Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To Follow His Example

If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 11-13

“He cannot disown himself.” We are God’s children. As our Father He sees us as a part of Him. We can make mistakes as well as conscious bad choices and He will forgive us. What a great feeling to know that every time I turn back to Him, repent, God will accept me with open arms.

I have been disowned. Let me assure you, it’s as painful and nasty as it sounds. The worst of it is that it isn’t a once for all thing, as it sounds. It’s a continuous pattern. Certainly the event of being told, that’s it, we’re done with you was a once for all event but as life goes on, so does the reality that I am no longer a part of a whole that should have a spot for me. The niche that was mine is closed. For me the words of Thomas Wolfe are very true, you can’t go home again. Fortunately the above words from Timothy are also true, as are the words of Paul to the Romans in chapter eight verse twenty-eight, “And we know all things work together for good to those who love God, those who are called according to his purpose.” Here in this world I have been disowned and it isn’t pleasant but through it I have seen the hand of my Father in heaven who will never disown me.

My four children have given me plenty of opportunity to imitate our Father’s behavior. Raised on the foundation of the Holy Word, they all know what is expected of them. Yet each one of them has strayed and/or lived in a way that ignores the Word of God. Each time they do it breaks my heart and yet they are my own. They know that while I will not condone their choices I will also not turn my back. It is my desire and intent to love them as my Father loves me.

I fall so far short of living the way God wants me to live in so many areas. I know the Scripture well that admonishes us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) That reality is far, far away for me. Too much of my life is self-centered rather than God centered. Too many of my thoughts are critical or unkind. Even with full knowledge of those facts, my Father still loves me and will not abandon me. My children benefit from the disloyalty of my birth family and much more important from the perfect love of my true Father. Those four are my own and I cannot disown them.

Too many people say that the Bible is old and not relevant. I disagree and whether they’re living the Word or not, I bet my kids would too. All of us have learned and benefitted from the Word of God. It is alive, real and extremely relevant.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kingdom Now

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

There is a worship song that talks about a time when everyone will realize the sovereignty of God. It says that even given that truth, the best life is lived by those who know God now. I think of the story of the vineyard workers. It illustrates the fact that it is never too late to seek God. Losing a friend who seemingly did not know God my husband and I have prayed that the truth of that verse would carry him home. So, if I can get to the kingdom at the absolute last minute why worry about loving and serving God now? Is there any truth in the statement that life is better lived with God in it? Too many people have told me that they don’t want a relationship with God because then they couldn’t enjoy the pleasures of this life. By that they mean they couldn’t live for themselves honoring whatever paltry thing they have chosen as a god. My favorite is the “Sunday is my day for myself, to sleep in, read the paper, you know” line. I tend like most Christians I know, to try to focus them on the eternal issues but the truth is a life devoted to God is a much better life than one that is not.

The kingdom of God is in our futures the second we truly put ourselves at the feet of Jesus, accepting his gift of salvation and offering him the meager gift of our inadequate little selves. In that same instant when we choose a relationship with Jesus, things begin to change. The kingdom of heaven is in our future and in our now. The power that raised Jesus from the grave is at our disposal for healing, health, joy, peace, providence and endurance. Our time here may be long or it may be short. One of us may live a life of ease while another experiences more strife. Still God remains the same and meets each of us at the exact point of our need.

Salvation is available to us right up until the very last second and possibly beyond what we see as the last second but why wait? Accepting salvation does not mean I cannot have, think, be, or do something. It means I will want to have, be, think and do the things that please the heart of God. As my relationship with him grows my desire will become more about pleasing him and less about pleasing myself. It is the more of you, less of me nature of a life given to God that should make a Christian stand out in a crowd.

As the Light of Christ replaces the darkness of the world, as each ugly selfish desire is removed and replaced by the desire to serve our lives become more joyfilled and less harried. Gone is the rush to attain what I want because I know my Father will answer the desire of my heart in the best possible way.

The kingdom of God, the vast kingdom of perfection, joy, peace, the place where weeping and sorrow is still out there somewhere in my future but the foretaste of that kingdom is a part of every day that I remember whose I am and live accordingly.

Can you wait until the last minute to accept God? Yes. Should you wait? No. When someone asks you why they should be in a hurry to make God a part of their life now ask them if they want more peace or more stress in their lives. There is a saying I have seen on t-shirts and bumper stickers that is corny and trite but oddly enough true,
“Know God know peace.
No God, no peace.”

Enjoy the little bits of the kingdom of God that are available to us today and invite your friends to do the same.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Prepared

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:11-12

In the song “Joy to the World” there are two lines that stand out for me every Christmas season. One is “let Earth receive her King.” Those words are a thrill to me. I see it as my children’s reaction when their grandparents arrive. “They’re here! They’re here!” Last year our oldest son had a significant birthday and his grandparents surprised him by coming to his party, from the other end of the East coast. He was as thrilled then as he was when he was a child. Of course we received them. We changed our plans for the next several days to enjoy their visit. That’s the emotion I have when I hear “let Earth receive her King.” Jesus is here! Yay! Sadly that is not everyone’s reaction. Some sing along with the words but don’t get it. Others are offended by the idea of Jesus. To me that is tragic. Parts of Earth are still not receiving the King.

The other line that grabs my heart is “let every heart prepare him room.” It’s Christmas time, in fact we are just a few days away and my house is in an obvious state of preparation. My house is being prepared to celebrate. There are pretty packages stashed away, lights, ornaments etc. all over the house and of course a tree. There are cookies in various containers and lots of extra snacks in the pantry. The house is being prepared. What about the heart?

I am fortunate to work in a school, which means I have a few days off before Christmas. That gives me time to prepare my house and my heart. Thanks be to God, Jesus has been a resident of my heart for a long time but this time before Christmas, Advent, as we call it in liturgical circles, is always a great time to reflect on that. My heart sees Jesus as a baby at this time of year. Baby Jesus, cold, threatened but oh so anticipated and desired.

Today I wonder if the truth is far from that description. Jesus may not be coming as a baby this year but so very sadly there are far too many places where he is not welcome, where no room has been prepared, where doors are barred. There is no baby lying in a manger shivering but there is a Savior who encounters scoffers and naysayers. I can’t change them. Although I do try, I know that only God can soften a harden heart. What I can do is make sure that I focus as much on the true gift, Jesus, as on any other preparation.

My house prep is going pretty well. Today is another baking day and tomorrow I will clean up from all the creativity that has occurred here. Through it all, the decorating, shopping, creating and cooking I have spent time with Jesus, who came to Earth over two thousand years ago and came to me over thirty years ago. My heart is as prepared as my house and my prayer is that many, many, many hearts are touched by the love of Jesus, this season and every season of every year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Inn

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in the manger, because there was no room in the inn. Luke 2:6-7

December is here. It’s Christmas time. I know that because my street is alive with colored lights and every store I pass by is busy. I hear conversations about this party, that dinner and who is giving what to whom. I hear very little if anything at all about Jesus.

Due to the eagerness of advertisers and businesses we have all been primed for the season since the middle of October and each day that brings us closer to the 25th intensifies the onslaught. I hear about stress and too many commitments. I wonder myself if we can celebrate the holiday without any harsh words about where, how and with whom to celebrate.

Our pastor has a tradition of basing his Christmas sermon around some trinket he can give as a reminder of his message, the message that we are who we are because of Jesus. He makes sure to have many more trinkets than the normal number of attendees. That’s smart planning because many people come to church on Christmas who can’t be bothered any other day. The visit to church is part of the season, not a matter of faith. They at least make an attempt and hear the Word. Many other people use the excuse that the church is too full. They stay away because churches are so crowded at Christmas. Is the church too full? Or is it their hearts that are too filled with the commercial to make room for the sacred?

December is here. I know it because in my prayers I’m seeing a tiny baby Jesus rather than the man who gave His life for me. It happens to me every year, for a few weeks Jesus is a baby all over again. That is lovely because it reminds me of the whole story. The baby was born in Bethlehem and later died on Calvary and all to give me a chance to live. Baby Jesus. Over two thousand years ago there was no room for that precious baby in the inn at Bethlehem. Is there room in your holiday inn for that baby this year?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Every Knee Shall Bow

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Philippians 2:9-10

There is an item in the news this morning that is frankly making me ill. Somewhere in New York several boys were suspended from school for bowing their knee in what looks like prayer. It isn’t prayer however; it is an imitation of sports figure, Tim Tebow. Putting aside for a moment the basic problem I have with the fact that the boys would not be allowed to bend their knees in AMERICA a country founded on and for religious freedom…. Let me say that I am not a sports fan. I don’t follow sports and ordinarily would never have heard of Tim Tebow except that I live in Orange Park, Florida just a bit over an hour away from Gainesville where Gators rule baby and Tim used to be their king aka, the quarterback. My children are rabid Gator fans, which is why I know a bit about Tim Tebow, who now plays for some NFL team.

Given even the little I know about Tim I have great respect for him. This is a young man who is quite honest and open in his love of God, country and his parents. He is respectful and well spoken, not the least bit flashy. There is no look at me, look at me about him which is part of the reason I think, that his obvious faith draws so much attention. A lot of people in the media seem to want to see it as self-promoting. That is ridiculous. This young man certainly has plenty of accomplishments and now a huge forum from which to promote them. He doesn’t. What he does is thank his Lord, sincerely in his own unassuming, quiet manner but he does at every opportunity. To that the media says, sit down you’re rockin’ the boat. Then in the bipolar way of what is ludicrously called “news” the media turns a personal display of faith into a circus. No more are athletes, or anyone else I suppose, bowing their knees in praise of our God, noooooooo, they’re “Tebowing.” Ugh!

Again, I don’t know Tim Tebow personally so I can only assume that he enjoys his job and some of the limelight. I would dare to say however, that he is as sickened as I am that anyone would turn genuine, faithful adoration and gratitude to God into a display of affection or admiration for him.

I bow my knee(s) fairly often in prayer and praise, in supplication and out of respect to my Lord. I like Tim Tebow as far as I know him but I will not bend my knee to him or any other human being. There is one God, one King, one Father of all and his name is not Tim.

We live in America, Tim and I, where we should be able to publicly pray, speak of our Lord or show admiration of God in any way we choose. It used to be that way. In years past no one would have seen a group of people on their knees, head bowed, eyes closed and called it anything other than prayer. Yesterday I was told again, that I am not allowed to pray in the public school where I work. For now, it is that I cannot pray in any way that is obvious or open. I can in no way influence the people around me with my faith. Before long I suspect there will be an attempt to get us not to pray in any way at all outside of our homes or churches, where that stuff belongs. When that directive was reissued in our meeting yesterday I said exactly what I meant, “Good luck.” I work with special needs children and among their needs, in my book, is that I bring their names to God for His attention and mercy. I pray in that classroom every day, for the children, my co-workers, my family and no I am not on my knees, no one is aware that I am praying but I wouldn’t care if they were. I have no problem joining my students in their prayers which according to the “rules” is not acceptable. Again I say good luck with that.

God bless Tim Tebow for being proud of his Father and grateful for all the talents and abilities that were given to him by that Father. I just pray that the attention being drawn to his faith does not harm him in anyway. I think the media and the people telling me and my co-workers that we can’t pray and belittling an honest show of faith, ought to remember one thing, if God is for us no can be against. (Romans 8:31)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The One Who Always Watches Over Us

For he will command his angels concerning you
To guard you in all your ways;
They will lift you up in their hands
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Psalm 91:11-12

My granddaughter Faith has had an experience of some kind with God. I’m not sure exactly what happened but I know it’s real. She knows things about God that a child of her age, who is fairly unchurched, would not know. Further, she knows things about people who died long before she was born, that none of us have told her. One night while she was sharing some of her experience with me she referred to God as “the one who always watches over us.” When I asked her who she meant she said, “God” in a voice that suggested that I might be a bit less than intelligent, not in a sassy way but more in the way of a teacher to reluctant student. I then asked her why she didn’t just say God and she told me that “the one who watches over us” is one of God’s names. She informed me that lots of people call Him that. My reaction to that is a story for a different day. Today I am more interested in the idea of God watching over us.

Faith and her sister Madelyn have an Elf on the Shelf. It’s a brilliant marketing idea. This little elf watches them, returns to Santa at night to report on their behavior and shows up the next day back in their home. Chippy, as they call him, watches them. He’s monitoring their behaviors, making notes to take to his supervisor. Chippy is a spy, not a protector, watching, not watching over, and only for the days just prior to Christmas, in contrast to the one who always watches over us.

When I asked Faith why God watches over us she had a great answer, again one that is not prompted by Sunday school. She told me, “’Cause He loves us. It’s like, if you have a disaster or something, like sickness or a wreck or something, you might stay here or you might go to heaven. If you stay here or go to heaven isn’t important. The important part is God is right there, He’s watching over you. You might hurt or cry but you aren’t alone. You don’t have to be scared.” I might want to mention here, that Faith is six and no, she has never had a near death experience and these conversations notwithstanding, is a normal, average six year old. She’s not a genius or a savant.

Thinking about being watched, as in monitored as opposed to being watched over is something I dealt with when beginning my relationship with Jesus. Unlike Faith I was taught everyday about the God who watches us, watches, in the same way as Chippy the elf, as in, trying to catch me doing something I shouldn’t. I like the concept of a God who watches over us so much better.

Faith said that we are never alone not even in our worst moments. I knew that but to hear it from a six year old had a huge impact. I have no fear of being dead because I know, due to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ I am going home. I do some trepidation about the journey. I have watched too many dear ones suffer. I want to be here one minute; there the next and that may be God’s plan for me. In the meantime I will hang onto Faith’s name for God, the one who always watches over us and I know He will be there in my hour(s) of need.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


For to us a child is born,
to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

A few days ago I was reviewing some Christmas messages I have written. I hate to repeat myself too closely. Granted the message is the same year after year but if I state it the same way twice that could be bad. My kids already accuse me of being senile sometimes. While reviewing the messages I saw Christmas over the last few years. A lot of them deal with Mary’s feelings about the whole thing. That seemed right to me, as I am a mother and two of my sons were born either side of Christmas, one in the beginning of January and one at the very end of November. I can relate to Mary’s pregnancy on some level.

A few of the messages were about the commercialization of Christmas, the emphasis on the ordinary rather than the sacred. One of my favorites uses the image of my two granddaughters, Faith and Isabelle, then just a couple of months old. I speak of them shivering in the cold, dressed in snuggly clothes with a tent of blankets over their car carriers. I love that one because I can immediately see my two now six year old beauties as the tiny precious babies they were.

I have my favorites among the messages, of course, but what stood out to me was that almost every message points to the fact that too many of us, Christian and non-Christian alike “focus on the wrong part of the story.” I borrow that expression from my son Joseph and it fits perfectly here.

Christmas is about….wait for it…. Christ. I know there are plenty who would disagree and I get that, considering the number of movies, songs and books that are about Santa. I promise you, though it is about Jesus Christ. Look at the word, CHRISTmas. Ohhhh. I’m being a bit facetious here because if you are reading this then most likely you already knew that.

Even when we know it we can forget. Last year my granddaughter Faith learned a lot about Christmas in her Christian pre-school. For months she would only refer to Jesus as “Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.” The other day when a discussion came up with her younger sister Madelyn, who  was asking about the whole concept of the birthday on Christmas, Faith got a little perturbed. She couldn’t understand how Madelyn, who to her defense is four, could forget that it’s Jesus birthday. Madelyn forgot because she’s little and at her age, being inundated with Santa, it’s easy to forget the real reason we celebrate. As adults it is our responsibility to focus on the right part of the story while allowing our children and grands to enjoy the ho ho ho and jingle bells as well.

I love all the prep, all the movies and songs, all the gift giving and cookie baking but I love Jesus more. Christmas is referred to as the most wonderful time of the year but for all the wrong reasons. For us, it is the most wonderful time of the year for the reasons given in the Scripture above, because we were given our Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Saints of God

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be opened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:18

Saints are very important to the people of the Catholic Church. I know this because I was raised Catholic. In my teen years I found the whole thing quite amusing and as I grew to truly know Jesus I found it a little sad. Now I have to admit I find it all interesting. No, I don’t believe a certain saint can bring a certain result but I bet they did while they were alive. They got those credentials from somewhere.

Think about it, when we have a specific prayer request we think of a person we know who was healed or helped through something similar. We wonder who prayed for them and we want the same person praying for us. When my oldest son Paul was born and experienced complications a woman named Melissa prayed for him. Her daughter had just been healed of an inoperable brain tumor. I believed that having been that close to the healing power of God she would be able to share it. I don’t know if it was her or any one of the dozens of other people praying for him but Paul was and is just fine.

So maybe Anthony said to the person who lost their keys, “oh I’ll pray for you” keys found, word passed, request repeated, reputation established. It makes sense doesn’t it? Of course my personal favorite as a child was St. Blaise. Every February 3rd, the feast day of St. Blaise, a priest would come in our classrooms and bless our throats with candles. Every Spring I would have tonsillitis…. And yet Blaise is the one I remember so fondly. I surely didn’t help his rep. What of St. Jude, the saint of hopeless cases? I see plenty of hopeless cases around me but then without Jesus we are all hopeless.

You have to be careful too because so many saints have the same first name. There are several Elizabeth’s and their causes are varied as are the Francis’s, John’s etc. It really is fascinating to study them but how seriously can we take it? I absolutely do not mean to offend anyone. Believe me when something seems irretrievably lost I remember Anthony. I just think we ought to think about where and why they received their notoriety. None of them would want to be seen as superior to Jesus. Jesus is our true intercessor.

Studying the saints is very enlightening not to mention humbling but they, like us, lived to glorify God. I believe they would be the last people to want credit for anything. I would love to hear their heavenly conversation.

“So, Jude, hopeless cases? How did that happen?” Of can you imagine poor Patrick? “Okay snakes I get but beer? Seriously is that what you had in mind?” We distort who those dear people truly were and who they still are in Christ. Instead of revering or reviling them we need to emulate their behavior. Each one, regardless of their specific claim to fame, was completely devoted to God and that is what absolutely makes them special.

We sing a hymn at Baptisms called “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” it includes the words “the saints of God are just folks like me and I want to be one too.” The good news is that we can be one too. We can live and grow in Christ and one day get to know those amazing people that we call Saint __________.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How Many Times

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18:21-22

There are a couple of relationships in my life that continue to fall into a less than positive pattern. Things go well for awhile and then they get stale, to put it tactfully and that brings difficulty and hurt feelings. In praying about one of them today I realized how much God puts up with in having relationships with us.

On any given day I can be totally devoted to Him at one point and fairly ignorant of Him in the next section of the day. Although it may not be the first image that comes to mind when you hear or see the word ignorant, one of the synonyms for it is unaware. I think that fits what I’m talking about perfectly. It isn’t that I don’t love God or appreciate Him. It is that in certain moments I am unaware of Him and the worst of those is when I choose to ignore Him, a synonym for that verb being discount. Look at it that way for a minute, we can choose to discount the creator of the universe, the being who chose not to discount, ignore or be unaware of us, but instead sent His only Son to provide us with a way out of the debacles of our own making.

My feelings get hurt in the relationship scenarios that I outlined for you. Then my hopes get raised because it looks as if things will truly be different this time. Then they get dashed, then raised, then dashed, in a cycle you’d think I’d give up but I won’t. The truth is the other people in those relationships are too important to me. Sometimes I feel foolish for not giving up. Today I don’t. Yes, I know there is potential for hurt and honestly, contrary to what should happen, I should get desensitized and not feel it as much, each time it hurts a bit more. I know that seems masochistic. Why keep going back for more? It’s the if you always do what you always did thing, right? In a sense it is and I do berate myself at times for trying again. Or at least I did, until today when I realized that more times than I can even imagine a number, God does just that.

We are to follow as closely as we can, the example of our Father in terms of love and forgiveness. How many times should I forgive my brother? Not seven times but seventy-seven times and some Biblical scholars say that that means in one day! The King James says seventy times seven. What if that’s in a day? The point is we forgive and if we want a relationship we let it go. That may mean that each hurt feels like the first one and so has more sting but that doesn’t matter. Every day my Father forgives me countless times. My perfect Father who has never once been lax in our relationship forgives me for ignoring Him or worse. Since that is true who I am to do any different.

From a worldly view my attitude may seem self-defeating or foolish but I don’t really care about the world view. Every time I give another person one more chance, truly forgiving the past offenses I imitate my Father. The hurts still hurt and I’m sure that won’t change. I do know that my heartbreaks are miniscule compared to the pain caused to the Almighty One which means He understands my pain completely and is always there to walk beside me and comfort me.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

He Does It His Way

I know that the Lord is great,
that our Lord is greater than all gods.
The Lord does whatever pleases him,
in the heavens, and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. Psalm135:5-6

“The Lord does whatever pleases him.” That sounds a bit arrogant taken out of context. If I say of someone, he does whatever pleases him, most likely I am describing someone selfish or thoughtless. These words are describing God, who is neither selfish nor thoughtless. Reading this psalm however, I wondered what a person who is just coming to know God or opens the Bible for no reason other than to disprove it, thinks of that passage.

It would be pretty scary to serve a god who “does what pleases him” if that god didn’t care about people. Thankfully what pleases God, the one true God, is to care for us, teach us, prosper us and bring us home. Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse a lot of people know and love. It says “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” A god whose plans are to give hope and prosperity, a god who is concerned with the future of his people, a god who wants what is best for those who love him, that’s my kind of god. In fact that is my God.

When my children were young I planned all of their activities and created schedules for them that best suited their needs. They are all adults now and they don’t need me to do that for them. They haven’t needed it in quite some time but I wonder if they ever wish that I still would. They know that I have always had their best interests at heart. Of course a toddler may not agree with mommy’s assessment of what is best for him. At that point the toddler fights. How close is that to how we act with God some times. The enormous difference being that I am fallible and He is not.

I wonder if my children want me to arrange their lives because I very much want my Father to arrange mine. The problem is that I don’t always let Him. I love the idea that God will do what pleases Him because His ways are right and best. Just like a toddler though, I balk at that when His way is not my way. It may make me irritated at worst or just confused but I know which one of us should have the final word.

“The Lord does whatever pleases him.” Isn’t it wonderful that what pleases Him is to protect us, provide for us and love each of us as we were His only child? He does it His way and His way is perfect.

The Gift Box

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

I read an account of children in El Salvador receiving Christmas gift boxes prepared by American children. It was in a book by Max Lucado. He spoke of the excitement the children feel at receiving toys, books and personal items but that the part they enjoy the most is the letter that comes from the other child. He made many eloquent and touching points comparing that gift to the gift that God gave to us in the form of Jesus. There was one line though with which I disagreed. He said that for us the box, which is Jesus doesn’t come with toys, books etc that Jesus is the gift.

While I agree that Jesus is the main gift and in fact the only gift we need I believe there are other gifts involved. In fact I believe that every good thing in my life comes from that gift box from God. My family, my home, my health all of those are gifts from a loving Father. There are other things too, like a phone call from a friend when I am feeling particularly alone, the knowledge that someone really needed my help or was glad to see my face. Even that extra little bit of cash right when I need it is a precious gift. There are so many things that are gifts from God. I’m sure you can make quite a list of your own, can’t you?

The other thing that struck me about the passage was the children’s delight with the letter. We too have been given a wonderful letter full of all the ways our Father is here for us. Full of the love he feels for us, enough love to send Jesus to die on the Cross. Each page of the Bible is a blessing just as the letters written from one child to another are blessings.

Those poor Salvadoran children only experience that happiness and excitement once a year, for us, that excitement is at our fingertips everyday. We don’t have to wait a year we only have to pick up our Bibles and read God’s love letter to us.

Don’t wait for a special occasion, reach out now and let the love of God fill your day.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Receive the King

Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government of the world will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. Isaiah 9:7

“Joy to the world the Lord is come. Let Earth receive her King.” Christian and non-Christian alike are singing these words today. It’s Christmastime and people who don’t give Christ a single thought all year long are singing about His birth. I love Christmas. I love the colors, the smells and the songs. Unlike some other people I realize that the songs like the season itself are two sided. There are songs about Santa and jingling bells and there are songs/hymns about Jesus. So we sing, “let Earth receive her King.”

Long years ago Earth received that King with little excitement. Sure, the whole thing touched a few shepherds and a few other common people but the Earth did not stand still in awe to receive the King. It won’t this year either. Some people who otherwise steer clear of church will go “because it’s Christmas.” Some will put a manger scene next to the blow up Santa in their yard but receive a King? No, there won’t be much fanfare for that.

When I was a child we teased my mother about setting a special table because her friend Georgia was coming to lunch. There were no condiment jars on the table that day. Everything was in cute little bowls all pretty and inviting. Like my mother, many of us get frazzled trying to be Martha Stewart when an important person is coming to visit. The truth is if that person wants to see and be with us whatever effort we make will be enough but we want them to know they are important so we fuss. What if that person were a king? What if he were not just a king but the King? How would you prepare then?

We also sing, “let every heart prepare Him room.” That doesn’t mean fluff the pillows and set out a mint. It means clean out resentment, bitterness, stress and anger to make room for devotion, mercy, peace and patience. Prepare a humble quiet space for love and compassion to come and rest.

How is our earth receiving the King this year? Sadly it seems that the world is receiving Him with paper, bows and 50% off sales. In other words it isn’t receiving Him at all.

How are you receiving your King this year? To be honest I’ve had a rough patch with my King these last few months. I want something desperately that He seems unwilling to release right now. His will is right and I know that so of course I bow to it but it still hurts. So I am receiving my King with humility and with hope that what I am praying for is coming with that precious babe in the manger. The Earth received that King one cold night many years ago. We can receive him every morning. Let your heart prepare Him room and sing with heaven and nature that Jesus Christ is Lord of all.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Truth (Re)Revealed

And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved Joel 2:32a
Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

I was reminded this morning of a very simple teaching and that reminder exposed a huge lie, a lie which I have believed and been bruised by for quite awhile now. The teaching was this, when times are hard, go to the Word of God. The lie was this, when I feel overwhelmed, sad or frightened and I go to God’s Word, written or sung, I am putting a bandage on the problem.

A few years ago I had an injury. The doctor I saw told me to wear a pressure bandage. Bryan, a physical therapist with whom I work, told me that bandage wasn’t doing me any good. He explained that all the bandage did was compress the area to make it feel better when in fact it wasn’t. That was true and was also excellent advice. It would seem that what the enemy was telling me was similar.

In going to the Word of God I could get lost in the comfort of the familiar stories. In singing His praise I could change my mood simply by singing. Bottom line, I was fooling myself. Unfortunately I have believed that for several months now and have walked away from the wise practice of seeking first the Lord and His wisdom. It has gotten to the point where in the toughest times it is my temptation to just sit and expect God to rescue me, which by the way He is more than happy to do.

This morning, after the revelations I was confessing my error to God and I almost laughed out loud. For years a joke has circulated about a man trapped in a flood. He makes his way to his roof and cries out to Jesus for rescue. A boat comes along but he refuses the help because God is coming to help him. Next is a plane and then a helicopter, all as the water rises and all of which he refuses, only to drown and then meet God. Upon meeting God the man asks why his prayers weren’t answered. God replies, “I sent you a boat, a plane and helicopter! What did you want?” He wanted the literal hand of God to reach out and lift him up. When our Father reminded me of that joke and showed me the similarity of my behavior it was at once a relief and an embarrassment.

After all these years of receiving peace and comfort from the Word, written or sung why did I listen to the enemy? Where else would I go for relief? Where indeed! Nowhere is the problem. There is nowhere else for me to go which means until out of discipline or desperation I reached for the Word I was stuck on the roof of my own lousy attitude with no way down.

The saddest part is that in those times I missed the point in more ways than one. No matter what I cannot start my day without at least a little Scripture. So even on my worst days I would read a little or listen to a little. Then I would reject it, using Satan’s lies, telling myself that I was manufacturing a faulty peace and that it was not from God.

Praise God today I am off the roof, live and ready to fight. God sends me not a boat or a plane but His promises, His story, His love in the form of written word and song. When my heart hurts, no matter how deeply, the answer is in the Word of God. I cannot manufacture the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7) but I can cling to it.