OK…love is NOT a cup of salted caramel Ghirardelli hot chocolate on a ridiculously cold day! But I chose this picture because it sure can feel like love! It brought me in from the cold wind, let me warm my hands around the steaming mug, was sweet to my taste buds, and filled me up with its smooth, comforting chocolatey goodness.
Look today for the love around you! Maybe it’s romantic love, and maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s the love of a friend, a sister, a mother, a child…love is such a great gift we can give each other. Let that love warm you up, fill you up, and bring you in from the cold. Share it with someone. 1 John 4:7 says “…let us love one another, for love is from God…”
There’s just something about air travel that sends me ‘Picture This’ moments to consider. Maybe it’s putting my life totally in the hands of someone I don’t know…sobering! On my most recent adventure, I boarded a Delta flight in Atlanta, headed to Chicago. I mean… who doesn’t think January isn’t a great time to visit Chicago? Evidently I will go anywhere to hang out with my fella and enjoy the bright lights and good tastes of the city.
Back to the flying lesson. As we passed from the jetway to the aircraft, the door to the cockpit was open, and I am sure, not by accident. Hanging just inside the cockpit was the captain’s coat and hat. Inside his hat…snapshots of his two children. I grabbed a quick pic because this shouted at me! The man who was going to pilot this big ol’ jet through Atlanta air traffic, through turbulent January skies, and set it down in icy Chicago had reasons to do so with great care. Not only did he have all the ‘souls aboard’ to warrant his best effort. He had two very precious souls at home to get back to. The pictures there for us to see as we came onboard spoke the words, “I’m your pilot, but I am also ‘Dad,’ and I will make sure we get where we are going, because we all have someone counting on us.”
I am examining my ‘greater reason’ for how I spend each day. Love seems like a good use of my time. A Christlike direction for caring for others comes from Philippians 2:3-4. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of other.”
What I hope to bring to this day? Encouraging and caring for the people around me; to love them. They are gifts to me. I want them to be able to count on me.
No, this isn’t a Christmas post you missed during December, but actually a fresh thought for January. I have to restrain my husband from taking down Christmas decorations until after January 1st. No judgement of the early November decorators, but we hold off until Thanksgiving has come and gone to put up Christmas. Then I love to have the tree and lights and other reminders of the season still shining bright on New Year’s Eve. I would probably leave them up longer, but life is full of compromises, so they come down the day after New Year’s usually. Undecking the halls is accomplished with the same love and attention I gave to the original decking…Christmas music playing, tree lights glowing, and maybe even a leftover Christmas cookie in my hand. My mate is the master packer, coaxing the tree back into ‘not quite big enough’ storage box…like trying to get a hefty girl into a girdle. Then there’s the careful packing of the memories in the form of the snowman cookie jar, the nativity scene we’ve had forever, and the pyramid we acquired when we lived in Germany. It’s work, but it’s a labor of love. Each little item reminds me of the joy of all the Christmases past, and the laughter and love of the most recent Christmas.
Now to the item that will make you doubt my sanity. As the Christmas tree lights are removed from the live tree on the front porch (allergy issues decree that’s where it lives) I clip a tiny branch to keep for the coming year. It lives in a special drawer where I can pull is out and whiff that amazing piney Frazier fir smell any time I want. And in the keeping and the sniffing of it, I am reminded of the reality that Christmas can be a year round celebration. I won’t tell you about the time the tree went out before my clipping was acquired, and I went to the recycling lot and located our own tree to get that clipping. Yes, I did. And yes, I found it!
There is just something so wonderful and timeless and encouraging about the Christmas season that I choose to hang onto all the year round. “Pleased as Man, with men to dwell. Jesus, our Emmanuel.” Those words from Hark the Herald Angels Sing, can stay with us all year round. Beyond the lights and the gifts and the busyness of the season just passed is the reality that the Savior we celebrate can remain the center of our hearts and lives year round. “God and sinners reconciled.“
According to Merriam-Webster, there are some different slants on the word ‘new’.
The first…’having recently come into existence’. Yep! That fits, since the new year is still just a few hours old.
And there’s…’being other than the former or old’. Yes, again. 2019 is history, along with its wins and losses, its disappointments and surprises.
But the definition that stands out the most in my mind is ‘unfamiliar’. Twelve months, fifty-two weeks, and 366 (this is Leap Year, you know!) unfamiliar days ahead, with 8,760 hours available with potential, yet unfamiliar at this point.
So as you peel off that first day of 2020, be it the desk Cat calendar someone gave you as a joke, or maybe the digital calendar that you utilize to organize your life, make the day count. Embrace the ‘unfamiliar,’ because it may be amazing in a way you could have never planned yourself! Jeremiah 18:12 reminds us that what is unfamiliar to us, is not a mystery to the Plan Maker! “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Really…it’s my favorite genre when it comes to recreational reading…a really great mystery! There’s something about trying to compile clues, untangle unknowns, and solve the situation that just reels me in. Maybe that’s why some of my favorite Christmas carols are sung in a minor key. (For the non musical, those are the songs that have a softer, sometimes sadder, but definitely mysterious sound in the melody.)
Some of my favorites from that category are ‘God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen’, What Child is This?’, ‘Mary, Did You Know’, and ‘O Come, O Come, Immanuel’. Hum a few bars of any of these songs and you will recognize the haunting, questioning sounds of the minor keys.
Take a look at some of the words and we begin to uncover an intriguing mystery.
What child is this? Let nothing you dismay. Mary did you know that when you kiss your baby’s face you kiss the face of God? Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel.￼
Everything about the birth of Jesus is a wonderful, joyful mystery…from the startling visit by an angel to a young girl, Joseph reeling in shock over the unprecedented circumstance in which he finds himself, an impossible journey with a pregnant mother that lands this drama birth event right where prophecy had said it would be, as foretold so many generations before.
So as you listen and touch and taste and read all the sights and sounds of this season, don’t miss the mystery…resolved by the birth of a child…the Child.
1 John 4:14 wraps the mystery up with these words: “…the Father sent His Son to be the Savior of the world.” Mystery solved!
During our family pre Christmas get together, our youngest grandchild came running up to me in distress. ‘He’s missing! Baby Jesus is missing’, she reported. I got down at ‘eyeball to eyeball’ level with her and asked what she meant. Our three year old detective took me over to her great grandmother’s beautiful nativity scene sitting on a nearby table. ‘See! Baby Jesus is missing!’ She was right. Mary, Joseph, Shepherds, sheep…the scene was set, but no Jesus. So we found Her great grandmother (a.k.a. MaMa) and Reid explained the problem. MaMa explained that since we celebrate the birthday of Jesus on Christmas, that she would add the Baby Jesus to the scene on Christmas Eve. That would NOT do for Reid! She would not be satisfied until Baby Jesus was safely in the manger. So MaMa opened a drawer and Reid carefully picked up the baby and placed him gently on the hay. Then she ran off to play with her cousins, satisfied that Jesus was right where He was supposed to be.
“ Away in the manger no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down his sweet head…. …Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask you to stay!’
Help me to panic like Reid just a bit if I find myself accepting all that is Christmas without making sure Jesus is in the center of it all!
If you are like me and most everyone else, you’ve been decking the halls with falalalala and making your space look Christmassy. Unless you are one of the pre Thanksgiving deckers…and I don’t judge you…bring it on whenever the spirit hits you!
It fascinates me that even the lowliest little shop does something to say ‘We are celebrating here,’ even if it is just a commercial ploy to get your gift dollars. Again…no judgement. Because honestly, I love seeing the world acknowledge the birth of Jesus, even when they don’t make the connection, because I do!
Picture This moments for Christmas will come from the songs of Christmas…pictures of words, a.k.a. word pictures. And this particular song is one of my favorites because, like digging in the attic for the decorations and choosing the perfect tree, it sort of kicks off the season for me, reminding me of my childhood and walking down the streets of Atlanta with my parents and gazing in the magnificent windows of the big Rich’s store. The windows were filled with animated carolers and Santa’s workshop and other glorious things to fill a child’s imagination. But my favorite window was the one with giant (to me as a child) gold bells pealing out the sounds of the season. Which brings me to the song!
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Soon the bells will start.
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing right within your heart.
Whether you go all out with lights and a tree in each room and a snow village and live reindeer in the yard, or you keep a simpler Christmas in a lower key, remember the words of this sweet song. What happens in your heart is what makes Christmas Christmas.
Want to know how to get that carol going that will make your heart ring? Try this direction from Psalm 96: Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! …
There’s a Gift to celebrate and the Gift is for you. Keep your heart singing this week!
It’s a donut. It has raspberry jelly inside. And if the ‘Hot Light’ is on, even better, because it’s a WARM, raspberry filled donut! No big deal, you say? Not so, my friend! Not so!
From my earliest days, Krispy Kreme donuts have been a favorite treat. We would stop by the big KK store on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta and watch as the little round nuggets came through on the conveyer belt, into the fryer, out of the fryer, and then right through the glazing bath, exiting on the other side as the perfect round delight that it is. I would stand and gaze in childlike (because I was, at that time, a child) anticipation, mesmerized by the process, smelling the amazing smells, and waiting for our box to be filled, purchased, and then wolfed down without a lot of ceremony. It was a taste of family.
When the Army took us overseas, my mother and dad brought a dozen of my favorite, stowed away in their luggage. I ate several and froze the rest, thawing them one by one, and pulling one out to heat and eat when Georgia seemed too far away. Not that Germany doesn’t have its fair share of bite delights, but they are no Krispy Kreme…a taste of home.
When we arrived in Augusta long ago on a cross country move in search of a home for our family and totally unfamiliar with the city, we exited the expressway on Washington, took a right, and…you guessed it…we found ourselves right in the Krispy Kreme parking lot. Our little family was in agreement that this was indeed, a sign that that Augusta was going to be a great place to live…a taste of familiar.
The days are long gone when I could eat as many as I wanted without paying the price. But on special occasions I still savor the occasional raspberry filled wonder with great joy…a taste of memories.
Throughout our lives there are places, events, smells, and tastes that are so much more than they might be to someone else. They serve as markers, reminders, pinpoints on our life map that say ‘You Are Here’.
The word ‘remember’ comes up 234 time in scripture. That may be because I need to do some serious ‘remembering’. For this picture I choose 1 Chronicles 16:12, with the reminder to ‘Remember the wondrous works that He has done’.
These Picture This moments are just that…remembering the Father in all of the ‘Hot Donuts Now’ signs in life. Remembering where we have been, where we are going, and Who goes with us! What are your “Hot Donuts Now’ moments?
Guilty! I confess…I am a murderer…a murderer of green growing things in my care. Not all of them, but some of them do make the trip home from the nursery to certain doom. Take the “Case of the Lovely Asters”. When I picked up the three pots months ago, they were loaded with spectacular periwinkle colored blooms that I thought would look great out back. However, nothing could have prepared them for the rugged conditions of my yard in the Augusta summer. Sprinklers and extra waterings were just not enough to make them survive, let alone thrive, and soon they were doing the ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ routine in my garden.
I decided to remove them and replace them with something more along the lines of a succulent that could make it in Death Valley. When I dug the asters up, I just didn’t have the heart to toss them over the fence into no man’s land, remembering just how pretty they were when I brought them home. So I tucked all three tired, brown, withered plants into a nearby pot, and stashed them behind a tree, sort of my version of burying the evidence of my horticultural crime.
Fast forward to a cooler day in October where rain happens occasionally, and the sun still shines, but with mercy. The brave asters have leafed out, all brand new, and even dared to bloom. I don’t think I deserve much credit here. But I do love the picture of something that was dead and gone being alive and beautiful! Ephesians 4:24 challenges us to ‘put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’ Don’t you love a happy ending, even in a murder mystery?
There are just some spots in my physical world that are extra happy, bringing me contentment and a sense of peace. The garden steps to my bird feeder and bird bath are such a place. I have been up and down those steps a billion times filling and refilling and just checking things out. They are visible from my kitchen table, so there has been plenty of tea consumed while enjoying them.
All that changed yesterday when we went out to fill the feeders and found a ‘way too large’ (as if there’s a right size to make it good) rattlesnake on those same idyllic steps. He had struck a cardinal and was working on making her his dinner. Because this snake was in our living space and a place my grandchildren frequent, he had to be dealt with. I am just so grateful the snake was spotted before one of us unknowingly tangled with him!
The picture? Just how easily something deadly can slip into our lives unnoticed! And the parallel to the serpent of ‘Garden of Eden’ infamy isn’t lost on me here. I will henceforth and forever more be wearing suitable, non flip flop footwear when going up the steps. And if I have learned anything from this life lesson, it is that we must be vigilant to watch for the things that can invade even our safest and happiest of places and be harmful to our hearts and lives.
1 Peter 5:8 says Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Ephesians 6:10 gives us an action plan: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.