23 December, 2011

PinPrick Christmas?

So this morning I was sitting in my prayer chair and forcing myself to “de-Christmas” myself. I know this sounds strange . But my life these last few weeks has had little to do with a Saviour’s birth and MUCH to do with cooking, wrapping, buying, decorating, and stressing over who-is-getting-what-and-will-they-like-it”.

I began thinking about the gift giving and how it is supposed to represent our celebration of the birth of Jesus into our world. We ARE celebrating His magnificent Self coming into our world. What Glory that is for the God of the universe to squeeze Himself into our world.

Ahhh, I thought, I can’t possibly understand what that even means. But, if I could understand His Glory perhaps I could better understand my great need for a Saviour. Isn’t that our problem in the world…we don’t really think we need a Saviour. We’ve got it “under control”.

So how can we even start to understand His Glory, His great Light to the world? Think with me.

Did your mama ever tell you: “Don’t look directly at the sun, cause you’ll go blind!” Or have you ever been driving west at 2 or 3 in the afternoon and get blinded by the sun? It’s just so very intense and bright it hurts your eyes to look at it? It’s too much for me. So out come my polarized sunglasses and down goes the sun visor. I need help to see. The light is too much. It’s overwhelming.Now, have you ever heard of pinprick art? This is an art project where you punch pin holes in black paper and then tape it to a sun-filled window and let the filtered sun shine through the holes. The sun finds the little openings and floods through creating a pattern…just tiny bits of light shine through.

With all my hustling and bustling, have I forgotten the overwhelming sunlight, the Glory of Jesus squeezing Himself into a human birth? The great Glory of God…coming into our little world?

And, have I begun to settle for a pinprick Christmas….just a glimpse of the Glory? His glory shone round about…and they were afraid or overwhelmed or in awe. Am I overwhelmed by this great light this Christmas? This Glory came into the world for me and you and you and you!

Do I want a pinprick Christmas or a full-sun, Glory-filled Christmas? Look at this short verse below:

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
 Luke 2:8-10

Glory of the Lord, I wondered. His Glory shone round about them and they were amazed, overwhelmed, in awe, thankful and relishing in His coming.

Happy Birthday, my Jesus, the Glory is You.

15 December, 2011

Home for Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas songs is, I’ll be home for Christmas

♪♫ I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me. Please have snow and mistletoe and presents on the tree. Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams; I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams. ♫♪

Humming this tune for the last several weeks has brought to mind many people who will be traveling home for Christmas. Those who even now are planning and packing and anticipating the love and joy their arrival will create.

I remember the loneliness of long nights at the campus library wanting nothing more that to be home experiencing Christmas with my family. I remember the excitement of finals ending and being on the road headed home for Christmas break. My son is coming home for Christmas. I haven’t seen him since August so yes, I’m thrilled, nervous and anticipating all at the same time! I’m anticipating long talks, great laughs, and a celebration of the Saviour being born. A Saviour that heals broken hearts.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph hummed a tune as they traveled the long road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Their anticipation was quite different than ours. They didn’t know what was ahead. Their journey was inconvenient, mandated by the law, a very difficult journey on foot (or riding on donkey) for a pregnant woman. Just imagine…..not so much humming, I’m thinking. But oh, the splendor they would encounter. Oh, the joy of that one night. The Saviour was on the way. A Saviour that paves the way.

I wonder about Lily…Lily with the big smile and sweet giggle…a friend who also has gone home for Christmas. I know she was anticipating the joy of going home, the joy of seeing her husband and son after many months. Her journey was difficult for it is a long plane ride from Tuscaloosa to China. She left today and arrives tomorrow – a really long journey. She returns to China with gifts and stories to tell. This visiting scholar returns with a newness for her profession and a newness of knowledge.

I remember one day in our English class when we were studying a writing from the Psalms. The Chinese students were practicing pronunciation and understanding of the text. Lily was shy at first and her English was very difficult to understand but she kept repeating a word. “Laud, Loll, Load, Lo”….finally, I understood….”Lord! Lord”! “Yes”, I said. Lily told me then that she had met Jesus. She knew Him. She had met the Saviour.

This Christmas will be different for Lily. This is the first Christmas that she knows her Saviour. This is the first Christmas she is anticipating a true celebration. She’s going home for Christmas to bring the Saviour to her family. She’s not filling a Christmas list of unnecessary items, I bet she’s humming a song celebrating and anticipating the Saviour’s birth.

I want to hum this song too.

06 December, 2011

Hustle Bustle

Some of you know that I have two children, a son who is 22 and a daughter who is 17. My daughter is in her senior year of high school. (For those of you, who have raised a high-school senior daughter, you may now stop and pray for me….that I not torture her, disown her or continuously cry until her graduation in May!)

Thus far this senior year has felt a bit like the holidays. All hustle and bustle, deadlines, applications due, celebrations, money needed, invitations ordered, gifts, gowns, going, going and going. On November 23, we were having such a morning. And in all the hustle and bustle tempers flared, words were exchanged, doors slammed and she was gone. Ugh…motherhood!!! I went straight for my coffee and quiet time. I furiously opened my devotional book and read these words:

“Entrust your loved ones to me; release them into My protective care. They are much safer with Me than in your clinging hands. When you release loved ones to me, you are free to cling to my hand.”1

What soothing and convicting words for my heart and spirit. Oh, Lord you meet me exactly where I am. In and amongst all the struggling to live life, you have gone before me and are waiting for me. How glorious is this knowledge for me.

That evening I couldn’t wait to share this devotional with Ray. While I was cooking our dinner I explained the morning drama with our daughter then handed him my little devotional book and said, “Now look at today’s devotional.” He read in silence for a few moments and then said, “Honey, I’m sorry but I don’t see how this relates.” So I began my pious spiritual babble and he interrupts me and says, “Kat, that’s not even close to what this says.” Frustrated now, I go over to him and get the book and begin to read…it’s totally NOT the devotional I read. November 23 was a devotional about Thanksgiving…We finally found MY devotional from that morning…it was dated AUGUST 23. What???? That morning, I had deliberately gone to today’s date, or so I thought.

I know in my hustle and bustle, I turned to the wrong date BUT I also know God had a finger in my devotional book. Once I stopped.....He was there. He led me to read those words from August 23, the perfect words for my day and my heart.

In our hustle and bustle in December, I fear I will leave Him behind somewhere. In the cooking, and decorating, and gift buying, Jesus will be left out. In my frantic to-do list, He’ll take a back seat. As our duties multiply this month let’s remember that all He desires is our hearts and our time with Him. Get your coffee, your devotional book and Bible and see what He has for you to read – you will find Him!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

1 Excerpt from, Jesus is Calling, Sarah Young

22 November, 2011

Kitchen Duty

Thanksgiving approaches and regardless of your family traditions, foods or gathering time we have a lot in common…a lot of food to eat, football games, casseroles, family we love, family we tolerate, dirty dishes, kitchen duty and a Martha. Martha is the one who keeps it all rolling – she’s the one orchestrating the gathering. She’s the one serving.

You remember Martha in the Bible:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman, named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. Luke 10:38-39

And then again in John 11:20-22, 27

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord, “ Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

“Yes, Lord, she told him, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Don’t you think that Martha of the Bible has always seemed to be on the negative side of sermons? But I love Martha. Look at her anew in this scripture. She served. Yes, she was distracted and complained about her sister but she also went out to meet Jesus. She didn’t wait for Him to come to her she went out to find Him and talk to Him. She presented her grief, worry and concern to Him but then proclaimed, "yes, you are the Christ, the Son of God".

I remember when I was a young girl we would have the big Thanksgiving meal at my mama and daddy’s house. There were a lot of us, which always meant a lot of dishes. My mama always cooked many, many different foods, which meant a lot of pots and pans to wash, and no dishwasher!! Yuck! As my sisters and I gathered in the kitchen we were assigned duties and always noticed some family members made themselves disappear when clean up began! We grumbled and complained but our mama kept serving and serving seeming not to notice who was helping and who was sitting. Her only goal was serving. Her only goal was to go out of her way and offer love.

I want to serve without complaining on Thanksgiving Day and in every day I live. I want to run out and meet Jesus on Thanksgiving morning and proclaim, YOU are Christ, the Son of God. Use me to serve my family, use me to serve those who don’t know you, use me to offer your love, use me in the kitchen and in my home and in my workplace, and in my school. Use me with the unlovable. Use me amongst the dirty dishes.

This Thanksgiving, I’ll see you in the kitchen!

P.S. Our family "Martha" is named Pat. She serves our family continuously, without complaint, every day of the year. She serves our ill Mama/Meemaw in unceasing ways and in overwhelming hours. She loves me well. She loves my children and my husband. And I bet our family of 30+ people all feel this same special care from her. She has run out to meet Jesus and proclaim His name and we, her family, have felt that blessing through her serving each and every one of us. Thank you Pat, for letting us see and know Jesus through you.

08 November, 2011

The Bystanders

Remember the movie, Field of Dreams….Build it and they will come?? Well, last Saturday night they came… I sat amongst 101,000 screaming people in a football stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. It was quite an experience especially when coupled with the additional 90,000 people outside the stadium expressing just as much enthusiasm but without tickets to enter. Our team played well and lost but the screaming thousands offered all they had in the way of encouragement.

A few days later, the randomness of my mind began thinking of all the days, nights and Saturdays I’ve spent in and around a ball field. Cold Saturday mornings, supporting my son’s peewee soccer team or Friday nights sitting on hard bleachers supporting my daughter’s cheer leading efforts. And the fact that my husband and I have always worked in higher education has led to attending many athletic events. In thinking about these times, I honestly don’t recall many specific games but I have an unwavering memory of the crowds and the cheers and the excitement. I can remember being in Humphrey Coliseum and not able to hear the person next to me speak as thunderous cheering overtook. The decibel level in Bryant Denny stadium Saturday night was compared to jet airliners and thunderclaps!

We, the bystanders, watch and cheer and encourage. Our job is to never get discouraged, to bolster, and to continuously support the players even if the team falters or becomes fatigued.

And the team….how does this loud encouragement affect them? Surely, the cheering instills courage and confidence. I think back to our football game on Saturday and the 22 players running plays were certainly holding our attention. It’s got to be an overwhelming feeling to be on the field and be the object of all this cheering and encouragement. How could your heart not just burst out of your chest? The excitement level must be intense to control.

But what about the players standing on the sidelines who were waiting for their name or number to be called. Obviously, they too were aware of the massive sounds and cheers. To be on this team you are a good, and possibly great player but just not the stars….and yet, the cheers showed no bias. The cheers were for all the team. The cheers were to encourage the strong, the visible, the advertised but they were also there to encourage the young, the unknown, the mistake-prone, and the ones who had not yet played. But the crowd around the stadium only saw the whole team, the effort, and the desire. They yelled: Roll, Go, You can do it, be encouraged, we are FOR you, we adore you, we are here for you…

The sheer joy and passion people have for their team is intriguing to me.

Hebrews 12:1

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? (The Message)

As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. (Good News Translation)Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. (New Living Translation)

Do you hear them? If we humans can make loud cheering noise just imagine what the host of heavenly bystanders can do and is right now doing for you and me! They are cheering and urging us on for we too have been given a game plan…GO...Go find those who do not know. How can we not feel empowered and electrified by the heavenly crowd surrounding us? You and I may not consider ourselves the star players but the heavenly bystanders cheer for us just the same. The cheers are to encourage the strong, the visible, the advertised but they are also there to encourage the young, the unknown, the mistake-prone, and the ones who haven’t yet played. That's me! Is it you?

Listen! They're yelling your name...Go, we're for you, you can do this!

24 October, 2011

The Queen

Do you remember that girl in your high school class that won all the beauty pageants, homecoming votes, and most everything votes? That wasn’t me and I daresay it wasn’t you as those people are rare – I mean there is just one prize and many of us. My friend tells me she was never the rose-carrying, crown wearing winner but always nominated!! It was her best friend who always won! So true for many of us…

…so a month ago when a young girl I know was crowned Homecoming Queen, it was delightful for my friend and me to hold her roses! We wanted to wear the crown but resisted snatching it off her beautiful head :)! The celebration was outstanding that evening. Hundreds of hugs and congratulations were heard and felt. So many mega-watt smiles and pictures were taken – all of us wanting to be pictured with the Queen. This precious girl is loved by many and had a night of nights that will long be remembered.

There was another girl in the stadium that night. She too, was excited about Homecoming, the celebration and the dance. She too was thrilled when the Queen and King were announced. It was a grand night for her and her friends. But this girl was more invisible than the Queen. This girl had been sliding away for several years, present but distant. Good friends she had known her whole life were remote from her and she from them. She had changed; they had changed.

The night wore on with loud music, laughter, dancing, tears, fears, choices, pictures, whispers, kisses and finally home to bed. Exhausted.

When morning broke the Queen’s crown was thrown aside, the dress lay crumpled on the floor, the flowers in water but wilting. The quiet girl woke in her home with her mom at her side. Confused, troubled and safe. Homecoming was over and new paths lay ahead as bad choices had been made. Paths that now needed the comfort of friends. Would anyone reach out to her? Would anyone notice her need for friends? Her dress lay crumpled on the floor, her high heels thrown off, and the invisible ‘crown’ of this sweet girl lay broken at her feet. Our choices can do that to us and will.

It’s so very easy for me to get caught up in the celebration of today that I lose sight of those around me who are hurting. I often forget that the crowns we receive in this life are all going to melt away. The crowns, the roses, the dresses, the beautiful homes, the great careers….all gone. But the people…the people we encounter have an eternal choice. It’s so easy to overlook those who are difficult to love or those who look different from me. I love the pomp and circumstance of being around the Queen and her celebrants but I learned that weekend that the true gift of love comes from those anonymous times we offer and give love to those who have been rejected or cast away. It’s when we act and no one sees. It’s when we give and no one knows….it’s how Jesus loves you and me. He loves the quiet ones, the downcast, the different, the non-popular, the ones who hurt, and the ones who make silly decisions. Can I love like that? Can I be Jesus to someone today?

The next day, the quiet girl still full of confusion and pain received a visitor. The new Homecoming Queen stopped by for a visit. She knew her friend was in pain. Gone was the crown, the fancy dress, the beautiful roses and all that remained was a Love given by our God, our KING, to live out in real life.

Thank you, Lord for living through this little queen.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4

06 October, 2011

Momma’s Eyes

This week I walked into my momma’s room and she was asleep. I stood before her in silence expecting her to sense my presence. She did not. As I approached her I touched her arm and she opened her light-green eyes. Momma's eyes have loved on me for 53 years. And I have to say her eyes have actually adored me, spoiled me, showed me unconditional love, laughed with me and cried with me. But today those same eyes looked at me and did not know me.

I sat with my momma for several hours today. At times, we sat in silence and at times we sat in a confused state of meaningless words. But what a great day because she was there and so was I.

I often have this same experience in my own mind and heart: either I have no words to speak or too many words to get out of my head. It seems I’m either sitting before the Lord in silence or babbling to Him in concentric circles. Is this old age? Or is this just life with a husband recently out of the hospital, a sick and elderly momma, full-color life with a high school Senior, and life with a son in college 1000 miles away? Is this just my condition? I think we all have this malady on occasion. And recently I’ve come to believe it’s a blessing.

Last night, I lay in bed and listened…to the silence. I literally heard no sound at all other than the sound of me…my breath, that funny sound in our ears when all around us is silent, a random dog bark, a house creak…beautiful silence.

But there are times when my head feels as though thoughts rush and race at a frantic pace, fighting for my attention, refusing to slow down, and in such a hurry they bump and tumble into each other. My times of prayer become a race around the world of thought with no clear sentence or thought sequence seemingly able to reach to throne room of God.

And it’s in these days I remember,

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

There is no right or wrong, good or bad in my thoughts offered to God or in my silence offered to God, words or no words. Do I love sitting with my momma in silence? Yes. Do I love listening to my momma talk in circles? Yes. I love it because she’s my momma and I’m her girl. She’s mine and I’m hers which is all that matters.

So it is with our God. Silence or babbling. He’s mine and I’m His…beautiful.

06 September, 2011

Be Desperate

Several years ago, Michael W. Smith released a song that I love…Breathe. The lyrics are unique:

this is the air I breathe

Your holy presence living in me

this is my daily bread

Your very word spoken to me

And I, I'm desperate for you

And I, I'm lost without you

And I, I'm desperate for you

Over the last several years, I’ve met people from China. Some of these friends are students at the University of Alabama and some I met while visiting China. Many of these people have yet to become Christ-followers. Many have never heard the gospel, the Good News.

But of those dear Chinese friends who have heard the saving news of Jesus and have chosen to follow Him, they live their lives full out, following Jesus….they will never be the same! They remember how very desperate they were to hear the news of a Saviour. Perhaps it is because these people have come from a place lacking hope. Throughout the world, people live in societies with no knowledge of God or hope of a future in eternity or of a God-love.

So when these people hear, learn and meet Jesus they are forever changed. Their lives of desperation become lives of hope. Every day is a new day of eternal life. They have known and lived in great need and they do not forget the state of their hearts before they met Jesus. They’ve heard the Good News and it has become the Fantastic News, the Overwhelming News, The Life-Changing-Tell-Others-News.

These Christ-followers from China and other places in the world are different from me and perhaps, you. Do you see? They came to end of themselves. They had been to the place of death, darkness, and hopelessness and found their Saviour.

Over the past months of blogging, I’ve received emails with these words:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself”

“You judge yourself too harshly”

“Be gentle with yourself”

I’m not being too hard on myself. I’m trying to remember my state, my desperation before Jesus came into my being. Yes, my Saviour has redeemed me. Through Him, I have been made anew. But, lest I never forget that I am broken, I live in a culture where there is no hope….I want to stay desperate for Jesus. I want my life to be lived out with the Fantastic News, the Overwhelming News, The Life-Changing-Tell-Others-News of hope and redemption.

For if I’m NOT desperate for Him…what am I desperate for? Am I relying on myself, on my ability, on my achievements, on my education, on my career, on my children, on my smarts?

It’s only in recognition of my great need that I fully see Him. I see how desperate I am for a Saviour…

this is the air I breathe

Your holy presence living in me

And I, I'm lost without you

And I, I'm desperate for you

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