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The Inn after Christmas

These are the leftovers of Christmas that remain underneath our tree.

The last of the gifts that need to be unboxed and placed in their appropriate places throughout the house. We chose to unwrap our gifts and then place them here instead of leaving our tree bare after Christmas morning. Weird, maybe. Lazy…whatever you wish to call it.

However, even though we prefer to purchase a live tree each year, we decided this year to leave it up a little longer. I happen to enjoy the twinkling lights. We were both home the full two weeks for winter break. And while living or artificial, each year we seem to want to put our decorations up earlier, and keep them up later and later.

Then there is also the twelve days of Christmas that played into this. The wise men did not visit Jesus on Christmas night. They actually paid their visit to the Messiah several nights later. Bearing gifts that were much more glorious than any sitting underneath our tree right now.

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down to worship him. They opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:9-11, NLT

Whether you celebrate the Twelfth Night today or tomorrow (because yes, even that is debated). If you don’t even give it a thought. Whether you think it’s superstition to take anything “old” into a “new” year, and take your decorations down as soon as Christmas Day is done; or whatever Christmas decor lore you subscribe to, let’s remember this:

The true gift was never placed under a tree. He was swaddled with love and care, and placed in a feeding trough in a lowly manger. He is a gift that is ours for the taking daily, as long as we receive him in our hearts. His spirit isn’t relegated to a season, and his love and spirit of giving, kindness and compassion that lives in those who call him Savior should be present far beyond Christmas Day. Far beyond the day the decor is packed away. The carols are sung, or the gift boxes are placed in the attic. It is lived out daily. Given to others daily.

If you are a follower of Jesus, let’s look at others the way I look at my Christmas tree. With wonder. With delight. As if it’s the most magical thing you have ever seen, and you certainly don’t want it taken down.

Could we spend a little more time in awe of people this way? Even those who are hard to love? In awe of him this way?

Even after all the decorations and twinkling lights are gone?

Will there still be room for Jesus? For love, peace, joy, and compassion in our inns?

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Posted by on January 5, 2019 in Loving Others

 

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after the decorations are gone

christmas-spirit

The days after Christmas. Memories of the laughter. The time spent with family. The remnants of gifts not yet put away. The lazy days. The leftovers. Naps. Netflix. The promise of a new year.

With this promise each year also comes the burning desire to reclaim the space in my house. Get back into my 10 and a half month routine. Everything in its place again. Time to rid my house of the Christmas glamour for one more year.

Usually this need to reclaim my territory fuels me. Sends me on a cleaning frenzy. But, this year was different. If it wasn’t for our choice of fresh fir, and the limp, dying branches that forced me to take the soon to be fire hazard of a tree down, all our shiny and glistening decorations would have just stayed.

As I packed up every ornament. Every tinsel wreath. Beaded garland. Dancing Santa. I had a thought.

Shouldn’t the spirit of Christmas, and the Christ child born on this day live all year long? Is the Christmas “spirit” really only reserved to one month a year. To a plethora of shiny decorations?

Certainly it couldn’t be! There must be something we can do to make sure that spirit remains here. Lives in this home. Lives in us as we carry out a usual routine for the remainder of these months.

But, how?

Well, it can begin with hope.

This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. Hebrews 6:19

After the expectation of those wondrous gifts. After the anticipation of Christmas Eve night. Still lives the hope that His promises will be fulfilled. Living each day knowing, expecting, anticipating  His faithfulness. His strength. The promise that even though some days in the new year may be hard, we KNOW, and EXPECT that there is hope in the days to come. Bringing a promise of glorious days with Him in Heaven.

It can continue with peace.

“I have told you all this that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But, take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

It is not letting the stress, worries, and anxieties of living in this broken and rushed world cause our hearts to be troubled. It’s letting go and feeling relief. It’s choosing calm over the chaos that claims to measure success. It’s being still and rejoicing in Him, even when life gets crazy. It’s living in harmony with each other, even when we don’t agree. It’s accepting our flaws, and those of others unapologetically.

The spirit of the blessed babe can live on past Christmas day with joy.

You will live in joy and peace. The mountain and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Isaiah 55:12

The spirit of Christmas doesn’t live in packages and bows. It’s not the blessings under the tree that give joy after all the decorations are gone. Happiness doesn’t live in those boxes. It lives in the laughter of your kids on a family game night. It lives in the songs of praise raised to Him on Sunday morning. It lives in the full heart as you snuggle with a small child. It lives in the praise that escapes your lips for everything He has done. For the small things. For the blessings He has given that can’t hide under a tree. All He has promised. Made happen in your life. Not just on Christmas Day, but everyday.

And finally, how do we continue to show the spirit of love?

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:12

Despite flaws. Despite differences. Despite who has “wronged” you. It’s being patient with the lady in front of you with too many items in the express lane. The driver that cut you off. The colleague that always comes in late. Talks to much. Does something too much. It’s remembering that once the ball has dropped. The last song has been sung. The clock signals the beginning of a new year, to be kind to each person we meet, not just those in our “circle.” It is responding with kind words, not words to tear down. It’s praying for our enemies, and those who have hurt us. It is forgiving and choosing to show mercy those that make is angry, frustrate us, and make our eyes roll. It’s reaching out our hands to life the fallen, and expecting nothing in return. Loving as He has loved us.

It is extending this love past the month of December.

And choosing to reflect the Christ child. His love. His light. His everlasting spirit.

After the lights have come down. The gifts have all been opened. The decorations are all gone.

All year long.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2016 in Like Jesus Does, You Make All Things New

 

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For the Days You Just Don’t Feel “It”

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. Romans 8:26

“I will admit. Today has been one of those days when I am just not feeling it…whatever “it” may be.”

This begins my confession on Sunday morning to a congregation of kids, teens, and adults, all waiting for me to pray for the remainder of the service.

Now, waiting for a prayer from someone who just said they didn’t feel “it.”

But, wait a minute! You are a pastor! And, you told the congregation that?

Yep. Because I believe in transparency, even though it tends to get me in trouble at times. Because after reasoning with my “monster” who was upset about being in a different room for Sunday School. After watching the same monster throw himself on the floor while singing with that same congregation, I wasn’t feeling much of anything holy.

And, I am sure I was not the only person in that room who just didn’t feel it, either. I just happened to be the one who admitted it…to over 70 people.

Come on. Let’s face it. We ALL have days when “it” is the last thing we are feeling. Even pastors.

We have days when we have been beat up, bruised, battered. When everything has gone wrong, and “it” feels a million miles away. And, yes. Pastors feel like this, too.

Oh, wait. I didn’t mention what “it” was, did I?

“It” is the Holy Spirit.

And, when the world has tormented me. When I am frazzled, exhausted, overworked. When I am complacent, lazy, and bitter. When my kids have fried my last nerve. When I have bitten my husband’s head off. When I feel lonely and confused. “It,” the Holy Spirit, feels so far away.

“Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:38

Living water. “It.” The Holy Spirit.

Always with us. Hiding in our hearts. Holy. Sacred.

But, we let the world torment us. Get in the way. Fill the crevices of our hearts with emotion, so that we hide “it,” don’t feel “it.” When we really need “it” the most.

While the Holy Spirit is always with us, we often don’t feel it because we have so much other junk hiding away in our hearts.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Replacing that junk we feel in our hearts so we can feel more of “it.”

Replacing frazzled, overworked, and exhausted with the Spirit of peace.

Instead of feeling complacent, lazy, and bitter, digging deep for the Spirit of faithfulness and joy.

When my kids have gotten on my last nerve, looking within for the Spirit of patience.

When I want to put my husband’s head on a platter, looking instead for the Spirit of self-control and love.

When I feel lonely, tormented, confused, and the last thing I feel is “it,” recognizing God has already placed the strength, endurance, and peace I need in my heart.

By simply recognizing how much I don’t have it all together, how I need His forgiveness, His grace, His strength-He released in me a new spirit.

A spirit to get us through the tough days. Even the days we just don’t feel “it.”

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Craving More of God

 

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