Archives for the month of: December, 2013

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I begrudgingly saw the new Disney animated feature “Frozen”  with my sister, mom and two of my nephews.  One of our new traditions on Christmas Eve is going to the movies before all the celebrating begins.  My sister has organized her dinner to the point that we can take a quick breather and enjoy the theater at one of the times it is least occupied.

This Disney fable is based loosely on “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen.  It is a different kind of love story.  It is about the love between two sisters.  In the end Anna’s act of sacrificial love spares her sister Elsa’s life. They find that the power of love is stronger than the power of fear that causes Elsa’s icy curse on the land.

1 John 4:18

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
I sobbed big gut wrenching tears as the love between the sisters was shown on the screen.  I sat beside my sister who has fought for me my whole life.  From the day I was born she has been my protector and my hero.  Sometimes I have been her hero.  Through it all one thing has never changed-our love for each other.
We did not have a Disney childhood but Christmas was always magical.  My sister shows her love in the way that she painstakingly recreates the best part of those magical Christmases.
She bakes the treats we loved as children. There are Laura’s(Grama Mary’s best friend) tea cakes.  They are a labor of love.  Delicate orange chiffon cake cut into bite sized pieces dipped in orange icing and rolled in crushed pecans.  Greek butter cookies from Grama’s other friend Alice. They are puffs of powdered sugar covered, buttery almond goodness.  From Grandma Dora-Italian Nougat candies that my sister must have to hunt all over town for.  There is always Sees candy-a California favorite and a staple in every Holiday gathering.
There are more recent traditions that we have created as adults.  My sister lives in the San Francisco Bay Area-a mecca for fabulous food.  She discovered the Copenhagen Bakery in San Mateo and buys their petite fours -little almond cakes with a dollop of flavored mousse and a coating of hardened icing in lemon, strawberry, vanilla and chocolate.  Our favorite from the Copenhagen Bakery are the snowballs.  They remind us of the ice cream balls rolled in coconut that Grama Mary used to buy us when we were kids.  Copenhagen’s snowballs are vanilla chiffon cake with a chocolate mousse filling  covered with fluffy vanilla buttercream frosting and lots of coconut.
The entrees are a bit of the old with the new.  Christmas Eve dinner is cracked Dungeness Crab- a San Francisco favorite fresh off the Bay. It harbors memories from childhood visits to the City and bringing home crab and sourdough bread for dinner in Sacramento.  This is served with lasagna full of memories of Grandma Dora’s pasta.
On Christmas Day my sister has brought back two special summertime treats from our youth and incorporated them into our newest Christmas dinner.  The Old California State Fairgrounds were in the South Sacramento Area before Cal Expo was built.  Our favorite at the old State Fair were the hot turkey sandwiches.  My sister recreates them for us for Christmas dinner.  They are soft French rolls dipped in thick gravy made from a mix and topped with gravy soaked turkey slices.  She serves Grama Mary’s famous potato salad with it to complete the memory.
So thanks to my sister, we pay tribute to the past and make new memories for the present as we share the Christmas Holiday.  Though some of the faces are gone that shared those memories with us, we cherish them in our hearts.  One thing has remained- the love that they taught us, we carry on to our children. That is the best tradition of all.
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baby Jesus
I have a chapter in my soon to be published book Blessed Are They That Hunger A Christian Responds to the Hunger Games called “We Hunger for Sustenance”.  It is about poverty in America.  It is full of statistics about the shrinking middle class, the growing poor,and the rise of hunger.  One of the studies that I researched for the statistics doesn’t call it hunger.  The study calls it food insecurity.  We are the richest country in the world and we have people who are hungry.  In 2010 according to the study 14.5 % of Americans were hungry.  This is more than at anytime in the history of America including the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
I was outraged when I read these statistics.  I am outraged now.
I have seen real poverty in my travels throughout the world.  When I was in college, I volunteered to do service in Tijuana Mexico.  We worked in orphanages.  We bathed kids and treated them for lice.  We had a church service in the Tijuana dump because there was a community of people that lived there.  I went to Turkey and volunteered in a government run orphanage to care for disabled children in their sparse facility.  I helped run a medical clinic in Costa Rica for the indigenous people that lived deep in the remote rainforest.
I never expected to see the same level of poverty that I had seen in other countries, in my own backyard.  A few weeks ago, I volunteered to do a service project with my church to distribute items donated for children attending Title 1 schools in our area.  As I distributed items to the children, poverty in America had a face.  The statistics that I wrote about and read about became real.  They were no longer just a number on a page. They were precious boys and girls and their families who were the growing poor, and increasingly hungry.
One of these schools was less than 3 miles from my home.
As I spoke to the children, I explained our donation as being a Christmas present.  I asked one of the girls if she was excited for Christmas.  She said that she was.  I asked her what she was asking for, for Christmas.  She looked at me with a blank stare as though she didn’t know what I was talking about.  I realized that she didn’t know what I was talking about.  You see, she couldn’t ask for presents for Christmas.  I foolishly projected my upper middle class existence onto this child of poverty.
She didn’t understand me, so she did not judge me for my insensitive comment.  I felt ashamed, when I realized my blunder.  I asked her what she liked best about Christmas.  She answered me “Family and Love.”  I was cut to the core by this comment.  As a Christian, I pronounce ,”Jesus is the reason for the season,”  but as I looked into the face of the young girl, I realized that as a child of privilege, I would never have given that answer.
I learned from this child.  I learned about the face of poverty.  I learned about dignity.  I learned about what was really important as we celebrate the birth of Christ.  I will always remember that behind each statistic is a real face,a real human being and real suffering.  I had a paradigm shift that changed me in that moment and spurs me to do more to ease the pain in the faces of poverty.  I am humbler and hopefully, kinder because of what this child taught me.  I will have a different kind of Christmas because of her.  I will remember that the best part of Christmas is family and love.  I will remember to cherish them in my life.  I will always be thankful for the gift of wisdom that was given to me by this child.  Most of all, I will remember the little child in a manger over 2000 years ago who teaches me His love every day.

Isaiah 11:6

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.

Reason for the SeasonJars of Clay have a beautiful song called “Love Came Down At Christmas”.  What I observe among some of my fellow believers makes me wonder if this is true.

I am afraid we have forgotten from where we have come when we feel justified to condemn those who sin differently than we do.

Two recent stories in the news are very disturbing to me.  There is a couple in the UK who have been forced to sell their business due to anti-discrimination laws that require them to allow gay couples to stay in their bed and breakfast.

     The Supreme Court deputy president, Lady Hale, said the Bulls are free to “manifest their religion” but by refusing to allow              homosexual men to share a double bed in their establishment, they were breaking the law. (BY HILARY WHITE Thu Nov 28, 2013 Lifesitenews.com)

Due to the fine imposed, court fees, and bad press that has cost them customers, they are on the verge of bankruptcy.

In Colorado a judge is forcing a  Christian baker to bake a cake for a gay couple’s wedding despite his disapproval of gay marriage.

Do I feel that government intervention in these cases is justified?  No.  Do I feel that the civil liberties of these business owners are being violated? Yes.

What disturbs me most is that these believers in Christ have made a choice not to do business with people who do not share their morals.  The Bible has something very different to say about this.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. I Corinthian 5:9

Do we forget that it was said of Jesus Christ whom we claim to follow:

Matthew 9:11-13

New International Version (NIV)

11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus view of sin was more far reaching than the Law of Moses in which the condemning of homosexuality originates.

Matthew 5

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’(Loser) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Adultery

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

The point He was making is that none of us can call ourselves more holy than anyone else.  Our salvation is not about what sins we do or don’t commit.  Our identification as Christians is because of a Savior who was willing to take all our sin in His sacrificial death. Our hope is in the power of His resurrection from the dead. The same power that will raise us up to eternal life.

What should be our reaction to those who do not share our values?

14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. I John 3:14

Love for Enemies

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I think it is time for Christians to live up to the name they bear and not choose who they will and will not love, but be obedient to the words of the Lord.  By showing love rather than hate they will follow their Lord’s example.  Perhaps in loving, they will be the difference of one soul’s journey from death to life.

Love came down on Christmas Day and His name is Jesus.