"What He ordains for us each moment is what is most holy, best, and most divine for us." Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Conviction

Sometimes God just gets into my space; and never more than today during my "sacred space" on this Christmas eve morning.  And not once, but twice did He intervene. It began when I read my friend's blog.  He's been posting an Advent devotional daily since the season began back on Dec. 1 and I have anticipated each one. They have all been good and thought provoking, but today's "did its work in me." 

He writes, Most of the nativity scenes we see put up before Christmas have all the characters standing except for one.  The last character to arrive in the contemporary manger scene portrayals is the main character.  The last one to arrive is traditionally placed in the scene on Christmas Eve.  Jesus. The child.  The One whose purpose was to save you and me and everyone else from their sin.  The One whose purpose was to change the world.  Jesus.  How strange it is that above all the names we know, His name is the name we are least likely to use in the normal conversations of our day.     http://billjourneynotes.blogspot.com/2013/12/advent-xxiv.html

And I wondered, how many times have I shared the name of Jesus during this holiday season.  Yes, I have wished many people "Merry Christmas," but have I shared the Christ of that Christmas? Have I shared the WHY of His coming?

I then turned in Ann Voskamp's book, The Greatest Gift, and read her writing for this 24th day of Advent. Whereas I'm a true Voskamp fan, I must say she outdid herself with this one. Pulling from Luke 2:1-7, Ann camps on the words, "And the time came." Time came for all the glory to be left in heaven. Her words are graphic. "And the face of God turns one last time in the waters of the womb, and the membrane breaks and the amniotic fluid leaks and the skin of God slips naked and small and holy into hands He made.

"The birth of God -- who can find words? This defies words."

She continues: "Love had to come back for you.  Love had to get to you.  The Love that has been coming for you since the beginning -- He slays dragons for you.  This is the truest love story of history, and it's His-story, and it's for you."

How can we NOT use His name in "the normal conversations of our day" as my friend wrote? How can we NOT tell people about this Christ who loves them so much? In fact, Ann challenges her readers to do exactly that: "Go into all of the world and tell one person about the greatest Gift and how He loves."

And so I purposed to do so this morning. Anyone who wished me a merry Christmas, I purposed to tell them how much they are loved. And so I did, and I have been nothing short of amazed at the responses. The young man sitting behind the counter of the Honeybaked Ham store with a blanket wrapped around him to stay warm wished me a merry Christmas. I returned the wish, then reached out and touched his arm, and said, "I just want to tell you that the Christ in Christmas loves you so very much." His eyes widened, his smile grew larger, his shoulders relaxed, and he said, "Thank you, ma'am.  Thank you very much." 

Later, I sat across the desk from a bank official while she issued me a new bank card because mine had been "compromised" in the latest Target scam. When we finished our business, she reached across the barrier to shake my hand, and she said, "I hope you have a merry Christmas, Mrs. McLendon." Again, while still clasping her hand, I looked her in the eyes and responded, "Merry Christmas to you. And I just want you to know how much the Christ in Christmas loves you." But this time, not only did her eyes widen, they filled to the brim with tears as she said, "You don't know how badly I needed to hear that today. Thank you so very much."

Why, dear ones, do we refrain from letting that precious name depart from our lips? Why do we withhold the source of love when people so desperately "needed to hear that today"? I don't know either. But won't you purpose with me, not only this Christmas season but throughout this new year, to tell one person, and then another, and then another about the greatest Gift, as Ann says, and how He loves.

At least that's MY Christmas eve conviction.

Just an ordinary moment...

Monday, December 16, 2013

Dear Abby, You Got it Right

The headline caught my attention: "Widower dreading Christmas will feel better if he reaches out".  

"Miserable in Massachusetts" had written in with concerns of not being able to buy gifts for his brother's family due to his limited income -- a Social Security disability.  And it was Abby's response that proved so powerful smack-dab here in the middle of the gift buying season and giving frenzy.  "You have something to give to your relatives." She writes. "It's the gift of your presence." Oh, how right you are, Dear Abby!

You see, for the several weeks following my recent surgery, apart from my sweet husband who was with me 24/7 for two solid weeks, there were 4 people who really stood out to me. As much as I truly appreciated all the food, all the cards and phone calls, and certainly all the prayers, what I call to mind as the most precious were the ones who came with no gift in hand and just stood or sat by my bed. Their presence WAS their gift, whether they realized it or not. 

My experience as of late has made me aware of just how poor I am in this ministry department. How often have I NOT gone to visit someone because I didn't have anything to take? Or even more so, how many times have I actually taken food yet just dropped it off at the door and NOT gone into visit, because I was in a hurry to make it to the next thing? Again, the food is wonderful -- much needed, in fact, and I am so grateful and indebted to those who supplied such, but how much more are people healed because we take the time to offer our very presence which says, "You are worth it."

But here's the paradox ... the mystery of it all. It is in the giving that we, too, receive healing. You see, Miserable in Massachusetts lost his wife this past year, and so he writes, "I feel alone. There's just me and my dog now. The holidays hurt." I think his answer and ours might lie in Isaiah 58 where we are told that as we "start giving ourselves," THEN our lives will begin to "dawn in the darkness" and "break forth like the morning." Then, THEN, our "healing shall spring forth speedily." Yes, it's in the giving of ourselves that we ourselves are healed.

Dear Abby, you got it right. The gift of presence. It could just be the most powerful thing we have to offer anybody, including ourselves, this Christmas -- or any day of the year for that matter. So, in this season of gift gifting, why not forgo the wrapping paper, tie a bow around your neck, and make a house call.

Just an ordinary moment...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Turn on Your Lights!

When I was a little girl, people didn't decorate the outside of their houses like they do now.  Oh, there was the wreath on the front door and maybe a Santa Claus on the porch checking his list,

but rarely did one see multi-colored lights strung around the shrubbery or white icicles hanging from the eaves. It just didn't happen; and on the very rare occasion someone might dare put a string of lights around the roof, it was because they weren't from around here.  As my daddy would quickly point out as we drove by, "Those people are Yankees." Now before that last statement makes your toes curl, please hear his reasoning.  The lights were beautiful reflected in the snow they were so used to up north.  But this is middle Georgia and snow and Christmas just don't mix. Therefore, the lights just set them apart as ... different. 

Of course, now there is hardly a yard that doesn't have some kind of outdoor lighting or decor. Everything from nativities to big blow up Frostys. And many times both in the same yard. 'Tis the season! Whereas my husband and children have at times hung colored lights from my 4-poster bed, complete with reindeer antlers dangling from the ceiling fan when I asked them to put up the lights for me, I have refrained from all the tiny bulbs on the outside. Maybe I just can't get that whole "northern" thing out of my head, but it probably has more to do with pure laziness. However, for the last several years, I have slowly made my way onto the bandwagon by deciding to do a little outside decorating that stretched me passed just a wreath on the front door. So now each year, my sweet (yet sometimes reluctant) husband spends a Saturday morning hanging wreaths, setting up a nativity, buying hay, and placing spot lights in just the perfect locations.  And I'm from the south, y'all!

But isn't that exactly what we are celebrating? What we are shouting every time we flip that switch?  That the Light has come? Yes, most are probably even unaware of the part they play in the testimony of God sending His Son to earth to bring light. In fact, it may never even enter their hearts or minds. But with spotlights shining, and candles set in windows, and thousands of bulbs encircling rooftops, flagpoles and trees, they all are announcing the Good News: THE LIGHT HAS COME! 

And without a doubt, the glory of the Lord creeps across the landscape worldwide and the darkness can never be the same. 

So turn on your lights. Be set apart as different. And announce the Good News. 


In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
John 1:4

Just an ordinary moment...

Friday, December 6, 2013


The pre-op instructions from the surgical unit said to remove contacts and to leave all jewelry at home as well as any personal items. And so I did. When I finally walked into the Coliseum Day Surgery building, I basically did so with nothing but the clothes on my back, the shoes on my feet, and my glasses. I have to admit that it was a little bit daunting. After all, except for my husband and daughters by my side, there was nothing that identified me. No wedding band to say I belonged to someone. No jewelry to claim any social status or express myself as an individual. And certainly no money to provide for any physical need that might arise.  

I checked in and before I could even get comfortable, my name was being called by the nurse who would be by my side for the next couple of hours. And so I handed my husband the last two things that gave me any identity: my glasses which afforded me sight and my driver's license which gave me a name and a number. I was immediately asked to take a pregnancy test, which I did with great joviality and unbelief, and then given my new wardrobe. I stripped of what was left of my own clothes and donned the hospital attire of that gosh-awful, colorless gown that ties in the back. I wished a hundred times for my daughters, not because I couldn't do it myself, but because it was so dang funny and I felt silly laughing out loud by myself in that little room with only a curtain separating me from all the other patients. They also gave me a delightful blue paper robe (that tied in the front) and the proverbial gray socks with skidders on the bottom, which I brought home for future use on cold mornings. I was finally completely stripped of anything and everything that gave me my uniqueness. And it felt strange.

When the nurse took me back to my little cubby hole, the first thing I noticed was that there was no bed in it. Just 2 chairs. I don't know a lot about hospitals, but I do know that they put you on a bed, hook you up to a line, and roll you out to the operating room.  And I assumed my bed would be appearing shortly. Yet it never came. Whereas I had visions of sweeping gestures of hugs and kisses from my family gathered around me as the attendants whisked me away, no such thing happened.  Rather, the nurse pulled back the curtain and said, "You ready?" and with a couple of waves and "See you later's" to my family, I WALKED myself to the operating room, pulling my rolling "drip" with me. I pushed the door opened unto bright lights and sterile conditions, and it was only then that I climbed onto the table. My last remembrance was talking of caramel cakes with the nurse anesthetist before I gave into the anesthesia and trusted myself completely into the surgeon's hands. 

Since that day almost 4 weeks ago now, I've thought a lot about that whole scenario; because isn't that exactly the way we should come before the Father? Completely stripped of anything and everything that attempts to give us our identity apart from Christ? Sure, we are to bring our struggles and issues, but that's not what I'm referring to here. I'm talking about coming to God on His terms and not my own.  Of abandoning any image of myself that is not from Him.  Of not accepting what others have said about me, how others have labeled and defined me and, instead, believing what God says about me. Of trying to impress Him with my own accolades and tasks I have performed for Him.

In reality, you and I are not defined anymore by our feelings, opinions, circumstances, successes or failures than we are by the clothes we wear, the jewelry we put on, the house we live in, and certainly not the size of our bank account. But "by His Spirit He has stamped us" (2 Cor. 1:22).  THAT is what gives us our identity. THAT is how we are defined. No one else has a vote in it. Our job is just to come. To walk ourselves into the operating room of God where He waits to do His complete and healing work in us. 

Yes, Jesus' invitation to an ill-weary world is simply to come. No one else can do it for us.

Just an ordinary moment...