Category Archives: My Book-Living the Season Well: Reclaiming Christmas

Ready for the Sights of the Season (sort of)

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol   

I’m sure you’ve noticed….the fervor of the Christmas season often assaults us from September’s end all the way until December. The other day while shopping at Costco I felt just that–overwhelmed by an onslaught of Christmas music, faux decorations and mountain of toys two aisles wide. While I rounded the corner next to cases of hummus and casserole fixings, I sighed and pondered our desperate need for a slower walk into the coming season.

I wish more folks in the world ordered their lives around the church calendar and its feasts rather than the calendar of consumerism. Along with harvest decorations and the Halloween costumes there’s mechanical Santas and fake flocked Christmas wreaths at nearly every department store around.

I suppose Costco prescribes to Dickens’ philosophy above, that of keeping Christmas (almost) the entire year. While I support the spirit of this sentiment–being filled with peace and goodwill towards all men–the crush of gift-giving and pressures of picture-perfect holidays miss the point completely. We would do well–I would do well–to remember the need for a slow walk into the season; Advent is the perfect place to begin.  

After All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) we observe All Saints Day on the church calendar, an occasion for remembering all the saints, known and unknown. After that is the last church feast day in Ordinary Time-the Story of the People of God, Christ the King Sunday on November 24th. We are then ushered into the season of Advent and the months that encompass the Story of Jesus from his birth until the celebration of Pentecost. This graphic below is helpful to me, a clueless Evangelical, when it comes to understanding the church year. Perhaps you’ll find it an aid to your understanding as well.

Image result for church calendar graphic

photo credit-Renovare.org

As with much of Christianity, the church year can be radically countercultural, a much-needed light showing a better way to live. In a culture that is often too hurried and distracted, the church year helps us pay attention because it draws our focus continually back to Christ.    -K.C. Ireton, The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year

A couple of years ago when I wrote my Christmas book, Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas, God gave me a simple idea for the little by little walk of waiting that Advent affords us. Enter the amaryllis bulb.

Amaryllis bulbs usually show up in the grocery stores by the end of the month of October, right along with the Disney princess costumes, next to Spiderman and the Jack-o-Lanterns.

Ignore those blatant garish reminders of a consumer holiday gone wrong and instead buy one or two amaryllis bulbs in various colors–red or peach or salmon.  With a view to the Advent Season, think of them as a visual reminder to begin a slow(er)walk into the coming Season. Really.

P_20181025_113637.jpg

A crinkly light-brown flower bulb half-buried in the dirt can become a silent message, counter cultural if you will, that says, “wait for the Real Thing. Wait for Jesus. Celebrate Him.” This is a great idea to do with kids, I might add.

When I buy my amaryllis (amaryllii???) I usually cut out the flower photo on the box and keep it as a way of reminding me of the beauty to come. Granted, watching the crinkly white globe while it sits in the dirt won’t make it bloom, but each little nudge of green shows me that something is happening down there in the dark.P_20181110_073001God is up to something….and (prayerfully) when the blooms arrive at Christmas I can rejoice in their  remarkable surprise.P_20181204_090440.jpgWhen I sign my books either in person or via mail, I always include this Scripture from Micah 7:7, “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LordI wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.” In Hebrew the word wait here is by implication to be patient, to hope, tarry, trust.

Perhaps our own lives can mirror this small slice of God’s creation and, like the amaryllis, take our time to reveal God’s remarkable surprises. Or tarry a bit in the days ahead before they all come careening towards in a pile up of presents and lost peace.

What we really need is the Presence of God. Let’s wait for that, shall we?

Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas is available via Books a Million, Barnes and Noble online or wherever books are sold. You can also purchase signed copies directly from me for $10 which includes postage. Click on the tab at the top for more info  and a link to the book Website with free lists and downloads. You can also fill out the Contact form for a signed copy and we’ll connect there. cover final.jpg

*header photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Christmas: Mystery, Miracle or Magic?

“Did not a great grey servant

Of all my sires and me,

Build this pavilion of the pines,

And herd the fowls and fill the vines,

And labour and pass and leave no signs

Save mercy and mystery?”

                                                –G.K. Chesterton, from the Ballad of the White Horse, Book IV

The holiday weeks are often heralded as the most wonderful time of the year; God knows we also W O R K to make it the most wonderful time of the year.  Unspoken pressures and unrealistic expectations—whether from others outside or inside ourselves—can back us into a corner and leave us, if not defeated, a little discouraged.

We want magic to last forever, especially during the Christmas season.

Whether you’re a grandparent, an auntie or uncle or mom and dad, everyone does their best to manage the tricky equation. There’s the balance of dealing with the pressure to provide nonstop happiness with that elusive, endless magic we’re sure is just around the corner. All the while we try to hold to the heart of Christmas—remembering Jesus.  Most often though, all that fun, excitement and magic-making leaves us feeling exhausted and overwhelmed while the joy and peace we crave are lost.

What we really want at Christmas is a way to remember what matters, and maybe a new attitude about it all. (Lord knows, changing my head AND my heart is no small miracle.)  So, how do we manage the magic? If it doesn’t last through Christmas, how do we hold on to the wonder?

Two ways: We enter into God’s mystery by mining His word and leaning into the miracles in our own hearts.

In this season of Advent, we’re encouraged to light our wintry way with God’s Word.

Reading on the first Sunday of Advent, there’s the explosive promise of Hope in Isaiah 64 to wait for our coming Savior,
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,  so that the mountains would quake at your presence–
as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil– to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence!
When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down,
the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him.”

The Advent readings for the month continue.

Second Sunday’s Prepare rings out in Isaiah 40, the Third Sunday’s Rejoice pours forth in Luke 1 as we read of Mary singing and rejoicing in Christ’s birth. And on the fourth Sunday we light the final candle to celebrate Love, God’s gift to us in the form of Jesus.

These passages contain much to meditate on; guided by the Scripture we are provided a place to pause over the mystery of God made flesh.

The reality of God’s word is as long-lasting as eternity. There is nothing temporary about it.

Another sure thing that will never fade? The personal miracles God has done in our lives. Whether it’s a change in our thinking or our attitudes, a new way of relating, a bigger heart for giving (and forgiving), those are all Godmade gifts that last when we receive His work in our hearts.

Christmastime contains the opportunity for mystery, miracles and magic.

But magic like the flicker of a firefly’s light is momentary. I want memories of a forever light that has not only come into the world, but will never fade away.

The mystery and miracle of Christmas.

*****

This post is taken from a message I gave at Lake Tapps Christian Center in Bonney Lake, WA, sharing about my book “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas”

P_20181114_114840-3663114983-1542741044454.jpg

 

You can order signed copies of LTSW for $10 by clicking HERE with your request and I’ll be in touch.


 

God With Us, Always

I realize it’s still a few days before Halloween, but unless you’ve been under a rock (or in North Dakota somewhere) you know the Christmas parade has started in stores all across the land. (My apologies to anyone in either of the Dakotas).

Yes, the holidays are fast on the heels of All Hallow’s Eve and we’ll be reminded once again – I hope! – that God is with us. I guess we can blame capitalism and commercialism, but Christmas seems to come sooner every year, doesn’t it?

No doubt due to Seattle’s drizzly weather (and the Costco displays), I started humming this Christmas song* the other day and realized that “Emmanuel, God With Us” are words I can sing year ‘round.

Because God is always with us. And has been with us from the beginning.

– – – – –

Our Home Group has been walking slowly through the book of Joshua, a portion of God’s Word I love greatly for the message of salvation in its pages. God with us, right there in the Old Testament, in the unlikely guise of Rahab, the harlot. Fast forward, or read forward, and the New Testament records Rahab’s unlikely inclusion in the lineage of Christ, revealing the scarlet thread that ran, not only from her window, but all through history to Christ’s birth and ultimately his death.

I love how God’s story is throughout the pages of the Bible, salvation from beginning to end, God with us for all time.

– – – – –

My new book Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas talks about the story of Christmas, not as a single day, but a season. I write about the days including Advent (on December 3rd this year) all the way to Epiphany on January 6th—the observance of the “showing forth” or manifestation of God to the world—and how we can spread out the joy of Christmas over weeks, not days.

I think the real message of Christmas is not that Jesus came, but what we’re going to do with what we know about His coming.

He was manifested to the world—God with us—so we can show others who He is. All year long, wherever we go.

Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas can show you how. You can purchase it on Amazon or from Barnes and Noble. Thank you~

front book cover

*We Have a Saviour, Hillsong United Christmas

Keeping in Step with Jesus (Vlog)

In the middle of all that goes into releasing a book and talking about a book and promoting a book**, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters. This entry from Oswald Chambers “My Utmost for His Highest” (October 12th) was encouraging to me; I hope it encourages you. (forgive my cough; of course, as soon as I began to speak, my voice got all scratchy).

 

**Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas

 

 

On Being Famous (and Writing a Book)

True confession: Last week my husband and I high-tailed it home from our Wednesday Night Home Group to watch the finale of America’s Got Talent. Did you see it?! Our favorite young contestant, Darci Lynne, won! No big deal you say, but hang in there with me.

Darci Lynne is an amazing 12-year-old ventriloquist who not only can talk without moving her lips. She sings. Very well. We had been following Darci Lynne’s journey and were overjoyed when she won. Television hardly captured the emotion of the moment. Oh, the sparkle and applause and tears and complete, stunning joy; it was a delight to see her innocence and authentic astonishment.

In interviews prior to the last evenings’ performances, another little girl, aged 9, with a voice like a pint-sized Celine Dion, beamed for the camera. When asked why she wanted to win, she replied, “My name would be in lights. I want to be a super star.”

Darci Lynne told the world that if she won the million-dollar prize, she’d buy her mom a new dishwasher and give “a bunch of money to missions at our church.”

No mention of being famous, or wanting to see her name on a marquee.

Darci Lynne’s humility reflected her groundedness—grateful and confident in the gifts she had, but knowing they weren’t for her glory. She wanted other people to be inspired, she said, and many were. A portion of the show featured video clips sent in folks from around the country-young and old-who said they wanted to be just like her.

Would to God we would all carry our gifts with such open hands.

/ / / / /

As I pondered what we witnessed that night on TV, I reflected on a conversation an hour earlier at Home Group. We are loved and cared for there like family, having walked a whole lot o’ miles with these dear friends. Prior to our gathering, my friend G. asked how the book I wrote** is coming. (You have friends like this, yes?) I told him the book is complete and I am waiting for a proof copy from the printing company as we speak.

“You must be walking one foot off the ground, huh? Like super-excited?”

“Uh, no,” I replied. “Not yet.”

“After people buy the book and I get to hear how the message helped them find new joy or be set free, then I’ll be excited. I’m passionate about what God has given me to share; if readers find my words beneficial, that news would have me walking a foot off the ground.”

/ / / / /

I don’t think any of us who process our world with words wakes up in the morning and says, “Hey, I’m gonna write a book!” (Well, actually that’s what I did. Because I.had.no.idea.) But still, when you know how much discouragement and discipline and stress and no sleep and fill-in-the-blank it takes to dream of a book, draft a book, revise a book and get the thing published, there’s no way anyone would want to do that.

Except. Unless. Unless you have a message of encouragement and freedom that’s burning in your spirit that you want to bring to others. Unless you’ve been gifted with a clarity that you want others to see. Unless you have a desire to inspire or edify or….. a hundred other things.

That is why we write.

Not because we want to be rich and famous. (Uh, no on the rich. Maybe on the ‘famous.’) No—we write because God has trusted us with the gift of bringing our words into the world so ultimately He gets the glory.

And if it changes one life or a hundred or a thousand, then it is all worth it. All of it. That is why we write. Not for fame, certainly not fortune, but to “cast our bread upon the water and you will find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1).

Keep on casting your bread, my friends, whatever you have in your hand to share.

It isn’t yours anyway.

– – – – –

This post is an expanded version of comments in the Hope*Writers Facebook group, as well as Glory Writers, a group for Christian Creatives that I facilitate. The label says ‘closed’ but just knock on the door. 

**Surprise! “Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas” is available sooner than I expected…Amazon doesn’t have the print book yet but you can order the ebook.

Next week I’ll write an actual, factual book announcement. There won’t be any golden confetti, but come back anyway.

“Writing a Book is Easy” (said no one. ever.)

When I set out from home last week, Sunday to be exact, I’d been crowing to all who would listen, “I’m going away for a week to write the first draft of my book.” As if…..as if that can be done. But God is so good–we just don’t know what we don’t know. Whether it’s, “Hey, let’s paint the living room this weekend,” “Honey, let’s take that hike. It’s totally easy.” “Wow, I think I’ll go back to school/get a job now that my children are older,” and other idealistic statements.

Or maybe that’s just me.

stained glass, GrunewaldThis week away at the lovely Grunewald Guild in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, has been eye-opening, to say the least. (The bridge photo in the header was taken here at Grunewald last Fall).

Here are seven things I’ve learned I’m learning:

  1. Life and Jesus will get in the way (in a good way).
  2. You planned to write a rough draft of your book but you’re the rough draft
  3. Never write in the same room you’re sleeping in. A table along one wall does not a study make
  4. You will have to recalibrate your expectations several times using not GPS, but Jesus PS.
  5. Sometimes being productive means lots of prayers going up rather than print on the page.
  6. Trust the process. Give it time. God’s not in a hurry. The book idea was His anyway—all you have to do is give Him your pen.
  7. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not God.