The Forgotten Gift

Childhood Christmas memories flood my mind.

The clown cookie tin made from a coffee can by my great aunt.

Stringing popcorn garland for the tree at church.

Making an apple pie that had a “blow out patch” on top. 

Sampling red and green candy from the gum drop tree as I tried to decide which was my favorite – cinnamon or spearmint.  

The year I got a stereo complete with 8-track and turntable.  (I was VERY young at the time!)

As I reflect on my childhood memories, there’s a glaring omission… Jesus!  Although I’ve attended church all of my life and I celebrate the birth of Jesus every year, my young memories of Christmas revolve around worldly things – the gifts, the treats, the baking, and decorating.    I have very fond memories but am a little saddened to see that too often Jesus was crowded out of the picture.  Oh, He wasn’t completely forgotten – we read the Christmas story, sang Silent Night at the candlelight service, and went to the Christmas program at church – but He wasn’t the main attraction.

In recent years, I’ve done a better job of readjusting my focus, but still fall woefully short at times.  I find myself wondering how God could give us the greatest Christmas gift ever, yet we set it aside often unnoticed and untouched.  As a reminder to us and our kids, each year we wrap the Baby Jesus from our nativity set.  On the gift tag, I write, “To: The Shufflebargers, Love, God.”  We save it for last in hopes that after all the gifts are exchanged, we remember that Jesus is a gift and the real reason for our celebration.

I pray that this year, you’ll accept that gift and treasure it… savor it… delight in it all year long.  He truly is the best Christmas present we’ll ever receive.  Merry Christmas!

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

Are You Prepared?

I’m ready… and waiting.

The weather man says the snow storm is coming.  They’re certain of it.  And so, the preparations began.  I went to the grocery store (along with every other person in my town) to get the essentials for a good snow storm – bread, milk, hot chocolate and marshmallows, and a movie rental.  The Department of Transportation pretreated the roads.  All local city and county schools closed in preparation.  My kids are doing their homeschool work so they can play when the snow arrives.  I’ve rescheduled Sparky’s vet appointment so that I don’t have to take three kids and a nervous dog out in the snow. We’ve made contingency plans for babysitting in the event that tonight’s company dinner still occurs but the babysitter doesn’t want to brave the weather.  I’m even starting to plan for tomorrow.

And, yet we wait… not a flake has fallen from the sky.

As I thought about all the preparations we make when there’s the mention of snow, I wonder how often we prepare for eternity.  The Bible says we should be prepared.  Yet, what do we do to make such preparations?  And what does that really look like?

I believe it means living our lives in a way that puts God first – when our day begins with Him, ends with Him and is lived for Him in the hours in between.  That doesn’t mean we achieve perfection and it doesn’t mean that we withdraw from society and spend all of our day in prayer and meditation (although those are good things and shouldn’t be neglected).  What it means is going out in the world and loving others… in a tangible way.  It means extending a little extra grace to those that are difficult to love.  It means serving others and offering a helping hand.  It means being patient with a strong-willed two year old and disciplining in love, not anger.  It means overlooking an offense and choosing to forgive. 

I pray that as we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we’ll consider how He lived His life and follow His example of love.  As we do, we’ll be preparing for eternity.

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

Keep On Keeping On

Keep on, Keeping on

I’ve been struggling to write lately.  I have an abundance of ideas, but they’re only half baked… and so I haven’t pursued them.  I feel stagnant.  And worse yet, I feel that I’m shirking my responsibilities and so I walk around with a weight on my shoulders.  But still nothing comes. No words. No grand endings to my ideas.  Just a nagging sense that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing.

Do you ever feel that way in life?  Perhaps you’re uncertain about what direction God is leading you.  Or, maybe you’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity for God to answer you. You might even find yourself questioning what’s next in life.  I’ve experienced these scenarios (and many more) a variety of times throughout my journey with the Lord.  Times when I felt like I’m suspended mid-air and looking for a place to land. 

And just today, I’m reminded that when I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing next, I should go back and make sure that I’m doing (or have done) the last thing that God called me to do.  God will make it clear what’s next, when it’s time for me to know. 

So, I find myself needing to put one foot in front of the other (or in my case right now – type one word at a time) until it comes.  I will keep doing what God has called me to do, until He shows me what’s next.  I’m choosing not to give up.  I’m choosing to keep going even when it requires a little more effort than before.  I choosing to believe that God is big enough and supply all my needs at just the right time. 

I pray that you too, will keep living for the Lord – whatever He has called you to do – and not give up until He points you in another direction.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9