Monday, December 23, 2019

God so loved the world...that He gave us Christmas

Jesus is the reason for the season. Yes, that statement is absolutely true. In the middle of all the business of the Christmas season, it’s so important to keep reminding ourselves that Jesus is what it’s all about. Family is important. Generosity is important. Loving one another is absolutely important. But even in the middle of all of that really great, important stuff stands The One who is the Most Important of all. 


The Christ.

The Messiah.

I understand why we Christians have our mantras like Keep Christ in Christmas and Jesus is the reason for the season. But I think even these catchphrases fail to really capture the depth of what Christmas is all about. They’re good reminders that Christmas isn’t about the commercialism that the world throws at us, or even the good deeds that we focus so much more intently on during the Christmas season than we do the rest of the year. But they skim along the surface of the truth of Christmas without plunging the depths of what God did in and through the Advent.

Do you realize that of all the things God created, it was only to humankind that he gave his very own breath? Only we were created to be like him. Only we were created to walk with him in the garden in the cool of the morning. Oh, we are so loved and so privileged among all the creatures of the earth! 

And yet, we chose something other than him. We chose – and continue to choose – ourselves. And from that first moment when humanity chose to explore the less-than instead of trusting God’s best, God put in motion his plan to bring us back into perfect relationship with himself. That plan came into fullness when he gave himself to walk among us in flesh. 

God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, stepped out of the throne room of heaven and into the brokenness of earth. 

No other god has done that. No other god would dare subject himself to that sort of humility. 

But ours did. And he did it in order to repair the brokenness that we caused. 

God did this great thing because he loves those whom he created. He loves us with a kind of love that I’m not convinced we can fully understand in our broken human condition. It is a love so deep that even living and dying as a human fully rejected by the world was not too high a price to pay to bring us back to himself. 

Friends, it is my prayer this Christmas that you will spend some time soaking in the truth of Jesus. I pray you will let yourself be overwhelmed by the love and goodness that God poured out for you in the giving of himself. I pray that the depth of love that God has for you will be an anchor for your life in the year and years ahead. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. ~ John 3:16

Savoring Today

December 23, 2019 ~ I found this post unfinished in my blogger this morning, apparently written about four years ago. So much has changed in the four years since I authored these thoughts, yet so much is still the same. The principle rings just as true today as it did then: time is fleeting. My thoughts of four years ago are as much a reminder to myself today as I hope they will be for you. 

As I walked through my living room and dining room at 6:15 this morning, headed through to the kitchen where a hot, life-giving pot of coffee was waiting thanks to my wonderful husband, I cringed at the piles of "stuff" that littered the tables in the rooms.

And I do mean that to be plural - tables - with an "s."

The coffee table, the end table, the dining room table... they were all covered in piles.  Papers dumped from school bags, magazines abandoned mid-perusal, chord charts from last night's worship team rehearsal, hairbrushes and pony-tail holders, a baggie of grapes, folded stacks of laundry, dirty socks, a forgotten toy...

What a disaster.

I read an article last week that described habits of people who always have a clean house.

The author of that article didn't have any children living in her house.  (She said so herself.)   I'm wondering how different her article would have been if she lived with my four.

Because, while I do many of the things she suggested, I have four - five, if you include my hubby - other people in my house who contribute to it's state of chaos.  And this has been one of those weeks.  You know, the kind where you have more on your to-do list than you can possibly accomplish as just one person, and you wish you could either clone yourself or do the I Dream of Genie thing and have everything magically fall into place.

One of those weeks where you have to chose: Clean the bathroom or bake cookies with my daughter so she can take them to school for her birthday?

Scrub the kitchen floors or help my kiddo with his homework project.

Go home on my lunch hour and run laundry, or spend that hour with my friend and mentor, stretching my faith and learning how to more effectively minister in God's Kingdom.

Dust the living room or give my youngest his first piano lesson, that he's been asking about for weeks and weeks.

Make the bed or braid my daughter's hair.

Wash the sink full of pots and pans or sit next to my husband on the couch, listening to him spill all the details of his full-to-the brim day.

Having a tidy home is important, I know.  Everyone feels better when the space around them is picked up.  (See, Mom, I did listen...)  Even I have learned that I'm more at ease when my surroundings are orderly.

But moms (and dads!), cut yourselves some slack.  When life happens - and sometimes it does, in nice long stretches - look around at your chaos and give thanks for the things that make life so full that cleaning up gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list.  Enjoy the moments with your kids that matter; make those memories that you can never re-do.  Savor the richness of today, because tomorrow it will be gone.

Our house was a complete wreck this morning because yesterday was so full that we didn't even have time to pick things up before bed.  I could have grumbled about it this morning, but instead I'm going to choose to be grateful that yesterday I got to have lunch at school with my nine-year-old baby girl on her birthday, watch my oldest son march in his first high school homecoming parade, have dinner with all four of my kids and my husband (a rare thing on Wednesdays!), make two blankets with my daughter at our church outreach program, and worship with a great group of people while we rehearsed for Sunday morning.

Jesus said, "I have come to bring you abundant life." He has certainly given me an abundance of every part of life, and today I will be grateful for every ounce.

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Moment That Changes Everything

There are moments in history that define each one of us, moments that completely change the course of our lives.  Whether they are marked by a decision or an event or an encounter, our lives look drastically different than they did the moment before.

Think about the day you got married or the day you held your child for the first time, about how much your life changed that day.  Life would never be the same from that point, would it?  Good or bad, there was no going back to life as it was before.

Think about life before 9/11.  What was life like on September 10th, 2001?  Very different than September 12th, for sure.

One event, and the course of an entire nation was re-routed.

One moment and everything changed.

One moment of weakness, one swallowed lie, one bite of forbidden fruit.  Sin found its way into humanity and the world was changed forever.

One choice by a man named Cain to bring not the best and first of his crops – just “some” – to make an offering to his Creator.  The choice to keep the best for himself and make an offering not out of faith in God to provide, but rather an offering out of the leftovers.  The choice to stand proudly before God, angry that his offering wasn’t found acceptable, rather than submit in humility and repentance.

This choice would change Cain’s life drastically.  The anger that began as a small seed that day grew in his heart like the wheat that he had sown in his field.  It matured into full-grown hatred, strong enough to lead him to murder his own brother.  Again, when given the opportunity by God to confess his wrongdoing, he stood proudly and defiantly before his Maker and confessed nothing

And so the consequence: the once highly successful farmer would no longer be able to coax even the scantest crop from the ground, and instead would spend the rest of his days a wanderer.  His family, too, would be sentenced to wander with him.  No home, no livelihood.  Just wandering.

But the effects of Cain’s choices didn’t end with him or his immediate family.  Several generations later, one of Cain’s offspring would become himself a murderer and proudly claim a promise God had made to Cain as his own.  It started with one choice, but the ripples of that choice continued to spread.

How different would Cain’s life have been had he chosen that day to bring the first and best of his crops as an offering?  Or if, when God disapproved of the offering, he had reacted with humility or remorse? How would his story have gone then?

Maybe there is a moment in your own life that very distinctly divides it into “before” and “after.”  Maybe it was put there by your own choice, or perhaps it was handed to you by someone else. Regardless, it changed your story.  There’s no going back, no matter how much you wish you could.

One moment and everything changed.

But there is another moment in history that can change your story again.  Oh, it won’t undo what has already been done; it won’t erase history.  But it will rob your history of its power to dictate your future. Indeed, it will redeem your history and make your story one of beauty and grace.

I’m talking, of course, about Jesus.  About the moment that he stepped back out of the grave and crushed the power of sin and death.  Forever.  I’m talking about that moment when you encountered Him – or will encounter Him – and He began to re-write your story.

One moment with Jesus and your life will never be the same.

Will it be 9/11 kind of change? Probably not in the world’s eyes. But to you…yeah, it’s that big. The difference, my friend, is that instead of looking back with nostalgia or regret or sadness, you’ll be looking to the future with anticipation, hope and joy.

Jesus.  He changes everything.

And what a wonderful thing it is when He does.

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