Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

I am aware that a blog about Christmas on New Year's Eve seems a bit odd, but that's the way 'random thoughts' work...they come from the strangest places.
This morning as I was getting dressed, the thought of the coming new year was on my mind. Usually, I'm quite hopeful about new years, but for some reason this morning I sensed a sort of foreboding that reminded me of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
For those who have never read the book, you really should give it a go sometimes. It is beautiful story with each character symbolizing so much. For example, the Ghost of Christmas Past is a mass of contradictions. He is old - yet young, winter - yet spring, filled with memories of happy times yet mingled with grief....he's a lot like most people's memories. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a giant, filled with the here and now...much like our days. At times it can be difficult to think of anything other than what you are dealing with right seems like such a giant, yet like the Ghost of Christmas Present, it is short lived and come tomorrow, this day will be gone. Each day brings troubles of its own. Then there is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Of all the spirits, Scrooge fears this one most, and rightfully so. This Ghost represents the unknown....guess that's why it came to mind today on New Year's Eve.
We stand at the brink of a new year, a new decade, and no one can tell what the future will bring. It will certainly be filled with opportunity, and probably some sadness as well. There will be times of plenty, and times when our month lasts longer than our money. There will be change, and yet things will stay the same. To be honest, that makes me rather uncomfortable. I like routine. I like knowing what will happen next. I'm still busy dealing with the giant of today, I'm not ready for some unknown future!
In all this, I can have hope. For while I do not know what the future holds, I know who holds my future. I have a promise I can cling to: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" 1 Cor. 2:9
Come what may in 2010, God is still on the throne, He is still God, and I can trust in Him. Happy New Year to us all, and God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

This little light of mine.....

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine......That was one of my favorite verses to sing with the kids in Children's Church. I always loved seeing them get to the part when they said, "Hide it under a bushel -NO! I'm gonna let it shine." They sang that part with such fervor you could hear them all the way down the halls.

The Bible refers to light in Matthew 5:14 - 16, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven." This comes right after the metaphor that we are to be 'salt', (see yesterday's post.) But what does it mean to be light?

This one is a fairly simple idea, after all we did make a children's song out of it. We are to shine our light so that all men may know the Good News, but how we go about doing that, well - that's a bit more difficult.
I, for one, love light. I open up all the windows, turn on every light in the house, and paint the walls in such a way that the entire room reflects the light! The more the better! I am loud in everything I do and I like the world around me to be bright and shining! I am, however, painfully aware that this light, like my personality, can be at times irritating.

Take my husband for instance. This is a good man, a quiet man, a godly man....but he doesn't see light the same way I do. He wears sunglasses to protect against the glare. He turns off the overhead lights because they give him a headache. He wears a baseball cap almost all the time to help shade his eyes. He closes the curtains to keep the light inside the room subtle and soft.

Light can either draw you toward it or make you shy away. I love waking to the gentle light of morning streaming through my window...however, having someone flip on the light switch suddenly makes me pull the covers over my head. I am drawn toward the warmth of a glowing candle, but I turn my gaze from a bright spotlight. The bright beacon of a lighthouse would be a welcome sight in a storm, and yet the gentle nightlight that helps me make my way down the hallway at night can be just as welcome. (Hey, nobody likes stumping their toe in the dark!) Different light is needed at different times.

The thing is, the light has to get out into the dark places to really become effective. While we gather together to "trim our wicks and replenish our oil", the church building isn't the most effective place to let our light shine. After all, we don't really need another candle in a room full of light....we need it in the dark places. We are needed in the world.

In the book, Tale of Despereaux, Boticelli tells Roscuro, "do not go up into the light. You will regret it." According to the passage, rats are not supposed to like light, yet Roscuro is drawn to light as a result of Gregory lighting a match in his eyes. Once having seen this light, he cannot shake it's pull on him. The could be no place darker than the dugeon where Roscuro lived, yet one small glimpse of light forever effected him to want more.

Light can change our views on so many things. For example, sometimes our problems don't seem as overwhelming in the light of day. In the dark hours of the night, the burdens can seem almost too much to bear, but once the sun comes up, hope comes with it. Many today have lived in darkness for so very long that they have lost all hope. They need light, but no artificial light will give them must come with the Son. Someone must be willing to share the light that they have found.

What does all this mean for me? Well, in a nutshell, it means I need to take the light I have been given out into the world. It means I have to be mindful of those whom I am with...not everyone is ready for me to throw back the curtains and turn on all the lights - they need a little light at the time. It means that even if I feel like I can only be a small nightlight to keep someone from tripping, that alone can be a good thing. It means that I can trust God with the results. Once a little light is seen, it forever draws the recipent to want more.

But hide it under a bushel - no....I can't do that. No matter what, I'm gonna let it shine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Please Pass the Salt

By now, those who know me know that I don't cook. Well, at least I rarely do. I just can't seem to get it right; something is always a little off. Of course, like any good mom, I give it a try and have managed to somehow keep us all from starving, but I am in no danger of winning any cooking prizes any time soon.
I envy those people who can taste something and know just what ingredients it contains and know just what is needed to make it perfect. I don't think I'd know what any herb or spice tastes like, with the exception of salt, and I even have trouble with that sometimes.

Nothing is quite so tricky as finding just the right amount of salt for food. Too little and my grits taste bland and a little like the bag they come in. Too much and they are suddenly inedible. Yes, I know you can add potatoes to something you have over-salted, but who wants potatoes in their grits?

This whole salt thing got me to thinking about something from the Bible. According to Matthew 5:13, we are to be salt of the earth. According to wikipedia,  "Salt is a necessity of life and was a mineral that was used since ancient times in many cultures as a seasoning, a preservative, a disinfectant, a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange. The Bible contains numerous references to salt. In various contexts, it is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification."

I love the idea that as Christians we are to bring flavor to life. We are to bring out the natural gifts in others, much the way salt enhances the natural flavors in food. Unfortunately, at times I'm afraid my cooking abilities spill over into my spiritual life and I "over-salt" my world.

Don't get me wrong, I truly believe in sharing the Good News of Jesus with those around me....but yesterday I saw an article that reminded me of over-salting food. In this article people were berating others for NOT wishing them a Merry Christmas in a department store. Now, I'm for Christmas as much as the next person, but becoming irate at not being wished Merry Christmas when I buy yet another un-needed gift for someone strikes me as a bit off. It's sort of like dumping the whole box of salt on my just doesn't make sense.
To me, salt should bring out the natural gifts in others. It should make you thirsty for the Living Water of the Word, and it should be just enough so that you want more. If you dump too much out at once, instead of wanting more it simply drives you in the other direction. (How do I know this? I told you I was a lousy cook!) I don't think that's what the gospel writers had in mind.

I have to ask myself, am I being salt to the earth? Am I living my life in such a way that others want more of what I have, or am I keeping it all to myself? That makes things dull and tasteless. If, however, I am allowing God to use me to find the good in others, to seek out those in need and share what I have been given, (that need doesn't have to just be physical needs by the way), and if my life can somehow signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification, then perhaps I've finally discovered how to use my seasoning well in life.

The rest of that verse talks about salt losing it's flavor....that it becomes so mixed with other minerals that it no longer has any taste. I have seen times in my own life when I have become so like the world that I was in danger of losing my "taste". It is a delicate balance to be in the world and yet not become so mixed that I lose my effectiveness. That doesn't mean I have to separate myself and live in some commune, but it does mean I have to be aware of the influences the world can have over me. I can't simply dump out my salt on others and run, I've got to keep my heart right while I "shake out a little salt" as I go. I don't have to worry about running out because God provides an endless supply when I'm using it the way He intended!

I may never find myself being the focus of some cooking show, but I truly hope that somehow I can learn to be "worth my salt" in life. I'm off to see who's life I can add some salt to today. Care to join me?
Tomorrow, perhaps we'll talk about being light.

Matthew 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The day after Christmas....

Yesterday was of course that makes today the day after Christmas. I know, I'm amazed at how quickly I catch on to things like this.

On Christmas Day, my son came into our room at 6:03 to let us know it was morning. Of course, I found that statement debateable, so my husband and I told him to go back to was too early. Fifteen minutes later, he was back again; we told him to go to back to bed until 6:45. With that, we got up and started a pot of coffee and proceeded to "hide" the last two gifts underneath the covers of our bed. We then got our coffee, sent Levi in to wake his sister and waited for the festivites to begin.

Now that the kids are older, it's definitely more difficult to buy for them. Samantha was happy with the bag her gift came in on her first Christmas; Levi was only a month old at his first Christmas so he was happy with a warm bottle and dry diaper. Trust me, they are far more difficult to please now.

As the children opened each present, I watched their faces. They were happy with their gifts, but I could tell they were hoping for more. When everything under the tree had been opened, we asked if they were happy with their Christmas. Samantha, who has learned to be polite even to us, said yes. Levi said yes, but you could tell his heart wasn't in it. It was then that I asked Levi to go and get my glasses from my room.

As he left the living room, I whispered for Sam and my husband to follow so we could see if he discovered his "gift". I caught him with his hand on the covers - he had found his sister's his face now had an expression of guilt mixed with disappointment. I asked if he had found his as well. What followed was one of those times when you WISH you'd had the camera ready. He hurried over to the bed, flung off the covers and his face went from forlorn to estatic in less than a second. Finally, he'd gotten what he wanted! The gift we had somehow managed to make him think he'd never get.

All day long he played with his gift and then would come to us to tell us about it. At times, it wouldn't do what he'd hoped until he'd worked to learn more about it. It was a day filled with excitement.

Today, he's sleeping late. I'm sure he can't wait to play with his gift again, but even that won't rouse this sleepy head from bed on a cold, cold day. That's what got me to thinking those Random Thoughts.

We all know that Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. It is the time when we reflect on the greatest gift of all - Jesus. But what about the day AFTER Christmas? What then?

Do we lose some of our excitement? Do we forget what a gift we have received, the one we thought we'd never get? For some, it stays exciting for a while, but even that will fade in the day to day. For some, if it's not what we'd expected it to be, we get downright angry in our disappointment. What then?

The only gift I've ever received that hasn't broken, gone out of style, gotten old, or let me down is the gift of Jesus. I started to say it had never disappointed me, but to be honest, there have been times I have been disappointed because I thought it was going to "do" something that it didn't. Still, even in that I have learned to realize that it wasn't really disappointment so much as forgetting what the gift truly means.

I have to ask myself this question on the day AFTER Christmas...will I remain in this state of joyful surprise at receiving the gift I truly wanted, or will I allow the newness to wear off and become routine? Will I wake up each day excited about the discovery of this gift, or will I soon begin to "sleep late" because it is no longer new? Can I find a way to make it "Christmas" every day in a new way, or will it simply become the day AFTER Christmas? What about you? What will you do?

John 3:16: " For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

Lamentations 3:22-24, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A story worth repeating.....

This is a repeat of a post from December 2008....but perhaps a story worth repeating.

The following "random thought" actually came about a year ago while teaching in Kid's Church just before Christmas. I don't think I've ever heard this fact, I had never thought of it before the words began to come out of my mouth that Sunday morning.

It was a typical Children's Church service a week or two before Christmas. I had a wonderful group of kids, most of whom I had known since they were born. These children knew the Christmas story quite well, so making it real and new was quite a challenge. I had told the story and tried to paint a picture so that the children could experience the story anew. It was then that I asked the question - "Why was Jesus born in a stable?" Of course, the response was "Because there was no room in the inn." Then I asked a question even I hadn't considered before. "Why wasn't there room at the inn? Did God forget to make reservations?" Of course, we all laughed at such a ridiculous question. Obviously the birth of Jesus being in a stable was no accident....but why would God allow His Son to be born in a stable?

It's not like God didn't know when Jesus would be born. Yes, the city was crowded, but couldn't God have made room for this family in an inn somewhere? After all, He's God! He knew when the angel told Mary she'd have a son that they would be making this trip 9 months later! He could have made arrangements! I understand that there are many different views as to what this stable might have been, but it doesn't change the fact that a stable isn't a place for a baby to be born! That's where animals are born....animals like sheep and goats and cows. The kind of animal you'd use for a sacrifice.

You know, every time I think about that, it causes a lump to rise in my throat. Jesus, the King of Kings was born in a place where sacrifices are born. He was laid in a manger - the place where the animals would go for food....The Bread of Life, Jesus - born as a sacrifice.

This Christmas, as you take time to read the original Christmas story, may your heart be filled with the knowledge of God's love for you. Merry Christmas.

John 1:29 "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I had just settled down on the couch wrapped up in my blanket with my hot chocolate when one of the kids yelled, "Mom, come see this!" The last thing I wanted to do was get up...I had just gotten comfortable! Of course, I could stay right where I was...and possibly miss one of those "memorable moments" that make life so sweet, or I could put down my hot chocolate, push off the covers and go see. Yep, I got up from my "comfort" to go and see.

I'm convinced that life is filled with those times that make us uncomfortable. Sometimes it's the "shoes too tight and don't fit" kind of uncomfortable. In those times of my life, I have discovered that I may have fallen into a rut and it's time to move forward...letting my "shoes get too tight" catches my attention and I realize that which I once did is no longer a fit.

At times, it's that my "pants are too tight" kind of uncomfortable that catches my attention. Perhaps I've gotten slack in doing what I know is right, filled myself with too much spiritual junk food and neglected the pure meat and milk of the Word. I haven't exercised my faith and then I realize I've gotten spiritually fat and lazy.

There is the uncomfortable that you feel when you realize you are in the wrong place. Imagine walking into a classroom the first day of school and after a few minutes, you discover you are in the wrong room. You want to sneak out, but there is no way. It's obvious you've made a mistake...the key is remembering that everyone makes mistakes like this sometimes. Admit it and go on.

This latest uncomfortable, however, hit me by surprise. It wasn't the painful sort of was more like the "I'm happy doing what I'm doing sitting here on the couch" uncomfortable. I was presented with an option to reach out beyond my four walls in a way I hadn't before. I have to be honest and say, I didn't want to. I'm happy with my little crew and sometimes I feel like I'm just keeping my head above water with them! I felt like we'd hit a moment of rest when I could curl up on the couch and do nothing for a little while. That's when I heard that voice inside that said, "Come see this..." It was the unmistakable call of God to step out of my comfortable and believe Him for something more. This wasn't an opportunity I'd looked for, not even one I'd have ever imagined. As a matter of fact, this opportunity looked for all the world like a battle! Definitely not what I'd hoped for.

I'd love to make believe my first reaction was "Hooray!", but in truth it was more of a "Not now" complete with whine. Still, I know that voice and I know that when I hear it, there is something I don't want to miss. I can choose to stay on the couch and be comfortable, or I can put down my hot chocolate, throw off the covers and "come see." I push myself, somewhat unwillingly, off the couch and start walking.

To be honest, right now I'm still in the wish I was still on the couch stage of this uncomfortable, but I know that I really don't want to miss what He has to show me. I don't want to get to the place where He no longer calls me to "come see." I know there is a moment ahead that I don't want to miss.

How about it? Anyone besides me been uncomfortable lately? Makes you wonder what God is up to, doesn't it. I, for one, can't wait to "see."

Isaiah 40:3 - 5(NASB)  "A voice is calling, clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God. Let every valley be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; and let the rough ground become a plain, and the rugged terrain a broad valley; then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Saturday, December 5, 2009


It snowed last night. This isn't amazing if you live in one of the northern states, but down here it's cause for schools to shut down, roads to close, and everyone makes a run on the grocery store like a hurricane is coming. You see, we just aren't used to snow this far south!

I admit it; last night I was like a little kid. I sat at the window and watched for the snow to finally come. I'd hear reports of others nearby getting snow and wondered why we weren't seeing the fluffy white stuff here. Then finally, at around 10:30 or 11:00, it started to snow. This was wondrous, like no snow I think I'd ever seen before! The flakes were huge and fluffy and falling so slowly to the already wet ground. It took a long time for it to stick; the ground was already so soaked from rain. But it was beautiful. I thought about my morning run and how totally unique it would be. Snow....

This morning I slept late (so much for a morning run) and awoke to snow still on the ground. It is still beautiful, but now it's starting to melt. What had seemed so wonderful last night now just seemed messy. I'm not sure why melting snow seems so much wetter than rain, but it does. Perhaps I'm getting old, but the idea of playing in slush just didn't seem very tempting to me in the clear light of day.
What had been covered last night was beginning to be revealed. Instead of white blankets, I'm starting to see crab-grass peaking out. Instead of waves of pristine purity, I can see the mud. Instead of snow covered roof tops, I'm greeted by the icy drip, drip, drip of melting snow. Hmmmm, there's a random thought in there somewhere.

As long as what was underneath was covered, it all looked pretty good. Sort of like people with the masks they wear. They seem like they have it all together - life is perfect. Underneath is a different story. Everyone has their own crab-grass, mud puddles, and annoying drips in their life. We may be able to cover them up for a short while, but they are still there. The snow doesn't seem quite as special when you see what is peeping out from underneath. What is needed isn't a cover-up, but a working from within.

Lord, help me to allow You to deal with the parts of my life that are not perfect....that are annoying or even downright ugly at times. I want to enjoy the pure snows that come knowing that they aren't covering up, but simply adding to the beauty that already exists. I want to scoop up pure white snowballs of joy without having to avoid the sticks and twigs and bits of mud that try to mar the picture. I want the beauty of Your love to shine through. I want to fully enjoy the snow.
Psalms 51:7 "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Facebook versus the Cardboard Cutouts

Hi. My name is Donna and I'm addicted to facebook. There. I said it. I have been known to rush home from work just to see if my little "notification" box is full. I check status updates with my coffee in the morning. I attempt witty remarks about the most inane details about my life...and love reading those same remarks made by others. Yes, I am addicted.

Still, I have to stand up in defense of this social phenomenon. With a full time job and two busy teens, it can be difficult to find time to visit with friends. (Don't even suggest the phone...I really hate talking on the phone!) With Facebook,  I have reconnected with friends from grade school (which, believe me, was a LONG time ago!) I have laughed with co-workers, cried with friends who live in different cities, and learned of the upcoming marriages, births, and anniversaries. I find I can reconnect with lots of friends on a daily basis! Most importantly, facebook helps me overcome  "cardboard cutout syndome".

We all are prone to suffer from the CCS (Cardboard Cutout Syndrome) at one time or another. CCS is that condition where you forget that other people have lives. It's almost as if, without meaning to, we treat others as though they are simple cardboard cutouts whenever we aren't around. They just sit there and only come to life when we walk into the scene. Oh, we actually know that they have lives, but it just never crosses our minds....I've had bosses like that. They thought my one reason for existing was to do something for them. They thought nothing of calling me in early, having me work late, etc. After all, once they were done with me, I'd simply go back to being a cutout again...waiting on them to require my services again. I don't think they meant to be that way; they were just so wrapped up in their own little world it just sort of happened.

I'd love to say I wasn't guilty of treating others like cardboard cutouts, but in the hectic pace of daily life, I'm afraid I, too, could fall prey to CCS. I don't mean to be selfish, but it is one of the easiest traps to slip into. I sometimes feel like I am a walking example of the Toby Keith song..."it's all about me, all about I, all about number one oh my me my, what I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I's all about me-e-e!" That is, until Facebook.

Facebook is the cure for CCS! With it I can sort of stay in touch with my friends even in the busiest of days! I know who had a great workout, who has a headache, who has a song stuck in their head, who has a birthday, who....well, the list just goes on and on! While I may not have great long conversations, I can share a quick joke with a friend that I used to work with. I can ask for help with a recipe from my girlfriends. I can see pictures of that new grandbaby and the smile on grandma's face. I share funny stories with parents about their kids. I can share a scripture each day with my niece that I don't see nearly often enough.  I can know that a friend in a far away city needs prayer. All friends who mean so much to me, and there's not a cardboard cutout in the bunch.

So yes, I am a facebook addict, but it beats falling into the trap of the cardboard cutout routine.
Thanks Facebook for giving me so many opportunities to remember friends!

Philippians 1:3 "I thank my God every time I remember you."