Stalking behind the hope of each New Year can be haunted past hurts, griefs and disappointments from the year behind us. Continue reading “The Sinking Sand Mystery”
I was malled today. Yes malled, not mauled.
I went to the mall to shop. Well, not so much to shop as to walk around. I went early to beat the Christmas crowds, but it didn’t take long for almost everyone from three counties to join me.
I’m not a shopper by nature, so this was my first trip to the mall this season. In fact, it’s been awhile since my last visit. It surprised me to see our mall no longer had a Williams-Sonoma. Many stores I remembered were gone.
My leisurely walk turned into a fight to see which kiosk employee would be first to smear lotion on me, curl my hair, or put a hat on me. One guy grabbed my hand and started to buff my nails before I could say no. He didn’t like the fact I had a nail kit of my own, already stocked with a nail buffer.
I took refuge in one of the luxury stores. You know, the three-level stores at the farthest end of a mall. Don’t ask the name, I didn’t look. I can tell you that at one time it was a Nordstrom.
With no crowd in the store, I could linger over items I would never pay that price for—not even at Christmas.
Live Christmas music flowed from a piano on the lower floor. Not canned music pumped through a sound system, but gentle Christmas carols that encouraged me to hum along.
I hummed my way through the petite department, past the section of over embellished, yet elegant, party dresses. While strolling down the center aisle, I came to a dead stop when I realized the piano was not longer playing a carol, but an old chorus we sang at church years ago.
“Give thanks with a grateful heart.
Give thanks to the Holy One.
Give thanks because He’s given
Jesus Christ His son.”
Surprised to hear the old song, I stepped to the railing and peered down to the first floor. An older African American woman sat at the piano with her eyes closed, playing with such an anointing. All I could do was watch and listen.
She looked up, and in the moment our eyes met, we felt it—the bond of two sisters in Christ. We were family.
We smiled at each other. I nodded and waved my hand in thanks to her for sharing her gift.
As I continued on, she transitioned into another old chorus from years ago.
“Oh how He loves you and me.
Oh how He loves you and me.
He gave His life, what more could He give?
Oh how He loves you. Oh how He loves me.
Oh how He loves you and me.”
This precious woman will never know I was desperate for that connection, but God knew. Her smile and anointed playing became Jesus to me.
This Christmas I pose a challenge to you. Don’t be cruel, be kind. Reach out and be Jesus to someone.
That person behind you in line for coffee may look fine, but their smile may hide the fact their life has shattered around them. Be Jesus.
You may never know what one small kindness may mean to someone who is hurting. This Christmas, be His hands. Be His feet. Be Jesus to someone.
Every year, the week after Thanksgiving, I start the same routine. Although there’s no need, it’s marked it on my calendar.
This year was different. You know, life happens. Destruction, mayhem, chaos. Call it whatever you wish, the result was the same; I didn’t put up the Christmas tree.
A week crept by and still no glorious, festive, glowing fake tree in the corner. No angel forever frozen in mid “Gloria” peering down on our bright faces. I decided it might not be worth the trouble this year.
Until the next morning.
I awoke to find my son had moved all the furniture in our living room. It takes rearranging to create my joyful holiday concept each year. His attempt to persuade almost moved me.
A few days later, I awoke again. (Yay!) On this day, I rose to find our tree, and all needed Christmas adornment had appeared upstairs, placed in front of the fireplace. They sat waiting for me to get to work. It was a mystery! (Not really)
He was determined.
It got me thinking, “Just who started this Christmas tree thing, anyway?” So, I researched and learned a few things:
- The origin of the Christmas tree began in Germany in the 16th century. Christians from Northern Germany performed mystery plays that featured an evergreen tree called a “paradise tree” decorated with apples. They plucked one apple, depicting Adam and Eve.
- Puritans celebrated Christmas with mass, but having decorations could be punishable by death. (That’s a game changer!)
- Many American colonists saw the Christmas tree as a pagan symbol.
- If you B-R-O-A-D-E-N your thinking, you could say a Christmas tree helped George Washington and the Continental Army defeat the German Hessians (who fought for the British) in 1776. Washington and his troops crossed the Delaware River into Trenton, NJ on December 24-25. While the Hessians celebrated Christmas with eating and drinking, singing and decorating trees, they made themselves an easy target for Washington’s surprise attack.
- It wouldn’t be until the 1830s that Americans first displayed Christmas trees in the United States although German settlers had displayed Christmas trees since the 1700s.
- Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, gets credit for being the first to put candles on Christmas trees.
Having a Christmas tree is more modern than earlier pagan use of evergreen. Don’t confuse the use of Christmas trees with the pagan use of evergreens for decorations, or the Egyptians and Romans use in Winter Solstice celebrations.
Christmas trees have come a long way from their origin in mystery plays to the prominence they enjoy today. Still, I don’t know… to tree, or not to tree?
So did I, or didn’t I?
I’m a mom…of course I did!
Sometimes life falls apart. Completely. Falls. Apart.
Real life can come hard and fast. It becomes difficult to keep up with change, stress and loss—the shock as things pile one on top of the other.
Then comes that one thing that makes life stop. Literally stop. It’s earth shattering, heartbreaking. All the things that were important become nothing. Everything becomes nothing.
Raging fire surrounds. We can’t move forward or backward. We’re just plain stuck. What do we do when we’re stranded?
Go back to the basics.
1. Get into God’s Word
It may have been awhile, but dust it off, crack it open and get into that old Bible that’s been up on the shelf.
My pastor calls God’s word “the only change agent on the planet”. Within its pages, God has given us the words we need for healing, for strength, for empowerment. He gives us direction and hope in every situation.
“This is my comfort in my affliction, for Your word has given me life.”
~Psalms 119: 50
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
~Psalm 119: 105
2. Let The Music Play
“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” ~Victor Hugo
Turn off that television! Yes, I know it helps shut down the mind and keeps depressing thoughts at bay. But instead of mindless drivel, let’s fill our hearts and minds with music—worship music.
Let the Holy Spirit invade with His presence. Worship and God will take us to that place where we can find Him. Where God will touch us and our situation. God will energize us and our thoughts. As His Holy Spirit covers us, here is where we find hope. Here is where our faith will grow. In this place chains are broken.
“And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.”
~1 Samuel 16: 23
3. Find our tribe
Reach out. We must find our people and let them help! God has embedded these people into our lives for a reason. They will hold us up when we can’t hold ourselves.
I’m a loner, so this one was a challenge for me. But I did it, and you know what? My tribe was there, and they WANTED to help me. To love on me and pray for me and with me.
Our people. FIND OUR PEOPLE!
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”
~ Galatians 6: 2
I put this last on the list for sheer emphasis. These gut retching, heartbreaking, life-altering things will slap us silly and knock us face down on the floor. These situations drive us to our knees. Perhaps that’s what they’re meant to do.
Like it or not, these are the situations we have no control over. We can’t pick them up like a puppy chewing on the furniture and say, “No! Bad boy!” then give them something else to play with. We can’t change things that easy, this isn’t kid stuff.
Our only remedy is prayer. The old saying is still true to this day, prayer changes things.
When we fall to our knees in prayer over a situation, we enter the arena of battle. We are now on the front line. What we cannot do in the physical, God can and will do in the spiritual. As followers of Christ, we know this is where every battle is won.
We must become prayer warriors. It will be on this battlefield that strongholds are broken and walls fall. So get down into that trench solider and PRAY!
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”
~2 Corinthians 10: 4
Life can break us. Those we love the most can wound us. Get back to the basics. God is there, and He is our way out.
I know you only want to cry. To let numbness envelope you in a deep, blinding fog. A fog that wraps you tight, lest your heart shatters. You want to scream into the darkness. You despise the darkness.
“JUST LEAVE ME ALONE,” I hear you demand. “Leave me alone.”
But sleep must force itself into your grief my child.
You don’t want sleep. I know. But it must come. It will assault your dreams with flashes you don’t want to see. Joy you aren’t ready to feel or remember.
That face. That precious face.
Sleep will release your tired body from its inevitable grasp, and for a moment…a mere moment, you will feel bliss. Bliss before the pain awakes. Bliss before reality.
Sleep will beckon again…remember, remember. Come, come see her here. I will show you her face. Yes, it will hurt for a time. Yes, you will hate me for a little while.
Then the night will fall when I take you into slumber and remind you once again of the gift she was to your life. But in this time you will embrace the remembering, you will long for it. And my peace will blanket you.
Close your eyes my weary child and rest in Me. I have her…right here in my arms. Strong arms, loving arms.
Close your eyes. She will run to you in your dreams. I promise you will remember with joy. Your dreams will overflow with the fullness that the gift of her brought to your life.
Close your eyes and sleep, for joy comes in the morning. My joy always comes in the morning.
Close your eyes and sleep my child. I have her.
Dreams are silly, wonderful, surreal things, aren’t they? Dreams wrap us in meadows of bubblegum flowers beside streams flowing with chocolate. They put us into intergalactic transports or walking with giants. Maybe the guy from the vegetable market will join the family for Christmas dinner, where your mom and sister-in-law are wearing hats after arriving home from the royal wedding. We wake from horror-filled nightmares with bloodcurdling screams.
Or, maybe we kick our husband. (Sorry babe, my dream made me do it!)
At one time, tornadoes awaited me beyond the border of my REM stage every night. If you put stock in dream analysis, tornadoes mean what you expect: havoc, self-destruction, turmoil and danger. It was a difficult time in my life.
Once after taking melatonin, I had such an intense realistic dream; I went days with the feeling my close friends had robbed a bank and were in prison. It was so real I reminded myself it was only a dream throughout the week. I’ve never taken melatonin again.
Everyone has off-the-wall dreams. We wake asking, “Where did that come from?”
Sometimes dreams are subconscious longings that bring moments of joy we carry in our hearts throughout the day, and perhaps longer.
I recently had such a dream. A friend of mine called it a God hug. Perfect! A God hug. A dream about my Ty Beau.
Ty Beau was an exquisite seven pound Pomeranian. Ty was my heart-dog. He was handsome, intelligent and behaved. We were a team, competing together in Rally Obedience competitions. He was top notch—regal some have said.
I lost my Ty Beau on February 6, 2015, when he was five years old to complications stemming from an autoimmune disease—IMHA. (See previous post: https://cozyintrigue.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/the-mystery-of-the-killer-letters/)
Ty was a great hugger. I know, I know—he was a dog, dogs don’t hug. But I stand by my statement, he was a GREAT hugger. There aren’t enough words for how much I loved my little man’s hugs. I miss him, and his hugs, every day.
I can’t recall much about the dream. Ty was back with us, and he was playing chase with his sister again. I felt such happiness. Such contentment.
I remember with vivid clarity that in the moment of my waking from the dream I was hugging my Ty Beau. I felt the hug. I felt joy. I’ve dreamed about Ty many times since he passed, but I always felt sadness and pain when I awoke.
This dream left me with happiness. For the first time after a dream about Ty, I awoke with a smile on my face. How I miss my little man.
A God hug. Yes, please!
Have you ever had such a realistic dream?
Sometimes I need a talking donkey.
The story of Balaam is fascinating and mysterious. He was a man who knew God and had seen His mighty hand at work. God spoke to Balaam. But—Balaam messed up.
I can’t be too hard on Balaam, I mean, I’ve messed up a few things myself.
Balaam had a lucrative gift, he could bless or he could curse. When the king of Moab had a problem, he called on Balaam to curse his problem. The king promised money and great honor.
Balaam had a sweet job lined up—if God gave the okay.
God did not give the okay and Balaam sent the king’s men back to Moab.
The king sent an entourage a second time to plead with Balaam to come. And again, Balaam waited for God to speak.
And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men come to call you, rise and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you—that you shall do.”
Great! It was a go…or was it?
The next morning Balaam got up, saddled his donkey, and went to the men from Moab. Things would not go as planned.
The Lord had not told Balaam to go. He told Balaam IF the men CAME for him, then he could go, but say only what the Lord instructed him. I think this was a case of putting the cart before the horse…or the donkey.
Balaam was eager for the money and honor promised him. He ignored the prerequisite God had laid out for his going and couldn’t get that donkey saddled quick enough.
God did not take that lightly. The Angel of the Lord went ahead of Balaam and stood in the road with his sword drawn to oppose him. But Balaam’s mind was on the profit awaiting him and he didn’t see the Angel. But the donkey did, and she turned away and walked into a field.
Now, anyone who knows me knows how much I love animals. So I get a little upset with Balaam here. He beat his donkey to get her back on the road.
The Angel of the Lord moved further ahead to a narrow passage between the vineyards with a wall on either side. Again Balaam’s donkey saw the angel, but I assume she didn’t want to be beat again. She tried to pass by the angel, but crushed Balaam’s foot against the wall. That poor little donkey couldn’t win, and once more, Balaam beat her.
For a third time the Angel moved ahead to a passage so narrow there was no way for the donkey to move to the left or to the right. Can you imagine her frustration? She’s already tried twice to keep this guy from the sword of the Lord, and all he does is beat her!
As I read this story, in my mind I’m thinking for the donkey, “Okay dude, I tried, you’re on your own. I’m going to lie down right where I am.”
And that’s just what she did. Balaam’s anger was so provoked he beat the donkey with his staff.
Here’s where the story gets fun.
Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” Numbers 22:28
In his anger Balaam said to the donkey:
“Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!” Numbers 22:29
I have to stop for a moment. As my son and I read this scripture, when we reached this point he said, “Whoa! Balaam just talks back to the donkey? No pause for surprise? No shock that the donkey is talking? Just, hey donkey I could kill you”?
Who wouldn’t be aghast? If I heard a donkey talk, I think I would at least have a moment of bewilderment. But, on with the story.
Balaam’s donkey answered him:
“…Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?” Numbers 22:30
Bless her heart. Balaam had only one word for her:
“No.” Numbers 22:30
At the moment of Balaam’s self-awareness, God opened his eyes. He saw the Angel of the Lord and fell face-down. Then the angel said:
“Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before me. The donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” Numbers 22:32,33
The donkey gets justice!
Balaam moved forward independent of God’s direction. It took a talking donkey to wake him from his own ambition. He confessed his sin and repented.
Sound familiar? Many times in my life I’ve stepped ahead of God only to step into a mess. Waiting for God is difficult. It’s easy to talk myself into moving ahead of Him. I tell myself that He’s left me behind and get caught up in the pace of my own madness.
A talking donkey. Yes Lord, sometimes I need a talking donkey.
Have you ever gotten ahead of God?