Keeping the Star

“Are you keeping that forever?” Chase sidled up next to me in the kitchen. We glanced at the yellow star craft I made with my 2nd-5th grade Sunday school class last December.

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“Maybe.” I stirred the meatballs. “Can you believe it’s been almost 365 days since I put that on the fridge?”

Chase shrugs and scurries away, still in the throes of his first decade, not yet in awe of the brevity of life adults feel more heavily each year.

I continue preparing dinner but glance back at the star, again and again. How often had I noticed and read the words during the year it had graced the side of our fridge?

There’s a small splat of pasta sauce on it and the edges are beginning to curl. The words of Matthew 2:10 tuck neatly into the folds of my heart. “When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”

How I’ve needed that star, needed that reminder of GREAT JOY. Foundational joy, because at the end of the day–and at the end of this year–through difficulties, death, and disappointments, we have Jesus.

We have a risen Savior who was a babe in a manger.

One of my favorite worship songs is called Forever, by the talented Kari Jobe. Maybe you’ve heard it, or your church has sung it?

The moon and stars they wept
The morning sun was dead
The Savior of the world was fallen
His body on the cross
His blood poured out for us
The weight of every curse upon him
One final breath He gave
As Heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken
The ground began to shake
The stone was rolled away
His perfect love could not be overcome
Now death where is your sting
Our resurrected King has rendered you defeated
Forever, He is glorified
Forever, He is lifted high
Forever, He is risen
He is alive
He is alive

 

There’s a verse nestled in that song, a verse that’s awful and wonderful and achingly beautiful. “One final breath He gave/as Heaven looked away.”

And it always reminds me of Christmas. Weird? Maybe. But it does. Because Jesus didn’t come to earth to hug people. He didn’t come here to make us feel better or to teach fishermen how to catch the most fish (though He did help with that… 🙂 ).

Jesus came to earth because He had to. Separated from His Father–oh, that’s what gets me every time.

Heaven looking away from the Prince of Peace because he wore our filth in order to save us. He was the perfect sacrifice on our behalf, to make God’s creation right with Him again. It’s ugly and bloody and uncomfortable.

It’s the GOSPEL.

He’s the lamb.

And He was tiny once, helpless, born in a stable and laid in a manger. And I’m so incredibly grateful as I gaze at that crinkled yellow star on my fridge. The weight of the year lifts, the worries of the moment evaporate, and the joy of the Lord once again becomes my strength when I have none.

Is He your joy, too? Is the knowledge that He died on the cross for you strengthening your heart this wonderful, difficult season?

I pray that it is. I pray that you’ll take that knowledge–that God sent His only BELOVED Son–to rest among dirty straw and sinners alike, and you’ll praise Him and cling to that in your dark moments.

Keep that star close–keep that truth close.

I pray you and yours have a Jesus-filled season of wonder, peace, and most of all–JOY.

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 “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11)

 

 

 

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I Don’t Know

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The mother settles the baby on her hip and smiles at her three-year-old daughter, snug in the grasp of one hand. We’re waiting on drinks at a local coffee shop, and her expression is filled with joy at the children filling her arms and clearly, her heart.

The little girl’s head presses into the mother’s sundress, shyness at the bustling crowd all over her small, round face. The mother leans down, reassures her with a few whispered words. Baby boy, perhaps three or four months old, shoves a chubby fist into his mouth and stares at me with big, dark eyes.

I smile, wink at him, enjoying fresh new life and remembering. Looking at my own two children, their heads matching mine in height and their growing, strong bodies.

I remember the busy, tiny, difficult years, when one of them was always, in some way, connected to me physically.

I gaze at the little girl clinging to her mother, at her cherubic face. Because I know that feeling. I know that tight little hand-held love, and my heart tweaks because it is just a memory now.

But there are things this mother knows, already, that I don’t know.

Because she and her children are black, and her daughter and son will face looks and attitudes and prejudice that stubbornly lingers in creased crevices of the human heart, squelching grace and growing hatred.

Because while I know the grip of tiny hands, the feel of a child’s breath on my cheek, I don’t know the grip of racism, the tidal wave of terror that one of my sons will be taken down just because he’s reaching for a wallet and his skin is the color of the dark earth we’re ALL fashioned from by our Maker’s hands.

What I know is the grip of God’s grace. God’s word. All created equal, all sinners in need of grace by a Savior who is color-blind.

I hope she does, too.

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He pulls up beside my truck at a red light. His broad shoulders are slumped and one hand grips the steering wheel, the other checks his phone. Without seeing his eyes I know the weight of the world lingers over him like a heavy cloak.

He glances my way, assessing, always aware of his surroundings.

There’s a ring on his finger, and I wonder…does this burdened man have children, a family at home? A wife praying for his safety?

Because he’s a police officer. And his squad car is shiny new and decked out with thick bars in the back seat and a computer and gadgets throughout, but his face is simply weary.

How can he not be thinking of it?

Last night.

Five fellow officers down.

A dear friend works in law enforcement, and through the years he’s shared snippets of the thankless, difficult, frightening situations and angry perpetrators he’s dealt with. His wife has called, texted to pray for her husband while he’s on midnight suicide calls and SWAT team drug busts in the middle of the woods.

The light changes, and the police officer pulls forward. I do, too, and we merge onto I-75 until the shiny squad car melds into traffic.

Minutes later a red sports car flies past, driving at least eight-five. The noise and sudden motion shocks me amidst the steady-flowing interstate.

I glare at the speeding car then glance at my boys in the back seat, grumble at the reckless driver’s irresponsible weaving.

Then I see the squad car a few hundred yards ahead.

And the red car sees him, too, and slows to what the law allows. Seventy-five, like me? For the next ten miles, the racing red car impatiently glides along beside the squad car.

Just by the officer’s presence.

And I’m grateful for it.

I don’t know the pressure, the hatred, the stress that law enforcement officers deal with daily. I know they’re not perfect because none of  us are perfect.

But I know God’s grace, and that its grip saves lives. Redeems lives. Believes in each one.

I hope the burdened officer does, too.

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After the shootings last week, my heart was so very heavy, just aching, for the pain in our country. For the deep and wide rift that should be closing but still widens. I’ve prayed about what to write, what to contribute to the thousands of words and opinions already out there.

I don’t know the black mother’s fear for her children’s lives, or the police officer’s daily burdens or the dangers his job entails.

But I DO know–I am certain– that Jesus is the only Way to peace.

I hope you do, too.

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