Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Tonight, at seconds before midnight, we start the count down.  We yell it all together, some in unison with the TV, or led by the host at a party, or maybe you are tucked into bed already. We count those last seconds: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 -- Happy New Year!  When we were children, we would run outside after mid-night and bang on pots. After becoming of age, it was all about who you were with and who you would kiss first at midnight.  And we would drink champagne together.  But you had to wait for the countdown to be over. 

Time is great like that.  It is linear and predictable.  Sunset is at 4:39 pm. I can google it and see.  Sunrise is promised at 7:21 am tomorrow morning.  I can count on it.

Life is not like that.  I can't have a countdown on my life.  I don't know when the last second will be, the last hour, the last day, the last year.  I am old enough that I have not only seen the end of a year, but I have seen the end of decades.  Indeed, I have seen the end of a century.  I saw them coming and could plan. I could countdown.   

But I can't see the end of my life.

Maybe because I am approaching age 60, I am thinking of these things more.  My grandmother passed away at age 60, so my mom was understandably anxious as this age drew near for her.  But God in His mercy, has allowed her to see age 85.  25 more years and counting.  

What do we do as the time runs down on the hour glass?  How do we countdown, not for the New Year, but for our life?

This morning I saw this sweet scripture from the prophet Isaiah; a message from a loving God:

At that same time, a fine [pleasant, beautiful, fruitful] vineyard [God's people] will appear.
    There’s something to sing about!
I, God, tend it. I keep it well-watered.
    I keep careful watch over it so that no one can damage it.
I’m not angry. I care.
    Even if it gives me thistles and thornbushes, I’ll just pull them out and burn them up.
Let that vine [God's people] cling to Me for safety, let it find a good and whole life with Me,
    let it hold on for a good and whole life.”  (Isaiah 27:2-5, The Message)

At the end of my life, whether it is sudden, or a the long journey of a disease, I am with God, because I have clung to Him for safety.  I may not be able to countdown, and I do not know the time, but when it is time, I am sure of where I will be.  With Him.  He promises because He wants us to be confident, that even if we do not know the time, and we do not know the way, when we cling to Him, we are safe.  

God is keeping careful watch over me.  He tends to me.  He reminds me -- and I love this!! -- He is not angry with me.  He takes all my nasty deeds, all my mistakes and He pulls them out and burns them up!  But for me, myself, God promises He cares for me and not only wants to give me heaven with Him forever, but a  good and whole life.   

Now, there’s something to sing about!  

Father, I praise You!  I am overwhelmed by Your great love for me.  In 2014, let me sing and tell all I meet of Your beautiful, faithful love.  Let them see it in my life and desire Your peace too!

Let them take hold of My strength and make complete surrender to My protection, that they may make peace with Me! Yes, let them make peace with Me! (Isaiah 27:5 The Voice)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Fatigue

It happens every year.  The children say "Is it here yet??"  The exhausted moms ask, "Is it over yet??"

Shopping and decorating and Christmas cards and baking and cleaning and cooking and entertaining and more cleaning.  As Thanksgiving approached I promised myself I'll do better this year.  I'll buy less, I'll do less, I'll start early.  By mid-December I walked into work and declared, "I hate Christmas!" to whoever was listening.  On December 23 I was mailing Christmas cards.  Before 8 am on December 24, I was in ShopRite at the fish department, sneaking in one last purchase on my way to work.  So much for good intentions!

Who says this is the most wonderful time of the year?

And yet, in the end, it is. The miracle of the Prince of Peace.  The whole month included sweet memories of family and faith.   

Like my grandson, putting our plastic manger people in place, all appropriately facing baby Jesus, while singing "Salvation is here! Salvation is here and He lives in me..." Of course the best part was as he was singing, he was shooting at the plastic sheep with his elastic band gun.  Don't you just love boys?  

Then there was decorating the Christmas tree with my daughter Debbie, giggling as we struggled to get the lights around the back of the tree.  And my daughter Christina going to IKEA to buy herself a desk with the Christmas/birthday money we gave her, only to come home instead with a new bed for her son. What an unexpected treat it was to be able to attend the church service on Christmas eve and still have time to cook the special fish and pasta dinner for our family.  How I thrilled today to see the delight on my mom's face to receive the simple presents I gave her.  How sweet it was to watch my mother-in-law enjoying the lasagna I made for the family--her recipe that she can no longer make because of her dementia.  What a joy to see the pleasure of my grandson over the Pokemon cards I found at the dollar store. In the midst of the sea of crumbled Christmas wrapping paper in my living room, the dark cloud lifted and I saw truth.  

Yes, there was a lot of work.  Yes, it was a lot of stress.  It was not one day.  It was a month of extra effort.  But there was blessings in the family time because we had to do things together.  It was a time of building memories and opportunities to share faith.  

And isn't true that anything worthwhile involves work and sacrifice? 

Father, forgive me.  I focused on all the wrong things.  Christmas is about the cousins having time together, thinking about blessing family with special gifts, remembering old friends with cards and notes and photos.  All these things to squeezed into one month and it takes extra time.  It never needed to be post card perfect.  Your birth was certainly not about perfection. It was all about entering our mess at the lowest point, embracing our misery to help us understand Your love and Your desire to save us.  Christmas is about sacrifice, and I have not been willing.

It is not about creating the perfect holiday, it is about embracing the truth of the mess we live in, finding Jesus in each face, and making the sacrifice of love required to be a blessing to them, in His name.  

Thank You for changing my heart and helping me see Your beauty in it all.   Thank You for coming and changing everything.

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)