Saturday, December 22, 2007

Anticipation

My kids were trying to pull me out of bed this morning.
(Why is it that on the weekends they are up hours before they are on school days?)

They were not having much success.
When your first conscious thoughts are an assault of all the work you need to do, it causes a delay in your feet hitting the floor.
I better understand how children feel when they're woken up to go to school - who wants to leave rest and ease for work?

I thought this morning of Christ - of the antithesis of anticipation he must have felt before his incarnation.

The God of the universe was going to come to a backwards, ignorant sin -filled world as a baby in order to die a cruel painful death on a cross.
I'd sure be pulling the covers back over my head if I knew that was what was ahead.

But there is the story of Christmas.

Christ's feet "hit the floor"of a barn and walked along dusty roads and up Calvary's hill.

There's a Christmas song sung by Go Fish that says it all:

It’s not just about the manger where the baby lay
It’s not all about the angels who sang for him that day
It’s not just about the shepherds or the bright and shinning star
It’s not all about the wise men who traveled from afar

It’s not just about the presents underneath the tree
It’s not all about the feeling that the season brings to me
It’s not just about coming home to be with those you love
It’s not all about the beauty of the snow I’m dreaming of

It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once so that we could be born again
It’s about the stone that was rolled away so that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross

The beginning of the story is wonderful and great
But it’s the ending that can save you
And that’s why we celebrate

It’s about the cross
It’s about my sin
It’s about how Jesus came to be born once so that we could be born again
It’s about God’s love nailed to the tree
It’s about every drop of blood that flowed from him when it should have been me
It’s about the stone that was rolled away so that you and I could have real life someday
It’s about the cross


So as I enjoy the beauty, family, and nostalgia of the season, I will also recognize that Christ woke up every morning with the realization that His steps were leading to his death. And because he kept getting out of bed and walked to the end of that road, He's given to me a gift of anticipation. Because of his birth, I am now able to join Him in heaven, and that is the greatest gift of Christmas.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An Epiphany

I have had an epiphany . . . well, that was my first thought, but I had to go and look up epiphany to make sure that was the right term.

Epiphany:
(1) a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2) an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking
(3) a: an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure; b: a revealing scene or moment

Yep, that was it—I had had an epiphany.

I was reviewing something I'd done and realized that it really was good. Now, I'd been politely complimented by the people who knew me and I'd smiled and thanked them, but when I heard it for myself, what I heard wasn't the way it had sounded to me—what I heard was fantastic!

My whole sense of reality is skewed now.
I had thought I knew how it sounded.
I was totally wrong.
What else am I wrong about?

I've written before about how you suddenly get a glimpse of yourself—the reflection in the store window, a photograph, or a video that seems so different from the image you have in your mind—and the image you see typically isn't flattering. But to catch a glimpse of myself that was better than what I thought . . . it's just messing with my mind!

But as I thought about it, I realized that this is probably true of all of us—we are more significant than we think. It's the season of "It's a Wonderful Life," and while we don't have our own personal Clarence to show us our significance, let me be Clarence for you.

I struggle with the fact that life is so daily—the same tasks over and over and over and . . . well, you get the idea. But imagine if you were not in your home, your work place, your world doing the same things over and over. You give both stability and productivity to your world. It may be the same bed you're making, but you bring order, the same job you leave for every morning but your effort provides for the needs of your family, the same book you've read to your children a million times, but you've shown them that there is someone who can be depended on. And what about the person who calls you her friend, for whom you are always there in fun or angst—what would her life be without you?

Need I go on, or will you take it yourself from here?

You matter.
You are doing a good job.
You are significant in this world.
Carry on!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fall on your knees...

“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

Are you kidding? The only falling I’m going to do is on all the ice out here in the mall parking lot. This place is a madhouse. Why aren’t all these people ready for Christmas already? How in the world will I get in and out of this place in an hour?


“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”


That’s a great idea for someone else, but I am far too busy to be stopping for angel voices. Have you seen the “to do” lists I still have?


“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

I am far too important to be falling on my knees. Don’t you know that without me Christmas wouldn’t happen in my household? There’d be no tree, no gifts, no cards, no fresh-baked cookies… (well, there probably won’t be any fresh-baked cookies anyway, I’m so far behind).


“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

Gifts bought and wrapped – check.
Food prepared – check.
Tree trimmed – check.
Stockings hung by the chimney with care – check, check, check.

It’s Christmas – I’m ready – Bring it on.


“Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

Oh, yeah... that.
I’m no longer in a hurry, or too busy, or too caught up in being the Spirit of Christmas …
I’m out of excuses.
Yet, still, here I stand, knees locked.

I've done Christmas: I've bought the gifts, sung the songs, heard the sermons, took the pictures, put money in the red kettle, sent the cards, trimmed the tree, and I've even had moments of nostalgia and goodwill ...

Fall on your knees….
Oh hear the angel voices….”

And what are these angels saying?
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2)
A Savior - Christ the Lord.

What other choice is there but to fall on my knees?
I am in need of a Savior.
And I acknowledge that Christ is my Lord.

Friday, December 14, 2007

ICE

I live in Chicago.

I'm dashing out to the car, already late, and discover that Jack Frost has been here, and apparently with ten of his buddies for no delicate design swirls on my windows, but ice that seems to be a solid sheet.

Why do I never remember to leave enough time in my schedule in this the onset of winter for scraping the car windows?

So I start the car and start looking for the ice scraper.
Along the door - no.
Under the front seat - no.
In the back seat - no.
In the trunk - no.
Aargh!

Last year I had three scrapers in my car and now I can't find a single one. Back into the house I go, down to the basement, here, there and everywhere - not an ice scraper to be seen. I don't even want to look at my watch and see how late I am now.

Desperate, I resort to the only tool I have...from my wallet I pull out a store rewards card and away we go - the funny thing is that the card actually works, not because it's a wonderful ice scraper but because the ice has softened.

Look at these verses: "He sends snow like white wool; he scatters frost upon the ground like ashes. He hurls the hail like stones, Who can stand against his freezing cold? Then, at his command, it all melts. He sends his winds, and the ice thaws." Psalms 147: 16-18

I have situations in my life that are impenetrable and I am as well equipped to impact them as I was the ice on my car. I've done what I could with the little I have and gotten nowhere but frustrated.

These verses give me hope; when and if God chooses, the ice will thaw. I will keep faithfully doing what I can, but ultimately God controls the snow, and the ice and the gentle warmth that can melt the ice, so I will wait on Him.

"My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him." Psalms 62:5

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Portrait

My third grade daughter sat me down. She was going to draw my picture. I was told to pose and smile and she studied my face and studiously put pencil to paper.

She would draw a line then look up at me intently, place a curve, then look up again. Her entire posture reflected her concentration. She was both serious and still. The process continued and now her paper reflected the shape of my face, the sweep of my hair, two eyes and an spot where my mouth had already been erased several times as she was having a hard time with it.

It was one of those proud parent moments as I sat there watching her trying her very best to translate how I look to her paper.

She was focused and intense and kept looking up at me to make sure she was drawing me correctly.

Now no matter how hard she would try, her drawing will be that of an early elementary sort - somewhere between stick people and recognizable characters, but it wasn't her drawing that was bringing me this great pleasure. I was so proud of her because of her efforts.

So as I posed and smiled, I had my own moment of insight.

This is exactly what I try to do.
I am trying to draw a portrait.
I am attempting to draw a picture of God for you who read what I write, to those who hear what I say, to those who watch how I live my life.

And will I capture Him? His image, His essence? Will I present something almost photographic,
or an elementary drawing on lined paper?

My skill is not what matters.
But the attitude of this artist does.

What matters as I attempt to represent Christ is that I keep looking at Him. That to capture His essence and convey it, that I am taking Him in, referencing Him over and over, after every line, every curve, checking to see that the face of God I am transposing is God's face.

And when I am done, will my creation resemble the Creator?
Will a curve I've drawn spark recognition in you?

I would hope so but even if it doesn't my Father is pleased, because in seeking to portray him, I have been still and have spent time with Him.

Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Why there's No Room...

During this season you will be expected to …

*maintain all your normal work responsibilities.

*redecorate both the inside and outside of your home.

*purchase appropriate and thoughtful gifts for all the significant relationships in your life and gifts of appreciation for those who assist you or your children, then wrap and present these gifts.

*send out cards of greeting to current family and friends and also to those with whom this yearly card has become your last thread of contact. A personal note on each one is a welcomed addition.

*host and/or attend festive dinners and gatherings.

*prepare a variety of baked treats for above said holiday gatherings

*learn and perform a quantity of new music requiring additional evenings of rehearsals.

*participate in or contribute to charitable organizations.

You must accomplish all of this in the next 25 days.
There are no exceptions or excuses.
This must all be done by December 25th.

Is it any wonder that although we know that “Jesus is the reason for the season” we find it difficult to see Him?

That we find our hearts full of stress and not peace?

We are not merry or bright, no holly, not jolly.

We’re tired: of doing, of pleasing, of expectations, of feasting…

And although we would love to be filled with the spirit of Christmas, we seem unable to work it up in ourselves, to feel as we feel we should when one is surrounded by tinsel and lights, friends and family, carols and crooners.

So what is one to do?

Ask.

Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find. (Matthew 7:7,8)

Lord Jesus, as I pause for just a moment to pray, I ask that you will find me in this season. That you will give to me a gift of peace and a renewed sense of awe that you came as a baby so that you could die on a cross to be my savior. I am worn and weary and although surrounded by lights and music my heart is bare. Fill me with the music of the angels. Let me ponder and treasure all these things in my heart. Come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee…

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Monday Morning

I've realized that my favorite time of the week is Monday mornings about 7:30 am.

Now don't throw things or stop reading out of exasperation yet - let me explain.

By 7:30 my family is off to work and school. We have found the homework, and the gloves and shoes, packed the lunches and book bags and the door slams and the house is quiet.

I pour a cup of coffee and sit down. It is the time for thinking, time for planning, time for lists.

On a Monday morning there is a whole week of responsibilities and projects stretching out before me but, there is also a whole week's worth of time. As I make my plans and write my lists I have this sense of hope that by next Sunday night many of these things will have been accomplished. (It's an entirely different feeling than let's say on a Friday afternoon when the list still has half of the things on it!)

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and appropriately the candle was that of Hope. There are only 23 days until Christmas but there are twenty-three days until Christmas. Although the list spills over onto a second and third page, there is time.

It was said in church today that we have been observing the anticipation of the coming Christ child every year for as long as we've lived.
We're singing the same songs, making the same shopping lists, pulling on boots and slogging through shopping centers, untangling lights, hanging the same ornaments, baking the traditional cookies...what is it that will make this season significant? stand out? encompass the mystery and wonder of this most amazing event we've become oh so familiar with?

It is this sense of hope.
That although the story is not new the Author of the story still has the ability to speak to our hearts in a way He has not before.
That although the melodies are familiar perhaps we'll glimpse the glory of which the angels sing.
That although we have planned, purchased, hidden and wrapped every gift under that tree that there still may be a gift for us: a gift of wonder, that would make our hearts as wide eyed as a toddler at Christmas, because we have unwrapped a fresh realization of how great a gift we've received in the Christ of Christmas.

The lists are long.
The calendar has more ink on it this month than any other but there is hope that somewhere in all the familiar, God will come to us.