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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

I was having an especially fun moment on Facebook.  A friend had posted a video of the Christmas story as told by children.  Just as a wisp of Christmas spirit began to materialize inside of me, the very next status update in my feed stopped me cold.

Another friend posted that a local family lost several of their own.  A father, mother, their two young children and the family dog all perished in a single engine plane crash on a freeway in New Jersey.

I don’t know for sure if this Christmas is different than any other, but to me it feels… I don’t know… darker.  So many people I know are facing serious financial difficulties.  Others are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one.  Still others are dealing with illness.  So much sadness…

I am left wondering how to reconcile this bittersweet dichotomy.  What am I supposed to feel?  I cannot steel myself to the pain of others.  Nor can I shut out the promise of Christmas. 

I sense that I am not alone in my emotional confusion.  Are you there, too?

At some point, we have to choose where we put our focus.  If I may make a sweeping generalization, I would say that most of us, given the choice, would prefer to relish the wonder of the season.  (Have you ever noticed how people thrill to the lights at Christmastime?  As beings created by the Light, we cannot help but be drawn to it.)

The darker the world gets, the more Christmas means. 

A savior is coming to pull us out of the mess of our own making, to wipe away every tear, to make right all that is wrong. 

In this promise, we can place our hope:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”  (Isaiah 9:2-7, NIV)

 

 

Elsewhere on the blog: A last-minute gift idea for elementary school age children.

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Call me a conscientious objector if you like, but for the sake of my sanity, I stay home on the day after Thanksgiving.  (Introverts like me much prefer a warm blanket and a quiet cup of coffee to parking lots and stores full of hyped-up shoppers.)  But this year, I broke my own rule.

As I neared the shopping center, the traffic and my pulse quickened.  I seriously began to doubt my decision.

Just when I was about to give in to an all-out fit of anxiety, I stopped myself…

…took a breath…

…and repeated these words to myself.

 

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

 

I don’t know why the King James Version of this verse (Isaiah 26:3) came to me, but I think the words are beautiful.

“…perfect peace…”

Yes, I thought.  I would love to experience perfect peace.  But how can I when the world is so crazy?

The answer lies in the second half of the verse.

“…whose mind is stayed on Thee.”

I smiled to myself.  I looked around with new eyes.  Suddenly, people fighting over parking spaces, pushing ahead in check-out lines, and speaking rudely to sales clerks didn’t faze me.  I became an observer of the chaos rather than a participant in it.

And you know what?  I felt… peaceful.

The world can go perfectly mad during the month of December.  You and I don’t have to play along.  We can have a mind stayed on the One who gives perfect peace,

the One whose birth we anticipate,

the One whose name is Prince of Peace.

 

 

There is a new entry this week on the Simplicity page: simpler cookware

 

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I admit it.  I don’t do change well.  This is something God and I are working on, and He has given me many beautiful opportunities to trust that change, though it may involve letting go, is not in and of itself a bad thing.

We had our first frost this week.  Sunday morning, I peeked outside to see if anything in our garden had survived.  My heart sank a little when I saw the leaves of our summer basil blackened and once robust squash leaves looking like limp dishrags on sticks.  How I loved our summer garden!  And now, it is gone.

But the first frost of the season also means harvest.  That same day, I plunged my gloved hands into the soft earth and pulled out the sweet potatoes that will soon be on our Thanksgiving table.  It was a delightful, subterranean treasure hunt.

sweet potatoes!             

This is only one example of the changes I have seen this fall.  Though the letting go always makes me wistful, I am trying harder to look ahead – to smile for what was, instead of crying that it is no longer.

There was a time in my life when change, especially the endings of things, would have sent me into all-out panic mode.  Not anymore.  I have learned to trust the hand that turns the seasons.  I have lived long enough to see that things have a way of working out.  I have grown in faith enough to know that there is treasure under the surface of whatever change I may be facing. 

I feel that I should pause here to offer a caveat.  I don’t mean to suggest that grieving is wrong.  Quite the contrary.  Grieving is normal, healthy and biblical.  I am referring here to day-to-day, season-to-season, year-to-year changes which may cause discomfort, but do not devastate.  In either case, a little faith goes a long way to soften the blow.

What changes are you facing this fall?  Do you welcome change, or do you fear it?  Do you see the loss or the harvest? Perhaps most importantly, do you believe that whatever change God allows you is ultimately for your good?  (It is, you know.)

There is a season for everything.

There is a reason for everything.

Trust now the hand that turns the seasons…

…and leave the reasons to Him who is for you. 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)

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You know the amazing idea that hit you while you were stuck in traffic?  Do you remember the one that splashed you in the face during your shower?  How about the one that woke you in the middle of the night and kept you from sleep? 

Pay attention to those.  They are pearls from heaven.

Whenever I have created something good – whether it is a piece of music, a blog, a recipe, a children’s book, whatever – I am keenly aware that the idea did not come from ME.  I am merely a conduit for God. 

In the case of music, a melody will wind its way into my thoughts, and I simply take dictation.  It’s as if I’m back in Music Theory class with Dr. Rosenkranz as he plunks out a bit of song on the piano for the class to write out on staff paper.  When a melody pops into my head, I know it is God, the Composer, dropping a pearl from heaven.

Sometimes, I sit at the piano, hands folded, and I’ll ask, “What key?”  A key and meter flash in my mind.  I place my hands on the ivory, and music that had not existed on earth until that moment is born.  I am certain the music already existed in heaven, but it won’t be heard on earth until I catch the pearl.

But here’s the kicker.  So many times, I catch a pearl… and then let it drop to the ground, unrealized.  I determine that no one wants to hear the melody, or read the books “I” write.  I decide that the idea came from me, and therefore, isn’t very good.  I listen to negative self-talk about success being meant for others, not for me.  I give audience to the enemy’s whispers of doom, gloom and doubt.  In so doing, I become the wicked servant in the parable who buried his master’s treasure rather than expanding it for his glory.  (Matthew 25)

Dropping pearls is dangerous.  If you drop them too many times, or fail to catch them at all, you may not be trusted with them anymore.

So… have you had any great ideas lately?

Treat them with care.

They are pearls from heaven.

 catching pearls from heaven

P.S.  Did you notice the new blog title?  It hints that there are changes (i.e. additions, not subtractions) ahead for this blog.  I caught a pearl!  🙂

-wwh

 

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You haven’t noticed her at church before.  She must be new.  She seems awfully young (a teen!) to have a babe on her hip.  And, what’s this?  She’s pregnant, too?  She slumps in the pew as if to make herself smaller, almost invisible. 

She’s sitting with a woman you recognize as a long-time member.  The people who have offered the young woman welcome inquire as to the whereabouts of her husband.  The two women are vague on this point.  Rumor has it that the babe on her hip and the babe in her belly have different fathers. 

Should you greet her?  Welcome her? Invite her to brunch?  Maybe it’s better to keep your distance.  Obviously, this gal hasn’t been brought up right.

If this was your response, you would have rejected my great-grandmother.

Yes, the young woman in this story was real.  The babe in her belly was my grandfather.

We all make judgments based on the limited information that we have.  The trouble is that we don’t have the whole story.  Only God does.

God sees our whole truth – the reasons we behave the way we do, the circumstances surrounding our actions, our baggage, our history, everything.  While He doesn’t excuse away our bad behavior, He does have infinite compassion for us. 

God has tasked us in return to love others without judgment, to choke back our pride long enough to realize that we don’t know everything about every person we meet.  Isn’t this what we would want from others?

Now, here’s what you didn’t know about the young woman in the story:

My great-grandmother married at the age of sixteen.  Her husband was an Englishman who swept her off her feet.  But he was a terrible drunk who beat her.  At nineteen, she took their two-year-old son and fled for her life to her mother’s house.  In that town, she fell into the arms of a man who promised her the moon – and got her pregnant.   The boy born to her (my grandfather) was treated by society as rubbish because he was a “bastard child.” He carried the shame of this label his whole life. 

Later, my great-grandmother married a good man who took them all in and raised the boys as his own.  My grandfather grew into an upright, wise man of exceptional character, who in turn mentored other fatherless boys.

I have been guilty of judging people without knowing their story.  I have judged people who seem just a liiiiiitle less “good” than me.  Unless you and Jesus are twins, you have done it, too.

For just one day, remember that each person you meet has a story. 

Remember that God is the only one who knows it. 

And leave the judging up to Him, who loves us all.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  (Matthew 23:27-28, NIV)

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Legacy

I am unearthing skeletons.  Exhuming secrets.  It’s not really what I intended, but when you follow a thread of curiosity, you must be prepared for the unexpected.

My mother has always been the record-keeper of the family: whose great-great-grandmother married whom on what date, which cousins are twice removed (does anybody really get that?), birth dates, death dates, anniversaries, etc.  The whole genealogy thing seemed a big bore to me.  Why should I care?

But I am middle-aged now.  If my life follows the insurance agent’s actuaries, I am half-way through that dash between my birth date and the date God waves me in to home plate.  I will likely have descendants, not just ancestors. 

I am not the end.  One day, there may be a great-great-granddaughter who thinks the particulars of my life a bore.  In light of this, I decided that perhaps my ancestors deserved a little more honor, more care, more respect.  After all, they were people like me.

So I began to research.  Through www.ancestry.com, I am peeking into the lives of the family members who lived before me.  It has been anything but boring.  There are mysteries.  There are lies.  There are cover-ups for sins.  There are essentially good people, making mistakes, fumbling, struggling, and trying – just like me.  Yes, you would be surprised what the records will show about a person’s life.

If some days hence, my great-great-granddaughter takes a peek at my records, the way I have lived during my vapor of a life, what will she see?  Will she see that I messed up a lot, but that I have been forgiven much?  Will she know of my struggling faith, and the faithful God whom I serve?  No, she won’t see that from the census records, or my birth certificate, or my death certificate.

But she will know.

Yes, she will know.

On Sunday, my older daughter was confirmed into the church.  Dressed in ivory, hair up, heels, she looked so beautiful, so grown up.  Side by side, we served communion to the congregation, signaling that she has not just passed some test to “get in”, but has agreed to live her life in service to God.  As people came up to receive communion from my girl, I knew…

The faith will go on.

My faith…

Her faith…

Her daughter’s faith…

That is what I hope my great-great-granddaughter will find – when one day she goes looking for skeletons to exhume.

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It was a beautiful day – crisp, blue skies, cool air, falling leaves.  It was a horrible day – screams, fire, unthinkable evil.  It was each.  It was both.  One decade is not enough to make sense of the dichotomy, to reconcile the extremes.

The eyes are the windows to the soul, and we peered into them, the black, starless night of cold eyes.  We saw evil.

 

 

We saw faces of courage, honor, and loyalty.  We saw love.

 

 

 

On that day, we saw the depravity of humankind.  We saw its capacity to inflict unspeakable pain, its ability to destroy life – the gift that is life.  Against that crisp blue sky, we watched it.

 

 

Too many.  Too many people died.  Too many good people with their song still in them.

But others were born.  Life emerged, if defiantly.  Life happened anyway.

If we continue to look at the destruction, the hatred, the evil, if we continue to peer into the gaping mouth of hell, if we fear, if we hate in return, then they have won.

But if we resolve to cherish life, to care more deeply, to love more intensely, to inhale intoxicating fall air, to take in a crisp, blue sky, to reach out with all we have…

…well then, LOVE wins.

We have a choice.

Will we prove their assumption of our greed, or prove them wrong with our generosity?

Will we respond in kind, or will we respond with yet more kindness?

Will we serve a god who says, “You must die for me,” or the God who says, “I must die for you.”?

We did not choose what happened that day, that beautiful, horrible day.

But we can choose now.

We can choose love.

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