Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Parable of the Lost Tree Ornament

My friend Amy Durham and I go back at least a decade--maybe more. She puts the multi into multi-talented: mother of three, wife of one, musician, teacher, and writer of “paranormal teen fiction.” She’s J.K. Rowling waiting to be found, only better. Amy is a charter member of the Vineyard Writer’s Group in my hometown (no, you don’t have to go to the Vineyard to join in). Every couple of weeks she shows up and dazzles us with her work, plus plenty of encouragement and direction for the rest. I’m thrilled you get to meet her. She blogs here and tweets there

Tonight my two youngest sons and I put the Christmas tree up. It’s a joyous time of course, as little folks always get excited about the holiday decorations. As they were pulling the ornaments from the box and sticking them on the tree with great speed, I began to wonder… “Where is my nativity ornament?” It’s a nice little wooden ornament, carved from one thin piece of wood to look like Mary and baby Jesus. To anyone else it might seem ordinary, nothing all that special.  It has no sparkly stuff, no bright colors, nothing that would set it apart from the other beautifully crafted ornaments in my supply. But I remember buying that ornament at Marlow Woodcuts in Americus, Kansas. I remember walking through the shop, staring in awe at the intricate carvings--both large and small--created by the craftspeople there. I remember the very special people I was with on the day I bought that ornament. I remember the picture my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I posed for outside the shop that afternoon.  
It took some time, and some digging in the ornament box, but I finally came across that little nativity ornament. I hung it, as I always do, in a place about eye-level for me, so that when I walk past the tree I can glance over at it, think about that place, that day, those people. I gave it a place of honor.
I didn’t shout “I found it” when I located it near the bottom of the box, though there was a part of me that wanted to. Because for all its ordinariness and nothing-specialness, I was so happy to see it, to touch it, to place it on my tree.
There are hundreds of little moments like that in my life, in your life, in everyone’s life: when a lost item is found, when something we thought was long gone is suddenly there in front of us. There’s a little spark of joy that ignites inside us in those moments, a smile that begins somewhere in the vicinity of our hearts and spreads outward. The joy of finding never really goes away, no matter how many times something goes missing, only to be found again.
I imagine it’s just that way for the Father, multiplied about a million times over, when he “finds” another lost one. I imagine the spark of joy in his heart is more like an inferno of delight when another person comes to know Him in that redeeming, life-changing way. In just the same way that I experienced excitement at finding that ornament, I believe the Father’s smile beams bright and brilliant each time His love captures a new heart. And just like I remember the day I bought that ornament, the people I was with, the picture that we took that day, the Father’s intimate knowledge of each heart gives Him the same opportunity for those sweet memories to bloom.
He illustrates this for us in Luke 15:8-10, where He describes a woman who searches the whole house over for a lost coin, inviting her neighbors to come rejoice with her after she finds it. Even though she had nine other coins, her joy at finding the one that was lost inspired a party!
Those people who frustrate me: like the person who blocks the entire aisle at the grocery store to stop and have a lengthy conversation with someone else, the kid who despite my best efforts will not be quiet and respectful in my classroom, anyone with the last name Kardashian who bombards the media with materialism and self-interest--all of these people create the same joy in the Father’s heart that my little wooden Christmas tree ornament created for me. I remind myself of this often, that my perspective on people is not the only one that matters, if it matters at all. Because there is a smile in the Father’s heart that is reserved for just those folks, and His smile at finding them will be even more brilliant than the one I had when I hung that ornament on my tree.


  1. Ray - Thanks so much for the opportunity to come hang out here at Students of Jesus. A total honor, for sure!

  2. You are always welcome here, Amy. Thanks for your post, and Merry Christmas!