Monthly Archives: December 2011

Obedience and New Years Resolutions

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I was sitting across the table from a good friend of mine the other day and discussing life.  She was telling me about how God’s been challenging her to be obedient.I think I gave her a quizzical look; she doesn’t strike me as someone who just tells God what she’s going to do, and then asks Him to bless it.  And she really doesn’t seem like type to not even tell God what she was doing.  She’s really the type to say, “Hey God, what do You think about this?”

So my friend explained that when she asks God what He wants her to do in a situation, instead of just praying, “God, show me, lead me.”  She says, “Okay God, I see this working out three different ways.  Do you want me to pursue Way A, Way B, or Way C?”  And while she IS seeking God’s advice, she’s not leaving room for Him to be God.  She’s limiting Him.

This weekend is the last weekend of the year, and people all over the U.S. tomorrow will be making “New Year’s Resolutions” about this coming year.  Resolutions to lose weight, or to work out, or to learn a new language, or be nicer, or give more stuff away, or pet more kittens.  If this is a tradition of yours, instead of saying that you’re going to be nicer to all the kittens of the world, why not make it a resolution to ask God what He wants out of you each day, out of each situation you’re not sure about?

See, God dreams big.  Bigger than you or I can imagine.  And if we are content leading lives of petting kittens and being nicer to people, while those are wonderful things, we’re going to miss out.  God has HUGE stuff for us.  So don’t limit Him this year.  Seek Him.  Be obedient to His calling; and allow HIM to reveal that calling to you.  Not giving Him options of what He could do, but giving Him complete freedom to do whatever He pleases in your life.  In the meantime, while you wait and pursue Him, ask Him to give you courage to pursue whatever it is He has planned for you.  And never once doubt those plans for this coming year, for the rest of your life, are ginormous.

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!

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There will be a…

There will be a post tomorrow morning!  Break got in the way!  Sorry!

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December 30, 2011 · 12:00 pm

Merry Christmas

A couple years ago I spent ten months teaching English on an island in the Middle East.  Since I was American, and the country was friendlier towards non-Muslims than many of the countries over there, I got to attend church on a regular basis.  I will never ever forget the Friday (the Islamic holy day is Friday, so the weekend was Friday and Saturday, with church services and mosque services – or whatever you call them – on Friday) when the Nativity came to life for me for the very first time.

Don’t get me wrong, I had grown up in a Christian household.  I knew the Nativity story front and back.  I even had a giant-sized coloring book of the story.  But it wasn’t anything more to me than that – a cool story that was SUPPOSED to mean a lot to me, but instead it was the reason for the biggest holiday of the year and lots of presents.  At least, that’s how I saw it.

And then God shook things up and laughed.

That Advent season in the Middle East was like nothing I had ever experienced before.  The Sunday before Christmas, the Children’s Ministry did their traditional re-enactment of the Christmas story.  And somehow, those kids brought the story to life for me.  Maybe it was because I was in the same area of the world as Jesus had been when he was born.  But I think it was the fact that not all the kids were white, and the shepherds didn’t wear bathrobes, and the wisemen wore thobes (the white robe-like thing that you see men from the Middle East wearing in pictures), and Mary was Indian.  Somehow it was just more real and relevant to me than ever before.  And I got it!  I finally understood why Christmas was such a big deal!

I understood that Christmas is the culmination of thousands of years of yearning and heartache and faith that the Messiah would come.  I understood that Christmas was just a precursor to the real show – Easter, when the entire WORLD would be healed.  And that’s a wonderful thing.

So this Christmas, as you sit in church and dream about the presents under the tree, or the meal, or whatever it is you’re looking forward to this season, ask God to make the Nativity real for you.  Ask Him to bring it to life for you in a way that it never before has.  Maybe you need to look a homeless man in the eyes as you smile at him.  Maybe you need to do something nice for a family member.  Maybe something else completely.  But ask.  For once you grasp the Nativity, you begin to grasp the importance and beauty of the Story.  And then you can let it shape you.

May your Christmas be Merry and full of Light!

 

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Anticipation and Presents

Sorry I’m late with this post.  I really DO intend to post every Friday.  This Friday just got a bit busy, and I hadn’t written it early.

 

I’m pretty sure at some point growing up I asked my mother why we gave each other gifts at Christmas.  And her response was probably “Because God gave us Jesus and it’s a way to remember that,” or something along those lines.  I say, “was probably” because I don’t actually remember the conversation and until a couple days ago, this is what I would have said and definitely believed.  And really, I bet if you ask most Christian families, they’d probably give you a similar answer.  If you asked someone who didn’t know the Christmas story (or, at least didn’t know the story that involved a baby and a manger and where Santa was nowhere in sight) they’d probably say something along the lines of, “because it’s Christmas”.

Because really, why DO we give gifts?  To show friends and family that we love them?  Because someone gave us a gift last year and so we want to make sure we return the favor this year?  Because it’s the thing to do?  Because it makes us look good?  WHY? I mean, there are lots of reasons; all of what I’ve said and more!

But, why, as Christians, is it important that we give gifts at Christmastime?  Why is it important that we walk that fine line between gift-giving and giving into commercialism and materialism?  Because it’s important, that’s why!

Do you remember as a young kid (and maybe still, I know I’m sometimes still this way!) thinking and dreaming about opening your presents Christmas morning?  On the rare occasion that Mom got the presents wrapped before Christmas morning, I’d sit and stare at each perfectly packaged present, trying to figure out what was in each one. But the typical Christmas at my house was even better because we WOULDN’T get to see the presents until Christmas morning, and I could let my mind go wild with imagination of what my parents might’ve bought me.  When I was in elementary school I dreamed of owning my own tiara.  In middle school, the much-desired purity ring.  In high school, I dreamed my parents got me a brand-new Volkswagon Bug (it was my dream car at the time).  I’m good at dreaming.  I LOVE anticipating things – the good things that is.

And really, for me, the anticipation is what makes something extra-special.  If I have to wait for what seems like FOR-EV-ER for something, when I finally get it, I treasure it so much more.  I remember that moment so much better.

And I can only imagine what it must be like to anticipate, to dream of, to want something for thousands of years – like the Hebrews did with the Messiah.  Thousands of years before Jesus walked the Earth, God promised the Hebrews a Messiah, someone who would come save them.  And from that moment on, their souls yearned for Him.  Thousands of years!  I mean, I thought my three years of waiting for my purity ring was hard.  The five years of waiting for a car of my very own wasn’t a walk in the park.  I’m currently thinking twenty-some years of waiting for Mr.GodPickedForMe is difficult.  But none of that, no matter how much MY soul yearns for those things and experiences comes anywhere close to what the Israelites went through, what the world, really went through while waiting for a Savior.

So when staring at the gifts under the tree this year; when you get to the point where you are SO sure you can’t wait a moment longer to open them up and know what’s inside, wait.  And remember that God sent His son, and that the Hebrews had waited thousands of years for Him.  And that sometimes, in fact, often, waiting, makes you value a thing just that more.  Waiting makes receiving that much more special.

My prayer for you this week is that you yearn with anticipation for His second coming, for that is what we are waiting for now.  Anticipate.  Dream.  Prepare!

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Snow Covering

Sunday night, as I walked out of church, a large, fluffy snowflake brushed my cheek as it whirled through the air, nearing the end of its pell-mell tumble from the clouds far above me.  And I smiled.

When I was very little, snow was magical.  My brother and I built snow forts, went sledding once or twice, drank hot chocolate, made snow angels, and pretended that we were Arctic explorers.  As I grew up, snow lost its magic.  I looked forward to it only because it covered all the ugly brown grass and barren trees.  Then, at some point in Middle School, I liked it because it meant the slim-next-to-non-existent chance of a snow day.  I think that happened maybe once.  My school believedthat if you could somehow get to school, be it by car, skis, or helicopter, there was no reason to cancel school.  And then I got older and went to college…in Iowa.  My first winter there I couldn’t figure out why everyone hated snow; why they all seemed to dread it.  And then the snow came…and never left.  The piles of snow grew into mounds, and then into hills, and, eventually, into modest mountains of snow, as storm after storm came and the sun refused to shine (or at least to shine warmly).  Apparently, UNike snow in Colorado, snow in other places – like Iowa, falls and then stays…for the rest of the winter!  In Colorado, for those of you who don’t know, it’s usually melted and gone by the end of the week.Anyway, it was snowing as we left church.  It was dark, and the lights were hitting the snow just right, making it almost glow, definitely twinkle.  As cliché as this is, the world around me reminded me of a snow globe. The snowflakes were large, and it was coming down thick – as if all the angels in heaven were having a pillow fight.   I was excited for everything to be covered, for the thick layer of fairy dust to completely cover the world surrounding me in sparkling bits of snow crystals.

And, like occasionally happens, I got to thinking.  The world, the bare, ugly world got a make-over.  All of the spindly branches and prickly bits of grass and naked bushes were given a new look.  The snow came and covered them and lent them beauty.  And suddenly the dead world became beautiful.  The imperfections were all gone, or were emphasized by the snow, and those imperfections were somehow made beautiful.

I realized this was true of me, too.  Not with snow, of course, but with Jesus.  He comes and covers me, lending me His beauty where I have so little of my own.  His covering makes me beautiful and welcomed by His Father.  And the amazing thing about Jesus’ covering is, like snow, if I stay under it long enough, and soak it in, at some point, the beauty He lends me will have become part of me and, as the weather gets warmer, things will start to grow.  And soon pansies and roses and everything delicate and fragrant and gorgeous is growing from what had once been ugly me.

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Hopeful

My parents have owned Angie for something like ten years now.  They weren’t looking to get another dog; they had just gone for a walk with their two little lap-sized poodles one Sunday morning and were followed home by a black dog whose nose came to their knees.  They weren’t sure at first if they were going to keep her, and even called the pound.  But the pound didn’t have a place for her, and was actually sad to hear about her escape, since she had just been adopted a day or so before.  So, after a day or two of getting to know her, and a couple weeks of the pound not calling with news of the owners wanting their dog back, we adopted her.

She’s the perfect dog.  Rarely barks – only softly “woofs” when the mailman comes to the door.  She’s gentle, sweet, and quiet.  She doesn’t bark to be let in; she scratches the plastic with her front paw.  Angie doesn’t even push her bowl around when she gets hungry.  In fact, sometimes the only way my parents know she’s hungry is when her stomach growls.  She never asks for anything – except for walks.

Angie loves to take walks around the neighborhood.  There is nothing as exciting to her as when her leash is pulled off its hook and snapped onto her red collar.  In the winter, as coats are put on, she bounds from one person to the next, daring to hope that maybe, just maybe, her favorite pastime is going to happen.  On the nights that her treat doesn’t happen, she doesn’t mop or complain; she’ll just watch your every move with those big, pleading, gentle brown eyes of hers.  During the winter, when Mom is home and hard at work grading her students’ papers, Angie will, oh every fifteen minutes or so, walk up to Mom and place her long, black-with-now-gray nose on Mom’s knee and just look at her for a minute or two.  Silently letting Mom know that she’s hoping.  She’s not begging; she’s almost ashamed to ask; she’s mostly hoping.   And the moment Mom goes to put her tennis shoes on, oh the joy!  Running from one side of the house to the other to see if any of the other family members are coming.  Running behind Mom to make sure she’s going in the direction of the wonderful lead.

And I wonder.  I wonder if maybe we, when approaching God, shouldn’t be more like Angie.  Not constantly barking our demands, or warnings of approaching danger.  Not insistently reminding God that He needs to feed us; He’ll remember – BEFORE our stomachs rumble too loudly.  But gently, quietly, reverently, knowing full well that He has every right to say “no”, or “not now”; knowing that He’s a very busy guy, being the creator and judge of the universe and all.  But still, daring to enter His office with eyes full of hope and ask if maybe, just possibly, He’d be willing to take us for a romp around the neighborhood, or through life.  And you know what, when you enter His presence, completely surrendered to His will (because it does so little good to demand your own way anyway), I’m pretty sure His heart melts.  Hope, because He created it is a pretty powerful thing.

So enter His presence with big brown eyes full of hope, surrendered to His will, but asking, if maybe, just maybe, His will might include a walk around the neighborhood.

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