THE SILENT YEARS

It had been four hundred years, four hundred silent years.  Four hundred years with no word from God.  We think of it as the intertestamentary period, that time between the Old and New Testaments.  In the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, we leave the remnant of Israel trying to restore Jerusalem, still under Persian domination and in a fallen spiritual condition.  For all practical purposes, Israel remained in exile.  The book of Malachi is an exhortation to return to the Covenant, with severe warnings for failure to do so.  And then, God quit speaking until the events surrounding the birth of Christ.  

Those were years with no fresh word from God.  It is hard for us to even imagine how that would be, with our access to so many different translations of the Bible and the presence of the Holy Spirit to breathe them alive to us.  But as we enter this season of Advent, let us try to put ourselves in the place of the ordinary Jew at this time in history.  In fact, my Advent challenge is to put myself in the place of all the characters in the Christmas story.  

Advent is a word I don’t hear very much in my Baptist church, but it is something I try to observe personally.  Oh I don’t do the wreath and the candles, but I do Advent readings in my quiet time.  For me, Advent is a time of preparing the manger of my heart for the coming of the Messiah.  Advent covers the four weeks leading up to Christmas, and this year, in 2020, Advent begins today, November 29.  We think 2020 has been a long and difficult year, and it has.  But try 400 long and difficult years!  And we have had the blessing of the Holy Spirit with us to help us navigate this year, to comfort us in our grief and to encourage us when we are afraid.  As we close this weekend of Thanksgiving, I am thanking God for access to His word and for the presence of the Holy Spirit, for the privilege of knowing Him.

Like many believers around the world, I have spent more time in prayer this year than ever before. And like many, I have clung to the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14:  

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

We tend to hold on to the promise while glossing over the condition: if my people, who are called by my name.  We want God to heal our land, but surely it is those other people who need to repent.  This year I have repeatedly asked God to show me my wicked ways.  Don’t ask unless you are serious.  He has pulled off layer after layer of wicked ways.  It is a part of making room for Christ.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his Christmas sermons tells us that Advent “is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.”   I know I am poor and imperfect! 

So I put myself in the place of those post-exilic Jews who were waiting, because this has been a year of waiting.  Waiting for the virus to go away, waiting for a vaccine or a cure, waiting for schools to open, for jobs to return, for things to go back to normal.  But more than these things, like Bonhoeffer I am waiting for something greater to come.  I am waiting for a time when there will be no more death, nor more wars, no more hatred in our streets, no more broken families, no more children going hungry.  Though we strive to make these things happen (and we should), I don’t think we will see the complete realization until the Messiah returns.  While Israel waited for His first coming, we wait for Him to return in glory to establish His eternal kingdom.  Advent looks both back in time and forward.  We remember His first coming to earth as we celebrate Christmas.  But oh how we look forward to His second coming as we sing these familiar words:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel, 

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

GIVE THANKS

I have been doing a little reading about the first Thanksgiving, and I am once again in awe of the Pilgrims.  They endured a harrowing crossing of the Atlantic and after 65 miserable days, two deaths, and being blown about 250 miles off course, they landed in Massachusetts.  The first thing they did was to read Psalm 100 and give thanks to God.  It quickly became clear to them that they needed to establish some type of law in this wild new land.  The Mayflower Compact was written and signed by 41 men (women were not allowed to sign).  There were nine who did not sign and their number included hired sailors and those too sick to sign.  

I encourage every American to read the brief text of the document.  There are two points that stand out to me.  First is the affirmation that the venture was undertaken to advance the kingdom of God and to bring Him glory.  The second was the idea that law is made by the people, not by a king.  

I can’t even imagine the sacrifices the Pilgrims made.  Arriving in a wild and untamed land, they were led by divine providence to a village that had been deserted by a tribe of Native Americans who had been wiped out by a plague.  Here the Pilgrims found buried corn that sustained them during that first winter.  I may be getting lost in the weeds of history, but I am trying to make a point.  Life that first year was incredibly hard.  But still they set aside a day to give thanks.  

This has been a hard year for us, this 2020.  For some of us heartbreakingly hard.  But today we give thanks.  We look for the good in the midst of the bad, and we give thanks to the God who sustains us. We have hope for the future because we know God to be a good God, all the time.  He is good even when we don’t understand, even when our tears temporarily blind us to His great love for us.  We will give thanks today because He is worthy of our praise.  But we give thanks for another reason…because it is good for us.  It is good for us to be mindful of our blessings and to express gratitude to the Source of those blessings.  Psalm 92 tells us that it is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to His name. 

Give thanks even though there is an empty chair at your table.  Give thanks if you are out of a job, even if the bills are piling up.  Give thanks if you can’t be with those you love this year.  Even if you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, give thanks today.  When you have no words, pray His word back to him with all the gratitude you can muster.  Today is a day for giving thanks.

1Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.  Psalm 100

WE HAVE BUTTERFLIES!

 

Do you feel like 2020 has been a season of waiting?  Waiting for this pandemic to be over.  Waiting for a vaccine.  Waiting to go back to work or school.  Waiting to take a trip.  And waiting for this contentious election to be over.  Waiting.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like waiting in line, waiting in traffic, or even waiting for the clothes dryer to buzz. And I sure don’t want to wait for a Covid test or election results.  I know I can’t be alone in this.  We live in such an instant, fast-paced, everything-at-our-fingertips world that we have become conditioned to expect things to happen on demand.  So even waiting for the microwave to ding sometimes seems interminable.   We multi-task, we check off our to-do lists, and we become human doings instead of human beings. 

This year God has decided to teach me about waiting, about being still and quiet, and how to wait well.  Every year right around the beginning of the New Year I ask God to give me a Bible verse, a scripture that I can hang my hat on.  It is usually something that He wants to work into me, and it usually takes a year to do it.  But this year I got a word: “Wait.  On.  God.”  Emphatic, like three distinct sentences.  Wait on God.  And when God gave it to me, I knew it was from Him.  No, I didn’t hear an audible voice, but I heard it deep in my spirit.  When you have walked with God for a while things like that happen.  

But what did those words mean, wait on God?  I had no idea in January.  But as we all know, 2020 has been a year of waiting.  There have been many lessons for me about waiting.  The first one being it is okay to be still.  When you are a Type A, “Git-R-Done” girl, being still doesn’t come naturally.  But I learned the value in it.  And while the rest of you were cleaning out closets and baking banana bread (and those are good things) I was being still with God.  I spent time in the Bible, time reading, and learned a new way to journal His word.  And I have prayed.  A lot!  I learned that some of the things I thought were important really don’t matter very much.  I think I have grown stronger in my walk with Jesus.  Maybe He is preparing me for a new assignment, or maybe He is getting me ready to meet Him face to face.  He will reveal it in His own time.  The quarantine has taught me that we can spend a good deal of time waiting for the next big thing and miss the precious things that are right in front of us.

So what does any of this have to do with butterflies?  I was on my patio earlier today on a Zoom call (and haven’t we had a lot of those?)  It was a national prayer call, and the devotional theme today was about waiting.  Seriously?  It’s October and we are still working on waiting?  When God wants to teach me something He comes at me from all angles.  While I was on this call I happened to look around and see that we had butterflies.  Lots of them, fluttering around.  You might not think that having butterflies in your yard is very remarkable, but I was excited!  We have worked for those butterflies.  

Our butterfly journey began this spring when I was visiting my friend Sally.  She lives in a rural area, across the road from The Euchee Butterfly Farm and a garden area known as The Tribal Alliance for Pollinators.  Their mission is to restore plants native to the Oklahoma prairie and to establish habitats for Monarch butterflies.  We had already planted one little anemic milkweed plant (which is now flourishing), but after visiting with Sally we planted some Black-eyed Susans and Coneflowers that just happened to be on sale at Lowe’s.  

As I was praying and looking at those butterflies (yes, my eyes were open while I prayed), it occurred to me how much of a butterfly’s life is spent waiting before it finally gets to soar.  It starts out as an egg that eventually hatches into a caterpillar.  The caterpillar eats and eats until it finally quits growing and then forms itself into a pupa or chrysalis.  And there it waits, but not passively.  God is at work transforming it in a process called metamorphosis.  Lots of growing and changing is taking place until finally, the butterfly breaks free and soon flies.  Then the whole process starts all over again when the butterfly lays eggs.  By the way, if you are ever tempted to help a butterfly out of its chrysalis, don’t do it.  The butterfly needs the struggle to develop wings strong enough to fly.  

Sometimes all we can do is wait.  Earlier this year when we were on full lockdown, I certainly felt cocooned.  But if we make good use of that waiting time, God will transform and develop us into the person we need to become for the next chapter of our lives.  Maybe He is developing our trust muscles.  It hit me today, that the God who planned so intricately for something as small and insignificant as a butterfly, has a plan for me.  He has a purpose in this waiting season.  The same God who cares about a butterfly cares for me.  And it is more than okay to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  In fact, sometimes being still might be the most important thing we can do.           

HOPE

Is there anything more hopeful than spring?  It is a chilly and rainy March morning here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  But as I look out my windows I see the promise of spring.  The backyard is filled with jonquils, budding trees, and a few irises waiting their turn.  Cardinals and robins are singing and chirping, announcing an end to the barrenness of winter.  In the front yard, our tulips and hyacinths are blooming amidst their bed of violas and pansies.  Some pink is beginning to pop out on our azalea bushes.  Spring is God’s promise to us that there is life after death, that the cold and barrenness of winter will not last forever.  Spring must follow winter.  The poet Pablo Neruda says, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep the Spring from coming.”  

From a Christian perspective spring speaks of the resurrection, of new birth, of life.  We celebrate Christmas in the winter, when everything is dead.  It is a picture of Christ bringing light and hope to a dark and fallen world.  And we celebrate Easter in the spring, a visual reminder of the promise of Jesus: “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die (John 11:25b).”  Spring brings us hope.  

But in order for there to be a resurrection there must first be a death.  For years I have been praying for another Great Awakening, a revival to sweep across America.  I am wondering if this pandemic is it.  Since we are all social distancing, I don’t have a lot of data to support this thought.  We are even having church on line, so I can’t look around and see if we are more crowded than usual.  But if my social media pages are any indication, I would say that people are praying much more, and they are inviting others to join them.  We are all asking God to rid the world of this terrible virus, to save us.  Isn’t it interesting that all our idols are being repudiated, just like the gods of Egypt in Exodus?  The gods of entertainment, sports, careers, and the big god of Wall Street are all helpless in the face of this virus.  Our hope cannot lie in a something it must lie in a someone.  The only “god” that can save us is the capital G God of the Bible, God Almighty. And we are crying out to Him for help.

But there are two parts to a Great Awakening: a turning to God and a turning away from sin.  We are so accustomed to the stench of sin we don’t even smell it any more.  I have found that the more I pray, two things happen.  I get to know God better, but I also get to know myself better.  When I am in the presence of a holy God, I am aware of my own sinfulness, my absolute neediness.  I see myself more clearly.  I am reminded of the prophet Isaiah when he had a vision of the Lord, “high and lifted up (Isaiah 6: 1).”  Isaiah was overwhelmed by his own unworthiness.  “Woe is me!  For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: (v. 5)”

Where is the hope?  Our hope is eternal and alive.  It lies in the power of a good God to keep His promises. 

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Even though we are in the midst of a great and unprecedented challenge, spring is a reminder that God is still on His throne.  He offers hope.  How will we respond?  

Who Do You Trust?

It is very early in the morning, still dark outside.  I am reflecting over the last week.  What a week this has been!  A roller coaster!  A deluge of strange events, dystopian sights, and new words.  Coronavirus.  How it has changed our lives in a week.  People getting sick and people afraid of getting sick.  People trapped on cruise ships.  No one at Saint Peter’s Square or the Eiffel Tower.  Times Square practically empty on a Friday night.  Events cancelled.  No sports!  Store shelves empty and people afraid of running out of toilet paper when there is not even a real toilet paper emergency.  The stock market!  People watching their 401Ks plummet in a downhill slide so rapid it almost gives one whiplash.  And then, after the President speaks in the Rose Garden a 1000-point gain.  What will next week bring?  And the new words and phrases that have become a part of our vocabulary: self-quarantine, social distancing, and respiratory hygiene.  Who knew we needed lessons on how to wash our hands?  Universities sending their students home or putting all classes online.  People working from home.  And churches cancelling services.  Listen, when Disney and Apple stores shut down and Tom Hanks gets sick we know we are in trouble!

In the midst of this wild week, we are dealing with our own personal changes…just like everyone else.  My mother-in-law, Jerry’s 98-year old mom is declining and we need to make some changes for her.  Hopefully she will still be able to live at home, but she is falling frequently and her cognition is not what it has always been.  We spent a few days in Dallas with her…Jerry going to her doctor with her and me researching resources to help her.  I also got a chance to visit with my 94-year old mother the day before nursing homes went on lockdown.  “Lockdown.”  There is another word.

I’m listening to how my daughters and my friends have been affected.  We all have a story.  Everything is changing and the future is so uncertain.  I remember a television show in the 50s that gave a young Johnny Carson his start.  It was called Who Do You Trust?  So this morning in my very early Saturday morning quiet time, God reminds me that I can really only trust Him.  He never changes.  

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13:8  

Thank you, Lord.  Furthermore, He saw this week coming and He has it under control.  We plan and prepare and think we have our futures all laid out and then something happens to remind us that control is just an illusion.  The stock market can never really provide security.  Our aging loved ones are going to leave us some day.  And some day, other people will be making decisions about us.  In spite of all our preparations, someday our own health will fail.  We will die.  

Where is my bottom line, my investment with a floor, my safety net?  I can plan and prepare (and we should!) but the world can change in an instant.  I keep thinking of Psalm 20:7:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.  

Eventually I will lose all my chariots and horses.  They cannot protect me from every eventuality.  But God.  God remains.  He is constant.  And He loves and cares for me.

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  Isaiah 40: 28b 

I think I’ll go have another cup of coffee.

STANDING FIRM

For many of us in the Baby Boomer generation, a good many of our battles are behind us.  We survived childhood, battling measles, chicken pox, mumps and the practices of drinking from the garden hose and riding in the back window of the car.  God was definitely sending His angels to watch over us.  My mother’s biggest fear for her children was polio and she made us take a nap every day during the summer (somehow summer was worse for polio).  I hated those naps; now I love them!  

We made it through our teenage years with no atomic bomb, but we had those drills to prepare us.  Although too many of us did not survive the Vietnam War, those of us who were fortunate were able to begin our adult lives.  Some of us went to college, some got jobs, and some got married and started families.  We survived those early years of adulthood, stretching our paychecks and saving our Green Stamps.  We had babies and managed to keep them alive (more angels!), we worked hard to raise them right and teach them about the Lord. Then they left us, becoming responsible adults, eventually with families of their own.  

We became grandparents and had to relearn everything about babies because we found out we didn’t know anything.  The rules changed!  Do they sleep on their backs or stomachs?  We struggled with complicated car seats and strollers.  I still have flashbacks to the parking lot at Dillard’s trying to figure out how to fold the stroller and get it back in the car while a toddler howled in her car seat.  

Many of us are now retired. We have completed are careers and are now finding new ways to be useful. In theory we have more time now, but the time whizzes by at breakneck speed! Some of us are now (gasp) great-grandparents and chuckle at our kids wrestling with car seats.  But one of my favorite pictures is of my daughter falling in love with her new baby granddaughter.  Pure love!  

So even though there are challenges ahead, we have completed the biggest part of our earthly assignments.  As I thought abut these things, this verse from my quiet time particularly resonated with me: …”and having done all, to stand firm,” Ephesians 6;13b. We still need to stand firm, and that might be our most important job right now.  

My Bible study group (https://www.communitybiblestudy.org) has been doing a study called Return to Jerusalem and currently we are looking at the life of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall.  In last week’s lesson the Jews completed building the wall (in only 52 days!) so Nehemiah’s next job was to make sure what they had accomplished was protected.  He needed to stand firm. He did this by appointing gatekeepers to control who came in and left the city and guards to patrol the walls and guard the houses. 

As I was reading these words I thought of my family and especially my grandchildren.  As parents and grandparents  we have done our jobs but we need guards at the gates and watchers on the walls.  I am so grateful that all my children and grandchildren have a saving relationship with the Lord, but that relationship must be carefully guarded because we have an enemy who would love to come in and confuse them and capture their hearts and minds. My job now is to be a watchman, to stand firm.

Although I don’t have as much daily influence as I did when my children were small, I have all of the armor of God that Ephesians 6 describes: the belt of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes that equip me to spread the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word).  And then verse 18 admonishes us to pray at all times, to keep alert with all perseverance, and to pray for all the saints.  I love how The Message version completes this verse:

In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

This is how I can guard the gates and keep watch on the walls.  I can pray.  Jerry and I have really ramped up our prayer lives this year.  And although many of my big battles are behind me, my job as a guard and watchman is not over.  This is how I stand firm.

POWER SOURCE

We are all so dependent on power.  If you have ever had a power outage, you know the helpless feeling as you wait for power to be restored.  At our house we are having issues with power and connectivity.  Most of it is self-inflicted because we changed Internet providers.  Once we get everything connected things should run smoothly, but oh my goodness!  We have a lot of devices, and when I say we, I actually mean me.  I love gadgets.  But when they don’t work they become a source of frustration.  

Jerry and I watch a good deal of streaming television, so the first order of business was to connect all of our TVs (yes, we have many) to the Internet.  Then we connected our phones and iPads.  We thought we were pretty much set after that, except Jerry struggled to set up a new email account.  I admit it was difficult for some reason, so I am just keeping my Gmail account.  Easy.  Later, I realized all my Amazon Echo devices were down, and one Echo Dot just would NOT connect to the new Internet.  Finally, after several hard resets I got it up and running.  I told you I have a lot of gadgets! 

So this morning, after getting everything connected (I thought) to the new Internet, I discovered that we have a faulty power outlet at our house.  It just happens to be the outlet I use to charge all my devises at night.  Even my watch must be plugged in.  So this morning when I opened my iPad, I was surprised to find that I only had 28% battery left.  Nothing charged overnight!  We checked the reset buttons and then the breaker box.  I guess we will need to replace that outlet.  When I sat down to my laptop to Google electrical outlets (and there are so many fancy ones!) I realized I hadn’t connected it to the new Internet.  Network connection was a quick and easy fix, but just writing these words has made me realize how dependent I am on my power sources.

All of this has happened at a time when God has had me studying and writing a conference talk about prayer.  I want to pray powerful prayers and I am completely dependent I am on my heavenly power source.  When I lose my connection to God, I am weak and my battery runs low.  Trying to do what I am called to do on 28% doesn’t work.  Just as I have to recharge all my devises, I must recharge my heart.  I must be connected to God’s network if I am to be effective.  

I read that the biggest power sources in the United States are the Grand Coulee Dam and the Palo Verde Nuclear power plant.  I can’t even wrap my brain around the amount of power they produce every second.  And yet, our God is infinitely more powerful. 

There is so much power in prayer.  I want to pray big, bold, fervent, persistent prayers!  Importunate prayers.  Jerry and I are doing something new this year.  Since we are both retired, we have more time for morning prayers.  We decided to pray specifically for one family member each morning.  We have nineteen in our immediate family, so when we get to day twenty we begin praying for our extended family, our friends, our church, our country, and our world.  As we have practiced this way of praying, I’ve noticed out prayers have become bolder and more specific.  One of our first sermons of the New Year was a challenge to pray Ephesians 1:19-21 for our children and grandchildren.  It is a passage about knowing God’s power.  What a privilege it is to walk right into the throne room and speak to God on behalf of my family.  I can’t wait to see how God answers these prayers.  

 “I ask that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope of His calling, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”  Eph. 1:19-21 ESV

THE END OF AN ERA

We did something big today, something I never imagined we would do, but it was time.  We cancelled the newspaper.  I guess there are fewer and fewer of us who even subscribe to the paper anymore.  I don’t think any of my adult children do.  Maybe home delivery will die out with Baby Boomers.

I have been thinking about all the years I have enjoyed getting and reading the paper.  When we lived in Dallas and even when we moved to Tulsa, we took both the morning and afternoon newspapers.  The morning paper we read rather quickly, just to get the news.  But when the afternoon paper came it was a time to sit down and relax and read more of the features.  Maybe work a crossword puzzle or read Dear Abby.  We relied on the paper to tell us what the weather would be tomorrow, what was on television tonight, and what was on special at Safeway.  We needed the daily newspaper. Even the classified ads were interesting.  Remember the personal column?

When I was a little girl I spent large chunks of the summer with my grandparents.  One of my favorite memories is sitting on my grandmother’s porch swing with her as she read the afternoon paper (The Dallas Times Herald).  She would usually cut an apple for us, and she would read the comics to me and then read the rest of the news to herself.  It was a time when she rested from her domestic activities and was still.  And I could snuggle up next to her.

I guess in the history of the world, the ways we have gotten news have changed over time and have largely been driven by technology.  Before the printing press was invented, news was transmitted by word of mouth.  Surely that couldn’t have been very reliable.  Newspapers became the primary means of journalism in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Then came radio and television, and now we can transmit news instantly via the Internet.  I was reminded the other day about newsreels that were shown in theaters before the feature film.  My grandmothers both had sons who fought in World War II.  I can imagine them sitting next to the radio or watching those newsreels, hoping for some good news.  Then later we all tuned in to Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley to get the day’s news.  The first time I can remember constant news coverage of an event was when Kennedy was assassinated.  But even then our newspapers were important.  Now we have the 24-hour news cycle and it sometimes drives me crazy.  I really don’t want to see Adam Schiff’s face again!  And is it any more reliable?

I hate to see the demise of the written word.  Even though I get a lot of my news from the Internet, I have to scroll past videos to see something in print.  While I will miss the idea of the daily paper, I’m not sure there is very much reality left to miss.  The Tulsa World has gotten thinner and thinner, with more ads as fillers.  By the time the news is delivered to my door, it is old news.  I have already watched it on television.  And it keeps going up in price.  It just doesn’t make sense to spend so much money on something that often goes straight into the trash.  I realize by cancelling my subscription I am becoming part of the problem, but it just isn’t worth the expense any more.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say a word about the Good News, the Bible. Even though it was written centuries ago, it is still fresh and still relevant. Everything changes, but the Word of God never does. It always gives me just what I need for my day.

“The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Peter 1: 24b

So goodbye, Tulsa World.  I’m breaking up with you.  Maybe I will change my mind and come back if you are still around, but don’t count on it.  Thanks for all the memories but for now, I will have my morning coffee with the Good News.

A CLEAN SLATE

A clean slate.  A blank page.  A do-over.  Another New Year.  A new decade! As Oprah says, another chance for us to get it right.  What will 2020 hold for us? 

We all hope and pray for many of the same things: health, happiness, prosperity, peace, and the list goes on.  For those of us who are Baby Boomers, a new year is not as easily taken for granted as it once was.  We now think of life in terms of how much time we have left.  For some of us, a new year may mean the figuring out retirement (although fewer of us are retiring in the way we once imagined).  It may mean a second career, a new hobby, or it may bring the beginning of Social Security and Medicare.  There may be the lurking fears of declining health and finances.  But a new year also brings a new chance to live our lives with purpose and meaning; a chance to do life intentionally.  

As a Christian, I believe that God has a plan for my life.  Since I am still alive on this dawn of another year, He must still have a purpose for me here on earth.  The way to live this year to the fullest is to seek His purpose for me and begin to live it.  There is nothing that changes your life more than the discovery of your purpose.

While we may have an over-arching purpose that spans our entire lives, we also have specific purposes at different points in time.  What is my purpose now, in my senior years?  I want to be all that I am capable of becoming; all that God has planned for me.  A friend of mine says the tears that God will wipe from our eyes are the tears we shed as we enter Heaven and see the life He had planned for us that we failed to live.

Whatever wrong turns I have made on this journey, I am confident that He has used them to make me the woman I am.  He is still the God of second chances; his purposes toward me are always redemptive.  Lord, help me to treasure and not squander the New Year you have put before me.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV).  

No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us.  Philippians 3:13-14 (TLB).

EMBRACING MY SEASON

I’ve been feeling pretty nostalgic as we approach Christmas. Maybe wistful is a better word…combined with nostalgia. For some time I have been wanting to slow the calendar down. Time is racing past! And I feel it acutely at Christmas.

Several years ago I collected all our photos from past Christmases and scanned them into my computer. I made a slide show and surprised my family with it on Christmas morning. I wasn’t sure how it would go over with a tree full of presents waiting to be unwrapped. But everyone loved it, the adults as well as the children. They wanted to sit through the whole thing before unwrapping gifts. Maybe some things are better than bought presents. I’ve continued to add to the slideshow every year and I will have it playing again Christmas morning. But this year I also did something different. I am playing it continually on my Echo Show that sits on my kitchen counter. So every time I walk into the kitchen I am treated to a blast from the past. And that is what is triggering my nostalgia.

Where did the years go? I thought my children grew up fast, but my grandchildren’s childhood years have flown by at warp speed. Our youngest is nine this year and is the only remaining believer in the magic of Santa Claus. We have two who are grown and married, one with a baby of her own. Our two college kids will be joined by a third, leaving a high school senior, two in middle school, and one left in elementary school. Once they get to a certain age they don’t have as much time for us, especially when they get those driver’s licenses. It is not such a treat to come to JuJu and Paki’s house, and that is how it should be. They have lives of their own. But it makes me miss the days when there were lots of little feet in the house.

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

I would love to go back and visit a Christmas past. Maybe a Christmas Eve with my own dear grandparents. I miss them every day. A Christmas with all my siblings.  Or a Christmas at our old house, the one our kids grew up in. I can practically hear those little feet running down the stairs shouting with joy over a doll or a bicycle. We have been in our current house for almost 20 years, so we have many wonderful Christmas memories here too. Little grand babies that have grown into big people.

EPSON MFP image

I’m wondering what future Christmases will look like. Will they continue to be as much fun as the grands continue to grow older? Will we be blessed enough to have more together? Will we still be relevant in their lives I’m coaching myself to embrace the season I’m in. To be mindful of my many blessings. I’m reminded of the story of the Exodus in the Old Testament when God delivered the children of Israel from a life of slavery. What did they do? They complained and looked back on the “leeks and garlic of Egypt.” If I focus too much on Christmas Past or Christmas Future I might miss the joy of Christmas Present.

So I thank God that Jerry and I get another Christmas together. We almost didn’t. Not all of my friends are so blessed. We know that these are bonus days for us, and tell each other every day. I have friends who are dealing with loss this year. Soul crushing loss. If you are going through a season of loss this year, please know that Jesus sees you and longs to be your comfort. And if you are looking for someone to listen to your pain, I’m pretty good at that.

Jerry and I still have our health, although we are not moving around as well as we used to. I know we are so lucky to have all our children and grandchildren living right here in Tulsa, some just around the corner. I’m blessed that we get to host Christmas Day. With so many moving parts we might not always get everyone together.

I don’t know the future holds but I trust the One who holds it. So I will enjoy Christmas 2019 and be grateful for our blessings. Most of all we are grateful that all our children and grandchildren know the Lord and we will all spend eternity together in His presence.