Friday, December 23, 2011

Luke 2:1-4

 "1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all [a]the inhabited earth. 2 [b]This was the first census taken while [c]Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a [d]manger, because there was no room for them in the inn."

Now, you have to think about this.  Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to be taxed because it was the home of his fathers.  This is where is family hailed from--this is where the relatives are.  

Yet, when he and his pregnant wife arrived, there was no room for them in the inn.  Well, did you ever wonder, why were they trying to find an inn?  Why didn't a relative take them in?

Could it be that many knew of the circumstances of the marriage.  I can imagine that it was whispered about...even talked loudly about at the family get togethers.  Wouldn't it be all the chat in the ladies something to "keep in prayer?"  I'm sure many eyes rolled...because everyone knew better and decided that Mary and Joseph had sinned.

This wouldn't be a first.  Look at Job's friends.  His buddies stop by not to see if they can assist, not to offer funds or medical aid, but to ask what sin he has committed.  

As we have walked this journey, we have learned that people can be very judgmental.  It's human nature.  There are those who wonder what a person does to bring cancer on themselves.  There are those who question why this decision or that decision was made medically, financially, whatever.  The experience we have had is the same for most of our friends with cancer.  For the most part, you learn to overlook the gossip, the lack of grace--the lack of understanding.  But as the pastor on Sunday, spoke about Mary, and about her walk with the Lord...I realized that she walked that long journey totally alone, with only her God and her husband beside her.  And I really began to realize just how much my God DOES understand the journey I have been on.

If only those around Mary and Joseph had remembered their past character, and realized that these two people did not just fall from grace overnight.  Perhaps, there was more to their story than prying eyes could see.  Just perhaps, God was working a miracle.  Perhaps, He was very much in control.  Sad really, as those that missed the blessings were not Mary and Joseph.  It was those who chose to turn their backs on the couple--and instead, the blessings of welcoming the new baby Jesus to the earth were shephards...who were of ill repute and lowly.  

Isn't it amazing how God works?

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

1 Corinthians 15:54-55

 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die,[c] this Scripture will be fulfilled:

   “Death is swallowed up in victory.[d]
 55 O death, where is your victory?
      O death, where is your sting?[e]”

One year, tomorrow.  The unthinkable has been our reality for a year.  We miss him…more than anyone who has not experienced this type of loss can understand.  He was our cheerleader, our guide, our support.  He was our rock.

We learned a lot in the journey with cancer.  I learned that my husband was an even stronger man than I thought possible.  I learned that he walked even closer to God than I had imagined.  I learned that in our weakest times, God is there, sometimes in a very physical way.  I learned that hope is an important element to the human experience, and I learned that most people cannot even understand—cancer is a special language that only those who have endured can speak.  I can’t even really speak it.  I had a great translator, however…in Layne.

What are you doing for this day?  Well, what DO you do?  You get up, just like every other day, and you move forward.  You don’t forget, because you cannot forget.  A person who was your life cannot ever totally disappear from your life.  They may not be seen…but you know they have changed you permanently for the better.

Tomorrow, we will get up and spend some time as a family.  We will meet with Sam and Gail, and we will hug them, cry, remember.  We’ll smile a lot, as well.  Just today, we were laughing at how Layne went through cell phones…and complained that they were all made imperfectly.  Of course, we knew that it didn’t matter their quality, no phone can stand up to being beaten on the steering wheel of a Ford truck.

Matthew had an interesting experience recently.  He had some breathing difficulties, and we took him into quick care.  There, he was given a breathing treatment and put on steroids.  The same ones that Layne was given during chemo and for nausea.  He became very short with everyone, ravenous, and couldn’t sleep.  He asked, “Did Dad feel like this?”  It gave him a lot of insight into what his dad felt, though for the most part, Layne covered this pain very well.  He refused to admit he was in pain or sick.  He got up every morning and went on, as if he were not sick.  He was brave for us.  Now, we are brave for him.
Throughout the journey, we shared with you some of Layne’s favorite things and songs.  I thought, perhaps, this year, some of you might share in these ideas…and remember a man who meant so much to so many around him.
Layne loved to adopt families at Christmas. He never wanted them to know it was us…he said that it was too huge a blessing to also get credit!
He loved to feed the homeless.  He kept gift certificates in the truck visor for McDonalds, In N Out, and Wendy’s to give to those who held up signs or asked for help.

He loved to go see the lights with the kids.  This will be the first year since we met that our family has not been to the house on Belmont Street to see Santa and just enjoy the ambiance there.  He was like a giant kid at Christmas time, savoring all the sights, the sounds, the tastes of the season.  The house on Red Coach was another favorite, and we went back night after night, sometimes with and sometimes without the kids.
He loved to put a wreath on his truck, and he loved to see how many cards came in the mail.

And of course, he loved the music of the season.  He loved the entire soundtrack from the Polar Express…

Speaking of music, it is appropriate that we leave you with a few of the songs that he loved so much, that have had us thinking of him lately.  Of course, anything on a dulcimer…then there were these:

This was one of our favorites not only due to the message, but it also has a dulcimer in it, and it looks so much like our favorite beach…  We often said it was amazing we’d been married 22 years…as it seemed like such a short time because we were enjoying the journey so much!

Of course, Layne’s faith was of so much importance to him.  He told me that if the kids were older, he would not have even fought the cancer.  He fought for us, but he knew where he was going. His faith was that of Paul or Abraham…  and he loved this song.  It was his fight song during the cancer.  Stay strong, you are not lost …

This was one of his favorites.  Layne hated to travel.  He wanted to be with his family and spend time with us.  He told me that I should always remember that he was already home.  I think that is a fitting way to leave this post.  He is already there, take a look around, I’m the sunshine on your hair, I’m the shadow on the ground.  I’m the whisper in the wind, I’m your imaginary friend, and I know I’m in your prayer.  I’m already there.
Indeed, he is.  One day, we’ll see him again.  Save us a place, Dunk.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Luke 2:10-15

 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is [e]Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a [f]manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men [g]with whom He is pleased.”

It's that time of year again, the crowds, the stress, the same sermon over and over again at church: Luke 2, Luke 2, Luke 2.  

For us, it seems to be magnified as we are shopping for new family members, and learning their likes and dislikes, trying to settle into a new home, dealing the the anniversary of Layne's homecoming, and of course, finding a new church.  This means we have heard a LOT of sermons on Luke 2.

What interested me most about the sermons was not the scriptural reference itself, but that in the last two weeks, two pastors have mentioned an interesting fact.  It seems that prior to the events in Luke 2, there had been a period of 400 years of silence from God to the nation of Israel.  

Now this was God's chosen people.  It was a nation that had been blessed with visits from God at a burning bush, his presence in the Tabernacle, and warnings, guidance and prophesy from his prophets.  They were accustomed to a close relationship with the Lord.  It was a relationship that they at times took for granted, but God was always there, always in contact.  Suddenly, there was only silence.  And that silence continued for generation after generation.

Sometimes, you have to hear something more than once to listen to the Lord.  And so it was for me, hearing this message.  I thought it was interesting the first week, but this week, I realized, God was telling me something.  

Last year, at this time, I was begging God, I was pleading with Him, bargaining with Him, and so was Layne.  I prayed in faith, and yet, I felt He was not answering me.  After Layne went home, I truly felt that no matter what I said to God, He never answered.  He was totally silent.  

Today, I realized, he was letting me know that sometimes, he is silent for a reason.  He is not being cruel, he has his reasons.  Those reasons are not for me to know, it is for me to seek His face.  When He is ready, He will reveal His purposes.  That revelation may not occur here in this lifetime.  But He loves us and He is trustworthy.  

At this time of year, a lot of people feel God is silent to them.  It has been a rough few years for everyone I know.  Job losses, losses of spouses, losses of homes...all hard stuff, and it seems overwhelming sometimes. However, though He may be silent, He is making preparations for us.  Just as during the 400 years, God was making preparations for a Savior.

So this Christmas season, if you feel God is being silent...don't quit talking to Him.  Trust that He is there...and always will be.  

Merry Christmas...we love you all.