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Stand with Secret Believers This Christmas

Nov

30

Posted by on Nov 30, 2018 | 2 comments

Today, through a sponsored partnership with Open Doors, I’m sharing their message about something important to know. This is a season when many Americans have already begun decorating their homes for the holidays, a lovely tradition most of us take for granted. Please read and then act if you feel led to support this worthwhile initiative.

In North Korea, celebrating Christmas is illegal and believers must celebrate the birth of Jesus in extreme secrecy or risk arrest and life in a hard labor camp.

For the citizens of Brunei, celebrating Christmas can get you five years in prison and owning a Bible will get you nine.

In countries like Somalia, Christmas was banned several years ago. An announcement goes out every year reminding citizens that it’s illegal.

And in countries like Saudi Arabia, churches, crosses and Christian meetings of any kind are illegal all over the country.

All over the world, Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus in late December or early January. But in many places, like Somalia, Iran, North Korea and other areas where it’s dangerous to follow Jesus, openly participating in Christmas can be extremely difficult, if not impossible. For these Christians, celebrating Christmas must be done in secret. There will be no parties or gift exchanges, and no church services or worship gatherings allowed. In places around the world, Christmas can be a time of fear and isolation instead of a celebration.

One believer from a Muslim background in Southeast Asia says, “We can’t celebrate Christmas openly…We can’t go to church and join in the celebration. Why? Because we are wanted by the government. Some of us can’t even tell our families we are Christians.”

Nevertheless, faithful Christians remind themselves that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

This Christmas, we have the opportunity to illuminate that light and remind isolated Christians around the world who must worship in secret that they are not alone … that the worldwide Church stands with them.  

You can make a difference today for secret believers this Christmas in specific and practical ways:

  1. Pray with them.
    Visit OpenDoorsUSA.org/SecretChristmas for prayer resources from secret believers around the world. You’ll find videos, prayer points and unique ways to connect to your persecuted family.
  1. Enter their stories.

Open Doors has created two resources to help you explore the stories of the persecuted church and to connect with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. You can download a free Secret Christmas eBook and even a Secret Christmas children’s book to read to your kids this holiday season.

  1. Join the fight

Don’t make persecution a seasonal issue, make it part of your daily life. It’s in the very DNA of the church to care for those who are suffering. Through Open Doors you can download a Prayer App, sign up for regular prayer updates and stay connected to the stories and needs of your persecuted family.

Together, we can make a significant difference in the lives, families and ministries of secret believers this Christmas and beyond as we stand with our persecuted family.

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Holiday Haikus: The Christmas Mug Edition

Dec

10

Posted by on Dec 10, 2017 | 12 comments

Tiny things have always made me happy.

 

Oh, I don’t know the why of it–is it necessary to always dissect the whys of things? I just know that miniatures fascinate me. If they had been around when I was a little, Polly Pockets and My Little Ponies would have littered my bedroom floor six inches deep. I’m sure of it.

 

I wonder if this explains why I hold such high regard for a well written haiku; the economy of its structure. Seventeen syllables is all you get–five/seven/five, remember?

 

Last weekend we emptied the attic of  All The Christmas Things. Since we moved to a new home over the summer, it’s necessary to figure out the perfect new spot for each of our decorations to live. And with that little exercise, this might just be the year I decided a) I could be a Christmas decoration hoarder, and/or b) I’m tired of all my stuff.

 

Or maybe that was just the inconvenient cold draining my sinuses (and the local water supply), combined with the pressure of finishing decorating in time to clean, cook for, and host a small dinner party Tuesday night.

 

It’s hard to say which.

 

I finally got to the point where enough was enough, or more accurately, when I was absolutely out of time for decorating, and had to shift into the cleaning and cooking portion of the afternoon. I piled all the remaining decorations into a few boxes, marched them upstairs and sat them in the corner. Done…!

 

In any event, some of my favorite Christmas things – ones I will never get tired of – are my Christmas mugs. They aren’t fine or fancy, but they’re fantastic little purveyors of whimsy.  Each year I’m excited to rediscover them.

 

Simple pleasures are the best, aren’t they?

 

 

Early Wednesday morning I was sitting at my kitchen table, sipping and savoring my coffee, smiling and satisfied that our home felt cozy and Christmassy. My mug looked happy, too, just sitting there, and in the inexplicable way we all behave now, I had to take a picture of it. Mercy, we’re all cookoo-pants, but we still keep snapping those pictures of everything and anything over and over and over, and we share them like it’s this morning’s news. Which is sort of is in The-Internet-Is-My-Neighbor kind of way.

 

And wouldn’t you know it–my coffee mug had me waxing poetic. So, I wrote a little ditty, and then lo and behold, I did it again every morning for the next three days. I never quite settled on a name for the series, but it’s something like Holiday Haikus Inspired by Christmas Mugs. Dang, that sounds awful, so feel free to give me your own (better) series titles. Girlfriend’s not shy to ask for help when she needs it.

 

happy, it makes me
most wonderful time of year
sweet, simple pleasures

 

 

Spirit of Christmas
sweet atmosphere of welcome
merry hearts draw near

treasure of Christmas
unimaginable gift
Key to the Kingdom

 

Christmas is promise
kept; a King to lead the way
brightest morning star

 

Hmmmm…such a joy to my spirit to pen these little poems. I have an idea for next week–do check in? (feel free to comment in haiku :). Now, THAT, would be a gift in my inbox!!)

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Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 |

robindance_fullypresent_incourage

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”
(John 3:16)

 

You can’t fool her, you know.

Two pudgy hands cup your cheeks to turn your face, demanding your eyes look deep into her own.

“Mama, you’re not listening!” You can almost feel her heart stomping its tiny imaginary foot to accentuate the point.

Of course, you’re right when you insist, “Yes I am, honey, I can just do two things at once.” You did hear her, after all.

But she’s right (more right?) because you weren’t listening.

Hearing requires only ears. Listening demands ears, eyes, mind, and maybe most important, heart.

The difference matters. A lot. Here’s why:

Your children don’t just notice the difference between hearing and listening, they understand the difference:

Something else is more important than them in that moment.

O u c h!

This isn’t confined to children; don’t we all hate it when we know someone is only half engaged in conversation? Present in body but absent in thought?


I grow weary from all the admonitions to focus on Christ during the Christmas season, to resist holiday busyness. Please don’t get me wrong — I agree — but then I see a believing people tangled and lifeless in sticky-webs of shopping, baking, parties, and school or church programs.

We are distracted.

Everyone is working extra hard to pay for All The Things.

And though our homes have never looked more lovely or smelled more delicious . . .

Our actions are speaking loudly, and they don’t always match up to our words.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

 

Please click to continue reading Presents/Presence for incourage. Promise:
if you’ll follow this friendly advice this Christmas season,
you’ll be  giving and receiving something precious.

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wonderstruck

Jan

03

Posted by on Jan 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Red sky at morning

 

I was sitting in my kitchen, reading and alone. In the peace of Christmas Eve’s morning, I sensed something different, a change in atmosphere. There are a lot of windows in our small house; two entire sides of it are practically all glass. Streaming – practically screaming – through all of them was an eerie rosy glow, so peculiar it lured me outside to see if someone was shining a giant rose-colored light. No one was there, of course, but the old saying whispered–

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning…

And I wondered just what the day would bring.

If I wouldn’t be enjoying a white Christmas – unseasonable temperatures breaking record highs – a pink one was just fine by me.

Matching my delight in this magical sky was anticipation for the day to get on with itself. By suppertime all my children would be gathered ’round our table, a rarity anymore. Good food is secondary; it is these moments I savor.

Right now I’m a little in the dark. It’s an odd spot for me, someone who typically lives with an expectancy of good things, God things. I’ve prayed for direction for this new year, but I’ve felt more like a wanderer.

The sky felt like an omen.

I don’t mom on a daily basis anymore, not the way I’ve done for the past two decades or so. I’m thankful for good and challenging work, because it fills time and space, but I can’t help but question its significance. What does it really matter, you know?

But then in a stroke of divine timing, I stumble across a writer new to me: Rachel Naomi Remen. I don’t know anything (yet) of her faith persuasion, but she says some pretty wise things, the kind of things I needed to hear. In her words I remember that my life has meaning and significance, to remember what I already know.

And then it occurred to me how often God uses the sky to speak to me, today, yes, but a few weeks ago, a few years ago, and problem a zillion other times I didn’t bother to record in writing.

My babies were all out at 1:30 that afternoon when the warnings began. A tornado in December? What the heck?

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning….

It was surreal when the weatherman said the rotation was heading straight to us and I seriously wondered what it would sound like if our little stick-built house splintered. I was sitting in our only interior room with no windows, a powder room off our kitchen, toilet on one side and sink on the other, phone in hand, and wondering if a bike helmet ever saved anyone’s life in a tornado (the weatherman had said to go to your safe place and put on a helmet…). It was comical, but even my husband was on edge.

Soon enough the warnings passed and that swirling mass of air never touched the ground. No damage, no death, no splintered houses this time.

We’re into this new year now and I’m still on a Wander.

But the old year ended in wonder, and with a challenge to see anew.

A perfect place to end and begin again, don’t you think?

 

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The beautiful-est little Christmas thing ever

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2015 | 5 comments

Clay pieces

Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time. ~ Thomas Merton

 

I believe in the art of play. I believe in the play of art.

Scripture tells us we’re created in the image of God, and in him we see creativity beyond comparison, imagination with no bounds. Nature screams it in her beauty, her complexity, her diversity.

Study your hand. An odd thing, perhaps, but look at it in a way you never have before. You’ll be amazed. Your nails, the joints, the prints on fingers and thumb. Lines that might not tell your future, but certainly tell your life. Your hand is art by a masterful creator. And that’s only one tiny part of you.

As image bearers we share in God’s creative nature, and I think children know it best. Or maybe they’re freer to declare the joy in, and goodness of, their work: “Look what I made!” They know how to be proud without a hint of arrogance.

Children grow up and forget so many important things (adults forget so many important things), or maybe self-awareness settles in and we stuff down or crowd out or silence the creative in ourselves.

Of course, Hobby Lobby and Michael’s exist for those who remember.

This year I signed up for a clay class at my church, led by two friends whose artistic talents match the joy they have in sharing their giftings with others. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and they make you believe there’s Midas touch in your fingers.

Each week they supplied us with a flat of clay and new instructions, and from there we cut and shaped, slipped and scored our way to something incredibly special: my new favorite Christmas nativity.

I’ve always loved crèches, and though there are so many beautiful ones you can buy, my favorites are handmades.

A beautiful takeaway from the class is a deeper glimpse of God as potter; clay in my hands helped me grasp the care and intention in God’s creation of humanity. Not that I’ll ever fully understand it….

I loved both the process and end result. I strongly encourage you to take an art class in your area, but it comes with a caution:

Don’t strive for perfection; go for perfect imperfection. It’s so much more beautiful.

 

My angel. I’d probably re-think that heart now, but when I added it, it was a simple expression of love.

Clay angel

The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. ~ Picasso

 

I had a hard time with Joseph and my little sheep. I couldn’t get Joseph’s hair quite right, I smudged the pattern in his cloak when shaping him, and my sheep? Well, he looked like a cross between a brain and a wig for Joseph. In the end they were fine, a great reminder how forgiving clay is. 

Joseph and a sheep

 

Mary, Babe in Manger…and tools of our trade. I had hoped Mary’s head covering would be removable; same with Jesus’ swaddling cloth. But, the way I made them they became attached (a little harder to paint…I’ll take note the next time I work with clay).

Mary and Jesus in manger

The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection. ~ Michelangelo

 

Glazed but not yet fired in the kiln. It is amazing to me how different they look before…

Glazed but not yet fired

 

And after.

Handmade Clay Nativity

The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. ~ Aristotle

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