Gettin’ it done!

Today is the last day of 2011. I have never been much of a New Year’s Eve fan. I used to go to the movies on New Year’s and plan on being in the theatre as the new year rolled in.

But for the past couple of years I have spent New Years with my friends in Oshawa. We have a meal of finger foods and visit and chat and play board games. It is fun and low-key and not overly New Years-ish. So that is what I will be doing tonite and I am sure I will be having too much fun to remember to blog. So I am writing now, just before I hit the road for Oshawa.

Now, I’m also not a big fan of resolutions. So I am not making any formal resolutions (I kind of go with the ‘a resolution spoken is a resolution broken’ theory).

But I do have some intentions for 2012. So let me list those instead.

It is my intention that in 2012:
-I will do more knitting and less wasting-time-on-the-Internet
-I will hit my goal weight, no matter how long it takes me to get there
-I will read more
-I will make more time for renewing my spirit
-I will know Life in every breath
-I will continue to blog regularly

I hope you have a safe and happy New Year and that 2012 brings many blessing your way.

A new obsession!

So a while back – like, in October – I noticed a post on facebook that said someone had “pinned” something that I had posted using “Pinterest.” I decided to investigate. Turns out, there is a website called Pinterest.com which allows you to ‘pin’ things from all over the internet. The idea is that you make different ‘boards’ according to different subjects (pets, crafts, recipes, etc.) and when you see something you like, you ‘pin’ it to these ‘boards.’

That way, when you sign in to Pinterest, you can see the things that you pinned. Typically your board will have a picture of your choosing and when you click on that picture it will lead you through to the original website (so if you had pinned, for example, an idea of a holiday wreath, clicking on the image of said wreath would take you to either the tutorial to make the wreath, or the place you might buy the wreath, depending on the source).

For the longest time, I didn’t do anything with Pinterest, but then a week or two ago, I got sick. And I was feeling rather grumpy and a little cabin-fever-ish, since I hadn’t been outside very much. I decided to spend some time exploring on Pinterest. So began my obsession.

You see, other pinners can follow you and you can follow them. You can also go to the main page, or pages based on categories and see the sort of things that other pinners have pinned. I have found a tonne of recipes I want to try, knitting patterns I long to knit, ideas for gifts, ideas for Christmas decorating, inspiring quotations/sayings, and the list goes on.

I spent one evening while I was sick looking at Wedding boards that people had put together. I’m not in a relationship, no where near getting married, but my goodness, I itched to make a wedding board. Just because there were SUCH beautiful things to see and imagine.

If you are interested in an invite to Pinterest, just send me a message with your email address. I’d be happy to send one along. Happy pinning, y’all!

Indulgence & Worship

 

For many people the word vacation conjures up images of warm sand beaches and exotic destinations. Not for me. I’ve never been much of a traveler, though I have been to some amazing places. For me, vacation means driving out to my Mom and Dad’s place (the Farmhouse, if it is summer, or their house in Belleville if it winter) and spending some time with them.

We don’t do that much. Today, for example, we took the dogs for a walk, had coffee with some friends, did a little shopping, took the dogs for a second walk, went to the movies and had supper together. Tomorrow, we’ll take the dogs for a walk, have coffee with friends, drive down into Prince Edward County so I can visit a favorite yarn shop, and have supper together.

For many this is not a particularly exciting way to spend vacation. But for me, it feels like utter indulgence. I am able to spend time with those that I love, to do things that I enjoy (but often don’t have time for in the hustle and bustle of every day life), and rest. And all of that is so very good for my soul.

I am struck by the idea that in this quieter pace, I am at worship. That getting up in the morning and looking forward to what the day might bring; that being able to go with the flow and change my plans as needed; that simply having the time to give a few more hugs to my folks and a few more cuddles to my dog – these are all acts of worship…or at least they are if I acknowledge that God is the giver of all good things in my life (which I try to do!).

 

Worth a thousand words.

I’m not in the mood to write too much tonight, so I thought I would share some photos of my Christmas instead…

My brother, my father, Keeper, Spot and Koski hanging out just before we began opening our stockings.
Mom opening her stocking.
Dad hanging out with Koski and Keeper.
Keeper and Koski being very well behaved while they wait for us to finish our dinner.
The Christmas feast, just before we sat down and devoured it!
This is my favorite bowl in the Christmas Spode set that Mom has given to me.
I love the juxtaposition of the Christmas Spode with the pig bowl from the dollar store and my funky colored knives.

 

Late is better than never…

The shepherds went back to their flocks,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.
It was just as the angel had told them.

Luke 2:19

I had every intention of blogging this on Christmas day, but somehow the day got away from me. And then the same thing happened on Boxing Day (which was kind of Christmas Pt. 2 around here with our extended family in town for dinner and gifts).

So here I am, on the 27th of December finally blogging the final blog of my Advent Calendar.

I think this final verse of the Shepherd’s story is so appropriate as Christmas 2011 wraps up. Because of that line “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” You see, the Shepherds took this experience with them into the rest of their lives. I like to imagine them sitting on a hill watching over the flocks years later, telling the story again because what they had seen and heard was so beautiful they just couldn’t stop glorifying and praising God.

That’s my hope for me and for you each Christmas. That as we have encountered the birth of Christ once again, as we have sung the songs and heard the stories, we would be changed by it. That what we have heard and seen would be so beautiful that it becomes part of our daily lives – that we go about glorifying and praising God because of it.

Then maybe Christmas 2011 wouldn’t be over. It would instead dwell within us and travel with us each day throughout the year to come until this season rolls round again. That is my prayer for each of us as the days continue to pass by.

Thought deeply about them…

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph.
And there was the baby, lying in the manger.
After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened
and what the angel had said to them about this child.
All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,
but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.

Luke 2:16-19 NLT

This passage contains my favorite line in the story of Jesus birth. I know it by heart in a different version: “But Mary treasured these things in her heart and thought deeply about them.” It’s such a quiet line. So easily missed. I wonder how much of the story of Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection Mary had figured out. Or did she only have suspicions?

Whatever the case, it’s a great thing to stop and think deeply about Jesus and what his birth means to us. It is such a noisy time of year. I have just lead the first of 3 services that I will take part in tonite. Tomorrow, Christmas Day, is Sunday and so I will lead a service in the morning, too. It is so important to me at this time of year, in the midst of all the noise and bustle, to stop and think deeply about Jesus.

So with that I leave you, to spend some time doing exactly what I have just described. May your Christmas be filled with joy and love. May you be surrounded by those who care most about you. May you be touched by the birth of the tiny baby. And may you find some quiet time to think deeply about these things.

Merry Christmas!

Don’t let the ordinary crowd out the extraordinary…

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—
praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
When the angels had returned to heaven,
the shepherds said to each other,
“Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has told us about.”

Luke 2:13-15 NLT

The second thing I love about the Shepherds’ reaction to the good news is that they couldn’t stand still. They couldn’t just hear about it. They had to see it first hand. They hand to go and BE THERE.

It’s kind of a great thing because that is exactly what God longs for with us. A personal encounter. Something that will change us for ever. Something that will draw us closer to him and help us to live out the good news in our day-to-day lives.

The shepherds are so encouraging to me because they were just ordinary joes going about an ordinary working day. And they didn’t shrug off or explain away the experience they had. In fact, they waded in even deeper. They are a reminder that all the “ordinary” stuff should never crowd out the extraordinary love of God in our lives.

And as I draw closer and closer to the busiest time for me – 4 services in 2 days, people! If my voice is up to it, 5 choir anthems, countless prayers and readings, etc. etc. etc. – I need that reminder. I need to not allow the ordinary details crowd out the glory of God.

Because that is what it is all about – the overpowering, unbelievable, unstoppable, redeeming, renewing, revitalizing, transforming power of God’s love. And the fact that he poured all that into a little baby boy who would grow up to save the world.

Fear not!

They were terrified, but the angel reassured them.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news
that will bring great joy to all people.
The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today
in Bethlehem, the city of David!
And you will recognize him by this sign:
You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth,
lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:9b-12 NLT

In October, I had the opportunity to be at the Catalyst conference in Atlanta. It was an amazing 2 days of leadership teaching. One of my favorite sessions was the one with Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church (the one in Seattle, not Mars Hill Bible Church which is in Michigan). Driscoll talked about the fears that sometimes keep those of us in leadership from doing the things we really want to do. And then he said “You know what God’s answer to fear is? God says, ‘Fear not!'”

And he’s not wrong. Almost any time you come across a moment in the Bible where someone is terrified, God says “Fear not” (in the NLT, “Don’t be afraid!”). Driscoll said that “Fear not!” is a great answer for those who are of the personality type that is not really bound by fear. But there is another personality type that hears the words “Fear not!” and thinks: “Sure, fantastic, I’ll just stop being afraid, right? Because I can actually do that?! As if!”

And for those people, Driscoll took the time to point out the fact that God’s “Fear not!” is always immediately followed by God’s “I am with you.” And that makes all the difference.

The Shepherd’s story follows this pattern in a whole new way. Not only do the angels follow the “Fear not!” with good news, but then they send the shepherds to meet God Incarnate, God-with-us, God in the form of a tiny baby boy.

Jesus is God’s ultimate “I am with you.” And that is the best news of all.

Better than safe!

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby,
guarding their flocks of sheep.
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them,
and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.
They were terrified…

Luke 2:8,9a

Tonite I am exhausted. I am still battling a cold, and if I’m not mistaken I am running a bit of a fever. Really, I just want to go to bed, and as soon as I have finished this blog, that is exactly what I will do. So let me get to it.

One of the things I love about the part of the story that deals with the shepherds and the angels is that the shepherds were terrified when the angels showed up. Angels are scary. They’re not the little diaper-wearing-baby-faced images we sometimes imagine. Instead, they carry the glory of the Lord with them, and it scares the junk outta the shepherds.

I love that because it reminds me that God is big. God is so big that his messengers strike terror into the hearts of the ordinary folks. Encountering God (or God’s message) is a lot more frightening that we like to acknowledge. Sometimes we make God small. We make him manageable. We put baby faces and diapers on his messengers. We tame him.

I love that bit of dialogue in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe between Lucy and Mr. Beaver:

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you?
Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he is good.
He’s the King, I tell you.

No, God isn’t safe. And if His glory breaks upon you while you’re working the night shift, you might just find yourself scared silly. But he is good. And that is so much better than safe.

And with that good thought, I am off to bed…

No room in the Inn

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.
She gave birth to her first child, a son.
She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger,
because there was no lodging available for them.

Luke 2:6,7 NLT

On Sunday, our Minister Emeritus, the Rev. Rosemary Doran preached. She pointed out that in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth there is no Inn Keeper. Often in a Sunday School Pageant the Inn Keeper tells Mary and Joseph that there is no room in the inn for them. And offers them the use of the stable instead. But that is the work of imagination. For all the text says is that they laid him in the manger, because there was no lodging available to them.

Whether or not they actually approached the Inn Keeper, I am always fascinated by the idea that when Jesus was born, there was no room in our world for him. Even from his first breath, he found himself dwelling among the outcast.

One of my favorite bands, who I have mentioned often during this advent blog project puts it this way:

Mary shivers in the cold
Trying to keep the Savior warm
Born among the animals wrapped in dirty rags
Because there was no room for Him in the world He came to save

(Casting Crowns, While You Were Sleeping)

The birth of Christ is beautiful, a time of celebration, but it is also tinged with sadness. Because there was no room for him in the world he came to save. Because from the beginning, we found it easy to reject him. Because from the beginning, his love was greater than ours.

I have always been drawn to sad songs, sad poems and sad stories. Maybe this is why I am so drawn to this part of the story. Or maybe it’s because I’m touched that God knows what it is to be slightly left out. To be celebrating while touched with sadness. God understands that part of me, and that makes any sadness I have, easier to bear.

And that is why I am consistently drawn back to God. That is why I know that the journey of faith is one that will last throughout this life and beyond.