Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Blue Christmas December 11, 2012

Filed under: Romans — Stephanie Rische @ 8:15 am
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This holiday season, amid the refrains of joy and decking the halls, I keep hearing echoes of loss and separation. I’m sure it’s always been there; maybe I’m just more aware this year.

 

A friend is spending her first Christmas without her mom following a long battle with cancer. The hole she left behind still gapes, and somehow the Christmas music blaring over store loudspeakers sounds tinny and hollow this season. Another friend is figuring out to get into the holiday spirit now that she’s separated from her husband by an ocean and a nine-month assignment in a place where IEDs are as common as inflatable lawn ornaments. And I think of my friend Ruth, who is separated from her husband by the chasm of Alzheimer’s disease. This is the 61st Christmas they’ve spent together, but the first one when Bob doesn’t know her.

 

Maybe it’s the twinkle of lights or yet another chorus of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” but for whatever reason, the sting of separation seems even more poignant now than it is the other 11 months.

 

Until this year, I’d never thought of Romans 8 as a particularly Christmasy passage. But when you come down to it, Christmas is God’s answer to our longing for a love that will always stay with us. A love that will never be separated by oceans or war or distance or betrayal or disease or death.

 

When God sent Jesus to our world, it was his way of saying, “This is my gift to you: my love in human form.” Love that is unconditional, inseparable, unchanging, never-to-be-lost.

 

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Romans 8:38-39

 

This Christmas, whether you find yourself with the ones you love or feeling far away for any number of reasons, know that nothing can ever separate you from God’s love. Nothing.

 

You may even want to take a moment under the twinkling lights to fill in this verse with the things that threaten to color your Christmas in shades of blue. As you do, I pray you will be filled with the assurance that none of these things are a match for God’s love.

 

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither _____ nor _____, neither _____ nor _____, neither our fears about  _____ nor our worries about _____—not even the powers of _____ can separate us from God’s love. No power in heaven or in hell—indeed, nothing in all _____ will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

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 I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

 

Inconvenient Friends May 5, 2012

Filed under: 1 Samuel — Stephanie Rische @ 9:47 am
Tags: , ,

Someone once told me there are three types of friends: Christmas Card Friends (the ones you’d like to see a photo of each year but that’s sufficient), 7-11 Friends (the ones who are convenient but you probably won’t call them at 2 a.m.), and Kidney Donor Friends (the ones you’d give one of your kidneys to, if need be).

 

The year I turned 25, I realized how much I needed those Kidney Donor Friends. Even though my kidneys were functioning just fine, thank you.

 

Within the span of a few months, my two best friends got married and so did my little brother, and my baby sister packed her bags and headed off to college. Making matters worse in my litany of first-world single-girl problems, one of the friends who had gotten hitched was my former roommate. Which meant I was living alone, for the first time in my life.

 

***

 

If anyone was in need of a faithful, kidney-level friend, it was David. He’d had his share of successes—killing a giant, notching some significant battle victories, and being anointed the future king. But now the current king, Saul, was trying to kill him, and he was forced to flee the very country he was supposed to rule someday.

 

Strangely, it was Saul’s son—the heir apparent—who showed David true friendship. On more than one occasion, and at great risk to himself, Jonathan saved his friend’s life, effectively handing over the crown that should have been his.

 

***

 

After a few weeks of general moping and ringing up astronomical electric bills trying to scare away would-be boogeymen, I decided something needed to change. And in my experience, change feels so much more novel if it comes in the form of a movement…or better yet, a campaign. So I dubbed my little program the ALC: the Anti-Loneliness Campaign.

 

The premise was simple: I knew that anytime I was feeling low, I would get a case of emotional amnesia, and I’d forget all the people who loved me. So I put a list on my refrigerator with names on it—people who agreed to let me call them anytime, night or day, in a crisis or for no reason at all. I even asked these people to sign my refrigerator covenant (yes, I have forebearing friends). That way whenever I heard the whispers that I was utterly alone, that no one loved me, those signatures could tell me otherwise.

 

Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as he loved himself.

—1 Samuel 20:17

 

If David had had a refrigerator, I have no doubt he would have posted his vow of friendship there.

 

***

One of the unexpected perks of the ALC, aside from discovering that I really did have Kidney Donor Friends, was the way their faithfulness reminded me of God’s faithfulness. The same seemed to be true for David. After he and Jonathan said their good-byes, David fled from Saul and hid in a cave. From there he wrote a heart-wrenching psalm about the enemies who had set a trap for him and how weary he was. But shortly thereafter his psalm turns a corner:

My heart is confident in you, O God;

my heart is confident.

No wonder I can sing your praises!

—Psalm 57:6-7

 

Scripture doesn’t specifically say this, but I have to wonder if it was Jonathan’s friendship, at least in part, that helped David believe God hadn’t left him after all.

 

I have since taken the ALC papers off the fridge, and I hope I never need to call in a kidney favor from one of my friends. But I’m grateful to know that I am never truly alone. Like David, my heart can be confident in my God.

 

***

 

Question: Do you have a Kidney Donor Friend?

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.