Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Most Special Christmas!

I decided to share a special Christmas memory with you because one of the things I have noticed over the years is that we tend to give our loved ones the gifts we wish someone had given us. So we buy our granddaughters a doll that we think is beautiful when they really had their heart set on a movie or give our sons a watch when they really yearned for a ticket to a football game. And the message that we send is that we didn't listen close enough when they told us what they were wishing for and that we didn't know them well enough to know their fondest dreams or what brings them joy. One year two people heard me with their hearts and gave me a Christmas memory that I still think about after forty six years.

I was eleven years old and feeling so mature because the next fall I would be entering junior high school and would have seven different teachers a day and riding a bus three miles to school. I was growing up. When Daddy asked me what I wanted for Christmas I gave him a big spiel about how badly I needed a watch so I would know how many minutes I had left in a class before it was time to go to the next one. He gave me a speech (while I rolled my eyes) that I was not mature enough to take proper care of an expensive watch, that I wouldn't keep it out of water, put it in a safe place when I took it off, on and on and on he went. Then he asked what else would I like since a watch would not be suitable for a child. Trying to show my maturity I explained that what I really wanted was my very own Bible, one that zipped and had my name on it. Again he explained that I wasn't ready for such a sacred book, that he had seen over the years where I had scribbled in books and until I was mature enough to know that a Bible or any other book should be treated with respect, he could not provide me with a Bible. He explained how rare books had been when he was growing up and how he had built a library at our house for me to enjoy (my eyes were rolling again) but no, I was not mature enough for my own Bible. I was hurt. He couldn't see just how mature I had become. After all I was eleven and so in my most mature way I stormed from the room!!

Christmas morning came. I got up before the rest of the family and went into the dark living room and plugged in the tree. There were tons of packages under the tree and the room was full of wonder. A warm glow from the lights on the tree added to the magic. Soon the family joined me and the wonderful sounds of "oohs" and "ahhs" filled the room when the sounds of tearing paper began. It was a wonderful time and I received a lot of wonderful gifts and the most special one of all came in a small white envelope. It was from my aunt Ollie, she had no husband or children and not much money. Inside the envelope there was a $10 bill (what amount would that be today?} and on a torn piece of notebook paper in pencil she had written the words, "for what you had wanted in your heart but no one knew what it was to buy it". Tears filled my eyes then as they do even today as I remember her love and insight. We all want someone to know that what we want in our heart matters .

All the presents were unwrapped and we were ready for breakfast. As soon as we were through eating Daddy said he wanted to talk to be alone in the den. I followed him there my heart beating rapidly. He started talking to me about the mistake he had made when he had judged me so harshly about what I had wanted for Christmas. He said he had thought it over and had decided I was about the most mature eleven year old he had ever known and he handled me two wrapped packages. The first was a beautiful watch with thin black cord straps. He showed me how to set it, wind it and had me listen to the fine ticking sound. Then he told me to open the last present. It was a wonderful Bible, white leather with my name printed in gold. He took great care to show me how Jesus' words were written in red. He had made sure this Bible had a concordance and showed me how to use it. He explained what a fantastic tool it would be for me to use all of my life . And then he showed me where he had written my name inside along with it being given in great love to me from him and Mother, and the date. He held me tight as I cried and promised him I would treasure them always and take really good care of them. I have kept that promise. He knew I would.

An aunt who knew that a child had unknown wishes, a Daddy who knew what an important impact his faith in me could make, made a Christmas memory that has lasted a lifetime. It is the intent of the giver that gives the gift its value, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Let The Whole World Know, Christ Is Born.....

I have wanted to ring the bell for the Salvation Army for more than thirty years. You may wonder why it took me so long to do it. I would think about it every Christmas and wonder who one contacted to be a bell ringer. I had never met anyone that had rung a bell to ask them so I just procrastinated over the years. I thought about calling the main number to ask if anyone outside their congregation could do it. As with all things, the time passed so swiftly with me continuing to take action. That is until this year! A gentlemen stood up one Sunday during worship, rang the bell, and said something to the effect that if we really want to feel the Christmas Spirit sign up and ring the bell for one hour at Lowe’s Food Store in King. Ah, finally my answer after so many years of wondering how this process worked. I approached Don after the service and asked if he had the 3:00 slot open. It was his last one open; further assurance to me that this was meant to be.

I showed up that Saturday afternoon with a folding chair in hand. I knew how tired my legs could get standing on cement for an hour. I talked with the people I was replacing. They had enjoyed the experience. People had been very nice to them. It was fairly cold in the shade of the overhang at Lowe’s but soon my thoughts were a long way from where I was standing. My eyes were overflowing and tears were running down my face as I saw, in my mind’s eye, children shivering when they got out of bed in the morning. I “saw” fathers and mothers that were hungry, tired and worried about letting their children down at the holidays because they was no money. I “heard” them thank me for not letting them remain invisible. They “told” me that when we ring the bell, we are their voices and they are no longer forgotten. I don’t have adequate words to describe this moving and powerful spiritual experience. I can tell you that it was overwhelming and meaningful.

Observing humanity for one hour was an interesting experience. What I observed was that the better dressed people did not make eye contact with me nearly as often as those who appeared to have very little. The folks who seemed to have the least hurried to the bucket to make their donations, as parents they used it as a learning experience to teach their children about sharing, and often they would thank me for giving my time to ring the bell.

The experience was worth the wait, I felt my heart expand enough to allow more of God’s love to fill me.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Eve Service, 2002

A Letter To The Choir:

Christmas Eve

I had a Jewish friend once who told me that people of her faith, when asked to describe a spiritual experience, simply said it was a ‘descending into words’ because words are just so inadequate. And this is where I find myself as I attempt to describe to you what I experienced the first year I came to our Christmas Eve service.

I came to the church not knowing exactly what to expect because even though I had been to countless Christmas Eve services, candlelight services, etc. I did not know what this would be like. The music began, bells were being played along with the piano, old familiar carols were filling the air. Then the other instruments were added and I started feeling my whole body and spirit being immersed in beautiful sound. The lump in my throat became huge and the tears began streaming down my face. Pachelbel’s Cannon nearly made me float through the roof. The choir reached out with their voices to embrace everyone there.

There are times in life when our pain is so great that we yearn to climb onto the very lap of God to be rocked. This music is what I would choose to hear as God put His arms around me to bring me comfort.

I want to thank all those who participated in giving us such a glorious night for Christmas. God touched your human endeavors and magnified them tenfold.

I stayed to hear it again into the second service, even though my spirit was overflowing. It was hard for me to leave. God blessed my Christmas through you.