Friday, December 23, 2011

Shiny, Happy People...the Christmas letter boast

For the past decade our family has written a Christmas letter. It started when my Boy was born. We called it the New Yorker (Andrea York, get it?); it’s a double-sided page and formatted with articles (like the magazine) and each member contributes their unique voice. Like every other Christmas letter you receive, it’s a boast summary of the things we did throughout the year.

This year, I wrote something different and this is what I leave you with for 2010. I’m taking a week off from writing until January 1. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
 
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The New Yorker, issue 1, volume 10  winter 2011

I wrote a short (but humourous) synopsis of the past year and the activities we did as a family and some things I did on my own but it felt flat, dull and lacked life; and it wasn’t what I really wanted to say.  My man and my Boy wrote about what did this year, so you can read it by them.

I love my life and I’m blessed among women to have what I have and a husband who loves me so much it’s ridiculous but all of it pales in comparison to the one thing that truly brings me joy and the one thing I love to boast.

In May, I had an encounter with the Living God. I couldn’t explain then what happened and I can’t explain now what happened but I am changed. According to examples in the Bible, an encounter with God always changed people so I’m in good company.

I did things and saw things but the one thing I can boast about my life, it is Christ crucified and resurrected and I with him. The life I live is no longer my own but Christ lives in me. Most of my year and the majority of my days were spent in prayer and worship. For many people, it sounds boring and incomprehensible. I need to worship, like I need to breathe. There is nothing I can do without my Lord; moreover there is nothing I want to do outside of Christ.

In October I drove 11 hours through the night to be at Bethel Church (Redding, CA). I went to church 5 times in the weekend and drove home in the night on Sunday. It was one of the greatest times I’ve had because the presence of God accompanied me the whole time. If anyone would have told me years ago I’d take a vacation to go to church, I wouldn’t have believed them; vacation was the only time we didn’t have to go to church.

If you want to know my heart, read my blog. I am learning so much from God, I’m compelled to write it down. If it’s true for me, it must be true for others, otherwise I am to be pitied most of all for being completely and 100% deceived by a lie. My identity is Christ, and I live by his Word only. I only want to do and say the things I see my Father doing and saying.

This isn’t my usual letter; if you think I’m crazy, you might be right but don’t worry. I haven’t moved to the desert and started eating honey and locusts or wearing camel’s hair clothing. I haven’t [completely] lost touch with reality and I still have a sense of humour.

Merry Christmas; may God keep you and make his face to shine upon you.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Arrival of One which is Awaited

Advent is more than eating a chocolate per day in the countdown to Christmas. According to the World English Dictionary the word advent is defined as:  an arrival or coming, especially one which is awaited. A true Advent season waits with anticipation of the Gift, which is Christ. It starts on a Sunday, four weeks prior to Christmas, not December 1 as Advent calendars would lead us to believe. Each week is meant for a guided meditation of four themes: hope, joy, peace, love.

Hope is necessary for living; without hope, we give up. It’s grievous to witness people who live without hope. God has plans for us, plans to give us hope and a future. Not only is hope for the future, but it is relevant for us already; hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is like the tree of life. Every hope and desire is fulfilled in Christ who has come into the world and is coming again.

Once hope has been established, we are released into joy because without hope, there is no possibility for joy. God is abundant in hope (he’s called the God of hope) and it’s through His hope we are filled with joy and peace so we can also overflow with hope to release to others. Joy to the world, indeed.

Joy ushers in peace, which moves beyond even our logical understanding. It’s a paradox to the mind how exchanging a hopeless situation to the One who brings salvation and peace, even when the situation might not change immediately. The Bible says we are in perfect peace when we keep our minds on God.

Finally, after hope, comes joy and after joy enters peace which is bound together in love. Have you noticed when your heart is anxious, it is difficult to portray love - true love, with your whole being and not just words? All of us need love. It is vital to our well being and it summarizes the entire law – love others.

Advent gives us an opportunity to reflect on these attributes of kingdom living, and each word is perfectly represented in Jesus Christ. Who are you waiting for?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Psalms for Sunday - XXVIII


Silent night rings in my ears; was it really silent? The agony of birth, the life breaths of an infant and the delight of a mother looking into the eyes of her Saviour – none of these are silent.

The stars proclaimed it and wise men followed. Shepherds heard the angelic choir and hastened to bring their own worship to the King.

If only I could hear the angelic choir still singing their worship of the King, now exalted to the right hand of the Father.

It wasn’t just a baby; it was my King, my Saviour, and my love. Merry heart, indeed.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?


Originally, today's post was published on July 26, 2011 but it's Christmas and it's only proper to reflect the birth of Jesus. If you haven't read this post before, please enjoy - it's one of my favourites and if you remember it from July, enjoy it again...

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Have you ever wondered how Jesus felt around Joseph’s family while he was growing up? I’ve heard many sermons on how Mary was/is an excellent example of forsaking your own reputation for Jesus, and yet, I’ve never contemplated how Jesus might have felt. Yes, I’m sure it was difficult for Mary but more so for Jesus, I would think. He was a bastard, the one who didn’t belong, not like James his brother.

Joseph might have accepted Jesus, but he had an angelic visitation - fairly compelling, I’m sure. His family didn’t see or hear from an angel, what was their reaction? Did Jesus receive equal attention and gifts from the grandparents, compared to the real children of Joseph and Mary?

I wanted 4 children but when I discovered that I couldn’t have [more] children (the story is told here) and my Boy was a miracle – I contemplated adoption for about 3 seconds and decided I couldn’t do it. Some people can, and do it spectacularly. I knew I couldn’t.  

Some people have an enormous heart and ability to love and include adopted children unconditionally and without distinction. I’ve seen it in action, but I’ve also experienced and witnessed the opposite – adoption that divides and withholds. Because of it, I’ve struggled with the concept of adoption as sons [and daughters] of God in the Bible, and I’ve said to the Lord, “Adoption isn’t good enough. I need more assurance.”

Ephesians 1:5, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.”

The Lord answered by correcting my understanding of adoption in the days of the early church, and then he showed me the greater significance of the seen at Jesus’ baptism found in Luke 3.

It wasn’t a common practice to “adopt” a child that wasn’t part of your family. The early church understanding of adoption meant that at an appropriate age, the father (the head of the family) would bring his son to the town square and publicly declare, “This is my son.” The implication was the father was giving the son the ability to conduct business on behalf of the father; that when the son did something, it was as if the father was doing it. In this sense, the son was adopted by the father.

It’s a remarkable difference and made me feel better but I still had questions – to be a [true] son (or daughter), meant you had to be born into the family and be blood related.

Again, the Lord answered. Nicodemus asked Jesus a similar question under the cover of night. Jesus answered that he has to be born again (John 3), not in the natural but by the Spirit. This is only possible through faith, by the blood of Jesus on the cross. Therefore, we are born and we are blood-related.

Scripture doesn’t linger over the trials and tribulations of Jesus’ childhood, but we do know that he was despised and rejected by men, acquainted with sorrow, and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53). He may have been treated differently by Joseph’s family but he had a Father, by whom he was loved. The scene at his baptism has greater depth for me now – to know that the Father audibly confirmed sonship, approval and love. The same acceptance and adoption is made available to every one of us also.

There are no orphans in the family of God.

How do you reflect on the Jesus’ birth during the holidays?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Back Off! This is my Territory


My house has been ready for Christmas since November 18. I love everything about it – decorations, traditions, music, gifts and of course, celebrating Jesus’ birth. Some sticklers of details will argue Jesus wasn’t actually born on December 25. So what? Find the day that he was born and I’ll celebrate with you. 

One of my closest (definitely my longest-time) friends has been celebrating her birthday in February for more than 30 years before she learned her father (bless his heart) had mixed up his two daughters birthdates when they immigrated to Canada, and her birthday was actually in April. She still celebrates in February.

Several years ago, a couple from church adopted a child from overseas. The child’s birthday was unknown, so they picked a date at random. Will that child care it isn’t his actual birthday? Probably not, because he is still celebrated and isn’t that the point of Christmas? To celebrate the Living God came down to us because God knows, no one was good enough to make it to his presence on their own.

One thing I’m grieved about during this time of year is how easily Christians have given up territory. We have cow-toed to others for so long, in an effort to be tolerant, we’ve haven’t stood our ground and watched helplessly as media and commercialism have taken territory earlier Fathers in the Faith took.
I’m sure everyone has been witness to it. My Boy’s school no longer has Christmas break; it’s called Winter Break. Nativity scenes, aside from churches, are obsolete and have been replaced with giant blow-up Santas, or snowmen. It isn’t politically correct to say, “Merry Christmas” anymore and the list goes on.

Several years ago the book, Prayer of Jabez was the “it” book to read among Christians. Jabez receives a two-verse mention in the Bible and his claim to fame is asking for more territory. North Americans like this prayer because we like real estate. We keep praying for more territory, but what is happening is we are losing as much territory as we’ve expanded into. This means the next generation will have to fight for territory we’ve already owned but gave up. That’s not right. 

It’s bigger than one person to fight and it’s easy to become apathetic but it isn’t bigger than our Lord to fight. We work from victory, not for victory so the battle is already won. 

How do we do it? Little by little; become the change you want to be (yes, I know Ghandi said that). Jesus could not do many miracles in his hometown but the point is, he did some because he carried an assignment to seek & save what was lost. We have an assignment to destroy the works of the enemy and when we have done all we can to stand, to stand.

How do you feel about the celebration of Jesus being turned into a “holiday” celebration?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Psalms for Sunday - XXVII


The Lord is my blessing and my living inheritance. His face shines on me - his daughter - and his blessing and favour make my face beautiful.

I am never hungry; I am never thirsty. I am never naked or without a place to rest my head because the Lord remembers me. His goodness is always before me, and it follows me forever.

He is everlasting and his promises never expire. Why should I be anxious for anything? The Lord is my hiding place, and he is my amusement park. He is all things for me and I am satisfied in his presence.

Friday, December 9, 2011

To Fast, or not to Fast - That is the Question.


I’ve recently started attending a house church mid-week; it’s low-key with some worship (we have a guitar, violin, handheld drum and tambourine – depending on who attends that night) and then a discussion. We’re doing a series on the spiritual disciplines. 

I’ve grown up in churches where some of the disciplines were encouraged and engaged but apparently there are 12 disciplines; I could only name 5 or 6, after that I forget or didn’t know. It’s kind of like an 8-course meal – I’m clueless after soup, salad, entree and dessert.

So far we’ve discussed meditation, prayer and this week is fasting. Coincidently, I’ve recently finished a 21-day fast. It was the first time I’ve fasted (aside from observing Lent). As I contemplate fasting on the other side of it, I have to admit it was different than I had anticipated. I described some of what I felt and learned in this post.

As I contemplate fasting again this week my Man and I were talking about the reason and need for fasting. He said it was to sacrifice something (give it up) to identify with Christ’s sacrifice for us. I don’t think it’s wrong to associate fasting with sacrifice but fasting is more than that. Jesus fasted, and the apostles and early church continued to fast after Jesus died and was resurrected. It is a discipline but not a formula. I can’t begin to adequately describe the discipline of fasting, nor does one completed fast make me an expert but it is a discipline I’ve discovered has merit and relevance for a modern-day Christian.

It’s important to know fasting is not a way to turn God’s face towards you – his face is already turned to us in love. Fasting is not a way to manipulate God to earn his favour but it is an exercise to turn our face towards God; to focus on God, and him alone and to hunger for him.

During my recent 21-day fast, I struggled with my spirit’s desire and what my body desired. My body wanted food and it wanted to sleep, but each time I thought a nap would be so refreshing, I heard the Lord say to my spirit, “How bad do you want it?” What he was asking is am I willing to deny what my body was telling it was wanted, in favour of a deeper Bible study.

When I was hungry I reached for a piece of bread and then I heard in my spirit, “What do you hunger for?” Doh. It was not condemnation (that would have been the enemy) but I was asked to live for what I desired. And I desire Christ above anything else.

Do you fast? Why or why not?
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