God danced among the common and that night…he did a waltz. Max Lucado
Happy Christmas Eve! So how was your Advent? I hope you were able to make a little room in your heart and get ready for the wee Baby Jesus! What, you didn’t have an hour of uninterrupted silent prayer each day? What do you mean, you felt frazzled and stressed instead of calm and prayerful? Are you kidding, you don’t really feel all that much different than you did the first Sunday of Advent?
Welcome to the club! Believe me, I get it! How many times did your kids get the flu or did auto or home repair bills catch you by surprise? How many Christmas programs did you squeeze in between working late, eating too much sugar and going to 45 school events since Advent began? Isn’t it funny how we begin Advent with such high hopes to be calm and enjoy and wait and prepare but we end up rattled, exhausted, low on money and wishing Advent came AFTER Christmas when we had more time to focus on it! The good news is; we still have a few hours! Think of this post as an Advent Sprint Finish how-to!
First of all, I’d be willing to bet that your Advent had more shining moments that you realize. Take a few minutes of still and quiet today and reflect back on the last three weeks. Did you pray a little more? Were you a little more mindful of the needs of others? Did you do something to take care of the struggling, the hungry or the needy during Advent? Maybe you read or listened to something good for your soul or payed a little more attention to the homily or the Scripture Readings. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you call to mind the little ways you opened your heart to prepare. You may not string it all together but he certainly does.
Just because Advent is a whole season, it’s still just a window of time made up of smaller moments. Loving the Lord and growing in Discipleship isn’t all or nothing! It’s about chunks of times when we take little steps forward. My tall sons can get across a room faster than I can with their long legs but it doesn’t mean their trip is better, it just means they traveled a little differently than me. Don’t let Advent guilt skulk into your heart today…its’ Christmas Eve and a miracle is about to take place. It’s the eve of the night of Wonder and Awe! It’s the night we celebrate the beginning of God’s humanity. It’s the night that we remember how powerfully God showed his love for us. He reached down and put his son in the arms of a teenage girl so we could join him in heaven as saints! There is no room for guilt or worry or feelings of unworthiness today! We’ve got a party to get ready for!
Company comes often and sometimes I’m ready for them. Sometimes I have plenty of time to prepare and put flowers and homemade goodies on my guests bed side table. Those are the times everything is scrubbed and shiny and all the favorite foods are prepared. Other times, I have from the time a guest pulls into the driveway and makes it to the front door to get ready. Either way, I love having guests and the quality of my preparation has very little to do with the beauty of the visit. You may have had a great Advent getting ready or you may be doing “Newborn King Prep” at warped speed today but either way, Jesus is coming and he’s gonna be awesome regardless of what we’ve done. At this point, the most important task is all that remains….OPEN THE DOOR OF YOUR HEART AND LET HIM IN!
Merry Christmas My Friends!
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
If you were to give yourself a score between 1 and 10; 10 being awesome, how would you score yourself at waiting? Are you patient, still and peaceful as you wait or are you fidgety, anxious and impatient? What would you think if I told you I was going to give you a free trip to sit in a waiting room? I’m not sure how many would find that much of a trip at all but maybe it could be if we took a different look at waiting and the things that can happen to us while we wait.
One December many years ago I remember sitting in waiting rooms at Mayo Clinic with Mom for an entire week. I am reminded of a simple blessing of all that waiting each year when I put up our Nativity set. As we waited and waited, I began to visit with people who were also waiting and there was one particular couple from Wisconsin that made the waiting so much better. Throughout the week he would whittle little pieces of wood and she would card wool from the sheep they raised. On the last day we were at the clinic they told Dad and me they would be praying for us and they handed each of us a set of nativity animals made from the wood he had carved and whittled and the wool she had carded. Each year as I unpack them I pray for that couple and remember the gift of their talent and their friendship and prayers during a time of frustrated waiting. They were our Mayo clinic blessing; a waiting blessing.
I think we’re all waiting for something. What are you waiting for? Maybe you’re waiting for a new job, or a headache to go away. Perhaps your wait is more serious like waiting for a baby, for test results, a lost love to return or for a diagnosis. Perhaps you’re waiting for someone to get car keys so you don’t have so much carpooling to do or for a little one to finally sleep through the night or master the art of potty training. Many are waiting for a blanket of sadness, grief or loneliness to be lifted from their heavy heart. We spend months just waiting for something to start and something to stop so something else can start. The honest truth is, many of us are simply waiting on God to organize our life just the way we’ve been planning it; just waiting for him to do his job the way we’d like it. Since we spend so much time waiting, the kind of waiter we are matters.
The prophet Isaiah promised that those who waited on the Lord would have their strength renewed. I could use a little of that! The fruit of waiting patiently is peace. That peace gives way to humility and docility. What if we invited God into our waiting? What if we offered him the seat right next to us? Through that attitude of humility and docility that comes with peace, we might begin to realize that the job we’ve been waiting for might not be ours at all; maybe it’s the perfect job for someone else. What if that person we’ve been waiting to love us is meant to love somebody else because God has someone chosen that will love us far more than the person we had in mind ever could. What if healing meant making our soul healthier than our body so we could enjoy eternity with Jesus instead of spending more years on earth? What if we became so good at waiting we grew in humility to such a point we rejoiced when others got something and we forgot we were even waiting in the first place? What if we realized all of the waiting we do has a great purpose; one we usually can’t see. Not to worry, God can see it and someday we’ll figure it out and realize when we patiently wait for him to bring everything to complete perfection, we are blessed with something so much better than we even hoped for!
Isaiah said that we would not grow weary or faint. How can that be? Worrying and waiting is exhausting, everybody knows that. Well, here’s a news flash, waiting is supposed to be an inactive thing so we shouldn’t be worn out. If we are waiting right we are in peace, letting time pass with contentment knowing God has it all under control. Instead we get worn out because we fight and squirm and wrestle with God’s plan confident he’s forgotten, or misunderstood our needs. When I get like that I hear my mother’s voice say, “Now Sheri Ann, just settle down miss, settle down!” Good advice as always mom! Advent seems to be a great time to practice our waiting! Ready…set…wait!
A Seed To Plant: What are you waiting for? Make a list and ask God to take your worries and “waiting for’s” and exchange them for peace and patience.
Blessings on your day!
"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
Have you ever put something aside in a “safe place” only to discover a few weeks or months (or maybe even a few hours) later you can’t remember where that safe place is? Maybe it’s just me but the older I get the more time I spend trying to find safe places. A while back, someone sent me the message in today’s post and I put it in a safe place. Months later, ta-da! I guess I’ll call it Gods excellent timing because I just happened to stumble across it last week while I was preparing for an Advent by Candlelight event I had been invited to speak at and the words were a perfect fit with the message of the evening. As I think about ways to make Advent more meaningful, this was the perfect thing to find. I hope in these words you can find some things to prayerfully ponder and maybe even change in order to put things in the right perspective and get ready for the birth of our Savior.
THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE
We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time.
We have more education but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness.
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion;
tall men but short character;
steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.
I hope somewhere in that story you can find a little nugget or two to work on, I know I see several! A few of the middle lovelies told me last week they were committing to less time “on screen” and more time “in prayer” this Advent. I promised I’d join them because I can’t be in charge of the world and fix all the issues this little story points out, but I can be in charge of my own heart and my own home…and that’s really all God ever asks us to do. He doesn’t ask for perfection, only participation. Please join me this week in pondering these words. The last line really hit me; much in the window but nothing in the room; if the room is my heart I’m petrified at the thought of nothing; but I rejoice at the thought of Jesus taking up all the space in my heart.
A Seed To Plant: Take this story into your prayer time and really ponder what God might be leading you to do or change as you use this Advent Season to prepare for His coming.
Blessings on your day!
He will be great…Luke 1:32
Molly was her name. She was plastic, had fuzzy brown hair and eyelids that opened and closed when I put her down or picked her up. I would rock her, cuddle her and carry her everywhere. Molly the dolly, made me realize how much I wanted to be a mother; it was my biggest prayer. After my first child, my prayer changed. From that point, until this very day, I have prayed daily for the same thing; Lord, whatever it takes for the sanctification of my children, please do it. That can be a scary prayer, but as I pray it, I remember that he loves my kids more than I do and that brings great peace!
As I read this Gospel I am struck by two verses; He will be great & you have found favor with God. As parents, we worry and wonder about our children; have we loved them enough, taught them enough, instilled enough faith; so imagine the stunning relief if you heard a messenger of God, say about your child, “He will be great.” What would that sigh of relief even sound like if we knew for sure that our children would achieve greatness in the eyes of God? And what would we do with all the minutes we spend thinking about their holiness and happiness? At first, the two verses seemed separate, but then the Holy Spirit helped me see that if desiring and praying for our children's holiness is a top priority, then we’re doing exactly what God asked us to do when he placed that little life in our womb.
As we enter the second week of Advent we continue to prepare to celebrate the birth of God’s Son. Our Nativity scenes are up and the focal point is the Baby Jesus. God chose to send the Savior as a baby because he knew he would be loved, accepted and adored. Nobody is afraid of or threatened by a cute little baby. We find babies lovable and perfect. As we get our hearts ready, we would do well to ponder the ways God finds us lovable, perfect and would like to come into our lives and make us great. He wants to bring us his peace in this busy time. He wants to remind us how much he loves us. I think I’ll take a lesson from Molly the Dolly and lay down so my eyes shut and my fuzzy brown hair hits the pillow and just be still while I ponder all the ways God finds favor with his children and tries to help them be great.
A Seed To Plant: How would you like to invite Jesus into your life and make you grow in the greatness the Father has planned for you?
Blessings on your day!
Stay Awake! Matthew 24:42
Holy cow…did December sneak up on anybody else? I used to invisibly roll my eyes in youthful disrespect when “older” people said, “oh just wait; the older you get the faster time goes by!” The older I get, the more truth I discover in those words! Does anyone else ever feel like hitting the pause button long enough to get caught up?
This past weekend we began the season of Advent. I have a new Advent attitude this year. My new attitude comes from some extra prayer and study about the preparation season leading up to the birth of Christ. I discovered some simple truths and beautiful thoughts for all of us as we stand at the edge of advent. I hope they give you a new perspective on this often stressful, hectic, perhaps even chaotic month. Stay awake fits…not because we’re exhausted by all the activity but because we need to be awake and tuned in to the gift of God’s Son or Christmas becomes nothing more than another day.
Popular culture and the wonderful world of retail sales catapulted us into Christmas right after the last bag of Halloween candy left the shelf but those of us who yearn for the true meaning…the deeper meaning…the life changing meaning of Christmas need to be willing to wait a little. As a society, we aren’t very good at waiting! We like everything quickly and conveniently and we sometimes get lost in the “one-up” philosophy that often drives our ambitions and our actions. If you feel even a little part of that thinking seeping into your heart or thoughts, sit still for a minute and think about Advent.
If the season of Advent could be summed up in two words, they would be PATIENTLY WAITING! Yikes…really…but when will the shopping and baking and decorating and celebrating happen if we just sit around waiting? Good question I suppose, but maybe the answer is right in front of us…maybe we don’t have to spend so much time focused on all those things. If those are the things that take away from really “getting” Christmas maybe a prayerful re-vamp of December priorities is in order. I think that’s the point of this post! I have a few big questions for all of us…ready…Is walking into church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning the highlight of your December? What consumes more time; shopping for the perfect gifts or preparing to receive the perfect gift of God’s Son? And finally, would you like to spend Christmas wrapped up in the Wonder and Awe lying in the manger or exhausted, sick of the decorations and ready to flip the page and clean up the mess? Jesus is bigger than one day!
God sent the gift of His Son in a tiny, humble, simple beginning…He figured we could relate to that. I think He felt like each of us could accept and believe something so “real”. Each December He gives us the chance to re-live the true meaning of His gift. Each December we have a chance to clean our spiritual house to prepare for Him to dwell in our hearts. That only happens through still, quiet prayer and a desire on our part to seek Him and be blessed beyond measure by the true gift of Christmas. I’m sure some of you are tempted to scream at your screen at me and say…geez Sheri…it’s the busiest month of the year and you are suggesting I take time I already don’t have enough of to sit still and pray for my heart to be ready for the New Born King! ABSOLUTELY!!! Scream away, but that’s exactly what I’m challenging all of us to do this December. I have to let you in on a secret…God can multiply time! If you unselfishly, trustingly, prayerfully give Him some of your day, He will bless you unbelievably. Be honest as you start your prayer, say to Him, “God, I’ve got SO much to do today, please know these 10 or 15 minutes I’m going to sit here in prayer are precious. Please take my busy day and show me how to make You a part of it. Bless my actions and my words and my tasks.” Then my friends…stand back and prepare to be amazed at what He will do! If you aren’t sure what to do with that prayer time, read the story…the Christmas story from the Annunciation all the way through the Magi. Read it little by little again and again asking God to get your heart ready. Ask Him to make this Christmas about His Son…His gift and not so much about all the other stuff. I know it may sound crazy but invite God to go shopping with you…He has made some amazing gifts “appear” when I had no ideas and very little budget. Invite Him into all of it, asking Him to help you keep His Son as the focus.
I figure if I do Advent right, I will go to Mass Christmas Eve with my family and be so filled with joy and gratitude my heart will feel like it just might burst! I want to FEEL the meaning of Christmas! That’s my goal this December.
A Seed To Plant: Take the first step today…sit in quiet prayer and ask God to show you how to “do December” with a spirit of prayerful anticipation of the most amazing gift imaginable; His Son.
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
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