Monday, June 29, 2015

If...


When dying becomes a truly real thought, one ponders life.  How much of what I want to "be" for others, has become "I do for others"? How much of the abundant life God has for me have I lived? How often do I transmit my pain onto others, blaming their actions for my response? Have I made a measurable difference? How will I be remembered?  

And with this thought, living life becomes different, new... But it shouldn't be the thought of dying that changes a person into a life of living. We all only have this moment...


I wonder what the world would be like if we all lived like every day was our last.  

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. - James 4:14

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Small Difference

homeless
Picture from John Pavlovitz post - "The Lost Christian Art of Giving a Damn"
I happened to read John Pavlovitz's article (link below picture) following an incident in my family last night.  My oldest daughter asked for some change and laughingly gave it to a handsome young juggler with two buckets marked "Beer Money" and "College Fund". Later we passed by a homeless man on the street who appeared blind. She sidestepped him to the curb and continued on hurriedly.  I also stand convicted, as I did not stop because the family had left me in their hurry to the car. I asked my daughter why she chose not to address him or ask for change for him.  Her response was "Did you give him money?" I explained to her that I rarely give people money.  I shared that I usually provide food, prayer and conversation then attempt to guide them to the closest place for help. I explained that my concern was that she chose amusement over compassion.  We talked a little about it and later she spent time praying for the homeless people of Columbus.  I was enlightened to the fact that we often sidestep people for our own agendas. That breaks my heart. No matter the reason a person has ended up on the street, that person is worthy of our love and the love of Christ shown through kindness.

My kids recently asked me what I want for my upcoming birthday.  I have decided that I want them to spend the day making bags for the homeless with me, then to join me in taking the bags downtown and handing them out as needed to the people on the streets. As a one income household, I don't have the ability to take someone into my home or to offer the kind of money for lasting change, but I do have the opportunity to make a lovingly small difference... We all do.

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’

Monday, May 4, 2015

Prosper the Work...


I'm officially done with the semester.  Have mercy... it was a rough time.  Last semester my 3.9 grade average dropped to a 3.7.  This semester I think I can expect another drop.  The balancing act is painful and sometimes my work suffers.  The weight that was just lifted from me is inexplicable, despite the threat of a lower grade.

It's crazy though... despite the human stress I feel to overcompensate, perfect and stretch myself, it feels as though God is here every moment, patiently waiting for me to see what He has for me to learn from all this, and I did learn.  In the midst of the stress of the sixty total pages of papers due from this semester I learned more about me, and about Him.  It's all coming together.

And I think maybe it's like childbirth, you forget the pain of it for the beauty of it, until the next time...

May the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands! Yes, Prosper the work of our hands! - Psalm 90:17

Thursday, April 9, 2015

JOY


So many things to be joyful about; the reaffirmation of my Baptism and the renewal of creation in Spring... 

Look around.  There is so much beauty to be missed when we go about our day without finding the miracles of creation.  Renewal does the heart so much good...

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. - 2 Corinthians: 5:17

Friday, April 3, 2015

In Love... No Matter What


For the past two years God has been calling me out of my brokenness and into the brokenness of others.  I usually see my calling to that in extreme situations.  I am able to show compassion and reach out to those who seem to need it most. Tonight I see that I am called to others' brokenness period.  There needs to be nothing extreme about it.  I am called to be kind to all people; to acknowledge their hurt, their joy, their suffering and their longing... No matter who they are and no matter how they treat me.  God doesn't give us the option to choose, I don't know why I ever thought we had that choice.  With a greatly convicted heart I rescind that understanding. We don't get to choose who receives our grace, kindness, love, attention... We can choose how we respond, but it must be in love. We are all called in this way to love others no matter how they treat us, yes, no matter how they treat us. In truth, no matter who we are, what we believe, or what has happened to us, this will be the enlightenment that makes a difference in this world.

Every action we take, every word we say to, or about, others should be greatly affected with this thought.  Only in love will we find healing for ourselves.  Only in love will we be filled and create the opportunity for others to be filled with an abundant love.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 4:8-11

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Eventually...


Some things will only pass away in time and when He makes them okay in the end.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. - Revelation 21:4

Monday, March 23, 2015

In the Name of Jesus...


While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when[a] you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied.  Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. - Acts 19:1-5

New


It's beautiful this morning despite the cold weather and threat of snow.  The morning doves have returned to my porch for spring and the sun is shining.  The weight of winter feels like it's lifting from my body.  I always look forward to new life; the resurrection in full bloom. I am reminded of a piece of Isaiah 43 and know that this newness is more than just a change in weather.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? - Isaiah 43:18-19a

    

Sunday, March 15, 2015

What's Next?

Doors All Around by Pareeerica
As I crossed the halfway point in this seminary journey I have been putting constant focus on "what's next"... The next classes, what jobs I should take, how the timeline falls... It's exhausting, feeling like I always have to have a plan, particularly when I'm not sure I like the end result I see.  Lately, after deliberation over new options, I have come to the conclusion that the reason I don't like the results I see is that they are "my results" or ideas others have placed there. I cannot see God's full plan, but need to be taking each step on the path in His guidance.  There are things I know with certainty God has spoken to me on this journey. What I don't know is that He intends to use them how I thought.  I think I like the doors I see... I pray that means He'll open them, but whatever is next in the journey, whichever way it goes, I will trust in Him.

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. - James 4:13-17

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Going...


I've felt a call to Africa since I was a teenager. I knew I wanted to go; maybe to aid in the restoration of the rainforests of the Congo, to know the people or to help save the wildlife... I had a mild obsession with the works of Jane Goodall and the preservation of the chimpanzee population.  I fell in love with African culture through Goodall's works. I watched every African movie I could find. I was drawn to Africa in an inexplicable way.  I majored in Biology and Biological Anthropology; studying the species and cultures of Africa. I held the hope that I would study there, despite the financial obstacles. I remember sitting on my bed before I was married crying to my frustrated would-be husband that I wanted to go and not understanding why I felt so strongly.  

 

Africa made less sense as I started my family and work, though I thought of it from time to time. I still felt compelled to watch movies and documentaries when they were presented and had a spot in my heart that was touched with its mention. When I attended Savannah Christian church in Georgia in 2007, I listened to missionaries share stories of their time in a Rwandan prison and knew again that I had to go...  I put myself on a waitlist for the next mission. The opportunity didn't come to fruition as I moved back to Ohio and my life took different turns than I expected.  


In 2010 my mom began talking about the ZOE project, a group that was developed in Africa that empowers orphans and vulnerable children around the world to overcome extreme poverty, become fully self-reliant, and learn of God’s love for them.  Our Vacation Bible School helped to purchase animals for the groups and gave to support their small businesses. Soon after, our church began funding a three-year group of children that would be part of this endeavor to become self-sufficient and care for their orphan group.  Despite having little money myself at the time, I saved $100 to give to the mission.  It was important to my mom and was the first International mission that was close to the cry of my heart.  Though I heard more about ZOE and gave through another organization to purchase animals for them, there wasn't an opportunity to go into the mission field.

 

In 2012 I attended a seminar from Africa University in Zimbabwe, a United Methodist Institution.  I discovered through seminary that there were opportunities to receive funding to teach at Africa University.  During the seminar, a woman (I had never met) came up to me and said that for some reason she felt like God was telling her that I was being called to do work in Africa.  I cried. She conveyed that even if it wasn't for the university, that she was certain I would go... A friend through the seminary offered that I could stay with his family if I were to go, but the opportunity to go teach was a six week venture.  My time with my children is too important for me to have taken that endeavor. Again, the opportunity was fleeting... 


In 2014 I found out that two women from our church were going to go to the ZOE mission in February of 2015.  They had asked my mom to attend and she couldn't go. A few people made mention of it to me, but finances and timing prevented it.  For some reason I didn't even push it.  It felt wrong.  I knew the timing wasn't right. I didn't even mourn the trip. I became a prayer warrior for the ladies that went.


This year I began looking into African mission opportunities for my cross-cultural project (CCP) for seminary, but the cost and dangers of going alone outweighed the benefits. I began to wonder if my desire for Africa was more of my own contriving than it was a calling.  I gave the possibility back to God.  I knew I wouldn't go unless He was the one orchestrating the plan. I gave up the hope of using an African Mission trip as my CCP.  I contacted Montana de Luz (MDL) in Honduras, another mission that is wonderfully close to my heart, and began inquiring about conducting my cross-cultural project through them. I love MDL and the Honduran children, just as I loved CSI (now SIF) and the Haitian people; Strong Missions and the Costa Rican people. I have always had a call to love and care for those in distant lands. I started my first mission fund in a tin can with my cousin, Mandy, when I was sixteen. We had high hopes of going to Brazil to cure disease.  I always knew missions would be part of my life. There are calls to help those in the greatest need in our hometowns and across the world. Despite knowing this, the call to Africa has been the strongest call on my heart.

One week after my contact with MDL, the ladies from our church returned from ZOE in Kenya filled with the emotion of all they had seen and the work being done in the orphan communities.  I had the privilege of meeting for over two and a half hours with one of the women, Jacqui, and her husband, Hank, listening to the journey, the stories, the devastation and the beauty of the people in the ZOE project and in Kenya.  My heart swelled as I listened to the passion coming from them as they shared. I longed to help the ZOE community again, more so, I longed to go.  I share all of this with you, my twenty year story, because I found that I will... I will finally go!  I will go with the ZOE organization as a Hope Companion. Only three people can go from the sponsoring organizations and it has become a possibility for me to be one of them. I don't know the dates to divulge, but I know that I'm planning, preparing, saving and going... And this time it seems in God's will and time.  I look forward to discovering why Africa has been on my heart for twenty years and to seeing the restoration of those we serve there.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country - Hebrews 11:8-9a

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Love Made Complete


My only goal is to make a difference - in the lives of my children, in the lives of the youth, in the life of a person on the street, in the hearts of those long worn by abuse, the lives of those closest to me and the lives of people in lands where they have been forgotten.  I never have more joy than when I see another person feels loved on the other side of my actions. Sometimes it seems the hardest to make a difference on a daily basis in the lives of bitter souls broken down by the world or in the hearts that seem to need love the most, but think they need it the least. And sometimes it's hard to feel like I'm making a difference when I feel broken myself. I pray for less reaction and more kindness in action...  

When I think of all the time in my life I spent "lost", I think that, even during those times, I always wanted to make a difference.  I still wanted others to feel loved, but didn't always have the tools in my heart to make it happen. Maybe that's where you are as you read this; wanting to make a difference, but feeling a lack of direction. Maybe you just want to feel more loved yourself...  maybe you feel lost altogether. It seems to me that I've made the most impact by starting with myself.  Only by making sure I'm whole am I able to share myself with others.  In knowing myself, and who I am in Christ, I'm more equipped to love others.  In loving others I feel tremendously more loved myself.

I wish that I could reach out to a person harboring pain, wanting change in their lives and wave a wand saying "Now you know who you are in Christ, you ARE LOVED, go, and share that love with others...".  It just isn't that simple.  It isn't me that can change a hurting heart.  I can't change the actions of another.  I can't keep people from holding onto a past or repeating mistakes. I know Who can, and I can say this: we are God's masterpieces created in Jesus (Ephesians 2:10), ALL of us, and we are meant to know that and share that word (Mark 16:15).  We all deserve to know we are loved and it's our calling to find that within us and share it.

I know it's not always easy to open the Bible and fully understand what God wants to say to us in His words.  Sometimes it's hard to know where to begin and what it is God wants us to hear.  If you're looking to know more of your identity, to be healed, to feel empowered to make a difference... I guess I'm hopeful that you have a spiritual community, that you have someone you could connect with, to talk with and pray with... That's an amazing gift, to have others with whom to commune. If you don't, I know it can be hard to find a strong connection just by walking in the door somewhere, especially if you're feeling lost.  If you are trying to figure things out on your own, I do encourage you to find a church, to fellowship with others... But in the meantime, I encourage you to start by reading a Bible study.  Find one that seems to fit what you're going through, one that matches your reading style.  I urge you to pray as you do this study, even if praying feels foreign to you. Simply asking for God's presence helps.  If you're reading this and feel that the pain within you is far behind the realms of a simple Bible study, I'm prayerful you'll find someone to counsel you.  Maybe I can recommend sources to get at the heart of that pain first.  A few of my absolute favorites are (I have many other suggestions and various authors, but think these are good starting points):

Draw Closer to the Fire - Terry Wardle
Wounded - Terry Wardle

As I move forward in my journey, in the hopes of making a difference... as I continually uncover more of who I am in Christ and find healing in my own wounds, I feel led to share the power of learning Christ's love and the healing power of knowing ourselves in Him with you.  I am in prayer for all of you as you read this and hope you will take your journey a step further in figuring out who you are and realize how loved you are...

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.


Friday, March 6, 2015

In Him Is Life


No matter what happens inside of us or around us, God's promises never change.  God's character never changes.  His open arms are always there.  Do we sometimes make our lives and our relationship with Him far more complicated than it is...? Judgment and legalism inflicted are often a product of subjectivity.  I wonder; if we were far more concerned with our personal relationship with Christ and our own ability to love others as we are called, if so much would fall more easily into place?  Would our own personal downfalls look different and carry less weight if we placed them with Jesus?  

My greatest desire is to maintain the character that I feel when I'm closest to Christ, that even when the weight of the world brings me into a darker reality, that I remember to hold onto the perfect love of Christ in me and for others. In my imperfection and years of ingrained worldliness I pray to have the strength to stay closest to Him when it is the hardest.  I pray for my heart to be constantly molded more into His image.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:1-5




Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Update


I've been posting a lot of messages and shared posts, so thought I'd check in on a personal level...

January was a beautiful month.  Truly.  We all headed back to school and work, and it was insanely busy, but a good kind of busy.  We had enough snow days to spend some extra time together as a family.  We started planning our vacation and did some work on our home.  I have felt so blessed by our youth and all that we did with them.  We had the most moving meetings and our youth retreat was a-mazing!!  I preached for the first time in a year, four times at different venues, and felt God's life-giving love when I was back in the pulpit.

February hasn't started off great as my middle daughter, Tori, and I got this terrible head and chest congestion that put us out of commission for a bit.  I don't know if it's the busy lifestyle or being in constant, handshaking contact with people, but I can never seem to miss cold season.  I would love to be back on my feet and be one of those people that "never gets sick".  I've also had some unsettling things on my heart that have had me in constant prayer. I'm looking forward to working with our youth on relationships this month and to focusing on school and family.  I seem to have a clearer vision of my path in ministry with recent insight.  I'm looking forward to sharing more about that in the near future.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. - Psalm 16:11

Monday, December 29, 2014

Continuing Christmas...

Luke 2:15-20
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
I hope everyone had a beautiful Christmas.  I have to admit, ours was a bit of a mess. I had an incredible season during the first two weeks of advent.  It was a great time to be a youth leader in the church. Our youth had amazing opportunities to reach out to others in many ways through our community.  We helped in our local community, wrapped gifts for the homeless through Faith Mission and the youth acted as mentors to the little ones in our church.  In our family we created a giving plan in the hopes to bless others for the season and were blessed by that.  We started our celebrations early with all of the typical Christmas shows, shopping and decorating.  My son, Wyatt, even had a plan of which movies we would watch on certain days, and whether we would have hot chocolate or cookies and milk.  We had big plans. It was truly wonderful. Then everything went downhill… Our Christmas was a mess.  We had so many people fall ill in our family, maybe some of you caught those bugs this year, hopefully not...  My grandfather had a stroke on the 15th, followed by my middle daughter getting Influenza.  Then a stomach virus ran rampant through our extended family postponing our family Christmas.  Christmas Eve my dad went to the ER with a kidney stone.  It was one thing after another.  It felt like an attack.  It was just a mess.  I had big plans for Christmas and none of that was part of the plan. 
On Christmas night I sat thinking about how things had fallen apart over Christmas; yet, we had been extremely blessed.  Everyone was on the mend and Christmas events were rescheduled. Despite all of the chaos, Christmas had come anyway.  Joy was found in the midst of the difficulties. Even with rescheduled parties and illnesses, the wonder of Jesus birth prevailed and Christmas was still beautiful. 
With this chain of events I started thinking about the events that occurred in the scripture above.  In the Christmas story in Luke, the shepherds had plans.  So did Mary and Joseph. 
The shepherds were going about business as usual keeping watch over their flocks by night.  They didn’t expect to be visited by angels and to have this amazingly terrifying thing happen to them.  Can you imagine?  Going about your work, planning to finish your day, to have the skies open and choirs of angels telling you what to do next?  Sometimes we read the text about the angels in the sweet little voice of Linus from Charlie Brown: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid “, and it makes us feel warm and fuzzy and want to light candles and celebrate the story of Christmas… But, if we really think about what the shepherds must have experienced, how terrifying would that have been?! I wonder what they had to do after the angels appeared in the sky proclaiming the good news… gather all of their flocks up and go?  They couldn’t have left the sheep, and the journey may not have been easy.  But our scripture tells us “the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’” 
Mary and Joseph had already been through a whole mess by the time the shepherds were on the way.  Can you fathom the turmoil that ensued despite their best laid plans to make it to Bethlehem?  Sometimes we make this a pretty journey in the Christmas story too: they had traveled, and there was no room for them in the inn… But Mary was in labor! If you have ever given birth or been around someone ready to give birth, you know that the last thing you’d want is to be traveling around where everyone is sending you away.  I can’t imagine finding anything to be grateful about in that situation. She was in a place where they only wanted to visit for the census, in pain, and no one wanted to help.  Joseph was likely having a panic attack and their only option was a stable.  The fact that there was a manger or feed trough there tells us that were likely animals in that stable.  Have you ever been in a barn with feed troughs and animals?  It isn’t pretty. I have three of children of my own and can’t imagine having to deliver them in manure.  Mary and Joseph’s Christmas was messy.  Things didn’t appear to go as planned.
There was nothing organized or celebratory about the way things happened and, frankly, there was nothing remarkable about these shepherds and nothing exceptional about Mary.  It seems like it would have been better to have called upon the prophets or the rabbis, someone esteemed in society to go see the Mighty King.  Wouldn't it have been more respectable if Jesus had been born to a Queen, so it was more obvious that He was the Son of God?  That seems more appropriate… But maybe God called these regular people for a reason, for the same reason He calls all of us to be His messengers.
Maybe His call on these servants was for what they would do after the beautiful mess of Christmas.  Knowing what they did might help us to have a better understanding of we can do in this time after Christmas.
The passage above tells us:
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child.” (Luke 2:17)
God chose to reveal the news to the shepherds even though they weren’t the highest in class or education.  As a matter of fact, in those times, a shepherd’s status was so low that their testimony to an event could not be accepted as truth.  But God chose the shepherds. And they were obedient.  They believed the angel, they went straight to Bethlehem, and they found the baby Jesus. Everything was just as the angel said it would be. And the important part here is what they did with their great discovery after they went. They told everyone they met what they had seen and heard.  They spread the Word. I wonder if we would have been as obedient. Would we have believed? Would we have gone to Bethlehem in the middle of the night after being so terrified?  I think I might have laid down and cried instead. The shepherds did what we as Christians should do. They told others what they had seen and heard about the birth of Jesus. They simply “spread the word” about Him.
What the shepherds did, we all can do. We don’t need angels to come to us or to be a theologian, pastor or Sunday school teacher.  We should simply tell what we know to be true. Talk about Jesus, about Christmas and more than what we did as part of the Holiday. We can tell who Jesus is and what He has done for us. We can share our story and then invite others to come to Christ just as we did, coming to more than just the baby in the stable. This is the first response we should have the “week after Christmas!”  Despite my messy Christmas, I hope to share the joy that still came in Jesus Christ.
The passage above also tells us:
“And all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:18)
I’m sure that "amazed" is a mild word to describe the reaction of those who heard the shepherds. It would sound ludicrous for someone to say that angels broke out of the sky to say the Messiah, king of the world, was being born in a barn.  This news was probably as believable as someone off of the street coming to tell us that the Cleveland Browns were going to win the Super Bowl!! Yet, with a story like this there had to be a kind of wonder that came with it. It’s the kind of awe that comes from seeing God at work in the world. For those who knew the God of the Old Testament at work, they knew how God had created the world from nothing.  They knew all of the great works that had been performed through their forefathers like Noah and Moses, so certainly he could send angels to tell of the birth of the Messiah. Christmas is definitely cause for amazement. Why should God care about us so much that He became man?  How should He come as normal as any of the rest of us? What does this say about who He his? 
How can we keep our sense of wonder on this week after Christmas? As Christians we have heard the Good News that the shepherds spread many times.  How can we keep it from being just a celebratory story?  Maybe we can take our cue from Mary as she continued the Christmas story…
Mary and Joseph had been through a great deal, but the passage tells us:
“…Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
Despite the fear and rejection she must have felt before the birth, she treasures all of these things in her heart. The word “treasured” comes from counting what you have received.  It’s like taking an inventory of your blessings so you won’t forget. The word “pondered” means to take the events as you have laid them out in your memory and then to go beneath the surface to try to understand what it all means, and why it happened the way it did.  I imagine that Mary recounted all of the events from before the birth, from the angel on and considered how things had fallen the way they did.  Maybe she even wondered why God had allowed His son to be born in this way, yet she treasured all of it.  I don’t know why our Christmas was such a mess, but I can look back and treasure what came out of it.  What are you treasuring in your heart from your Christmas or in your life with Jesus?  Maybe it’s hard to find what you treasure right now or to find God in your life and in the world around you.  But as this week after Christmas begins, I encourage you to consider trying to find what you treasure in your life and to ponder how to move forward with the Christmas story.  Spend some time alone with God, consider the events of the past year and ask God to help you discern things in your life for the next year. Mary treasured her blessings and pondered what God had been doing in her life. That’s a helpful practice for all of us to follow this week after Christmas!
The last thing we see in our passage is that:
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:20)
This final verse tells us that the shepherds were profoundly changed by what they had experienced. What a difference a day makes. On the day before Christ was born, they were in the fields tending their sheep. On the day after He was born, they were back in the fields once again. Only this time their hearts were filled with praise to God.  They were overwhelmed by God’s power, His grace, His goodness, His wisdom, and the amazing miracle of the Incarnation. They simply couldn’t stop talking about
what they had seen and heard. They went back to work and to their daily lives and shared the message not just in church, but right where they were...
Christmas eventually ends for all of us, no matter how perfect or messy it has been. Soon enough we will take down the tree, put away the decorations and use our gifts. In a few days the kids will go back to school and life will return to normal.  But the question is… “Will we be changed by Christmas, and just as the normal people God chose, be amazed, ponder and share the news?” Or will be go back to our routines and forget?
The magic of Christmas comes in more than just the plans we have for the Holiday. Would you like Christmas to last all year long? It can if you will do what the shepherds did. Go back to where you came from and take the joy of Jesus with you sharing His grace and His life with everyone you meet. Or be like Mary and treasure your experience in life and continue by caring for your life with Christ.
I encourage you to reread Luke 2:15-20 as the seasons ends and be reminded to:
Proclaim the good news that Christ has come.
Treasure and ponder the works of God in your life
Glorify and Praise God with your Life.

What will you do to continue Christmas?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Because I Need the Beatitudes...

LORD, REMIND ME  NOW AND ALWAYS...
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him,2and He began to teach them, saying:
3Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
8Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.
10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. - Matthew 5:1-12

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Making Christmas Matter


I'm discovering that as my children get older, Christmas feels different to me.  As teenagers, they are no longer buzzing with excitement to sit down and talk about plans for the season ("Ugh, I have exams." "Logan (boyfriend) is coming home..." "We'll make it to help the less fortunate, but can we hang out with these guys first?"), instead our Christmas calendar conversation was filled with their distraction.  The rest of the conversation seemed to center around why Christmas parties had moved when they'd always been at other times and which parties have what type of presents: stockings, "white elephant", big gifts...  Even these things weren't said with excitement and anticipation, but rather with expectation.  I sat there with a headache, and I realized something: I spent too much time trying to make Christmas magical for my kids and not enough time trying to make it matter.

Christmas has a magic all on its own without trying to make it so...  The lights, the candles, the beauty seen everywhere, it all adds to it, but Christmas, the real Christmas has a magic that can't be fulfilled with decorations, parties and gifts.  I spent a lot of years trying to fulfill Christmas with all of those things. There will still be gifts under the tree Christmas morning and yes, our decorations have been up since the first, but I'm spending time trying to make it more...  More about an infant that came to save us, more about those who will be alone on Christmas, and more doing and less saying...  And I'll place my whole heart into the real Christmas, so nothing can make it "feel different to me".

For 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.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. - Isaiah 9:6-7


Tuesday, December 9, 2014