Twelve Days of Christmas

The Christmas program at my church is finally over. We had two performances this past weekend. The program great — happy and sad, funny and somber, side-splitting, tear-jerking, and thought-provoking all rolled into a 45-minute segment of life.

Now, I have twelve days left before Christmas Eve.

We managed to get the outside decorations up before the program, but between the general busyness of life, plus the near-runaway train that is the last two weeks of program rehearsals, we hadn’t had much time for anything else. Oh sure, I’ve thought about it, but is it really the thought that counts? (I didn’t think so.)

So what’s going into these next twelve days? (Don’t worry; I’m not about to break into song.)

  • cleaning and decorating (some combination of the two)
  • Christmas parties
  • vintage shopping
  • craft time
  • wrapping paper!
  • my first gingerbread house since I was a child
  • baking sweets and treats
  • exercise (to burn off those sweet treats and more)
  • family
  • friends
  • sleep! (or at least a pipe dream thereof)

And these are all fun and good, but one thing I’m really anticipating is the chance to sit still and really think about God’s goodness. Thanksgiving is supposed to be that time when everyone is thankful for all the good in their lives, and then we forget all of that in a mad Christmas rush. My Christmas rush may be a little madder this year, but I’m looking forward to those moments when I can just chill in the fact that God has been good to us a lot longer than we’ve been thankful to Him; and the fact that we even have Christmas to celebrate is proof.

So let’s bring on the next twelve days of good cheer, and decorative pears, and trees. “We know what Christmas is really about…. Christmas is in our hearts!” 😉

Bingo.

Last weekend was our annual youth leader Christmas party. As one of our traditions, we play Bingo for prizes. It’s always fun to watch people who have spent the whole year teaching teenagers principles of Christian discipleship trying not to lose their religion while waiting for that one number they need to come up. 🙂

This year one of the prizes we played for was a $50 Visa gift card. When I heard that prize mentioned I claimed it for myself. I could use it for Christmas gifts! The game we played for that prize was a “T” — trying to get the top row across plus the middle row down. I started off slow, but suddenly I realized my “T” was almost complete — I just needed one space in the middle. I was waiting and praying for it when someone else yelled out “BINGO!”

Oh well. I came to enjoy the party, and I wasn’t going to let not getting that prize ruin it for me.

A few rounds later someone suggest we play “4 Corners”. That game seems to take longer because you’re only looking for numbers in two columns (and you have to disregard every number that comes up that doesn’t apply to those two columns), but at the same time, each person is only looking for four numbers, so it could actually be over pretty quick. I started off the same way as before, with a bunch of blank spaces, and then suddenly needing only one. I didn’t want to get too excited, but I did start calling for my last number under my breath.

The next number? O64. Bingo.
The prize? $50 Cash.

You’re number may not always come when you think it’s about to or when the options seem greatest. But don’t get down, and don’t give up, because what you prayed for is on its way.

Wake Up Call

We were going door to door delivering meals. It seemed like an easy way to delve into our mission work for the week. Although I did kind of want to hand out sandwiches at the subway. After all, I was here for a challenge.

What was so challenging about handing out meals to shut-ins? Well, finding them, for starters. It was foreign city (foreign to us, at least), and I was in charge of the map. So naturally, I sent us in the wrong direction right off the bat. Whoops.

We backtracked, assured our instructors we were up to the task, and set off through the busy streets again, boxed-up food in tow. We got into a rhythm of finding the apartment complex every few streets, checking in at the front desk, and then playing with the elevator buttons to get us to the right floor. The people were sweet and, of course, happy to see the food they were expecting. It began to be pretty fun, if a little benign.

Then we came to her door. Phyllis, I think her name was. (Although, to my shame, I honestly don’t remember.) She opened the door and beckoned us inside. We’d gone inside only one other person’s apartment that day, and Phyllis seemed to be focused on something other than the food/

Her house phone was working. She said the last people who had delivered her food had gotten her phone working, but the connection had gone dead again. The apartment people took to long to come by, and she was expecting a very important business phone call any minute — something to do with Woody Allen’s next movie.

Wait a minute. This very elderly woman in this very condensed apartment needs her phone — so she can work? On a Woody Allen movie?

But we weren’t about to question her. We definitely had a challenge: could our little group from a different part of the country figure out how to help this woman get her land-line phone working so she could do what she so intent on doing? we set her food down and began tinker with her house phone. She gave us the number of the phone company so we could try to reach them on our cell phones. We weren’t sure exactly what we were doing, but we were all trying.

My eyes began to roam around the tiny space as our group worked. The lady’s desk, chairs, and shelves were all filled with books, binders, and folders. They contained actor head-shot photos, labels that categorized their looks and talent, and more. Eventually I noticed an award statue amidst the many papers and folders on her desk. It was a Screen Actor’s Guild Award. It was a special one, not for acting but for working with talent. Whoa. I didn’t know who this woman was, but she had not just been sitting around in her life, and she wasn’t kidding about her involvement in the movie industry.

We finally discovered a cell phone that a relative had given her. She was not comfortable using it, but we were able to get the phone number she needed off of the old phone and show her how to place and receive calls with the cell phone. She called her contact number, and was able to get a call back from the contact about her work. We let ourselves out the apartment as she began her important business conversation.

We went back to the city streets and finished our deliveries, but Phyllis had gotten my attention. There was an impact her life was making, even when the world outside her apartment had no clue what she was up to. I wondered how many more people like her we would meet during our work — people who just need some help with their lives so that they can continue to go above and beyond what was expected of them.

Watch and Pray

Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is. — Mark 13:33

You’ve seen the news. You’ve heard the debates and the rhetoric. You’ve watched the back and forth as this country swells toward the biggest decision of the decade. The general elections are coming up. Early voting is already available in most areas. No doubt you’re watching to see where this nation is headed, whether you really care or not. But take heed. You’ve been watching, but you also need to be praying. Because this is more important than you can imagine. We’ve already proven that one little vote can matter when an entire people commits to give it. Just think what God can do with one little prayer when an entire people commit to give it. So watch. And pray.

When the Story Isn’t There

What do you do when the story just isn’t there?

Some days it seems my story exists in a vacuum. Like a black hole kind of vacuum. As in, it’s been sucked into nothingness.

I know I need to write. I know I have committed to write. But I find I have nothing to write about.

Instead of life experiences on which I can draw, all I have are half-made plans that have yet to see the light of day.

I hate to admit that I’m tapped out, because it feels exactly like I’m tapping out of the fight. I give up.

I get it; I need to go live life some more, and then I’ll have more stories to tell.

Which is awesome, and theoretically doable. There’s just the tiny issue of needing a story to write RIGHT NOW.

I could pretend I’ve lived — but people usually see right through that. Something about “writing what you know.”

I could hide. Pretend I wasn’t meant to live, or write, at all. What do you expect of me anyway?

But pretending I don’t need a story doesn’t really get rid of that need for a story.

I guess I just have to be honest.

The story is that I don’t have a story to write at the moment.

But I won’t let it stop me from writing. And that’s a true story.

“There Is No Spoon.”

I read an article last week about a physicist who, after much study about science and the origins of our space, has come to the following revelation: there is no such thing as time.

His explanation for our reality is that we live in a series of “Nows” which are separate, even if they are related in some ways.

Huh.

That whole discussion may be over my head (it may be over yours too), but the basic crux is that what we use time to define is change. This is different than it was before. You are not the same person you were last year. Or last week. Or yesterday. Or five minutes ago.

We all deal with change. Some of us deal with it better than others. Some of us pretend not to deal with it at all. But if, as the saying goes, the only constant in life is change, then what are we going to do about it?

We can define ourselves within the change. Let ourselves be defined by the change that has or hasn’t happened yet. Struggle against the movement of “time,” and changes we can’t control.

Or we can get outside ourselves. Look at time from the outside, and realize that every moment is an opportunity for change. Instead of vainly trying to stop the hands of time, we can decide that this Now is simply a different Now from the one we just experienced. And we can do whatever we choose in this Now. We can affect Nows that we haven’t experienced by what we do with the Now that we have… right now.

You want to bend the spoon? Or do you want to get beyond the spoon?

Now is your chance.

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