Thursday, December 27, 2018

My After Christmas Plan...Just in Case You Need One, Too

Only one of our little families could make it home this Christmas.

We were thrilled to have the one...

So thankful that Stephanie, Megan, Ellie, and Hayden could be with us!

There have been a few years, where there have been none.

That's just a fact of life, and a testimony to the season we are currently living.

And, this mama, determined years ago, as the little birdies flew the nest, that above all, she'd create a no-guilt-holiday-policy.

I'll tell ya...that takes work!

All empty-nesters testify to this truth, that, although we've taught our kids to adult well (maybe too well?), we MISS them (especially over the holidays).

But, make the most of the season? We have learned to do that just fine!

Even the Elf-on-the-Shelf made an appearance for the small-one.

We dive into the CELEBRATION, as one might dive into a cold pond...

Once the initial splash is over, you adapt much quicker.

So, we decorate.

We create.

We cook.

(I know, this looks terrible, but it really isn't Christmas without a pan of jalapeƱo poppers.)

We plan.

We attend.

We read, meditate, ponder the Scriptures surrounding THE EXTRAORDINARY BIRTH OF OUR SAVIOR.

Papa leading us in the worship and wonder of the meaning of Christmas...

We just try not to think about what's missing. Sigh.

And, then, just like every year (SNAP!), it's over.

So, as our one little family climbed into their car to head home, Papa prayed over them, asking the Lord for a safe journey.

As we said our Good-byes, I felt like I had just climbed out of the pond and now had to re-adjust to the temperatures on land, again...

The only thing left to do was take down the decorations, eat up the leftovers, put away the sewing machine and the Cricut, delete the Hallmark Christmas movies...and, return to....WHAT?


That was my question yesterday.

After the car drove off, and before the washing of sheets, and cleaning of bathrooms began, I sat down for some quiet time of reflection.

Almost immediately, I received a combination of answers to my question...

First, from theologian, Paul David Tripp.

Then, from my sweet niece, who challenges me weekly.

PDT challenged me to continue celebrating Christmas EVERYDAY, reminding myself often to reflect on the SACRIFICE of Christ, what His sacrifice says to me of my spiritual condition (oh, how easy it is to let spiritual satisfaction, spiritual amnesia, AND spiritual pride to creep into the soul), and, finally the authority and power of the ONE who came to right our wrongs by His death and glorious resurrection.  It's often easy to let those things slide, until Easter, and then try to pick it back up again. This kind of meditation shouldn't be should be a regular routine!

Everyday Christmas-pondering of the soul's condition keeps the Christmas-wonder alive-and-well!

A bit later, I read my niece, Nicole's, post on Facebook.  Let me summarize what she said. Nicole mentioned that now that Christmas was over, she was ready to move forward, clear the decor, get back to "normal." However, the Lord stopped her at the story of the shepherds, once again. After coming to see Jesus, they went back to "normal." They returned to the stinky sheep, the quiet hillside,  their "not so pretty lives." BUT, Luke 2:20 tells us, "...they returned glorifying and praising God for all the things they had seen and heard."

Then, Nicole took that thought further.. She declared that she would linger a little longer in the wonder of the Christmas story, before returning to normal. Then, in lingering, hanging onto all that the Lord God had begun through the birth of His Son, she would be much more prepared to return to the normal of everyday, also glorifying and praising God...

There was one. more challenge from the Lord for me yesterday, as well. I picked up where I'd left off in the Psalms. I read a very familiar passage that seemed to settle into my heart like a fresh rain from heaven, Psalm 46:10.  "Be still and know that I am the Lord."  Be restful. Stop striving. Don't try so hard to keep at it, even the spiritual-doing (maybe, especially the spiritual-doing). Simply sit...

There are seven days to the New Year.

Seven days to simply sit with the Lord.

Seven days to reflect, remember, rest...and usher in 2019 with a renewed vision of bringing Christmas into every day.

So, here's my AFTER CHRISTMAS PLAN.  I will:

1.  Remember the Lord's sacrifice (both that of the Father and of the Son)...

2.  Recall my past and present spiritual condition, and why I am bankrupt without Christmas.

3.  Reflect on the GLORY and the AUTHORITY and the character of Jesus...His grace, love, and righteousness poured out for me.

4.  Linger in the GREAT TRUTHS of CHRISTMAS, glorifying and praising the ONE who sacrificed for my spiritual condition, the only one who was born to die that I might live.

5.  Sit in the midst of it all for the next seven days...ringing in the new year with REFRESHED PURPOSE of sharing the GOOD NEWS of CHRISTMAS - EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Best Two Words of the Christmas Season

It came upon a midnight clear...


Those two words - the "and-suddenly" - of Luke 2:13.

Those are the two best words of the Christmas story!

At least they were for the shepherds;

and, they should be for you and I as we linger in Advent, meditating on the story of our lives, and how the Savior loves to collide with them in miraculous ways.

Paul David Tripp said it best in his Wednesday Word yesterday. The Christmas Story is all about "glory colliding with tragedy."

It is...

(...and, really, so is the Easter Story.)

In a split second the lives of these simple men were changed.

Actually, their lives were much more complicated.

Troubled, in fact.

If you were a shepherd, you were despised, even by the normal, poorer folk of the day.

Townspeople would have nothing to do with you.

You weren't invited out for coffee.

The local synagogue shut its doors in your face.

You were at the bottom of the social ladder.

Even dung sweepers in the city streets received more favor than you.

Shepherds only hung out with...well...other shepherds....and sheep.

Shepherds were lonely, rejected, devalued, dishonored, shunned, excluded...

They had no rights...even a court of law turned them away.

Hence, their stories were NOT destined to happy Hallmark endings, magical turn-arounds, or change...

And suddenly!

And-suddenly; God released the angels to introduce His Son to the world.

And-suddenly; Heaven touched earth on a hillside to the most marginalized people in the Middle Eastern world.

And-suddenly; their lives did a 180-degree turn around.

The entire view of their world lit up with possibility.

The possibility of redemption and reconciliation.

The possibility of living in the light, no longer hidden in darkness.

And-suddenly, the night a tiny baby came into the world, and the angels split the quiet of the hillside, they stepped out of their others-given-identity into the LIGHT of new-life.

You and I need the reminder of the "and-suddenly."

We may be facing some hard-stuff.

Life may be troubled.

We may feel just like the shepherds: marginalized, unaccepted, devalued, lonely, rejected, excluded, defrauded, dishonored, and shunned...

We may feel shut out at every turn...and in great heart-pain...

That doesn't mean there is no hope.

That doesn't mean life can't do a turn-around.

It doesn't mean this is all there is.


the best part of the Christmas story is that, even for us, there can be an "and-suddenly."

Look up!

Watch for it!

At the most unlikely time...

...when things seem the darkest...
...and the hardest...
...and the loneliest...

God just might be preparing to send heaven-to-earth to collide with our tragedy and turn it to triumph...


Thursday, December 13, 2018

Spread the Merry - An Advent Challenge

My mind, as is most of yours, is FOCUSED on the coming of Christmas.

That's what ADVENT is all about...THE COMING.


My Messiah.


I'm trying to stay focused on the meaning of it all...and not the commercialism of it.

(Daily word-focus for Advent)

Sadly, the two get mixed up in my brain most days.

I start out pretty good...

Each morning I read several ADVENT devotional-helps I have sitting around.

I reflect...
...I do!!!!

Then...the day begins, and
....the craziness of the season swallows me.

There are gifts to PAY bring home...and, to wrap.

My hands have been busy creating: elf hats (who could resist???? Right?)...

I'm skillfully, and busily, working at an atmosphere of PEACE-on-EARTH within my home...

Now isn't that contradictory????????

Early in the season, I ran across an Oswald Chambers devotional.
It wasn't about Christmas at all.
But, it referenced the night the angels descended as a choir,
to the shepherds watching their sheep in a field,
and burst into glorious song
about the babe in the manger.

The words of Oswald Chambers stopped me.
They've become the theme of my ADVENT-SOUL-PREPARATION.
Mr. Chambers' writings referred to the heart of hilarity the angels had over God's plan for mankind.
There was so much glee, the Lord had to stay their mouths from spilling over in fulness.
Mankind couldn't grasp it with our finite minds.

This author hinted that ever-so-often God lifts the veil and we humans are able to catch glimpses of this PURE JOY.

The JOY of angels.

That's where my reflection has been each morning.
I've asked the Lord to show me... lift the veil from my eyes...
and, to let me giggle with the glee of the angels over GOD'S-ADVENT-PLAN.

He's doing so.
I've been recording it all on our ministry FACEBOOK page (& my own personal one, as well).
Look for this hashtag: #themerryofChristmas

In fact, part of their laughter has to be over how the meaning of the season has simply gotten lost in our intention of celebrating Jesus well...
All our hustle and chaos must simply make the angels chuckle....

But, here's a random thought on which I have only just begun to reflect...
Let's stop and ponder, 
and catch,
the glee, the giggles, the hilarity, and the WONDER
of the angels...
and WHY GOD'S-CHRISTMAS-PLAN IS ALL worth smiling over...

THE GIVER of THE GREATEST GIFT became THE GIFT before THE BEGINNING OF TIME, that I might GIVE THE GREATEST GIFT to someone else, and THIS GIFT by the GIVER could be passed on INTO ETERNITY. 

Let's GIVE THE GIVER'S GIFT to someone else....

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Thrill of HOPE

I was driving home from Durango yesterday, running errands, and getting a little start on Christmas.

I am a late starter this year. Normally, I've done all my shopping, and gift preparations, by Thanksgiving.

I tend to be an over-achiever; but, not this year.

I flipped on a Christmas-music-playing radio station to do a little sing-a-long, while nobody could hear the flat and sharp notes that proceed from my mouth, no matter how hard I try...

From Jingle Bells to I'll Be Home for Christmas, the crooning put me in a nostalgic mood.

I sat up a little straighter, and paid a little more attention, when O Holy Night sounded in the speakers.

I heard the words a little differently this year.

Perhaps because I'm winding down my study on HOPE.

It's been a whole year of study.

And those of you who are loyal to read each week have probably grown weary of my ramblings.

But pay attention, one last time - these words - chills ran up and down my spine:

"The thrill of HOPE, the weary world rejoices...
For yonder breaks a new and GLORIOUS day.
Fall on your knees..."



The Word-Made-Flesh.

The Light of the World, in whom there was no darkness.

The Good Shepherd.

Creator of the Universe.


Yes, the world should rejoice...and, we should fall on our knees.

That would be an appropriate response to God, The Thrill of Hope.

We have a Savior.

A bridge into eternity.



Many of us need to be reminded of that during the holiday season.

What a way to close out a year of hope-learning.

And as I do, I'd like to just leave you with a few Haiku to reflect on over the Holy-day Season.

These are just a few written by women from the retreat in Cyprus, who summarized HOPE for me as we wound down our lovely time together. What a nice way to reflect on Jesus, review the past year, and

I’m looking forward
Jesus Christ, He is my HOPE
Singing, joyfully

Knowing and resting
Anchored in hope is my soul
Wait with confidence

God works in our lives
We were called for a purpose
Remember His love

Hope in God secure
His promises will endure
Praise and worship sure

Dark clouds chasing me
Trying to outrun the storm
Safe harbor, Set anchor

Waiting on the Lord
Is painful and difficult
Joy is the outcome

Gentle tears fall down
Praises fill our hearts with hope
The name of Jesus

God unchangeable
Gives us a sanctuary
In the midst of storms