Christmas Miracles {for when you are at a sad part of the story}

It was mealtime at the manor.

She was seated eating her lunch directly across from my grandmother, my own Mom gently assisting my 94-years strong Grammie. A conversation was struck up between the three, Mom, Grammie and the friendly resident.  And all this, inviting the launch of an unexpected conversation which was then to unfold over the course of the shared meal.

As the woman talked, she became passionately involved in the tale she was sharing. A former educational administrative assistant, she spoke of years gone by: talked of joys and eventually of great sorrows. And when she finally bowed her head and began to sob quietly, it seemed incongruous with the strong, able woman of moments prior. The nurse- alarmed, ran over to see what had happened to cause the change. The woman’s reply,

It’s okay, I am just at a sad part of the story.”

And isn’t this the reality of our lives so much of the time?  We find ourselves living the sad part of the story. Those moments, when mere words fail to abate, fail to ease the pain; when mere words fail to act as consolation. For what is a word, a phrase or expression in the face of desolate sorrow? What is a word when it is found hanging, suspended in the thickness of the air in which we exchange our pleasantries? What is a word when expressed within the shadow of pain, in the overhanging spectre that is our grief?

What is a word anyway?

Another, this lovely One much younger than the first- she stood in front of me, worn. And our eyes locked- perhaps so did our hearts. In her gaze I could read a thousand stories, could see a thousand pictures flash before our eyes: such was the depth of her sorrow, her intensely felt pain. And my heart moved within me, reaching out to hers: because I wished I could do something. Wished I could do anything, anything– to meet the need I felt so tangibly was there. I wished beyond hoping to find a way in which to share the load she bore. Wished I could present some small offering so as to carry and hold. Wished.

If wishes were horses (far stronger than I).

And this pain we sense in others- is it not felt more deeply when we have known of it first-hand? When we have drank from the bitter cup and tasted the wrath? We who know first-hand- we are the ones attuned to the pitching fork of life’s harshest realities. Like skillfully adept musicians waiting for the lament. We feel deeply, care heart-fully, weep openly, rage sorrowfully. For the injustices at both the intricately personal level of living as well as those felt more widely, the world over.

We long for a word of hope to let light shine if only through the crevices of our broken hearts. We all ache for the hurt we know is there inside us all. And our hearts overflow with the weight. The immense vastness. We long for a droplet of hope giving promise for a thaw, so as to ease our unquenchable thirst for more. And at Christmas of all times we long the most for that Word of hope bringing expectation that something more awaits us if we just BELIEVE.

Believe.

We talk of Christmas miracles. We dream of, pine for, long for the possibility of the extraordinary at this time of year when at all other times we might resort to despair. We hope for so much more than we could ever even imagine. Wanting our lives to be something they might not already be. Wanting our situation to change, our extenuating circumstances to right themselves. Wanting our path to move forward in a positive direction. Wanting so much- and believing against the odds that it all might be possible. That it all might happen at this time of year.

But perhaps we’ve given up on the miracle. Perhaps it has been lost on us over the years. We feel there isn’t any substance to thoughts of wonder, to thoughts of the miraculous. We’ve given up on miracles, cast off thoughts of the supernatural. Stopped believing in the Divine. Ceased embracing the world around us as potential for miracle; we only feel its pain. Only sense its horror. The sadness and heartache that is a world gone horribly wrong. And we wonder if the idea of miracles is all just a lovely dream for others in more fortunate circumstances. For others with a life of ease and pleasure, whoever those others might be. It could never be for us. Could never be for ordinary folk.

But what if:

The Christmas miracle was planted as a seed inside us all?

It was a gift of perspective, outlook- a turning point of sorts?

A way of viewing the world, our lives and the people we encounter as we never have seen them before?

What if the miracle was caring for the very lives we’ve been given along with caring for the people in these beautiful lives of ours, in ways we never cared before? Reaching out in love to meet the need, reaching out in empathy so as to cross the great divide?

And what if the people we saw right in front of us were part of the gift, were pieces of the puzzle telling us what this life was all about- were the mortal reasons for the gift? Placed in our paths so that we could share the miracle- the gift of understanding and hope with them, through our very words and deeds? Through our thoughts and our actions?

What if the Christmas miracle was closer to us all than we thought possible?

For Christmas miracles are only experienced when we open our hearts to believing that they just might be possible. Even when life fails us miserably, we believe that there is good to be found. Counting that good we see as a blessed promise that the best is yet to come. Believing beyond the reality of our present circumstances that Good can come from sorrow and pain. That joy, like the newborn Child from millennia ago, can be borne from the depths of darkness shining light among us. Hope was given to us long Christmases ago so that we might hold fast to the wonder even in this messy present- so that we could believe in miracles today. Given so that we could have faith as small as a tiny seed to believe that miracles are indeed for real.

And they are. They really are.

photo retrieved from wallruru.com

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If God is FOR us…who can be against.

I preach caring as the underlying, fundamental reason for why I teach. It is what drew me into teaching. It is why I stay.

It’s always interesting to know why a person feels strongly for or against something they believe. And the reason I am FOR caring- FOR seeing people as potential, FOR believing that people are possibility, FOR seeing the best in people is, in a large part, because I have known over my lifetime what it feels like to both receive that wonderful caring. And to not.

Every one of us could identify with this I am sure. You are living your life, doing whatever it is you do. And along comes a person- a family member, a friend, a colleague, a community member- or whoever: who sees what it is you are doing at that particular moment- and they make a judgment call about it. Sometimes those judgment calls are positive and affirming, helping us to carry on with our goal of living our lives to the best of our abilities. But at times, those judgement calls are blows to our self-esteem. Chipping away at whatever good we might feel about ourselves as unique, extraordinary human beings. Somehow, it is quite often those one or two judgement calls that we focus on the most. I know I do. Things could be going along tickedy-boo- and I might be starting to embrace myself as a unique child of God- which I am. When along comes a person who sees in me the worst parts of who I am, causing me to fall flat on my face. Barely able to stand.

Those blows are hard to sustain when they come. It takes time to get back up again.

Something we need to recognize about people- all people is this: we don’t truly know everything that there is to know about that person’s heart, feelings and soul. We can look on superficially and even at times, we can gaze deeper- but we are not God. We don’t know the hearts of people. We don’t know who is struggling with self-esteem issues, we don’t know who is hurting inside. We don’t know what has happened in their mind a moment ago- let alone what might happen next. We are not privy to all their thoughts and intentions. We don’t know all there is to know about a person’s heart.

Sometimes, that same phrase- We Don’t Know The Hearts Of People- has been used in certain contexts to diminish or put down people, assuming that there is so much bad within a person that we could never expect a whole lot from them. In church contexts, that phrase has been used to downplay a person’s spiritual interest, although at times it has been used to see the best in a person spiritually speaking.

We often assume the worst when speaking of hearts- as if to say that the heart of a person is where their darkest secrets are kept- and those secrets must be bad. Because how could they be good?

But.

What if those secrets are ones based on pain? On difficulty? On hurt and betrayal? What if the secrets we keep are what keep us from seeing the best in ourselves? What if we don’t show the best of ourselves to other people because we truly don’t believe the best about ourselves internally? What if others believed the best in us- could we then see the best in ourselves too?

We often recognize that a person is more than meets the eye- but how often do we recognize that there is more good, more positive, more beautiful to people than meets the eye? How often do we say ‘we don’t know the heart’ and really mean- “that person’s heart has so much good within it- I must know more!” In fact, I think the opposite sometimes happens, because more often than not, we think to ourselves, “that person is_______ (fill in the blank with a negative attribute)” leading us away from thinking the best about them. And rather leaving us to feel the worst.

All this is based on feelings we have- ideas and thoughts. Beliefs we form about people without knowing the whole story. But have we ever stopped to know truth about a person? Have we ever taken the time to see their best? Do we believe that each one of us is capable of being the best? That we are potential and possibility at the heart of our unique person?

Truly? Do we see people truly the way God sees us? As His friends? As His children: His sons and daughters? As His beloved? As the object of His love? As forgiven? As cherished? As the ones He gave His life for? No greater love is there in heaven or on earth than this: that One would lay down His life for His friends.

If we are friends of God, than that should be stamp of approval enough for any man or woman here on earth.

Friends, we need to care for one another. We need to love like God loves us. We need to see the best in one another. We need to build one another up. We need to pray unfailingly for one another. Pretty hard to pray continuously for someone we can’t see the best in. We need to care enough about each other to resist the urge to tear one another apart with gossip. We need to help each other. We need to see each other as God does- as reflections of His one and only Son. Just think of the love God has for His own Child. We too are His precious earthly children also. We need to love each other as such.

I want this caring to be part of my teaching- this ability to see the best in people. But more than that- I want it to be a part of my life. This life I am living in the here and now. I don’t want to write something and not live it: I want the very words that I put to paper to become the life that I live. If I say I want to see the best in people, then that is what I want to live.

And it would be just amazing if that possibility was reciprocated the world over. From person to person. That we would see the best in each other. Just as God sees within all of us our possibility. Our potential.

That we would see this in each other: a reflection of His love. A relfection of how truly great His care extends.

If God is FOR us, who can be against?