Friday, November 15, 2013

The Greatest Gift

I laughed when I was reminded of the translation of manna this week. I could just picture the Israelites, hungry, cranky, tired, watching this stuff as fine as snowflakes fall from the sky and ask each other—“What is it?”

God’s provision elicited the response, “What is it?”

Thing is, their response isn't so different from mine at times. After I've prayed and watched and then been handed something that didn't at all look like I expected God’s provision to look like, I too have asked, 

“What’s this, now?”

Not only do some of God’s provisions not look like our expectations, but sometimes God doesn't either. I wonder how often I model my idea of him after my own interests.

Imagine going back in time two thousand years. You’re standing in front of the Temple in the outer court, and can peer straight into the Holy Place with its lampstand and table of bread of the Presence. A massive curtain separates it from the Most Holy Place, shielding the Presence of God. This place so holy only one priest, one day a year could enter.

The whole massive structure, the careful placement of symbols, the idea of the Presence of God over the Mercy seat back there floods you with awe, and then, right before your eyes, the curtain rips in two and for a moment you can see straight through to the forbidden place.

What do you do? You shield your eyes; you fall on your face. And then, expecting to be struck dead, you lift up your head and peek.

There on a hill not far from where you bow, hangs a man, limp, bloodied. A crown of thorn hangs askew on his now dead body.

Your eyes travel back to the Temple. Could it really be?

He doesn't look like you expected.

My prayer is to see the Lord from unveiled eyes this year, to let any preconceived ideas and expectations fall away if they are not of Him, and be willing to let God unveil God in my life this year. 

Sometimes He uses books to help that process.

One of those books (which I went through much faster than you should because it was burning in my hands to be given to a certain friend) is The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, by Ann Voskamp.

Everything about this book exudes beauty.  Exquisite cut paper illustrations by Paula Doherty frame each short section of devotional reading and reflection.

Quietly, carefully, thoughtfully, Ann recounts the Coming, the march of Grace from Adam to Jesus , through the messy ancestry, through the messy places , to the messy manger.

Each reading feels like a gift in itself because it opens your eyes to the Greatest gift of all—the One that didn't look like He was expected to look, the One who doesn’t always do as you expect Him to do.

The Greatest Gift--"God gives God."

Buy this for yourself and a friend before December 1st so you can enjoy the pageantry through the daily readings culminating in a rich celebration of Christmas. 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Mirror Maze

One of the things I'm learning about being a caregiver is that you have to be inventive about taking care of yourselves.

 In our Pre-Pa Days (before Bob’s 93-year-old dad moved in) we had that window of empty-nesting to do and go quite freely. Now our comings and goings have about a two or three hour window. So although we may not be able to go on a vacation, we are trying to change the way we look at what’s around us.

For example, how many of you live in a place that has some special sites or things to do, but you've never availed yourself of them? We realized that the town we live in attracts a lot of tourists because it has so much to offer and yet we were longing to go somewhere else. (Okay, a sidewalk café on a chilly fall evening in SC isn't quite the same as dinner on a Florida beach, but…)

So we decided to change our perspective and play tourists in our own downtown. We had tapas on a rooftop, a Malaysian meal at a sidewalk restaurant. We poked in boutiques and bumped shoulders with out-of-towners at crosswalks. 

Apparently our happy tourist façade was convincing because the owners of an arcade wooed us in to try out their Mirror Maze. We handed over our money (more than it was worth, I thought) donned our 3-D glasses and headed into a maze of me. 

Me reflected in front, me in back, me all around.

The object was to get away from yourself—and find the one way out of each corner. (And in case any of you decide to try a mirror maze, that is a clue.)

Get away from you.

I thought it was a great reminder. Maybe it was worth the bucks after all!

Friday I am going to discuss some of the books that have impressed me this past month. One of which is the BEAUTIFUL new book from Ann Voskamp—The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.  I hope you’ll stop back.

A very blessed and joy full week to you,


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A No CC Day: No Complaints. No Criticisms

I don’t know how many of you like this time change, but being a morning person I am all about Eastern Standard Time. The sunshine an hour earlier in the morning charges my cells faster than a venti dark roast. 

I’ve been so energized that I had walked the dog her mile, showered and gotten half-way out the door for an appointment before I realized it wasn’t until tomorrow. I even rejoined the gym. (Let’s see how long the enthusiasm for that lasts.)

The other decision birthed from this fall quickening was that I signed up for National Novel Writing Month—a commitment to write a 50,000-word novel between now and the end of November. Since I have never written more than two-hundred words of fiction in my life this presents a major challenge. But I am giving myself permission to play with that murder? Psychological thriller? Suspense? that lurks around in my mind, but that I never feel justified spending the time to let out.

This giving myself permission to play with creativity, even if it doesn’t produce some meaningful fruit has been very freeing. I don’t know about you, but I think sometimes—a lot of times—I am too hard on myself. In Isaiah, God says, “Comfort my people … Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for.

Speak tenderly. A good word for those of us who live in the shadow of a hard taskmaster. And I suspect in speaking tenderly to ourselves, we will find it easier to speak tenderly to others. So I’m proclaiming today No Complaints or Criticism Day. No negative muttering about myself or anyone else and no hard taskmaster.

As G.K. Chesterton says, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” So that’s what I am going to practice today (although coming up with a murder isn’t exactly a “light” thing!)

Meanwhile I have a couple of posts in other places today if you want to hop on over to My Christian Writers Conferences and take a look at When a writer falls into her reader’s story or stop by Life to the Fullest for Hope: when you can’t pray your way out of an open box.

And for those of you who’ve heard these stories before, I echo Groucho Marx: “If you’ve heard this story before, don’t stop me, because I’d like to hear it again.”

Meanwhile I pray that today you give your permission to enjoy—the day—the gifts you have—the desires of your heart and above all to Enjoy God!

Blessings abundant,