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My Favorite Christmas Word

What is your favorite Christmas word? 


You know the one that stirs you deeply when you hear it. Maybe it's "Family", and it causes you to think about all the special memories with your loved ones over the years. Or possibly it's "Joy" or "Peace", the words that the angels used to announce Jesus' arrival. Or maybe you're hardcore and like the theologically deep "Incarnation".

If you asked my kids (and probably most kids), they'd likely say "Presents". Which is a pretty good word. I like presents as well. But, if I had to choose just one word out of all the "Christmasy" words, I'd choose...

What a choir pianist taught me about hard work

Last night we had the opportunity to watch our oldest daughter perform in her High School Christmas Choir concert. She and her classmates did a wonderful job filling the audience with holiday joy through seasonal classics such as, We Wish You a Merry Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock.

But there was a point in the concert that my attention was drawn away from the angelic voices of the students and to the man behind the music, the large-statured pianist who almost stole the show. It was during the beautifully unique rendition of O Holy Night that I saw something that made me pause; something that challenged me deeply. 

WestJet Christmas Miracle: A reminder of the Joy of Giving

I absolutely love the "Christmas Miracle" video produced by the Canadian airline, WestJet!


Why? Because it includes three things that I am passionate about: Joy, Giving and Great Marketing. I'm also passionate about dark chocolate, but that doesn't fit here.

The other day I wrote about the connection I see between sharing experiences with others and joy. As I watched this video I was reminded that in addition to shared experiences, giving (or sharing) things with others produces joy as well.

As we are full swing into the Christmas season, with its heavy focus on buying stuff, I personally appreciate the reminder that it is, "more blessed to give than to receive." Sometimes, we can get caught up in our desires to get those special things that we think will make us happy and we lose sight of this timeless enigma:

       The joy of giving is greater than the joy of receiving. [Tweet this]


The joy of getting the perfect Christmas tree

Getting a live Christmas tree is an annual highlight of the season for my family. Some people say that finding the perfect tree can be frustrating and stressful. I disagree. For us, it typically goes something like this...
In early December, when the Thanksgiving decorations are neatly wrapped and put away and my family and I are relaxing with a cup of hot cocoa, the conversation inevitably turns to Christmas, specifically the tree.
One of the children politely asks (in a faint British accent), "Father, is it nearing time for us to get our Christmas tree?" "Of course, darling," I reply.
"Oh, how I can't wait to build such fond family memories!" my wife exclaims, flashing a bright smile.
"That settles it," I say. "We'll go to the tree farm on Sunday!" 

Calculated Grace

Four hundred and ninety.


That is a lot of forgiving and a lot of offenses. "Seventy times seven." Much more than Peter had expected Jesus to say. He was hoping for three, four, maybe seven times, max. Not four hundred and ninety. That's almost like unlimited, isn't it?

Yes, I believe that was Jesus' intent. Actually, as he explained later, his intent was to show that we should forgive as we are forgiven by the Father. No one would complain against the Father's unlimited grace. How glad we are that His mercies are new every morning.

But to my brother, my neighbor, my coworker, my spouse? Shouldn't there be a limit for them? How could I be expected to be so gracious and forgiving?

Comfort Food for My Soul

"Your eyes saw my unformed body, all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalms 139:16)

This is comfort food for my soul. The words cry out, "You are special, you are loved, you are known. A child of the Father, purposed and valued."

Where can I go from His loving presence? No where!

Thank God!

Truth, Lies and Your Real Identity

The Word became flesh. A new beginning for mankind. As Adam brought "original sin" (and the curse that followed), so Jesus brought "original righteousness" to all (and the blessings, forgiveness and freedom that go with it).

Following Jesus' baptism, Satan attacked His identity, as he does with us today.

He used/uses a small but powerful word... IF.  IF we can be convinced that we are not who we really are, then we will act accordingly, living a lie. Jesus - as should we - fought these lies with truth (scripture) and resisted getting immediate satisfaction at the cost of eternity.

We should be armed with the truth so that the enemy gains no foothold.

Sharing and Joy

What is sharing and why does it produce joy?

Why do some things have little to no value when experienced alone?

Humor, art, food, laughter, love, music, travel, beauty, work, accomplishment, honor and discovery are all diminished when they are not shared without others.

Why is our joy incomplete when it is constrained? Do we value the affirmation of another in sharing this emotion? Is joy amplified when joined together?

What a marvelous mystery!

The eyes of a child

To see something through another's eyes is a window to a whole new world; through the eyes of a child, a joyous wonder.

Why do we close our eyes to pray?

That's what my youngest daughter asked me at the dinner table a while back.

"Great question!" I said, not really sure how to answer her.

"Because everyone else does," was the only thing I could think of. Surely, we might close our eyes to avoid distraction (although I have many distractions behind my eyelids), which is noble, but I had to wonder, would there be any value to us keeping our eyes open with expectation of connecting with the presence of God and with those who are praying with us? What would we see, what would we experience?

I don't know, but I think I might try it!

Do you ever pray with your eyes open?

Hope and a Promise

Without hope, life is not worth living. We are left with only the moment, our present reality. And since the pleasures of the moment don’t really satisfy, we are left wanting for something that is true, true to its promises, true to what it offers, true to its ability to meet our desires, wants and needs.

This is where hope comes in. We hope that things will get better. We hope for a better day, better circumstances, better relationships, attitudes, better everything. Even when we have the blessing of really enjoying something, we quickly realize that it will not last. Everything that we experience is temporary: food, friends, health, the moment.

All is fleeting.

So, we need hope. Hope that we can receive and experience valuable things that will last. Things that fill us up that will stay.

So what does a being do that is created for lasting joy and satisfaction do in a world that is passing away?

Powerless

Oh, how that word causes me to writhe with pain.

Powerless: helpless, unable to fix my situation. Can there be a more sorrowful place? Stuck, trying to break free, but bound fast by circumstance. All strength and intellect is mustered for resolution. Alas, no change. No difference. No improvement. Status quo.

Hope fades. My countenance falls. My heart is heavy. There is nothing that I can do. I have failed. If I might be saved (and I don’t know that I will) it will be from beyond me. Who shall I turn to? Who can save me from this place of desperation?

Could this be a time for the Lord? Could this be a place for grace? Is this where He does his work? Is this where He wants me to be? Why can’t I have my own strength? Why can’t I save myself? Must I need Him?

Yes, I believe I must. Powerless is the reality of my state. Weak and needy is the truth of my condition.

Powerless, yes. Alone, no.

Desperate, yes. Abandoned, no.

Helpless, yes. Stuck, no.

“Who can save me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25)