Inspirational Musings

Remember. Be Present.

I pulled up to the mailbox yesterday and opened the door. For a split second I imagined a small box from West Virginia with homemade deer jerky and a handwritten note from my Uncle Arnold. It was always around this time of year that a box would mysteriously appear in the mail. It was such a simple gesture, but so special.

As I pulled the stack of bills out of the mailbox, instead, tears fell down my cheeks. While we are spending our first Christmas here on earth without Uncle Arnold, he is spending his first one in heaven. I know he has the better view, but he left quite a hole here on earth.

Some of my fondest summer memories as a teenager involved my uncle. My grandparents took us with them to a campground in West Virginia for several weeks during the summers and we always ended up hanging out with Uncle Arnold and Aunt Phyllis. We spent countless hours playing basketball, goofing off in the woods, and relaxing in hammocks by the creek. To this day, when I get stressed, I can close my eyes and hear the serene babbling of that creek and feel the peaceful motion of those hammocks. I’m pretty sure heaven will be a lot like that special place.

Christmas time is such a complicated season. It’s the time we celebrate Jesus and all he did for us by becoming a sinless human on this earth.  But it is also a time for family; and in some cases, family evokes a lot of different and hard emotions.

As we celebrate this season, tears of sadness may come and we may feel the urge to retreat from life. We may find ourselves getting lost in the overwhelming emotions of missing those who are already gone or even pre-mourning those who are aging or absent in our lives. But we need to remember that the most important gift we can give to those we love is the power of presence. We need to be present; physically and emotionally.

It’s okay to remember our special loved ones. As a matter of fact, I have typed most of this through blurry tears as I remember my special Uncle. But as we remember, let’s make sure we let others into our world and that we are present with the ones we can still hug and hold. We have old memories that can be cherished, but we also have new memories that need to be made. Let’s make room for them all.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” Ecc. 3:1, 4

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Inspirational Musings

Making Peace With Christmas Music

So, every year for the past few years, I have spent the Christmas season surfing through the radio stations, desperate for anything but Christmas music. This year has been much of the same. One or two days of Christmas music and I was caught up. In light of the reality that I’ve been somewhat of a scrooge over the past few Christmases (read my blog: My Christmas Emotions), I decided to talk to God about my aversion to Christmas music. It went something like this, “Okay, God, you know how I feel about Christmas music. It’s overplayed, aggravating, and gets old fast. However, I know that a lot of these songs were written about you, so please help me make some peace with Christmas music this season.”

A few days after I had my conversation with God, I was driving down the road and heard the chorus of a song by Kutless: “What is Christmas, If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger? What is Christmas without Christ?” It suddenly dawned on me that without Jesus’ birth, there never would have been his death. Without Jesus’ birth there never would have been his resurrection. Without Jesus’ birth, there never would have been grace, mercy and forgiveness of sins. Without Jesus’ birth, I never would have been set free from sin and given a second chance at life. Without Jesus’ birth, mankind would have no hope.

Immediately I thanked God for sending Jesus to be born. I spent several minutes thanking him for saving me and never giving up on me. Once I was able to beat the tears back, I vowed to try a little harder to listen to the words in some of these Christmas songs that I had been flipping past. I have done a lot better over the past few weeks, but I’ll be honest with you, I was dreading the Christmas music at church today.

I snuck into the back row after the music had already begun. The praise team started singing a less common Christmas song that I actually like, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. I focused in on the words and my heart felt like it wasn’t big enough to contain the message in those lyrics. Verse one was all Jesus about freeing the Israelites from their captivity, or their sin. I couldn’t help but think about what my life was like before Jesus got full control: “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.” Then the next verse made me smile from ear to ear. What a change Jesus makes in our lives! He replaces the darkness and brings so much hope: “O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer, Our spirits by Thine advent here, Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death’s dark shadows put to flight. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel.” The last verse we sang wrapped it all up for me. Jesus is truly the desire of every person’s heart, even when we don’t realize that he is the answer. I remember trying to satisfy my soul with everything else but him, but only being satisfied when he got full control: “O come, Desire of nations, bind, In one the hearts of all mankind, Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace, Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel.”

As the song ended, I made peace with Christmas music. I silently told God thank you for speaking so directly to my heart. That’s something I have come to love about God over these past few years: he knows me and he goes to great lengths to show me that love. He takes time to make things personal. He even took time to help me make peace with Christmas music. He’s just so patient with us sometimes!