Tag Archives: advent

When Family Has More Issues than TV Guide

Man Holding a Book and Looking Askance from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Collecting prayer concerns near the holidays is always interesting. Everyone has added excitement and stress, and it seems much of that revolves around family.

A roomful of special needs moms all nodded knowingly when one requested, “Prayers appreciated. They’re all coming to town and my family has more issues than TV guide.”

It is great to see extended family, but what happens when they just really don’t understand the reality of life with special needs?  Distance allows for prolonged time dwelling in the land of denial. Unrealistic expectations about development or chronic health concerns can take some of the happy out of the holidays.

Wouldn’t it be great to be that perfect, harmonious family? But then again, where do we see examples of that? They are few and far between in the Bible. There has been dysfunction from the beginning. There was that whole issue about deflecting blame and finger pointing when it came to eating an apple, “She made me do it.” “The snake tricked me.” The stakes were raised when jealousy began between their children, ending with murder. There are stories of stealing a birthright, incest, a king having his general murdered in order to steal his wife.  These are Biblical values? Not so much, but these are the families in the story of the history of salvation.

Our own families are shining brightly right now, aren’t they? What’s a little misunderstanding in the politically correct terms of disability in comparison? It’s an opportunity for education and conversation.

All relationships are about choices. How do we choose to be together with one another? It is love that wins. Love is a choice. We see it in our actions.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17 NRS)

This fourth week of Advent as we celebrate love  and we can see how God’s action in love toward us shows us the way forward.  When we make mistakes, God loves us anyway. So much so that he sent his Son so that we could be reconciled and have that example of perfect love. Putting love into action is God’s choice for us, too.

“My in-laws are coming and I’m planning to kill them (a pause just a tad long) with kindness.”

Well chosen, my friend. Love always wins.

Loving God, thank you for the example of perfect love. We fall short. We are human, yet you love us anyway. Help us, too, to offer that grace to others and keep the fun in dysfunction. Amen

Image “Man Holding Book and Looking Askance” by Imagerymajestic from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rev Doc Lorna

 

 

 

The Joy of Baking

Ginger Cookies

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  (Matthew 2:9-10 NRS)

My holiday memories as a child are filled with family gatherings, lots of food, lots of cousins, lots of fun. I remember wishing it could be Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or Easter every day.  As an adult, I’m relieved they are a bit more spread out.  There is so much to do to get ready for those gatherings! Maybe a little too much? Sometimes the sense of “busy” robs the joy.

This third week of Advent we celebrate joy. To help make my season more joyous I’m embracing some advice a good friend shared years ago.  Simply do what makes it feel like Christmas and let go of the rest. What makes Christmas feel like Christmas for each member of my family?  For my son, it is a batch of his favorite cookies and eggnog.  For my husband it is putting up the holiday lights. For me, it’s time in the kitchen baking.  Flour and butter are like therapy for me. I get tremendous satisfaction out of creating yummy goodness out of a cup of this and a dash of that. For years my father would fly out to visit me near Christmas and we would spend hours in the kitchen together, including making about 15 dozen of great-grandfather Bisaux’s cookie recipe two at a time on his antique cookie press. I’ve not had the courage to break out the galette iron since my father passed away, but this year is the year I will retrieve it from its hiding place behind the stock pot under the stove. There is joy in butter and brown sugar memories.

It used to be that everything we did at Christmas had to be added in as part of the tradition.  We had to have the gingerbread house, and the music, and the lights, and the perfect tree, and garland draped from the banisters, and the mantle decorated just right, and a wonderfully witty Christmas letter, and … It was overwhelming and exhausting.  Now we pick and choose, and in the process got our joy back.  One year the letter did not go out.  Our friends still like us anyway. A few years there hasn’t been a tree, including this year. The world continues to spin on its axis.

There is one more thing that is the central “must have” for Christmas.  Our nativity scene sits on the front lawn sharing the good news, lit with spotlights on a lawn that my husband has meticulously outlined with white lights. It serves as a reminder that Christmas is not about doing, but rather about being. It’s not about who we are, but whose we are.  There is great joy in that gift.

Joyful God, thank you for the gift of the Christ child. Fill us once more with the joy of knowing that we are yours, forever. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Photo: Ginger Lace by Lorna Bradley

 

 

The New Normal?

Burning Candle by Sommai

I recall when my father had terminal cancer I would fly out to see him each month. His abilities changed a bit each time when I saw him. There was a constant adjustment to the “new normal,” yet we all longed for a different “normal” than the cards we had been dealt.   My heart hurts today at the news of yet another mass shooting. Somehow this sort of news has become the “new normal” in our nation. Again, I find myself wishing for a very different “normal” from what plays out on the news each day.

The shooting in San Bernardino hits especially close to home because, according to a colleague in disability ministry who lives very close to the epicenter of violence, the office building is mostly for social workers who provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities. When the story broke, my first thought was that the assailants had opened fire directly upon the most vulnerable members of our society. My corrected understanding is little changed from that initial reaction. Death and devastation of innocence is unconscionable in all circumstances. No one, regardless of physical ability, can outrun a bullet.

Thinking of the light of hope that we celebrate this week during Advent, I look forward to a time when the events of San Bernardino, and Sandy Hook, and hundreds upon hundreds of other locations this year alone, are no longer our normal. I pray for it to be so.

What is the purpose of prayer in the midst of such violence? I begin each day with prayer and take a mid-afternoon break to visit the prayer garden at my office. In prayer I share my thoughts with God, become more centered in God’s presence, and then renew my daily efforts in providing social justice and offering hope for families raising children with special needs.  Prayer serves a purpose.  Prayer creates peace and centerdness, and it is also creates action. Prayer is how we communicate with God so that we are listening when God points out to us the way forward. It is then up to us to put our feet on that path one step at a time.

I do not know how our nation got so off track, nor do I care to engage in political finger pointing. That is not helpful.  What I do know is this. Daily mass shootings are not God’s plan. God is lighting a different path and I pray for us to follow it. As a pastor in disability ministry, what action can I take to make a difference?  I can offer words of hope to prompt us to that path.  The Gospel of John tells us, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” (John 1:5) Darkness cannot win. The Advent wreath lit this week with the candle of hope reminds us that it is so.

Healing God, provide comfort and healing to those directly affected in San Bernardino. Provide peace for those in fear. Light a path forward that leads us from this place of violence and into living as the people you have called us to be. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image Burning Candle by Sommai courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Put on Some Red Lipstick and Face the World

Candle-flame-and-reflection

Waiting was never my strong suit as a child. Brightly wrapped packages appeared under the Christmas tree sporadically throughout December. I would flop on the floor by the tree each morning. Shaking the packages, I would ask my Mom, “What did Santa bring?” She always replied with a smile, “Time will tell.”

Nothing makes time go more slowly than when you are waiting for something with great anticipation.

December may feel like the season of hurry, but it is meant to be the season of waiting and anticipation. Advent celebrates the time of waiting for the Christ child. Waiting with the keen sense of urgent anticipation like I had as a child, yearning for all of the answers to be revealed.

I thought I had outgrown that keen sense of yearning, but then I became a mother of a child on the autism spectrum. I found a whole different level of yearning for all of the answers to be revealed as I contemplated an unknown future.  I experience that daily with the parents in my support groups. “When will he …?” “How can I help her …?” “What if they…?” We yearn for answers to calm our fears. The unknown is so much more frightening than the known. Just give it a name, please.

How are we meant to wait? We are meant to wait with hope.  The Apostle Paul wrote the Romans, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25 NRS)

Long with hope and wait with patience. I tell that to my inner child who still eagerly shakes the metaphorical package and asks, “Why can’t you just tell me now?” At times Paul’s advice is easier said than done.

Today as I collected prayer concerns from parents after a group meeting one mom shared an update.  We’d been praying for her son to conquer four words. After many weeks her therapist offered a possible new diagnosis, apraxia. A real kick in the gut. We all shared her tears and felt her sense of anxiety about an unknown future.

Ultimately, it was her Mom who gave the best advice of all long distance from the UK. How can a mother maintain hope and wait with patience? “Put on some red lipstick and go face the world!”

There are days that are tough, days with news that takes our breath away, days for Kleenex after Kleenex. But all of those days can be defeated by hope. One of my favorite hymns that celebrates the birth of Christ praises what God has done, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” There is hope in Christ in all things, in life, and in death, and even in apraxia. And so while I wait, longing with hope, I am digging through my desk drawer looking for that red lipstick.

God of Hope, thank you for the gift of Christ that fills us with hope. Rekindle the true spirit of the season to help us calm that inner voice of fear and anxiety and instead wait with patience for the glorious future you will one day reveal. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Image Candle and Flame Reflection by Richard W.M. Jones (Self-photographed) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons