Wednesday, December 28, 2011

After Christmas, what?

Christmas this year found us at Jambo House in DisneyWorld's Animal Kingdom Resort for a few days of wonder and African surroundings with the younger of our daughters, here for her annual Florida visit. What fun we had! This photo shows the dramatic main lobby. Outside stretches a realistic savannah populated with zebras, giraffes, gazelle (my nickname in college), and more animals and birds than I can name. It is magical for sure. Later in the week we spent a day at the Brevard Zoo and fed a baby giraffe by hand. Amazing! I wished our whole family could have been there. But alas, the days of frequent vacations together are rare indeed now.
Today we exchanged hugs and gifts with our oldest daughter and her husband, and three of our wonderful grandkids, said good-bye to our younger daughter at the airport, and headed home. Now what?
A dear friend invited us to dinner on New Years' Day and asked that we each bring a Bible verse, our expectations for the New Year (not goals), and a worthy quote. Expectations? Goals are easier, measurable, and can be tacked up somewhere. But expectations sound to me like the flip side of fears. This year was rough. What if next year is the same? Glad I don't know, frankly.
OK. Expectations. I expect, in fact I KNOW, that God will be good to me, in good times or bad. I'd prefer good. I expect He'll give me real work to do, maybe different from before. I loved teaching through the Meet Me at the Well Bible study published by Circle of Friends ministry last year. This year I'll do it again in our community. Can't wait.
I'd like to write another novel and expect to learn how to do it really well from my friend Debbie Macomber. That's a pure gift. I expect God is in this plan, leading me to a new challenge once again.
I expect to learn more about loving others. That is never easy, but oh, so important. I want to love my husband better each year, and also my family. I want to love my neighbors, as well. But my enemies? I probably have a few. Yes, them too, by some miracle.
I expect God's grace to grease and energize my soul with his Holy power. (Eph 1) I expect to need laughter, friendship, prayers, correction, and serious rest. I'll thirst for refreshment, grow strong with worship and joy, and fear the temptation to slack off. Pray for me as you pray for others who love you. I need God's leading this year so much.
I expect to hear far more from each of you this year. Please drop me a comment or a note. The ones I've received this year have been so encouraging and amazing. I thank you for them.
And I expect to pray up a storm, or through the storm, all year. I'd love to pray for you, too.
Have the best New Year ever!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Swamped by Christmas?

Hi, friends,

As always, I've been mixing with folks a lot lately. No doubt, you have, too.

It’s seems everywhere I turn, I’m hearing the same lament about the Christmas season. Instead of celebrating, there’s a lot of holiday groaning going on. And here’s the big reason. Bringing families together is complicated now. Just being in the same room, or sharing a meal can cause old hurts to surface, painful wounds to fester again, and ugly thoughts to affect the relationships we’d hoped would have healed by now. But they haven’t. And now we must face those people again.

Or not.

What happens when we postpone dealing with offenses either given or received within the family? The gap in our relationships grows wider, deeper, and more impossible to bridge. Think of it. At the time when we should all be happiest, grumbling and buried anger rise like gas bubbles in a swamp. Is that happening in your family, too? You are not unusual.

What relief? Look outside your circumstances, way outside. Look into Heaven for a new perspective. Christmas is God bearing gifts for you and me. Gifts of peace and love, forgiveness and mercy, truth and righteousness. The great gift of His Son Jesus being born into this messed up, sinful world, offers the promise of new life in Christ, real life that begins with the radical step of being sorry. Confessing our sins to God and those we’ve hurt (or wanted to hurt) is the only place to start. Ask God for forgiveness, for yourself and for those who have hurt you. While you’re at it, ask for grace to love that person like He does. It takes a miracle, believe me. Now, leave the outcome to God and His mercy. Take your place in the family as a quiet agent of His love. Give gifts of peace and forgiveness like God does to the undeserving, to the ones who need Him most. And while you’re at it, thank God for loving you enough to send Jesus in the first place. He died for you and me on the cross, forgave our cesspool of sin, and cleansed us with Living water through the Word of God.

Now, that’s worth celebrating!

Have a great Christmas, dear friends, spreading the love of Christ everywhere you go.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4: 31-32