Be Still And Know — A Not So Perfect Family Christmas

Have you ever received what seems like an impossible suggestion or request or even command? How do you deal with it?

It was late December. I’d been sick for about a month, and found out the previous Tuesday I had a sinus infection. I’d probably been sick with it most of that month, but at least now I was on antibiotics. The Friday after my diagnosis, we learned my husband, who had also been sick all month, had one, too. He was given the same antibiotics.

Being sick, however, didn’t stop the massive, out-of-control freight train that was my “To Do” list and schedule. I tried to delegate some. I asked my husband (who was home and retired while I was still working full-time) to wrap the gifts. Our son took on a majority of the cookie baking, as he had every year (whether I wanted him to or not) for the past 4 or 5 years. (I still had to do the ones for the Cookie Exchange at work, and of course I’d signed up for the most complex and painstaking monster of a project imaginable!!.) The pair of them even decorated the house and yard with lights, and put up the tree, though it stayed without ornaments for over 2 weeks. My husband helped me stuff the stockings. I asked our daughter to make our traditional Christmas dessert which her husband adores, Pumpkin Cheesecake. But I was still rushed, frazzled and quite frankly, worn out. There was just too much on that “To Do” list, too little time to do it, and I was still sick . . .

Finally, at church on the Sunday before Christmas, a friend read a Scripture that touched my heart. It spoke to my illness, my “To Do” list, my hectic schedule and my lack of joy in what is normally my favorite time of year. When I heard it, I felt like God was speaking the words to me, gently slapping me upside my head.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God.” The words spoke life to my rushed, troubled heart. Sweeping aside my “To Do” list, my schedule and my self-imposed Christmas insanity, the words of Psalm 46 demanded a paradigm shift of my priorities, my schedule and my life.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They called me to rest. Not just sleep, which my still sick body desperately needed. No, these words were calling me to true rest and peace in God. To know that perfect isn’t required, and okay is good enough. To know that the menu isn’t important, it’s who is eating the food, and making sure was Jesus our Guest, too.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They called me to remember the Reason for the season. They reminded me again of what I’d known since childhood: Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, our Savior. It’s about His life, His sacrificial offering of Himself for us so that we can have a relationship with Him and His Father. It’s not about the food, the presents, the lights and all the other trappings, no matter how good they are. Because they are the “good” of the season, while the gift of Jesus was, is and always will be God’s greatest and best.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They insisted I deal with the emotional weight I’d been avoiding, of that first Christmas without my Mom being among us after her death the previous March. I was reminded she was celebrating the holiday with Jesus, and even though it’s different without her, and always will be, that’s okay.

“Be still and know that I am God.” They reminded me I’m not in control of my life, and God is. Even when I tried to give in to the illusion and deception of being a (recovering) control freak, the words cut through my feeble efforts to direct my life and reminded me there is One who is ultimately in control. And He is in control not just of my life, but of situations and circumstances beyond my comprehension, even reaching to the far-flung galaxies of the universe. The words reminded me I can trust the One who spun it all into existence, and holds it together by His will.

That last reminder was very helpful 2 days later (and 2 days before Christmas), when I got a call at work, telling me our daughter and 6 month old granddaughter had influenza, despite having gotten flu shots! (CDC says the shots don’t cover every strain, and they got one it didn’t, of course!) Our daughter and son-in-law wanted us to take the 2 older children (who were not sick), and have them stay with us from that day, through Christmas and for several days after.

“Be still and know that I am God.” These words ran through my mind repeatedly as I spoke to my husband, working out first if we could do it. Then, when we decided we could, we discussed the logistics of my work schedule and transportation needs, all now more complicated by the presence in our house of 2 girls, ages 4 and 6, for a few unexpected days.

“Be still and know that I am God.” Stuff I’d planned and we “always” do didn’t get done. Our daughter didn’t get the cheesecake baked before she got sick. Since small granddaughters prefer Christmas cookies to cheesecake, we were okay with that. My husband and son decorated the tree with the help of 2 small girls. As long as my delicate, breakable ornaments were put high by one of the men, I didn’t care what it looked like.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  The 4 year old and I started having coughing fits on Christmas Eve. I suspected exposure to my daughter (for me, prior to her showing symptoms on Sunday) was the culprit. Instead of the “perfect” family Christmas, we had one that was a different and not so perfect kind of family Christmas. We were missing Mom, and almost 1/2 of us were ill. But in its own way, it was perfect, because those ancient words prompted me to remember Christmas is perfect when we are with people we love and we have invited God and His presence and peace to be in our midst.

“Be still and know that I am God.” I pray your holiday season will be filled with the gentle stillness of God’s loving presence and at least some of the people you love.

Merry Christmas!

When Pain Mocks The Song — Even In The Christmas Update Letter by Terri Brady

Easter In Song

For Easter, I am giving you a few videos of some of my favorite Resurrection Day music. I hope you like it as much as I do.

The first is by one of the early bands of the Contemporary Christian Music genre, 2nd Chapter of Acts. It’s called Easter Song.

The next is by Dallas Holm, another pioneer in Christian Contemporary Music, called Rise Again.

The next is by Don Francisco, known for his story-telling through music, Too Small A Price. (Warning: Graphic images inappropriate for small children. But don’t let the images scare you away. The ending is positively amazing!)

The last one is another by Don Francisco. It is my absolute favorite, the joy-filled He’s Alive.

Photo: After Eden: The Difference

 

Re-Post: Gratitude – A Thanksgiving Prayer

This is a re-post.  I am also very grateful and thankful for our U.S. military, who serve us at home and abroad so thanklessly all year, and for our first responders, who do the same at home!!

I’m thankful for the flowers.

Fall Foliage at the New York Botanical Garden

I’m grateful for the trees.

I’m awestruck with all nature

And all its wondrous beauty.

I’m thankful for the animals,

For the ones so wild and free,

And for those who life as friends

Among us, loving me.

Blubbertail in the window

I’m thankful for the heavens

And their great bright starry host.

And I’m grateful for the seasons;

There’s not one I don’t love the most.

I’m thankful for the valleys,

And the mountains soaring so high,

And I’m grateful for the oceans

And the water’s abundant supply.

The 2007 U.S. National Christmas Tree is lit o...

I’m thankful for my family,

My children, bright and strong,

And how my spouse still loves me

When I am in the wrong.

And I’m grateful for the people

Whose love will never end,

Both family and others,

The ones I’m proud to call “Friend.”

Our Family Portrait, 2008

I’m mostly thankful, though, Lord,

For the love I’ve come to know

In the ways You gently touch my heart

And cause me to quietly grow.

I’m grateful also, dear Lord,

For the gifts You’ve given me,

And the way You teach me how to use them

So you can set other spirits free.

Lord (Jesus)

I’m thankful for it all, Lord,

For this life that I call “Mine,”

And I’m asking You to help me

To be thankful more of the time.

And I’m asking You to shake me up

When I have a bad attitude,

That others might be drawn to You

Through my life of humble gratitude.

A Little Bit Of Heaven

What is Heaven like? I remember asking that question as a child. I suspect if we were raised in any kind of religious home, or had any experience with the death of a loved one at a young age, most of us asked it at one point or another when we were children. For the most part, unfortunately, I think it went largely unanswered, or insufficiently answered. I know it did for me.

Somehow, the picture that springs to mind, largely fueled by the media, of cherubs fluttering around with harps and lounging on clouds, is at best unsatisfying. At worst, it seems patronizing and trite.

Wenceslas Hollar - Concert of cherubs in the c...

So, what is Heaven like? It’s a subject preachers don’t often mention, because they don’t have a lot to go on, save for the words of Jesus and the visions of prophets like John in Revelation, Ezekiel and Isaiah. Jesus gave us analogies, mostly picturing what He wanted His Church to be like. Jesus’ word pictures were largely centered in people’s relationships to one another and to His Father. John, Ezekiel and Isaiah spoke of when the world finally ends, and what will happen. Though if you ask Bible scholars of differing theologies, you will get at least 4 or 5 different interpretations of what they said. This ends up being confusing at best.

Preachers don’t often mention it in sermons also because most Westerners don’t want to face the inevitability we will all eventually die. We are often perpetually self-deluded individuals, who act as if we will live forever, when we know at heart we will not. We find the topic of death uncomfortable, and put off discussions about it. This can also lead to eternal damnation for those who do not face it and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord in the here and now.

So, what is Heaven like? I heard someone speak once about music and worship, and what he believed it would be like in Heaven for those who believe in Jesus as Savior. He said everyone who wrote music to praise God would sing it before Him, with everyone else listening. All the different music styles, languages and cultures throughout the ages would give their music in a huge concert of praise to God.

He also said all the different cultures through the ages would bring before God what made them special, what God put in them to be unique. Tribal dances, animals, costumes and patterns, music and traditions would create a gigantic parade of splendor. Folks from Africa might come with lions, zebras and gazelles, dancing and singing. Folks from China might come with pandas and silks. Folks from India would bring elephants and tigers. All the wealth of every nation and diverse cultures would be on display, all for the glory of God.

I think about it, and am reminded of the scene from the movie “The Ten Commandments,” when the wealth of Egypt’s subject peoples were brought in tribute to Pharaoh. It would be like that, only on a far grander, vastly more epic scale than our human minds can comprehend. Talk about your concerts of praise!

English: Chris Tomlin performing a concert in ...

Chris Tomlin

I was reminded of all this when I saw a video on FaceBook this week. It is Christian singer/songwriter Chris Tomlin, singing his popular worship song, “How Great Is Our God.” In the video, he is joined by church worship leaders from around the world, singing in Spanish, Chinese, Swahili and other languages. They were all singing the same song in their own languages, sometimes at the same time. The joyful rendition reminds me of that picture of Heaven I was taught, which is the best description of it I’ve heard so far.

Here’s the link. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-ZtKzw-ipo

And, if you are not someone who has acknowledged Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your own life, I invite you to do it now. Heaven eventually awaits those who follow Him, and He gives a full and complete life to them in the here and now as well. If you do, please let me know in the Comments section. I will keep it private, and I will do what I can to link you to a local church in your area, where you can grow in your new faith.

A Boy Like You (For David)

(Philippians 2: 7)

A boy like you.

A mom like me.

Another time, another place.

Was there anyone there

Who could have guessed?

Deity born in their town.

A dad like yours.

Siblings like mine.

Another world, a different space.

Did they ever discuss it,

In just the family there?

Majesty living among them.

Schooling like yours.

Chores like mine.

Similar, and yet, very different.

Did the thought ever intrude

On their daily lives?

The Mighty God growing up there.

A room like yours.

A garden like mine.

Maybe a cat, maybe a dog.

Did they ever remember,

As she directed His ways?

The Sovereign Lord learning these things.

A Man as I dream you’ll be.

A mom – I hope to age as gracefully.

Surely they knew

As He want on His Father’s way

That God had grown up a man there.

Prayer For My Homeland

The White House from the National Christmas Tree

(The White House from the grounds of the National Christmas Tree.)

My country, ‘tis for thee,

Happy, prosperous, free,

For thee I pray.

Hold thou thy freedoms dear.

Keep thy God very near.

Pray every hour of every year,

Lest thee die away!

 

 

Lord, help us to obey

Thy holy Word each day,

And praise Thy Name.

Help us. Lord, evermore,

Thy precepts to adore

From mountains to the shore

And the rolling plains.

 

 

Lord, hold our leaders near.

And help them, Lord, to hear

They holy will.

Guide them with holy light.

Protect them by Thy might.

Help them to set wrong to right,

And Thy work fulfill.

 

 

Lord, we have disobeyed,

For we all have not prayed

For our homeland.

Forgive us, Lord, I ask.

Strengthen us to the task.

Forget our sorry past.

Guide us by Thy hand!

The Washington Monument from the National Christmas Tree

(The Washington Monument from the grounds of the National Christmas Tree.)

To Number My Days

Though we think it long,

Life is really brief,

Whether it be bitter or sweet.

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, ...

Then after our lives,

An eternity we’ll live

And our blessed Creator we’ll meet.

*

Teach me, O God,

To number my days

As I walk before Your sight.

English: A clock made in Revolutionary France,...

That from their brief span

I may learn to be wise;

Teach me to count them up right.

*

I only have a short time

To live on this world

And tell others of You and Your ways.

Calendar

Teach me, O God,

Not to put Your will off,

But to obey You as long as it’s “today.”

*

Help me, O God,

As I walk along,

To live in your grace and truth,

Youth Society

That I may become

Wise in Your ways,

And let You renew my strength to a youth’s.

*

I pray, O my God,

That should I fall,

You’d prompt me to quickly repent.

And I pray that You’ll help me

Dante And Virgil In Hell by William-Adolphe Bo...

Turn others to You,

So it’s not straight to Hell that they’re sent.

Empty Counsel

(For Job, who understood)

God, preserve me from empty counsel,

Let the speech I hear be from You.

English: Two people in a CCI (Co-Counselling I...

And keep the words I speak to others

Filled only with Your love and truth.

*

Let my counselors not be like those who preach

Without knowledge, like that of Job’s friends.

Fill my own words with thoughts straight from Your heart,

English: Two people in a CCI (Co-Counselling I...

So my own won’t go on without end.

*

Gentle their words, so that they will not cause

My heart to more deeply bleed.

Give me Your wisdom and discernment,

That I may help others in need.

*

Let them not judge where they hearts have not been,

And where their feet have not trod.                                        

Let me not judge, for I don’t want to try                                             Judge

To take the place of my God.

*

Keep me from them, I ask You, dear Lord,

Their faces I don’t want to see.

And soften my heart, that another won’t say,

“Keep also that one far from me!”

TEAM LIFE Faith – A Leading Lady Tells as She Sees It

A recent article by Terri Brady talks about the views the leaders of TEAM LIFE have toward faith in their families.  In Coyotes and Jesus, Terri says,

Chris & Terri Brady

But a few months ago, our pastor here in North Carolina, Stephen Davey, asked a key question that I thought I would bring home to my kids, now 14, 11, 8 and 6. “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being 100% sure: how sure are you of what happens to you if you died today?”

I thought this heaven/hell question would be an easy one for the Brady Bunch in my house. We have read the Bible together, attended church, have sung hymns, and prayed together; but their answers took my pride right to where it should be – in the Lord’s hands. They didn’t know.

I am not here for a theological discussion, but I AM here as a mother who loves the Lord, and wants the same for my children. Do you know the answer to the question, on a scale of 1 to 10? Do your children? Shouldn’t we ask? Their answers that morning were eye opening; I realized I had improvements to make in my most-important job. Feeling tugged in so many directions, I tend to look for perfection, but I know that my children’s answers to that question shook my attention forward. I love to serve at church, business, and in the community, but my priority is teaching my kids the answers to crucial questions in life.

I know for myself, it was the greatest of motherly joys for me to personally lead both of our

Our Family Portrait, 2008

children (now in their adulthood) into their faith in Jesus Christ when they were younger.  That is the goal of a Christian parent, to know their children grow into sharing their faith with faith of their own.  No higher call can be made on a mother than to see this happen for her children.  May it be also for you.

Cathy

Devotions With A Cat

CHASE

(In memory of Chase, an irrepressible Turkish Van)

*

 He entwines himself around my feet,

Wanting only to show his pleasure in me.

Soft and warm, yielding and affectionate,

His rumbles of pleasure fill the room.

Do I act at all like this with You?

Do I approach You just to be with You?

Do I approach You, as he does me,

Just to show You love and affection?

*

I reach down to stroke him,

And the rumbles re-double.

Twining himself around my legs

As he reacts to my responses to his overtures of love.

Do I act like that with You?

Looking just for a small touch of affection?

Expressing my pleasure in Your attention

With every fiber of my being?

*

I pick him up to pet him better,

And he settles happily in my lap.

Never struggling to keep his place,

He rests secure in my love and attention.

Am I like this with You?

Do I struggle to stay where I am with You?

Do I ever just rest with You,

And enjoy the time I spend with You?

*

A noise is heard from another place,

And he is off, inspecting it.

Leaving without sound or word,

As silently as he came.

Am I so distract able with You?

Do I so quickly run off

To my own pleasures and desires,

Forgetting completely what just happened here??

*

Oh, Lord, help me to learn the lessons

Of love and forgetfulness

My cat has to teach . . .

Red tabby