Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Face of Christmas

--
I was beating a hasty retreat out of Costco--a place I avoid as much as possible, and twice as much this time of year!

I wouldn't have even been there that day since Hero Husband had heroically already been there a couple of hours earlier, delighting me with his chivalry in taking this chore off my hands.  He knows how I feel about the crush of too many people milling around like confused cattle, complete with mooing and the occasional stampede when samples are close by. However, the kids and I were out running a few errands which included filling up the gas tank, and Costco is my station of choice because of their nice price.  Since we were there, Drummer Boy asked if we could go in and get a couple of things for the breakfasts and lunches he likes, things I knew Hero Husband had not known we needed.  Sigh.  I did not want to go in, but knew it was probably the best time to do it, so in we went.

I had hoped to just get in, find our two items, and get the heck out of there without any more delay than necessary.  Nice try Mom.  There were 70" flat screens to salivate over, winter jackets to try on, and a delectable array of fancy cheeses to be sampled and re-sampled that all conspired against my best laid plans (the herb-crusted brie and the cheese/prosciutto roll WAS amazing and worth stopping for).  We even ran into a couple of friends we hadn't seen in years and stopped to chat with them, right smack in the middle of the cheese tasting area--lovely to see them, but not the easiest location for catching up.  People kept giving us dirty looks and "harumph"-ing their way around us.  Sheesh.

Eventually we managed to get all the way back to the front of the store, made it through the checkout, and I was moving fast, trying to instill a little hurry-up in my kids who were just enjoying all there was to see and taste.  I was grinding my teeth on the fact that I had not planned this stop into my errand-running, and now we were so behind that the one thing I had hoped to accomplish was out of reach, traffic was at its Christmas-rush-hour worst, and dinner would be late for my hard-working man.  My Christmas spirit was seriously wavering.

Just as we approached the huge open door to leave, my eyes were darting around looking for the most unimpeded path to get out of the melee when I saw her. Standing patiently in the Returns/Exchanges line, was a tiny little lady in a festive red fleece jacket which was smartly accented by a green and white checked scarf, her silver hair combed neatly into pretty curls that framed the soft roundness of her cheeks. The Christmas tree pin that sparkled merrily on her lapel was no match for the sparkle in her dancing blue eyes.  My eyes found hers for the briefest of moments, but that was all the time she needed to warm my frosty and frazzled heart with a smile worthy of Mrs. Claus. I answered her warmth with an appreciative smile, and went on out into the night toward our car.

The minute I passed through the door, I knew I had to go back.  I handed the keys to Drummer Boy, told the kids I'd be right back, and dashed back inside to find the little Christmas lady.  She was right where I left her, still waiting patiently. I tried to approach slowly so as not to startle her, and tapped her on the shoulder from behind.  She turned toward me with her smile already in place.  I reached out to shake her gloved hand and said, "I just had to come back and thank you.  You have a face that looks like it's used to smiling--you look like Christmas!"

Her already-smiling face lit up with an expression of bewildered delight--she had never expected that from anyone, but it clearly filled her with joy to hear it.  She blushed prettily and gushed an enthusiastic, "Thank you so much for saying that!"  We squeezed hands, said "Merry Christmas" in stereo, and I headed back outside to hurry home.


One small encounter, a sparkle of Christmas that connected hearts, if only for a moment, but what a moment! While I can't know for certain, I'd be willing to bet she's a Jesus-girl.  You don't sculpt a lifetime of smiles into a sweet little Mrs. Claus face without a lifetime of joyfulness to produce it.  I only know one way to get joy like that--to know Jesus, to love Him and to let His superabundant joy flow out through everything you do.  Either that, or she was an angel!  I wouldn't have a hard time believing that either!

"Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."  Hebrews 13:2 ASV

I pray that I can put the joy of Christmas into everything I do, all year round, including the expression I wear most often through my life.  I pray that for you too!  May the joy we know in Jesus eclipse any frown, every worry, each sorrow or sadness or disappointment.  May we ever know Him as Emmanuel, God come down to be with us--there can be no greater joy than that!

How will you keep Christmas joy on your face . . . all year round . . . for a lifetime?
Have you ever wondered what expression you are sculpting into the face you'll have when you're older??
____________________________________


 

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Best for Him

--
Several days ago, Jennifer Lee posed a fun question on facebook.  She asked,

"Which nativity character do you most closely identify with?"

When I saw her question I was just breezing through and didn't have time to respond, but that question stayed with me as I went through the rest of a customarily busy leading-up-to-Christmas week.

I guess this was kind of a new thought to me. I had never really tried to see myself in the characters, except to imagine what it was like for them as they lived their part in the story.  I did play the angel in the school Christmas play in grade 3 (that's what they call it in Canada where I lived at the time).  My costume was wonderfully homemade--a soft white robe made out of an old sheet with silver tinsel sewn around the hems of the billowing sleeves, wings my mother made (I can't remember how) and a tinsel-wrapped wire halo that was hard to keep from tipping off my slippery curls. (That was way back when schools still knew why we celebrate Christmas and didn't treat it as unmentionable or pretend it didn't exist.) I could hardly breathe with the thrill of significance, standing stage left on a big wooden box for angelic elevation.  I delivered my lines with tremendous feeling while peering out into the black gymnasium, straining to see my parents and my little brother in the audience.

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David
a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

How I loved the way the tinsel made me sparkle in those blazing stage lights.

Okay, so I may have played an angel once upon a time, but I don't think I ever saw myself in the angel in the story.  Me? Angelic? Not so much.

Hmm . . . let me look around, who else?  I love animals, but don't see myself in the animals or shepherds either one.

Joseph?  The Three Kings?  No and no.

What about Mary? As a brunette, I never thought of myself as Mary because I thought the prettiest blond girl always got that role.  Even later with the life experiences of motherhood, it was hard to put myself in Mary's shoes, to imagine being the mother of Jesus, so honored and blessed, so burdened by the cost of her faithfulness. No, I couldn't see myself as Mary in the manger scene either.

Clearly there are characteristics and qualities of each of the players in the nativity story that I can learn from and aspire to, actions and attitudes I can mirror, symbolism and truth for me to discover, but do I identify with any of them, really?  I'm still not sure I do . . . except, well, maybe one . . . Yes! I'm sure of it . . . the Little Drummer Boy!

Hold on . . . Yes, I know perfectly well that none of the Biblical authors wrote of a little drummer boy who played his drum at the direction of the gift-laden wise men, with the kind permission of Mary and to the delight of the Baby Jesus.  It's "just" a story.  I know this, I do, and yet, there is something in that story-song that makes it true whether the events really happened or not.

The little drummer boy calls to mind another little boy, who some 30 years hence, would share his five small loaves and two small fish because it was all he had to give when he came face to face with Jesus.

All he had was more than enough in the hands of the King.


Maybe I identify with the little drummer boy because I have my own not-so-little Drummer Boy who fills our lives with the music that tumbles and rumbles and rolls right out of him and into the drums he plays . . . maybe it's because sometimes I feel bereft of gifts good enough to give my King to show my love for Him . . . maybe it's because I do so deeply want to give my very best for Him.

I guess I still long to be a part of all that glitters at Christmas, to stand sparkling only as I reflect the blazing glory of Jesus, the Light of the World.

What do you have that you can offer the King like the little drummer boy?
How do you enter into the sparkle of Christmas and reflect Him to a dark world?
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#956-970
956. My Mommy's Birthday!!  Took me all day, but finally got ahold of her to wish her a happy one!!
957. The beautiful sound of a room full of people praying in one accord
958. People God sends to help me get unstuck 
959. Hero Husband's beyond-fabulous tacos
960. All the Christmas lights that are going up everywhere and the creativity of so many of the displays.
961. Teenagers!
962. Drummer Boy and I collaborating to get the rest of the Christmas lights up on the house--him walking around like Spiderman on the roof and us laughing . . . a lot!
963. Hero Husband so delighted with the job Drummer Boy did with those lights!
964. Dinner with new pastor in a chance to get acquainted, and a "chance" meeting at Peet's with our former youth pastor who has moved on to a new position!  Both were such a blessing!
965. Christmas dinner with the wonderful people of World Impact and hearing the stories of how God has been working in their midst!
966. Salmon stuffed with crab, shrimp & brie and Chocolate Lava Cake with Vanilla Bean ice cream at Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley
967. She So Sweet's fashion show in her new clothes from Grandma & Auntie
968. Thinking maybe I really can!
969. Reconnecting with old friends!
970. Late night family movie fun watching Jerry Lewis in "The Nutty Professor."  LAUGHTER!

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

All He Ever Wanted . . . Reprise

--
"'Dear Santa Claus,' it began. 'You know I have never written. I could never think of anything I needed or wanted for Christmas. But this year I had a different idea. What do you wish for Christmas Santa? You always answer children's wishes, but what about your own? Isn't there one thing in the world that you wish for but do not have? If you will post a letter back to me, I will do all that I can to bring your dream to life. Respectfully, Your friend, Christopher C.'"

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.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"What do you want for Christmas?" It's a familiar question this time of year. Lots of you are probably way ahead of me and have your shopping done already. Whether you're wrapping the presents you've bought, or still wracking your brain to find that certain something for that special someone, when the gift is prompted by love, the giver always wants to know what gift will delight the loved one's heart. We don't want to give ordinary, no-imagination gifts that could have been From: Anyone, To: Anyone. We don't want to give the kind of gift you take to those generic gift exchanges where you don't know who will pick your package, so you just get something anyone might like.

Four 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

Stop.

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?!!

Won't you join me in giving Him what He wants for Christmas? You can even put a bow on top, if you like!




What does it mean to you to know you're at the top of Jesus' Christmas list?
Edited from the archives
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Prayers Like Raindrops

--

When you become a mother (or a father), you can never anticipate all that you are saying yes to.  If you're wise you'll let the prayers fall from your lips like raindrops.

Three times life has blossomed within, twice I have delivered beautiful, healthy babies into the world.  Three times I have known the rending of my heart to make room for the flood of love it would have to hold as a new life came to be; one of those times I had to release that too-brief little life to heaven in the sorrow of an early miscarriage, and twice I have been blessed to watch those new lives grow into the amazing children God chose me to mother.

I was a few months pregnant with She So Sweet the first time I heard the song "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant.  I was nervous in those early months, especially when complications came that felt like a repeat of the miscarriage.  As I prepared to go home from a scary trip to the ER, relieved to get good news but still shaken, the male nurse who had done my blood work told me something I've never forgotten--he said cheerily with a wink and a smile, "When you're scared, just remember your blood type!"  He held up my chart to show me where it was printed B+, but when he said it out loud it sounded like "Be positive!"  During the next few weeks, while things still felt pretty tentative, the song and the words of that nurse were my constant companions, keeping the fear at bay while I prayed for a healthy baby.

As Christmas approached and every passing uneventful day was a joyful sign that all was well, I thought a lot about Mary and her thoughts in the months between the visit from the angel Gabriel and the night in Bethlehem when her baby was born in a stable.  How she must have wondered if she was really up to the task in front of her, if she was really worthy of God's choosing.  How she must have prayed for God to hold her together while her whole life was turned inside out and upside down.  Every mother feels like this, but Mary had the normal wonderings of motherhood compounded by the fact that the baby she carried was the Son of God and the Savior of the world!  Her faith had enabled her to say yes to things she could not possibly anticipate.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38a NIV1984

Mary never stopped being the mother of Jesus, even when she recognized that He was so much more than the baby she had nursed at her breast.  Wouldn't you love to know exactly when her knowledge of Him and His divine origin moved into a personal, saving faith in Him as her Savior?  Was there something in His baby-blue eyes that spoke to her of His creation of the whole universe?  Did it begin in the temple in her relief to find Him safe after days of searching for her 12-year-old boy in the throngs of worshipers in Jerusalem?  Was it the day she asked Him to solve the wine problem at the wedding and watched Him do a miracle in response to her confidence that He would know what to do?  Or was it on the cross as she stayed with Him, watching helplessly in horror, held together only by the God who had called her in the first place?  I. Can. Not. Imagine. I don't want to imagine.  It is hard enough to watch my children suffer the trials of an ordinary life!

Although my babies are babies no longer, they are my babies still.  I still sing the words of "Breath of Heaven" feeling it like my own soul's prayer every time.  I still need my Father to hold me together, to let me feel Him near, to light my way when the way seems dark, and to pour His mercy into the gap between my abilities as a mother and the needs of my children--apart from Him I could never be enough.  No matter how old they get, no matter the need to little-by-little release them, no matter how the relationship changes as they grow, as Mary was with Jesus, I will always be their mother.

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19 NIV1984 (and again in Luke 2:51)

Mary knew she had been given a great gift that was also an awesome (in the truest sense of the word) responsibility--I know this too, and I treasure and I ponder.  Nothing has ever been more rewarding, and nothing has ever required more of me . . . nothing else has ever humbled me more or made me more aware of my need to rely on God completely.  And so I pray . . . in prayers that fall like raindrops.

Father God,
I pray for my precious children--
   -- that they would continuously learn to seek You in all things . . .
   -- that they would have wisdom beyond their years, beyond themselves, and beyond that of their parents . . .
   -- that they would be drawn closer to You with each passing breath . . .
   -- that they would be unhindered by any weakness or failure on my part . . .
   -- that they will place all their potential in Your hands and become all You designed them to be . . .
   -- that You would guide, guard, direct and keep them by Your grace . . . always.


I pray for me, and for Hero Husband--
   -- that we would be the parents You designed us to be when You chose us for these children . . .
   -- that we would trust You for every answer to every question, for every insight when we don't know what to do . . .
   -- that we would be a reflection of You . . .
   -- that we would always act out of love, Your perfect love that casts out fear . . .
   -- that we would give them all the support, all the discipline, all the encouragement and all the confidence they need to pursue the dreams You have woven into their hearts . . .
   -- that we would be as gracious in our parenting as You are in Yours.

Thank You Father, for allowing us to parent these wonderful children--they are Yours, first, last and always.  Thank You for giving Your own precious Son to come to our rescue, and for the extraordinary, faithful, very young girl, Mary, who said yes.

How do you pray for your children?
How does Mary's story inspire you as a parent?
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#941-955
941. A career counselor who gave me such truly helpful ideas
942. Watching Gone With the Wind with She So Sweet again--it never gets old!
943. My Knight in Shining Armor (Hero Husband) who braved the wilds of Costco for me!!  I love that man!!
944. The dark chocolate covered Acai berries he brought home--the most superlatively amazing health food EVER!!!
945. Letting love cover the little stuff
946. When the little sister handles herself like a big sister
947. When the big brother would do anything to look out for his little sister
948. Getting to the bottom of it (the ironing baskets)
949. The good kind of tired at the end of a productive day
950. New music that helped me turn housework into a great workout
951. Early Christmas present from Drummer Boy--new reading glasses for me to use on the computer!!
952. When Hero Husband calls to discuss theology--such good conversations!!
953. The moment when you plug the lights in . . . and they work!
954. New ornament picked out by Hero Husband and She So Sweet
955. Watching old favorite Christmas shows that feel like old friends

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Announcement

--

The deep, inky blue of the shepherds’ sky was awash in waves rolling in on heaven's tide. Not waves made of water, nothing anyone could see, but something was coming, something profound was about to happen. As the shepherds kept uneasy watch, the round soft shapes of the sheep showed pale in the starlight as they munched their way contentedly across the grassy hills that rolled below.


The shepherds knew nothing of the coming hosts, the angels who were riding the tide, riding to greet them, riding the billows of history to make an announcement that would change everything.

No wonder then that the angel appointed to speak to them had to start where all angels start when they bring a message from God to the earth, "Fear not."

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."  Luke 2:10 KJV

Standing astride the sky-waves, just like the One he came to herald would one day walk the waves of Galilee's stormy waters, this radiant angel, maybe Gabriel, brought the message he'd been commissioned to bring, and it was GOOD NEWS!! Good and glad tidings of joy for all!! What a message!! A birth, he said! A Savior, he said!! Something about this special baby lying in a manger, he said. What? Why would you put a baby in a . . . Before the shepherds could complete that thought or speak it out loud, the sky flashed bright as the tide-riding host of shining angels came into view. They sang as they flew, lifting a song of praise to give "Glory to God in the highest," and to declare peace on earth, a gift from God in His good will toward men!

Glad tidings!
Great joy!
Good news!
God at peace with men!

The angels came in their robes of light to prepare earth to receive her wonderful King. He had always been King, the King of kings, and worthy of being OUR King long before He got here. As soon as the angels departed, the shepherds hurried to find their Messiah, the Promised One. They had been waiting for Him their whole lives and couldn't wait to see for themselves that He had really arrived at long last! They found Him just as the angel had described to them.

"After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child." Luke 2:17 NLT 

The message delivered by that angel more than two thousand years ago is a message that is still alive and well today. We may not be angels, but we can all be messengers in concert with them, and with those excited shepherds who "told everyone." We can ride the waves of heaven's tide, ever bringing the glad tidings, sharing the good news, to everyone who hasn't heard.  In a world jaded and worn with its own self-importance and feeling the grinding pain of its outrageous capacity for evil and rebellion, what message could matter more than the one where God offers us peace with Him through our faith in His glorious Son? May you know His good tidings in your own life this Christmas and may you share them far and wide with those who need to know.


How are you and your family finding ways to share the message of Christmas?
________________________________


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Monday, December 5, 2011

Where Christmas Begins

--

♪  "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . " ♫ 

Okay, so maybe this isn't what Christmas looks like on Christmas cards and in story books and where I grew up, but this is what Christmas looks like where I live now.  No snowmen, no sleigh rides, and no caroling after dark with snowflakes floating down like big downy feathers--I miss the snow so much, but thankfully Christmas finds it's way to me anyway in vivid living color!

It's funny, some people lament long and loud about how soon the stores start putting up decorations and they groan at the first strains of Christmas music--Bah! Humbug!  At the opposite end of the spectrum are the ones who can't wait to get started on their own efforts (some of them have even finished already!) to deck their halls and bake Christmas treats and they have been listening to Christmas music since the 4th of July!  Still others go all out to decorate in a big way but complain the whole time about how much work it is--they dutifully play their Christmas playlists but they never hear the music.  I have to be honest and say I have found myself, at least partially, in all three of these positions at various times in my life.  Sometimes Christmas gets lost in the trappings, not to mention the honking horns and traffic jams.

How do we find it again?  Let's go back to the beginning, shall we?

Maybe part of the trouble is that we think the Christmas story began in the manger in Bethlehem, or maybe we even start a little further back when the angel appeared to Mary, giving her the good news that she had been chosen to bear the long-awaited Messiah who would save her people.  We start with the familiar part about the announcement of a baby to be born, or the part with the Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, tiny and helpless in a dark stable.  Does that have anything to do with why WE feel helpless to stand against the torrent of have-to's, must-get's and can't-afford-to's we face at Christmas time?

What if that isn't the beginning of the story?

What if these humble beginnings were not beginnings at all, but the continuation of a story that actually started in majesty and fanfare and glory?  Would that change the way we see Christmas?  Would that keep Christmas from becoming garish in its commercialism?  Would that fill up what has become, for some, little more than an empty ritual, a chore, an obligation, something to be endured?

"In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.  . . .
. . . So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son."
John 1:1-4, 14 NLT 

" . . . he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.  . . ."
Philippians 2:7a NLT

  THIS is where Christmas begins.  

Long before the Christ-child in a lowly manger, Jesus was, as I can still hear Phillip Keller say, "God-very-God," the all-powerful Creator of the universe, the Life-Giver Himself. Then, in a story-twist no one but God could have written, Jesus emptied Himself of every prerogative of His power and authority, taking on for the rest of time, the form of our humanity--He became one of us!

Why would One so great give up so much?  Why would a member of the Godhead permanently pour Himself into human skin and subject Himself to human experience and human limitations?  Why would He in His perfection, come to earth and give Himself to die in our place, the rebellious people who deserved only wrath?

It was   LOVE   that made Him do it, and   JOY   that made it all worthwhile!

See for yourself in John 3:16 and Hebrews 12:2!

Christmas is not just a nice story about a baby in a manger, shepherds and angels and wise men.  Christmas is not contained in the perfect vision of snowmen and sleigh rides, beribboned boxes, twinkling lights and sticky candy canes. These are all good things we think of at Christmas time, some of them mere traditions we enjoy, and some of them part of the true story of the way our Savior came to earth.  In all these things, and in all the effort we will put into making this Christmas memorable for the people we love, I pray that uppermost in our minds will be the real beginning of Christmas, the Incarnation, the putting off of divine privilege and the putting on of human vulnerability--there has never been another act of love like it!

If we keep this our focus, we'll actually get to hear the music,
and not even holiday traffic will be able to steal our
    JOY!  

Have you ever lost sight of Christmas in the clutter of the trappings?
How does it help your Christmas to know Jesus before the manger?
________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#926-940
926. A crescent moon and the ghostly outline of the rest of its sphere
927. A hard-won finish
928. New Linky at Jennifer's that is right up my alley!
929. Helping She So Sweet with her French homework
930. Guitars that are still there when you go back for them
931. Iridescent blue butterflies showing God's amazing handiwork in the halls of our community college, and the personal tour of the exhibit by Drummer Boy
932. The chance to go out and play with my camera, trying to capture autumn leaves on a windy day
933. Getting a few shots worth keeping
934. Great big rubber bands
935. Making homemade French fries with sea salt for the kids, and Hero Husband saying he couldn't have made them any better
936. Hanging out with She So Sweet at Guitar Center
937. Reconnecting with old friends over a championship football game
938. Getting to see #28 play ball and remembering him as a baby
939. Powerful sermon and getting a fresh look at water into wine!
940. Knowing the Father heart of God will help my little girl through big girl sorrows.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Never Lose Heart

--

The sky directly above me was dark and close with low, dense clouds. Across the valley, visible in peek-a-boo splendor, the sunrise was happening above and beyond the thick bank of clouds. You see, the sun rises in flaming beams of gilded glory even when our view is obscured by an ocean of clouds--it is always warm, always beautiful, always radiant. 

"Then he gave them an illustration to show that they must always pray and never lose heart."

Dr. Luke tells his readers at the beginning of this chapter exactly the principle Jesus was illustrating before he relates the parable Jesus told. Nice of him, don't you think? This time at least, there is no treasure hunt for a truth veiled in a cryptic story we may or may not fully understand--I love that! This was a parable about an unjust judge who, though reluctant and uncooperative at first, was ultimately persuaded to give justice to a woman because of her persistence in pleading her case. Luke tells us Jesus used this illustration as a contrast--if even an unjust, unwilling judge can be persuaded by persistence, then how much more will a just, loving Father swiftly grant justice to His children when they ask Him . . . and keep asking.  Jesus wanted us to see that we "must always pray and never lose heart."

Oh what hard, skeptical hearts we have! When the answers we seek don't arrive looking the way we'd hoped, or in the time frame we thought was vital, we may take the apparent silence as indifference or neglect or lack of love; we may think it means God is displeased with us or put off by our requests, and we don't want to keep bothering Him when He apparently doesn't want to respond. So we go off in a spiritual corner and feel forgotten and wonder which way is up.

Always pray and never lose heart.

Almost a year ago, sitting at a computer in one of our local libraries, I poured out my heart like this:

I just asked God for a parking space . . . and He gave me one.

After driving around and around in the dark with 4 other cars competing in a magnified game of musical chairs, minus the music and not even a single space to vie for, finding nothing, driving away on my way to somewhere I didn't want to go, changing my mind in frustration, turning around and going back to try one more time, I prayed: 

Father God, I used to find it so easy to ask You for things like parking spaces or to help me find my keys or to show up in a thousand little details of my daily existence.  Lately it feels like life is handing me a lot of brick walls and I'm so afraid You're going to say 'no' I just don't want to ask You for anything.  But against the way I feel, and scraping together the tatters of the faith that used to feel so strong, I'm ASKING, can You find me a parking space?


Please.

I pulled in and, as if on cue, I saw a man step out through the double doors, walking to his car--there was no one else driving around in the parking lot--the space was mine for the taking.  God gave it to me as sure as I live and breathe.  THAT was an answer to prayer.  You may think a parking space is a silly thing to ask God for and you may think the fact that I found one was just a coincidence, nothing more than lucky timing.  Not. A. Chance.

I look back on that December night, and my faith that was so threadbare, and I see why Jesus concluded with sorrowful wondering ". . . However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [[h]persistence in] faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8b AMP   It would break my heart to give Him reason to wonder. I long to be one who persists in my faith in Him no matter what obscures my view, continuing to trust Him enough to keep praying always, and living each day with such confidence in His warmth, His goodness, His beauty and radiance, that I will NEVER LOSE HEART.

________________________________

Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

#911-925
911. Insightful children
912. A new day, a new week, a new chance to improve
913. Wisps of steam rising like visible prayers off Hero Husband's crisp, white dress shirt as I iron the wrinkles out of it, and lifting prayers of my own that he'll have a good day in that shirt
914. The sleepy resolve of getting out of bed when the alarm says it's time
915. The phrase "right as rain."
916. The glistening gloss of melted butter brushed on homemade rolls fresh out of the oven
917. The generosity of God's provision for us.
918. Getting to be part of Hero Husband's family
919. Hero Husband's fried turkeys
920. Candlelight
921. City lights from a high vantage point
922. Thanksgiving Dinner, round 2, with scalloped corn--after all, I am an Iowa girl!
923. Fire in the fireplace, and us all relaxing together around it
924. When God is my alarm clock
925. A church service that was interactive--something I've always dreamed about!

   Beauty in His Grip Button




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