"Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

(I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864)

I read the tragic and beautiful story of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and how this classic song of the Christmas season came to be, and it was another timeless reminder of what keeps us going in the most horrific times: Hope.

He experienced the terrible loss of his wife to an accidental fire in their home, and his son was severely injured in battle during the American Civil War. His journal writings that first year or two after losing his wife, were somber, sad and of despair. The timing of the writing of this hymn which was originally a poem called “Christmas Bells” came on Christmas Day of 1864. Speculation as to the timing of it points to the re-election of Abraham Lincoln or the end of a terrible war. The poem was eventually put into song by John Baptiste Calkin in 1872 with some minor changes to the stanzas included in the hymn as we know it. I can’t help feeling a deep connection to that generation’s experiences during that time of war in our country, and how similar the state of mind is now with the upheaval and chaos we are living in today. There is such a need for hope, for peace, as much now as any time in our nation’s history. As I reflect back on this past year and what our family has experienced, our accomplishments, our failures, everything God has allowed to happen…I have hope.

I have hope, because I have Jesus.
I have hope, because I know I am loved.
I have hope, because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I am truly blessed.
I have hope, because God is faithful.
I have hope, because as this world crumbles I know the coming of my Lord is near.
I have hope, and I will share it with others.

Why am I so overwrought?
Why am I so disturbed?
Why can’t I just hope in God?
Despite all my emotions, I will believe and praise the One
who saves me and is my life.
(Psalm 42:5)

Merry Christmas and Blessed Happy New Year from our family to yours!

Hallelujah, He's Here....

Look at your hands, they're still so small
Someday you’re going to stretch them out and save us all…..

Emmanuel. God is with us. Somehow, it is sinking deep in me this season, this present season more so than ever before. Perhaps because it is in my lifetime the ugliest I’ve seen our world. I’m astounded how far we have all fallen from the focus God intends not just during the Christmas season, but every day of this blessed life He has given us.

He has given so much, and He could take it all away in a split second. He did it in the Bible, we read about more than one account of God wiping the earth clean in one fell swoop of epic proportions. I can’t help wondering why He hasn’t done it yet again. Because truth be told, we deserve it and nothing less.

Life was far more simple, less complicated when I was my Chloe’s age. 4 years old. Nothing more important on her mind than the simple joys of an after school snack, dress up and singing Ariel’s song from “The Little Mermaid” in front of our family on a Tuesday night for the umpteenth time as if it is the first time she’s sung it and eagerly anticipating what we think of her performance. She doesn’t have to face the anxiety and burdens of life, because she is taken care of and can simply focus on being 4 years old. Watching her last night, the expression of sheer bliss on her face as she sang for us, thinking about how nice it must be to be completely unaware of the anxiety and burdens of this life……it’s something that left me feeling enormous relief for her.

Sunday night Ryan and I brought a beautiful song to worship about the coming of Jesus, from Mary’s perspective: “You’re Here” by Francesca Battistelli. I found myself completely enveloped by the song in the days leading up to it, and even today just thinking about it. How overwhelming it had to be for her. So much she did not know, and yet so much she hoped and prayed for this child she had been blessed to bare for mankind. I cannot imagine a greater burden and blessing than this. I look at the world today, what we are being hit with through social media and all other forms of media, whether on tv or in written form, that we have to sort through. I’m deeply convicted, burdened, to seek the truth and lean into the Father for consolation. We need to be grounded in our faith in God, trust Him to continue making all things work together for our good. We do not need to be the loudest voice, and often miss the opportunity we have to shut up and listen. We have to stop acting so surprised the direction the world is going in, and spend more time loving others and praying with/for them.

As I look at my Chloe, like Mary looked at the baby Jesus, I wonder how she will handle what is happening in the world around her when she comes of age. I hope and pray she’ll use her hands to help others regardless of all the ideas and pressures of the world around her. I hope and pray she is not limited even more than we are today by what she can actually do to help others. I hope and pray she always has a compassionate heart for the worst of humanity, who are no less deserving of it than the best of humanity. I hope and pray she simply loves as Jesus loved. Somehow in the course of this life and the turn the world has taken, the Message of Christ is no longer enough. I am heartbroken and frustrated watching, hearing, reading about how some Christians are behaving today. They claim to know Jesus, they say they speak for Him and ultimately for me, but I am putting my foot down here. You do not speak for me. Not when your words, your actions, result in making us all look nothing like Jesus. How disappointed He must be when this happens. I don’t want that to ever be said of me. I want to live every moment of this life, proclaiming the love and truth of Christ but also seating myself in humility. I will not boast in what I can do, but always and only in what my God can do through me.

He is here, and He is such a loving, patient, merciful God. I am thankful for that promise. I am thankful He is here…..

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...