Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It's a Wonderful Life (in full color)

          Every year my family watches the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. We always watched the black and white version until this year. I liked the black and white version. It gave authenticity to the time period,  the mid 1940’s.
         This year as we watched the latest color version, we were amazed at the details we could see because of the realistic coloring. In the black and white version everything was a shade of gray, and objects ran together. 
         In the colorized version the details jumped out. When Mary lost her bathrobe and had to hide in the hydrangea bushes, I never noticed the flowers before. Instead of gray leaves and gray flowers, there was vibrant distinction between the two. My husband said he never noticed Mary sticking her hand out of the plant before, asking for her robe. I didn't notice the knickers the boys wore before. In the black and white version their pants and socks all blended together in the bland grayness.
         It was like we were watching a new movie. Our teenage boys seemed more drawn in with the color as well.
         I started wondering how often I go through life looking at the grayness instead of the colors. Some events I view as the same old thing. They have become rote and I don’t have to think about them.
         Is that how I go to the grocery store? Am I on autopilot and so focused on the task, that I see the people and products in black and white.
         While driving to work, do I see the streets, cars and people in gray?
         At the gym? Walking the dogs? Christmas shopping?
         I miss so much around me when I am looking at the world as if it is all gray.
         Years ago I remember sitting at lunch with a group of women. The leader of our bible study fellowship class was eating with us and we were talking about prayer. One of the ladies asked if she should be praying about the small, insignificant things in her life, or just the major decisions. Another lady chimed in and said she always prayed about the little things, especially when she was looking for a parking spot. She prayed that God would provide her with a close parking spot. The rest of the group was silent, indicating to me they thought she was silly to pray for a parking spot. I remember the wise leader’s response, she said,
“The more we pray and then look for God’s response, the more we will see Him. If we only pray about the big decisions, then we are only looking for God to answer those prayers. If we pray about everything, and then look for God in all the details, whether He provides a great parking spot or not, we will see Him more often.”
         I want to see God at work all the time. The Bible says He cares about the details of our lives, but do I notice Him everyday?  I want to see God in color in my world, not in the grayness of black and white. I want to wake up, live life alert to all the colorful ways God works in me, in others and in situations. Don’t you?

     Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly." John 10:10
         I’m looking forward to seeing the New Year in full color. How about you?


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

When the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is Not

         The most wonderful time of the year can be the hardest time of the year also. We look forward to the Christmas season with such high hopes and anticipation for Peace on Earth and Joy to the World. And it is all that. The birth of Jesus is the birth of our hope to have a real and personal lifeline to the God of the universe. There is no denying that without His birth, death and resurrection, we would be dead in our sins and for eternity. We are so appreciative for all He has done and continues to do in our lives and families.
         It is all the extra stuff about Christmas that can be hard. It is the traditions we associate with the season. We know all the commercialism of Christmas is not the real reason we celebrate, and yet we can’t avoid it. We can’t get away from the Christmas music, the Christmas shows and commercials, the decorations, even the colder weather brings the anticipation that everything is going to be cozy and bright.

Yet, the reality for many is far from the Hallmark card wishes we send out. So many have lost loved ones this year, and the holidays will never be the same. Memories flood back to the good times and amplify the empty place this year.  People who have divorced or are separated from their spouse this year ache for the happier Christmases of the past as well. Friends fighting cancer or staying in the hospital over the holiday wonder how next Christmas will be. Friends who have had surgery or are sick and not able to ‘do Christmas’ the way they want because they are confined to the house, recliner or bed are disappointed. There is also the list of friends who have lost jobs recently and are unsure what the New Year brings. They can’t relax and enjoy the silent nights because of the anxiousness in their hearts.

         Just watching the news, the reality is we don’t have Peace on Earth, in our country or around the world.
         I don’t mean for this to be a downer of a post. I really don’t. I just want to acknowledge that this time of year can be especially hard. When our expectations exceed our reality there is disappointment. I’m not sure how to lower our expectations with the music blaring ‘it’s the most wonderful time of the year.’
         I want to acknowledge to my friends and those reading that I am sorry for the added hurt this season brings. In most families, everything is not all cheery and bright.
         I pray in the coming new year, that the baby born in the manger will comfort your heart, fill the loneliness, heal you and your loved ones, and bless you in a new and unexpected way.

Thursday, December 11, 2014


         I didn’t know what the principal would say and neither did he. My son broke one of the school policies and we knew there would be a tough consequence. We thought it would either be a three-day suspension or expelled from the school. I didn’t particularly want to tell on my son, but I had to speak to the principal about another important matter, which related to the policy, so it was sure to come up.
         Never one to bail my kids out, I was willing for him to receive whatever consequence the school wanted to give him. “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” I thought, in the name of tough love. (It was not an actual crime, just a school policy.  :) )
         My son was repentant. He cried. He knew the consequences would be severe. We drove to school as he thought of his friends and the schoolwork he wanted to turn in, before he was called in to face the music.
         I parked the car and he walked in to class. I walked down the hall to the principal’s office. The receptionist said the principal would not be in that day. The counselor was unavailable, and the other administrator was on his way to a meeting. Finally, a teacher approached me and I explained my dilemma. She offered to help me and confirmed that the consequences of his actions were usually more severe than I anticipated. But, she said since it was an isolated incident, and my son could fix it, there would be no repercussions this time. Then she left for her classroom.
The free and unmerited favor of God

         I stood in the empty hallway and smiled at God. It is a good thing God loves that boy so much. I thought to myself. Only God could have arranged the timing when nobody but the one teacher was available, and she had a solution.
         Later, when I picked my son up from school he reluctantly climbed in the car. He said he had a terrible day, waiting to be called into the office at anytime. He couldn’t eat anything and was sick with worry. He said He prayed all day, telling God He was sorry and truly wanted to follow Him. He thought that would be his last day at school and he begged God to be able to stay.
         When I told him he had received grace, he couldn’t believe it. He eyes lit up and a smile beamed across his face. He said, “That is God! He answered my prayer.”
         I agreed and told him, “God must really love you son, to give you grace in this situation. And you know why He did it? Because you are special to Him and He has a wonderful plan and purpose for your life. Apparently, His plan did not include suffering the consequences of your actions at school today.”
         He was overwhelmed. “I don’t know what to say.” He said, still grinning ear to ear. “That is amazing.”
         I told him about a time when his brother got in trouble at school for doing something “everybody else was doing.” I told his brother the Lord has a higher call on His life. He wanted to teach him to walk in obedience, so he got caught when others didn’t.
         But this time, years later, the Lord rescued this son, but taught an equally important lesson. Sometimes, even when we don’t deserve it, God gives grace. My son promised not to do it again, and said he knew better than to take advantage of God’s kindness. Then, as he stepped out of the car he said,
“Mom, you can write about this if you want to.”
Thanks son.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 

    Don’t you love it when you receive Grace instead of what you deserve?