Thursday, December 21, 2006
"Each December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations -- extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.
My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six-year-old. For weeks, he'd been memorizing songs for his school's "Winter Pageant."
I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there'd be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.
So, the morning of the dress rehearsal, I filed in ten minutes early, found a spot on the cafeteria floor and sat down. Around the room, I saw several other parents quietly scampering to their seats. As I waited, the students were led into the room. Each class, accompanied by their teacher, sat cross-legged on the floor. Then, each group, one by one, rose to perform their song. Because the public school system had long stopped referring to the holiday as Christmas, I didn't expect anything other than fun, commercial entertainment - songs of reindeer, Santa Claus, snowflakes and good cheer. So, when my son's class rose to sing, "Christmas Love," I was slightly taken aback by its bold title.
Nicholas was aglow, as were all of his classmates, adorned in fuzzy mittens, red sweaters, and bright snowcaps upon their heads. Those in the front row-center stage -- held up large letters, one by one, to spell out the title of the song. As the class would sing "C is for Christmas," a child would hold up the letter C. Then, "H is for Happy," and on and on, until each child holding up his portion had presented the complete message, "Christmas Love." The performance was going smoothly, until suddenly, we noticed her; a small, quiet, girl in the front row holding the letter "M" upside down -- totally unaware her letter "M" appeared as a "W."
The audience of 1st through 6th graders snickered at this little one's mistake. But she had no idea they were laughing at her, so she stood tall, proudly holding her "W." Although many teachers tried to shush the children, the laughter continued until the last letter was raised, and we all saw it together. A hush came over the audience and eyes began to widen.
In that instant, we understood the reason we were there, why we celebrated the holiday in the first place, why even in the chaos, there was a purpose for our festivities.
For when the last letter was held high, the message read loud and clear:
"C H R I S T W A S L O V E"
And, I believe, He still is. Amazed in His presence... Humbled by His love. May each of you have a Merry Christmas as you reflect on His Amazing Love."
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Mount Kilimanjaro! The Roof of Africa! The highest point on the continent and the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. This week I have been remiscing about this fantastic mountain as it was two years ago that I stood on the top of it! One of the most exciting & proudest moments of my life. Oh, it isn't a very technical mountain, as far as that goes. It's more of a challenging hike, you just need strength, endurance & perseverance to get you to the top as opposed to mountaineering skills.
Africa is definitely a fascinating continent. I was at a point in my life where I needed to get away & I needed a challenge. As an avid hiker, I had a hiker friend tell me about Kilimanjaro and suddenly a desire was growing in me. Not only did it seem like a great challenge but it was located in this far off land of amazing animals, exotic people, diverse cultures and beautiful landscapes. I had to go.
Aside from all the wonderful things I saw & did while in Africa, climbing Kili was the reason I was there. It landed in the middle of my trip and I got so nervous as the days drew closer to my climb. When I finally got to Arusha, in Tanzania, I was introduced to my climbing partners, Uli from Germany & JP from Denmark, as well as a team of porters & guides. We were so excited to get started.
One term you repeat every day while on Kili is "Pole-Pole" which is Swahili for slowly! And here more than ever PATIENCE is a virtue. It was tough going, that is for sure, but it wasn't until the final ascent where I had to find something bigger than myself to get to the top. Imagine getting up at midnight, to climb the steepest & most dangerous part in the dark. Its freezing cold, the snow is falling & the wind is blowing and you're just going up, following the guide with no indication that you're near the top, other than knowing that we will be summiting at sunrise.
My toes were freezing, I was exhausted, I just kept looking over my shoulder at the horizon where the sun would be coming up, hoping to see an indication of light to tell me we were almost there. I wanted to quit but the fear of going DOWN in the blackness of night was just another motivation to keep going up & trusting the guide.
When I thought I had nothing left in me, I found some encouragement by remembering & reciting every Bible verse I could think of that spoke of strength, endurance & help. I thought of favourites like:
"But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31
"For we walk by faith, not by sight" 2 Corinthians 5:7 (it was dark)
"lead me to the rock that is higher than I" Psalm 61:2
" I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip, he who watches over you will not slumber." Psalm 121: 1-3
"Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!" Psalm 27:14
And when I couldn't think of anymore, I just kept repeating "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Phillipians 4:13
I made it to the top, and all the way back down & found my strength in the word of God! Are you facing a challenge in your life. I hope that you can find some strength in these verses as well!
I DID IT!!!
Monday, December 11, 2006
Have you ever experienced true contentment at any given moment in your life? I think I have found it in this moment of mine.
My husband & I have felt so blessed over this past year that we can't help but feel content with everything. We are nicely settled into our tiny snug house & can't think of anything more we could want but to be together in it.
Oh we have certainly done some renovating & painting here & there, a bit of new flooring & stuff like that, but I'm talking quality of life contentment. We don't desire the 'bigger & better' things of life. Its easy to look around at the people we know & think we would want a bigger house, a fancier truck, an exotic vacation etc. But right now, we just don't. We have found ourselves at a place of contentment & we're happy to be in it. We call it our bubble. And we are happy inside it. Reality is quick to burst bubbles these days. People find a spot of happiness or peace & the real world finds ways to damage it.
This time of year, Christmas Shopping Season, we are certainly bombarded with covetousness & discontentment. Advertisements tell us to want & buy & consume & spend! Gift giving has also been a part of my family traditions. Its something we enjoy doing for eachother but its certainly easy to get carried away. Every single year, some statistic will tell us that 'people are spending more this year than last year'. Most marketing schemes are designed to make you WANT something better than what you have. Its hard to find a contentment in a world of consumption.
My wish for you in this season of consuming is that you find your place of contentment amidst the demands for wanting, spending, giving & getting.
Graphic by In His Image Graphics
Friday, December 08, 2006
I had this verse reference written on a note on my desk for the last few days to remind me I wanted to write about it but I couldn't remember what it referred to until I looked it up again today. Then I remembered 'Persecuted Christians'.
Many of us who live in North America don't really have any idea what it is like to be persecuted for our Christian faith. Some of us may endure ridicule or embarrassment, maybe some hateful words or actions but in our mostly free countries, we don't really have to face persecution like some do.
According to my trusty dictionary site, PERSECUTE is "to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief" and there are thousands of Christians facing this in our world today. Its only going to get worse. Many are imprisoned, beaten, threatened or martyred for their faith in Christ. They are the ones that cling to verses such as these when they feel alone or helpless. The reminder that God is there with them no matter what they are facing.
I get email updates from "Voice of the Martyrs" on a regular basis which provide details on where Christians are persecuted around the world. According to their own Mission Statement on their website at www.persecution.net "The Voice of the Martyrs exists to glorify God by being Canada's effective and reliable source of information and support of persecuted Christians around the world." I invite you to have a look at their site for yourself so you have a better understanding of how & why there is persecution in the world.
I think at Christmas time, my thoughts often wonder about the 'less fortunate' in the world and I try to think of ways I can give a little bit back. For example, I send out shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. This year especially, I've been wondering what else I can do. Then this email update from Voice of the Martyrs put my thinking in a different direction. It reminded me that I need to pray! Its easy to forget about the power of prayer when my own life is going so well. But when I am reminded of others suffering, this is when I need to pray even more. I need to pray that they feel God's promises & presence even stronger. Please join me in praying that they will cling to this verse in Hebrews knowing that God will never leave nor forsake them.
Friday, December 01, 2006
I know Christmas isn't a joyous time of year for everyone & I respect that. A lot of memories are built in to special holiday seasons & they aren't always good, sometimes hurtful, sometimes painful & sometimes angry feelings come out around this time of year. Some people would love to skip Christmas altoghter. Some people hate the hustle & bustle of the commercialism of Christmas. Some people believe Christmas is too religious or not religious enough. Many people are afriad of offending others by saying "Merry Christmas" as opposed to "Seasons Greetings". I'm not one of those people.
I love that Christmas is both a religious holiday and a commercial holiday. I love that its a day where Christians can celebrate the birth of Jesus. I love that the decorations & gift giving brings me such joy. I love singing "Silent Night", "Joy to the World" and "Hark the Herald Angels". I also love singing "Deck The Halls" and "Jingle Bells". Do I contradict myself? Perhaps. Am I sitting on a fence about it? Absolutely not! I find joy in both parts of Christmas, both the spiritual & the commercialism. It is certainly possible that its one or the other for you? Or both! My wish for you is, whatever your Christmas traditions are, that they bring you JOY for the month of December.
So if you find your joy by hanging garland around the windows or displaying a Nativity set on your mantle, or both, embrace those tradtions so you too, can anticipate this as a season of joy, year after year!
"Deck the Halls with boughs of holly, tis the season to be JOLLY"