The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
The sun is setting on another year; it’s time to give thanks for what has been and anticipate what’s yet to come. I’ve been pondering the concept of contentment lately and have found it fitting to settle snugly into it as I break bread with the new season. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia defines contentment as being “free from care because of satisfaction with what is already one’s own; an inward habit or state of mind.” Let’s turn down the buzz of resolutions and what ifs and I’ll be happy whens and think about what we have in this shining instant.
Warning: The following contains elements of very real darkness and very real light. The darkness is fictional (though inspired by actual events that happen all the time), but the light is true, true, true.
There is a heavenly rhythm that sways the people of God: it rescues the lost and lifts up the downtrodden. It speaks for the voiceless and leaves a trail of vibrant mercy in its wake. And in India, among the lowest caste of people—the “untouchables”—it offers itself as the greatest light imaginable.
Marilyn Monroe was always a human Barbie in my mind: sexy, gorgeous, put together—basically the perfect woman (maybe minus the ethics). I just watched Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for the first time last week and giggled my way through her character’s ditzy shenanigans. As brainless as Miss Lorelei Lee may be, Monroe herself had quite the head on her shoulders. She was quoted as saying, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” Hey, it worked for Cinderella, right?
Your world is full of voices, all vying to be heard and repeated by you. Maybe it’s your parents or your boss or your friend or your regrets or your pride or your self-hatred or your pastor or your hopes or your rules or any of a million others clamoring for attention. Sweet friend, as you finish wrapping up your preparations for Christmas (maybe literally), will you nestle in, allowing the goodness of the Lord to speak over you? Turn down the knob of the world’s buzz and allow your heart to give in to a holy hush.
Women of old pronounced blessings over one another, speaking life into weary souls. I’d love the opportunity to dream on your behalf today.
Each soul has its own distinct soundtrack, a series of melodies and lyrics that run through it in the middle of the night and under the wide open blue sky. The words whisper deep truths (or lies), the music beats or thrums or whirrs or tinkles or screams, and our lives match the cadence and cacophony. Our soul soundtracks run endlessly, but what we focus on over a long period of time can change the content.
Christmas isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year. Thankful families think full about their loved ones in constant danger on active duty overseas. Loneliness bites at the fingertips of forgotten elders tucked away in their nursing home beds. Recently-emptied chairs and newly-filled graves loom large in the light of nativity season. Grief, bitterness, anger, exhaustion: these are the bundles we swaddle just as easily as a baby in a manger. These are the gifts it’s just as costly to lay in His presence as gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
In the midst of the dark places, hope is hard. Honestly, it can seem downright fake. Who cares about the silver lining when the cloud has enveloped your heart for so long?
Charlie Brown got it: we have commercialized Christmas to the point of turning it into something almost unrecognizable when compared to the original silent night in a barn. How are children of God caught up in this glitz and glam culture called to look past the special sales, endless noise, and festive chaos to spread a blanket of holy quiet over our hearts and celebrate in an authentic way? Could we return to a reality where all is calm, all is bright? Here are some ideas and places to start.
There are a thousand approaches to the Christmas season: some of us tiptoe up to it and knock softly, and others cannonball right smack dab into the middle of the fun. Whatever your preferred method of celebrating looks like, may this time be extra special and littered with surprise bits of joy. Here are a few baubles to get you started.
Have you ever noticed how quickly a certain smell can bring up emotions or memories? The hallway to my kindergarten always smelled of glue, crayons, and, somehow, learning. If you could bottle that scent up and release a bit around me unannounced, I’d immediately be transported right back to the place of months of the year and macaroni pieces.
I think my favorite smell of all is Christmas: a subtle combination of cinnamon, pine, cloves, vanilla, and hope. Above all, hope.