Often life is hard, but God is always good

Posts tagged ‘Dr. Seuss’

Me and the Grinch

How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas_cover

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15: 9-12 NIV

I relate to the Grinch. Every Christmas season I re-read his story, published in 1957 by literary genius Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). This year I was captivated by the original black and white illustration of the Grinch standing at the mouth of his cave, frowning down at Who-ville:

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

But, whatever the reason, his heart or his shoes, he stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos, staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown at the warm lighted windows below in their town.

grinch bluebirds

To me the Grinch’s cave, with its high vantage point,  isolation, and snowy environment, actually looks inviting. Sometimes, at Christmastime especially, I want to stay hidden away, protected from people – people who can hurt, disappoint or drain me.

I believe that the sanctuary of our personal cave serves as a place of re-setting and re-charging. We receive great benefit from times of solitude.

The Grinch, well, he took it too far, staying far away and hardening his heart.

It’s certain that warmth and light and love exist down in “Who-ville”, but there’s such a risk involved in leaving one’s Grinchy lair. If we are to be brave and venture out of its protection, we need a constant lifeline connecting us to the love of God.

His love has the power to keep us safe when we come out into the open to interact with others.

“…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.” Ephesians 4: 17b-19 NIV

grinch - bluebirds 2014

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

The Heart of the Matter

bluebirds heart of the matter

Photo Credit: Elton Harding

A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.   Romans 2: 29 NIV

My thoughts turn inward at Christmastime. That may sound strange since this time of year is full of outward events: decorating, shopping, food preparation and party hosting.

My question is this: Does my inner life match my outward activity?

God sees deep within us. I think He has laser vision. What does He see when He looks at my heart?

Thankfully, He doesn’t just coldly diagnosis the heart condition; He possesses the power (and the desire) to clean, stretch, and to fill our hearts so that we are genuinely the same inside and out.

Two Christmas story favorites, A Christmas Carol and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, focus on the heart. Hear the profound epilogues of Charles Dickens and Dr. Seuss:

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.” (A Christmas Carol )

And what happened then…?

Well…in Who-ville they say

That the Grinch’s small heart

Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,

He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light

And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!

And he…

HE HIMSELF…!

The Grinch carved the roast beast!

(How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

What is happening in our hearts this Christmas season? It matters the most to God. May we ask the Holy Spirit to give us spiritual heart therapy. He knows exactly what we need so that our hearts will truly laugh.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139: 23, 24 NIV

 

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.

Can You See My Grinchy Heart?

“The Grinch’s Heart grew three sizes that day.”

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

I am naturally hard-hearted. Those who know me personally may take issue with this statement, but they do not see the inner workings of my soul.  Even I do not fully understand myself.  But it is true that when this hidden realm of my inner life is laid bare to God, it desperately needs His softening.

Most recently, my heart hardness was revealed to me as unconcern.  I read the indictment of the Israelites and her neighbors by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and saw myself reflected in this uncaring way of seeing those around me: “They were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16: 49 NIV)

“It is much easier to convince a human soul of its natural impurity, than to convince it of its natural hardness and utter destitution of heavenly and Divine tenderness.  The very essence of the Gospel is Divinely imparted tenderness and sweetness of spirit.  Even among intensely religious people, nothing is rarer to find than a continuous and all-pervading spirit of tenderness.” (Springs in the Valley by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)

Ouch! That’s me! I am “intensely religious” and I need sweetness of spirit.

So God touched my heart.  I had a “Grinch “moment – it was exquisitely painful and pleasurable to have God tenderize my heart.  It was a miracle.

Do you remember the Grinch’s story?  It shows the power of heart change.

My friend Cindy and her college friends ignored a dorm fire drill because the old cartoon was airing on television and they couldn’t tear themselves away from the climactic moment:

“And what happened then…? Well… in Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight, he whizzed with his load through the bright morning light and he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he… HE HIMSELF…! The Grinch carved the roast beast!” (How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss)

As Mrs. Cowman writes, tenderness of spirit “is a supernatural work throughout the whole spiritual being.  It is an exquisitely interior fountain of God’s own sweetness and tenderness of nature, opened up in the inner spirit to such a degree that it completely inundates the soul.”

God is tenderhearted.

This is how He wants to make us.

That’s good.

I want more of it!

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