Nativity and Children

#inspiration, #nativity set, #Jesus, #ChristmasOne of my most treasured possessions is a nativity set that my brother lovingly hand carved for my mom about twenty-five years ago. It always held a place of honour in her home and now that she is no longer with us, the gift was passed on to me.

Since it is made of wood, there has never been a problem with children moving the pieces around. Everyone can enjoy this nativity. Thinking of this brought to mind a story I heard several years ago that I want to share with you today.

In order to save the beautiful ceramic nativity set from the grasping, sticky fingers of her young daughter, Linda crafted a play grouping of burlap, canvas and yarn. Five-year-old Elizabeth would spend hours rearranging the pieces and acting out the Christmas story. Mother would quietly laugh to herself when she heard Elizabeth inevitably say, “Hey, Jesus mother, can I hold your baby?”

Mother couldn’t picture the work-roughened hands of a shepherd cuddling an infant. But it made perfect sense to little Elizabeth; if these people were going to make a trip to see a baby, they wouldn’t want to leave without holding it.

Think about it. She really isn’t that far off. When you see a baby it’s only natural to admire it or comment on how cute it is. But, if you actually pick up that baby, a phenomenon takes place. Somehow, holding that child, gazing into those wide eyes and connecting with that uniquely God-given personality – that baby gets into your heart!

Don’t you think the shepherds were drawn in the same way to embrace the Infant of Bethlehem and experience the miracle of His love in their hearts that first Christmas?

This year, as you make your journey to the stable in Bethlehem, don’t just gaze on the Child in the manger and turn away unchanged. Embrace the Baby Jesus, the pure light of God’s love, and let Him shine in your hearts and make your lives new.

Don’t leave without holding the baby.

Children’s Christmas Concerts

#Christmas, #inspiration, #Jesus,#GodMy favourite Christmas concerts are the ones put on by children. They have several things in common with the first Christmas – music, drama, God, and the element of surprise! You never know quite what to expect at a children’s performance. I think the mistakes in the program provide some of the most memorable moments.

The Christmas I was six years old, I was given a major role in the school concert. I was to recite T’was the Night Before Christmas. My mother helped me memorize the poem. By the day of the concert I had it word perfect. That is, until I stepped up on the stage in front of an audience!

Part way through, I forgot my next line. I paused and then started again, unaware that I was repeating a previous line. Suddenly my three-year-old brother yelled out from the audience, “You already said that part!” My mother was embarrassed at his outburst, I was embarrassed by my mistake and my little brother stole the show!

Now I can look back and realize that mistakes actually help teach us the real meaning of Christmas. They allow us to see that true joy comes from being loved by God, no matter how many mistakes we make. That’s what God’s love was telling us more than 2,000 years ago with the arrival of Jesus. He’s still telling us that today.

His love is there when we follow the script and when we get mixed up. He’s there cheering us on, just like the loving parents watching their children in the concerts. When we make a mistake, he picks us up and encourages us to try again. He delights in our enthusiasm and rejoices with us in our accomplishments. His unconditional love always meets us exactly where we are.

Not only at Christmas but throughout the year, I want to be like a little child, basking in the love of my Heavenly Father.

Rebellious Children

#inspiration, #God,  attention, rebellionMy husband and I were attending a church service when we heard the cry of a child. The fussing became muffled but didn’t stop.

A few minutes later we could hear the child being removed from the sanctuary. That is when things intensified. Not only did the crying get louder, but a little voice also started yelling, “No daddy. I don’t want to go out.” The wailing and pleading continued as the father moved to exit the building with his distraught child.

Later, upon reflection, I recognized that I have shown the same type of behaviour with my heavenly Father. When I choose not to behave the way God wants me to, I am being rebellious. I fuss and complain because I’m not getting my own way.

God may choose to remove me from the situation but that’s not what I want. Instead, my desire is for things to change to accommodate me. I let it be known that I want to stay where I am. In essence, I’m also saying, “No daddy, I don’t want to go. Let me stay here.”

In this state, there is no reasoning with me until God has my full attention. If I’m not focused on Him, I’m not hearing or understanding what He wants me to know.

God is not surprised when I act this way. Although this behaviour seems to be an inherent part of human nature, it doesn’t mean any of us are given permission to act as rebellious children.

It is only when I am still, quiet and completely focused on the Lord that my rebellious thoughts will be captured and I will no longer act like an unruly child.

“We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT)

Lighting the Way

#Inspiration, #Jesus, shine, comfortThe decision was not easy. Two of our nine-year-old granddaughters wanted to spend the night in our camper van. The dilemma came when they told me they could sleep there without me. I didn’t like this idea at all. Who would protect them or comfort them if they became afraid?

We were in a gated, secure family RV park and my husband and I would be mere steps away in our trailer. Somehow this didn’t make me feel any better.

I turned to the girl’s parents for guidance. Truthfully, I was willing to let them be the bad guys who said no. They had no concerns so reluctantly I agreed.

One of the first things I did was to ensure they could open the door to get out of the van on their own. No problem there. I must have forgotten they are nine and not two!

When the girls were tucked in for the night, we let them know the lights on the outside of the van and the trailer would be left on. That way they could easily find their way to us in the dark of night.

A light in the dark brings comfort. That is why Jesus told his followers to let their lights shine before others. We can do this by walking with God and letting His Spirit shine through us.

In this way we are able to shine a comforting, joyful light to people we come in contact with. And, as I learned with my granddaughter’s camping experience, a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)

Mother’s Day Musings

Mother's Day, children, grandchildren, mothers, treasuresMother’s Day has come and gone for another year. How did you celebrate it? It is about so much more than flowers, meals out or extravagant gifts. As a mother, these were not my focus.

Instead, I spent time remembering and appreciating my mom. She went to be with Jesus nineteen years ago and I still miss her. I am aware not everyone had a mother who loved them unconditionally and was their biggest supporter. I am grateful for mine and thank the Lord on a regular basis for my upbringing.

I also celebrated the privilege of being a mother. Among other things, my children have taught me patience and how fierce and protective love can be. They are an incredible gift and have helped mould me into the woman I am today. Again, I thank the Lord daily for my family.

Being a grandmother is another reason to rejoice. The only way I can describe the relationship with my grandchildren is to say it is a whole new level of love. I willingly accept the challenge to support each of their unique personalities in the way they need. My grandchildren are the treasures who make my life rich.

Mothers play an important role but so do many other nurturing women who are not called mom. I see many women loving and supporting children who are not their own. They also deserve to be celebrated on an ongoing basis.

To all the mothers, step-mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers, aunts, teachers and loving friends, may God bless you richly for the role you play in building up the next generation. Who you are and what you do makes a difference.

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25 NIV)

Yaaaaaah!

#inspiration, life, joy, happinessAfter what seemed like the winter that wouldn’t end, we are finally experiencing spring weather. The snow has melted in all but a few sheltered spots and the sunshine and warmer temperatures are drawing people out of their houses.

My husband and I decided to take advantage of this and go for a walk. We didn’t get far before we heard the voice of a child shouting, “Yaaaaaah!” over and over. This young boy was on a bicycle with training wheels and was peddling up and down the sidewalk, shouting with glee. We couldn’t help but be happy along with him.

Children weren’t the only ones wanting to express their delight on such a beautiful day. Judging by the smiles and friendly greetings, I’m guessing a lot of adults also felt like shouting for joy. The question is how often do we actually give voice to these thoughts and feelings?

If you’re anything like me, it doesn’t seem appropriate to make loud noises, even joyful ones. I wouldn’t want to cause a scene.

What if this is faulty thinking? Maybe our exuberance will cause others to feel free to express their delight. Wouldn’t it be amazing to start a ripple effect of happiness?

I’ve heard it said that laughter is the best medicine. So, go ahead and laugh, cheer and skip down the street. Have fun instead of being serious. Don’t worry about what others might think. You never know who may decide to join you!

“Life is too important to be taken seriously.” Oscar Wilde

Safety Zone

#inspiration, #God, #prayer,rest, renewal As a child, I loved to play outside with my friends. One of our favourite games was tag.

I would run and dodge, doing my best not to get caught. If tagged, I would become ‘it’ and have to chase the others until I got close enough to ‘catch’ someone.

It’s been a long time but I can still remember getting tired and needing a quick break to catch my breath. The only way to do this was to run to the willow tree in the front yard and have one hand touching the trunk. This was the designated safety zone.

The rules said I could only stop here for a few seconds, but that was enough to take some deep breaths in preparation for more running.

All these years later, I no longer play tag, but can still find myself running around and in need of a safe place to pause and regain my strength. Where can I find the renewal so badly needed?

My safety zone is found in the quiet time I spend with God. Rules of time don’t apply here. He provides me with what I need whether I ask a quick prayer for wisdom or spend extended time basking in his presence. However, the more time I spend with him, the more I find the rest, guidance and encouragement needed to step back into the race of life.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)

Playing Dirty

inspiration, play, fun, joyWe saw them as we were walking along the beach. Three children had dug a hole in the wet sand and were now sitting in it, slathering themselves with mud.

Brian and I remarked on their obvious joy. A woman was standing nearby watching and I said, “They sure are having fun.” Her disapproval was obvious when she replied, “They’re so dirty. I’m glad they’re not my kids.”

This seemed such a sad statement. Their play was not a disturbance to those around them. We actually gained pleasure by just watching their fun. They were busy enjoying their mud baths, oblivious to the opinions of those around them. It was the children and not the adult who had the right idea.

I looked back to see one boy run into the lake, wash off and then return to his friends to paint arms and legs with mud once again.

Oh, to be like a child, free to ignore what other may think and just have fun. Sometimes I need to relax and not concern myself with maintaining a spotless image. It’s ok if my hands get dirty or I get mud on my face. There may be people who disapprove but there just may be more who want to enter the fun with me.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Which Face Do You See?

Three young girls spent time with us recently. At some point during the day each did something silly and wanted their picture taken. Looking at the pictures later, I saw that each was a representation of the faces I show to the world.

Inspiration, facesMiss H. appeared before me in disguise. She wore a bright red wig, flashing glasses and other costume items. We laughed at how funny she looked but I was reminded of the times I’ve gone out of my way to hide who I was. In an attempt to mask my insecurity, I have disguised who I really am. This gets uncomfortable and can’t be maintained.

#inspiration, facesMiss S. said, “Look at me” as she sucked on a lemon. Although she made a face and removed it from her mouth, she soon put right back in there again. I wondered how often I look like I’ve been sucking on a lemon. Do I acknowledge what is unpleasant and then keep revisiting what it is that gives me a sour face?

#inspiration, faces, Miss K. was photographed smiling, dancing and being her joyful self. She was totally comfortable with who she was and radiated happiness. I aspire to me more like this; free to embrace life without concern of what others may be thinking.

So, which face do I show you? I can hide behind a disguise and not let you see who I really am. I can choose bitterness or I can look for the positive and choose happiness. Thanks to the visual my granddaughters expressed, the choice is obvious!

Face.— The silent echo of the heart. ~”Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, For the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words,” The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824

I Hear the Ice Cream Truck!

#inspiration, #Jesus, refreshmentOne of the signs of summer is the distinctive music of an ice cream truck as it slowly winds its way through the neighbourhoods. The sound can be heard several blocks away which gives children a chance to race to their parents and beg for money to pay for a treat.

I don’t know of another sound in the summer that brings people running. Thoughts of enjoying ice cream treats delivered right to your neighbourhood, are enough to send many searching for their wallets!

Even if I don’t want to indulge in the offerings, the music brings pleasant memories of summers past, when I had young children excited to hear the sound of the ice cream truck approaching. If they were fast enough, they could wait at the end of the driveway and the truck would stop. If not, they would need to chase it down the street and maybe wait in line for their favourite treat.

Most of the offerings from the ice cream truck are available at local stores but people are still willing to pay a premium price to the ice cream man. There must be something in the simple melody the truck plays that draws people in.

I think of this attraction and wonder how many people are drawn to Jesus in the same excited way. The bounties he brings are too numerous to be listed on the side of a truck. There is no premium price involved; no need to chase him down the street, money in hand.

When I’m open to what Jesus has to offer, he delivers directly to me, no lineups involved. And, best of all, there’s no need to wait for summer to receive the refreshment he brings.

Every good present and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who made the sun, moon, and stars. (James 1:17 GWT)