Friday, December 31, 2010

Not Giving Up!

2010 has been a losing year for the Dallas Cowboys. Except for pitifully rare winning moments, the Cowboys have landed in the losing column most of the time this seasons. Die-hard fans like my husband Frank find that painful to watch.

So, after hearing Frank’s groans all season after another interception, fumble, or penalty added to the Cowboys' mounting collection of misses, imagine my surprise when the first ornament to go on our tree this year was Frank's Dallas Cowboys blue ornament. He put it there . . . in a prominent spot! No losing streak (not even the lure of the local winning Patriots) can persuade Frank to give up on America's Team.

The refusal to give up is one of the strongest and most surprising messages that comes to us every Christmas season, whether we're wrapping up a year of losses or wins. Yet, in all the hubbub and glitz of the holidays, that message can be easy to miss.

I’ve spent the better part of 2010 working on a book that submerged me in appalling accounts of the oppression and atrocities against women globally. I must admit that as I worked late into the night many times I was overwhelmed by the enormity of the crisis, by the power of darkness, and by the unspeakable levels of suffering.

Lausanne’s Cape Town 2010 put names and faces on suffering and injustice for me. I’m still feeling the weight of the stories I heard—stories of incomprehensible evil. One man from Rwanda lost five beloved family members and seventy members of his church in the genocide. Another African suffered a brutal beating at the hands of a mob of young Muslims. One woman’s husband was murdered. 

As devastating as it was for me to hear these stories, what gripped me more was hearing how each of these deeply wounded believers—after long agonizing wrestlings with God and with their own outraged sense of injustice—turned back to their oppressors and enemies with forgiveness and moved toward reconciliation. I hardly have categories for that kind of Gospel-living. But believe me, it left me with the conviction that we are part of something that is far more potent than anything the powers of darkness can pose. And that gives me hope.

Christmas—once we sift through all the trappings and get to the heart of it—reminds us that God doesn't give up either. He's still firmly determined to see his original vision for the world he loves become reality. A daring rescue operation is underway that is sure to succeed. It started with a young teenage ezer and a baby. Talk about an undercover operation! We should be celebrating year round.

There's more good news, for God hasn’t given up on us either, nor will he. He is at work in our generation to cause his glory—his own likeness—to shine most brightly from the lives and relationships and actions of his image bearers. He's mobilizing his sons and daughters to live and bear a robust gospel of word and deed on on his behalf in this broken world. I saw that glory shining in the lives of people I met in South Africa. They aren’t giving up, and we shouldn’t either!

In a few days, the Christmas tree will come down. And when it does, Frank’s Dallas Cowboys ornament will go back in the box. Another year lies before us. May the lingering power of Christmas fill our hearts with bold hope as we head into 2011 and let us join ourselves to the kingdom work God is calling us to do.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, icy wind may blow,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow on snow had fallen, snow on snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long and long ago.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim rising in the air;
Oh but only Mary, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a mother’s kiss.

Heaven cannot hold Him, nor can earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall fall away when He comes to reign.

What then can I give Him, empty as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would know my part;
What then can I give Him: I must give my heart.