a good night

Merry Christmas, dear friends.

It's been the most wonderful night. Just this afternoon, I was sitting on my friend Katie's couch, reminiscing about good old-fashioned candelight Christmas Eve services, and how much I miss them. Growing up, it was always one of my favorite services of the year, mostly because of all the singing, and when you add in all the New England charm of snow-covered slate walkways and an evergreen-bedecked church built over 150 years ago - well, it's hard for anything to win out over that sort of childhood memory/ritual, and the "Cosmic Christmas" service that I went to last night with some friends at a large church nearby left me feeling like I still needed to go somewhere to worship... but I didn't know where to go, and I had plans to go out for dinner with my good friend Kim...

But enter God's perfect plan. Kim and I had not done our research well, and almost everywhere we went in search of dinner was closed, or just closing as we got there. We ended up at a McDonald's drive-thru, just 3/4 of an hour before they closed. We drove around and looked at Christmas lights while we ate (another Christmas tradition from my childhood that I love) - and then we went to church. Kim's parents go to a UCC church a couple towns over, and we joined them for their Christmas Eve service.

It was perfect. Bells chiming. Snow-covered trees. Evergreens hung everywhere. Candles in the windows. A beautiful stained-glass window as a focal-point of the room, called the Bethlehem window - depicting the town with the star shedding light upon it - and the cross on the altar under it in just the right place to connect the imagery. The table with "In Remembrance of Me" inscribed upon it. The advent wreath with peace, hope, love, and joy already lit. The carols, the choir, the organ, a real piano. And liturgy!!! Calls and responses. The Lord's prayer. An actual offertory. A benediction. And the candlelit singing of Silent Night. None of this fire-code nonsense and glow-stick substitute baloney. REAL candles, with actual flames. And an amusing safety demonstration by the pastor...

And it was all real. You could tell. The pastor meant what he said. At least most of the choir loved being there. And there were people there who loved each other. Could I have done without the running commentary from the lady behind me? Well, yes, but it was funny, and I almost busted up laughing when someone back there went horribly off-key. And it kept me grounded in the reality that the church really is made up of people... and it's so much grace that God loves us all.

It was a perfect evening. And NOW it is Christmas. It didn't feel like it earlier today. But now it is. (Thank You...)

So, Merry Christmas, to all of you. May peace and harmony reign where you are tonight, in your hearts, and in your minds, and in your souls. May you experience the reality this day of Emmanuel, God with us. And may you find joy with every new dawn - for each one brings new mercies.

Merry Christmas, dear friends... and to all, mmmm..... a good night. :)

whatever the morning version of "the gloaming" is...

i'm sure there's a word for it, but i don't know what it is. in the evening, when the world looks like this, it's called "the gloaming." it's not evening - at least not here. but this is my favorite time of day - i think it always has been. it's my favorite time of year to be awake at this time of the day, too. there's just something about this early hour, just before the sun comes up, especially when there's snow on the ground, when everything is tinted the deepest shades of blue... anything could happen when the world looks like this. star-crossed lovers could reunite. fairy godmothers could exist. it's magical, this moment just before daylight. more so than ever on a day like today, when there's a light snow falling, and the world all around is hushed. anything could happen... and it's not even Wednesday... ;)

dinner with Jesus

I've been on a journey these past 21 days, and I'm still not sure how much I can say. For the most part it hasn't felt very holy, but I've been practicing a spiritual discipline at what I believe was God's request, and I believe that not only has God been honored by my obedience in it, but that He's done more than I may ever know... not the least of which is that He's changed my heart a little bit more - turned me, a little bit more than ever, toward Himself.

Today was the 21st day, and I turned off the ringer on my phone and closed the computer, and spent the day in intercession, meditation, and reflection. I read an entire book from cover to cover, and as I read story after story about God's faithfulness today, I found myself melting into one big happy puddle of contentedness and confidence in God's goodness. I am no closer to having any answers to the questions I have been asking God for 21 days - but I am closer to Him, and because of that alone, I believe it's all been worth it.

To celebrate my love for Christ, and His for me, I had dinner with Jesus tonight. Have you ever noticed how incredibly good food is? How just the right combination of meat and spices with just the right veggies and some feta can totally be the perfect end to a perfect day? Have you thought about how carefully God designed the world - so that peas growing on vines and carrots growing in the dirt not only look pretty but taste great when you put them together? Have you thought about how in the world someone ever figured out how to make rice vinegar? Or who thought to put lavender into a spice blend that's amazing on chicken? Who in the world figured out how to make chocolate? (God bless them...)

But as amazing as all the food on my table was tonight, and as much as I appreciated it, what made it perfect was knowing that King of the Universe was here, having dinner with me. His company made it a perfect day today. The God who made and named every star spent the day with me... and with every other person on this planet. I love that. I love that He who has the affairs of whole nations to attend to loves me so much that He took time to attend to some of mine today. I feel ridiculously loved and cherished. As rich as any queen. And so deeply and incredibly blessed.

I have been worried and anxious about so many things this year... but it is time to let it all go. My God - my King - loves me, and is watching out for me... and my lack of understanding of what He is doing or why or how does not alter the truth that He is caring for me, that He has my best interests at heart, and that He is to be trusted. This is a God I can follow anywhere, and while troubles may (and will ) come, I can rest confidently in the truth of His love for me, and the knowledge that nothing - no, nothing - is too much for Him.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." - Psalm 91:1-2


i had coffee with an amazing woman of God last night - a girl i've been privileged to "mentor" for the past few months. (i wonder if she has any idea how often she mentors me?)

among the many topics we covered was freedom. it's a glorious word, isn't it? Heather, awhile ago, asked us what we thought of when we heard the word freedom, and my mental image is running through a field of little white flowers. There was a night last winter when I was incredibly depressed, and completely broke down on a couple of good friends - one of them had a vision as he was praying for me that night, and that was the scene he described. it's (obviously) stuck with me...

freedom's an incredible thing, but sometimes it comes in stages. that's cool, in some ways, because it means that if you are trying to break free from something, there is hope that if you have not yet, you will someday. but there are times when freedom seems so elusive... when you're longing so much to just be free without all the work it takes to get there sometimes... and whether it's getting out of debt, or a sin you just can't seem to shake, or realigning the things you believe with the Truth... freedom often comes with a price, and sometimes it is steep.

but there is one kind of freedom for which the price has already been paid in full, and it is simply yours for the asking. "...it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:5)

snow fly

"Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters." - Proverbs 25:13

I love the snow. I always have. Growing up on the ocean coast of New England, we didn't see much of it. A good snowstorm happened maybe once every 4-5 years. We got a good bit of icy rain (and the accompanying school closings) but it just wasn't the same. We longed for a good two feet of snow. (I am not sure if we ever actually got it.) So you can imagine how thrilled I was the first year I lived in Michigan, and we had so much snow that you had to jump down two feet from the sidewalk into the road - and you were walking next to 4 foot high banks of it on occasion.

It is snowing today, and the quiet hush that comes with it does wonders for my soul. As the noise of the world outside is slightly cushioned by the snowfall, so the noise in my soul quiets just a bit as I sit with a cup of coffee, curled up under a blanket, and simply watch the snow fly. I love this moment. It's as though the world, like one enormous snow globe, has been turned upside down and shaken; and now it is still, and upright again, and nothing moves but the snow. And it is beautiful. May it be so with my soul... no matter what shakes it.

I looked up snow in the Bible today, just to see what God had to say about it. I found all the things you might expect to find about our sin being made whiter than snow by the blood of Christ... (black + red = white) - but I also found this proverb, and I like it. At first what captured my imagination was simply the picture of snow falling (preferably at the end of harvest) and the beauty of it, the welcome nature of the changing of the seasons, the promise of the coming holidays - but then it started to sink in. "Like the coolness of snow at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the spirit of his masters."

A trustworthy messenger - someone who can be trusted to deliver the message he's been told to deliver - refreshes the spirit of his masters. What do you think of when you hear the word refreshment? It's something that quenches thirst or quells hunger, it satisfies, it makes you glad... it makes you feel the way I feel when after a long and crazy day, I get to sit down with a cup of coffee and watch it snow. And snow always comes with a purpose, whether we know what it is or not... browsing through all those verses, I read that "as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11)

So I want to be like this snow. I want to be someone whom God finds refreshing. I want to know that I've been sent with purpose (whether I know what it is or not), and I want to be trust-worthy. I want to be someone who, when the world has been turned upside down and shaken, continues to fall softly with purpose into exactly the place that's been marked out for me...