Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Between Christmas and New Year's

The week between Christmas and New Year's is not only a time for looking forward but for looking back.  Since Christmas Day, I've had some time to sit down and knit and try to progress on a couple of projects.  I began reflecting on my early days of knitting, a time when someone special took the time to teach me.  It was my sister-in-law, Ann.  Ann was married to my older brother, and they had between them seven children.  Ann was busy . . . every day she was busy.  Somehow she found the time to spend with an 18-year old girl to teach her how to knit.

I remember watching Ann knit and carry on conversations, watch TV, do a
lot of mental multi-tasking, and she never dropped a stitch that I recall.  I was absolutely amazed at her ability to do this.  I wanted to be like Ann in so many ways, but most of all to be filled with the same kind of spirit that filled her -- God's spirit, the Holy Spirit, Jesus love. 

As I've been knitting lately, I've reflected on Ann's life and the end of her life quite a few years ago.  Ann was diagnosed at age 56 with Lou Gehrig's disease, or ALS, and eventually the disease took her ability to do so much with her hands . . . not only knitting, but play the piano, the organ, cook, clean, her accounting work.  And the disease took the use of every part of her except her mind.  It was a horrid disease, and early on Ann would say she could tell which muscle was dying.

The one thing the disease couldn't and didn't take from Ann was that spirit of living in God's spirit, sharing Jesus' amazing love, and showing the Holy Spirit shining through her with an incredibly dazzling smile.  I knit now and know that I was left not only with a skill that I love to use to share God's love by knitting charity caps for school-aged children in our area, but with the memory of Ann, all of her, shared with me because she was filled with that special gift of spirit.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that
you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Then Why Do You Do It?

Ever notice how something you're doing today can trigger memories of some years ago.  This happened to me as I made our Sunday dinner few weeks ago.  My husband has a fondness for pies, and I was preparing one of his favorites -- gooseberry!   Suddenly, it was as if it was yesterday but some 20 plus years ago.

It was Christmas, and my stepchildren were visiting for the holidays. We had done all the usual kid things -- baking cookies and decorating them, making fudge, shopping for their daddy and each other, and settled our share of disagreements, especially my stepdaughter and me.

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To read the rest, visit me today at (in)courage, where I’m the daily guest.  Click here to continue reading…

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fourth Sunday in Advent

"She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph,
will name him Jesus—'God saves'—because he will save his people
from their sins." This would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term:

   'Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
   They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for "God is with us").'"
(Matthew 1:21-23) 

As I patiently wait for Christmas to arrive, I can hardly imagine the daunting emotions surrounding Mary and Joseph as they wait to see what unfolds for them as a result of God's master plan.  It is hard to even think of being in even similar circumstances.

When I was a child, the anticipation of Christmas filled me with excitement, I became a fidgety kid, and it seemed the days would never pass.  Christmas Eve was the hardest because I couldn't go to sleep for wondering about what Santa would bring, what the presents held under the tree, and what the next day would be like.  All unknowns to a child waiting patiently, or impatiently, for everything to be revealed to her.

Now that child has grown up and she is a great-grandmother.  Other children wait and become overly excited.  My waiting now has a different flavor, if you will -- it is filled with sweetness, joy and the knowledge of that very special gift God sent to us, Immanuel (God with us), Jesus (God saves).  Patient expectation allows me to savor every word, thought and musical sound that leads up to the night that the star shone down on a tiny stable in Bethlemen.  I can almost taste it . . . it is getting closer . . . patiently I'm waiting.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Third Sunday in Advent

In our worship service today, the third candle was lit.  The pink candle has always been somewhat of a mystery to me standing erect and tall but not purple like the other three.  The pink candle assumes its place with grace and dignity, and thanks to my pastor this year I now know the reason for the different color.  Her explanation was that in the midst of our expectation and patient waiting a little joy should be infused.  Oh, yes, the joy candle!  And it's pink color designates a change from the waiting and expectation of the Christ Child's birth.

Following our worship time, the sanctuary of our church was definitely filled with so much joy that the joy candle may have felt for the first time in a long time inclusion in a big way during Advent.  You see today was the day that our children, youth and some adults presented for our entertainment and joy a Christmas musical entitled "The Mystery of Simon Shepherd."  As the performers moved through their paces, it became apparent that we were indeed hearing the Christmas story with a little different interpretation.  Today's focus was on the innkeeper. 
It seems he was the last to see Simon Shepherd the night that the innkeeper gave shelter to Mary and Joseph in his stable.  Simon too was looking for a place for the night and he was given shelter in the same stable.

Next morning when Simon left he took a wrong turn in trying to get back home and to his sheep.  He finally found his way and arrived just in time to vouch for the innkeeper and keep him from going to jail!

Ever lost your way?  Ever stopped listening for God's direction?  Ever just tune out God's Word?  Ever think attendance on Sunday mornings isn't all that important?  I think we can safely say like Simon these are all examples of losing our way.  Not all inclusive but fair examples.  However, God waits patiently, as we are asked to wait during Advent, for us to find our way again.  And when we do, He rejoices and there is joy throughout the land just as there was on the night the Christ Child was born.

I truly hope that during this Advent season much joy and light will be a part of your expectation and patient waiting. 

There will be a highway called the Holy Road.  No one rude or rebellious
   is permitted on this road.  It's for God's people exclusively—impossible to get lost on

this road.    Not even fools can get lost on it.  No lions on this road, no dangerous
wild animals—nothing and no one dangerous or threatening.
Only the redeemed will walk on it.  The people God has ransomed will come back
on this road.  They'll sing as they make their way home to Zion,
unfading halos of joy encircling their heads, welcomed home with
gifts of joy and gladness as all sorrows and sighs scurry into the night.
Isaiah 35:8-10 (The Message)

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Second Sunday in Advent

Yesterday was the second Sunday in Advent. I, along with another, somewhat younger woman, were teaching the 4th/5th graders. The Scripture for our story was taken from Luke 1:28 centering around the angels appearing to Mary and Joseph with the unbelievable news that Mary would be bringing a baby boy into the world who would be called Jesus. Most amazing in this story is first Mary's acceptance of the angel's message, and Joseph's willingness to go forward with marrying Mary despite her pregnancy and all based on the angel's assurances everything would be OK.

This young woman teaching the story is an unbelievable storyteller, and she brought to the 4th/5th graders' attention that Mary was likely 13 years old and Joseph perhaps 4-5 years older. Their eyes became wide and their mouths formed "O's" with surprise. Then our storyteller asked some questions of the students. The one she asked that I thought would keep them quiet for maybe a minute or longer was, "What would your answer have been if you were Mary or Joseph?" A 10-year old girl responded with, "I guess I would have said OK because if I didn't I would be letting a lot of people down and they would be disappointed because they were patiently waiting for the Messiah."

Needless to say, we were both blown away by the maturity and thoughtfulness of this answer that came to us right out of the blue. Granted this young girl is an amazing child in her own right, intelligent, thoughtful and gifted with wonderful parents. However, the words that came forth were a surprise to both of us.

As I have pondered these words in relation to Advent, yes, we are all patiently waiting for the Messiah. And yes, I would have really been disappointed if either Mary or Joseph had refused the angel's directions. Think of life on earth without Jesus by your side, walking along with you each and every day. And yet . . . . .

There are areas in my life where patience is a difficult element to hold onto. Why is that? Is it because I love sight of Jesus walking with me, protecting me, watching over me? I've decided that in addition to working on my lack of patience with certain things, I'll also be working on keeping Jesus in focus as He and I walk through this life He's given me, this life that He died for, and this life that is so precious to Him that He takes the time to hear my fears, my concerns, and my failures.

Nothing will be impossible with God. (Luke 1:37)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Has Begun

Sunday marked the beginning of Advent, a time of patiently waiting for the magic of Christmas.  During this time, may we all reflect on the light and promise that is to come.  The following prayer was used in the order of worship at our home church on Sunday.  I thought it worth sharing with you.

Almighty God, we ask that you awaken us as this Advent season begins.  Help us  to notice the holy longings in our hearts.  We ask to be touched by the and the hope which come from you.  Deliver us from being people of hurry, impatience and jadedness.  Teach us to recognize the tempation to turn this Christmas into just another Christmas.  In candle and each Christmas light, help us to sense your grace-filled presence.  Soften us when we become invovled in this season only with our wallets, but not with our hearts.  We pray to become bearers as well as receivers of comfort and hope.  Amen.