Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Questions

I swiped this from Mocha with Linda. I thought it would be fun for today.

1. Are you cooking Christmas dinner? How many will be round your table this year? What are we having?

I am cooking. I have been in charge of Christmas for about eleven years now, I think. I volunteer, though. I love hosting for my family.
This year there will be probably eight, possibly ten. My parents and my mom's sister and brother-in-law come each year. We may have an additional aunt and uncle from my dad's side.

I don't make the same thing every year. Sometimes turkey or a roast. One year we had sandwiches and everyone loved it! This year I'm doing ham with au gratin potatoes and a big colorful salad. Mom's bringing rolls and my aunt is bringing pies.

2. What is one must-have Christmas cookie in your house?

Nothing really. I gave up feeling the need to bake. I haven't even bought any this year. I've been bringing home truffles instead.

3. Santa likes a glass of milk with his cookies. Do you? What kind of milk is on tap at your house-skim? almond? soy? full fat (Gasp!)

I've only recently begun to like milk. I still don't drink it often because I don't think about it unless I'm eating a cookie or a PBJ. We use 2% lactose-free milk. I also try to make sure it's a brand that doesn't use hormones in their cows.
We also get a carton or two of eggnog. That's kinda milk, right?

4. Time magazine recently named their 'Person of the Year' for 2011. This is the person the editors believe had the greatest impact, for better or worse, in the past year. This year they chose 'The Protester'. Your thoughts? Who would you name Person of the Year for 2011?

Protesters have definitely dominated the news this year. From Egypt, Libya, England to the US. They certainly did have a great impact on our world this year -- for better or worse. If that's the criteria, then I guess I would agree.

But for sheer heroism I would say the Fukushima Workers who stayed and tried to prevent greater disaster in Japan.

5. December 21st is National Flashlight Day... when was the last time you needed a flashlight and did you know right where to find one?

I suppose it was during the summer when our power went out. I have a lot of candles though and managed to get some lit. All of our flashlights are in need of batteries.

6. Candy canes...yum or yuck?

I like a candy cane at Christmas. I only want one. I'm not crazy about peppermint, but I like eating the candy cane. I'll eat more if they are a different flavor, but I like the tradition of having a peppermint one. Someone gave me some of those little bitty ones. I'll have one of those.

7. What Christmas carol lyric means the most to you?

This always varies, but this year I really love:

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!
Let earth receive her King!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Whatever your heart holds this year, remember who holds your heart. Because Christ came we don't walk alone.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Cost

Mary was a good girl. I imagine she came from a religious home. They followed the law of God.

Joseph was a good boy. A follower of God's law, well respected.

God messed all that up.

God came in and completely ruined Mary's reputation. She was an unmarried pregnant girl. Absolute disgrace.

He ruined Joseph's testimony. Joseph's girl was pregnant and by choosing not to stone her he as much as admitted that the child was his. Appalling.

You know that the whole, "God did it" story didn't go over very well. I mean, really. Come on, now, God? God made you pregnant? Uh huh, and Caesar Augustus is giving my tax money back for a Hanukkah gift.

I read something the other day that made me think, hey, if Joseph and Mary were of the line of David why didn't they stay with relatives in Bethlehem? 

Why indeed. They were a scandal.

Because they weren't just law followers, they were God followers.

God doesn't really care if we look good. He doesn't care as much about our reputation as we do. He wants us to follow him. That's it.

The Christmas story is a sweet little tale when we retell it 2000 years later. It's easy for us to think they reacted differently than we would. That all was merry and bright. But they were human. They lived in a difficult, judgmental world.
Back then, the story was full of tears. Full of pain.

It cost a lot for Christ to come to us. The incarnation was a sacrifice from beginning to end.

But even then, even in the midst of rejection, confusion, and a damaged testimony Mary said:

 “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
 and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me."

What about us? What about when it starts looking like it might cost something to follow God? Are we willing to trade the good for the best? Am I?

Thank God Mary was.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What do you Expect?

Merry and bright
Perfect cutout cookies
Goodwill toward men
Well thought-out gifts
Family harmony
Beautifully decorated packages
Well-appreciated feast
Joyful and triumphant
Laughing, appreciative children

The best time of the year

This is what we expect from Christmas. Is it any wonder we are usually disappointed? Is it any wonder that we can't seem to capture that elusive Christmas Spirit? Whatever that is?

People tend to depression and stress during the holidays. We don't feel whatever it is we're supposed to feel but we assume everyone else does. So we get depressed.

Perhaps we should look at Christmas as a gift. We don't know what the day or the season holds. Maybe it will delight us. Maybe it will be socks. But, to use my favorite phrase, it is what it is.

Instead of wanting Christmas to conform to our expectations, perhaps we need to drop the expectations and accept whatever the season brings.

I've found that as I've tried to do this, I feel more of the Christmas Spirit than I had for a long time. It's not a thing that can be grasped. It almost seems to come to those who aren't looking for it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Better Thing

Most of us have heard the story of Mary and Martha. If you haven't you can read it here: Luke 10:38-42.

The story is about Martha getting upset with Mary because Mary is listening to Jesus instead of helping Martha in the kitchen. Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better thing.

Many people who have the gift of serving are hurt by this story. We need servers. It's a true blessing to be a server.

I don't think Jesus was saying that there is anything wrong with fixing a meal for your guests. The Bible tells us to be hospitable and food is a big part of that. I don't think he was saying that listening is better than serving. We need both.

Here's the thing, it says that Martha was distracted by all her preparations. And Jesus said to her, "You are worried about so many things."

This is how I picture it: Mary and Martha prepared a nice meal. Jesus arrived and Mary went out to sit with him. Martha was busy folding the napkins into swans, cutting the radishes into roses, and tucking garnish around the fish.

I always pictured myself as Mary because I'm not a super busy, bustling kind of person. I always prefer sitting. But when I realized what Jesus was saying to Martha I understood that too often I am she.

When I had people over, I wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted things to be pretty. I went to a lot of extra work just to impress people. I was worried about a lot of things. I felt anxious, irritable and unappreciated. Mostly, I worried about what people thought of me.

There is nothing wrong with hospitality. There is nothing wrong with making things pretty. But what is the reason?

I found that most of my preparations weren't about blessing; they were about impressing.

My company probably would have felt more relaxed if I were in the living room with them rather than banging around in the kitchen. I don't think they were extra blessed by my extra efforts to impress.

I suspect that may be what was going on with Martha, too. If all the extra things you do are for the right reasons and bring you joy, by all means, do them. But if they stress you out. If they make you feel pressured and worried, choose the better thing.

And while sitting at the feet of Jesus is always the better thing, maybe it wasn't just because He was Jesus--son of God-- but because he was simply a person.

Maybe, sitting with your guests and enjoying their presence is a better thing than hanging in the kitchen putting all the unnecessary touches on things.

It's easy to be distracted and worried about many things this time of year. Let's try to remember what really matters.

The better thing is relationship.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


I love Brennan Manning. I've never met him. But I'd hoped that someday I would. I hoped that one day I would hear him speak.
I've read only a couple of his books. And every day I read a selection of Reflections for Ragamuffins.
He talks of Love. His words have done more to show me the unfaltering love of God than anything I've read, apart from Scripture.
He talks of Grace. Grace to accept ourselves as imperfect. Grace to accept ourselves as we are, where we are, just as God does.

Our pastor knows Brennan Manning. He told us that he and an associate pastor travelled to visit with him a few days ago. Mr. Manning is now in an assisted living home. The alcoholism of his past had unalterable affects on his body. It's caught up with him and now he struggles with dementia and blindness.
My heart broke to hear this news. I'd imagined him out there still preaching and teaching and writing.

Pastor said that after they had visited a while Mr. Manning leaned forward and said, "Can I ask you a question?" The pastors moved closer, eager to hear what thought provoking question this man of wisdom would present...

"Can you guys leave now?"He asked.

As the pastor told this story, he laughed. We laughed. Brennan Manning was tired. He was honest.
Our pastor said to us, "That's grace. Grace is being what you are, not what you think you should be."

Grace is being who you are, not who you think you should be.
Grace is having the decorations you have, not the ones you think you should have.
Grace is baking the cookies you bake (or don't), not the ones you think you should bake.
Grace is having the parties you throw (or don't), not the parties you think you should throw....

Grace is freedom. Grace is honesty. Grace is the whole purpose for God coming down as a baby in the first place.

This Christmas, embrace grace. Just be, and forget whatever it is you think should be.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Feet - a partial repost

Not everyone will have a Merry Christmas.
"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." Isaiah 53:4

Photo from

When one of my kids asked why I had a picture of a foot on my blog, I said, "Because it's Christmas and Jesus got feet." 
He traded feet like bronze for feet of flesh. Pudgy little feet with ten little piggies. 
He stubbed his toes. He stepped on splinters and stickers and rocks. 

Nails were pounded into those feet.

I know that during the thirty-three years He wore those feet, he experienced grief and loss. Jesus knows our pain. We are never alone in our suffering.

If this Christmas is a difficult one for you, cling to the deeper truth of the Holiday. Jesus put on flesh, suffered and died.
God came down to walk with us. He walks with us still. 

Forget the bells and tinsel, the egg nog and cookies and cling to the one who has walked where you walk. He hasn't just been in your shoes; He's been in your feet.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In the Waiting

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
Photo by Godric Godricson

Advent. A time of eager and joyful expectation. Right?

But not then. Not for them.

They were weary. Living under the ungodly, oppressive government of Rome and the greedy, bloodthirsty rule of the Tetrarchs, they were over-taxed, over-burdened, abused, and frightened.

Religion was no help. If anything, the merciless legalism of the times made things worse.

And they’d been waiting a long time.

Waiting for an end to their suffering.

They’d heard of a deliverer, but where was He? Where was this promised Messiah? Where was God?

I’ve heard that Mary was the most common name for girls at the time. We do see several in the Gospels, so it could be true.

The name means Bitter.

Weary of waiting. Desperately waiting. Waiting for release from the bitterness of life. It seems they’d lost hope.

We’ve all been there. When one wait ends, another begins.

Life is waiting.

We wait for a son to return home to those he’s turned his back on.
For a loved one to know the Lord.
For a friend to be healed.
A child or spouse to come home from war.
A job—financial security.
A restored relationship.
A healed marriage.
For someone to abandon an addiction.
An e-mail from an agent.
Confirmation that we’re doing what we are supposed to be doing.

Always waiting and we are weary. We are desperate. Desperate for hope. For God to step in and show Himself.

Two thousand years ago God took on strands of DNA and became a tiny human in the womb of a girl named Bitter.

And His name was Emmanuel. God with us.

God stepped into the weary desperation.

He didn’t remove their suffering. Rome still ruled. The religious leaders were still unforgiving. Life was still hard.

He didn’t come to relieve their suffering. He came to walk with them in the midst of it.

We need not grow weary in the waiting because He’s here. We’re not waiting for Him to show up. He’s already here—inside us.

And those things we want, those things we watch for, they are good things, but the best thing, the best thing is God With Us.

I’ve looked back into my waiting and seen where God has been. Right there in the moments when it seems I’d lost hope. If God offered to answer all my prayers, solve all my problems right now, I wouldn’t do it if it meant losing those glimpses of His love.

Look deeply into your waiting and see Him. See where He’s been and how He’s touched you. Together let’s remember, no matter how discouraging or bitter life gets, let’s remember Emmanuel.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


We haven't put up any decorations yet.
I'm enjoy this quiet time of waiting.
The past few years, we've decorated the weekend following Thanksgiving. One holiday bumped against our anniversary then bumped against the next holiday.
And I wondered why I couldn't get excited about Christmas.

I figured out that I missed looking forward to it. With such a cramped schedule, when was I supposed to fit that in?

This year, I'm savoring the anticipation. That's my favorite part of most things. The eager expecting.

I'm starting to feel excited about it. The giddy eagerness I used to have.

Turns out all I need in order to get some Christmas spirit is a little breathing room.