Merry Christmas everyone! I just want to wish each of you a joyful, peaceful and blessed Christmas. My wish for you, is that you take 10 minutes today or in the next couple of days to do nothing but simply sit or stand before a Nativity set and just PONDER! Ponder the joy,,,the surprise...the miracle...the simplicity and let it wash over. Slow down, push stop and just BE in the presence of the Newborn King who came as YOUR gift!
I'm going to take the week off to be with family, friends and spend some quiet minutes soaking up this amazing season! I'm putting away my laptop for a few days and loading up the Chevy Traverse with 6 folks I love and going on a road trip. More than a dozen hours in a Traverse with 7 people (2 of whom are more than 6 and a half feet tall) should provide gobs of blog material! You'll want to join me back here in a couple of weeks to see what God showed me in that circumstance.
May the blessings and love of the Christmas season come upon you and all those you love!
Blessings on your day!
…you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Luke 2:12
Social media can be crazy but it can also be awesome! I have some amazing stuff pop up on my twitter page and my Facebook newsfeed. Sometimes it’s stories that bring hope, sometimes it’s a quick scripture or quote that jolts my thinking or my heart and sometimes it’s just plain funny, laugh out loud kinda stuff. It’s funny how just when I need a laugh or a lift the most, something pops up at just the perfect time. Friday afternoon I was running out of gas; my emotions, my energy, my joyfulness…all of it was running on fumes. Right before I left school I sat down at my desk to check messages and send a couple of quick emails and I found a little clip that made me laugh so hard in the quiet building I think I frightened the janitor.
The link to this little clip will be at the bottom of this post so you can giggle too. If you have a minute (literally) you might want to scroll down and watch it before you continue reading. The video features two tiny girls playing the roles of Mary and a sheep in a Christmas Pageant and a hilarious fight over the Baby Jesus. As the two tumble and tussle fighting for the doll it made me think of our daily struggles to put a little more Jesus in our life.
The first thing I thought when I watched the clip was; what would my life look like if I worked as hard to capture Jesus as the little sheep did? She knew she wanted Jesus and she planned, pounced and protected. The look of sheer delight on her face as she danced with Jesus in her arms was endearing. It made me wonder how much more content and joyful I’d be if I imagined dancing in the arms of Jesus like the little sheep. She defended Baby Jesus and she wasn’t afraid to laugh and run around like he was her prized possession. I sure think my imitation of that little sheep would change things!
The little girl who played Mary had a lesson for me too. Her first reaction was shock but it didn’t take her long to spring into action. It’s funny how she hesitated for a quick second as if formulating a plan that was as peaceful as possible. She very easily could have taken the sheep out at the knees, instead, she was trying to be dignified but driven. More often than I’d like to admit I charge off full speed either in my actions or my judgmental thoughts and don’t take a quiet second to think things through. She became the Baby Jesus’ protector, trying to return him to his rightful spot. She didn’t give up; she didn’t wait for Joseph or one of the shepherds to step in and handle the problem, she just went after Jesus trying to make sure he had the honor and respect he was due. There are a couple lessons in discipleship there that I should ponder.
The wonder of Christmas never gets old. Something about children, including Baby Jesus, and their innocence and cuteness just makes my heart happy. They are not filled with malice and they aren’t trying to deceive or impress…they just are. When I see the number of likes, shares and views on this little clip I’m filled with hope because I know others are stopping to watch, laugh and maybe ponder the birth of Jesus and that’s something truly worth pondering.
A Seed To Plant: Watch the video and spend some time pondering what we’re really preparing for these last few days of Advent.
Blessings on your day!
The person who is faithful with small matters is also faithful with great ones. Luke 16:10
If I had any power of any kind, I would declare it National 'Little is Lovely Week! Christmas Eve is only ten days away and this is just about the time many of us go into our “Christmas Freak Out” and completely forget about the coming of a King! We have probably done a good chunk of our shopping and now we start to worry about whether the gifts we’ve purchased are good enough or big enough or fancy enough to out-do what we gave last year. That’s where the trouble starts to brew!
Many of Gods greatest gifts are small. Babies, flowers, butterfly’s, puppies and a Son who came to save us from our sinfulness are all small but yet so completely amazing they can make us stop in our tracks and take notice. God works among the small and simple parts of our lives. He shows His magnificence in the little details but yet we live in a culture that praises, rewards and almost requires bigger, better, bolder and over the top.It’s a good time to think about which influence we’d like to be shaped by. God wanted so badly to make things small and simple He even took His Ten Commandments and broke them down into two very simple ones, Love God and Love others. How could we goof up something so simple!
Sometimes it’s the little things we take for granted. We don’t often think of the simple gift of time as something valuable we can wrap and put under the tree but it is. Instead of trying to find the newest toy or hottest appliance or trendiest outfit, give the simple gift of time. Give a now and later gift, a small treat or gift card for now and a certificate for a lunch or dinner date together later. A gift from a student one year that really touched my heart was a beautiful cookie, made and wrapped with a bow by the child complete with a card saying that child and her family had prayed for me and my family at supper each night for a week. Give the gift of an event, like bowling or a movie together. How about the gift of a promise? It could be a promise to spend an hour or an afternoon doing whatever the recipient wants whether it be playing a game, cleaning the cupboards or helping with yard work. You could attach your promise to help with spring gardening to a new shovel or pair of work gloves. Be creative…be simple…be small! As you are trying to figure out how to bless the people you love, first remember to pray for them and ask the Creator who knows them best to help you decide how to bless them with a gift.
While we’re on the subject of little, how about spending a little or a little more time in prayer each morning so we can keep our hearts focused on the true meaning of the season. Be simple but be intentional. God loves Christmas and He’s the first one in line to help us keep focused and not overwhelmed by the way our culture can clutter up Christmas.
A seed to plant: Set your alarm to get up 15 minutes earlier this week and use those minutes in simple prayer, maybe reading the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel. Second, take a look at your shopping and to-do list and pick 5 things to do smaller or simpler.
Blessings on your day
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; Matthew 5:12
When the Christmas decorations come down from the attic each December there are a few things I unpack first; the really special things. The first is the handmade Nativity Stable my father-in-law made, the second is the needlepoint stockings with the kids names Dave’s sister Jan made and the third is much less sentimental but still a personal favorite; the movie Elf. Quite a contrast I know but there is a good reason. When I take out the first two my heart is touched! I think of the time and love that went into the creation of the stockings and stable and I re-play Christmas past. When the movie comes out I laugh; plain and simple…it just makes me laugh! It’s always good to laugh but this time of year it’s even more important to balance the hectic days with some spirit lifting laughter.
One of the things I love most about the main character; Buddy the Elf, is his contagious enthusiasm and cheerfulness. Granted, he’s a bit over the top but he just seems to roll with life, finding the good in everything and every person; including angry Taxi drivers and mean raccoons! He finds great pleasure in simple things like revolving doors, paper snowflakes and maple syrup. He works hard, doesn’t complain, tries his best to please everyone, compliments easily and speaks the truth always. He is good, kind, friendly and sincerely thoughtful and sweet. I think the world could use a lot more Buddy’s! The one thing though that really makes Buddy unique is his passion for Santa. One of my favorite scenes is when the store manager announces that Santa will be arriving the next day and Buddy jumps and claps and screams “I know him, I know him!” He immediately recognized the Santa that arrives the next day as an imposter. Right away he saw him and said, “That’s not him, I know him and that’s not him.”
Now before you all think I’ve lost my mind with today’s post I want you to stop for a minute and think with me. We have plenty of Advent left to get ready so allow me to make a comparison. In the movie, Buddy stayed up all night preparing the toy department for the arrival of his favorite guest; the guest he knew intimately. Buddy nearly jumped out of his elf tights with excitement when he found out he’d be seeing his friend. He loudly demonstrated passion, happiness, excitement, and unmeasurable pleasure at the mere mention of his friend’s name. What if the movie was called “Jesus” and we were the main character? What would our reaction to our friend be? Would there be jumping, clapping or unmeasurable joy and excitement at the mention of his name? Would we stay up all night making the perfect preparations for our special guest or would we just try to make time when we could squeeze in a minute or two here and there? Do we know him intimately or are we sometimes tricked by a false Jesus allowing it to distract or divert us from the true meaning of the Savior?
Sometimes we do the same thing over and over and wonder why it didn’t turn out differently. Maybe that describes your Advent but not to worry…there is a time left. There is great value to looking at something familiar with a completely new perspective. Maybe it’s time to think like Buddy the Elf. Maybe it’s time to imitate his enthusiasm. Maybe it’s time to put away doubt and skepticism and look with eyes and hearts of hope, joy and thoughtfulness. Maybe it’s time to imagine ourselves standing at the Nativity scene with contagious enthusiasm because he came…the savior came…to see me…to live for me…to die for me…to bring me the gift of salvation! Maybe our goal for the rest of Advent is to expect and anticipate Jesus with the same excitement Buddy had for Santa.
A Seed To Plant: Watch Elf, or at least a YouTube clip from the movie and see it through the lens of you and Jesus then make a plan for how you will imitate Buddy’s enthusiasm during this last week of Advent.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Psalm 34:19
Every once in a while something happens that I just can’t seem to find the joyful words for. Several times since the Joyful Words blog began, I’ve needed to write a piece that presented my best attempt at trying to explain the unexplainable, offer comfort to the miserable and provide a window from which to catch a glimpse of the beauty nestled deeply in a tragedy. Today is one of those days and I pray the Holy Spirit will use my typing to apply some healing balm and loving peace to a hurting community.
From a human perspective, the best ending to life on earth would be to simply lie down for a nap at the ripe old age of 90 something and peacefully pass from this dwelling to the next. No pain, no suffering, no trauma, no mess. The problem is, that’s not often the way it all goes down. This week our little community has fallen to it’s knees; both in prayer and in grief as we mourn the loss of a beautiful little 10 year old named Samantha. She was a joyful light so full of love and life. We had a one day window to beg for a miracle before the Lord called her home. Now we’re all trying to fit the pieces back together. As teachers and parents we’re trying to help nearly 300 children process something they can’t wrap their heads or their hearts around. As family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ we’re reaching out to a family that is stunned and a little broken. As Christians, we’re trying to trustingly grab on to the peace and comfort of the Father. And as humans, we’re confused, broken hearted and perhaps even a little bit angry.
I suppose the greatest tragedy of all would be for us to stay stuck right where we are. God doesn’t make this stuff happen. He doesn’t plan it or will it, but he sure does meet us in the middle of it and lead us through it. He didn’t turn his back on us and ignore our plea for a miracle. Our hope wasn’t wasted and our faith wasn’t ignored. It’s ok to not have a crystal clear understanding of things; it’s ok if we can’t figure things all out; it’s ok if stuff just doesn’t make sense. Having faith doesn’t guarantee understanding. God is so much bigger than our pain and he is so much stronger than our suffering. Those are the truths we need to stand on in times like these.
In the midst of the hard and the ugly this week there has been tremendous grace and overwhelming love. I’ve had a front row seat to some amazing views this week and I’ve seen heartwarming beauty come from deep sadness. Our miracle may not have looked the way we wanted it to but I’d like to share a few of the many little miracles of the week because they bring hope and they are a reminder that God loves us so richly and he’s too fond of us to leave us right where we are.
**Just like Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” This week we have seen so, so many amazing helpers who have brought food, counseling and comfort to our students and staff. Helpers have transformed our school gym into a space of magnificent beauty to gather for prayer, and comfort as we celebrate the life of a sweet little girl. My favorite helpers are the army of folks who have swaddled Samantha’s family with love and prayers.
**Words aren’t always necessary. Sometimes the greatest act of compassion is to reach out and hold someones hand or offer them a tissue for their leaky eyes and drippy nose. It’s been a wonder to see the big kids take care of the little kids and see classmates lifting each other up in those moments when it just gets overwhelming.
**The power of family is unshakable when they are united in faith and prayer.
**The Holy Spirit always sends the right words when you ask for them and sometimes what he sends comes out a little twisted and that’s ok too because that often creates laughter and he know when that’s what you need most!
**There is absolutely nothing that can’t be made better when surrounded by prayer and the phrase, Jesus I trust in you is a powerhouse!
**Super Heroes sometimes come in the form of a 10 year old twin sister with the courage of a warrior, armed with the strength and the power and the love to make sure we had all the inside information about her sister so we could honor her memory perfectly.
**Together, united in trust and faith, guided by the Grace of God, anything is possible and joy can be found even on the darkest day.
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, “Sometimes life is hard for no particular reason at all!” I may not be able to find a good reason for the events of this week but I sure can find God and his goodness splattered everywhere I look.
A Seed To Plant: Please say a prayer for peace and comfort for Samantha’s family.
Blessings on your day!
…“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. “Mark 1:2
If you do much driving, chances are you’ve come across a vehicles displaying a brightly colored Wide Load sign. That sign clearly alerts drivers to an expectation and the preparation that comes with it. It reminds us to be alert, cautious and expect or adjust to something that looks a little different. In essence, that sign is the messenger. When it comes to living out our discipleship, the message and the path might not be quite so noticeable but the season of Advent helps make things clear.
The Advent message is all about patient waiting and preparation. It’s hard to listen, watch, wait and prepare when we drive ourselves silly with shopping, decorating, celebrating and chaos! When we’re caught in all the hoopla, we miss the true message of it all; PEACE. Peace is the fruit of stillness, prayer and patient waiting. When we get the message and feel his peace, we are aware of Christ at work in our life. God promised peace but we have to want it, seek it and work for it. We can’t get it on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or by waiting in line with a 40% off coupon. Peace is the gift of God’s presence in our day. If we offer him our day and speak with him often throughout it; as if consulting a personal adviser, he will provide those moments of great exhale as things fall into place. Prayerful stillness won’t make things go haywire, he can handle the details; the shopping, the cleaning, the schedules. He’s bigger than our to-do list, he’s a master entertainer and he is rich beyond measure. His message is; trust me and let me bring you peace.
Just twenty minutes of prayer each day of Advent equals nearly an entire 8 hour work day. If you’re thinking you don’t have time to be still and prepare, or that Advent would be much better in March when you weren’t so busy then ask yourself this question. What leads you closer to Christ; the perfect gift and cookie plate or a heart filled with the peace of Christ?
A Seed To Plant: Read each of the Advent Sunday Gospels; then read the Christmas Gospel so you know what you are preparing and waiting for.
Blessings on your day!
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