Monday, November 23, 2009

Let the Insanity Begin!!

It's Thanksgiving week, which means it's the first week of Christmas!!

"Christmas" is too big to be merely contained merely in December 24 and 25th. As a matter of fact by the time those dates roll around the majority of the "Christmas" celebrations will have already been completed!

It starts now with the ads and the music (well actually those seemed to have started several weeks ago already, the day after Halloween I think). Every other commercial will show something you NEED to buy this season with the happily surprised beautiful people opening this perfect gift you've given. (Funny how they never show the long snaking lines at return counters or that " very special gift" up on the shelf in the closet...)

Then there are all the activities; the plays, the rehearsals, the concerts, the costumes, the cookie exchanges and the Secret Santas (for which of course you need a specially crafted spreadsheet on your computer to make sure you're in the right place at the appropriate time).

And let's talk about the decorating; where you magically created a 4- 6ft diameter hole in your living space in which to put up the Christmas tree. And all the other flat spaces get cleared of their normal decor to set up the holiday cheer and then for the supremely ambitious there is a second tree, or a Christmas village with the necessity of employing the Army Corps of Engineers to configure all those cords! And let's not forget about the outside as lights are strung (well first lights are untangled, or hours spent attempting to untangle them and then they’re thrown out and a trip ensues to get new lights which we swore last year would not happen because we were going to put away the lights more carefully and they would not get tangled and we’d not be doing this again...) and then they’re finally strung on bushes and high on the rooftops.

Christmas cards? Christmas picture? Clothes for family for Christmas picture? Block of time to gather all family members to take a picture? If not then how about a frantic search through the year's candid shots to find something suitable? And what about the stamps? (What do they cost now?) Did I update the missing master address list when Aunt Martha retired to Florida last year...

And then on top of all this there is the guilt of being a believer in this commercialized season. I should not be swept away by all this tradition and materialism; instead I should celebrate the true meaning of the season!

I'd heard someone talking about this on the radio and picked up a book on the topic and in it the authors have all these great ideas to keep Christ in Christmas. There were homemade ornaments, family treasure hunts, goodies for shut-in's and all kinds of great ideas. Then they talked about these prophecy boxes to use with your family, each one containing a prophecy fulfilled by Christ's birth. Twenty-five specially made, decorated and filled boxes with a devotional in each. What a lovely idea and you start on December 1st and make sure you do it
e v e r y day . . . EVERY DAY? (My kids can't even keep on top of eating a piece of chocolate out of a countdown calendar every day, how would we ever have 25 straight days of significant family devotions?)

(Sigh)

It’s Thanksgiving week, which means it’s the first week of Christmas.
But perhaps if I keep thanks giving alive through the five weeks to come I will find, in the midst of all the insanity, how to have to a joyous and Christ centered Christmas!

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ for you! I Thessalonians 5:18


Let the thanks giving begin!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

To know God

" I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may grow in your knowledge of God." Ephesians 1: 17

My name is Becky. I am 5' 7" and wear a size 10 1/2 shoe. I have a husband and two children (although some days it feels like I have three children...) and live in a red brick house in Chicago. I have a younger sister. I have a degree in Elementary Education from a university in South Carolina. I enjoy reading and various crafts.

There you go; you have the pertinent facts, my bio, some relevant info., so now you know me (lucky you!)

And you also know that is not true because it takes a lot more than just facts to really know someone - we are so much more than the one dimensional photo and info. tab on a Facebook page.

I love a friend who knows how I take my coffee because we've had coffee together so often that it's something they've just picked up on. Or one who picks out something and says "This is so you" because we've been together long enough for them to know my tastes. To really know me, you'd have to spend time with me.

To know someone is to know their reactions to situations, their struggles, and what they are passionate about; what discourages and empowers them. It's understanding that today might be a hard day because of "xyz" in their history. To know someone is to have walked many miles of life by their side, and not because you have a computer printout of their likes and dislikes.

The prayer in this verse is that you will increase in your knowledge of God and my guess is that it's not referencing merely gathering more facts...Know God more and more because you're spending time with Him; hearing his voice, seeing life from His perspective, realizing what brings Him joy and causes Him sorrow.

No wonder we're encouraged to "Pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17) simply because we live life without ceasing so why not go through it mindful of God at our side? For He is always with us. He knows us because He walks through each situation with us.

And He invites us to know Him;"If you seek me you will find me when you search for me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13.

So, no matter what the circumstances, or the need, this is our prayer for ourselves and for each other.

"I pray for you constantly asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding,
so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light
so that you can understand the wonderful future He has promised to those He called.

I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people.
I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead." Ephesians 1: 17-19

May you know God better at the end of this day than you did at the beginning!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Kangaroo Care

You know that feeling; the one where you're all cuddled up with someone and relaxed, mid way between awake and asleep and your entire world consists only of this profound sense of peace?

I've just heard of the concept of "Kangaroo Care" in which a baby, most often a preemie, is cuddled skin to skin on the mother's chest with its ear to her heart. The mother's body temperature will change rapidly to regulate the baby's temperature; warming as the infant needs to warm or cooling if they are too warm. The infant sleeps more soundly, less oxygen is needed, and everything gets a little more regulated than before their time together. The infants gain weight more quickly, their crying decreases, and they experience greater periods of alertness. In was in the late 1970's in Bogota Columbia where, because of lack of incubators etc., this technique was implemented and consequently the infant mortality rate went from 70% to 30%!

Impressive isn't it; these health benefits of time spent in personal contact with a parent?

What if we could "kangaroo care" as God's child?
What if, when our hearts are at risk or in times of stress, we could strip off all pretenses and self-sufficiency and put our ear to God's heart?

Would His passion warm our coldness?
Would the even breathing of His faithfulness calm our panicked breaths?
Would there be less whining as more time was spent with the Savior?
Would we rest soundly knowing that we're held in the arms of the Almighty?
Would there be fewer who fall away from their faith?

If we could take the opportunity to spend extended time listening to God's heart wouldn't we come away more mindful of His desires for our families, our relationships, our careers, our activities, and everything about our lives? Wouldn't we come away more alert and focused?

Wouldn't it be a time of healing and restoration in our lives when we are worn down?
Would not pursuit of these times bless our hearts with God's peace?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

When relationships get unconnected...


I'd recently made a "new" friend. We've actually known each other casually for years but in the past couple of years we discovered a greater connection and more commonalities as we've been spending time together. Yet the last times we've had coffee I didn't feel as connected, like we'd popped back to the shallowness of surface stuff, no longer exploring deeper waters.

I don't know why.
And since I don't know why, I don't know what to do about it.

Everything seemed exactly as it'd been the many times we've met before. Always the same place, always the same order, and always, when it's available, the same booth. So what changed?

Sadly I find myself feeling the same way with the most intense, long-term, and important relationship in my life; with that of my God.

I'm not sure what happened.
At some point the continual conversation we engage in has fallen silent. I've realized that He's barely crossed my mind in recent days. Even my writings or should I say lack of writing reveal how still everything has become. Every ministry I've been involved in over the past many years has ended - I'm not singing, teaching, or planning. It's quiet.

On a Sunday morning now there is no baking of sweets for church and final review of lesson - instead there is coffee and deciding what church to attend. I look at a calender full of school events, not wondering where I'll fit in a woman's fellowship time. As I sang along with the radio with a creative harmony recently I remembered,"Oh yea, I can sing."

As I'm typing I see brilliant fall leaves outside my window. The trees are also in a time of transition as they've ceased the process of photosynthesis so there is no more production of chlorophyll to keep them green. I'm no longer so busy producing either. The trees are moving into their winter dormancy; am I as well? The time has come for them to rest and live off the food they've made in their productive season. Now that all the "noise" of busyness (even in the work of the Lord) has ceased I have quiet to focus on my own relationship with my Lord. Yet at this time of quiet I find myself unconnected.

I know there are some who would tell me that I need to go back and see what sin has severed my fellowship with the Savior, to examine my heart and see where I've left the paths of righteousness. Others might say that I need to just get busy about the work of the Lord again, find a church, plug in and everything will fall into place.

I don't think either of these are the answer. While it is good and right to gather together to worship the Lord, our own relationship with God should not be dependent on this gathering; after all this is a personal relationship. Working in ministry is also a great thing but God loves us because He chooses too and not because we earn His favor by our efforts, even if we think of ourselves more "worthy" when we're busy about His work.

So when, by no discernible reason, relationships get unconnected, what is the next step?

(No profound summations today my friends, only an honest question but I'd love to hear the answers you've found throughout your own life)