Saturday, December 20, 2008

the soul felt its worth...

have you ever woken up on december 26th and felt you missed something? the hustle and bustle of the season is over. if you were honest, the 25 plus day build up came crashing down and it was a bit disappointing. we went to church, saw our family, we got to be with people we love, we have a few new toys, we have mounds of trash and boxes, we ate and drank some christmas goodies at our feasts and parties and we now have a few extra pounds, and it is all over. what next? shouldn't this have felt different? did i miss something? the tree will soon come down, all the christmas decor will be put back up, our family will leave, we will return to work and our lives will feel a little empty. this is not how it should be. after all, as a christian this is like one of the 2 most important holidays of the year, right?

i have felt like this many a years. i try to pretend it is not how i feel. i just ignore it and press on, all the while looking back and thinking i have missed something. sure, i cling to the truth i know and i remember what i felt as we talked about it in church, but it seems anti-climatic. why?

i have my speculations and one is that i simply get so wrapped up in the traditions and fun of the season that i forget the real reason for christmas. now i know this has been my problem, but i have never seemed to be able to find a solution to this. so i try and talk more about christ, read luke 2 a lot, and go on to all my christmas parties. but that does not do it.

last year for the first time in a long time and maybe ever, i think i actually experienced the real meaning of christmas. no we did not get rid of all of our gifts, of course we went to parties (i even hosted a few of my own), i had fun decorating and i listened to fun christmas music 24/7. it started with a wake up call one sunday in church. we were singing o holy night and i was just singing along to this familiar christmas tune. then our pastor got up on stage and called us all out for just mouthing the words to this song without thinking about what it means. i mean when was the last time that the story of the birth of christ made me fall on my knees? read through the lyrics as a worship song and not a christmas carol.

o holy night
o holy night! the stars are brightly shining,
it is the night of the dear saviour's birth.
long lay the world in sin and error pining.
till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
a thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
fall on your knees! oh, hear the angel voices!
o night divine, the night when christ was born;
o night, o holy night, o night divine!
o night, o holy night, o night divine!

truly he taught us to love one another,
his law is love and his gospel is peace.
chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
and in his name all oppression shall cease.
sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
with all our hearts we praise his holy name.
christ is the lord! then ever, ever praise we,
his power and glory ever more proclaim!
his power and glory ever more proclaim!

the difference was that for the first time i was pointed to and experienced the story of the birth of christ. i then went to see andrew peterson's behold the lamb of god tour. a friend insisted and even bought my ticket. i was a little skeptical, not because of his taste, but because i typically don't enjoy cheesy christian christmas plays, and i thought that is what this would be. but i could not have been more wrong. it is simply a series of songs that andrew peterson wrote that tell the story of the coming of christ from the old testament through luke 2. you have to really listen to the words, it is not mere background music. if you have not seen this, you must!! live is best, but if you cannot, you can buy the dvd or the music on itunes. i wept when i saw it the first time and i only got to see the dvd this year and i still teared up. it prepared my heart for christmas the most last year. here is one of the songs from it below.

deliver us by andrew peterson
our enemy, our captor is no pharaoh on the nile
our toil is neither mud nor brick nor sand

our ankles bear no calluses from chains,
yet Lord, we're bound
imprisoned here,
we dwell in our own land


deliver us, deliver us
oh Yahweh, hear our cry

and gather us beneath your wings tonight

our sins they are more numerous
than all the lambs we slay

these shackles they were made with our own hands

our toil is our atonement and our freedom yours to give

so Yahweh, break your silence if you can

chorus (2x)

"jerusalem, jerusalem
how often i have longed
to gather you beneath my gentle wings"

i promise i am about to wrap this up, bear with me. this song and the song called labor of love bring me to tears every time. i cannot imagine what it was like when God was silent for so long. i cannot imagine the despair. during the easter season a few years ago i got to attend a sader supper (which is a jewish meal eaten during passover). we had someone explain to us all the meaning of each of the items we ate. there were lots of cool things that i can’t quite remember, but what i do remember was having an empty seat at each table. at the end, they told us that the empty chair was saved. saved for messiah in hopes that this would be the year he would come. he then said that traditionally they look at the empty chair and say, “no messiah this year.” The words, “no messiah this year,” made my heart sink. for the first time ever, i began to think about the despair and the despondency that they felt and i kind of felt it. There was no hope without messiah. god was silent and they were just waiting, hope waning i am sure.

i absolutely cannot imagine my life without jesus. as much as i take him for granted and do not understand the depth of all that he has done, i do understand the hope that i have in him. it is easy to be so familiar with this story that we forget the significance of what happened that night. we think about a few times as blow through the season, but we forget what that baby has delivered us from. i hope that this season, this truth resonates in your heart and he reveals more of himself to you. and that on december 26th you don't wake up in a depression that season is over, but rather wake up with a renewed love and passion for the one who came in a manger so that we night be delivered.

Friday, December 12, 2008

179 down...13.1 to go...

so i only have to run one more time ever in my life and then i don't have to ever put my feet to the pavement again if i do not want to. i am sure i will want to and i am sure i will run another one of these next year, but for right now i am just thinking about my last run of 13.1. this sunday, rachel and i are running a half marathon in dallas. i am excited about it but we see how our 27 year old knees and ankles handle it. you should come out and cheer us on or run with us...

Monday, December 8, 2008

best christmas music...

these are my top 25 favorite christmas songs. i recommend you buying them if you do not already have them. these are just my 25 favorite fun christmas songs, like my own christmas movie soundtrack. i actually have many more favorites (i have over 20 hours of just christmas music), but will limit the list to just these 25. enjoy.

top 25 christmas songs (in no particular order... i do not have that much time)
1. all i want for christmas is you by mariah carey
2. merry christmas, happy holidays by nsync
3. jingle bell rock by bobby helms
4. rockin' around the christmas tree by brenda lee
5. a holly jolly christmas by burl ives
6. i want a hippopotamus for christmas by gayla peevey
7. pennies from heaven by louis prima (even though it technically is not a christmas song, but its on elf)
8. silent night by sarah mclachlan
9. i've got my love to keep me warm by dean martin
10. blue christmas by elvis presley
11. frosty the snowman by harry connick jr
12. let it snow by ella fitzgerald
13. jingle bells by wayne newton
14. santa baby by eartha kitt
15. a marshmallow world (live) by dean martin and frank sinatra
16. i'll be home for christmas by michael buble
17. christmastime is here by vince guaraldi trio (from charlie brown)
18. christmas song by dave matthews
19. mele kalikimaka by bing crosby
20. baby, its cold outside by leon redbone & zooey deschanel
21. we need a little christmas by the muppets
22. sleigh ride by ella fitzgerald
23. winter wonderland by tony bennett or peggy lee (it is a toss up between versions)
24. white christmas by dean martin
25. ave maria by josh groban

favorite christmas album
my all time favorite christmas album is mariah carey's merry christmas. it is a must have. liked by guys and girls and guaranteed to bring christmas cheer.

other favorite albums not appreciated by others (but that are part of my heritage)
1. elvis presley's elvis memories of christmas
2. alabama's alabama christmas
3. the chipmunks' christmas with the chipmunks.

some would argue that amy grant's a christmas album would also need to be on this list, but it has yet to be appreciated by me that much.

so what christmas music should you own? i think i just laid it out for you. i welcome any further suggestions or recommendations, but not criticisms. i like these and will always like these. they are a part of christmas for me and hope they become that for you as well!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

hold off...

here is a picture of my brother when he got promoted. pretty cool. i am such a proud sis!

jon did ask that we hold off on sending packages until further notice. we are not sure why, but he asked us not to send packages for awhile. mom and i got the last one in the mail over thanksgiving. so hold off on those christmas packages until we hear otherwise.

Monday, December 1, 2008

the depths yet discovered...

this morning, i was reading in john 11. it is the story of the death of lazarus. this is a very familiar story to me, i grew up in church hearing it, it was my brother's favorite Bible story growing up and of course carmen had a song about it (oh what would christian subculture be without carmen). this morning as i examined the text, a few things stuck out to me, especially some things about mary and martha's reaction to jesus and jesus' reaction to them.

first there is martha. martha has got to be the older sister. i am not sure of that, but looking at her tendencies, it screams older sister. she is the one who is doing all the work, getting the house ready for jesus when he comes to visit. in this story, when she hears that jesus is on his way, she gets up to go meet him (she takes that initiative and leadership). her first words to jesus want an explanation, she wants to care for her siblings. she is the rational, logical thinker. she knows that lazarus will raise someday, but demands to know why jesus let him die. after talking with jesus, she goes and gets mary, who is still at the house weeping. (we also see no record of martha's tears, i am sure she cried, i mean her brother just died. but something tells me that this strong one did her best to hold it together in public and to be a support for her sister. this is just a guess, but seeing as i think much like martha and that is what i would do, i am pretty sure that is what was happening.)

then we see mary. this the third time we encounter mary in the scriptures. this is the same mary who anointed jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair. last time we saw mary, she was sitting at the feet of jesus, soaking up her time with him, while martha was busy making preparations. here we see her weeping with others over the death of her brother. when martha beckons her, mary's reaction is to go quickly to jesus and fall at his feet. (a familiar position for her) she asks the same question that martha does, but her tone and posture are different here. jesus is deeply moved, moved to tears. now perhaps it was just the timing of it all. lazarus' death and its impact may have finally sunk in. or perhaps it was the tears of mary that stirred his heart or both. but either way, we have a great picture or our savior weeping. he loved lazarus and was grieving, but i think he was also loved mary and martha and was grieving for their pain. he was sympathizing with them. he wept. he knew he was about to raise lazarus, but he still wept. he loved them so much! we have savior that is strong and has overcome death, but still empathizes with us and our emotions and weaknesses.

this reminded of hebrews 4:14-16:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

i wept as i read this. i have a savior who can and does sympathize with my weaknesses. i all too often run in my own strength, trying to improve and get better. i try to fix my weaknesses or at least conceal them until i can deal with them. but lately, i have experienced nothing but failure in this area. i am tired of fighting. i am tired of wrestling. today i realized that i have yet to draw near the throne of grace to receive mercy and find help. as i just spent time in silence with him, i felt burdens lifted. i felt more comfort there than i have in any of my victories of my own self discipline. i felt a love that satisfies. i felt a love that does not condemn and is not critical. i felt a love that shares in my tears rather than waiting for me to snap out of it. why do i busy myself with so many things that are good, but not necessary? why do i run around like martha, rather than sitting at the feet of jesus?. no wonder martha complained to jesus. i am sure she was tired of working and being strong. if only i could be like mary and sit at the feet of jesus and experience the depths of his love like she did. i have hardly tapped into the depths of this grace. i think i understand it, but that is clearly not true. but each time i experience even a part of it, i weep. i am so grateful. why do i wait until i am exhausted? why do i try to fix it in my own strength rather than run to the throne of grace? amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. i am so thankful for this grace that flows down and covers me.