We slipped into the booth, our faces flushed with laughter after visiting the "Ugly Christmas Sweater" store. A Christmas tree twinkled in the corner of The Darling Oyster, a quaint downtown restaurant where my good friend and I unpacked our library of memories in the candlelit ambiance. He and I worked together over ten years ago doing HIV prevention work. He moved to DC and opened a private counseling practice. I cannot begin to imagine the number of people he has touched with his intense compassion and poignant acceptance of persons who suffer. My friend showed me a photo of he and several other members of his church gathered around a dying congregant. "The pastor asked me to lead in worship. I sang 'Alleluia' over him; we laid hands on him and prayed." As I gazed at the photo, I realized everyone was smiling, including the man in hospice, his hand raised in victory. Then my friend, fixed his eyes on mine and listened to my life, never judging, never shaming. Listening. Hearing. Nodding. The Darling Oyster like a sanctuary.
Being with my friend caused me to realize anew how precious life is. How ephemeral. In that spirit, I want to offer sincere thanks to you, my dear readers, for allowing me into your lives over these weeks and years through the blog posts. With so many words flying over the internet each day, you choose to read mine. There is really not a greater honor you could pay a writer. Like a chef who prepares a sumptuous meal, she wants people to savor and enjoy her creations. Thank you for sitting at my table. Your fellowship is welcomed, and I am humbled.
I realize many of you are at different places in your lives, so I send this Christmas prayer, inspired by Psalms 8,16, 18, 37 and 62 from The Passion Translation...
For those who are at a crossroads, making important decisions, beginning a new chapter...I pray that God would whisper to you in the night watches to provide you wisdom, showing you what to do next, that your courage would not be shaken, that even your body would rest in the confidence and security of God's divine guidance. That God prosper you and increase your success, your territory expanded, that your great blessing would overflow to others that they might know the generosity and love and kindness of our Savior through your unique gifting.
For those who are heartbroken, grieving losses...I pray that you know God as your safest place, that you experience His sheltering presence in ways that you have never known; that you feel the freedom to tell Jesus your troubles and pour out your heart-longings to Him; that you are comforted that one dynamic of the identity of Jesus is that He was a man well-acquainted with sorrows and grief; I pray you feel His majesty as He enfolds you in His knowledge of your broken heart, HIs desire to assuage your suffering and give you peace; may He supply you with whatever you need to find life after loss, may He place just the right people in your life to comfort you. May He ressurrect your passions and quell your fear.
For those parenting and caregiving...I pray that you realize that you build a strong place with the songs of your babes--strength rises up with the chorus of singing children. May the sweet voices of your children, give you pause to rejoice that all your efforts and time and love and slogging through ordinary days have great Kingdom currency; may God provide you delights along the way that esteem your perseverance and faithfulness; may you be aware as you serve your precious children and loved ones that He takes you out of calamity and chaos and draws you to Himself, that day-by-day He watches over you; you are never far from His mind; may you rise from discouragement, knowing that God breakthroughs for you.
For those who are ill or suffering emotionally...I pray that the Lord would touch your body, your mind, your soul with His healing presence that flows to every bone, organ, sinew and cell, every strand of DNA. May he conquer feelings of anxiety and despair and provide you peace, the light of His presence infusing you with health. May you hope again, the oil and fragrance of His Holy Spirit pouring over your life and heart, mind and body, soul and spirit.
For us all...I pray that we realize more and more that God is our prize, our pleasure and our portion, that we can trust Him with our destiny, that He always breaks open a way and brings us into a beautiful and broad place, that we can quiet our hearts in His presence, that His grace will always be enough.
Thank you for sharing your lives and hearts with me in 2019. This connection is a gift. Merry Christmas, beloved.