Friday, December 24, 2010

What is a Cowboy Christmas?

Mike’s old team roping rope on the door with a big red bow.

Boots by the fire instead of stockings.

Barbed-wire stars and rusty lanterns.

Pine bough perfume …

and a stable for the babe.

That’s right - God’s boy was born in a barn! He slept in the hay, wrapped in the warmth and comfort of livestock.

No palace for this King. No mansion or rampart or tower, but a stable where even one as simple as I could enter.

Have you noticed? He left the door wide open.

How else would the rest of us find our way home?

“…I am the door …” - Jesus (John 10:9)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What are you scratching for?

We live in an area called “Hardscrabble.” The name arrived with gold seekers and ranchers scrabbling to make a living off this pebbly patch of Rocky Mountain soil. That scrabble even shows between the sparse blades of winter grass in my side yard, where sparrows peck and scratch for God-knows-what.

I noticed them a few days ago, scraping at the barren, wind-blown ground, and in answer to their tireless quest I hung a new cedar bird feeder filled to the brim with wild bird food and sunflower seeds.

They ignored it.

No birds alighted the next day either, but I assured myself that like the hummingbirds homing in on their favorite nectar, so would the sparrows. Give them a day, I told myself. They will find it.

On the third day, there were still no birds at the feeder. From my window I watched them scratch the bare earth, heads down, flushing away when the dog bounded round the corner and into their foraging grounds.

And this morning they were at it again, busily scraping with their frail little feet, heads bent, pecking at imaginary seeds. I could almost hear their frantic thoughts: “There has to be something to eat in here somewhere!”

While above them hangs my feeder, still full to the brim of the choicest of fowl fare.

Will they never notice my care for them? I’ve had feeders at every home, and always the birds have found them and filled their gullets on my gifts.

It isn’t hard to see that I am much like these Hardscrabble sparrows, bent on my own way of providing what I need, unwilling to look up to another who waits close by, provision in hand. How often do I flit past my Bible, too busy to stop and feed on its life-giving words? How often do I pursue God-knows-what in my quest for sustenance?

And that is just the point: God knows what. He knows what I need and has provided it.

Why do I seek my own way instead of His?

“Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Over the phone and through the mail

This Christmas finds our family spread across the country from Colorado to California. How can we continue our tradition of exchanging names when few of us will be together for the holidays?

We just won’t, I decided. It wouldn’t be the same. Besides, it would be wise in this economy to save the expense of giving and mailing. We’ll just pass this year.

No! said our eldest from across two mountain ranges. It’s being part of a family, he said, knowing that you’ve put thought and effort and love into the gifts chosen for your designated member.

“You choose,” he said over the telephone. “You and Dad put all our names in a basket, then choose for each of us and let us know.”

I thought about his words, his insistence that we should pursue the tradition regardless of position. So I wrote our names on slips of paper, eight in all including parents and children and spouses. We tossed them in a cup, picked out one at a time and sent the chosen names to each.

“I got you!,” texted one spouse to our daughter. “What do you want?” The excitement had spread already, unhindered by miles and mountain ranges.

It grew in my own spirit as I considered the one I’d chosen and what specific gift would touch that loved one’s heart. And I realized that distance had not mattered to the first Giver. How far away mankind was from the perfection and love of God! Yet He gave. Across the miles and mountains and galaxies, He sent a specifically selected and perfect gift to His chosen recipients.

Jesus: His love, our life. His living, our hope.

Merry miles-away Christmas to you this year. May you know His perfect Gift.