Thursday, December 29, 2016

Missed Blessings

The idea of mixed blessings is an easy concept to understand, but this little girl suffers from missed blessings. As she opens the gift, the kitten escapes. She thinks she has been given an empty box. After her parents encourage her to turn around and look, she brings her hands to her heart and announces “ Oooh, I have a cat.”

One wonders, if her parents hadn’t said anything, how long it would have been before she noticed her gift crouched behind the tree.

When I am faced with a mixed blessing, a blessing attended by grief, I seem to instinctively know how to respond. I separate the good from the unfortunate and find a way to both rejoice and grieve. At least I can make it seem like I know how to respond.

But a missed blessing is a different situation. I miss blessings when I sit right in the middle of one and still continue to complain. Just like this little girl I miss the blessing even when it meows at me from inside the box.

To wit:

I’m frustrated trying to get information or access for one of my contract jobs.

          Ooops -- I have work.

My body continually reminds me that I am getting older and more tired, less strong and less capable.

          Ooops -- I have good health.

I made a mistake ordering online and ended up driving over ten miles to pick up my pizza.

          Ooops -- I have money for food.

I got to spend time with my kids for the second time this Christmas.

Car seat warmers work to keep pizza warm.

I have seat warmers in my car.

Which is no small thing given the kinds of winters we have in Nebraska – oops

          I have a car with seat warmers.

It appears I need more practice with the “Search for Missed Blessings” game. My goal for this year is to turn around and look for the missed blessing. What God gives me rarely runs away and hides. Instead, my blessings sit on my lap and beg for my attention.

I rejoice in God’s love and care for me. I rejoice in my opportunities to worship and serve Him with gladness. I pray God fills my heart and my thoughts with gratitude for His mercy and grace.

God loves me. He loves me through my grumpiness, my pain, my sorrow, my joy, and my missed blessings.

God loves you, too. Happy New Year!

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!

Know that the LORD, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!

For the LORD is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas 2016

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13

2016 has been a challenging year. It would be easy to focus on strife and struggle only to end the year without hope. Over the last twelve months our world has seen so much death, destruction, hatred, and lies. If we ever doubted that we were sinners living in a sinful world, surely social media has crushed that misconception! We need to be reminded of the grace of Christmas every day and it seems especially desired as we end this year and look toward 2017. 

The message of Christmas is about faith, hope, and love. A God-given faith that strengthens us, a hope that gives us courage, and the love we need to live, work, and nurture those we encounter each day. The message of Christmas is so much more than angels, shepherds, and a baby in the straw. It is everything. It is forever. It is Salvation. 

The children of Israel had waited countless generations for a Messiah. They waited through sin, through victory, through evil kings and occupation. The faith that sustained them continually pointed them toward a manger – even if they did not recognize the Gift when it cooed in the hay. 

For generations Christmas has filled the hearts of God’s children with hope. We have hope for what the Savior can accomplish in our lives. We have hope for peace on earth. We have hope of someday entering heaven and touching the face of God. We must remember that the hope of Christmas is not a fingers-crossed kind of hope. It is an empty-grave hope.  It is a hope that is assured because of the love of the Father, the work of the Spirit, and the death and resurrection of our Savior. 

Yet, as important as faith and hope are to our lives, love is certainly the greatest of the three.

God is love and the baby Jesus is that Love walking and living among us. We so desperately need this love and yet we throw it away in favor of the things and worries of the world. Christmas makes us stop, and listen, turn to our faith, live in hope, and most importantly - love.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,endures all things. Love never ends. I Corinthians 13:7-8a

Our world needs the Love of Christmas now, more than ever. We pray that God will allow us to block out the world and to feel this love and live it in our home, in our church, and in our community.