Category Archives: Christmas

Do You want a “Stable” Life?

img_3766We love Christmas. Advent reminds us of the wonder of childhood. And it’s an amazing and wonder-filled story, isn’t it!? After riding a donkey all day, Joseph and his wife Mary, a virgin, arrive in Bethlehem with her in labor — to deliver our King in a stable!

We were in a restaurant having dinner, just minutes from the hospital when my daughter-in-law was in labor… and my son and I were nervous to get her to a good, sterile place for a safe delivery!

But Joseph and Mary couldn’t find a room… the city was booked. A feeding trough in a cave filled with livestock was their best bet.IMG_1035

I heard a story about a 3rd grade Christmas Pageant. The Inn Keeper dressed in sheets had one line, “There is no room at the Inn,” but when he heard “Joseph” explain young “Mary’s” predicament, compassion overtook him and he went off script, “okay, come on in. We’ll find somewhere for you.” We might all do the same!

But our Sovereign God is intentional… nothing in the Bible story is off script or a Plan B detour.

Jesus came from heaven to earth to live among us; He lived a sinless life.  He freely chose to bear our sins, to pay our debt with His life, so that through Him we will never be condemned — though without Him, we deserved the wrath of God.

IMG_5886He would be born in a humble stable, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. He would perform many miracles, and teach with Wisdom unexplainable. But He would also be rejected and scorned. The “Inn crowd” would not recognize or accept Him. He would be greeted by shepherds (the lowliest, dirtiest crowd) and dine with sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. His crowning Glory — the plan from the beginning — was His gruesome death on a Cross. He came to Save each of us, if only we’ll believe.

But the trouble is, as I have told you before, you haven’t believed even though you have seen me. But some will come to me—those the Father has given me—and I will never, never reject them. For I have come here from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to have my own way. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the Last Day. For it is my Father’s will that everyone who sees his Son and believes on him should have eternal life—that I should raise him at the Last Day.” (John 6:36-40, TLB)

IMG_1134“O Holy Night” is one of my favorite Christmas Carols. It gives wonderful insight into why Jesus left heaven:

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

“And the soul felt its worth.” Jesus left heaven to rescue you because you are of great worth to Him. God loves you so much that He gave His very life so that you could be with Him forever.” (Michael Youssef)

If there had only been YOU, He still would have come. His love for YOU drove Him from his throne in Heaven to  a lowly stable on earth, to die and be raised to life to set YOU free. You, my friend,  are completely loved  — just as YOU are — by the Creator God of the universe. His Son Jesus, is His personal Gift to you.

Have you opened your incomparable Christmas gift yet?

Are you feeling anything as you’re reading? Could it be Him stirring your soul? God makes Himself known… and when He does, you’ll know it. Don’t be too smart, too proud, too anything to miss His gift, Jesus Christ.

“So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense.

He has chosen a plan despised by the world, counted as nothing at all, and used it to bring down to nothing those the world considers great, so that no one anywhere can ever brag in the presence of God.”  (I Corinthians 28-20, 28-29 TLB)

IMG_1142Do not harden you heart when He stirs you with the worth of your soul and His great love. What good is a gift that is never opened?

How then shall we to respond to this unbelievable act of love and grace? Listen to “O Holy Night” with fresh ears and an open heart. The end of the song provides the answer: Christ’s sacrifice (lowly birth, sinless life, death on the cross, and resurrection) is a call for each of us to fall on our knees in surrender, worship, gratitude and adoration.

How may God be inviting you (personally) to respond to Him today?

Christ in your heart is your only hope of glory. He must reside IN you. Have you accepted Him? Not just believed the story in your mind? “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” (James 2:19 TLB)

Matthew 7:21-23 says “Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven.  At the Judgment many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’  But I will reply, ‘You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.'”

Intellectual understanding or belief is not all He is asking.  Going to church isn’t the ticket. Giving and serving are not your admissions price — God has infinite resources.

IMG_1132He wants your heart. Your surrender. Your worship. The God of the universe wants an intimate and personal relationship with YOU through sincere conversation (prayer and reading your Bible). Would you talk to Him now?

If you already know you are saved, know Him and love Him — His gentle words will be even more direct and personal. The more we return to Him and spend time seeking His face and understanding who He is, the more peaceful and joyful our lives will be. The more you and I will be transformed into the likeness of Jesus — and God will be glorified in our beautiful worship!

In the midst of the wonderful energy and excitement of the coming weekend, I pray your soul feels its worth. And that with all that is in you, you find time to praise His holy name. Merry Christmas.IMG_1139

 

 

Is Prayer Your Steering Wheel? Or Your Spare Tire?

“How are you?”

Traditionally, we’ve answered, “fine.” But more commonly, the new answer is — “BUSY!  I’ve been crazy busy. Not sure what I’m even doing.”

Fine implied a sense of well-being. Busy suggests our time is occupied. But how we are doing has a lot to do with what and Whom is occupying our lives.

IMG_3079I long for peace, stillness, quiet — but I feel busy, distracted, overwhelmed and scattered much of the time. I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing. Which begs the question — what do I WANT to be doing? What really matters?

We frequently talk about our goals and priorities. But we can’t truthfully have priorities unless we are willing to STOP doing one thing in order to do the better thing. So many of us constantly ADD to our schedules… saying yes to the next thing without ever subtracting anything! All of us are stewards of the same 24 hour day. Which of your priorities is getting squeezed out due to your chronic busyness?

IMG_4110For many Christians, Jesus (seeking His face) gets lost in our fast paced busyness. We profess that prayer, worship, praise, petitioning God, and reading our Bibles is foundational to our Christian walk. Of utmost importance to us. But some days we barely squeeze in a minute at bedtime to sigh… “Lord please forgive me, bless me and those I love, and please — could I sleep through the night, just this once? I’m so tired.”

We believe these few moments are all we can afford to give Him. Recently I had a 16-month period worthy of a country song.  Three weddings, my father’s death, my first grand daughter’s birth, a fire, and a move. Complete with their own caprice, all were squeezed into my already crazy busy life.

I wish I could say it was my priority on maintaining a rich and constant prayer life that got me through this overwhelming season. In truth,  my prayer life shifted to one of abiding prayer (I was with God: thankful and aware of Him), but my time devoted solely to being in His presence was inconsistent at best. I believed I was just too busy for daily, deep, relational prayer time.

IMG_4032I want to change that moving forward… because “normal” only exists as a setting on my dryer! “Normal” days won’t magically follow this “season.” Maybe I will have a little reprieve, but not for long. Life keeps coming. I’m responsible to choose how I will be.

I needed union with God through all the craziness. I don’t need to take another step without the Holy Spirit’s hand. I’ve missed out on blessings these last months by letting distraction and busyness curb my prayer life — why?

Even when we say we say we WANT to make prayer a priority, we’re neglectful. Following are two simple reasons:

  • We believe the lie that we don’t have time.
  • We don’t believe the Truth that prayer will really make a difference in our lives — that it’s necessary.

First — you and I both have time. How much time do you spend watching TV? (average is 5 hours a day) On social networks? (average is over 2 hours/ day) — you get my drift. Screen addiction is real! As are the idols of worshipping our children, work, hobbies, etc. Whatever it is you are doing, we all make time for what we want to do. For Who we love.

We know the right answers. Maybe we need compelling reasons to believe in and obey God’s command to pray.

Prayer — stepping away for quiet, devoted time with His Father — was necessary even for Jesus, who was God! He knew his time on earth was short, yet in the midst of His demanding, important ministry of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, saving the world form destruction and teaching about God — He frequently slipped away to a solitary place. Left all the many miracles He could do… to be with His Father (Mark 1).

IMG_4685If anyone could have justified busyness it was Jesus. One with God. Always successful. Always good. Infinitely able — but He consistently left demands and to-do lists undone to be alone with God the Father in prayer. It was His priority. And he knew it was necessary and fruitful. How much more so for us — no matter what all we have on our plates?

Jesus said not to even try doing life without ample time spent seeking Him. It would amount to nothing!  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

While He was on earth Jesus himself was dependent on spending vital time in prayer with the Father. How much more so should we? Hebrews 5:7 reveals the passionate prayer life of our Lord.  Jesus knew prayer to the Father was necessary on this earth.

IMG_4300In John 5:19 Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”

And we try to rationalize that we are too busy, important, overwhelmed… to pray?

God made us to do good works… the opposite of busyness isn’t laziness. But when our prayer life falters, we easily land in a sloth of distracted activities (maybe seemingly productive), but it’s just fruitless busyness without God at the center. How much better all our efforts would be (even if we had less time to give to service and work), if we refused to squeeze out God. Do we really believe that? Do we believe His Word?

It’s a matter of the heart. Am I a people pleaser, proud of my accomplishments, relying on my own strengths and ability to perform? Do I have something to prove? Am I over achieving? A martyr? Seeking comfort and ease? How am I making life about me? The list is endless.

Why am I doing “this” (fill in with our current excuse) and claiming it leaves me little time for prayer? We are finite. Time is finite. We need to embrace our inabilities and believe that God is the One who accomplishes all things. The Bible doesn’t tell us we’ll be held accountable for outcomes. We will, however, answer for disobedience and how well we KNOW Him.

IMG_4080We are too busy (like Martha, reprimanded for doing what did indeed need to get done), if we cannot sit listening at the feet of Jesus when it’s appropriate. Mary was commended for doing the better thing in Luke 10:38-42 . When I am too involved, overwhelmed, pressed, etc. for unhurried time in prayer, the Word, and the Presence of God — I am too busy. No excuses. Just repentance.

God and time with Him must be my undisputed priority. With God at #1 all the worthy and wonderful second things can fall into place. If I make ANY second things first, nothing can work well — not even a country song.  God demands the worship that is rightly His (Exodus 20:5).

How’s your prayer life?  Today is the day to make God and prayer our undisputed top priority.

“Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)IMG_3650

title credit to Corrie Ten Boon

 

Changing Christmas: A Midlife Mom’s Musings

IMG_1015I was excited to listen to a Christmas CD I just received and popped it in the player to set a festive and worshipful mood for my work. Rob was outside in “Santa’s workshop.” The happy “trappings and trimmings” of preparing for a full house at Christmas were all around me. I love Christmas — all of it!

Suddenly, waves of raw emotion crashed my world without warning or fanfare. One minute I’m sweeping up needles, wrapping presents and arranging holly. The next I’m choked up with tears that won’t flow. Enveloped by a menagerie of sentiments and feelings I can’t identify, much less express. My soul is instantly weary.

I notice the CD player (despite greeting me with “hello”) never started playing… I curl up on the sofa with whatever devotionals my email and facebook offer me. Searching the Bible seems like too much. The joy of a beautiful Sunday is suddenly sucked out of me.

IMG_1024When Rob comes in, I first think it’s something he said earlier that has me upset… as we talk, it becomes obvious that’s not “the thing.” Rob is patient to let me talk my way to discovering what I am feeling.

It’s not one thing… more just that the floodgates can’t contain the emotions surrounding all the change in my life. Consequently, this Christmas has taken a life of its own in my head. I finally acknowledge this as a Christmas of major changes. Of “last times.” Of new territory. A Christmas to find courage to prepare for all that’s ahead — joys and sorrows.

IMG_1029Sigh. And I was so determined to joyfully just accept change and grow old with enviable grace. Seems I can’t just wish it into being. Like many seasons before it, it will be a process of reflection and work. Surrender and trust.

You know how people typically ask about your holiday plans as part of their greeting at Christmas? Well, I’ve been excitedly telling them, “I’ll have all my children home! And Mom and Dad will be here.” Then adding with mixed emotions and a forced smile — “maybe for the last time, at least for a while.”

I redouble my Christmas planning and efforts…  I want this to be a Christmas every one cherishes. What mom hasn’t gone overboard, trying to make the holiday extra special for one reason or the other?

IMG_1027We’ve added 2 more stockings to the mantel. In 2016 my boys will each marry a beautiful bride. It’s wonderful and exciting. But at the same time, it’s the end of an age. It’s the last time this Mama will have all my little babies waking up under my roof on Christmas morning. It’s akin to other milestones like the first day of school or a college graduation (we had another one of those last week too).

I’ve long known new families were starting and adult lives were budding — but graduations and “last times” punctuate and define what we already know to be true. They make it all real. Forever more, just as I’m gaining daughters, I’ll be sharing my sons. At times the house will be more full than ever. But I also recognize I’ll need to master the art of facetime connections as our family grows and spreads out. As generations shift.

Change is a constant throughout all our lives. In our youth and younger adult years, adaptation often involves growth, excitement and abundance. Midlife moms are blessed to participate in our adult children’s bounty.  But oftentimes we add to that the uncertainty that comes with loving our aging parents. I’m blessed to still have both my mom and dad.

Granny used to say, “Old age isn’t for sissies.” As our parents live out their “golden years,” it seems that many inevitable life alterations are of a limiting nature.

IMG_1030I’m flooded with so many fond childhood memories –Mom and Dad started a wonderful Christmas Eve Chile Party tradition when my sisters and I were young adults coming home for Christmas.  Of waking up to a delicious quail breakfast Christmas morning and huge extended family gatherings at Granny’s on Christmas night. Those days are over.

My mom and dad have already faced many holiday changes in adapting to the lives and schedules of their children. This year they will leave their quiet house to be with us for Christmas dinner. I want to make things special like Mama always did. I want them to feel so loved and joyful this Christmas…

Other friends and family come to mind. Imposed solitude, peace and quiet can feel a lot like lonely (click for post) to anyone. I’m heart-broken for all those who don’t anticipate this Christmas with childlike wonder — for whatever reason.

The ornaments, traditions and gatherings trigger memories that span a lifetime. They spawn other recollections… the good bring warmth and joy, but sometimes also melancholy with them. No one escapes pain entirely — and those impressions often yell louder than the sweet ones.

IMG_1031Aging parents, weddings, jobs, babies, holiday work shifts — all can disrupt. Midlife moms like me know both the joy of anticipation (will there soon be little ones on Christmas again?) and the ache of silently wondering which dining chairs will be empty next year. I’m so grateful for all who will be with us this Christmas and feel the pressure of wanting our celebration to be extra special — again this year.

But how? I’m better this morning, but have the remaining edge of yesterday’s funk. I made coffee in the Keurig, BEFORE situating a Christmas mug to contain it.  I haven’t figured out our Christmas Eve dinner plan. My shopping isn’t done.  And I’m out of ideas. I haven’t baked a thing and wonder if I will. The beds aren’t fresh and I’m running out of time and energy!

Then I happened on this verse and God grabbed my attention —

“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31)

IMG_1028The answer is right there in the manger scenes scattered throughout my home. God — through Jesus — offers hope that heals, energizes and transforms us. He came for the sick. The broken-hearted. He came for you and me —

I know what I need to feel refreshed. I’m going now to hide away with God. My CD player may not always cooperate, but nothing can stop me from praising Him with everything I have left in me. His mercies will fail not — and I have full hope that He will give me all I need to celebrate my changing family and the birth of the Christ child with grace and thanksgiving.

Merry Christmas! May your heart be full with Him.

Addendum: the playlist I worshipped through had some great lyrics copied below about the One who never changes. God is so GOOD!

IMG_1034Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Great is thy Faithfulness, O God my Father,/ There is no shadow of turning with Thee/  Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not/ As Thou hast been Thou forever will be… Morning by morning new mercies I see/ All I have needed thy hand hath provided –/ Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

IMG_1035“And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:
How great thou art! How great thou art.
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then *I shall bow in humble adoration,
And there proclaim, My God, how great thou art!”

IMG_1033O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born”
IMG_1036“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

  1. Through many dangers, toils and snares,
    I have already come;
    ’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
    And grace will lead me home.
  2. The Lord has promised good to me,
    His Word my hope secures;
    He will my Shield and Portion be,
    As long as life endures.
  3. Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
    And mortal life shall cease,
    I shall possess, within the veil,
    A life of joy and peace.”
IMG_1037“Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room…”
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