Saint Patrick: A Blessing

  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 15.20 NIV). Saint Patrick was not Irish, but he is now known as the patron saint of Ireland. How did this English young man make such an influence in Ireland during the fourth century AD? God was able to use what was meant for harm to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Saint Patrick’s real name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat, and he was kidnapped at the age of 6 and sold into slavery in Ireland for about 6 years. He finally made his way back home and dedicated his life to God. He spent the next 12 years studying under his mentor, St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. When he became a bishop himself, he had a dream that the people of Ireland were calling out to him. He received the Pope’s blessing to return to the very people who enslaved him, and he began a massive spiritual awakening in the hearts of the pagan people. Not only did he win many souls to Christ (including both the rich and the poor), he established monasteries, schools and churches all over Ireland. Because of Saint Patrick’s time as a slave in Ireland, he knew the language and culture and could preach to the people in a way that made sense to them. He had so much zeal for the Lord that even after being arrested many times by the Celtic Druids, he still continued his quest to win the hearts of the Irish...

Happy New Year – Two Thousand Seventeen

Maybe this year it can be different. Maybe we can do away with resolutions and embrace something radical. Perhaps if we do, we could actually end 2017 better than we arrived. If we let the light shine just a bit brighter each day, maybe they would WANT to be in relationship with us, conversations could happen, we could listen to each other, perhaps even walk with each other. Then perhaps, they could SEE…they could see Jesus, the Jesus of the gospel who often acted VERY differently than we do in the name of love. Maybe they could see who Jesus really was, in us. Imagine that. Twenty • Seventeen would then be a year of real transformation and not empty resolutions. It begins. Let us embrace this new year. Let us embrace the light that we have an opportunity to shine…Lord knows this weary world and her people need...

The Other Side of Christmas

*originally posted December 20, 2012 Our nativities are beautiful. Even when we briefly lament that there was “no room for them in the inn” and that Jesus had to be born in a stable, our nativities are clean, peaceful, idyllic. We imagine the animals keeping watch and the wonder as the shepherds come. We think of little woolly lambs. But it probably wasn’t clean. Because stables smell, we can assume it was smelly. Joseph was probably frantic trying to make a bed in the straw and figure out how he was going to deliver the baby when that was usually left to other women. There were probably bugs. I don’t share that to ruin all nativities for you. We can go back to those pristine images in a bit, but bear with me for a moment. It just seems to me that even those early moments and years of life pointed to the kind of life Jesus would live. Even before birth, Jesus did not have a place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). When Jesus was a very young child (people disagree on if he was an infant or around two) his family had to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). They fled in the middle of the night, probably traveling as light as possible, frantic to get away. And the reason they had to flee? Herod wanted to secure his throne by killing the foretold king of the Jews. While God forewarned Joseph and he got Mary and Jesus to safety, other mothers and young boys were not so lucky. It is sometimes referred to as the slaughter...

Breath of Heaven

It was almost 22 years to the day. I was 9 months pregnant and due on January 8th. That’s what THEY SAID; SHE had different plans. When the doctor finished his examination, he calmly stated that I would be having a baby, “TODAY.” “TODAY, as in TO-DAY?” “Yes, and we’ll need you to head to the hospital – NOW.” “What? That is NOT the plan.” “It is now and if you can’t assure us that you’ll head straight for the hospital, we can arrange for an ambulance.” I went out to my car,  a baby blue Ford Escort, on an absolutely frigid day in Chicago, ice and snow covering the ground. That little car needed time to warm up, so I sat reluctantly patient for a moment and waited, all alone. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I WAS GOING TO HAVE A BABY! The journey had been a long one. I had prayed for years, endured fertility treatments for years and I knew the magnitude of this event. The day had arrived and it looked NOTHING like I had planned. My husband was downtown in a pre cell phone age, and I needed to get word to him. Travel plans needed to be changed. I still had Christmas shopping to do. I was told that I could not even PACK my own bag; I needed to get to the hospital immediately. As I sat there in the car, overwhelmed in the moment, a song came on the radio. Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but the first time I HEARD it… ”...

My prayer for you this Christmas

As I prepared to write about the joy of Christmas, I was reminded of how HARD Christmas can be. I want all the family together. I want to give amazing gifts. I want to prepare mouthwatering recipes that will be requested for years to come. I want…well, I want “perfect.” Thing is, life’s not perfect. Families certainly aren’t. As if a “perfect” family Christmas wasn’t enough of a challenge, there is so much to DO in December: Christmas plays and concerts, visiting Santa, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, company dinners and Christmas parades. The list of things to do and places to be is endless. Now, add to ALL that the social stress that comes with living in a country where not everyone celebrates the birth of Jesus. Christians are offended when stores promote “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  We remind everyone that CHRISTmas is about CHRIST, but do we really believe that? Have we bought into the world’s version of Christmas? I’m afraid we have. I think that we have made Christmas about family, Santa, gifts and feasts. I think that we celebrate Christmas just like “the world” does…. and, I think that is the real root of all the stress and anxiety we feel at Christmas. Maybe you’re thinking “Not me. I know that Christmas is about Jesus.” If you aren’t sure where you stand on this,  here are the questions I asked myself earlier this week: If there was no tree and no twinkling lights, would it still feel like Christmas? If there were no presents, would it still feel like Christmas? If there was no family, would it still feel like Christmas? If ALL you had was...

Stepping Back From the Drama

Commercials present an idyllic view of the holidays, but for most of us, this is a fantasy.  We may wish we could attain it, even running ourselves ragged in our efforts to do so, but we never seem to hit the mark. When that happens, we are often left feeling defeated and saddened. Then there comes the dinner table with all those relatives we may or may not get along with: Crazy Aunt Bertha who’s convinced the world is going to end. Angry Uncle Wilbert who feels personally affronted when someone takes the last drumstick. Sassy Sally who rolls her eyes at every other statement, and of course, all the relational baggage that comes with living in a fallen, sin-cursed world–relational baggage that is magnified during the tense, stressful holiday season. Is it any wonder so many struggle with depression during November and December? And an even more important question–what can we do about? How can we make it through to January first without going completely insane and dragging our loved ones with us? Imagine hosting a dinner party for the most talked about personality of our day. Would that stress you out a little? Cause your stomach to convulse and sweat to build, quite glamorously, along your hairline and on your upper lip? Now imagine tossing sibling drama into the mix. I don’t know about you, but that’d about make me want to cry, and then I’d really have a mess on my hands–the mascara streaked tears kind. But what if I learned to step back and disengage? You may be familiar with the Mary and Martha story....

Lessons From An InnKeeper

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are the primary characters in the grand story of Christmas. Without them, there would be no Christmas story. In a movie, play, or television series, there are the main actors and the supporting cast. Those who play supporting roles are not as widely recognized, but often are crucial to the story as a whole. As I talked to the Lord about what I should offer for the month of December, the Holy Spirit reminded me that He used many people to bring the story of Christmas to life. When I went to Luke chapter 2, I discovered that, indeed, there are 4 people or groups of people without whom the Christmas story might not have happened. Today, we turn our gaze to Luke 2:6 – 7 (NIV). Although an innkeeper is not mentioned specifically in this verse, the concept of an inn necessitates an innkeeper, so let’s see what we can discover about this supporting cast member in the Christmas story.   While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.   As I researched the inns of Jesus’ day, I discovered that often they were not exactly what we might think. The inns of that day could have consisted of a structure with rooms where travelers lodged for the night. However, it was just as likely that it was nothing more than an open, level field near a water source where...

A Lame Christmas

Christmas celebrations and seasons have changed throughout the years, but one thing in my childhood home has remained the same: the nativity. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas, but also a favorite part of “home.” As a child, I stared at the details of the nativity for hours. When I was old enough to touch it, I would rearrange it, deciding which king should present his gift or how far away the shepherds might stand. One flaw to the nativity has been there as long as I can remember. The lamb is missing a leg. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s missing the plaster on the leg. The wire frame is there, so it can stand up on its own…with a bit of teetering. My mom knows how special the nativity is to me, and she was thrilled to come across a old-looking sheep that was about the same size as this one and would fit well with the other figures. She bought it without hesitation. When she got home, she discovered something. Somewhere between the store and home, the sheep’s leg was broken. It, too, was lame. I took it home to incorporate into my own nativity as a reminder. We don’t have to be perfect to approach Jesus. We need to come as we are. Humility is difficult, because it reveals our weaknesses. But that’s where He meets us. That’s where He serves us. That’s where He saves us. He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by...

Happy Thanksgiving

  Together we pray, that as we come together with family and friends, may be ever aware of those for whom these holidays are hard. Perhaps if we, the reflections of Jesus on earth, reached out, in some tangible way to the lonely, broken, needy and exhausted among us this holiday season, we could truly be a light in the darkness. “To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” Thomas Merton May gratitude to God in our lives NEVER be unresponsive. May that gratitude propel us to LOVE those around us in ways that would never be possible without the understanding of the graces given to...