The Pain of Christmas

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We as Christians hold the crucifixion of Christ as paramount to our forgiveness by God, but what we miss is that the birth of Christ was just as tragic and painful. I am not talking about the obvious that He had to be born to die. Our Father God chose to impregnate a young girl to send His son here to suffer for us. The suffering began before he was born. We all know the warm fuzzy Nativity story with lowing cows, gifts and singing angels, but what about the other side of the story? The painful and terrified side?

Mary was probably 13 years old or so and unmarried. If she had not been protected by God she would have been stoned to death as other adulterous women had been stones in the village of Nazareth. She was engaged and in that culture that was the same as being married. Even without that for a young girl to be pregnant was a death sentence unless she had a husband to claim it. Which Joseph did not at first. Was Mary suffering for Christ even at that point of the story? Yes, she had to tell her mother, father and future husband that she was pregnant and God did it. No wonder the girl left town to visit her cousin Elizabeth. While she was gone, Joseph suffered agonizing ridicule and it kept him up at night. He tossed and turned at the fact his sweet young bride was knocked up. The angel Gabriel visited him in a dream and told him to relax Mary is telling the truth. Mary and Joseph were terrified at the prospect of Mary’s pregnacy and yet, they followed God’s will. Mary very well could have said No to God, but she didn’t. Joseph could have said no to Mary’s father. He could have told him to keep his daughter, but he didn’t. Then the suffering got worse.

The couple went from Nazareth to Bethlehem, about a hundred miles on a donkey…. on a donkey. Not only was Mary in physical pain and Joseph’s feet raw from the walking, there where other dangers on the road, bandits to steal what they had, men who took women as slaves and other untold bad things. Yet, God protected them from that, but not the suffering of the journey. It was long and hard. Mary pregnant and riding on a donkey. Her back must have hurt, her feet must have swelled and she must have been sleep deprived.

Jesus was born in a manger the story says…a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes was laying in the manger. A manger is a wood box for feeding animals. A smelly box with animal slobber and bugs. Where did Mary get the swaddling cloth? Mary probably ripped her own clothing, wrapped Him up and layed Him in the manger on the cleanest hay she could find. Itchy scratchy bug filled hay. No bassinet with a musical mobile spinning about his head. How many of us would ride on a donkey for a hundred miles, give birth in a barn and put our newborn in a hay box? That is suffering.

Did the suffering for our sin start at the arrest of Jesus? No it started the moment that God put the plan in motion. The Nativity story is a story of a miraculous birth and the suffering of our Savior. From the moment of conception the suffering started. However, to suffer is to be human. He suffered the experienced of human life.

So as you think about Christmas and all the fun things that go with it, remember that it is a Holy day not a holiday. Without Jesus it is just another day, with Him it is the remembrance of His coming into suffrage for us sinners.

New Year & New life

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I have never been one to make resolutions that stick. I have the best of intentions that last until about the middle of February then they are gone from my mind like a bad dream. I decided that this is the year I will step out of my comfort zone and live. I mean really live. So this year I am making a few resolutions.

I want to get closer to God. I have been a Christian for a long time. Being a Christian isn’t about the motions of church. It is about relationship with God. I will cultivate that relationship.

I will be brave. I will not shy away from challenges. I will do the things that push me to get out of that comfort zone.

I will forgive myself and do things right this time. I’ve made some big mistakes in my life. I will ask for forgiveness and forgive others.

I will deal with things head on. I will choose to feel and not remain in blissful denial. I will forget my claim that I do not cry. If you ignore something you won’t feel it. I choose to feel. If that means tears, then let them come.

I will cultivate family relationships, new and existing. I will be there for them and love them. No matter what happens.

I will strive to be the best me I can be. I will continue to move forward in life. I will continue to work toward my goals. (Publish books, write books, get healthy, love often, be happy…yeah all of those goals.)

What about you? Are you making any resolutions this year? Let me know in the comments!

What is Marriage?

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What is marriage? Is it a wedding ceremony and a license? Is it a commitment to love honor and obey? Marriage is defined by Webster’s as the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law or by the rite by which the married status is effected, an intimate or close union. No mention of love.

Marriage existed before any government was organized. For thousands of years, people were getting married without a marriage license. Even today, there are some countries that have no governmental recognition of marriage and no legal requirements for marriage. Government endorsement is usually necessary for certain benefits, however. In American history, up to around the 1920’s, there was no such thing as a marriage license. The states invented them as a way to dictate who could and could not get married. Primarily as a way to stop white people from marrying black people. Still no mention of love.

Some people believe that a man and a woman are married in God’s eyes when they have completed some kind of formal wedding ceremony. There is an event, action, covenant, vow, or proclamation that is recognized as declaring a man and woman to be married. Love may be present, maybe not.

But does the very act of getting married constitute a true partnership? Does connecting yourself to another in the bonds of marriage mean that you are equally respected, loved or wanted?

Though many of my characters that I write choose to get married, I for one do not like what marriage has become in today’s society. It is an institution that gives people carte blanche to dictate what another person can and can’t do. I consider myself an expert on how not to be a spouse and how not to preform life as a married person. I should know I have had three failed marriages. Just as it takes two to make a marriage work it takes two to destroy one as well. I know I have been there. Usually it plays out that one person gives up sooner in the marital timeline than the other. The vow is broken, hurt happens and loss is felt. Often a marriage dies long before the participants are willing to admit it. How many times have you known people who stayed married for the sake of the children or other reason that is not that they truly liked being together? Notice I said marriage not love.

As I have said many times on this blog and other places, love is a choice. Love is a promise to cherish the other person. You choose to love or not. There are couples who are more devoted to each other without a marriage license than others who have been married for years. It is society that has conditioned us to believe that those who are in committed relationships but are not legally married are somehow not valid partnerships. Somehow we are taught to believe that two people can’t be devoted if they do not get married or we think maybe they don’t love each other, trust each other, or care about each other enough to get married.

Marriage as ordained by God is a spiritual connection that is grounded in faith not government. Faith in God, faith in each other and faith in your choice to be together.  It is not based on the human’s faulty idea of marriage that is a contract and dictated by social norms. It is the choice and promise of commitment to that one other person is what is important. Love and devotion do not require a piece of paper or even a ceremony. Ultimately, that is between the couple and God. Only God knows our true heart (1 John 3:20).

A marriage license is just a piece of paper. If there is no love there is no point.

Where is Home?

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perdido-key-beachOne predominant theme in my first novel, We Will Get There, is the idea of Home. The idea that home is not just a place but a sense of being safe and loved. How you see home depends on what connects you to happiness and peace.

If home is a place in your life then no other place will do. Home is home, and everywhere else is not-home. Home can be where you keep your stuff, where you sleep or where you grew up. For some people, as they travel  through life, they find their home multiple times in multiple places. For others, home is that place that you leave when you become an adult. It is as unchanging fixed place in time and space.

I want you to think about another place home can be, well not a place but a person. For children home is often the security of their parents. For some adults home is a significant other, spouse or partner. Home is where your heart is happiest, where you feel safe and where you can be your true self. Often that is not a fixed place but the person who makes you feel safe when you are with them.

For Krystal Sabine, home was tied to a place that reminded her of a person. No matter how far she got from that place, she was pulled back.

What is home for you? Is it that place where you sleep at night? Is it the place where you grew up? Or is home that person who knows your heart better than any other?

If you discover that your true home is not a place but the connection you have with the person you love most, you will not be homesick for a place. Where that person is will be home for you. It will bring joy to you when you are with them and longing when you are not.

As we make our way through this life, it is comforting to know that a cozy bed, warm meal, and  loving arms are waiting for us at home. Life is sweetest when you are home no matter if that home is a person or a place or for the lucky ones, both.