Monthly Archives: December 2013

December 26th

I’ve been waiting for this day for several weeks now.

December 26th – the day after Christmas.

No wrapping. No baking. No one needing me quite so much. More peace. More quiet. More time to take a walk beneath the beauty of a setting sun. This is where I found the Christ-child; this is where we talked it over, just God and me. Thoughts and words and prayers regarding the doings and outcomes of my yesterday.

We had much to discuss.

It was good to get away with Him—to take a walk around the lake and give some attention to my soul. I am grateful for the respite, for this December 26th. It’s been a day of recovery for me, of welcoming the new while cataloging the old.

Oh, I wish I could manage my December 25ths a bit better so that I didn’t need my 26ths so very much, but I’m fairly certain that a 25th of such magnitude cannot self-sustain. A 26th is the necessary requirement of a 25th—a grace of godly proportion that allows a soul to dance in close proximity to the manger without the distraction and/or judgment of a larger audience.

Sometimes the manger gets pretty crowded on December 25th.

But the 26th?

Well, today there was more elbow room. Today, it was easier to catch a glimpse of the baby Jesus.

December 26th – the day after Christmas. This is where the star has led me. This is where the Savior will keep me. What tender, sanctified peace for my journey! I pray for you a similar portion, friends.

Merry Christmas and Christmas always, this December 26th and beyond. What Christ came to do for us and in us he is doing. Ours is a forward work of grace. Keep to the road of faith, and remember … our best days are ahead of us!


PS: How might I pray for you as we walk together this final week of 2013?

Christmas Is

She held on tightly, arms wrapped fully around my waist and her head burrowed deeply in my coat.

“Mom, I don’t want you to go.”

Her plea was persuasive but not enough to keep me from loading up the van and making the two hour trek northward to my parents’ home.

“I know, baby, that you don’t want me to go, but it is because of this very reason that I must go. You see, I have the same kind of love in my heart for my mom as you have for me. And this is my way of wrapping my arms around her and letting her know that I, like you, don’t want her to go.”

And with that, my daughter released her grip, signaling her willingness to share me. To allow me to make the journey home so that I might spend a few hours expressing love tangibly. Not so much in words, although words always find their way into such extravagance (case in point – this post). Mostly, it’s just living love by being together.

This is why I make these frequent trips home. This is how I hug my momma’s heart and express to her from the deepest place within me …

“Mom, I don’t want you to go.”

Not that she plans on doing so anytime soon. This isn’t a good-bye post. Mom (and dad) are in good health. This is just one of those pauses in the road, a rest stop of sorts when all I have to give is the gift of a few words added as a postscript to the gift of a few moments spent together.

Isn’t this mostly it … the message of Christmas? A family’s love wrapped up in moments? A child wrapping arms around hearts and expressing that which often seems inexpressible?


Oh there’s faith and hope and all the many soulful expressions of a life lived with Jesus, but at the end of the day … at the end of our journeys, love wins the day. Love given to us on earth. Love given to us from heaven.

It’s in these pauses—these moments that we take to hug one another—where we’ll find the heartbeat of Christmas. Wherever love lives, God is.

Some 2000 years ago, a Father hugged his Son and sent him on a journey to his mother’s house. She, in turn, hugged the Gift as he arrived. I don’t know about the many conversations that must have transpired between Mary and Jesus during his earthly tenure, but I imagine there was one or two not so unlike the exchange shared between my daughter and me just a few days ago. Perhaps something along the lines of …

“Son, I don’t want you to go.”

“I know, mom, that you don’t want me to go, but it is because of this very reason that I must go. You see, I have the same kind of love in my heart for all of God’s children that you have for me. And this is my way of wrapping my arms around them and letting them know that I, like you, don’t want them to go. Instead, I want them to be with me, in the place where I am going. This is why I must make the journey home to my Father’s house. This is why you must let me go.”

And with that divine declaration, Mary released her grip, signaling her willingness to share her son with the world. Indeed, living love by being together! God with us. Immanuel. God in us. Immanuel. God through us. Immanuel. This is the message of Christmas.

Tend to your loving this week, friends. Keep it in mind, and then take the time to live it with arms and hearts wide open. Wherever love lives, God is. May it be so for each one of us in our pilgrimages to the manger this year. As always …

Peace for the journey,


Circuit-riding Faith …

She reads to me about his life, this man named Francis Asbury.

Do you know of him? I do. I’d better. Why?

Well, I’m the daughter of a Methodist preacher. I’m married to one as well.

I grew up in Wilmore, KY, home to Asbury College and Asbury Seminary. I graduated from the former and ran the halls of the latter during my growing up years, cutting a path between my professor, daddy’s office and my registrar, momma’s office. In a later season, I’d have an office of my own in that hallowed institution. Francis Asbury was, in part, one of the reasons behind my being raised where I was raised … being reared how I was reared.

I am a Methodist. I don’t make much of it here at the blog, because I’m a Christian before I’m a Methodist, but I’d be lying if I didn’t confess those denominational lines run pretty deep within me. So when my daughter was assigned another book report (she’s a fan of Christian biographies recently reading the stories of Corrie ten Boom, Amy Carmichael, and William Booth), I hand selected this one for her. Perhaps it is time she knows something of her spiritual roots.

Francis Asbury was one of the first circuit riding preachers in America. Sent here by John Wesley in 1771, Francis (a.k.a. Frank) spent the next forty-five years riding the circuit amongst the burgeoning Methodist societies and preaching the kingdom of God. He averaged 6,000 miles a year on horseback (a lifetime total of over 270,000 miles) and delivered over 15,500 sermons. His first night in America he chronicled his thoughts in his journal:

“ … When I came near the American shore, my very heart melted within me to think from whence I came, where I was going, and what I was going about. But I felt my mind open to the people and my tongue loosed to speak. I feel that God is here and find plenty of all we need.” (Benge, Francis Asbury: Circuit Rider, 2013, p. 53)

From whence he came was England into an America convinced of their need to cut ties with their mother-country. Francis tried to delicately step his way through the growing controversy between the colonies and England, governing his thoughts, words, and deeds by his desire to spread the Gospel and grow the church. However, because of their ties to the Church of England, circuit-riding preachers were often met with suspicion by colonists who tagged them as Loyalists. Many circuit riders abandoned their posts – some into hiding, some sailing back to England. By late 1777, Francis and another preacher named George Shadford were the last two, English-born Methodist circuit riders in America. Again, from Francis’s journal:

“Three thousand miles from home—my friends have left me—I am considered by some as an enemy of the country—every day liable to be seized by violence, and abused. This is just a trifle to suffer for Christ, and the salvation of souls. Lord, stand by me!” (ibid, p. 98)

The Lord did stand by Francis. He must have. I am (in small measure) living proof. And although my daughter and I have yet to finish this biography, I know how it ends … at least for now. God’s Word is alive in my heart and, just this morning, I meditated on that Word while listening to the words of my preacher-husband standing behind his Methodist pulpit. My mother did the same, listening to my daddy who stood behind his own pulpit. My in-laws the same. My sons? Well, they were in the pews of their own Methodist congregation. This is who we are. Christians first. Methodists second, and by the grace of God, saved to the uttermost.

I don’t know if Francis Asbury understands the influence he’s had on the spiritual landscape of America, but if he could look down from his heavenly post today and catch a glimpse of what his forty-five years and 270,000 miles’ worth of riding has birthed, he would know that his faith—his witness and his willingness—was no trifling matter. His faith was an eternal matter, one that continues to reap kingdom dividends some 250 years after he first glimpsed the American shore.

May it be so for each one of us. May our faith—the witness and willingness of our hearts—be no trifling matter. May it, instead, last eternally as we travel our circuits and spread the love and life of Jesus wherever we go.

Ride on, Christians, and leave a holy trail of Jesus behind you as you go. Someday we’ll all look back on these lives that we’ve lived and be amazed by how our paths of grace have changed the landscape of humanity. What a privilege to share this traveling ministry with you. As always…

Peace for the journey,

PS: Check out our special Christmas offer on Peace for the Journey and Beyond Cancer’s Scars ($11 each plus free shipping) – click here!

Silent Night

Silent night.

It’s been one of those for me. I tried to fill it with a few phone calls and text messages to friends while waiting in my car for my kids to emerge from their youth group meeting. No one answered. All was silent, and the hush filled my heart until I could no longer suppress my reality. The pain inside of me was going to find its voice, and the silence offered it a stage for release.

Rather than trying to hold the silence at bay, I gave in to it and allowed it to hold me. Cradle me. Collect all the tears that had been welling up within me. In those moments of surrender, the Father allowed me to move out of my silent night so that I might enter into another one—the holy quiet belonging to Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.

Mary’s labored breathing followed by the push and pressure of Emmanuel’s eagerness to make his entrance. Joseph’s soft responses to his beloved. Stabled animals shuffling in the hay. Neighs and brays; snorts and sneezes. Whispers of the wind stirring as symphony. A baby crying. The boisterous interruption of a heavenly choir.

And therein, my momentary pain was overshadowed by lasting remembrance.

Perhaps this is the beauty of a silent night … when sorrow bumps up next to Salvation. When pain nestles closely to Promise. When that which is holding us so tightly releases its grip to the mighty Hold of heaven—tiny fingers wrapped around human hurt, reminding us that all has not been lost in the silent night. Instead, all has been gained there, in that place of sacred collision.

It doesn’t seem reasonable, this holding of peace while simultaneously holding pain. But it feels right. Even in the ache, I’m willing to take hold of it, make sense of it, because the thread that ties me to the eternal is stronger than the frayed threads that tie me to the temporal. I am made for heaven, and a silent night tethers me to home.

Maybe today you’re wrapped up in a heart-hurt. Life has surprised you with pain, an unexpected grief that threatens to steal your peace. You have nowhere to place it, no friend to shoulder the load. The silence is deafening, and your escape uncertain.

Me too. Greater yet, God too! God is with us as we make our pilgrimages to Bethlehem this year, as we wrestle with our pain and strive to make peace out of chaos.

Emmanuel is in the manger. Emmanuel is in our silent nights. Emmanuel … holding our hearts. Healing our hurts. Keeping us safe. Walking us home.

How I love the gift of Jesus; how I need this blessed grace! On this silent night, I bend the knee and bow the heart to honor the King’s advent in my life. ‘Tis a sweet mercy and a blessed trust to have my silence interrupted by the great and glad declarations of heaven. As always …

Peace for the journey,

My Silent Night

Oh holy, quiet Bethlehem;

Tonight I linger here.

Beneath your stars, within your walls,

Your truth resounding clear.


The Baby cries his advent;

The momma cries relief.

The daddy cries his tears of joy;

The heavens cry belief.


How lovely is this moment;

That lingers then and now.

Both quiet and both willing,

For peace to take a bow.


To enter in and change me;

To soften pain with praise.

To dry my tears with silence,

To cause my hope to raise.


Oh silent night! Oh holy night!

You’ve never sung so strong.

So clear, so true, so tenderly,

Relieving all that’s wrong.


You are where I’ll linger;

You are where I’ll sing.

For unto to me a child is born,

Onto him I’ll cling.

(written by F. Elaine Olsen.12-01-13.allrightsreserved)



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