Archive for December, 2017

What is your New Year’s quest?

December 31st, 2017 by Maureen

To everything there is a season and purpose under heaven. Ecc. 3:1

We march into new seasons and new years determined to fix ourselves and to do better. Perhaps instead of resolutions about changing our behavior we might consider a journey of self-discovery. What are my purposes? What motivates these purposes? How does who I am (or think I am) flow with these purposes?

From a place of love and significance our answers to these questions might be different than they would be from a place of fear and obligation.

Too often we settle for compensation rather than fulfillment. Too often we are driven by the “should’s” and expectations of others, some planted into our psyches from childhood, rather than operating from a sense of personal identity and worth. Too often our choices and behaviors are so God will love us instead of because God always loves us. Too often how we perceive ourselves is derived solely from our own and our culture’s past and present rather than from discovering our identity within the Eternal Who is Love and in Whose flow we live and move and belong.

Lord, I want my purposes under heaven be a natural response to existing in Your love, to loving You, loving life, loving others, and loving myself.

All the seasons under heaven

December 30th, 2017 by Maureen

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born and a time to die… Ecc. 3:1-2

Image converted using ifftoany

7.6 billion people will say goodbye to 2017 and greet 2018.*
There were approx. 140,240,000 births and 68,082 deaths this year on earth.*
It’s estimated that between 90 and 110 billion people have lived on this planet.*

Some people were only here for a brief moment while others spent over 100 years on the planet. The far reaching impact of some lives are clearly evident in history, while others are long ago forgotten. Not one of us earned or lost His love through impact or purpose. God is love and knows and loves us all of us who have ever lived because that is His nature. Every one who lives or has ever lived exists and is held together in Him.

As Jesus prayed, may our seasons and purposes be on earth as they are in heaven.

*Worldometer
**Population Reference Bureau

Listen first

December 28th, 2017 by Maureen

To give an answer on a matter before listening lacks good sense and is rude. Prov. 18:13

Listening can be challenging, especially when you think you already know the information or when you disagree. Communications experts usually present four or five stages in the listening process.
1. Attend. Open yourself to the message and the messenger. Acknowledge your biases and preconceptions and put them aside long enough to consider what is being said.
2. Interpret. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t fill in blanks with what you think is meant.
3. Evaluate. Now consider how this message sits with what you already know and believe.
4. Respond. Repeat the message you think you heard back to confirm that you understand. Ask for more clarification and information in you think you need it.
We don’t have to agree with one another, but we can really listen to each other and make sure when we do engage in disagreement, we actually understand what the other person is saying.

Lord, help me to listen more than I talk.

The realities of perception

December 27th, 2017 by Maureen

Look, I am doing a new thing. Now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it? Is. 43:19

What is perception?
-awareness of all the elements, the distinct parts, that make up our environment. Where are you now?
-what we experience through our physical senses. What did you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste?
-the way we regard, understand, or interpret ideas and experiences. How do you process and give meaning to what you experience through your senses and environment?
-intuitive recognition or appreciation of the qualities found in something. What causes you to recognize that something is important, useful, or beautiful?
God is always making things new again. God is always revealing new things to us.
Perception is sometimes dulled because we dismiss everything doesn’t confirm our assumptions. Perception is sometimes dulled because we focus on one thing and ignore the wonder around us. Perception is sometimes dulled by busyness, pain, or worry.
These are not insurmountable obstacles. When we are able to recognize that these things are obstacles and understand what forms our perceptions we become better equipped to perceive differently and to receive new things that what God puts in front of us.

Lord, open my senses to You. Help me to interpret what I experience through the filter of Your loving Self. Give me inspiration and understanding so that I see the new things you are doing around me, in me, and through me.

Peace at Christmas and always

December 25th, 2017 by Maureen

For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us,  and the princely power is on His shoulder. He is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Father or Eternity, Prince of Peace. Is. 9:6

Our hopes and prayers are filled with desire for peace, for a world without war, hunger, or disease; for a journey without conflict; for relationships without anger, resentment, controlling behavior, or hurt feelings; and for peace in body, mind, and spirit. When peace is shattered we grieve, look for reasons or assign blame. Yet, the peace of God that has always been remains uncompromised, bright and clear, in the love of the Father of Eternity who is also the Child who is also the Counselor. The Three in One invite us into Wonder, into overpowering Love where peace, joy, and hope are continuously born in us through Him. This is Christmas.

Lord, let Your peace reign over my spirit, mind, heart, and body, my home, neighborhood, city, country, world, and universe.

 

Joy

December 24th, 2017 by Maureen

Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy for all people. Born to you this day in the city of David a Savoir who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

Jesus is joyful news. The love of Father, Son, and Spirit that is ever sending and receiving, ever dancing and rejoicing among the Three-in-One, swept earth up into the delight of heaven. Stars and angels sang. Poor Jewish shepherds and rich Gentile Magi, representing all people, made their way to rejoice, worship, and wonder. A bemused couple experienced the everyday joy of having a baby and the unique experience of trusting the joyful news God revealed to each of them about that child. Through that same news we each become aware of our place in the joyful dance of love.

Lord, thank You for bringing me such good news of such great joy.

Hope

December 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may about in hope. Rom. 15:13

Christmas is about hope. In the cultural context of Jesus birth, the Jews hoped for a Messiah for a very long time and angels announced Him “born to you in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
In a universal context “God so loved the world” that Jesus came as an expression of that love and angels announced “Peace on earth, goodwill towards humankind.”
Peace and goodwill are rooted in love and hope, not in our various political and religious beliefs or in what we expect to accomplish through those constructs.

God who is Love, I turn my hopes toward You.

Have yourself a stress-less little Christmas

December 19th, 2017 by Maureen

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad…Matt 5:13

Christmas is a season for rejoicing…and stressing. At some point during the holiday season, and often on the Big Day itself, everything gets to be too much. Sometimes its good to downsize our expectations of ourselves and our celebrations. This is, after all, a birthday party for Jesus. Getting uptight about the meals, the gifts, the decorations, the plans for gathering seems so Martha-ish.  This season is about relationships, love, peace on earth, goodwill toward all. Each hug, each conversation, each quiet moment staring into the yule log, each toast, each carol, each “thanks, I love it” after unwrapping a gift, and even each tacky piece of yard art can be a little Christmas all by itself. No pressure, just look for all the little Christmases and rejoice in Christ and in the ones who strike your happy.

Lord, help me to peace out instead of stressing out, Grinching out, or checking out.

Enjoy the wonder

December 18th, 2017 by Maureen

He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kings, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. Col. 1:15-16

C.S. Lewis wrote “In our world, too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” The very idea of Emmanuel-God-with-us is jaw-dropping, inexplicable, amazing, mysterious, and thrilling. Miracles aren’t there for explanation or analysis. Just enjoy the wonder.

Lord, You really are wonderful.

Poster child for seasonal busyness

December 17th, 2017 by Maureen

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

In the Christmas story the Innkeeper sometimes gets casts as villain. Poor pregnant Mary needs a room and he turns them away. He turns away the Son of God! Gasp! Now the poor guy is a guilt-inducing poster child. The Bible account doesn’t actually mention an innkeeper at all, just an inn. For all we know the lodging bore more similarity to a flophouse than a hotel  But for the sake of this story we’ll assume the inn was at least a B & B with somebody in charge.

Maybe the stable was his suggestion rather than Mary and Joseph’s own creative solution. Maybe he didn’t think to say “use my room.” Maybe he just worked there and didn’t have a room. The innkeeper in the story did what most of us do when we are busy and preoccupied: offer the quickest, least inconvenient solution rather than the kindest. That doesn’t make him or any of us, villains , just a little thoughtless.

Lord, increase my awareness and empathy as I interact with others and help me to be gracious and charitable when other people fail at that.

The trough is full

December 16th, 2017 by Maureen

but my Father gives you the true bread out of the heaven; the bread of God is that which is coming down out of the heaven and giving life to the world….I am the bread of life. John 6:32…35

When He was born Jesus, the Bread of life, was laid in an empty feed trough. I don’t know whether this was symbolic or just a convenient makeshift bed, but He came to nourish our starving souls and fill our empty hearts. He came to satisfy our need to belong, with Him and with each other.

Nearly every day around this time of year there is an opportunity to celebrate with family and friends around holiday meals. Some people we only get to see once a year and sometimes there are new people there who become our family, even if just for the day. God lays out these feasts before us and calls us to the table to be nourished and delighted through connecting with others. As we love each other, as we become involved in each other’s joys and sorrows, as we share experiences, ideas, and food together, we also partake in the Bread of life.

Lord, thank you for today’s feast, I want to eat it up.

The first Christmas song

December 15th, 2017 by Maureen

Were you there when I laid the earth’s foundations..or cast it’s cornerstone…and all the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy. Job 38 1-7

On the first Christmas a star sang over the place Jesus laid and angels shouted songs of joy. Shepherds and Magi heard their songs and came to see the Baby. The unborn John the Baptist leaped in his mother’s womb to the rhythm of the song that was written before the foundation of the world. Heaven and nature sang and still sings about these “tidings of great joy.” As each of us hear the song and comprehend its meaning our hearts beat to its rhythm and our voices join the song. As our relationships with Him grow we continually discover themes and variations on the song of stars and angels and find new harmonies to sing.

Thank you for the song that heaven and nature sings. Thank you for teaching me to sing it too.

An anti-annunciation story

December 13th, 2017 by Maureen

[Hagar] said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” Gen.16:13

Hagar has just gotten news from an angel of God that was the opposite of Mary’s and Elizabeth’s. “Your kid is going to be in constant conflict with the people around him.” Yikes. Hagar herself is feeling her way through a messy situation that she didn’t exactly initiate but in which she chooses to be complicit. But at that moment, she sees God and knows that He sees her. That experience is so amazing that her response is all about the messenger, and not so much about the message. Perhaps the choice to keep that focus rather than trying to manipulate the circumstances could have changed history. (Hagar is the mother of Ishmael who is traditionally considered father of the Arab race who would be in conflict with the Jews who descend from Isaac).

In the Christmas annunciation story Mary says and does all the right things. Hager generally botches the challenge she faces, and presumably God who sees past, present and future already knows her part in the devastating fallout from this situation; yet Hagar matters so much to God that He shows up to comfort and encourage her. God’s love for us is far greater than the biggest mess any of us can make.

Even when I don’t understand and I’m doing everything wrong, I am so glad You see me and let me see You.

Starlike qualities

December 11th, 2017 by Maureen

When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! Matt 2:10

God sent an angel to Mary and the shepherds who were all Hebrews. The angel referenced familiar prophecy and scripture to announce Jesus to them. But to the Magi who were from a different culture God sent a star. God knew the Magi, he understood their culture, and used something they would understand to draw them to worship His son. God wants each of us to find Him so He’s placed guiding stars that lead to Christ in every life. Rather than insisting that everyone use the same signs and traditions and words to celebrate the message of Christmas, perhaps adopting the star-like qualities of giving light and providing direction better serves the gospel of grace and love and better serves the relationships we enjoy with others. Sometimes we get to the be ones who suggest the meaning of stars that appear in the lives of others. May our responses cause their stars to point to Christ.

Lord, help me to recognize the stars in the lives of my friends.

Christmas standards: Peace and Goodwill

December 10th, 2017 by Maureen

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward humankind. Luke 2:14

God stated His attitude and intentions toward humankind in the angelic message that accompanied Jesus’ birth: peace and goodwill. This is God’s heart for His creation. This is His endgame. Sadly, human beings sometimes inflict guilt, exert control, manipulate outcomes, create conflict, and even start wars (sometimes distorting or misrepresenting God’s attitude and intentions in the process.) Bringing God’s peace and goodwill into an interaction does just the opposite. Imagine a season in which every interaction in homes, workplaces, schools and worship centers; at events, gatherings, and parties; on roadways, at stores, and in airports; between families, friends, neighbors, and even enemies; across cultural, social, racial, gender, political, and religious lines could start from an attitude and intention of peace and goodwill.

Lord, help me to speak and respond out of Your peace and goodwill in every circumstance, even the ones that try my patience.

The inevitable glitches of Christmas

December 9th, 2017 by Maureen

She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:7
That first Christmas did not come neatly wrapped with a red bow on top and it’s likely this one won’t either. In the course of the Christmas story Mary and Joseph face whispers and raised eyebrows from relatives and townspeople, have to travel in Mary’s ninth month of pregnancy, find the inn overbooked, and end up having a baby in a barn. Basically Hallmark channel plot twists… until they later have to flee the country to escape a crazy monarch.The inevitable Christmas glitches don’t matter.
Lord, help me minimize my responses to Christmas glitches and maximize Christmas love, joy, and peace.

Avoiding a tabloid gospel

December 8th, 2017 by Maureen

While he [Joseph], considered these things an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream and said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” Matt. 1:20

The Nativity story had the potential to become a very messy “he said-she said” tabloid tale. In the  The Gospel of Luke Mary and even her cousin Elizabeth get inside information from angels about Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. The Gospel of Matthew explains how Joseph took it when Mary gives her version of her pregnancy story. Though understandably hurt and confused, Joseph seems to have processed the situation with a gracious attitude even though the most reasonable explanation is that Mary cheated on him. It was only after extending grace and keeping an open mind that Joseph gets a dream and angels to offer clarity and confirmation. A reactionary response could have locked Joseph out of that experience. We don’t usually get dreams or angels to clear up ambiguity in our lives. What we do get is the opportunity to choose to manifest grace, to extend the benefit of the doubt, and to leave God room to guide our responses.

Lord, when I don’t have clarity (and even when I think I do) help me respond with a gracious spirit and an open mind.

Is Christ archetype or stereotype?

December 7th, 2017 by Maureen

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12

Archetypes are the original model or ideal example for things of the same type. Stereotypes are simplified images accepted as common by a particular group. Jesus didn’t fit the Messiah stereotype the Jews had constructed. Their Messiah story called for a king, a warrior,  a superhero, a recognizable deity who would improve their earthly circumstances and crush their enemies. Instead they got a baby in a manger. Some adjusted their thinking to the archetypical story God was telling through Christ, but others reinterpreted Him to fit their paradigms.  We can choose to receive Christ as archetype of Savior God with open-hands, open-minds, and open-hearts or we can insist on forcing our stereotypes of what constitutes a Savior God into His story.

Lord, thank You for the manager, the cross, the empty tomb, and the rest of the redeeming story You are telling through Jesus Christ.

Eternal flame

December 6th, 2017 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

Jesus, the Light of the world, offers peace to souls impacted by the lingering darkness. He brightens the corners of the dark cave of sickness, depression, poverty, isolation, doubt, and fear. Christ illuminates confusing situations and warms cold hearts. Christ guides us in, protects us, and ignites us with His light. Christ causes perpetual light that burns within and around us.

Lord, for all of us with broken hearts and broken lives, living in darkened places in this broken world,  open our eyes to Your light ever breaking upon us like waves.

Random storylines

December 5th, 2017 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,” might have been the response to God’s choice for the Messiah’s birthplace. Those who seem too little, foolish, weak, and random often have unexpected roles in God’s redemption story. When God casts us in a story He’s been telling “from ancient days,” there are no small roles. Our lives are all threads in this eternal epic God writes, and He will resolve every storyline, even the loosest ends of our individual threads.

Lord, thank you for showing me the biggest part of Your amazing story: Jesus. Help me to trust You for the unresolved threads flapping around in my own life.