White knuckles

Every newborn with normal reflexes closes his hand over an offered finger. We start life grasping, and some of us don’t let go until our fingers are stilled. Why is it so hard to let go? It seems that as soon as I tear something out of my grasp, I find myself holding on to something else.

My grandchildren beg me to read a parable series about a raccoon named Adam and a lion, King Aren. In Adam Raccoon in Lost Woods, Adam gathers a heavy load of his possessions for their day in the woods, even though the king assures him he has prepared everything, and Adam’s stuff would only get in his way. Besides ruining the day, Adam’s ‘treasures’ put him in danger. After the king rescues him, Adam realizes the only thing he needs to hold on to is King Aron’s hand.

It’s a simple story, a simple lesson.

After eight years in Honduras, where people even save bottle caps to make shoe scrapers, and we had few possessions by US standards, I’ve tended to hold onto things I’m not using, but ‘might need someday’.

However, right now my closets and attic are overflowing with boxes of my mother’s that require sorting. They are the wake-up call I need to lean my stuff. ‘Piles to sort’ is not the legacy I want to leave to my children.

So I’m really trying to let go of things.

When trials come, whether huge ones like 911, or more personal ones like cancer striking a family member, it’s as if the lights come on. I see that what I’ve been holding onto isn’t keeping me safe, or whole, or loved. Like a kid with a rabbit’s foot, the stuff’s not really giving me what I need.

And there’s the rub.

“If you ask for things from life instead of from God, you ask amiss…” My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

The strong bond between me and my stuff, as well as comfortable emotional states that no longer serve my life, reveal what I cling to for security. For years, God has been prying my white-knuckled hands off one idol after another.

This day, I surrender, once again, and reaffirm my desire to hold on to nothing but His hand.

Is there a habit of mind, a comfortable emotion, a special collection, any objects or patterns of life that are getting in the way of holding on to the only hand that can save you?

Driftwood by Jack H Thompson
Driftwood by Jack H Thompson with My Utmost for His Highest p 93

No fear?

I’ve always fought the constraints of fear in my life. I assumed it was from my childhood, with an abusive father with hands two feet long, and the complete lack of affirmation.

However, after recent experiences, I am questioning that assumption.

In the Swiss Alps with my two grandsons, Middle Daughter’s boys, watching the difference in those two makes me wonder how much is built-in.

The oldest, Jeremy, is more like me. He thinks a lot, projects what might happen before he takes action, and is, therefore, sometimes paralyzed when the prospects of harm loom greater than the benefits.

Kyle, two years younger, seems to have no fear.

They have been taking freestyle skiing lessons every Saturday. Jeremy studies the moves and calculates his jumps and landings. He has wonderful form, and once he decides he is ready, executes the moves beautifully.

On the other hand, Kyle watches the instructor and goes for it, never even looking to see where he will land.

Last night, they spent several hours practicing in a special freestyle gym, with all kinds of trampolines and foam pits, jumps and ramps.

Jeremy awed me with his freestyle moves on the trampoline, naming each move.

Click on the arrow to see Jeremy practicing. (This has several video segments together, so watch to the end.)

Jeremy Free Style Academy

I moved on to watch Kyle ride a scooter down a ski jump into a foam pit, and worked to get my heart back in my chest. After several of those, he did flips into the pit from a platform at least fifteen feet above. After a back flip from there, looking for a greater challenge, he scaled the rock climbing wall and did a back flip off of it.

Kyle jumping from the climbing wall

Kyle on kickboard on ski jump doing flip

Kyle flipping over the edge of the wall.

Today, I asked Kyle what he thinks about before he tries something new. He shrugged and replied, “If it seems like it would be fun, I do it.” That simple. When I asked if he was ever afraid before he did something, he looked at me with a puzzled expression.

So if we are born with these tendencies, then God created us that way. Maybe I can stop beating myself up for being so cautious.

And you impulsive ones can rest assured you weren’t made that way by mistake, either.

For the cautious ones like me, Paul encourages us.

God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.Ephesians 6:10 The Message

More than encouragement, Paul tells us the real battle is the spiritual one, and we are all fitted for that.

This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.Ephesians 6:11

So perhaps we are made so different in order to band together, in marriage, families, friendships, churches, small groups, wherever we find support. It’s the body of Christ thing. Together, we have the courage to move, as well as the forethought and planning to take into account what might come against us.

And God gives us all full armor for protection, and for the weapons we need for the battle before us.” Ephesians 6:12 The Message

What’s your tendency, too much or too little caution?

How are you growing with the bent you are created with?

Did you get enough?

“What did you get for Christmas?” Christmas tree

When we were kids, that question implied the friend really wanted a turn to brag about their new train or bike or roller skates – always something bigger or better than you received.

But were they really asking, “Did you get enough?” Did you, like he or she, arrive at the end of the day and wonder, “Is that all there is?”

For adults, the question is usually, “How was your Christmas?” The question is too often only as deep as, “How was your vacation?” It’s good manners, and makes better conversation than the weather.

With us, the hidden question may be, “Did you survive the crush of activity, expectations and indulgences?” For others, “Did you have to endure family members you’re glad you won’t see again until next year?” Or simply, “Did things go as you planned? Did you get what you wanted?”

In the end, though, perhaps the deeper question really hasn’t changed. Is that all there is?

This Christmas was far from normal for me. With many health and energy challenges, I shopped from bed with my smart phone. Advent candles were all I managed in preparation. My husband brought down the tree and plugged in the lights. I hung the ornament my grandson made in school, and set out the manager scene (weeks behind), placing the important figures around the room, to move towards Christmas.

No lights outside, garlands on the mantel or decorations scattered throughout the house, all of which I love. No smells of Christmas baking, aside from the Tropical Christmas Pudding I had started months before for my British son-in-law. Since I couldn’t count on having the energy for a big Christmas dinner, nothing special was planned for the day.

Christmas Eve we traveled north to enjoy a wonderful dinner with our son and his family, then to a candlelight service with YD and her family. Our time with all of them was sweet.

Christmas Day, my husband and I provided music for an intimate gathering of families for our Spanish congregation, then I picked up my mother from her assisted living home. She didn’t even know it was Christmas.

I spent Christmas caring for Mom, and trying to draw her back to reality. Towards the end of the day, she kept asking where she was going to sleep, obviously longing to stay, so I pulled out a clean toothbrush and soft flannel PJ’s.

As I do with my grandchildren when they visit, when I tucked her in, I put my hand on her forehead and prayed for her.

When I finished the prayer, she smiled radiantly and said, “You’re the best Mommy I have ever had.” Then Mom turned on her side and fell asleep.

Mom tucked in on Christmas
When I walked back to the living room and stared at the baby in the manger, I knew the answer.

As long as I sought gifts of time or stuff, even my own mother’s love — anything in this world to satisfy my need for love — I would always end with, “Is that all there is?”

Now that the Manger Child, God become human, has grown into the Savior of my heart, I know that Christmas isn’t about presents.

Christmas is about presence.

His presence in my life has filled the longing in my heart.

And now I can freely be the hand of love. I can give the gift of my time, energy and attention because I have received love that overflows its boundaries, a love that seeks to give, and give, and give again.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. Ephesians 5:1 (The Message)

How was your Christmas?