Sunday, December 17, 2017

Go Tell It On The Mountain

Go Tell It on the Mountain
Today I celebrate the day my sweet Daddy, at age 64, graduated to heaven in 1964. My Sweetheart was only 63. I think God was giving out “Fast Passes” to heaven for two men that I loved so much. Good for them. They both earned those “Fast Passes”. I am not in sorrow today for either of them because there is just too much joy where they are, and so much joy for me here on this side of heaven. Here’s why. Today is the third Sunday of Advent and it's time we should be singing "Go Tell It on the Mountain"! Well -- not necessarily from a mountain -- that would mean we'd have to go climbing! Perhaps we can start right here on level ground to experience the abundant JOY of Christ's coming to this earth for you and me.

On this third Sunday of Advent, in the Catholic Church, the priest wears a rose colored vestment and the third candle, which is pink, in the Advent wreath, is lit. That pink candle symbolizes JOY and St. Paul referenced that joy when he wrote in Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say rejoice.” Can you even imagine that he wrote those words from a dark, cold, damp prison cell? Obviously, he was a great role model for us, because no matter where we are or what we're facing, we can find JOY in the good news of Emmanuel -- God with us -- right smack dab in the middle of our circumstances. That’s why there is no sorrow found in me on this JOY-filled day.

Of course PINK would be the color of the day. Typically, PINK is girly -- we put our little girls in pink dresses or outfits with a pink bow in their hair to declare "It's a GIRL"! (In my case, my little Staci had NO hair so I scotch-taped a little bow on her head -- I know that's hard to believe when we see that massive head of hair she has today! LOL!). Sorry -- I took a rabbit trail from my train of thought about Advent. Back to my isn't just about girls. Hot pink, pale pink, rose pink are all shades of pink that God painted into a sunrise. And, like the various shades of pink, our expressions of joy can be so different. Joy can be exuberant – like that little child jumping up and down at the prospect of something that excites them so much. JOY is also that calm and peaceful experience of God's faithfulness. It can be calm confidence in His sovereignty, or pure delight as He expresses His love. I felt that peace and calmness yesterday as I sat in front of my fireplace, reading my “The Word Among Us” devotional book. I felt it when I wrapped some Christmas presents. I felt it when I watched another sappy Hallmark Christmas movie while I wrapped those presents.
Joy AND pink is also about survival. Oh, the joy we feel when one of our friends expresses "I've just had my last treatment of chemo!" I loved hearing how on this Sunday, when PINK is the color of the day, a church celebrates breast-cancer survivors and women in their parish are given a pink flower in honor of the women who survived and are reminded to be screened regularly. (I just had my screening last week!) That is a beautiful custom to have. Celebration of survival has truly come to be linked with "Pink" in our culture.

Bringing PINK back around to this 3rd Sunday of Advent, PINK is also about a BABY BOY that brought so much JOY to this world. That joy that should never be determined by how we feel, but on WHO God is. The joy of the Lord can thrill us AND it can make us steadfast in the secure knowledge of God's presence with us -- Emmanuel. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16 to be joyful always and Jesus tells us in Mark 9:24 "With God all things are possible." THAT combination of trust and joy should help us carry on from this 3rd Sunday of Advent to EVERYDAY being JOYFUL!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

God is Really, Really With Us

I've become an avid "noticer". A noticer is one who observes, notices, and pays attention to details -- not one like my husband who would notice and identify flaws in home construction or a musical composition and performance (just ask my Staci about how he "noticed" everything -- like the sound quality, her word pronunciation, or the tempo of the music). I became a "noticer" when I became a Technical Writer and Editor for various publications, but mostly of late I've become a "noticer of the most important things like one who recognizes God's nudges as well as His touches in the mainstream of life that point me in the direction I should go or tell me what to say. I've sure been a noticer during this season of Advent and Christmas. That word seems to be encased in the traditions of Christmas.

I’ve noticed the words I wrote under some of my Christmas treasures that were purchased to “remember” special times. I noticed my family in the many Christmas pictures I’ve scattered throughout my home. Because of my precious mother-in-law’s distribution of so many of her treasures to me and others, I’ve prominently placed mine where I see them every day. I notice them. I notice words in scriptures that I never noticed before. I'm in good company with my “noticing”. The shepherds were noticers of the angels who broke the news of their Savior's birth. The Wise Men were noticers of the star that led them to the Christ Child. And, Mary was a noticer and ponderer. Luke 2:19 says (after the shepherds departed): "And Mary pondered (noticed) these things in her heart." I like that -- and I desire to follow Mary's lead, as well as the shepherds and Wise Men – to notice and ponder.
I like to think that noticing is a part of seeing, hearing and sensing God WITH US. Don’t you love the word “with”? As I wrote that first paragraph, I sensed my husband “WITH” me when I remembered His noticing. I remembered His many hours of coaching our daughter with her music and performances. “WITH” is a powerful word. “Will you go WITH me?” “Stay WITH me.” Here’s the greatest news that Christmas brought us. It brought us God in human flesh. Isaiah 7:14 "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Emmanuel (God with us). GOD WITH US!! In Matthew 28:20 the man, Jesus, said before He ascended into heaven, “Surely I am WITH you always, to the very end of the age." There were no caveats when He spoke those words. He didn’t say, “If you do this or that, I’ll be with you.” “If you go to church or if you give to the poor, I’ll be with you.” No, none of that. There are no requirements given to us. He is with us. God is with us.
So, in my pondering and noticing and remembering……I realize GOD IS WITH ME. In our times of fear, stress or worry – God is with us. In times of feeling lonely or forsaken, we must not forget – God Who Knows all, sees all and even felt all -- is with us. We’re not alone. When we understand and respect that Emmanuel is with us, then even the thoughts we think are what God is wanting us to think, ponder and notice. Maybe they are just not random thoughts but bulls-eye-target thoughts where we are to be God’s representative to our world. We can be on purpose to be aware that God is with us and in us to be His "light" representative. That means as His representative we convey His attitude, actions, and character in and through our lives. God gave us more than miracles and messages. He sent Himself; He sent His Son. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” John 1:14. He wants us to NOTICE that He really is WITH US and be bold as His ambassadors to tell the world "God is with us"!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Joy to the World

Those words resonated with me yesterday, especially when I was standing in an extremely long check-out line. A voice came over the loud speakers "We assure you all our available cashiers are working very hard to get you served as quickly as possible." When I arrived at the front of the line, I noticed there were only three cashiers checking out all those folks and there were five vacant cash registers. When I saw the manager making her announcement again, I said, "It looks like you don't have enough cashiers!" She replied, "We don't. We're hiring. If you know someone that needs a job, please send them our way!" With only three cashiers, however, the line went quickly and in spite of the wait, there were no Scrooges or Grinches because we were all echoing Christmas joy. We were laughing and making conversation and everyone was tolerant of the manager's dilemma. No one was complaining. We all agreed -- "It's the time of the year for Christmas cheer!"

Joy to the world! Could it be that the angel's message to the shepherds holds true today? "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of GREAT JOY!" Christ is that good news no matter how dismal or hectic everything might be. There is good news of great joy that can change everything for us -- especially as the rest of the words in that song sink in "Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King. Let every heart PREPARE HIM ROOM." Aw! That's the answer -- making room for JOY -- making room for Jesus..

I know it was that JOY that I sensed yesterday. I drove past a Luby's Cafeteria. I hadn't seen one in a very long time and It brought back sweet memories of my husband and I eating at Luby's. He loved cafeteria-style restaurants. I thought...."I'll visit a couple of stores in this area and time it so I can have lunch there", and I did. I chose food items we both enjoyed together . I texted my two children and told them I just had to stop and celebrate remembering how much daddy loved this place. I was embracing the memories. When I returned to my car, I remembered the little bottle of his favorite cologne that I keep in the car and gave it a spray. I teared up for a minute at the thought AND smell of him.. Just a minute because, though those were some of our best of times, I don't live there anymore. It's sweet to remember, but there's too much living for TODAY with gratitude and purpose and I began to sing "Joy to the World".

It was pre-electricity era 2,000 years ago when the dark night skies became brilliant and the angel appeared to those terrified shepherds and said , "Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD NEWS OF GREAT JOY that will be for all the people."(Luke 2:10). Those terrifying moments were replaced with good news and great joy.

Psalm 16:11 says "In His presence is fullness of joy." To have that joy, we need to make room for the JOY GIVER. Though He came as a sweet little baby boy, He is ALIVE today and is our King of Kings. We can experience His presence and know that GREAT JOY! We can experience it in the crowds at the store or at a crowded restaurant. We can experience it when facing a crisis or a disappointment or any other time of weakness.

Joy isn't the same as happiness. Happiness is based on those ooey, gooey feelings when everything is going right. But JOY is based on the CONSTANT of He Who lives big within us. He is that GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY and when we sing those words "Joy to the world, the Lord is come", we know we have found the key to joy is welcoming the JOY-GIVER inside our hearts. Let me start your day with GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY today. Go ahead. Receive this most precious Christmas gift EVER. Welcome Him -- the JOY GIVER into your heart -- into your day -- into your Christmas. I just gave you JESUS!Welcome, JOY!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Every Place We Live Can Be Bethlehem

 My post today was inspired by a dear friend and wonderful encourager, Carolyn Cline Boyle. She is radiant, joy-filled and exudes the love of Christ every time I see her. She is also one of my followers on Facebook. Her comments after my post, yesterday, were especially meaningful to me. My post was entitled "Mary, Did You Know?" This was Carolyn's comment to that post:

"Every morning your words bring me back to the meaning of this beautiful season. Life is moving so quickly, the world is so full of conflict and struggle and I need to realign my reason for being, when all this is swirling around. We have a manger scene in almost every room and I am going to take a deep breath and take time at each one with a special prayer each day. I am so blessed to have this world of faith “cocooning” me and I am so blessed to read your words, dear Donna!"

I shared those words with you not to impress you, but to impress upon you what I heard. Carolyn said she was going to take a deep breath at her manger scenes and offer a special prayer. I, too, have many nativity/manger scenes that I strategically place in my living, dining and kitchen area, but I moved them about my home to the bedrooms, office and even my bathrooms after I read her comments. I want my own journey to Bethlehem and the manger to inspire me and my visitors in every room.

When my now 16-year old granddaughter, was about 4 years old, she loved playing with all the characters in my larger nativity set. One day she started to play and baby Jesus was missing. She went into panic mode "Baby Jesus is gone. Where is Baby Jesus?" she cried. We later realized her big brother (age 5 years old at the time) had hidden baby Jesus from her. It was finally a "Silent Night, Holy Night" when Jesus was returned to His manger.

The Christmas Story is much more than a nativity set. It is a picture of how close Christ will come to us. The first stop on His itinerary was Mary's womb. Christ grew in Mary until He came out. And, Jesus gives us the same offer. "If you'll let Me, I'll move into you." He is IN us and I pray He will come out in our speech, in our actions, in our decisions. Then, not just in the manger scenes, but Bethlehem will be in every place we live, and every day we live will be a Christmas when you and I, like Mary, will deliver Christ to our world.

"Christ in YOU, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Let every heart prepare Him room.