Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Let it Snow!

OK, I'm going to be brutally honest! I grew up in Wisconsin and Christmas and snow always went together kind of like salt and pepper. We spent our December days dreaming of a white Christmas and most years we were not disappointed. The magic of snowfall and the quiet crispness of an evening under freshly fallen snow was something I treasured. It never seemed quite as cold when the earth was blanketed with snow.

Fast forward to my first Christmas away from home. I was in southern Mexico, at a jungle training camp. Even though jungle sounds hot, it was quite chilly - no heat, thatch roof hut, etc. That first year wasn't so bad, nor was the second one. That second year I was newly married and the novelty of being a honeymooner hadn't worn off yet. So the fact that Christmas came and went without snow didn't bother me too much.

Fast forward again to our first Christmas in Brazil. This was really far from home and absolutely far from anything remotely resembling snow. Now for my confession...I don't know whether I missed my immediate family more, the snow more or whether it was that all the traditions that were part of Christmas had been ripped away, but my first several Christmases in Brazil were marked by profound homesickness and times of tears and sadness. If I heard "White Christmas" or "Jingle Bells" or "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" I would go into a tailspin of homesickness. If I had the option, I would turn those tunes off! Perhaps it had something to do with being the second oldest of 8 children which meant that I had a significant part to play in making Christmas a fun time of the year for the rest of my siblings. In any case, I hate to admit that it took me many, many years to separate Christmas and snow and to begin to enjoy Christmas in the tropics with improvised Christmas trees made of "palm branch" and 85 degree weather.

We (our little family) began to make our own traditions. Over time, one of our favorites was to go swimming and boating on Christmas Day! Being all together on Christmas was a high priority. The last Christmas we spent together with John, we were in Dallas, TX and it snowed. I can see in my mind's eye, the delight of all three kids plus their dad, romping in the snow as it fell, building a snowman, throwing snowballs - it was all such a novelty for my "jungle" kiddos.

I still have a soft spot in my heart for snow at Christmas time, but not enough to make the trek to Wisconsin or even Iowa and risk having to drive in a snowstorm. But Christmas is far more about treasuring special times with those who are closest and dearest to me - and even making new memories and traditions. And it's all about celebrating the baby, Emmanuel - God with us - who makes it possible for us to be with God for all eternity.

What are your memories of Christmas and snow? I'd love to have you share them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Who Are You Mentoring?

Are you passing on your values to the next generation? And are they passing them on to their offspring?

There is much to be said for having mentors and being a mentor. One of the greatest joys we can experience is summed up in the 3rd epistle of John in the Bible. Verse 4 says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." The apostle John is talking about spiritual children in this case, but it applies to physical children as well.

Nothing encourages us more than to watch our children walking in integrity, wholeness, uprightness, dignity, loving God and His laws and ways, etc.

As we searched for our middle son, John, after he disappeared in the Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii, one of his colleagues told us about a conversation she had had with John not too long before his hike. During that conversation she had asked him whether he was happy about his upbringing or whether he wished he had not been raised as a "missionary kid.". She told us that his answer was an unequivocal, "I loved my upbringing and I would like to be just like my parents and do just what they are doing." From the way she told us, I think his response must have surprised her although it certainly didn't surprise us.

Some people, looking at the fact that we took our children into Indian villages, exposed them to danger and disease, not to mention hardships of every kind, taught them God's Word, expected them to obey us, instilled both a love and fear of God in them - yes, some might criticize us for being too controlling or too heavy-handed with them. In the midst of the circumstances of life we tried to pass on through our mentoring, a sense of purpose and calling that transcends difficulties and develops faith that produces character.

And each of our 3 children came out of that "mentoring" and "discipling" experience both thankful and grateful for it. And it gives us great joy to see them impacting others around them, praying with others, giving them godly counsel, speaking the truth in love to those who will hear it.

Our spiritual children have even greater and more far-reaching impact. In fact, we have no idea of the impact they are having all around the world! We have a vast number of spiritual offspring scattered throughout the world, most of whom we will only meet when we all gather for the wedding banquet our bridegroom, Jesus, is preparing for us. I say that, not to our glory or praise, but to His. He is able to take common ordinary folks, full of flaws and shortcomings and use us anyway to accomplish His purposes. And for that we are deeply humbled and profoundly grateful.

Who are you mentoring and how are you doing it? What kind of heritage are you passing on?