jesus_iron.jpg  I can tell that the Holiday season is in full swing as I thumb through my Sunday Denver Post.  There are a few news stories in between all of the advertisements promising, “We’ve trimmed prices . . . Save Money . . . Live better . . . Special hours because every day matters . . . Even more ways to shop your way . . . Christmas Countdown — It’s like getting paid to shop (yeah right!), etc., etc.”  Today’s newspaper is full of promises that all that I am looking for might be found at the mall.  A small headline on page 24A — right beside an ad promising, “Oh, what fun it is to win a 304-horsepower sleigh” catches my eye, “Jesus Irons Out Life’s Wrinkles?”  In case you missed this news in the midst of the holiday hoopla let me share with you Mary Jo Coady’s story and how it compelled me to reflect on some gifts I have received this year that didn’t come from the mall.

Mary Jo is from Massachusetts and this has not been her best year.  Like many of us she is feeling the economic pinch and she and her two college-age daughters have wondered if they are going to make it.  Mary Jo recently separated from her husband and had her hours cut at work.  Last Sunday she walked into her daughter’s room and saw an image of Jesus on her iron.   She explained that the brownish residue on the bottom of the iron that looks like Jesus to her is proof that “he’s listening” and she’s not alone.

Upon first reading this news blurb I filed it away in my Strange & Embarrassing Things Christians Believe file, and then I started to reflect on my own year.  Like Mary Jo, I have experienced financial, relational, emotional, and spiritual distress and I have been repeatedly reminded that redemption comes in small and strange places.  I mean even the story that we sometimes think of this time of year is about Rescue coming in the most impoverished, unlikely, and even smelly of places.  I haven’t seen Jesus on my iron (which I seldom look at and that may be why I haven’t seen Him there), but I have seen Him . . . .

I’ve seen Him as dear friends and clients have sat across from me and we have been able to confess some pretty difficult realities.  It has taken me a lot of years to really believe, heart and soul, that Jesus is found in the ruins of our lives.  One of my favorite friends, former students, and fellow counselors expressed it this way: “I was an addict so that I could sin in ways that I would never forget.  I was an addict so that I could recognize love when it walked into my life.  I found strength where I lost mine.  I found love where I had none.  I found grace where I wasn’t looking.  Jesus found me when I didn’t think I existed anymore.”  Wow — what a gift of sheer grace that Jesus makes Himself known in the midst of our sin.

I’ve seen Him as I sat around the Thanksgiving table with my children this year.  The holidays have been hard for me since our family broke apart years ago and I have tried everything to compensate for the brokenness.  This year I stopped trying.  My daughter, her husband, my son and I sat around my bare kitchen table.  There was no turkey, dressing, or pumpkin pie.  We had all eaten with different family and friends earlier in the day.  We pulled out a word game called Apples to Apples and we played for four hours!  We laughed until we cried.  Some of us cheated (Graham).  No one wanted the evening to end.  As Kristin was teasing her husband and Graham was trying to look ahead at the words cards, Jesus showed up.  I heard Him whisper, “See, Sharon . . . I make all things new!”

I have seen Him at church just a few Sundays ago.  After evening church we have an extended worship service called Resound.  Our wonderful worship pastor, Justin Bullis, creates a space for those who want to stay after the service to listen, pray, sing, and meditate.  The worship band plays about six songs.  This particular Sunday I moved up to the front of the sanctuary and sank down in my chair.  I needed something.  As the lights dimmed and the band played I got this sense that I was the only one in the sanctuary.   I couldn’t see anyone sitting around me.  And there in the dark with the music flooding my heart and soul I saw Jesus.  Well, I didn’t really see Him.  I cried out to Him, “I can’t see you right now,” and I heard His heartbeat through the music of that night assuring me, “I know.  But I can see you.”  I think that’s the greatest gift of all — not seeing Jesus on a household appliance, which is pretty amazing –but knowing that He sees me and when He sees me all He sees is Love.  That’s a miracle.

Finally, I have seen Him in the faces of family and friends.  Some of you who read this blog have emailed me to ask if I still have my roommates.  They moved out about 2 weeks ago.  I hope this is a good move for them, and I am glad that we remain friends and can see each other often.  I have been so grateful for the kindness of my church friends to my house guests.  I have seen Jesus in William, Dana, Dan, Jy, and the Johnsons as they have given food, kindness, jobs, and auto repair expertise.  And I have seen Jesus in my roommates, because surely the desire to get back up and try again and again is a reflection of the Resurrected One. 

When my roommates moved out they left a card on my desk.  It said, “Sharon, thanks for everything.  We don’t take you for granite!”  I laugh every time I look at the card and I hope that it’s true — that they know that I am not a rock, but a fellow-struggler with a heart of flesh that sometimes reveals the image of Jesus. 

“Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you.  Christ himself wrote it — not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives . . .” 2 Corinthians 3:3