Wednesday, December 24, 2014

On Christmas Eve...

All is truly calm, not bright though, it's overcast and dark. But not in my heart. My heart is bright with happy anticipation. Tonight, eons ago, a baby was born. And He is Christ the King.

Alas, I wasn't able to send a Christmas card to everyone I know and love so if you didn't receive from me, please know I'm thinking of you...all my cyber friends and family...and wishing you the most joyous Christmas ever. My traditional Christmas letter reads more like one of my why not share it here...

Dear Ones,

2014 –What a year! And, just like every other year it was well-balanced. There were joys and sorrows, delights and despairs, happiness and hardships. More than any other year I am aware that life goes on… until it doesn’t. I didn’t expect my mom would die so quickly after her cancer diagnosis. Her cheerful spirit and my rose-colored glasses led me astray. Yet in spite of the sadness, I (we) had a hallowed season of saying goodbye to Mom. I felt like she was teaching me, by good example, how it’s done. She passed gently and peacefully. And I am lucky in this…I do not grieve as those who have no hope in heaven.

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him… 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

That was last year, December 2013, and soon 2014 will be last year. Oh my, what do I have to show for it? For one thing I’ve got my husband to hang out with full-time, and he seems delighted about it. He officially retires at the end of this month, but vacation started November 6th. In that time there’s no end to the fun he’s having: shot a turkey, drove us to Florida for 2 weeks, had Thanksgiving here with our two grandsons and Aaron (2nd son) and Amy, Adam (3rd son) and Alicia, and he hunted every single day for the past 2 weeks. He relished the pure joy of being outside communing with God and nature. His commitment to the hunt paid off when he harvested a big doe. There will be meat on our table all winter long. A successful hunt (or not) matters little. In his words, it beats going to work.

How do I like having him at home? I’m in housewife heaven. He shares the household duties like a champ and he’s such good company. (Yeah, I know, I married well.)

2014 found us tackling some home renovations. We moved our bedroom downstairs to the room we started out in 40 years ago and added a master bath. In our living room we had a new hardwood floor and 2 six-foot sliding glass doors installed. One door faces the front yard, the other faces the back, each offering spectacular views. On cold days we lay a fire and enjoy the ambiance – which is especially delightful during the holiday season with stockings hanging from the mantel.

We’re grateful every day for what we have: each other, our home, the fields and woods that surround us, a pool in our backyard, our eleven year old dog, Phoebe, our grandchildren, adult children, in-law and in-love children as well. We’re thankful for our families on the Bruce side and the Henning side. We are blessed with church and church family, both our new church and the old. How fortunate we are to have friends near as well as those far away. We rejoice in life and the giver of life.

Make no mistake, it’s not perfect (that would be heaven), yet we see God’s hand and His goodness in all things. My dad is doing well, though he misses Mom every minute of every day. Our kids are healthy and reasonably happy as they make their way in the world. Nathan still lives in San Jose, California, where he works at his church as an associate pastor, office manager, and worship leader. At the same time he continues his education.  Aaron and family still reside in State College. He serves as lead pastor at the CMA church. Amy is busy being a full-time mom and pastor’s wife. Their boys, Grant (7) and Maxwell (4) are precocious, adorable, and absolutely delightful children.  Adam is a captain in the Army reserves. He and Alicia live outside of Butler in West Sunbury. Both are gainfully employed in government jobs. And, they have 2 chickens named Terry and Red, who provide both eggs and entertainment. David is in Colorado, working full time and pursuing his music career part time. His band Chasing May keeps him busy following his heart’s desire. 

That’s a glimpse of 2014. And now, onto a new year with great expectations for 2015… the best is yet to come! May that be so for all of us.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Much love to you from us,
Tom and Betsy

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

In church this morning we lit the 4th Advent candle and sang:

Light one candle to watch for Messiah
let the light banish darkness.

He shall bring salvation to Israel,
God fulfills the promise.

Light two candles...
He shall feed the flock like a shepherd,
gently lead them homeward.

Light three candles...
Lift your heads and lift high the gateway
for the King of Glory.

Light four candles...
He is coming, tell the glad tidings.
Let your lights be shining!

Yes, light the candles, banish darkness. Be the light of Jesus in the world and cast out hardships, sadness, injustice, hopelessness. We might could do that, with God's help, if we let our lights shine. Or even just get out of the way and let Jesus shine!

Preparing, watching, waiting...the Messiah is coming. Meanwhile, I'd like to pray for myself something the Pastor prayed this morning for all of us, "Lord, free (me) from any sin that would obstruct your mercy." Amen! 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Advent...Season of Preparation

As I ready the house, decorate the tree, attend Christmas cantatas, buy and wrap presents, write my Christmas letter, and think about baking, I admit, it's easy to overlook the reason for all this busyness.

I'm preparing to celebrate the birthday of a baby who is Christ the King, Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace, Jesus. 

His rule is peace and freedom, and justice, truth and love.

But I have to tell you, the Prince of Peace has gotten a bad rap. His followers are far from perfect, far from able to mirror Him, but not for lack of trying. Sometimes the harder we try, the farther off the mark we are -- giving fodder for skeptics to judge Him wrongly. But in spite of us and our mistakes, He remains perfect and the redeemer of all mankind.

This Christmas season, as in seasons past, I hope for peace and goodwill among all people of every tribe, nation, and faith. I believe that one day the hills and valleys will be leveled and bumpy roads made smooth. I believe in the power of a loving God who has made a way for humanity to eventually and finally get it right.

Every Christmas season I see the potential for it to happen. People who are kind and giving, loving and cheerful. I hear of folks who go out of their way to help the down trodden. I see people making efforts to love their neighbors. And it's contagious. Goodwill breeds goodwill! I too am moved to join the ranks of do-gooders as I see people blessing people, giving up old grudges and prejudice, caring for the marginalized and those less fortunate. Ambassadors and servants one and all to the Prince of Peace whether they know it or not.

"The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40

This Sunday we light the 3rd advent candle. We are half way through the waiting season, the time of preparing, and then, ready or not, Christmas comes. I'm so glad God didn't wait for us to be ready, to be cleaned up, with our homes and affairs and our lives in order, before sending our Savior, our Redeemer, the Prince of Peace. Yes, there will be peace on earth when He comes to rule in truth and justice and love.

Forget the cookies, and presents, and decorated trees... Prepare ye the way, in your heart, for the Prince of Peace.