A liquid magnet

blogIMG_0158.jpgIt always seems to attract my attention.

I find myself mesmerized when I catch glimpses of it.  Nine times out of 10, I’ll raise my camera to my eye, focus, and shoot, capturing and storing photos of it in my computer cache.

It’s simple but it’s complex. It can be practically still or it can be rushing.  It can be swirling or it can be gushing.  It’s life-giving but can be life-taking. 

It’s liquid and it’s water.

This week’s photo challenge theme – liquid – causes me to ponder about my favorite liquid and why it draws me like a magnet.

When I think of liquids, I immediately think of water. Not coffee, not even tea, which I do love.  Not the liquid elements mercury or bromine. Not even milk or juice. Like the song lyric from long ago, cool, clear water somehow refreshes not only my thirst but my soul.

I’m not sure why that liquid, whether it be a river, a lake, an ocean, a stream, or a waterfall, fascinates me because I’m not one of those people who are passionate about swimming or actually being in the water. 

Really deep water scares the dickens out of me, which is why Papa hasn’t been able to convince me to book a several day ocean cruise. We did board a whale watching cruise in the Pacific Ocean once, but that was just for a couple of hours.

So I’m just one of those folks who enjoys being near the water.

I’ll sit on a park bench riverside watching water flow steadily southward. I’ll bask on the sand with my eyes closed just listening to the ebb and flow of ocean waves at the beach. I’ll perch on a rock in a cool copse of woods and enjoy the babbling of a brook.

I’ll stare with wonder at a glistening waterfall cascading down a mountainside. I’ll board a water-going vessel for a sight-seeing trip. I’ll park myself comfortably on my front porch watching liquid drops of water in the form of rain descend from the clouds.

And when it comes to liquid refreshment, my first choice is always a glassful of water – cool, clear water.

I’m reminded that our human bodies are comprised of a large percentage of water – somewhere between 55-65%. We need water to sustain life because it’s absolutely essential. Without it, we can’t survive for very long because it’s vital for just about every aspect of our bodies.

So that explains why water is my beverage of choice. It’s simple biology. It’s what my body longs for.

But what is the reason I’m drawn to bodies of water like a moth to a flame? It’s not just for quenching my thirst because I surely can’t drink salty ocean water.

No, there must be some other reason why water acts like a magnet for me and my camera.

And I believe it’s because my soul longs to be near, in connection to, and in constant communication with my Savior Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” ~ John 4:13-14

I’ve often gone through periods of time in my faith when I felt like I was in the arid desert. That’s when reading God’s Word and lifting up my parched soul in prayer quenches the thirst within me.

And perhaps that’s why water calls to me. It reminds me where my river of life is found – in Christ. It reminds other believers in Jesus of that as well. I recall visiting a non-denominational church whose name was simply Liquid.

Its founders obviously intended for people thirsting for something to fill their empty parched hearts to find liquid refreshment for the soul through the saving grace of Jesus.

I just hope that living water, that life-giving liquid which has been poured into me, flows back out from me and descends on others who need their thirst for a Savior satisfied.

“I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Makes the lame to walk and the blind to see. Opens prison doors, let’s the captives free. I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me. Spring up, o well, within my soul. Spring up, o well, and make me whole. Spring up, o well, and give to me that life abundantly.” ~ L. Casebolt

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

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Laundry lesson

blogIMG_3986Do you ever just get bone weary of doing the same task over and over again? Day in, day out. Week in, week out. Month in, month out. Year in, year out.

If you’re anything like me, you do. Often times, I just need some change in my life instead of the same old, same old, you know?

I thought about this while doing the laundry last week. Laundry is never finished, is it? It’s the same chore over and over again.

For over 40 years, the Papa of this empty nest has worn white T-shirts. As newly-marrieds, my hubby wore those white tees under his Army fatigues.

After his Army days and for the next couple of decades, he continued wearing white tees under his crisply starched dress shirts worn with a business suit. And even though his business days are over, he still wears those white cotton tees.

So for 40 years, they land in our laundry hamper the way he puts them In there – inside out. Always. No matter how many times I’ve admonished asked him to please put them in right side out, he manages to forget.

And come laundry day, there they are – those inside out tee shirts.

What’s the big deal, you ask? I’ve spent a good bit of time in those 40 years of doing laundry removing those tees from the dryer and folding them. But before I can accomplish that task, I must make them right, turning the inside where it belongs – inside. Every time. Every T-shirt.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that Papa can and sometimes does do his laundry himself so he must be the turner of tees then. But more often than not, this chore falls upon me.

Last week was no exception. There was a large load of whites to be laundered. And the bulk of it consisted of those white T-shirts….which I had to turn right side out again.

You know how people often say God works in mysterious ways? Well, often times he works in the everyday ordinary ways for this gal. He gets my attention in ways others may find peculiar and gives me food for thought with the most commonplace events.  

He takes the mundane and turns it into the extraordinary in my thoughts. And almost always teaches me a lesson I needed to learn.

What does all of this have to do with laundering and correctly folding my husband’s white T-shirts?

While I was righting those inside out shirts again for the millionth time, I started getting annoyed with my husband. When he strips off those shirts and dunks them in the clothes hamper, why are they always inside out? Why can’t he remember to turn them back the right way so I don’t have to or at least take them off so they’re not inside out?

Why? Why? Why? How many times must I do this task of making them right? Over and over again.

And that’s when the Lord stopped me in my raving rant.  Halted me in my tracks of tirade.

How many times has the Lord righted our wrongs? Does He look down upon us humans and think, “There they go again. Committing the same transgressions! How many times must I forgive them when they turn their lives inside out? How many times must I set them on the right path – again?”

I know He doesn’t lose His patience with us. I know He doesn’t get annoyed with us even though we are not faithful to follow Him. Even though He must listen to us whine about the same old issues in our prayers.

How many times does He forgive our transgressions and faults and calls them forgiven once and for all because of what Jesus did on the cross for us? He continues to forgive us when we fall yet again and commit another wrong. 

How many times has He shown me grace…and mercy…and love? He never grows tired of me and my same old issues but lovingly corrects me and sets me straight.

Again and again. Day in, day out. Month in, month out. Year in, year out.

And shouldn’t I offer this same grace to my husband? Again and again. Over and over. Even while righting the inside out.

“To forgive for the moment is not difficult. But to go on forgiving, to forgive the same offense every time it recurs to the memory – there’s the tussle.” ~ C.S. Lewis

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

 

 

A little blessing

blogIMG_3918.jpgIt was like a little Easter blessing.

How often does a little one initiate a conversation about Jesus through a totally off-topic discussion?

A few days before Easter, my daughter was telling me about someone who had gotten married. My three-year-old granddaughter, playing in the room at the time, evidently was listening to our conversation.

She turned to her mommy and pronounced, “I got married!”

We smiled at Little One and her mommy asked her, “Oh, you did? Well, who did you marry?”

Little One paused for only a second or two and promptly answered, “Jesus!”

“You married Jesus?” I asked.

“Uh-huh,” she replied, “cause I love him and he loves me.”

The sweetness of her statement just melted our hearts.

But there was more.

She then asked where he was and why he wasn’t here in the house.

We tried to explain in terms a three-year-old would understand that Jesus lives in heaven, but that his spirit is right here with us, all the time, always there to help and care for us.

“But I want to see him!” she exclaimed. “He needs to come to our house!”

We attempted to explain that when you love Jesus, he takes a place in your heart, even though you can’t see him. Hard theology to understand for such a little one maybe.

But then she seemed to grasp that. “Jesus is in my heart!” she joyfully proclaimed.  “And he’s in Mommy’s heart and Nana’s heart!”

Then she ran to her Papa and tried to tell him that Jesus was in his heart too, although we had to clarify to Papa what she was saying because he had missed out on the entire conversation since he was in another room at the time.

The simple unhindered faith of a child. Isn’t that what the Lord asks us to have?

It seemed to satisfy her for a bit, but then a few moments later, she announced, “But I still want to see Jesus.”

Well, she does see him. She sees him in those who believe in him. She sees him in those of us who love her so very much, enough to tell her Jesus loves her more than we do. She sees him in our pastor when she hears him tell the children in our church about Jesus. She sees him working in our lives when we pray with her.

Later in the week, Daughter and I took Little One to a garden center that has fun Easter displays for children and those young in heart. We saw the displays of Easter bunnies, chicks, and other decorations. Little One was even brave enough to sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap and get her picture taken.

But more importantly, she saw the reason why we celebrate this holiday in the final display. The real reason for Easter. The sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross and the hope of resurrection he gave us that Easter Sunday morning when the tomb his body was laid in proved empty.

And Little One got to ‘see’ Jesus – granted it was only a pretend facsimile of him but it gave her a concrete idea. And it gave us more opportunity to tell our Little One about the love of a Savior.

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little Ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong. 

Childlike faith. I’m reminded through the eyes of my little grandchild that my faith must consist of completely trusting, without a doubt, the One who loves me and her and you so much he went to the cross for us.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” ~ Jesus Christ in Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming

Good Friday. My thoughts are jumbled and even a bit emotional as I remember the significance of this day with my cold-induced foggy brain.

So what I can’t seem to put into words today, this video says for me.

Sunday’s coming!

“Unless you see yourself standing there with the shrieking crowd, full of hostility and hatred for the holy and innocent Lamb of God, you don’t really understand the nature and depth of your sin or the necessity of the cross.” ~  C.J. Mahaney

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

My beloved

blogIMG_2570.jpgIt’s February and now that we’re past Groundhog Day when that famous weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted to everyone’s dismay that we would have six more weeks of winter, we prepare to celebrate the other holiday of the month.

Valentine’s Day. And our minds turn to love.

Love is a word we banter around a lot.  I love this song. Or I love my pet. Love to ski. Love doughnuts. Love this, love that.

It’s one of those words in the English language that we use to proclaim our fondness for all sorts of things unlike the Greek language which has different words for different types of love.

The photo challenge for this past week was Beloved

While deliberating over what photograph to post for the challenge, I asked myself who do I love? Who is my beloved?

My husband of 40 years? Absolutely. My three adult children? Beyond a shadow of a doubt. My two adorable grandchildren?  Oh, yes, indubitably!  

My sisters and their families? Sure thing. Friends? Well, of course. And the list could go on, just like the many ways I could count to say why I love all of these people.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

You may recognize this as the opening line to a famous poem written by Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-1861). She wrote this sonnet (#43) to her beloved, her husband Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

Even though I love those I’ve listed above beyond measure, there’s one I love even more. He is my beloved and I am his. His name is Jesus and he is my Savior.

It occurs to me that I could read this poem and address it to him and it would aptly fit. And he could read it right back to me because he loves me that much.

And he loves you the same, even if you don’t know him yet.

I don’t have a photograph of my beloved to share for this challenge. Oh, there are artists’ renditions out there of him, but we don’t know how accurate they are. But I do have something tangible that represents my beloved and I can photograph that.

It’s my Bible. And when I open it to read it, it tells me what I need to know about the one I love, my beloved, the one who loved me and you so much, he died that we might live.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~  John 3:16 (NIV)

“I asked Jesus, ‘How much do you love me?’  ‘This much,’ he answered. Then he stretched out his arms and died.” ~ unknown

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Even in silence

blogIMG_2546Silence isn’t always the norm here in Mama’s Empty Nest, not with an almost-three-year-old in the house most of the time. But occasionally, silence occurs, which was this past week’s photo challenge theme.

And it’s golden when I experience silence.  Or maybe even blue.

One morning, our house was completely silent when I awakened. Papa had already left for his very early morning schedule at his part-time job, so I lingered for a few minutes more in my toasty, comfy bed.

Shortly after 7 a.m., I decided to throw off the covers and coerce my body into starting the day.  After making the bed, – yes, I’m one of those people who always does so – I threw open the window blinds to survey the usual stark white landscape that is our yard in the winter time. 

The sun was just beginning to rise over the hill and cast its shiny rays where it would soon cause the snow to glisten. 

Darkness still enveloped a good portion of the sky though so our snowy landscape had a bluish hue to it causing me to slide my feet into my warm slippers, grab my camera, and step outside to capture the early morning view.

All was silent. Not even a car passed by in those few moments I stood outside. No noise. Not even a bird singing. Just my quiet footsteps on the porch and then the sound of my camera clicking. The scene before me was silence.

Sunshine hasn’t been very prevalent this winter, but I know it still exists. My yard isn’t vibrantly colored with green grass, but I know it will once again be so. Silence doesn’t always permeate my home, but I enjoy it when it happens.

Mother Teresa was once quoted as saying, “We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…we need silence to be able to touch souls.” 

I thought of how many times I do encounter God when there is silence and viewing the sun as it arose on my horizon that frosty early morning made me thankful for yet another day of living. Even in silence.

“I believe in the sun even when it’s not shining. I believe in love even when I feel it not. I believe in God even when He’s silent.” ~ unknown    

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

 

You can run but you can’t hide

blogjack2008

How often have we done it ourselves? Done something that we truly would not want anyone else to know about? We’re all guilty.

Recently, I was reminded of that by a little occurrence here in Mama’s Empty Nest. This Nana watches my not-quite-three-year-old granddaughter when her mama is working. I was busy doing laundry while she was playing, but suddenly I realized she had become very quiet.

Silence and a toddler. That usually means trouble.

I called out to her and asked what she was doing. She gave me her new standard answer. “No thing.”

No thing to her means nothing. Uh-huh. As I unobtrusively stepped out of the laundry room and walked soundlessly to where I thought she was playing, I caught her ripping pages out of a book, one after another.

I startled her when I called her name and again inquired, “What are you doing?”

She grabbed the book, torn pages and all, and scrambling to put them behind her back, ran away from me and tried to hide.

“Don’t see me, Nana!” she cried.

But it was too late. I’d already seen her and even though she was trying to hide not only the damage she had done but herself as well, I’d already observed her wrong-doing. And she knew it.

Typical child you might say. Trying to hide a naughty act. But don’t we adults do the same thing?

We hide what we’ve done wrong. We try to cover up our mistakes, our misconduct, our transgressions, our bad behavior, whatever you want to call it. 

Or perhaps we try to put the blame on someone else. Not just because we don’t want to get caught, but also because we don’t want others to think we’re capable of the offense.

I know of someone who did exactly that – not only hid the offense, but lied and covered up a reprehensible thing the person had done and continued to do.  No doubt, you also could name someone you know who committed a wrong and tried to hide it.

When I heard about the disgraceful act this person had committed, one thought came immediately to my mind.

What you do in secret will always be brought to light.

And it was. The person’s dirty little secret was exposed in a dramatic way. It happens every day – just listen to the news. Many a career has ended because of a person’s indiscretions.

Shameful actions are usually performed in secret. In the dark, so to speak. And the more time you spend hiding things in the dark, the more you start to believe there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing.

But hiding away those actions isn’t going to work. You can run, but you can’t hide forever. Sooner or later, you’re going to get found out. And you will face the consequences.  

I recently read this quote by American actor Steve Kazee:  “When you start hiding things away, that’s when the darkness creeps up. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

I agree with his philosophy, but I’d amend the last part. It’s true sunlight is probably a good disinfectant, but I believe Son-Light is the best way to banish darkness.  

The words Jesus, the Son of God, the Light of the world, spoke in the New Testament in Luke 8:16-17 comes to my mind.

 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.  For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”

Granted, Jesus was speaking about the light of truth in God’s Word, that salvation comes from belief in Christ. Those of us who are believers should be sharing that light openly by both our actions and words so that others can see that light and also be saved.

But He also warned us in the rest of the passage that the light of truth is what exposes sin. 

Far too easily we fall into the darkness of this world – into greediness, self-centeredness, bitterness, anger, hatred, lies and deceits, and a multitude of other wrongdoings that ensnare any one of us humans. Why do people fall into this darkness?

“Men loved the darkness rather than the light for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed.” ~ Jesus Christ in John 3:19-20

God’s truth exposes the sinful hearts we all have. Even the littlest of us. And unfortunately, we tend to hide from God’s light rather than allow ourselves and our tainted hearts to be exposed.

But we can’t hide away indefinitely. What we do in private, what we hide behind our backs and try to conceal from others’ eyes eventually comes out in a very public way. I envision it like the snake that comes back to bite us. We must face the consequences of our actions, ask forgiveness, and make amends for our wrongdoings.

Sometimes we who profess with our words to be believers in Christ are no better than the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. We pretend to be righteous. We act like we’re pious and sinless when in fact, we can allow our hearts to harbor wickedness just as much as the next guy. We act “Christian” in public, but we hide our true selves in secret.

“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees. They just pretend to be godly. Everything that is secret will be brought out into the open. Everything that is hidden will be uncovered. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight. What you have whispered to someone behind closed doors will be shouted from the rooftop,” Jesus told us in Matthew 12:1-3.

I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer not to have my transgressions shouted from the rooftop.

It’s a new year. It’s a good time to examine my heart, bring any hidden secrets into light, turn away from those wrong-doings, seek forgiveness, and begin anew. Maybe you feel the need to do the same. 

The only way I know to do so is to put my faith and trust in the Son-Light. His name is Jesus.

“Hateful to me as are the gates of hell, is he who, hiding one thing in his heart, utters another.” ~ Homer

©2018 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Broken

blogIMG_4790(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2014.) 

It happened while I was trimming the tree.

I hauled the over-sized plastic tote full of ornaments up from the basement, opened it, and started to carefully unwrap all the baubles, balls, and special decorations packed in it. 

Each one brings back memories.  The ones we purchased at various locations where we’ve vacationed over the years.  The ones commemorating special times in our lives like family occasions or anniversaries or new homes.  The antique ones which used to hang on my childhood Christmas tree at my parents’ home.  And the ones made and/or given by special friends which always bring them to mind.

I arranged the ornaments and since I was adorning the tree alone, I needed to use the step stool to reach the top third of the tree because, yes, I am too short and Papa usually is assigned that task. 

The tree was almost completely embellished with all of its garnishes when, while standing on the top step of the stool, I leaned into the tree a bit to hang a wee star ornament that I remember buying in a specialty shop in Seattle. 

And that’s when I heard it, that familiar jingle jangling sound of something falling off the tree followed by the sound of splintering glass. I suspected it was one of the ordinary department store variety glass balls which I have plenty of and wouldn’t miss. 

I glanced down to the side of my stool and there a glass ball lay, perfectly intact on the living room carpeted floor.  Okay, no problem.  But then as I stepped back down off the stool, I saw something else and immediately, I cried, “Oh, no!”

Lying at the base of the stool was a broken glass ornament which apparently had hit the metal step stool on its way to the floor.  Oh, not this one!  This one was irreplaceable. 

It was a clear glass ball with a likeness of the face of Jesus inside.  This one was special and always hangs front and center on our evergreen tree.  This one was crafted and given to me by a church friend when we lived all the way across the country in the Pacific Northwest those many years ago.

Shards of glass sprinkled my living room carpet and I gingerly picked up the largest pieces left and placed them on the top step of the stool as I vacuumed up the rest of the mess. Why did it have to be that one, I thought.  Why not one of those that had no special memories attached to it?

But then I looked – really looked – at the broken ornament. 

Broken.  Jesus.  He was broken.   

And it occurred to me that is exactly what He did for us.  He allowed himself to be broken. Broken for you.  Broken for me.  Broken on an old rugged cross to save us from eternal death because no matter how hard we try, we just can’t be good enough to save ourselves.

Immediately the words from the King James Version of the Bible came to mind.  That passage in 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 where the Apostle Paul tells us that on the very night He was betrayed, Jesus took bread, gave thanks for it, broke it, and told us to eat the bread, which symbolized His soon to be broken body.  And to do that to remember Him.

“And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.” ~ 1 Corinthians 11:24 KJV  

Just last week, I read a quote by Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN.  Wilson said, “Jesus didn’t come into a perfect world full of perfect people, He came into a broken world full of broken people so that He could redeem us.”  

Yes!  That was exactly what that broken ornament at the beginning of December reminded me.

So as Christmas Day approaches, I will celebrate the birth of my Savior.  I will sing of that tiny babe born in a manger, the One who came to save us all, the most amazing gift God has ever given us. 

But I will also remember the grown up Jesus. The One who was born in Bethlehem, lived a human life yet became the Savior who entered this broken world to save broken people like me and you by allowing His own body to be broken. 

I will sing Joy to the World, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King and I will rejoice not just for the babe in a manger but for the Son of God on the cross and the empty tomb of Resurrection Sunday.  

And I will give thanks for a broken Christmas ornament that reminds me.

Let every heart prepare Him room and heaven and nature sing.

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume.”  ~ Vance Havner

©2014 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Looking up for Christmas

FBIMG_0313(Note from Mama’s Empty Nest: During this busy Christmas season, I’m reposting blogs from several years ago. If you missed why, please click on this link for my reasons. The following post is from December 2010.) 

Color of skin – not green.  Heart – normal size.  Miserly ways – don’t think so.  Crankiness – well…sometimes.  Conclusion – I’m a normal human being, neither the Grinch nor Scrooge.

Really! Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. Honestly!  To me it IS one of the “most wonderful times of the year.” Truly!

Somewhere in my rants about not feeling up to decking the halls and proclaiming ho-ho-ho with mistletoe, I think I have left my readers with the mistaken belief that I’m not a Christmas person.  Completely untrue.  It’s just that this year instead of being a Christmas fanatic, I’m in more of a reflective mood about the season I love.

I celebrate Christmas to commemorate the greatest gift God gave mankind when over 2000 years ago, a tiny babe was born in Bethlehem.  That baby was the Messiah, Emmanuel, God With Us, Jesus Christ.  But as I get older, I have to question what the hoopla we’ve made Christmas truly has to do with worshiping our Savior.

Many of the Christmas customs we utilize have nothing to do with our belief in Jesus.  The light displays, the adorned Christmas tree, the over-indulgent feasts, the even more over-indulgent presents.  What does any of it mean?

Every year the commercialism of the season grates on me.  The frantic rush to the shopping malls to spend outrageous sums of money on gifts that we really don’t need saddens me when I know millions of our fellow human beings in the world are starving or have no decent housing.

The fulfillment of Christmas wish lists with gift cards and money make me sadder yet.  Why don’t we just exchange money instead of calling it a gift? 

To me, a gift is something you thoughtfully consider.  You think about the person you are giving the gift to, and you know that loved one well enough to choose something that will touch his or her heart and show how much you love and care for that person.  But that takes time and consideration and in the crazy frenzy (only 14 more shopping days till Christmas!), it’s easier to just fulfill the items on a list.

My family is no different from any other families out there; there have been some wish lists being emailed back and forth and we have succumbed to this way of shopping.  Oh, we try to give to the needy whether it is donating to the bell-ringers of the Salvation Army, shopping for gifts to bestow on a family who is having a difficult year, filling shoe boxes for Samaritan’s Purse to be distributed to needy children, or purchasing “gifts” of animals, clothing, or other necessities to be sent world-wide through World Vision.

But is that enough?  I think that’s why I’m feeling a little rebellious about this season of Christmas.  I want Christmas to mean more.  I want it to be revered, not just as a cherished tradition, but as a time when we stop focusing on the foolishness, ponder the wonder of God coming to earth to live among us, and give thanks for the saving gift of grace that our Lord Jesus Christ is.

I sometimes wonder what Jesus thinks about our elaborate celebrations and I’m reminded that He was born in a simple, lowly place.  He lived His life here on earth in a plainly simple way, but oh, how much He accomplished!

He did not require jewels, fancy robes, or tables set before Him with an amazing array of food and drink.  He did not expect exquisite decorations in the homes He visited.  His focus was simply on people – the weak, the infirm, the needy, and the lost.  He didn’t ask for gifts, instead He gave His life as the ultimate gift when He took the sins of the world upon Himself and sacrificed His life on the Cross for us. 

I’ve been reading a non-fiction book called Extraordinary Faith by Sheila Walsh.  It’s not a new book and I’ve had it on my shelf for quite some time.  I read it for a while, and then get busy and put it down, but I keep coming back to it because I really want to finish it.  It’s good stuff.

Yesterday I took a little bit of time to open the book’s pages once again.  And what I read in the chapter called “When We Fix Our Eyes on Jesus” imparted great truth to me.  Ms. Walsh writes, “Faith here is a call to look up, to gaze at our Savior.  Faith is a passionate gaze at the only One who can save us.”

She continues and then adds a passage of scripture, “Perhaps the greatest call to gaze on our Lord appears right after the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11: ‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 12:1-2)”

That’s what I think is often missing at Christmas.  We fail to look up, to gaze at the One who was sent on our behalf to save us from eternal separation from God. We don’t fix our eyes on Jesus.  This year, I want to forego the trappings of Christmas.  I want to throw off those things that hinder me from looking up and gazing at my Savior.  I hope I can encourage you to do the same.

“Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” ~ Psalm 24:7

I want to fix my eyes on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords instead of gazing at a landscape of luminous lights, garlands of greenery galore, a bedecked and bedazzled balsam tree or the panoramic plethora of presents stacked beneath it.  Instead of spending all of my time time baking and cooking and shopping, I want to feed my soul and the souls of others with the Word of God.

For those of us who call ourselves believers in Christ, the season of Christmas should be first and foremost a season of faith – faith that is sufficient for everything we need.   

God had His fingerprints all over the gift He gave us that very first Christmas, His Son Jesus Christ.  And today, centuries later, He still has His fingerprints on us. Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad.

I pray that this Christmas you will fix your eyes on Jesus, that you will allow the Word of God to speak to your life amidst the hustle and bustle of the season.

“Faith is not wishful thinking or theatrics.  Faith is born in us as we fix our eyes on Jesus and as we recognize the fingerprints of God the Father all over our lives.”  ~ Sheila Walsh

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Oh my deer heart

deercollage

Maybe cute here…..but not when they do this!

Recently, a caught-in-the-headlights willy-nilly deer ran into my daughter. You read that right – the deer hit her. Well, not her but her car as she was driving home around midnight from her evening shift as a hospital nurse.

The stupid deer literally plowed into the passenger side of daughter’s car causing damage that necessitated a trip to the auto body shop.

It’s not the first time someone in our family, including myself, has tangled with those woodland creatures.  Blessedly, none of us ever were injured in these deer vs car collisions.

I know many people out there think the white-tailed deer that populate my neck of the woods are so cute and endearing. Bah. If you think that, you’ve never encountered the absolute scare-you-out-of-your-skin and make-your-heart-startle moment when they dart across the highway in your path.

According to some car insurance sites,  last year’s statistics show that my state is the third most likely place in the US to hit a deer and the odds are 1 in 57 that you will do so causing on the average about $4000 damage to your vehicle.

Oh, dear deer!

But you know what the positive side is? Your damaged car can usually be fixed. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Yes, it’s a pain to have to call your insurance company to report how that stupid deer ran into your car. But as long as the vehicle is the only thing broken, it’s fixable.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a broken heart could be as easily mended? Hammer out the kinks and dents. Slap a little putty on it. Prime and repaint. Or if the damage is more extensive, just get a new part like the new fender on your car. Voila! Good as new!

But it doesn’t work that way, does it? Just the other day while steeping my morning cup of hot tea, I noticed the little saying on my tea bag tag. Usually, I’m in a rush and don’t pay attention to the quotes printed on those tags, but I read this one and it caused me to stop and think.

What breaks in a moment may take years to mend.

Hmm. Wisdom from a teabag.

The emotional trauma we suffer from the words and actions of others isn’t mended in a jiffy, and in a moment, it stops us in our tracks just like suddenly spotting a deer as it crashes into you.

The damage isn’t always repaired even if we receive an apology for the wrong done to us. And if the apology and remorse from the one who broke our heart never comes, it can take years to ‘get over it.’

Or we never do. We never seem able to fix what’s broken, but I think that is by choice. Our own choice. Our choice to continue suffering in the pain of what shattered us. Our choice to allow what damaged us to overwhelm and defeat us.

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.” ~ Unknown

 

I speak from experience. As a person of faith, I’ve found myself crying out to God way too often asking Him why he doesn’t heal a loved one’s broken heart, or why He doesn’t take away the pain betrayal causes in another, or rid the anger from my own heart over an offense, or….the list goes on and on.

It would be nice if God would just act like a genie and grant our wish for heart healing in an instant or wave a magic wand over the parts of us that hurt and immediately we would experience mending.

But He doesn’t work that way. Not that He can’t heal us in the blink of an eye because with God anything is possible. Jesus said so in scripture (Mark 9:23): “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

Yes, the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-encompassing God of the universe could easily touch what is broken and mend it in a moment, and sometimes He does. But I think He asks us to do some of the work…ourselves.

I think He desires for us to examine ourselves, examine our own hearts that may harbor bitterness and unforgiveness. I think He asks us to present our brokenness to Him with no strings attached, meaning we give it to Him and don’t snatch it back later so we can stew some more over it.

I think He lovingly disciplines us and, if we truly want to receive that healing, that mending, that repair of the heart, then we must open our hearts completely and fully to be filled with Him. Because only faith in a Savior can truly fill those gaping holes in our hearts. Can repair the damage done. Can make us brand new.

“He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.” ~ Psalm 147:3

 

The walking wounded are everywhere. Shell-shocked souls who have been hurt beyond belief, who are shattered by despair, emotional pain, broken relationships, and broken lives. 

They walk through this world with huge holes in their heart wondering if they will ever be mended again. So they turn to alcohol or drugs or sex or whatever ‘magic potion’ makes them ‘feel better’ for the time. 

Anything for that quick fix which is anything but a quick fix.

My prayer is that those of us who know the way to be mended step out of our comfort zones, step out of our churches, step out of our Christian bubbles, and reach out to the hurting and share how Jesus can mend our broken hearts.

Because we’ve experienced it ourselves and with God’s help have leapt over the very thing that caused us to be wounded.

“A wounded deer leaps highest.” ~ Emily Dickinson

©2017 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com