Thursday, December 28, 2017

Finding a New Direction for 2018...and Why I Look for One

In the beginning, God created...By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day He rested...
Genesis 1:1a, Genesis 2:2

We've just about finished our work for 2017.

It's time to create some space and follow the Lord-God's lead to initiate a Sabbath Rest as we enter into a New Year.

A Sabbath Rest with purpose.

A day to intentionally cast a vision for my New Year.

I'm preparing for some time-alone-with-God already, in order to do so.

I've gone back over this last year's calendar and thanked the Lord for all the good...
Wept a little over some of the significant losses and a few of the difficult days...
...and, I've expressed gratitude in both cases...

I've pulled out a new calendar for 2018 (I use the one on my phone A LOT, but I sure still like the tangible hardback-kind that has a month-at-a-glance and space to fill in for the week (the weekly-format gives me space to write down reminders of each day's happenings - those things I want to cherish; and, often, how the Lord has helped me through...). The new calendar is most handy when I sit at the end-of-the-year and do the look-back.

I've said it often: I love sitting on the end of a year to look ahead. For me, New Year's Eve holds all the excitement of opening the pages of a new novel. I can't wait to see what is written on the pages, and see how the story will unfold. To be sure, some authors are better than others; and, some stories have happier endings...but every story has some kind of a lesson to learn.

The good news is the Lord who has our every-day planned is the BEST author of all.

He knows what He is doing with our story.

He will make no mistakes, no matter what turns and twists, ups and downs, difficulties and delights await us in the chapter of our lives named 2018.

For this I am most grateful.

I do have a hand in my story to a degree. I'm not simply a puppet on a string...there are a few choices I can make that will help me be a better me at the end of 2018 (regardless of those things over which I have no control - like aging).

I'm not talking about New Year's Resolutions, where I begin strong on January 1 and by January 15 have fizzled and failed.

Rather, I'm thinking more about creating an action plan that will help me establish an attainable  destination, and to set some steps in the right direction that will get me there...or get me close! After all, every decision I make in 2018 will either head me in the right direction to arrive at my destination, or I'll end up somewhere I never planned.

In order to set those directional steps, there are a few things that I like to do in preparation.

1. I set aside some quiet alone time (Sabbath Rest) on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. It doesn't have to be long...

2. I ask these questions: What big life lessons did I learn last year? What ones are positive and helpful; which ones do I not ever want to repeat? Are there things that need completing: projects, promises, personal plans/goals? Are there relationships that need mending? Am I being a good steward of the body, mind, and soul the Lord-God has given me for the journey?

3. These questions help me get started on my action set some priorities (like finishing what needs to be completed, taking ownership of righting some relationships, fulfilling previous promises-made)... and, to put into place some intentional steps that lead me in the right direction (beginning a Bible Study, reading specific new books, finding a new exercise plan to follow, taking an online class...this list is unique to each of our needs).

4. I, then, sit with the Lord and ask if there is a one-word-focus that sums up His goal for me in the New Year (one year, the word I heard from Him was GRATITUDE and I began a gratitude journal, which totally began turning around my glass-half-empty-mindset; one year, the word was AWE and I looked for the magical mystery of God in the world around me, discovering that it led to a proper "fear-of-the-Lord," which helped eliminate some of my own personal fears that I have so long struggled with...) Don't wrestle with this, or overthink you pray, what word comes to your mind? Now, explore it...

There is only one guideline for all of this reflection: It's not to make perfection a standard (if that's the case, I fail EVERY! TIME!)...

Perfection is only attainable the other-side-of-heaven. The whole concept is simply to set a tone for the new chapter that God will write on the pages of our lives. No, the aim is NOT perfection!!!

The plans I make at the beginning of a New Year are simply making a statement with my choices that I AM ALL IN FOR WHATEVER THE LORD'S PEN HAS FOR ME IN THE NEW YEAR.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tattoos and Christmas

As we drove home from an early Christmas celebration in Arizona with our Mace family (including a surprise visit from our soldier-son, Adam), Bay and I tuned into a radio talk show to pass the time.

My precious game-loving family (missing our Steph)

One of the random discussions somehow came around to tattoos. The host began to ask his guests what their choice would be for a tattoo if they decided to get one (hypothetically speaking, of course).

I didn't have to think too long, or hard, about that one. I know what I'd choose.

Now, the thing is, I will never get a tattoo:
1) I don't like pain!
2) My skin is getting too saggy and papery as I age, so it would look terrible and unshapely in not too many months.
3) I, personally, don't see the reason...
4) I don't like pain!

Strange, then (right?), that I would know what my choice would be?

I would pick a Hebrew word that looks like this:

Transliterated in English it is the word "hineni."

It's a powerful word that means: "Here I am" or "behold."

It's not used in the sense of a roll call, as in "present."

It has a much deeper meaning, as in "I'm here and I'm all in."

Isaiah may have expressed "hineni best," when he said, "Here I am, send me."

Moses said it...eventually.

Abraham used it, and meant, "Whatsoever you ask, wherever you tell me to go..."

Samuel used hineni, when he said, "Your servant is listening."

Mary used it, too:  "Behold, I'm your hand-maiden. So be it unto me."

In a sense it means, "I'm here...I'm present"...then adds, "ready for action."

It is summed up in Jonathan's words to David in 1 Samuel 20:4:  "tell me what your soul desires and I will do it for you."

Hineni is best defined as devoted readiness, unconditional action (my definition).

Now then, the best part of "hineni" is this: God doesn't just expect us to do all the responding. He has said it first to us. He is hineni: our ever--present help in times of trouble...the I-am-everything-you-need-me-to-be. He is Immanuel: God with us.

Jesus looked at the blind man and said, "Hineni (inferred in Greek)...Here I am, what do you want me to do for you?"

Hineni is an AMAZING Christmas word.

The angel used it in the fields with the shepherds:  "Hineni (Behold), I bring you tidings of great joy. Today in Bethlehem, a Savior has been born and He is Christ, the Lord."

In fact, hineni is the essence of the Christmas story.

Jesus came to be present.
He came ready to act on our behalf.
No matter what it cost;
And, it cost Him a great deal.
Yet, he counted the cost, and the result was worth it to Him, because He is LOVE:

Jesus' hineni meant my salvation.

The least I can do is respond back: "Hineni..."

This Christmas, my hineni is the best gift I can give on Jesus' birthday.

We don't have to wrap it up in flowery words or bag it in Christmas just has to come from heart.

And, should you be one who is looking at a tattoo to give yourself this Christmas, would you get this one on my behalf (only, may it come from your heart)...then send me a picture.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas Will Bring a Hallmark-Movie Ending

It's Advent....and we're almost half way into the Season.

When Advent arrives, at our house, that means Hallmark Christmas movies.

Every year.

As an aside, please take time to applaud my loving husband.

From the end of Thanksgiving until Christmas Day, he sits through one a night, and, yes, he watches them with me. Now this is TRUE LOVE!!!  It is also indicative of a man who is very confident in his manliness. He's no closet-watcher. I've heard him enthusiastically tell dinner guests, "Yep, I watch them, too..."

Hallmark Christmas movies.

They are as much a part of our tradition as Christmas Vacation, It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, and Elf.

They are cheesy.

They are predictable.

They are predictably cheesy.

There's not much more to say, right?


In a world full of chaos, serious real-life problems, huge losses, and confusing uncertainty, it's quite lovely to feast on the knowledge that somewhere in the world things work out; Christmas magic is still casting spells; and, every new day brings second chances (even if it is only in TV-land, specifically on Hallmark).

It's nice to turn off the news for a few minutes, set aside personal struggles, and languish in someone else's hope.

But, hope isn't just reserved for Hallmark-land.

Second chances aren't just for actors and actresses cast in leading roles within the world of television.

Christmas "magic" is....well, still awe-inspiring.

Christmas-Hope is not just for someone else.

Each of us can find it all gift-wrapped in one word:


One author wrote:

"Without the gift of Jesus, grace would be a promise with no power. 
Without the presence, life, and work of that baby in the manger, there is no light at the end of the tunnel for sinners. There is no happy ending for rebels. There is no home waiting for the lost. There is only darkness, defeat, judgment, and death.

This season, in the midst of all the celebrations and gift-giving, be careful to remember that at the center of what we celebrate is one game-changing, life-altering, hope-giving reality..........Jesus."
(Paul David Tripp)

Here's the reality. We have this hope:
Everything works out for anyone who is in Christ Jesus. 

There is assurance that every tomorrow is filled with second chances.

There is a promise that life has incredible endings for the one who is in relationship with the babe-turned-Savior born in a manger in a land far away from a distant past.

We don't need Hallmark movies to remind us.

We have the facts:
Jesus was born.
He died.
He delivered those who would receive him from the power of their sins.
He rose, defeating the slavery of death.

Hallelujah, the story doesn't end there!
Because He did all the above...
Because He accomplished what the prophets of old predicted...
We can KNOW and BELIEVE in the miracle of tomorrow's Christmas:

Jesus will come again!

There will come another Christmas...and, on that day:

The redemption-story will be completed with a happy-ever-after-Hallmark-ending.

It is truth for all who believe and receive the Son-of-God!

The ending is predictable, but it is certainly anything, but cheesy!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Magical Mystery of Christmas

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote:  

“We have become so accustomed to the idea of divine love, and of God’s coming at Christmas, that we no longer tend to feel the shiver of awe that God’s coming should arouse in us. We so easily become indifferent to the message, that it is tempting to only take the pleasant and agreeable out of this holy season, forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us.”
(God is in the Manger)

"The shiver of awe..."

The wonder of the season...

The mystery of divine love...

Oh, may Mr. Bonhoeffer be wrong on my account...and, yours, as well. 

May I (we) NEVER be one of those who become accustomed to the incredible story of redemption!

Once upon a time, God drew near...

It isn't a fairy tale...

It is a story of majestic proportions...

A story that only an omniscient holy Creator could conjure...

While Christmas trees are magical (mine is)...

...and, hunting for the perfect gift is adventurous (elk hunting has nothing on Christmas-gift-hunting)...

...and, surrounding ourselves with family and friends is encouraging...

...and, cooking up all the traditional dishes is comforting...

...there is NOTHING that compares to the magical, awe-inducing, rich, comfort of the real Christmas narrative (ponder these words):

"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Immanuel...

Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth..."

What is our response?

"Joy to the world! The Lord is come...
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart, prepare Him room..."

"Fall on your knees..."

"Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere..."

Hallelujah! We have a Savior: Jesus Christ, the Lord!

Christmas was just the beginning of God's redemptive love story.
One day, He will come again, and His love story will be forever complete. 

Look up...Advent is near!