Tag Archives: Max Lucado

ADVENT LOVE #5: Blessed Memories

“Its here, in the season of lights,…I want our kids to be able to stand on the front walk with us in the days leading up to Christmas…to drink in the long, crisp winter dusk. I want them to see their tree, in their house shining through their windows. I want them to know the kind of warmth I remember coming home to as a child, the thought of Christmas, with all those lights strung around windows and doors, we might be safe in a greater sort of way. Hopeful, even….”~Drew Perry “Home for the Holidays” p28 Our State Magazine

Step by step – each day – we build a bank of memories. Some are immediately discarded into the back files of non-importance. Others stored in closer files for handy reference. And some – marked with a heart or a star or with a golden highlighter so that it can be pulled up at anytime – in any place – to be reviewed and treasured all over again.

Tonight as I tucked the Grands into sleep, I decided this was one of those memories that would be highlighted with that golden highlighter. After watching Miracle on 34th Street (original) and 2 large bowls of popcorn, we talked about the Christmas Count-down Bell that my daughter decided to continue with her children.

“Each night before Christmas,
After prayers have been said,
Take off a loop and hop into bed.
When Christmas will come,
It’s easy to tell,
For that is the night,
You come to the bell.”

We would write the poem in the bell and decorate it – sometimes wildly. Then a colorful construction paper chain finished the bell and allowed us to remember how many days we had to wait for Christmas. And somehow – the poem became ingrained in my important memory files forever.

Tonight the conversation took on a life of its own. Oldest Grand said, “I sing my prayers to God in my sleep.” Younger Grand said, “Yeah, at night, God and I talk a lot.” I said – “I don’t know if I sing, but I talk to God a lot as well. He doesn’t care when you talk to Him; He just wants to hear your voice because He LOVES you. Sometimes, I yak at Him in my dreams, but more often, I just talk to Him in the morning and at night and when some crazy person pulls in front of me because they wanted the parking space that I was getting ready to use.” The Grands laughed…I did too, but not so much when the crazy person cut me off.

“And let us pay attention to one another in the encouragement of LOVE and of good works.”~Heb 10:24

I alternately prayed for that crazy person and stomped my feet all the way into the grocery store . Then I saw one of the cashiers that I always look for when I get in line. She is bent over in so many ways that it hurts to watch. Yet, probably because we are close to being the same age and I understand pain in the joints, we always talk as she checks me out. She leans heavily on the counter as she picks things up from the cart and over the scanner. When she moves, she uses a cart just to move from the cash register to the office. Somehow, her work ethic drove that crazy person and all the other stupidness of this world completely into the discard memory pile. I pray for her tonight just as I pray from the Grands, my family – here or far away – and all the names on my war room wall – which seems to be growing at warp speed.

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Trust in the LORD always,
for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.”~Is 26:3-4

Christmas memories can be warm and fuzzy – my first bike – my first Barbie – – – they can be scary and sad – a father having a 2nd heart attack on Christmas – a Christmas break 4 years later when I kissed him goodbye for the last time – – – holy and sacred – communion in a small upper room on Christmas Eve – learning to sing the mother’s role in Amahl and the Night Visitors just in case I was needed – Candle light service in my childhood church with my mother on one side and my children and Hubby on the other…

Blessed with peace-filled LOVE. Blessed with memories. [google image]

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ADVENT LOVE #2: LIGHTS OF LOVE

“Every time we open our mouths and speak, we are eiter saying let there be light or let there be darkness.”~Glennon Doyle Melton.

God said, “Light Be!”

He created us in His image. We get to choose…light or darkness…

I love Christmas lights. It is fun to take the girls out at night and walk a short distance with colorful lights twinkling all around. Reminds me of my childhood – decorated door with red twinkling bells – Christmas display contests tucked beneath the boughs of a tall pine tree – and all the times my son called them “miracles”.

The littlest Grand was excited when I picked him up from kindergarten. He’d made a present for his sister and couldn’t wait to put it under the tree. He was sure she would want to tear the paper off right away. As we drove, we giggled and stopped – as usual – to look at the goat farm on the way. They weren’t doing much today but two were close to the fence, so we stayed for awhile. Lucky for us – no cars were following us – so it was easy-peasy.

For the past couple of years, I’ve noticed out of the corner of my eye, a little nativity set up on the same road. I’ve never seen it at night, but when we stopped today to look at it, there are a few cords, and I think that I may have to return sometime during the early evening hours to see what it looks like at night.

“…and behold, that star which they had seen in The East went before them, until it came and stood over where The Boy was.”~Matt 2:9

The Grand and I were impressed. Simple. Run down shack that had obviously seen much better times. The Grand spotted the star high above us that I hadn’t even noticed until he pointed it out. A sheep nestled close to the manger, but there was no baby yet. We were glad since our winter coats were not enough to block the chill in the air.

The nativity.
A baby in a manager.
A star over it all.

Abba opened the darkness then – He opens the darkness now – not with a fire-ball – but a single star’s light. Nothing spectacular shouting, “Here is my son” but instead a candle in the vastness – – – bright enough to open eyes of those who seek – – – dim enough to ignore. But – if they choose to follow the Light – the Light of Grace grows and grows and grows and grows – – – in HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE – – – until it is so bright that the darkness fades away.

“The people who sat in the darkness have seen The Great Light, and those who were sitting in the region and in the shadow of death, to them The Light has dawned.”~Matt 4:16

Advent Love #1: The Journey

“God always takes the initiative- – -He blessed first, served first, comforted first, and most of all, LOVED first. An then it’s up to us.”~Max Lucado, p175, Because of Bethlehem
 
This is the week, I really tend to start centering in on the humanity of the Holy family and the journey they actually took I mean – really? Walking and/or riding a donkey for 60 – 100 miles (depending on the probable routes of the times) in the last week of pregnancy has to be the ultimate ‘I-don’t-wanna-do-this-ever’ for new parents. And yet – somewhere deep within me – I know they didn’t even question it.
 
You have to figure that Mary and Joseph came from families that were immersed in scripture study. Visited by an angel – covered by the Holy Spirit – visited by another angel – Mary and Joseph knew scripture. They knew the prophecies – they knew that their son, Yeshua, would be born in Bethlehem – even before a Roman emperor told them that they would have to journey there to be counted.
 
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”~Micah 5:2
 
They may not have liked it, but they knew Abba was faithful in His promises. They knew they were on a journey like no other, and they walked that long distance in faith. Just as they had traveled the last 9 months – of fear – of derision – of lectures – of shunning…. The long distance into the wilderness – the heat of day and the cold of night – the Braxton-Hicks Contractions…the pain…discomfort – snakes and robbers perhaps hidden ahead – or – on good days – staying with relatives, friends or even – perhaps – an inn – resting on the Sabbath – money to travel – maybe? – but – in reality? – no place to call their own…no place to lay their heads… no place to lay their child…the Messiah…
 
Sometimes over the years, I’ve wondered if they thought that God would open a miraculous door, and they would find a place “fit for a king” waiting for them when they got to Bethlehem. I’m pretty sure that Abba didn’t fill in a lot of details for them any more than He does us when He pushes us out the door on our own journeys. As I study the scriptures, El is great at pointing the way, but expects us to travel on faith most of the time. I guess you can tell, that is not always my favorite way of embarking on a journey. I’m still working on that particular aspect of my character.
 
However, as I read over the last couple of paragraphs again, the proverbial light bulb went on in my sometimes functioning mind. Bam!! It made sense. His parents had to travel their own mirror journey of what Christ’s path would reflect. How could they “train up a child the way he should go…” if they didn’t understand what hardships might lie ahead in His earthly, humanoid journey.
 
“Therefore we shall love God because he first LOVED us.”~1 John 4:19
 
Today, hubby put on his shorts and took his own journeys. He ran the four-wheeler, the scooter, the motorcycle and walked the dogs. I worked on Christmas stocking #3, cleaned the garage, delivered a pine decoration to a neighbor and lit the final Advent candle.
 
We are blessed. Prayers circle. LOVE arrives as a baby. Merry Christ-mass. Seek the infant.
[google images]

Advent JOY #7: Seed

The joy of having an old “new” house is that there are always things that need a little tweaking. The floor in my office/writing/music/memory room is due for a tweak. This wouldn’t be a bad thing except it is crowded with “stuff” that probably only has meaning to me, and half of that “stuff” needed to be moved.

Errrrr….

Not exactly what I wanted to do on the morning of finishing a Christmas stocking, preparing food and pine centerpiece for daughter’s Christmas party, painting a few more ornaments as gifts, and wrapping a few presents. BUT – there I was – moving things from one room to another and biting my nails in between – literally. Tweaks are like that. When they squeak, we must tweak……and that is when the seeds fell on the floor.

“All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed; sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of JOY from it.”~Eugene Peterson

A couple summers back, I read an easy way to save seeds for an efficient, easier planting in the next spring. So – I followed the instructions and when they were dried and ready – put them away for the spring. The problem was – I lost track of them. Two years later, the squeak of the tweak brought forth an unexpected JOY.

“Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest.”~Ps 126:5-6

Obviously, I can’t run out and plant seed today – even in NC, it is not that warm. So I picked them up and put them on the bed in the extra bedroom until the squeak of the tweak is fixed….hmmmm….maybe I better move them, so I remember where they are this time….

Tonight, as I watched the Grands run from one floor to another – their Christmas JOY rattling the windows – while the camaraderie of the parents who were gathered around mounds of finger food permeated the downstairs with even more Christmas JOY – I had to smile. Seeds planted long ago are dropping fruit for a seed plantings of their own. We left before the Christmas play, the caroling, Santa’s visit, a Polar Express-marathon-sleepover – a communion service of it’s own in the making…

The JOY of the LORD is your strength.”~Neh 8:10

So – a day that started out in frustrating busy work that I didn’t want to do became a day that burst forth into an unexpected, beautiful rare bloom of brilliant colors. Colors that I keep revisiting in the quiet of our “new” old home where the squeak of the tweak is still clamoring for attention. Maybe tomorrow, I will move some more stuff so that the fixer-upper person will be able to complete their task without breaking anything. The seeds – not safe in the extra bedroom to my way of thinking – are now tucked securely into a book shelf nook, so I can find them easily two months hence.

Who knows what seeds Abba plans to plant in the next week of Advent? He planted a seed of LIGHT just for us in Bethlehem 2000+ years ago. I just hope that I continue to notice those seeds He plants close to me and am wise enough to nurture them in prayer, tending the garden well so that He may harvest the crop with His blessings in His perfect timing. After all – Christ is coming again soon, and I can hardly sit still.  My JOY is bubbling to the surface.

Now to the LORD sing praises
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All others doth deface.
O tidings of comfort and JOY, comfort and JOY;
O tidings of comfort and JOY.

[google images

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).

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 Hope #4: Be Alert

Today I saw a posting on FB from a Dollywood employee in TN. The wildfire had touched the entertainment park, but it was not destroyed it, so they were cleaning up. He described finding a ripped, burned page of a Bible under a bench. The verses of Joel were not all legible, but the ones that were made references to fires and the day of the LORD being at hand.
 
I began to ponder – – – again. Pondering can be a good thing; it can also be a real faith knocker. The pondering, skeptical mind rationalizes this worker. Did he truly “find” it? Is he an internet glory seeker? Even that random thought – what’s on the other side of that page? (If it is like my study bible, there are just notes about Joel and the times in which he lived.)
 
I get frustrated with myself when I let world views intrude on things that I just want to get excited about. However, it was when I was reading Max Lucado’s Because of Christmas devotional guide, that the pondering stopped and faith took over.
 
“Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”~Mk 13:33
 
Mary was an exceptional person of faith. Scripture tells us that after she got over the idea of standing in the presence of an angel, she accepted the words immediately into her whole self. Her Magnificat when she greets her cousin Elizabeth has always been one of my favorite parts of the Bible.
 
Joseph on the other hand was – perhaps a lot like me – a kind-hearted, person- – – but – – – not so full of faith. He couldn’t just take the word of his espoused wife, but he didn’t want any harm to come to her, so he planned to divorce her quietly (Matt 1:19). So BAM – angel returns – speaks his message, and Joseph and Mary are off to Bethlehem.
 
Which I guess brings me to the whole pondering bit again. Just think how many people didn’t listen to the prophets or the angels or the signs in the heavens? They were reasonable people. Educated people. People who went to Temple and sacrificed regularly. Worked to make their community better. Loved their neighbors as themselves. And really? Talk about the Messiah had been going on since the times of Genesis (3:15). So why here? Why this couple? Why now?
 
Which brings me back to that earlier post that set all this pondering into motion today. Why not here? Why not Issac McCord? Why not now? God has sent messages in many different ways to His people over the centuries. Rabbi Yeshua said, “Be on guard! Be alert!” “…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed…”
 
Believe me, tonight I am praying on building my faith a little more. To be more alert and on guard – to listen with spiritual ears and see with spiritual eyes. We are in the season of celebrating Christ’s first advent into our world – but we are living in the days of his second advent onto Terra – whether it is tomorrow – a week – a month – a year – or decades from now. We merely have to get dressed for the wedding and wait. Geez – faith journeys are really not very easy, but I’m trying in this Advent of Hope. #perhapstomorrow [google images]

BTW – Today’s art work is by an Israeli man, Yoram Raanan, whose art studio was destroyed by one of the wildfires last week in Israel. It seemed appropriate to use it in so many ways.  

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]