Friday, December 21, 2012

Permission to Rejoice

Does the phrase “…and on top of everything else…” seem to become a sort of Murphy’s law motif for your life? 

It does mine. 

My mom got Alzheimer’s.  I cut my teaching job to half time to care for her. Then…

On top of everything else, my job assignment was restructured, and so I chose to take early retirement. 

Then on top of everything else, we are farmers and have had two drought years back to back. 

In the midst of these sorrows we recognize God’s presence with us and begin to breathe more easily.  

But then on top of everything else, the national news brings tidings of a horrific event in Newtown, CT., something so unimaginably grievous that we would not have in our darkest dreams considered it a possibility. 

And then on top of everything else, we receive word of a local family whose home is destroyed by fire on the very day they bring their ailing child home from a five-week hospital stay. 

In the midst of sorrows of such magnitude that our own small sufferings shrink away to nothing by comparison, it seems wrong to smile and say “Merry Christmas.” A grim countenance of despair seems more appropriate, and less likely to rub salt in the wounds of those who have suffered such mind-boggling loss. 

You will understand why I floundered in confusion for a bit when, during my morning devotions, I heard the Lord’s still small voice saying: You have permission to rejoice. 

Jesus was born into a world full of sorrow and despair.  Sometimes we like to quibble about the details of His coming, but it truly doesn’t matter whether He arrived in the midst of winter, or earlier in the season (as the debate goes); or if he was born in a stable, or a cave, or a nicely furnished outbuilding offered by a gracious innkeeper (rather than the grouchy tyrant we’ve come to envision); what matters is that He has come

We have permission to rejoice. 

We are a people in need of a Savior, and the Savior has come.  As we weep with those who mourn and open our hearts and bank accounts to those who are suffering, we become His hands and heart in this world.  In the midst of weeping and suffering throbs a strong chord of hope for the past, present, and future:  God was, is, and will be with us because of what Christ has done for us.  No sorrow we face has to be endured alone; He weeps with our sorrows, provides solace for our wounds, and gives a sure promise for a future when there will be no more tears. 

We not only have the Lord's consent to rejoice, we are instructed to do so!  A search at Biblegateway shows that the word “rejoice” appears in God’s Word 155 times. 

Today I am giving myself permission to rejoice. 

“He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth…”  Luke 1:14

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Children Are Tender

I have neglected this blog for the past month as I have been busy with final edits for my new book, which has the current working title The Children Are Tender

My first book was written as I cried out to the Lord for help during the time I was transitioning into the role of caregiver, and while those prayers and the Lord's gracious answers were such a blessing for me and hopefully for others, it was not an easy book to write.  By contrast, writing the fictionalized account of my first year of teaching was just plain fun.  I'd witnessed many shocking, heart-rending, and amusing events during my years of teaching, and writing about some of these (changing names and details) allowed me to give full vent to my love of storytelling.  At the same time I was able to share the passion I shared with my colleagues for helping children.  No, helping is too mild a term; we felt convicted that our mission was to save kids, to save them from that soul-withering sense of self-condemnation that is almost inevitable when children struggle academically.  My special joy was in teaching children to read. You can get a sneak preview of the new book here:   

It has come strongly to my awareness that since little children and the elderly do not have a lucid voice with which to state their own needs, we as caregivers must bear with honor the precious burden of speaking for them. We do this when we identify with Christ's love for those who can't help themselves. I'm thinking tonight of what a blessed privilege I have had to write on behalf of those who are weak.  

You can like the new book's Facebook page, or follow on Twitter, and at Pinterest. The Children Are Tender will go to press sometime after Christmas, and I'll put up a link here when it becomes available.  

"And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die" Genesis 33:13, KJV. 

Lead character  first year teacher Lydia Birn's paraphrase: 
The children are tenderhearted and easily hurt. I will lead them gently, at their own pace.