Monday, December 31, 2012

The Secret Life

What is it about a new year that brings so much hope?  I think its the desire for a clean slate, a fresh start, a second chance to live life right.  We have such confidence that this time around we will succeed.  We purpose to change. 

Yet in that determination we are encased in this skin of self.  Try as we might we can't by ourselves get out of it.  No matter how good our intentions, so often we meet failure.  Oh, some of you are strong, so very strong.  You set goals, you fight hard, and you even succeed, for a time at least.  But success deceives us because pride so easily creeps in.  We glory in our self-sufficiency, thinking we have arrived.
By contrast, my failure drives me to my knees where I cry out to God for His power to be perfected in my weaknesses.  But if all I do is pray and never kick into obedient action, then I am not really joining with God in surrender to my call for help.  As much as I want freedom from the ugly of who I am, God's removal of my selfishness, pride, and me-ism still hurts because I cling to it so tightly.  All our efforts must be kept in balance with God's enabling.

I just finished watching "Voyage of the Dawn Treader", one of my favorite movies.  There a boy is turned into a literal dragon until he learns to think beyond himself.  Try as he might, Eustace cannot tear off the dragon skin entrapping him.  Only Aslan, the Lion, representative of Christ, can remove the dragon's skin and make him a boy again. 

As I think about New Year's resolutions I'm reminded that tomorrow will not be much different than today.  The same habits, same struggles, same person . . . unless I do battle privately and truly desire freedom from these things.  The clock ticks from 2012 to 2013 in one second.  One segment of time, once future, now past. 

When keeping time in music three things can be done with it.  You can play the right note, play the wrong note, or do nothing.  But that moment of time is gone and the music continues.  What's done has been done. 

Likewise, towards the end of the movie mentioned above, Prince Caspian makes the decision to stay in his own world rather than go on to Aslan's land.  His reason?  He stopped thinking about what was taken and focused on what was given.  He knew that he still had a purpose to fulfill in his world.  The glitch in his past was done and he must move on with the music.  

As we enter a new year, I'm reminded that God has a purpose for our lives in this time in history.  That purpose is not yet complete as evidenced by the fact that we are still here.  However, it is so easy to get distracted from that purpose.  I can quickly revert to self glorification if not by my successes, then by my losses. 

This year I want to simply obey God in what I know He asks of me.  I don't need a new revelation.  What I need is power and strength to obey what I already know.  My motto is, 'No excuses, no exceptions, and no telling.'  I want to exalt Jesus, lifting Him high in my life.

Yes, I have made some resolutions of sorts, but I'm not going to reveal them here because as soon as I tell someone about them, then I yield.  No, it is a secret battle, wrestled and won during my time alone with God.  Once I've surrendered to obedience in the secret place, then the outworking of it is not so difficult.  I'm hoping to first walk the walk, then I can talk.

And so in the words of Reepicheep, that courageous mouse, "Let's get on with it then!"  

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What's In A Gift (Part 2)

'On a Christmas morning . . . the angels sing for joy!'  I remember my mom singing that little tune when I was a child.  But why so much joy?

Because of the gift.

I'm so glad God held nothing back when He sent His Son,
Glad He did not give leftovers, something He didn't want.
Glad He did not give from a distance,
That He was willing to be like a 'fish out of water', and get inside human flesh,
            Limit Himself to dependency . . . helplessness . . . foreign territory.

I'm so glad He was willing to know me, to come close and see exactly what gift would suit,
Glad He went to the trouble, energy, and effort.
Glad He was willing to pay even more than silver or gold,
            The precious blood of Christ.
That He touched my filth, got His hands dirty, and became intimately involved in my life.

I'm so glad that He took such a great risk, that He gave, knowing I might reject, despise. 
Glad His gift never disappoints,
Glad that He gave not only what I need, but also what I deeply desire, 
          God with me, near me, for me . . . Emmanuel.
That He wrapped His gift so carefully, in the womb of the pure,
         so simply . . . humble. . . in strips of cloth set in straw.  

What's in The Gift?

Everything good.  Extravagant love extended to the greatest measure.

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"  2 Cor. 9:15

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2012

What's In A Gift (Part 1)

It has taken me years to figure out all that's entwined in a gift.

Some people have a knack at knowing exactly what to give another.  Not me.  Gift giving ranks high on my stress level gauge.  Don't get me wrong, I do love to give a gift when I have a really great idea and I know it is a perfect fit for the one receiving it.  But I'm not always very good at coming up with the idea.  Perhaps its because my heart is two sizes too small or maybe because receiving gifts is not my primary love language.

However, I have a mother-in-law who has this area nailed.  She is the ultimate gift person.  She has taught me much about generosity and thoughtfulness. (Although I'm still learning) I grew up in a family that was not big on gifts.  We received one low dollar item from the person who drew our name.  That was all.  Not to be a martyr or to say it was wrong.  I dearly treasure the Christmases of my childhood.   But I did not really understand what went into a gift or why a gift can be important until I got married.

I'm not talking about the gift we buy for someone out of stingy obligation, grudgingly given.  It is not the gift we've recycled because we don't want it or we're seeking frugality.  It is not how cheap I can go or how little I can expend.   Instead, I'm speaking of a true heart and soul gift, freely and eagerly given.

Gift giving is risky.  I don't know whether the other person will like it or if they will think it is stupid, cheesy, cheap, or too extravagant.  I risk vulnerability.  

To give a meaningful gift it is helpful to know the other person.  It requires we get involved in their lives and pursue a relationship with them.  It means we are there for them when they are grieving or going through difficult days, even if it is highly inconvenient or awkward for us.

A gift that does not disappoint also requires that we think of what they might enjoy.  It might be something completely foreign to us, but know it would give them great delight.  We visit stores where we feel like a fish out of water.  For me, that would be the computer or hardware store.  We venture out on icy roads, making a second trip and sometimes even a third to find just the right thing.  It means planning ahead.

A gift always costs us something, not only from our purses, but perhaps more so from our time, effort, and energy.  At last the gift is carefully wrapped and given.  Wow!   That's a lot of love in a gift!  No wonder Gary Chapman considers it one of the five love languages.

Yet, why the gift?  Why is a gift so important?  Have you ever thought about what's in the gift that God gave to us?  Whew!  Incredible.   More on that tomorrow.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Out of Darkness

Last night at the dinner table, my family got into a lengthy discussion about darkness.  It began with a question from one of my daughters on whether there could be extraterrestrial life beyond earth. We were all ears as the discussion moved from the vastness of our universe to galaxies beyond our own and then back again.

Between my husband and son, our universe was explained in mathematical terms.  I learned that scientists have determined the weight of our solar system but that it doesn't measure up.  It should be much heavier than it actually is.  Something is missing.  One theory is that darkness has mass.  Though we do not yet understand it, some scientists now believe that darkness is not simply empty space, but is an object containing some sort of energy or weight. 

Not only do we use the word dark to describe the pitch black of night, but it is also used to describe evil in our world.  We say a movie or book is dark when it has foreboding characters or a frightening plot.  And we know that darkness provides a covering for wrong doing.  In fact we love darkness because our deeds are evil.  (John 3:19)

This brings more meaning to the fact that Jesus came into the world to overcome the darkness.  Wherever light is, darkness must flee.  Last night, on the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, I was comforted by 1 Pet. 2:9 which says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light."   I'm so glad for the belonging, that it is God who owns us.  He has called us out of darkness.  Yet the fact that He has to call us from it seems almost like we'd rather stay there, cloaked in darkness, that we might continue our evil deeds.  The light is wonderful, yet we do not always choose it.

I'm so very thankful for Jesus, the Light of the world, who takes away our sin.  The Light, who dispels darkness.  I'm frightened when I think of darkness holding mass, of being a thing and not simply empty space.  It gives me even more reason to press close to the Light, always near the Light, for it is a safe place, a place of conquering, where I can freely declare God's praises.  Glory to God in the highest!

Dinner was long gone and we were still sitting at the table.  Our conclusion?   The underlying purpose for our huge universe and mind blowing galaxies beyond is to demonstrate how very big our God is.  Truly, all creation shouts "Glory!" 

And all this . . . contained in a feeding trough.  He "made Himself nothing...being made in human likeness" that we might be delivered from darkness.  (Phil. 2:6-8)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Family Album

Merry Christmas to all of you.  Thank you for sharing this year with me as I learn and grow in the realm of writing.

Instead of a traditional family picture in a Christmas card, I thought it would be fun to include a family album, reviewing the year's events in some candid shots.  From my house to yours, warmest Christmas blessings.

2012 in Review

Our year always starts with Ivy's birthday.

A little dancing in the kitchen. . .

Gotta love that snow!

Come on fishy. Take a bite. 

 Winter Youth Retreat . . .

       'Moving Mountains'

From this . . . to cake bites.

                      Overcoming challenges.

Young Eagles, flying balmy skies.
Awana club awards.

Spring Break Project. . . painting the house.


Porch entrance in progress.
After . . . steps complete, thanks to my capable husband.

Ivy and Summer profess their faith in Christ through baptism. 

A storm on its way. . . 


but sheltered in the apple of God's eye.

The day my sister-in-law died,
the clouds mourn in empathy... 

the day we began numbering our blessings. 

Reflective days . . .

        God is not slow keeping His promises.
Photo by Tim Fitzharris

Love of sisters.
Heather turns 18.

Joy, joy, joy.

Tyler away at college, but home for Heather's big event.

In celebration. . .

Crepes will always remind us of this inside joke.

"I'd like some strawberry creeps please."
(a mishap of speech which occurred once when ordering her crepes.)

Summer days . . .

        Family gatherings.

A fishing experience with Grandpa and cousin. 

The 'sketching man', drawing for animation projects. 

July brings rain, at last.

You know you live in a desert when you join all the neighbors, each in their doorways, to watch the rain.  

The first rain in forever . . . months.
Water running down the streets. . . cause for much rejoicing!

Thankful for the canal system woven through our valley so that our eyes might rest on green.

Summer's birthday and school begins.

 Heather is off to college.  Road trip.  Tyler has been working all summer in Denver.

School days at home.  The daily walk . . .
Ivy's transition to public school . . .  home school for Summer. 
Adjusting to Heather and Tyler both being away.
                     Invading sissy's empty room.

Corn harvest.

Tyler's birthday.

Our anniversary in this gorgeous country.  San Juan Mts.

Fall fun and school events.

 Cooking practice. 

Can she make an apple pie. . . 

Yes!  Yum.
 Sisters grown closer in the absence of older siblings.

Fly tying, the new craft.   

School Christmas play and concert.

Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day that He might save us from our sin and Satan's power.  Oh, such tidings of comfort and joy! 

Full circle. . .

     Just some old fashioned fun.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas!