What Completes your Christmas?

 

I just received my Christmas card from a friend I’ve known since 7th grade.  This marks the 50th year I have known her.   I must say that for about 40 years receiving a Christmas card was really our only form of communication.   There were many years that the internet did not exist, (yes, I’m feeling really, old now).

I moved away for about 15 years, and when I moved back my friend lost her job and then she moved away.  Busyness kept us from calling and talking on the phone as we raised our families.

But the Christmas cards kept being delivered.

I mail my cards early and usually my friend times the mailing of her cards to be received on Christmas Eve.   This year the card arrived late, a day after Christmas.

But receiving that card seemed to complete my Christmas.

Last summer my friend and I were finally able to get together for an afternoon.  You would think we would have nothing to talk about, but it was just like old times.  We both work in academia, so we had that in common, even though she is a Chemistry professor and I am a clinical instructor we had that common bond of communicating with students.

I find it interesting that her return address labels simply have her name and her husband’s name, no Dr. appears.

The reason this is interesting to me is because the many professors I work with require that we refer to them as Dr. _________.   They require that their title be observed and respected.

But the intimacy my friend and I share doesn’t require the use of titles.  We’re on a first name basis.

The most precious gift I have not just at Christmas, but all year long is being on a first name basis with my Lord.

Jesus never placed himself above anyone else.  Not above the rulers, or the pharisees, or the elite of the day.  Jesus made himself available to anyone who chose to come to him.

Although his followers referred to Jesus as Lord, Jesus didn’t require this from his followers or anyone who wished to speak with him.

He wasn’t selective about religion.  He spoke with the Samaritans as well as the Jews.  He didn’t speak with any religious agenda.  He spoke about relationship with the one true living God.

Relationships are important.

Relationships shape us and mold our character.

Although I must fit into a specific mold at work, with friends I can break free of that mold.

But with Jesus is where I can be myself.

He knows my outer being and my inner most thoughts.

He knows my hurts, and he sees my scars and I don’t have to pretend with Him.

So, while a Christmas card from a dear friend may make my Christmas season complete, it is Jesus who makes my life complete.

“Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will certainly not turn away. “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent me. “This is the will of Him who sent me, that I should not lose any of those he has given me but should raise them up on the last day.
“For this is the will of My Father, that all who see the Son and trust in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise them up on the last day.”  John 6:37-40

 

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This entry was posted on December 27, 2018. 1 Comment

What is Christmas all about Charlie Brown?

 

I love the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I watch it every year.  Christmas isn’t Christmas until I hear Linus recite Luke chapter 2 verse 8-14

Luke 2:8-14 King James Version (KJV)

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were so afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

I wonder how many folks there are out there who are asking the same question Charlie Brown did all those years ago and continue to ask every Christmas.

Commercialism has continued to overshadow the true meaning of Christmas.  Nothing has really changed since the first airing of the Charlie Brown Christmas.

The thing I noticed from the Christmas special was Lucy sending Charlie Brown out to get the biggest aluminum Christmas tree he could find.  I’m sure  children of today have no idea what an aluminum Christmas tree was or why one would even want an aluminum tree.

The overshadowing of commercialism, be it an aluminum tree or the multitude of gifts underneath a live tree is not the true meaning of Christmas.

Christ’s coming is the true meaning of Christmas.   And the first to receive the message were not the rich but the poor.  The shepherds were regarded as the lowest people around.  They were out in the fields for weeks.  They were smelly, they were the most disregarded of all people because their job was lowly.

Yet, God chose to send the message to them first.  Amazing!

Now, everyone is so preoccupied with “things”, “gifts”, they don’t even recognize the truest gift of all.

The gift of eternal life through the gift of a life that was sacrificed on a cursed tree to take the curse of sin upon him for the salvation of many.

For the salvation of all that would humble themselves enough to admit they were sinners.

I choose not to celebrate Christmas as a day of gift giving but as a day of remembrance.

A day that God chose in the fullness of time to redeem all people.

It’s a beautiful thought, but there is one caveat.

One must approach the throne of God through his son, Jesus, leaving pridefulness behind, and with humble heart accepting the invitation to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.

That’s what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.

Accepting the greatest gift of all, too immense to ever fit under a Christmas tree.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!

Christ, by highest heaven adored:
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the favoured one.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th’incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King!

Hail! the heaven-born
Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
Born to raise the son of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born King !”

 

 

 

 

 

Peaceful Reflection

Many years ago, I attended a religious retreat.  To be truthful I didn’t go for the religiosity of the experience, I went for the lemon meringue pie.  My friend had converted to Catholicism and I had reverted from Catholicism. 

One evening a lady lead us in a visual reflection activity.  The purpose I suppose was to recognize who had been the most positive influence in our life.

The activity consisted of closing our eyes and visualizing yourself as a child walking across a meadow.

We were encouraged to note the wildflowers, the smells of the field, the goodness of the day.

Next, she said, “Imagine that you have fallen down, you’re crying now.”  “Who is it that comes and lifts you up?”

As I envisioned that child in the field a woman approached me.  I looked up to see her face, and I am looking into the face of myself as an adult.  Wow!  That image stays with me to this very day.

Everyone was then instructed to share their experience.  Who had picked them up?

One lady had seen he mother picking her up with her beautiful face before the accident that had disfigured her.

Another lady had seen the face of her grandmother picking her up.  Her grandmother had been a very special woman in her life.

As the leader went around the room, she asked “Who was the special woman in your life?”

Oh, God, I thought, I hope she doesn’t call on me!

How arrogant I thought, for me to have thought of myself!

But as I sat there, I reflected on why I had thought of myself.

Could it have been my mother in the field?  No.  My mother was struggling with her own emotional mental health issues.

Could it have been grandmother in the field? No.  My grandmother had never spoken a word of English to me.  She had always spoken in her native tongue and my mother translated.  “It’s not that grandma can’t speak English.” Mother had said. No, it was because grandma couldn’t speak English perfectly so, she chose not to speak English at all!

So, why had I seen myself as an adult helping myself as a child?

The only thing I could think of was that this child had grown into an adult that could be trusted to be there to help.

At the time it made me a little sad to not have been able to think of an adult woman with which I had shared a special relationship.

But in retrospect I see that God gave me the strength to help myself because he knew that’s what I needed.

Luckily, I wasn’t called on to share during that activity.

At first, I had thought that activity sounded hokey, but afterward I realized that activity was a meaningful experience for most everyone, including myself.

Now I hope I can be a woman who lifts others up, just like that child in the field.

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

 

 

 

 

 

Spirit Dog

Spirit Dog

When we got our first rescue dog I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.  He was an older dog who had gotten lost and picked up by a rescue.  The rescue group said he would be a good fit for our family with three kids, the youngest age 7.  So sight unseen the dog began his transport from Illinois to Ohio where my husband and daughter picked him up.

When he walked into the house he was so calm and collected.  “So, you’re our new dog.”  I said as he walked down the hallway.  It was love at first sight for the whole family.

He was a good dog but sometimes disobedient and consistently marked inside the house.  So when he became ill and incontinent, it was actually a blessing to let him go.

When we got our second rehomed dog, he was more subdued and totally confused in his new surroundings.  When we went to pick him up he actually jumped willingly into our car.  I think he thought he was going for a car ride around town.  He didn’t expect total rehoming.   He was confused at first but so sweet.   He was my little soulmate dog.

Early on I decided he would be my last dog.  Really I knew how difficult it would be when it was his time to go, and it truly was.  You don’t let go of a soulmate dog willingly.

But I missed having the companionship of a dog.  I would come home and expect him to be there, until I realized he wasn’t.  It was lonely.

I decided to put my name in for fostering.  I figured this way I would never have to watch a dog pass away again.  But the more I learned about fostering the more I knew it wasn’t really a good fit for me.

Well, I said to God, if I ever get another dog, it will have to be dropped off at my doorstep!  I figured that didn’t stand a snowballs chance in hell of happening!

Then the week before Thanksgiving a lady from a neighboring town who runs a rescue put out an ABP about a dog who was in urgent need of a home.  The dog had been listed on a rescue site for 3 months but no one was interested in her.

I looked at the picture.  The dog was described as a corgi mix but she didn’t look anything like a corgi.  She was a solid brindle colored dog.  Really, from the picture she could have been any breed.

“How big is she?”  I asked.  “Thirty pounds.” Was the reply.  Same size as a corgi, similar in height too.

“Too bad she’s so far away.”  I said.   “If you want her, I’ll get her to you.”  Came the reply.

Mind you, this dog was in Tennessee!

I waited.  Surely someone else would step up, I thought.

I spoke to my husband about the dog.

“Someone else will get her.” He said.

So I waited and a few days later the post came through again.  Urgent and no, they weren’t looking for another foster.  This dog had been fostered twice after her family had to surrender her due to finances.  This time they wanted the dog to have a “furever” home.  She was headed to shelter otherwise.

The further fear was that she would become a bait dog due to her size.   I didn’t want to see that happen so I said I’d take her.

And the rescue lady, true to her word, brought her up from Tennessee and dropped her at my house!

Now came the tough part for me.

This dog bonded to me instantly. I was told she bonded to women better than men.

Boy that was true!

She barked and growled every time my son or husband entered the house and then she walked away.

My son said he didn’t want another dog, and my husband gave her a week to get in line!

What had I done?  I’d had two cordial corgis and now this dog wasn’t what they expected and they weren’t willing to help her work through her fears either.

But she loved me and I instantly loved her too.

What to do?

I tried to get my two guys on board.  After all, I said, this is the first female dog we’ve owned, maybe females are different?

I had them give her treats, I had them feed her, which they did half heartedly.

Then one evening I had to go out. When I came home Bella was so happy to see me, that she did a little dance, tail wagging and all.

And both my son and husband looked at me.  “Well she’s sure happy to see you!”  They said.  She’s been ignoring us all evening.

“Well, give her time.”  I said.

I had them each give her a piece of peperoni.  That went well.  She warmed a little.

Then I realized my son who spent most of his time in his room was coming out more often.  He was coming down to sit and pet Bella, and they were bonding.  He wasn’t harsh with her anymore but talked nicely and with a welcoming spirit.  Bella actually started to seek him out.

My husband on the other hand would come through the door and shout, “Hey Bella!” and she would continue to run away.

He was clearly getting annoyed.

I decided he should take her out in the evening to get her used to him.  She ran from the leash.

He was definitely getting annoyed.

She would timidly go up to him to be pet when he coaxed her, but continued to run away from him when he got the leash.

You could tell by my husband’s attitude that his outward appearance did not match his spirit.  He was calling to her but inside you could see his spirit was not “all in.”

Then I realized that Bella was my spirit dog.  She wasn’t going to be cordial to everybody.  You needed to earn her trust.  You needed to be humble in spirit before she would trust you.

Truthfully I wasn’t even sure this was something my husband could do because he is very used to having his own way, but I told him what I thought the problem was.  I encourage him to get down on her level and just offer her genuine love with a caring spirit.

And it started to work!   She would approach him.  She no longer would get up and walk away when he entered the room.  Slowly she was beginning to trust.

Bella still barks when the guys come home, but her tail is wagging now!

She still prefer me to take her for her walks but she willingly goes out the door with my husband when asked, although sometimes I still have to put on the leash.

And today, she came between me and an attacking dog when we were out for a walk demonstrating her spirit of protection.  It was scary but she stood her ground.

Yes, she’s a spirit dog with the loveliest brown soulful eyes!  There’s a corgi in there!

For the Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people, but to be wise and strong, and to love them and enjoy being with them. 2 Timothy 1:7

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on December 5, 2018. 2 Comments

What’s Under Your Hood?

What’s under your hood?

I hate tailgaters.  I truly don’t understand why folks think if they tailgate, they will get somewhere faster.

I seem to have more than my share of tailgaters on my way to work each morning.  The road I travel is a two- lane road where the speed varies from 35 to 45 miles per hours.   Inevitably when I slow down for the 35 mile per hour areas, there is always a tailgater behind me.

Eventually the road merges to a four- lane highway at which point the tailgater will speed past me.

Last week I watched the tailgater behind take up his position at the light next to me once the road transitioned.

I knew this young guy would speed off as soon as the light changed, and he did.  He had a fancy dodge charger, with a racing paint job and I’m sure he was quite glad to race past me demonstrating his need for speed.  I smiled because I knew something he didn’t.  I knew the engine under my hood could have beat him in no time flat, but I had no desire to challenge this young man.

Yes, I drive a silver boring car, but the engine under the hood is the same engine that is in the Nissan Z sports car.  It’s just packaged into a four- door sedan.  It basically looks like any other four door sedan on the road.  The outward appearance does not truly represent the inner capability of the car.

As I drove on, I compared the two cars in my mind.  One with a flashy outward appearance and the other with a stodgy appearance.  As I compared the two cars, I couldn’t help comparing my car to myself, that of my outward body and my inner spiritual being to the exterior of my car and the engine under the hood.

Sure, my car may look like an old sedan but there is power under the hood.  In contrast the flashy car may look powerful but looks can often be deceiving.

Then I thought what do people see when they look at me?

Do they see only my outward appearance, or do they see me reflecting what is inside, that which is under my outward appearance?

I try to look nice every day.  Most people if they can, do try to look their best.  But my outward appearance isn’t what makes me who I am.

It is my inner being, that fuels my soul and drives my spirit.

So, I thought that day, do I harness what’s under my hood, and reflect it for the greater good of those around me?

Harness is an interesting word.  To harness a horse is to fasten that horse in such a way that it can be controlled by the driver to accomplish a task.

Am I harnessed to my creator?  Am I so driven that I want to allow his power to work in and through me?

The power under the hood of my car is great, but the power within me is far greater because it is the power of the Holy Spirit which drives me.

I want to do a spiritual check daily to check that the power under my hood is harnessed to be driven according to God’s purposes.

Not a bad lesson to be learned from a short drive into work.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Romans 1:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on November 23, 2018. 4 Comments

Single Mind

On any given day my mind can be divided between so many tasks that is seems impossible to complete all of them.  Every title we have causes us to have a different role to play.

Moms and dads need to attend to their children’s needs.   The tasks and demands of our job require scheduling, attention to detail and working with others, sometimes others who require a lot of attention.

Add to that, the everyday decisions we must make.  Which lane to drive in on the way home to get home with the least amount of delay, and oh, by the way, what am I going to make for dinner?   Do I have appointments to keep,  housekeeping to attend to,  bills to pay, or schoolwork to complete?

The list just goes on and on, while our minds become more and more divided.

We  try to prioritize according to need.   People need to be fed, gas needs to be put in the car and homework needs to be completed by a certain time.  Work obligations may require knowledge for completing tasks,  preparation for meetings and deadlines.

And so our mind is multitasking, divided, and stressed.

An old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon was left hanging above my desk when I started my job,  it read:

“God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain amount of things, right now I am so far behind, I will never die.”

Funny.  Maybe, maybe not.

Yes, I’m sure God has a plan for us but not so much for us to be busy accomplishing things under our own strength but under his direction, and we can’t do that with a divided mind.

So, I’m sitting here right now looking at what I consider a bit of a miracle.  I’m looking at a peace lily. in my living room.  The peace lily is basically a leafy green plant.  The leaves are large and beautiful on their own, and the plant generally is represented by its foliage.

But every so often something miraculous happens!  Every so often, one, single, white blossom is produced by this lily.

One beautiful straight growing blossom that looks like a white leaf, with a corncob looking pistil in the center covered with white pollen.

And as I look at this peace lily I realize that it has once again, fulfilled its purpose of producing that one fruitful blossom.

It doesn’t blossom often.  In fact generally the peace lily is a rather non distinct botanical plant.  But when it blossoms it becomes very distinct.

So it’s not that God has put us on earth to accomplish a certain number of things.  It’s that God has determined a single purpose for us to accomplish.

And to do that we need to have a single mind not a divided mind.

Oh, sure we are still going to have our everyday tasks to finish, but if we do them with our single God given purpose, God will supply the strength that we need to accomplish each one of them.

If we strive to do it under our own strength we will collapse under the burden of the weight they bear.

So, today I’m going to have a single, focused mind.  I’m going to bear the fruit that God has already given me.

I will bear the fruit of love, the fruit of joy, the fruit of peace, the fruit of patience, the fruit of kindness, the fruit of goodness, the fruit of faithfulness and perhaps, about all the fruit of self control to have a single mind focused on the love God has for me and for those around me.

To me the peace lily represents God in all his fullness, the blossom represents Jesus, and the white represents the brightness that shone from his face on Easter morning.

And the pistil represents the Holy Spirit which contains the pollen that produces life.  When touched ever so slightly the pollen gently floats away.  It is the Holy Spirit who produces the single  mindedness in me and allows me to share it with others.

 

Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Philippians 2:2

The Message

 

Last Friday I had to wait for the water meter man to come.  I had found a note on my door saying they needed access to our home but no one was available.

Call this number to arrange an appointment, the card said.

So Friday I arranged to be home to meet the water meter man.  When I opened the door, I said, “You’re the water guy, right?”  He confirmed that he was.  I asked, because earlier that week there had been a confrontation at a home in the general area, and as it turns out the man doing the confronting had left the house with a shotgun only to be located by the police the next morning hiding in our neighborhood.

It pays to be safe rather than sorry I thought, although as I opened the door, the guy had full access to barge right in anyway if he so desired.

I showed him where the indoor meter was located and he looked perplexed.  The previous owners had finished the basement and so the meter was boxed into a wall.  There was still access to the water valve but apparent there was another valve that needed to be turned off which was located further up the wall.

I expected this water guy would have come with tools, presupposing this kind of thing.  He didn’t.  He just looked at me and said, “I might get some water on your floor.”  The floor was carpeted so I decided I should go retrieve some tools and help this guy along.

I returned with a hammer, and a putty knife.  He just looked at me.  “I don’t want to damage anything.” He said.

So, I took the tools and got to work.  Too bad, I was thinking that my husband was at a doctor’s appointment that morning.  Slowly I worked the putty knife along the edge of the molding and pried the panel loose, next the baseboard, so that the water man could access the panel.

“I’m better at this than I thought.”  I said.  To which the water man said, “Yeah, actually you’re better than most of the guys at the garage.”  That was cute.

“Well, I’ll have my husband put it back together later.”  I said.

When my husband came home I showed him what needed to be taken care of.

Two days later when I went down the basement, the panel was still off and everything was in disarray.

Since I use the basement for meeting with my evening clients I knew I needed to do something.

So, I went to the garage and retrieved a hammer, and nails, and proceeded to reassemble.

My husband heard me and came downstairs.

He watched.

Yep, he watched.  I fumed a little, but not so as he would notice, as I tried to adjust the wood and slide it back into place under the molding.

A little hit there, and another hit on the side, and then the nails.

I pounded, and, you guessed it; he watched.

The bottom molding was bouncing a bit off the carpet so he lent a hand to hold it in place as I pounded.

Then my husband said, “You can tell you’re a carpenter’s daughter.”

I didn’t respond, I just kept pounding until the nail which had bent twice, and needed straightening, finally went into the word securely.

In my mind I thought.  “Yes, I’m a carpenter’s daughter, twice over.”

My earthly father was a carpenter and he had taught me basic carpentry skills.

And my heavenly father came in the form of a carpenter to teach me spiritual skills.

Earthly skills to do the task at hand that day.

Spiritual skills to not open my mouth that day.

Yes, I’m the daughter of a carpenter, with the skill set to match.

I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—Exodus 31:3