December 5, 2015

That Thing I Do Now - Volume 118

I pray y'all had a blessed Thanksgiving!  I thought I had last weekends' Gathering of Awesome all ready and scheduled to go out --but alas, I found it mid-week still waiting in my drafts! Instead of posting late, I gave myself Grace and we'll just pick up this week fresh.

Featured posts by Emily P. Freeman, Kelly Chripczuk, Tiffany Parry, Anne Dahlhauser, Gwen Shipley, Aliza Latta, Jennifer Dukes Lee, plus a post from right here, and - of course - a video to wrap it all up! 

Happy Reading! (Ya'll know to click on the authors' names below to read the entire post, yes?)

* We will start this week, with this post by Emily P. Freeman with A Prayer For The Waiting Time...
"It’s the beginning of Advent and we confess our anxiety.

Hope seems to have thin reins this year.

We want this season to be different, simple, meaningful.

But we have our doubts.

Though we admit we don’t yet feel joy or gladness, we refuse to shake the I told you so at our own soul.

Like Your people did for 400 years of silence, we wait.

We obey the calendar and wait, not with tapping foot and huffy breath. But we wait with open hands and willing hearts to experience the truth of the gospel in our everyday lives.

We will fight this year – not for meaning, for magic, for perfection, or even for simplicity.

Rather we will fight to remember You have come, You are here, and You will come again."

* This post by Kelly Chripczuk with To See the Naked Trees (Advent Week 1)... 
"Later this month we’ll cut an overpriced evergreen and drag it into the house where it will become a hiding place for the kids and jungle-gym for the cats.  We’ll string it too with lights and tempers will probably flare between my husband and I and the kids who swarm in excited anticipation as the memory-making debacle unfolds.  

It’s tempting to think of all of those trees and lights as just another distraction.  Sometimes they are.  But I look forward to plugging them in at the end of the day, to watching the kids run off the bus in the early evening dusk toward a house wrapped round with light. 

We may not all have the attentiveness required to notice the “naked trees,” but surely we can learn to notice light. "

* This one from Tiffany Parry over at Holly Barretts place for Testimony Tuesday...
"As an only child, raised by a single mom, my skill set is easily quite “girly.” Pointed toward proper behavior, I grew up quickly under an umbrella of great responsibility and high expectation. That didn’t mean I never had fun, it just meant my fun was tidy, organized, and scheduled.

I was a good girl. I never realized how bad that could be.

Neatly tucked behind chore lists and principal’s honor roll, leadership skills and graduate school, was something much more than simple follow-the-rules, do-right goodness. It was fear. And fear fed a much larger beast: perfection.

Failure wasn’t an option, and the fear of disappointing those I held in high regard kept me on a perpetual people-pleasing, approval-seeking race. There were no wings to spread. I didn’t make many mistakes to learn from. Who needs to compete with others, when you can compete with yourself?

Along the can’t-fail-won’t-fail path, I met Jesus. In my mind, we were the perfect match. Good girl meets great God and lives happily ever after. Simple. Logical. Neat. Jesus and I just made sense.

But Jesus didn’t want my mind. He wanted my heart. And He wanted all of it."

This post by Anne Dahlhauser over at Incourage with When Glory Came to Dwell with Us…
With the spotlight of a star, Glory stooped low into the womb of a peasant girl with a marred reputation. A stable of animals ushered this universe-Creator into a world of grace-hungry souls. The shepherds came running, tripping over themselves to see this wonder of heaven, snuggled in an animal trough before them. He had come. The Savior was here, breathing in the same stable-air and blinking at the same radiant starlight.

We know this story. We sing this story. And we repeat it to our kids whenever December blows in. But, do we understand the magnitude and the wonder of the Incarnation at all?

What can we make of this divine legacy, this Jesus-act of drawing near and loving up-close?

The other night, the echo of Immanuel showed up in the eyes of my child standing beside my bed, asking quietly if she could sleep with us — again. This one needs to be near, as close as skin. And, somehow in the quietness of closeness, my heart falls in love and attaches more and more. I begin to see her perspective, to empathize with her fears.

Getting close does something to our hearts. Jesus knew that when He led the way, crossing the distance between heaven and earth. In doing so, He calls us to move intentionally into the lives of souls around us. He calls us to engage with people outside our immediate reach and to love well. In the serving, the hand-shaking, the back-patting, the hugging, and the holding, we are finally close enough to be transformed and for our hearts to be tenderized to love.

But this kind of up-close love isn’t always aglow with smiles or hash-tagged with sweet sentiments. This love originates in trenches and dusty stables. It’s stained with blood and shaped like a cross. It calls us to open wide our arms, exposing our unprotected hearts, and to remain suspended when logic and reason demand we move on and close up our hearts forever. Staying close takes commitment when there are no feelings because it’s an intentional choice to be available, to continue holding and loving and hugging no matter what.

Truth is, incarnational loving requires us to remain close enough to feel hearts beating and breaking — and for some of the breaking to be our own.

This post by my friend Gwen Shipley over at Bride Not Wife with How to ruin an imperfectly good Christmas...
Every year about this time the phone rings and I answer it to the dreaded question, “Mom, what do you want for Christmas?” Don’t get me wrong. I could whip out a gimme list as quickly as any human with self-centered tendencies. But underneath my inability to answer is another, more desperate want.

I don’t want much
I don’t want much: just the perfect Christmas. The Currier and Ives type. (Does anyone even know what that is any more? ) The used-to-be-Hallmark one. (Seems maybe that definition has changed, too.) I want the one I experienced before life happened–with the original Chipmunks singing, “…Me I want a huuula hoooop…” When Christmas pageants consisted of live music and everyone got hard ribbon candy, unwrapped and in brown paper bags after the program on Sunday morning. When Mom did all the cooking and I was oblivious to what it took to gather everyone. In other words, the one before I was in charge. THAT perfect one. In fact, I demand it–which is the way to ruin an imperfectly good Christmas.

Just perfection
Somewhere along the line I was supposed to have grown up. Things certainly grew up around me, but the piece of me that demands perfection was slow to catch on. What do I want for Christmas? No conflict. No tension. Zero disappointment. Forget the difficulty of negotiation. I don’t want to wear big girl panties. I want everything that’s hard done for me.

Giving it up
Oh, I don’t mean the meals. I can do that. I don’t even mean the housecleaning, decorating or shopping. I can do that too (though I am accepting my grandson’s offer of help). I mean the hard inner work that no one sees–the letting go of expectations that I may not even know I have. Usually it shows up later if some effort of mine inadvertently goes unrecognized. Or it appears in the disappointment I feel when my limitations are not acknowledged or intentions are misunderstood (my special Achilles heel). You can probably name your own pet vulnerability. In other words, what I’m saying is that in my infantile state, I apparently want nothing to do with real life!  As a grown-up though, I want to be able to love across offenses, to forgive my way–our way–to freedom. I want to embrace our family’s imperfectly good Christmases!”  

* This one by Aliza Latta with Church on a Concrete Floor...
"Jesus meets us anywhere — of this I am certain. In Peru I have encountered him in a variety of surprising settings, which keeps making me smile because I think Jesus likes to see different places. I do too. I’ve met him at a cacao plantation, at Machu Picchu, and most recently on a concrete floor attached to the kitchen. 

A strike is in full force here. It’s been this way for a week, but I’m assuming by the time I post this it will have been longer. We have stayed inside the house to keep safe. This experience has taught me things I never would have realized. I am not nervous about our safety. I am surprisingly confident. I believe God will keep us protected and safe.

On Sunday we couldn’t go to church because of the riot, so instead we decided to have some worship on our own. There are eight of us, but we invited the housekeeper and groundskeeper who are married and live here with us, along with their three kids. When we entered the room on Sunday morning, instead of the thirteen of us I thought would be present, there were twenty-five people. I started to laugh. Word had spread and there we were, our own tiny congregation.

We didn’t have to go to church — the church was already there. People who love Jesus were gathering together, and the church was right there with us, unfolding on a concrete floor in the jungle..."

* This post by Jennifer Dukes Lee with Six steps to a guilt-free Christmas...
"When Christmas morning arrived, I wasn’t weary. But I felt like I had missed something. And I was right. In my well-intentioned effort to celebrate the “Reason for the Season,” I had excised important pieces of our family’s celebration.

And once again, I felt as if I did Christmas all wrong.

I needed to find balance, and the next year I did. We began to celebrate Christmas in a way that spotlighted the Star of the story, but didn’t cut out the fun parts we all enjoyed.

You might be reading this today thinking that you’re doing Christmas all wrong.
You’re wondering if you’ve over-done it—or under-done it.

Maybe you are the woman who is a decorator at heart. You love to deck the halls, Pinterest-style—but your friends roll their eyes and call you “over-the-top.” You’re left second-guessing your Christmas.

Or, maybe you’re the woman who forgot to bring the juice to the third-grade Christmas party and had to wrap all the family presents in leftover gift bags from the baby shower. Your Christmas lights are always tangled up, and so are your insides.

Come Christmas morning, we can all feel a little bit weary—like we missed it. We believe falsely that “we’ve done it all wrong.”

Friend, lean in close, and listen. Let this Christmas be a new kind of Christmas. Let’s be done with the high expectations and self-accusations. Let’s make a declaration: To live a Guilt-Free, PreApproved Christmas."

* This one from right HERE with Tis the Season (and other expectations!)
"Tis the season to be jolly...fa la la la la, la la la la"
But here's the thing:
What if you're not? 

What if you are not feeling jolly?  What if you just can't muster up some Christmas cheer?  What if the deadlines and the headlines and the shopping lines all have you standing on your last nerve and what you really feel is anything but jolly? Anything but fa la la la la... what then?

I am well aware that I live a fairly charmed life. 

I am blessed and thankful and my disposition is one that leans more toward joy and jolly than it does toward depression and darkness... but this world we live in surrounds us on all sides and it pushes in tight.  Even if we somehow escape it, those we love feel that downward pull and the holidays seem to trigger so many open doors that the enemy just walks right in as if he was invited to the party.

I am learning the balance between slowing and giving in to the sadness and longing of Advent, and leaning in to the joy of the fact that He came... He is here, and He is coming again! "

Lastly, we close This Thing up with a video each week and sometimes it is funny and sometimes it is worship...
This time --well, this time it's a worship video from Bethel.  

I was thinking of a Christmas song, because of course - but whenever Steffany Frizzell gives way to spontaneous worship... well - every. single. time. she wins... and when she confirms what I have been hearing too - well - bonus! He's coming for you!

Settle in, friends!

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