Posted in Living this Life

Let us REJOICE!

I didn’t know 14 years ago, when I started this habit, how much it would impact the rest of my life. And today I needed this reminder, cuz truth is, it’s been a rough week … I don’t need to go into details because I suspect you’ve been through it on some level yourself.

Here’s the story: when my daughter was little, I would start each day by announcing “this is the day the Lord has made! Let us REJOICE and be glad in it!!” I would take her little baby arms and wave them in the air. As she grew, it led to full body happy dances as we would rejoice in our day.

One sad day, my little 1 1/2 year old munchkin was quite sick – she spent the day laying on me and being miserable. Near the end of the day, speaking mostly to myself, I said, “well, sweetheart. It’s been a rough day. But it’s STILL the day the Lord has made…” and with all the strength her little spirit could muster, she lifted up her arms and waved them slowly in the air. I get teary remembering that moment even now, because that simple act reminds me on a daily basis that we can rejoice even when our arms are too tired to lift.

When our spirit feels depleted and we have nothing left. We rejoice with what we have, and Almighty God will pour in what we need for the next step. Thank you, Charissa, for this beautiful lesson – I needed it today, 13 years later. My friend, in this place we are all in, this is my prayer for you this week: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Posted in Living this Life

The God who thought up noses – Pt 2

“It’s like this: As the darkness feels like it is closing in with each news report, our health and our very future often feel threatened. Amidst the echo of fear I hear from all directions, I wake up each morning and delight to see that God has done it again – for behold, there is a beautiful sun rising from the horizon again and the birds have been singing for hours already.  I’m enjoying coffee with a ridiculous amount of whipped cream on it, and there is still ice cream in the freezer waiting to be savored in a bit. How do I reconcile these two realities?”

sunrise

bird singingb62db985-1eaf-4a69-a589-f2030af257c1img_6173

 Quiddity. Remember that word? That long deep draw of cool water when your throat is parched?

It can’t be where we start. If we try to pursue delight for only what it is, we end up with naked hedonism. As Lewis famously interpreted Matthew 6:33 – “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things”

So, I return to my original question: How do I reconcile the tension between these two realities?

I feel a desperate need to hold up the beautiful, to sing with the birds that God still reigns and His glory is breathtaking – is this the song of a lunatic? The tinny echo of a blind optimist who is disconnected from reality? Can we really ground ourselves in this slowing and savoring lifestyle when it feels like the world is burning down around us?

Perhaps this is where the cart has been put before the horse. Because the reality is this: Try as we might, we cannot do it on our own. We are not strong enough. Our attention span falters, we hit a dead end, and then what? Or we take it too far and up worshipping the very thing that was intended to draw our eyes up to the gory of God. When our enjoyment of the gifts around us begins to feel like more hard work, and your very desire to find the wonder leads to a whole other sense of hopelessness, where do you turn?

After all, every created thing has a necessary end in and of itself – we are a finite people reaching for an infinite good.

How do we span this maddening gap?

Humor me for a moment. This quote is longer than I usually would include – but Lewis makes it worth your time.

I was standing today in a dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside and through the crack at the top of the door there came a sunbeam. From where I stood that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it. Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed, and (above all) no beam. Instead, I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” (This moment of enlightenment is brought to us by C. S. Lewis from his book God in the Dock.)

shafts of light

Looking along the beam vs. looking at the beam. This is revolutionary!

When I look deep into a flower, I see depths of beauty that are hard to describe. But when I look along the beam of that beauty to behold that One who created that flower, I stand with Job, who upon seeing the glory of God, said “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know… My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” Job 42.

Piper describes it like this: All of God’s creation becomes a beam to be “looked along” or a sound to be “heard along” or a fragrance to be “smelled along” or a flavor to be “tasted along” or a touch to be “felt along”.  All our senses become partners with the eyes of the heart in perceiving the glory of God through the physical world” 

Do you sense it? This is where it all comes together like the pieces of a puzzle finally revealing their secret beauty. Don’t leave me now – but hold your breath with me as we enter this sacred place!  Don’t let your gaze of wonder stop at the object that takes your breath away. Look beyond – let your gaze travel upwards along the beam of His glory and see, truly see, the face of God.

We don’t will this moment into existence. He took the first step. He breathed it all into reality, and every day He sustains it’s continued existence. But there’s so much more! When we built a wall, He made a way through. When darkness rose up in us, His light shone through. This is the door – the only way to go from seeing what He made to truly savoring it as He intended. It is His communication to us of a newer, brighter, more beautiful way than we could ask or imagine!

Do you know my Jesus? Have you drawn deep of the draft of this eternal life? Lean in, my friend. Hold your breath. Because this is where it all starts. We owed a price we couldn’t pay – but that didn’t stop Him from embarking on the greatest rescue mission of all time! He paid our price for us, died an undeserving death and welcomes all who accept this gift into His family with open arms. And every birdsong, every flower that blooms into impossible glory, every star that appears night after night in the dark sky, every waft of fresh bread, is declaring this unfathomable truth!

We can see the face of the Creator when we accept the payment made by Jesus. If this reality isn’t the greatest good in your life, pause. Right here. Talk to God. Tell Him you’re sorry. Ask Him to carry the weight of your failings for you. Let Him fill your heart with freedom, with lightness, with joy – with all the glory you’ve been craving your whole life. It’s right there – trace the sunbeam up to the author and let the Son fill you!

And let the world of wonder in.

Posted in Living this Life

Kisses for Jesus

I hesitate to even write this, sitting here in the middle of December, my mind spinning with everything I have to do. Let’s be honest – which of us has the time to even read one more thing? These are the days when our calendars are full, our to do list is full, but somehow it feels like our hearts can be a bit hollow. I saw a friend last night for a brief 3 minutes, and as she was telling me about all the activities she is involved in, she said, “why are we even doing all this?”

My mind flew back 10 years. To when my sweet girl was just one – truly celebrating her first Christmas. And this: charissa kissing Jesus

She loved her Nativity. She wouldn’t go to bed until she had kissed Jesus goodnight. Every  single night. I put a few different Nativities throughout the house every year, and that year, I found myself re-arranging them often. Until I figured out what was going on. They were getting arranged Charissa’s way. With everyone’s backs to the room, all the wise men and shepherds in a clump – you couldn’t really see the Nativity. Then I looked closer, and realized that they were as they really should be – all gathered tight around the manger and baby Jesus.

At the age of one, she got what most of us miss.

 

We are those people who pull out our Christmas decorations the day after Halloween. Christmas music is on, candles are burning, I have 3 Christmas trees (one has a Muppet as a tree topper, so I’m not sure that counts), and all the necessary blow up figures on my lawn. We love to celebrate this time of year – for the fun and the family,  especially for the opportunity it gives us to pull back and really celebrate Jesus. The tragedy of it all is that somewhere amidst the wrapping paper and the noise, Jesus gets a little lost.

And so I buy more devotionals. We do our Jesse tree with the kids every night. I even make sure to eat a piece of chocolate from my chocolate Advent calendar every day (or two or three, depending on how the day goes…)! I study the meanings of what happened when Jesus was born, I read commentaries – I dig because I want to know more, to understand more.

But this year, Jesus keeps whispering to my heart – “just come away and be with me

There is great value to understanding. I’m not encouraging setting the books aside – God often speaks to me through greater knowledge. But have we lost those quiet moments where we just worship? Just sit in silence and listen for His still small voice?

 

 

 

My sweet Charissa lived a parable for me years ago that will never leave me. I love all the joys and festivities of this season, but as we celebrate, as we wrap gifts and listen to Christmas music, and even while we’re doing our last minute shopping, let us breathe a little deeper, move a little slower. As we sit in traffic – again – let us lift our eyes from the red lights in front of us and let the glory of God all around us sink in. Listen for the song of a bird, look for the rainbow glint of sun off the snow. And tonight, for just a few minutes, try turning off the tv and the bright lights overhead and let the gentle glow of the Christmas tree warm your heart. May we all be a little more like the wise men in Charissa’s Nativity – less worried about what’s “out there” and more turned in, hearts in a beautiful clump around Jesus.

Oh come, let us adore Him!