Present, Present, Presents!

As my schedule has whisked me down the river of life this holiday season, I’ve come up against a thought – that I’m still sorting through – but maybe it will help you too.

I was thinking of how busy-ness has seemed to control many of my waking moments lately. Normal things that keep life busy from January through October continue: laundry, dishes, church commitments, doctor/dentist appointments, planning Sunday school lessons, (Yes I’m old! It will always be Sunday school to me no matter what you rename it!) grocery shopping, quiet time with the Lord. Add to that holiday baking, Christmas parties, meal planning and prep for big family gatherings, shopping for presents, wrapping presents, hiding presents… and every minute of every day seems to be taken, leaving me to fall into bed at night. Instead of visions of sugarplums (whatever that is!) I have stressful dreams of all that’s still on my “To Do” list, and I wake up running to see if I can conquer it all.

I find myself so busy planning it all that I’m constantly thinking ahead.

I had a bit of an epiphany at my grandson’s birthday party. (As if holidays weren’t enough, my grandson’s birthday and our anniversary are both within a week of Christmas!) As I sat for a moment in our local kid’s museum watching my grandson and his buddies run from exhibit to exhibit, I got a text. I glanced at it to find a question about  business details for our women’s ministry. I shot off a reply, realized another lady needed to be in the loop, texted her, and several minutes later “woke up” from virtual world to realize none of my crew were nearby.

It was probably only 2-3 minutes that I was zoned out in another world, but I realized in that moment that I had missed a few minutes of my now 9 year-old grandson’s life. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things. He wasn’t hurt with me. His parents and Papa and other adults were there, so he was safe, but I had missed out on precious moments I could never get back. Had he done something brave or cute or novel that I will never have a memory of because I was distracted? I was so busy living for future events that I wasn’t living in the moment. It was then that my wandering thoughts of the last few weeks became crystalized in the word “present.”

God whispered to me. “Be present. It’s not about the presents. Present to me your heart.”

Although that was His short message to me, it came to my heart with intricate insight and depth. Some of it so personal and intimate I ponder it alone, but the other concepts are needed by us all. So I challenge you this holiday season to those 3 things!

1. Be present in your life. The past is gone, never to be recaptured. The future is yet to come and none of our worrying will change it; only our prayers and our obedient submission to carrying out the Lord’s will can affect the future.

Life is a vapor.

Treasure and savor those precious times with family and friends.

Put the phone away.

Save business times for business hours.

2. It’s not about the presents… or the shopping, or the baking, or the decorating, or what others expectations are…. It’s about Jesus! It’s about His great gift of His Son our Saviour. It’s about His love for us, and by extension our love for the people around us. It’s about peace and a heart fully resting in Him for your joy and affirmation and contentment. All your holiday prepping cannot buy you these intangible gifts of the soul.

3. Present your heart to Him. While many things seem urgent during the holidays, only one thing is needed, to sit at Jesus’ feet. To be loved by Him, to learn from Him, and to experience all he has for us. As Jesus reminded Martha of this, we need to be reminded too.

Mary… sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42

There is a time for preparation, but are we so caught up in the preparation that we are sacrificing time with our Savior? This Christmas I challenge you to focus on Christ. Spend sweet time at the Savior’s feet. Let Him dictate your calendar and schedule. Enjoy! Savor! Let Him fill your empty heart!

The present day, the present moment in time is God’s gift to us. We may never have another, and we definitely will not have one exactly like this. Therefore, let us live in it and use it wisely – loving and participating and experiencing all He has for us! Live this Christmas as if it were the only Christmas. Celebrate the birth of our Savior and live out all that His life represents. Be that light to a world that needs hope, unconditional love, and the light of Christ in their lives. Give the gift of Jesus!

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Jesus: Hope for a Weary World

O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

At the beginning of human history, sin came into a perfect world through an act of disobedience by the created toward their Creator. Perfect communion was shattered. Consequences came. But even in the consequences God offered mercy and HOPE. In punishing the serpent God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) The woman’s offspring would crush the enemy and offer restoration to relationship with Creator God.

Generations waited, hoped, longed for this Redeemer-Restorer to come: Noah, Abraham, Moses, the children of Israel through their centuries of ups and downs, the exiles in Babylon longing for home. They hoped in dark times and in silent times, longing for help in their weary world for hundreds of years. Praying and hoping.

And then the Messiah came! The Light of the World! The Hope of the World! The Restorer – Jesus Christ!

Are you waiting, praying, hoping in darkness? Is the silence of yet-to-be-answered prayer weighing your heart down? Hang on to Hope, your Deliverer is coming! God has heard your weeping. He has a plan. His timetable is not like yours. The enemy knows this and  whispers in your ear, “He’s not going to come through for you.” It’s a lie! Don’t believe it.

silhouette-image-of-person-praying-1615776During those times where God seems silent in your situation, think of your Savior. God was also silent when Jesus asked for the cup to be removed from Him. But God did not remove it; He had a plan for our redemption. Also remember this Old Testament verse: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ( Deuteronomy 31:6) God WILL NOT leave you. He is working His plan – timing and all – preparing the way for your next step even when you cannot see it. Hold onto Hope!

This Christmas season, cling to Hope in Christ no matter what you face: a court hearing, financial instability, failing health, broken relationships.

God is working on your behalf even if you cannot see it.

When you hold onto faith and hope going to the Father over and over again in prayer, your faith will grow, your spiritual eyes will be opened, your Redeemer will come through for you – in His time. Don’t grow weary waiting. And when you grab hold of Hope and live it out before this weary world, you encourage those around you to Hope as well.

When Jesus came to this earth He didn’t come through a line of perfect people, He came through a lineage of sinners and flawed, ordinary people just like you and me. Despite their sin and imperfections God used them to accomplish His will for the World. We don’t have to be perfect to be used of God either. He has a role for us to play in His Kingdom here on earth. We need to grasp this HOPE of the GOSPEL. Not just for ourselves, but for this weary world. 

This Advent season and in the coming year – as you await the arrival of whatever your heart is longing for… 

  • May you remember the world waiting for the Messiah to come.
  • May you know the HOPE of Jesus Christ
  • May you grasp God’s great love for you
  • May your longing for His 2nd coming and eternal life be greater than any earthly longing you are struggling with
  • May you meet Jesus in a new way through the silent, dark times
  • May healing, redemption, and restoration arrive this year for you!
  • And may you BE A BEARER OF God’s HOPE in the darkness!

In His time, God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished!

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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2 & 6

Love Came Down

This Christmas let the reality of the baby in the manger transform your perspective.

Little things. Lowly things. Unnoticed things. These are some of the rarest and sweetest gifts. It’s so easy to get caught up in the trappings of the season. A picture perfect tree. box-celebrate-celebration-christmas-264988Beautifully wrapped gifts. An impeccably decorated home. A table set intricately with Christmas China. There’s certainly nothing wrong in making your home beautiful, or taking joy in the fun of decorating for the season. It’s only when the “stuff” becomes your focus and your motivation shifts from the Giver of all good things to the good things themselves.

When the focus is on the things, we veer into the lane of comparison. That turns our focus to ourselves and others and takes our eyes off the truth–the Creator took the form of the creation. He allowed Himself, not just to appear in human form, but to live a fully human existence from birth to death. He chose to come as a baby—helpless and completely dependent. He entrusted himself to the fallen ones. He left his throne and stepped out of eternity into the constriction of time. He exposed himself to the sin-infested humanity he knew would, in the end, reject him, beat him, crucify him.

Jesus knew what it was to be weak and defenseless. He knew what it was to be dependent and discouraged. He knew what it was to be rejected and mocked. He suffered sadness and solitude and grief and pain. Yet he did not sin. He was obedient to His Father at every moment. Even to his last breath in his broken, battered mortal body hanging on the cross.

All that Jesus did, He did out of a great, unbelievable, unimaginable love for us. He could have come as a conquering King. He could have come as a Mighty Warrior. He could have come in power and majesty, but He didn’t. He chose to make Himself vulnerable. He chose to live in a fragile human body. He fully experienced what it was to live a mortal life. Hunger, thirst, exhaustion, loneliness, pain, joy, laughter, weeping, grief. He lived his life so we could run to this High Priest, this Messiah, this Savior, who is well acquainted with our mortality. He knows your heart. He knows your struggle. He knows your hurt. And He loves you. More than mere words could ever express.

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This Christmas, more than most, I’m spending more time soaking in the majesty of who He is. This reorientation is the gift of a struggling season. A season where the Lord has asked me to visit some terrifying places, and His goodness is there, His love is even more visceral, tangible. My heart is overwhelmed. Unable to take in how beautiful and how gracious He really is. It seems the more threatening the darkness, the more I understand how great His love is. How even the hard things of the past prepared me for these very moments of discovering His abounding love and overflowing compassion anew.

This Christmas my prayer is that your heart is reoriented. That your eyes are refocused. That your mind is caught up anew in the incredible gift of the baby in the manger. The baby who changed everything. The One who came to give us hope. The One who came to bring us from death to life. This Christmas take intentional time to step away from the twinkling lights and gift wrapping and decorating and shopping and remember the powerful gift of the love of a Father who gave His only Son, and of the obedience and love of a Son who went to His death so that you would live.

Love came down and changed everything.

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How Lovely Are Your Branches

I struggle a bit in the commitment area. I like change and I like it when things stay the same. I recognize the absurdity of this, as one can not have it both ways, but this doesn’t change my preference in any way.

Many years ago, nearly twenty to be nearly exact, I chose a profession for nearly all of the wrong reasons. Over the course of almost 18 years I’ve spent many a day and many a night within a particular set of walls. I’ve been snowed in, put on high alerts, been bored beyond words, shed more tears than I count, held many a hand, mourned over many a broken heart, and have witnessed more than my share of miracles. To say that I’ve learned more lessons within those particular walls than I can count would be a serious understatement.

christmas-trees-1823938_1280Year after year one thing always stays the same, but changes annually. It is secretly one of my favorite things about that place. The Trees. The Christmas Trees.

Those artificial Tannenbaum dot the premises like little gems on a desert floor. Those who know them know that they mark the beginning of the Christmas season, each one as unique and different as the ones who decorated it. They are a sight to behold, those Tannenbaum that are a lifter of the spirit and of the head.

“The Google” defined Tannenbaum this way: A Tannenbaum is a fir tree. The lyrics do not actually refer to Christmas, or describe a decorated Christmas tree. Instead, they refer to the fir’s evergreen quality as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness.

The very description itself encompassed exactly what I was thinking, and I was amused that the Google agreed with me.

For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness.pngHow very appropriate that the tree symbolizes faithfulness, for it is the consistent faithfulness and regularity as well as the ever-changing baubles that adorn such consistency that ministers to me most.

Over the passage of time my overactive imagination has given rise to the stories that those trees may hold, the hands who’ve lovingly selected their baubles, and I’ve often wondered if those individuals know how very important their handiwork is. I can testify honestly that they’ve made hard days easier, sad days happier, the mundane exciting. I also must confess I’m a little sad when they leave, but for the time being, for today, I am so very grateful for the beautiful reminders that bring a little sunshine and happiness to this world – this and every Christmas Season.

The Giving Christmas

As I look back over the years, I have many wonderful memories of Christmas seasons that I have experienced. There have been Christmases as a child and then a teenager. When I was married, Christmas changed from just my family to include my husband’s family. Then came children and grandchildren. Each new Christmas experience has brought its on special times.

Christmas as a child was full of wonder and joy. There were gifts from Santa and gifts under the tree from my parents. I remember receiving skates and a scooter. There was always a doll from Santa. Even when I was too old for a doll, there was still a baby doll for me at Christmas.

I can remember trying to save my allowance so that I would have a little bit of money to buy gifts for my parents and my brothers. The gifts were never large but they were all I hobby-leisure-model-cars-33074.jpgcould get on a small allowance. The gifts would be a handkerchief for my mother and stationary for my Daddy. I would get little metal cars for my brothers. I was proud of my gifts and so happy to give them to each of my family members.

When I was in college, I had a part-time job at a bank. I remember saving back money from my paychecks so that I could buy “real” presents for Christmas. There was a clock that I thought was so beautiful at a store where my parents shopped for special gifts. The clock was encased in a glass dome. I thought it was the most beautiful clock I had ever loricron-anniversary-clock-95592-281x433.jpgseen. I purchased this clock for my parents for this very special Christmas. It was the first time that I really had the opportunity to buy them special gift. My parents loved the clock and kept it in a special place on the mantel even after it stopped working. They thought it was a beautiful decorative piece and kept it because it was a special gift from me.

When we were cleaning my parents’ home and getting it ready to sell after they had both gone to be with the Lord, I picked up the clock and began looking at it. I know it doesn’t work but it is a reminder of when I learned how wonderful it is to give to others. I will always remember that first Christmas that I had the opportunity to give and not just receive. I will keep this clock as a reminder of the love I felt for my parents that Christmas Day that became my first Giving Christmas.  I will always remember the joy that it gave me to give them a gift that for me was of great value. I know that it is not the cost of a gift that makes it special but the joy that it brings. This is a lesson that I experienced that Christmas season more than 45 years ago, but I remember it each year as I plan my gifts.

Acts 20:35b NIV tells us “It is more blessed to give than to receive. ”

As we think of Christmas, we cannot help but remember the most precious gift of our Lord Jesus Christ. John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but have everlasting life.”

My gift to my parents pales in comparison to the gift that God gave to us of eternal life with him forever. What an amazing God we have. My prayer this Christmas is to enjoy the spirit of giving throughout this season and to never forget the most wonderful gift I have ever received.

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‘Tis the Season

We sat at the table, she had coffee, I had sweet tea. We were near giddy just to be with each other. Years ago when life was different, when our kids were little and we went to the same places every day, when circumstances forced us into each other’s lives, and it was not uncommon to see each other multiple times a day such a giddiness would have been absent, such an anticipated and leisurely meal likely would have been too. Back then, we would daily talk and there were times that it had been literal hours that we had seen the each other last. But as it happens with life, things change and children grow. People move. Jobs are different. “Seasons” – that tends to be how I hear it referred to, and for a season we were inseparable. This season of life though is much different.

The online dictionary defines a season in this way – season : a time characterized by a particular circumstance or feature : a suitable or natural time or occasion: an indefinite period of time : while. The King’s Word says to everything there is a season. (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

the-original-italianI reckon calling different times of life a “season” seems to make perfect sense. Seasons change and life changed, so we went from seeing each other every single day to seeing each other on special occasions and when we happen to be at the same place at the same time. When that happens I have been known to squeal with excitement. As we sat there soaking in our time and happenings in our families’ lives, drinking our caffeinated beverage of choice, amidst an endless supply of buffalo check and country store decor surrounding us, “Season’s Greetings” made its way into my mind (defined by the same above source as: an expression of goodwill at Christmas or the New Year) I wondered where the expression had found its origins.

Our conversation meandered, we have always had difficulty staying on task. We filled in gaps of time with parallel world events, our conversations woven around the One Whom we both love and whom this Season, the Christmas Season, is about.

As we talked I pictured in my imagination a woven tapestry, our words making a picture and the thread holding it all together is Christ, the one that binds us to the support frame of the loom, Jesus. Pull that central thread out, and the tapestry would all unravel, the loom and colorful threads that make up our lives would come crashing to the ground and be nothing more than a mound of tangled up mess. I do tend to have an overactive imagination and a wandering mind. However, the reality is, we would both tell you, that Jesus alone holds us together. As we filled in those gaps, we laughed until we cried, we cried until we laughed, she and I caught up as best we could. She has always been a lover of jewelry and she was adorned that day as per her usual. On her right arm I noted the pearl colored baubles and jewel encrusted bracelet, the simple silver bangle that my 40-year-old eyes could not decipher what the small writing said. I examined and must have had a quizzical look because she said, “Oh, this one, this was a gift from a family. It says ‘Make a difference.”

I nodded. I knew what she meant, and she went on to point to other things, to show me pictures of and tell me about the gifts she had received. In light of the Season, I thought it fitting.

Her career revolves around loss. It wasn’t her first career. She was, she is an accountant, CPA I think is what it’s called. She’s a numbers person. I am not. That career was like a springboard that catapulted her into her now second, late-in-life, go back to college career. A calling is a better description.

It boggles the mind of many, myself included, whenever she begins to talk about it I just say,

“I couldn’t do it.”

Her answer always the same, “Yes you could.”

“No Ma’am. I could not” My reply also always the same.
We have had this conversation on multiple occasions.

As the tapestry grew and our conversation continued, we talked about the gifts, how each one tells a story and ministers to her. How she looks at them and doesn’t see an object but sees people who gave them. The Givers have sealed a place for themselves in her heart. She doesn’t say it but I can read it in her eyes. She rubbed her index finger over the imprinted words “Make a Difference.” Her eyes were shiny with tears and on the verge of running down her cheeks, she looked at me and said as if speaking to the Giver rather than me. More rhetorical than not.

“You lost what you love and went through a very hard time and I get the gift. I struggle with that.”

For a moment there was a pause in our conversation. She used the scratchy paper napkin that had been rolled around her silverware, to dab her eyes.

cross pexels-photo-635699“That’s Jesus.”

The words were out of my mouth before I knew it. I even questioned if I had said them out-loud. I saw her nodding and dabbing her eyes and realized I had actually said them out-loud. A second time, stronger and confident of my declaration.

“That is Jesus.”

He was born the humblest of births, lived a life of simplicity, loved on and cared for the ones unworthy, the ones the world did not even recognize as people and yet He willingly gave His life as a ransom. He gave it up so that we can receive the gift of salvation. The gift of Hope. The gift of Peace. The gift of God with Us.

I reminded her again that she was for many, the face of Jesus. That she was a glimpse of who He is and that He had placed her where she was for just a time as this. Our conversation meandered on and by the time the lunch crowd had come in, we determined our breakfast meeting had to adjourn.

The tapestry of our lives filled in a bit more, holding firmly to that thread of Christ. We hugged and promised it wouldn’t be so long until we saw each other again. My cheeks sore from laughter, my eyes stinging from tears, I was filled up and happy as we parted, better than I was when we had met.

I giggled as I recalled our conversation, challenged as I pondered on parts of it.

This Season, this Christmas Season, this Season of life, this Season, I will choose to acknowledge and worship the Giver. The One who gave His very life in exchange for mine and I’m likely to find myself in the very same frame of mind as my friend, humbled and moved to tears, that another would suffer loss and joyfully give me a gift.

Season’s Greetings Indeed!

Merry Christmas!

'Tis the Season!