Tag Archives: Christmas presents

Glory to God in the Highest!

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flockIMAG3149 by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. ~ Luke 2:8–14, KJV

 

It’s no accident that when I was in high school I was chosen as one-half of a two person performance based entirely upon Scripture. The script juxtaposed Jesus’ birth with His crucifixion. The other actress had a strong, powerful voice. My voice has always had a more gentle quality. She was given the dramatic lines “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”, while I was given the gentle wonderment surrounding the nativity. To this day I have huge selections from Luke’s account of the incarnation memorized. I love that even in the years I wasn’t able to celebrate the nativity, the Lord implanted worship and wonder around His birth.

My favorite part of the passages I memorized is, “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Even as I type it today I hear the rise and fall of my voice, the wonder and passion I felt as I acted out this scene so long ago.

Isn’t the Lord sweet? I may not have heard the nativity, read from Scripture, around a glowing tree at Christmas, but He planted my love for the celebration of His birth deep within me as I rehearsed my lines—from Scripture. This worship, grounded in the truth of Scripture, couldn’t be denied me.

I invite you into that world I loved as a sixteen-year-old “actress.”

Pause a moment.

Reread the verses, only don’t glaze over them because you’ve heard them a million times. Read them like an audience is in front of you, and you are trying to convey the emotion and wonder of every phrase. Maybe you want to stand up right now and do this in the presence of your Lord.

Ask Him to make them alive in you as you do.

Ready?

Go!

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. . . . And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Did your voice rise on the words “and the glory of the Lord shone round about them”? Maybe you emphasized the important parts. “And the glory of the Lord shone round about them.”

Did you feel the fear as you whispered, “And they were sore afraid.”

Does your voice take flight as you say, “Good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people”?

Are you breathless as the next line unfolds? “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord!”

Now, if you’re like me, you’re practically shouting with the multitude of heavenly host, “Glory to God in the highest!” Then your voice cracks a little at the wonder of the great ending, “and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

We rush over it. It’s too familiar. You’ve heard it in songs and at Christmas Eve services and even watched cartoon characters speak it on TV.

But my friend. Oh my friend! Jesus is come. Jesus is come. JESUS IS COME!

The great King of all the universe came to earth and brought light to the darkness, peace to the chaos, goodwill—favor—to men! For years the enemy had woven bondage, darkness, and lies over God’s most treasured creation.

Then Jesus.

Jesus!

His life revealed the very heart of God. He Himself was God and was in closest relationship with the Father (John 1). Those who saw Jesus saw the Father, for Jesus and the Father are one (John 14).

As Jesus revealed God to the world, nothing was as the enemy had said. It wasn’t about a wrathful, vengeful God piling rule upon rule on vile mankind.

God is the Father of the prodigal son running out to embrace His wayward child.

He is the businessman who sells all to purchase us, pearls of great price!

He is the compassionate healer who touches blind eyes and makes them see, who makes the lame walk.

He is the One who looks beneath the rule-giving and rule-keeping to the issues of the heart.

He is the One who sets captives free.

That God. That Jesus.

The God of love.

That’s who left heaven’s splendor to be born into a dusty, dirty world full of manure and poverty and despair.

No wonder the angels declared, “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem!” (Luke 2:10–11, TLB).

Jesus, I lift my heart to worship with the angels giving glory to God for this great gift. Place the great joy of the good tidings deep within my heart that it might rise up to praise You. You are love. You are good. You are full of splendor. Mighty God come to earth. It’s unthinkable the extent You went to so that we could be saved from the darkness, rescued from the lies of the enemy, and shown immeasurable love. Thank You for the peace. Thank You for the freedom. Glory to God in the highest heaven! Praise You for the most joyful news ever announced. You came!

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can see the whole series here. Just scroll down to December 1 in this category.

Feeling Like Santa (6)

Join us each day through December 25 for my journey to the manager–from a child who believed Christmas was taboo to a woman who longs to worship at Christmas. These devotional thoughts are excerpted from Soul Scents: Flourish, which releases soon. If you’re chiming in late, you can find this blog series here.

“I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.” Psalm 9:1-2, MSG

Our home burst at the seams with the boys home for winter break and Sarah and David’s belongs overflowing from their bedroom into our living room and garage. Seth and Stephen didn’t seem to mind sleeping on the couch. It was a rare treat, all of us being together. My earlier pain around our Christmas celebration was not completely gone, but it was lifting.

Then a friend shared how she, too, fought to find celebration within herself. Her family christmas-gifts1was going through financial hardship, and their move away from extended family added loneliness on top of the lack of money for Christmas. God orchestrated some really cool things, which included the generosity of my husband and several friends. The family was given a Christmas tree, and the rest of us pitched in to provide gift cards and presents. My joy was off the charts! I might not own a Christmas tree, and I might not feel free to celebrate as I wanted, but I could be a part of someone else’s joy!

How good God was to allow us to be a part of an abundant surprise for our friends! I praised and thanked Him for the ability to bless someone else when for so many years our financial struggles made us unable to do so. I felt God in that moment. I felt His joy, His great delight in blessing me and blessing them.

I’ve rarely felt that completely happy.

On December 20th, as I wrapped a mound of gifts for this precious family, my husband disappeared. It felt strange, and I worried. Then another friend shared her pain with me. My heart again felt heavy. Afraid of whatever prompted my husband to leave the house without telling me and afraid all the gifts for our friends had overloaded him with too much Christmas, old defense mechanisms kicked in. I felt my heart shutting down from my husband. The joy and delight of delivering gifts to my friends, drained away. I cried out to God as I drove to their house.

I sensed the Lord telling me to live my joy and to refuse to let it be stolen. I fought down the fear of a Christmas chasm between Jerry and me and called his cell as I drove. When I asked where he was he gave a vague answer. I chose to be real with him about what I was feeling and asked him to pray that I could be joyful as I delivered the gifts to our friends. My husband, the same man who used to get upset if we bought someone a Christmas gift, encouraged me to delight in the opportunity to bless.

The time with my friend was glorious. I’ll admit to a secret delight at being able to place gifts under a tree. Heck! I felt like Santa Claus! Their home had a new energy as evidence of the love of their new community poured out in gift after gift placed beneath a tree. The youngest of their five children pranced around the house, pulling out family mementos and asking her mom where they should be placed. In joy I left them to their decorating and drove home with a light heart.

Oh, God is good!

My husband arrived home shortly after I did. He asked the boys to unload the van and bring the contents inside. Bewildered expressions marked their faces . . .

Okay, so one more day, and I’ll tell the rest of the story, but let’s stop here. What’s hard for you this Christmas season? Is there something that steals your joy? Is God’s giving you an opportunity to discover joy someone different?

Dear Lord, Open my heart to all the ways You want me to discover joy this season.

I’ll share the end of this story tomorrow. Promise!

Until Then,

paula-another-test-401x192-2

Vulnerable at Advent

20161201_173427.jpg“We start with intimacy. Longing. Vulnerability,” said our choir director. “We’re moving from Advent to the Incarnation.”

He was talking about the progression of Christmas music we’ll perform at our concert on Sunday, but I heard it with heart-ears. It’s exactly how I feel.

Vulnerable. Intimate. Longing.

How I long for deeper connection to Jesus! How I long for release to joy. To celebration. How breathless expectation both rises in me in hope–and falls within me in fear of disappointment. How I need Jesus to come and meet me in some very tender, raw places. How I’ve tucked myself next to His heart as I ponder. Wait. Wonder.

Advent. The longing for the incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us.

How confused I get at what that means and how it looks.

I have Christian friends who say the same thing. “I don’t really get Advent. What exactly is that anyway?”

Their admission surprises me. Maybe I thought my background uniquely set me up to not “get” all things Christmas. See, I didn’t celebration Christmas for most of my life. There was no Advent calendar at my house. Heck, there wasn’t even a Christmas tree. Jerry and I grew up in a denomination which taught that Christmas was pagan worship. We left that church twenty years ago, but our struggle with understanding Christmas continues to this day.

My latest book, Soul Scents: Flourish, releases soon. In it I talk about a lot of stuff I’ve never shared publicly before. The last section of the books talks about my struggle with–and longing for–Christmas worship.

I can’t help but wonder if you might relate to my struggles to find Him in this season. Oh, our stories are very different, but maybe you and I both feel a little vulnerable. Hungry for more of Jesus, but kind-of afraid He won’t show up. Or that He will and we’ll miss it.

As I pondered what I want this Christmas season to look like for me, I realize I long to celebrate Jesus and give good gifts. The very best gift ever given is Jesus, and so for the next 25 days I offer Him to you by sharing a little of my personal journey to the manger. I feel like the little drummer boy. I have nothing of earthly value to give you, limited resources, but I offer what I have to give. He played his drum. I write my words. And I give them, as a Christmas present, to you and to Him.

The devotional thoughts I share until Christmas come from Soul Scents: FlourishSome will be published in their entirety; others will be edited for brevity or clarity (since you don’t have the context of what comes before them in the book).

So I hope you’ll journey with me for the next 24 days. Invite your friends. Comment. Send me little Christmas notes via the blog-o-sphere and I’ll write you one back. It’ll be like exchanging mini Christmas cards! Let’s celebrate and journey together.

Until Tomorrow,

paula-another-test-401x192-2

Weight Loss Day 58

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Enjoying the neightborhood

If I’m not careful, I’m going to be seen as the neighborhood’s crazy lady. I wander through it almost daily, and lately I’ve taken to singing—mostly carols—as I walk. I used to stop when I passed people or cars with open windows, but anymore I just keep singing. People don’t know what to think.

Today I walked over 4 miles, which really helps with the food intake. I ate plenty and still didn’t eat enough to make 1200 calories because I’d burned so many. Thankfully, it usually averages out. Not eating 1200 would not be good for me, but I’ve been above 1200 so much this month with all the holiday stuff. Most weeks I average between 1200 and 1350 per day, so I think I’m doing okay. According to a website where I Googled my ideal weight, once I’m there I can eat over 2,000 calories and still maintain if I exercise moderately. So I think I’ll keep losing at this rate.

But! I’m still stalled out at having lost 20 pounds. Everyone assures me that the body just does that and will start losing again soon, but in my dark times I wonder if I will ever see another number on the scale.

A friend of mine, Tonya, is moving. We helped her sort through some stuff and she gave us some food, pretty baskets, and other items she didn’t want to move.

HeartsongChristm.indd

Postmark: Christmas. My novella, called, “You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch,” is fourth in the collection.

There was an unopened bottle of sparkling cider in the food stores. My daughter, Sarah, told me it wasn’t for us, that it was for our new friend. That gave me an idea.  I had some fancy chocolates and added the cider and one of my Christmas novellas. Then when I went through bath stuff Tonya sent home with me, I found a whole set of unopened bath stuff in a pretty little container.

It’s so cool that even when I’m strapped for money, the Lord shows me how to give a gift. I put all that stuff in one of the pretty baskets Tonya gave me. This woman gives so much to others, I hope it will allow her to pamper herself a bit. And I told my prayer group about the family and they added gifts, too!

Oh, and there was also an unopened Bath and Body set in a fragrance Sarah loves in the stuff Tonya gave me. Now I have something to finish out her gifts, too. I wasn’t sure how I’d do it with money so tight this year, but once again, God provides. ~Dec. 20, 2012

Real Time Update:

It’s so fun to go back to these old posts and see how much progress has been made since then! On the home front Sarah was THRILLED with the Bath and Body set. She’s been wanting that exact fragrance! As to weight loss, I’m *almost* down 40 pounds now–double what I was when I wrote this blog!

How About You?

What can you celebrate when you look back to two months ago?