Thursday, December 23, 2010

Belonging to the Christmas?

Christmas shopping...Christmas wrapping...Christmas cards...Christmas family pictures to go in the cards...Christmas family letters to go in the Christmas cards...Christmas cookies...Christmas gift exchanges...Christmas gifts for teachers...Christmas parties...Is anyone else getting buried under Christmas?

The answer? I found it today in adorable little verse I had never seen before. "...And another will write on his hand, 'Belonging to the Lord.'" (Isa 44:5b)

BINGO! That's it!

I got out a pen and wrote it on my hand. "Belonging to the Lord." I don't belong to the tasks of Christmas. I belong to the Lord. (Let me confess here, I did it for the blog picture...not the wonderful spiritual reason you are thinking.)

All throughout the day it was a great reminder. When I reached for the steering wheel to go last minute shopping 'Belonging to the Lord.' When I reached to switch my laundry from the washer to the dryer and grumbling that this was the last thing I wanted to be doing when I was so behind in Christmas...'Belonging to the Lord.' When I reached to take the Chinese Orange Chicken from the lady at Hyvee, who didn't have noodles left, only fried rice as a side dish and inwardly and outwardly complaining about it (while my girls watched and imitated their mother)...'Belonging to the Lord.' When rushing through the traffic surrounding the mall, like buzzards on a dead carcass, and getting annoyed...'Belonging to the Lord." When the cashier tells me the wrong non-sale price on the North Face sweatshirt...'Belonging to the Lord.'

The sad fact is I rarely live like I 'Belong to the Lord.'

I am driven by tasks...whether Christmas ones, family ones or personal ones. I need a Saviour!

...and that's where the Christ of Christmas comes in.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Stinky Christmas?

Of all the places to be born...a stable!

I think of visiting my grandma and grandpa in the hills of Pennsylvania. We called that grandpa 'Pappy Harold.' He and my grandma never had much. Their farm somehow had sustained and raised their 13 children.

They had a barn. I think the only time we went in was when they had a pony named Charlie Brown. We'd make our way carefully through the musty smelling barn to see him, a short bedraggled pony with white stringy bangs in his eyes.

Musty dampness wasn't the only thing we'd smell...pungent horse manure, diesel from the farm equipment, the sweat and toil from a farmer throughout the years.

God chose a stable.


He is a God of the workin' man...a God of the blue-collar worker...a God more interested in reaching into an open, struggling heart than a heart poisoned with self-importance.

My heart. My heart is often stinkin' like Pappy Harold's barn and that stable of long ago.

Doesn't God mind?

Why would the God of the Universe who made the most amazing orange beachball of a sun to rise this morning...choose a stinky stable? Choose a stinky heart?

He goes to the need.

Those with needs will listen. Those with needs will receive. Those with needs will be scoured clean in His presence.

Praise you, Jesus. Only you can clean my stinkin heart. YOU CAME FOR ME! The stable was just the pre-curser for the rest of stink You would experience...only human stink would be far worse than an animals - far more deliberate, calculated and raw.

You came for sinners. I AM SO THANKFUL YOU DID! In your presence I can smell like the freshness of a land bathed in rain.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Guest Blogger Barb Winters: Are You Awake?

My car thermometer read 38 degrees as I pulled into the driveway. Two girls came running out. Neither wore a coat, but what caught my eye was the youngest one's bare feet and runny nose. "Where are your shoes?" I asked. "I couldn't find them," she replied.

Several weeks ago I noticed an empty pew two rows behind me. An older couple, out of town for the weekend, typically sits there with their "kids" - children they pick up from various homes every Sunday morning. I didn't even know their names. But seeing that empty pew triggered a thought. There is no reason for those children to miss church when Mr. & Mrs. Evans are gone. I can pick them up just as easily.

The next Sunday I told Mrs. Evans I would gladly transport her "kids" the next time she was out of town. I didn't wait long. Mrs. Evans approached me a few days later. "My husband and I will be at my daughter's Thanksgiving weekend. Were you serious about getting the kids?" "Definitely," I answered.

That's how I ended up sitting in my van waiting for the girl with no shoes to hop in. She found a seat and I handed her a tissue. By this point my van was full. The three older children I picked up first helped these newer ones get buckled as we got acquainted. I learned the youngest one's name was Janelle. I wondered why I hadn't taken the time to know these children before. Could it be I was so wrapped up in my own world that I hadn't been awake to what was around me?

I dropped the children off at the proper Sunday school classes and proceeded to my own. Joy enveloped me. I had poked my head out of my comfortable world and helped others. No, it wasn't a big deal. It cost little. But God used this simple act to remind me I was His vessel to reach a lost world.

After Sunday school, I gathered the children and we walked to the sanctuary. Janelle sat next to me drawing carrots and pink crosses. When I asked about one sketch, she pointed to the chandelier hanging above her head and said, "It's that." She sang her ABC's and asked about the angel in a book she was looking through. I don't know why, but I was surprised by her intelligence. Her questions indicated a depth I didn't think was there. When the rest of the children were dismissed for Children's Church, I put my arm around Janelle.

The title of the sermon flashed on the screen: Are You Awake? As my husband, the pastor, joked that he was not testing our alertness at that moment, Janelle put her fingers in her mouth and leaned into me. A few minutes later, she scooted down, laid her head in my lap, and closed her eyes. As I watched this precious child sleep, I thought about how I would have missed out on this moment had I not been awake-awake to God's presence and aware of my surroundings. An empty pew led to a filled heart.
Read more of Barb's blogs on as Barb explores lies we tell ourselves to justify eating improperly and the truths that dispel those lies. Also see her blog, written with her husband, Don, on adoption at