Sunday, December 31, 2006

Here Comes 2007 -- 70's Style!

"A 70's party -- that's what we'll do!" she exclaimed in her characteristically enthusiastic way, as she brainstormed fun ideas for her annual New Year's Eve fest. "It'll be a 70's theme. People will have to wear 70's clothes and we'll do a 70's trivia quiz. It'll be a blast!"

Mork and Mindy, Barbra Streisand, Petula Clark, Jim Morrison, and Bob Dylan celebrity photos line the dining room walls. Second Chapter of Acts and Keith Green albums hang in the corner. In my music room a disco ball disperses flashes of color and light as a real DJ system playing KC and the Sunshine Band gets us all moving a little quicker. My chandeliers no longer look colonial; in lieu of traditional flame lights they are decked with red Christmas bulbs. Quite the transformation. There are girls with white go-go boots, false eyelashes, belted ribbed turtlenecks, and (hold on) mini-skirts (not too mini and all with tights or Knee socks... is that okay?) The guys are sporting plaid pants and bell bottoms, shaggy haircuts, and vests. And really special is seeing my daughter wearing a dress I wore in college. My, that was a while ago.

It is fun, I must admit. The music started and I wanted to dance, dance, dance. (Have I told you lately that I love dancing, any dancing? I do. I really do.) The excitement is high as trivia is being discussed; names are being mentioned that are real to me and yet totally unknown to this young crowd.

It has been fun preparing, looking through yearbooks, googling trivia and fashion, remembering music and TV and movies and headlines from my earlier years. What was once so current and important has faded into yesterday and is already unfamiliar to a new generation, as obscure and remarkable as powdered wigs and John Adams.

A reminder amidst the fun: grass withers and flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever. We can either look and learn from history, understanding that only one thing spans all time. Or we can believe that these temporal things are of true value.

I'll choose eternity.

And I'll have fun tonight!

Happy New Year to all. May He fill your coming days with grace, mercy, and truth. He is Wonderful!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Christmas

Stockings have been emptied for over 12 hours now. Secrets hidden beneath festive colors and bows are now disclosed; most are already relegated to new homes, a few remain under the tree in less-than-holidayish garb. The Christmas dinner which took all afternoon to prepare afforded us pleasure. We lingered around the table for nearly two hours. The family was together (minus a much missed oldest daughter's family) as well as some dear compadres from Korea, an out-of-town fly-in comrade, and a newfound Iranian friend. They have all returned home. (Well, the out-of-town type friend is staying over...) It has been a wonderful day.

We also managed to include what will not become a Sinclair tradition: foot surgery. I'll explain. On Friday evening (technically Saturday morning) Julia was making a routine nighttime trip to the bathroom when she stepped on a sharp object, imbedding half a sewing needle deep in her right foot. Sunday afternoon she underwent surgery to have it removed. Consequently she and I missed both church services.

This is sounding too routine - it's the second year in a row that I stayed home to tend troubled feet in lieu of attending our traditional Candlelight service. I've decided that the original tradition is preferred.

Fortunately Julia is doing well. She is hobbling around, but should heal quickly. Today she seems to be gaining energy and strength.

And our Christmas was a beautiful day. Even Julia thought so.

*Sigh* Gotta love candles and family and moments worth treasuring.

*Sigh* Good night.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Special Season of Joy

Christmas Time

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here
We'll be drawing near
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year
Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year...

She sang, "Christmas time is here. Oh, that we could always see such spirit through the year."

I wonder how they think that could happen? I wonder how they cannot understand our inadequacy apart from Him. Do they not realize their own inability to love and suffer long? Have they pretended for so long that the pretense has taken on a form of reality? Is it Satanic deception? Pride?

But clearly we see a yearning. There is a clue in their melancholy sentiment: something is wrong, there is a missing piece. It is spoken and unspoken throughout the season. The longing for love and peace exists in the hearts of men, even today.

What a wonderful season of Joy! We have truly Good News - news that angels sang in Glory to lowly shepherds! We have Great Promise - promise that wise men saw in the heavenly Star! We are those who see such Spirit through the year!

It's time once again for shouting, whispering, singing, sharing! God has sent a Savior for you and for me!

"Lord, let men everywhere see You. Help them taste the love and peace only found in You. Grant them understanding of Your marvelous provision through salvation. In this beautiful season of promise and love let them believe and know that indeed, we who are Yours know Your Spirit through the year. And happy are the people whose God is the Lord."

Monday, December 18, 2006

Our Irish-American German Girl

"I love Germany!" she exclaimed, with all the drama that a Sinclair girl can muster (and that is a bit of drama...)

Yup. It's official. She has loved her time there. Not much German learned yet but hopefully, in time, she will acquire a bit of their vocabulary.

And, of course, we are all thrilled to see her and hear her stories. God has been incredibly faithful. He always is. So much growth, so much experience. Good, good stuff.

She heads back on Jan. 5. One small decision must be made between now and then. Louissa is one of six students who have been asked to stay for 6 months to form a summer team for ministry purposes (may I boast a bit and say that there are 93 students...) What an honor! And what a decision. At any rate, when she leaves it may be for a longer time than originally planned. God is always up to something, isn't He? But for now we just are happy to have her here.

For me, my Christmas has already begun! One of my best gifts has been received -- a traveling daughter is home.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Looking Beyond

My heart is pierced with the thorn of melancholy as of late. Actually, pretty consistently for several years now.

Still, thanksgiving fills every corner of my being this morning. I'm once again considering my ministry to Him; one look in His direction reminds me of His manifold blessings and gratefulness quickly floods my soul.

Heaven - eternity - the thought of "ever after" - captures my thought, grasping my contemplations. Blessings are here and now and are wonderful, but " 'All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.' "

I love eternity because of Him. I love what is to come more than the present. Abundant living begins the moment we exchange our meager existence for His Spirit living in us. Amazing. Here and now we experience that life. But we see through a glass darkly; we see in part.

Oh, to see Him! Nothing here compares. This is unimaginable glory and beauty. Every fiber of our beings will be caught up in His great love, filled with tender joy, vibrant with happiness, and spilling over with everlasting thanksgiving. Ecstasy and exaltation. Peace and tranquility. Endless beauty and love.

Let's all go there. Let's all go together.

"Oh, Lord. Thank You for tarrying, that more might join us there. Great is Your lovingkindness, and that my soul knows right well, for You have found even me. And I join with a countless multitude that cries out for mercy upon the souls of men. Yet, I join also and say, 'Even so, come Lord Jesus, come.' "

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Our Ministry to Him

Numbers 35

We see that the Lord instructed the people of Israel to provide cities for the Levites and pasturelands for their flocks.

This is an indication of the importance placed upon their ministry. As the priesthood, they were responsible to maintain relationship, if you will, with Him. They were the ones who served before Him day and night.

Today, all those who believe and call upon His name are a royal priesthood, with the privilege of day and night ministry to Him. We are to bring hearts of thanksgiving and worship daily. Sacrifice and offering are to be regularly given. Time in His presence, hearing from Him is to be routine (but never boring or taken for granted.)

For the people of Israel, this ministry was vital and guarded by the Lord.

How about your ministry before Him? As I read this passage I was reminded once again of the privilege and responsibility afforded me through grace. I have been made a priest. I can come before Him to hear, speak, worship, sacrifice, receive, and give thanks.

A priest. Time once again to act like one.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Is This All There Is, My Friends?

The sounds of my daughter's violin lesson floated through the green door as I sat and waited in the hallway. Students emptied into the corridors as class came to an end. Laughter, singing, and jokes prevailed. It must have been a good class.

Soon I noticed him, his slightly bent over figure shuffling slowly down the hall. I watched as he purposely meandered along, taking in every posting on each bulletin board passed, absorbing details, memorizing the sounds of the students all around. When he was within earshot, I called his name, retrieving him from his reverie.

"Oh, hello there," he responded. Long pause as he collected his thoughts. "I just gave the last test to the last class I will ever teach." He hesitated and coaxed forth a half-smile. Emotions were pulling him.

He continued with his explanation. "'Why do you do it?' my wife asked me. 'Because I like the kids and working with them,' I told her. But she's right. It's not fair to her. She wants to have time to travel and do things. So, now we can."

But his faraway look let me in on his secret. He faced the future with some uncertainty, feeling as though his purpose in life was being left behind. For untold years this was all he had ever known; this was his identity, and here he felt valued and affirmed.

Oh, that he might know the Lord's affirmation. Oh, that he might live for His purposes which are never left behind. Oh, that his future might be faced with assurance and confidence.

How sad to face the end without knowing. How empty and lonely.

And how precious to me today is knowledge of His salvation.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Beyond Behavior Modification

We sat together on the side of my bed. I put my arms around her as the tears silently slipped down her freckled cheeks. Her young, tender heart was full of disappointment - in herself. She had reached the precipice that everyone approaches at one time or other. The behavior she desired was way over there, out of reach, seemingly unattainable. Regular, somewhat consistent discipline and instruction had not been able to purge her unacceptable behavior.

So now what?

So now - Him.

This is the place, this is the precipice, that allows them - and all of us - to see Him. What we desire to be is way over there, what we are is stuck on this side, and there is a terrible gap betwixt. He alone is the bridge.

This is the moment for which parents need to pray and watch. This becomes an opportunity for a precious daughter or son to have a personal encounter with their Savior, their Redeemer. All those songs and scriptures suddenly are relevant. They, too, stand in need of forgiveness and grace. Their failure and weakness has become apparent, and we should be quick to point them to our own source of help in trouble. We can share testimony of how, in our own time of need, He met us. Our hearts have been transformed, He has enabled us to walk in holiness, and He delights to teach us His ways. He will do the same for them.

This is how hearts become changed. This is way beyond behavior modification.

But what brought my precious daughter face to face with her need? How did she find herself on the brink of an impassable escarpment?

In a word - training. Training fortifies our strengths and improves our weakness. It also discovers areas where we are deficient - hopelessly deficient.

I love the precipice. It is there that we build altars, find new hope, and discover His all-powerful grace to transform and enable us.

Oh, how I love to stand there with them as He reveals to them all His love and mercy. There is no better place.

Friday, December 01, 2006

"It's That Time of Year"

So what do you know. I haven't even finished decorating the house (that is quite a procedure for me) and we've already hosted a party. A person does learn flexibility when living with adult children! I'm so glad they like to use our home for themselves and their friends. The candles were lit, music was playing, and I fell asleep to the sound of laughter. Not bad really, not bad at all.

The weekend shows signs of some of the crunch that comes with the holiday season. I guess I'm not altogether down on that. I know that sometimes we borrow stress and get pushed around by that emotional tyrant called "urgent". But the actual busy-ness is part and parcel of making this time of year more special. It just plain takes a bit more effort and time. There are no shortcuts to some of that. And in my book, it is well worth it. You know me; I'm all for celebration!

So for now I am off to tie some bows, hang a garland or two, and prepare some festive clothes for children to wear in a Christmas performance. He is so worthy of it all!