Love and Joy in Diversity

land j wedding 2“What means diverse?”

It was a question posed by a three-year-old who had not yet mastered the sentence structure of English yet was driven to master its lexicon.  Where had he heard this word, I wondered, and what had activated his curiosity to the degree that he would remember it and ask about it later?  I knew what the word meant, of course, but I wasn’t sure how to explain it on toddler level.  I don’t recall what I told him, though I do remember stumbling with some inadequate definition that I hoped would appease him.  I was pretty sure it didn’t.

It was the early 80s and “diversity,” neither the word nor its social implications, had become part of the daily news cycle as it is now.  Since then, technology has made our world smaller, and our nation and neighborhoods have become more diverse.  Legislation and court rulings have brought about much social change.  While many celebrate what they see as progress, others curse perceived threats to their values and religious freedoms.  For some people and in some situations, diversity has become a minefield.

But love conquers all.

And children grow up.

Earlier this year that three-year-old, now an adult, married the man of his dreams (assuming he even dared to dream of a time when such a thing would be possible).  The guest list of family and treasured friends reflected various racial and religious backgrounds, all gathered before a glorious Hill Country sunset.  The music was classical, the wedding service formal, all followed by a celebratory meal of down-home, Texas barbeque. This union, officiated by female clergy, created a multiethnic family and as much happiness as I have ever seen or felt.

This means love.l and J wedding 1

This means joy.

This means diverse.

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Peace in Self

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Imagine Peace.  Anyone driving behind me receives this directive.  What happens after that is up to them, but at least I have planted the seed.  The other day a man stopped me in a grocery store parking lot and commented, “I can’t even begin to imagine peace.  For my whole life there has been a war going on somewhere.”

I had to agree with him.  Nations wage war or threaten war against each other.  Groups within nations engage in bitter conflict with weapons, words, or both.  When you consider all this, it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to imagine a world free from conflict.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed, particularly if we define peace as “world peace.”

As a child in my school choir, I sang “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let It Begin with Me.”  It was a huge relief when I realized I was not single-handedly responsible for creating world peace.  My job was to live peacefully, moment by moment, with the rest of God’s children (still not an easy task but much more doable than stopping war all over the globe).  My twelve-year-old self could easily imagine that kind of peace.

And I can imagine it now.  I explained this to the man in the parking lot.  I said, “I’m going to keep trying.  It’s my job.”  He shook his head in what seemed like skepticism or disbelief, but he was smiling.  I choose to believe he will try too.

I hope you’ll join us.

Hope in Community

snow 2017

It’s been almost a year since I posted to this blog. It’s Advent season, however, and a few dear readers have let me know they are revisiting Waiting for Jesus.  I am truly flattered and inspired to return to this space.  Thank you, friends.

 

Optimism isn’t my strength.  I don’t consider myself a pessimist, but I’m pretty good at imagining a worst-case scenario or completely overlooking the silver lining.  Of all the Advent themes, HOPE is the most difficult for me to generate.  But hope floats.

Besides fire, I can’t think of anything less stoppable than water.  With a year’s worth of rain falling in a short, five-day period, Houstonians watched helplessly as the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey rose in every direction.  Homes, businesses, even lives were washed down the drain like last night’s bathwater.  But hope floats.

Before the rain had time to slow down, the heroes of hope began to emerge.  Anyone with a tall truck or a jon boat sprang into action and began moving people out of the water and onto dry ground.  Before long, our Louisiana neighbors came with their boats, and others flocked in from states even farther away.  Because hope floats.

First responders, city officials, and news crews worked around the clock with little time for food or rest.  Celebrities, sports heroes, even presidents raised money to help rebuild once the storm was over.  When people feel supported, hope floats.

Schools, churches, convention centers, even a furniture store housed people who had no other dry place to stay.  Donations of food and clothing poured in.  A few folks complained, but most spoke of their gratitude for safety, shelter, and basic needs met.  Hope floats.

Once the water receded and clean up began, everyone pitched in: the kid next door, the relatives from across town, the church people from all over the country.  Neighborhoods looked like war zones with debris piles as far as the eye could see.  Cleaning products, sheetrock, trustworthy contractors, and other necessities were in short supply.  Hope bubbles just below the surface sometimes, but it always floats again.

For days, there was no regular television programming, only news coverage with constant weather reports and seemingly endless video of displaced people, devastated homes, and submerged landscapes.  It was difficult to watch, yet impossible to turn off.  Houston has always been known as a large city with a small-town personality, but watching so many helpers, living in such close quarters, and sharing so many meals took our sense of community to “a whole ‘nother level.”  We even decided to alter the way we capitalize the name of our city, hoUSton, if only for a while.  When times are tough again (I hope it won’t be any time soon), hope will float up on a capital US.

Sometimes hope floats so high it spills over leaving extra that can inspire a World Series win or be loaded into a plane and sent to far-away places like Puerto Rico.  Hope floats, but it also flies.

Things are returning to normal for many.  Some will continue to rebuild their homes and lives for months or even years.  Some, particularly those who lost loved ones, will learn to live with a new “normal.”  My prayer is that the rest of US will continue to help and not become complacent in the comfort of our normality.  Hope floats, but it can always use a boost.

There was snow in Houston yesterday.  Social media was filled with pictures of children playing in the snow, dogs playing in the snow, a 290-pound defensive end playing in the snow.  The city was energized and more beautiful than we have seen it in a long time.  Hope floats down from the sky in fluffy white flakes.

It finally feels like Christmas.

On the 12th day of Christmas…

wise-menToday (or yesterday, depending on how you see it) marks the end of the Christmas season.  By now we have received every imaginable gift, from a partridge in a pear tree to 12 drummers drumming.  Not literally, of course, but if you count up every token of affection, gratitude, or umm… obligation you have accepted since Thanksgiving, chances are, they add up to at least as many items.

This day is also called Epiphany, the observation of the Wise Men’s visit to the Christ Child.  Their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh honored the baby king and foretold his life and death.

History and folklore give us many other examples of gift givers such as Santa with toys for good children.  One of my favorite gift bringers is the little drummer boy with his gift of music.  Music is a one-size-fits-all sort of gift with no need for returns, but mostly I love that the little drummer boy found a way to give when he had nothing tangible to offer.  Another favorite is Amahl from the opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors.  When he had no gift to give the Christ Child, Amahl gave his crutch and was healed in return.  This story points out a universal truth.  When we give, we always get something in return.

During this new year, there will be many opportunities for each of us to give.  Sometimes we will give gifts to celebrate special occasions. We may donate money or supplies for those who have little or to further a cause.   Hopefully we will “lend an ear” or a “shoulder to cry on” to a troubled friend.  Some of us will give our time, talents, and hard work to make the world a better place.  I can’t wait to get started!  How about you?

May all your acts of giving bring you ultimate joy in the new year!

P.S.  It has been delightful to share these seasons of Advent and Christmas with my dear readers!  To those of you who purchased a copy of Waiting for Jesus, commented, “liked,” or offered other support and encouragement, please know that I am filled with gratitude.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Christmas Eve

jesus

 

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

 

 

Rejoice!  Advent comes to a close and Christmastide begins.  I wish you joyous celebrations and a year filled with daily “advents” as you welcome Christ into your heart and home throughout the days ahead.  Rejoice!

A Christmas Wish

From last year, but it bears repeating.

idabethgeschkedotcom

beach sunrise

The winter solstice has passed, and we are on our way to longer days, shorter nights. It makes sense that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at about the same time as the world around us begins to grow brighter.

As we wait these last few days, I wish you hope.

I wish you love.

I wish you the joy of welcoming an infant savior into the world and the peace that comes from welcoming the adult Christ into your days.

Merry Christmas!

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