Tag Archives: christmas

Grace at Christmas…

Please excuse a second post today, but I think you will agree that it is a timely message worth re-sharing as Christmas draws near this can be such a difficult time of year for so many people. I hope you will find comfort and encouragement in this post.

     Christmas is a time when memories are made. Christmas is also a season of grace.

     Two years ago, I wrote about a special Christmastime memory that occurred during the most painful season of my life journey. I think the story is worth repeating, and hope in some small way, it may speak to your heart.

     Each December, I’m reminded of THAT Christmas. I felt certain it was destined to be unhappy. Instead, it has become one of my most cherished memories.

     A month before Christmas, my unwanted divorce was finalized. All during December, a cloud of doom and gloom hovered over my heart.

     Realizing it was going to be a difficult time for their daughter, my mom and dad arrived to spend Christmas Eve with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter and me in our tiny little rental house, located across the road from railroad tracks. At that time, it was all I could afford on my secretary salary and child support income.

     Angie had no inkling all was not well in her little world. She adored her grandparents, and they adored her. She was delighted by the little Christmas tree, festooned with bright bulbs and lights. She was ecstatic about all the “pwesents” under the tree. Her bubbly, bouncy personality brought so much joy and laughter. But, Angie went to bed before 8:00 p.m., which left several hours for me to deal with heartbreaking memories and the foreboding of a fearful future.

     Christmas Eve didn’t keep Mom from going to bed at her usual early hour. Afterward, Dad and I settled down to watch TV. As nighttime deepened, we could see through the window snow beginning to fall.

     Midnight was nearing when Dad asked if I’d like to go for a walk. Donning coats, hats, gloves, boots and scarves, we left the house, prepared to walk into Christmas morn.

     The night was perfect—much like a scene concluding one of those Hallmark Christmas movies. Not even a slight breeze disturbed the silent night. Huge wet snowflakes fell softly from an inky sky. Beams of light from the moon and streetlamps sparkled on the snowy white blanket.

     There was something so special about that brand-new blanket of snow. For several minutes, it insulated me from the interior noise that had been clanging in my soul for many months. The snow’s unmarred freshness spoke to my spirit about a clean slate, bringing the promise of new beginning.

     Jerry Sittser, in his excellent book about loss and grief, A Grace Disguised, reminded me of my period of personal loss when speaking of his own horrific season of grief. He wrote, “However difficult…I had to learn how to build a new life for myself and my family. My new circumstances were a given; my response was not. The tragedy became the catalyst for creative action.”

     Dad and I didn’t speak during the walk. Our only communication was the unspoken camaraderie between a father and his child. Looking back on that event, I think I sensed I could trust my dad would be there for me. I believe on some spiritual level, I knew my earthly father’s trustworthiness reflected the faithfulness of my Heavenly Father.

     Many passages in my copy of A Grace Disguised are highlighted. One says, “I want to honor the dead who have gone before me and bless the living who will come after me. Whether and to what extent I succeed will depend on the choices I made and the grace I receive.”

     Today, I honor my earthly father who has gone before me. The grace I received during the walk Dad and I took that long-past Christmas Eve when my emotions were bruised badly, and my spirit nearly broken, gave me courage to walk into a season of healing.

     People often tell me they appreciate the grace I extend. Those compliments are humbling but also a reminder when grace has been given to me, it enables me to bless those living and who will come after me.

My Prayer: Dear God, Thank you for the gift of lovely remembrance. Thank you for the grace you give, enabling and empowering us to walk beyond our painful losses. Amen

May your memories this Christmas season be sweetened with God’s grace…

Sue Reeve

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Peace on Earth…Good Will to All…

     Tears blur the computer screen this morning as I type today’s blog post. I’m watching for the second time a youtube video of Casting Crowns singing the Christmas Carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.[1]

     The words of this poignant song were written as a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day, 1863. Civil war raged in a divided nation. The cruel war pitted friend against friend, brother against brother. Before it ended in 1865, more than 600,000 soldiers had lost their lives.

     As I type that enormous number, I’m reminded of a saying we have at our church,

Every number has a name; every name has a story; every story matters to God.

     I cannot help but think about the 600,000 plus stories of those Civil War soldiers. The stories of many more than 600,00 loved ones were impacted by the devastating losses. I wonder how many questioned: God, do you even care about my loved-one’s story?

     Two years prior to writing this poem, Longfellow’s beloved wife lost her life in a fire. Only a month before writing these words, his eldest son was critically wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church in Virginia.

     Peace wasn’t part of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s reality on that Christmas Day in 1863.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)[2]

Christmas Bells

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!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
he hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
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.”

     
     This morning I watched the news.

     Fires rage in Southern California. Hundreds of families are losing their homes less than a month before Christmas.

     Anger rages in the Middle East. Palestinian citizens promise days of rage in response to a contentious political decision. Violence in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christmas, sullies the angelic announcement given the night of our Savior’s birth:

‘Peace on Earth, good will to men’

     On the news this morning, I heard Republicans castigating Democrats, Liberals berating Conservatives. Across the U.S.—the nation I love and have always called home—friends avoid friends and families are fractured because of deep political divides.

     As I sit in my warm, comfortable home, all decorated for my favorite season of the year, I’m feeling sad.

     I’m tempted to bow my head in despair because of the state of our nation. Part of me wants to weep for the condition of the world.

     Hate seems so strong! Songs of the season, echoing the message of the angels that long-ago Christmas morn, seem mocked by so many.

     Then I’m reminded.

          God is God

               Yahweh

                    The Great “I AM.”

     While people may mock God,

…God is not mocked…(Galatians 6:7)

     Nations may refuse a peace process, but the angels’ message of peace remains because

     Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

and Jesus remains

The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)

     Rather than despairing, I’m determined instead to declare the final stanza in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem:

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.”

My Prayer: Lord, help me to be an instrument of your peace in the little corner of the world where you have placed me. Keep my tongue from speaking hateful, divisive words. Never let me lose the hope for a peace-filled family, community, nation and world. Amen

Sue Reeve

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7670CXvPX0
  2. http://www.potw.org/archive/potw118.html

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Listening to God’s Voice…Do You Hear What I Hear?

     Recently, in my Listening on the Journey… blog posts, I’ve been focusing on what I call A Magnificent Obsession: Listening for God’s Voice. While listening to Christmas music a few days ago, I was reminded that when it comes to listening with one’s spirit, God speaks in a variety of ways.

     God’s design for each of us is unique. In addition to our distinctive physical and personality traits, each life tells a different story, developed through diverse family of origin, cultural and generational influences. Each factor seems to influence the way in which God speaks to individuals.

     I’m one of those people who absolutely loves Christmas! Many of my friends don’t care a whole lot for the hoopla of this holy holiday, but I adore most everything Christmas!

     Ron laid down a household ‘law’ a few years ago: No Christmas music played until the day following Thanksgiving. We still abide by his loosely-laid-down ‘law,’ but, naturally, since I’m a lover of Christmas, I’m always excited when we begin listening to the cherished music of this blessed season.

     A Christmas song I like very much is the simple but touching tune asking this question: Do You Hear What I Hear.[1]

     God knows the one-of-a kind you and the inimitable me, and chances are we will not hear the divine voice in the same way. While I believe this is amazing, I also realize spiritual listening can be fraught with problems.

     Unique is wonderful, but I’ve heard some mighty strange stories about how people think God spoke to them. While it’s very important to me to listen with my heart for the voice of God, it’s also important not to be weird! That’s why I believe litmus tests are important. I have two firm rules.

  • First, what God says to me must not contradict scripture, a point I covered in my last post.
  • Secondly, it’s important to seek confirmation from reliable resources. I have a ‘rule of three’ I like to follow, which I’ll unwrap more in my next post.

     Until then, I hope you are not only enjoying, but also hearing in a new way, some special sounds in your spirit during this magnificent time of the year!

Sue Reeve

Even nature, I believe, listens to the divine voice in unique ways. Each year the region in which we live is visited by flocks of majestic eagles during December and January who’ve “heard” in the special way only an eagle is designed to hear, that Lake Coeur d’Alene is filled with scrumptious kokanee salmon. A few days ago, during a walk along the lake, Ron caught this handsome fellow pondering the situation. Isn’t he an amazing creature?

  1. According to Wikipedia, Do You Hear What I Hear? was written in 1962 (lyrics by Noel Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker) as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I listened to this Carrie Underwood version while writing today’s post, and it was beautiful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad7KU9bCTAM

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