Sam the Donkey – A Christmas Story I Didn’t Write

This delightful, yet profound Christmas story was written by one of my children on December 17, 2008. I’m still awed at the depth of thought and truth for such a young soul.

Sam the Donkey

MuleI wish they’d all be quiet! Thought Sam as he made his way to his stable.  He had been separated from his mother when he was a colt and had worked every day for forty seasons, pulling water with the other water animals. However, today he had tripped over a loose rock and hurt his ankle. Now all he wanted to do was sleep.  Unfortunately, the noise wasn’t the only thing that would keep him up. He was worried. Three seasons ago, Tess, the donkey who had pulled in front of him, had collapsed.  He remembered the day that he’d first come there, all scared and alone, she had been kind to him.  She’d even told him stories of a Creator who loved him.  After the accident, she wasn’t seen again. It got Sam thinking that if there was a Creator then why did He create pain, suffering, and death? No, there is no Creator. He’d tell himself daily. He soon became the old grump he now was known to be. Tonight, however, he didn’t tell the younger donkeys and mules to be quiet; he was deep in thought. What’ll become of me?  That dreadful question seemed to occupy all of his mind, as  he slowly drifted off to sleep.

“Gee hup, boy!” Sam awoke to his favorite groom trying to put some contraption on his back. After fiddling with the thing, he left. Sam had no idea what was going on; all he knew was that something was on his back and while it wasn’t completely uncomfortable, it was awkward. The groom came back with another two-legs, one Sam had never seen. This new two-legs put a rope around Sam’s bridle and led him out into the street. There a young, slightly overweight female two-legs was waiting. Sam quickly understood that he would get the horrid job of carrying this two-legs. What a disgrace! I have become an insignificant animal! I’m now to carry two-legs because their own two legs get tired faster! Never again to be a part of  the water-pull team! Thoughts like these flashed through his head as they set out.

Several months had gone by and Sam was still carrying the younger of the two-legs. They had traveled a long way, and Sam was able to get a good feeling on what type of two-legs they were. The young one was kind usually and generally quiet. Same for the other; he was reserved but not grumpy. Every now and then they’d camp with other two-legs, and Sam would have some company. It was those nights that he learned that all of the two-legs were traveling somewhere. This comforted Sam, since it meant that more donkeys had been drafted from more important stations into this lowly state. However, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, Sam began to have a peaceful feeling. One that he’d never felt before, even before Tess disappeared. He became content with his station and was able to look at the trough as half-full instead of half-empty. One of his favorite pastimes was looking at the stars. This would remind him of Tess and her loving God who would come to save everyone, including the dysfunctional two-legs. However, the nights would soon be over and the hot days begin, whereupon Sam would carry the ever-increasing two-legs, again. During the days and nights the question, How much longer? constantly loomed in the back of his head.

Two more months had passed and the older two-legs had become increasingly more concerned and irritated, while the other grew heavier and heavier ever day– and a bit moody. This one would often have fits of silence in which Sam and the older two-legs said nothing, and then there’d be times when all the other cold do was talk. They came to an unusually crowded town. Sam knew that he’d be lucky if he got a stable that night. Well, he wasn’t lucky; he didn’t get a stable that night or the next. In fact, they spent a week trying to find a place. Finally they found an old, dank, soon-going-to-fall-over, stable in which they all slept. Sam couldn’t wait to get a real night’s sleep. Unfortunately life had never gone his way and it wasn’t going to start now. That night the young two-legs started moaning and crying. Sam was curious; he’d never seen a two-legs behave like this. Then, to his amazement, something came out of the two-legs! It made almost more noise than she had. When Sam’s gaze fell upon the thing, a great sense of well-being came over him. He suddenly realized that this was the caring, loving God, but how could this be the God? He was something else. Like a colt! That’s it!  He excitedly thought, It’s God’s colt! This was the God that Tess had told him about, the one who cared for him and loved him. He had come to save him and all the other creatures on the earth! When he realized this, he became embarrassed because he had been grumpy and never cared for others like he did himself. He decided to change that right then and there. He was going to live for this too-loud, loving God for the rest of his life.

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“Wow! That was a great story, Grandpa,” said Joshep.

“Yes, and it was all true.”

“Really? Did you know Sam, Grandpa?”

“I did, not anymore.”

“Well, where is he? Can I meet him?”

“You can’t. But you can meet the new Sam,” replied Grandpa.”

“I don’t understand. How can Sam be new?”

“Well, when Sam accepted God into his heart,” began Grandpa, “he became a new donkey. Do you get it?”

“Sort of… so wait! That means I can meet him?!”

“You already have, and he’s standing in front of you.”

You carried God! And you, a grump?” asked Joshep incredulously.

“Yes me. Now go find your mum. She’ll want to see that you’re safe,” chucked Grandpa Sam.

He loved telling that story. He had been changed that night. He had even been blessed to find a mate who blessed him with a mare. And now he was an old pack animal who had been the first to see the two-legs God. Sam couldn’t help but think of the promise that the little “baby” had given him that night. That night when his gaze had rested on God, a voice from heaven had promised that one day, one of Sam’s descendants would have the honor to carry God. Sam remembered the shame he’d felt and then the joy. He was now well over the normal age of a donkey and couldn’t be happier, knowing that no matter what, God loved him. He knew that when he died he’d be able to see all the ones who he cared for, including Tess.

Joshep had wasted no time in finding  his mom. It was easy since she was tied to her pole, as usual. He couldn’t wait to tell her the story he’d just learned from Grandpa. As he was recounting the tale, two of the two-legs came up to them. They began to lead him away when Luke, his two-legs came out. The two-legs exchanged some noises and then Joshep was led away. He became frightened because he’d never really been away from his mum. They came to an empty place outside of the walls, then a different two-legs sat down on top of him! What is going on?! He frantically thought to himself. They began to walk down the path. While they were moving, more two-legs started coming out, all the while making strange noises. They continually shouted the words, “Hosanna! Hosanna to God in the highest!” Then they started putting things on the path. This scared Joshep even more, but a sense of peace overcame  him, and  he heard a voice.

“Do not be afraid. This is the promise I made to Sam all those years ago. You have a kind heart; make sure nothing changes that, for today you have been blessed.”

Sam was happy and decided to give his whole life to this Two-legs as his Grandpa had done many seasons before, in a stable.

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Just Show Up

A friend of mine texted me this morning asking for prayer.  As she should. She’s about to embark on something that’s way out of her league.  She does this for Jesus and for His people, especially those who feel most forsaken, who the world deems most filthy and most foul, but who are loved by God.

They that are whole have no need of a physician; but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. – Jesus

I text my friend: Just show up. God will do the rest. I tell her that because that’s what I’ve been told by other, wiser walkers before me; it’s what I tell myself when I’m about to step out onto the tightrope of faith and have no long stick, no net, just my empty palms held out and turned up. In some ways that’s freeing, that just showing up. But in other ways it’s the hardest part because working up the gumption to push against static friction is even harder than pushing against plain old friction, which is hard enough, thank you very much.

Those of us who fear showing up are in good company. Moses really didn’t want to show up. Listen to him argue with God about whether or not he was fit for the mission: Who am I, that I should go…? What shall I say…? What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say…? Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent… I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 3 & 4) And Saul? So didn’t want to show, as evidenced by the fact that he hid himself by the baggage when it was time for his coronation.  Gideon whined.  Ananias balked. Even Jesus admitted He was only sent; He submitted, and not without a respectful request for some other options: My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not what I will, but as Thou wilt.

Showing up isn’t easy.

When you fearfully and wonderfully step onto a personal emotional battlefield and hold the banner for God, expect to be shot at. You will experience anxiety and abandonment. Maybe worse. There isn’t always that peace-which-passes-all-understanding hugging us like a buddy.  Sometimes, we’re just gritting our teeth and showing up.

My friend, who asked for prayer is a spiritual giant and I, her lilliputian friend.  But we can always use a fresh perspective, and our differences hone us in ways matching feathers wouldn’t. Even the perspective of children is welcomed by the Lord. So I too can say with confidence: just show up; God will do the rest.

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. – Jesus

Heal My Soul – Testimony Part III

Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. – Psalm 41:4b

My memory in the months before I acquiesced to Jesus is hazy. I know I was desperate. I know circumstantially I had everything– as far as the American Dream goes, anyway. Although I had married my prince charming, I was disappointed that I had not become a princess. Like the frog in reverse, I thought his kiss would make me into something beautiful and worthy. When I stayed me, things eventually got ugly.  My twisted thinking went like this: if I can make him bleed emotionally, I can know he loves me.  So that’s what I did.  Yet for all that work and drama, I never felt satisfied that I was loved.  I was ever-grasping at some elusive feeling, some fullness or contentment that always slipped my grip.

stained glassSome Christians I knew seemed to glow.  I don’t mean in the figurative sense; I mean literally glowed– like the stained glass images of old, the sun-shape that seemed to mat the faces. I understand if you don’t believe me.  God gives us each just what we need to make a decision.  I guess I needed that.

Thomas.  Remember him?  He was a contemporary of Jesus and still he wouldn’t believe without digging his fingers into Jesus…

On the outside I was brazen and witty, sarcastic, athletic, in-control. On the inside I was screaming for peace and attention. I wore the slippery mask of confidence, but craved a heart of it.  Like the cowardly lion who wished for a transformation, so I wanted to trade my unstable, flimsy insides for something reliable. But there was no truth. The postmodern lie was nearly my undoing.  I remember reading a book that gave the nuts and bolts, if you will, of all the major religions of the world. One of them has to be right, I thought. When I read it… nothing. More head knowledge. How can there be so many versions of truth? With so many followers of every rendition? It must all be lies, all spins off the main lie that there is something beyond us…

What finally reached me was a man who seemed to be genuinely in love with this person, Jesus. How he addressed his God was both reverent and familiar. It was authentic and lacked the scriptedness I was accustomed to getting at church. My heart melted when I heard– straight from the Bible– who Jesus was and why He came to earth:

WHO has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 

For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of a parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. – Isaiah 53:1-6

And this, written about Jesus, hundreds of years before He stepped foot on earth. That wasn’t mentioned in my nuts and bolts religion book. And there’s so much more inexplicable prediction in the Bible. I challenge anyone who hasn’t thoroughly checked out the prophecies on Jesus to finish Isaiah 53 and read the book of John.  What we holiday churchgoers were taught in our brief catechism is the tip of an iceberg so majestic and irrefutable, that, once uncovered, will forever subject us to its awesome power. That is what occurs in the heart of one who comes face to face with Jesus. That is what happened in my heart.

After church, the pastor’s wife came over to me to say hello. I apologized for the blubbering wreck I was. And I’ll never forget her deadpan answer.

That’s the Holy Spirit.

She believed that God’s Holy Spirit was responsible for making me cry, that a physiological reaction was the result of something beyond me, beyond the natural realm, even. Wherever it was from, this brokenness was new and bitter.  It was the beginning of my journey’s end as far as the search for meaning was concerned. The journey was uncomfortable; I had to come to terms with  my own limitations and inadequacies, and accept– as a gift– that God provided a way for me to be right in His eyes.  It is the greatest gift, accepting that Christ died for my sins, that He loved me enough to withstand such humiliation on my behalf.

The love of Jesus: I used to spurn it, used to mock and maul it, but now I embrace the gift we celebrate every year when we stop our freeway-style Christmas season and consider what the essence of Christmas has always been to those who keep it:

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people,for today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10 -11

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