Monday, November 19, 2007

Starting To See It Now!

This season always does and always should cause us to reminisce with warm thoughts of family gatherings, feasts and festivals; smells of cinnamon, and evergreen, tastes like turkey, cranberry, spiced rum and eggnog lattes at Starbucks, and the sounds of familiar Christmas songs playing as we shop at Nordstrom’s or Macy’s. That’s a long sentence. Here’s a shorter one: Thank you God! Yep, we have a lot to be thankful for here in the PNW! At this point in my life, I experience the grace of God through a wife who still loves me, kids who respect me, and a Church family that is like an oasis. They love us and we love them. We are basically healthy, pay the bills, and enjoy many friendships.

But … and this is a really BIG but! Let’s not forget that it's also one of the most depressing times of the year for many. From a world perspective, there are one billion people on the planet who have no job. Almost half the world lives on $2.00 a day or less! Yes, and there are millions who have no home to go to for that feast you and I can’t wait to take for granted.

Closer to home, there are several broken families in my life-space who have to go through the first season without their “other.” Even if it was a difficult relationship before the divorce, loss is loss; it leaves one empty. Now they have to face a season filled with memories, but empty of the familiar people with whom they experienced them. Spouses without spouses anymore; children separated from parents and parents from children. Every holiday season they will have to re-face those debilitating feelings of loss and guilt and bitterness. These people are part of my life at TPC. They have taught me much about God. I love them, and am very thankful.

Others have lost loved ones through disease of trauma. I have friends who lost their son to cancer a short time back. We all prayed, and their son went to be with Jesus anyway. Someone’s mother is dying as I write this. I think of my good friend in Spokane who is recovering from the loss of his beautiful wife of 25 years. They will have to struggle on a whole different level. Now he and his two great kids have to face Thanksgiving and Christmas without her for the first time. They taught me much about living through the worst, and trying to make the best. They taught me not to complain. They have not given up on God either. I love them, and am very thankful.

These people go to my church, as we say, but really they ARE the Church. They make up my spiritual family, my oasis. They arrived through broken relationships. They arrived, through compulsions, addiction and dysfunctions. Through heartache they have persevered. Through struggle, they continue to fall toward God. I’m so proud of them.

I am indebted to the servants who stayed the course through trauma and hard work and made this place last. They came to serve. They helped TPC start and they will make her last. I have watched their sacrifice and their love; seen their fatigue and their tears and their faith. They look and smell like Jesus to me. I love them and am very thankful.

All these and more, make up this oasis. An oasis is a place of respite and refreshment. We are not a perfect oasis. We have our wrinkles to be sure. We’ve made all the mistakes I think an organization can make?! We all have, or are recovering from something. We are a wrinkly oasis of grace and truth. We worship God together every week. We study life and still search for answers. We still experience loss. We try and obey, and struggle to forgive. We work hard to be authentic. That’s hard too. But we have God and each other, and we are learning to be thankful.

I’m on a quest for deeper reflection this year I need to learn to be thankful for something besides all the stuff in my life. These people have helped me begin to see it all. When I sit down for a meal on Thursday, I will be VERY thankful for the God I serve and the people who serve Him and struggle with me.

As I plod along, trip and bump my head, skin my knees, and even throw-up sometimes, I just want to remember to say thank you to God through Jesus Christ my Lord. Thank you for the journey Father, there really is “pain in the offering.” I’m starting to see it now …

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