Monthly Archives: December 2013

Not Life-Threatening, just Life Deepening

There is a man who found out he was going to die of cancer soon.  Very soon.   Friends expected to see him falling apart emotionally.  Or going through a mid-life crisis times a thousand – buying a boat and living on the lake for the rest of his life or something along those lines.  But he didn’t.  He went about normal life, doing normal things, like having coffee with friends, spending time with God, enjoying the simple things.
When someone asked him about this, asked him about his life threatening disease and how he was choosing to live the remaining parts of his life.
He responded with that his disease wasn’t life threatening, just life deepening.  His days had already been numbered, long ago, by God.  The disease was simply a reminder that his days weren’t unending.  That the days he had been given were precious, he needed to spend his time living deeply.
His disease was not life-threatening, simply life deepening.

So, this weekend before New Years, as the Western world thinks about making New Years Resolutions and about how to make themselves better, keep that in mind.  What would it mean to live deeper?  What would that look like for you?   More time with coffee with friends?  More prayer?  More reading books instead of watching TV? More artsy homemade gifts instead of quick, thoughtless bought presents (not that all presents are that way)?  More getting up early to watch sunrises?  Mostly, these ways are mine to live deeper.  What would yours be?

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Merry Christmas!

A friend shared this with me, and I’m really enjoying jamming to it today.  If you’re too old or not old enough to appreciate Veggie Tales, I’m sorry. Listen to the music while you do something else.


MERRRRRRRRY Christmas!!!!!!  May the Light of our savior flood your world today!

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Mary Affects, Traffic Patterns

I have noticed something.  I call it the “Stuck In Traffic On I-25 In Rush Hour” effect.  I have spent many hours on the interstate that runs through Denver these past four month, watching cars whizz past (or whizzing past cars myself).  And while my nerdy mind tends to conjure a scene from a Doctor Who episode where people are stuck on / in the “motorway” in New New York (yes, I meant to put two News), there are other things I’m noticing.
Like the couple that intensely argues in the car ahead of me.  What a horrible way to start your morning.
Like the woman attempting to either apply mascara or poke her eye out with a small, black, fuzzy stick.
Like the man who forgot others can see him, and is picking his nose.
Like the teenage boy who is so caught up in his music that he’s air-drumming AND air-guitaring AND singing at the top of his lungs – all at the same time.  Kid has talent.

But I also notice split-second decisions are a big deal.

A guy ten cars up hits the breaks because someone just cut him off, and while no one gets hit, his braking still affects me.  The car behind him had to break, and the car behind THAT car had to break, and so on and so forth.  And sure, the original car has recovered, sped up and continued on toward their destination.  But the cars behind it – way, way behind it – are still feeling the effects and slowing down,  even if not quite as much as the original car.  Thirty, forty cars later, traffic still slows down at that exact spot for a split second, and no one knows why, but it’s because that car so much earlier had to slow down, and that affects everyone.

The same is true with our lives.  Sometimes the decisions you make affect you for years to come, sometimes they affect others for years to come.

And you had no idea when you were making them that this particular decision would affect others like it does.

That’s the crazy part.

One decision can affect people for years and years and years after.

And often those decisions are split-second, from-the-gut, reactions.

Like Mary (it IS Christmas after all; I have to get Christmasy at some point).

The angel appears to Mary, and tells her what’s going to happen, and Mary agrees.  She accepts.  Just like that.  Snap of the fingers.  The Bible doesn’t record her telling the angel, “Um, can I have a couple days to think about it?”  Or the ever Christian – “I need to pray about it first”.  Nope, she responds with, “Um, how?”  And then, after the angel explains, Mary says, “I am God’s servant, may His will be done”.

Just.     Like.     That.

Split-second decision, and God changes all of human history through her.

Which makes me wonder.  What was going on inside Mary, that “Sure God, whatever you say” was Mary’s instant, without-thinking-about-it response.  She had to have been loving God ALREADY with everything in her.  She had to have been ALREADY trusting and obedient, and incredibly full of faith.  She had to have been allowing God to work on her ALREADY in these areas.

See, our knee-jerk reactions, our split-second decisions, the ones that we don’t have time to think through, come from our heart, from what’s inside of us.  Sure, some of it is instinctual (God built fight or flight into us for a reason).  But fight or flight doesn’t always apply to instant, split-second decisions.  The ones that aren’t survival related are usually dictated by our heart and experiences.

Which means you need to be careful about what you’re doing, seeing, watching, thinking about.  You need to make sure you’re keeping your heart healthy.  Have you taken time recently to think about how your heart is doing?  Is it tired?  Worn out?  Joyful?  Content?  Excited?  Is it focused on God or on you?

If an angel showed up today on your doorstep and told you God was sending you to Africa tomorrow, what would your response be?

What decisions are you making that ripple out, affecting those around you, and those around them, affecting those in your house, in your friend group, in your peer groups, in your town, in your city, your nation?

Never under estimate the power of one decision, despite how insignificant it seems at the time.  You never know which ones ripple out, touching the rest of your life, and the life of others.

You have no idea who your life touches.

 

 

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
Proverbs 4:23  NIV

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Lasting Impressions

I recently ran across a person that I met six months ago, and haven’t talked to since.  I was surprised by how strong my reaction was to this person, despite not having any sort of contact with them for so long.  To say I was excited to see them is a gross overstatement.  In fact, saying something along the lines of everything inside me felt like I had just walked into a middle school boys’ locker room, and the stench so overwhelmed me that I wanted to vomit and run out the door.  Okay, that might be a tad bit of an over -exaggeration.  But, I definitely did try to avoid this person throughout the time we were in the same room.

I was not loving this person the way God had asked me to.

But that’s something I get to work on, and not the point.

The point being – while we have some control over first impressions – how we look, our general attitude, we don’t have much control over them.  But LAST impressions – the feeling others get when they think of us after they’ve interacted with us – we have lots of control over that.  We can make sure to let the other person know they’re loved, and welcomed, and their presence is enjoyed.  We can leave them with a sense of knowing their Savior and Creator (and at least one of His creations) cares about them.   And really, this Christmas season, that might be the best gift you give anyone – a God-tinted last impression.

I know this is short and late and kinda-haphazard.  Sorry about that.  I blame seeing the second Hobbit movie twice within 24 hours…and finals week.  In other news – I somehow finished my first semester of seminary.  WHAT?!?  

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Christmas, meet Thanksgiving

Christmas Tree

I was sitting in the living room this morning, eating my breakfast of yogurt and cereal, just enjoying the silence of the house, enjoying the beauty of the Christmas tree, enjoying the warmth of the kitten on my lap, enjoying the sun playing with the (frigid) sparkling snow outside.

And I began thanking God – for my breakfast, for the silence, for the warm-ish house I have been blessed to be sheltered by, for the privilege of living in a country where we could display a Christmas tree (and have the room for it, and the time to put it up – these are HUGE luxuries in some places of the world), thankful for the season the Christmas tree represents, for the beauty of the tree, for the purr-y kitten making it hard for me to eat my breakfast, for the sun shining (even if it’s WAY colder than it should be in Colorado right now).

I was reminded of when I worked with two year-olds, and how the things they’re always thankful for are “Mommy and Daddy and Bruder and Sissy and the kitty-cat and pizza”.  We smile and think they’re cute.  We smile and long for a day when our thanksgivings were that simple.  We deeply ache for when we COULD be thankful for “Daddy”, but now, with significantly more age than the precious babies we smile down at, we know what Daddy’s really like, and no one could be thankful for HIM, right?

Last week I went on a rampage about how those of us who live in the United States celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday with self-indulgence, with eating way too much when much of the world is starving.  I asked how this truly celebrates our thankfulness?  Shouldn’t our thankfulness encourage a spirit of giving, not of taking?

Well, this week, I set a proposition before you.
For the next 19 days (so, through Christmas), do your best to stay thankful.  Be thankful for the little things – like your shoes that don’t let the snow freeze your toes, or the way that snowflake landed on your cheek, or the fact the heater in your house works, or that your car worked this morning when you started it (because, you know, it didn’t have to).  Stay focused on the blessings you take for granted in your every-day life.

I have a hunch that in this season of crazy-busy, self-focus, insane-stress, present-buying, party-going, appearances-keeping, doing-waaaaaaay-to-much, that if we attempt to keep an attitude of thankfulness our priorities might stay in the right places.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to remember what’s important this season.

Maybe, in our thankfulness that our bodies worked when we woke up this morning, we’ll become more aware of those around us who don’t have that blessing, and we’ll gain compassion for them.

Maybe, in our thankfulness for the coat-we-bought-three-years-ago-and-is-now-out-of-fashion-but-we-still-wear-it-until-we-can-get-the-cute-one-at-Macy’s, we become aware of the man on the corner of the street who is wearing a coat full of holes and that is way too thin for the sub-arctic temperatures outside.

Maybe, in our thankfulness for the last cereal in the box (even though it was only a quarter of a bowl – seriously, who leaves that little behind?  Just finish the box already!), we become aware of the needs of the children all over the world who didn’t get to eat breakfast today, or yesterday, or all the days in the week before that.

Now, hear me out.  I’m not trying to put a guilt trip on you.  I just think this Advent season might mean a lot more to us if we’re focused on the new born Baby that is the focus of every manger scene instead focusing on the parties, or the clothes, or the food, or even the perfect presents.  Those are great and fun, but they’re not the point.  By participating in those parts of the season, we’re not going to tell the world about that small, life-changing Baby through our actions.

But, if you figure out a way to get that guy on the corner a better coat, or even just a cup of coffee and warm meal, you will be telling him of Jesus – without saying a word.

If you take time to go donate ten dollars to Compassion, or Convoy of Hope, or some other responsible relief-agency, you will tell some child somewhere of that Baby – without saying a word.   You have no idea how much of a privilege it is to give…until you want to and have nothing in your bank account.

If you hold back the words you’d LIKE to say to your father, and give him a hug instead – you’ll be telling him of Jesus (even if your dad knows Him already) without saying a word.

So, summary (just in case my coffee-induced state of awakeness during this time of impending finals and papers didn’t allow me to write clearly):

Keep in mind what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about during the rest of this Advent season.  And, when prompted, live it out.  Staying thankful opens our eyes to the blessings and needs surrounding us.  Staying thankful keeps us in a posture that God can more easily use; a posture that hears His promptings more clearly (and quickly).  Christmas might just mean more to you this year if you celebrate Thanksgiving all December long.

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