Saturday, December 27, 2014

Green(er) Grass


Be still and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!

Psalm 46:10


There is a saying that the grass is always greener on the other side of the street, or fence or in Erma Bombeck speak, septic tank.  The idea being that things look better from a distance but when you get close, most often you prefer your own yard. I thought of that this morning when remembering a friend from high school.  I’m one of those odd people who attended the same school, with mostly the same children, from first grade through twelfth grade but when we got to ninth grade, high school, we did get an influx of new kids. One of those girls, Doreen, lived just a bit farther away from school than I did. If I’m remembering correctly she rode the bus to school but most days she walked home. I on the other hand, was driven to school in the morning by my father and picked up in the afternoon. Every day. By. My. Father. Get the emphasis? There was a bit of control involved.

          To me Doreen, a beautiful, lively, outgoing girl, represented all that I did not have. She was comfortable with people. She was open, friendly, exuberant and she was allowed to walk home! Think about that for a minute. This walk was not a few blocks. I was probably a mile and a halfish from our school and Doreen, as I said, lived a bit farther. I should have been grateful to not have to walk in the unforgiving weather of Upstate New York but I wasn’t because Doreen’s walk home was a symbol of freedom to me. I have no idea what my chauffeured lifestyle represented to her but to me it represented distrust and entrapment.

          One amazing day my father had a conflict and allowed me to walk home. I walked with Doreen and some other kids who went the same way, our little group shrinking as we traveled. There is nothing significant about that walk. Doreen and I did not become lifelong best friends who know each other’s every move to this day. Through school we were friendly and did socialize every now and then but that’s it. The walk was not a life changing moment for either of us. Today however it became a symbol for me once again, an event I’d all but forgotten, resurfaced in my mind to remind me of perspective, of vision.

          As I said I don’t know how Doreen viewed my door to door car service but she could have been envious, especially on the 10 below zero days we experienced in Syracuse New York. She could have seen it more accurately as the issue of control that it most certainly was or she could have assumed I was a spoiled brat. She couldn’t know the whole story anymore than I could know hers. I envied what looked like freedom, trust and an intact family. Her grass was certainly greener in my eyes.

          Was it truly? I don’t know. I didn’t live in her family. That is what struck me today.  In that instance and so many others I’ve wanted what someone else had or appeared to have, something we all do at times. Lately I’ve been very content in my somewhat messy life and today our Father in heaven graciously used a long ago happy memory to remind me that I am right where He wants me to be. My grass is just fine, brown patches and all.

          In that moment I said a little prayer for Doreen, praying that she sees her grass, most likely covered in a blanket of snow today, as green enough for her too. Our joy and contentment are not reliant on our circumstances. They are reliant on our faith and trust in the One Who Watches Over Us and will never let us go.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Everywhere


When they saw the star they rejoiced

with exceedingly great joy.

Luke 2:10


Our heavenly Father, from whom all blessings flow (James 1:17) has blessed my husband and me with ten precious grandchildren. It might be a bit biased to say that they are the sweetest, cutest kids ever but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Just the other day our youngest grandson Abram came to see us. It was his first time at our house since the arrival of the Christmas decorations. Walking in to our living room he stopped and said, “Grammy, it’s Christmas everywhere!” His voice was filled with the awe and wonder. As he moved through the house and saw more and more decorations he repeated his sentiment again adding, “It’s amazing.” Keep in mind our little prince is not quite two years old. In those moments  I was enjoying the privilege of seeing the wonder of Christmas through the eyes of a child.

Beyond my decorations, Abram is absolutely right, it’s Christmas everywhere. At church on Sunday our pastor spoke about Mary and Joseph. Most of my devotional readings are of the Advent variety, mentioning the birth of, or preparations for, Jesus. It is that most wonderful time of the year when people who aren’t terribly aware of Jesus are singing His praises and His name because those songs are playing everywhere. There are lights, baubles, songs and smells all around us that indicate a heightened sense of excitement.

Then there’s the down side. The stores are crazy. The roads are a nightmare. More people are out and about than usual. The end result of that is not a positive one. There are long lines, traffic jams and snarling voices. Why? It’s Christmas, everywhere. The problem is that in too many places it isn’t the kind of Christmas that Abram encounters at Grammy’s house. In the world the name of Jesus is playing on sound systems in many stores and malls but the spirit of Jesus is missing. Many faces display stress and many voices offer disdain. “I’ll be happy when it’s over.” It’s Christmas everywhere but in too many places there is no awe and wonder.

I am happy that it never is over. My house is dressed up, if you will, covered in bright colors and pretty lights. From today forward every visitor will be greeted by the smell of something baking and the sounds of Emmanuel. In our home we are blessed to know the true spirit of Christmas. We know that Jesus came to save us and that He is coming back. We know that’s why our house is so fancy and our hearts are so excited but if for one second we are tempted to forget, tempted to be infected by “holiday stress,” Abram will remind us. “It’s Christmas everywhere and it’s amazing.”

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Look Up


To bestow on them a crown of beauty
 instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning
and a garment of praise
instead of despair.
Isaiah 61:3b

This morning while praying I realized that I was simply carrying too much junk. There are circumstances far beyond my control that are causing difficulty, disappointment and even pain in my life. Do I want them? No! So I chose to lay them down at the foot of the Cross and pick up the peace that transcends understanding. (Philippians 4:7) That is when the verse from Isaiah came to mind. It just felt wrong to lay down all my junk and walk away with peace but that is God’s plan.

          As I continued with my reading and my prayers the peace grew. That was a bit odd as one of the readings was directed at one of my sorest spots. Right there in that moment I set the book down and asked God to reveal the deeper lesson to me. Why was He showing me those words in this moment? Friends, God is so very good. Within seconds a full image was in my mind and it was perfect.

          Last year my husband and I spent some time in the Great Smoky Mountains. One of my favorite pictures is of Otto standing in a shallow stream of water, the water is rolling over big beautiful rocks and behind, above, all around him in the picture is the image of the majestic mountains. I love that picture!

          What if, God pointed out to me, there had been a bit of trash in the water? What if some careless person had dropped a can or food wrapper in there? Hmm… I’d ignore it. Well, what if while you were watching Otto and taking the picture several pieces of trash had come into view? My first thought was I’d look away from the trash and as soon as I thought it I saw the greater truth God was revealing to me.

          There is a pile of trash flowing along my stream of life at the moment. It ranges from a random bit of paper to a big, full, ugly diaper moving along and marring the beauty of my days. Sadly I can’t clean it out. I have to wait for a much bigger hand than mine to clean up the mess. I can do my part when the time is right but right now I’m standing by the stream waiting. So what should I do? God’s answer was simple, succinct and perfect. “Look up.”

          Oh! Just like in the mountains. If the view had been momentarily marred by trash I would have looked away, at another part of the stream, at Otto or looked at the mountain. That makes perfect, beautiful, simple sense. My life’s view is a bit off at the moment. The enemy is using circumstances to attempt to steal my joy. Well he can’t have it! It’s Advent right now. Jesus is coming! We’re singing about Emmanuel and preparing room for our Savior. This is a lovely time and I won’t let it be ruined by random trash. I’m looking up and the view is magnificent!