A “Both/And” Christmas

We open our arms to receive the fullness…

Christmas is both a humble holiday (God becoming a man, the manger, the stable) and a catastrophically extravagant holiday (the multitude of heavenly hosts, the virgin birth, GOD becoming a man!, the powerful King Herod wreaking havoc, the dreams, the rescue, the miraculous star, the astronomers who came with brilliant gifts).

Christmas is both giving (God giving His Son; Mary and Joseph giving their obedience; the wise men giving their gifts; the shepherds giving their worship) and receiving (Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the shepherds, and all of us undeservedly receiving our Savior, our Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward men).

Christmas is both far (His gift for all the world – for the little girl in Indonesia and the old man in China) and near (His gift for my husband, our daughters, and me).

May we seek the best way to embrace all of Christmas…

the beauty of keeping it humble and holy,

the honor of making it a true celebration!

the peace of receiving spiritual gifts from God,

the brotherly love of receiving physical gifts from others,

and the joy of giving to God and giving to others, both far and near.

May we all keep this blessed holiday in the way our Savior leads us.

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The Fourth Sunday of Advent

The lights around our house, the lights around our Advent wreath, and the lights in our hearts grow brighter and brighter!

On this, the fourth Sunday of Advent, we will light the candles at our dinner table and enjoy a special meal together, especially savoring warm fresh bread. This day, we celebrate Jesus Coming to Feed the Hungry. We’ll read John 6, the beloved story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.

Several years ago, Ryan and I attended our dear friends’ wedding, at which the bride and groom shared communion together. When the groom was handed the loaf of bread, he dug in and tore off the largest chunk of communion bread I ever did see. (Aren’t most of us used to politely pinching off a tiny corner, to make sure there is enough to go around?) Then, he sunk his teeth into it viking style! As if he were famished. As if he had no table manners at all. As if he loved that bread.

I will never forget that image! Oh, to have such a voracious appetite for Christ. No pinching off a smidgen! But embracing the whole, wonderful, consuming power of Christ! Receiving the fullness of His gift to us!

I hope our Fourth Sunday of Advent has us breaking large portions of delicious bread in hand; and more, consuming immeasurable portions of Christ and His grace.

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” – Jesus, in John 6:51

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An Advent Prayer

I keep a copy of Walter Brueggemann’s Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth on my nightstand. He has written exquisite prayers that awaken the bumbling prayers in my own soul that are still looking around for the right words. I’m grateful to prayer-writers who have the gift of thinking well about God, and help the rest of us to speak to Him in words that are otherwise so foreign to our human tongue.

Today, I wanted to share this beloved prayer with you… Perhaps, it is what Advent is really about.

The God who yearns and waits for us

We are strange conundrums of faithfulness and fickleness.

We cleave to you in all the ways that we are able.

We count on you and intend our lives to be lived for you,

and then we find ourselves among your people

who are always seeking elsewhere and otherwise.

So we give thanks that you are the God

who yearns and waits for us,

and that our connection to you is always from your side,

and that it is because of your goodness

that neighter life nor death

nor angels nor principalitites

nor heights nor depths

nor anything in creation

can separate us from you.

We give you thanks for your faithfulness,

so much more durable than ours. Amen.

(written by Walter Brueggemann)

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The Third Sunday of Advent

They’ll twinkle as little eyelids flutter into dreamland.

They’ll remind our sweet little girls that they are beloved.

Tomorrow night, we will hang lights in the girls’ room tomorrow. Wrapping them up and around the rafters; trailing the chord down the wall to the outlet.  As Christmas carols play, and we bring warmth and holiday into a girlie-girl bedroom, I want our daughters to take this week’s light personally.

For this week, we celebrate Jesus Coming to Renew Love

So that we may love Him.

So that we may know He loves us.

So that we may love one another.

If they gain anything from life, this one message is sufficient.

After the lights are glowing, jammies are on, and teeth are brushed, we’ll sit on the edge of their beds and read from 1 John. We’ll read about how God’s love in us stirs our hearts to love Him so deeply that we are able to love Him back! We’re able to love one another, when once we were selfish and lonesome. We’ll talk about what this love means between sisters. How does one sister feel loved? How does the other sister give love? We’ll talk about how we cannot love each other perfectly.. that we must receive God’s forgiveness on behalf of ourselves and one another. We’ll talk about how our hearts are safe and content in the love of our Father, His perfect love, that provides for our love, too.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” 1 John 4: 7 – 21

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Begin with One Child

Just this year, we’ve begun sponsoring a child through Compassion International.

Because we want our children to wear Christ’s burden. We want our family to respond to His heart. We want our lives to display His glory.

And this is a humble, and, yes, easy way to begin… a timid step towards others; a quavering hand just beginning to reach out…

We began with one little girl. Vivienne climbed up on my lap, and looked through the photos of Compassion children, until she found just the one who she wanted to love in a special way. A little girl. Her same age. The one she wanted to write her notes to. The one she wanted to pray for. The one she wanted to know and send her weekly allowance to.

And so, we’ve begun the journey of meeting and helping a little girl across the globe. Our hearts begin to open… slowly…

Oh, I hope that by connecting with this little girl, our hearts are further opened to other people, wherever God may lead us. I hope that Vivienne and Lia will grasp God’s desire for them to reach their arms out to others – far and near – and to give courageously, like their Savior. I hope that Ryan and I will, too. Give, give, give.

Compassion International bends over backwards to foster relationships between giver and receiver. The correspondence is priceless. As Vivienne becomes more confident in her writing, I’m sure she’ll find her Compassion friend a dear pen pal. The giving and receiving is so back-and-forth that  very quickly, one forgets who is whom: I thought we were giving… but we’re suddenly receiving…

Isn’t that what Jesus said would happen?

Please watch this compelling message from Eric Ludy:

YouTube Preview Image

(Remember to enter the “So Loved the World” giveaway, for the chance to receive 2 books that would also broaden a child’s heart for the world.)

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Giving To The World

Last year, Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience (read everything she writes) inspired me to order the catalogs from various ministries that provide food and resources for poor and needy people around the globe. On Christmas morning, we sat on the couch and paged through the catalogs, deciding as a family what we could give: a pig? Bibles? A water well?

Because we are now on the mailing lists, this year, the catalogs came nice and early. We’ve placed them on a table under our Advent Calendar so that we can choose to give something each week leading up to Christmas. During the week, the girls page through them, asking questions and letting their hearts be captured by the beauty of giving…

These ministries do such a good job describing the needs that we can meet through a monetary gift. The personal testimonies, stories, and photos help all of us to remember the very real people who need Christ and tangible gifts this Christmas.

I highly recommend paging through these catalogs with your children, and finding ways to give a Christmas gift to Jesus himself:

Gospel for Asia

Samaritan’s Purse

Heifer International

Partners International

Food for the Hungry

(Remember to enter the “So Loved the World” giveaway, for the chance to receive 2 books that would also broaden a child’s heart for the world.)

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The Second Sunday of Advent

This week, we celebrate that Jesus Comes to Forgive Sins.

With a fire crackling in the chiminea, chairs drawn up close, and hot chocolate in hands, we’ll talk more personally about our sin, confessing our sins to one another and praying for each other, so that we may be healed. We will rejoice that the One whose mere breath placed the stars above our heads, sees into the depths of our hearts and loves us. How wonderful it will be to reflect, as a family, on the beauty of Christ’s obedient life-unto-death… so that we may walk in forgiveness.

I can only imagine how powerfully these Words will sink into our hearts as we look up into the heavens, which were an afterthought compared to us:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love; having predestined us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In who we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins…” Savor the entire reading in Ephesians 1: 3-14

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

We’d be delighted for you to join us throughout Advent. Please check back here each Saturday to read about our plans and thoughts for the following day’s celebration.

You can do that most easily by subscribing and following along…

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May I Give a Gift Like Mary

When Mary of Bethany poured ointment on Christ’s feet, anointing Him for His imminent burial, she said “yes” to the cross. Her gift said “yes” to the prophecies, “yes” to the miracles, “yes” to the suffering, “yes” to the redemption, “yes” to Jesus Christ of Nazareth – our ransom from Heaven.

In her actions, she was saying, “It’s okay that things will never be the same again.”

The breaking open of the bottle must have resonated with the breaking open of her heart, as she, in faith, sacrificed her perception of a safe reality and her preferred script for the future, so that Christ would amaze her with His.

Her gift anticipated His future – not hers.
(’Though her future was wrapped securely in His.)

Her gift answered His desires – not hers.
(’Though her deepest longings would be met in Him.)

Her gift magnified His glory – not hers.
(’Though she became beautiful through Him.)

Her gift blessed His heart.
(And hers, more than she could have known.)

I often wonder if I have the courage and faith to give a similar gift.
Am I too snuggled into this world to anticipate another one?
Am I too numb about suffering to desire peace?
Am I too content with my fallen nature to desire His divine nature?

Am I clinging to my earthly treasures so tightly that I cannot lavish them on my Savior?

May I give to Christ the gifts that say “yes” to His future, His desires, His glory, and His heart.

May my finest gift be, “Come, Lord Jesus, come!”

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The First Sunday of Advent

Tomorrow night, we will decorate and light our Christmas tree. Each ornament symbolizes a good and beautiful memory in our lives, but the prick of the pine needles will remind us that life has also contained sorrow and pain. We will talk about the cost of our sin, and the way in which death has pervaded all of life.

We will meditate on how our sin has often left us hurting and lonely, but how Jesus Christ has provided our salvation, righteousness, and hope. Jesus has made everything beautiful in its time.

I’m sure our loss of Juliette will be foremost in our hearts, as we had anticipated having her with us this Christmas.

How our spirits will swell with joy to remember that Jesus is Coming to Execute Justice… justice against sin, justice against death, justice against the grave!

We will hold our Bibles in our laps and rejoice in our Savior. “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Savor the entire reading in Isaiah 25: 6 – 26:6.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

We’d be delighted for you to join us throughout Advent. Please check back here each Saturday to read about our plans and thoughts for the following day’s celebration.

You can do that most easily by subscribing and following along…

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The Advent Season: Arriving

Next Sunday, November 28th, marks the beginning of the Advent Season.

This is a powerful time of year, when we meditate tangibly on the Light of the World. Especially on His Return… we hold our breath and expect His arrival any. minute. now.

During Advent, our little family celebrates each week’s light with an Evening Light Event. In addition to lighting the candles of the Advent wreath, we savor the lights in and around our home. We began this tradition four years ago and look forward to continuing it throughout the years. As we ready the lamps of our hearts, looking always for His long-awaited return.

Our Light is Ready…

The first Sunday of Advent, we will light the Christmas tree and talk about Jesus Coming to Execute Justice (Isaiah 25: 6 – 26:6).

The second Sunday, we will light a fire outside, look up at the stars, and enjoy cups of hot cocoa.We’ll talk about Jesus Coming to Forgive Sins (Ephesians 1:3-14).

On the third Sunday, we will hang lights in the girls’ room, and wrap presents or sing Christmas carols. We’ll celebrate Jesus Coming to Renew Love (1 John 4:13-16).

On the fourth Sunday, we will light candles at the dinner table and enjoy a special meal together, while we celebrate Jesus Coming to Feed the Hungry (John 6:50 – 51).

We’d be delighted for you to join us. Please check back here each Saturday to read about our plans and thoughts for the following day’s celebration.

You can do that most easily by subscribing and following along…

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