Tuesday, December 18, 2012

When Others Have the Words

I sent my daughter to school on Monday with the sure knowledge that, should unspeakable evil threaten, the teachers and staff at her school would do everything humanly possible to protect her.

And more importantly, that my Abba remains sovereign over all.

But that doesn't mean I've got a handle on this.

I'm no theologian. I'm a mom. A mom who cried through the news coverage on Friday afternoon and again Friday evening after my precious ones were tucked into their beds.

I'm a mom who Does.Not.Understand.

And unless your faith is about as deep as the icing on the sugar cookies you like to decorate each year, Friday's horror should make you ask questions.

It is not a sign of weak faith to bury your face in your hands and ask God, "Why?" 

The Bible tells us in James that, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask Godwho gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him". Besides, God knows we don't understand, and faking it with Him makes about as much sense as going to Wal-mart on Christmas Eve.

That verse, interestingly enough, comes right after James tells us to count it all joy when we suffer. I think God knew we would struggle with this and wanted to make sure we knew we could always ask for help understanding the hard stuff. 

Thankfully, there are some incredible, Godly people out there who have shone light into the darkness. They've asked the hard questions and the answers are powerful.

The following is a brief list of some of the posts that have spoken to my heart over the past few days. They range from poignant to theologically profound.

As we celebrate the first coming of our Savior, my heart is longing for the second.
Even so, come quickly.

Deeper with Jesus in Rhode Island ~ Goodbye Little Christmas Angels

The Write Conversation ~ Weekend Worship: Where Was God?

A Holy Experience ~ The Truth About Sandy Hook: Where is God When Bad Things Happen?

Radical ~ The Gospel and Newtown (this one's longer than the others, but there's some serious theology here)

If you've come across a post that spoke to you, feel free to share it in the comments.

Grace and peace,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bigger Than Our Whole World

As I've been mulling over the idea of how big God is and the miracle it is that He became flesh, I've also been thinking about how often God does things in ways that are both unexpected and incomprehensible.

I'm wondering how often I don't see God's hand because what's happening doesn't make sense to me.

I'm wondering how much Joy I miss out on because instead of resting in His plan, I'm arguing with Him about His methods or pointing out to Him that what He's doing doesn't seem like a good idea.

I could go on and on about it, but Christmas is twelve days away and my guess is you don't have time for me to go on and on!

So instead I thought I'd leave you with one of my favorite passages from The Last Battle.

I love The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. (Please don't ask how many times I've read them - the answer is, "I have no idea and if we don't quit talking about it I'm going to have to start reading them again!")

At this point in the story, the characters have been fighting all around a small stable and are now inside.

Ponder this, and find the Joy!

"It seems, then," said Tirian, smiling himself, "that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places."

"Yes," said the Lord Digory. "Its inside is bigger than its outside."

"Yes," said Queen Lucy. "In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."
C.S. Lewis ~ The Last Battle
edited from the archives

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don't Look Now...But My Halo is Crooked

Don't look now...but my halo is crooked.
I blame it on the hot glue.

I had no idea how dangerous it could be to use a hot glue gun—until I totally lost my religion making Jesse Tree ornaments.

All I wanted to do was create a visual—a way to teach my children the true meaning of Christmas. Plus, it’s such a Christian-y thing to do. It should go a long way toward establishing my credibility as a good Christian mom. Right?


All was going according to plan—until I put a dab of hot glue on the back of some shiny fabric and that fabric took on an evil life of its own.

Before I could say “drat”, the fabric curled up on itself, trapping three of my fingers in the mess of shimmer and glue, all the while inflicting what felt like third degree burns.

In that moment, I didn’t think, I didn’t pray. I yelled. 

I did not yell “drat!”

I slung that little whale tail down on the counter with another expletive (or two).

Because it hurt bad. And the fabric was so pretty, but I only had enough to make the one little tail. And I wanted it to look nice. And I thought I had ruined it—and that I might need a skin graft.

I really can’t explain it. I don’t talk that way. I don’t generally even think that way. But it’s obviously in me, because it didn’t just leak out, it flew out.

So much for establishing my “good Christian mom” creds.

The actual tiny whale tail ornament
I managed to get the little tail, now slightly wrinkled, on the ornament, and as I attached it to the wreath it hit me—this was the ornament that represents Jonah’s story. 

Jonah had a good thing going before the whole Ninevah fiasco. People looked up to him. After all, God spoke to him and back then, God didn’t just speak to anybody. Jonah’s “good prophet of God” reputation was secure.

Until God threw a little hot glue in his direction—the idea of preaching to the Ninevites burned him up. And then all that junk inside him spewed out and he ran as far and as fast as he could in the opposite direction of God’s will.

So God chased him down.

Because God had two plans at work. Sure, He wanted the people of Ninevah to repent. But He also wanted to expose the junk in His prophet’s heart at the same time.

God’s like that. He doesn’t wait on you to get it all together before He uses you. He’s big on using cracked pots to carry His message to a world full of people who don’t need perfect Christians setting some standard they can never hope to live up to.

They need real Christians who know they can’t measure up but who rest secure in the hope they have in Christ alone.

If you’re having a perfect holiday season, that’s great. Really. I’m happy for you (and not at all itching to lob a shatter-proof ornament in your direction and knock the halo right off your head. Nope. Not me).

But if your holiday has already run off the rails…if your kids don’t want to sit angelically and listen to Bible stories every night…if your Christmas tree looks more like Charlie Brown’s than Clark Griswold’s…if your plan to buy a water buffalo for a family in Asia instead of an iPad went over like Great Aunt Edna’s fruit cake…if you lost your halo in the toy department of Target...

Then join me in remembering that God does not care how perfectly you celebrate His birth.

He cares about what’s going on in your heart as you do.

And even when you blow it—spectacularly—He doesn’t condemn you. He chases you.

Because He loves you.

If you have a hard time believing that, maybe you need to remember what we’re celebrating.

When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7, ESV)

That’s not the message of a religion you can lose.

That’s the message of the Gospel that we need to proclaim to everyone—not that we have it all together, but that we have it all in Him.

Because 2000+ years ago, the Savior was born...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Currents ~ 12.08.12

Books: I’ve been reading all sorts of stuff. While on the cruise, I read Opening Moves by Steven James (excellent, as always), Trinity by Ronie Kendig (loved it), and The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (YA, fantasy, fun).

Writing: I’ve enjoyed getting back into the writing groove. My main characters in my WIP (work in progress) won’t shut up. And they are getting quite cozy. Love it when that happens!

Scripture: Our pastor challenged us a few weeks ago to read the book of Luke and the book of John before Christmas. I think I may be the only person in the church who decided to read John first.

Family: James is four and is really in to our Jesse Tree Ornaments. He’s clear that we celebrate Christmas because it is Jesus’ birthday, but he is very curious about “that Christmas guy” and how he gets in and out of houses. He seems to think this may be a little bit shady.

Home: I realized today that there are five Christmas trees in the house this year. Plus two on the front porch. I’m not exactly sure how that happened. (Actually, I do know how it happened—it’s called the “trees are 75% off at Wal-mart on the day after Christmas” effect).

Food: I’m baking for the holidays. The salted caramel pretzel bark currently holds the position of best new recipe this season.

Music: I waited until December 1st to really get into the Christmas music, but I’ve got it playing everywhere now. My iPod playlist is a mixture of Brian Setzer, Mannheim Steamroller, Mariah Carey, Harry Connick, Jr., and Michael Buble. I have George Winston’s December CD in my van, and the Christmas CD from our church, The Best Time of the Year, in the kitchen.

Movies: White Christmas for me. Christmas Vacation for Brian.

Wonders:  When you consider the miracle of the incarnation, it’s impossible not to be filled with wonder. It blows my mind and makes me feel small—not an inferior kind of small—a “what is man that You are mindful of him” kind of small.

Weirdness: I’ve been in Wal-mart several times so far this season. Need I say more?

May your weekend be filled with wonders and weirdness—especially wonders!

Grace and peace,

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Joy in the Moment

I'm a wife, mother, and writer. I'm a daughter, sister, and friend. I'm a reader, knitter, and scrapbooker. I'm a cook, maid, and seamstress. I'm an engineer, manager, and bookkeeper.

With all that stuff going on, you'd think I'd be fulfilled.

Nope. Not even close. More often than not, I feel anxious. Desperate. Inadequate.
My task-oriented nature struggles to stay in the moment. To focus my energy on one thing, without mentally scrambling to determine the most efficient way to check off something else at the same time.
But by refusing to do one thing at a time, I'm not doing any one thing well.
And I'm robbing myself of so much joy.
Jim Elliot is quoted as saying, “Wherever you are, be all there.” I love that. I want that to characterize my life. I think it's another key to rediscovering joy.
Because something tells me that when Jesus took on humanity, He was an “all there” kind of guy. Would you care to guess what makes me think that?
Jesus spent nine months in a womb.
Have you ever thought of the challenge that must have been? To go from omnipresence to embryo. To grow inside a body You created.
But He did it. He was all there. All God. All man. All at the same time. All miraculously contained inside Mary's swelling body. The Word that spoke the world into existence limited Himself to baby babble. The hands that carved out oceans and piled high mountains were content to bang on a pot with a wooden spoon.

Wherever He was, He was all there.
And because He became Immanuel, God with us, we have Joy. True Joy. Not fleeting happiness. Not momentary pleasure.
Eternal Joy.
So as I stand in football field length store lines or sit in gridlocked mall traffic, instead of chafing at the limitations, I'm trying to practice being all there.
I'm not always successful, but when I am, I'm discovering there's so much Joy to be found in every moment.
So what about you? Do you feel up to a Christmas challenge?
This week, join me. Wherever you are, be all there. Wrapping presents? Be all there. At a party? Be all there. At a Christmas program when you still have Christmas baking, shopping, cleaning, and wrapping to do? Be all there.
I think you'll find Joy there.
And when you do, please come back and tell us about it.
edited from the archives