December 29, 2016

Imperfect


I met Karen, a new believer, who had the impression that I am perfect because I have been saved a long time. We had met for lunch when I casually mentioned how my husband and I had a disagreement earlier about finances. I shared with her that before I left my house to meet her for lunch, I said harsh and unkind things to my husband, and now was feeling guilty and needed to make it right when I was home again.

Karen surprised me when she said she was happy to know I was human, after all. Because she is a new believer, much of our conversation had been about discipleship and helping her to learn about the Bible, but we hadn’t moved to the practical side of life yet.

I am glad our conversation stirred us in that direction, since it’s very important for new believers to know that those of us who have been walking with the Lord a long time - we are not anywhere near perfect. We do get mad at our spouses and other people. We experience anger, and are guilty of harshness, unkindness, and other failings quite often.

I am glad she saw my imperfection. I think she was relieved to learn she didn’t have to be perfect for God to continue loving her.

As we continued to enjoy our meal, we had a long talk about how God’s Spirit indwelling the believer brings conviction when we do something wrong. The Holy Spirit also convicts us to be sorry for our actions and apologize to the person we mistreated.

Our discussion reminded us both that we truly are sinners saved by grace, and that our desire is to be perfected and be more like Christ every day. 

Philippians 3:12   
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

December 26, 2016

Where Can We Find God?


Someone posed these questions, “Where can I find God? How can I find Him?”

I thought about the answer and this I know.

He is not a God who is far off.

The truth is - we can find Him early each new day.

We can find Him in the morning.

He’s already waiting for us before the night sky turns to dawn.

He’s already there waiting for us before our sleepy eyes are wide awake.

It is the place I meet Him with whispered words and grab His hand and never let go the rest of the day.

He is already there waiting for me. While my body needed a night’s sleep to rejuvenate, He never slept or wearied for one moment. He who never tires or sleeps refreshes me each morning.

There is nothing else that inspires me more than this experience each day - knowing the Lord is waiting for me, knowing that every morning He invites me to meet with Him, talk with Him, and go through my day with Him. It always begins with the dawn of each new morning. 

In the quiet, waking moment of each new morning, before the rest of the world comes rushing in, I hear His voice and know He is near. The dawn of each new morning is not only where He waits for me. It is also where He waits for you.


Isaiah 40:28 
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

Psalm 121:3-4
He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. 

Jeremiah 23:23-24
Am I a God near at hand,” says the Lord, “And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the Lord; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.
 

(The "mysterious" lights in the sky…are Christmas lights from the tree in the room where I took this picture through the window.)

December 19, 2016

Savoring Christmas


Curled up in my favorite comfortable armchair and carefully sipping a cup of hot spiced tea, listening to Christmas music in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, is the way I most enjoy the season of Jesus Christ’s birth. 

In the glow of those sparkling tree lights is the Nativity that sits on our hearth, that small and cherished visual of the Christmas story which has graced our home for over twenty five years. Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus are surrounded by animals, shepherds, wise men, and angels.

Above the hearth hang the stockings for our family. All of our names are monogrammed in a stylish script on these beautiful stockings that invite us to fill them with goodies by Christmas morning.

Traditions are a treasured part of our Christmas celebrations each year. The cookies we bake, the candy we make, the cards we send, the gifts we buy, the Christmas Eve service we attend, and the family gatherings and parties we go to are the activities we participate in to enjoy and observe this special time of year. Much time is spent furiously rushing from one Christmas activity to another - between school, work, church, and home.

Somewhere in the mix of all these obligations and activities, we find our schedules growing fuller and our days busier and busier. Next thing we know, each Christmas season becomes a time of stress and overwhelming busyness and we can feel like we are on a fast, spinning merry-go-round that won’t slow down. 

If we are going to savor and reflect on the meaning of Christmas as we should, we must slow down. We will enjoy our celebration of Christmas more when we find a balance between activity and Nativity. I have learned that I cannot be involved in every program, activity, and every party, and must make choices to limit the busyness by only selecting certain ones.

The Christmas season becomes the most difficult time to be still. If we don’t intentionally take the time to slow down and be still, Christmas will pass by in a flurry of activity, and not enough Nativity.

Will we take the time to pause and with awe remember this miracle of Christ’s birth? Will we make the time to rejoice in knowing God’s plan to come to earth in the person of His only Beloved Son Jesus, was for me…and for you? Will we think about that Holy night in Bethlehem while we sit in our comfortable chairs listening to carols in the glow of the Christmas tree lights?  Will we open our Bibles again to Luke 2 and read how a Savior was born?

If we want there to be more Nativity than activity, we will pause…and savor Christmas.

Luke 2:11-12 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

December 9, 2016

When Life Is Not a Christmas Card


In our homes with lights aglow, stockings hung with care and cookies baking in the oven, our lives can look like a Christmas card. But sometimes it looks like something else. It can look harsher, colder, and even very lonely. Sometimes, Christmas can be hard. It doesn’t look like a Christmas card, or a happily ending Christmas movie. 

What do we do when life is hard and we don’t know what to do? Hold tight to our faith and keep our trust in God. 

Sometimes, there are those things we can never fix and things that we can never change. Sometimes, there are circumstances and trials we’ll never understand, those things we’ll never know the reason why. Sometimes, we face situations that will test our faith and test our trust in God. 

Faith is trusting that God is there
And knowing He is always in control.
Faith is staying close to Him
No matter what comes your way,
And believing He will meet your every need.

Faith is knowing that He loves you
And will never leave you or forsake you.
Faith is believing that in all things
He has a purpose and a plan.

Faith is knowing 
You don’t have to understand it all
To keep your trust in Him.

Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

December 4, 2016

Christmas Caroling


Each Christmas since my sister and her husband were killed in a car crash a few years ago, I have shared a Christmas memory related to them. The first story was The Christmas Jar, their secret mission to take the change they saved each year and leave it on the doorstep of a family in need without their knowing who it came from. Last year I shared The Snowflake Ornament from Donna and her class at church and how special it is and that it is the first ornament I put on my tree each year.

Now that another Christmas has rolled around, I will share another Christmas memory of my sister, Donna and her husband, Dewayne.

I was single and in my early twenties and Donna and Dewayne were the closest family I had. I went to “their” church. I helped Donna with her class of girls.

At Christmas time a group from our church (in Kentucky) decided to go Christmas caroling. The previous year we had gone to the hospital and just caroled in the hallways. This time we decided to go to some of the homes of families from our church.

It was a cold evening so we were bundled up and I remember gathering on the church bus and pulling our coats and scarves tight around us because it was cold and the bus heater, well, it didn’t do much heating.

Donna had stayed home. She had been baking cookies, making candies and promised all of us hot chocolate at her house after the caroling. We thought about her hot chocolate and desserts all evening long.

Dewayne, my brother-in-law, was known for his good singing voice. Not trained, no music degree, just a natural tenor voice and he enjoyed singing with anyone that would take him up on a duet or trio or quartet. That was back in the days when some churches, especially in Kentucky, still had Singings. Do you remember those?

Someone in the group had made copies of the songs we were to sing and we practiced a few at the church before heading out for our caroling.


When we started to practice Away in a Manger we all began to sing the song, but something didn’t sound right. Everyone but Dewayne was singing it one way, and Dewayne was singing it a different way and it was …wrong! We told him so.

He said,” No, this is how it goes.” We said “No, you are singing it wrong.”

He said, “Then you haven’t heard the other version.”

“What other version?” we asked him.

He convinced us there was another version out there, but for that night, he would sing it the “traditional” way most of us know.

The evening went smoothly as we made stops at homes throughout the town and sang our Christmas songs to church families who stepped outside to listen and neighbors who heard our singing and also came outside and shivered in the cold while we sang.

As the evening grew late we headed over to Donna and Dewayne’s house where a group of cold carolers rushed in to crowd around the fire place and were handed cups of hot chocolate by my sister. Her Christmas cookies and fudge were delicious and the conversation continued to be about how Dewayne sang Away in a Manger the wrong way.

He still assured us, his way was not wrong.

Several years later, Christmas music was playing on the radio and a set of Anne Murray songs began, and don’t you know, she started to sing Away in a Manger…wrong! She sang it the way Dewayne had sang it all those years ago.

There was another version!

I called Donna to tell her I had heard the over version and that Dewayne was right! Dewayne came on the phone, “Hey Sis, I told you so!” He always addressed me that way, “Hey Sis.” Just like Donna did.