Sunday, December 22, 2013

An "Upper Room" Christmas

This morning, as I sat with my head bowed in prayer, I thought about our upcoming Holy Days.  I thought of family and presents and the birth of our Savior.  I thought of how, as a people, we are so easily distracted from the shining light of truth and quick to cleave to worldly fancies, forgetting the source of our very breath.  This morning, as I sat with my head bowed in prayer, my mind was filled with heady thoughts.

During the Christmas season, we attempt to encourage ourselves to remember the "Reason for the Season".  We talk about celebrating "Jesus' Birthday" and read the account of His birth in an attempt not to get caught up in the spectacle that has become "Christmas".  We sing Christmas carols, bake cookies and give each other gifts, all while expressing our desire to emulate the greatest gift.  But, when all is said and done, we feel let down - like we are missing something.  Something big.

Truth be told, Christmas, along with all of our holidays is celebrated with food and family and friends.  And that is right and good.  Every one of the holy days of the bible were celebrated similarly.  They all centered around God's children (family) and feasting.  The feasts were a time of remembrance.  God instituted celebrations as an opportunity for His children to perpetually remember what He had done.  Christmas in our modern time is no different.  It is a time to remember the Savior, that is God, who became man in order to bring perfect reconciliation between sinful mankind and a holy, blameless God.  And we celebrate as in times of old, with fellowship and feasting.

As wonderful as Christmas is, it is all too often overshadowed by strife and discord.  We are consumed with finding that "perfect" present, baking cookies for every person we have ever met and decorating our homes to look like a spread in a glossy magazine.  And then, when the day actually arrives, we feel nothing but dread.  The family is coming.  Uncle Fred is difficult, Aunt Fran smells.  And then there's the drama of Aunt Martha.  She and her family always arrive late and grumpy, her children are sullen, her husband is contentious and she is always mad at someone in the family.  It is so bad that the other brothers and sisters take bets before she gets there as to who she will be mad at this year.  In reality, Christmas would be perfect if it weren't for the people.  They are a burden and serve little purpose but to ruin the "Norman Rockwell" image we have so carefully crafted in our minds.

And therein lies the problem.  We are so set on celebrating a "perfect" Christmas, trying to keep Jesus at the center, that we miss our true calling - one of sacrifice and humility.

Sitting in church this morning, the picture of a perfect Christmas played before my eyes.  It had nothing to do with snow or trees or presents.  There were no carolers or elves or jolly red men.  There was nothing but a humble room, twelve men and a soul intent on doing the will of His father.

Jesus, during his own last supper, revealed to us the perfect keeping of the feast.  He gathered his family (the twelve) together, for an afternoon of fellowship and feasting.  He prepared a feast for those he loved.  He ate and drank with them.  He shared his soul.  He even knelt on the floor before each man, removed his sandals and washed his feet, giving to him a perfect gift.  He did this with full joy mingled with heavy resignation.  He celebrated this feast with his imperfect family, knowing it to be his last feast on earth.  He broke bread with the man He knew would betray him for 30 pieces of silver.  He drank from the cup of the man that He knew would deny him three times.  He gave perfect gifts to a family that would betray and disown him.  He knew it - and he served them anyway.  His was the perfect feast - the perfect Christmas.

As you gather together to celebrate our Lord, remember who it is that you are serving.  You are serving the One who kissed his betrayer on the cheek.  You are serving the One who loved the man who would deny Him.  Can you do any less for the family He has given to you?

This year, celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.  Forget the "Norman Rockwell" vision of Christmas and embrace the "Upper Room".  Love those that persecute you, serve those that revile you, kiss those that betray you.

Merry Christmas to you all.  I pray that your "Norman Rockwell" Christmas is replaced with the "Upper Room" Christmas and that God reveals His perfect Gift to every last one of you.

Merry Christmas every one.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Milestone Celebration - American Redoubt Style

Please forgive the photos - some were taken with the phone and the action shots were really hard to get!

December has brought with it a wonderful milestone for our family - Master Hand Grenade has turned 18!  Although not a big "party" family (we prefer quiet, homey celebrations), we decided that an 18th birthday warranted a party that was nothing short of spectacular and so we pulled out all the stops.

For a number of years, our older children have gotten together with a large group of other Christian young folks from the area (an area of about 100 square miles) to fellowship, play and dance.  During the summer months, the group gets together once a week in a park about 45 miles south of us to play Frisbee and volleyball and have a bible study.  They play hard, bring snacks and retire to a covered picnic area to study the bible and sing worship songs.  They are a wonderful group of people, comprised of kids as young as 12 and young married couples in their mid to late 20's.

Master Hand Grenade stringing the garland

Some well-placed ribbon and a little plaid seat
From time to time, the group gets together for a dance.  Not a modern, nightclub type dance, but an old-fashioned group dance that includes everyone, from the youngest children to the oldest grandparent.  They "line-dance" - dances popular generations ago, like The Virginia Reel, The Posties Jig, The Scottish Polka, Hunting the Fox, Whip the Willow, The Patty-Cake Polka and the Grand March.  Set to Celtic music, the dances are fun, fast-moving and all-inclusive.

The community center is dressing up

In honor of Master Hand Grenade's 18th birthday, Sir Knight and I decided to host a dance in our local community center.  What fun we had!  We set the date for a Friday night (the 13th, no less!) and sent out invitations (via one of the other kids' Facebook account) and set about with our preparations.

The morning of the party, the children and I headed into town to decorate the community center for the dance.  We didn't do anything too fancy, just wholesome and sweet.  We draped lots of burlap garland about, along with plenty of plaid ribbon, plaid throws and bows of fragrant evergreen.  We covered tables in festive table-cloths and placed electric candles here and there.  We had borrowed a sound system (complete with microphone for the dance caller) that hooked directly into our callers sound system (run on a MacBook) and were ready to go.

Father and daughter Do' Si' Do-ing

Bow to your partner.....
In the late afternoon, Maid Elizabeth and I headed to our nearest Costco, picked up 10 pre-baked pizza's, a sheet cake, bottled water and a few snacks and were homeward bound in record time.  By the time we got home, the children were dressed up out the door before we could turn the truck off!

We opened the community center at 6 in the evening and the first few people were already waiting outside.  They helped haul in the pizza's and other goodies and get the last minute details taken care of. By a quarter after six, the crowds began to arrive.  Our caller walked through the door at 6:30 and was calling the Grand March within minutes.

Dear Julianne of Providence Lodge and her Handsome Husband (She's going to kill me for this photo!)

Brother escorting sister - Master Hand Grenade with Miss Serenity

And the younger set - Princess Dragon Snack with her best friend
Wow!  What a night!  We had kids, families and even grandparents present.  Most of the folks knew the dances, although the few that didn't know them had nothing to worry about.  The experienced dancers were more than happy to show the inexperienced people the moves and the dancing commenced.  Dance after dance after dance were danced, people grabbing food and water when they were able.  Master Calvin danced the Grand March with his older sister while Master Knight and I helped lead the way.

Dancers Down!

Master Hand Grenade with his partner (Our Caller is the young man in the red)

Nothing but smiles

Taking a well-deserved rest and watching the action

Could there be a better 18th birthday party?

During one of the intermissions, the caller put on "swing" music so that a brother/sister duo could show us what swing dancing was all about.  Soon, a husband and wife joined in and in no time, the dance floor was once again full, with couples trying out their new moves.

We had a wonderful time, dancing with our children, our friends and all of the other neat people that we had an opportunity to meet.   I have to say, we sure know how to celebrate in the Redoubt - we are truly blessed!

Happy Birthday Master Hand Grenade!  What an honor to have been chosen to be your parents.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Case for Women's Liberation

I live a life of ultimate women's liberation.  My freedom is abundant and life-giving.  I truly am blessed among women.  I, Enola Gay, a stay-at-home wife and mother am the poster child for a new breed of women libbers.

Traditionally, women's lib has been associated with breaking the bonds of a restrictive home-centered life and pursuing the "fulfilling" passions of life beyond the family.  It has been about the "self" focused  desires of women to stand on "equal" footing with men.  Unfortunately, rather than women achieving their longed for freedom, women's lib has effectively shackled women with the responsibilities of both women and men.

When I was growing up, I bought into the "new normal" for women.  I eschewed the thought of marriage and children, embracing the idea of being independent, powerful and marvelously free.  I left my family home, moved to the city and went to work, enthusiastically embracing my new found "freedom".

Little by little, I realized that my "freedom" was nothing more than an illusion.  I had embraced women's liberation and in doing so I had shackled myself to the responsibilities traditionally shouldered by men.

Ten years I lost.  Ten years of doubling my burden.  For ten years I carried the responsibilities of both a man and a woman.  And then I woke up.   I left the false world of "women's liberation" and became truly liberated.  I was liberated from being responsible for financially supporting my family.  I was liberated from working for someone else for mere money.  I was liberated from having to go to work when I was sick or when my children were ill.  I was liberated from having to put aside my passions and desires simply because I had to collect a pay check.  I was liberated from working for someone else and was finally allowed to simply work for my family and myself.  I was liberated indeed.

Today, my husband got up and went to work.  It was 5°.  He works outside.  And his knee is still sore from knee surgery.  But he went to work.  He went to work because it is his job to support our family.  He doesn't particularly like his job, but he does it anyway.  Why?  Because that is his burden and he does it because he loves us.  My husband has relieved me of the job of living in a man's world.  I don't have to work outside when it is 5°.  I don't have to do physical labor with a sore knee.  I am liberated.

As a stay-at-home wife I have tremendous freedom.  I have the freedom to pursue dreams that would have been unattainable had I not left the working world.  I have the freedom to cultivate creativity, to create a beautiful home and to freely minister to all of the people that I love.  I have the freedom to work for eternal purposes, not just monetary gain.  I have the freedom to be a woman - nothing more, nothing less - just what I was created to be.

I can't tell you how thankful I am to have been liberated.  I am so glad that I do not have to bear the burden of both man and woman, that I am free to fully embrace my wonderful, abundant life.  Oh, the blessings of true women's liberation.