Once I switched from teaching into full-time ministry, that meant three of the four members of my immediate family were all in full-time church ministry.  In my most unusual family, none of the three of us worked at the same church the last four years, although all three of us either attended or had been on staff at each of the the other churches.  And since the other two were my parents, you can only imagine the logistics of their lives with them each working at different churches (and both managing to attend a service each week at the other’s church during a service time their own church didn’t have).  I won’t even go into the nightmare that holidays became, when, weekends like Easter, we were each juggling between 4-7 service times per church.  Throw in living in different parts of the county and let’s just say no one was wanting to call dibs on responsibilities for a holiday meal!

All three of us were on staff at one of the churches at various points in time, and until December, at least one of us had been on staff there for it’s entire twenty plus year existence.  As such, even when two of the other three of us eventually ended up attending and being on staff elsewhere, that church still had a special place in all of our hearts and the rest of us would get drawn back in to helping with special events and occasions there.

That’s the church that I made my first big textile art pieces for, and one I continued to make pieces for over the years, even long after I was attending (and then on staff) at another church.

Several years ago their theme at Christmas was Emmanuel – God With Us.  As I was praying about a textile art piece and then other art for in their foyer during Christmas, the chorus of the Michael Card song, “Emmanuel” kept coming to mind.

Our God is with us
And if God is with us
Who could stand against us?
Our God is with us, Emmanuel

That song became the base around which I formed the ideas for that Christmas season and every time I hear the word Emmanuel I find myself singing that song the rest of the day.

Kathy Escobar wrote a great reflection on another Emmanuel themed song at Christmas and focused on the significance of the word “with” in the simple definition of Emmauel – God with us.

There’s more to her reflection, but what I found so striking was her replacement of other words that mean “with” and how they each carry a slightly different emphasis or slant on the meaning.

Emmanuel, God is with us.
God is with us.
God, with us.

Here are some different words for ‘with’: accompanying, alongside, amidst, among, beside, by, for, including, near, plus, upon, as companion, side by side, in the thick of.

I love this imagery:

God accompanying us.
God alongside us.
God amidst us.
God among us.
God beside us.
God by us.
God for us.
God including us.
God near us.
God plus us.
God upon us.
God as companion to us.
God side by side us.
God in the thick of us.
God is always with us.

Then, Kathy took it one step further and drew a parallel between how God is with us, He similarly calls us to be present with others:

As God is with us in spirit, we are called to be in-the-flesh with others.

Accompanying others.
Alongside others.
Amidst others.
Beside others.
By others.
For others.
Including others.
Near others.
A companion to others.
Side by side others.
In the thick of others.

God, with us. In the midst of our messy, beautiful lives.

Us, with others. In the midst of their messy, beautiful lives.

‘With’ is one of my favorite words.