Tag Archives: Because of Christmas

Advent Peace #6:Expectation

“…when God performs a miracle you don’t ask “how”, you just give thanks.” ~The Miracle of the Cards movie (2001)

Every year – besides driving the Hubby crazy with non-stop Christmas movies and music – I bury myself in reading old Christmas books. I don’t mean modern old – I mean – childhood old.
Kitty’s Christmas.
The Little Lost Angel.
The Littlest Angel.
Capote’s Christmas Memory.
Dickens’ Christmas Carol and various other stories.
Raphael, the Herald Angel.
If I’m lucky I will eventually make it to the more modern Christmas books like The Immortal Nicholas, The “Best” Christmas Pageant Ever, and eventually end with – of course – the Night Before Christmas and Amahl and the Night Visitors singing me to sleep.

There is something so special about the old literature that seems to be missing from the more modern Christmas books. It puts me in mind of the Old Testament where there is a hint or a mention of the Messiah in every book. An expectation. A hopeful excitement that says “perhaps today” as you read each page.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”~Is 7:14

In our modern and oh-so-wise era, we tend to explain away such verses or use “reason” to explain such illogical words. But way – way back – when times were simpler and answers were much harder than a push of a few keys, they didn’t ask “how” or “why”. Instead, they accepted the WORD on faith taught by their parents and their parents’ parents – an expectation given with excitement and thankfulness.

“The Story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us.”~Max Lucado, Because of Christmas

This week, as I finish up Christmas cards and get a little more serious about the stockings and gifts that need to be finished way too so soon, I go back to the WORD and read through those expectant verses of the first Advent in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers and on and on and on till I get to Revelations. Then I read the expectant verses for His return visit. That is when I truly feel the Christmas spirits – the expectant spirit – the “perhaps today” spirit. For it is there where I find Abba’s true gift of “relentless love”.

” ‘Lemuel,’ he shouted, and tears of joy streamed down his face, ‘they are singing the song of the heavenly Chorus. It wasn’t lost – our songs were never lost! Our message was heard! They heard us, Lemuel! We did not fail!’…And Raphael, the Herald Angel, led the mighty chorus.”~Raphael,The Herald Angel by David Apell and Merle Hudson (p55).

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Advent Peace #4: Stories of Peace

“Sometimes the stories are simple, and sometimes they are hard and heartbreaking. But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begin.”~Mitch Albom

Christmas is the time for stories. Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. Frosty the Snowman’s corn cob pipe. Santa Claus coming to town. Amahl’s miracle. Mary’s canticle.

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart..”~Lk 2:19

It is her story that wraps around the centuries and brings them into focus through 2 short chapters in Matthew and Luke. When I was little I could almost see Matthew and Luke making their way to Mary’s tiny home in the dark of night. Like us, even though they knew He was with His Father, they wanted that human connection – to touch a woman that had loved Him as much as they did – a joyous memory to carry with them when the world threatened to break them in everyway – a memory to pass on to the children of their children’s children.

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”~Deut 4:9

Tonight, giggles still circle over our home. Christmas decoration from the bounty of our woods. A little pine. A little ivy. A few berries. Red glitter paint. Stories that the neighbor kids and I shared as old hands worked to show younger hands how to wrap words and nature together.

Tonight, I am treasuring and pondering many thoughts. The short creative non-fiction that my friends share everyday on FB, or the longer blogs that former students share their wisdom in ways that brings tears to my eyes. Two dogs that tell stories with their eyes every hour of the day.

But mostly – tonight I am thankful for the story of a young girl who treasured up all things that were necessary to bring peace to people of good will. Words that overide the snarky political memes and comments. Softens the bad news for those who are ill and weary. Lifts the pieces of hearts broken apart by choices. Brings forgiveness to those who weep in loneliness. Lights the way in the dark of night with its peace-filled song.

Stories of Christmas.

Stories of a Mother.

Stories to be taught to our children that they might teach their children and their children’s children and their children’s children………

Stories of the Peace of Advent. [google image]

Advent Hope #5: Lights Up

 ‘The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”~Jn 1:5

Our quirky little house sits on the corner in our neighborhood. When I think of it, I still have to chuckle now and then because Hubby swore he would never live on a corner lot or in a modular for that matter. LOL – Mama Mick always said, “Never say never.” So here we are – on a corner lot in a modular.
 
As for me – I grew up on a corner lot in a little town with a wonderful screened-in porch, so this quirky home feels almost perfect to me. Now – – – if I could just convince Santa to bring me a screened-in porch, the quirky house might take a step up from quirky. (Hmmm…I wonder what that would be?)
 
During most of this past year, the trees wrapped us in our own cocoon. This too is like my childhood home. When I was a child, I was lulled to sleep by smell of pines outside my window, and in the summer, I had my choice of maple, walnut, and weeping willow to play beneath. The parents planted privacy hedges along the street sides of our small kingdom. When they were just planted, I was often a magical horse who would jump over them in a never ending steeplechase. As they got taller, I loved the privacy they afforded so I could sunbathe my teenage angst in private and get paid to trim them in the summer.
 
I guess it is the Christmas lights in our little neighborhood that have sent my mind skipping back to those long ago days. Days of caroling, playing carrom in front of the tree with dad, or lying on the floor playing with my horses and Barbies while my big brother’s Lionel train carried them to far away places. Christmas lights are, as my youngest son called them, “Miracles”.
 
With the leaves mostly off the trees, I can see the neighbor’s lights as I clean up the dishes. And now – – – if I look out my front windows, I can see our own lights on the quirky house’s front deck. Maybe next year, I will get inspired to do something to the back deck. But for this year, I am content.
 
The house that was cloaked in darkness last year is now filled with light. While the physical lights we turned on in our home brings light to this little corner of the world, it is the Son’s Light that I am really waiting to see when I look out our windows tonight.
 
#perhapstonight #AdventHope #Isaiah9
 
“Often we stumble along, not knowing where we’re going, but understanding that the journey is worth it because Jesus took it for us, shared it with us. Because the immortal God became mortal, we all share in the immortality as well as the mortality.… To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason.”~Madeleine L’Engle  [google image]

Advent 2016 #2/7: The Dare

“The manger dares us to believe the best is yet to be. And it could all begin today.”~Max Lucado (p141)

“Double dare you.”

“Dare to believe…”

“Dare to dream.”

“Dare to believe…”

“Dare not wait.”

“Dare to believe…”

If you were Mary would you “dare to believe” that the same loving Abba who sent an angel to speak to you; who asked you to endure gossip, hatred, banishment, even the threat of stoning, would ask of you to give birth in a smelly stable?

“Dare to believe..”

If you were Joseph, would you “dare to believe” that the same Jehovah-Jireh who sent an angel in a dream to call this child His own, would provide such a place for His son to be born?

“Dare to believe…”

If you were the shepherds would you “dare to believe” that a holy child of God was lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and parents who looked like you?

“Dare to believe…”

If you were wise men would you “dare to believe” that this is child lying in the manger was truly worthy of your fine gifts?

It is as if God went out of His way to “dare them to believe”. He didn’t want them to believe this was His son based on their physical senses or the reality of their everyday lives. Instead – He gave them signs in the heavens and dared them to have faith when they got there.

“Dare to believe…”

Elohim is still doing that. He is giving us signs in the WORD, the heavens and through His prophets, but He also continues to ask us to have faith when we get there if it doesn’t look like we think it should. Our physical senses may be offended – the world view of our reality may shout at us that we are idiots – but it is through our faith dare that we will see beyond the manger and see the Son of the Most High cooing a blessing.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”~Lk 2:7

It is my HOPE in this first week of Advent that we all “Dare to Believe”.

Because of Christmas #12: Stuff

I keep promising myself that I will get rid of more stuff. Then I pick it up to put it in the give away/sell it pile, and I think of all the times I have worn it – or the sentiments attached to it – or uses for it – or future uses for it. And just like that – I cave. Who does that? Who knew you could have way too much stuff after you have downsized 3 times – – – but there you go. ME!

Maybe it IS me. Maybe it’s not so much the “stuff” – but me. There’s a part of me that loves stuff and loves to buy stuff – especially Christmas stuff. As I walk around our quirky home tonight, I look at our little trees spread around the house. There are 3, and I love the simplicity of how they look at this minute. Copper wire tiny lights. A lit snowman that was my nightlight when I was a child. An angel or two. Three totally different creches.

But wait – there’s more. The Christmas houses have found their home in the kitchen. There is a couple pine garlands that still are waiting in the boxes that I want to hang. But after that??? I may just call it good and stuff the “stuff”.

“God became one of us so we could become one with Him.”~Max Lucado (p135)

God didn’t do “stuff” when He sent his son to earth. I think He probably went a step below being a minimalist when it came to His son’s birth. A stable? If I was quoting my Grands, I would add the word, “Seriously?” (Lately, they attach that word to many sentences.)

God choose not to do the “stuff”. He wanted it to be about His son becoming one with us. Maybe that is where I am at this year. I, too, want it to be about His son. Yet a part of me knows that as we begin to celebrate this first Advent of Christ, it is exciting to know we are living in the times of the Second Advent of Christ. And I just have this feeling that this time, God is going to do “STUFF”!`

Hmmm….there you go…a reason to keep doing “stuff”. Join with me and sing, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly…”

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”~1 Thes 4:16 [google images]

Because of Christmas #11: HopeTree

“You, me, and the Christmas tree. Picked purchased, and pruned. Trust God’s work.”~Max Lucado (p127)
 
Advent begins tomorrow. The annunciation was only the beginning – – – the beginning of hope. The trees of the garden have been locked away for so long because of our poor choices. Is it any wonder that salvation came wrapped – in so many ways – in the cloak of a tree?
 
“Who Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having been dead to sins, we might live to righteousness…” ~1Peter 2:24a
 
Hope.
 
It is the reason we cry during those sappy Christmas movies. The reason we want to pull the tree out of the attic before Thanksgiving. The reason we can halfway stand the pain when a loved one leaves this temporal plane. The reason that everyone feels like singing “O Christmas Tree” even if they can’t carry a tune in a a tree-holding bucket.
 
A Tree of Hope.
 
Today, I managed to get one of my Christmas trees in place. Now don’t get too excited. My trees are of the 3 foot variety, and they sit in Rubbermaid containers most of the year. There are no ornaments on it tonight. There are no presents beneath it’s branches. For tonight, my Grandma Mac’s creche sits beneath it and my version of the annunciation angel and heavenly lights are its only decoration. It won’t stay that way, but for tonight, it is perfect and I am content.
 
“And having looked up, he [the blind man]was saying, “I see the men, for I see them as trees walking.” ~Mk 8:24
 
Sometimes – we see ourselves as that mighty oak tree in the middle of a field. Strong. Resilient. But often -we become too hard, Grow too tall, Don’t sink our roots deep enough. Allowing the swirling winds of this world to whip us this way and that. Letting the storms of life rip our leaves, fruit and sometimes – even the limbs off our trunk. It is only after we recognize the new Tree of Life -you know – the one that the Father sent to save us from ourselves – that our “blind” eyes are finally opened. In His light we can become the sapling that we were always meant to be so that we might bare more hope-filled fruit for those around us.
 
Because of Christmas – we have the Hope Tree. 
[google image]

Because of Christmas #9: Perhaps Today

Usually – by this time of the day, an idea has been circling around in my brain for hours. A hint. Additional input filtered through the synapses. A few tweaks here and there and the outline has taken shape enough that I feel like I know what I’m supposed to write about for the day.

Not so today.

There’s simply been too many ideas circulating in my brain. Everytime I think I’ve found a focus, something else spears its way into my sphere, and I’m off track again.

Thanksgiving Day………Family Foibles………Christmas………Simeon….

So many choices and no inner nudges that are highlighting one thing and yet – this huge knocking in my head that I am missing something. Something huge. Something obvious. Something that is right in front of my face, and I’m missing it.

Hmmm…..a few days ago, I wrote “Signs Instruct Direction”, so I think I need to go look at things that I wrote down because they caught my attention throughout the day.

“Wise is the saint like Simeon.”~Max Lucado (p102)

If I had the faith of Simeon, I wouldn’t be biting my nails and wondering what the next paragraph is going to look like. Simeon knew. He was waiting. He had complete confidence in one fact – he would see the Messiah in his lifetime. God had promised. God fulfills all His promises.

What is it like to have such a faith? To wake up everyday and think to himrself: אולי היום ……. perhaps today …. Did he have the words posted in his notes on scripture? Did he talk about it with other rabbis as they debated the scriptures and Jewish wisdom? Or – did his gut just ache, so deep inside him that he knew beyond human knowledge that “perhaps today”…. “perhaps today”…he would see the One he longed to see the most?

The advent of the Messiah into the world. God’s plan of salvation.

I remember lying under a huge maple tree in my front yard long, long ago. The light filtered through the leaves, and there was a promise whispered in the wind. A promise I didn’t understand but absorbed like breath itself. Unlike Simeon, however, my faith faltered and tumbled into dark recesses of my crazy choices for long periods of time. But occasionally – when my spiritual ears would be tickled to listen – I would remember, breathe deeply and think: perhaps today. Then I would stand outside, hold my breath until I felt His breath, and breathe deeply in that God promise to me and remember – God keeps all promises.

My faith is stronger in these latter days. However, because the faith is stronger, the waiting is harder – I am impatient. Have always been impatient. In fact, it is one of those things, God has challenged me to work on – PATIENCE. Errrrrrr……I have to admit, the more challenges He gives me, the more I’m looking forward to a point when time is not linear.

So today (in linear time lingo), I took a lesson from Max Lucado. i wrote the words: “Perhaps Today” in large letters. I added some artistic flairs here and there so it will daily draw my eye in my war room. Everyday I want to be reminded of Simeon’s faith in his Abba’s promise. He knew that Jehovah-Jireh would provide the fulfillment of the promise at the perfect time. And that day as he held the Messiah in his arms, he spoke to the blessing:

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
and he is the glory of your people Israel!”~Lk 2:29-32

As this day of giving thanks pushes to its own fulfillment, I think I will take one more last trip outside with the dogs. I will hold my breath, open my ears and breathe deeply. When I feel His holy breath deep within me and I am waiting with expectation, I will say…perhaps today……….perhaps today………….perhaps today……….   [google images]

Because of Christmas #8: Humble Pie

It as not been a good year for Humbles. There’s been a drought of kindness in the meager water supply. Not to mention, the much needed love fertilizer was held up in production due to an ineffective leadership that had not taken good care of the factory or its workers. If only a Thanksgiving a miracle would occur. But alas, the last sarcastic hail and hate tornadoes decimated the field to only a remnant. There might be no Humble pie tomorrow at the table.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”~Prov 11:2

In its glory, an abundant crop of Humbles is hard to describe. Their fruits are an array of iridescent colors, and when conditions are right, the tree of the Humble seems to dance in the light of the grace-full Son. Harvested, the fruits’ smell seeps free of its flesh and permeates the very air around it with such sweetness that it blesses every Thanksgiving homestead for an entire year.

“God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”~1 Peter 5:5

Herod didn’t like Humble Pie. Didn’t eat it. Didn’t grow the fruit. In fact, he burned the fields where the trees grew. He even closed his curtains against the light of the Son. He knew he was right. He pursed is lips and refused to listen to anyone’s opinion except his own. He ignored the signs. He avoided the manna that he could have gathered. Worse – he wouldn’t drink from the well that would never run dry. His perversions were well documented, and he missed the grace of Humbles blooming in his fields forever.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,”~Phil 2:3

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Not just a day to watch football. Not just a day to eat food. Not just a day to spend with family. Not just a day to debate issues. Not just a day to shop for material things. Not just day off work. Not just a day.

“And everything that you perform in word and in works, do in the name of our Lord Yeshua The Messiah and give thanks by him to God The Father.”~Col 3:17

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. A day to find one of the remnant Humbles. There are a few trees left. Seek it out. Harvest it within your field. Make a pie and offer it as a blessing to those who share your table, that your loving Father might bless your year in the name of the Son who eternally brings grace to a never empty table.

 

“To the humble, God gifts great treasures.”~Max Lucado (p88)

Blessings!Be! and a Blessed Thanksgiving for all. [google images]

Because of Christmas #7: Signs Instruct Direction

“Called by a sign. Instructed by scripture. And directed by God.”~Max Lucado (p78)
 
Signs are a big part of everyday life. Road signs. Door signs. Business signs. Bodily signs. Price signs. Emotional signs. We are programmed – culturally, physically, spiritually – to respond to signs. Come to think of it – animals, plants, oceans, even the dust of the earth respond to the stimulus of a “sign”.
 
“Called by a sign.” When Mary was visited by an angel, she had a sign. When Joseph had a dream…when the angels sang in the dark of night…when the wisemen saw the star in the East..when Herod was visited by the wisemen…when…
 
Signs are everywhere but sometimes we don’t know how to respond to them. A stop sign – run it or obey it? A wild fire – evacuate or hose down the house? Tummy hurt – stay home to rest or go to work and pass it around? Lie to our best friend – or tell the truth?
 
“Scripture instructs.” Usually, we rely on advice from those who have battled through similar things after they saw a sign. After many years of disastrous choices on my own, I finally figured out that is exactly why Scripture is so important to our lives. It is the touchstone to my spiritual ancestors who struggled the same way I struggle when I see a sign. It is a witness to their disastrous choices as well as their good choices.
 
Mary and Joseph each knew the scriptures – “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel….“Is 7:14 The wisemen, being strangers did not know the scriptures. They stopped to ask for directions and the Jewish rabbis sent them on to Bethlehem. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”~Micah 5:2
 
“God directs.” When I am wise enough to blend signs and scripture together, God’s direction is a whole lot clearer. Sometimes, I’m still making the choice in the dark of night, but it is that bright morning star that rises in the darkest part of the morning that helps direct my path until I can see clearly..
 
The holy-days are approaching quickly. Many in NC are still out of their homes from Hurricane Matthew, many more are out of their homes due to wildfires. It is a time to pray for others and offer thanks for signs that offer warnings – scripture that offers advice – and a loving Father that is always right beside us – in the easy times – in the struggling times – directing us to the path He carved out of a timeless wilderness just as He carved our names in the palm of His hand. [google images]

Because of Christmas #6: Worship

In NC there is this giant store of antiques called Granddaddy’s Antique Mall. If you take your time, you can spend hours in there. Today, I was on a mission. I had seen these metal angels with little bells attached to their wings. They were handcrafted and I knew i wanted to use for Christmas this year. So I snatched up the three that were there and was on my way out pretty quickly – until I went down one aisle too many.

 
My eye caught a small pulse of light off of something on the floor or close to the floor. I turned and saw a small mirror leaning against a chest of drawers. It was one of those mirrors that advertised a business during the 1940-50’s. There was a post war picture of a family in church singing out of a hymn book. Below that picture was a message: “Go to church”.
 
Zap.
 
Message delivered.
 
And – no surprise here – the bells on the angels dinged.
 
I plopped my money on the counter and slunk out to the car. God has a way of focusing me on His messages these days when I am trying to ignore them. Here is my horrible admission – I have not been leading by example lately. Going to an actual church as not been on my radar since we moved in January..
 
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been listening and watching services from a far. It is the one great thing about technology. I can catch the same sermon I would have heard on Sunday by Monday night. I can watch a service from Crossroads of Mansfield, OH, live. I can catch my favorite TV pastors with a click of the Roku. In fact – every night, I click on one of my favorites preachers/rabbis and fall asleep listening to some God-filled talk and praise (or not fall asleep because I get caught up in learning something new).
 
“Something happens in corporate worship that does not happen in private worship.”~Max Lucado (p67)
 
Double whammy! When God wants to wake me up, He usually hits me multiple times – in many different ways. Pass a church and something draws my eye to it, so I begin to wonder about the people in it – are they are a church of Laodicea or a 1st century church? As you can tell by what I am writing,  my devotions hit it again. Not to mention posts on FB by old friends decorating my childhood church in OH as they hung the greens for Advent. 
 
God is very good at giving me nudges when I am drifting instead of paying attention on the path that He has given me to walk. It is easy for me to praise God. Seems like I do it quite often these days. Stuck in a line – I start praying for those around me. Hear from the kidlets, and I’m immediately in praise mode after we hang up. Exercising – planting – driving down the road – I find myself talking and worshiping without even thinking about it.
 
Going to church to worship with others? Not so much.
 
The angels gave a song of praise when Yeshua was born in that tiny stable. They joined their voices together in a mighty choir and worshiped God choosing to be born on earth. Harmonizing a blessing over all people of good will that a gift had been given – a gift of grace – a gift of such great love that it brought the shepherds to their knees.
 
So too, do I need to come to my own knees in communal worship. Imperfect people joining in imperfect praise. Caroling into the dark night, the very carols that my extended family circled round me in traditional praise of a long ago night.
 
“Through Yeshua let us offer sacrifices of praise always to God, which is the fruit of the lips giving thanks to his name.”~Heb 13:15
 
The bells are still ringing in my soul tonight. Got the message. I’m on it – I hope – maybe…errr…the spirit is willing – the body – not so much. [google image]