Posted on December 26, 2016
Queen Elizabeth II was said to prefer “Happy Christmas” at a time when “merry,” meant “intoxicated.” -Wikipedia
The Queen was onto something, but I wouldn’t have separated it. Let Christmas be associated with the feeling of intoxication, because that’s an accurate reading of my Christmas-filled heart.
“Merry” is the uninhibited joy released by God’s grace, and the freedom that flows out of His forgiveness. It’s the boisterous laughter that seeps out in spite of exhaustion, and the confetti of cares launched free in celebration of the Light of life.
Just in case the foul look on my daughter’s face didn’t communicate her disgust, she huffed around and away and out of the room. Infuriated that she had swiped the last word, the furthest thing from my mind was forgiveness.
God’s response to our tendency to walk around and run away was to forge a path to forgive us. His compassionate love is expressed through the Son who chose to endure humanity, knowing ahead of time that “Merry Christmas” would eventually become an intolerable offense. God loves us for who we are …not who we search to be. Jesus was born to restore our standing with His Father.
Now that the danger of touching the hot stove has passed, I can begin to back down the maternal scream for safety in exchange for a listening ear and an understanding heart. A heart that isn’t offended by my daughter’s struggle to find herself in this world; but one that recognizes it’s plight, and looks for moments to guide, assure, and comfort her. Jesus erased my sins. Who am I to hold onto hers?
Everlasting life just for trusting Jesus with ours? That’s a birthday worth celebrating in “merry” jubiliee.
Christmas is like hopping on a sled and swishing down the hill, faster than we can brace for but worth hopping on. Blinded by stinging snow as we sail down the hill, the world’s cold, cruel and political correct statutes are blurred by hope.
The joy of Jesus numbs the pain that tends to taint tears a bitter color if we remain of this world. The constant search of self is satisfied in the embrace of who we are right now. Life isn’t consistent or predictable. Lean into the reliability of love, not actions, personalities, or unexplainable disasters. Our entire existence is a snap of God’s fingertips.
Christmas is the whole point of life. It grants us the opportunity to have the relationship that Luke mentions above. Without that baby born in a manger, we are doomed to watch the sled zip by, never quick enough or smart enough or agile enough to catch it and hop on. Jesus holds it, waits for us to accept the ride, and then joins in as we scream with glee all the way down the hill …of life.
“Merry” Christmas. It’s intoxicating …Jesus being born to save the world. It’s merry …God and His love for us. It’s endearing and inspiring …to be forgiven beyond what we deserve. It’s joy …the opportunity we have to journey through life in closeness with our Creator.
Be merry! Shout with joy! Embrace who YOU are …right now! Have FUN in this life, with your Savior by your side.
Posted on December 7, 2016
1. A Christmas carol. 2. (capitalized) Christmas. (Merriam-Webster)
Another name for Christmas. French Noël (“Christmas season”), may come from the Old French nael. This, in turn, is derived from the Latin natalis, meaning “birth.” Wikipedia
” Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11
My neighbor gave me a Christmas Cactus last year, which she told me only blooms at Christmas-time. I wanted to see if I could keep it alive until it was time for it to bloom again. So, I forgot to water it most of the winter, re-potted it in the spring, and continued to forget to water it the rest of the year.
Beyond my ability to care for it, it survived. The first week of the Advent (Christmas) season, it began to flower. It’s in a pot …on my desk …in Ohio …and it’s a cactus. But God said, “it’s time.”
Time: an appointed, fixed, or customary moment or hour for something to happen, begin, or end. (Merriam-Webster, 3B)
Behind every human being is a baby in a womb that God’s hand began to the tune, “it’s time.” We can trust the Author of Life, and the proof is Jesus. That day in the town of David, God said, “it’s time,” and born was the Savior of the world, a vulnerable baby boy who needed to be held and nurtured and loved. Born to hold, nurture, and love us for all time. Noel …a birthday.
“He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” John 1:10-13
My first visit to a new optometrist revealed a change in my vision. He prescribed a pair of glasses to combat the glare of the computer screen and the sunshine. Each morning, I faithfully clean and prepare them for the day with special cloth and spray. Its worth it to me. I appreciate the view. Guess what? They’re shatterproof, too. My new vision is as
protected as it could possibly be.
When Zechariah lost his ability to see God clearly, he lost his speech along with it. He doubted the vision he saw. He questioned the message. At his son’s birth, his speech was restored. Jesus restored our hope with His. Might something we were previously unaware of be blocking Him from our vision?
The b-side of birth lies beyond God’s creation of our physicality. He built the possibility of hope into our DNA. A gift of grace allowed by the sacrifice of that baby boy born in the town of David. The opportunity to break free and follow Him home. The power of purpose as our feet tread the dirt of this Earth. When Christ is our personal Savior, the silence is lifted from our souls and our vision realigned …like getting new glasses. In a fresh hug of friendship defined, we are born …again.
“Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel …born is the King of Israel.”
“Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel …born is the King of Israel.”
-The First Noel Christmas Carol
Sing in celebration that Jesus was born to save us. It’s not just any birthday celebration. Christmas is the love of the Father and peace of the Son that transcends the encapsulation of time.
birth: the emergence of a new individual from the body of its parent (Merriam-Webster.)
God said, “it’s time,” and like the wind blows when He says and the seas calm at His hand, Heaven came to earth embodied in His Son. And we not only get to partake in this love story …we are the center of it. Can you see it?
Noel. Emerge. It’s time.
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Faith Filled Friday
Posted on May 12, 2016
“Sorry!” My oldest called out as she sent her Daddy’s peg flying off the game-board.
“What?!?” he retorted, “You just broke your own rule!”
My little one lined up a teeny tiny animal audience as they argued. The table melted down into assigning blame, hurt feelings, and an unfinished game. It’s impossible to declare the winner of a game with no rules, and I was not going to take sides…
Life’s a lot more complicated than the game of “Sorry.” It’s easy to forgive someone for knocking your game peg off the board, but not so easy to swim through the hurt of being bumped. There are times I feel unqualified to wipe away my daughters’ tears as I choke back my own. Praying for the right way to raise them, I discovered two words to help me piece together a plan.
Though they appear synonymous, “favor” and “favoritism” communicate opposite messages in fostering a healthy community. These three steps will help you land on the right side of the coin.
“Favoritism: the practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.” Google.com
Life can be a lot about choosing sides and shifting circles, causing hurt feelings to be hidden in fear of being cut out. But it’s important to put a voice to hurt in a non-accusatory or defensively dramatic fashion. I try to guide my daughters (and repeat to myself) to talk directly to the one who hurt them, not around them in circles. For example:
“When you said that, it hurt my feelings.”
When we align with the audience of favoritism, we fail to notice God’s favor; when true hurts of the heart are spoken out loud, we allow God’s favor to defend us.
“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart…he who does these things will never be shaken.” Psalms 15:2,5
How is one to know they’ve hurt me if they have no idea they’ve wounded me? God doesn’t care about the clamor to click and the clack to belong. Speaking up when my feelings are hurt without putting my foot in my mouth is an impossibly difficult task, but it’s more conducive to community than seething to attain sympathy out of thin air.
“We hide pain in the weirdest places…broken souls with smiling faces…Just look around and you see that people …are scared to say how they really feel …we all need …a little honesty.” ‘You are Loved,’ by Stars Go Dim.
“Favor: an attitude of approval or liking…an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.” Google.com
Forgiveness is an important extension of the grace Jesus died to give us. It is something a human to human relationship is not 100% capable of without His presence. We consult our circle, but Christ didn’t have a clique. (Luke 4:19)
Cliques offer protection, status, guaranteed friendship, trust, and acceptance. Though we look to each other for these things, only Christ is capable of fulfilling a lifetime of love and belonging. God wired our desire to seek His Son.
Christ loves beyond faults, and gifts grace without regard to requirement. Extend grace.
The puzzling and powerless feeling of injustice is agonizing, but I survive by crying out to God. The ugly cry. The uncontrollable, shoulders shaking in sobs and nose running down my face …desperate to understand “why?” cry.
Sometimes, life hurts more than we can comprehend because we’re not built to lean on other people …we’re meant to lean on God. He will fight our battles for us if we will faithfully hand them over.
Before I drop them off at school, in sibling mediation, at bedtime …I’m constantly trumping my daughters’ excuses with my favorite soapbox.
“and we are…” I’ll bait.
“Kind,” they comply. Life’s most important rule.
“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James 2:1
It’s hard to be kind in the face of calamity when I have a ferociously strong feeling about what is fair. But I believe God. Speaking the truth of our hearts, and forgiving without requiring apology …that’s our part. The rest is His area of expertise.
“There were three options for citizens under Roman rule: sell out, get out, or fight back… Jesus introduced a fourth option: serve…” Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (James 2:1-26 commentary)
I pray to mimic Jesus’ justice and fake it till I make it all the way into His arms; letting Him fill the gap of what I cannot accomplish alone, and fight what I was never equipped to battle.
Life is too risky to run without rules, yelling “sorry!” over shoulders when feelings flip and hearts are hurt. Reactions CAN land on the right side of the coin by determining which audience is driving our decisions. The audience of favoritism caters to cliques; the audience of God’s favor fosters community.
Speak. Forgive. Let go.
We say, “Sorry!!” Jesus says, “Grace!!”
Happy Card Drawing!
Posted on April 12, 2016
“I DIDN’T SAY THAT!!!!” One sister yelled.
“YESSSSSSS YOUUUUUUU DIIIIIIIID-AAAAAAAA,” the other retorted.
“WELL THEN YOU HEARD ME WRRRRROOOONNNGGGG-AAAAAA,” she snapped back.
“Ugh,” I sighed, listening to them pile frustrated syllables on top of simple words, “they’ve BOTH gotten that from me.”
Faces twisted into eccentric versions of craziness, both seethingly glared into the review mirror. Apparently, that was my cue to magically apply logic to what had “actually” been said. Ironic, how they burst into laughter at Siri’s mistakes …or Mom’s …that’s always hysterical. But they take sisterly “corrections” very seriously.
Grown-up or not, we all fall victim to our own stubbornness. Right or wrong, few people have the ability to apologize on the spot for the effect irrelevant to the cause. Except Siri, she’s pretty quick to tell you, “I’m sorry, I did not understand.”
If you join me in the struggle to handle hot-tempered moments of kids quarreling in the backseat, I can offer a couple of tips that have kept me on the road. But don’t judge me if you hear me screaming “SHUT UP!” as I drive around town with the windows down. #trying #inthefield
“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Leviticus 20:7-8 (NIV)
Tense moments flare tempers, and words seem to fail us. No matter how many, or at what volume, they spill into the car … mistranslated like a text message surrendered to auto-correct.
God seeks to steer us, and applauds efforts to guide our children through tedious moments. Seek His wisdom. Set aside some space to clear the clutter and read the Bible. Everyday has five free minutes. The time I spend in His Word allows me to relay the motherly messages He always intended for my daughters to hear.
Imagine God watching from Heaven while we blow right by misinterpretations and hit “send” anyway …EVEN WHEN He’s waving both hands in front of our face?!?! Instead of ridiculing us for missteps and side-trails, He sent His only Son to die for us. The love demonstrated in sacrifice forever forgives our failed efforts. Through Jesus, God replaces every “fallen short,” with “grace and love.”
What missteps have lent us the opportunity to spread Christ’s love? The story of Jesus naming Peter yields immense hope.
“And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter.)” John 1:42 (NIV)
Peter was a fisherman that doubted Jesus at the rooster’s crow. But he was also known for having solid faith in Jesus, and for his leadership in the early church. The NIV Study Bible further notes that, although his name is literally translated, “Rock,”
“Peter was anything but a rock; he was impulsive and unstable…Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.”
My daughters’ bickering in the backseat brings to light the natural struggle to be right …to be the best …the favorite … independent… No winner emerges from unjust conflict. There’s no reason to put our individual mission on earth to death by comparison. Our kids need us to be who Jesus says we are.
“Peter was best know for his impetuous nature and fierce devotion to Christ.” -NIV Study Bible Text Note
Impetuous means, “acting or done quickly and without thought or care.” (Google.com) It also can mean, “moving forcefully or rapidly.” (Google.com)
Fierce means, “having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.”(Google.com) It can also mean, “(of a feeling, emotion, or action) showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.”(Google.com)
So by one definition we can choose to see Peter as a flip-flopping doubter with a temper. Or, we can choose to look a little bit deeper into the heart Jesus identified long before Peter knew his name. The “Rock,” who spread the gospel with force and speed throughout the early church, and loved Jesus with heartfelt and powerfully intense faith.
Embrace the correction.
“Girls…” I warmed up, as I prayed that a nugget of Spirit-led wisdom would fall out of my mouth, “…it doesn’t matter who started it or who’s fault it is …you both need to apologize and hug it out.”
Insert insane amount of eye-rolling and last ditch efforts to pinch each other…
“Love you,” I added with a smile.
The correction is love.
We don’t have to fight to be fierce. Most of us haven’t even grown into our true “names” yet. When we’re scrunched up and mangled into frustrated faces, Jesus sees our hearts and knows our names. His gift of death in exchange for grace grants us new life …for life …for forever.
Fight with the fierce and ferocious power of the love that conquered it all. And if you let a hot-tempered phrase slip, apologize. It works for Siri …my kids think she’s hilarious when she admits she’s at a complete loss…
When I want to quit, prayer is there to pull me through. I hope you know He’s there for you, too.
Posted on April 5, 2016
“Mom-can-I-be-a-milk-buyer-today?” My Kindergartener rapid-fire demanded.
“No,” I hurried, “I still haven’t put more lunch money in your account, sweetie…”
“WE DON’T HAVE TO PAY, MOM!!!” She once again informed me, with her face all scrunched up and frustrated as she reenacted her walk up to the lunch line to tell the cashier she’s a milk buyer.
If only I realized, morning after hectic morning, that she was really just informing me of her intention rather than asking permission. After a semester of self-proclaimed “milk buyer” days, the bill came home in her “parent communication” folder.
I needed a serious break.
One gray Northern Ohio day after the next, my face froze as my dog’s ears flipped over in the frigid North wind off the lake. Trudging through my determination to exercise, I kept thinking about the packed suitcase waiting to be zipped up and loaded into the mini-van. My normal knack to focus on “I love the four seasons” positive thinking had faded away with the forecast for snow well into April. Robbed of a season… again. Huff.
I needed some serious sunshine …the warm kind.
In the middle of an argument about why we actually do pay for milk, it’s hard to relax. When my thoughts are literally frozen by the North wind, it’s difficult to rest in the beauty of God’s creation.
I simply get tired of trying.
The Space gives me time to realign and rejuvenate.
If I don’t stop to be silent, I forget. The smiles behind the struggles begin to fade, and the wind rips my well-intended goal’s fortitude right out the sail.
When it’s 29 degrees and hail is falling in April, it’s hard for me to accept that I’m “right where I need to be.” When, one by one, family and friends move South, it’s hard to understand why I’m being left behind. When colleagues collect where the sun shines, it’s hard to understand why I shouldn’t move.
Somehow, sitting silent on a sunny beach allowed that verse to smack the truth right back into my soul. Separated from the strife of my schedule, I could see where my heart was misaligned with God’s Word.
“Drinks the rain often falling on it…” I’m being nourished right where I am.
“…a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed..” I’m already surrounded by people to reach.
“…receives the blessing of God.” Pick me! I want that!
With each lap of ocean surf, His creation echoed His Word. Spiritual and deep …but so is He. The rambunctious rant of my daughters laughing at their Papa was sweet peace compared to the incessant whining of the “get ready for school” grind. Created in His image, we must take space to get quiet …to learn who God is… and go deep.
The NIV Study Bible notes that “Changed lives and works of love suggest that many of these persons were indeed regenerated.” (The author was speaking to a crowd undecided about who among them was truly “saved…” much like we unjustly take stock of each other now, isn’t it? #sidenote)
Regeneration reminds me of crab claws on the beach. A claw gets lopped off, and they grow a new one. What is God trying to reveal through a creature with this feature?
Google‘s definition of regeneration is “(of a living organism) Regrow. Bring into renewed existence; generate again.”
Sometimes, I have to stop so God can move.
When I’m scrambling for a solution and going after my goals, the last thing I think I need to do is relax. So, I don’t. I push, and strive, and work, and completely exhaust myself. I keep buying milk even though the lunch account is empty. If I neglect “the space” for too long, I find myself praying to inform God of what I’ve discerned rather that asking for His permission.
My good and faithful God sent a note home in my communication folder this Spring, packed my suitcase, sat me down on a Gulf Coast beach, and thawed out my doubt. His Son, Jesus, lopped off a few disconcerting thoughts and misaligned intentions. His Spirit spoke encouragement into my heart through the surf.
I’m ready to move now… right from here.