Reconstruction

http://terraquestint.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/con1.jpg“We will not be able to recover the vision and understanding
of God’s grandeur until we recover an understanding of ourselves
as creatures who have been made to know such grandeur.
This must begin with the recovery of the idea that as beings
made in God’s image, we are fundamentally moral beings,
not consumers…
Religious consumers want to have a spirituality for the same reason that they want to drive a stylish and expensive auto.
Costly obedience is as foreign to them in matters spiritual
as self-denial is in matters material.
In a culture filled with such people,
restoring weight to God is going to involve much more
than simply getting some doctrine straight;
it’s going to entail a complete reconstruction
of the modern self-absorbed pastiche personality.”

David Wells, God in the Wasteland

How was your Christmas?

“How was your Christmas?”

I’m glad you asked.

It was good.

Allow me to try to explain what I mean by that…

December 24

When our girls were little we started the tradition of giving them each one gift to unwrap on Christmas Eve. It was always pajamas. The idea was that they would have nice new pj’s for the pictures on Christmas morning. They caught on after about…one year.

Our girls are now 35 and 33. They can buy their own pajamas. But we continue the tradition with our grandkids. On Christmas Eve they stop at our house either before or after the Christmas Eve worship services at church. They get one gift each. They know what it’s going to be. They just don’t know what they will look like. But we also throw in a little something else, like a book or a stuffed animal, just for fun.


It’s our tradition. It warms my heart.

And it’s good.

December 25

Christmas morning used to be just the four of us. Lloyd & Kathie & Liz & Kate. The LKLKs. (Pronounced “lick-licks.”) This was still true when Liz & Kate grew up and moved out. But now it revolves around the next generation. This is as it should be. But the transition has been a little awkward, I think. We want to keep family traditions alive, but we recognize the need for the next generation to establish their own traditions. Like we did.

We’ve settled into a pattern where the kids have their own Christmas celebration at home, then, later in the morning, everyone comes to our house for brunch and another round of gift giving. By “everyone,” I mean Kathie and I and our kids, and kids-in-law, and grandkids.

We take turns opening gifts. There is chaos, mess, laughter, and love.

And it’s good.

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but earlier in December, Kathie’s mother took a turn for the worse. Her health hadn’t been good for a while now, but it had worsened to the point where hospice care was called for. During these weeks Kathie made the 45 minute drive to be with her mother almost daily. We had even discussed how things might go if her death occurred before Christmas. Her condition weighed on our hearts during our Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day activities. But, as I reflect on those days now, I realize that, even though there was sadness in the knowledge that Louise could pass into the arms of Jesus at any time, this knowledge did not cast a gloom over our family times.

In fact, I think it added warmth and meaning and depth.

This is why we celebrate.

This is what hope can do.

This is what Jesus’ coming to earth can do.

And it’s good.

December 27

On Tuesday morning we got the call. Louise’s breathing had changed. It was starting to happen. Kathie left work and I met her at the Hospice Care Center. During the rest of that day the room was filled with her children and grandchildren. There was laughing, and talking, and serving, and remembering, and loving. Louise wasn’t really conscious, but I’d like to think she could hear it all. I believe she did.

As evening came, some decided to go home. The lights were lowered. It got quieter.

A couple years ago, Louise was very sick. We thought we were going to lose her then. During some of those times of delirium she would call out for her older sister who had passed away some years ago. “Ruby!” she would cry.

“Ruby!”

She did this again a couple weeks ago. When she was more alert she explained that she had dreamed she saw a door in front of her. Light was streaming from under the door, and she knew that Ruby was on the other side. But Ruby wouldn’t open the door to let her in.

I don’t really know what to make of these kinds of experiences, but there are too many stories like this to ignore. There is something going on here that we cannot quite understand.

What I do know is that, around 2:30 on Wednesday morning, surrounded by her children, Louise’s breathing slowed to about 6 breaths per minute. Susan whispered to her to ask Ruby to open the door and let her in.

She did.

And it was good.

The following days were spent planning a memorial service.

December 31

Just as Kathie and I have had to transition our family Christmas time from one generation to the next, my parents have done the same thing. Not only do their kids have families of their own, their kids’ kids have families of their own, and we don’t all live in the same state. So, it takes a little effort to figure out how and when we can all get together. But we believe it’s important, so we do it. This year, the 31st was the day.

It’s nothing fancy. Just the usual holiday food and gifts.

I picked dad up at the nursing home and brought him home for the day. I can’t tell you in a few words what that man means to me. This is the man who would throw the childhood me in the air. The man who would make the teenage me work with him in the hot sun building a stone patio behind our house, and I just couldn’t keep up. The man who consistently demonstrated to the grown up me what it means to stand for what was good and right, regardless of the personal cost. He’s the same age as my mother-in-law. He is certainly not dealing with the same life threatening issues she was, but his physical ability seems to deteriorate every time I see him. This is why my heart aches every time I’m with him.

I want him to experience the love of his family as often as possible.

Four generations celebrating together make for an interesting afternoon. There is certainly a lot of joy, a lot of love, and a lot of warmth, but there are definitely stressful moments. It can’t be helped, and it shouldn’t be avoided. The stress is where love grows. You deal with it, recognize it for what it is, forgive, and move on. You’re family. That’s what you do.

And it’s good.

Then there’s New Year’s Eve.

We have celebrated New Year’s Eve with the same basic group of friends for many years. These people mean the world to me. This year, I think I needed their presence more than ever. Yes, it added one more activity to what was already a busy and emotional couple of weeks, but we needed it. It was life giving.

And it was good.

January 2 & 3

Funeral services.

Monday evening’s visitation. Watching a video collage of photos and telling stories. Covered with love from family and friends. Oliver, 18 months old and currently the youngest reminder that a part of Louise lives on, oblivious to the purpose, but enjoying the gathering, bringing life and charming everyone.

Tuesday morning’s memorial service. A bit of a delay as we wait for one family member to arrive. Typical. While we sit and wait like mature adults, inwardly we run and explore vicariously through Oliver who has a hard time sitting still but easily brings a smile. Young life. It’s sort of hypnotic in these circumstances.

It’s a dreary, drizzly day, and kind of muddy around the gravesite, but we’re thankful it’s warm for a January day. After the short committal service, we were invited to take a flower from the beautiful spray on the casket. I was deeply touched when my daughter Liz took one of the flowers across the road to the nearby grave of her great-grandparents and placed it in the small vase on the marker. Her sensitivity impresses me.

The chain of life. Generation to generation.

These connections are important. We do live on after we die. I carry the life blood of those who came before. A part of me lives on in those who come after.

It’s humbling.

And it’s good.

I think maybe it’s fitting that our Christmas season ended with a funeral. This is why Jesus came, isn’t it?

“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
-1 Corinthians 15:25-26

So, maybe our Christmas didn’t look like a Currier and Ives print.

Everything wasn’t perfect.

But we were reminded why we celebrate.

And it was good.

Lloyd

Everybody

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“Everybody worships.
Whether it is a hero, possessions, success, pleasure,
a political cause, a carved idol or oneself,
the way we live and behave makes evident
the things we love and give ourselves to.
It is in our very nature to worship, and that inner drive is God-given;
the disaster is that as part of a fallen race,
we have replaced the object of our worship.
To be converted to faith in Jesus Christ is to return to the worship
of the true God, and to dethrone all rivals to his authority.”

-Graham Kendrick