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Monday, December 27, 2010

Lists, Lists, Lists

There is something so – so – organized – about a list. It gives the illusion of control of one’s life. Checking off item after item on the list extends the illusion of power and control. Following a list can be like following a recipe – all manner of interventions, substitutions, ad libs and upsets can happen when one follows a list. But that is a different blog.

The 'laissez faire' person lets life happen and makes a list later. The control person is bound and determined to create a life of lists and finds joy in marking off each item as it is accomplished. The person who can take or leave a list uses the lists in a need-to-list mode.

A list-maker after my own heart uses lists to ‘plan’ with the unspoken need to procrastinate. The Procrastinator needs a deadline in order to wrap the action around the list. Some have called this process a time waster, but this type of person has never fallen in love with the ‘fall smell’ of fresh paper and wooden pencil aromas that bring to retired teachers all manner of memories. They want to purchase reams of paper and dozens of pencils...just to remember…. In other words, just the settling in a chair with paper and pencil creates the need to make a list for the inveterate list maker.

Now there are endless electronic calendars, “Don’t forget the Milk”, Evernote - ways of list making. There are books of lists being sold – Wedding lists for the Bride, books of rhyming words for the poet, Planning Books for teachers, Court Decisions for the lawyer, Trouble Shooting lists for all things electronic. Diets become a list of ‘to eat or not to eat’.

My summer lists while teaching, I soon learned, were endless and I never reached the end of the list before I had to return to school. Now I wonder if I will be able to accomplish all the items of my ‘life-list’ in time to take my last breath. Because I still make lists.

When I learned that a project contains a list of goals to be accomplished, and then a list of procedures to complete the goals, plus a list of timelines in which the procedures must be accomplished in order to bring the goals to completion – I was ecstatic. Nested lists! Before it was just a black and white to-do list, now it became a to-live list. My interest soon waned as I noted 'the shades of grey' listings.

A grocery list is a common type of list used by many. A simple procedure, right? Not when you meticulously create a list, and leave it at home. I soon realized the folly of trying to remember the list with my finite mind. Besides the hazards of impulsive buying and the retailer’s ability to set up the market to entice buying.

Interesting how a list of anything intrigues us, especially if it is a list of “how-to’s”. Just today I found a list of 72 ways to be a better writer. I deal better with just 4 or five item list. I found that, too, but it didn't increase my writing ability. Maybe we need a 'thought' list.

There is a ‘box list’ for the inveterate clutterer. The box for give-aways, one for the can’t-bear-to-part-with-it and the box for throw away. Indecision causes me to want the fourth box – ‘think-about-for-awhile’. The Procrastinator part of me kicked in. No matter how you box it, it is a list.

The one problem with lists is that life doesn’t fit into an ordered list. Life comes and whomps us in the face. This is good. What, you are asking, how would this be an acceptable? It propels the re-ordered list - or Plan B, or C, or X, Y, Z. Z stands for zest for life.

I often wondered if Abraham made a list when God told him to go to an unknown place with Sarah. What about Moses, responsible for the children of Israel, did he make a list to prepare for 40 years of travel? Apostle Paul made three journeys. Did he make a list to get ready to go on a journey and all the events like a ship wreck? That brings me to thinking about how God created the universe and created the intricacy of man – and He has seen to each detail. He embedded the prophecies of the coming of Jesus from the beginning. He orchestrated the steps of Jesus from birth to His resurrection. Even now our God watches over us as we make our lists of what to do.

How did God accomplish this? Did He make a list? Did God even have to make lists? My joy of this season just grows when I think of the way He created the events, never forgetting the smallest detail, surrounding the birth of Jesus, His One and Only Son. No words can portray His omnipotence and glory.

Speaking of lists – I received a book for Christmas that lists names of Jesus that include….

Immanuel – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Christ the Lord – Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

Faithful Witness - and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. - Revelation 1:5

Hope – They shall obtain joy and gladness. And sorrow and sighing shall flee away. - Isaiah 35:10

Holy - For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. - Luke 1:49

Shepherd - The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

Advocate – My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. - I John 2:1

Prince of Peace – For to us a child is born, 
 to us a son is given, 
 and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called 
 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6

Gift of God – Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. - James 1:17

Firstborn over All Creation - The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. - Colossians 1:15-16

Jesus - When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:24-25

Author of our Faith - fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

Light of the World - When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

Deliverer - and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; 
 he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them 
 when I take away their sins.” Romans 11:26-27


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Angels We Have Heard On High!

The wonder and mystery of Christmas is encapsuled in these verses – from Luke 2:8-15 - And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This wlll be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

My imagination, as a child, painted a glorious night of a brilliant star shining in the East, and a myriad of angels descending from heaven after the announcement of the birth of Baby Jesus. The host of angels, more glorious than I could ever imagine, filled the sky. Although the scripture says they were ’saying’, to me, how could you just say this glorious message. I can imagine nothing less than a song of glory filling the skies with heavenly voices that rang joyfully with full harmony.

The story of the birth of Jesus had many striking figures. Did Mary know how the Baby would be announced? I can see the joy on her face as she held the Baby Jesus. I see the look that Mary and Joseph exchanged as they looked at the Baby Jesus, their son, yet more than their son.

I always ponder how Mary pondered all these things. If she had been a writer, she would have journaled; if she were a composer, she would have created a song; if she had been a painter, she would have created a masterpiece. Yet, she pondered.

She pondered when the shepherds came from the field to see the baby. Fresh from the field, smelling of fresh air and sheep. Did Mary remember the Angel Gabriel coming to her and his words - You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:31-34.

When Mother was a child, her mother hung a painting in her room of a Guardian Angel. With all the things that happened to Mother – from near drowning in the creek, various diseases and accidents, Mother needed a Guardian Angel, and not just a painting. Yet, that picture instilled in her heart the joy of being cared for and loved. She knew that the angel was a messenger from God, and not to be worshiped. When Mother became ill, my brother’s wife and I found this same picture and hung it in her room. It is a painting that pictures the care and love that our Heavenly Father has for each of us. For He created angels to do His bidding.

When our daughter, Anna, was traveling a long distance in her car, she told me that she often prayed that angels would surround her car and guide it safely to her destination. A child shall lead them, I had never before considered praying that angels would ride on the car to protect me.

Angels' first words to anyone begin with – “Do not be afraid!” What do angels look like? Were they fearful looking, or with wings, or like warriors? We don't know. Of course, we humans, so conscious of the outward appearance would want to know. We look beyond the appearance and to the purpose for being.... that Angels have. Would I be afraid if ‘suddenly’ an angel appeared to me? Yes! We have been inundated with references in literature and movies to angels here on earth. Yet, the scripture tells me all I need to know about angels now.

As angels are a part of the heavenly world and God’s creation, I want to go to The Source to learn more.

Guardian Angels - Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14

Angels Share in God’s JoyI tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:7

Stand in the Presence of God – “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. Matthew 18:10

Intermediaries between God and Man – In visions of God, he took me to the land of Israel and set me on a very high mountain, on whose south side were some buildings that looked like a city. He tooke me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze, he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. The man said to me, “Son of man, look carefully and listen closely and pay attention to everything I am going to show you, for that is why you have been brought here. Tell the people of Israel everything. Ezekiel 40:3

They Bring God’s HelpNo harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. They will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:10-11

There is much more we can learn. We can’t begin to understand Angels and their work, just as we do not understand God and His ways. But one thing I know is that God and His creation is real!

One of the references that is my favorite is God speaking to Job, is found in Job 38:4-7: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? 
 Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

As we celebrate Christmas this season, listen for the Angels in your heart that shout for joy and point you to our Savior, I know I will.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

As Christmas approaches, the phrase ‘getting ready for Christmas’ evokes memories of Christmases past – not a Scrooge past – but a Wonder present. Each era of my life holds a different kind of celebration at Christmas with different emphases.

When I was a child, the preparation for Christmas included choosing a Christmas tree from a friend’s pasture in Oklahoma. I loved the ‘outdoor’ freshness of greenery that made its way through the house. I still have the blue bird that Dad and Mom gave me. It was a light bulb, long since burned out, but not the memory of the blue bird that lighted the tree, twinkling with joy. Dad and Mom told of their first Christmas together in the panhandle of Oklahoma. Dad brought in a tree from the field, but since there was no electricity, there were no lights. Dad surprised Mom by parking his car by the window. With wires strung from the car battery to the Christmas tree lights, Mom had her heart’s desire..

Preparations included cleaning the house, potato soup on Christmas Eve topped off with Peppernuts. Hearing The Christmas Story from Luke 2, while dressed in our ‘sleepers ready for bed’. We three children said our ‘pieces’ (poems about Christmas) for Church and on Christmas Eve. Christmas carols sung around the Christmas tree and prayer.

We learned early the delight of secrets when Dad bought Mom a clock for Christmas. He shared the secret with us and was so proud of such a fabulous gift to give his love. Dad checked it, and wound it up to set it and make sure it worked before he wrapped it and laid it beneath the tree. He cautioned us not to say a word. Mom told us later that she was sitting in the rocking chair by the tree in the quiet of the night…..and heard a ‘tick…tick…tick…” And she knew. Gifts were always a part of Christmas, but little did we know then, that the greatest gift was what we learned from our Dad and Mom - the joy of giving and being a family.

Then came the hustle and bustle of the teens with Christmas Bell songs and the Christmas Cantata at Church. Christmas became a melody of the business of learning new carols and singing my way through Christmas from O Holy Night to Gesu Bambini (Infant Jesus), Sweet Little Jesus Boy and The Hallelujah Chorus. My favorite part of the Christmas story were the angels saying Glory to God in the Highest!

After marriage in 1952, our celebration changed to include the wonder of Christmas made new in the eyes of our four children. One Christmas, as we sat around the Christmas Tree, my Dad began the Christmas story, and asked questions. I remember the awe I felt when our third son, Tim, could answer his questions about Jesus’ birth, when he was almost 4 years old.

As the years passed, Ed and I were alone to celebrate Christmas. The Christmas Eve Candlelight service took on new meaning. We celebrated Christmas two years ago by constructing a Christmas Cross for our front yard. No Christmas tree because of Ed’s allergies. But the Christmas Cross stays lit, as a testimony to our faith in Jesus, until after Easter. Last year I painted two scenes of Christmas as ‘decoration’ to put on display..

Christmas time is when music, food, decorations and lights, gifts and Christmas cards become uppermost in our minds. When there are more smiles on faces that we encounter on the streets.

As I thought about many who would call this a holiday and not Christmas, II realize that Christmas is not a holiday, a brief respite from the routine, but a forever celebration with a heavenly purpose.

God, in all his Might and Power, planned the first Christmas with care before the beginning of time. He provided the music of angels. He provided the decoration – the brilliant Star in the East. He provided the gifts from the Magi, who came from afar, of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

God sent the Message of all Time to the World. Why? God sent his only begotten and beloved Son to come, seek and save the lost. God sent the Light of the World – the Truth and the Way.

Our meagre earthly Christmas decorations cannot outshine the brilliance of the Light of the World. The verse that came to me, is that we look at the outer shell of man, but God looks on the heart.

May this Christmas we see the heart of God and His glory. May the wonder and mystery of God dwell deeply in our hearts. As we prepare for Christmas, may we also prepare our hearts to receive Jesus anew.

Luke 2:8-14 - And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

I Peter 1:3-5 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.