Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh." Matthew 2:11
One of my favorite scenes in the movie, "Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is where Christmas returns to Narnia. After 100 years of being "always winter with no Christmas" Father Christmas (the Anglican St. Nicholas) returns bearing gifts for Lucy (healing), Susan (trust) and Peter (tools of protection). When asked "I thought there was no Christmas in Narnia?Father Christmas answers, "The hope that you have brought (your majesties) has started to weaken the Witch's powers."
I agree that Christmas has taken a giant leap toward commercialism leading many people away from the true meaning of Christmas, as the coming of Jesus, God's son. But the original Saint Nicholas was a fourth century Christian bishop who lavished gifts on needy children on Jesus' birthday. He not only believed in the same Christ of the Christmas story, but he also showed God's compassion, mercy, grace and love to the children who had nothing.
We've always included St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) in our family Christmas traditions. We didn't allow him to take center stage, nor did we state that Santa was the reason for the season. We did allow the legend to take form by telling the story of St. Nicholas bringing gifts to children on Christmas Eve, how he placed them in their stockings and (we added) left one special gift besides.
However, we balanced all that with the reading of Jesus' birth from the Bible; celebrating Jesus' birthday by giving gifts and a birthday cake for Jesus.
Can a Christian family celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus? I believe they can. I believe a parent can use the story of St. Nicholas to infuse the Christmas message: that gifts are given because of the hope Jesus brought into the world by his birth.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Friday, December 10, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
"And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6b
I became discouraged as time spent seeking this relationship slipped into years but God whispered, "Am I not enough for you?"
This Sunday, our pastor's message was on "The True Meaning of Christmas." He used the example of this in Christmas movies like "The Christmas Story" and "The Grinch that Stole Christmas." The true meaning of Christmas isn't the stuff but family; a place where we feel loved. He shared how most of those who come to him for counseling yearn for this place of belonging, of loving relationship but that there is little he (or anyone else) can do or say to create that place in the midst of brokenness. But, he can offer them Jesus.
Isaiah prophesied the birth of Jesus 400 years prior to his birth. He said this Christ child would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. What more do we need if we have Jesus in our life? Who can offer us to be all that Jesus is?
What situation in your life calls for a Wonderful Counselor? Who can listen to your endless stories without cutting you short of time? Who can offer you the wisdom of time and experience? Who knows you better than yourself because He created you? Who gives wise counsel?
Jesus. Jesus is my Wonderful Counselor. He is the great I Am. He is enough.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
"Hey! We've got ice cream. You've got fire. Can we come over?" That was a frequent question in 2007 from friends Bill & Pam. They LOVED ice cream and bonfires. They'd buy a half gallon of ice cream and we supplied the patio fire in our back yard. We'd spend scrumptious hours licking the last drops of ice cream from our spoons in front of our patio fireplace all summer long with them while sharing the latest news of our lives...from frustrations at work , to heart wounds to praises for what we saw God doing in our children's' lives.
We miss Pam & Bill. Since they moved back to Oregon, we haven't found another couple to take their place. We miss the impromptu visits, the life stories, the laughter, the vulnerability, the honest y we shared. We feel lost sometimes, wondering when God will bring another couple to walk along-side us in life...to share life's journey.
So many times we're looked at as a couple who "has it all together" who "lead by example." But, little do people realize, we need others to help us "have it all together." Bill and Pam helped us do that. In the few years that we had them in our lives, they helped us to see life as it is. We shared our family needs, triumphs as well as our life long wounds. We prayed for each others' healing, victories and shared life as it came to us...weekly...daily. We loved each other.
We miss them. We miss the impromptu calls that say, "I've got ice cream...you've got fire...may we come over for awhile?" We all need Pam & Bill in our lives for life was not meant to be lived alone.
In our new church, we're still looking for our next Pam & Bill. We haven't found them yet. We feel very much alone at times. We wonder if anyone even notices we're there. But that's life in a large, growing church. We must blow our own horn and invite people into our lives, I guess. Or should we? Shouldn't the members of a church reach out to those who are new? Hmmmm?
Until recently, we've remained anonymous. We've spoken briefly with those who sit and worship in our general Sunday morning vicinity. But, have we received an invitation for dinner? Lunch? Brunch? Not as a couple. I've been invited to join a ministry. I've become involved. But, as a couple...nothing. I wonder, as I sit and worship the same Savior, in the same row, in the same church., "What does it take to earn an invitation? What does it take for someone to say, 'I've go ice cream. You've got fire...can we join you?"
I miss Pam & Bill. I miss sharing life with others who 'get it.' I miss sharing life with others who 'get us.'
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
We may not be born of royal blood but we're all dysfunctional in some way. We all suffer the consequences of bad decisions we've made or the scandals of past generations. That's how life works. But God gives us hope. Scripture says, "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. " (Romans 10:9,10).
God doesn't demand perfection from us. It's impossible to ask. He doesn't ask that we look perfect on the outside. He only asks that we seek him with all of our heart. Why? So that he may continue to reveal His kingdom through us. How? By confiding in us; by speaking to us through His word; by conversing with us through prayer; by planting a desire in our hearts and by our obedience to share His promises to those around us in a way that comes naturally to us.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
I don't know what it is about this fall but it's barely Thanksgiving and I'm anticipating Christmas already. I want to listen to familiar caroles, get lost reading advent books, bake my traditional holiday cookies, plan the Christmas Day dinner menu, write my annual Wish List, go shopping and decorate. Maybe it has something to do with being immersed in a holiday craft fair this past weekend or the early November snowfall on Monday. I'm not sure but, whatever the catalyst to this feeling, I'm excited to start the Advent season.
Thinking I was way ahead of the game, I cracked open an Advent devotional yesterday, titled Preparing My Heart for Advent by Anne Marie Stewart. To my surprise, I was already a week late in my preparation! Stewart starts what she calls "a spiritual pilgrimage" on November first. I put aside my disappointment and dive in, frantically trying to catch up to day eight.
As I eagerly wade through days one through four of this devotional, I'm challenged to read the nativity stories in Luke and Matthew with new eyes; to ask questions regarding missing information in the narratives; to create an historical travel timeline and to visualize the busyness Mary and Joseph experienced before and after Jesus' birth. But it was Stewart's question on day five that challenged me the most. "What about your timeline? How will you keep it uncluttered?"
I'm certainly eager to start the busyness of the season like I mentioned above. But of all those things and the OTHER things that could creep onto my calendar in December, what will give me peace? What will help me to focus on the birth of Jesus? What will enable "unhurried peace" as Stewart puts it?
First, I will be deliberate with my planning. Starting today, I will be selective with what goes on my calendar for the month of December so that I may make time for "unhurried peace."
Second, I will make time each day to be alone. Alone with my thoughts, alone to write, alone to prepare my heart and focus on the events of Jesus' birth and to anticipate his coming again.
Third, I will take time to play with my family; to laugh and share traditions and simple fun.
Fourth, I will create an atmosphere of peace in my home each day so that my husband may rest from his stressful, hurried days.
Finally, I will share my thoughts in writing to encourage others to prepare their hearts for this advent season.
You may think I'm crazy, anticipating Christmas six weeks in advance. But truly, in this fast-paced society, I think it will take me all six weeks to properly prepare my heart for that unhurried peace that comes when Christ rules in my heart. Are you up for the challenge?
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
1. We could continue to groan, complain, whine and bad mouth our political leaders and their decisions. WE didn't vote for them so we DO have the right to complain, don't we?
2. We could become more politically involved other than voting, but we don't have that much time or patience.
3. We could start all over again and move ourselves and our business to another, more suitable state. But that's economic suicide right now and besides, we'd miss our family.
4. We could show our politicians the respect their office deserves.
My last supervisor and I differed in our thoughts about respect. She believed that NO ONE deserved respect (based on position of authority or age) unless they EARNED it. I however, argued that everyone deserved respect, especially if they held a position of authority or out of courtesy for their age. However, I also believe an individual can lose someone's respect based upon their misconduct or misbehavior.
So, to my newly elected politicians I submit to your authority and the office you hold. I will continue to hold you up before God's throne in prayer. I pray that you will be able to hold the respect of your office by conducting yourselves with honor and by respecting the people that you serve. I will hold onto God's promise "that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..." Romans 8:28.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
These spiritual battles are real, even for us today. The Accuser crouches. His arrow ready. His bow at full draw, waiting for the right shot at our hearts. We must be on our guard, especially when we are most vulnerable (tired, worn, lazy). If we place our faith, our trust in God, He stands on our side. Never accusing. Always speaking truth. Always encouraging us for His good work.
Truth or lies. Which do you choose to believe? I choose truth.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Hello You. Yes, you...the one that's folding piles of laundry, cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, washing chocolate fingerprints off the newly painted walls, sitting in a cubicle, answering the phones, facing crabby customers, crawling on the freeway, feeling overwhelmed. Are you feeling important today? Do you feel like you matter to anyone right now? Well, you do.
There's so many people, so many responsibilities bidding for your attention that it's easy to feel overlooked, insignificant, unimportant, lonely. In all honesty, you need to know someone is thinking of you, noticing you, taking care of you, concerned for you. It's part of being human. But many nights, I'm sure you've tucked yourself into bed, turned out your own light and wondered, "Who cares for me?"
When I'm outside pushing my granddaughter on the swing, the moments between singing and swinging are interrupted with the chirps of noisy birds. "Listen," my granddaughter says, cupping her hand behind one ear. "It's a 'tweet-tweet'!" She's even learned the difference between their calls. "Squawk, squawk" is a blue jay. "Caw, caw" is a crow. "Chicka-dee-dee-dee" is, well obviously, a Chickadee, and "Cheep, cheep" is a sparrow.
It's funny, how spending time with little ones gets you to focus on things us adults would determine insignificant. Yet, those insignificant chirps make a most significant point. God supplies all these small, winged friends with everything they need every day. The bible says, if one small, insignificant sparrow falls, God notices.
Even so, how much more are you noticed? Yes, you...the one feeling unimportant, lonely, needy...YOU are noticed and important to God! God has given you a voice unlike any other. He has adorned you with a beauty that He wants you to share with the world. He notices all you do for everyone, every day. He wants you to know He's right there next to you. Listening. Waiting.
You. Yes, you...are worth more to God than many, many sparrows. You are treasured.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
What joy looks like...
Dirty feet. My daughter's feet... muddied from the streets of Kampala, Uganda.
Five years ago (or so) she came home from summer camp ready to pack her bags again for Africa. She'd seen the documentary called Invisible Children that revealed the horror of the Northern Ugandan children; children under the age of twelve, stripped of their childhood, forced to live as murdering soldiers, desensitized of all emotion. My daughter was ready to fight for justice on their behalf. "If I don't go, who will?" she asked.
I knew her desire was true and not a whimsical, emotional, teenage wish. I could see God's hand print for foreign missions on her life since she was a little girl but, war-torn Africa? That was beyond my comfort zone as a mother. So, we prayed for three years. We prayed that an opportunity would arise for her to go with a well established ministry team from somewhere in the United States.
God provided the way the first Sunday we set foot in Wellspring Church, November 2008.
She's traveled and ministered to the children at the Kampala Children's Center twice now. The first year was full of pictures of gorgeous children full of joy and hope; children who have been stripped of everything this world calls precious. Yet, they're full...full of God's redemptive work through Jesus; full of dreams and purpose not only for their own future but the future of their nation.
This year, there was a photo of her. She was teaching the children how to play; how to "think outside the box" (literally) when it came to creative play. I can't explain the emotion that overwhelmed me at seeing her face fully animated and engaged with these children. She exuded Jesus from every pore. She was alive! She was doing "the good work" that God had preordained for her from the beginning of creation.
Every parent has great aspirations for their children when they're born. We dream about how great they can be; imagine the career path they should take; wish the best for them. But, we must remember, God is their Father. Our only purpose is to raise them to explore how God made them, designed them and encourage them to follow God's desire for them.
"I have no greater joy than to hear (see) that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 4
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
What joy looks like...
A questioning child. A thinker. That's my firstborn. He was always full of questions as a toddler. Much more advanced than just "why?" He was always trying to figure out how things worked. I remember one warm, fall night when he was three. We were cuddled up in his bed, in the darkened room near an open window. Like every night we'd read a book or two, said our prayers and relished the silence that comes before sleep. In the quiet of that particular night, he noticed the stars.
Mommy?" he asked. "Who put the stars in the sky?"
"God did." I replied.
I can't recall the specific conversation after that but I do remember that's when he first realized the awesomeness of God. That's the night he realized the same God that filled the sky with stars created him and loved him so much that He gave us Jesus. I know, because that night he asked Jesus to live in his heart and help him to love God like He loved him.
It's been twenty years since we had that conversation. It's but a blur in my firstborn's memory amidst the years of rebellion, questioning and doubt. But God remained faithful to that prayer. He revealed himself not only as the God who placed the stars in the sky but the God who loves my child unconditionally.
I sat at the dinner table Monday night with my firstborn, his wife, his two year old daughter and six month old son. We held hands and his daughter prayed, "Thank you Jesus for our food and for our family. Amen!"
What does joy look like? A child. My child who is journeying with God and teaching his children about the One who placed the stars in the sky.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
What does joy look like in real life? I thought over the next few days, I'd draw a picture of how God's defined joy in different circumstances of my life. Hopefully you can relate. Will you join me?
What joy looks like....
Wood rot. It's been a problem in our aging home for over a decade now. We knew about the rotting basement door and the one at the back of the garage but the beautiful archway in the front of the house is what surprised us. This archway was the selling point of our home; the quaint characteristic that made the house stand out from all the rest in the neighborhood; the focal point of compliments from guests and passers-by.
At first I just thought it was only in need of a quick paint job until I went to scrape off a peeling paint chip and my finger went through the wood siding. My husband reassured me it would be no big deal to just replace the one side of paneling and cover it with vinyl siding like the rest of the house. So, we put it at the bottom of our "to do list" for the summer.
Last Saturday (the last weekend of the summer) my husband started peeling away the siding, digging at the rotted veneer only to find more rot at the core. The entire post had to come down. What we thought would be an afternoon's work for novice, do-it-yourself carpenters was halted. My husband's heart became anxious knowing this project was beyond his ability and he'd have to call on someone else for help. But that call would wait until Monday.
It wasn't ten in the morning on Monday when the master carpenter and his wife was already taking measurements.
"Wow! That was fast" I commented as I greeted them. "Did Pete call you this morning?"
"No. I've just been working on the solution for your basement door frame and this archway in my head for a few weeks now. I'm ready to order the materials and frame everything out," he nonchalantly replied.
My heart literally leapt for joy knowing God had resolved the issue before we even had time to whisper up a prayer for help. What love He'd shown us in that moment, to send these friends who so willingly lend a hand; who come alongside us and help to bear our burdens. What a blessing. What a joy.
When they left, I couldn't get to the phone fast enough to let my husband know he could cross that call to the master carpenter off his "to do list" because God had already sent him.
God's joy comes in so many different packages. I just can't wait to see how it's wrapped every day.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Laughter is contagious. It attracts. Have you ever noticed? When you enter a room, are you not first drawn to the one who is laughing? It doesn't matter if you know what they're laughing about, you can't help but smile in return and wonder, "What's so funny?" Laughter lightens the mood in the room as well as in our hearts
I had the privilege of spending the weekend with someone who loves to laugh. From the time we unloaded our cars, pitched our tent at the fair and sold our first book, we were laughing; not at anyone...just from the pure joy of life. Our joy attracted the crowds.
We sat side-by-side in the midst of 20,000 people glad to be living our dream as authors, sharing our talents with families, encouraging aspiring writers to pursue their dreams. It's not that we were privileged; that our dreams were fulfilled without pain, rejection and hard work. On the contrary, we both faced hardships in our journey (and still do) but the joy of what has been made complete thus far, gives us hope.
It should be that way with all of us on our journey with Christ. So many of us hang onto the sorrow of the cross; the picture of the suffering, dying Jesus that we forget the joy of the empty tomb. We use the cross as an excuse to focus in on our own suffering as though that is how we identify with Christ. We forget, that Christ came to give us hope, a future, abundant life...JOY.
The psalmist writes of our Savior in Psalm 45:7 "You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." Does picturing a laughing, joyful Jesus make you tilt your head and say, "Hmmmm?"
I don't think he attracted the crowds by frowning or furrowing his brow, pointing an accusing finger or motioning toward Golgotha. Instead he greeted the crowds with compassion, with healing, with forgiveness, with hope for the future. That brought joy. That's what attracted the crowds.
Does the joy of the Lord attract the crowds (however small) to you? Can you truly say, "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song." Psalm 28:7
Monday, September 6, 2010
As we walk together, those who find encouragement hard to find or hard to give, learn from the eternal encourager, Jesus. May we in turn encourage one another in Him and in everything.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
I'd spent the week wearing retro '90's frames since my newer frames snapped and I was anxious to return to the 21st fashion century. I breathed a sigh of relief when I got there without the car overheating despite the needle on the temperature gauge registering HOT.
Sporting my new specs and a $300 bill, the two-and-one-half mile ride home was a bit out of focus. Despite all the adjustments in the optician's chair the frames were uncomfortable, my sight was off and my mental cash registered started to "ka-ching" loudly as the radiator hose hissed mockingly, two blocks from home.
As I pulled into the driveway, I hovered between panic and faith.
This year my husband and I made a major adjustment. We made tithing, saving and paying off debts our financial priority. Our financial decisions have been based on needs vs. wants and what our budget allowed. These are biblical principles and how the "Christian financial experts" say we should be living. But what to do when needs out-weigh the cash flow in the midst of disciplined stewardship? Where does God's grace and mercy come into play?
Jesus tells us in Luke 12 that we are more important to God than the birds of the air or the lilies of the field who always find food and are beautifully adorned. So, he says, “Don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs." (Luke 12:29-30). Instead, Jesus encourages us to "seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he (God) will give you everything you need. So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:30-32).
If I've learned anything this year it's that life is not a cosmic chess game between us and God. How much we've tithed, saved or how great our needs it never out-weighs God's love, grace and mercy toward us who honestly seek Him first. It's about abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in us. It's about the flow of relationship.We don't give in order to receive. We give because we love. He gives because He loves and it gives him great pleasure.
The tow truck carried away my red wagon and within 24 hours the toxic puddle had dried up and the damage was repaired. "Ka-ching." I must admit, my hand wandered toward the big, red panic button but as it hovered, Jesus reminded me "Don't worry about such things...Your Father already knows your needs...It gives (Him) great happiness to give.
Whatever creates a toxic puddle in our lives, may we learn to see God's smile reflected back at us and remember, He's got it under control.
Friday, August 27, 2010
The wisdom of children far surpasses my own, at times. That's why I always welcome their conversations. When I listen to them I'm getting a glimpse of God's heart. Here's a bit of God's wisdom, compassion and power some children have shared with me:
It had been an hour-long, Wednesday night praise service. I'd quickly rushed to the nearest empty seat in the middle section of our modern sanctuary and sat alone. I thought I was the only one aware of my surrounding empty seats . Then, during the benediction, a five-year-old girl slid down the long row of chairs to my side. "Hi! I'm Kaitlyn," she said with a sincere smile and sparkling blue eyes. "I thought I'd come sit with you so you wouldn't be alone anymore."
I shared a late summer walk around the block with my two-year-old granddaughter. She noticed the piles of dry, discarded leaves alongside the road. She soon discovered how they crunched beneath our feet as we walked. "Crunch, crunch, crunch!" she exclaimed each time, delighted in her new awareness. Then she found an itty, bitty red leaf in perfect form. "Awww. A baby leaf. So cute," she said, stopping to pick it up, examining it like a mother tending to her newborn. "So pretty, red." And she carried God's delicate treasure all the way home.
My daughter couldn't settle down for bed. She was just barely 18 months old and feeling out of sorts. I'd rocked her for over an hour and attempted to lay her down three times but each time she shrieked with pain. "What's wrong? Where does it hurt?" I asked.With that old familiar tug, "My ear," she cried.
"Mommy will be right back with some medicine." I closed the door and whispered up a prayer. "Please, dear Jesus, we can't even afford Tylenol let alone a doctor's visit and Amoxicilin."When I returned to her crib with a dropper, she greeted me with a big smile, laughing and jumping. "He fixed it, Mommy!" she squealed, pointing to a shelf of stuffed animals.
"Who fixed it?""He did!"
I pointed to each stuffed animal, Bert and Ernie, even to the characters on the covers of the books we'd read earlier."No, Mommy! HE fixed it," she insisted, pointing to the same shelf.
I was stumped. Then I remembered the prayer I'd whispered into thin air. But, Jesus couldn't have revealed himself to my baby girl, for real...could he? So, dismissing that possibility I asked, "Does this man have wings?"Again she pointed, "No, Mommy! HE fixed it!"
I then pulled out the board book, Jesus and the Children, we'd read earlier and pointed to the picture of Jesus playing leap frog with smiling children. "Did HE fix your ear? Did Jesus fix it?"
"How?" I asked."He touched it," she said mater-of-fact, laid down and fell fast asleep for the entire night. She's never had an ear infection since then.
It never fails that when I'm in the presence of children, I see Jesus.
Lord, give me their eyes, their faith so that when they spend time with me, they see you, too.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The weeks ahead were slow but through surgeries, therapy and prayer healing came. Her body restored itself to independence and she returned home after a couple of months. But, like the human body does, it accuses us of our past. There's a pain in the hip that comes when weather changes. A couple of fingers don't grip with the strength from before. A persistent limp give evidence of more work needed.
Thankfully, for our spiritual bodies, we're promised full restoration through Christ. In today's scripture Paul reminds us that through Christ's suffering and death of his physical body He has fully restored our spiritual bodies so that God sees us without blemish or reminders (accusations) of past sins (injuries).
This isn't just a promise for our arrival in heaven but it's a promise for today... here and now. If we have been forgiven of our past through Christ, then God sees us fully restored, the way he created us to be from the beginning, whole, holy, pure and perfect.
If God sees us that way now, we need to adopt that same perspective of ourselves (and others) instead of accusing ourselves (and others) of past mistakes and injuries. We need to allow God's healing and live within Christ's forgiveness where we are truly free....NOW.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
As we wait for God's call on our lives or wait for Him to tell us what next step to take on our journey of sharing God's kingdom let us take the posture of worship. Let us raise our hands and pray, "Father, dress me!"