Monday, December 27, 2010

A Little Peace from Psalms

We had a white Christmas. Snow fell on Christmas day for the first time in my state since 1882! Everything was covered with a white blanket, perfect for Christmas day. Early the next morning, a few more flakes slowly descended from the sky, shining as diamonds to the ground.

I feel bad for those who had to drive on the icy roads, but for those of us who could stay in, it was a picturesque Christmas, peaceful and quiet.

As we enter a new year, I would like to share with you some of my favorite verses from Psalms. They have often quieted my heart and brought peace to my spirit. When we remember all of the different ways that God works in our lives, it quiets our anxieties and calms our fears. I hope that you look forward to all that God will do in the new year, and you have a happy 2011!
(All verses come from NKJV.)

Here are some of the ways that God blesses us:

"But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head." Psalm 3:3

"The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You." Psalm 9:9-10

"You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah" Psalm 32:7

"You have been my help." Psalm 27:9

Here are some of the ways we can bless Him:

"For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with understanding." Psalm 47:7

"Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." Psalm 29:2

"But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD; I say, 'You are my God.'" Psalm 31:14

May His presence guide you in the new year, and His peace keep you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Memory

The sanctuary was dark. The Christmas tree in the center of the stage was lit with soft yellow lights. A choir of about 150 teenagers stood in the tree, which was about ten levels tall. The soloist at the top of the tree started to sing "Mary, Did You Know?". Junior high students dressed in robes like they would have had in Jesus' day, started to walk slowly from the outskirts of the sanctuary inward, all heading toward the stage. They all carried lit candles, and knelt around the tree. I was one of them.

Every year from junior high through high school, I had the chance to be in our church's Christmas pageant. It was more like a production. Three choirs of different ages participated, along with the orchestra and hundreds of volunteers. It was the Singing Christmas Tree, held for a week, with thousands of people coming to celebrate Christ and hear the story of Christmas. Some years we sang with puppets in the tree. Other years we wore red coats and were toy soldiers. Every year had a story line of someone who needed Christ, heard the gospel message, and prayed to receive Him. After that, the tree was lit for the first time as the choirs sang the Hallelujah Chorus. The audience always stood.

I won't ever forget those Christmas memories - the hustle and bustle of volunteers backstage, hearing my friends sing solos, and the joy of being a part of something that centered on Christ and His birth. One of the scenes that I treasure the most is kneeling in front of the tree, holding that candle, singing "Mary, Did You Know?" and wondering just how much she knew about the baby in her arms.

The great I Am who had walked where angels had trod in heaven, chose to come to earth and walk among men. He set aside His glory to become one of us, enduring our trials and refusing temptations. He healed, preached, taught, and loved. Because He came, we know more about the Father, more about what life can be like with God. Because He came, we have hope. We have light. We have love.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas Angel

She always made me macaroni 'n cheese. Her house was always decorated beautifully for Christmas. To know her was to know love. She was my great-grandmother. This week she would have been ninety-nine years old.

I called her Grandma Baba. Her actual name was Barbara, maybe a little too long for a toddler. We enjoyed spending time with her at her house across the state, or going to Disney World together, or just being around her. She had the heart of an angel.

She was a writer. After her husband died - we called him Big Brian - a magazine requested submissions for love letters. She wrote one, telling Big Brian about the day their children were born and how she remembered how he took care of them when they came along. When I read it recently, it made me want to cry. Not just because I miss her and I never knew Big Brian. But because of their story. She loved one man all her life. Even though Big Brian died somewhat young, she never remarried. The last line captured me the most - because of his love for her, she could continue on here. She had the memories, she had the sweet-hearted moments to cherish. Because he loved her, he left her safe.

My great-grandparents' legacy of love affected the rest of our family. My great-grandmother had a significant impact on my mom. She would take her and her brother and sister to church and pray with them. She was a part of a Godly legacy that I've inherited. One that I hope to pass on. I'm grateful for her poetry of words and life.

Is there someone in your life who has impacted you for good? A family member? Or a friend? Someone who has shown you God's love and given you wisdom along the way? Remember to pray for them this Christmas, or cherish the memory and legacy they left behind. May we be able to leave behind a Godly legacy for those who come after us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

From Darkness to Light

The earth sparkles. Have you ever seen a satellite photo of the earth taken at night? You can see pockets of light scattered across the surface. The urban areas, of course, are the brightest. Much of the rest of the earth is surprisingly dark.

I wonder what the world would look like if every church was a pocket of light and every believer was a flame of light. How bright would our world be?

I can imagine where the pockets of light would be. America wouldn't be the only country dotted with light. The countries I've visited or heard about - Brazil, Ukraine, South Korea - would have their own pockets of light, along with many others. Across the face of the earth are believers who love God, serve Him with fervency, and pray with urgency.

We don't know when Jesus will come back. But while we still have time left here, let's shine our lights as brightly as possible, so that what God sees from heaven is no longer pockets of spiritual light, but the whole world covered with light. It's not a mission for just one nation or people group. It's the calling of all of God's children. We belong to a spiritual light brigade, shining the light of God's word and His Son.

How do we each turn "from darkness to light"? (Acts 26:18) By believing in Jesus, the Light of the world. How do we spread the light, or the truth, that we've been given? By acting on those opportunities God gives us, by being a lighthouse of love and truth wherever we've been planted.

"Is this not the fast I have chosen: to loosen the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free,
and that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and that you bring to your house the poor that
are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him,
and not hide yourself from your own flesh?

"Then your light shall break forth like the morning;
your healing shall spring forth speedily,
and your righteousness shall go before you.
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard."
Isaiah 58:6-8 (NKJV)

Keep shining this Christmas! Jesus is the Light that shines through us.