To Zion. And Imperfect Families.

Unsure of what the balance held
I touched my belly overwhelmed
By what I had been chosen to perform
But then an angel came one day
Told me to kneel down and pray
For unto me a man child would be born

Woe this crazy circumstance
I knew his life deserved a chance
But everybody told me to be smart
Look at your career they said
Lauryn, baby use your head
But instead I chose to use my heart – Now the joy of my world is in Zion

How beautiful if nothing more
Than to wait at Zion’s door
I’ve never been in love like this before
Now let me pray to keep you from
The perils that will surely come
See life for you my prince has just begun
And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of his grace

For I know that a gift so great, is only one God could create
And I’m reminded every time I see your face, that the joy of my world is in Zion

Lauryn Hill wrote this song “To Zion” (her eldest son of 6 kiddos). It’s so beautiful and worth a listen. Especially as I welcome little Eric Jr. in a few short months.

Women view motherhood and their lives so differently. I know this because Lauryn Hill sings about it, I’ve read Sheryl Sandbergs’ book “Lean In” (anyone else find it ironic that of her 3 mentors, 2 were men?), I’ve lived a few years and heard a lot of women say a lot of things on the topic of women’s roles and women’s choices, and read this Maureen Dowd piece last Sunday in The New York Times on Millennials’ distorted take on female relationships & sexuality: What’s lust got to do with it.

Women’s roles aside, I had an e-mail last week from our neighborhood listserv with the subject line – “Pigs in my yard?” Do I live in Ohio or what? I’m also debating between 2 new doormats:

img_2742   img_2518-1

have been listening to my favorite French song  La Venus du Melo by Stacey Kent, am putting together a recipe book for my family because I’m tired of having recipes all over the place, and have been thinking a lot about families. Mostly, because it’s the topic du jour at church and because I’m reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.

I think of family as the ultimate small group; in Nehemiah 4:13 God “stationed them by families” and this group of people shape and mold us in ways we can’t even fully understand.

And yet, with the joy  that family brings – comes heartache. In Hillbilly, J.D. and his sister Lindsay ask their grandma one day, after their mom goes through a break up, struggles with a drug addiction, and threatens her children with violence in the driveway while dressed only in her towel – “Does God love us?”

Family challenges can strip us to the core. And remind us we are not home yet.

The good news? God came for imperfect families. My big brother aptly addresses this point here (in a handout he created for families at The Salvation Army homeless shelter here in the Cleve):

Christmas is not for Perfect People, it’s for Us

by Wally Larson Jr.

The King of the Universe left the throne room of Heaven to become a helpless baby sleeping in the rough, wooden feeding trough for animals called a “manger”.   That King, Jesus of Nazareth, was born to a young mother who was not married when Jesus was conceived in her.  Joseph, her fiancée, was poised to break off the engagement because he thought Mary had slept with another man.  When Herod the king heard that Jesus was born, he ordered the death of all infants in the town, so Jesus’ family fled to Egypt until it seemed safe to return.  When He grew up, Jesus never married. This was not a picture-perfect family!

Of course, the Bible is full of non-standard family situations.  Lazarus and Mary and Martha were three grown siblings living together.  In the Old Testament we read of Abraham’s sleeping with a servant girl because he and Sarah couldn’t wait on God to give them a child.  In the house of King David, we read of a son raping his half-sister, son killing son, son rebelling against father.  None of these families were picture-perfect by a long shot, which is precisely the point:  Jesus didn’t come to bring redemption to perfect people; He came to heal imperfect us.

Christmas is not for picture-perfect families, because there are none.  Some of us this Christmas are homeless or with a broken family or with problems of health, unemployment or addiction. Jesus knows and cares and understands.  We sing each Christmas about the beginning of Jesus’ life:  “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.”  And near the end of his life, when people said they wanted to follow him, Jesus would respond:  “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man [me, Jesus!] has no place to lay his head.”  In other words, Jesus was homeless.

Religious leaders criticized Jesus for eating with “sinners”, prostitutes and tax collectors – the people society shunned.  Jesus didn’t deny it, in fact he embraced that criticism, saying “I came not for those who are healthy but for those who acknowledge they need a doctor.”  The reality is that we are all “sin sick”: allergic to God, the only one who can actually cure us.  But the promise of Christmas is that Jesus came and died upon the cross, paid the penalty that we should have paid, so that God could begin to heal us of our allergy to Him and once again be in a relationship with Him, as we were in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus rose again after three days and lives today in Heaven and will one day return to this world in glory.  Do you know Him?  If not, why not open your heart to Him this Christmas and thereby celebrate the reason behind the holiday.  He awaits you with open arms.


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