Inspiring Joy with a Quick and Easy Read

If you LOVE Christmas and are in the “Christmas Spirit” you’ll love these books.

If you are NOT feeling it or loving it and you have the “Bah humbug” blues you may need these books.

The holiday season is so busy, so full that I have leaned on easy reads in December.  Here are a few of my favorites.

I’ve read “The Tale of Three Trees” in several group settings and at Christmas parties, it’s a wonderful way of sharing without being “offensive”.  It brings tears to my eyes every time I read it, and I practically know it by heart!

 

 

 

 

 

I learned about “Simple Acts of Faith” while I was doing some care giving for an elderly client of mine who I adore.  She was giving them as Christmas presents and my task was to wrap them.  I had to peek – and I only needed to read one of the pages to decided to buy one for myself (then several more as gifts to my family and friends).

 

 

 

 

I found “A Simple Act of Gratitude” at the public library on accident (divine conspiracy is more accurate) at a time in my life in which I hurt deeply.  The cover at that time was a mailbox (sort of in the middle of know where).  I had wanted to hike a trail that ends with a mailbox at the peak and so I opened it and read the jacket which talked about a guy going on a hike, during the holidays, and his life was a mess.  Well, the book went home with me – and then it changed my life.

 

 

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I can’t remember how I came across “The Quilt makers Gift” but I loved it and I like to think that the man who walked away from Jesus because Jesus said he should sell everything he owns and follow Him may have turned out like this.  I like to hope the best about people and I know that I often make choices up front that I later realize I need a change of mind and some new actions are needed.

 

 

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“Christmas Jars” is a novel, it’s hard to put down so that’s why it ended up a quick read for me.  We had a person in our church get a “Christmas jar” and post it on Facebook, of course I was interested in what that was all about.  The fb post created many comments about people jumping up and checking their front doors for a jar.  A definite game changer for those who love to give and for those who don’t.

When Holidays Hurt

Entering into the holiday season it would be easy to do some sappy, pretty worded sharing of all the things I’m grateful for (and I am!) but that would be to expected and not raw or real.  So let’s be real!

What happens when holidays hurt?

I suppose we could launch off on all the ways you could hurt during the holidays.  Grieving a loss would top the list.  The obvious loss of a loved one (person or pet), finances, possessions, dreams.  These are all reasons that cause grief, pain and loneliness.

The bottom line is we have encountered the loss of joy.  The loss of expectations being met, the expectations can be impossible ideals or very real and valid needs.

I remember many painful holidays.  Probably to many to list, we had the Thanksgiving morning at 5 a.m. announcing the death of my Mother in law.  We were numb, I made the turkey, we didn’t want to tell the kids that day, we thought we could “be strong” and hold out until the next day.  Boy was that a dumb impossible idea!

The many pained holiday seasons with issues from my daughter having multiple disabilities and her quadriplegia CP, seizures etc. causing the reality of life to meet the ideals of holidays in a train wreck leaving little sanity in tack.

There was the Christmas Eve we took our family pet to the ER and had the Christmas morning phone call that he had died.  No faking it through that one – I didn’t even bother trying to make the turkey meal.  I think we had turkey about 3 days later just so it wouldn’t go to waste.

The Thanksgiving with a table with few if any people sitting around it or people but little food or food that was burnt, raw, dropped on the floor….

There is the painful and awkward Christmas gift you bought someone and it just sits there because they died a week before Christmas or the family fight means you won’t be seeing them or exchanging gifts after all.

One of the worst was entering Christmas with my son lost and on drugs.  Wondering if he was dead or alive, wondering how I would ever be able to be “strong” for my other kids.  How would I decorate a tree, wrap gifts, make cookies, sing (really – there is no way to sing!)?  That Christmas was a game changer.

I was in my room trying to wrap gifts and crying (bawling actually) but crying out to the Lord (best way to cry).  I have wrapping paper in front of me that says “Merry Christmas” and I am next to screaming in my heart to God “HOW?  It isn’t possible!”  I am cutting the paper to the size of the box and the scissors go through the word Christmas making it say “Merry Chris” (my son’s name is Chris).  I thought I’d lose it, I decided this was a perfect example to show God how impossible it really is.  I said “See!  You can’t even SPELL Christmas without Chris!”  I think Jesus must of jumped up out of His throne seat with absolute joy, beaming at the opportunity I just opened myself up to because this is what I heard next (and it was a game changer).

“Well, I guess you didn’t see the “t” -you know, that letter that looks like the cross.”

Have you ever heard a sentence and it just flooded you with such open eyed wonder and  understanding it’s as if you heard a multitude of things all at the same time?

I could hear in that one sentence things like:  “I know your pain, My son died also”,  “It isn’t about having anything – family, gifts, cookies, it is ALL about the cross”,  “The joy of the LORD is your strength” and on and on and on.  It was an ah-ha moment.  It was a chance to choose to focus on Christ.  To put into practice all those pretty little words I say and sing “I surrender all”, “Rejoice in the LORD always and again I say rejoice”, “I will praise you through the storm”,”it is well with my soul” the list can become endless.  And I am not alone, King David, Jesus, Moses, Job, Paul….. there is a book of history written in which time and time again in the midst of loss and pain and suffering broken hearts are given a choice between being sensitive or turning cynical.

I love Psalm 42:1-11

These verses in particular are good to meditate upon if you are entering a holiday with grief:

Psalm 42:3  My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where [is] your God?”

4 When I remember these [things], I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And [why] are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him [For] the help of His countenance.

It is my prayer that you can be real.  Be fair to yourself, open up the Pandora’s box of emotions (dangerous as they are) and lay them before the LORD.  He is big enough to handle it.  He knows you better than you know  yourself and He is waiting to walk you through your sorrows, He alone can turn your sorrow into joy.  He can give you reason to be thankful, for He alone – if nothing else existed, is reason enough to be thankful.

If you are hurting, crying, dying then close your eyes and take a deep breath and thank the Lord for breathing the breath of life into your lungs.  I have had learned (the long 40 years in the desert way) that the sacrifice of praise is just that – I praise whether things are right or wrong, it is my sacrifice to the Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

 

 

 

Kings and Conspiracies

In the midst of elections I found great hope as I read the book of Esther.  I don’t think I would have noticed it as much had I not been reading The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (a must read for any Christian interested in maturing in Christ).

In the participants guide for “The Divine Conspiracy” DVD lessons the 1st question is:  “What is an example of something God is doing in the world, but many people don’t notice or realize it?” (The Divine Conspiracy, Participants Guide, page 15, video discussion question #1).

My answer was “that ultimately God is choosing our leaders, presidents, kings, etc.

I believe God gives us free choice.  We want our way and often He steps aside and lets us have it.

1 Samuel 8:4-9 is all about the people wanting a king over them.

1 Samuel 8:22 “So the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Heed their voice, and make them a king’”

I find it comforting that if I end up regretting who I vote for I can cry out to God, after all, He has experienced the very same thing!

1 Samuel 15:10-11 “Now the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.”  And it grieved Samuel and he cried out to the LORD all night.”

My hope and joy comes from the history throughout the Bible of Kings, Pharaohs, and leaders of any and many varying titles chosen and yet being moved by the divine hand of God.  God has a very long track record of moving hearts, changing minds, and setting into motion a series of events that pushes forward His will, His way and protects His people.

I read the book of Esther the other day (actually I listened to it on a Bible app) and I was so struck by the most common everyday subtle circumstances that put into motion a chain of events so monumental it was life changing.  Have you ever seen a cartoon of the tiny snowball rolling down the mountain side and becoming a giant ball of snow that squashes an entire city? snowball effect cartoon by Gar-E

Sure, you know Esther becomes Queen but…there is SO MUCH MORE!  The King didn’t just agree to Queen Esther’s request without some back story.

First of all Mordecai saved the Kings life (Esther 2:21-23) vs. 23 ends by saying “…and it was written in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.”

Now let’s skip to chapter 6:1-10.  Esther 6:1 “That night the king could not sleep.  So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.”

WOW!  How many sleepless nights have been God at work!  You see a conspiracy was already going on by the kings’ advisor and right hand man Haman to kill the Jews – especially Mordecai.

Coincidence?  NO WAY!  The story doesn’t stop there and as I said before, the entire Bible is full of God working, moving, loving, protecting, guiding and changing both individuals, nations and the entire course of history.

The LORD created the earth and everything in it.  He chose to walk among us and speak to us one on one in the garden, we chose to disobey and hide. (Genesis 2 and 3).  He has always been seeking us, calling to us, reaching out to us.  Noah heard Him, Abraham listened as did many afterward and still do.  Moses spoke with God and Israel sought to hear from Moses what God said (Exodus 20:19), his father in law wisely advised Moses of creating judges (Exodus 18:13-26).

In time Israel wanted a king, ‘like the other nations’.

Note to self:  Why do I often think I’d be better off having what the world has as well?

So, history marches on – here we are America, ready to vote or maybe you’ve mailed it in already or refuse to vote at all.  In any case be of great cheer and take courage believing in the GOOD NEWS that God Himself is in control!  He may give us just what we ask for yet He is up to something grand.  He puts in motion what is to be and has a “book of chronicles of The King” (the Bible) which has record of His faithfulness to us.

The bigger picture is a divine conspiracy, honestly it’s no secret, and He gives us a sneak peek of His overall end game.  The plan, if you will, (whenever it comes) is that we (His chosen) will walk with Him again in His garden (Revelation 22:1-5).

God Bless America and bring forth His Will!