My (very odd) 2nd Favorite Christmas Memory..
Thoughts to enourage our trust and dependence on Jesus…
The LORD called to Moses from the Tabernacle* and said to him, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. Leviticus 1:1-2 NLT
Following Mary’s example, the fundamental practice for healing the wounds of the false-self system is to fulfill the duties of our job in life. This includes helping people who are counting on us. (1)
My real apprenticeship in the ministry was served right there on that modest farm at my father’s side. There was always work to be done and lots of it. Though my dad was rather laid back as farmers go, he was a hard worker. There were cows to be fed, hogs to be slopped, eggs to gather, manure to be shoveled, hay to be cut, baled, and stacked, corn first to be planted, then cultivated, later picked, then finally shelled, grain to be drilled and harvested. I learned from dad the invaluable lesson that the best work of all is work done for its own sake. (2)
Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evil only because we cannot read the secret script of God’s hidden providence and so cannot discover the ends at which He aims.… The man of true faith may live in the absolute assurance that his steps are ordered by the Lord. For him, misfortune is outside the bounds of possibility (3)
My favorite Christmas memory will always be playing a LORD piano in my grandfather’s basement, while he (a former professional singer), my Uncle Bill, my Uncle Butch and my Dad sang together in harmony. All my cousins would be lined up on the stairs, and it was great. I remember doing it from the time I was 11 till I was 15, and I still miss the peace and harmony of those days.
But this post is about my second favorite Christmas memory, and that occurred for a few years at the corner of Lincoln and Tustin, in the city of Orange. I worked graveyard shift at a Denny’s there, and the place was always packed – waiting list for 23 of 24 hours we were open one year.
As I was reading my devotional readings this morning, the quotes above all reminded me of that precious time in my life, of working my tail off waiting tables, and the generosity of those people I served.
Like Senkbeil, this was my best training for ministry, learning how to really listen to people, not just for their order, but to make them feel at home. And yes, the best work is simply done – as it lays before us.
In the midst of that hard work, I often forget the dreams that were shattered In the brutal years of 1986 and 1987. I just soaked myself up in my work, and somewhere I still have the comment cards from that day… which showed that I could care and help people. So Keating’s work reminded me of that unique blessing of simple hard work- fulfilling the duties of life, just as the Virgin Mary did. It is hard to say to God that we want to let Him bring about what He desires… knowing that may not dovetail in with our plans.
Which brings us to Tozer, and the idea that there is misfortune, that what is going on in our lives has a direct purpose. He has promised such in places like Romans 8:28-38 – where all things work for good – because they cannot separate us from God. When I struggle with misfortune, or what I perceive to be misfortune (like my connective tissue disorder which can cause pain, and literal heartache) or anything else, I need to know God is in charge. I can then throw myself back into my work, knowing God is taking care of the rest.
I wish I would have learned this back in the day… but I can see it… in the satisfaction that ended those Christmas Days and the double shifts I worked. (11pm to 7 am, then back at 4-midnight) Oddly I miss them now, the energy, the people who had no where else to go.. and the satisfaction that at the end of the day.
God was with me… and still is… and with you!
(1) Thomas Keating, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living: Excerpts from the Works of Father Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O., Sacred Scripture, and Other Spiritual Writings, ed. S. Stephanie Iachetta (New York; London; New Delhi; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2009), 355.
(2) Harold L. Senkbeil, The Care of Souls: Cultivating a Pastor’s Heart (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 1–2.
(3) A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).