Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Tree Joys

Thanksgiving was early this year, wasn't it?  Here we are, November 26th, and Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are over, and Cyber-Monday is coming to a close (of course I heard they were extending it to a week this year).  I really had no intention of doing holiday decorating but then suddenly I got this panicked feeling that if I didn't do it this week, then some may fear I was a grinch this year.

So completely out of a sense of people pleasing, plus the fact that the best two little Christmas decoration helpers in the world were home on Saturday, we got 90% of the decorating done.  For all of you who heard on Sunday my husband's lament about hearing the two words he dreads this time of year (Christmas decorations), he went to the office while my buddies and I decorated...

So now we get to Monday morning and the big tree needs to be put up.  I have experimented with all sorts of trees over the years - tall trees, fat trees, frozen trees who don't reveal if they are fat or skinny until completely thawed which at that point is too late to do anything about, fake trees, real trees, trees that aren't supposed to dry out and trees that become a fire hazard three hours into plugging in your lights.

I have a few issues with real trees in my house:
  1. Getting them up to the second floor where my great room is proves to be tough no matter what shape it comes in
  2. Anything shorter than a 14-footer looks miniature in my great room
  3. Removing the tree on January 2nd proves even more difficult, as the needles tend to end up EVERYWHERE but on the tree by the time I lift through the living room, over my island in the kitchen, make the bend to the back door, through the back door and over the side of the deck
  4. I'm still picking needles out of crevasses from a few years back...
So I have resorted to a massive fake tree and evergreen candles.  The effect is wonderful.  Two years ago I brought a brand new tree after Christmas was over (can you spell S-A-L-E?) and was expecting to be able to throw it up, plug it in and have a very merry Christmas Decorating Day last year.  But alas, when the pre-lit branches wouldn't turn on, it became my nemesis for the day but I survived.

Fast forward to November 26, 2012 (today).  I knew the tree was a stinker but we had a new problem.  The top of the tree, which is only about an 18 inch section, is as wiggly and wobbly as me on ice skates and trying to attach either of my tree toppers proved to be impossible.  Now if the tree had looked as cool as this one to the left I'd be happy.  But instead it just looks ridiculous.

That being said, I've decided there are worse things in life.  I could be lost in my sin, living for myself, denying the truth of God and running on that broad road that leads to destruction.  I could be on this earth without heavenly Father to love and care for me.  I could be working hard to earn His pleasure, hoping that when I die I will have done enough.  I could be spending every last penny I have to buy gold leaf to rub on the belly of the nearest Buddha or hoping that some nice Mormon man chooses to marry me so I could go to heaven.  Or I could even be that person who is offended by the mere thought of a Christmas tree, because using that terminology seems too exclusive to me.

But instead of these things, I am a child of the King.  I know God.  I know Who He is, where He is and what He's doing.  I understand the Christmas story, because I'm a part of it.  I also understand that there is nothing good enough in me to earn the pardon of the one true Holy God, so I choose to hide myself in the person of Jesus Christ.  Yes, we've traded identities, but I'm to the point now that I don't even want people to recognize me.  I want to act so much like Him that people accuse me of being a copy cat.

So I guess it's just a matter of perspective.  I can choose to be ticked about my droopy tree top or I can rejoice in the precious gift of salvation that gives me the reason to live.  Granted, I'll have to deal with every smart-aleck's comment about my crooked tree and I'll have to watch my bitties as they clamor to pull ornaments off the lower branches to make sure the top doesn't topple down on their heads.  But I'll still take a crooked tree over a lost eternity, wouldn't you?

So I'm thinking I might have to hang something heavy on the tip and get this gal's effect - what do you think? Talk about making lemonade...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Meditation for the Day

Okay, so this is one way to meditate on God's Word - write a verse on your arm and it will be with you all day...

Friday night we discussed how to enhance (or even get started with) your spiritual disciplines, so this morning, I have a passage for you to meditate on:

Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, 
and to make you stand in the presence of His glory 
blameless with great joy,
 to the only God our Savior, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, 
before all time and now and forever. 
Jude 1:24,25

There are great, great truths in these 51 words!  Here are a few of my thoughts to get you going:
  • God is able to keep me from stumbling - am I able or is it Him?  Do I walk in His power or in my own strength?  If that resource is available to me, why don't I use it more often?
  • He makes me stand in His presence - are you telling me I didn't choose to do this?  Oh, yeah - it's His work of trading identities, dying in my place, paying the price for my sin - this is what MAKES me stand in His presence
  • What does standing in the presence of HIS GLORY really mean? What does that look like?
  • He makes me stand blameless - do you mean there is no finger pointing in God's presence?  Do I stand with my head up or do I fall prostrate because of my sin?  It says I stand...
  • I stand with great joy - perhaps it is when I come face to face with Jesus that I will finally realized exactly what was taken away from me and what was given to me - do I have to wait until faith becomes sight, or can I stand in His presence today, blameless and with GREAT JOY?  God wants my life to have joy...
  • The ONLY God - there's not two or three or thousands, but ONLY ONE
  • Our access to this ONLY GOD is through Jesus Christ - truth
  • Our LORD - is He LORD of my life?
  • What is laid at His feet?  Glory, majesty, dominion and authority - wow...what in the world does all that mean?  (Not enough space to write my thoughts on those four words...)
  • Before creation, presently and forever - all the glory belongs to God

That's just to get you going - take this verse with you today - this week, mull it over, pray through it, be thankful for the truth it hold and let it change your life!

Have a great day...

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Bride of Christ

Yesterday at church Dave interviewed a couple who is going through the dark valley of cancer and all that comes with that trial.  The wife is the one who is ill and the husband is left in the unenviable position of helplessness, watching his wife suffer physically and not being able to relieve it or protect her from it.  They testified of the joy of the presence of the Lord through this trial, giving Him the glory for all they were going through.

The husband spoke of two things he has relied upon through this battle - the first was sacrificial love for his wife, putting her needs before all else - agape.  The second was the power of prayer as the sustaining force in his life.

But what pricked my ears was another statement he made and I want to share it with you this morning.  One of the first things he said of their battle was this:

"You give up a lot of yourself to serve your bride in the crisis."

It's just a matter of fact.  It's true of anyone who walks through an illness with a spouse.

It's also true of the Christian walk.  We were given to each other as the body of Christ to encourage, edify, uplift, support, love on, challenge, exhort, correct and "do life together."  We were not created as an island, but as a community.  And if the imagery of the church being the bride of Christ is accurate in scripture (II Cor. 11:2; Matthew 9:15; Matthew 25:1-12; Mark 2:19-20; John 3:25-30), then the statement above is also true - as believers, we are called to give up a lot of ourselves to serve the bride in the crisis.

And crisis abounds in the church, doesn't it?  There is much sorrow and despair - over the consequences of sin, over the circumstances of life.  And our role is not to pat people on the back and tell them how sorry we are for them, but to roll up our sleeves and become part of the solution. Sometimes that comes in the form of fervent prayer, other times it means extended bible study and counsel. It might even mean supplying a need or giving up valued free time.  

But we are not called to do anything Christ wouldn't do, right?  So what is the example He set before us?

Philippians 2

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, 
if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 
make my joy complete by being of the same mind, 
maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, 
but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 
do not merely look out for your own personal interests, 
but also for the interests of others.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 
who, although He existed in the form of God, 
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, 
and being made in the likeness of men. 
Being found in appearance as a man, 
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, 
even death on a cross. 
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, 
and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, 
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, 
not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, 
work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 
for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 
so that you will [i]prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, 
children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, 
among whom you appear as lights in the world,  
holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ 
I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.  
But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice 
and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 
 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Good Morning

Good morning, friends.

Yes, it is a good morning and here's why - every day is a new opportunity to please and glorify our heavenly Father.  Hours full of opportunities - running errands, loving our families, cleaning our homes, working our jobs, discussing events online, mulling our thoughts. Every day is filled with 24 hours worth of opportunities to praise the Lord.

Each minute we can choose to be pleasing or we can choose to be selfish.

I love how the Father provides for me guidance just before I need it.  He lays it out in front of me, I begin to pick at it with my fork and then life throws a curve ball into the middle of my fine dining and I have a choice - eat and be filled with the goodness and truth of the Word, or leave the table, still hungry and frustrated, and even rebellious.

Here's what He has been emphasizing in my life recently (really, since this summer):

  • anger equates to murder
  • we need to see all people as image bearers of God and give them respect because of that
  • honesty should flow through our veins like blood
  • we need to go overboard in absorbing the angst and hatred of others
  • we do not need to retaliate but rather we must love sacrificially
  • we need to pray for our enemies
All of these instructions are realities because of Jesus Christ.  He modeled this for us, not because of the sin of others but because of MY sin. He enables us to be successful through His Spirit, who convicts us and empowers us to goodness. It's really important for me to recognize where I'm at and where I need to be.

So how did I do yesterday?  How did you do yesterday?
  • Did I spend the evening murdering people in my heart?
  • Did I defame image bearers of my Father?
  • Did I seek truth or believe lies?
  • Did I cringe at the thought of the onslaught of angst that would come my way?
  • Did I prepare rash responses?
  • Did I pray for my enemies?
Well, let's just say that because God had so clearly told me what His follower would do in a situation like last night, my choices were different than what my flesh wanted.  Jesus ends Matthew 5 saying, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." I was far from perfect, but closer than ever because of the powerful, life-changing Word of God, and for that I am thankful this morning.

So let's commit to less self and more Jesus!  It's a much better way to live and will have a much greater impact in the end...