Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
In Brittany Ryan's enchanting novel, The Legend of Holly Claus, this child's letter set in motion an amazing adventure of love and sacrifice . . . and redemption.
Two years ago we got to give a gift to She-So-Sweet that took her completely by surprise. Her old violin was in a bad way and while she desperately needed a new one, she knew money was tight, so she only asked for a new case. On Christmas morning, when she opened her big box and saw the new case, she was thrilled! Then, we had the fun of seeing her surprise turn to shock and watching her heart melt right before our eyes as she looked inside and realized there was a new violin to fill up her new case! It was a family moment we will always remember!!
There is just nothing like knowing that our gift has found its mark in conveying our love to someone in a way that was personally picked out just for them. In all our hunting for those just-right presents for the people we love, I wonder how often we remember to ask Jesus, "What do YOU want for Christmas?" After all, it is HIS birthday. Is it possible that if we ask, we too can embark on an amazing adventure of love, and sacrifice and redemption?
What would we do if He told us exactly what He wants for Christmas? Would we stop at anything to find it, get it, wrap it up, put a bow on top and wait breathlessly for Him to open it up on Christmas morning?
There is only one place in all of Scripture where Jesus actually expresses His personal desire to His Father and says the words, "I want."
"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." John 17:24-26 NIV
Go back and read that again.
Did you let that sink in?
Did you hear what He said?
What Jesus wants for this Christmas, and for every Christmas and for every day forever and ever is . . . US!!!
He wants us to be with Him, where He is.
He wants to have the fun of showing us His glory.
He wants to share His Father's love with us and wants us for His dwelling place.
Jesus, how can it be that when You could ask for anything, You ask for me? I am undone at the thought of You asking Your Father to give me to You. How can I be on your wish list at all, never mind in the top spot? How could I ever refuse to be treasured by You? I couldn't!! I wouldn't!! I can only stand in amazed surrender and accept Your inexplicable love. I want to be with You where You are, both here during my time on earth and someday in Your home in heaven. I want to see Your glory as You show it to me! And yes, I will daily submit to being Your dwelling place overflowing with Your Father's love.
We are all He ever wanted!!! The gift He asked His Father for, feels more like a gift He gives to us, but isn't that just like Jesus?!!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Green grass, fresh, dewy, tender, brand new green grass grows outside the window--the kind my horse would have gone crazy for.
A backdrop for Christmas?
Groan . . . I would so prefer a deep, powdery, soft-as-eider-down, foot-thick blanket of snow outside my window. I long for the kind of snow that comes floating down like big lazy feathers, silently, with no trace of wind. The kind of snow that makes quiet voices sound sweetly amplified . . . the kind that makes the air feel warmer, softer than you think it should . . . the kind you simply must go for a walk in, especially after dark, when it really isn't dark at all because the snow makes everything glow. Yes, that is what I would prefer.
But, it's awfully green outside my California window.
I've been in California a long time now--longer than both my snow-blessed homes combined. You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but still it's hard for me. There is a gap between what I would prefer and what I get.
Every year, once or twice we get a little snow on Mt. Diablo that usually lasts just until the sun gets high in the sky, and then it's gone--I look forward to it more than you can imagine. This year, to everyone's great surprise, the snow level dropped way down low, and it stayed on the mountain for several days. At first, all I could think about was how unfair it was that so many of my friends had snow right in their yards, and I felt like I was the only one whose house got no snow. Didn't God know how much I NEEDED some snow? Didn't He care that I felt left out, when I was the one who "deserved" it most? Can you hear me stamping my feet and see my lips poked out in a pout? I almost cheated myself out of enjoying the beauty of the white hills all around the valley, the beauty that lingered for days instead of hours, because I was stuck on not getting the snow the way I wanted it, stuck on the fact that time and circumstances didn't allow for me to go somewhere to play in it. Foolish girl!!
Fortunately I only ALMOST cheated myself. Just in time, I got a hold of myself and did what I usually do, I did the thing that has allowed me to walk around in this California world, still so foreign to me, for more than 25 years without going crazy. When the green grass at Christmas is getting on my last nerve, I force myself, sometimes with clenched teeth, to look for the beauty in it.
This is a scene I wouldn't find in either of my other homes where I so loved the snow. I would never see the contrast of the bright-white snow and the ultra-green of the new grass springing out of rain-soaked hills. This is a beauty unique to this place, this moment in time, this gift from God. I could have missed it in longing for other places, other gifts and other blessings, living in the used-to-be's or the not-yet's. INSTEAD I choose to notice, appreciate, savor, and thank God for this, just this, just now.
This is a choice I have to make, but it doesn't always come easy--just ask my teeth. At the moment, my family is and has for several years, been weathering a season where there are some real gaps between what we would prefer and what we are currently getting. It can be hard to feel contentment in the turmoil of real emotions, especially at Christmas when we have so many wishes and hopes and dreams of how we would like things to be for the people we love.
In the flurry of emotions, I can feel sorry for myself and my family. I can feel deprived, ignored, left out and disgruntled, OR I can choose to look, with clenched teeth if I have to, for the real, honest-to-goodness beauty in it all. I have to look around at this time, this place, these gifts from God with an eye for what is special about them. Nothing else will ever be exactly like this time, and I could cheat myself out of what is uniquely beautiful about it by wishing it away, or longing for other places, other gifts and other blessings, living in the used-to-be's or the not-yet's. INSTEAD, I choose to notice Jesus and the beauty of Him in the moments of this day, just this, just now.
1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I went to visit my dear friend Fran yesterday. Late in her 80's now, she lives with her son and his family and she is slowly slipping away. She doesn't really know me anymore, and she doesn't remember 30 seconds after I leave that I've been there, but I go as often as I can because she went so far out of her way so many times for me.
Fran, or "Franacious" as we lovingly called her "back in the day" was the librarian at the Bible college I attended. She started that library from the ground up and she painstakingly logged in every book, and spent countless hours lugging boxes and shifting shelves to put a proper library together for the Bible college students that had descended upon her church.
She was an excellent librarian, yes, but she was so much more--
She was a kind of surrogate grandmother to anyone who needed one.
She asked questions and listened like she really wanted to know . . . because she did.
She comforted all manner of homesickness, lovesickness, the common cold (she had been a nurse in an earlier career), and the bone-crushing fatigue of all-night study sessions--she would stay as long as anyone needed the books.
She fed anyone who was running a little short on cash.
She gave a place to stay when roommate issues were overwhelming.
She drove those of us without cars all over creation (if not for her and all the rides she gave me to the BART train station, Hero Husband and I might not have even gotten together).
She encouraged, reassured, helped, commiserated and loved so many so well.
Last year I asked our worship team to go with me to the memory care facility where she lived then to sing hymns for her and they agreed to come. When we arrived, Fran was in a very blue mood and was reluctant to come out to the main room. With a little coaxing she finally shuffled in, head down, shoulders hunched, teary and sad.
I introduced her to my friends and we began to sing everyone's favorite hymns. Much to my surprise, Fran started singing right along, not even looking at the hymnal in front of her! Here was this woman who has trouble stringing one thought to the next and suddenly she was singing, loud and strong, sometimes going into harmony parts and doing hand motions she had learned as a little girl. We were all fighting back tears as we watched her literally unfold out of the huddled, inward shell she had been moments before and we saw the real Fran emerge, feisty, funny Franacious, by turns directing the singers and even joking with everyone and basking in the attention they all gave her.
What a transformation!! What a revelation!! It was as if the hymns we sang had flipped a switch to a part of her that was still whole and alive. We had a marvelous time that day with her and with the other residents who also were touched and blessed by those familiar old hymns, so rich with timeless truth. I have never visited since without singing a few hymns with her and the effect is dramatic to me every time. The moment I start singing Jesus Loves Me or Trust and Obey or Victory in Jesus, she comes back from that distant, disjointed, frustrating place her mind takes her and her blue eyes get clear and focused and Fran is Fran again, if only for a few minutes. Yesterday we sang Christmas carols together and I made her fluffy white teddy bear dance to the music--she was delighted!
I can see that it does her good, but it is such a blessing to me to see that for this sweet lady, whose deep faith has seen her through so much, the most real part of her, maybe the only part that is still intact is the part that rests in knowing "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." It is not mere rote recall of words and music she learned long ago, but that those songs and the faith she placed in the truth they contain are breath and life to her.
Thank God for the hymns you know--they're stored in a very durable place in your brain and they are powerful medicine. If they can have that kind of effect on someone at Fran's age while her mind is deteriorating, imagine what they can do for us--SING, SING, SING!!
it is attained by a righteous life." Proverbs 16:31 NIV
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
"I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,"
Sunday, November 22, 2009
P.S. I am sitting in a quiet little hotel business center, reflecting on an amazing experience. I wrote my Love Letters post before I left on Friday to bring my daughter and a group of girls from our church to an event called The Revolve Tour. During this weekend conference, each speaker, every band, every drama presentation, told the Arena filled with thousands of teenage girls of the love of God in a powerful, passionate, dynamic way. Their theme was so simple, but so profoundly important:
"God Loves You. The Real You. 4Real."
I was struck by the thought that these people were walking, talking, singing, dancing Love Letters, sent to these girls (and grown up girls) to pour His love into their hearts. That is what happens when we truly receive His love, we get to become living love letters to the people God puts in our path. I was privileged to carry that mission out in a one on one time with a beautiful young girl last night and I am humbled to have been given the opportunity to be a very personal love letter sent to her.
I am so thankful that my precious daughter and I were able to share in this experience and that we will be able to remind one another of the mountain top experience we had. We will become His love letters to one another and to the people to whom God sends us. We are so blessed!
Tell me your favorite lines from God's love letter to you, His Word. Tell me about a time when you got to BE a love letter!