Archive for December, 2010

Battling a cold, I was awoken at 4 a.m. by a dramatically over-dry house (no this is not a paid commercial for a Sunbeam humidifier). I did what many of us would do. I tried to ignore it and go back to sleep. Isn’t that what we all want the night before Christmas?

I turned and tossed and finally gave in and jumped in the shower and lingered until my raw sinuses felt better. When we were kids, we’d love to get up early on Christmas morning for more exciting reasons than nasal concerns!

But it was interesting that pain became my alarm clock because if it hadn’t gone off, I would have missed a Christmas sunrise to beat the band. It was almost circular; not quite 360 degrees, but nudging toward the western sky. Even the river turned a beautiful red, as if it knew that’s an appropriate color to wear this time of the year.
Well, excuse this radical segue, but parts of the Christmas story exhibit similar experiences to mine (yawn) this fine Christmas morn. First, God seems to use darkness and discomfort to get our attention and then to get us moving. Secondly, births bring opposition.
Regarding the former, remember the wise men. God spoke to them at night in a dream. They got moving in a hurry and in a different direction to avoid Herod. Joseph was disturbed during his z’s and was actually told, “Arise!” That got his tush in gear and in the darkness he fled toward Egypt.
As for the latter, the birth of my day was opposed because I just wanted to stay in bed and not wake up to face my pain. The baby Jesus’ birth was opposed by Herod. It led to the “slaughter of the innocents.” [See Matthew 2:16ff if you are not familiar with this tragedy.]
My daughter and son-in-law just gave us the best present this week: a new granddaughter. But there was plenty of opposition, lots of stuff hit the fan on them. 
The holy-day season is clearly pregnant with lessons for all of us. This past year was full of challenges and the coming year is a make-or-break one for me. Maybe it’s an old lesson, as old as Christmas, as old as the Garden of Eden, as old as the angels that fell from heaven. Every new beginning is opposed, but it is that very thing that seems to get us out of bed.
A new year is upon us. Whatever we all went through this past year is waking us up to a new and more glorious year ahead.
Is it possible to accept pain and opposition as a welcomed wrapped present under the tree of our lives?
Here’s hoping you see some beautiful sonrises this year. Oh, and as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s maid, said, “Merry Christmas, IN KEEPING WITH THE SITUATION!”

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When I was three or four, I distinctly remember losing my toes. Or so it felt lacing and unlacing my skates in the dead of winter alongside Horseshoe Pond.

Never liked bone-chilling temps. They got in the way of my basketball, football, baseball bat, bike and all the really important things.
As I got older, winter seemed to get in the way of picnics, hanging out on the porch, long walks and even longer days. For many years, I would get a little depressed in the autumn just knowing that Old Man Winter was around the bend.
Actually, getting too weaned off the harshness of the season by good furnaces and wood stoves is dangerous to our mental and physical health. For example, I just got a sore throat from the dryness in the house. Too cushy makes us mushy.
I decided to go for a walk and breathe in the deep, cold air. It worked for my body. My sinuses and throat felt better. Then, it worked for my soul.
I recently moved to a more rural area and I’m getting to know our property better. Winter allows for that. First, lyme-carrying ticks are bedded down and you can walk without fear. Secondly, the trees strip and their nakedness unveils a vulnerable view. It removes the camouflage of the deer, allows you to see the contour of the forest’s floor and the depths of its woods.
The barrenness of winter also provides overviews that summer cannot. And there’s a slowness to winter, trudging through snow, being careful on ice and cautious with dangerous temperatures.
I had recently been bemoaning that my career is going so slow. God is in the slow … and snow. It allows you to think upon Him who designed the seasons of nature and our lives. For when life is bountiful and lush, we can’t seem to slow down and can’t see as far. We are too preoccupied with the tasks of the bounty.
It made me think of a life-changing scripture that describes this divine ‘deadness.’ “For I will not drive them [enemies] out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.” Exodus 23:29
Land becomes desolate when you don’t have the time to plow, seed, weed and harvest. And the beasts of the field need to be managed. 
Wisdom comes with age. Maybe that’s why they call him “Old Man” winter.

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“Hear the angels as they’re singing on the morning of His birth,
but how much greater will our song be when he comes to rule the earth!”
  In The First Light  By Bob Kauflin
Amazing, chilling lyrics! A contemporary masterpiece performed acapella by Glad (copy and paste this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2xwnw5h7bg). Then, make sure you watch it cranked up!
The lyricist managed to bookend history’s most notable events in two lines. Not bad at all.
What’s cool is that angels play such a prominent role in the seen and unseen world. We sing about them in carols. We watch some eery television specials on them or read some overreaching book on their importance as if the author is substituting them for God or His power as opposed to their warrior/messengership/worship roles. The book of Hebrews tells us not to worship them and that they number in the thousands. Revelation puts the figure closer to ten thousand times ten thousand. 
But we do a disservice to ourselves if we don’t take them as serious as the shepherds. For they are real and wonderful and, yeah, they must have some voices. They hang out wherever God hangs His hat.
And God hangs His hat within believers of Jesus Christ – in the form of the Holy Spirit. 
Today, right now, they are all around probably singing at the top of their lungs. Why not harmonize with them? Who knows, it could be a great practice for the second bookend.

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It’s so easy to reflect on the wonderful account of the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus in Luke 1 and judge Zachariah for his unbelief. He prayed for a baby. When He was told that his prayer had been answered, he didn’t believe it. 

He actually had the audacity to doubt Gabriel when it was announced that, although Zachariah’s wife was old, she would birth John. If this doubt wasn’t so sad, it would be comical for Gabriel actually had to explain who he was: “Hey, I’m Gabe and I stand before the Lord all the time and just do what I’m told; I bring messages. But because you doubted, you won’t be able to speak until your baby arrives at the hospital.” [New Jersey Italian accent mine.]

The point is that a “word” came from God and no “words” would come forth from Zachariah because God’s word is holy and the only discipline for not believing a holy word is no words.
As I said, it’s easy to judge Zachariah. But I was convicted as I read it this time. How many times I’ve prayed and thought, “It’s OK if my prayer isn’t answered” or “Maybe my prayer wasn’t in God’s perfect will” or “I’ve waited so long that my prayer will never be impregnated with an answer” or “He’s probably busy answering some big prayer somewhere.”
Do we really pray as if we expect an answer directly from God. God chose to answer Zachariah and Elizabeth’s prayers in the Holy place of His temple. He may answer yours in a Christmas shopping line at Macy’s. 
But God’s word is always holy and to be believed. Contrast Eve with the virgin Mary. Satan got Eve to doubt. Gabe got Mary to believe which is immortalized by her cousin Elizabeth whose husband did not believe. Elizabeth said to Mary: “Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true.” Luke 1:45, The Message
Sometimes, our very prayers are the answers themselves…you’d better believe it.

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It is now one week before Christmas and Brahms Lullaby plays softly as I look upon the wonder of our Christmas tree and take note of one particular ornament: “Grandpa.” The words are inscribed between a couple of candy canes and a heart.

I’m about to welcome another grandchild this Christmas season. We get to unwrap another baby!
But with the lullaby as a backdrop, I think of rocking God to sleep. Mary and Joseph had that literal duty. But I was thinking of us, sort of like a player as the time out ends, telling his coach, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” 
Yeah, right. “Don’t worry about it, God, go to sleep. We’ve got it covered down here.”
The news, the lives we share, illnesses, death, loneliness and the hurt so many feel at this time of year belies that everything is under our control. We don’t have it covered. We sin. We hurt others. We get entangled in rationalizations that would make the most perplexing labyrinth seem like child’s play. In general, God better be wide awake.
That’s the good news, isn’t it? This is the time of the year when we most dearly feel Emmanuel (meaning “God with us”). This is the time when even ardent skeptics sneakily sing along with Christmas carols like “What Child Is This?”

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Givers and Christmas

Snow in December. Some people swear at it. I’m sentimental enough to love it, especially when the snowflakes fall lazily as if they were thousands of ornaments minus the tree suspended in air outside my third floor window.

Nostalgia takes over my soul and for some reason my mother knocks at my heart. (Heaven welcomed her nearly three decades ago.) 
I was wondering why I was literally trying to blink my way past the tears to see the lyrics and chords as I played my tribute to her entitled “Lucy’s Legacy of Love.”  Mom was made in God’s image. God is the Giver Extraordinaire. This is the season for giving. Mom was a giver (probably still is).
Most would think that giving has to do with money or presents – especially during the Christmas season. It actually has nothing to do with money. It’s about who you are. Those who love to give know who they are: recipients  of the blessings by the Giver Extraordinaire who have become extensions of His benevolence. 
Lucy would have cooked for the whole world if she could have. Now, I just pass her plates…
… and I’ll pass this song on to you as well.
“Lucy’s Legacy of Love”
Set A Place
I sit at the table and in my hand’s a pen recalling you again and again
when my hand held a fork instead as you passed out the Italian bread.
You set a place for me through your generosity.
You put yourself into all you prepared, that growing young man was raised on the food of care
and I am still filled by your recipe of love and think of the place that was set for you above.
Mommy, eat heartily and save a seat for me, set a place for me.
Main Dish:
Apron Countenance (Recipe of Love)
Conversation was a delicacy at our feasts of family.
Morsels of kidding and homey laughter that remained long after
the plates had all been put away. I can still taste that joy today
And our meals drew people to you. Your reputation was well-earned.
This was how the rest of us learned the Recipe of Love from His kitchen above.
Your smile was as hearty as your sauce even after the kitchen’s high cost
of sacrifice and diligence. Oh, but what an apron countenance!
And you and He still serve your family even to this day, just in a different way.
Room for One More

When life tempts me to be stingy and selfish thoughts arise and chide.
I can hear you say to this very day, “The Lord, He will provide. The Lord will provide.”
That truth you spoke so long ago, I have learned more than you could know.
And when the times got real tight and I was battle-weary from life’s fight…
Worried about our next meal, your words would always heal:
You said, “The Lord, He will provide. The Lord will provide.”
And you opened faith’s door wide by saying that God will provide.
Then you’d set an extra place and in would walk another face. 
But to you, that’s what family’s for, always room for one more.
And now your Host says the same as He calls “Lucy” by name:
“Come eat, there’s food galore. Sit down, there’s always room for one more.”
And now, your Lord provides. Now, your Lord provides.
Copyright, Robert J. LaCosta, 2001 All Rights Reserved. No part of this document (song: “Lucy’s Legacy of Love”) may be reproduced without written consent from the author.
If you’d like a free copy of this song, reply to the Beloved Blogger.

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