Dec 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

O, Holy Night
the stars are brightly shining
it is the night
of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world
in sin and error pining
'Til he appeared
and the soul felt its worth
He came into this world for me and for you.
Let us rejoice and be glad!
Merry Christmas

Dec 21, 2016

Look Up

This Christmas season for me so far has been filled with shameless hours upon hours of watching cheesy, yet wholesome Hallmark movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (that there is an RV!), The Santa Clause, and so many other classic holiday movies, of which I’ve seen too many times to count.  Even so, I feel a sense of sweet familiarity each time I turn one of them on and hear distinct voices or songs that I've come to love over the years.

And then just the other evening I was watching a rerun of a sitcom from the nineties and similar to the old, recognizable Christmas movies, I noticed some interesting and not-too-often-seen-anymore aspects that I felt were worth noting.

For instance...let me paint the picture...

Get this.  There was a telephone that the entire family used in the kitchen and, I know this will be hard to believe, but it was connected to the wall, with...wait for it..a cord.  Say what???  Yep.  An actual twirly cord was connected from the receiver to this square, hanging box thingy where you could dial numbers to make an outgoing call. 

I know.  Feel free to stop for just a moment as you allow this archaic and dinosaurs-walking-the-earth moment to sink in.

Here's another strange oddity.  The family had just one TV. You heard me right.  One TV.  Not three or four or seven. One.  And it was in the living room, which meant that everyone has to sit in the same, exact room in order to watch something on it. There was no satellite dish, no DVR, not even such technology as being able to change the channels with a remote.  They actually had to get up off the couch to watch a different show. 


Now this next observation is going to really throw you for a loop.  Every night, the kids in the family had the job of setting the table for dinner, and together, they all sat down to eat and...(gulp) talk.  Come again?  They did what?

Oh, and also, the TV wasn't on in the background, nor the radio and most notably, not one, single person was staring down at their cell phones.  They did nothing but eat, and then look up to stare at each other.  Words would come out of their mouths which would eventually form complete sentences.  From there, real, genuine, conversations ensued.  

I feel your's almost too much to take in all at one time.  It's like two worlds-colliding. 

Now, I know this is just a TV show I'm talking about, but in reality, this is actually what my childhood consisted of as well. We had dinner every night as a family - together, in one place, at our dining room table, where my sister and I took turns setting each place and then clearing the dishes away. We had a phone on our kitchen wall with, I would guess, the longest cord known to man, of which we would twist around our fingers as we wove our way into different rooms of the house to avoid our conversations with friends being overheard. We had one TV in our living room and before the invention of that magic little remote control, it was a constant up-and-down to change the channel on the converter. Yes...the converter.   

But you know what?  We survived.  And dare I say, flourished, even?  It's true! In fact, some of my greatest memories are from lingering at that kitchen table talking and laughing, long after the dishes had been cleared. 
So this Christmas, my friends, I practically beg of you to do one thing for your family. Simply take a moment or two and look UP.  Look up at your family and those who are gathered around you.  Look up and meet their gaze and then be keenly aware of their presence and the stories they have to share. Give yourself some much-needed permission to place those attention-stealing devices like your cell phone out of sight for a few hours.  (It can be done!) Tuck it away to spend time with later on, but for just a while, curl up with a blanket and listen to the laughter. Really listen.  Play a few games.  Get out a deck of cards.  Ask your parents or other family members about their Christmases growing up.  Break bread together.  

I invite you during this harried, holiday season to carve out some sweet, precious family time for the making of beautiful Christmas memories.  And then take them one step further by doing something you may not have done for awhile - keep those memories for yourself - rather than for all of social media to see.  Because I doubt that in ten years when we look back on our holiday's, we would want our first remembrance to be how our heads were down and buried in our devices.  At least...that's not the memory I want to hold in my heart.  

Look up, my friends.  

And be thankful.  So very thankful.

Dec 14, 2016

Hand in Hand

I'm a little overwhelmed lately.  I've been feeling some added stressors in life, specifically surrounding the vast amount of people I seem to know who are suffering, both from physical and emotional challenges, and trying to figure out how to cope with it all (not very well, obviously).  Every time I turn around, I hear of another person’s heartache.  I can’t help but to stop and wonder, how do I grasp my arms around people and their suffering when, no matter what I do or say or how many casseroles I bake (I don’t really bake, but you get the point), it won’t change the end result? 

And then, to compile the anguish even higher and wider and deeper, we’re smack-dab in the midst of the holiday season, a season that should be filled with joy and love and togetherness.  Yet, how can we possibly find happiness in this murky world?    
While I don’t claim to know the answer to any of these questions, thankfully, I know where to turn for some clear-cut clarity.  The other day, in fact, I sent an urgent text to my spiritual director and believe me when I say I’m certain he could read right through the lines of my scrambled and scattered words (he knows my ramblings well by now).  I laid out all of my concerns and described the picture of an unwanted and stormy-looking cloud, looming above all that I know to be good and true.  There's a part of me that wants to slam the door on the world and it’s in-your-face-reality and say, NOIt’s not fair!  None of this is fair!  You want us to choose joy, Lord, but then we pick up the newspaper and read the tragic headlines, or attend our umpteenth wake-service of the year and we’re supposed to be ok with it all?  We’re supposed to move forward with our lives?  We actually have to pick up our feet and place one in front of the other...and then again, in front of the other?  

No matter the grief?

Well.  God says yes...yes to all of the above.

You and me...we look at our sadness as if it’s a punishment, the direct-result of a life that should have been easy, but is nothing short of brick walls and treacherous holes in the ground that we try ceaselessly to avoid.  

But in reality, it's like this.  When God brought us into being, He didn’t do so for us to live forever.  And I think some of us forget that from time to time; present-company included.  We hold on out of fear.  Desperate, pain-staking fear.  We cling to that which we eventually need to let go of, so that we can avoid earthly goodbyes at all costs.  But you know and I know they can’t be avoided.  God will see to it that He calls His sons and daughters home when He sees fit.  Not a moment before, or after, and most importantly, no matter the age – young or old (young or old, by the way, are HUMAN terms and subject to HUMAN perspective, not God’s).  We simply can't predict or assume when our time will be.
Do these facts make grief any easier?  Nope.  So why do we insist on twisting the truth to make it easier?  The truth is that we can love...and...we can grieve.  They are interchangeable.  They go hand in hand.  If we love, we will grieve.   

Take a deep breath, my friends, and let that truth settle deep into your heart. 

If you've never grieved, I'm afraid you've never loved.  You've never really opened your heart and exposed it for someone else to journey through, right beside you.  You've never allowed love to seep down into the crevices for it to change you forever. Because that's what love does, just like grief.  

It changes us forever.  

So if you feel a cloud looming overhead, just know that it's not really a cloud at all. It's a shield of protection; of love and grief mixed beautifully into one.  And together, they're helping us to live a well-meaning life. 

In the deepest, darkest, and murkiest of places, God asks us to trust Him.  To lean on Him.  

Friends...May He find us faithful.

Dec 11, 2016

Meaning Above All Meaning

For unto you is born this day in the City of David a
S A V I O R,
which is Christ the Lord. 
And this shall be a sign unto you. 

You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger. 
And suddenly there was with the angels a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying,
There are just thirteen days until
Christmas now.
Find the meaning.  The true meaning.
And experience joy.

Dec 6, 2016


I was driving home on the highway around 8:00 last night and the fog in the air was so heavy and dense – as thick as peanut butter (who can name the movie?!).  While I knew, in general, the curvature of the road, not being able to see in the distance was unsettling and morphed a familiar path into the unknown.  And so I drove with my hands gripped fiercely to the steering wheel, patiently awaiting a clearer view.  Finally, as I arrived closer to the city limits, lights and buildings began to take shape in my sight once again.  But it was too late; I was already exasperated.

They say patience is a virtue; what an understatement!  Some of us are blessed with an abundance…and then some of us are not. I will admit that as I’ve gotten older, I have a little bit more than I’ve had in the past, but we’re talking miniscule, almost teeny-tiny, amounts.  Not even worth noting, actually.

Here’s what’s fascinating to remember with a spirit of deep humility, when it comes to the gift of patience.  If you turn to the Bible, the source of what we believe in our hearts to be true, you’ll find models of the purest fortitude:

~ Noah waited one hundred and twenty days for the rains to arrive. 

~ Joseph was in prison for over ten years for a crime he didn’t commit. 

~ Abraham waited twenty five years for his son to arrive. 

~ And Job, poor Job, he had everything stripped away, waiting close to a lifetime for God to show him the mercy he deserved. 

So why is it that I struggle to wait three minutes at a stoplight?   

Impatience is a direct result of not having control over a situation.  Driving in the fog last night, I kept thinking, why does it have to be foggy tonight, of all nights, and, am I home yet? 

The truth of the matter is that we are impatient because life isn’t moving the way we think it should, yet, lost in our own thoughts, we fail to recognize how the lives of others are being affected.  

For instance, yes, maybe I could voice my frustration to the secretary in the doctor’s office from having to wait for a full twenty minutes, but unbeknownst to me, it’s possible that the patient who was just diagnosed with cancer needs a little bit more time with the doctor to digest their life-altering news.  The woman in line at the store who I feel is majorly inconveniencing me might be requesting a price check on an item because she just lost her job a few hours ago and so purchasing the item at the corrected, lower price is essential.  And why is it the fault of the driver of the car that stalled on the road, that I woke up twenty minutes late for work?  Why am I placing the blame on them? 

Let’s face it.  We’re often impatient for our own self-centered reasons.  We want a clear view of the road up ahead before we drive any further.  But that won’t always be the case.  There will be times when we have to maneuver at a slower pace, fully aware of obstacles, and people, around us.  Will being impatient get us to our destination any quicker?  Not in the least. 

Armed with this knowledge, what can we learn in the waiting?  Maturity? Understanding? Even opportunities to grow, perhaps? 

Maybe it’s high-time we look at situations from a broader perspective and determine if our impatience is truly warranted…or a needless endeavor to claim control over that which, when it comes down to it, cannot be controlled.

There are always two paths - the path of impatience or the path of acceptance. 

Choose wisely.

Dec 4, 2016

THIS is Important

The other night I was driving to the store after work to pick up a few odds and ends and I couldn't get over the amount traffic out on the roads.  I realized it was close to 5:00 p.m. at the beginning of December, and people were driving home after a long day, but it was practically bumper to bumper.  Cars swerving around one another, trying to advance in line like it was a race to the finish. Where was everyone headed, I wonder, and why were they in such a hurry?

This world, OUR world, often works in that very manner; bumper to bumper, like herding cattle.  Get closer! Move faster!  Do this!  Do that!  Where have you been?  You're late!  It's overwhelming and exhausting, trying to sort through all the thoughts being thrown at us. And pretty soon, we run out of gas as we begin to shut down from all the noise and chaos.

Tell me, what's really important in your life?  Not what you envision will make you happy in the future, but today, on Monday, December 5th?  What happiness can you claim at this very moment?   

Are you struggling to come up with an answer?  Is it easier to list the areas of life that are frustrating or the luck you feel has been stripped away?  If that's the case, it might be a sign...a clear, bold come home.  Stop driving amidst the traffic and the constant rush of life.  Rather, take a quiet moment to look around and breathe in your greatest blessings. 

Sweet friends, you are worth those moments, no matter what the world says. 

So pause for as long as need to, pull your hand back, place it on your heart, and claim it's vital importance.

Dec 1, 2016

Humility and Grace

Wednesday, November 30th was the Feast Day of Saint Andrew, brother to Saint Peter, and the first to follow Jesus as an Apostle.  In a devotional I read that morning, it described how Saint Andrew was, more or less, a behind-the scenes type of guy.  And while he may have lived an unassuming life in the background, he was always doing what he could do to bring people closer to Jesus.  How many of us can say we live in such a way?  As the devotional writer penned,  “He shows us how to be the one who is not esteemed or acclaimed, with dazzling humility and astonishing grace.”

As the month of November passed before my glossy-eyes, I gladly witnessed some much-needed gratitude and all-around appreciation on the pages of Facebook – a long-awaited transition after the antics of the recent presidential election.  It was a thing of mercy to see friends and family choosing to express their thankfulness for a full thirty days, breaking open their blessings to share with others.

Saint Andrew did the work of a servant’s hands, behind the scenes, to bring those he encountered closer to Christ.  And like those who participated in the thankfulness-challenge, many of us have also been showered with abundance.  And so I wonder…can we merge these two concepts together?  Can we weave them into the same pattern to make each other’s lives even more magnificent than we ever thought possible? 

I believe we can.

For the month of December, I want to nudge our hearts; give them an elbow-jab to the side, so to speak, in order to be seen.  Not by and for the reaction of others, but by and for the Glory of God.  {{Drastically different!}}  But how, you ask?  Here are a few ideas to embrace, if you will:

* Doorbell Dash – Drop a plate of goodies on your neighbor’s porch, ring the doorbell, and dash away as fast as you can!  Include a meaningful scripture verse on the plate so that when all the treats are gone, they’ll find another heartfelt surprise.

* Adopt an angel off a giving tree and while you’re wrapping the gift, say a prayer or two for the recipient.  And then while you’re wrapping gifts for your friends and family, rather than feeling stressed and hurried, slooow down the process and offer their name up to God for His Divine protection.

* Leave a thank you note in your mailbox for your postman, or on your front door for the UPS driver (sorry for all the Amazon packages!), letting them know that you’re asking God to keep them safe and healthy during this harried holiday season.

* Drop off a plate of healthy snacks to your hospital’s ER department, police or fire station on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, expressing how grateful you are for their dedicated service and time spent away from their families.

* Mail an anonymous card to a difficult or challenging co-worker, wishing them peace and happiness in the New Year…and mean it.

* The next time you notice an out-of-towner filling up at the gas station, or a mother with a van-load of crying little ones, or a car that looks to be struggling to make it from point A to point B, graciously pay for their tank of gas without them knowing. 

* Offer the gift of forgiveness to someone from whom you’ve been withholding it.

Sacrifice = Investment.

Friends, I could go on and on and on, but I have a feeling you get my point.  Christmas really can be about love and appreciation and giving, and pure, attention-less sacrifice.  Take a humble and gracious seat behind-the-scenes, walking the margins with those who need it the most.  I have to believe that if we approach the season in this way, it would cease to be a chore, a hassle, and a time to wish away.  For us and for others.

Saint Andrew - “He shows us how to be the one who is not esteemed or acclaimed with dazzling humility and astonishing grace.”

Dazzling humility and astonishing grace.

Gifts that won’t be found under the tree, but will sink roots deep in our hearts.