Category Archives: Advent

where Love lives . . .

Go to where love lives.

This was God’s message to me earlier today . . . to go out into the world and find where love lives, where love is. Where the sights and sounds of Christmas are still burning their witness—those homes and those folks who aren’t afraid to deck the halls, display a crèche, and throw in a few lights for good measure.

Go to where love lives, Elaine, and remember that Christmas is alive and well and thriving within arm’s reach of your front door.

This is becoming increasingly difficult to manage, the finding of Christmas love. Why? I think it is because there’s too much anger in the world, too much busyness, too much consumption. The ABC’s of discontent.

Angry about . . .
Busy with . . .
Consumed by . . .

Living there (with anger, busyness, and consumption), it’s easy to overlook the love. Love rarely blossoms within the soil of dissatisfaction. Instead, love often suffocates because of it. Rather than feeling the love, we suffer the sting of having missed it, wondering where it all went wrong and how we’ve arrived at this season of painful reduction. What if, instead of our anger, busyness, and consumption, we adopted an alternate approach to finding love–the ABC’s of consecrated pilgrimage rather than the ABC’s of discontent?

Approach the manger.
Behold the Child.
Consider the Gift.

Approaching, beholding, and considering Jesus. He is where love lives. Find him, and you’ll find Christmas peace.

Go to where love lives. If things are getting a little crowded in your interior—if you’re depending solely on your ability to keep the Christmas spirit alive only to realize your terrible insufficiency at doing so—why not step outside your confinement and search for the sights and sounds of Bethlehem around you. In your neighborhood. Around the table. At an altar. In the faces of family, friends, and strangers who cross your path. When you can’t find the love on your own, choose population over isolation. Don’t allow the enemy to fuel your search or to fool you into believing that Christmas cannot be found . . . that Christmas is dead.

Christmas is not dead; Christmas is alive and burning brightly in the hearts and homes of those who’ve not yet caved in to desperation or bowed low to discontent. Go, find those pilgrims, and allow their witness to be the guiding light that leads you toward renewed hope and strengthened perspective.

Go to where love lives. And then, from that filling, courageously and willingly live love before others so that they might find their way home to Jesus. Light a candle for the King and his kingdom. Together, we decorate this earth with our faith.

Prepare, ye, the way of the Lord! I’ll meet you on the road. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

 

One with the one . . .

“You handle the holy things of God as they should be handled.”

My husband’s words stopped my heart and immediately covered it with God’s peace. This was his response to me after hearing about my morning in Sunday school, about how I had prepared (once again) enough materials for a table full of children to make Advent wreaths while, in reality, only needing one set . . . for my daughter. My response to his response?

“Sometimes, I think it’s easier to preach to the crowd than it is to preach to the one.”

And that is where we left it—mutual hearts stirred by one another’s words about holy things and preaching to the one. This was our Sunday moment, an Advent moment. A revelation, a prophecy, and a hope wrapped up in this first candle of expectation.

This was and is the point from which we move forward to the manger, believing that the One who came and the One who is to come best understands about handling the holy things of God and that in the midst of his cradling—his holding of us—we are not forgotten, because we are the why and the what behind his arrival. We are the one in the midst of the crowd. We are his one, and he is God’s One. The One with the one.

Emmanuel. God with us. God in us. God, help us!

Heavenly promise, heavenly provision, and a humble plea to take hold of this mystery that belongs to me and to handle it as holy. To cradle the ones who rest in the palms of my hands even as the One has cradled me in his.

Oh to arrive here, at this state of blessed communion and understanding! I’m not there yet, but I’m moving closer with these conversations and with these intentional steps of pilgrimage. This Christmas will not slip by me. This Christmas will change me.

How about you? How will you walk to Bethlehem this year? Might I suggest this Advent leading? Light the candle of hope in your heart and on your hearth, and see if God is not faithful to make manifest his holiness to you, in you, and, ultimately, through you.

God’s One with the one.

Expect him.

Expect Peace . . . for the journey.

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Merry Christmas {from afar}

Merry Christmas {from afar}

Merry Christmas, friends! Below you will find our annual Christmas letter; a few of you may have received one in the mail, but I wanted the rest of you to have it as well. I hadn’t planned on writing one this year; life got busy and crazy all in one breath, and I was using this reality as my excuse for not having to write one. But then while out walking a couple of weeks ago, God impressed one phrase upon my heart, “from afar.” I had no idea where it would take me when I returned home to put pen to paper, but the following message was the melody of my heart that afternoon. I release it to you today, believing that someone out there might need the witness of these words. Now, off to spend time with extended family and to enjoy the blessings of day. Shalom! (PS: Thanks to Shirley for painting this beautiful landscape for my Christmas cards this year.)
 
                                                                                                               Christmas 2010
From afar.
How tenderly that moment must have unwrapped for the Father as he sat with his Son in contemplation of what was to come. The waters were covered in darkness, teeming with possibility and promise and waiting in anticipation of the spoken word from the Word that would bring forth everything from seemingly nothing. There they hovered together, imagined and created together and thought about all of the ways that events could unfold, would unfold. And in those moments, a single moment came into focus for them. Not the Bethlehem one; the Calvary one.
From afar.
Calvary seemed a long time in coming in those pre-dawn hours before creation; perhaps thousands even millions of years removed from the artistic pulse that stirred within them. Still and yet, as it arrived on the palette of creation’s landscape, it paused their thoughts. Perhaps even pained their hearts, because they understood just exactly how much that moment would cost them both. How much it would break a mother’s heart. A disciple’s heart. A people’s heart. Their hearts. Even still, they pressed forward.
From afar.
And years later when Bethlehem dawned, the angels rejoiced. A mother cradled her gift and cherished the responsibility entrusted to her to love him beyond limits and to raise him in the fear and admonition of Almighty God. Surely there has never been a more sacred birth in history. Love was full and sweet and beautifully captured in that moment… suspended in time for all the world to witness and to remember. And as the earth applauded and all of heaven chorused its approval, a Father watched.
From afar.
But perfect joy was filled with perfect truth. And perfect truth was filled with perfect knowledge. And perfect knowledge dug deeply into the perfect contemplations of the Father, and he held something in his perfect heart that separated him from the perfect joy of the moment—the perfect pain of what was soon to come. Suddenly, that creation moment from so long ago no longer seemed so long ago. And Calvary? Well, just around the corner for the Father and his Son, and I wonder, did they cry…
from afar?
Fathers and mothers get to cry over their children; tears of joy and tears of sadness are allotted to those  of us who carry our sons and daughters as extensions of our flesh. We celebrate the good news of a child’s impending arrival, chronicle it with all the joy and laughter of heaven, only to realize all too soon, that with life comes pain. Not just for us, but for our children as well. And we wonder how it will all turn out in the days yet unseen, the moments yet unlived.
From afar.
Forty-five years ago, a mother carried the promise of new life in her womb. And she, along with her husband, celebrated the gift and cherished the responsibility entrusted to them to love this baby beyond limits and to raise this baby in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Nine months later, Easter arrived, as did their daughter. And love was full and sweet and beautifully captured in that moment, suspended in time… at least for them. And a Father watched.
From afar.
But perfect joy was filled with perfect truth. And perfect truth was filled with perfect knowledge. And perfect knowledge cut through to the heart of the Father because he knew something that these parents didn’t know in those perfect first moments of her beginning. He knew what was to come… about her now, and still he let the moment press forward.
From afar.
How thankful I am that he did… that he let my life breathe into existence and allowed me my tenure upon this earth. How glad I am that he didn’t keep me from it… that he didn’t think it would be too painful for us all, too difficult a road for us to walk. That he graciously allowed me years’ worth of accumulated moments that have birthed into my now. That he didn’t stop the plan, even though he knew the plan would unfold painfully at times. That he deliberately entrusted my care to the life of my parents and then to my husband. That despite all the ways I’ve neglected his perfect truth over the years, he still made a way for me to hold onto truth.
From afar.
From a beginning moment in time when he and his Son didn’t stop the plan, even though the plan would unfold painfully for them in a season to come. For with the Father’s release of his Son to that plan… to a cross… he better enabled me to carry mine. Not nearly as heavy as his Son’s, but heavy enough to cause me to look for perfect comfort from his Son. And I have found it… full and sweet and beautifully enough to see me through this season, regardless of the terrain… regardless of how long or how short the road home to him stretches.
From afar, God watches over me, and from very close by, he walks in perfect stride with me. And Bethlehem is my portion. My advent. My moment by the manger, when I behold afresh Emmanuel… God with me. May it be so for each one of you this Christmas. As always…
Peace for the journey,

born again in me this morning…

 

***

“Yea, Lord we greet thee, born this happy morning…”

Those were the familiar words that greeted me as I headed out on my morning run. The air was crisp, the sun brilliant–a fitting backdrop for Chris Tomlin’s rendition of “O Come All Ye Faithful” from his newest release, Glory in the Highest. I spent the next hour cycling through the entire CD with a few repeats along the way (have I mentioned to you that I am the slowest runner in the free world?).

Over and over again, I kept hearing the words “born this happy morning…” and then another phrase–one that surfaced from the deepest well within me reserved for the Divine.

Born again in me this morning, born again in me this morning.

It was all I could do to stay upright rather than falling prostrate on the pavement in grateful thanks for the truth that Jesus Christ is born again in me this morning. He’s born again in you as well. If your eyes opened to the grace of a new day (and I imagine that to be the case if you’re reading this), then Jesus Christ should be as fresh and as new to you this day as he was in those first moments when you knew him as Lord, Savior, Messiah, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, King of your heart.

His mangered arrival isn’t an isolated event–set in stone some 2000 years ago as a specific date in time to mark his entrance into this world. His arrival is today, just as real and as potent as it was on a starry night in Bethlehem. The Christ-child that was held in his mother’s arms intends for us to hold him in ours. To pick him up in his humanness… his Godness and to cradle him close to our hearts. To feel the gentle whispers of his tender breath upon our cheeks and to embrace the penetrating grace radiating from his glance.

When we get that, when we realize that Bethlehem is as much a part of our story as Calvary is, then we are given the grand and glorious invitation to come and to adore him. If we are amongst the faithful, then we should come each day to the manger, to the cross, to the tomb, and then to our worship. It’s our story to live. It’s our mantle to wear. It’s our privilege to tell.

Everyday, born again and afresh in us each morning. May today be a day that begins with a Bethlehem pause and that finishes with the same. Our Savior is so worthy of our notice. As always…

peace for the journey.

~elaine

PS: I want to mention a couple of great things going on in blog land this week.

1. Exemplify is hosting a Christmas spectacular in the month of December. Click here to check out all the details and the current giveaway of Casting Crowns’ Christmas CD.

2. My new blogging friend, Jackie at Fresh Oil Today, is hosting a Christmas giveaway at her blog. Check it out and sign up to win.

3. Thanks to all of you who endured my Black Friday video and found the hidden clue within regarding the giveaway. Those of you who left a comment along those lines were qualified for a name drawing to win Chris Tomlin’s CD “Glory in the Highest” and Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling”. The winners are…

Chris Tomlin CD – Cheryl B. from Cheryl’s R&R

Jesus Calling – Donna from Donna’s Booknook.

Congratulations ladies; please e-mail me your addresses, and I’ll get these to you this week!

A Christmas PS…

There’s a new toy in town…

the Flip Ultra. Check it out. I’ve longed for a way to communicate with you face to face. Well, at least screen to screen. This is the most affordable solution along those lines. My husband did a ton a research into this purchase, and I was thrilled with my surprise yesterday morning. It’s the easiest recording device out there and just may revolutionize our journey in blog land!

Christmas 2008 has come and gone; still and yet, our hearts remain. And wherever there is a pulse, there is the truth of eternity. Carry it well, friends. Get to it. Keep to it. To Jesus and to all things eternal.

May the peaceful rest of Bethlehem’s pause be your portion as you go. As always,

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