Are you ready?

 

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Here we are: December 16th. Nine days away from Christmas!

“Are you ready?”

I’ve been hearing this question asked at the bank, at my work potluck, in line at the stores…It CRACKS me up!

Christmas comes the same time and date each year. Not like Easter, that one can mess you up. Christmas has been December 25th for about 2000 years. So, it’s not like we weren’t told about it in advance. How come people aren’t ready?

ANTICIPATION

One of the most tantalizing feelings this time of year is the anticipation leading up to this special day. I remember it well as a child.–The inability to get to sleep on December 24th. My heart beating so rapidly as the agonizing wait for 6 am (this was the absolute earliest my parents would allow for us to awake them!) and we had to bring them with us when we went downstairs to find out if all that “being good” in the weeks prior had put us on Santa’s NICE list —

SURPRISE-What did Santa bring you?

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Unfortunately, one of the biggest surprises this time of year is the VOID.

Some face the VOID of celebrating their first (or second, or third…) Christmas without their loved one.

For others there’s the VOID felt in the bank account, leaving nothing for gifts.

Amidst all the beautiful lights, wreath adorned doors, the hustle and bustle and gatherings, there are those for whom this is NOT the most wonderful time of the year. 

I’ll never forget the surprise of my very first out of state Christmas working at Phoenix Police Department. I swallowed the lump in my throat after wishing “Merry Christmas” to family and friends far away as I clocked in for my overnight shift working the holiday. I fully expected the night to be filled with bookings from partying: DUI’s and noise violations from all the celebrating…

Surprise!

The most common arrests I saw that night were the domestic violence and family assaults.

Not everyone has a family they enjoy celebrating the holiday with. That Christmas felt like a “Reverse Grinch” moment happened to me as my heart cinched up and threatened to break.

My heart has these moments when I hear a parent threaten their overly rambunctious child, “Christmas is canceled this year!”

My heart breaks every Black Friday when I watch humanity crawl and punch their way to the front line for the door-busting deals.

My heart breaks when I see the VOID left in this world.

The only cure for this heart break and void is the VERY reason why I love this season and this time of the year.

No matter how dysfunctional your family may be, no matter how misbehaved your children are, no matter how empty your bank account is, you have available a reason to celebrate–the same reason the shepherds, three wise men and a young couple with nothing celebrated in a manger  2000 years ago.

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Every year, I picture Linus in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special telling Charlie the TRUE meaning of Christmas:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)

He came to heal the brokenhearted.  He fills the void. He is the very reason for the season. So, the real question is:

Are you ready for Him?

 

 

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Which Way are You Going?

Which Way Are You Going?

I-10 tip line

I-10 tip line

These I-10 shootings in Phoenix have everyone talking. There’ve been fourteen recent shootings so far attributed to the possible “sniper.”

They’ve been saying to be vigilant, be aware, be cautious; these shootings are notIMG_20150912_181400268_HDR only an act of domestic terrorism, but they are just inches away from tragedy.

I’ve heard the fear in voices and seen the fright in the eyes of those who continue to talk of it.

I listened to stories of people taking alternate routes to avoid the frightening freeways where the shooter has struck. I’ve heard of those wearing helmets and seeking bulletproof windshields.

And I’ve heard the opposite—people continuing down 1-10 and refusing to live in fear or be a victim.

I’ve heard of people doing nothing.

And I’ve heard, “What shooter?”

To me, it’s yet another reminder that, at any given moment, you may “get that call” or find yourself caught in someone’s cross-hairs and be GONE.

Truth is we never know when we will breathe our last breath.

But there is ONE who does know.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13
And there’s an enemy out there even more deadly than the shooter.

He seeks to kill and destroy every soul that travels on every freeway in fright.

On each rough and rocky road he sits in wait.

Even those unsuspecting, he has in his cross-hairs.

And he is really, really skilled.IMG_20150912_150626437

Each of us reacts differently to this news. Each of us must choose a way—

And it is a Life or death choice.

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ –Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’”—John 4:5-6

Some fear death, uncertain of their futures and their “ever after.” You see it in their eyes and in their voices-They’re avoiding I-10.

Some ignore warnings and do nothing. They continue down their rough roads never knowing what might lie in wait around the next corner.

Some will take vitamins, exercise, live a good life and embrace their present, putting their trust in things of this w
orld. They spent a lot on the bulletproof windshield.

Yet, there is One way through this.IMG_20150912_144753187

This way was “paved” over 2000 years ago.

“Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.” Luke 3:5

Those of us who choose this Way will be prepared. Yet, we will rest assured, travel fearlessly, walk in love and know where our Help comes from—it’s better than bullet proof glass.

And It lasts for eternity.

“The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 128:1

We know the Way is Jesus who protects His children from any enemies’ crosshairs.

He paved the Way for each of us.

 “All of creation

All of the earth

Make straight a highway

A path for the Lord

Jesus is coming soon”

Kristian Stanfill

I know the Way I am traveling.

Highway to Heaven

Which way will you choose?

he prayed…He answered

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” –Matthew 7:11

he prayed

About his dreams, his prosperity, his family

he prayed

he prayed and asked,

“Why? Why? Why?”

Why no answers to his prayers and why take her so soon?

he kept asking

And he quit praying

Until IT happened

On his knees, bewildered, scared, confused, in pain

he cried for the  future being taken from him, for the pain in his body and for the overwhelming fear

he cried out to God…

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He went away to be by Himself

He prayed

“Father can I save him?”

You know not what you ask of me, my one and only Son

“Your will, not my own…”

He answered Him with–a future being taken from Him, with pain in His body and an overwhelming fear

He cried out to God,

“Why have you forsaken me?”

And then the Peace came

he knew not what to ask for anymore

he prayed and cried out to God again

He answered with His Peace

And saved all who came to Him.

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.”

1 Peter 2:24

De-Light-Full

Heidi Rosner's "Pick me!"

Heidi Rosner’s “Pick me!”

“Life is full of light and shadow.

Oh the joy and oh the sorrow…

Oh the sorrow…”-David Crowder Band

I have a friend who is a very talented artist. A relative of mine had just met her and was exposed to her artwork at the Celebration of Fine Art.

She said to me, “Your neighbor is just delightful!”

I love that.

Delightful.

Don’t we need more of that in life?

And my artist friend is delightful. She says of her own art, “I paint happy.”

I love knowing the “heart behind the art.”

One of my favorite works of her art is a fabulous watercolor with these joyous sunflowers. I believe she titled it– “Pick me, Pick me!” It was her description of the process that has stuck with me.

It’s been years since she described it, but this is my recollection:

“It is one of my goals to capture the process. I paint to capture the movement of a flower lifting its head toward the light of the sun.”–Heidi Rosner

Nature reflecting life. Truly.

If you’ve ever received a bouquet of sunflowers or been in a field where they grow, you’ve felt the mass that makes up the flower—it is quite heavy! Then, when that bouquet is a few days old, and the neck of the flower grows weary, you’ve seen the head drop, as though it bears the weight of a thousand pounds.

Isn’t this how we feel at time? Burdened, carrying the weight of the world, downright exhausted, anything but happy.

Oh the sorrow…

Yet life is full of both, light and shadow.

Some are great at painting “happy” while others reflect more of the “shadows.”

What would you “paint?”

There are times in life where it’s difficult to look to the light; to find joy when your heart is sorrowful, to find the ease when everything in life feels toilsome. It’s just NOT a “Joel Osteen”-day.

We are all going to have stormy days. Dark times will come our way; some self-inflicted and some not.

“We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, felling our way like men without eyes.” Isaiah 59:9

We live in a broken, fallen world. Keep in mind, we’ve been warned, “In this world you will have trouble”—John 16:33

But there is hope.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

“He reveals the deep things of darkness and brings deep shadows into the light,” said Job. And he knew some pretty dark times. Job 12:22

I have this friend whose husband arrives to work before the dawn rises. Yet, every day, as she awakens from her empty bed at home and rises to get her coffee, she is greeted by his text message– he sends her a picture of the sunrise.  Every morning.

Sunrise from Bruce

Sunrise from Bruce

Not all of those texts are full of light. But he is faithful each day in doing this.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” Lamentations 3:23

There is something so mysteriously fabulous, so hope-filled in the dawn of a new day.

“Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for, to be overcome by your presence, Lord.”-Francesca Batistelli

“Your love, O Lord, is like the mighty mountains. Your faithfulness stretches to the sky.”-Third Day

Another sunrise from Bruce

Another sunrise from Bruce

Like each new dawn, God is faithful to us. When we stumble around in the dark, He is merciful. When life pitches us into some dark depths, He holds our heads in His hands.

As I have brought to the light the many areas that I stumble in, God is faithful to forgive, to love and to assist in healing those areas.

Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46

My hope and prayer is that, regardless of what this broken and shadowy filled world can throw at you, in spite of circumstances filled with darkness that each moment you choose to look to the light, exposing your sorrows and places of darkness to the healing light of the Lord, that your weary heart finds new strength to persevere for another day.

And, as life imitates nature, that your heart and head are uplifted with the light of every new day.

Tomorrow, or the next day, or the next… May you take the time to witness God’s faithfulness stretch across the sky and may you have a moment to bask in the dawning palate of hope that lights a new day of de-light.

ANOTHER sunrise from Bruce

ANOTHER sunrise from Bruce