Monthly Archives: December 2012

Is it Possible to be Joyful WHILE FEELING Melancholy?

The phrase “Melancholy While Decorating” popped in my head promptly at 4:11 this morning.  I confess it perfectly depicts my mood over the past few days as we’ve been trying to decorate the house for Christmas. (Never mind I recently wrote about beating the “Bah Humbugs”….see post…)  So, why  so melancholy?  And, is it really possible to be joyful while feeling melancholy?  Read on…

Let’s push pause for a moment to pray for all the people in Newtown, Connecticut.  This horrific shooting occurred between writing and posting this blog. Lord Jesus, you know our saddened hearts.  Please comfort the families of the slain, the Sandy Hook Elementary School staff, and the hearts and minds of  the surviving students.  Draw them to you.  We trust the slain children are with you.  May we seek Romans 8:28* as below, as well as draw comfort from Romans 8:31 which says, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Your Word provides the answers and You are Sovereign.  Praising your name,  Amen. (See below for more links from excellent authors about how to process the Connecticut shootings.**)

Open Bible

Six Sweet Answers for Melacholy Moods:  Let’s explore six spill-forth reasons for my melancholy (and perhaps yours too) along with blessings, a/k/a “Chin-ups”*:

#1 –   I realized decorating for Christmas makes me miss my Mom and Dad. Are you missing a loved one this season?   Some of our Christmas décor was Mom and Dad’s.  Memories re-surface.  Teardrops fall.

Chin up*:  Think of their Heavenly surroundings!  (The song I Can Only Imagine comes to mind.)  We will see them again.  John and I are still blessed with both of his parents here on earth, both in good health as of this writing.  God is trustworthy. Psalm 145:3 tells us, “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.”

Christmas

#2 – I also miss our brother-in-law, “J.R.”  He died in July and the saddest thing is seeing how my husband has been affected.  J.R. was not only John’s brother-in-law, he was a business partner, his closest confidante, and Christian ally.

Chin up*:  The number of lives J.R. touched is insurmountable.  Several people have come to know the Lord because of him.  My sweet sis-in-law, Margee, J.R.’s wife, has a rock-solid faith and spreads it wherever she goes.  J.R. is in the arms of the Lord, cancer-free, whole and healed.  God is gracious. John 1: 14 enlightens:  “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

#3 – This melancholy mood may have been triggered by a visit to a funeral home on my first day of decorating.  I stopped by in time to hug a sister-in-Christ, named Nancy, whom I met thru’ Book Club.  Her husband, Don, of thirty-two years went to his Heavenly Home at the young age of fifty-three.  While standing in line, I watched a beautiful-but-tearjerker-of-a-slide-show of their family.

Chin up*:  Don is now with the Lord. His faith blessed everyone in his path.  Nancy has two daughters, a granddaughter and another grandchild on the way.  Her faith is strong and will carry them.  I realized this was a good reminder to those of us with husbands, to not take them for granted and to cherish our days on this earth together. God is always with us, never leaving us alone. Cherish Matthew 28:20  –  “And Lo, I am with you always.

pic for God is with us

#4 – The third of four decorating days (pitiful, I know…) was the one-year anniversary of another dear friend’s husband’s death.  My sweet friend, Kathy, lives in Columbus, Ohio and I desperately wish she was across the street so I could go have tea and tears with her.

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Chin up*:  Her husband, Joe, is in Heaven.  Grandson Baby Joey, now sixteen months, is the love of their lives and has a sibling due any day.   Our cell phones keep us connected ‘til future rendez-vous for which we live.

Savor Kathy’s recent healing words:  “Christmas always seemed like the perfect time to draw strength from the Lord and trust Him with all our hearts.  Coaching jobs and lack thereof built in us a resolve.  A  resolve to weather any storm together.  Those experiences built our faith and taught us lessons we would later have to apply in Joe’s fight to live.

Little do we know that stories on our journey path sometimes are the very stones needed to pave our way into the arms of Jesus when we need HIM to carry us.”  Amen and Amen.  God brings healing.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 consoles:  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

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#5 –Believe it or not, I have a fourth friend, Gwen, whose husband also died from cancer about eighteen months ago and this Christmas seems tougher than last.  We must all remember that during the first year, the loss of a loved one renders one fairly numb.

Chin up*:  Mike, too, is in Heaven.  Furthermore, Gwennie has already been ministering to many young wives who’ve also become widows.  Not a club of one’s choosing, yet they all have a strong faith and trust in the Lord. ‘Tis  a blessing to witness and experience.  God prepares our path. It’s no coincidence that Gwen’s favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11.  “”For I know the plans I have for you’, declares the Lord.  ‘Plans to prosper you, and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’”

#6 Just for Fun – While Krogering, in the freezer section this week, my cart had to dodge a rather large object.  Right next to the hash browns, there stood a six-foot tall display of Genuine Leather Slippers for the bargain price of $17.97 a pair.  I was so stunned, I couldn’t move. Nobody appeared to find this unusual.

pic of slippers for sale

Why would one purchase slippers at the grocery store, from the freezer section, for someone for Christmas? Do you suppose they store the surplus back with the milk and eggs?

I called my friend Jane to report this absurdity.  Howling ensued.  We pondered: if  we purchased the above, what if they didn’t fit the recipient & he/she wished to exchange the slippers?  Would you reveal their origin?  Well, would you?

Chin up*:  This defines time management if you’re out of food and time for Christmas shopping.  I digress…God blesses with a sense of humor. Proverbs 17:22a makes us smile: “A cheerful heart is good medicine…”

More Joy:  This Advent Season I’ve been enjoying a book by Robert J. Morgan.  (ANY book by Rob is worth the read.)  This one is Come Let Us Adore Him—Stories Behind the Most Cherished Christmas Hymns.

Rob Morgan Come Let Us Adore Him

Rob includes interesting facts and stories about the composers of the hymns, beautiful Scripture and meaningful quotes. Yes, he’s the same author who wrote  three volumes of Then Sings My Soul—more stories of wonderful hymns.

Rob Morgan Then Sings My Soul

Today I read about Joy to the World!  (For you pianists, the actual music is included as well.)

Isaac Watts is the composer.  Written in 1719, Rob tells us Joy to the World! “is Watts’ interpretation of Psalm 98, which says: ‘Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth’(verse 4).  As he read Psalm 98, Watts pondered the real reason for shouting forth joyfully to the Lord—the Messiah has come to redeem us.”  Love that. Let’s all SHOUT JOYFULLY!!!  Yes, Virginia (put YOUR name right here), there is a joyful spirit for you too!

joy to the world pillow

*The Scriptural equivalent to the above “chin ups” is Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been  called according to His will.”  Don’t miss the “all” in there.

FYI – If you want to know more about Romans 8:28, Rob Morgan has written my all-time favorite book of his on this very verse.  The entire book teaches you, blesses you, and gives you Biblical hope over dire circumstances.  It’s called The Promise—How God Works All Things Together For Good.

 Rob Morgan The Promise

(On a much, much, MUCH shallower note:  If you’ve arrived to this point, and you love exercise as much as I do, you may tell someone you just did six chin-ups.  Permission granted.  Reread ‘em for twelve.)

Oscar Wilde said, “What is beautiful is a JOY for ALL SEASONS.”  May the joy of our Savior’s birth bless your heart, your moods (!) and your soul.

Finally, from the December issue of Decision magazine, Billy Graham leaves us with a great visual:  “From his very birth, Christ was recognized as King.  Something about Him inspired allegiance, loyalty and homage.  Wise men brought Him gifts.  Shepherds fell down and worshiped Him.  And angels, knowing more than men that He was truly King, became celestial minstrels before His manger throne.”

Christmas Nativity with Wise Men

I pray you and your family have a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Look for some posts on making room for margin in the New Year!

 ‘Til next time!

(This week’s blog post is dedicated to my four very brave and newly widowed friends.  Their strong faith has held me up.  They amaze me.  I want their total trust in the Lord.  May it be so for us all.  Lord,  please graciously bless and comfort Margee, Nancy, Kathy, and Gwen.  Thank you for sending your son for each and every one of us.  Amen.)

**Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience and Bob Russell’s blog, www.bobrussell.org
Talking to Children About the Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School
I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother
Max Lucado: A Christmas Prayer
The Gospel and Newtown
An Attempt to Put Words on the Heartbreak

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Let’s Give Some Grace for Christmas: Review of Max Lucado’s newest book: “Grace—More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine”

Max Lucado Grace

Last I heard, Max Lucado can be seen commandeering a bright red Mini Cooper on the streets of San Antonio, Texas.  Astonishing.  I’ll tell you why in a minute…

First time I ever met Max, he was seated in the Green Room of a convention center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My dear friend Becky Pippert, also a speaker with him at this conference, arranged our meeting.  As he stood up, he matched my husband’s height, as in six feet four inches, at least.  He might as well have been the Jolly Green Giant. (How, I wonder, can The Jolly Green Giant fit in and function in a bright red Mini Cooper?)

Fast on his feet, my husband recognized my case of star-struckness, and translated for me, “Max, this is my wife, Elizabeth.  She’s read all of your books.  We just wanted to say ‘hello’ and sure appreciate your writing.”  Mute, and smiling, there went my big moment.

Ah well, thankfully, there came some second chances.  I was privileged to help with a couple of book signings when Max came to speak at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

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The blessing for me came not just in helping with the signings, but by hearing the words of others.  Funny, if you just get out of the way, you can hear blessings much clearer.

One man approached Max and said, “My wife has read all of your books!”  To which I wanted to chime in, “So have I!!!”  But, I refrained as the man continued, “Yep, she’d have been here, but she’s very sick in the hospital.”  Whoa.

An elderly man came up with a young girl.  Turns out she was his granddaughter and was soon to be married.  They had a Bible and asked Max to sign it.  Quick as ever Max quipped, “Well, you know I didn’t happen to write the Bible!”  To which the grandfather said, “Oh, we realize that, it’s just we love your book 3:16 so much, we were wondering if you’d sign by that verse in the Book of John so my granddaughter and her new husband will have a benchmark to remember you by.”  You can surmise Max did as he was asked.

Max Lucado 316Another couple walked up and asked Max to sign a book for their daughter.  Seems she was battling cancer. Max stopped the conversation right there and asked, “How ‘bout we pray for her?”  My tears weren’t the only ones falling.  Wow.

So to have finished Max’ newest book, Grace—More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine, may I say it’s a must-read!  Max is the real deal and he “gets” God’s grace–a tough concept to grasp. Wait ‘til you see some of his explanations…

My friend Liz Curtis Higgs recently spoke with Max in Minneapolis at a Women of Faith conference.  She sent me some of his quotes and all are heart stoppers.  (Don’t forget she, too, has an excellent book on grace:  Embrace Grace—Welcome to the Forgiven Life.)

Liz Curtis Higgs Embrace Grace

Here are a few favorites from Max’s book:  Early on, Max offers this from John Stott:  “Grace is God loving, God stooping, God coming to the rescue, God giving himself generously in and through Jesus Christ.”  Non-stop, wouldn’t you say?

Just when you think you’re cruisin’ quite smoothly, Max suggests we be prepared for some not-so-nice condemnations from Satan:  “Stupid, unproductive, slow learner, fast talker, quitter, cheapskate..”  Max tells us to bid those  farewell.

He says, “Behold the fruit of grace:  saved by God, raised by God, seated with God.  Gifted, equipped, and commissioned.  You are who he says you are:  Spiritually alive.  Heavenly positioned.  Connected to God.  A  billboard of mercy.  An honored child.  This is the ‘aggressive forgiveness we call grace.’ (Romans 5:20 from The Message)  Satan is left speechless and without ammunition.”  Yes!

The above reassuring quote is one of many which will boost your faith.  He encourages us to “stretch ourselves out in the hammock of grace.”  All  enveloping, huh?  Lord, please help us to remember this!  Forgive us for forgetting!

Here’s another breathtaking way to look at grace.  Max says, “Grace is simply another word for God’s tumbling, rumbling reservoir of strength and protection.  It comes at us not occasionally or miserly but constantly and aggressively, wave upon wave.”  Being a beach lover, this is my favorite analogy in the book.  Can’t you just picture the waves?

Sandman Resists Melting Process

His chapter on Chosen Children may require you to get up and fetch a Kleenex or two.  He talks about how we never outgrow our need for a father’s love.  He reminds us we have an earthly Father and a Heavenly Father.  He gives us some of God’s words and tells us to let them “cement in our hearts a deep, satisfying, fear-quenching confidence that God will never let you go.  You belong to him…The adoption is irreversible.  YOU have a place at his table.”

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Max boldly encourages: “The hand on your shoulder is mine. The words I give you are God’s. Receive them slowly.  Don’t filter, resist, downplay, or deflect them.  Just receive them. MY CHILD.  I WANT YOU IN MY NEW KINGDOM.  I HAVE SWEPT AWAY YOUR OFFENSES LIKE THE MORNING CLOUDS, YOUR SINS LIKE THE MORNING MIST.  I HAVE REDEEMED YOU.  THE TRANSACATION IS SEALED.  THE MATTER IS SETTLED.  I, GOD, HAVE MADE MY CHOICE.  I CHOOSE YOU TO BE PART OF MY FOREVER FAMILY.”  Amen and Amen.

bible and family

Especially during this Christmas season I pray that you and I may truly allow these words to soak into our very souls. Slip them on daily as you would your clothes.  Wearing grace will most assuredly enable us to give grace.

‘Til  next time!

(This blog post is dedicated, oh, I’m so predictable…..to one of my favorite all-time authors:  Mr. Max Lucado.  Some of my friends who know him say he’s just like he seems in his books, in the pulpit, on the stage, etc.  Friendly,  humble,  and grace-filled. Max, thanks for all of your great, inspirational books.  May God continue to inspire you to inspire us, your readers.  God Bless you, your family, your church, and your ministry.)

P.S.  Don’t miss a great gift book, also by Max on grace.   Beautiful words from several of his books and gorgeous photos are plentiful.  It’s called Grace Happens Here—You are Standing Where Grace is Happening. You can also find out more on Max’ website:  www.maxlucado.com.max Lucado Grace Happens Here

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Sure Cure for a Bah Humbug Attitude…

Hello Friends!  Just wondering, now that Thanksgiving’s past and that Christmas décor’s been up since Halloween (in some stores that is, surely not in this household!), if you have a KICK in your step while shopping, or if you are SLIP-SLIDIN’-AWAY, Scrooge-like?

Grunge Scrooge With a Small Gift

Don’t even talk to me if you’re done with your Christmas shopping.  And don’t even look this way if you’ve shopped and wrapped.

Christmas isn’t happenin’ today, the way Jesus intended it to.  For that, I’m certain.  Every single year I try to think of ways to “taper down” on the gift-giving, think of the less fortunate, donate to new charities/ministries, and yet I still wind up looking more like Santa’s helper/enabler than a child of God.  Big sigh.Santa's Elf on Sign EdgeThe commercialization of Christmas makes me say “Bah humbug”…and I’m determined to NOT let it get the best of me. Lord, please help us to focus on you.  Matthew 6:33 reminds us: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Praying Friends

So, now that the Christmas season’s officially “on”… no thanks to some poor souls opening up on Thanksgiving Day (really?), Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc., I’d like to give you one prescription sure to bring a smile to your face, and a cure for any “Bah Humbug” attitudes trying to surface.

I am beyond blessed to have a very fun cousin.  Her name is Bonnie, but we in the family call her “Martha”, as in Stewart.  She’s one of those creative types:  she can whip up the most gorgeous bow you’ve ever seen. Friends now recognize them sayin’, “Now THAT’S a “Bonnie Bow”!!!

Bonnie will also try any new recipe.  She’ll paint a room an entirely new color when the mood strikes.  Furthermore, she will absolutely, positively, do anything for anyone, at any time, just for starters.

A few years ago, Bonnie came up with this fabulous idea…  She invited a group of our friends, a/k/a “the Butter Babes” over for a gift wrapping party.  Soup simmerin’ on the stove, Christmas music in the air, pool table covered as our wrapping station, and we move in for the day.

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What’s great about this is she sets the date way ahead of time (novel idea!) so we know when our deadline is…as in if you want to wrap a pretty package, you’d better have done some shopping and have packages in tow!

The five of us man our stations and the wrapping begins.  (Did I mention her endless supply of reams of paper and enough ribbon to extend to the moon?)  Oh, but the conversation around the table is the best.  You’re wondering if there’s a message here! Or what’s so spiritual about a wrapping party?

Well, you’ve got to know these Butter Babes.  These are some serious Bible study students and teachers.  These are some very close friends and mentors. These are some serious prayer warriors. They share meaningful Scripture. They share prayer requests. They share answered prayers.  They have lived a lot of life.  We laugh.  We cry.

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One of my favorite verses depicting this friendship journey is found in Proverbs 27:17 which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (NIV)  It’s a huge blessing simply doing life with the help of dear friends who teach you to ultimately lean on the Lord.

Nary a  “Bah Humbug” erupts from this bunch. Nope, the Butter Babes would flat have a meltdown if such a phrase surfaced.  (Oh, I could have fun with that last phrase…)

Proverbs 27:7b says, “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”  Refreshing it is to be surrounded by such sweet sisters.  No Scrooges allowed!

Let me show you one more favorite verse to go along with our prescription:  Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. “

The “sure cure” for a Bah Humbug attitude can be found straight out of the three above phrases I’ve italicized:

Spur one another on:  This means we cheer each other on toward the finish line…as in our Heavenly Home.

Not giving up meeting together:  Keep regular gathering times with your friends.  How many times have you heard “friends are cheaper than therapy”?  It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

I have another group of friends which includes a retired school teacher.  (Several actually, but one in particular is the glue that holds us together.)  Periodically, Jayne will shoot us an email with the tagline being:  “Random Dinner”.  She randomly picks a night and we show up to catch up.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

Encouraging  one another:  This goes hand in hand with spurring one another on. All three of these are great fuels for fanning the flame of friendship.

Kelly Minters Nehemiah

Kelly Minter’s most recent Bible study on Nehemiah—A Heart That Can Break offers a PERFECT DEPICTION of what I’m attempting to recommend to you regarding friendship.  She opines*, “The world doesn’t need more wealth, strength, power, or skill as much as it desperately needs trustworthy people.  My heart is never more at rest, my soul never more at peace than when I am in the presence of a person of integrity.

I find relational serenity in never having to second-guess what the person really meant, not having to dodge gossip or duck drama.  When I have the assurance that a person’s word is true, motives pure, and intents just, I have found a rare treasure indeed.”

Look again at those two above paragraphs.  Did you see that cool phrase, “relational serenity”?  What a sanctuary! What a safe haven!!!

Whether it’s a wrapping party, or a lunch out somewhere, or a Starbucks rendez-vous, I pray you’ll set a date with some of your friends and sail cheerfully thru’ this Christmas season, in relational serenity, sans any “Bah Humbugs”.

Purposefully celebrate Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Remember Christ’s Birthday.

Savor God’s gift.  As Liz Curtis Higgs said, “Let’s be forever grateful for the One whose birth changed everything.”  (Click here to see an interview with her…)

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‘Til next time!

(This December post is happily dedicated to my long-time friend, cousin-by-marriage-who’s-more-like-a-sister, partner-in-crime in shopping, encourager extraordinaire, Bonnie Johnson. May blessings be abundant to you and your sweet family this Christmas season!!!)

*Lest you think I toss out unique words frequently, this one, “opine,” was a new one to me. Can’t believe I haven’t discovered this word ’til now.  I’m practically a professional at offering my opinion!  May we all opine with tact.

I ran across it twice in two days in two different books!  Both worth recommending:  one by Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage:  Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God and the other by Robert J. Morgan called Angels—True Stories—What Angels Do For Us.

Tim KellerRobert J Morgan

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