UNEVEN FOOTING at CHRISTMAS

We’re traversing an unsteady season of life in our family. A journey that requires attention to each step taken. Tender hearts are at risk. The magnitude of the impact of decisions made and actions taken makes the path feel perilous. A step in the wrong direction, a stumble, a misunderstood word can send one’s life careening off a cliff.

Oh, for a level, well-lit pathway.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Recently I attended a meeting at a lovely venue all decked out for Christmas. From the parking lot it was a glorious sight: massive evergreens festooned with ribbons and garlands that glittered in the morning sun. Friends gathered, and as we crossed the mosaic-floored terrace I tripped on an uneven tile and had to pull my gaze from decorations to the ground.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe entered a grand lobby with glittering lights. Bedecked topiaries dotted the slate floor. The uneven slate floor. Again I had to look away from the surrounding beauty.

Once settled at the table, I relaxed and lifted my eyes, taking in the glowing fireplace, candles, wreaths and colorful packages. And the radiant faces of friends, gathered to enjoy each others’ company, our journeys as writers, and joy celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

Later I thought about that precarious path and bristled at the fact that to traverse it, I had to keep my eyes glued to the floor ~ missing some delightful scenery. Then the memory of the uneven, perilous path facing our family came roaring back. I realized that I felt cheated by having my life forced into a narrow lane. I was missing opportunities to connect with people, missing out on pleasures and joys. It wasn’t fair. I wanted to pout. Wanted to complain and ask God to fix it.

pathway-blocked-at-far-end-maybe

And He did.

He reminded me, during this season of Christmas, that …

He is Emmanuel ~ God with Us.

That my path is not precarious. Nor is it devoid of beauty.

The Lord Himself holds my hand. And if I look at Him, the view is more glorious than any beribboned, ornament-laden tree. If I hold tightly, He can keep me from falling … and missing opportunities to connect with others.

The difference is not in my path but in where I choose to look.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I wish you plenty of time and freedom to gaze without limit on a season filled with light to remind you of The Light of the World, God With Us.*

Merry Christmas!

*John 8:12, Matthew 1:23

WHERE LOVE IS …

Each year we spend time in the story “Where Love Is” by Leo Tolstoy. Sometimes we read, but our favorite is to listen to the amazing radio drama version played years ago on the Moody Bible station. A bit of it follows~

God tells recently widowed shoemaker Martin that He will visit this day. Listening to it is HOME IN EDIN w garden apt blog postso rich. We’re impacted by even the sound of the wind blowing when Martin opens his door to assist a child pelted with snowballs. We’re caught up at the crunch of snow as tired street sweeper Ivan walks away, warmed by Martin’s mug of hot tea and pair of gloves. 

Martin’s assistance to others passing his window continues, but his disappointment is palpable as the day grows late. He sighs, glancing at the window. “Lord, I thought you were coming today. … I guess it was only a dream. A lonely old man’s dream.” 

LukeHe opens his Bible and reads from Luke, but his eyelids grow heavy and he slumbers. Suddenly a voice calls his name. He startles, runs to the door, and flings it open. 

Darkness stared back. He slammed it. “Acht. Another dream.” 

“No, Martin. It is I, your Lord.”

“But, Lord, where were you? I thought you were coming to visit me   today.” Martin held his breath. Maybe he should not complain to the Savior.

            “But I did come today, Martin. You were a wonderful host. Did you not see me?”

            “No, Lord. I did not see you. When did you come?”

“But you fed me, Martin. You warmed me, and you clothed me.” 

Martin scratched his head. “Lord, when did I feed you? Or warm or clothe you? I did not see you.” 

Then the soft, clear voice said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Hearty soupIn his mind, Martin saw the old street sweeper; the sad, young lad; the frightened young mother with the hungry child. And he smiled.

“Thank you, dear Lord, for visiting me today.”

“It was my pleasure, Martin.” *

 What are some of your favorite Christmas stories?

 I hope this one blesses you and brings you joy this Christmas.

[* Note: Section above is transcribed from the Moody Bible broadcast, but I’m unable to give credit to specific copywriters as MBN can no longer locate information about this radio play. The entire story is available on-line to read free or for purchase from various book sellers.] 

 

(adapted from a previous post)

Easy to think Christmas, but hard to act Christmas

“It is easy to think Christmas, and it is easy to believe Christmas, but it is hard to act Christmas.” [Act Christmas by anonymous]*

Christmas Tree Painting Scripture, especially Matthew chapter 25 gives me ideas of how to act Christmas. There I read that Jesus will say to some, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” because they fed, clothed, and in other ways ministered to Him. When they questioned how they ministered in such ways, he answered: 

“…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt. 25:40

So it seems that doing Christmas is more about serving others, meeting others’ needs. Perhaps even sacrificial giving.

When my son was young, we started a tradition of hanging a stocking for Jesus. A dark green singleton that’d lost its mate. Humble, like Jesus. But throughout the Advent season it was a great visual reminder to think about what would make Him happy. We dropped in slips of paper identifying gifts given in Jesus’ name ~~ gifts of time, love, words, cookies. But also occasions we’d chosen to yield our way, our turn, our preference in favor of someone else.

Gift of a MealA couple of those early years were very lean, and we had need of help from Food Stamps or generous family and friends ourselves. Still we looked for ways to give to others. One year Karl added a few toys, a pair of jeans, and some getting-tight shirts to a box of food and homemade goodies we packed for a desperately poor family in our church. Late one night we nestled it on their front porch, rang the bell, and dashed away. 

Karl did Christmas the next Sunday after church when he glowed, telling me he’d seen the young boy of the family wearing a shirt Karl had given. Karl was thrilled—and never told anyone aside from me. 

Some ways our family has chosen to add to Jesus’ stocking is to reach out to homebound neighbors, bring Christmas cheer to those sidelined in the hospital,work with Angel Tree (a part of Prison Fellowship), or make donations in the names of our kids and grandkids to charities— Amazima Ministries, World Help, International Justice Mission, Heifer International, Sonshine Haven, or Samaritan’s Purse. 

Please share some ideas you have for filling Jesus’ Christmas stocking. We can all use some good tips. And may you have great joy doing a Merry Christmas.     

Making Room at Advent

Our neighbor, Marge, faced Christmas from her bed. Battling illness, she’d grown so weak her life was pared down to activities of survival.

My friend, Jean, had emigrated from Scotland fifty years earlier and still reveled in all things Scottish. When any of us was ill, mourning, or struggling in any way, Jean’s gift was always a prayer and a tin of luscious shortbread. 

Jean remembered Marge’s comment from a previous Christmas. “My grandson said your shortbread was the best cookie he’d ever tasted.  I’d love to have your recipe so I can make him some.” Marge’s grandson, serving overseas, was coming home for Christmas and to see her before she died. So rather than shopping, or singing carols around the neighborhood, or watching Christmas movies, Jean baked shortbread. She wrapped it up in bright Christmas paper, tied it with a red bow, addressed the tag to Marge’s grandson, signed the card “Love, Grandma,” and walked it over to Marge’s. 

As we walked and talked about Christmas, Jean praised me for teaching a Bible study and said she wished she had some talent God could use. Jaw dropping, I stopped and stared at her five-foot form, then shared my disagreement. She was being God’s love to Marge and Marge’s grandson ~ yet didn’t really see it herself. Her comment highlights the way many of us have trouble knowing how to convert our beliefs into actions.

 We’ve heard that when Jesus was born, Bethlehem was crowded, and with no room available, Joseph and Mary had sought out some humble space to rest.

Whether stable, cave, or what, we don’t know exactly, but Immanuel’s first crib was a manger—a crude feed trough. In our modern world, we often hear the admonition, “Make room for The Christ Child.” But what does that mean? How do we do that nowadays?

Some ideas:

Making Room in our Hearts 

Purpose to clear out junk that may be residing there~bitterness, grudges, sin. Pray and ask for help in identifying areas that need sweeping clean, then give up keeping trash that needs evicting. If something or someone holds a position of more importance to you than God, that idol needs moving off its pedestal. If God could (and did!) give World War II concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom the ability to forgive a guard who, years later, apologized and reached to shake her hand, He can sweep clean any filthy areas I retain.

Making Room in our Lives 

Christmas season, above all others, seems to ratchet up the busy-ness. It takes focus and discipline to set priorities and limit our activities, expenditures, commitments. Or, it takes the practiced discipline of living in God’s Presence and letting him guide us moment by moment. But then, life can only be lived moment by moment—so why not let Him Who is omniscient guide our steps? 

The Christmas season in the United States is celebrated with ever bigger light displays, pageants, music. More and more activity, food, presents. But perhaps making room for The Christ whose birth we celebrate will mean forgoing some parties, avoiding some shopping malls, and collapsing on the floor with a toddler to read a Christmas story. Or spending an afternoon baking Scottish shortbread.

[adapted from a previous post]

Blessed Advent to You

Despite hubby’s cancer treatments and deadlines and jury duty narrowing my focus, I think:  How can I not be blissfully light? Advent points me to a powerful truth – Jesus Christ is God’s “I Love You!” to the world. And not the world in general, but to each of us.

ED n JOEY at 4 months

He wrapped “I Love You” in a baby, called “Emmanuel” meaning God With Us*. Of course this is true every day. And yet, having a time set aside as a focused reminder works. I do focus on these truths, and my peace and joy are expanded.

 

EL CAP in Winter color cprt I hope that’s also true for you. What does remind you?  Peering out at a quiet, snow-filled world where you almost hear the angels singing? Snuggling in front of a fire with loved ones and cocoa? Rousing Christmas carols among crowds?

Whatever helps you focus. Whatever helps you remember—spend some time doing that. Whether softly whispered or joyfully sung ~ listen for His Words of Truth and Love sent.

What seasonal activities speak to your heart?

Starla, Chris, Brad & Sarah at Christmas

 

*Matthew 1:23

EMMANUEL ~ God With Us

21-Days-of-Christmas-Cover-medium-150x212Hearing that the Christ child would be called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”* stirs my heart and boggles my mind every time I read it. With, such an intimate word. To me, that is the Christmas celebration, and exactly what I aimed to convey in the short fiction devotional, “Sculpting a Perfect Gift” which appears in 21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift[Planning a give-away next week, so if you like Christmas stories, check back. ] 

To get you in the spirit, here’s a post-from-the-past about another touching Christmas story of God with us.

Each year we spend time in the story “Where Love Is” by Leo Tolstoy. Sometimes we read, but our favorite is to listen to the amazing radio drama version played years ago on the Moody Bible station.  

God tells recently widowed shoemaker Martin that He will visit this day. Listening to it is so rich. We’re impacted by even the sound of the wind blowing when Martin opens his door to assist a child pelted with snowballs. We’re caught up at the crunch of snow as tired street sweeper Ivan walks away, warmed by Martin’s mug of hot tea and pair of gloves.

Martin’s assistance to others passing his window continues, but his disappointment is palpable as the day grows late. He sighs, glancing at the window. “Lord, I thought you were coming today. … I guess it was only a dream. A lonely old man’s dream.”

He opens his Bible and reads from Luke, but his eyelids grow heavy and he slumbers. Suddenly a voice calls his name. He startles, runs to the door, and flings it open.

Darkness stared back. He slammed it. “Acht. Another dream.”

“No, Martin. It is I, your Lord.”

“But, Lord, where were you? I thought you were coming to visit me today.” Martin held his breath. Maybe he should not complain to the Savior.

“But I did come today, Martin. You were a wonderful host. Did you not see me?”

“No, Lord. I did not see you. When did you come?”

“But you fed me, Martin. You warmed me, and you clothed me.”

Martin scratched his head. “Lord, when did I feed you? Or warm or clothe you? I did not see you.”

Then the soft, clear voice said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

In his mind, Martin saw the old street sweeper; the sad, young lad; the frightened young mother with the hungry child. And he smiled.

“Thank you, dear Lord, for visiting me today.”

“It was my pleasure, Martin.” *

What are some of your favorite Christmas stories?

[* Note: Section transcribed from the Moody Bible broadcast, but I’m unable to give credit to specific copywriters as MBN can no longer locate information about this radio play. ]

Perhaps 21 Days of Christmas: Stories that Celebrate God’s Greatest Gift will be just the thing to help you get into the Spirit of Christmas this year, or a holiday delight for a loved one.          

*Matthew 1:23

Finding the Christ in Christmas

Early in our marriage Ed navigated job transfers and down-sizing—both of the company and salary. We developed the habit of purchasing our Christmas gifts throughout the year, and when December rolled around we had no need to shop. But we’d spend a date night sipping hot chocolate and strolling through shopping areas enjoying the decorations. Years later we shifted to a big shopping mall. But nowadays, it seems walking the aisles of stores at Christmas is more endurance test than enjoyment. Do you find it that way too? 

Well, the next time you’re out and about during the Christmas season, or watching television and get bombarded with commercials, try this. Look at individual decorations and try to see the spiritual connections they might make. A few examples–

Stars

Easy. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea … there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.’”  Matthew 2:1-2

“I Jesus … am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” Revelation 22:16

Candles, Lights

“Then spake Jesus … ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’”  John 8:12

Continue reading

Where Love is …

Each year we spend time in the story “Where Love Is” by Leo Tolstoy. Sometimes we read, but our favorite is to listen to the amazing radio drama version played years ago on the Moody Bible station. 

God tells recently widowed shoemaker Martin that He will visit this day. Listening to it is so rich. We’re impacted by even the sound of the wind blowing when Martin opens his door to assist a child pelted with snowballs. We’re caught up at the crunch of snow as tired street sweeper Ivan walks away, warmed by Martin’s mug of hot tea and pair of gloves. 

Martin’s assistance to others passing his window continues, but his disappointment is palpable as the day grows late. He sighs, glancing at the window. “Lord, I thought you were coming today. … I guess it was only a dream. A lonely old man’s dream.” 

He opens his Bible and reads from Luke, but his eyelids grow heavy and he slumbers. Suddenly a voice calls his name. He startles, runs to the door, and flings it open. 

 

Darkness stared back. He slammed it. “Acht. Another dream.” 

“No, Martin. It is I, your Lord.”

“But, Lord, where were you? I thought you were coming to visit me   today.” Martin held his breath. Maybe he should not complain to the Savior.

            “But I did come today, Martin. You were a wonderful host. Did you not see me?”

            “No, Lord. I did not see you. When did you come?”

“But you fed me, Martin. You warmed me, and you clothed me.” 

Martin scratched his head. “Lord, when did I feed you? Or warm or clothe you? I did not see you.” 

Then the soft, clear voice said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

In his mind, Martin saw the old street sweeper; the sad, young lad; the frightened young mother with the hungry child. And he smiled.

“Thank you, dear Lord, for visiting me today.”

“It was my pleasure, Martin.” *

 What are some of your favorite Christmas stories?

[* Note: Section transcribed from the Moody Bible broadcast, but I’m unable to give credit to specific copywriters as MBN can no longer locate information about this radio play. ]

(adapted from a previous post)

MERRY CHRISTMAS !

Don’t you just love Advent? The days leading up to Christmas seem unlike others in our year. Oh, not the uber-busy but the intense reminders of the holiday approaching and what that holiday means … if we have eyes to see it.

Oh, friends, I hope you do have eyes and heart to see it.

Some family things are pulling me to focus there. I’m sad to not be here to share slivers of light that point to The Light Who came into our world [John 9:5] ~ Immanuel meaning “God with us” [Matthew 1:23]. So I’ll be re-posting some Christmas thoughts from previous years. Again, may you celebrate this season with the eyes and heart of a child.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Embracing the CHRIST in Christmas

Early in our marriage Ed navigated job transfers and down-sizing—both of the company and salary. We developed the habit of purchasing our Christmas gifts throughout the year, and when December rolled around we had no need to shop. But we’d spend a date night sipping hot chocolate and strolling through shopping areas enjoying the decorations. Years later we shifted to a big shopping mall. But nowadays, it seems walking the aisles of stores at Christmas is more endurance test than enjoyment. Do you find it that way too? 

Well, the next time you’re out and about during the Christmas season, or watching television and get bombarded with commercials, try this. Look at individual decorations and try to see the spiritual connections they might make. A few examples–

Stars

Easy. “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea … there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.’”  Matthew 2:1-2

“I Jesus … am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.” Revelation 22:16

Candles, Lights

“Then spake Jesus … ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.’”  John 8:12

“…the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God …”  2 Cor. 4:4

Christmas Tree:

Christmas trees are typically evergreens. And while their use for celebrating this holiday may not have started as a spiritual display, the ever-green characteristic reminds me of everlasting life in Christ.

 

Candy Canes

This candy, of course, resembles the crook shepherds carry, and shepherds play a well known part in the Christmas story, being the first to hear the news heralded by the angels in Luke 2:11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Turned upside-down Also a story wends its way around this season, that a candy maker of old made the crook-shaped candy with colors—white representing Jesus Christ’s purity and red, His blood shed for our salvation.

In the spirit of giving at Christmas, please share what other decorations come to your mind. And how might they redirect thoughts back to the real meaning of Christmas?