I sat in anticipation as my gift was opened. The person who picked it didn’t know I gave it, yet they were thrilled. It was a gum ball machine – $9.99 at Walgreens and the perfect secret santa gift. I love this game. You pick an anonymous gift. If the next person wants it, they take it from you and you pick another and so on.
What struck me about these exchanges is what was happening inside of me on two occasions. The first was when my gift was exchanged three times. Like when a Facebook post is shared, my heart jumped with pride and I wanted to boast that it was my gift that was so popular. The second experience was opposite. My gift sat next to the chair of the person who opened it first. The look on everyone’s face said it loud and clear. This was a dud. “Who doesn’t want a reindeer stamped plunger at Christmas?” I thought.
Not to trivialize in anyway, but make the analogy to God’s secret santa gift in Jesus. It seems that a select few, on that first Christmas, would have swapped anything they had to get him. For many – then and today – the unwrapping of Jesus is met with polite smiles and a casual ‘that’s nice’ from onlookers as this gift seems to be left on the floor of a random office Christmas party.
Hm. Am I doing that right now? Is the party of Christmas more important that than reason for the party? Are the expectations of Christmas overshadowing the magnitude of the Giver shown in the power of the Gift? Am I rushing through it rather than living in it? I wonder.
This Christmas, as you unwrap stuff, ponder Jesus. Think about him. Experience again the innocence and depth of the gift that brought you eternal, abundant life. The gift is Jesus.
It’s the kind of morning that comes too often. Flying into the hours too fast. Running out the door. Forgetting what shouldn’t be forgotten and listening to the drone of the radio talk as I head to work.
Except, this morning, I choose to derail the norm. I really don’t need to get into work before my first of many meetings. I really don’t need to learn one more thing about the world. So, this morning, I choose to power down. Radio off. Deep breath in. And now I’m positioned at a coffee shop, waiting for the sun to crawl from its bed and pull off the covers of light that wakens my side of the earth.
I need refreshing today. I need restoration. It’s been a long run.
“… he restores my soul”
Biblically, ‘restore’ means to return back to an original place. That’s what I need — what you need — daily restoration of your total being, back to a place of simple purity, of hope, of comfort and peace.
Unfortunately, it’s cloudy today. No direct rays of reddish-orange light cutting through a devilish blue night sky. But there is light, nonetheless — enough to remind me that all is okay, all is well. Rushing is optional — my choice to do. And today, I choose to be restored.
Up here, it’s cold, rainy and dark. The yellowing tree leaves pretend to be the sun but it’s still rank with clouds. Such it is transition for us Northerners from summer to winter through fall.
I enjoy the change but I have to choose to do so. I like when old and new collide into a splattering of colors, but I have to choose to do so. I happily breathe deep the morning chill that is the appetizer to frost, but I have to choose to do so.
My life – your life – is threaded with changes and transitions. Losses and hurts, joys and euphorias, all write on the pages our your story. How is God asking you to respond? How do you handle the ache of an empty household? How do you deal with the mountain of responsibilities that lean my way?
“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” Romans 12:12.
Basically, God indicates that I have the power of choice.
So, today, as the leaves fall around me and the fall-rain sets in, I choose joy.
We’ve begun a search.
Our youngest is a senior in High School and is in the process of college-shopping. For those of you who’ve walked this path, you know that it means college-visits and you understand the drill: setting up appointments with the various departments, looking at their academics, talking with coaches and those who fan the flame of the arts – it’s all part of the gig. But the most telling and the most exciting part of this journey is the time you actually step on campus to take a look and the environment and feel the ‘vibe’ of the school.
Why do we parents want to do this cross-country trekking? Simply because we want to know where our kids are going to be. We want to know what it looks like. We want to know it’s safe. We want a visual to hold when they leave our proverbial nest and venture to ‘that distant land.’
This morning, I did a college visit. (Stay with me as I make a connection). My SOAP Devotion was on Revelation 21+22 which describes the ‘college’ at which my oldest daughter, Makenzie, now attends. I walked the halls of the campus that holds an estimated 195 Quadrillion people. I strolled through its center cut in half by the flowing Alma Mater River of Life. I inquired about the after dark curfew for the dorms and found out there was none since night didn’t exist there. (Whew!)
At the end, I came off the visit satisfied that my Makenzie is in the perfect setting. She is in the Heaven that someday I’ll attend. She is meeting tons (literally) of new people. She is learning more and more about the President and Leadership of Heaven and she is completely happy – no sorry, worry or tears. My daddy-heart is joyful because I know where she is and what it looks like.
And the beauty is, it’s all free!
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I love the story Jesus tells in Matthew 18 of a guy who owed a king millions of dollars. The king decides to call in all his debts which obviously put the guy in a very bad spot. The man begged for mercy and the king forgave the millions. But then the forgiven guy turns around and finds someone who owes him only a few thousand dollars. He basically beats him up and puts him in jail until he could pay it back.
When the king found out, he had the original forgivee thrown in prison and tortured for his lack of compassion, perspective and mercy.
Millions and Thousands.
Crazy thing is, that doesn’t sound like our God. When God cancels the debt of our sin, it’s a done deal right? Why would a loving God turn and torture we who are born in sin? Aren’t we forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice?
What if the prison and torture to which Jesus is referring has a deeper meaning. What if the consequence of your lack of forgiveness feels like a prison. I know for me, when I hold grudges and harbor resentment against other people, that I am ‘tortured’ by the un-peace I sense and can’t live in freedom in that relationship until I forgive.
God has forgiven me the millions upon millions of sin debt. Today, I will strive to let go the feelings of wanting revenge, of passive aggressive tendencies and of grade-school grudges. Today, I will live holding the perspective of the millions over and against the thousands.
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
Anniversaries can sting. The recollection of the death of a chid. The days of counting since the dissolution of a marriage. The remembrance of a horrific event. That is today for we who call ourselves Americans. As we watched the events unfold thirteen years ago, we made note of where we were, what we were doing and how the days to follow were clouded by the dull numbness of shock and the feeling that we were, in fact, vulnerable.
The sense that we are susceptible to attack. The feeling that no place is safe. The gravity of our barrenness. That is how we are. And that is where God meets us. When we are broken-hearted and vulnerable, God meets us there. When we are under emotional barrage, God saves us. When our blue-sky life is suddenly darkened by the smoke of despair, God steadies us. And in our vulnerability, He whispers, “I am here.”
The story of the sower and the seed is rich with truth and application. (You can read it here). But of all the ‘soils’ that Jesus mentions, the one that hits me today is the good soil – not because it’s who I’m striving to be and not because it’s the Christian thing to say. It is the fascination with Jesus’ description of it. Jesus says “the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it.”
Diving deeper, the greek word for ‘understands’ means to take truth and comprehend it as part of a whole. The word is where our English word ‘synchronize’ is derived. I think of synchronized swimmers. Their movements and positions in the water match each other. I think of a piano synchronized string to string. It is in tune and produces breath-taking music that soothes souls. I think of an engine synchronized by the master mechanic. It’s low hum is the reflection of uber performance.
My synchronization comes in aligning myself with who God wants me to be and then what He wants me to be about. I am His child and bear His name. I am to be about love and grace, mercy and peace. I am to add value to others which honors God. In that, I am synchronized by the Spirit to be a reflection of His love.
Than’s Good Soil.