So The Girl and I attended Sunday church services with our favorite Baptist friends last week.
As you can see by this fun summer picture, I asked her to go with me because she is game like that.
I love the Baptists. Who doesn't want to go to a church that sometimes offers bacon, chocolate and Diet Pepsi during Sunday School? :)
My grandmother was HARD CORE baptist. No pants. No dancing. No drinking.
My mother was raised baptist. As she sometimes says, "We don't go there."
I guess it is in my blood, quietly simmering in there, deep down by my nerve endings.
So, when I see the window of opportunity to fellowship and worship with other faiths, I try to do it. Especially them.
My sad part of this tale is that that Saturday, some hoodlums broke into the church and stole everything.
Vandalized the whole building. They cut out and stole the security cameras. They even stole Christmas presents set out for the small party the next day.
Sprayed fire extinguishers everywhere. I mean everywhere. Through the sanctuary, the offices, the halls. If you happen to be from Alaska, you know what the soot/ash feeling of having volcanic dust everywhere feels and looks like. It looked like that.
So, it was with heavy hearts that they came together on Sunday morning, after the professionals had been in all day before to get it managable enough to use.
Dave's parents, Dan and Betty, attend there and are always our gracious hosts when we arrive.
He took us around and showed us the mess. It made your heart feel a little sad inside. Well, a lotta sad.
"We would have a printed program, but they stole the printer."
"We would usually have better Christmas music, but they stole the instruments."
While I have my opinions (I know... shocking) about how the pastor is not really connected to his congregation (I think the 30 year age difference is a good place to start), Pastor K. did a great job succoring their hearts that morning.
He began his sermon by saying "What happened to our church yesterday wasn't a materialistic issue. It is a heart issue."
Then he read "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss.
This is a very elderly, very small congregation. I KNOW they were wondering "where is he going with this?" I sure was.
But then Pastor K hit it right on the head.
In the children's story, the narrator is explaining the Grinch's personal attitude problems and then he says it likely boils down to this....
"But I think that the most likely reason of all... may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.... "
After reading that line from the book, the Pastor looks up and says, "We are talking about a heart issue for these men that stole from us."
After he finished reading the story, he talked about how it was most ironic to him that that most precious thing the church possesses is the one thing they want to give away for free the most.
"The thing of most value we have in this church is the gospel of Jesus Christ."
In this time of year, I know that there is lots of folks....billions I imagine....that do not care to, struggle to know, or have never even heard of Jesus Christ.
I am one of the strugglers. Given my atheist background, some days it is hard for me to believe that Jesus Christ lived or that He lives now and loves me. There have been some days it seems easier to think He doesn't because some things have been so hard, that I might get really annoyed with His letting it go on and on.
That is "some" days.
But that is not "most" days.
Most days, I get up in the morning and think to myself, "What would Jesus do?" No. Really.
Most days, I go forward trying out how to make myself better.
Most days, I try to love my fellow men in the best way I can, which can be challenging given my some times frankly harsh intolerance and criticism of them.
I do not speak for any other members of the Mormon Church. Or Christianity. Or organized religion or unorganized religion. I am just speaking for me and me alone.
And what me and me alone thinks is that if I did not have something as grounding as the "good news" of Jesus and His life....His example... perhaps I would have some significant serious heart issues too.
No, I don't think vandalism and theft would be part of my make up. I just don't care enough about stuff to involve myself with that.
My heart issues would not be so obvious. Or elementary. They would not be something professional carpet clearners could come and simply clean up.
As the celebration of Christmas is here, I want to share a public personal testimony that I strive to believe that there was a man named Jesus Christ who really lived on this Earth.
I am striving to believe that He was kind to everyone.
That He is mindful of each of our lives and that sometimes we are living in a heart that is "two sizes too small." And He loves us and is cheering us on, anyway.
Everyone needs someone they can trust and look up to as a mentor. And I have chosen Jesus Christ as mine.
We have a saying in our house we have said for years: "It's a Christmas miracle."
It comes from an Andersonville favorite movie: Better Off Dead. If you are from the 1980's like us, you probably know it and have enjoyed it as well. If not, come over for movie night and enjoy it with us. I have 94% fat free popcorn I am willing to share.
I have seen lots of things in my 42 years, and miracles are among some of them.
I have not seen God in person.
Or Abraham Lincoln or Harriet Tubman. You know, other people and heavenly beings that I admire.
But I have seen miraclous things happen, some of which I have had happen directly to me.
And if Andersonville ever need some miraculous love, this is the year we could use it.
I will not begin some laundry list of why, but suffice it to say that we are ready for a whole new year. New memories, new adventure.
Back to the miracle.
When Tom, who passed away six months ago this week, began his new life chapter in 2004 with the separation of him and his spouse, he needed Christmas decorations.
The tree we got from the Boy Scout Garage sale we had that fall. $5.00.
The ornaments were mainly ones that we gave him....shiney, glittery tools, a camaro I had painted pink, and some ones we shared from Alaska.
He really wanted something special for the topper.
We looked throughout the stores, and he never did find one he liked. So I made him one. Out of a printed red star (red for the camaro), the side of a cereal box (we Andersons and Allisons have some serious cereal eaters in our homes) and a end slice of a toliet paper roll. Just like you would in elementary school.
I used to tell him he didn't have to keep it as the years rolled by. But he did.
When Christmas passed last year, he gave away all of his Christmas belongings. He gave us back the ornaments we had given him. And the star.
I put the star away and didn't think of it again.
Given I am tired, I didn't want to put the tree up this year. However, it had not been up for three years, so Mr. Fun decided he wanted to do it.
We pulled out the bag of Tom ornaments and added them to the collection of our others. That was tender and sweet to see them and think of him.
That isn't the miracle.
When we were about done decorating it, I went to put on the Tom Homemade Star, in honor of him. Seemed like a nice thing to do.
Imagine my surprise when I was putting it on the tree, and there on the back, in Tom's handwriting was a message for us. And this is what it said:
"This has been my favorite topping since 2004. Now it is passed down to the Andersons to enjoy and always remember how simples things in life are always the best!! May this star always remind you of how our simple friendship has become an experience of life."
It honestly felt like the Heavens opened themselves right up there in the front room and Tom leaned down to us and handed us a love note. His words. His handwriting. On his 6th month passing away day. It felt like a note that really said "I am here, safe and sound. No worries. I miss you guys too."
Whether it is defined as a "miracle" to others or not, it is for me.