Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day Three: Nativity

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with giving us the first nativity scene in the year 1223 AD.

One account tells that he and his fellow monks performed a play that year for the people of a poor Italian village. The play was held in a cave and was intended to be a reminder to the villagers that Jesus was born for them, into a poor family like theirs. Another account paints the picture of St. Francis performing a nativity play himself, using small wooden pieces to represent the characters.

A lasting tradition is that St. Francis asked a man named Giovanni Vellita of the village of Greccio to create a manger scene. St. Francis performed mass in front of this early Nativity scene, which inspired awe and devotion in all who saw it.

The play became hugely popular and the creation of the figures or pastori became an entire genre of folk art.

Nativity scene figures always include Mary and Joseph. Jesus is often added on Christmas Day (or late on Christmas Eve), usually placed in a manger. Some scenes have shepherds, sheep and angels. Wise Men and their camels traditionally wait to arrive until the twelfth day after Christmas, known as Epiphany.

There are two traditions of portraying Mary:

The Western tradition says Mary was virginal and also was not subject to the curse of Eve (a Catholic teaching that her soul was pure when her body received it in her own mother’s womb). Therefore she did not suffer during labor. This is why she is depicted either seated, holding Jesus on her lap, or on her knees in adoration.

The Eastern tradition, on the other hand, emphasizes the reality of the incarnation of Jesus and his human birth: Mary, having just given birth, is pictured lying down.

Mary lived far from Bethlehem, yet prophecy held that the Messiah would be born there. How did God solve the disparity? He used a Caesar to order a census. He always has a plan, though we might not always see or know it.

Display a nativity scene in your home. You could put the Wise Men in a separate room and move them closer, day by day, until Epiphany (January 6). Keep shepherds on a hillside close by, until Jesus is born. Add a little straw to the manger as the time draws near. Read Luke 2:1-19 and Matthew 2:1-11 as you move the characters.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day Two of Twenty-five Days of Christmas


The word “advent” comes from the Latin word adventus meaning "coming". It is celebrated for the four weeks that precede Christmas, one week for every millennium between the Fall of Adam and the Birth of Christ.

Advent was not always associated with the birth of Christ. In the early Church, it was His second coming that was anticipated, not His birth. (Latin adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia, used in reference to the Second Coming.) Eventually, the Church extended the celebration of Advent to include the coming of Christ through his birth in Bethlehem.

Observing the season of Advent with an advent wreath is one way to keep Christ literally at the center of our attention: the wreath has a white candle in the center, representing Christ. Four other candles, three purple and one pink, are arranged in the greenery of the wreath itself and are lit on each Sunday in Advent. The light grows each week, reflecting the growing anticipation of the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world.

Purple symbolizes repentance and fasting. Purple is also the color of royalty, in anticipation of the coming King.

Pink or rose represents joy and reveals a shift in the season away from repentance and toward celebration. This candle is lit on the fourth Sunday in Advent.

The white candle in the center represents Christ and is lit on Christmas Day.

Advent is a time of preparation for Christ. But is it really Christmas, the Christian Christmas, for which you are preparing? Are you calm, or stressed? Joyful or jangled? Does your list of things to get done take precedence over sitting with God every morning? What would one of the first century Christians think Christmas was about, judging only from your behavior/schedule/attitude?

Consider an advent wreath for your home. It can be as simple as candles in a circle on your dining room table, but be sure to place it where you can see it often. Light one candle on each Sunday beginning the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Why not set it up after Thanksgiving dinner and start a new tradition of beginning the season when your hearts are still full of gratitude to God?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day One's Reading from My New Book!

Christmas Beginnings

We celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus. But the Bible does not record the date of His birth, so how was December 25 chosen?

The answer comes from the historical pattern of the Church of eradicating pagan practices by Christianizing them.

In Northern Europe, the pagans celebrated the winter solstice in late December. The Romans honored their god Saturn and the “birth of the unconquered sun” (dies natalis solis invicti') on December 25. The Church decided instead to celebrate the birth of the Son (who was certainly unconquered!), and incorporated the pagan traditions of Saturnalia, changing their meanings. Thus the celebrations would not be a stumbling block to new converts, who could continue with their long-loved customs, albeit with new meaning.

A nativity celebration first appeared on the Roman Church calendar on December 25, 336 AD.


As you read through this book, you will find that many of our Christmas customs have their origins in paganism.

Does this mean we should be appalled and decide to not celebrate? I don’t think that’s a good response!

In the heart of the Christian worshipper, the focus of this season is the gift of Jesus Christ and His gift of eternal life. Ancient pagan ways have been given new meaning. We do not celebrate Saturnalia on December 25!

This is the time of year when even many non-Christians pause to think about the meaning of Christmas. If it is our purpose to bring them to Jesus, then we can use even these secular aspects to point them towards Him.

Like Peter the Jew reaching out to Cornelius the Gentile, we the Christians reach out to the lost. We have to meet them where they are.

Read Acts 10:1- 11:24 to learn about Peter and Cornelius. This “reaching out to the non-Jew” was a major turning point for the Church. Without it, you and I may never have known Christ.

Whom do you know that needs to be pointed towards the Reason for the Season? Pray for that person and ask God for ways to reach out to them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Little Blue Beads of Faithfulness

Last year, on a trip to Pittsburgh, I saw a necklace that I just adored. It had blue beads and a silver pendant on which was etched a tree. If you know me, you know that the tree is one of my favorite symbols of God’s faithfulness, as in Jeremiah 17:7-8.

The necklace was in a box with matching earrings. The sale sign said it was a “special purchase”, and, for less than $10, I bought it. I’d been searching for just the right color of blue beads, and here they were!

When I got home, I was disappointed to find that the necklace itself was really more of a choker and was too short for my comfort. Determined to find a way to wear it anyway, I took it apart. The pendant became a slide that fit perfectly on a wire I already owned. The beautiful blue beads went into my crafting box to be used at a later time.

This week, my husband and I were packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. I chose to pack for a teenage girl, and thought that she would enjoy making her own jewelry, so I went to my crafting box in search of beads to add to the ones I’d purchased. There were my special blue beads. I resisted.

Surely God would not want me to give away those beads. The others I had were replaceable; I could simply go purchase more if I wanted. Those were no longer available, and besides, there weren’t enough to fill the little compartment in the bead box. But God reminded me that I was to give sacrificially. It wasn’t a huge monetary sacrifice, but it was something I was unwilling to part with. God won. The beads went into the girl’s box.

Last night, we took our boxes to the church for collection. Then we went to service.

The worship service was awesome and heart-provoking. We learned about letting go of fear and of God’s faithfulness. We sang of God’s blessing and of His faithfulness.

After service, a friend rushed to find me. She said, “I have something for you.” Daphne reached into her pocket and pulled out a necklace and earrings. She said God spoke to her in service and told her to give them to me, and so she took them off then. She said it was unusual for her to wear that particular necklace, but had felt prompted to that night. Once she was in service, she knew why.

I looked at the offering to me and was dumbstruck. Friends, it was the twin of the necklace I had purchased the year before in a town eight hours away; the very same pendant, the same perfect blue beads that sat in a shoebox a few yards away. The very beads I had been asked to give up were now returned to me! How is that possible?

Is your mouth not just hanging open? Tell me He doesn’t perform little miracles to let us know He is here and He is involved and He wants us to know that He is faithful. Try to tell me He isn’t real! I have evidence in the obedient actions of a faithful friend and in the undeniable form of beautiful blue beads and a silver tree pendant.

Thanks and glory be to God!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Foreword to a book I am writing...

Twenty Five Days of Christmas
A Devotional Book: Finding Treasures in the Traditions of the Season

Do you ever wonder about the meanings behind our traditions?

For me, the drive to discover the genesis of Christmas traditions came after studying “covenant” in the Bible. I was intrigued and delighted to find that many wedding customs are based in covenant language and ceremony: the exchange of vows and rings, the walking of a center aisle, the sharing of food and drink, the bride’s taking the husband’s name, to list just a few.

I began to wonder about our Christmas traditions. Where did they originate? Is there any Biblical basis for them? If not, is it possible to use even the secular aspects of the season to refocus on the Reason? Where is the treasure in the tradition?

Life, to me, is like a glorious treasure hunt. God wraps wonderful little gifts and leads us on the hunt to find them. He has given me a shovel and instructed me to dig. Here, I share with you what I have uncovered. My hope is that you find something of value to share with your family and friends as you celebrate with a renewed passion all things Christ in Christmas.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Married or equivalent

Change, I know, is inevitable.

Our language changes. Words get new meanings. Even words that are improperly used become acceptable when Webster’s decides that they have become so commonplace that they are now part of our language and are, therefore, now proper.

That irks me.

For example, take the lovely word “nauseous”. It used to mean “something that makes one nauseated”, as in, “That scent makes me nauseous”. A person would never say he was nauseous, because that meant that he made people feel as if they were going to expel the contents of their stomachs. He would say he was nauseated. But the incorrect “nauseous” surpassed the correct “nauseated” in usage. Now they are considered synonyms.

This kind of word-wiggling has hit home twice this week.

Get this: my daughter reports that her English professor is trying to make the “f-word” more acceptable, saying it shares its root with the word “conflict”. The teacher says it should not be viewed as being offensive. Say what? The teacher then asked for a show of hands of students who had never used the “f-word”. Only two hands went up, including my daughter’s. It reminds me, unnervingly so, of my ethics class when my professor asked the Christians in the room to raise their hands.

(Y’all, I could go off on that one for several pages, but will restrain myself for another day.)

Then came the kicker of the week, in the form of a question on a survey.

I was asked to check one of two choices: married or equivalent, or single or equivalent.

Pardon me? Uh, come again? When did there become an equivalent to marriage?

Little by little, the cultural moth eats away the moral fabric. The f-word becomes commonplace and professors in public universities praise its uncommon flexibility as noun, verb, adjective, phrase… and more! Surveyors decide that marriage can be synonymous with whatever one desires to equate it. Next, other surveyors will hail the wording as a pleasant, forward-thinking solution and it will become the normal survey question.

Forgive me if I’m nauseated.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


I awoke in the wee hours of this morning, aware that I had been crying in my sleep, the intense dream still clearly present in my mind.

In the dream, I was puttering around the house, doing the mundane thing of the day, when an angel of the LORD appeared and said, “Are you ready? It is time to go.”


“Yes, your time on the earth is over.”

“But I can’t go yet! I still have so many things I wanted to accomplish! And… and…no one is here with me! I need to tell them all I love them… just one more time, please! One more hour, please, that’s all I ask!”

“Very well. One hour. But you cannot go anywhere and you cannot tell anyone that you are about to die.”

And in the dream, I began to write, to pour out love and hopes and dreams and encouragement and gratitude to the people whom I love and cherish.

When I opened my eyes, my heart was pounding. What if it were true? What if this is my last day on this planet? Was I ready? And since the answer to that last question was an unequivocal “no”, what was I going to do about it?

Today, I am writing notes to my loved ones. Some of those notes will be in the mailbox this afternoon. Some people I will email. One of my children lives close enough to receive fresh, homemade cookies. My husband will be the recipient of some undivided attention.

Today, I will take the love that God has given to me and I will pour a measure of that love into every person with whom I have contact, from the banker to the salesclerk to the insurance representative on the phone. I will take Jesus with me. I will listen to the Spirit. I will praise my God and tell of His work in my life. No complaining. No arguing. Only loving.

And, LORD willing, I will do the same tomorrow.

Friend, today may be your last. There is no time to complain or argue. There is no time to waste on things that do not matter. The angel of the LORD does not give an extra hour.

What are you going to do about it? Are you ready? That’s the big question.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Be Still

As the school year begins, I am reminded again to sit at the feet of our Teacher.

I need to spend more time listening. God does not shout. He does not struggle for attention. He is the teacher who stands and waits. He does not raise His voice over the din, but gives His lessons in near-whispers. The student must lean close.

This class has only one student, but she has more noise and commotion in her head than 115 six-year-olds at Chuck E. Cheese. Be still?

I walk around my mind-field, searching for the day’s target. God, is this the place you want me today? Is it here? Do I write today? Do I work on the illustrations? Do I pray?

Be still.

God does not shoot arrows at a moving target. He stands behind the archer and guides her arrow. Do not be the target, Lisa. Be the archer. Be still. Await instruction.

I, the "OCD-gifted” multi-tasker, struggle with this simple order. Being still, like napping, is a waste of time! I protest! Yet the Spirit commands.

The refrigerator hums. The clock ticks. The dryer buzzes. The cat scratches at the door. I need a shower. My husband will be home for lunch in less than an hour.

Be still.

Then I hear. “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand”… “Create in me a clean heart”… “I come to the garden alone”… The songs flood my heart and I worship.

The phone rings. When I pick it up, before I say “hello”, I hear my husband singing, “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” I smile. He has been listening, too.

Tell me God doesn’t know what He’s doing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Will the next George Sodini please stand up?

I read his blog yesterday. It has taken me a full day to process it, and I don’t know that I will ever understand. Yet, I feel compelled to write about it.

George grew up, got a good job, bought a house and waited for life to have meaning.

George longed for a partner. He believed a woman would make him complete. He wrote, “A man needs a woman for confidence. He gets a boost on the job, career, with other men, and everywhere else when he knows inside he has someone to spend the night with and who is also a friend.” Yet this kind of relationship eluded him. At 48, he was still single, and he had lost hope: “This type of life I see is a closed world with me specifically and totally excluded.”

George read self-help books and subscribed to a program that purported to teach him how to find a mate. He worked at making himself desirable, joining a gym, going to a tanning salon, being careful about personal grooming. And yet, he said, “I always had hope that maybe things will improve especially if I make big attempts to change my life. I made many big changes in the past two years but everything is still the same. Life is over.”

He wrote about a talk-show. A caller spoke of the hopelessness of living in the inner city where men engaged in destructive behavior so as to shorten their miserable lives.

In January, he wrote, “The future holds even less than what I have today.” It was the day George “chickened out”. He had a plan for that evening, but said, “I always think I am forgetting something, that's one reason I postponed. Similar to when you leave to get in your car to go somewhere - you hesitate with a thought: ‘what am I forgetting?’ In this case, I cannot make a return trip!” After a few months of despondency, George finally put his plan into action.

On August 4, 2009, George Sodini walked into a crowded Pittsburgh gym class, unzipped his bag, pulled out two guns, turned off the lights, and opened fire. Three women died and many others were injured before he turned the gun on himself and ended his life.

As a human and as a Christian, I ache.

His blog showed that he’d attended a local church for thirteen years, until 2006. He credits his former pastor: “…this guy teaches (and convinced me) you can commit mass murder then still go to heaven. Ask him… I think his crap did the most damage.”
George wrote on August 3, “Maybe soon, I will see God and Jesus. At least that is what I was told. Eternal life does NOT depend on works. If it did, we will all be in hell. Christ paid for EVERY sin, so how can I or you be judged BY GOD for a sin when the penalty was ALREADY paid. People judge but that does not matter. I was reading the Bible and The Integrity of God beginning yesterday, because soon I will see them.”

I’ve looked up the website George gave for the church. I cannot tell what kind of church it is. The page that is supposed to tell of their doctrine is down, with the message "Our newly revised doctrinal statement will be available soon.” Revised doctrine? It leaves me to wonder: Did they teach George that it isn’t enough to just believe in Jesus, but that you have to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior in order to go to Heaven? Or was that the thing that he referenced earlier that he was forgetting, the reason he was unable to go through with the plan because he knew something was missing? It is frustrating and maddening and distressing that someone could come so close to the Truth and yet miss it!

George was empty and he needed Jesus.

George had “Christians” in his life. He described one of them. “I have been in barrooms and church groups. The worst people by far are the religious types. Especially a right-wing, stiff-faced fundie like Andy. A condescending, demeaning, passive-aggresive person. Frigid, rigid, linear and totally inflexible. Being a very serious person, he cannot hide his frown-lined face. He better not try to smile; lest his face might crack.”

Is this how the world views us? Is this how your lost friends see you?

Brothers and sisters, where are we failing? Is our joy not evident? Are we not giving an account for the hope we have? Are we not being light and salt? Is there nothing different in us? How will they recognize truth unless they see it in us first?

Is the next George Sodini sitting in the next cubicle? Is he your neighbor? Is she the loner in Biology class? How God’s heart must ache!

Lord God, You came to seek and save the lost and you have given us the task now of seeking them and leading them to you. I pray that you open our eyes and prick our hearts! Amen!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Hello, all!

I just wanted to let you know I am alive and well. I am working on an assignment that has commanded all of my time, so I am not writing/blogging like I used to.

The assignment? I'm illustrating a children's book that I wrote about a year ago. The original concept came from a puppet show that I wrote about two sisters who were very different from each other and the way their mom helped them to see how special each was. We performed the play "black box theatre"-style with enormous body puppets. At one point in the play, the girls sat together and read the "book". Now it is really becoming a book!

Please pray for me as I seek God's direction in each illustration. I will post more as time permits. The basic sketches are done and the book itself is laid out. I now am working on the color studies and will soon be doing the actual pen/ink/watercolor art pieces.

May God give you a blessing and assignment as well!

Onward, fellow artists and writers!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Of Chicken Soup and Hard Candies

I know I have an active imagination. It is one of the character traits with which God has blessed me. Sometimes, though, it is really “out there”!

Take, for example, one of my mental images of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture calls the Holy Spirit “The Comforter”. That sounds so sweet and soothing. “There, there, Lisa. Everything will be fine, you will see. Here, let’s get you a nice hot bowl of chicken soup.” Envision a wonderful, gentle grandmother with thick, welcoming arms and an abundant supply of Kleenex. You can almost see the dish of sugar-soldered hard candies on the coffee table.

This Holy Spirit whispers in my ear. “Send that person a note of encouragement.” “Pray for this person.” “Check that pocket before you put those pants in the wash.” “Your daughter could use a phone call today.” “Your son in Japan could use some hand lotion and taco seasoning. Send some when you pack that care package this week.” Seriously. Ask Adam if it isn’t so.

But today, I explored a word and discovered a definition that brings a new dimension to my Comforter. I marvel at the depth of meaning and shake my head at what gets lost in translation.

Comfort comes from the Latin word fortis which means “strength”. Like Fort Knox. Like fortified cereal. (Have you had your Wheaties today? It’s the breakfast of champions!) Like A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Add the prefix com, which is an intensifier, and you get something akin to “powerfully strengthened”. My Comforter does more than just gently pat my shoulder and tell me it will be OK. My Comforter suits me up in God’s armor and climbs in with me. My Comforter encourages and empowers me. “Onward!” is the cry!

That’s a pretty powerful “grandma”, if you ask me. What do you want to bet that comfort-food-soup has got more than just seven essential vitamins and iron? And hey, maybe that stone-hard candy is ammunition for my slingshot. Watch out, Goliath!

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Confession alert!

I love to watch home improvement shows.

There’s always somebody on there who has tackled a project themselves and gotten in way over their head. Then they have to call an expert. Oftentimes, it costs them more than it would have to hire the expert first. They always start off thinking they can do it themselves. Hmmm. See a spiritual application coming?

This week I saw a show with a twist: the inexperienced wife was trying to help the professional-grade husband install cabinets he built. Can you say “recipe for disaster”? At one point, he just needed her to get out of his way. She was crushed. (Emotionally, y’all, not physically!)

Wife wanted to help. She loved her husband. She was excited about his work. She was doing all she knew to assist. But at that point, she was making matters much more difficult than they needed to be. She needed to get out of the way.

Zing! God zapped me on this one!

How many times have I gotten in God’s way? My intentions are pure, but sometimes I am just making things worse by meddling in affairs way too far over my head. I don’t understand why we can’t just nail those cabinets to the wall. Come on, God, I’ll hold it up and you nail it. (I hear you laughing out there!)

Guess what? Impatience and pride are not conducive qualities.

Sometimes He’ll let me try to hold it up myself. (Wow, this is too heavy!) Sometimes He’ll let me just get it nailed up, only to find out there wasn’t enough support in the wall and it tears away and crashes to the floor. (What? I needed to use screws? Find the wall studs? What's a cleat?) At times, I have not measured correctly (ah, what's a half an inch?) or try to put the cabinet in the wrong position (I think it should go here, even if it was designed to go there!).

Finally, I give up and admit I cannot do it myself and step back to listen to the Expert. What time I have wasted! What resources I have squandered!

The lesson? Beware of what you think is a do-it-yourself project. Call the Expert first. And learn to get out of His way!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Portable feast

When I was eleven years old, I got my very own pocket-sized transistor radio. From my tiny Kansas town, I could hear broadcasts from Omaha, Nebraska over 100 miles away. It was amazing to me!

What 1970s preteen joy: a starry summer night and American Top 40 with Casey Kasem!

Tuning into the desired station with the analog control knob was tricky. You had to listen very carefully as you dialed, almost crept, into the correct, narrow bandwidth. Oftentimes, you could hear the cacophony of several stations at once! An incremental twist revealed static, another tiny turn brought more overlaid confusion. Then, by turning yourself slightly and finding just the right position, the airwaves became suddenly, startlingly crystalline clear. Then you had to stay still. Very still. But, oh, the happiness of a personal, portable auditory feast!

That prized transistor radio is long forgotten and I’ve long since lost the art of being still. Come to think of it, I have not recently partaken of an auditory feast. Oh wait… what is that I hear? I struggle to tune in, to get past the static in my ears… or is that my heart?

“Be still!”

God reminds me of a little transistor radio and a narrow bandwidth, of positioning myself until the sound was crystalline. He gently instructs my heart to dial, to find the correct position to tune into His voice, His own narrow bandwidth.

My friends, it is time for a feast! Pardon me while I go get ready!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I have a mission for the year. It’s a one-word command: Illuminate.

Years ago, I had a powerful dream. I was standing in a room with two attendants who pulled back a curtain to reveal the most beautiful tapestry I have ever seen. The background was rich, almost-midnight-blue. Intricate, exquisite embroidery in vivid jewel tones wove in and out and around unfamiliar silver and gold letters. I asked one of the attendants what it said.

“It is God’s name for you: it is His vision for your life,” was the reply.

Stunned, I asked, “Well, what does it say?”

The answer has stayed with me to this day.

“It says, ‘One Who Shines’.”

Fast forward to Wednesday night, February 4. I sit in service with dear friends as we soak in the last evening our beloved Worship Leader will spend with us before beginning his new assignment from God. My heart is full and open. I am still. It is the perfect opportunity for God to zap me, to sneak up on me and plant my own new assignment.

The minister has preached about being the light of the world. He uses the word “illuminate”. Suddenly the light goes on in my spirit as God whispers, “Illuminate the text, ‘One Who Shines’! Onward!"

In Art History class, we learned about “Illuminated Text”. It refers to the beautiful, intricate illustrations of the monks who copied scripture. They crafted borders and vignettes on pages of text to not only beautify but also present the scripture to the illiterate, to those who could not read the unfamiliar letters.

Like the tapestry in my dream.

Like the children’s books I am writing and illustrating. Those two unfinished books have been sitting on my desk, collecting dust because I have not given them priority. One God gave me to do last spring. The other came at New Year’s. They have been roughly sketched out, waiting for inspiration. Now, I am literally called back to the drawing board!

Ponder this example of God, the Master Planner: what style of illustration do you think I have used in those books? I have woven intricate borders and illustrations on pages of text to present scripture to the illiterate, to those who can not read. I am dumbstruck with wonder and awe at how God has been guiding as I have been unaware.

Then, just as I think it is only about the children’s books, He reminds me that I am to also illuminate through my online journaling, to illustrate with word pictures.

And for one glorious moment, He pulled back the curtain again.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Accurate Fit

Did you ever play dress up? I remember my son as a toddler, trying on his daddy’s shoes and hat. He couldn’t see out from under the brim. He couldn’t pick up his feet, but strained just to shuffle along. The photo op lasted only a few minutes, not even long enough to find the camera. It was just too hard for him to move under that burden.

It was a different story when Adam had on his own gear. You couldn’t contain him. He was busy getting things done. I’ve got several pictures of him in those little sneakers and ball cap!

At times I have found myself playing spiritual dress-up. Like David in Saul’s armor, I’ve tried to walk around in somebody else’s suit, with pathetic results. Like David, I’ve found Saul’s tunic and accoutrements to be not just ill-fitting but also burdensome. God equipped David with a staff and a sling and five smooth stones to do the job He had set before him. Saul’s armor was not intended for David. Saul’s armor is not mine, either.

I have my own suit, tailored with God’s measurements for my life.

There are spiritual gifts that I simply do not possess. There are missions that are not mine. There are great and wonderful works that are intended for others to do. But God has ordained specific things for me and I need to be about the business of discovering them. I need to stand and be measured, be fitted according to those measurements, not what I wish them to be but what they actually are. I am not a size 6. I am not a size 22.

God has a suit of armor for me and I, according to Ephesians 6:10, am to put it on. (The armor belongs to God, “Government-issued”!) Though we all have the same armor components, He has given me a suit sized especially for me. Let Saul wear his own. Let David wear his own. Let the spiritual leaders in my life wear their own. You wear yours. May God grant me the grace to wear mine.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

O Christmas Tree, how lovely are Thy branches!

My to-do list this week included “disassemble the tree.” That was never on the post-Christmas instructions in my childhood home. I grew up in an era of real trees, the kind the whole family could argue over.

My mother’s favorite was Scotch pine. It was a densely-branched long-needled tree. I don’t remember ever going to cut one down: that cultivar must not have grown in the regions where we lived. But I do remember the fussing and cussing and stay-out-of-the-way straining as my father put it up, trying to get it straight in the dysfunctional stand, tying it in place to the walls with nearly-invisible fishing line. More than once, one of us didn't see it and nearly strung ourselves up. Yes, that really set the holiday mood!

Christmas tree hunting with my own children was a much more pleasant experience. We went to the farms, little red saw in hand, and searched acres of rows of fragrant white pines for the perfect One. Sometimes we found a bird’s nest inside, with or without tiny empty half-shells. Those were my favorites.

It was not until I remarried in my mid-thirties that I ever had a fake tree: a “symbol of a symbol”, as I called it.

A Christmas tree symbolizes Christ, from the cross (also called a tree) He was nailed upon to the sacrifice of life it represents. How could an artificial tree embody sacrifice?

I surrendered my real tree because my stepson was allergic to the real thing. At that time, my aunt was getting rid of her old-model artificial in favor of the latest, greatest trend: pre-lit trees! I accepted the 1980s-era cast-off. It is the one I disassembled yet again two days ago. My stepson and all the other children are now grown and gone. The tree, ironically, “lives” on.

In its absence, the corner of the dining room looked absolutely bare and forlorn and yes, dead. I have remedied that situation by replacing it with a live tree! It is not a pine, but a seven-foot ficus, the lovely weeping fig that was becoming cramped in my sunroom.

Throughout the branches I have draped string of twinkle lights. Just now, I have become aware that I can see them reflected on the computer screen. Jesus looks down from the picture on the bookshelf to my right. My verse-a-day desk calendar stands to my left. My to-do list just faded away, supplanted by an urging: be still and know. Soak. Worship.

Even in January, Christmas is here. Christ is here