Saturday, January 19, 2019

To my fellow cleverly disguised missionaries

        A little follow-up to my last blog (because clearly God has quite the sense of humor)--
     
        So, after writing that last blog, boy, I was fired up and ready to dig in and get to work on the lecture and that mountain of laundry.  Yes sir, here we go...
  ...and then, later that afternoon, God in His infinite wisdom and mercy, gave me a terrible stomach bug!  Out of the blue.  And can I just say for the record: stomach bugs are the absolute pits.         

Now, at the time I didn’t exactly view it as a gift from Him, but I do now.  I felt really crummy for several days, but I realized two things.  One is that once again I had taken for granted the incredible gift of good health and of simply waking up and feeling good.

How could I?  My sweet sister-in-law, who went home to be with the Lord in early December after her brief battle with cancer, had said repeatedly, “I can’t believe I took for granted how great it was to wake up and feel good.”  For several months after that, I would awaken and feel overwhelming gratitude for that gift of health…but somehow, by the time January rolled around and the to-list grew long, I had forgotten.

And that’s the thing—we’re all good forgetters, aren’t we?  God teaches us something, and we think we’ll never forget that lesson…but before you know it, we’ve forgotten all about it and fallen back into a bad way of thinking and acting.  We hear or read a Scripture that resonates deeply within us, and we know is God speaking to us in that moment…but then time marches on, and we quickly forget.

That’s why we have to be reminded of things we once knew, but we’ve forgotten!  That’s why we have to get into God’s Word everyday!  Yesterday’s mana from His Word won’t sustain us today, just as yesterday’s meal won’t give us energy today.  No, we need to eat physical food today if we want to have the strength to do all we’ve got before us today. And we’ve got to get God’s spiritual food into us today if we want to have the wisdom, the love, the energy, the patience, the joy, the hope that we need for today's burdens and challenges.

And the second thing I learned—or I should say RE-learned—from the stomach bug is that it’s not us doing whatever we’re called to do, it’s Almighty God!  Anytime we start thinking to ourselves, “How can I do all this?” or “What can I do about this?”  or “Why am I having to do all this?” we’ve totally missed the boat!  We need to be reminded daily that it’s not us, but Him!  It’s not us trying to love or forgive the people God’s put in our lives—it’s Him doing it through us.  It’s not us running errands or volunteering at our child’s school or working at that office—it’s Him doing it through us.

If you’ve asked Jesus to be your Savior, then He lives within you, empowering and enabling you for everything He’s put before you today.  Yes, yes, you’re thinking, I know that.  But seriously, don’t you need to be reminded?  Because here’s the remarkable thing—you are God’s missionary.  No maybe you’re not a missionary being sent to a faraway country right now, but wherever you go, whatever you do, whoever you talk to today, you’re His missionary.

 Here’s how pastor, author, and teacher J.R. Briggs explains it: “The King is looking for subjects to join His Kingdom in His mission, and He invites you to join with Him.  You’re His missionary cleverly disguised as” a homemaker, lawyer, teacher, mother.  Briggs shares a story about a woman from his church named Jess who really caught this vision and began to see her mission field as the hair salon where she worked.  So one day, she knelt down in front of the whole church, and they commissioned her to be a missionary at that hair salon.  With that, others in the church realized the same thing, and they wanted to be commissioned too!  One was a missionary cleverly disguised as a public middle school teacher.  Another was a missionary cleverly disguised as an accountant and so forth.

If you’re a believer, then you, too, are a cleverly disguised missionary!   Perhaps God's plan for you is to go as His missionary to some faraway land to share the good news of the gospel. That may or may not be God's specific calling on your life.  But this I know for sure--for every single one of us, today, right now, He has called you to be His missionary right where you!

When you walk into Target, you’re His cleverly disguised missionary to that exhausted clerk.  When you’re at home, you’re His cleverly disguised missionary to all those little eternal souls that reside within your home or to your spouse or to anyone who comes to visit.  When you go to work, you’re His cleverly disguised missionary to your fellow workers and customers.

God has sent you—specifically you—to be His missionary wherever you go today and whatever you’re doing! And not only that, but He's the One—through His indwelling Holy Spirit—who will fill you and enable you to be that loving, wise, joyful, and faithful missionary!

 Today, you are sent as His cleverly disguised missionary...who will you love with the love of Christ?  Who will you encourage with His encouragement?  To whom will you show grace and forgiveness even if you don't feel like it or they don't "deserve" it? (and who among us ever deserves it?!  Aren't you thankful Jesus didn't hold us to that impossible standard?)

So fellow cleverly disguised missionaries, let's go out there today and be His salt and light in the world.  He's sent us, He goes with us, and He will shine through us.  And no darkness can ever overcome the Light of the World.   To God be the glory.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Laundry and lecture...and the LORD!

        So this is a tiny glimpse of what "overwhelmed" looks like...as in a MOUNTAIN of laundry to be folded and put away.  And this picture doesn't begin to do it justice--the pile goes all the way back across our queen size bed.  And there are three--yes three--more giant loads in various stages of washing, drying, or still filthy dirty that are sitting in our laundry room. 
        Now lest you opine that I'm the worst homemaker in the history of the cosmos, let me explain.  We realized on the evening of December 23rd that our dryer was spinning and spinning but nothing was drying.  All the children were home.  All of them were exercising (to work off all the holiday treats).  And the girls wore all my clothes so that they wouldn't have to worry about taking back any dirty laundry to Charlotte.  Normally a perfectly fine idea...EXCEPT WHEN YOUR DRYER IS BROKEN!
        Christmas eve saw a teeming proliferation of dirty clothes.  Then we left in the wee early morning hours of December 26th to take a family trip.  Then, oh joy, we returned home and piled on all our yucky, smelly clothes from six days away.  And can I just note that at least one of our children believes that if he even ponders wearing an article of clothing--even if it never actually graces his body--it should absolutely be considered filthy and in need of washing. 
         Oh, and did I mention that no one could come repair said dryer until today--January 3rd, 2019?  Yes, by today our house looked a bit like NYC in the midst of a summer garbage-worker strike where all that trash accumulates in ginormous piles along the streets. 
          Now here's the semi-happy ending: the dryer has now been repaired! Hooray!  And I've been reminded once again of all the terribly ordinary things in life that I should be grateful for but that I always take for granted...things like hot water, ovens, working eyes and feet and hands and ears, the postman, refrigerators, tea kettles, laughter, quietness, singing...and yes, duh, clothes dryers.  Thank You, Lord, for dryers! 
           But right about now, I'm contemplating that Mount Everest of laundry to fold, and I just want to sit down, eat a large piece of chocolate cake, and read an entertaining book.  Instead, I need to--and here comes the second thing that has me a bit overwhelmed--
...work on a lecture for Bible study.  Well ,actually, I need to first work on some semblance of an outline for a potential lecture...but before that I need to pray and ponder over even a seed of an idea to form the basis for some kind of potential outline...You get my drift?  We're talking yours truly has an impossibly loooooong way to go.  And then there's that laundry. 
          I won't go into the other minor stuff that needs doing like trying to love, care for, and spend time with my family and friends.  (By the way, did you notice that behind my work on the lecture...uhh outline...uhh ideas...sits a manger scene?  Yes, not all the Christmas stuff has been put away.  So sue me.  And that wiseman on the far left lost his head--literally--in storage somehow, and I have been unable to superglue it back on him.  I feel for him, I really do. But it gives me a real sense of camaraderie knowing I'm not the only one around here who has lost her mind.)
        But here's the thing.  Moaning and groaning gets me nowhere.  Worrying and fretting accomplishes nothing.  And procrastinating most certainly does not help in this herculean battle of fighting inertia and overwhelmedness (yes spellcheck, that is not a word...until now) and doing what I don't feel like doing. 
        So I've got a choice.  I can continue to complain, wring my hands, and delay...or I can go to the Lord of all power, of all wisdom, of all everything, and ask Him to "lift my drooping hands and strengthen my weak knees" (Heb.12:12).  I can remember His promises in His supernatural Word. 
          And I can recall His exhortation that because "we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is before  us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (Heb.12:1-3)
         Oh my, that's some good stuff, and boy, did I need reminding!  Stop staring at the laundry.  Stop worrying about the non-existent lecture.  Stop focusing on the mess.  Stop looking at myself...and start looking UP! 
         Start focusing on Him. Start pondering all that Jesus endured for my sake.  Start remembering this Almighty One is with me and for me, and that while I was still a rotten, self-centered, utterly underserving sinner, Christ died for me.  Then rose victorious, decimating sin and death on my behalf and clothing me instead in His glorious righteousness and power and love and strength and grace. 
         And guess what?  You too. 
         Whatever overwhelming task you're facing right now...or painful family difficulty...or frightening diagnosis..or impossible challenge, please stop and remember that the shining, omnipotent King of Kings and Lord of Lords has already defeated far, far, infinitely far, infinitely more terrible and horrific problems on your behalf.  He's conquered sin and death for you! 
        And if He's on your side, if He's filling you, if He's empowering you, if He's strengthening you, then it's not you, but Him.  Not your power, but His.  Not your forgiveness, but His.  Not your paltry wisdom, but His.  Not your waning love, but His.  His unconquerable, unending, unbeatable love, grace, forgiveness, power. 
          So if you've got any mountains before you, pause and look up at your Savior.  Remember all He's done for you.  Rejoice in all He is for you and has for you.  And then, by His grace, for His glory, start right where you are.  Take that first tiny, tentative step...and before you know it, you'll be running. Running that race with eyes focused on the One who's already run it all the way for you.                And you know what?  He'll be running right beside you, cheering and smiling and laughing with His Father, "That's my girl!  Look at her go!"  Laundry and lecture, here I come! 
         To God be the glory.     

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 and God's faithfulness through it all

          At the end of this old year, I'm thinking back over all that has happened.  There have been countless joys--thank You, Lord!  Thank You for trips with friends and family, for joyous celebrations at holidays, for engagements and weddings. And thank You for the daily blessings of delicious meals, walks with dogs, brilliant fall foliage, exercise classes with friends, Bible study with wonderful women, going to church, waking up and feeling good, scarlet cardinals in the snow, laughter, hot tea, good books, roaring fires, chocolate cake, scalding baths, simply being with my people.  Oh my, so grateful.  Thank You most of all for sending Jesus to save us, Your Spirit to stay with us, and Your abiding, never-ending, never-failing love, forgiveness, faithfulness, power, and presence in our lives.  Forgive us, Father, whenever we take any of it for granted. 
           But this past year has also held many heartbreaks, especially losing dearly beloved friends and family members.  No, not really lost for we know exactly where they are, praise God, but lost to us for the rest of our short stay on this planet.  How I miss them. What I would give to hear Jo Anna's hearty laugh, hilarious stories, stunningly wise counsel...and grow larger from her deep love of life and people.  Or to hug sweet Katherine, tell her about the children, laugh over old family stories, and learn from how well she loves.  Or Ray and his great wisdom, his love of the Lord, his way of living and looking so much like Jesus.  And so many others. 
          All those we have lost leave holes that cannot be filled...but like those witnesses in Hebrews 12, we sense them cheering us on from above to press on.  To love deeply.  To forgive unreservedly.  To live fully to the glory of God.  To savor His gifts and to share them with others.  To recognize in each day a precious, never-to-be-repeated twenty-four hours from Him that we must spend fully loving Him and others and deeply savoring this priceless gift of life He has given us.
           Yes, we're all beginning to think about the new year approaching...with all those goals we long for, habits we want to change, dreams we hope to fulfill.  But right now, let's just savor this past year.  Grieve deeply for the hard losses.  Ask forgiveness for the ways we failed God and others.  But also rejoice over the relentless, daily goodness of God in our lives.  For His holiness.  For His presence.  For His love and forgiveness.  For His Word.  And for His gifts.  Countless gifts day in and day out.  How can we not be grateful?   
           I've always loved these words from Shauna Niequist: "I think life, just life, just breathing in and out, is a great gift.  God gives us something amazing when He gives us life, and I want to live with gratitude.  I want to live in a way that shows how much I appreciate the gift.  If life were a sweater, I would wear it everyday.  I wouldn't save it or keep it for a special occasion.  I would find every opportunity to wear that sweater, and I'd wear it proudly, shamelessly, for days on end."
          Thank You, Lord, for 2018 with all it's sorrows and joys, losses and gifts.  And thank You for carrying us through them all with Your powerful, loving, forgiving, righteous, redeeming, faithful presence. Help us to live this day, and as many days as You choose to give us, with abounding gratitude for You and for Your gifts.  Help us, every single day, to love You and love others with every fiber of our being.  Might we live this day and every day, in the words of Paul in Ephesians, "to the praise of Your glory." 
           To God be the glory. 
         

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Light of the World

         "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:4-5,9,14)
          Praise God for His light--for the Light of the world--and that no matter the depth of the darkness, it will never ever overcome His light.  His light will always pierce the gloom of darkness and overcome--just as Jesus overcame from the cradle to the cross.
          I awoke early this morning and in the predawn darkness, turned on our Christmas tree..the inky darkness scattered and the riotous colors of light broke through and shined in our house.  I felt overwhelmed at that moment with the gift of light and with God's greatest Gift of the Light of the World.  Do we take that gift for granted?  Will we pause in the midst of our busyness or distraction and thank God for His gift of light and for The Light that shines in the darkness and will always overcome it?
          "The people who sat in the darkness have seen a great light and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned." (Mt.4:16)  Many of us have experienced that shadow of death this past year.  Our family has felt it's dark, sorrowful shadow pass over us twice just this Advent season.  We have mourned and grieved the darkness of death, but we have not grieved as those without hope...for we know that this is merely death's shadow.  Because the Light of the World came at Christmas, He has defeated and overwhelmed the real thing--death itself--so that we merely walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  But even in that shadow, we walk in His light.  We bear His light.  And we travel towards His glorious conquering, shimmering, light. 
            So today, rejoice that it is the eve of the day we celebrate His coming.  Today, acknowledge the darkness.  Grieve the darkness of sin and death.  But then celebrate that the Light has come!  He is here.  And the darkness will never ever overcome Him!  In every Christmas light you see today, might it be a reminder to you of the Light of the World--and He is with you, lighting your world. 
         Might we be His light bearers this day and everyday to those who desperately need to see and to know that the Light of World has come and is coming again. 
         To God be the glory.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Start looking up!

         One of my favorite Dietrich Bonhoeffer passages shared in a sermon in London on December 3, 1933:

          "You know what a mine disaster is.  In recent weeks we have had to read about one on the newspapers. 
         The moment even the most courageous miner has dreaded his whole life long is here.  It is no use running into the walls; the silence all around him remains...The way out for him is blocked.  He knows the people up there are working feverishly to reach the miners who are buried alive.  Perhaps someone will be rescued, but here in the last shaft?  An agonizing period of waiting and dying is all that remains.
         But suddenly a noise that sounds like tapping and breaking in the rock can be heard.  Unexpectedly, voices cry out, 'Where are you, help is on the way!'  Then the disheartened miner picks himself up, his heart leaps, he shouts, 'Here I am, come on through and help me!  Just come soon!'  A final, desperate hammer blow to his ear, now the rescue is near, just one more step and he is free.
         We have spoken of Advent itself.  That is how it is with the coming of Christ: 'Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.'" (Luke 21:28)

          That is Christmas--the divine rescue operation is finally, in God's perfect timing, launched.   God invades His creation--now marred by sin and death--and with the first gulp of air filling the infant Messiah's tiny lungs, He begins the glorious process of reclaiming, restoring, redeeming His beloved children. 
         Begun in a lowly animal's feeding trough, that rescue operation would end on a wretched wooden cross on Calvary.  Oh, but the most glorious plan ever to save humanity would not end on that lonely hill.  No, no, "raise your heads" and look up as the resurrected Lord conquers sin and death and secures your redemption!
         We were once all like that utterly hopeless, helpless miner...but now Christ has come!  Christ has conquered.  And Christ--Emmanuel--is here, with you, with me, right this moment and in all of our moments all the way until the end of time and into eternity.  He has already won your freedom, assured your salvation, and opened the way out of the darkness and desperation and into His glorious light. 
         Stop regretting the past.  Stop fretting over the future.   Stop looking down...and start looking up for your redemption is drawing near!
         No matter what's happening in your life today, pause right now to look up, remember, and rejoice in the freedom and redemption Christ has already won for you and in the wondrous future you will have with Him forever. 
         To God be the glory.   
   

Saturday, December 15, 2018

At Christmas...remember God saves

        "She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." (Mt.1:22)
         The horrendous news swallowed up by the glorious news:  We are sinners, everyone of us.  We live in a sin-sick, broken world full of fellow sinners...but God has sent us a Savior.  And His name is Jesus, which means "God saves."
         Today, let those words sink in: God saves.  That's not just what He does.  That's who He is.  The always and forever omnipotent, omniscient Almighty Lord, Creator and Sustainer of Heaven and Earth--that awesome God saves and He is salvation.  He came to earth to bring and to be our Salvation.
       Sometimes in the midst of the wrapping and lights and cookies and craziness and shopping and lists...we forget.  But then perhaps sorrow suddenly overcomes us or failure discourages us or waiting weakens us or weariness overwhelms us or simply the cares of this old world remind us once again that we are imperfect, broken people living in an imperfect, broken world...but God saves!  God sent a Savior and His name is Jesus.  Jesus came to forgive, to love, to free, to save, and He is--even now--making all things new.  And He is coming again.
         Often it takes those difficult times in our lives to enable the good news to breaks upon us with all its astounding wonder and glory.  And in that sense the sorrows, disappointments, and failures in our lives are gifts, truly gifts that open our eyes to glimpse who God is and what He has done in sending us Jesus...and it's incredible, awesome (in the true meaning of that word!), and joyous beyond all imagining.
         Stephen Curtis Chapman wrote a song many years ago that was prompted by seeing a prisoner--head bowed in shame, shackled by his hands and feet--shuffle onto his plane.  The sight prompted  Chapman to write a song, "Remember your Chains," and it's always been one of my favorites.          "Remember your chains.  Remember the prison that once held you before the love of God broke through.  Remember the place you were without grace.  When you see where you are now  Remember your chains and remember your chains are gone."
        That's who we were--prisoners of our sin, shame, failure, envy, pride, and selfishness...but then God's love broke through and He sent a Savior at Christmas.  God saves.
        Not just God saved.  God saves.  Here today.  In that deeply held disappointment and sorrow that hides within your heart--God saves.  In that fear of an uncertain future--God saves.  In that painful, broken relationship--God saves.  In that terrible diagnosis, disease or death--God saves.  He is present.  He is powerful.  He is enough.  He is able.  He will one glorious day redeem all those ugly, shattered places in our lives and in our world, and when He comes again, He will make all, all, all things new.
          Today, in the midst of all your happiness or busyness, your waiting or discouragement, your sadness or exhaustion, your fear or anxiety, simply pause and reread the beautiful, wondrous story in His eternal, God-breathed Word.  It's the story of a sovereign Lord who loves you so infinitely much, that He came to you, to me, to this whole world, to save.  He came as a baby.  He lived, died, and rose again to save as a Redeemer.  He will return as a King.  And He is, even now, making all things new.
         Oh please, today, remember your chains...but then remember--praise God--your chains are gone.  Remember God saves. 
        To God--the Savior, the Chain Breaker, the One who makes all things new--be all the glory.

Monday, December 10, 2018

"I love you, too."

        "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By all this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)
         Do you know when Jesus said these words?  Not while happily strolling along the Sea of Galilee on a sun-drenched day.  Not while peacefully sitting on a mountain top, savoring the view with his friends.  Not while laughing with delight over the love and excitement of children clamoring to be near him.  Not while the multitudes were listening to His teaching with rapt attention and rejoicing over His miraculous healing of the sick. 
          Nope. Jesus said these words immediately after Judas--one of the disciples whom Jesus had chosen, had loved, had taught, had poured Himself into--took bread from Jesus' hand at the last supper and then went out into the darkness to betray this One'd loved him and come to save him.  Jesus said these words knowing that in a few hours He would live them out with His suffering, with His blood, with His very life.  He would be betrayed, abandoned, beaten, and nailed to a rough wooden cross for Judas' sin...for their sins...for your sins...for my sins.  All to demonstrate the boundless, beautiful extent of His love.
         Jesus was born in a cradle at Christmas in order to die on a cross at Calvary.  That is how much He loved us.  And He commands us that "just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." 
        Love means loving as Jesus loved--when others are at their best...and at their worst.  When they "deserve" our love...and when they don't.  When we feel like loving...and when we don't.  When our circumstances are all sunshine and flowers...and when they're more like typhoons and muddy muck. 
        I've been thinking about this a lot recently for that's how my sweet sister-in-law, Katherine, loved.  Nothing fancy or earth-shattering.  She simply showed up and loved, day in and day out. 
        Isn't that how love behaves? Yes, love sacrifices.  Love forgives.  Love encourages.  Love appreciates.  Love thanks....
        ...but love also, at it's most basic level, simply shows up...day after day, through thick and thin, in busy and barren seasons, whether it's easy or challenging.  Love keeps showing up.   
         The words of our daughter, Janie, when she spoke at Katherine's Home-going service expressed this so beautifully, so I thought I'd share her comments.  (But an important note first: Janie absolutely, positively was nowhere as difficult as she claims here!  No question she was strong-willed, but God used that herculean will after her accident to enable her to fight back and recover.  So praise God that He uses even our weaknesses for our ultimate good and His glory!) 
        Here are Janie's words:
         "For those of you that knew me as a child, I feel I should apologize for some potentially not so fond memories. If temper tantrums were an art, I was Picasso at age 5. I knew every button and could press them all simultaneously, it was a dark gift. I was not an easy child to be around for longer than 5 min. If you got to 6 min, you had front row seat to the Janie tantrum show. All this to say, at certain points in my childhood, I was understandably intolerable. Aunt Katherine was one of the few, the mighty, that showed up for it all. I was stubborn, but Aunt Katherine was even more stubborn… because she refused to be absent in the midst of all my antics.
         She showed up for the attention seeking stage. I would perform the song Britney Spears song “Oops I did it again,” complete with dance moves and background music, literally hundreds of times for my loyal audience member. Each time she couldn’t hide her laughter I would stomp my foot, turn off the music, and start over because I wanted to be taken seriously. I would scold her for not giving me the deference I was due as a serious aspiring 5 year old performer, and each time she would vehemently agree with me and tell me that I was the greatest singer/dancer she had ever seen. She showed up even when I was being ridiculous because I needed someone to affirm in my dreams, no matter how silly.
         She showed up for the vanity stage. In elementary school, I was convinced that I was at the pinnacle of fashion. This meant that I had to have my hair slicked back on my head like a mobster from the 20s. I would make Katherine perform the role of stylist, which consisted of about an hour of doing and redoing my hair. Each time she put my hair in a ponytail and smoothed down all the sides with water, I would look in the mirror and yell “I see a bump!!” and she’d do it again. And again. And again. I usually started crying at some point during the 25th iteration and Katherine would wipe the tears away and say matter of factly “, don’t worry, I will make it perfect!” She showed up even when I was being exasperating because I needed someone to tell me it was going to be okay.
         She showed up for the jealous stage. I use to count my presents every Christmas and compare what I got with what my siblings got. I was at the age where quantity meant infinitely more than quality. One year, when I thought that Katherine had gotten my siblings more than she had gotten me, I went to DEFCON 1 and threw a fit that to rival all fits. I refused to talk to anyone for a good part of the day. But Katherine came and sat with me, even as I was trying to give her the cold shoulder. She said all the presents in the world wouldn’t be enough to represent how much she loved me. She showed up even when I was being ungrateful because I needed someone who would love me without expecting any thanks.
         And Katherine never stopped showing up. Whatever I went through, whatever I did, she was there for it. She taught me that standing side by side through thick and thin is the best way to love someone. Even if they’re stubborn, even if they’re ridiculous, even if they’re exasperating, even if they’re ungrateful, keep showing up. I am eternally thankful for Katherine because I learned so much from the way she loved me when I was hard to love. I am better for it. I love and miss her dearly, but I will carry the example she set for me until I see her again."
       
         The last words our family heard Katherine utter on the night before she went home to heaven were "I love you too."  And isn't it remarkable that on the very same day in Texas those were also the very last words of George H.W. Bush.  "I love you, too."  Oh might those be the words that those we love hear from us over and over again, from first to last.  Don't just think it, say it.  
        Love is why Jesus came at Christmas.  Love is why He died at Calvary.  Love is what He's commanded us to do.  Might others know us not by our accomplishments, our appearance, our accolades, or by anything this world so often applauds, but by the way we love.  Love God and love others.  Think how we could transform this old planet if we would love like Jesus loved. 
       Let's start by simply showing up...today...and then tomorrow...and then the next.  Because aren't you so thankful that Jesus showed up for you over two thousand years ago at Christmas?  Thank You, Lord Jesus, and I love You, too! 
        To God be the glory.