Saturday, December 26, 2015

Don't let the Grinch Steal Christmas

It is the morning after Christmas.  There are bits of wrapping paper under the couch.  The tree is shedding its needles at a rapid rate.  In a couple of days, we will pack up the decorations and make exchanges, and a new year will commence.

But Christmas is not over.  Christmas is never over.

Don't leave Jesus in the manger.  Don't put Him away in the attic for next December.

Life does not just go on. Jesus changes everything.

That is why He came.

I came that they may have life,
       and have it abundantly.

                        John 10. 10

That joy is not based on a season
     or favorable circumstances,
          but on Him.

Jesus came,
    and nothing can ever be the same.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

The angels still say,
     "Do not be afraid.
       He has come!"

And that changes everything.

Hope is no longer wishful thinking,
    but Christ
    on Whom we can stake our lives.
His grace is not
            what must be earned,
but that which embraces us.

You are loved.
You belong.

For God so loved the world
that He gave His only Son
that whoever
      believes in Him
shall not perish
but have eternal life.
For God sent the Son
           into the world,
not to condemn the world,
but that the world
might be saved through Him.

                   John 3. 16-17

Jesus loves you.
Never forget it.

Merry Christmas, my friend!


Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Christmas Crunch and What Do I Need to Focus on Today?

I awoke this morning, my head still stuffy with a cold that has clung on for weeks now, coming and going like an unwanted visitor.  I felt a moment of panic for all the things I need to do yet, company arriving tomorrow, and yes, I forgot two essential ingredients at the grocery yesterday.  Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mnd the most.

O LORD, guide my thoughts and my actions this day.

I swallowed the last of my coffee, turned around at the kitchen island, and said to my husband Bill, "Let's make a list."  He grinned, he who literally thinks in lists and spreadsheets.  "We can determine what we need to focus on, what is essential today and what can wait a couple days," I said.

And before I could even reach for a pen, I was stopped in my tracks, because when I looked up to speak to Bill, my eyes were drawn across the room by this.

In the shadows hung the busy-ness of the holiday, the stockings and garland, ornaments and other decorations. The intensity of the morning light was pinpointed on the Christ child, on Whom I need to focus all of my preparations for Christmas and all of my heart.

The familiar carol says "prepare Him room."  Jesus is not just an add-on in the background of Christmas, but He who came to earth to save us.  He is the Gift.

For unto us
     a Child is born, 
unto us a Son is given...

                  Isaiah 9. 6

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Press the reset button

When I was a little girl, quite often there were appliances dismantled and even the insides of our black and white television in pieces on the living room floor.  One of my younger brothers was the culprit, and he was the same one who fixed them and put them back in working condition.  No one trained him how.  He just figured it out.  His mind just worked that way.

To put it kindly, we all are gifted, just in different ways.  That gift is not one of mine.

My husband also thrives on unraveling such problems.  One of the helpful hints he has suggested to help me navigate our increasingly technological world is to reset.  If something isn't working the way it should -- be it the dishwasher or a computer screen that is frozen -- go all the way back to the beginning and start over. Reset and start again.  Nine times out of ten, that fixes the problem.

That is actually a very Biblical principle.  Forgiveness and redemption form the foundation of a Biblical worldview.  And it impacts every dimension of life.

The late Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, saw that life-changing truth in his own life and those he came to know in prisons around the world.  Over and over, prisoners would say to him, "I never thought my life could amount to anything -- but maybe it can."  Colson did not give them hope, he gave them Christ. And that is what the gospel is:  the good news that God will not just fix your life, but He will make you new. 

Ask for God's forgiveness.  And let Him redeem.

It is not a reset button, but a re-life mechanism that empowers me to go all the way back, let the sacrifice of Christ cover it, and then move on in my walk with Him.  No need to be stuck.

The LORD sets the prisoner free.

                           Psalm 146. 7

and go forth renewed.

That which only God can do.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

It's ok to say it

I was finishing a transaction at a store, when I realized, it is December.  And that it is kind, loving, and perfectly ok to tell the clerk, "Merry Christmas."  And anyone else who God may put on my path.

Saying something as simple as "Merry Christmas" is a reminder in our culture that there is something deeper going on here.  I am not just buying random gifts.  It is not just a retail holiday created by Hallmark and Target. It is a holy-day.  The angels proclaimed the good news, "He is here." And three decades later, the angels proclaimed even greater news, "He is not here."

When sharing the gospel, St. Augustine once said, "when necessary, use words."

I would say, "in addition, use your words."

Over the Thanksgiving break, some members of our family were able to attend the Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, complete with full orchestra, 3-D glasses, music, dancing, and extravagance.  As the show progressed with great showmanship, I began to think that with all the hoopla about the season and the perfect gifts, it would take God Himself to keep someone from being terribly disappointed on Christmas morning.  I chuckled at the irony.

And then suddenly, on stage in full array, complete with camels, sheep, donkeys, and a suspended angel surrounded by laser lights, the nativity story was narrated in sight and sound, the account of the birth of Christ not made up or glamorized by a script writer, but the Scriptures in Luke 2 clearly read out loud. Nothing more profound than that.

May our lives --and our words -- point others to Christ.

I cannot summarize the good news of the gospel in two words.  But I can leave a reminder, like an unmistakable stick-it note, "Merry Christmas," every which way I can, in word and deed.

And the angel said to them,
"Be not afraid,
for behold, I bring you
good news of a great joy
which will come to all the people;
for to you is born this day
           in the city of David
a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

                      Luke 2. 10-11

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How am I going to do this?

I woke in the early darkness that day, reluctant to face what was quite literally on my course for the morning.  I slipped out of bed a little earlier than I needed to because of what I really needed.

I pulled on my clothes, already set out the night before.  I headed up to the attic space where I would stretch out my legs and let the LORD lay out His day before me by reading His Word.

And there at the end of one chapter, right at the end of my reading, my heart was caught by a verse.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
                           Psalm 124. 8

Running through my thoughts on a repeated loop had been the question, "How am I going to do this?"

And it was as if God had replied to me through His Word, "Not by yourself."

I was running a marathon that morning.  And over and over throughout those hours, those words came to the surface of my thoughts and gave me His strength as I repeated them.

We all face a lot of things much harder than a marathon.  And in the course of my life since that day, God reminds me of His Presence.  Don't even try to do this on your own.

No need to.

On Whom do I call, to Whom I pray, on Whom I rely, not just for this day, but on Whom I can stake my life.

Don't ever forget it.

This verse should be my first response in time of trouble, my daily prayer at the break of day, no matter what is set before me. How am I going to do this?

Not by myself.

Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

                           Psalm 124. 8

Engrave on your heart.
Repeat as needed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Look for the helpers

Our two year old grandson pointed out to me a place on the wall where light and dark had created a design. "What is that?" he asked.
"Just a shadow," I replied.
"That's scary," he said.  He is not sure what "scary" means, but he heard in some conversation or a children's book that shadows are something of which to be afraid.  And I prayed that he would not be paralyzed by what has no substance at all.

I feel like I have wasted a lot of my life being afraid of shadows. 

When one of our daughters was five, she was reciting the Ten Commandments.  She had named most of them, when she hesitated for just a minute.  I could almost see the gears in her brain moving.  "Do not ...," she started.  And then with great excitement and a strike of brilliance on her part, she finished, "Do not be afraid!"

"That is not one of the Ten Commandments," I pointed out.

"Well, it should be," she said.

Indeed, woven throughout history and throughout Scripture, God says, "Do not be afraid."  Because fear paralyzes us from doing what is good and right. It attempts to extinguish every vestige of hope.  And fear keeps us from trusting our sovereign God.  Trusting God opens doors.

Many people know of Fred Rogers as a beloved children's television pioneer. What few people realize is that Mr. Rogers, as he was known, was first a Presbyterian minister who desired to teach and display moral truth in pictures and stories that small children could understand.

"When I was a boy," said Mr. Rogers, "and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."

Stories are how moral imagination grows in the hearts of children.  This is what doing what is right looks like.  This is what telling the truth looks like.  This is what being kind looks like.  By seeing morals played out in stories, a child learns not just what they are, but how to do it too.

"Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping."

This is how to respond.  Don't just look for the helpers, be one.

"If we do not do the running steadily
                   in the little ways,
we shall do nothing in the crisis."

                   Oswald Chambers
                   My Utmost for His Highest

That which is sewn stitch by stitch into the fabric of our everyday lives is evident in time of dire need.  What am I practicing? Fear?  Or the grace of God even in this daily task?  Even in this daunting appointment? Am I aware of others? Am I learning how to respond? 

As for you, brothers,
do not grow weary in doing good.

                   2 Thessalonians 3. 13