Thoughts for the Week

Archive for December, 2012

Alone With the Lord

Alone-47When was the last time you were alone?

I don’t mean just being somewhere without people, I mean being somewhere without distractions. No phone, no computer, nothing to entertain.

I can’t think about the last time I’ve been totally alone. As Americans, we are continually wanting to be entertained and busy. We are always busy.

Jesus was busy too, but he took time to slow down. In Mark 1:35-38, it says he left to go to an isolated place to pray. In the verses before (29-34), it’s clear Jesus was extremely busy the night before, healing people and casting out demons.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve had a rough evening, I try to sleep in the next morning.

But that’s not what he did. He got up before the sun rose to be alone with the Father. In Matthew 6:6 Jesus said, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (NIV).

Prayer is to be an intimate, private, and distraction-free event. It’s a time to get to know your Father better. Jesus thought it was important enough to give up a morning.

This week, find a time to be alone with the Lord.

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

Where is Peace? (Part 2 of 2)

jesus-birthCaroline sat on the couch near the lit tree. Its soft multi-colored light always made her feel young again. She lowered herself onto the couch, her cheek resting against the plush fabric. She tried to fight the tears that made the tree seem to melt away as the lights morphed into points of dizzy color. She didn’t even notice when she fell asleep.

* * *

She suddenly found herself in a dark place where she noticed a large object, which was a cutout of Santa Claus. Its height reached several stories. She could only gawk as she approached. As she lightly touched Santa’s hummer-sized boot, the giant, flat structure began to lean forward. Caroline shrieked and ran.

The cutout crashed, shooting a large puff of air that sent Caroline sprawling. She pushed herself up and realized there was something behind the cutout. It was a man. Even from a distance, Caroline could tell he was old. “Hey! Hey, you!”

The old man straightened, his eyes wide. In one hand, he held a small bag of gold coins. He sputtered, “Oh, I didn’t hear you sneak up on me. Please don’t let the secret out, I want it to be a surprise.”

“What surprise?” As she approached, Caroline had failed to notice the shoes that rested on a doorstep. He had been placing his coins into them. “Who are you?” She asked.

The man’s white hair glistened and his eyes twinkled, “I’m Bishop Nikolaos of Myra.”  He gestured to the little shoes. “These little ones just lost their mother and are in need of gifts.” He slipped a coin into another leather slipper. “I give gifts in secret. Seeing their surprise is a treat.” He pointed to another house down the way.

“Some years ago, there were three daughters in that house. They were too poor for a proper dowry and were afraid they would never get married. Well, over the course of three days, I hid a gift for each daughter in their shoes. By the second day, the father had caught on and waited at the door all night to see if a present for his third daughter would come.”

Nikolaos chuckled and his laugh lines were highlighted. “You’ll never guess what I did.” Caroline couldn’t guess. The man continued to chuckle. “I dropped the third daughter’s gift down the chimney. It fell into a stocking she had hung up to dry!”

Caroline gasped. “Wait! I know you. You’re Santa Claus!”

Just like that, the old man faded away along with the doorstep and the little shoes.

She looked around, and there were more towering cutouts: gigantic presents, skyscraper-sized Christmas trees, and candy canes as thick as tree trunks. She gently pushed the mammoth Christmas tree; the lights and tinsel fell with a crash. Behind it was a scraggly evergreen tree sitting inside a house. No lights, no ornaments.

“That’s it?” Caroline protested. “This tradition is why I pay eighty dollars every year for a tree?” Her cheeks started to grow hot and her temper rose. She turned and knocked over a towering candy cane. Behind it was a German man, making the candy canes for little kids. Caroline turned and continued to shove the other cutouts over.

Little Christmas elves toppled, as did large bunches of mistletoe. Sleigh bells loudly jangled as they tumbled to the ground. Apple cider splashed to the ground, creating a small tidal wave.

Caroline was fed up with Christmas and was looking for meaning behind it all.

She was huffing angrily when she reached the final cutout. It was a little shack with two people inside. When she got closer, she realized it was Joseph and Mary. Their cutouts knelt beside a small box. If she had stopped, Caroline would have seen a soft light pouring from the box.

But she charged, her anger boiling over. Religion had caused nothing but pain in her life. She slammed into Mary, sending the cutout tumbling. She shoved Joseph, and he toppled too.  She went for the manger. The little box itself flopped over like a thin piece of paper.

Then she saw the glow. It rippled and floated off the ground like a balloon. The little shack melted away and all that remained was this odd sphere of light. It irked her this thing hadn’t fallen too. She charged to push it over. But to her surprise, the thing pushed back. She put her shoulder into it and shoved. It shoved back just as hard.

She fell to her back, staring up at the light. To her surprise again, it grew rapidly. It grew until it filled the large expanse above. Suddenly from the depth of the light, a voice floated out.

“What are you doing here?”

Caroline sputtered, “I-I…who-who are you?”

The warm light flickered and she heard echoing laughter. “I’m the child they celebrate at Christmas time. I’m the one whom the angels sang about.”

“The baby?”

“I’m God as a human. I came to earth over two thousand years ago to show the world how to know God.” The light slowly started pulling together into a form, and began to look like a man. “You asked yourself ‘Where is peace?’ I’m here to let you know that I’m peace.” From the morphing light, a hand reached out to her….

* * *

Caroline awoke to the scent of hot chocolate. She sat up and saw her husband, Clark coming over, a steaming mug in each hand. “Morning sweetheart,” he smiled. “Feeling better today?”

After rubbing an eye, everything came into focus. “Yeah, I…just had a lot on my mind.” He handed her a warm mug and slipped in beside her. “I noticed you were reading my Bible last night.”

She took in the earthy chocolate smell. It had little flecks of cinnamon on top, just the way she liked it. Clark continued, “Yeah, I always love reading about Jesus’ birthday this time of year.” The hot chocolate almost spilled as Caroline jumped. Her dream suddenly came back to her.

“Wait, Jesus was the baby?”

Clark looked her in the eye. “Yes. Christmas is about celebrating his birth.”

In that moment, Caroline knew where the peace was, it had been born in a feedbox a long time ago.

The End.

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

Where is Peace? (Part 1 of 2)

images“Move it!”

Caroline felt someone shove her. She almost dropped her precariously balanced Christmas packages. She glared. The pushy shopper dashed forward, various bags swinging from her arms.

Caroline knew she needed to sit down. Her boots pinched her toes, and her heavy winter coat was making her sweat under the shop lights. The obnoxious Christmas music also made her head pound.

She found a vacant bench and plopped down while the rest of the mall swirled around her. It was finally a moment to breathe. Caroline watched the hordes of people pouring in and out of the stores. Hurrying. Scurrying. Worrying. The manic look on their faces only heightened the tension.

The packages at her feet rested innocently. They had drained her bank account and her sanity trying to find them. She hated Christmas shopping. The aching knot at the back of her skull told her that. She cupped the back of her neck and winced.

What is the point of all this?

* * *

She finally made it home after avoiding slushy ice puddles. Hanging the keys on a hook, Caroline noticed her kids were gathered around the TV. A Christmas claymation about Santa Claus was playing. She removed her coat and recalled when she was younger and watched the same program. Her heart sank slightly. Those days seemed simpler. The days when Santa and magic were real.

Sitting on the nearby couch, one of her kids, David, looked up with wonder. His crooked front teeth always made an adorable smile. “Mom? Does Santa always see us?”

The question caught Caroline off guard. But she didn’t want to spoil his excitement  She gently swept his blond hair out of his bright eyes. “Sure does, sweetie. That means you need to be good to get presents.”

David swiveled his body back to the TV. His little sister, Samantha, leaned over. “Told you,” she whispered. They continued watching, but Caroline’s heart grew heavier as she watched them. She felt silly lying to her son. She remembered her mom telling her the same fib. She also recalled the shock when she was twelve and discovered the truth about Santa Claus.

From then on, Caroline doubted everything her mom said. The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, none of them were real. Her mom also told her about God. But she had grown up from that, too.

* * *

Later that night, the kids were tucked in bed, and Caroline turned in, too. But she just stared at the ceiling. Christmas was only a few days away, and she was worrying over the meals she would make for Christmas dinner. Her husband, Clark, slept soundly.

She had found  him slouched over, his book draped across his chest like a small tent. Clark often fell asleep reading and she gently lifted the book from his chest that slowly rose and fell. Which book you reading this time? She glanced at the cover as she set it onto the nightstand. The Bible. Big surprise there.

About a year ago, Clark had “found religion,” as Caroline called it. She had already found religion and it hadn’t done her any good. She waited for the day Clark would wake up and realize that God, Jesus, and church were just nonsense.

But now she stared into that blank, cold ceiling, wondering where sleep was. She clicked her light on and sat up. The Bible still rested on her nightstand. With a slight scowl she picked it up. If reading puts you to sleep, maybe it will work for me.

She flipped through the wafer-thin pages and found the section Clark had been reading. She began at the large number two. The page talked about an engaged couple who were on a journey and the girl was going to have a kid. When they reached their destination, the mom put their baby in a feedbox. I still think that’s gross.

But she had more trouble with the second part. The story said there were shepherds in a field and angels appeared to them. But she did a double take when she read the last verses. “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.'”

She had never caught the chapter’s wording before. The Bible tumbled out of her hands onto the floor and the back of her neck grew hot. “Peace on earth?” She growled, “When has there ever been peace?” Clark had awoken and rose to an elbow, sleep filling his eyes. “Car? What’s wrong?”

She rose. “Nothing. I can’t sleep.” She grabbed her robe with a swipe. “I’ll be downstairs. Need to be alone.”

To be continued….

Copyright 2012 by Molly Anderson. Use by permission only.

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