Tuesday, 22 November 2011

To us a son is given

The house is quiet.  The hum of the fridge is all I hear.  And the slow, rhythmic ticking of the clock.  The smell of bread baking fills the house, comforting me as I sit here in the sun which pours through the windows.
The kids will soon be home from school, bursting through the door, hungry and hurried to get homework finished before the evening rush begins.  Tonight it is a Dr’s appointment, dance, supper, and Bible study, with a meeting and staff Christmas dinner scratched off the list.
So I savour this moment in time, sip a hot chocolate and attempt to write about the practice of preparing for Christmas.  I have to confess, I have never thoughtfully prepared for this season before.  I have just let it happen and carry me away – the hustle, the bustle, the glitter, the busyness of it all.  It’s alluring, captivating.  It’s everywhere.  In large doses, earlier and earlier each year.  
And each year, I get caught up in it all.  Sung to sleep, I shop, wrap, eat, anticipate, anticipate, decorate, anticipate with excitement, sip hot apple cider.  
And at approximately 11:00 a.m. on December 25th, it ends with a thud. 
I’m not sure if anyone else hears it or not.  But it’s there.  I think it is the sound of my heart dropping to the pit of my stomach.  The realization that the anticipation was a let- down.  Again.  And I fell for it.  Again.
As I sit here and take in the warmth of the sun on this cold November day I read these words:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Is. 9:6
To us a child is given.  For God so loved the world He gave his only son.  I know these words.  I know the reality, their meaning.  But they breathe fresh life today.  They come alive.  Jesus, Son of God, was the first Christmas gift.  Not, gold, incense and myrrh.
There was so much love behind that first gift.  God is love.  God so loved you, me, the world, which hated him, that He gave us His Son.
And in 2,000 years we have taken the lowly, humble babe in a manger, offered with a love we cannot even fathom, and we have:
  • Rejected him
  • Crucified him
  • Wrapped him in tinsel, ribbons, bows and lights that flash to music
  • Colored him red, stuck a hat on his head, dumped him in a sleigh, added a bunch of reindeer and some magic, and called him Santa, the spirit of Christmas, the feel-good hohoho of the holiday
And spend way too much money doing it – trying to build up that anticipation, the joy, the peace, the feel-goodness of it all.
And I stand here guilty as charged.
Yet at the same time, I feel like Scrooge (or the Grinch) because I am beginning to hate this kind of Christmas.  I love Christmas.  Yet I hate it.  I love what it should be.  I hate what it has become.  So sitting here sipping my hot chocolate, the time left to be quiet in reflection getting shorter, I thoughtfully wonder, “How can I intentionally prepare for Christmas this year? How can it be different, more meaningful and true, less anticipation building and thud?”
To us a son is given.  For God so loved the world he gave his only son. 
Love was behind the first Christmas.  Love was behind the first gift.  Love was the reason.  A love we can know, when we receive the gift, but a love far beyond our comprehension.  We will never be able to grasp how wide, and long, and high and deep is the love of Christ.  It is a love that surpasses all knowledge (Eph 3:18-19).  It is a love that is higher than the heavens are above the earth (Ps.103:11)
The moment of quiet has vanished like the morning mist.  The front door bangs shut, the thumping of heavy feet race up the stairs and smiles stretch across their faces as they take in the smell of the bread just out of the oven.
 But my intentional preparation for the season fast approaching is not over.  I hope you’ll come back and join me as I try to slow down and learn the practice of preparing for Christmas. Maybe you’ve got some insight to share?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Upside-Down Living

They were here for a weekend in October to make a presentation and show a documentary to our church about their ministry.  The colors of fall were in full blaze of orange, yellow and spotted with red, this valley of maples, elms and birch – the glory of the Lord all around.
I was dumbfounded, speechless and in awe of our Lord and the work of His hands in all of it.  And so was she - young but growing up quickly; beautiful outside and in; petite in her build but big in heart.  She is my 13 year old.   Touched, broken and wanting to do something.
She breaks the silence one day shortly after the presentation with, “I want to put a table in the market again this year.”  “Ah-huh”, I respond half-heartedly.  She’s had a table in the Christmas market for the last two years selling jewellery she makes to earn enough for her Christmas giving, so this is not new.  
“I want to sell my pictures, the scenery ones, and sell tickets on a gift basket.  And give the money to Sixty Feet.”
“Oh.  Wow.” Why was I surprised? She amazes me continuously. I should really not have been surprised.
She didn’t know when she snapped these pictures that they would help a build a home for desperate children in Uganda. 
She didn’t know when she captured God’s gift of sunrise one morning as she stood waiting for the school bus, as new mercies burst through the cold morning mist that it would provide.  Hope.

And so she put it together.  Chose the pictures, sent them to be printed (which, because of a special promotion, were FREE – how God blesses those who sacrifice), and we worked together to turn them into cards.  And she gathered items and donations for a gift basket, made tickets, posters, print-outs, signs, and more. 

And she also made gift jars of hot chocolate to sell – this portion would be her Christmas money.
Yesterday was the day.  The sunrise splattered fiery red across heavy clouds this November morning.  We committed it all to the Lord, and away we went. 

She sold a lot of the cards, tickets, and even a few jars of hot chocolate.  She spoke to the inquirers.  She told the story.  And some of the listeners were touched; by the story of abandoned children in Uganda; by a teenager reaching out to help them from this small, insignificant place so far from the poverty; by a girl in the “me” generation living upside-down.
The cash didn’t roll in, more like trickled.  But it added up over the morning.  To just the right amount.  A small offering toward a huge project.  No building will be built or bought solely on the sales of this day.  A few bricks may be laid.  But the Lord has already doubled it with the current matching fund for the Sixty Feet building project.  And so a few multiplies.  In the hands that can, when given in love.
It was committed to Him.  For His glory.  Offered in faith, all she could give. 
And I watch.  Transformation.  Awed at the work of the potter, shaping, forming this young heart.
I stand amazed at it all.  And give Him all the praise.
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”  2 Chron. 16:9

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Upside-Down Giving

Earlier this week I shared a challenge:  prayerfully and deliberately change how we, ourselves, you and me, prepare for, spend on and celebrate Christmas.  And then give that 10% to someone.  In the name of Jesus.

There are more than a thousand different ways to share this Christmas.  Way too many to even list, but I wanted to share with you where I will be putting that 10% this Christmas.

I just love a deal don't you?  My favorite kind is the 2 for 1 sale.  You know, buy one, get one free.  BOGO.

But in this Upside-down theme of Christmas living, we're giving, sharing more, buying less.  But guess what?!  I've learned of a BOGO giving opportunity.  Cool. Here's what I'm talking about.....

There's this organization called Sixty Feet Inc.  This ministry has become, by the Lord's hand, very near and dear to this heart of mine.   Sixty Feet is ministering to imprisoned children in Uganda.  Not imprisoned because they have committed a crime, imprisoned because they have been abandoned.   Go here to learn more about what great things the Lord is doing through this ministry.  

So, you're thinking, what about the 2 for 1 deal you were talking about.....I'm glad you asked!

Sixty Feet has just launched a fund-raising campaign for Christmas ( http://sixtyfeet.org/2011/11/02/dare-to-dream/ ) . 

Would you like to help build a new home for some of the imprisoned children in the remand centers in Uganda?  A home, centered in Christ, which provides shelter, food and clothing, love, education, and the gospel, to raise these imprisoned children, currently with no hope, in the hope of Jesus. 

There is a matching campaign launched just last week: for every dollar raised between now and Dec. 31st, up to$60,000, a donor will match

So if you give $100 to Sixty Feet for this campaign, it is as good as giving them $200!  And all of it goes toward their first building project, a home for those children who do not belong in a prison.

Your 10% sacrifice becomes 20% blessing!

Let's call is Share One Give Another.  SOGA.

OK so it's not as catchy as BOGO.  But remember, we're upside-down here, so it doesn't have so make sense or be catchy. It's 2 for 1.  For someone who needs what we take for granted.  Hope.  Home.  Food.  Clothing. Education. Love. Christ.

Let us all open our eyes to the world around us and see through the eyes of Christ.  This Christmas let us Worship, Celebrate, Remember and Share (SOGA style).

Be Upside-down this Christmas
Spend 10% less this Christmas and give it away
Make an eternal difference this Christmas
Watch what the Lord does your small sacrifice.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Upside-Down Christmas

You may be wondering why my profile picture is an upside-down Christmas tree.  No, I'm not a fir tree.  It is because I'm committed to living an Upside-Down Christmas this season.........
This past Sunday was Orphan Sunday.  A day to recognize, acknowledge, pray for and reach out to the world’s 145 million orphans.  “Orphan Sunday isn’t just a cause. It’s about the blaze Christians create as they see and reflect God’s heart for the fatherless. When we live out what James calls ‘pure religion’ through adoption, foster care and global orphan initiatives, the world sees the Gospel made visible like nothing else.” – Christian Alliance for Orphans President, Jedd Medefind.  Today will you pray and ask God to give you His heart for the fatherless.
In the 50 days leading up to Christmas, Americans will spend $ 450-500 BILLION on Christmas. That’s $450,000,000,000 on toys, clothes, food, wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, decorations, more decorations, trees and so much more.  None of it life sustaining.  Most of it empty.  Can you just imagine the impact just 10% of that would have, if done in the name of Jesus, for 145 million orphans who have no hope?
As Christians we are members of God’s kingdom.  We were orphans.  We are now adopted.  God’s kingdom is an upside-down kingdom in comparison to the world’s system.  In God’s kingdom the humble, the meek, the merciful, the peacemaker, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – these will be blessed beyond measure.  The ones who love their enemies, offer mercy to the poor and oppressed and fatherless, the least of these – these will be great in this kingdom called heaven.  This language is foreign to the ears of the world.
The world says “me, mine, best, better, more, now”.  In God’s kingdom “me” is crucified, “best” and “better” is later, and “more” only comes when what we’ve been given is graced to those who have not.
We, as a small group of the Lord’s army, cannot change how all of Canada, or America, spends its money at Christmas.  But we can prayerfully and deliberately change how we, ourselves, you and me, prepare for, spend on and celebrate Christmas.  In the upside-down kingdom, Christmas is about the celebration and remembrance of the babe in a manger. Son of God born humble and lowly, with one purpose: to save us from our sin. 
So go ahead. 
That will look different for each one of us, and will include toys, clothes, food, wrapping paper, ribbons, bows, decorations, and trees, but maybe it could mean just not so much of it all.  
And then, share.  Will you consider how you can share with someone this Christmas?
Will you commit to reduce your Christmas spending on “stuff” by 10% this year and give that 10% away?  Maybe to an orphan; and make all the difference in the world to just one life.  An upside-down gift that is life-sustaining; full not empty; eternal not temporal. 

Be Upside-down this Christmas
Spend 10% less this Christmas and give it away
Make an eternal difference this Christmas
Watch what the Lord does with it
I'm standing on my head this Christmas.  Will you join me?

If you would like to share your ideas on how you are cutting back and simplifying Christmas, I'd love to hear about them so please pass them on in the Comment section below.  Save money, save frustration, save time.  Just remember to track how much money you have saved, and give it away.  To someone.  In the name of Jesus.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.  Mal. 3:10

Monday, 7 November 2011


This is my first official blog post.  I confess - I’m scared.  And I have no idea what I’m doing. Really.  I’ve been doing a lot of praying about this.  The Lord has given me this desire to write down, journal what He’s doing around me, through me, and in me.  And so as I go forward, and step into the great unknown, I pray this prayer, and I hold His hand.
And I doubtfully wonder, “What could I possibly offer anyone who might read this?”  Not me, but only He can do anything.  These will simply be words on a page; words of this insecure, sinful, insignificant heart; words which hopefully show His grace; reflect His mercy. 
You see the Lord has burdened my heart, in a way I cannot explain, for the poor, the oppressed, and the desperate in the world, especially children, fatherless, abandoned and without hope.  And I yearn to go - to see, to touch, to love, to share a Savior who offers hope. 
I don’t mean pack up my bags and move to some faraway land and get to work.  (No, I’m a mother of 2 big-hearted teenagers, and a wife to a wonderful husband.  Married 17 years + saved 5 of them = unequally yoked.)  He’s asked me to stay, not go.
But I could I go on a short-term missions trip to see, to touch, to love, to share a Savior who offers hope. Right?
And yet, the Lord says, “Wait, child”. 
What else can I do with this yearning the Lord has burned deep within my heart?  Write about it.  Release it.  Maybe it’s contagious. 
Maybe as you read this someday, searching for something as I was when He caught me, maybe, just maybe the Lord will pass on this flame to you - for you to take to the lost, desperate, fatherless children across the world.
And maybe, just maybe, one day He’ll let me go on a short trip. 
But in the meantime, I wait patiently for Him.  And write here.