Sunday, December 26, 2010

Just words...

About 12 months ago, we were looking at the beginning of 2010. I heard a radio program that encouraged people to find one word that would encapsulate the new year. Almost immediately, I knew what my word would be - hope.

Hope. According to the dictionary, hope means to believe, desire, or trust; the belief that events will turn out for the best. I liked that. Most definitely, hope would be the word for 2010. Little did I know just how much I would need that word, of how greatly my hope would be tested.

Before the thaw of spring could bring new life, my hope began to be tested. One of the first trials came when the company my husband worked for closed its doors without notice. Like most families, we lived paycheck to paycheck and now that paycheck had been cut in half. Still, I knew God would provide. At least, I thought I knew, but as the weeks stretched into months with no prospects in sight, I found myself paralyzed with fear. I didn't see how God was going to work this one out. Eventually my husband did find work, but it is very hard on him physically and like most jobs, doesn't pay what he had been making. Still, we've tried to console ourselves that at least it is a job.

I felt at times like I was holding on by the very tips of my fingers...but then the encouragement would come and I was able to renew my grip. It seems that 2010 was filled with trials that challenged my hold on hope. There were trials with my own children, trials with health, trials with friends, trials with students. I'd love to say I was always brimming with hope and good cheer, but it was/is truly a daily battle to hang on. As I sit here, nearing the end of the year, I am realizing just how powerful hope can be. When I thought I was holding on to hope, hope was in fact holding on to me.

Here just a few of the scriptures that carried me through.

"Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God" (PSALM 146:5)

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (PSALM 42:5)
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (HEBREWS 10:23)

So now it's time to look toward 2011, and I find a new word is resonating in my spirit: Anticipation. gives this definition: realization in advance; foretaste; expectation or hope.

There are also a couple of verses that pretty much sum up what I'm feeling now:
Romans 8:18 (The Message)
18-21That's why I don't think there's any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what's coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.
Isaiah 43:18 - 19 (Message)
"Forget about what's happened; don't keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I'm about to do something brand-new. It's bursting out! Don't you see it? There it is! I'm making a road through the desert, ... rivers in the badlands."

Yes, the word for this year is most definitely "anticipation."

May your new year be filled with anticipation of what God will do!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Waiting for Christmas

Christmas is less than 24 hours away and my son is bouncing off the walls. He can hardly contain himself...he is rotating between me, his dad, and his sister, looking for someone to help him contain his excitement. Since we open one gift every Christmas Eve, he is already bugging us to open that gift NOW since it is technically already Christmas Eve day. The rest of the family is content to lie around in a lazy fashion, slowly preparing for tomorrow's "festivities" and all that entails.

What is the difference? Well, part of it is that my son has been sick with the flu for the past 3 days and now he's finally feeling better. The rest of us have been "getting ready" for a while and to be honest, we are kind of tired.

Some of you are already making the connection. You already see this random thought coming.

I got to thinking, this is a lot like the people who were waiting on the Messiah 2000+ years ago....and those of us waiting today. My son is so excited. He has felt the pain of sickness and now finally sees and feels the celebration of the season. He is like the shepherds or the wise men. Those of us who have been well for a while have worn ourselves out. We are like....well, everyone else! Like a person who has newly realized that Christ came to save us, my son is excited! He wants to move and "DO" something! Those of us who have known "Christmas" for a while have grown weary. We've forgotten what we are working toward...or maybe we've just gotten too tied up in the "working for" part. Those shepherds did nothing but show up. The wise men did do some traveling, but it wasn't like their traveling caused Christ to be born. Even Mary - although I'm sure she had to do some preparation to give birth - it's not like she "made it happen." God did it all....we simply get to respond to the gift He gave.

Today, I pray for each of us to find the excitement of knowing that our Savior has come...that we don't grow weary in the preparation of the event and miss the joy. Christmas - the preparation for that first one required saying yes to whatever God had in store. It required taking whatever was in front of you, even if it was just a simple manger, and dedicating it to His service. It required recognizing that God is with us...and that it meant good tidings of great joy that were to be for all people. It was filled with hope for tomorrow! It required...well, just us to be there to receive.

No wonder my son is so excited! He is finally free from that which held him captive on the couch for three days and he is ready to celebrate! May our hearts recognize that we've been set free from a much greater sickness - that of sin - and now we have been given a gift. Here's hoping your day is filled with the anticipation of the only gift that never gets old, never wears out, never breaks or gets boring - the gift of our Savior.

Merry Christmas, and in an adaptation of the words of Tiny Tim, "God has blessed us, everyone."

Monday, December 6, 2010

Don't throw yourself out at first.

You know, I love watching sports of every kind. Not on tv, mind you. I like to be there live and in person. Maybe it's my inner athlete that never learned to play sports, maybe I just love watching people; but for whatever reason, I love watching sports - especially when kids are involved. They still believe they can do anything....and perhaps they can. They believe that, even if they aren't all that good right now, they are just one throw, run, hit, or jump from greatness.

One of my most favorite memories is of a T-ball game I attended years ago. In that game, I watched a little girl do something that has stuck with me since. This tiny powerhouse came up to the plate to bat with all the expertise of a flounder out of water. Her helmet looked a bit too big, the bat looked like a redwood compared to her, and I'm pretty sure they had to stop her and tie her shoes for her before she started to swing. The first swing came - she missed. Then a second - missed again. Once more - it was a tip that sent the ball rolling slowly toward the pitcher. In true T-ball fashion, the entire outfield came running in to try and get that ball, but they simply weren't fast enough...not for that little girl. She ran out and grabbed that ball and then promptly threw herself out at first. She was so proud! She had done what they could not! It took quite a bit of explaining, and I think I remember them giving her another chance, but I will never forget that moment. She actually threw herself out! No opposing team could do what she had done herself.

Therein, of course, lies today's random thought. I'm pretty sure I've been throwing myself out at first...and so have a lot of others around me. We have participated in helping the enemy of our soul in a way that it could not do in itself. It's as if the spirit of discouragement has attached its thorny claws to us and in raspy whispers only we can hear, it tells us over and over again we are not enough. We are not good enough, not smart enough, not cultured enough, not skinny enough, not whatever enough. It reminds us over and over of just how badly we blew it, AGAIN. It plays the stupid words we said over and over again inside our head like a broken record. It tries to convince us that when bad things happen, it is ALWAYS our fault. That we are being punished for being so inadequate once again.

I wonder if hermits separate themselves from the world not because of fear of the world, but because they are afraid they will fail and finally be discovered as inadequate...simply not enough. I know I have had times when I felt like I should just crawl into a hole so that I would do as little damage as possible. I say the wrong thing, act too quickly, live too loud, generally stick my foot in my mouth and then for good measure, stick the other foot in as well. I find myself desperately trying to learn what I imagine others must have learned years ago as teenagers, yet I am still trying desperately to discover what the "rules" are. Instead of getting better with age, it seems I'm getting worse! Buying wrong gifts, over doing, not doing enough, doing it too loudly, not speaking up when I should, forgetting the important things, being overwhelmed by the trivial....

It's not everyday, mind you. Some days I feel pretty confident in myself - followed closely by days when I realize just how inadequate I am. Like most, I've had plenty of times in my life when the spirit of discouragement and despair has tried to convince me to "throw myself out at first." That's the enemy's favorite tactic - to remind us just how human and "not enough" we truly are.

Here's the shocker - the enemy is a degree. I am not enough. I am in desperate need of a Savior. I need one who knows me and yet loves me all the same. I long for One who doesn't condemn, and instead speaks life into the cavernous hole in my heart and fills it. I want to be treasured as special...truly special. I want to feel His presence lifting me and reminding me that I am loved. I want one who doesn't remember my mistakes, but instead reminds me of the few times I actually got it right - because I waited on Him. I want Someone who will gently reach out and stop me from throwing myself out at first, before I've really even begun to play the game that day.

Perhaps you are like me this morning. You wake up to that feeling of dread in facing today's game - sure you'll mess it up somehow. I speak against that spirit of discouragement right now. I pray that you will recognize his lies for just what they are - an attempt to get you to throw yourself out at first before you even get started. God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a strong mind. He is right there with you, ready to guide your hands, steady your bat, and hit that ball right out of the park....just like your little kid dreams always imagined.

My words cannot fully express what is on my heart, but a song by Mercy Me does a really good job of speaking life.

Days will come when you don't have the strength,
When all you hear is "you're not worth anything"
Wondering if you ever could be loved,
And if they truly saw your heart, they'd see too much

You're beautiful, You're beautiful,
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful,You're beautiful,
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His,
You're beautiful

I'm praying that you have the heart to fight,
'Cause you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you've held inside so long,
And they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

You're beautiful,You're beautiful,
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful,You're beautiful,
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His,
You're beautiful

Before you ever took a breath, long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed, there was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above, you're the one Emmanuel loves
Enough to die

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
In His eyes
You're beautiful
You were meant for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful
You are treasured you are sacred you are His
You're beautiful,You're beautiful
You were meant for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful,You're beautiful
You are treasured you are sacred you are His.

Today, as you come up to bat, give it all you've got. Don't be afraid that you won't be enough. Don't throw yourself out at first. Instead, know that you are loved....and give it all you've got - for Him who loves you no matter how you feel.