Saturday, December 21, 2019

Christmas Blessings

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:22-23

Husband Paul remembers this particular piece of artwork as having a long history at his house. It hangs on our wall and is a favorite of mine. It’s more than a tiny ceramic baby on a piece of driftwood; it hints at the bigger story of Christmas. The swaddled baby has its arms outstretched, and is strategically placed to allow a mark on the wood to give the appearance of a halo, perhaps even a crown of thorns.

When the light is right, the baby’s arms cast a shadow envisaging the crucifixion. This piece expresses tenderness, agony and victory, leaving our emotional sense a bit overwhelmed. How can the helpless cry of an infant grow into the intense unwavering desire to take on the sin of the world? These tiny arms welcome us into the family of God in a startling message of truth and power.

Babies remind us of new life and hope for a better future. Every parent gazes at a newborn and imagines the possibilities of accomplishment, kindness, bravery, and joy. Mary and Joseph must have gazed on Baby Jesus in the same way, but now we know the bigger story.

The cross reminds us that hope is useless unless grounded in the saving work of Jesus. The stories of our lives on earth, while filled with all manner of events and emotions, are not sources of hope. Our hope springs from the tiny babe with outstretched arms who will one day carry the burden of our sin to a different piece of wood. This is the source of our Christmas joy. This is the story of our hope, our faith, and our Salvation.

May the smaller parts of your life story continually point you toward the bigger story of Christmas, And may the events of each day find a way to remind you of God’s perfect love.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Grace Never Forgets

I broke three different bones in my foot. This is apparently becoming an annual event as last year, I broke a bone in my ankle. This time instead of tripping on a rock I dropped a table on my foot.

I usually get a quizzical look when I tell people that, so I will explain it a bit better. I was doing volunteer work at church and needed a different table than the one set up for me. I flipped the table on its side to knock down the legs and dropped the table on my foot.

I used to teach at the school connected with this church, so I am quite familiar with this table and have, over the years, flipped it on its side many times without incident. However, I am old now, and I forgot about the weak grip in my right hand from a different injury. I could have asked for help. I should have gotten help from the church’s administrative assistant, but I was arrogant enough to think I could do it on my own.

Now they won’t let me move tables at church anymore.

I am reminded of a sweet exchange with my Mother-in-law several years ago. Here is the story in an excerpt from my book on caregiving called Weary Joy:

Sometime after her dementia diagnosis, Dorris’ sense of balance became compromised, and her health-care professional wanted her to use a walker. Dorris was able to walk reasonably well but she occasionally lost her balance. When she stood up to walk, she did not feel like she needed her walker, so trying to teach her to use it was a challenge for everyone in her care community.

While Dorris was not successful at remembering to use her walker, she did remember the struggle. One day, with determination in her voice she announced, “I want my bicycle back. If I can get back to riding my bike, maybe I can convince them I don’t need my walker.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” I replied (p. 83)

Dementia is a strange thing. It steals away your ability to make new memories, but it doesn't necessarily impact your determination. I think our sin creates a kind of behavior dementia. We so easily forget our weaknesses, but we retain our determination to fix things on our own.
We forget that we have sinned in the past and that we will do it again.

We forget that our efforts to stop sinning have been in vain.

We forget that it is not possible for us to create a life that is good enough to get us into heaven.

We forget, over and over again, that we need Jesus.

It seems reasonable to our puny human brains that we can take charge of our faith life and be kind enough, well-meaning enough,  study scriptures enough, attend church and partake in the Lord's supper enough to slip into heaven in spite of our sins. We really, really want salvation to be about us.

When salvation is about us, we have a sense of control.

When salvation is about us, we can afford to judge others.

When salvation is about us, we can check it off of our "to do" list.

When salvation is about us, we can feel good about ourselves.

But salvation is not about us. Our only participation is our desperate, constant need for a Savior. 

Salvation is about Jesus. It is about a love so strong, He came to earth as a helpless infant to meet us in our frantic need. It is about a perfectly lived life and perfectly endured death performed in our place. Salvation is about Jesus' resurrection and His act of love taking the place of our sin, weaknesses, and failure. Salvation is about love.

I do not like growing old and finding more things that I cannot do as well as when I was younger. I don't like having to ask for help. I don't like thinking of what is around the corner for this old lady with osteoporosis and questionable eating and exercise habits. I don't like any of this.

However, when it comes to my salvation, I must tell myself that it is good to be dependent on a God who loves me and sent His Son to die for me. It is the only solution, and it is the best feeling ever.

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
    in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
    their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names on my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16

Weary Joy: The Caregiver's Journey  
by Kim Marxhausen

and Amazon


Thursday, September 26, 2019


But our citizenship is in heaven, and  from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself. Philippians 3:20

This clip had me enthralled for its full 16 minutes. The start of the video,  informs you of the intent to create a crane, but I could not see how a bird would emerge from a bright orange bubble of melted glass. Not even the drawings made sense to me. But then I am not an artist.

As I watched the glassblower gently coax small lumps of molten glass into a head and tail, the shape of the bird began to take form. The result is stunning.

When I look at my life, I see only defects and restrictions. I cannot imagine becoming something beautiful and admired.

I can’t cover my sin.

I can’t overcome my selfish agenda.

I can’t see possibilities of how God might use the gifts bestowed on me.

I can’t.

But like the glassblower, Jesus wraps me in His robes of righteousness and gently coaxes changes out of me. Again, and again, He thrusts me into the flames of challenge only to pull me out and bring something new, something good, out of the mess of my life. It is not my goodness, but His, that saves me. It is not my efforts, but His, that changes me.

It empowers me to realize that because I am useless, because I am stained with sin, because of my list of cant’s, my only course of action is not to act, but to simply be in the hands of the glassblower.

Because of Him, I can let go of my shame.

Because of Him, I can take hold of His hand.

Because of Him, I am transformed by His robe of righteousness.

Because of Him.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18

Weary Joy: The Caregiver's Journey  
by Kim Marxhausen

and Amazon