Cleaning Up the Poop

It was just a wisp at first.  That moment when you smell something that is out of place.  It’s not the cookies in the oven or the cinnamon tart quaintly melting on the counter.  No, this was the smell of poop.  Sewage.  You know, sewage.

Have you ever had one of those weeks?  Months? Years?  Yeah, for us it was the week before Christmas a couple years ago.  I guess we were overdue.  The sewer backed up into our basement.  We found out that there was no access.  So the plumber had to cut our main pipe to clean out the line.  Have you ever seen a main sewage pipe?  It’s almost as big around as a small woman’s waist.

Clogged.  With sewage.  Use your imagination here.  Or maybe not.

It took 4 hours of overtime, 8 pm to midnight, 3 days before Christmas to snake out the system.

When the men left, they dragged their dripping equipment across our basement floor, across our rug, up the basement stairs, and across our kitchen floor.  My husband, my hero, picked up the other end of the hose to carry it across the dining room carpeting.  It still dripped.  What was it dripping?

Black, stinky sewage.  On light tan carpeting.

My husband, my hero, stayed up until almost 2 am to clean the floor in the basement.

The next day, two days before Christmas, he threw the basement wool throw rug into our almost new high tech front load washing machine.

Which promptly clogged up the pump and just about every hose in our almost new high tech front load washing machine with little wool hairs and backed the water up onto the floor.

My pastor husband did not speak very pastorally.  Use your imagination.  Or maybe not.

Most of our family was visiting, which included our two toddler grandchildren.  Have you ever seen the amount of laundry toddlers produce?  Bless the technician’s heart who came out the day after Christmas and didn’t charge us overtime.

That Christmas was supposed to be special.  We had everyone together, except for our one son-in-law, who works an amazingly tough job away from home.  My expectations soared.  But our daughter Emily and her husband and son were moving West to Phoenix.  Our grandson’s world was turned upside down.  Our house filled with tension between the string of events caused by backed up poop and too much commotion.

I blinked and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were gone.

We didn’t get a family picture.  In fact, we got very few pictures with people in them.

We didn’t watch our traditional Christmas Eve movie.

We didn’t play a game.

We didn’t even light our Advent Wreath once.

A surprise present that I planned for my husband’s birthday in January fell terribly flat.

The expenses to fix broken things piled up.

Isn’t that what Jesus came for?

The peace the angel talked about in Luke chapter 2 was not so much a worldly peace where wars would never happen or circumstances would be perfect.  The angel spoke of a supernatural peace available from knowing God through Jesus Christ. Even though our house filled with a different aroma 3 days before Christmas, even though we didn’t take a family picture, watch our Christmas Eve movie, gather round the table for a game, or light our Advent Wreath, Jesus dwelled here.  Because He promises to be Emmanuel, God With Us.

Why do we try to hide the fact that sewage exists?  It exists physically and spiritually and mentally and emotionally.  Rejoice in peace, because our Savior is with us.  As I look back over Christmas 2013, I will find the beautiful moments and know that there is always one eternal moment to hold close in our hearts…Emmanuel God With Us.

Luke, 2:8-14

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”





Bragging Rights

Hundreds of thousands of wooden pylons constructed from a type of wood that resists water decay support one of the most famous landmark cities in the world, Venice, Italy.  St. Mark’s Square, The Bridge of Sighs, gondolas and their navigators, the Grand Canal remind us of this unique European treasure.

One of the most famous icons of Venice is one many may not know originated there.

            The mask.

            When we come to Christ, we are invited to take off our mask.  But do we exchange the mask that the world gave us for another mask – the one that says we have to have it all together as a Christian?I whispered into the darkness from a college bunk bed at the age of 20 and asked this God Who Was There to make Himself at home in my broken heart and soul.  A couple of short years later, I decided to forego my major and go on staff with a Christian parachurch organization when I graduated from college. While going through summer staff training, I shared with others at the dinner table about how I came to know Christ, the pain of growing up with an artistically-gifted and beautiful mother who was sometimes mentally ill and the quicksand of emotions our family dealt with, often closing myself behind doors of performance-based expectations.

A teacher interrupted me.
“I wouldn’t share that with too many people. That might be too much information.”  Confusion pulled my soul in opposite directions – self-protected or God-protected?  How could I help others if I was not vulnerable in trusting God with the past?
            In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul writes this profound verse:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.”
Read it  out loud (I promise, it will only seem strange once.  There is nothing better than speaking the Word wherever we are)!  Do you hear the truth?  When we glory in our weaknesses, Christ’s power rests on us.  Let me say that again.  Christ’s power rests on us.  Strangely and sadly, our culture perverts the truth by telling us that power comes through hiding our shortcomings.  Culture twists this thing called power and goes even further to tell us we must exalt our strengths and play on other’s weaknesses.I don’t know about you, but boasting happily about the weak parts of my character or my life is not a natural thing.  I’ve often played a kind of Christian game with God, myself, and others.  I imagine I’ve appeared pretty foolish to not only God but also to a great number of people.  The more we try to hide our flaws, the more we reveal them.

Paul never details his weakness for us.  Instead, he’s the Paul we know and love and He exalts Christ alone.  We don’t always need to share all the messy details.  We should pray for discernment. But we can draw attention upward by being an example of God’s grace to the imperfect.

Do you send out a Christmas letter?  Have you ever gotten the one that was basically a brag sheet (we could call it a glory sheet as well) and gushed something like this?  ”And my 5 year old Susie got her PhD in Molecular Biology from MIT.  Johnny got a 4.0 and a full-ride scholarship to 1000 universities.” (I may or may not have sent one similar.)  The best Christmas letter we ever received? From a family that listed things like how many pairs of underwear their dachshund ran off with and how many dinners were burned.  Do you know why we loved it?  Because they shared from the imperfect of that place called home and made us laugh in the process.  We could relate.  Whew…mask OFF.  Paul relates that kind of Christmas letter with us.

Breaking the strongholds and chains of our past can only happen when Christ’s power rests on us,  literally in the Greek, His power “tabernacles over us.”  CHRIST is over us.  Because CHRIST IS THE TABERNACLE.  The second half of that verse is almost like a double affirmative.Do you see?

“Christ’s power, Christ on me.”

Christ’s power, Christ on YOU. What chains bind you?  Do you hear them breaking as His holy self covers you?

God broke the chains of my mask. The more that I know and love this God in Three, this God with a personality, the more I trust Him.  And the more I trust Him, the more I know He covers me.  As He covers me, I can reach out to others from the protection of His covering.

Untie the ribbons that hold your mask on.

And glory, sister.  Glory.