Monday, December 31, 2012

A Christmas Far More GloriousThan Grand

For the first time in many years I put up a Christmas tree. Nothing fancy, just a humble (live) table top tree purchased at a local grocery store - originally $19.99 but marked down to $4.99. One strand of mini lights was more than enough. I woke a few ornaments from their hibernation in the dark dusty recesses of my attic.  The rest of the house was supplemented with a wreath on a door, a few holiday knick knacks here and there and some candles for additional ambiance. 

The gifts I received were just as simple – a shawl, a candle, handmade earrings (Barbling #1 custom-designed earrings), to name a few.  None were of great expense.  No diamonds or furs or trips to Europe; no big toys or electronics.  Just modest presents from people who love me – and who I love back.   

I don’t know why I chose to decorate this year.  There was no surge of holiday cheer in my heart.  This Christmas has been no better or worse than others.  In years when I decked the halls more extravagantly, I didn’t necessarily feel more of the Christmas spirit then, either.  I think at that time I was trying to manufacture glad tidings – “fake it ‘til you make it” – hoping to acquire some holiday cheer.  I was trying to keep up appearances; I didn’t want to be thought of as the sad lonely spinster -  Ebenezera Scrooge.

This Christmas Eve I attended a church service with friends.  It was informal – some reading of scripture and singing of carols.  Lots of singing!  Some of the hymns chosen were upbeat – “Hark the Herald” and the like.  Some were soft, ballads – the ever popular “Silent Night”.  Others were almost mournful and pleading – “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel” and “I Wonder as I Wander”.  It wasn’t an emotional or inspiring affair; nor was it uninspiring.  It was enjoyable and it was…reverential.   

At times, during the singing I felt moved to stand in worship to my King.  I felt happy without being giddy.  No enthusiastic shouts came from my mouth and I didn’t feel compelled to buy a gigantic Christmas goose for the Cratchit family, a la Scrooge.  Though stirred emotionally, amazingly (for me) I didn’t tear up. 

What I felt was joy.  Not delight or bliss or ecstasy – those aren’t joy; not really.  They’re too circumstantial.  Those feelings are contingent on events and environmental conditions.  No, joy is the full knowledge that everything I will ever really need is provided for by my Creator because of what His Son, Jesus began on that first Christmas and finished on Easter, thirty three years later. 

I haven’t felt “joy” in a very long time and when I have, it’s been fleeting.  This was partly because I had wrong assumptions on what joy was and because my expectations of what would give me joy were overblown.  This year, I just wanted to mark the occasion of my Savior’s birth in some way. 

My simple Christmas decorations are not Martha Stewart-caliber.  No one will feature my home on their Pinterest boards.  My wreaths and tiny tree didn’t win any contests.  A line from the song “The Lord’s Bright Blessing” from the holiday cartoon classic “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” comes to mind.  The Cratchit family tells of their modest celebration singing: 

We’ll have the Lord’s bright blessing
And knowing we’re together
Knowing we’re together heart and hand

We’ll have the whitest Christmas
The very brightest Christmas
A Christmas far more glorious than grand 

My Christmas 2012 was not grand but it was Glorious – with a capital G.  The glorious part gave glory to God in the Highest.  Not because of anything I did – no impressive gestures of generosity.  Most definitely NOT because of some magnificent decorations or gourmet baking.  It was Glorious because for a time, sin and sorrow did not reign in me. He replaced it with His grand joy. 

This joy did not happen because I decorated a tree.  The tree was decorated because of the joy I felt.  It’s been a long time coming.  I pray it stays around awhile.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bad Management

I've written a lot about my love of lists.  So much that I should probably write a list to keep track of them.  A nice orderly index.  Ah, but should the list be alphabetical or chronological????  But I digress...

Digression is not unusual for me in conversation or activity.  One reason I like lists.  I like making and achieving goals. They are my attempts to keep myself focused, on track and organized.  Feeble attempts.

I have many projects that I need to complete (home repairs, bills to pay, doctors appointments) and things I'd like to complete (paint my bedroom, quilt).  I have goals to improve my health, my mind and my spiritual life.  Not bad goals at all.

I 've realized, however, that I never really ask God for his advice on any of these.  I presumptively thought that since they weren't sinful that He approved.  It's not like one of my goals was to rob a bank!  These were all good things.

But this thinking takes authority away from God.  I ask Him to bless my goals, I hold Him responsible when things don't go right, but I don't let Him set the goals or make the list.  Any management book will tell you that giving someone responsibility without the authority to carry it out is a disaster.


"To me, one of the proofs that God's hand is behind and all throughout this marvelous Book we know as the Bible is the way it continually touches upon this very fear in us - the fear that we are so insignificant as to be forgotten.  That we are nothing.  Unconsciously, His Word meets this fear and answers it."
                                                                                                    -Amy Carmichael

Friday, December 28, 2012

Am I a Writer? I Am a Writer.

Just because I like to write, does that make me a writer?  Just because I can string together a few words and form a coherent sentence on a sheet of paper (or computer screen, as is the case), does that make me a writer?  Just because I maintain a blog, does that make me a writer?

I think of all the people who list their occupation as “Actor” who wait tables.  Am I writer who happens to work as a Purchasing Manager?
I write a lot.  I have computer files and folders of various writing projects.  As I’ve cleaned out some storage boxes and drawers lately, I keep finding paragraphs and essays I’ve written through the years with which I (still) cannot part.  But none of this, in my opinion, makes me a writer. 
Just because I’ve not submitted anything to a publication does not disqualify me from claiming the title “Writer”.  Just because I haven’t had anything published or sought an agent does not disqualify me from declaring myself a writer.  I deny myself the privilege of “Writer” status because I have not been open about my pieces.  I’ve been selective about what I’ve published on my blog and even more selective about revealing (via Twitter, Facebook, etc.) that I’ve even blogged; leaving the possibility of acquiring any sort of readership to a chance “Google” encounter.
Writers must be open and authentic in their craft.  Fiction writers must be honest about their characters if they want to persuade their readers to take interest in them.   Essayists must be willing to reveal a part of themselves if they want to compel their audiences to feel and understand their points.  Writers of Non-Fiction take the chance readers will mock their assertions; but they still have to reveal them.
Composing at a keyboard; writing in a journal; scratching out a phrase or sentence on a Post-it does not make one a writer.  Writers need an audience of more than one.  Writers must be willing to put “put themselves out there”.   Writers need to click the “Link to Twitter and Facebook” options on their Blogs and then hit “Send”.
Let’s see if I’m “write” about this.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Maybe This is Why

"Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee." (from Come Thou Fount)

Maybe I have such a heart that wanders more than some that I have to be kept on short leash, never allowed to run.  Because of Jesus, I have the sure hope of heaven and will appreciate the leash at that time. But for now I look longingly at those who can be trusted to run off leash and wish I could join them, be one of them.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Carol and then some

Some random thoughts on Christmas Carols...
  • My favorite Christmas Carol is "Hark The Herald Angels Sing".  I still tear up when they sing it at the end of "A Charlie Brown Christmas". 
  • My favorite line from my favorite Christmas Carol - "pleased as man with men to dwell".  Despite knowing what the future held for Him, Jesus - King of Kings, Lord of Lords, God incarnate was pleased to humble himself and come to earth to dwell with us. Pretty amazing stuff.
  • From "Silent Night" - "Jesus Lord at thy birth".  THIS is what makes Jesus different from all the other gods and prophets.  He was Lord from birth.  He wasn't appointed; He didn't earn the job; He didn't have some divine revelation in grad school.  He was Lord from the beginning.  He was God, sent by God.  Begotten not created (from "O Come All Ye Faithful")
  • A friend posted this on his blog Did Jesus Cry on Christmas?.  It reminded me of a TV Christmas movie from about 30 years ago, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever".  During the pageant, Mary picks up Baby Jesus and starts to pat him on the back.  A snotty little girl remarks "Look at her.  She's burping him like he has the colic".  I realized that God Almighty might have had the colic!  And He had messy diapers, too.  And (you're right, Joe Fornear) He cried.  How humbling and humiliating it was for Him to take human form - and for what?  For who?  Me!?  Again, I say, pretty amazing stuff.