From the Mouths of Babes: A Christmas Reminder

I love the heartwarming stories in my Country magazine but one from this latest issue just hit me so profoundly that I had to share. It’s from Marilyn Houghton Kayton and is entitled “Do You See What I See?”

One holiday season in the 1970’s, my husband, Chuck, handled all the outside decorations and I took care of all of the interior decorations. In addition, I had to bake the cutout cookies, make chocolate truffles, shampoo the carpeting, address holiday cards, organize church activities, wrap presents, polish the silver, plan an open house, shop for the turkey, write a story for the Christmas Eve service…the list went on. On top of that, I was fighting a scratchy throat and a dull headache.

I finished dusting, vacuuming, and decorating the living room. It looked splendid with a tree full of ornaments in designer colors, vanilla-scented candles, and our Italian Nativity scene on the coffee table, accented with pine boughs and a small china dish containing frankincense. I was proud of the authentic touch.

“Well,” I said as I stood back to view the room, “at least one room is ready for company.”

I ran into the kitchen to check the oven for burning cookies, then I addressed a few cards and ran to hand Chuck the outdoor lights. As I passed the living room, I noticed that the three wise men and camels were now on the piano and that the tiny manger was empty.

“Girls, get in here immediately!” Nina and Nancy came running.

“Who has been messing with my Nativity scene?” I asked. “I don’t think you girls have any idea how hard I work to make a nice house for you. When I decorate, I expect things to stay in place. Who moved the three wise men?”

Nina, age 7, replied, “Mother, you don’t understand. The wise men haven’t arrived yet. They shouldn’t be in the stable so we put them on the piano with the camels. And Baby Jesus hasn’t been born, so we put him in the desk drawer.”

“We’ll put him out on Christmas Eve,” said Nancy, hands on her hips. I was stunned. They had been listening to the story and showed a real feeling for the details. The wise men shouldn’t be at the stable yet, and the Baby Jesus wouldn’t be born until Christmas Eve.

I gave the girls a big hug and said, “You really did hear the story. We’ll put Baby Jesus in the manger after we get home from Christmas Eve service. When should we move the wise men and camels over to the coffee table?”

I was decorating a living room; they were living the story.

 

GEAR UP: REFLECTION

It’s Sunday night! Time to gear up for a new week. As always, the best way to do that is to PUT ON THE ARMOR OF GOD (Ephesians 6:10-18) but we also will focus on ONE area to strengthen our walk with the Lord. Just one focus to help us grow a faith that cannot fade with the demands of life and the pressures of this world. This week we will focus on REFLECTION!

Last week we reflected on the true meaning of Christmas. This week we are going to reflect on the past year. Businesses take inventory at the close of each year; we are going to check stock in our spiritual lives.

What lessons has the Lord given you that you feel like you’ve aced and can move on? Which ones have you continued to fail? What strengths do you have? Weaknesses? (These can change as we age. These SHOULD change. I may have a list of things I struggle with but I hope that some of them will eventually roll off. Otherwise I’m not growing.)

What did you learn to do differently? What did you change? What worked? What didn’t.

I’ll give you an example. For the first fifteen years of my marriage, my husband and I had a pattern we followed when we got into a disagreement. After the initial, usually minor conflict, you might as well have handed us a script because it turned into the same argument with the same dialogue that escalated into extremely hurt feelings. We finally realized that we had a fight pattern that was never going to change unless we did something to change it. We prayed (at a time when we were NOT in a disagreement!) and asked the Lord to help us break this pattern. He probably tried harder than I did at first. We would be on the verge of an argument and he would just stop talking and hug me. It felt weird and completely threw me but it worked. Sometimes I would be the one to acquiesce quickly, heading off confrontation. After a while, we weren’t even having minor disagreements to begin with. The more peace was restored to our marriage, the more we cherished it. Now I consider our communication to be one of our biggest strengths instead of our greatest weakness. It all started with recognizing and changing a pattern.

What about you? Do you have patterns that need to change in your life? An area to commit to the Lord? Spend this week reflecting on the things that make you GREAT and the things you want to move from the WEAKNESS to the STRENGTH category.

When God Goes Radio Silent

Ask any mother of a three-year-old in the “Why?” stage and she will tell you that silence is golden. But for the rest of us, silence can be a little disconcerting.

I remember having to adjust to the constant sound of traffic when I stayed at my grandmother’s house after they four-laned her road. Soon sleep became synonymous with cars whizzing by. When she renovated her home and added a well-insulated guest bedroom in the back, it was eerie to sleep in such silence.  I hadn’t realized how much the noise enveloped my sleep.

Or how much the sounds of children playing or even fighting can lull you into a comfortably numb stage. But let those same children go silent and you are immediately on high alert.

We need the audible reminders that all is well.

No one wants their world to go radio silent, that time between programs where only dead air is broadcast.

Yet, many times, we feel as if God has gone radio silent on us.

There are many reasons why this may be the case:

  • His words are falling on deaf ears.

I know this one well, both figuratively and literally. I can’t hear out of one ear so I miss a lot of what is being said. But just because I don’t hear it, it doesn’t mean no one is speaking. I’m just not tuned in to that person.

Another thing that happens is that we don’t really want to hear what’s being said. We’ll ask the Lord a question and then stick our fingers in our ears in case His answer is something we don’t want to hear.

Take your fingers out and listen for His plans for us are to prosper, not to harm. What He wants for us may not be what we want, but it will always be what’s best for us.

  • You’ve moved out of range.

You know the saying about when God is no longer next to you, YOU’RE the one who moved? This is true. He doesn’t move to get away from your sin; you move so you can sin more easily. No one stands right next to the Father and easily turns to darkness.

Think of your communication with God as being with a tin can phone. Sure, He can use satellite and reach you anytime, anywhere, but He prefers the old school approach. You can’t hear that voice on the other end of the tin can unless you’re standing pretty close.

  • You’re being tested.

Job had every one of his blessings removed and was told time and again by those he loved to renounce God. Job couldn’t hear God at all during this time of testing yet he still knew He was there. He refused to lose faith.

It’s a tricky situation when you find yourself in the midst of a trial. You wonder if it’s of your own making. At best, you wonder why God doesn’t intervene; at worst, you feel forsaken by Him.

Just because you don’t hear Him doesn’t mean He’s not there. Trust Him. Examine your heart- see if there’s something that may be hindering your relationship with the Creator. If not, you may be going through a time of testing. Be faithful. These tests end with double blessings if you stay the course.