Christmas Sunrise

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Merry Christmas!

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. Of course I stayed in bed. My kids are older now so Christmas morning doesn’t start at 6 a.m. anymore. We actually had a family meeting to negotiate an 8:20 a.m. start time. (8:23 was even on the table.) As I snuggled under the covers with no hope of falling back to sleep, I thought of the sunrise. I realized I could watch the sun rise on Christmas morning.  I opened my blinds and waited for the first sign of pink. I grabbed my Snoopy blanket and headed out front for a better view.

The skyline glowed with a red-pink hue. The air stood still. The cold didn’t feel cold (thanks to Snoopy blanket for that I’m sure.) The wild thing was the silence. Not a sound anywhere. The birds weren’t singing yet. No dogs barked. Stillness. I thanked God for this moment of true stillness.

Eventually, the few streaks of clouds and trails from planes, started turning orange-pink. Then the entire eastern sky became aglow. I walked into the street of our cul-de-sac for a view without house obstruction. As I stood in the street, sounds began to start. A hummingbird flew by me making its odd clicking/chirping sound. A few other birds began to chatter. The neighbor’s rooster did it’s thing. (Today was the first time I actually liked hearing him crow. It set the mood.) The stillness became sounds. The glow became light and the sky became blue. I stayed a bit longer but the cold began to sink in. I think a small breeze even started to blow.

At one point in the stillness, I wished I had a camera. However, I resisted the urge to record this moment on my phone. I stayed in it and completely soaked it in. I savored each second of color change. I didn’t miss a single stroke of God’s handiwork. This scene He created especially for His Son’s birthday. I took mental pictures. I can see the red streaking through the tree branches when I close my eyes. I took emotional pictures. I felt loved and seen by God. As I praised Him, silently, for His creation and amazing gift of Jesus, He hugged my heart. I received it all. It has been a truly blessed Christmas morn and not one gift has been opened yet. Well, that’s not true. I received His gift of a hand painted sunrise and the unshakable knowledge that I am a fully loved child of God. Sunrise is my favorite gift of 2017.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

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Hamilton

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Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t seen Hamilton, I will be discussing details of the show.

I get the hype now. To all of those fans of Hamilton who joined the movement from day one, I apologize. My daughter is one of those fans. She learned every song. Not an easy task if you have heard the music. There are a ton of lyrics in just one verse. She knows the names of all the original cast members and what they are doing now. She read Lin-Manuel Miranda’s notes on the lyrics and storyline. She is a true Hamilton-fan. Now I am too.

I had heard the entire soundtrack several times over with my daughter. I’ve seen scenes played out on the Tony’s and Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Yet, to see the story unfold in its entirety, was different. Apart from the amazing choreography and vocal skill, the story got to me. This isn’t your typical history book. Two themes captured me in this show: Forgiveness and are you a Burr or Hamilton?

Forgiveness. Les Miserables is one of my all time favorite musicals because of the impact of the forgiveness and mercy offered to Jean Valjean by the bishop. It gets me every time and sucks me into watching a man’s life unfold who has been given not just a second chance, but pure forgiveness and undeserved mercy. I want to live my life with the knowledge that I have been given that too – from God. Forgiveness in Hamilton comes late in the show. Eliza Hamilton forgives her husband of his affair. The couple is estranged after he prints a publication revealing his affair. When their son is killed in a duel, she grabs Alexander’s hand thus offering forgiveness. The lyrics even say “Forgiveness, can you imagine?” No. He publicly humiliated her. He betrayed her. Yet, in this moment of shared grief and facing life without their son, they reunite. Powerful, powerful moment.

Are you a Burr or Hamilton? I asked my kids this on the way home. We have 2 Burrs and 1 Hamilton. Burr is depicted in this show as a people-pleaser, a “do what it takes” to get ahead person but always within the rules of the game and do not make waves. Hamilton is a hot-head, speak what’s on your mind, strive for excellence, take risks and don’t think, act. At one point, both men study law. Burr comments that Hamilton excels so quickly yet they started at the same time. Hamilton’s aggressive style got him results quicker than the safe path. There are pros and cons to being either type of person. I couldn’t shake the feeling that as a Hamilton, I need to make sure I think more before I act. I need to consider others before I respond with my personal convictions. I need to remember excellence isn’t perfection – that doesn’t exist.

Whether you tend to be a Hamilton or a Burr, our goal is not to be either man. Let’s model our lives after Jesus. He has a righteous anger. Jesus is direct and shares with confidence. Jesus had excellence in all He does because He is perfection. He always consulted His father (God) before making decisions on earth. We are about to celebrate His birthday – Christmas. Let’s offer forgiveness to all who need it from us. He gives it to us when we are so undeserving. Let’s also give Him the gift of focusing on an area in our life that we can be more like Him.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

The Christmas Story

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My daughter performed in the Christmas program at church. The orchestral music soothed my soul. The choir sang of truth and hope and gave God praise. The play, interspersed between poignant songs, told the true meaning of Christmas. The finale touched my heart and lifted my eyes to God as the entire congregation joined the performers in singing Joy To The World. I felt God’s presence in that moment.

Christmas time is when the world sings our songs – the songs of believers. It is a time when Christians have it fairly easy to speak of what they believe. God sent His son, Jesus, to earth to live as a human. After 33 years, and only a few years of actual ministry, Jesus was killed, buried and rose again to return to heaven to prepare a place for us. His death paid for our sin – our disobedience to God. If we believe in Jesus, the precious baby whose birth we celebrate on December 25, we have eternal life.

I speak at churches and retreats for a living. I am very comfortable being an evangelist. I talk like this all year-long. I know that I am not the norm. Most followers of Jesus aren’t as outspoken. Their faith is shown through their compassion, service and love. However, this is a time of year when you can share more freely. Share with others why you care, serve and love those in your sphere of influence. Take a step out of your comfort zone this Christmas and speak of your faith.

My son went door to door with his youth group to invite neighbors to a Christmas Eve service. All the junior high and high school kids did it. Most were wayyyyyyy outside their comfort zone. He told me that their group took turns speaking at each house. My mom-heart was warmed by his bravery. My spiritual-heart was excited that the next generation is being taught how to be bold, verbally, with their faith.

I encourage you to be bold verbally this Christmas. Pray before you open the buffet at gatherings in your home. Read someone your favorite verse in the telling of the birth of Christ. Ask your friends if they have a memory of attending church during the holidays.  You may be surprised at what spoke to them as a child. When the new year begins, revisit these conversation if you feel brave. If not, return to your love language for God – compassion, acts of service and love. He uses all these ways to draw people into relationship with Him.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Fix Your Gaze

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I take yoga at the LA Arboretum. We lay our yoga mats on the grass and gaze at the beauty of nature while we stretch our muscles. It brings me great delight and peace. I remember the first time I attended. I was so nervous. I didn’t know what Down-Dog was or Warrior 1. I figured I would be laughed at or told I was doing it wrong over and over again. Thankfully, my instructor explained every position in great detail so I could follow along. I felt comfortable at day 1 of yoga and have continued with it ever since.

Every session, we attempt a balance pose. An example would be when you put your foot on your opposite thigh or in your hand stretched out to the side. It can be as complicated as it sounds. The process involves us getting into tree pose then we find a spot on the ground in front of us to focus on. Our instructor will say “fix your gaze.” Then we go into our balance pose. We usually can keep balanced if we keep focused. For me, whenever she says “fix your gaze,” I am reminded of a simple worship chorus written by Tommy Walker.

I fix my eyes on You, the author of my faith
Casting aside every sin and every weight
I fix my eyes on You, I lay my burdens down
Letting the cares of this world now fade away

During my yoga practice, I am in constant communication with God. I am praying requests, praising Him for the beauty of His creation I can see right in front of me and listening for His responses. If I haven’t yet focused my mind on God, the balance pose always gets me there. I fix my gaze. I usually sing the song above and relax into His peace. I use my yoga time to focus on God and let the cares of the world fade away. It’s an hour of pure worship and connection with God for me.

There is an old hymn that says something similar to Tommy’s worship chorus.

Turn you eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face;
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

When you are overwhelmed with the cares of the world (the busyness of the holidays, the deadlines, the stress of daily life, the financial burdens, the health concerns, etc.), turn your eyes upon Him. The cares of the world fade and grow strangely dim when you are fixing your gaze on Him. I encourage you to fix your gaze this week. Take time, daily if you can, to focus on Him. When you find you are carrying a load, fix your gaze. The cool thing is, you can be at yoga, in the line at the grocery store, at your dinner table or sitting on the couch when you fix your gaze. He’s everywhere and always ready to receive your attention and return it with His peace.

Dream Big! Pray Big!