Emmanuel

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“Excited to continue our celebration of Immanuel, God with us, in the morning with my family.  I have found the past month to be so rich with moments to teach my little guys about Jesus, what happened at Christmas, and what that means for us in our lives today.  Jesus meets our deepest need (reconciliation with God) and takes care of our greatest problem (our personal sin).  Thank you, Jesus!”

I could find no better words than these from our daughter,  Abigail.  I especially like the way that she shares that it is an ongoing  conversation about Jesus,  Immanuel, God with us.

What a joy it is for us as grandparents to celebrate with our children and grandchildren the true meaning and purpose of Christmas. May God’s love, peace and joy fill you this Christmas season. Keep the celebration going.

Isaiah 7:14 – prophecy

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Matthew 1:22-23 –

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:   23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him ” Immanuel”[ (which means  “God with us”).

Merry Christmas!!!

At a Loss for Words

“There are no words to describe the horror of the last few hours…..” “I don’t have any words to describe…..” Phrases like these were repeated over and over as individuals tried to communicate their reactions to the devastating shooting that took place Friday at an elementary school in Connecticut. Yet, as my husband pointed out – these people kept talking. They were saying they “had no words”, yet they kept using words.

I realized – it wasn’t that they didn’t have any words – it was that they didn’t have the right words.

We have all been in that place of experiencing something and being at a loss for words. Our ability to communicate thoughts and feelings sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Many species can share information, but we have the ability to synthesize information and therefore communicate on a deeper level. Until our vocabulary lets us down. There was nothing to say – words were inadequate to express the pain of that loss.

Are there “right words” at such a time? The death of a loved one, a miscarriage, a critical illness, all these are situations that make us want to offer words of solace and hope. Yet it may be that there are no “right” words at these times.

I remember entering the home of my life-long friend after a terrible accident that claimed the life of her 18 month old son. I had no words. I fell into her arms and we hugged and cried. There were no “right” words – we wept and held on to each other, then sat holding hands – just needing to be in touch. I went home that night to my precious 18th month old daughter. My friend and her husband were left overwhelmed by the aching absence of their little son. All I had to offer at that time was my love demonstrated by my presence.

“God will work all things for good…..” “God is in control.” “God’s love will comfort you”. These are truthful statements – yet they are not comforting in light of the reality of the loss. They instead cause questions to arise – if God is in control – why did He allow my child to die? Wasn’t it “good” to have my child here with me? I wouldn’t need comfort if my child was still here!

Clichés and “pat answers” are not words that help when facing grief and suffering. I have had friends tell me that the most beneficial support was being there – not any words that were said.

The right words may be needed later – but expressing loving support through one’s presence and prayer is more valuable initially.

We do need to listen to one another. Many of us process situations by expressing verbally what we think and feel. Listening to those who are grieving provides an outlet for their grief and also a chance to remember the loved one who is gone.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

1There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

7 a time to be silent and a time to speak,

We don’t need to be so concerned about having the right words as being the loving support God wants us to be. May we recognize when to be silent and when to speak.

I follow a blog by Ruth Rutherford. This poem she wrote touched me – these were the right words for me at this time. – check it out – http://ruthrutherford.wordpress.com/2012/12/16/when-sunlight-fades-lord-have-mercy/

A Lesson From Legos

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Children learn best while playing. This is not an earthshaking revelation for any observant parent. Children will begin sorting toys by type thus learning to differentiate at an early age. With little boys, this sorting is often “good guys” and “bad guys” while with little girls it is sometimes “babies” and “mommies”. Recent brain research verifies that information “sticks” when there is meaning and significance tied to new information. Children at play make meaning and significance for themselves, often displaying amazing imagination. I love to hear the descriptions our grandchildren use while playing outside at our house. We have an old spring house that Phil made into a play house. A little creek runs next to it – in the old days it ran through the spring house – and the children will prepare “food.” The specialties are soup (mud and water), cupcakes (hickory nut shells), and cereal (pieces of gravel). This play loosely mimics the sequencing of the cooking they see at home – YUM! Children will make a toy from anything.

Legos are an especially imaginative toy to play with. Our granddaughters have recently become very fond of the Lord of the Rings stories and were given a Lego set of the main characters in this J.R.R.Tolkien classic. They play by acting out the stories from the books and make up new stories as they play. Legos are so versatile and interchange from one set to the next. There are Lego sets for just about any interest a child has. Children will combine these sets and form completely new situations and settings with their play.

A guest speaker at our Fellowship yesterday made a meaningful point about Legos. He pointed out that there is something that all Legos have in common. They all have the ability to connect with other Legos. In thinking about this, I realized that there is an important lesson that we can all take away from playing with Legos. We can learn something from play just as our children do.

Connecting with one another makes each of us more significant.

One Lego by itself may be colorful, and even nice to look at, but by itself it is not much fun to play with. When it is connected to other Legos, it has much more use. The character Legos are made up of parts that fit together and can be changed to “re-form” a completely different figure. Yet the head by itself, or the legs all alone are not very engaging. Only when the parts are connected do they become what they were created to be. Even when using plain Legos, the more they are connected, the more significant the result. Blocks built up that don’t have those connectors like Legos are easily knocked down. It takes an effort to destroy a Lego structure!

This is a lesson for families. Each family member is unique and valuable – but when we are connected to one another as a family, we become more significant, more useful, and more COMPLETE!  As I see our grandchildren grow and see them relate to their siblings in positive ways, I see the blessing it is that they have each other as sisters and/or brothers. They learn that being loved and having someone to love  – connect with – enriches their lives beyond measure.

There may be times when we don’t want to connect as families. We need to remind ourselves and our children that God has purposes for placing us in families. Our strength as a family comes from our CONNECTIONS. As parents and grandparents we are building connections with these children that will help them grow as God’s children.

1 Corinthians 3:9-11 (NIV)

9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Sometime when your children are building with Legos, tell them about the connections God has made in your family.

Next week we will look at Lesson II from Legos – Building the Church.

Scary Things

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All testimonies are not sweetness and light. In fact, as I get older, I have become suspicious of those who share only victories, blessings, and triumphs. Now, I do believe that God blesses His children. I believe that God answers prayer and has a plan for my good. But I am suspicious of those who only share the positive occurrences in their lives. I am suspicious because even Jesus “learned obedience through the things He suffered.” What makes me think that I am exempt from suffering? In fact, Jesus says in John 16:33 -“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (emphasis mine)

So – as long as I live in this world – I will have times of trouble. BUT, take heart. In other words, be encouraged. Not that everything will always go my way, but that there is no darkness where God is.

Our grandchildren wanted night lights in the bedrooms when they stayed with us over Thanksgiving. The unknown of the darkness caused them to be afraid. Once that faint, but visible night-light shown, they were able to feel safe and fall asleep.

Kathy, a friend who has been real, honest, and transparent shared a powerful testimony Sunday. It wasn’t about a victory, a blessing, or a triumph. It was the reality that when we face the scary things that can paralyze us with fear – God is light in the darkness. Situations are scary because we know the consequences can be devastating – even life threatening. There is reason for the fear we feel. Yet God wants to shine His light in those dark corners of doubt and fear. He wants to illuminate those circumstances in such a way that we can see Him in the midst of our circumstances.

Kathy encouraged us to see God in our scary situations. She shared this Scripture:

Isaiah 54:17

 No weapon forged against you will prevail,
    and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
    and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

When, not if, we face those scary situations, may we remember –

1 John 1:5(NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.