Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Letter Part 2

Yesterday it began. The filling of my heart with Christmas started during the church service Sunday morning. The music, sermon, communion, prayer, every moment contributed to the release of Grace into my soul. I was touched to tears.

The grandest moment came when wishing a friend a Merry Christmas and asking how her new job was coming along. God spoke words to me through her. Just like Simeon spoke to Mary in the temple, my friend spoke truth, wisdom and confirmation to me. It was a God moment, even if she did not know.

I learned that through all my struggles during this Advent Season, God was working in me and around me. He has revealed things that have been keeping me in bondage, that coincide with my disappointments of this past month. In the exposing of the root issues, I have seen clearly that He was giving me the best of Christmas.

Christmas is a promise of new life. It is the hope of freedom and change. Jesus is Christmas! He was busy working in me through His Holy Spirit to bring those Christmas gifts to me. I am a blessed woman to serve a God that is so intimately involved in my every day trials.

Father God, Lord Jesus, Precious Holy Spirit, You are one. You are an amazing gift to the world and to me! I am sorry for being so blinded by the things of this world that i did not see You working on my behalf. Thank You for letting me open my gift early. Thank You for using my friend, and all the workers at church to help me regain my sight! Walk with me every day reminding me of this new life! Thank You!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas Letter

Merry Christmas!

My hopes for this Season of Holy Wonder has not been fulfilled. I wanted so very much to draw closer to God, and yet, I find I am struggling to enjoy the sweet comforting traditions that usually draw me closer to the true Spirit that dwells within the truth of God with us. Maybe you, too, have found these days difficult. Maybe we can salvage the Christmas joy in the next few days.

This time of year is usually a time for much activity. I have been busier than usual, but the activity has lost its excitement because I have not put a purpose into the work, except to just get it done. In years past I made every effort to make Jesus the center of my to-do list. This year has been different.

In times past gifts were bought, baking done, carols sung, decorations hung, and cards were written with the purpose of blessing others. This year, with our tight budget, and needing to cut corners everywhere, I began to think more of my pocket book than the joy of making others smile. Oh, I've had moments, but it has not been the overwhelming feeling of good will towards men that I most often feel. All of this has made me very sad.

I've allowed frustrations and worries cloud my celebration. I am not proud of
that. I know better. I just did not act on what I knew. Today the decision has been made. The next few days will be spent looking for ways to live thankfully and with joy. I will celebrate the truth that God is with us. HE is the joy for which I long.

Father, You are my Christmas. You are my gift, my joy, my song. I have been selfish and ungrateful. Forgive me! Thank You for turning my heart towards You. Thank You for making this the best Christmas ever! Send me out to make Your Good News known to the world!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Swaddling Hugs

Every baby needs to be swaddled. When they are bound tight in a blanket, they feel safe. They relax and rest. It is not only babies who surrender themselves into peace with the swaddling of a blanket. Adults may not get that sort of comfort often, but we need it.

When I am fearful, worried, or not feeling well, I need a warm blanket wrapped tight around me. We all know what it is like to want to curl up in bed after a tough day. Tears may be shed but the warmth of being swathed brings comfort and eventually we relax and rest.

Soft, warm blankets, are often given as gifts this time of year. They are appreciated, not only for their practicality, but also for the comfort and love that comes with the present. Clothing that is soft and warm is also a gift that is more than the covering for our bodies. We wear what fits our mood and some clothes swathe us.

In the Garden of Eden, before clothes were necessary, I want to believe that God wanted people to offer everyday gifts that would express God's image and likeness. Hugs were a reminder of the presence, comfort, safety, protection and grace of God. Maybe in the time of temptation a hug could have helped Adam and Eve to make a wiser choice.

That brings me back to Christmas. Jesus was swaddled in cloths by Mary because He was now fully human and needed what all humans need. I think He was the first one to offer hugs to those He met while He was here on earth. Why? Because I know He is always with me to give comfort and peace. He hugs me with His word, His presence, and His church.

You, O Lord, my God, are Comforter, Peace, Protector and Savior! You are the Promise of Emmanuel, God with us! Your presence swaddles me in love and grace. You are my hiding place, my hug in the midst of my need. Thank You for the hugs of my loved ones. Thank You for the strength and well being those hugs bring. Thank You for my arms that can reach out to others to share the gift of You. Teach me to be generous in my giving.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Take Me Back to Bethlehem

I've been putting up Christmas decorations this week. The tree has become a chore because I like the end result to be a certain way. Other greenery and lights are not as time consuming, but they drain energy for regular chores. There is always something needing to be done. I suppose that is why my prayer over and over during this process has been "Take me back to Bethlehem."

It hasn't been a prayer thought out but a simple reactionary prayer of my heart. I want a humble place to sit and focus on the presence of God in my life. I want things to be simpler. I see my Christmas efforts as me throwing this and that into the manger along with Jesus. Hey, Jesus, do You need lights? What about a big fat guy to be a giver of gifts? Could You move over so the tree will fit? Oh, and I'll sing lots of songs about You while I fill up Your humble crib. Hmmm.

Jesus. He is everything Christmas. He is the Light of the world. The Giver of all good gifts and even the one most important gift of Himself was place in a feeding trough. The tree He rejoiced in was the tree He was crucified upon. His rejoicing was only for us who would be freed from sins bondage. We sing peace on earth goodwill to men along with the angels, but the God of the universe promises to rejoice over us with loud singing!

Yes, I want to go back to Bethlehem. I want to sit at the feet of my Lord and let Him fill my Christmas with His presence! I want to. I can choose this way. I will.

Heavenly Father, I whisper my prayer today, because I know You hear me loud and clear. You hear my heart before my words are formed. You set desires in me and delight to see me unwrap the gifts You know will please me the most. Forgive my efforts to fill up Your space with things of this world. Thank You for sending the real Christmas. Thank You for the perfect Christmas! Let me just sit here in Your presence awhile. I promise to sing only if You put the song in my heart!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Wrapped Gift

Have you ever opened a big box just to find many smaller boxes inside? Each present inside is wrapped and filled with wonders and delights. I don't ever remember getting a gift like that, but I have given a few.

Today As I came into our church sanctuary, I saw the beautiful Christmas decorations. My eyes were drawn to the center of the back wall. Around the cross a white cloth was draped. It was beautiful!

I thought about the baby Jesus being swaddled in a cloth, and then I also remembered that He was wrapped in a shroud as well. The beginning and the end of His time on earth was marked by the wrapping of the gift: His life.

The presence of God was given to all of us in a man-child named Jesus. He brought us many gifts. We discover them by opening our hearts and opening the Word. I want to take pleasure in discovering anew the gifts I have unwrapped in the past. I also want to find a deeper joy in the revelation of new gifts.

Today Pastor John spoke about the gift of peace that Jesus offers. Peace that passes understanding must come from a good God. The One who can make all things work together for our good is the One who walked in the frailty of flesh and knows intimately how to find the peace for which we all long. This Christmas season I would like to look intently for treasure found in Jesus, the gift that God wrapped especially for us.

Father God, You are the Giver of all good gifts. You are the author of time and Your timing is perfect. Sometimes I forget that and struggle against the wait. Forgive me. Thank You for the Gift of Jesus. Thank You that You cared enough to wrap him up and let us open so many gifts in Him. Open my eyes to see the gifts You offer me each day. Open my heart to receive those gifts with excitement and joy. I begin today by unwrapping Your peace. Thank You!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Giver is More than the Gift

For everything God created is good,
and nothing is to be rejected
if it is received with thanksgiving.
(I Timothy 4:4)

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things,
which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."
--- Epictetus

Patrick came into the house grinning with one hand curiously behind his back. It was not a special day for us so I gave him a quick kiss and tried to look over his shoulder to see what he was hiding. I cringed!

My dear husband backed away still smiling, and I could see a sparkle in his eyes that told me he was ready to make my day. When he handed me the pot of mums, I tried very hard to smile. I think I said a weak "Thanks," along with the question "What is this for?" I knew my disappointment was not hidden from him, because I watched the light fade from his eyes and the grin turn into pursed lips. He shrugged and said he was just thinking of me and wanted to say, "I love you."

I like mums, sort of, but they are not my favorite flowers. They don't speak to me about love. To me they did not convey the message that he was thinking of me. I would have wanted roses, but he brought mums. He wanted me to know the love he had for me, and I gave him cordial "Thanks." I had expectations he failed to meet, and though I may have uttered the word thanks, I was, in truth, ungrateful.

Over the years I have come to learn that my ingratitude often stems from my self-centered desires, but, when I see the gift and recognize the heart of the giver, I am filled with thanksgiving. It does not matter what is placed in my hands. It only matters who placed it there. When I see that God sends the rain as a gift, even when I long for sunshine, I will be blessed. Thanks for the giver is so much greater than a thank you for the gift!

Heavenly Father, You are the Giver of all good gifts. You gave me a special gift of love through a man to teach me. Thank You for lessons learned. You are the Giver and the Gift! Amen!