Archive for December, 2016

Righteous. In a good way.

December 29th, 2016 by Maureen

Through the good news the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” Rom. 1:17

“Righteousness” is one of those words that has been tainted in the Christian world. Righteousness is not about reinventing ourselves according to some abstract, external moral code because the righteous God gets really angry if we don’t. The broadest definition of “dikaiosynē,” the Greek word translated as “righteousness,” means “the state of him who is as he ought to be.” N.T. Wright says that it “denotes not so much the abstract idea of justice or virtue, as right standing and consequent right behavior, within a community.” In that sense one could look at it like this: each person becomes who God created them to be, the community exists in mutual love, respect, and recognition of each one as genuine creations of God, and, consequently, people treat one another with His intentions. One could also look at it as how we view the Father, the Son, and the Spirit and how we experience His loving restoration of us to our righteous selves. This transformation results in a seeing as we ought to see, being as we ought to be, not out of fear but out of our genuine selves.

Lord, help me to be as You you made me to be and to treat people as you intend me to treat them.

The inevitable dysfunction of human relationship

December 28th, 2016 by Maureen

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Eph. 1:5

We might as well face it: every family is dysfunctional in one way or another. You can’t pick your blood family. Even though you can pick your friends, there is usually some dysfunction there as well. We intentionally or unintentionally hurt each other. We disappoint, annoy, and frustrate each other. This is the dysfunctional human family that God, in His love, grace, and pleasure, brought us to Himself through Jesus. Adoption is a chosen relationship. The deepest, most accepting and supportive of friendships happen when we adopt each other knowing there is going to be some dysfunction that comes with that.

Lord, help me to experience Your love, grace, and pleasure in my relationships with other people, even – perhaps especially – through the inevitable dysfunction.

The delightful breather after all the busy cheer

December 26th, 2016 by Maureen

Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a little break and get some rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They hadn’t even had a chance to eat. Mark 6:30

The joy of Christmas comings and goings can be exhausting. Thinking of “holiday mode” as being constantly on the go is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually unhealthy. We need to be secure enough in our relationships with one another that we don’t expect one another to operate at holiday pace all the time and that we don’t feel obligated to do so ourselves. We all need recharge time. We are sons and daughters of God our Father who delights when we are kicking back at home and at rest in Him, with Him and because of Him.

Jesus, thank you for all the joyful comings and goings and for the quiet rests between.

Unwrapping the big present

December 25th, 2016 by Maureen

If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water. Jn. 4:10

Wrapping Christ up as a baby and placing Him on earth as a free Gift of grace was God’s tangible proclamation of love for the human race. In this verse Jesus is presenting grace with the wrapping still on but He knows what will happen when the woman he’s addressing in the passage unwraps the gift He’s giving her. Heaven joyfully anticipates the moment each of us unwraps the Gift. The original angel song “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth, peace and goodwill!” rings out for each of us. The original message “Fear not, I bright you good news of great joy!” continues to become personal reality for humanity, one heart at a time. Unwrap the gift!

Thank you, Lord, Your grace is exactly what I need and it always fits perfectly.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel…

December 24th, 2016 by Maureen

Angel of the Lord to Joseph: She will bear a son and you will call him Jesus…The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel. Matt. 1:21,23 and Is. 7:14

It is not our perceptions of Jesus that define Him, but how we individually process Who He Is does determine how each of us experiences His redemption and His presence.

יְהוֹשׁוּעַ – Hebrew – Yehoshua or Joshua literally means “he who saves, redeems, or delivers.” Even when we don’t recognize the ways in which we are threatened, bound, or limited, Jesus established freedom for us and continues His rescue mission into our hearts and minds.

עִמָּנוּאֵל – Immanuel means “with us is God.” Even when we don’t feel like He’s there, God is still with us to the very same extent that He is in those moments when His presence feels absolutely tangible to us. How can we be separate from Him in whom we live and move and exist?

Jesus came to ransom our captive souls and end our lonely exiles.

Oh come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh bid our sad divisions cease,
And be Yourself our King of Peace.

9 “what ifs” of gifting that don’t have to suck the light out of Christmas

December 23rd, 2016 by Maureen

Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights. James 1:17

Sometimes gift-giving is full of stressful “what if’s?” This is a repost from last year, but I’m feeling it again so maybe some of the rest of you are too:

  1. What if he or she thinks a gift card means lack of effort and equates lack of effort with lack of caring?
  2. What if your loved one doesn’t like the gift you picked out?
  3. What if you waited too long and it turns out the store is sold out of the one thing you know he or she wants?
  4. What if you opt for a donation in his or her name but your loved one buys you a nice gift?
  5. What if you all draw names, communicate price-limits, desired items, donations, etc. but there is that one person who is going to buy everybody something no matter what?
  6. What if somebody gives you a gift and you didn’t get them one so you have have to grab one of the unmarked obviously generic gifts you wrapped up just in case, and it’s obvious?
  7. What if you didn’t think to buy generic gifts?
  8. What if the “estimated” arrival time on that gift you ordered for someone else changes to after Christmas?
  9. What if by the time it’s time to open the gifts all the joy and light seems to have been sucked from the experience?

Any one of these “what if’s” might result in somebody feeling bad. Or mad. Maybe we all need to just take a breath and remember that we are loved and we give gifts because we love. God loved us and gave us His perfect gift and doesn’t actually care what items give each other as expressions of love and celebration. Lighten up.

Lord let whatever I give and whatever I receive be done in the light of your love.

Bring the merry, Mary

December 22nd, 2016 by Maureen

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. Luke 1:46

“Congratulations, kid, it’s a Messiah.”  When an unmarried, pregnant young woman uttered this song of praise, the blessing of being chosen was taking its toll on Mary’s relationship with her fiance and her standing in her community. That whole thing about giving birth in a stable probably wasn’t on Mary’s bucket list either. Christmas is going to have its inconvenient and awkward moments. Like Mary we can choose to embrace the absolute wonder of “getting to” participate in celebrating God’s truly good news of love and goodwill,or we choose an attitude of “having to” endure the inconveniences and disruption. Hint: “getting to” keeps the Merry in Christmas.

My soul magnifies the Lord!

You can’t “fix” Christmas…and you don’t need to

December 21st, 2016 by Maureen

Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace, among men — good will. Luke 2:14 (YLT)

So many Christians feel a specific obligation to “fix” Christmas and to “fix” the people we see at Christmas. This very attitude can rob us and the people around us of peace and goodwill. If Jesus is the reason for the season and God sent angels to announce His birth as a message of God’s peace and good will, how does criticizing secular Christmas entertainment, decorations, or traditions, resenting the winter holidays of other religions, bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas, or insisting on a “purist” position that challenges the authenticity or appropriateness of celebrating Christmas at all promote peace and goodwill? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one preacher who went to a mall and told little children who were in line to see Santa that Santa isn’t real.  Dear, well-meaning fellow Christians. Stop it. Just adore Him. Peace, love, Christmas.

Glory to You, O Lord, show us how to greet this time of year with Your peace and goodwill toward others. All others.

Why Jesus is better than Santa

December 16th, 2016 by Maureen

God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Jn. 3:17

Ever notice the words “he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good, for goodness sake” in that Christmas song? Is it possible for any of us to merit a decent Christmas present if getting a gift is contingent on being good? The legendary Christmas gift giver in some other cultures does not discriminate between good and bad kids, but in the U.S. generous St. Nick has evolved into judging Santa. Then Elf on a Shelf was added to the mix, I suppose because Santa got so busy he needed snitches. All this pressure to “be good” adds a fear-based, merit-based element to the Christmas tradition of receiving gifts. Fortunately God offers us His grace-based free gift in Christ because nobody can be good enough, and nobody has to be. Jesus isn’t looking for us to be good, He gives us His own goodness. If you’re going to do Santa, ditch the judgment and restore His jolly.

Thank you Lord Jesus for the free and loving grace of Christmas.

The 12th wonder of Christmas

December 16th, 2016 by Maureen

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Jn. 14:27

Sometimes we receive a gift and never take it out of the box. Or perhaps, like the four food processor blades I’ve never tried, we use the gift but don’t actually discover everything it can do. Like all God’s gifts, this peace cannot be returned or exchanged but we can settle for less than full functionality. So many things in our lives and in our world can cause unrest in our minds and hearts, but no matter what is going on, this peace is a gift we can unpack and enjoy right now. Jesus is our peace and in Him and through Him our minds and hearts experience abundance, rest, and joy.

May Christ’s gift of peace of mind and heart be an out-of-the-box experience for each of you this Christmas!

the wonders of Christmas go to 11

December 14th, 2016 by Maureen

Simeon to Mary: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:33

Jesus is often misunderstood and misrepresented. His message, meaning, motives, His divinity and humanity, and the implications of Jesus as Savior does not fit well with human egos and agendas. His free restorative grace upsets the human desire for justice and retribution. His free gift of salvation upsets the human desire to be self-sufficient and to prove our own worth. His love is sometimes twisted, resisted, or rejected because of our perspectives and presuppositions. Yet, wonder of Christmas wonders, the power of His love, joy, and peace so reflects our deepest needs and desires, that we declare a season to celebrate those ideas even though many of us may not yet consciously interact with God, the Source of all these good things.

Lord, turn our hearts and thoughts to Your perspective and Your joys.

Christmas Wonder No. 10: Shouting Stars

December 13th, 2016 by Maureen

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Ps. 19:1-4
Astronomers continue to study the phenomenon of the Bethlehem star for explanation. Whether it was a convergence, a supernova, or something else, the creation couldn’t keep its mouth shut. The Creator had become a creation. For millennia people all over the world have looked up at the stars and wondered, searching for explanations and truth. In the first light of dawn three ancient Persian Magi, students of the stars, interpreted a message about a King and responded.

In his Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis wrote:
“In our world, a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.”
“Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.” [replied the star.]

Lord, help me to notice and rejoice when something unexpected points to You.

Wonder No. 9: Fear Not

December 9th, 2016 by Maureen

Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all people…Luke 2:10

An angel spoke these words to a group of shepherds who were witnessing the unknown and supernatural in the middle of a normal work schedule. They had no idea what they had to fear but fear was their knee-jerk reaction to such an encounter. They had no idea of the ramifications of the good news they were being told or how that idea would impact the whole world. They had no idea what role they might possibly play in God’s plan. They had no idea what great joy would feel like should they accept the angel’s invitation to go to the manger. Our joyful, loving, amazing God Himself delivers the good new to us Himself: there is no fear in love and He is love.

May Christmas be a time of good news of great joy for all of you!

Peace is the 8th wonder of Christmas

December 8th, 2016 by Maureen

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78

Peace can seem elusive. Our nagging concerns, our serious issues, our great sorrows can rob us of sleep and assurance and even cast shadows on what should be happy times. Even with all we face, most of us live pretty comfortable lives. It is easy to forget that elsewhere on earth people live in what must seem like a constant state of fear and darkness. This the stuff that Jesus came to overcome. In His bright arms there is no shadow, only peace and rest. Our situations might not immediately change (or ever change) but things get better because we experience His light and peace.

Lord, let Your light break upon all of us. Show us how to use our arms, our words, our love,  and our prayers to envelop those in dark places with Your light and peace.

The 7th Wonder of Christmas

December 7th, 2016 by Maureen

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19 (ESV)

Mary didn’t know. The story she found herself in was beyond her ability to conceive or to control. It was beyond belief when she tried to explain it to other people in her life. The future and its implications were far from her ability to foresee. All she really had to go on was what she knew of the God who brought her into this story. Mary trusted Him made treasure of the uncontrollable, inconceivable, unbelievable situation she pondered. A wonder of Christmas is that God is writing our stories too and our pondering can become treasure too. The stories we find ourselves in offer us the same opportunity to  trust God’s love, good purposes, and goodwill toward us when we don’t understand much else that is going on.

Lord, I treasure the pondering as well as the revelation.

The Wonders of Christmas 6

December 4th, 2016 by Maureen

Glory in the highest to God, and upon earth peace, among men — good will. Luke 2:14 YLT

The Greek word for peace can mean lack of conflict on both national and personal level and also the rest and prosperity that results from this lack on conflict. It’s an all-expansive word for peace. The Greek word  ἄνθρωπος means all human kind. I’m going out on a limb here, but, the Gnostics at used the word ἄνθρωπος to refer to the first man, Adam. Perhaps the writer of Luke gave it a double meaning here, this goodwill that God extends to mankind is a reconciling goodwill extended to Adam and the implications connected with the fall. A wonder of Christmas is that the narrative itself holds meaning and evokes emotion beyond those who accept Christianity. It is truly a universal message of love and peace.

Lord, bring peace and goodwill on all.

 

The wonders of Christmas 5

December 3rd, 2016 by Maureen

Jesus is mirrored in Melchizedek in whom the new priestly office arises, not based on the law of precepts constrained by the frailty of the flesh but by the authority of an indestructible life demonstrated by Christ’s resurrection. Heb. 7:15-16

The birth of Incarnate God Who is both Priest and King is a wonder of Christmas. God didn’t send a high priest to confirm and enforce the system the Jews had built around their understanding of law, sacrifice, and forgiveness. He didn’t send a king to rule according to that system, or any other earthly system. God Himself experienced birth and dwelt among us to restore His spiritual kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. Instead of demanding compliance as adherents and subjects, Christ invited humans into the roles He created us for: royal priests and beloved children of His loving, gracious, and redemptive Kingdom.

Lord, I want to celebrate this season as child and priest of the everlasting Kingdom where I live now and forever.

The wonders of Christmas 4

December 1st, 2016 by Maureen

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 (ESV)

“Bethlehem? That’s random.” Why not one of the big players like Jerusalem? The redemption stories we would write would likely be more straightforward and predictable, but the story God’s been telling “from ancient days,” is full of surprises.  Even the way Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophesy so defied the logic and expectations of the religious Jews that He was unrecognizable to most of them. God often chooses the things that seem too little, foolish, weak, and random, perhaps, as 1 Cor. 1:27 suggests, to confound the wise.

Lord, help me to recognize Your amazing  story in seemingly insignificant and unexpected things.