A Holey Holy Day

Another year has passed and here we are at Christmas, the first of our holy days as Christians followed by Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  December 25th, a holy day of celebrating the Prince of Peace’s entry into this fallen world as a pure and sinless babe, is precluded by all sorts of celebratory rituals.

But, what happens when the holy days are holey days?  What are we to do when we are wholly consumed with loss-related grief?  How do we wade through the fun and fanfare when our feet are encased in the cement of profound sadness?

In three short lines, poet W.S Merwin exquisitely gives voice to the saturation this kind of sorrow brings in his work, Separation.

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

And so it is on these holidays.  Attempted merriment is colored by thick threads of loss. Our hearts are threadbare and frayed at the seams.  The tapestry of our lives is rent.  Our vision is clouded by tears. Our holiday is hollow.  We are riddled with holes.

This year, our fake fir stood in the corner for days, completely unadorned.  It mirrored my feelings regarding the upcoming holiday.  I, too, felt stripped of anything celebratory; bare of anything resembling peace, joy and good tidings.  Imitation me, just like my tree. If it wasn’t for a visit from our grandbabies, I would have left the bare tree in the corner as a symbol of my emptiness.  Perhaps, a self-indulgent homage to my distress.

Even when it came time to hang the ornaments and light up the branches, I wasn’t ready for the flood of emotions that came when my grands brought me ornament after ornament with questions about the history of each one.  We were hanging poignant reminders of better times on garland adorned branches.   Uninvited grief during holidays is just like the Grinch, it can steal our Christmas joy.  No matter how many times I turned up the volume on the Christmas carols, I was unable to drown out the song of sorrow in my soul.

No matter who or what is absent.  No matter who or what is lost, holidays are poignant reminders of what was or what should have been.  Memories usher in a longing, and the gathering of families and friends can bring a sharp and painful focus on the holes in our lives.  Even if you haven’t experienced some kind of loss, these days of “celebrations” are filled with expectations that many times go unmet causing all sorts of heartache.  Sometimes, it’s simply the effort of getting along with the prickly pears in our circles can rob us of the joy we desire to experience at Christmas.

How do we turn our hole-ness into wholeness?  How do we recapture some of that childlike awe that the birth of our savior should bring?  How do we go from moving through the motions to experiencing true joy in the midst of gaping holes?

Maybe, we can look at the Christmas story from a little different angle. Let’s depart from the Mary and Joseph scene and take a look at what Jesus’ birth meant to his Father, our Father.  The day that teenager gave birth to our Lord and Savior was the beginning of a life lived solely to suffer and die on our behalf.  Every Christmas Day was one year closer to his betrayal, suffering, and tortuous death.  Every Christmas Day marked the moment at which God gave him up to be sacrificed…for you, for me.

I think our father knows Christmas grief.

I think our father knows the heartache of the empty chair, the empty arms, the empty house, the empty bank account, the health gone bad, the hardness of a holey holiday.  He simply knows.

He doesn’t ask us to revel in his knowing, but he does ask us to rest in that.  Don’t let this be cliché:

Come to me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

Peace can be painful and joy can be muted, and that is simply okay.  Christmas can be laced with blue threads instead of gold and that is okay, too.  If this season’s tears outweigh its laughter, let it be.  He knows.

You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?

Psalm 56:8

We will experience wholeness when we rest in his knowing and give our grief to Him. Our surrendered suffering will bring glory to Him and peace to us. Thankfully, we don’t have to figure out how that happens.  He’s got this!  When allowed, His presence begins to seep into every hole to the point of overflowing!

We must be careful to not measure joy by the world’s standards.  Painful, productive peace is not promoted in this be-happy-at-all cost society.  For Christ followers, tears and laughter commingle,  joy and pain join hands,  grief and God meet… in blessed ways the world can not know JUST as it did for our Lord that first Christmas morn.   Let that be your Christmas awe.

So, dear one, hold on.  Cry out to The Healer to fill your holes and rest well in His knowing this Christmas season.   I leave you with this:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 Romans 15:13

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No Man’s Land

The World of White Parents with Black Children

At that moment, when nothing I’ve done or will do matters more than the fact I’m White, I stand completely unable to defend that which they can’t see beyond, my color and my privilege.

Those were my words  after a painful encounter where as the only white in a group of black women, I was given a firm admonition (I’m being tactful) regarding my perceived inability to understand my Black child.   A well-meaning Black sister told my daughter she wished she could take her in, as if MY child I’ve had since infancy needed to be taken from my whiteness.  As I recalled the previous day’s conversation and the raw emotions it produced,  the tears were as willing and hot as they had been the day before.

I am white.  I have children who share my skin color, and I have children who do not. Some were born of my womb, some of my heart.  If you were to line us up, we create a landscape  from the palest of creams to the richest of browns.  Eyes from bright sky blue to a dark chocolate so bottomless you can lose yourself.

A black woman recently asked me why we decided to adopt Black kids.  My answer is 21 years old now…because I didn’t specify my first babies outward appearances  and I’m not placing an order this time either.  We simply wanted to  grow our family by His divine intent and by His good will.

A white woman has poured praises over me for taking in children who were not our own and “giving them a good life”.  On the contrary, they were blessings we received not the other way around.  From the moment we first laid eyes on each of them, they were entirely ours for always and in all ways.


There is so much beauty in our story, so much of the Master’s redemptive plan for each and every human is revealed through adoption.  The ability to sit back and watch God  work out a vast array of details and seemingly insurmountable circumstances to place a specific child into a specific family is just one way He has of fulfilling His plan and purpose in our lives.  The ability of a man and woman to accept and fully embrace a child not conceived by them as their own is the same as God accepting and fully embracing us as His own despite our birth into sin.  I believe every Christ-follower has the capacity to love another in this way through the power of the Holy  Spirit living within us.  What would seem unnatural to the world is innate to believers; a no-brainer, so to speak.

Beautiful and ordained, yes…simple, no.  And so, I drift between the world I know of White privilege and the world my children know.  I’ll call their world Skin First.  I have the privilege of being known for many things before my descriptive race while they most often, are known first by the color of their skin.  What’s worse is when that is all they are known by.  I live in a zone between a White world unwilling to admit there is such a thing as privilege and a Black world unwilling to see their own racial prejudices.  I row my little boat between these two land masses on a sea of angst while bitter voices scream at each other from the shores.  I want my children to be a part of both worlds but neither land has a friendly port for our interracial crew.  We sail on, to No Man’s Land.

Back to my experience as the minority.  I sobbed on the way home.  My daughter, upon seeing and hearing how the encounter had made me feel,  grieved with me.  She was able to tell me that hearing me share how vulnerable I felt solely by the color of my skin made her think I was truly understanding her struggles as a black child in a white community and school for the first time. Over and over she assured me, I am HER mom, the only one she knows, the only one she wants.

This isn’t the first such encounter and it won’t be the last, so what’s the goal in this writing?   I guess I hope to reach my sisters and brothers from both races with this message:

  • Adopted children are God’s children first.  He defines them, not their race. Only when we teach them the value of who they are in Christ, will they be able to withstand the icy winds of racial divides.
  • Adoption happens once.  Do we call ourselves children of God or adopted children of God?  I AM a child of God, its a done deal.  Let us live that way.  We are aware our color differences point out that an adoption took place but we really like to forgo the intrusive questions.
  • Transracial families are both Black and White.  Do not make them choose.
  • Skin color does not a mother (or father) make.  We can all agree Southern White children who were raised by Black “help” were well, well loved and cared for.  Can we be tolerant when that scenario is flipped in our present times?
  • Society is bound by the chains of our History.  Racism as well as reverse racism is alive and well and both our our cultures feed it.  This is a burden each race owns and must first recognize; second, reveal; and third, revolt against.
  • Children do need healthy relationships with people of their own race, but those relationships must always honor the parents’ place in that child’s life.  If you are mentoring, never assume the white momma doesn’t get it.  She may not have personally lived it, but it is her beloved child….believe me, she gets it.
  • I find certain cultural trends in both races unhealthy and denigrating.  Rejecting some form of cultural expression from the Black culture does not equate with me rejecting a Black brother or sister.  Unwrap it.
  • There is a disproportionate number of Black foster and adoptive homes compared to White homes.  Step it up Black friends!
  • White friends, you ARE privileged.  Until you have spent quality time with a Black man or woman and listened to their experiences, do not even pretend to think you can speak to this.
  • We have to lay the fear down.  It is my belief that we have become so fearful of each other, we build fences instead of bridges.  Emotionally, physically, socially, etc.
  • I touched on it earlier but want to reiterate.  As White parents we oppose our Black children being viewed as mission projects or attention-getting tokens.  This devalues them as it suggests they were obtained for our psychological gain vs. them being truly desired by parents who were creating a family.

It is time for the church to take the lead on this.  These relationships need to be born and nurtured within the safety of a community of believers.  This is a call-out.  What can you do in your corner of the world?   Have a discussion with your church leaders about creating a safe place for Transracial families to connect with fellow believers of other races who would be willing to embrace them as a family.  Mentoring relationships will naturally spring from this.  If you’ve been part of such a community, please share with the rest of us what has made your experience successful!

This Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday.  A date  which is poignantly special since it would have been so “convenient” for three birth mothers to end our children’s lives.  I would like to end by honoring the bravery and sacrifice of these women and the countless others like them.  For them, I am so grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standing in the Pig Poop

Jesus drives out demons.  People drive out Jesus.

 Can you make any sense of it?  I can’t and of course, we can easily condemn the actions of our ancestors in scripture given we have the script in our hands.  Really, what was wrong with these people?

Let’s recap the situation.  There is this demon-possessed man who had run naked and lived among the tombs and hills where he didn’t sleep, wailed day and night and cut himself with stones for what the Bible says was a “long time”.  He was so violent, so maniacal that he repeatedly tore off the irons and chains that the people placed on him.  Imagine this uncontrollable savage whose eyes would have revealed the demonic torment raging within.  Obviously, no one was safe to travel the path that ran past these tombs of terror.   No Hollywood special effects needed, this was the real deal.  Demons.  Not one, not two, but thousands. The Legion. You can read the story for yourself in Matthew 8, Mark 5 and Luke 8.

So, Jesus, fresh from terrifying the disciples by calming the storm with three words, had just arrived to the region of the Gadarenes when this tortured man starts screaming at Jesus.   Remember, “even the demons believe and tremble in terror”. (James 2:19).  They, the demons, beg Jesus not to send them to the abyss but ask instead to be sent into a herd of pigs grazing on the hillside.  So, with his permission, the evil spirits exited the man and entered the approximately 2,000 pigs who then promptly drown themselves.

At this point, the horrified hog handlers book it and they broadcast to fellow farmers and townsmen alike what they just witnessed with their very own eyes.  There was no choice between the fight or flight response.  Unadulterated, adrenaline-laced fear fueled them as the fled the scene of deliverance.

Out come the people to see for themselves, and there he is!  The crazed man is totally coherent.  He is sane.  He is clothed.  He is sitting at the feet of Jesus hanging on every word.  Here’s where the story takes a twist.   The reaction of the people is not what we would expect.  No praise.  No worship.  No gratitude.  No falling on their knees in the presence of the healer.  Just dead pigs in the lake, leftover excrement, and fear.  Fear.  So much fear that they begged Jesus to leave their region. What?  Send Jesus away?  But, I don’t understand!  He just performed a miracle of gigantic proportion!  The whole community benefited from this.

Oh, the fear factor.  I have an intimate knowledge of fear and the sin that springs from it.  I believe it is one of Satan’s favorite tools.

The translation of this particular “fear” from the Greek ephobethesan, is “to be struck with fear, to be seized with alarm” and in this case, “of those startled by strange sites or occurrences”.  (Strongs). Let’s look at a couple other instances where this definition of fear is written about.

  • The disciples were seized by it just prior to this scene when Jesus calmed the storm.  (Mark 4).
  •  In John 6, it overtook them after Jesus walked to them on water and caused their boat to instantly time travel to the shore.
  •  The shepherds were hit hard when the angel appeared announcing Jesus’ birth. (Luke 2)
  •  Peter, James and John were brought to their knees at the transformation of Jesus where our Savior’s face glowed, his clothes became dazzling white, Moses and Elijah appeared, a bright cloud covered them all and God audibly spoke.  (Matthew 17 and Luke 9)

Are there any words to describe the terror which strikes at the frail human heart when brought face to face with the supernatural acts of our sovereign Christ?  No, for it is at that moment that we become engulfed by our finite and frail humanity and yes, the flames of spontaneous, sinful fear send us fleeing or, as in this case, begging the Savior to leave our territory.

There they were, sending away the solution as they stood ankle deep in pig poop, the disgusting waste of Satan’s evil army. No pigs, no demons, just the leftovers.   What is it that made them fear the Sovereign Solution over the remnants of years of torment?   What is it that made them fear the Supreme over the damned?  Why did they not want more of what Jesus had to offer?

It has been suggested that money drove their fear.  Two thousand hogs was a costly loss, and what else was this Jesus going to do; however, I don’t think it was that when we look at the other scriptures where the Greek “ephobethesan” is used.

 I think the pure power that pours from our Lord and Savior frightens us in ways we aren’t always aware of.  Why?  

Maybe because we are always trying to be the ones in control.

 Maybe because we are more comfortable with the status quo than we are with being moved out of our comfort zone.

 Maybe because when we see how unfathomably great our God is, we realize how small we really are.  

Maybe because we don’t believe we are worth delivering.

 Maybe because we are actually afraid of what He may ask of us.  

Maybe, just maybe, its because we don’t truly know the totality of who it is we worship and serve and because of that, faith gives way to fear.

Sit with this question:

 Are you standing ankle-deep in your leftover mess while sending away the solution?  Why?  What are you afraid of?  

Lord, forgive us for sending you, our Sovereign Solution, away.  Forgive us for not falling to our knees in worshipful respect and awe at your power.  Forgive us for not calling on you to exercise it in our daily lives.  In Jesus precious name, Amen.