Monday, December 31, 2012

A New Year Reflection

I can relate to this following quote on many levels: "I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?" (Ernest Hemingway)

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway
It’s been a “Hemingway” kind-of-week already.  I started the week watching Paris after Midnight.  I loved the portrayal of Hemingway, by the way. His character spoke much like I thought Hemingway must have talked.  Short sentences. Succinct.  Filled with meaning – sort of.  Then this morning, I ran across two Hemingway quotes.  One by accident as I was looking for a quote on “fall” (as in the season – do you see the irony in this?), the other from the source of all great and wise quotes: FaceBook (also note the picture above that was with the quote).   Hemingway really has nothing to do with this blog, but his second quote does.

Life is a journey.  Mine has been quite a journey.  Never a dull moment.  Full of valleys and mountains.  Highs and lows.  Ups and downs.  Joy and sorrow.  Confusion and peace.  Clutter, chaos, and calm.  I’ve been here and there, in the know and out of it (mostly out of it).  It’s been good; it’s been bad; it’s been amazing!  You’s  Just like yours.  All journeys have an end – mine will come one day when I “cross over the Jordan” and “walk  through those pearly gates,” and enter the “mansion” currently being built.  I look forward to that day, but Hemingway is right, it’s not about the end, not really, it’s about the journey.  Most of the time, I would love it if my journey looked like the one above, clear roads, beautiful sunrise, straight shot ahead.  However, that’s not been my experience.  Most of the time, my journey has been more like bush-whacking.  It’s not very clear.  I don’t really know what’s ahead...and it’s hard to see the amazing sunrise/sunset.  It’s hard to see the “forest for the trees (no pun intended).” 
David Livingstone, whose heart beat, profoundly, for the people in Africa, was criticized for going into the unknown dark world.  When he started sending back reports, one of the mission organizations who had repeatedly turned him down for financial support, and been most critical of his mission efforts, sent him a telegram (something similar to a fax, for those who don’t know about telegrams).  It said something to this effect, “We’d like to send other men to you (stop) – Have you found good roads into your area yet (stop)”   His reply?  Well, it probably didn’t soften their hearts and win them over.  I don’t much like it, either. "If you have men who will only come if there is a good road, I don't want them (stop)  I want men who will come if there is no road at all (stop)” 

Sometimes, God is full of grace, and gives us good clear roads.  Most days, it’s, well, it’s a journey into the unknown.  It’s called “adventure.”  It’s called...LIFE!  But, here’s the reminder the Lord gave me this morning about the adventure of the journey:

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).
You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Ps. 16:11).

As for God, His way is perfect (2 Sam 22:31a)
The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Ps 121:8).

Welcome to 2013!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day Pondering

These words have been running circles through my brain fairly frequently since the first of December, “...and we beheld his glory.”  I finally took the time to look up the verse, found in John 1:14.  It’s really a great Word for a Christmas Day reflection: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory - glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus, the Son of God, willingly wrapped himself in flesh and came to earth one star-filled night, in order that we might behold his glory!  Imagine!  Unfathomable!  Think about that original Christmas morning:
Mary was the first to behold his glory - as a small baby wrapped in her arms, flesh against flesh, and she nurtured him.  She beheld his glory as he grew strong, good, kind, and full of grace & truth - and she pondered the events of his life as they unfolded.  His earthly father saw that glory - and made sure he was protected.  Rulers heard rumors of his glory, and trembled in fear, trying to rid the world of him.  Shepherds and wise men, beheld his glory, and they worshipped him.  His disciples beheld his glory and followed him.  The masses beheld his glory and crowded around him, desiring a touch from him, in the hopes that they would receive healing.  The religious took note of his glory, and they crucified him.  Yet, the world was forever changed because he chose to dress in flesh and come to earth, simply to serve, and as he served he sought and saved the lost.  Generations later, he saved me!  Hopefully, that is you.
Yet, I don’t want that salvation moment of “beholding his glory” to be a one-time event in my life.  It is so easy to allow the celebration of our Savior to be lost in the chaos of the hustle and bustle of the day – every day!  It is easy to lose the miracle of the moments, those glory-beholding-events meant just for me, when I am distracted by busy-ness.  I may not have rulers, or kings, trying to rid me of Jesus in my world, but I do have an enemy who tries to rob me of the joy in my journey.  I want to take time in the middle of this very special day (and every day of the new year) to ponder him, to re-commit to nurturing his growth in my heart (that he might grow greater, and I might be less), to protect my time with him, to worship him, to allow him to touch and heal my heart from all woundedness, and to re-focus on following him closer still.  In the following days, I pray that more often than not, I am able to truthfully and consistently proclaim, “…I beheld his glory!”
And when I see those moments glittering in the "son light", like diamonds slipping from his hand, I pray those little glory-beholding gifts, shine brighter than the darkness of the coals of hardship; and I pray my response is, indeed, like that of the wise men and disciples. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Ramblings

This morning as I sit to write, my mind is pretty foggy and I’m having a hard time staying focused.  Sometimes, just putting pen to paper helps sift through the thoughts that are swirling around and make sense of what’s up there.  So, I recognize two whirlwinds that are picking up dust and cluttering the landscape.

First one happens to be the lyrics to a chorus you’ll recognize. The chorus repeats:  He loves us! Oh, how he loves us, Oh how he loves...  The verse I keep hearing says:  And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss and my heart beats wildly inside my chest.  I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, when I think about...He loves us!  Oh, how he loves us...
The second whirlwind seems to be the lines of a little prayer I learned years ago, which I think is titled The Serenity Prayer.  You’ll recognize it, too.  Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change; have the courage to change the things I can; and, the wisdom to know the difference.

I know – pretty random, huh?  Yet, as my mind clears with the recognition of what’s circling around in my thoughts, I don’t have to think long about the “why” of either whirlwind, and I know it’s the Lord’s way of planting seeds of truth that need to be watered for the purpose of sprouting into fruitful living.
Here’s my moment of clarity:

He loves me.  Of this truth, I am unwaveringly certain.  However, there are things in my life that I certainly “regret.”  Not necessarily things I have done, or acted out, but more the way events have unfolded; the moments that have passed and left me scratching my head and reaching for more; the desire to hold onto a life that is flying by too quickly, yet unable to do so; and, in many ways, realizing that I have never truly grieved losses the way they were meant to be grieved.  Ever feel that way?  Maybe, it’s just an “old lady” thing...
Yet, in spite of all the regret, HE LOVES ME.  What really matters is that one Christmas, so many years ago, heaven met earth in an unforeseen kiss  to remind us all that this is the most important truth I will ever need in this life.  Here in the midst of nostalgia (Christmas really brings that out in me), the Lord is nudging me to let go, lay them down, and to accept those things that cannot be changed; to live in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit deep inside, courageously changing what can be changed; and continuing to seek his plan, not mine, HIS...and, then, to move forward.

C.S. Lewis once said, “There are far better things ahead, than any we leave behind.”  After all, we are all marching steadily toward eternity, where we’ll receive face to face the kiss of heaven.  No, I don’t have time to maintain regret – for the past is a trap, but there’s always freedom to be found in discovering the “what next” of God.

I do not consider that I have made it my own, but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:13-14).

Come back tomorrow, for a special Christmas Day pondering, but in the meantime MERRY CHRISTMAS!  Enjoy your Jesus, and may heaven meet you here on earth, and touch you intimately.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Reflection, #2

Not sure why I’ve been thinking about weddings, but I have.  Well, that’s not true, I am sure why; there are several weddings coming up over the holiday season.  That’s why.  I’ve been thinking about them, because I’m so glad I’m not the one having to prepare for a wedding amidst preparing for celebrating Jesus birth.  Can you imagine?  Honestly, I’m feeling a bit anxious on behalf of these brides, grooms, and their families.  Preparing for a wedding is a very big DEAL.  It’s also very expensive.  Do you know the average cost of a wedding?  Let me spare you the research.  Answer:  it depends on where you get married.  The average number of dollars spent in the U.S. overall as of May in 2012 was (drum roll) $27,021.00. I did not make that up.  However, if you live in New York City, the average cost of a wedding is (GONG).....(GONG)...(GONG)...$65,824!  I did not make that up, either.  My girls were lucky to get a wedding for $3000. They were robbed.  What does this have to do with a Christmas reflection?

Obviously, it’s the word prepare.  We prepare months for a wedding, some girls take years.  We spend more money on the day, than we do in preparation of the life to come.  I think that’s very sad.  What about preparing for Christmas?  I’m not thinking of the plans.  I’m not thinking of the decorations, or who you are having over for dinner, or how many presents you have to buy, or how big the tree is, or whether or not God will co-operate with the weather man and bring you snow.  I’m asking this question, “What are you doing to prepare your heart for Christmas?”  What does that mean, really...practically?
PREPARE, that was John the Baptist’s mission.  Remember the verse from last week?  He gave us one way (repent), which we discussed last week.

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.”

Here are a few more ways to prepare:
1)      Repent.  God’s already forgiven...he’s already promised to cleanse us from our wrongs...we just need to step into what’s already ours and walk in it.  Are you walking in the truth that there is, therefore, no condemnation in Christ Jesus?

2)      Make room for Jesus.  Remember the Christmas story?  There was no room for Jesus in the inn.  Have you made room for him in your daily life?  Room for him in your home?  Room for him in your extra time?  Room for him in your Christmas celebration?

3)      Fear not.  Again, remember the Christmas story?  What was the message of the angels?  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news..”  The good news of Jesus birth, God-with-us, should eliminate all fear.  If we truly repent, make room for Jesus, there is no need for fear.

4)      Treasure & ponder the Jesus-moments in your life.  Remember Mary?  All of a sudden, following the birth of her first-born-son, all these unexplainable things began to unfold.  These were Jesus-moments and Mary treasured them and pondered...  Take time during the holiday season to reflect on your own Jesus-moments  -- times when the unexplainable can only be explained by breathing two words, “but God.”

5)      Worship & glorify him.  I’m not anti-Christmas.  I’m all about gifts, and Christmas lights, and a sweet-smelling pine tree, and food (especially fudge), but I’m even more about the worship of the one worthy of it all. 

This week’s lesson of advent:  prepare! Spend time planning for a Christmas that directs you to Jesus, keep him front and center of the holiday.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Reflections, #1

On the morning of November 1, I went to the mailboxes to see if, perchance, I had any of the old-fashioned kind of mail.  Much to my delight, there was a package slip in my box (rare!).  On the slip was a little handwritten note: Time to start listening to Christmas music!  Permission!  I had just been granted permission to listen to Christmas music before Thanksgiving was over.  Yes, please!  So, my excitement for the Christmas season began to mount, early in November. 

As soon as I finished last week’s blog, I went to the Bible to start looking for appropriate advent passages.  Where did I start?  Where the stories of Jesus began – in Matthew.  I got as far as chapter 3, when I stopped.  Here’s how it reads:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.”
Prepare...that was John’s calling.
The way of Jesus...that was John’s mission.
Repent...that was John’s message.

Nothing could be more “advent” than John the Baptist – he was the pre-advent of the advent of the incarnate Christ.  I’ve no problem with his calling, or his mission.  His message, however, is another story.  Who wants to hear the word, “repent?”  Many seemed to be attracted to his message, or maybe they were attracted to the snacks he provided (mmmmmm – locusts!!!!); people came out in droves to be baptized by him.  On the other hand, the word he proclaimed in connection with the coming of the Messiah, as a way of preparation, also got him killed (that’s another story for another day).  Regardless, “repent” was his message.  About face!  Change your mind; change your heart; change your life!  I found myself wondering.  What if JB dropped into the world of Christmas 2012?  What would his message be today?  How would he help you and I prepare for the celebration of Jesus' coming, and the, possible imminent advent of his return?  Inside me, the still small voice of the Spirit of God, whispered, “Repent...”  (I might be wrong, but I think I heard the word, “duh,” after that.  If so, it was very still and very small.)

I was actually doing all this wondering as I was filling these little clear plastic ornaments for my grand-children.  I created fake snow with white rice, and half-filled each of the ornaments with it.  Then, I started dropping in these tiny little objects from the craft store.  The goal is for the kiddos to find the objects.  It’s like Where’s Waldo© in a Christmas ornament.  They can make it a game if they want and see who can find all the fun objects fastest.  Or, they can just look for them.  One of the objects is a cross.  The thought occurred to me as I dropped the cross in the first ornament, “Isn’t that the problem with the glitz, the decorations, the shopping, the push, the activities, the lights, the hustle, the bustle, the search for the perfect present?  The cross gets lost in the mayhem.  Isn’t Christmas more about the cross, rather than the manger?  Isn’t Christmas more about salvation for the lost, than the perfect shirt or piece of jewelry, or necktie to give to dad?”  Isn’t Christmas more about redemption?  Isn’t Christmas more about ---- oh, yes, "forgiveness?”  Repent!

As we prepare for Christmas, let’s start with our own hearts.  Let’s evaluate John’s message:  what is cluttering our hearts and keeping the cross in the shadows?  Repent!  Make room for the Savior...find his forgiveness.

Monday, December 3, 2012

I AM Changes i am! There's So Much More!

I think it’s time to wrap up this series.  Have we exhausted it?  No, not by any means.  Let’s just be honest here; I’m ready to move forward.  It’s time to turn our thoughts toward Christmas.  I want to do that.  I’m ready to start preparing my heart for the advent of my King.  There’s a little hopeful expectation that as I wait for the celebration of his first arrival of so long ago, maybe it will have my heart more prepared for his second arrival, whenever that may be.  There are many days, I beg, “Maranatha! Lord, come quickly.”  Other days, I know that if he were to appear in the Eastern sky, I’d call out, “Um, could you just wait a minute? I’d like to clean up this mess I just made first...”  But, I digress.  See, I am anxious to start focusing on the Christmas season.  This blog is about bringing closure to the current one.

“I AM Changes i am!”  Have you been reflecting on that with me?  Have the truths penetrated your heart in any way?  Oh, how I’d love to sit and chat over a non-fat, sugar-free peppermint mocha latte (see, Christmas is in the air)!  Sigh.  One day in heaven.  You see, as I’m writing these blogs, the truths are beginning to penetrate mine.  Some have released a renewed sense of freedom in me – I don’t have to be perfect, though in Jesus, I am already complete.  Other truths have opened my eyes to just how God views me, and I appreciate being so valued, loved, uniquely prized.  I have this mental picture of the Lord God bending over a treasure chest he has found, excitedly rubbing his hands together as he prepares to open it, and, when he does...I am inside.  I am his treasure, and I’m priceless.  That thought leaves me in awe.  Then I think about the fact that not only did he choose me, but it was with purpose!  Again, awe-struck!  What an honor – I am useful to the Master, prepared for every good work (Ephesians 2:10)!  The more I study the “i ams,” the less words I have to speak.  Actually, there is only one word that comes to mind:  grace.  Amazing it is!  I just can’t get over it... It’’’  #transform!!!!
However, we could have gone on and on.  As I sat one afternoon, and created a list of possibilities, these “i ams” made the honorable mention list (honorably pay attention to them before we say adios):
I am his heart’s desire
I am his child
I am an heir of God, a co-heir with Christ
I am the sheep of his pasture
I am engraved in the palm of his hand
I am his friend
I am his clay
I am born again
I am blessed
I am seated with Christ in the heavenlies
I am Christ’s poem
I am gifted
I am trusted
I am sealed until the day of redemption
I am a display of God’grace
I am a citizen of heaven
I am his bride
I am his holy temple
I am a member of his body
I am able to approach the throne of grace with confidence
I am light
I am salt
I am a priest
I possess the mind of Christ
I am peculiar (don’t judge -  you are, too)
I am precious and honored in the sight of God
I am the APPLE! OF! HIS! EYE!

If you’re not standing up and shouting, “Wahoo!” and applauding God, something is seriously wrong with you!

Let's talk Christmas...