want my kids to see the pretty mom.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

15 Years

Senior Prom

A clinical psychologist recently told Sammy and me that she thinks we intuitively picked the best partners for ourselves, the ones that would compliment us and bring out the best in us.  That sounds great.  But that’s putting a lot of stock in the intuitive capacities of two 16-year-old's.  Now, I love teenagers, and I think our society grossly underestimates them.  But, I still think it’s a stretch to think that a 16-year-old Sammy and a 16-year-old Angie intuitively picked the best partners for themselves.  Besides, through all that personality assessment I recently experienced, I learned that half the time I handle information intuitively and half the time I handle it with practical sense.  So, a 16-year-old with half a capacity for intuition may not be held responsible for choosing the perfect life partner.

Whatever brought us together, here we are.   Yesterday marked 15 years—15 years since we sat in a white Subaru Legacy in a Pizza Hut parking lot and Sammy asked me to be his girlfriend.  And I said, “yes.”  Our friends Mandy, Josh, and Jennifer were in a car beside us, and then we went to the mall to watch “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” 

15 of 31 years we’ve spent together.  And he remembered!  He arranged a babysitter; he brought me 15 red roses; he took me to that same Pizza Hut.  It was relaxing, thoughtful, and perfect.

I got him a gift, too.  The traditional gift for 15 years is crystal.  I looked around, but I just couldn't see buying Sammy a crystal glass.  He’d recently complained that his pens break all the time.  And I found some pens made by Waterford—the infamous crystal company.  I figured that was good enough—something practical and masculine with a name that means “crystal.” 

I had a plate engraved for the pen box.  Our cheesy saying that has seen us through the last 15 years has been, “Thank you for being you.”  Now, at 15 years, I am certainly thankful that Sammy is Sammy.  I’m still learning what it means for Sammy to be Sammy.  But that didn't seem adequate this year.  This year, I was aware that I could be thankful that Sammy was Sammy…and not be his wife, and not lead a family with him, and not share my life with him.  This year, I was aware that Sammy chose 15 years ago to ask me to be his girlfriend, and he chose 8 years ago to ask me to be his wife, and he chose last month, and yesterday, and this morning to be part of “us.”  

At this stage in our relationship, I am still exceedingly thankful to Sammy for being Sammy, but I am even more thankful to Sammy for choosing us.  So, the engraved message on the box yesterday was, “Thank you for choosing us.”  If the plate were big enough (and I could afford more engraving), then the entire message I would communicate to Sammy at this 15-year mark is, “Thank you for being you.  Thank you for loving me.  Thank you for choosing us.”