Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas adjustments

Tags made for the season
My strange feeling of disconnect isn't just because we're in the tropics this year.

I'm enjoying the familiar Advent readings with a dear friend. Listening online to Cambridge and Oxford choirs singing traditional carols renews my spirit. (Mind you, I've avoided pop versions of Christmas music for years.) Artificial pines and firs strung with lights and ornaments are spread around the city. W and I have attended a Christmas concert at an Indonesian church and Sunday services with a nearby congregation.

The most obvious change is how our routines have shifted. These pre-Christmas weeks lack the busy bustle of years gone by. Usually, I bake up a storm, plan the birds and fixings for 2 or 3 turkey dinners, and check the schedule to make sure we're not missing a commitment.

Our December calendar is emptier. Several groups came to the house and new friends drop by for tea or meals. We've had wonderful encouragement by telephone from friends. We look forward to several more festive dinners and breakfasts before year's end. So it's not that we're alone - but the faces of family and old friends are far away. Honestly, we don't expect the calm to last beyond this year.

A wintery cake at the bakery
Restricted mobility is my biggest adjustment so far. Each shopping trip is an excursion. Once we're settled, I'll drive the car or hire the driver who works across the street. (At this point, I drive so seldom that W carries my license and I have no idea where the car keys are.) W prefers to walk so it's not a simple matter of picking up groceries by hopping in the car or taxi. If we find something while we run errands, we often leave it there. Without a car handy, we return on another trip (if I remember what it is). I stay home from many of W's far-ranging treks.

We've prayed - and asked friends to pray - about our house situation: what should we do? Stay or go? The bugs have been an annoyance. But the rain suddenly came through the ceiling again this week and a closer look at the sloping rooflines was worrying.

Yesterday, as the handyman is painting and repairing the hall, he pauses. "How long are you going to live here?" he asks.

"Why do you ask?" W responds. "We would like to stay for a long time."

Palms and pines: our first Christmas abroad
"This roof needs replacement. I can't just repair it," he says. "Soon it will fail." Whaaat?!

W contacts the leasing agents, who send over a building inspection team immediately. The men look briefly at the roof, take in the sagging kitchen cabinets (from which we've just removed our dishes), and say, "We don't need to see more. If you fixed it today, in 4 months it would be unsafe again. The whole wing has to be removed and rebuilt."

We've asked friends to pray with us for wisdom and insight. Now we have two new pieces of our housing puzzle: we can't stay here (which means negotiating a refund on our remaining lease and the damage deposit) and we have the business card of a trustworthy building inspector as we consider other places.

Starting today, it's Christmas week. We're so excited to celebrate Christ's birth in the new setting. Following Jesus sure isn't boring, either.

Read more:
*He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge. Psalm 91:4 NEV

*For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him. Psalm 103:11 ESV

*(About John) And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:76-79 NIV

*In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. Luke 2:1, 4-6 ESV

*And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7 NEV

*Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come. Revelation 1:4 ESV

Moravian Prayer: Almighty God, you are the beginning and the end and all that is in between—we thank you for your boundless love and gift of peace.

Great Protector, shelter us from the storms of life, give us refuge in times of trial, and fill us with the peace which surpasses all understanding. Amen.

C. S. Lewis, in The Problem of PainThe golden apple of selfhood, thrown among the false gods, became an apple of discord because they scrambled for it. They did not know the first rule of the holy game, which is that every player must by all means touch the ball and then immediately pass it on. To be found with it in your hands is a fault: to cling to it, death. But when it flies to and fro among the players too swift for eye to follow, and the great master Himself leads the revelry, giving Himself eternally to His creatures in the generation, and back to Himself in the sacrifice, of the Word, then indeed the eternal dance ‘makes heaven drowsy with the harmony’. 

All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight. There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy. It does not exist for us, but we for it.

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