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Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Christmastreethinking1_edited-2

The coffee cake, breakfast casserole, the ornaments nestled into the tree, Santa on the door, my grandparents bible turned to Luke 2 – Christmas traditions of remembrance, traditions of hope.

Despite the traditions un-boxed after Thanksgiving each year, real life happens. Good intentions move their way through December less gracefully than I hope or intend.

Slouchy hats knitted, Christmas candy made – and the feast – when you live away from extended family, Holiday-making is a one-mom job leaving the Martha and Mary within me wrestling – as I fill canisters that make life taste a little sweeter, wrap lights around trees to make life sparkle more, play music that evokes the joy and meaning of the season.

The man-made part of Christmas is exhausting.

One of my boys, slightly affronted, amused and exasperated at the same time – when I called him by his brother’s name instead of his own, stood in the entry hall, “Mom, don’t you know which one I am?”

(Don’t all good mothers do this?) I thought, “On some days, I’m the Easter Bunny. Another day, the Tooth Fairy. Today? Santa Clause? If I can’t keep track of who I am, how can I keep track of who you are?”

. . . . and, I think I might possibly have said that out-loud. Then, like any good mom, I felt a dose of guilt because I just might have crushed his 17-year-old belief in Santa – or was that my 15-year-old’s belief. . .

I’m not even quite sure he heard me because he didn’t respond – either through shock, or just because he’s a teenager – and, well, teenagers are notorious for not hearing their mama’s words- unless you really don’t want them to.

While unwrapping gifts Christmas morning and evening, all gifts came with a disclaimer – the enclosed gift just may not be yours – be prepared to swap – only because 1) name tags didn’t stick and 2) the dog chewed up some bows with name tags attached.

Christmas Eve found me searching for a Christmas Service to attend that had 1) the Christmas Story, and 2) Traditional Christmas songs that told the Christmas Story. The boys warily eyed my choices. Historically, some of my choices have been more misses than hits. They haven’t let me forget a mid-night service of Gregorian chants, among other unusual experiences.

When I decided on an 11 p.m. service, though, there was hardly a peep.

My newly married son and his sweet wife were spending the night with us, along with their two boys – Brooks and Junior, 2 golden retrievers. This son kept asking, “11 p.m.? We’re really going at 11 p.m. I’m usually in bed asleep by 7.”

He didn’t have to go, I told him. It was O.K. if he didn’t go – and I said that seriously, without any hint or intent of sorrowful guilt-tripping.

It meant more to me that he wanted than going to make me happy.

I think he really wanted to go; he just didn’t want to admit it. Maybe, just maybe, it was as important to him as it was to me.

Together, most of my boys, my husband and I, greeted Christmas morning at mid-night, steeped in the story of the birth of our Savior – from the Angels singing Gloria to the shepherds in the field, to the manger, to the silent, holy night when the son of God became man all because of a love and faithfulness deeper and truer any of us can grab hold of.

Every Christmas, that’s what I do, what I want my family to do – grab hold of this truth, try to understand it even more throughout the year.

Real life needs this.

The colorful bows, shiny green, red and candy-cane paper, Risk, Pick-up Sticks, Rocket Balloons, a Red Radio Flyer wagon, chess sets, pocket watches, soccer cleats, blue soccer pants, and sugared pecans – cannot drown out the simple quiet message of the meaning of Christmas.

My soul yearns to hear it, pull it in deep and live it better the next 365 days.

Inside the pocket watch we gave a son, Romans 15:13 was engraved.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” 

Real life needs this – every day of every year!

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16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

I’m in a quiet season right now—which is totally at odds with releasing my children’s books—but that’s where God has me. It’s the quiet before a big change – kind of like the quiet before my children were born. It’s been hard for me to visit my blogging friends this last year – and, in the quiet, that’s one of the things I want to do. I want to read your words and savor your God-messages! During this quiet – I’m re-posting one of my very favorite series I’ve written: Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry. Merry Christmas Blessings sweet friends!

“How many of you have parents who make under $10,000 a year. . . because if your parents make under $10,000 a year – that’s poverty! Raise your hands if your parents make under $10,000 a year,” the counselor said in my marriage class my senior year of high school.

This school counselor really wanted students to raise their hands. Some girls in my marriage class did. I didn’t.

I knew we didn’t have a lot of money – but I had never considered myself “poverty.”

My mom, grandmother and I talked about it at dinner that night. Like me, they were a bit shocked. They didn’t consider themselves poverty, either.

Being poor and not having a lot of money are two different things.

I was rich in tradition, family, a hearty work ethic, love – and faith.

My grandmother and mother sewed beautiful, hand-made clothes. My grandmother could go down to the department stores, see a dress, come home and make it.

They made Christmas sparkle – from the family bible in the hallway turned to Luke’s story of Christmas to the hand-made Christmas balls made of pins, ribbon,  beads and old brooches and they tucked them into the backyard greenery slipped onto the mantles to the tree to the dining room table to the candies, cakes and feasting.

Poverty was a state of mind, a condition of the spirit – I learned that my senior year of high school. Crippling poverty is a life walked out without faith, hope and obedience to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

God’s plan for our lives is not limited by the condition of our pocket book. He tells us that over and over in little stories building up to the greatest story of all: the Son of God born a man to save us all.

When God’s plan to redeem us finally manifested itself, it was through a poor Jewish girl, living in the land of her ancestors – a land now owned and occupied by a people who did not recognize the God of her ancestors.

God sent an angel to a poor Jewish girl, rich in faith.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
God sent an angel to a poor girl, rich in faith.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”(Luke 1:26-34)

Mary, whose ancestors who had been land-rich and powerful: Sarah’s Abraham, Rachel’s Isaac, Leah’s Jacob, Ruth’s Boaz, Rahab’s Joshua, Bathesheba’s David, – Mary whose financial and circumstances were the antithesis of her ancestors financial and power circumstances – a young girl who had less to give God than anyone else on her family tree  could only give herself and her faith.

“And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35-37).

Poverty? A young girl who believed to the point of obedience to a holy God,– a young girl so obedient to what she believed, so faith-rich that God manifested His saving grace through her.

“And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).

God sent an angel to a poor girl, rich only in faith – who was willing everything, including her reputation, to face stoning, public rejection in order to be obedient to God.

God doesn’t define us by an annual salary. He doesn’t define us by our failures or insecurities. He defines us by our faith in Him, our reaching for Him, our Hope in Him.

Mary – a frayed thread in a Holy Genealogy, whose life is not defined by her financial circumstance but her faith circumstance – she didn’t live with a poverty mentality, a have-not mentality.

She didn’t give the angel a list of I-can’t-do’s and I-don’t-haves.

Somehow by releasing her autonomy to become a servant of the Lord, she lived a have-mentality.

Her willingness to “let it be to me according to your word” showed she didn’t consider herself a have-not-what-I-need-to-get-through-this-challenge – but an assurance that through Him, she was a have-more-than-enough-to-walk-this-challenge mentality.

Our culture has set a deceptive identification trap – defining each of us by our income, race, sex, even our sin. When we define ourselves by anything other than our relationship to God, our obedience to God – we limit ourselves by taking the focus off of how He sees us, His plans for us, what He can do for us.

For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

That’s the story of this tapestry – isn’t it? That nothing is impossible with God. That out of the frayed threads of ourselves, if we just believe in Him, love Him, seek Him out – the threads of ourselves can weave a redemption story, a hope and faith story.

For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

How do you define yourself?

 

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yarnc

I’m in a quiet season right now—which is totally at odds with releasing my children’s books—but that’s where God has me. It’s the quiet before a big change – kind of like the quiet before my children were born. It’s been hard for me to visit my blogging friends this last year – and, in the quiet, that’s one of the things I want to do. I want to read your words and savor your God-messages! During this quiet – I’m re-posting one of my very favorite series I’ve written: Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry. Merry Christmas Blessings sweet friends!

Family tapestry threads – intertwining, touching, our warp threads woven into the weft thread of time – rubbing up to the most current threads in the story – stories of enduring faith in onslaughts of injustice, immorality, persecution, and heart-breaking tragedy.

Frayed warp threads sorely abused.

Frayed threads not broken because their faith stranded with them, faith in God-promises not always seen in their lifetime.

Jesus family history is a testimony to each of us. It is a testimony that in a world where free will and sin exist, bad things happen. Bad things still happen to a faithful people.  It is that faithfulness, though, that enabled them to go on, to not give up, to pass that faith down to the next generation.

“Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing.” (Hebrews 11:13)

Each thread adding to the story, never breaking, always continuing:

Purple – Courage, Protection, Over-coming Injustice

Tamar’s shows the importance of holding to accountability, to pursing justice – a seemingly sordid tale in our culture of a woman widowed twice by 2 brothers, neglected by the marriage laws of her father-in-law, Judah – yet, her fighting spirit that forces her father-in-law to honor his legal responsibilities is doubly blessed when she has twins.

Black – separation and bondage; homelessness; loss

Women of Israel slaves in Egypt remained faithful in bondage, separation and loss. Wives whose family tree boasted wealth and power devolved into slavery in Egypt – women whose names and stories aren’t know: wives of men like Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon – born in slavery, yet they were women who held tight to and taught of a Father God who sat outside tents, who answered prayers, who wrestled Jacob He loved him so much.

Women whose babies were slain by Pharaoh in an effort to eradicate their a deliverer:

“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews1 you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live” (Exodus 1:22)

These women kept their faith alive, passed it down as an inheritance . They had no riches, only a faith-inheritance  in a land that neither welcomed nor acknowledged Yahweh.

Green and White – New beginnings and Cleansing

A prostitute on a family tree? A redeemed prostitute? Finding true love, a place of honor because she loved and honored God.Rahab, a prostitute who sought out a relationship with the one true God, who saved the Israelites by letting them hide in her house – who married Joshua – and from her came prophets and a savior.

Oh, how God loves the sinner – the out-casting kind of sinning that we don’t want our children around – He loves them, wants them, redeems them – that just wows me!

Blue – compassion, selflessness, loyalty in the face of loss

Naomi lost her husband and 2 sons. She has no protection, no provision. She was a woman all alone, except for 2 daughter-in-laws she encouraged to return to their families and find new husbands.

Her daughter-in-law Ruth also had no protection, no one to shield her. She didn’t need her mother in-law, didn’t need that relationship because her mother-in-law didn’t have anything to offer her. Yet, Ruth reached out: “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16)

Ruth’s selflessness and honor brought God’s grace into her life, giving her a place on Jesus’ family tree. God doesn’t need our relationship, yet He loves us, pursues us for relationship.  Jesus didn’t have to die for us. He didn’t need us. Yet, He reached for each one of us, died for us that we may be considered a part of His family, live with Him in heaven.

When one reaches to love another just because He would want us to – blessing multiplies.

Silver – Redemption, Strength, Over-coming, Spirit, Grace, Revelation

Bathsheba, – had a child with her husband’s murderer – how else can you say that? She was put in a no-win situation, and then her new born died.

“While the child was alive,” he said, “I fasted and wept, thinking God might have mercy on me and the child would live. But now that he’s dead, why fast? Can I bring him back now? I can go to him, but he can’t come to me.”

Yet, God took an impossible situation – and gave hope, a new future, forgiveness. God allowed love and comfort to grow between David and Bathsheba – and blessed them immeasurably.

 “David went and comforted his wife Bathsheba. And when he slept with her, they conceived a son. When he was born they named him Solomon. God had a special love for him and sent word by Nathan the prophet that God wanted him named Jedidiah (God’s Beloved).(2 Samuel 12:22-25).

blueyarncJesus’ family tree is not a Utopian lineage of sinless people living easy, perfect lives. Jesus’ family tree is full of redeemed people surviving heart-break and challenges. They didn’t allow the challenges to break the thread of their story or their faith. They managed through their faith to not only survive but pass down their faith as an inheritance.

Jesus family tree shows us that being  a child of God in a world of free will, sin and faith – that both the sinner and the faithful face the same challenges. The difference is in how the faithful face those challenges – and what awaits each of us in heaven – all because of God made man born to save us – of Salvation walking amongst us.

Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. “Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn’t deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.” (Hebrews 11: 33-40)

Frayed Threads – that’s what each of us are. The threads of us can be seemingly pulled thin – but we are stretched beyond what we imagined – stretched into a story, woven into a tapestry. Not only does our story go places we never imagined, with threads never imagined – but we are pulled into other’s stories, too – for quiet and loud marvelous effect.

Frayed threads pulled thin, sometimes thinner than we thought capable – but resilient showing a strength not fully realized until the the challenge shows itself.

Frayed threads pulled thin becoming a life-line to others, all because of Salvation walking among us.

updated 12/17/2013

Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry Part I: Salvation Walking

Frayed Threads in  Holy Tapestry Part II: Who’s That Jesus Hangin’ With

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italy2cI’m in a quiet season right now—which is totally at odds with releasing my children’s books—but that’s where God has me. It’s the quiet before a big change – kind of like the quiet before my children were born. It’s been hard for me to visit my blogging friends this last year – and, in the quiet, that’s one of the things I want to do. I want to read your words and savor your God-messages! During this quiet – I’m re-posting one of my very favorite series I’ve written: Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry. Merry Christmas Blessings sweet friends!

Christmas is a celebration of the greatest gift since God gave man dominion over the earth: a savior born in a manger, God become man in his most helpless form.

He sat with the church people and those not welcomed in the churches – the sinners, the outcasts, the unvalued.

Mary’s son grew up to hang out with the sinners, pulled them to his table, touched them to heal them.

I wonder if it scared her. I wonder if she told him as a boy, “If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas.”

“Tell me thy company, and I’ll tell thee what thou art” – Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

Proverbs even tells us to choose carefully our companions:

“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).

Yet, even Jesus closest circle of friends in ministry experienced moments of great failure.

Did anyone ever say, “Look who that Jesus is hanging out with?” and shake their head while another person answered, ‘What do you expect from a boy with his family history – the curse He probably carries – nothing good can come from a family tree that laden with sin.”

The thread of his family tree, though, frayed, probably damped with tears – those threads tell a story of not only missing it in big and little ways – but of God’s faithfulness and redemption, of not giving up on the sinner, of reaching in to their lives and hearts and pulling them out.

Frayed threads in a genealogy tapestry that messages each of us – no sin is too great for me to pull you out – just reach for me.

Red – the thread of sin

Eve’s thread started the story – beautiful reds, yellows, greens and blues. Perfect threads until frayed by sin, by loss of so much – paradise, children, innocence. But Shaddai, He loved her, probably had started the wheels of this salvation story long before she even sinned.

Yellow – the thread of compromised accountability, doubt and disbelief

Sarah, Abraham’s wife – stunningly beautiful, barren – in a marriage where she and her husband have trouble holding each other to accountability in decisions that affect their marriage.  Yet, God visits Abraham, sits outside his tent, eats food made from her husband’s hands, and under the stars, Shaddai makes such big promises that Sarah laughs incredulous, doubting. Yet God knows her heart, loves her enough to call her on it – and fulfills His promise as she struggles with faithfulness in His promises. He knows her heart – and I think that her heart must have continued reaching, despite not always making the best decisions.

Green -Hope in the asking, Hope in the journey of a prayer answered, not always perceiving God’s intent.

Rebecca’s twins were a direct result of Isaac’s hope and faithfulness in God’s answered prayer. Yet, answered prayers are sometimes much more complicated than we can imagine, without a how-to manual for handling.

” God says to  her ““Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23)

And, just like me, she thinks she needs to do something to make it happen, instead of letting God take care of it – and so she helped Jacob trick his brother and father.  Was that God’s intent? Or did it make things more unnecessarily complicated? One son left and she never saw him again – and the remaining son? How did he treat her betrayal?

She, like me, needed to realize that God has a much bigger tool bag than I do – with tools I never imagined, with journey plots more amazing than I can invent.

Orange – Unfavored, unwanted, un-valued  yet redeemed and given a genealogical place of honor through Praise and Relationship with the Father

Of Jacob’s two wives, only Leah actually cleaves to her husband and His God. She doesn’t sell her night with him to her sister for some mandrakes – yet she buys that night with him with mandrakes.

Unfavored, Leah who learns to walk in faith and praise of the one true God, the God who had compassion with her grandmother-in-law who laughed at His promises.   The names of her first 3 sons show a focus on pleasing, gaining her husband’s favor and love. Why is it that the harder we try sometimes to get someone to love us, the further away their affection moves?

The last son, though – we see that instead of pursuing Jacob, she pursued Yahweh. In the naming of the last son, Leah gives us a glimpse into an alive relationship with Yahweh: “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah.Then she stopped having children” (Genesis 29:35).

From the Lion of Judah would our Savior come – from a mother rejected, un-valued by a father but so valued by the creator of the world. He didn’t place her love for Him in second place:

“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed” (Rev 5:5).

weavingccFrayed threads in a Holy tapestry –  imperfect marriages, imperfect parenting.  God loves these imperfect marriages, these imperfect parents – when they reach for Him in their imperfection, in their belief struggles, their lack of understanding struggles and their value struggles – when they reach for Him, it changes everything.

Jesus came to redeem the imperfect. He wants you and me to reach out to those that are missing it – who need to sit at your dinner table, who need hands reached out in prayer and welcome, who need Jesus but aren’t quite ready to embrace Him yet, who aren’t cleaned up yet – frayed threads woven together into a greater story, woven through grace into a greater Holy family history.

Please join me next Wednesdayfor a continuation of Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry: A Christmas Genealogy Part 3.

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16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

16th Century Tapestry photographed by Blue Cotton Memory in Turin, Italy

I’m in a quiet season right now—which is totally at odds with releasing my children’s books—but that’s where God has me. It’s the quiet before a big change – kind of like the quiet before my children were born. It’s been hard for me to visit my blogging friends this last year – and, in the quiet, that’s one of the things I want to do. I want to read your words and savor your God-messages! During this quiet – I’m re-posting one of my very favorite series I’ve written: Frayed Threads in a Holy Tapestry. Merry Christmas Blessings sweet friends!
The young woman walked into the church, slid into the pew to as the crowd sang, “There’s no God like Jehovah!”

The Geneology of Salvation Walking

Uncomfortable, not quite sure about God or Jehovah or Shaddai – or whatever name church threw out – but  wanting to be there for a reason she couldn’t quite identify, when she sat down, she laid her iPhone face up. Muted, it rang, lit up and a photo appeared, an inappropriate photo – one her mother wouldn’t want her to have.

The neighbor in the pew looked down as it lit up, eyes wide, looked at her, then turned away.

 A few minutes later, the young women slid out, feeling judged, feeling maybe this wasn’t the place for her, maybe there was just too much wrong for it to be made right.

Maybe the woman who turned away wasn’t judging. Maybe it was a good excuse for the young woman to not face Him today.

I used to be that woman judging. I wanted turn my back on sin. I didn’t understand that when I gave my life to Him that meant reaching past the sin into someone’s soul, reaching to find what God loves about them and helping them pull that out of themselves.

It’s the Christmas season, celebrating our Savior’s birth – He who was without sin.

You know – we’re really never cleaned up, pure – it was Jesus sacrifice that covers our sins so He can see us. The son of God made man, slapped with a genealogy that would cause some parents turn away a request from him for their daughter’s hand in marriage: “I worry about the curses that man would bring to my daughter’s life.”

When you read the Christmas story, do you skip over the genealogy? I do. I want the manger, the angels singing, the shepherds, the near-death escape to Egypt. Ancient kings, wealthy men, slaves, shepherds, small town men and women of no great consequence with names I cannot pronounce – they just got in the way of the Christmas story.

Growing up, my grandmother placed the family bible in the entry way, open to the geneology of the Christmas story, a gold and ruby crucifix laying across the page. Every year, I skimmed – wanting to get to the gift of Christmas – of Salvation walking on earth. I always focused on the end-product of salvation – not realizing that, yes, I want my soul cleaned up, strengthened and living Jesus-in-me – salvation in me isn’t true unless I also reach out to the sinner next to me.

In the skipping and jumping to the Salvation walking, I missed so much – so much of  the genealogy, a genealogy of the sins, the curses, all the faith stories, miracle stories and everything inbetween. I realized, though, that I need the genealogy stories. The stories are a testimony of God’s love for the sinner.

Because God loves the sinner. He  not only loves them, He pursues them – the unloved, the rebel, the sinner – an outcast because of the sinner’s choices or choices of others. Then He leads them home, brings the outcast into His inner circle. Then Yahweh, Shaddai, God – He restores!

This geneology isn’t always pretty – just like mine.

The geneology isn’t always faithful – just like mine.

For those who have the courage to try to find Him, like sitting in a pew letting your sin show itself, oh, He is life-changing – the history shows His love, His commitment imperfect people trying to love Him.

Trusting an imperfect people to give birth to Salvation Walking. To parent Salvation Walking.

There are messages to a mother, a wife, a daughter and a daughter-in-law, a neighbor, a stranger, a young woman looking – the love letters of  Yahweh for His very broken children.

Each wife, each mother of the men listed in the genealogy are frayed threads redeemed by His grace, His determination, His powerful love and forgiveness.

Frayed threads – each of them
Just like the frayed thread I am.

“Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people” (Genesis 50:20)

Please join me this week as I trace Jesus’ geneology through the mothers and wives. Trace with me what each woman contributed to Jesus’ family history – which becomes each of our history when we become children of God.

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BLUEnativity_edited-1

My boys, at some time in the scholastic career, have expressed daunting terror of something going on their permanent record.
They believed that this permanent record, in their minds, recorded every mistake – real or imagined – records beyond the ABCs of English, Math and History. . . and that it would negatively impact their future.

To my boys, the purvayors of this permanent record were as omniscient as God, judiciously intolerant and unforgiving resulting in a figuratively wielded stick of punishment that closed doors on opportunties for current peace and future success.

We were never able to totally coax them out of this belief. Today, with young elementary-aged school children being suspended for gun-shaped sandwiches, playing cops and robbers on the playgound – and wielding finger guns, kindergarteners stealing an innocent kiss – tolerance of mistakes has resulted in a system in American that doesn’t forget – or let the individual forget.

Computer systems, despite the IRS inability to keep employee records, support error intolerance. Computer programmers design programs to catch every error possible.

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable, wrote to encourage social reform in a country grossly intolerant of the mistakes of its populace – from stealing a loaf of bread to having a child out of wed-lock. Charles Dicken’s novels encouraged much needed social reform, too.

America’s own novelists encouraged social reform.

America, France and Britain have indeed achieved much in the lat 200+ years.

Yet, today one hand preaches tolerance while the other hand wields intolerance – and in the mixed-message of it all, our country risks repeating history.

Ironically, the mythical “permanent record” of students today are becoming a reality. Kindergarten hijinks follow a student through all 12 years.

The records kept are surely as damning to the individual as Jean Valjean’s passport that labeled him a former convict. This passport was required to be shown at every city gate he entered. Though he had served the time(over 20 years) for the crime (stealing a loaf of bread), society begrudged offering the same grace for redemption that was offered to them when Christ became man and died for our sins.

During December, let us, you and I, press in close to the Christmas story.

Let the mercy, grace and forgiveness of it seep into your soul until the very marrow of it is flooded by his Holy Spirit, all the debris of your failures and sins washed away because the magnitude of its power – the very power that raised Jesus from the dead.

God didn’t send his son to save us because our permanent record was  perfect. He sent his son because our humanity cannot achieve perfection without Him in us.

“He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him.And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins”(Psalm 103:10).

God gave Moses only 10 Commandments. The children of Israel had a tough time just following 10 Commandments. The U.S. Library of Congress can’t even answer how many laws America has.

Ron Paul said at least 40,000 new laws were added at the beginning of 2012.

Yes, our society is becoming increasingly intolerant of humanity’s failure when small things are treated as big crimes – and the permanent record-keeping of man-kind doesn’t want to forget – or forgive – which is at odds with the salvation heritage of our nation.

Christ came to redeem us – to deliver us from the bondage of sin – our own sin, our own mistakes and failures, our inability to live a perfect record.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2)

Christmas is a time to celebrate this priceless gift a loving Father God has given us.

God wants to remove our sins as far from us as the sunrise is to the sunset. He desires to remove that sin burden so we can rise with Him freed, able to soar. Only then can we live and become who he designed us to be.

“But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1)

Do you get that?

Shaddai has redeemed you.

Yahweh has called you to Him by name.

You are mine,” says the God who sees you – really, really sees you – the good, the bad, all of it. He has pursued you all of your life . . . . to give you this gift.

Gloria in excelsis Deo

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)

This Christmas season, live redeemed. Live forgiven.

Live the Merry Christmas gift He gave us over 2,000 years ago!

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IMG_9410There was a lot of imperfect going on at the Blue Cotton House for Christmas.

I don’t think the perfect gift was in anyone’s stocking – or wrapped in paper. The house kept falling into disorder. We didn’t read The Night Before Christmas – but from Sunday through Wednesday – there were smiles and laughter, hugs hello and good-bye.

The truffles didn’t get rolled and sprinkled until yesterday (3 days after Christmas). Some still need to be dipped in chocolate – and the majeskas? Well, they just didn’t get made.

IMG_9433It was a patchwork Christmas – one son leaving for California with the sunrise Christmas Eve. The oldest making it for Muffaletta Christmas Eve, parting ways for Christmas Eve service – and then there were 3. No mad-cap gift prep because the youngest is 13.

I’m graceless at new things – like 3 home on Christmas Day and no little ones, this moving out of raising boys-to-men to the mom’s role in the life of little-men-to-growing men. The Christmas Tree and table decorations, and traditions like turkey on Christmas Night and muffalettas on Christmas Eve, the music, the movies, the hanging of the “First Christmas” with my husband on the tree – it anchors me in the ever-changing dynamic of celebrating life with 5 sons growing.

Andrea Bocelli’s “Angels We Have Heard on High” and “Adeste Fidelis” allowed me to feel what the shepherds must have felt when the angels appeared to them that night long ago.

Our church read the Christmas story – and gave some background information. Did you realize that Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah as high priest was the only church leader who could have given the verdict for Mary to be stoned if Joseph so chose to go that path. Not a coincidence that Zechariah was struck mute, giving him time to understand what God wanted him to do.

My big little guy, all 13 years old, not believing in Santa but believing in our Savior, he wanted me to make my Christmas casserole of hard-boiled eggs, chips, bacon and my cheese sauce. “No onions, Mom,” he asked.

Santa didn’t get a letter from the boy’s this year. The boys have always done one, passing the writer role down from the oldest to, well, the 4th son wrote it last year and the 5th wouldn’t write one on principle.

“I don’t want anything,” the 15 year old said.

The 18 year old wanted clothes – not grunge-looking clothes but clothes that showed a maturing, to go with his short hair cut.

IMG_9366Christmas Morning woke to a quiet. No early risers discovering what Santa brought – just a 13 year old discovering mid-morning a stocking full of coal – because only believers get presents from Santa – non-believers get coal.

“It pays to be bad,” the 3rd said. “You can get a good price for coal.”

There were smiles, new pants that fit just right, and sweaters for swag. There was It’s a Wonderful Life, The Man who Came for Dinner, Christmas in Connecticut, A Christmas Carol, and Ben Hur

and harness bells on the door.

Remote controlled helipoters instead of nerf guns

Merry Christmas phone calls to loved ones far away

Letter B gift exchanges – which is why there is a BIG Darth Vader under the tree

and my grandfather’s ornaments, my grandmother’s Christmas balls and my mother’s wreath because I don’t just like things, I like the story behind them.

IMG_9381Turkey, oyster dressing, a friend’s squash and cranberry casserole, savory green beans, egg nog and unfinished truffle balls – shared with friends and 3 of 5 sons.

It was an imperfect Christmas made perfect through the birth of a savior over 2000 years ago

when angels sang to a bunch of shepherds, shepherds who were so low they weren’t even allowed to go into the temple once a year to present their perfect sacrifice to atone for their sins – so they could be brought into the inner circle of God’s family.

Yet, according to our Christmas Eve service, these shepherds the angels visited were the select shepherds who raised the lambs, raised them without blemish, without brokenness, watched over them so they would be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of God’s people.

The angels appeared first to the most lost – and  dropped into their lap the most important news scoop since creation – Glad Tidings, an angelic message, the Inside Story of the greatest story Ever Told – through this baby in a manger, God and sinner reconciled.

IMG_9445How imperfectly awesome is that – Angels announcing to the lowest left-out of God’s children that a savior was born to save them, to wash their sins away that weren’t allowed to be washed away in the daily or yearly – because He would bring the temple to them, and there, in the fields, outcasts by their own, they would in a few years, have the opportunity to have God in them, Salvation in them – and they, too, would be washed white as snow because of the perfect sacrifice of a Savior, born in a manger.

Maybe that’s why I love the shepherd story the best, that the angels sing a message from God – and the shepherds carry it in their hearts to their community:

“Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
Glory to the Newborn King”

and like the shepherds, I want to take the message to those that cross my path, even if it’s a path that takes me out of our way, even if is to people who think I am not worthy of the message, even if I’ve settled down to an evening under the stars, I want to rouse myself from my comfortable place to live the amazing joy of sharing something so awesome, just like the shepherds.

Between you and me? I want to not just do it, but feel the way those shepherds must have felt.

Christmas Day came for the outcasts, for the broken and the orphaned. Christmas Day came all for each imperfect me and you and everyone.

Wishing you an imperfectly beautiful Christmas Day every day this year!

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