Snow day fever

It is not just kids who go gaga over snow days. I just have a more specific time table: really hard flurries before work or a light dusting until I get home from work. I fantasize about things I can do with the extra free time, even if the power goes out for a couple hours. Then I remember my plans, and I schedule the snow for days I do not mind staying home. But then a friend tells me she is praying for snow days that are opposite from mine.

Life is so much more complicated as an adult.

What did Jesus mean when He said we should have faith like a child? Children ask questions, but they expect you’ll have the right answer. Life becomes more complicated by options, responsibilities, and choices when you grow up. How does God work in the busy, modern world? Or does He see us as people who just need to learn to drive in the snow? Or wonder why I spend so much time pinning the weather down and don’t trust Him to give me the right circumstances for my day?

Job comes to mind, a guy who I think would have every right to say God wasn’t quite playing fair. Well, God responded:

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I have reserved for the time of trouble,
    for the day of battle and war?
24 What is the way to the place where the light is distributed,
    or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth?” (Job 38:22-24). 

Job, what do you know about how the world works? Or in other words, “I’m God. BOOM, drop the mike.”

I have to ask myself the same question. Why do I try to worry and control life? I’ve succeeded only slightly better than trying to control the weather.

I was reminded today in the middle of running around to take care of a hundred details of the story of two sisters in the Bible. One was on fire, super efficient, and anticipating the every need of a guy who did not enjoy the steady comforts of home. Her sister left the dishes in the sink, the flowers on the bushes, and was doing too well at greeting this guest…it was time to finish dinner! Martha appealed to Jesus, but He surprise her with His comeback:

“41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). 

God, I live a Martha life in a sucess-focused world…right down to pleading for or demanding snow days to catch up. Please help me to prioritize the things You see as important and let the rest go. Thank You for loving and leading when I have no clue, and for forgiving my arrogance in ordering You around. To You be the glory in my life, Amen.

The oddball ornament

 

I pulled the pretzel-framed photograph out of the ornament drawer and laughed. How did I know at four years old that pretzels would be one of my favorite snacks? It is amazing to look through the ornament boxes and see glimpses of where my family traveled over the years, the people who gave us presents, the ornaments that make star appearances and those that shuffle around the side of the tree.

What a difference years can bring! The creepy Santa face is now a beautiful wood carving. The child’s clothespin angel is more sentimental than beautiful. And perspective shifts with time in other ways, too. Today I sat at a table with my younger brother and realized that God really did know what He was doing all those years ago. Years ago I swore off siblings, but now my brother is one of my closest friends.

I wish I had that kind of perspective more often. Maybe it just takes looking back. We’ve gone through a tree every year, and some ornaments have literally bitten the dustpan. It reminds me of those verses in Hebrews 12 speaks of Christ’s introduction of a new covenant to replace the way of life the Jews followed for hundreds of years:

“25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ 27 Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.”

While there are no small children or animals running around the house right now, I can still imagine some realistic ways that more of our ornaments could go the way of used tissue paper and disposable Christmas plates. Is my life filled with things that will crash-and-burn with a good shaking? Since I am living under Christ’s rule, not the “normal” modern mindset, what things do I have hanging on that will fly off at the first brisk rattle? How do I ornament my life with grace for others, and reference for God? It is a day-by-day process, and eventually I will look back and enjoy the contrast the years bring.

God, thank You for yearly reminders of special times in life, as well as how much life has changed. God, life is going to change so much more as time goes on, the world changes, and my life shakes and settles. Please help me to seek You in all the changes, and Your direction for my life. To Your glory, Amen.

 

But I’m not tired!

“But I’m not tired!”

YAAAAAWWWWNNN.

How many times will I repeat this?

Denying myself the sleep I really do want and need.

I’m not even protesting against my parents anymore. I’m just fighting my better judgement.

Why? There must be a deeper reason.

The day is incomplete? I’m afraid? Discouraged? Angry? Too tired to care?

How often do I respond to God – “I don’t need help/advice right now?”

I doubt He rolls His eyes…or maybe just a little. We both know better, but I do not want to listen.

Why do I fight so hard? Why does He fight so hard for me?

What does REST look like? Not forgetting, not postponing, but resting from the stress, guilt, expectations we pile and stack on ourselves.

27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:27-30). 

God, You provide rest.

I have to listen first. And You provide a way, comfort, no matter how hard it is.

I run away from Your way sometimes, yawning all the way in my soul. Sorry. Thank You for Your patience with me – please forgive me and help me to not run to other things to patch my fraying edges, but to You, with the true healing and rest. To Your glory, Amen.

Light

It comes in so many colors.

Ones we can see and name and almost touch.

And those we detect, feel, use, but do not see.

Strange for light, to not see it. It is something for scientists and laboratories.

“…Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Do I act like a light that may work when used by a process or machine, but can’t be seen? It is easier that way to be functional and not show off.

But Christmas lights are so much prettier.

Have you noticed how they catch your eye while you are driving to the point that you appreciate the beauty even in brake lights?

Shine.

And do not forget where your energy, your source of power, your flame comes from – Jesus. Vine: branches = cord: bulb. (John 15:5)

Illuminate.

Do not be afraid of the darkness – expose it, draw people in, and never forget that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Push away the darkness and call out the light in people. (Ephesians 5; 1 John 4)

Blinded by glory.

Seek His face, and a light that will never stop shining.

God, please help me to seek to shine brightly in Your spectrum for people to see. Amen.

Scrapbooks in heaven

This weekend I was at a Christmas tea and was caught up in the witty presentation of one of the speakers. But since I had a speaking part as well my brain was in survival mode. I wished that someone was recording the off-the-cuff words. Then I remembered the verse that says God stores all our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). There is another Psalm that says He has our lives planned in a book before we are born (Psalm 139:16). So I wonder if God keeps a scrapbook of our lives. I expect He has a transcript of our heartfelt speeches, highlights our moments of trust, and pictures of our success, battles, daily lives…and random memory shots.

I sometimes ask God to remember something for me or remind me to look someone up in heaven. It is a comfort to realize how involved God is in our lives and that He loves us enough to keep track of our days. I am hoping that it might look like a scrapbook we will be able to look through together and reminisce over ways He helped me, times I grew, and milestones. And for now I am still adding to the book, so I want to make the story a good one.

God, please help me remember how involved You are, and how much You care for me. Please help me celebrate the victories, large and small, and seek Your help in the adventures I pursue. To You be the glory, Amen.

Modern and chic “gingerbread” houses

I opened a holiday magazine last Saturday and was greeted by images of new, updated, and party-friendly “gingerbread” houses. What they lacked in gingerbread they made up in either savory crackers and pretzels or melt-in-your-mouth chocolate of all shapes and sizes. Cozy, sturdy, delicious – these are houses that would not receive insurance around my kitchen!

I look at the Church, and I wonder if there are newfangled versions springing up that are as effective as the traditional approach with more appeal. I have heard of congregations who meet on a weeknight evening, or in a pub, or with a variety of languages. There are extra-big churches, and little house churches. Are they all churches?

It made me think.

What are the qualifications to be a “gingerbread” house? Sturdy walls and a roof with yummy accessories and maybe a person? A structure of any sort made around the Christmas holidays for display? Or consumption? The presence of gingerbread? Few people I know actually enjoy the store-bought, shipping-proof gingerbread kits that remain intact and pretty for the entire season. So maybe we can let the gingerbread go.

What about the Church? What is it supposed to look like in all its local offshoots? How much should we study history and the legacy of hundreds of believers who have lived before us? How far should a local body pioneer new ways to reach our modern culture? What makes a church a legitimate church? The building? People? Presence of certain doctrines?

What are the essential building-blocks of a church and how must they be put together to achieve structural stability (rather than my last attempt at graham crackers and icing…a deconstructed house)?

Peter wrote to believers about one piece of this kit:

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture:

‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
    a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’….

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2: 4-6, 9-10).

Peter contrasts those who reject God with the believers who are witnesses of His work. And it all hinges on God’s grace to them. We become pieces of the whole Church. In the New Testament there are many more instructions about how a local body of Christ should work together, and relate to other believers, but one of the most important insights about the Church comes straight from Jesus. He calls the Church His bride – knowing our shortcomings, squabbles, questions, and wandering methods, He loves us enough to die for us. And as long as we are awed at that, and share that love and passion with the world, our methods of constructing can be creative. In fact, I think they should be creative, and flavored by the people in the congregation and needs of the community.

What shape is your local part of the Church in? Are you part of a shack? A cottage? A fixer-upper? A high-rise? A mansion? No matter where you are at in the building process, the Master Architect wants to meet with you to look at the blueprints and say, “how can we make this better?”

God, thanks for gingerbread houses and creative new structures. Thank You for the many different designs of local churches around the world – and that we are all part of history and space encompassing Church. Please help us to pursue You, not compete with each other or on a world-based structure. Let the building with living stones be to Your glory! Amen.

 

 

 

Joy

Joy

Jingle-bells jangling

An animated character that expresses enthusiastic emotion – recently re-watched movie.

Intangible, hard to reach.

Related to happiness, but the more dependable sister.

Strong roots, digging deep, energy to push through.

Warmth and light and laughter for the day.

Second fruit of the Spirit right behind Love – and after all, God is Love. Who is Joy?

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”        (Galatians 5:22-23). 

A regular in God’s palace – pairing with strength as a dynamic duo.

“Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his place” (1 Chronicles 16:27). 

The leaders drove this point home Israel came home to Jerusalem and began to obey the law of God again: “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Yet joy is sometimes hard to find. The theme of Psalms is joy clashing with despair. In the end, God always reigns – “joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

The flash of truth in the heart – a light-bulb moment, and joy is born.

And at Christmas?

I don’t find joy in the running, overeating, rapid gift-wrapping.

It is the people, the hope, the wonder of knowing God who loved enough to bring joy to the darkness of the world.

And it is here to stay. Praise be to God.

And God, please help joy to not just be a spark that goes out when I get worried. Please help me to be joyfully looking to You: grace, glory, mercy, majesty, love, hope, faith, and joy. To You be the glory, Amen.