Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Are Your Decorations Still Up?

Are your Christmas decorations still up? Ours are. Since we have crossed to the Dark Side and now use artificial trees, the maintenance is low and there is a reduced risk of fired-hazard crispiness. (I've always left them up until New Year's though; it's so festive!) Yes, I still make sure that the candles in the windows are on at dusk and that the tree(s) are lit in the morning and in the evening. I don't want to miss a moment of the cheer. I don't want to take this season for granted! The lights on the mantle are so warm and cozy and the family room tree gives off just enough light so that we don't really even need any lamps. I am going to miss the decorations so much when they're stuffed back in the attic for another eleven months. 

Although I get a HUGE amount of help from my husband, I am the main decorator in our house. And because of that, the decorations have really become an extension of who I am and what I appreciate. The simple Nativity, the primitive trees on the mantle, the sparkly living room ornaments. Santas around the fireplace and glowing candles everywhere. (And I just have to say that one of the BEST INVENTIONS EVER is the battery-powered candle. Period. Drop the mic on that one. Gets the job done and is safe. Applause hands.) The Christmas decorations all seem to reflect the way I live and love. I consider our decorations to be a testimony. I cannot wait to get the lights in the window so that anyone and everyone who drives by our house will know that, in this house, WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS. I want everyone who enters our home to see the Nativity in the foyer. I want to light the candles in the windows on cold, dark, rainy days to show them that Christ's love is there and real and available. I want there to be no mistake that the people who live here are only here for a while but our real home is waiting for us. 

But, the wreath on my door is fading. The clock is ticking. New Year's Day and its traditional pot of chili will be accompanied by boxes and bins and tissue paper. I will carefully wrap the ornaments and place them in the boxes so that they will be protected and preserved for another year. I'll dust off the mantle and redecorate for the coming season. The windows will be cleaned off and the wreath on the door will be recycled. And then I will ask myself: if someone drives by my house will they know I love Jesus more than anything? Will my home continue to be a testimony to the King of kings? Will my light shine? 

As I take these decorations down, I must, at the same time, resolve to live more boldly. To love more intentionally. To serve more selflessly. If I just put them away in a box in the attic, what good have they done? What good have I done? 

As I was writing this today, we had an air-conditioner repairman at our house. (Because it's acting like August in Coastal Virginia and it's a million degrees and 1000% humidity) Through a series of attempts, it became clear that he had made an error. It cost him a trip back to a warehouse and another trip out here in the pouring rain. I couldn't leave the house and I was somewhat inconvenienced. At the end of the visit, do you know that young man couldn't thank me enough for simply being...nice. Just being decent to him. He was so appreciative that I was civil. People, what have we become? Do we want to live so that fellow humans are afraid to make a mistake and be...human? What kind of witness would I have been if I had fussed or been angry? What would he have thought about Christians, about Jesus? How would he have known, you ask, that I am a Christian? The Nativity is right across from the thermostat. Boom. Right there. Trees are all up. Bibles all around the house really. No mistake that someone who at least knows about Jesus lives here. 

So how would it have looked to him if I had been mean? 

So this weekend, the wreath will come down. The lights will be packed away. But will our decorations stay up? It's our prayer that they will stay up all year.
Matthew 5:16

I wish all of you and your families a New Year filled with blessings and the joy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

I have made an error in leadership. (Actually I've made many more than one, but I am only focusing on a recent one.) In an attempt to follow the Lord's leading and to be obedient to Him in all things, I tried to do everything He was leading me to do AT ONCE. By doing this I totally over committed myself and the women on the ministry leadership team. I messed up. How do I know it was a mistake? The Lord didn't give me deadlines when I was seeking His will. He never said, NOW. Not one time did I feel the sense that I needed to have it all completed before the end of 2015. But somehow I interpreted it as that and, since September, we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have completed the following:

September: Beth Moore Mini-Retreat (two-day event)
October: Bunco Night for the CPC
November: Craft Workshop, Lifeway Women's Forum, Collection and Distribution of Thanksgiving Bags
December: Christmas Tea and Ornament Exchange
Tuesday Night Bible Study from late Sept-Nov

These things in addition to, I don't know...LIFE. 

I may have left out some's a blur. But one thing is for sure: we are tired!  

I love the women on this team. Each has her own gifts and talents and each has her own story. Together we strive to honor and glorify God in everything we do. They continue to amaze me at their attitude and ideas and I have learned so much from them. They inspire me and challenge me and it is a joy to serve with them. 

But here is where I think I have gone wrong: no one disagreed with me. No one said, "I think it may be too much." Not a peep. (Except shock that I wanted to host a tea) So why is this a leadership fail? Because I do not want everyone at the table to always agree. Not every idea is a good one. I am human-- we all are (I hope). I make mistakes and I need people to tell me when they think I am making one. If I don't have that, if I can't count on someone asking me to develop a thought further or to pray about it together, then where is my accountability? There are two main questions I always ask myself before presenting them to the ministry for discussion:

1. How does this glorify God? Because it must if it is to happen. 

2. What can possibly go wrong with this? Could someone get hurt? What is the risk of it being misinterpreted? Are there any "down sides" to it? 

If I am satisfied with the answers to these questions, then we may proceed. If not, they don't even make it past me. I will not entertain anything that could possible disgrace God's ministry. 

I'm glad my mistake only led to exhaustion. Nothing suffered and no one's walk was damaged. We will rest and regroup and learn from this. We'll learn to balance events and studies. We'll learn to commit to less at a time and space our big things out further. And I will learn to ask my sisters if they have any misgivings and to please speak up!

Because Jesus. He is the whole reason for serving, and the whole reason for living, and He deserves our very best.

 Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus,  so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice.

Friday, December 11, 2015

My Christmas List

I am a list-er. I love to make lists. Been doing it since I was a child. Lists of my toys. Lists of my friends. Lists of my pets. Lists of ideas. 

If you are a list-er, like me, I know you are loving life right now. This is our time. We have lists of Things to Do, Things to Buy, people we need to contact on our Christmas Card List. Then there are the sub-lists: the lists of what we need for the "Things to Do" list. The list of the menu to go with the Grocery List. And the biggest list of the season: the Christmas List. 

This year, I am submitting my Christmas List to all of you who read this blog. I just want you to know what I am thinking about this Christmas. Know, too, that it is in no particular order. Nor is it exhaustive. And for that matter, it isn't addressed to anyone in particular. 
It's just a list, people. Just a list. Here we go: 

1. Snow. Yes, snow. I would love to see inches and inches of fluffy white snow all over the land. Cold as all get out. Trees laden with the kind of snow Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney were hoping for when they sang about it on the train. (If you have no idea what I am talking about I feel very sorry for you right now.)  Snow

2. All the people to be warm in the aforementioned snow. I always feel selfish when I want snow and then think of people who are cold, who may need medical attention, and so on. So this wish goes with #1. Safe driving, strong electrical wires, and plenty of firewood. And smart use of space heaters. 

By now you are beginning to see why I make lists.

3. I would like to see Christmas as I saw it as a child. It would involve shiny garland, spray snow on the windows, and the hard candies that come in a tin and smell spicy and sweet. It would also mean big, over-sized colored lights and the warmest, softest hugs I have ever had. There would be an Ideals magazine on the coffee table and the front door would be wrapped like a present. The stockings would be hung on the banister and Santa would somehow get in the house with the presents even though we had a furnace and a skinny pipe and no fireplace. That could happen then because Christmas was magical and amazing and good. 

4. Time. I would like more time at Christmas. It is so special and beautiful and we only get it for a month or so. Yes, I know, the stuff gets out in the stores early and all. Whatever. I am SO OK with getting sparkly ornaments and colored lights onto store shelves. It beats what's there for the rest of the year! But the festive part, the part of sharing good cheer and kindness and happiness - that part seems to get shorter and shorter. I'd like it to last just a little longer.  Like forever. 

5. I would like for the mean people to be nice. All of them. The ones who dart around us in the parking lot when we're waiting for the disabled person to cross safely. The ones who want to bomb our buildings because we love Jesus. The people who think that they are the only ones with problems or answers or wisdom. The selfish people. The haughty people. The hypocrites. 

The bullies. 

The ones who say they love Jesus but sure don't act very much like Him. Every single one of them just needs to be...nice. I wish for that. 

6. No more cancer. Or Alzheimer's. Or child abuse. The stuff that I have to pray about in the daytime because if I pray about it at night I guarantee I will not sleep. But maybe I'm not supposed to sleep. Because prayer changes things. Prayer works. God has heard my prayers offered from a tear-soaked pillow in the middle of the night and He has answered. Glory. 

7. World sanity. I guess that makes me sound as old as I am. But I just think that the world (and by the world I mean our leaders and those in the media and the governments) has collectively lost its mind- lost its ability to think clearly and act according to sound reasoning. Growing up in the 60s, I saw war, drugs, social injustice and then later justice. I saw assassinations. In the 70s I saw the effects of the war on the ones who came home. I saw people seeking selfish pleasure and then finding it in the 80s. The 90s tried to reestablish the "American Way,' but the 00s saw a new kind of war. One that caused what was left of our character to collapse along with the buildings. I'm waiting and wishing to see us become sane again. 

8. I would like to go to a Christmas Day movie. I hear that people do that. I am fascinated. Are these the people who have their lives so together, so well-managed, that they have time on Christmas Day to get dressed and drive to the movies? All the torn pieces of wrapping paper are picked up, the leftovers put away, the dishes are done and they are rested enough that they will be able to sit in a theater and NOT fall asleep? Or maybe that's their way of escaping to a $10 nap time. Either way, the thought of that is so inviting.
Unless these are the lonely people, in which case it's just sad. 

9. No one to be lonely.  :)

10. Normal light bulbs. I mean, we can buy cigarettes that will kill us, but the government won't allow us to have a decent, soft, light bulb? And for crying out loud will you please bring back the strands of lights with the plugs that allowed my Hallmark ornaments to light up and move and play music and be generally obnoxious. With all of this new LED stuff, Mickey's rocket no longer glows, the NASA space capsule is dark, and Superman is only Clark Kent standing in a phone booth. It just doesn't look the same and it sure doesn't sound the same when I turn on the tree on in the morning. My tree is scary quiet. I think it's plotting against me. 

It's my list and my struggle and it deserves a place. Don't judge. 

11. Better scouting for the Yankees. 

12. For people to "fess up." Stop lying. Stop deceiving. Stop pretending you're something you're not. Just stop it before you embarrass yourself. You're not fooling the only One Who matters. He knows who you are and what you are and what you are doing and He is not pleased with your dishonesty. 

13. To really write. I mean the kind of writing that I love to read. The kind of writing that moves and inspires and makes you want to throw it down and pick up your Bible and race to Jesus. To be a vessel emptied out onto a keyboard and poured straight into a heart. 

and finally

14. More Jesus. There. That's it. The best and biggest thing on my list. With "more Jesus' most of these other things would be taken care of and the rest wouldn't really matter anyway. If we fill ourselves with more of Him, there won't me any more room for the bad things. If we try to live closer to Him, He will stay closer to us. 

If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love.  John 15:10

So there you have it. My Christmas list. And, in case you are wondering, blogging about my list was ACTUALLY on my list of things to do. I can check that off now. I feel so much better. I'd love to read what's on your list, so comment below and share your heart. And if you want, I'll add you to my most important list of all: my prayer list.   

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