Sara and I receive lots of Christmas cards and greetings from people all over the world and they overwhelm us with the joy of our connection to a vast and rich pool of friends who share many of our passions. I’m deeply blessed by all the people I know and love in the world. We havent sent out our own cards or family newsletter in years. For one, most of my life is already public and two, it only adds to a to-do list that is already too long at year’s end.
But I enjoy reading the ones that are sent to us as long as you remember that Christmas newsletters like Facebook postings only include the highlights, as perhaps they should. But real life goes on beneath the milestones in our children’s lives, the birth and growth of grandchildren, and new opportunities at work. I’ve read many a newsletter, celebrating the high moments, but knowing that life was much more difficult for them than any would think reading it. Life is filled with challenge and pain for all of us. While they may not be appropriate in a newsletter, I am concerned that as others read them they thing others’ lives are awesome, while theirs is difficult and painful. Don’t forget, everyone knows pain, times of doubt, rear, and struggles that at times push them to their limits. They are not going to put that in a newsletter so don’t think the newsletter defines their lives.
In this last year Sara and I have known absolute bliss and times of searing pain. We’ve known God’s wisdom, and we’ve stood amidst perplexing circumstances horribly uncertain of what’s next. We’ve laughed hard with good friends and we’ve cried as people we love endure excruciating pain. We got to go to Israel with forty people who became an expression of God’s family not just for those ten days, but in growing friendships since. We came back to be with my parents through challenges to my mom’s health, then her passing, then to help Dad in his life now in the valley of the shadow of her death.
I blew up Finding Church in February and had to rewrite it past summer. And now Sara has been busy shipping them all over the world. The response has been overwhelming, both with those who love it and those who consider it a grave threat to what they think is the “real church.”
We’ve seen people we love find new dimensions of grace, we’ve watched others nearly give up in the struggle. We’ve enjoyed our children, grandchildren, extended family, and friends in the passages of life. We’ve celebrated when new layers of revelation open up a wider vista for a friend, groaned in prayer as others go through deeper pain and challenge. We’ve deepened old friendships and began new ones. We have been with people in the pain of coming away from abusive religious systems, who struggle to believe their is a God who loves them, even at their most broken. We’ve sat in dark moments with those overwhelmed by disappointment or fear.
As a complete surprise to us we got involved with a 120,000 people straving to death in the upper reaches of Kenya and through your generosity were able to send over half a million dollars for relief, provision, medical needs, education, and to drill four wells to provide life-giving water. Half a million dollars! I can’t even imagine how God was able to put that kind of resource in our hands just by making a few invitations on my blog or podcast! We sent it all to Kenya, even more thatn we took in and have listened to the stories as those we helped have been opening to Jesus because their gods had failed them. We’ve seen our Kenyan friends rush to their aid out of their own poverty and heard how blessed they were that we entrusted the money to them without sending a white guy over to administrate the funds because we didn’t trust them. They don’t think that has ever been done before. They have grown tremendously in their capacity to live beyond themselves and be a blessing to others when their needs are great as well.
But mostly this year has been like every other year, another opportunity for grace to unfold in our lives and the challenge to keep embracing his reality when life beckons you so many different directions. We’ve grown in love and gratefulness for a Father who is with us through whatever comes our way and has the words that lead us to life. Our prayer is that this season you will know the reality of “God with you!” You are not alone, not matter what circumstances argue to the contrary and no matter how dark the night feels. You are deeply loved by the creator of the universe, and in that increadle truth Sara and I pray that you will have a blessed Christmas season, and the fullest of joys in the year ahead. Thank you for all the love and friendship you’ve extended towards us in large ways and small ones. Thanks for being on the journey of Life and by doing so give encouragement to ours.