The Light of the World is waiting

This time of year we hear the carols, we see the red and the green, we smell the evergreens, our mouths are feasting on great food and if we are lucky we touch the snow.

All of our senses are involved in the experience that is Christmas.

Our emotions, however, can hold sway on our perspective and can cause us to miss out on the most important thing about Christmas: Jesus.

We can walk around in the darkness of loneliness, sadness, grief, missed joy, loveless, pain, loss, despair, depression, anger, frustration, jealousy and a host of other things that come to mind.

We do not see. We walk in blindness caused by our own hearts when we fail to hear the Good News of the Gospel because of the cacophony in our brains that interferes with the simple message.

Jesus is here.

He is the Light of the World.

He came for us.

All of us.

Let Him be your Light this Christmas.

Come and See.

The Newborn King awaits.

Bring Him your darkness

and

Come into the light.

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 9-14 NIV

One Word

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SURRENDER

This word came to me in the weeks before Christmas. I wasn’t praying about it; I wasn’t even thinking about “One Word”.  But it came, nevertheless. And it made me feel like this tree in the picture- dry, no evidence of life, with arms outstretched to Heaven. Reaching for warmth in the cold of winter.

I suppose you could say it came on angel wings- if you wanted to be poetic about it.

I suppose you could say it came because the year was coming to an end.

I suppose you could say it came because those three words I chose at the beginning of 2014 were sitting there staring at me every time I looked at my blog: Grateful- I was determined to be grateful if it killed me; Stand-I wanted to take a stand and stand firm on the solid ground of the Gospel; and Forward- I was looking forward to the place where I belong, where being an alien is not possible-the place where the streets are made of gold- not painted with gold, not covered with gold, not sprayed with gold, not gold filled, but solid gold streets.

Ok.

 You get the picture.

How did I do over the past 12 months?

I was grateful: for my home, my family {when they agreed with me}, for my faith, for all I’ve been given; yes, you could say it was semi-successful if you were measuring it as the world measures. But I couldn’t.

 I tried to stand on The Rock. But it was clear by Mother’s Day I was not able to keep from falling physically. I developed an imbalance. It came suddenly with vertigo as the herald. My head spun like a top, I lurched across rooms, reaching out for something to hold onto to keep from falling. It was clear that I was not going to stand very well. This was also true as I read scripture {between FB posts, emails, texts, phone calls, errands, etc.}; but my deep study that had been there in the past was not present this year. My grasp was loosened and I sat back and watched others serve, participate and grow. I did not stand very well at all.

I did move forward toward that City with golden streets- how can we not even if we are standing-eh, sitting still? I’m still an alien on this plane of existence. I am still looking forward, as time moves me forward. But honestly, I don’t anticipate leaving here and going there as much as I once did. There are too many little joys in my life- nine to be exact.

 When I was a young adult, maturing and discovering scripture in depth for the first time, my brain would take apart the words and I would eat them one at a time and truly begin to understand more than The Creation Story, Noah’s Ark, Jonah, the arrival of Jesus every year at Christmas and His Resurrection at every Easter. Then, I relished the visions of the Revelation given to John. I looked forward with great anticipation, joy, even. Now I wonder if I’ll be ready to lay down those things and people that I hold dear and go without reluctance when my time comes to change addresses the last time. His Return would be far preferable to see in this body.

I do look forward to that return with joy, anticipation, fear. Who would not be afraid? The awesome Majesty, the end of sorrow, suffering, hunger, pain, anger, violence, death, frustration; all those things gone in a flash. To be in His physical presence; close enough to touch, see, hear and walk the path together. Now that is pure joy.

 As I’ve come to the close of 2014 and am staring 2015 in the face, I write for the first time in a good while because this word arrived and carved a spot in my heart.

Surrender.

How does one describe something that hits you hard between the eyes? I surrendered my heart to Jesus long, long ago as a small child. This word has a much more complex meaning than giving my heart to my first love. It also means giving up those last vestiges of self control {an oxymoron if ever there was one} of my time, my space, my body, my hands, my feet, my eyes and ears. I must acknowledge that He is in Control and to learn to be totally submissive, accepting, and content. (ah, there’s that word I always seem to be tripping over)

The coming year will be a new journey for me- discovering what surrender really means in my life.

The dictionary defines it thus: to yield (something)to the possession or power of another; to give oneself up; to give up, abandon or relinquish; to yield or resign in favor of another; to submit. It comes from the Old French surrendre “give up, deliver over” (13c.), from sur- “over” + rendre “give back”.

I think the French got it right- I’m giving my whole self back and my life over to Jesus. He already has my heart, but He has asked for all of me and that is what I will strive to give to Him.

Do you not know that if you continually surrender yourselves to anyone to do his will, you are the slaves of him whom you obey, whether that be to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience which leads to righteousness (right doing and right standing with God)? Romans 6:16 Amp

This song  that’s been playing over and over in my head describes it well-

The Violet Burning: Mon Désir

The radio plays

On New Years Day

And all I want is you

Through the snow and the rain

On New Years Day

All I want is you

There’s a driving rain

Pouring down on me

Through a broken life

You have carried me

When there are no lights

You are all I see

All I want is you

All the promises made

On New Years Day

And all I want is you

And the meteors came

On New Years Day

All I want is you

We came in there through Chicago

Beneath a blinding light

You came all the way from heaven

Between the sorrow and the night

I was waiting for your gift, Lord

In the palaces of song

I knelt down to forgiveness

For all I had done wrong

I’ve got one more change

I’m gonna leave it behind

All I want is you

I was alone and I was broken

Beneath a blinding light

I went out into the darkness

I was holding to you tight

All I want is you

 

The Perfect Gift

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On the bookcase, where I can see it every day, is a little red box with a tiny blue bow.

A couple of years ago, my granddaughter gave me this little box at Christmas. She was so proud of herself as she told me that she had made it the week before in Sunday School.  I opened it and inside, folded up and pushed into the box was a sheet of paper. On that paper was the story of Salvation and the verses-

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17

The Gift. Wrapped in human form. Sent from Heaven to earth. Arrival announced by a great choir of angels. Whose presence graced the lowest, meanest place on the earth. 

What happened at that moment was the giving of THE GIFT; the one Gift given by the Giver who knew exactly the right Gift to give.

The Gift of exchange-One life for all others.

It’s the only Gift that matters, the Gift that came to each of us is for each of us.

 When we give gifts to each other at Christmas, it represents the first gifts given to Him by the wise men.

Matthew tells us that they followed the star until it stopped where Jesus was and “when they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts”.(2:10-11)

 How do we keep the meaning of giving from getting lost in the shuffle of wrapping paper and tape? The wise men gave their treasure. The only treasure we have to give to Him is ourselves. 

And, really? There’s nothing else that He wants.

The best part is that I didn’t have to wait till Christmas to give that gift to Him or to take  the Gift He’s given me. 

Neither do you.

Pause

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The moon came out again tonight to say “hello!” in a big way. Playing coy. She slipped in and out of the wispy clouds high in the December sky. She began the night full round, golden as she started her climb; fading to silvery white as the night grew cold.

December nights in the northern hemisphere are cool to downright cold to the bone. Tonight the temperature is energizing in Texas, hovering right around 60 after the sun went down. Folks out and about; scurrying to find the perfect present and grabbing a bite to eat while they map out their strategy to find said present.

We were no different- I’d been shopping for the grands and the husband met me after work to sit across from each other with a salad, a homemade pizza and a glass in our hands.

That moment, the pause, that does indeed refresh, was needed. I love how God orchestrates those pauses in our lives.

You may have noticed that since the new little man was born, I’ve been quiet.

This is my favorite time of year. I love the built in pauses at this time- the few days respite to pause and give thanks for all the good gifts He’s brought to us this year, to stop and consider how much we’ve been spared in His providence.

The pause of the ice storm that made us huddle in close to each other- some to keep warm because the power was out, some just because of the forced rest and the time to re-connect.

And, now comes the best “Pause”. That space of time when the kids are out of school, we take a deep breath in the middle of the hurry and time seems to stop. When we sit watching the school pageant or the Christmas musicals at church, and the couple of days before Christmas when we feel like we are in slow motion (at least I feel that way). After the pause of the Christmas Eve service we move into high gear until after the ribbons and paper have been picked up and the last dish is washed after the Christmas Feast.  

I take a deep breath as everyone returns to their homes and the pause I relish is upon me. I long for it. I race to it. The house is quiet, the music is on, the candles are lit. It’s Christmas. I sit, finally, and drink in and absorb the Gift of forever life He gave to all of us. No matter how much or how little we’ve had, the Gift still came and I pause for it.

Christmas.

The celebration of the birth of one little baby boy a long, long time ago.

The birth that changed forever the world we live in.

The moment when Love, Peace and Joy exploded into our atmosphere and gave skin to Our God and named Him Jesus.

Immanuel-God with us-Redeemer-Savior-the One who takes away the sins of the world-the whole world-not just a few people, not just certain people.

FOR EVERYONE who ever drew a breath or has yet to breathe.

Redemption has already arrived and will draw near to each of us. Even to those who don’t know they need Redemption let alone a Redeemer.

It’s time to pause, look around, see the gift and reach out and grasp it for ourselves and wonder when we open it and all of that Love and Peace and Joy spills out over every thing and every one.  

What are you waiting for?

 

For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:9-14

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27

 “And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and on the earth nations will be in distress, anxious over the roaring of the sea and the surging waves. People will be fainting from fear and from the expectation of what is coming on the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man arriving in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to happen, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21:25-28

Feasting

 

Today I’m joining in with my sweet friend, Katharine Barrett, as we continue to celebrate Christmas in July on her blog  http://www.katharinesthoughts.net

When I start thinking about preparing for Christmas Celebration with my family, food is one place where I pull out all the stops. In short, we feast.  

More important though are the feasts for our souls. Participating in Christmas musicals, going caroling, watching our children’s programs, and attending services that celebrate the birth of Christ like “The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” feed our souls with warmth, hope, love, joy and gratitude. 

 

Especially so when we attend the Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. When we arrive we each receive an unlit candle and make our way to our seats. The children are fidgety in their Christmas outfits. They want to light the candles. There’s no nursery for the babies, they come to the service with the families. Most of them are enthralled with the decorations and the singing. 

 

The pastor sits in a chair at the front and the children who can be trusted to not wander off are escorted to sit at his feet.  He begins the familiar reading “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree…” 

We settle in, absorbed in the story, thinking what it must have been like. Watching the children’s faces caught up in the telling.

 

The joyful carols ring out and fill the room. The strains of “Immanuel”, “Joy to the World”, “Away in a Manger” and more remind us how He has Graced us with His Holy Presence. 

 

Then-

 

 Silence.

Darkness.

A faint glimmer appears at the front and the sound of Silent Night, Holy Night begins with a single voice. Slowly drifting toward the back, gaining volume as each candle is lit from another and another voice is added. By the end of the song, the room is filled with light and the echo of the last notes hangs in the air. The pastor breathes the benediction and we leave silently, the hush still holds us. 

lightoftheworldweb

 

This. Is. Christmas.

 

The celebration of the birth of the Redeemer, the Lamb of God, the Holy One, the Savior of the world. Messiah. Immanuel. God with us. 

 

We go silently to the car and are quiet on the drive home. 

 

At home, the kitchen is the center of my world for the next few hours. Final preparations for Christmas Celebration at our home.  I’ve made the cookies with the kids, and determined the menu. Now, with music flowing, the baking begins!

 

There are rolls to be made, muffins to be prepped, a chocolate torte and a Meyer Lemon pound cake waiting in the wings.  I may even have time for a few truffles and  who knows what else I’ll come up with! 

I’ve added these old standbys and my kids’ favorites below  Questions? Clarification needed? Please add to the comments and I’ll clarify for all!

 

(just click on this: link to my recipe page and scroll down to find these)

 

Nathalie Dupree’s Quick and Easy Rolls

I remember watching her make these on her show on PBS when my youngest was little- the cooking shows were his favorite to watch at lunch time.

 

Pumpkin Muffins

Although these may seem more suited to Thanksgiving tables, there was almost a revolt in the family one year when they discovered I was not planning to make these for Christmas. I gave in and made them even though they didn’t go with the menu!

 

Blueberry Muffins

I’ve made these for years for breakfast Christmas Morning and on weekends. I usually buy a large amount of fresh blueberries and make a batch or two; then I freeze the remainder by spreading them out in one layer on a cookie sheet (with sides) and freeze then transfer to a freezer bag and use them in this recipe. If I have guests then I make it as a bread using a bundt pan {think “My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding” where Harry(Harriet) brings a bundt cake to the family party} The neat thing about this one is that it can be modified into other kinds of muffins. 

 

Monster Cookies: 

so called because they are so big. I use red and green M&Ms for these at Christmas time. I started making these because there were a kazillion teachers I worked with and only one of me and I wanted to give them all a Christmas Present. Every year they would start asking me as soon as we got back from Thanksgiving: “When are you bringing Monster Cookies?” I would make a batch and place them in the break room with my hot cider concoction and they would be gone by 1 o’clock!