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    The Gift of “God With Us”

    A wailing scream pierces the air. The new mother cries tears of sheer exhaustion and joy. The father stands speechless, astounded, holding a wriggly bundle in his arms. Mom and dad lock eyes and they silently ask each other, “What should we name him?” (Para español, lea abajo.) A name means something. Depending on the culture, a name implies family respect, honor, and tradition. In the Latino culture, for example, parents typically name their firstborn child after the father or mother. If the father is Luis, the baby boy is Luis. If the mother is Elizabeth, the baby girl is Elizabeth. In doing so, the parents preserve their family legacy.…

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    Pondering Treasures

    Every year around this time, I head to the garage and pull out the red Rubbermaid container packed with our Christmas ornament collection. I crack open the box with the anticipation of a child on Christmas morning. I breathe in the scent of the Maine balsam fir pillow tucked at the bottom and smile. I know precious memories await me, as I weed through the packing peanuts safely protecting my nostalgia.  I love the mystery that surrounds what I will pull out first. This year, my hands grabbed the handprint Christmas wreath I made with my now four-year-old son on his very first Christmas, and I remembered all the first…

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    Life Interrupted: Lessons from a Teen Pregnancy

    Mary’s story has always fascinated me, but never more-so than a few years ago in a darkened theater. I went to the movies with a friend, and we watched as a young woman portrayed the confused teen who found favor with God. My own life had been freshly interrupted by God. Mary’s confusion echoed my heart’s response. The friend sitting next to me gasped as she saw Mary’s surrender: “Oh God. I can’t believe she said yes.” That’s the rub. A young Jewish girl agreed to have her life forever altered to be part of God’s purposed story. The account we read in Luke is short and yet so much…

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    The Gift of “God With Us”

    (Para español, lea abajo.) A wailing scream pierces the air. The new mother cries tears of sheer exhaustion and joy. The father stands speechless, astounded, holding a wriggly bundle in his arms. Mom and dad lock eyes and they silently ask each other, “What should we name him?” A name means something. Depending on the culture, a name implies family respect, honor, and tradition. In the Latino culture, for example, parents typically name their firstborn child after the father or mother. If the father is Luis, the baby boy is Luis. If the mother is Elizabeth, the baby girl is Elizabeth. In doing so, the parents preserve their family legacy.…

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    Have Yourself a Mary Little Christmas

    As a Protestant, I’m part of a tradition that tends to looks askance at the Virgin Mary. Our concern that her prominence obscures the person and work of Jesus Christ has led us to go the opposite extreme and gloss over her story. In the opinion of my colleague, Dr. Tim Ralston, others “avoid her simply because she’s a woman and just not as exciting as the warriors, prophets, and apostles who regularly populate Bible stories with larger-than-life exploits and miraculous happenings." When we do talk about the Virgin Mary, we tend to focus on the “scandal” of people perceiving Jesus’s illegitimacy, though there is nothing in the text to…

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    A Mother’s Treasure

    Recently Lynna and I flew home from Singapore, and, of course, we had to pass through security. We have gone through security in the toughest airports in the world: DFW, Kennedy, Heathrow, Tel Aviv, Frankfurt, Paris, Budapest, Hong Kong, just about every airport that is on some high level of alert due to terrorists. Since we’ve done them all and had every innocuous thing taken from us that could possibly be labeled high risk, we had no concerns as we approached Singapore security. We should have been concerned.   I sailed through in no time flat and then discovered Lynna pulled aside as an agent tore through everything she had,…

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    “Mary” Christmas!

      “…conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…” As someone who has spent years attending women’s Bible studies, I’ve gone through my share of books on women in the Bible. But ironically, not one of them has included Mary, mother of Jesus. Apparently, we Protestants overreact so much to the veneration of Mary in other traditions that we risk eliminating her altogether from our own. Considering that our Savior was the offspring of her womb, she is the only parent of Jesus named in the magi story (Matt. 2:11), and no other human besides Jesus and Pontius Pilate is named in the Apostle’s Creed, that seems like…

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    Hail, Mary

    Our new church home has plunged into the pages of Luke, so yesterday we had a bit of Christmas in July with the Annunciation and Mary’s magnificent response.   I’ve written on Mary before but she’s worth coming round to again and again.   Her life is a beautiful melody full of rapturous high notes but written in a dark, minor key.     And it's an important reminder for me right now. My husband and I have just moved our family across several states to follow God’s call to a new church, and I suppose I had unspoken expectations of how he would reward our obedience.  Mistake.  Our domestic…

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    Mary Overshadowed

    Why didn’t Jesus show up like an angel? Simply materialize, even out of view, until he began his public ministry? Why empty himself, leave heaven…for all those months of gestation and infancy? For childhood in the outback with siblings who ultimately opposed him? Why draw a willing but naïve peasant girl into a shameful scandal? These questions disturb me…the same way Bruce Herman’s painting  Mary Overshadowed.  does.