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“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:17-19

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Roses In December

When God created roses, He did so with both beautiful blossoms and thorns. The past several days have been very thorny ones for me. In spite of the joy of the Christmas season, a heaviness weighs in my heart. Yes, I rejoice in praising God for the matchless gift of His Son. I love hearing the Christmas carols sung by the choir and over the PA system in the stores. Christmas movies on TV are fun to watch again and again. Wrapping gifts and praying for the recipient is a joy. Baking cookies fills the house with festive aromas.

But memories lurk in the midst of all the holiday cheer. Everyone has memories of Christmases past, but there is one I wish I could forget. The memories are so painful, I believe my heart bleeds every time the pictures manifest themselves in my mind. The ache is so real I can well imagine it showing up on an x-ray. Knowing the countdown to these horrible memories is drawing near makes enjoying the holidays a challenge.

Seeking solace from the pain, I took myself away for a day to a place of sanctuary—a place where I could hear God’s whisper. But God did more than whisper, He sang.

There is a quote I remember hearing one time. Some attribute it to Sir James Barrie, a British playwright, and others to Italo Sveno, an Italian novelist. Whoever said it first isn’t important. The words slipped through my mind like a song that echoes and repeats.

“God gave us memories so that we might have roses in December.”

At first I didn’t understand the correlation. Whatever blossoms dare to remain on the bushes in December are ugly. The roses in my backyard have all wilted from the freezing temperatures. There is nothing pretty about a rose whose petals are browned and crumpling. They are almost as ugly as the memories I’m trying to blot out. I told God I didn’t want the memories that so haunted me from that December four years earlier any more than I’d want to pluck a bouquet from my frozen rosebush.

Tenderly, as though He were singing a lullaby, He reminded me of the beauty. The roses of summer rival every other flower in the garden with their delicate radiance. The memory of those roses resembles the treasury of promises He’s kept and prayers He’s answered in His way--miraculous ways. Sometimes our greatest blessings, the most complete healing, can happen because of prayers that weren’t answered the way we wanted. Glory began seeping into my soul and I stood in awe of His goodness. How could I have forgotten? How could I have allowed the harshness of the climb to eradicate the exquisite sweetness of the view?

Then He showed me one more promise. A tiny, unopened rosebud…in December. He isn’t finished yet. There is more to come; more beauty to anticipate; more glory to grasp. Roses in December.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

At this time of year, our "To Do" list can be longer than some of the lines we find ourselves standing in. So many things to do, gifts to buy and wrap, boxes to ship, decorations to hang, events to attend, special dishes to make, menus to plan, and envelopes to address, our fear (and many times our focus) is trying not to forget anyone or anything. At night we collapse in our bed, exhausted, only to lie awake thinking of all we still need to do.

If this is an accurate description of you, don't feel guilty. Our fast-paced, 21st century lives have done this to us. We've simply been sucked up into the rush by virtue of the fact that have families and friends, and we're involved in church. Those are all good things. But if we aren't careful, they can be the very things to exhaust us in the midst of a time when we should be quietly examining our hearts, clearing out the clutter to ensure Jesus has center stage.

I'm certainly not advocating foregoing family celebrations or church events. No, we need that corporate worship time together, bonding as one in grateful praise for the Baby who came to die for us. Taking time to focus on the coming of Jesus in our family celebrations can teach our children to understand that Jesus is more important than Santa Claus. I am reminded of the Christmas story we read every year. The words are so familiar, we sometimes blur over them without stopping to study their full meaning or consider the depth of the circumstances.

Take, for instance, the innkeeper in the 2nd chapter of Luke. Nothing is actually said about him. We assume he was a gruff sort who waved Mary and Joseph away, growling that there was "No room in the inn". I've often wondered if that man ever knew Who he turned away. He had no way of knowing Mary carried the very Savior who could save him from his sins. Did he ever find out later? Did he regret not making room for them? Could he have given up his own bed?

Now, put on the garb of the innkeeper. The city is all a-bustle with people coming for the census. Crowds are pressing, tired children are cranky, people are weary and their feet hurt from standing in line, they're hungry and trying to find a place to eat, and they all have an agenda. Sound familiar? And here you are, the innkeeper. Your stress level is at the breaking point, you're exhausted from serving these demanding people, and late at night you hear another knock on your door. You heave a sigh. No, go away, there's no more room.

Fast forward to the 21st century. You have more shopping to do, if you don't get this box shipped today you're going to have to pay through the nose to get it delivered on time, your Sunday School classes is having a party and you have to bring two dishes, your in-laws are coming for dinner and you still haven't cleaned the house, you have to run to a different store because your regular store was out of an ingredient that you must have, one of the strings of lights on the tree has quit working, you just found out you're supposed to bring an exchange gift to that Sunday School party, the Toys For Tots commercial on TV pinches you with guilt, the Salvation Army guy ringing the bell looks at you expectantly and you don't have any cash, you just remembered you forgot to get a gift for a certain person who will be offended if you don't give them anything...and there's a knock at the door. Not the front door of your home, the door of your heart.

Joy to the world, the LORD has come, let earth (us) receive her KING.

Will you clear a space? Will you find room? Will you give up your own place? Is Jesus more important than Santa Claus, menus, shopping, or agendas? Maybe the innkeeper didn't know Who he was turning away, but we do.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

God's Dashboard Light

I just returned home from our trusty mechanic, Mr. Ken, to find out why Jarhead's (that's my car's name) "check engine" light keeps coming on. At first Mr. Ken thought it was just a loose gas cap, but now it turns out that it's something in the emissions system that is going to cost $500. Oh, goody... I can think of lots of ways to spend $500 that would be a lot more fun or practical.

The good news is that Mr. Ken assured me that I don't need to do this immediately. It won't cause the car to quit or leave me stranded on the side of the road. He told me I could wait until after the holidays to have this work done and it wouldn't hurt anything. It's just that annoying light on the dash--my gaze keeps glancing down to look at it, as if staring at it will make it go away. Then I thought of a way to fix it for a whole lot less than $500.

I gathered a few tools: a screwdriver, snips, tape measure, electrical tape. I've never been mechanically inclined, but I was fairly certain I could perform this task. Sucking in a deep breath and with confidence building, I gathered my tools and marched to the garage. I could do this.

First, I extracted the tape measure and ran it across the space on the dashboard to calculate the measurement. Then, with the screwdriver, I poked a hole in the cellophane packaging around the electrical tape and pulled it off. So far, so good. Carefully transferring the measurement I'd taken earlier to the electrical tape, I snipped off a precise piece of black tape. I took another deep breath to steady my nerves--I'd never attempted this before... Finally, I lined up the tape and placed it strategically on the dash, covering the "check engine" light. Problem solved. I felt like a mechanical genius.

There have been many times in my life that I knew God was trying to tell me something. Sometimes I listened, but other times I ignored Him or offered a flimsy excuse for not heeding His counsel. Brushing aside God's nudging is like covering the "check engine" light with electrical tape. I can't see it, but it's still there. Hiding it won't make it go away, just like ignoring God's direction won't render it non-existent.

Instead of disregarding the touch of God's finger on my heart, I can see it as a comfort that God won't leave me alone. If I peel back that black electrical tape, that silly dash light is still there and it will continue to remind me that I need to address this problem. God's Holy Spirit stays with me, whispering to my soul until I follow His leading. I may think I've effectly blocked out His voice, but His love can never be silenced. I know this because He continually sends me little mercydrops to demonstrate His everlasting presence in my life.

At some point, I will have to decide to have Jarhead's problem fixed. I know this. When God speaks, I have a choice. I can say "Yes, Lord, I'm listening" and then obey what He is telling me to do. Or, I can say, "Not now, I'm too busy, ask someone else to do that." It's my choice. Following God in obedience always results in a blessing. Making a poor choice, like ignoring God's nudging, might not leave me stranded on the side of the road, but it does mean loss of fellowship with Him--something that grieves me as much as it does God. Knowing He is always as close as my breath and my very heartbeat is a comfort beyond description.

Thanks for letting me share my heart.