Sunday, 27 December 2015
I remember standing a few steps away from where all the excitement was and I was smiling. I couldn't get the most ridiculous and silly grin off my face. She - my wife - got most of the attention, and I was the 'coat rack'...and that was just fine with me. Guests would come into our room, shake our hands, (I mean...mostly her hands), maybe leave a gift, balloons, or flowers, and then leave. Smiles. Hugs. Tears. Pictures. Stories. And more stories. I've had the utmost pleasure of experiencing these moments twice...at the births of our three children. These brief encounters with joy and happiness usually went on for several days and then life would go back 'to normal'. Or not.
Actually, as I recall, life never returned to 'normal'. Unannounced visitors stopped coming by. The phone was quiet. Cards and flowers stopped arriving. It was a stark contrast to the rush of excitement that was so palpable just days before. As new parents, we were vacillating between joyful anticipation and terrifying fear. When the last of the visitors left, I recall looking at my wife, who then was gently rocking two babies in unison, and saying, "Now what are we supposed to do?" The lives of our son and daughter that were hidden 'skin-deep' for nine months were now an actuality, and our lives have never resembled anything close to that of pre-parenthood. Life again would change dramatically, although with more predictability, with the birth of our third child, a daughter, just three short years later.
With all these changes came a few constants - smiles and tears, laughing and crying, controlled chaos and serene calm. We learned quickly enough that the crying will stop - eventually. Temper tantrums will become hugs and cuddles - eventually. And the occasional "I wish you were more like..." will become "I'm so thankful you are..." - eventually. Parenthood is like a roller coaster with near vertical drops without any warning, and twists and turns so sudden and unexpected. But I know that in a few minutes I'll be getting off the ride, walking down the steps toward the exit, and I'll look back at the ride and say, "Let's do it again!" And, like a kid, I'll run back to be first in line.
This Christmas, I wondered if God smiled proudly when the shepherds and wise men visited Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Was he taking in all that he could? Was he listening to Mary recount the story of not being able to find a place to sleep? I know Joseph must have...but did God? We know the angels rejoiced, but what did God do? With my finite i.e. human understanding of God's majesty and omnipotence I wondered if God wept when Jesus was born? Did he cry knowing that his son would endure the slings and arrows of humankind? Did he mourn knowing that his only son would endure hell and agony for three days? Was he anxious to get the whole crucifixion and resurrection thing over and done with knowing that the day would be here before 'he knew it'? I don't know.
I know one thing...Jesus' heavenly father never said, "Lets do it again."
About thirty-three years later, somewhere on a hill outside of Jerusalem, the Father, through his Son, declared, "It is finished."
Merry Easter to all, and to all a good night!
Sunday, 13 December 2015
Before you start guessing all sorts of possibilities of what my favourite word is, let me just say that...no...it's not 'hamburgers', 'fries', or even 'chocolate' - contrary to what you think you may know about me! It has nothing to do with the savoury delights that tease the tongue for brief moments at a time. Ask me around my usual 'feeding-time' and I might change my mind. Might. #Might.
For me, this favourite four-letter word packs a punch; and I was reminded of its power again during a Christmas open house, which was held at my Mom's retirement home last week. Every year, the staff at the Village Manor of Waterdown, hold a special evening where residents can share memories of Christmas' past, sing a favourite Christmas carol, or read an amusing story. One of this year's contributors was a 90 year old resident who sang "Have Yourself a Very, Merry Christmas" followed by "Silent Night". It wasn't this lady's singing that caused my throat to tighten, and my eyes to moisten, it was because my Mom was singing quietly along. She wasn't struggling to say the words. She sang them with ease. I understood her fully...and it brought me HOPE.
It brought me HOPE of the things to come because my Mom hasn't been able to speak clearly for almost 20 years due to a debilitating stroke she suffered in 1996. For some reason, that I don't pretend to understand, my Mom can sing more clearly than she can speak. Mom's inability to speak clearly has had such a profound impact on her life that, unfortunately, none of us can truly appreciate - except those who suffer from the same restriction. Nevertheless, on that evening, I strained to tune out the singer on the stage so I could focus on my Mom's words. On that night, my hope was renewed - my hope for a new world, when Jesus will make all things new, and when my Mom can carry on a conversation without any struggle or frustration.
You see - it's not like a wish. I wish for snow on Christmas Day, I wish that the Leafs would make the playoffs (you have to start somewhere!), or I wish that a new career might come sooner than later. All these things happening would be nice and very welcomed. No, this was hope. This was the kind of hope we read about in Hebrews 11:1 - where faith is described as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen”. When I hear Mom singing with ease, I have a confident expectation that Mom's speech will return one day because these glimpses into the future give me the assurance and conviction that Jesus' return WILL happen.
Two days later, we lit the second purple candle of Advent called the Candle of Hope, which represents the hope of Christ coming. As the candle was lit, I could hear again my Mom softly singing,
"Silent Night, Holy Night,
all is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother, and child
Holy infant, tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace."
And I prayed for Mom. I prayed that one day I would hear her speak without frustration and without pain. On that day of Christ's return, I will hear her speak as she did when I was younger. It's my firm hope...not a wish.
Greeted by a surprise rainbow on Mom's birthday! It was at a dressed up gravesite that 40 or 50 people gathered around last Tuesday,...