Thursday, December 18, 2014

O Come Let Us Adore Him, Christ the Newborn King

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "Adore." Write for five minutes; unedited.

"O come let us adore him, Christ the newborn king."

Growing up on the prairies of North Dakota, I have come to adore the prairies. Standing on the prairies, you can see the sky as high and as wide as you can see. It truly is indescribable. I could sit on the prairies and take it in all the time. These deep dark expansive skys of North Dakota remind me of the beauty and vastness of God's love for me...for each of us.

Last night as I was walking home from church, I looked up and saw the stars twinkling in the sky. As I thought of the star that called the wisemen to come and adore this newborn king, I was stopped dead in my tracks. For it was on a precious holy night much like the night I was experiencing where we were beckoned and called to come worship and adore this newborn king.

God sent God's one and only Son into the world because God loves us that much; a love that can take our breath away and is incredibly beautiful and overwhelming. God sent God's son Emmanuel "God with us" into the world for us to adore and be reminded of God's love for us.

This love comes in an infant born in an unlikely place in Bethlehem. Anyone who knows me knows that I adore babies and will take any moment I can to hold an infant in my arms. I can't describe it but when I hold an infant, everything in me is at peace. I could sit and adore that infant in my arms all day long. And that is the beauty of this season as we are reminded of this infant son who reminds us of the promise of hope that comes in this infant we are called to adore.

O come let us adore him, Christ the newborn King.
O Come let us adore him, Christ the newborn King.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Testimony Tuesday

Good Morning Friends! It is Tuesday which means Testimony Tuesday over at Holly Barrett's place. Today I am visiting at Hollys and sharing my own testimony of faith.

My journey of faith has not been easy. In fact, there have indeed been times when I have questioned God; “Why us?” “Why our family?” Yet in the midst of all of my questioning, God has shown God self to me in ways that I never imagined....Read the Rest!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gentler With Us (A Guest Post)

During the 31 days, I met many new people through their blogs. One of the people I kept running into was Emily McFarlan Miller. Emily and I both chose "gentleness" as our OneWord365 for 2014. Emily asked me to write about what I had learned during the course of the year so I did. Today I am guest posting at Emily's place.

That is the thing, my friends: God is so much gentler with us than we are with ourselves.As I have lived into my #oneword365 this past year, that is one of the biggest lessons I have found myself learning. Throughout my life, I have seen how God has been way more gentle with me than I have been with myself....Read the Rest Here

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Remembering Sandy Hook

"Christ be our light, shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness"

It is almost hard to believe that two years ago today we all learned of the name of the school Sandy Hook Elementary, Adam Lanza and Newton, Connecticut. My heart still aches for all of those who lost children that day. And for those families, I am sure it feels like just yesterday and not two years ago. In the days following Sandy Hook, I blogged several blog posts. One of my most read posts was this post: I Am A Daughter.

But there also was this one that I wrote on the day following the Sandy Hook shooting. This post was originally posted on this blog on December 15, 2012. The title of the blog is "Why Won't the Tears Fall?" These words still capture so well how I feel some days when I look at the world around me. There are so many days when the tears just won't fall because I have some ways...numb to what is happening in the world around me.

Here is the post I posted on December 15,2012: This afternoon I had the privilege of hanging out at church while the SS kids practiced for the SS Christmas program! As they sang the words "Peace to all the Earth," I wanted to cry as I thought of the families in CT who won't hear their babies voices again! Such a senseless act! I want to cry yet the tears simply won't come! Why?!? Why won't the tears fall from my face? Is it because I've cried too many tears over violent acts like this in my thirty years on this Earth? Is it because I'm numb and cannot understand why 20 innocent lives were taken way too soon from this Earth?

Yesterday and today I found myself thinking about and remembering all my friends who are parents! I can understand why you needed to hug and hold them last night and today! I found myself telling them to give their children an extra hug or cuddle just for me! I'm not a parent myself yet I yearn to be so deeply! And then I wonder do I really want to be? Of course I do! But what world will my future child enter into? A world strewn with sinful people...a sinful world! Yet what I do know is that love....God's love...always wins!

I understand that is hard to grasp in light of yesterday's events! But what I do know and believe with every fiber of my being is that God was there yesterday! God didn't allow the events to unfold but as they unfolded God was there...holding and embracing each precious victim. God sent Jesus into the world and Jesus proclaims "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these!"

As I write this blog post, I find myself typing as my fingers dance across the keyboard yet I still find that these words are inadequate! Why can I not find the words? Why won't the tears fall? How do we know that God's love always wins?

God sent God's Son as this precious gift who is born in a manger in Bethlehem and then later dies the ultimate death for us and our sins! This child comes as the light in the midst of the darkness and now more than ever we need this light to come!

So even when my words are inadequate I find myself turning to Scripture and letting the sighs rise up to God. "With sighs too deep for words to express...."

Or in these words, "Lord listen to your children praying, bring us love, bring us power, bring us peace!"

And finally, maybe, the tears I so deeply want to cry will fall from my face knowing we live in a sinful and sin-filled world but that God in God's love for us all ALWAYS wins!! Perhaps that is a place for us to begin and cling to in the coming days!

Shortly after I wrote this post, the tears finally began to fall. And tonight, two years later, I still find myself clinging to these words knowing that Jesus Emmanuel is always with us. Emmanuel reminds us that he is the one who comes as the light in the midst of the darkness. He is the one who ultimately will bring about his peace. "God's peace to us we pray."

"Christ be our light, shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness."
"Christ be our light, shine in our hearts, shine through the darkness."

(In addition to this post and the link I posted earlier in this post, I also wrote one other post related to the Sandy Hook shooting. This post was written the day of the Sandy Hook shooting: With Sighs Too Deep)

Sunday Blessings 60

Wow number 60. Hard to believe I've been doing this for over a year now.

(1) A great council meeting and gathering. I made my winning taco chicken chili and my Grandma's famous cheeseball! So yummy!!!

(2) A member dropping by and giving me a poinsettia

(3) An apology from one of my Confirmation kids. Very sweet!!

(4) Receiving my first #fmfpartysnailmail.

(5) A friend gifting me a small gift; a cool scrapbooking app

(6) Voxing with more of my #write31 and #fmf friends!

(7) The FMF Twitter party. I look forward to Thursday nights even more now.

(8) My friend JN's consecration as a Diaconal Minister in the ELCA! Wish I could be there with her but I am definitely there in Spirit. So proud and glad that her prayers have finally been answered!

(9) Receiving an awesome package in the mail; a DLC Christmas ornament. Thanks Paula! I love it!!!

(10) Going to grab something at church and finding a Christmas gift in my office. A fun surprise!

(11) Riding with my friend Beth to Williston.

(12) Being at a new friends Diaconal installation and getting to be a part of the service.

(13) Sunday School Christmas program and Reason for the Season party. Such a great morning.

(14) Making Family Faith Bags

(15) Yummy treat from a colleague. Thanks Julie.

(16) A great lunch

(17) A very late but much needed PLN

And as I type this I am reminded that it is the two year Anniversary of Sandy Hook, so in the midst of my blessings, I am taking time to pray for those Sandy Hook families especially those who lost children that day.

"Christ be our light..shine in the darkness."

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Preparing the Way (Five Minute Friday)

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today's prompt is "Prepare." Write for five minutes; unedited.

"Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

My house is all prepared for Christmas. My tree is glimmering with Christmas lights as I type this. My television is on in the background. The Christmas cards are sitting on my kitchen table. They are addressed but I still need to finish them by printing and preparing the letter to be enclosed in the envelope with the car. My sister and I finished most of our Christmas shopping, but I still need to buy and prepare presents for my sister and my Mom. My nativity collection is displayed throughout my house. And every time I see a Nativity I am reminded of what this season is about.

This season is all about waiting and preparing for the birth of the Christ child. We prepare for the One who is the babe born in a stinky smelly stable in Bethlehem. We prepare for the One who comes as the light in the midst of the darkness. We prepare for the One who comes as an infant and then later dies on a cross for each and every one of us. We prepare for this precious infant who is the Way, the truth and the life.

This time of the year isn't all about who has the prettiest decorations or the most presents under the tree. This time of the year is for us to prepare our hearts for this holy one. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, as we hear again the story of this precious holy child we again prepare our hearts and minds to trust in this holy one. This holy one who the wise men came to see as they followed the star that would prepare the way for them. This holy one who prepares the world to know that he will come again to judge the living and the dead. This holy one who prepares us to know that he will bring about his justice and mercy.

So during this Advent season, may we all cling to the promise and prepare the way for this precious holy one who is born under the night sky in a manger in Bethlehem with Mary and Joseph by his side.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

O Come Emmanuel

"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel which means 'God with us.' "--Matthew 1: 23
"God with us"

I find myself clinging to these words during this Advent season. There are so many who have been pulled in by the darkness and cannot find their light. There are so many who don't have any hope left. They have been robbed of their joy and are instead clinging to the words of Mr. Scrooge in a Christmas Carol "bah hambug." My heart aches for each and every one of these individuals. However I don't blame them at all for being down. Sometimes life and all that is happening is just is too much!

Last week at a conference gathering, we had a Christmas carol hymn sing. One of the hymns we sang was "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." Those words have been replaying in my head and my heart....especially this day as I want my friends to know that God is indeed with them. God is indeed in the midst of their real. (Credit to my friend Anna for using that phrase in her Advent devotional). 

"O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear; Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel."
In the midst of this broken world, I find myself having a hard time sometimes trusting in Emmanuel too. I wonder when peace and justice will be brought about. I wonder if war will come to an end. And then I am reminded that war will end and peace and justice will indeed reign when God comes again to "judge the living and the dead." 
"O come, O Dayspring, come and cheer; O sun of justice, now draw near. Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death's dark shadow put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel."
This Advent I have been reading through my friend Anna's e-book Moments of Christmas. The book is meant for Mom's but it really is geared towards all women. In the post a few days ago, Anna talked about how we can choose to chase perfection or we can choose to chase holy. I think especially during this time of the year it is so easy to get caught up in who has the most presents, the prettiest decorations etc but the reality is that God wants us to chase holy; to spend time with him. I know that is not always easy especially when the darkness seems to be overshadowing the light. But, my dear readers and friends, it seems to me that perhaps that is when God is most with us. 

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." I know that there have been several Christmas's when I have been grieving; grieving because a family member was in the hospital in the days leading up to Christmas. I know that I have yearned for God to bring that special man into my life. But the reality is that God has been in the midst of the muck and the mud with me. God sent God's son into the world to walk with us and then to ultimately die on a cross for each and every one of us. 

"O come, O King of Nations, come, O Cornerstone that binds in one: refresh the hearts that long for you; restore the broken, make us new."
God in this broken messed up yet beautiful world, this Advent continue to refresh the hearts of all those who are hurting. Continue to pick them up and walk with them. Restore them from brokenness to wholeness. Grant them peace and joy and hope in the midst of their joy-less days and nights. Give them the words to declare that you are indeed Emmanuel "God with us.

The truth is that God has not left. God is indeed still with us. Even when the darkness seems to be the only thing there, God is still with us. Even when their seems to be no hope left, God is still with us. Even when all we want to do is surrender, God reminds us that God is still with us. 

"O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear."

"God who hung the stars-He has taken a thread of his heart and tied it to yours.
 And he didn't need to, but God tied his heart to yours so when you feel pain. 
He fills with pain."--Ann Voskamp; The Greatest Gift

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Perplexed and Pondering Them In Her Heart

 "In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary, and he came to her and said, 'Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.' But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  
The angel said her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.'  
Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?'  
The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month of her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.'
Then Mary said, 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.' Then the angel departed from her.' "---Luke 1:26-38
Perplexed by the angel's words...
Pondering them in her heart....

As a virgin, no wonder Mary was perplexed. How could this be? How could she be pregnant? And how could she be the mother of this holy Child? I don't blame Mary for being perplexed by the angel's words and for taking the time to ponder them in her heart. As a virgin women, I know that I would be extremely perplexed and puzzled if someone told me that I was to bear a child.

And then there is her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth, in her old age, thinks that she will never be able to bear a child. Yet that is exactly what happens. She becomes pregnant and bears a son. I can picture Elizabeth laughing as she hears that she will bear a child. How can this be? She asks the same questions as Mary. Together these two women share this experience together. I've never really thought about it before but I wonder what it was like for Elizabeth to come and meet baby Jesus. Why had Jesus chosen Mary and not herself to be the mother to this precious holy child?

The thing is that God sent God's one and only son into the world as this beautiful baby boy; born in a manger in Bethlehem. There is something so holy and peaceful about watching a baby sleep. This morning at church I held a baby girl in my arms. She peacefully slept in my arms as I talked to her Mom. And then later this morning, I held another little baby in my arms. These two little infants remind me of how this infant Jesus came into the world as a sign of hope and light in the midst of a dark world. Jesus is born the unlikeliest of places in a stinky, smelly stable where hope is born into the world. 

I am reminded of the words to the song "Mary Did You Know?" "Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?; Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?; Did you know that your baby boy has come to deliver you?; This child that you delivered will soon deliver you." As she held her precious son in her arms, as he peacefully slept, I wonder if Mary really realized the magnitude of the ways her son would change the world. I think of these words from the song as well: "Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?; Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?; Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?; This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am." Mary was indeed holding the Great I am. Mary was indeed holding this precious holy gift that God sent into the world for each and every one of us.
"The birth of the child into the darkness of the world made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it."--Frederick Buechner
Yes, through the birth of this precious holy child, God calls us to be his disciples in the world. God calls us to follow the examples of his Son; the one who, throughout his life, isn't afraid to sit with tax collectors and sinners; the one who ultimately dies on a cross for YOU and for ME; the one who rises from the dead and shows us his power; the power of Resurrection. As God's people, we are to live our lives knowing that we have been ravished and continue to be ravished by God's love for us.

I love these words from Ann Voskamp's book The Greatest Gift:
"God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need, God gives God. God gives God, and we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest Gift with our time; time in His Word, time in His presence, and time at His feet."--Ann Voskamp

Sunday Blessings 58 & 59

(1) Getting a phone call from my daddy. We haven't talked for awhile so it was so good to talk to him.

(2) Voxing with my new write 31 days friend. It was so great to hear her voice and also great to talk to her girls. So sweet!!

(3) Real mail from my momma

(4) Momma calling to make sure I was at home because she heard on the radio that my city was advising no travel.

(5) Homemade chicken noodle soup! Yum!!

(6) A Thanksgiving greeting from two of my fave people; Jim and Betty.

(7) A sweet lady at church sharing a piece of her pecan pie with me since it was all gone.

(8) A great group of gentleman helping take bags of groceries into the sanctuary. They were such a big help!!

(9) Thanksgiving greeting texts from so many dear friends and my auntie Carol.

(10) Thanksgiving meal with my colleague and his family. So much fun!! Board game, lots of laughs, and a bag full of home for me to bring home.

(11) My Huskers beating the Hawkeyes. Sorry Iowa friends!!!

(12) Fun Holiday open House and lighting of the downtown Christmas tree.

(13) Running into some of my past campers from Bible camp. So good to see you AE and JK!

(14) Putting up my Christmas decorations.

(15) A fun day with my momma; getting her shopping done and eating yummy Mexican food

(16) My first Christmas card. Thanks SM.

(17) Dickens Festival with mom and Ann. So much fun!

(18) Great conference meeting and getting to spend time with my friend KG.

(19) Getting to hold TWO infants today at church. Love!!!

(20) Reading through the Greatest Gift and my friend Anna's Advent devotional