Happy New Year! As this year winds down, we all look to the next with anticipation and hope. For many, tonight will be a partied out with friends. For us, it’s quiet…intentionally so. Pajamas, snack supper, fire in the fireplace, books, football, maybe a movie.
We’ve already reflected back over this past year…we’ve written out resolutions for the one coming…and now, we mark the few hours remaining until this year is finished and the next begins.
When the clock strikes midnight, a song will ring out, for sure in the English-speaking world. That song is Auld Lang Syne. We don’t even know all the lyrics or its exact origin, but it stirs our hearts to remember the gift of old friends. What a gift they are!
Old friends…including the one I’m spending this New Year’s Eve with…
Auld Lang Syne celebrates those relationships that get us through whatever a year brings. Old friends. Sometimes we find those friends in our families…and sometimes across oceans.
One thing I love about this song is how the melody also lends itself to different lyrics…especially when the lyrics call to remembrance the finest friend it is possible to have in one’s life.
Our lives can take a myriad of turns that take us far from the friends we love. Fortunately, wherever we are…no matter how peopled or solitary our seasons are…there is a friend who is near to us always.
Two Christian bands have put lyrics to this melody and those songs follow. Take heart in these words in a familiar tune. Celebrate with me – as this year closes and a new one begins, there is One unchangeable in His love for us. Constant. A friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.
1) Leaning Into Relationships – Dr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” — Robert Waldinger
2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay
This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.
Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry. His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”
That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.
3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.
4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:
“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”
Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”
You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?” – Oliver Burkeman
5) For Better or Worse –Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.
As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.
She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.
Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.
His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.
Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.
Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.
Quote: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis
Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
Two out of so many favorite December experiences are Christmas songs on the radio and Christmas cards in my mailbox. For some maybe, all that Christmas music on various stations gets old…but for me, it’s a continual feast. Then those old-fashioned cards in red or green stamped envelopes transform our mailbox from bill and junk mail holders to a wonder of news from friends and family.
[Most of the images you see on this blog are from treasured old Christmas cards.]
The song How Many Kings, out since 2009, by the Canadian Christian band Downhere is one of my Christmas favorites. I’m so thankful my favorite radio station is playing this one lately. The lyrics allude to a visitation of some number of wise men from the Far East. Through their knowledge of both the ancient Scriptures (Micah 5:2)and the stars of Heaven, they were able to chart a course right to the baby Jesus, in his home in Bethlehem. How Many Kings speaks of their amazement and wonder…and ours…at the coming of the Christ Child. It is the story of such love as God had…has…for us in that even His own son He would not withhold from us…to make a path for us back to Him.
God sent His son to us. Our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – perfectly One in unity through the ages – would somehow include 33 years of life on earth to bring Himself close to us. God with skin on – that we might understand better what love looks like and how we can live because of that love… Glory!Photo Credit: Quotesgram.com
Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected, A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl – Just a child – Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…
How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart – how many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior All that we have, whether costly or meek because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he will suffer Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?
Only one did that for me All, all for me… All for you…
The band Downhere is currently on hiatus, but I want to thank you, Brothers, for this song…and thank You, God, for giving Your Son for me…for us all.Photo Credit: Downhere.com
On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.
Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.
Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.
Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.
If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.
Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.
Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.
If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2Corinthians 1:3–4
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually
Happy Friday, y’all! As we zoom into Christmas weekend, we run into that perfect storm of hope mixed with hype. Looking forward to time with family and friends highlighted by the glow of Christmas lights and the fragrance of mulled cider. At the same time, tamping down those dreaded expectations of yourself or others that steal our peace. As those expectations are again put in check, the missing of those we won’t see this Christmas rises to the surface. Maybe not for you, but for me, it’s a bit of a crazy ride at Christmastime.
Fortunately, woven through all of that is the moment-by-moment epiphany when Jesus breaks through with glimpses of who he is and what he has done for us. That Jesus turns sorrow to joy and calms that stormy sea of thought and memory. Hallelujah!
This week, there are so many favorite finds…but I will keep my list to five. We all have baking to do…and visits to make, and for some, a workday to wrap up before Christmas weekend. Hope your joy is undisturbed and the memories are sweet.
1) Christmas Commercials – For those who don’t have cable or network TV, you miss the Christmas commercials. Check them out on YouTube. Below are some of my favorites – the top 3 are all from the UK. My personal favorite this past year was the #HeathrowBears commercials – this one, in particular and then this one. What are some of your favorite Christmas commercials (please share in Comments)?
2) Uncommon Generosity – Have you noticed that people actually look at each other in this Christmas season? Smiles of knowing – searching out that special gift or trying to sort out what favorites to cook and buy food accordingly. I find people to be kinder this time of year – both in charitable giving and in the day-to-day just deferring to others. When I was walking with neighbors earlier this week, a box, giftbag and card were posted outside a house, left with the garbage pickup one day, and another beside the recycling the next. So kind to remember, in very tangible ways, people who serve in our community. Also, I had the experience of helping friends move on one of busiest weekends of the Christmas season. Friends and coworkers showed up to help – all smiles and sweet attitudes.
Then there are those lovely people who make Christmas cookies and share plates of them with their neighbors – and their mom and dad.
I’m finding that often what we look for we see. Also blessed this week by other reminders of generosity: a quote from a Writer Kahlil Gibran and a thrift shop t-shirt front (printed with Philippians 2:3-4).
3) Star Wars – the Last Jedi – I LOVED it. The details. The humor. The tears. The fight scenes. It was so well-done. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
I’m trying to hold loosely to Christmas traditions these days, but going to the movies as a family has been a long-time tradition for us. Of late, it’s been the Star Wars movies. This year it was all the guys and me. Our girls stayed home with the babies, and we missed them. It was a great time though watching this film, my favorite guys and me. A very special memory made.
[I’m ready to babysit for the kiddos, so you two couples can have a date night to see it together.]
[Spoilers in articles below so don’t read if you haven’t seen it.]
4) Starbucks Lemon Loaf Knockoff – If you like the Starbucks lemon loaf, then you will love the “better than Starbucks” recipe that Erin of Delightful E Made posted at Lil Luna. I made this recipe this week and it was a-mazing!!! A friend of mine had a birthday this week and gave lemon cake as a favorite of hers – she LOVED this cake. It would stick around, just letting you know. Read the comments of the piece above for others’ views on it.Photo Credit: Lil Luna
5) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – Nathan just posted his latest this morning. It is the theme from the Netflix series The Punisher and it is gorgeous. I won’t be watching the series because it is very much about punishing people who do bad things so there is a lot of blood and very big guns involved. If you have watched it, or if not, you will enjoy this beautiful piece.
That’s it for me. Hope your Christmas weekend is full of joy, and when it’s not, may you experience deep comfort. Much love.
A Quote from this week: “In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of the things not meant for you.” – Jack Kornfield
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:9-11
“Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here! See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” – Mark 16:7
When you think of camp songs, which ones come to mind? You remember those songs you learned as a child or teen. Those songs that stuck with you all through the years…either because of the message or how you felt singing them. Over and over, night after night at camp, and then over again with your friends after.Photo Credit: Flickr
A group of us were talking about camp songs tonight, and I actually couldn’t keep my mind off of singer/songwriter Josh Wilson‘s Christmas song Jesus Is Alive. It’s getting major radio play this year. I thought it was a new song, and then the Facebook memories function popped up a memory of five years ago. My friend Alicia had pointed this song to me as her new favorite…five years ago.
What makes this song remind me of beloved camp songs of old is that its lyrics, and the way Josh sings it, is like telling a story around a campfire. I can just see the fire, large before us, warming our faces, popping and crackling, brightening those in the circle and casting shadows beyond. Sparks flying up to the sky.
Josh’s song celebrates that baby born for us, and his song also points us to a blessed redeemer, a risen Savior. As I write, there’s a little figure of the Christ child on my work desk. Wrapped in swaddling clothes as recorded in Scripture (Luke 2:7). Something about this figure reminds me of Jesus’ death also (John 19:40). Jesus, as an infant, was briefly swaddled before he grew up and became a man like no other. After the briefest of ministry, he died a horrific death…for us. Let that soak in again. His body would be wrapped in grave clothes but would not be bound by them. He rose to life again, right out of those burial cloths. Hallelujah, Jesus is alive!
We have so much to pause and consider this Christmas season. Allow this simple song take you into the great scope of all Jesus did for us…and continues to do.
Worship with me please as we tell this great story in sweet song. Let’s warm ourselves by the shepherds’ fire. Let’s walk with the Savior as he teaches about the Kingdom of God. Let’s run into the tomb to find it gloriously empty. Jesus Is Alive!!!
Wish that I was there,
On that silent night,
When your tiny heart started beating for mine,
I wish I couldn’t seen,
The star in David’s town,
When you turned a stable into Holy ground.
I sing along, the angels song.
Noel, Noel, Jesus is alive.
Emanuel, hope is here tonight.
So go, and tell, the world that death has died. ‘Cause Jesus is alive. Yea Jesus is alive.
The God who made us all,
With these two little hands,
Is bringing us his kingdom quiet as a lamb.
Oh such Amazing Grace!
A divine conspiracy. This Savior in a manger changes everything. That’s why we sing.
Sin you have no sting.
Hell you have no power. (Jesus is alive)
Curse you are no more.
This is your final hour. (Jesus is alive)
Because the son of God
Has not left us alone. (Jesus is alive)
He’ll live and die and rise again, and then he’ll bring us home. (Jesus is alive)
The old will pass away
And we will become new. (Jesus is alive) This baby boy is making all sad things untrue.
“Thanks be to God for His indescribable [unspeakable] gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15
The countdown to Christmas can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Last shopping trips. Last online ordering. Lists checked off. Presents wrapped or bagged.
Is it enough? Is it good enough? If there is any holiday that coaxes out our need to please people or to perform well, it’s Christmas. Our motives are well-intended. We love those whom we shop for…otherwise we wouldn’t spend all that time and money searching for that special something to put under the tree for them.
The dilemma comes when we look back over our lists and look under the tree and wonder, is it really enough? What would be enough anyway? There’s always one more thing that would just be the perfect gift…one more thing that would make you the best. mom. ever. Or not….
Thanks be to God for His unspeakable, indescribable gift in the Lord Jesus Himself! Brooding over whether I’ve sufficiently displayed my love for family and friends through these Christmas gifts adds nothing to what we’ve already been given.
What fun to see the joy a wisely-chosen treasure brings to someone I love on Christmas morning. Yet that is nothing, less than nothing, compared to the glorious gift of Jesus…His very nature God, His human birth, His perfect life of love, His sacrificial death for our sins, and His amazing resurrection. He is the Best. Gift. Ever.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16
God gave…God already gave. It is enough.
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! – Matthew 7:11
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17
What God gives is good, and what God gives is enough. Even Jesus bore witness to this, when He said, from the cross, “It is finished.”
It’s enough, Friend. Take a deep breath, and let Christmas wash over you with the peace of God. Jesus is good. Jesus is enough.
Image – Christmas card front – Anton Raphael Mengs’ Nativity Scene
It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!
1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.
2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity
3) Together at Christmas – When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.
At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.
Beyond that sweetness?
Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.
Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.
Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.
4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior. What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.
Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.
The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.
5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:
Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).
You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence. Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?
On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.
“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset
“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy
“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
― Eric Sevareid
“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke
“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily
“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree
It’s Friday. Well…it was. As I write, it’s pre-dawn on a snowy Saturday morning. Our first snow of the season fell last night, and more is expected today. Our youngest son and I took in the VCU Holiday Gala last night, walking to and from the parking deck in falling white loveliness. It’s been a family tradition for us for a few years now, but with precious babies and a heavy work schedule for Dave, it was just Dan and me. Still, so much fun.
That’s pretty much how this week has been. Unexpected alterations of days and the emotional highs and lows that came with them. Still…Friday came (and went…oops!). Welcome to Saturday, and hopefully you will find something here to lighten your load, make you smile, or remind you that we are all in this together.
1) Star Wars Christmas –Beyond the Guitar continues to surprise and delight with his latest arrangement. A mashup of Star Wars themes and Christmas carols. So fitting in this season and as Star Wars: The Last Jedihits the big screen in a few days. Shout-out to the video directors – Tyler Scheerschmidt and John Shutika. If you love all things Christmas and Star Wars, you’re in for a treat:
2) Jimmy Stewart’s Prayer – What should come to mind is actor Jimmy Stewart’s classic portrayal of the consummate good guy, George, in the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). However, a short film entitled Mr. Krueger’s Christmas(1980) has a particular scene in it that is riveting. In the scene, Mr. Krueger finds himself present, along with the shepherds, at the birthplace of Jesus. It’s reported, Stewart did this scene in one take saying he only had one take in him. He talks to Jesus in this scene and at one point drops to his knees, overtaken by the moment, and stammers, “I love you…you are my closest, my finest friend.” Take 4 minutes and watch this sweet scene:
3) Hamburger Joint – We all have our favorites, right? What’s yours? I have a few favorites, but when we lived and had babies in Kingsport, Tennessee, it was Pal’s Sudden Service. Both of my biological children probably have Pal’s hot dogs and fries in their original DNA. Their business model (see links below) is very forward-thinking without settling for trendy. Not just about the quality of the food but also about service and employee training. Pal’s is a total carry-out restaurant. You order not over a speaker but face-to-face with someone. By the time you round the building, in your car, of course, the food is ready. It’s so good, I doubt many folks get back on the street without grabbing a one of their fries out of the bag, and definitely not without their first long sip of Pal’s sweet tea. So good. Have you ever experienced Pal’s? Or another favorite? Please comment below.Photo Credit: Pal’s Sudden Service
4) Liz Wiseman on Accidental Diminishers – Who hasn’t read Liz Wiseman‘s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter? Well, maybe you don’t need to read it. If you work with two or more people, this gem of a book is an excellent assist in helping you be better able to work wiser with those two or more. Revised since the original publishing in 2010, Multipliers continues to be timely. in a recent Leaders Get Read podcast, Wiseman was interviewed again about the the two ends of the spectrum at work – the multiplier and the diminisher.Photo Credit: Slideshare
Give it a listen especially if you haven’t read the book – she gives a great synopsis of the concepts. At 18 minutes into the podcast, Wiseman talks about the accidental diminisher. Those times when all of us, even being well-intended, do or say things that diminishes another person. I do that sometimes in tweaking a plan or decision made by another colleague or friend. Tweak, tweak, tweak. It happens in my direction when someone, even one who I know cares about me and what I bring to the table/relationship, communicates that I’m not needed or my input isn’t desired. Tricky. On a good day, this actually frees me to focus on other things; on a bad day, it causes all kinds of anxiety, insecurity, and paranoia (it’s true…hard to believe, I know).
5) Pulling Up – Given my #4 fave, this has been a week where I have struggled with some low points. There were occasions where it’s possible I was an accidental diminisher (very sad face here) with people who should never be diminished. [Well, no one should ever be diminished. Full stop.] Then, also had a few experiences of being diminished myself. For me, in such situations, a downward spiral begins in my thoughts and emotions. Maybe you struggle with this as well. Often this shows up at bedtime and I find myself trying to sort out how to fix a situation. Finally sleep comes…and resolution begins when I “pull up”. Dave coined this phrase with me, and the family has taken it on as a reminder too. As with an out-of-control plane spiraling dangerously toward the ground, the pilot has got to figure out a way to “pull up”.
Bring every thought captive to what is truth. – “We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
Focus your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, admirable… – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
Pulling up may mean going to that person to sort things out. It can also mean just correcting course in our own thinking.
Photo Credit: Micah Eckerd – Actually friend Joshua Griffin took the shot, but this is ALL Micah. Just makes me smile. A friend & a tree.
Harvesting Olives by Machine – If you’ve ever seen olive trees harvested by hand, such a machine would be amazing to have. We had an olive tree in our yard in North Africa, and just the work of pulling olives off that one tree gave us pause – thinking of all the olive groves near us and the hundreds of trees loaded with fruit.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. – Philippians 2:5-8
There are words, it seems, we can’t use any more in polite company – words that have changed as culture changes and have been altered, perverted, in the common language. I have happened on such words by using them and then being gently corrected by my 20-something-young friends. “That word doesn’t mean what you think anymore.”
Condescension seems to be one of those words. In today’s usage, it has come to mean “an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain”. Merriam-Webster has retained some of the fuller meaning of the word: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.
Hang in there with me as we go through a quick study of the word…with the help of others much smarter than me.
“God is condescending. It’s true. However, the problem is not that God is condescending, but that most people have no idea what condescending really means, nor why it should be a good thing that God has such an attitude.
If you were paying attention during high school English class, you know that there are actually two definitions for every word. One is the denotation, which is what the word actually means. The other is the connotation, which is the way the word is usually used in popular conversation. Condescension has a pretty bad connotation; it’s usually used to refer to someone who thinks they’re better than you are, and talks down to you as if coming down to your level is a major chore for them.
The denotation, however, is quite different. The word itself merely means “to come down [descend] together.” The prefix “con-” means “together with.”
If you split the word up and look at its parts, “to descend with,” you actually get a pretty good idea of what God’s interaction with humanity is all about. While it might be offensive for me to act as if I was in any way superior to my fellow humans, it would be silly for God to pretend that he was not superior to us in every single way.
Descending to our level is the only way he could possibly have a relationship with us at all. There is certainly no way that we humans, imperfect as we are, could otherwise ascend to his level. Unless God comes down to our level, we’re stuck with this gigantic gap between God’s holy perfection and our miserable imperfection.” – Jim Barringer
“Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.” – Charles Spurgeon
“There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension.” – Jonathan Edwards
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.– 2 Corinthians 8:9
Condescension, when applied to Redeemer God, is a word that must be reclaimed from the common vernacular of this culture. God, in sending His son, did not just descend. He condescended…He came down to be with us. He came as close as it was possible for a holy God to come to His people…bridging the great gap we could not bridge in our own helpless estate. He came down to be with us.
Thank You, God, for your glorious transcendent condescension. We are forever changed.
Worship with me to “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery“.
Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King,
He, the theme of heaven’s praises, robed in frail humanity. In our longing, in our darkness, now the light of life has come; Look to Christ, who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us.
Come behold the wondrous mystery: He the perfect Son of Man,
In His living, in His suffering, never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam come to save the hell-bound man,
Christ, the great and sure fulfillment of the law, in Him we stand.
Come behold the wondrous mystery: Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption; see the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold!
Come behold the wondrous mystery: slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e’er restrain Him, praise the Lord, He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance; how unwavering our hope:
Christ in power resurrected, as we will be when he comes.*
In this season of celebrating Christmas, we marvel at the tenderness of God to come down for us, to condescend, in the form of a human…even a helpless baby. He came to us through Jesus to redeem us back to Himself. That redemption carried with it a death. A sacrifice for our sins. A payment for the debt we could not pay for ourselves. To be restored to the one true holy God. The high cost of our sins was covered by the Christ of Christmas – through His condescension to life with us and death for us. Words fail in view of His indescribable gift…Hallelujah!