Monday, November 29, 2010

Because Jesus Came

Do you sing Christmas songs all year long? I love Christmas songs. At the church where I grew up, we practiced our Christmas songs early in September. Every year, the junior high and high school choirs would join the adult choir in putting on a Christmas play. Those songs are still in my head and my heart.

One of my favorite songs from the ones we learned was the Hallelujah Chorus. Every time we sang it in the Christmas pageant, the audience stood. Most every time I've heard it in church since then, the audience has stood. There's something majestic about it, appropriate for the King who came to earth as one of us.

"And He shall reign forever and ever." Just what will His reign look like? What does Jesus' reign in our lives look like now? Here are His names: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6) Wrapped up in His name is His character, majesty, and love. One of His names that best captures His essence - Immanuel.

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV). Because Jesus came, we can know God, we can know the truth, we can know what life is all about. God with us. God's purpose is to "gather together in one all things in Christ" (Ephesians 1:10 NKJV). God wants each of us to know Him, love Him, and draw close to Him. To understand how to do "with." How to walk through life with Him and with others. To be one with Him and to be unified with other believers in Christ, through Christ.

Immanuel. Jesus made "with God" possible when He came to earth as a man and died for our sins. He is a living Savior, and the perfect Person to lead us into a relationship with God where "with" becomes a way of life. This Christmas season we celebrate our Immanuel and the joy of living "God with us."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Feathers, Feathers

I leave feathers everywhere. This fall I'm wearing my first coat with down feathers. But even though the coat is new, it's leaving feathers everywhere I go. I'll be standing and talking with friends when I see tiny white feathers floating through the air. Swatting them to the ground doesn't really work. They just float higher. Catching them is kinda fun, but distracting, I think, for those who stand by. Yesterday I noticed I'm not the only one with feathers. Someone at church had a feather, too.

These feathers got me thinking. Tiny white feathers aren't the only things I can leave behind everywhere I go. We can leave behind a word of encouragement, a smile, or an act of kindness.

During this holiday season, there are many opportunities to leave behind some kindness everywhere we go - at gatherings with friends and family, at church, in the neighborhood, even the mall. In the busyness of the shopping season and going places, it can be easy to pass by chances to bless people. But that is what Thanksgiving and Christmas are about - celebrating the good things God has given us. Most of all, His Son.

So wherever we go this holiday season, I hope we find a few "feathers" and leave some behind as well. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Watercolor Sunset

I saw it last week, and I couldn't look away. God painted the most beautiful sunset, and I tried to take its picture. I captured only a blur since the car was moving. (I wasn't driving.) But the scenery I saw was a masterpiece.

The landscape reminded me of my grandmother's watercolor paintings. She painted a scene just like this one - black trees silhouetted against a palette of blue's and orange's. That evening's sunset added dark, dusty clouds to the picture.

The picture I managed to get looks like an artist took a charcoal pencil and quickly sketched some trees on top of the sunset. The image is a just a blur. When I try to imagine what my life will be like down the road, it's just a blur. I can guess what will happen, or worry about certain things. But when I worry, I lose peace. God sees clearly. When we pray about whatever it is that's troubling us and hold on to the promises in God's word, peace returns. Trusting God brings an inner calmness. His promises reassure us that He will take care of us as we look to Him and walk in His ways (Proverbs 3:5-6; Psalm 32:8; Proverbs 4:5-6).

God is the best Artist. He paints sunsets and sunrises. He designed the beauty of creation all around us. He designs the best plan for our lives, too. To give us "a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). He straightens out the crooked lines in our lives, and fills the picture of our lives with good things. He turns us from what will tear us down, and leads us on a path that will build us up. His pictures turn out better than I could ever have imagined. He's the best Artist.

Monday, November 8, 2010

What's Your Motto?

I was looking for a good motto about honor this week, and I found some other mottos from our military. Some are short, not exactly sweet. But definitely to the point. The Marines, of course, had the most colorful ones. Here are some I found:

From the Marines -
"The Few, The Proud" - US Marine Corps
"Ready to Fight" - 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, USMC
"More than Duty" - 8th Marine Regiment, USMC
"Whatever It Takes" - 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, USMC

A favorite from the Air Force -
"In God we trust: All others we monitor" 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, USAF

From the Navy -
"Non Sibi Sed Patriael" (Not for self, but country) - Old US Navy Motto
"Peace Through Strength" - USS Ronald Regean (CVN 76)
"In Harm's Way" - USS John Paul Jones (DDG - 53)

The one that I'd like to strive to be the most right now comes from the Coast Guard -
"Semper Paratus" (Always Ready) - US Coast Guard Motto

So what's your motto? Businesses post mission statements in their restaurants. (Even Zaxby's!) Churches post mission statements on their web sites, and youth groups rehearse theirs. If we had to pinpoint what we're shooting for in life, or what we want to be or do or have, what would you pick?

Here's what I would say in thankfulness to God, and strive to be for Christ -
Forgiven and grateful.
Bold and cautious.
Trusting and trustworthy.

What would you say? Do you have a personal mission statement that shapes what you do or inspires you to serve God?

*Military mottos come from http://www.military-quotes.com

Monday, November 1, 2010

Guitars & A Little Grace

When I was about nine years old, my grandmother told me she had a surprise Christmas present waiting for me. She wanted me to guess what it was, and said it was something having to do with my family legacy. I was amazed at how big the box was, and I tried to guess as much as I could. But I wasn't even close. It was a junior guitar.

When my dad was younger, he learned how to play the guitar. His parents bought him a lightning blue Fender, hollow body. He still has it, and now we play together. These days, my guitar is all grown-up, as big as I am. We jam to a CD that teaches the songs we sing at church.

The dream is coming true. I have wanted to learn to play the guitar for years. But as I play and my fingers are getting used to the pain, I find it hard to finish a song. Especially to find where does the coda tell you to go and what is that special "s" symbol and are we really supposed to play these chords seven times through? It takes some commitment and focus to play a whole song. And some patience. I'm just glad Dad and I are going through the learning process together.

You know, fingers can also get tired from typing up an article or manuscript. A hand can cramp up after hours of painting or hammering nails. But the things we do at our jobs, in service to God, or for enjoyment can have an eternal impact. When our hands get tired, and our hearts are worn out, that's when grace kicks in. My pastor said this week, "Grace is God's provision for your every need." Whatever the need is, we find it met in Christ. Grace for salvation, and grace for the everyday Christian life. God's grace never ends. It doesn't give out, because He doesn't.