Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for December, 2014

More to Come – Looking at a Bright Future

Photo Credit: Howard Ignatius

Photo Credit: Howard Ignatius

“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1: 2,3 NIV

The apostle Paul visited the city of Thessalonica and spent a brief but fruitful time preaching in the Jewish synagogue and encouraging new converts, Jewish and Gentile, “and some prominent women” to continue in their faith.   Heckling, threats, and a riot conspired to drive him on to Berea as the next missionary stop, but the Thessalonian believers remained rooted in their Christian faith and in Paul’s heart as evidenced by the two letters he wrote them which are now part of the New Testament canon.

“Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brother, to do so more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:9 NIV

I was struck by the sincere admiration Paul expressed for the Thessalonian Christians and his heartfelt commendation for their love, their work and their faith. This is not flattery or cloaked criticism – not the “sandwich” method of saying something positive before and after a hard, negative truth.

So let me be your “Paul” – reminding you of the work, labor, endurance, and love of your present life. God sees all of it and smiles. Our heavenly Father is a good supportive parent, so allow me to direct your attention to all the good stuff and applaud you.

But you have more purpose and more acts and more love in your future. Like my little grandbaby who at five months is just learning to roll over and has so much more to do (like crawling), we are urged to keep on growing and doing.

“Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are now living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” 1 Thessalonians 4:1 NIV

This applies to us no matter our stage in life.

Although Paul urges the Thessalonians (and us) to do more and more, he clearly points to the power source – God – who fulfills his purposes through our lives:

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.” 2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV

Our future prospects glow with promise.  There is more to come.

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More Grinch Lessons for Our Hearts this Christmas

Dr. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas over fifty years ago. When it was first published, he was quoted as saying,

“I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noted a very Grinchish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! Something had gone wrong with Christmas, I realized, or more likely with me. So I wrote the story about my sour friend, the Grinch to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

This classic children’s story dives deep. Here are some “pearls” I found to enrich your Christmas season:

Grinch Christmas Lesson #1: We are all “grinch-ish”

As the story opens, the Grinch stands at his cave opening, peering down on the Whos as they prepare to celebrate Christmas down in Whoville with extravagant noise, gifts, food, and singing. grinch bluebirds Like the Grinch, our human hearts are naturally tight and small – self-focused, unforgiving or unconcerned. People are just hard to love. In contrast, God our Father is tender-hearted and expresses that through the effort he made to come down to us through the birth of his Son at Christmas.  Let’s take an honest look at our own grinchy hearts as the first step in reaching out to God who has the power to soften and enlarge.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NKJ

Grinch Christmas Lesson #2: Circumstances don’t need to steal our joy

The Grinch crafts a plan to “stop Christmas from coming” by stealing all the gifts, food, and decorations of the Whos he hates. He sneaks into the town after all the “Whos were asnooze in their beds” and strips the town bare of everything – all the toys, food, and decorations. grinch #3 bluebirds Thankfully, the Grinch made a great mistake in thinking he could kill the spirit of the Whos by taking it all away. How did the Whos react when they woke up on Christmas Day and beheld their plundered homes and wasted town square? They came out and held hands and sang together. Sometimes we, like the Whos, lack possessions or money, or perhaps are suffering emotional loss at Christmas, and we choose to still sing. On the other hand, if we are experiencing abundance and have an overflow for others this year, we have the opportunity to be generous and grateful. Whatever our circumstances, we have the high calling of singing praise to God who loves us and will be close to us – no matter what.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
 his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another;
 they tell of your mighty acts…They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145 NIV

Grinch Christmas Lesson # 3: God has the power to change the heart

This is the probably the most well known story moment. The Grinch hears the Whos singing after he has robbed them and his heart grows “three sizes that day”. God can tenderize human hearts like no other force. If we think back to the times that we had a true “Grinch heart moment”, it was simultaneously painful and pleasurable; it was not only miraculous, it was evidence of the power of God. He can do it again, if our hearts need it today. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Grinch Christmas Lesson #4: We must connect to others for strength

The Whos clasped hands and sang in their circle on Christmas morning: “It came without packages, boxes, or bags”. We also need to hold someone’s hand – God’s hand first and foremost, but also trusted family members or friends. This time of year our losses sting more sharply; loved ones are not with us this year or maybe our families are not all we hoped they would be.

“By yourself you’re unprotected; with a friend you can face the worst.
 Can you round up a third? 
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Ecclesiastes 4: 12 (MSG)

Grinch Christmas Lesson #5: God wants to speak to us at Christmastime

The Grinch was right about one thing, all the “NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!” can be intolerable. It can also prevent us from receiving his messages to us. The Grinch retreated to his isolated cave as a way to avoid people, but later he went to the Summit of Mt. Crumpit and there heard the singing.  God was able to touch his heart. grinch #4 bluebirds We need some respite from the busy, pushy crowds, and all the events and goals of Christmastime.  We need a quiet place to hear God.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,…” Matthew 24: 22, 23 NIV

Grinch Christmas Lesson #6: Even a “lost cause” can be saved

We often “write someone off” as being too messed up to change (or perhaps we discount our own lives as being worthy of saving). We can all think of someone who is “Grinchy”. Old resentments and hurts we have suffered at the hands of others become painful at Christmastime. grinch 2 bluebirds But this time of year is also an opportunity for forgiving, releasing resentment, and giving second chances. Warmth of kindness can draw someone from his cave. In the story, “Cindy Lou Who who was no more than two” exerts a sweet influence on the Grinch that helped stretch his shriveled heart. Sometimes we are like Cindy Lou Who to others, so let’s keep praying and hoping for ourselves and others.

“That brought him (the prodigal son) to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.” Luke 15: 17-20 NIV

Merry Christmas from me…. and the Grinch!

Pain and Joy at Christmas

How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas_coverThe Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

I am going to sing this Christmastime, with joy and thanksgiving; kind of like extending Thanksgiving into the month of December, because God loves me and He is close to me no matter what is happening in my life.

Do you remember the story of the Whos down in Whoville from How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Dr. Seuss wrote about how these little creatures held hands around their bare plundered town square and sang together as Christmas Day dawned – and that was after they had woken up to their stripped houses – not even a can of who hash left upon their shelves. The Grinch mistakenly thought he could rob them of their joy and faith by taking away their holiday possessions.

He was so wrong!

How many of us have difficult circumstances facing us? They don’t make it onto social media, and they shouldn’t. It is respectful to keep others’ confidentiality and to save our hearts from too many people knowing our business, but this Christmas season there are financial problems, broken relationships, adult kids off track, and ill health – to name just a few issues.

Like the Whos who sing in their circle, we also need to hold someone’s hand – God’s first and foremost, but also trusted family members or friends. Let’s not forget those whose losses this year will sting – loved ones not here this Christmas and families not all they hoped for and dreamed of.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

I intend to post cute photos of the good stuff on my social media sites– the adorable grandbaby, the sweet daughter-in-law, the pretty teenager daughters, and my husband who is still sticking around, but I want you to know I will need some hand holding too for the things that are not all right.

So let’s sing to God in our hearts, and hold someone’s hand, and enjoy the blessings we do have this Christmas season.

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