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The Deliverer…

As I pondered December 1st, being the start to the holiday season; my thoughts went to what it must have been like those 2,000+ years ago when the birth of Jesus was approaching. I reflected on how the Bible says the Jewish people were under tremendous oppression by Roman rule. The Roman government was so domineering that the people cried out to God to send a “Deliverer”.

A “Deliverer” had been foretold of hundreds of years earlier, however, none had come. The Jewish people experienced great poverty and persecution at the hands of the Romans; leading to revolt. The years of brutality had made the Jewish people hard hearted, stubborn, and cruel in return. On this December eve they waited for a Deliverer to rescue them from misery and conquer their oppressors.

Today, if you think about our country, the world at large and the human condition, we are in a very similar situation: one of oppression, (particularly for Christian values and beliefs,) one of rebellion, one of cruelty: selfishness, anger, impatience. We lose our temper and our manners at the first sign of inconvenience. We jump to conclusions without having the full story, we retreat within; living in fear, we protect, we debate…we rebel.

We have become so narcissistic that there is no time, patience, or energy left to be kind. We are so busy caught up in our personal struggles that we don’t have the wherewithal to put others ahead of our own “suffering”, or detour long enough to make a difference in someone else’s life.

And can you blame us? We are exhausted and beat-down every day – socially, professionally, financially, physically, emotionally. We are doing everything we can to keep our head above water. There is scarcely a person that if they could be truly transparent, that would not admit to the intense struggles in their lives, and the overwhelmed feelings they experience just trying to survive. With so much adversity we become withdrawn and introspective, lacking desire or ambition to care about others, especially outside our realm of convenience or obligation. We isolate … all the while our hearts cry is to be “delivered”.

This thought made me sad… But then it occurred to me, “what if while we’re waiting for the return of the “Deliverer”, we are to be “deliverers” ourselves. What if until Christ returns, as He said he would, we are to help “deliver” our “neighbor”.

When Jesus appeared on the scene those 2000+ years ago, he was the “Deliverer” the Jews had been waiting for, but his message was not one of political power, strong-arming, or war. His message was one of “love your neighbor as yourself”. He told them to “be the light to the world”. They were to help orphans, widows, and the beaten-down, to love their fellow man, including those they disagreed with – to be a “deliverer”.

So maybe while we are waiting on Jesus’ return, our ultimate” Deliverer”, we too could to make room in our lives to be Christs intercessor helping to “deliver” people. Be their friend in times of despair, show them kindness, mercy, forgiveness, helping to deliver them from the pit of their fears and struggles, ultimately showing them the love of Christ.

Jesus is returning one day and He will deliver mankind for all eternity once and for all, this is for certain. But, until that time – possibly we could be the hands, the feet, the voice, and the heart of one reaching out on behalf of the eternal “Deliverer”.

I hope you have a very merry holiday season and that you find peace in the “Deliverer”.

Deliverer

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http://www.thecrystalheart.org/

I wrote this blog in 2011, however after reading it again for the first time in many years I realize it is even more relevant for today and our “cultural climate”.

The truth about fears, distractions and focus… Memoirs of fright fest. 

During these tumultuous  times we live there are so many distractions coupled with fear to not only hold us back, but to sometimes even completely derail us. How many times recently have you heard some outlandish claim, unreasonable suggestion or degrading and insulting comment that made you stop dead in your tracks and wonder “what is going on, how does this effect me?, how bad is this going to get? , and how am I to respond.”. If you’re like me, the news, social media, community, country, world, and my own family struggles all play a huge part in the undoing of Janie. I loose my focus as fear of the unknown, fear of retribution, fear of personal loss,and fear of all the “what if’s” of life become distractions. I lose my focus as I allow the distractions of the “world” to get the best of me – . But, one pre-halloween evening I had an experience that changed my view of fear, distractions, and focus forever.

A few years ago I worked for a company that had an office in Los Angeles, CA where I often had to travel to meet with my boss and other team members. On this occasion I had traveled to LA only to have our meetings cut short, and as my co-workers lived in the area, I found myself alone in my hotel room at 4:00 PM that afternoon with nothing to do. It was close to Halloween and my hotel was just a few miles from Knotts Berry Farm where I had gone several times when I was younger, but hadn’t been back in over 15 years.  How I loved going there for the amusement rides, see the shows, and dine on Mrs. Knotts famous chicken dinner.

From the moment I had arrived in LA I had seen signs about Knotts Berry Farm and had thought I’d love to go back if I had the chance. But to do this alone, heavens no. That would be scary. And as I observed the advertisements more closely I realized that this friendly amusement park had been transformed into a place of horror as they celebrated Fright Fest! I had heard about the popularity of Fright Fest and seen it on TV as one of the top 10 most frightening places to go for Halloween. I quickly determined that was not something I was interested in going to and especially alone.

As I sat in my hotel room wondering what I would do for the rest of the evening, I had a crazy thought run through my head. The kind you get when you know God is prompting you to act… It said “you need to go to Fright Fest.” What?, I argued, and quickly began to list all the cons of going. Con – I’m not terribly familiar with the rental car I was using. Con – could be dangerous driving in the dark. Con – I have to drive to Knotts Berry Farm with no GPS and try to find my way in uncharted territory. Con – Parking at those amusement parks are a “nightmare.” Con – I’d have to walk through a dark parking lot alone and Ted (my husband) has always warned me not to do that. Con – I’ll have to go through haunted houses with out someone to hold my hand and when I scream there will be no one to console me. The cons staked up. The voice persisted and I decided to list the pros. Pro – I like Mrs’ Knotts Chicken. Pro – I could just relax in Mrs. Knotts Restaurant. Pro – I needed to eat anyway. That was about it for the pros’ of going to Fright Fest. The cons definitely outweighed the pros. But no matter how hard I tried to get it out of my mind, the voice persisted “try it, I will be with you.”

So after much deliberation (I think it was more like arguing with myself and God,) I reluctantly caved, but,with the full intent of only going to the restaurant to get Mrs’. Knotts famous fried chicken dinner.

One of my cons was immediately realized when I got lost driving to Knotts Berry Farm even though there were signs everywhere. How I kept making wrong turns I’ll never know. But eventually one of the wrong turns landed me in a parking lot that was right at the front entry way to the amusement park. All the other signs around the vicinity had been directing the onslaught of cars to parking lots on the outskirts which would have meant a 4 block walk to the entrance. That was one con turned pro! Next, the parking lot was packed and there was a huge line of cars waiting for the parking attendant to usher them to a spot. I could see it now, I would be at the back of the lot. Ted was not going to be happy to hear that I had to walk by myself in a dark parking lot. But as my turn came for the parking attendant to show me the way, they opened a parking lot that was completely empty right at the front. Another con turned pro! As I parked my car and made my way way through the lot there were hundreds of people strolling in so I saddled up beside them for the jaunt to the park entrance, hence turning a third con into a pro! This was already turning out to be a positive experience and I hadn’t even approached the entrance.

When I got close to the entrance my plan was to make a beeline for Mrs. Knotts restaurant which had an entry on the outside of the amusement park. I wouldn’t even have to go inside! But when I got to the restaurant they were closing for dinner and said there was another restaurant inside the park that served the same food. Darn, I was going to have to go inside after all.

As I approached the entrance I could see on the outside ghoulish creatures, disturbing Halloween animated scenes, and hear screams and screeching from within. I thought about turning around and going back to the hotel. (I liked room service anyway.) But I had that really good parking spot and my mouth was watering for Mrs Knotts famous fried chicken dinner. So I decided to venture inside the haunted park with a mission to find the restaurant.

When I got inside it was a confusing mess of people, frightening scenes, screaming and howling and evil laughing. The park was huge and when I asked for help to the restaurant someone shoved a park map in my hand and said this should help and circled the restaurant. Then turned to help the next person.

I was on my own in this huge disarray of mayhem. What else was I too do. Too late turn back now plus it cost me $30.00 bucks to get in. So, I set out thinking I’d find the “chicken” and ignore everything else along the way. I would laugh in the face of danger and heckle at the creatures that tried to scare me. But as I rounded the first corner the fog was so intense I couldn’t see anything  more than about 2 feet in front, and as the first zombie on a skate board flew past me as if he would run me over and bellowed his haunting taunt, all my bravery went out the door. I screamed and ran. Ran right into a group of teenagers that laughed at me not at the zombie. I felt silly and really out of place as I followed them for a while pretending to be part of their group so the villains would leave me alone. I thought there would be safety in numbers. Every once in a while the teenagers would hear me scream and look back as if to say who is the weirdo following us. I would quickly stop and pretend to be looking the other way at some oddity in an attempt to divert their attention. I was afraid they’d ask me to quit following them, and the last thing I wanted was to be on my own. I ventured a few more minutes with this group but eventually got separated from them in the fog (I think they intentionally lost me.)

There was no end to the creepy characters and haunting scenes as I continued to run into more ghouls, ghosts and vampires at every turn. Everyone was screaming as we made our way through the park.

I finally found the restaurant, which appeared to be in “Never Never Land”” from the amount of time it took me to get to it. And none too soon as I was just about ready to be attacked by a whole group of mummies, when I quickly darted in the restaurant door and said “one please!” completely out of breath. I think the mummies could see I was easy prey. They actually looked disappointed when I turned around as if to say to them, I’m safe now. You can’t get me in here. (I did some of my own heckling when I was in safety.)

Once at my table I could still hear the sounds of terror in the streets but I was safe. I boldly called my family and told them where I was, bragging about how brave I had been and making them jealous that they were not with me to indulge in the chicken dinner.

As I finished my meal I began to get a little nervous about the prospect of having to make my way back through this creepy venue to the entrance so I could get to my car and back to the safety of my hotel.  I decided to order dessert to prolong the inevitable. I eventually got to full to eat anymore and figured I’d better move along, as it continued to get darker and the screaming persisted. I paid the bill and as I was leaving the hostess said “enjoy the festivities”. Yeah right…I was going home! I pulled out my trusty map and started back to the entrance. But,somewhere along the way I made several wrong turns and when the fog lifted a bit I realized I was standing in a line for a haunted house.

At Fright Fest the big draw is that they convert their traditional rides and shows into haunted houses and mazes. The houses of horror are abundant, and each one of them are a different theme. One is a clown haunted house (clowns are scary), one is a meat factory, one is a baby Chucky type theme, and they go on and on. There are probably 20+ different themed haunted house opportunities, even the wild west show was turned into the walking dead show.

There I was in the line for the “fun house” haunted maze. I did some positive self talk ,”Janie stop being such a baby” and “your already here how bad can a fun house be”, and “the boys (our sons) would certainly be making fun of you if they could see you now after all the bragging you did moments ago in the safety of the restaurant”. My self talk was convincing, so I stayed in line.

The lines were about a half hour long so you get to know the people in front and behind you rather well. And everyone said the same thing, your alone? They thought I was crazy and so did I! We walked slowly through the line that seamed more like we were going to pay penance rather than have fun. As I got closer to the entrance of the haunted house the screams from within got louder and louder. I braced myself for something absolutely horrifying and thought I hope I don’t faint cuz I did when I was a kid at the Radio Station haunted house in our neighborhood and my dad had to carry me out the back door. There was no one here to carry me out.

It was finally my turn to go through the turnstile and once you do there is no turning back. I saw several people chicken out at the last minute, which actually crossed my mind several times. But I had come this far I was going to brave it…alone.

Haunted houses always start out with ghoulish creatures welcoming and pleading for you to come in, your the guest of honor, come see what I have in store for you…blah, blah, blah. They typically then bring you into a room of headless people, villains, torture scenes, and several creatures that look like mannequins who ultimately come to life as they jump out at you to get the element of surprise going and fear juices flowing. You then wander into a strobe light room, where you become completely disoriented and more monsters jump out at you. You also notice the faces of people you are sure were standing in line with you who are now on the chopping block (literally) or hanging from some spike on the wall. After passing through a hall of black plastic tarps you then proceed to a graveyard of sorts with RIP on the tombstones, or here lies so and so, and ghosts ascending from the graves. Lastly some witch beckons you to “come back again. We’ll have you for dinner.” And you walk out completely horrified.

As I write these attributes of a haunted house they sound rather silly, but when you are there, in the heat of the moment, there is nothing silly about it. And, if the staged ghoulish sounds are not bad enough – the screaming and crying from the other haunted house goers is sure to complete the fear package.

The first haunted house I went through was a nightmare. I had never seen such theatrics and well planned horror scenes in my life. (What did I expect I was in LA.) There was nothing fun about the fun house, and it included some pretty scary clowns. I was screaming so loud and was so upset by the time I got out my blood pressure was racing and fear was written all over my face. I was breathless. What had I just done? I told myself -“ Janie, you are the one who has terrible nightmares watching some cheesy 1940 Bella Lugosi vampire movie and now these graphic scenes, you’ll never sleep tonight. I was very upset. I had succumbed to every theatric and trick the people running the haunted house had sent my way. The screams and sound of taunting, howling and tempting were the worst. And I decided I’d had enough.

However, as I walked a few more feet there was another haunted house and that voice inside me said, “try it again.” Really…??

So there I was back in another half hour line trying to get my courage up to endure the meat factory maze. As I stood in line I could hear the taunting and screams coming from within and I was dreading my turn to go through the turnstile. Suddenly in the midst of the terror, as if all the screaming and voices had been somehow  blocked from my hearing, I heard that little voice once again, “Janie, pay no attention to the screams. Pay no attention to the taunting and temptations. Keep your eyes forward. Do not look to where the screams are coming from or from who they come from, just stay the course, with the goal of looking ahead and getting through the haunted maze.” The sounds of terror returned and I realized I had just heard from God as to how I was to get through this haunting experience. Pay no attention to the screams he said. Pay no attention to the fear you see around you. It is not real. It is only there to try and trip you up, to scare you, to keep you from moving forward.

As I stood there in awe of the message I had just received, a dad and his children were ahead of me in line and the dad said, “Are you alone? You can walk through the haunted house with us.”

When we went through the turnstile I grabbed hold of the hand of one of the kids and off we went. This haunted house was more graphic and twisted than the last, and my first inclination was oh no here I am again and wanted to let out a scream. But then I remembered…”pay no attention to the screams.” So I blocked them out. When they screamed I looked beyond the scream. I did not look from where it was coming. I stayed on course. I did not get lured into chambers of horror, I went through focused on the goal, coming out the other side with my blood pressure down and not being afraid. The little boy I was holding hands with got scared a few times and each time I would say, “Sweetheart, pay no attention to the screams”, and he would settle down. When we made it out the other side, the family asked if I wanted to continue going through other haunted houses with them but I declined. I had found a new way to get through the haunted houses without fear and unscathed.

That night I preceded to go through 9 different haunted houses and mazes, mostly alone, and each time remembering to pay no attention to the screams, keep focused on the goal. I eventually got to a point where I could actually go through the haunting with a smile on my face and enjoying the innovation and ingenuity that had gone into each scene.

As I made my way back to the car that night, totally exhausted, I was filled with joy as I had discovered a new life lesson…Pay no attention to the screams of life, the things that seem scary, the people that taunt you, and the situations around you that appear overwhelming and impossible. The Lord showed me to keep my focus on the goal that is ahead. And, with God as my focus, all things are possible through Christ to strengthen to me. 

As you go through the “haunted houses” of your life, they will all look different with a little different that distraction technique, look and feel. Scenes will come and go, situations change and can become distractions that are seemingly insurmountable, overwhelming, and potentially fearful. You will hear screaming and fear will attempt to set in. Just remember the screams cannot harm you. They are fake. Put your trust in God, focus on the goal – glorifying HIM in all that you do, and pay no attention to the screams!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Advent is the anticipation and preparation for the arrival of a noble person. At Christmas it means the coming of Jesus. It is God interjecting himself on earth, taking on human form as a baby, born of a virgin, in a little town called Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago.

Why did He do it? Why did Jesus, the son God, leave his home in heaven to be with us? Why all the fuss, why all the carrying on? Why all the ruckus about a little baby, a manger, and a stable?

I wish I had an answer that would give you that “ah haw” moment when the light goes on and you say “oh, that makes perfect sense!” If I could do that for you I would, because you see, I believe in the Lord, with all my heart and in His purposes, however, my devotion to Him is not because I understand Him, it is because I don’t need to…I just need to accept Him and His love. Everything else falls into place after that.

Here is the best I can do…

The Bible says, and I believe it; that when God created men and women He did it so He could have someone to pour His love into. I want you to think about that for a moment… those of you who are parents know what it is like to have a child and pour your love into them. Well, that is precisely what God wanted.

Is it so hard for us to imagine a being like God, who can do and have all He wants, and yet would create something He wanted more than anything …someone to love…? And God’s love is unconditional. We, don’t have to do anything to get and keep it…it just is. As parents we love our children unconditionally too, don’t we…? Can you imagine anything they could ever do that would stop you from loving them?

God wants the same things with us as we do with our children.

So When God made men and women He gave them everything their hearts desired. That was in the Garden of Eden. But just as when our children get everything they want, they can become selfish with a bit of an entitlement attitude… so it was with man and woman.

What happens when our children get that way? Oh we tolerate it a moment, and then when they persist, we administer some type of punishment in order to restore them to their sweet selves. Well that is what happened with God. Men and women had everything they wanted and became a little spoiled. They acted out by taking the fruit from the tree that God, their father, had told them not to take. And just as when our children disobey, there were consequences.

Man and woman were removed from the garden.

As parents sometimes our children misbehave to the point that we too have to remove them from a situation so they can have an attitude adjustment. That is precisely what God did. He made man and woman leave the garden of their hearts desire to give them the right perspective.

Now God, because He is who He is, knows everything man and woman were going to do before He even created them. He knew there would be wonderful times of fun and joy; He also knew there would be difficult times. But, the joy of having man and woman to love was worth the pain of the difficult times.
Likewise, who of us as parents, when we had kids, thought they would be perfect? We knew there would be times when we would be disappointed and even have to punish our children, but the love and joy they bring would be worth the tradeoff.

After man and woman left the Garden of Eden, God continued to be with them and love them, but things were a little different. Instead of God providing everything for them, man and woman had to work to provide for their own needs and desires. This is very similar to our children when they are grown. They aren’t going to live in our house forever. At the age of 18 or shortly after they venture out on their own and establish their grown-up roots. We raise them to do this and to be able to provide for themselves. God has done the same with us.

(Now we know when our kids grow up and leave the nest that they are going to struggle, but we also realize this is for their good. They need the struggle in order to grow in character and strength. Within the confines of our home they can grow to a point, but at some juncture it is time they go out on their own. That doesn’t mean we aren’t still actively involved in their lives, but they are now making their own decisions. This is how God is with us. We are making our own decisions, we are leading, we are working, we are taking care of the world, and God is there like a parent helping us along the way.)

But God’s original plan for man and women, which was to care for their every need and desire – never changed. He still wanted to one day restore us to the beautiful state we were in, in the Garden of Eden.

But men and women didn’t change. Like a naughty child who continues in their rebellious attitude, so did man and woman continue to be self-absorbed. God knew the punishment required, due to the consequences of man and women’s actions, was more than man and women could take. Even though they were the ones who were on the naughty list, God knew He would one day take their punishment for them.

And that is what He did when 33 years after His birth, he died on the cross. God’s plan all along was to eventually take the punishment we deserve so we wouldn’t have to. He realized we could not endure it, nor did He want us to endure it. He didn’t want us to get what we had coming because He loves us. So Jesus was punished in our place.

God also knew that if He took the punishment, not only would He be able to endure it, but He would rise again, and not only that but He, unlike children, would not be tempted to do any of the bad things we do. And, when He refrained, no more punishment would be needed, because man and women would be covered with forgiveness – because…He had already paid the price, He took the punishment in our place.

And that is why Advent is so important, because you see for the last 24 days we have been getting ready for the Noble One’s birth who would take the sins of the world onto Himself.

Oh how wonderful the day when as a child I had done something wrong and was in big trouble, that I did not get what I deserved. My mom’s classic line was “Wait until your father comes home!” I knew what that meant… big punishment. But on occasion, when dad came home…instead of disciplining me, he acknowledged what I had done and then forgave me. No spanking? No time-out? WONDERFUL!! Do you think I received his “gift” of forgiveness? Or do you think I chose the alternative? Of course not…I chose to be forgiven. And then you know what happened? It made me want to go on and be better.

Today as we begin gathering with our families and friends to celebrate Christmas on the Eve of Christ’s birth, I want to remember that the advent of Jesus is all part in the divine plan of a God whose only desire is to love us. He has taken care of everything…all I need to do is accept His love… and take His gift of forgiveness. It is the reason for the season!

‘Hark the herald angels sing…glory to the new born king. Peace on earth and mercy mild…God and “sinners” reconciled.’

Ted and I can be miles apart when it comes to how we each think some things should be for Christmas, (and life in general). I must say that some of the most stressful times of the season can be those spent with my husband, working on compromises.

For instance, we have very different ideas regarding gifts for others. Ted thinks we should narrow it down to a few select people to include our kids, grandkids, and parents. I on the other hand want to buy for everyone on Ted’s list but also include close friends and family as well as the occasional hostess gift for parties we attend.
I typically end up getting my way and we buy for everyone.

And I can’t just buy one gift per person, I have to also include some little do-dad or accessory that goes with the main gift. This in Ted’s mind is not necessary. To me, not including the do-dad is like getting dressed without putting on my earrings…my outfit is just not complete. Ted on the other hand feels “getting dressed” is enough…people can get their own earrings.
I end up buying what I want and every present has an accent gift.

We also don’t agree on the dollar amount we should spend. This is no surprise given I have a lot more people on my Christmas gift list than he does. This has led to more than one fight while standing with the big shopping cart at Costco in the aisle way, blocking others way while we hash things out.
I typically end up getting my way… I spend a little more than he wants me to, but in the end he is happy when he sees how delighted everyone is with their gifts.

We also differ on the Christmas menu. I like to provide a nice variety of food and snack choices for our guests at various events. Ted on the other hand, thinks we should have meat and potatoes and apple pie, and lots of all 3.
Our menu end up being a variety, but I make sure Ted gets his meat, potatoes and apple pie, even though he is the only one that eats the pie.

Our Christmas tree is also an area we disagree on…Ted wants a flocked tree and I want a green tree.
We have been married for 33 years, and for 30 of those we have had a flocked tree.

When it comes to Christmas cookies I love a variety of delicious cookies. When I ask Ted what he’d like me to make, he always say the same thing “just chocolate chip.”
Chocolate chip? That is so boring. So I make my variety of cookies anyway and he eats them.

I want to send a small amount of Christmas cards because they are a lot of work. Ted wants me to send them to practically everyone we know. He also wants me to hand deliver as many as possible so we can save money on the stamps.
I appease him and send Christmas cards to almost everyone we know, however, I hand deliver very few.

These are just a few of the areas we have to work out during the season…and that’s just Christmas. Imagine all the other issues we have to work through the remaining 11 months of the year!

With all the differences between our preferences, wants, and desires, it’s amazing we get anything accomplished; however, everything seems to come together in the end – we make compromises, we give in to each other on things that are important to the other person and it all works out. I guess when it comes down to it, it really doesn’t matter if we agree on everything or not. The main thing is we complement one another, respecting each of our unique gifts and talents, pulling them together to make for one spectacular Christmas.

The Bible doesn’t say that when a man and women get married the two “are” one.
It says when a man and women get married they “become” one.
Ted and I are continually in the process of “becoming one”.

We may not agree on a lot of stuff, but one thing we do agree on is that when the other is happy, we are happy… The fact that Ted is from…”the North Pole” and I am from…The Marshmallow World, makes life interesting and lends to a wonderfully diverse Christmas and beautiful life…together.

‘It’s a marshmallow world in the winter…When the snow comes to cover the ground…It’s time for play, it’s a whipped cream day…I wait for it the whole year round…
It’s a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts…Take a walk with your favorite girl…It’s a sugar date, so what if spring is late…In winter it’s a marshmallow world!’

These past few days I have been thinking a lot about the concept of “paying it forward”. “Paying it forward” is a random act of kindness. It is acknowledging the big and small good things that have happened to me by way of someone’s generosity, charity, forgiveness, or grace. Then, when having opportunity, showing someone else the same kindness I’ve been shown… without any ulterior motive.

There was a true story on YouTube recently that brought this to mind. It was of a boy about 7 years old who was destitute. He stole something from a food stand in an open-air market. When he was caught, he said it was because his mom was sick and needed something to eat. The owner of the food stand, as his young daughter looked on, forgave the child and gave him even more food than he had attempted to steal. The boy looked at the owner, took the food and ran off. The next scene shows the owner of the food stand, now 30 years later, as he falls to the floor and passes out ending up in the hospital in a comma. The hospital bills pile up to the tune of $700,000 plus, and his daughter, now grown up, is in terrible duress wondering how she is going to pay for her dads medical bills. In the next scene she receives a notice in the mail that the balance owed for the medical bills is now zero. All debt had been wiped away. The doctor who was her dads attending physician ended up being the very same boy who 30 years earlier had been shown grace by her dad. The sick man did not recover so he never realized the magnitude of his kind act 30 years prior, but his daughter ended up being the recipient of an awesome and much needed act of “paying it forward.”

I had the privilege not to long ago to be part of a “paying it forward” act which when demonstrated effected not only the recipient, but those who were witness to it.

My youngest son, Jeremy and I were in Chicago on a business trip. We had just finished a very important meeting and were jazzed about the results. We left the business meeting and headed straight for the coffee shop downstairs. It was close to Christmas and the coffee shop was all decked out in festive décor. We got our coffee and sat down to reminisce about the meeting, when a homeless man entered. It was very busy, standing room only, but the homeless man managed to find a seat and proceeded to sit there and talk to himself. He was wearing tattered clothes, had matted hair and stuck out like a sore thumb in the midst of the posh coffee shop patrons. It was extremely cold that December in Chicago and he had come in to warm up. Jeremy and I continued to talk; meanwhile neither of us could take our eyes off of this man. People were ignoring him, trying to pretend he wasn’t there. Eventually a conversation between the barista and the coffee shop manager ensued, which I could see was about the homeless man and his need to leave the premises. Jeremy and I noted the situation silently when finally; neither of us could enjoy ourselves anymore watching the impending removal of this homeless man. Jeremy looked at me and said, “Ok, what do you want to do? I’ll do it”. Jeremy then proceeded to buy a large peppermint mocha and pastry and gave it to the man. It caught the attention of everyone in the coffee shop as they witnessed Jeremy’s act of kindness. I watched as a sense of relief and peace came upon everyone in that establishment, as the homeless man sat among us enjoying his treat in the warmth of the coffee shop. Jeremy and I had been the earlier recipient of a much coveted business deal and it was our turn to “pay it forward.”

As I think about this concept, I have also come to realize that not all “paying it forward” is a blessing. Case in point…I was driving home recently from a friend’s house and was in thoughtful reflection of our visit, when a car buzzed around me on the freeway doing about 70 MPH, while I was going the speed limit. As he zoomed by, he veered over into my lane enough to get my attention and flipped me off. I was surprised at this aggressive gesture, and wondered what had happened in his world that caused this act of hostility toward someone he didn’t even know. This was a negative act of “paying it forward” and one that I hope will not be repeated. When unkind things are done to us it is hard not to lash out and make everyone as miserable as we are, however, “paying it forward” needs to come from the goodness we have received, not from the badness. There is enough strife in people’s lives without us “paying that forward.”

This Christmas season and into the New Year I want to be committed to “paying it forward” in the best of ways! I want to bless others as I have been blessed, showing them grace, mercy, love and friendship whenever possible by simple acts of goodwill. I may not always see the results, but no matter the affects, I need to trust lives have been touched in some way by my random kindness. And…The positive effect it will have on me as the giver will be rewarding and bring contentment to my soul.

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year… With the kids jingle belling… And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer” … It’s the most wonderful time of the year’

Children make Christmas magical! They embody the spirit of Christmas – in a child’s eyes, anything is possible. We are captivated by their innocence, honesty, and sense of imagination. For today’s blog I want to share with you an enchanted story from my granddaughters, Mirabel and Sloane, ages 3 and 4 respectively. They made up this story and told their mommy, who wrote it down and sent it to me.

I hope you enjoy their enchanted tale of – The Ice Witches’ First Christmas Party!

In a faraway kingdom there was a Snow Prince and Princess who loved Christmas time! They loved that it was Jesus’s birthday, and a time to give and receive presents. To show their love of Christmas they threw a big birthday celebration every year on Christmas Eve for Jesus.

High up in the mountains of the Kingdom lived an Ice Witch, who despised Christmas! She didn’t know Jesus; she wanted to get rid of Christmas all together. The Prince and Princess tried to visit the witch to inform her about the meaning of Christmas and why it was so important, but her heart was too frozen and she wouldn’t let them through the gate without harm. This kept her from receiving their message.

While the Prince and Princess were preparing for the celebration the Ice Witch cast a dark magic spell to steal their Christmas spirit. Soon as the spell was cast the Prince and Princess forgot the meaning of Christmas and started fighting over gifts, money, and their time. Before long decorations for the party were ruined! Word got out that Jesus’s Birthday was canceled, and the Prince and Princess were fighting. The Ice Witch was tickled to discover that her spell had worked! Now everyone would be as unhappy as she was.

A Fairy in the land was a good friend of the Prince and Princess. She had seen through her crystal ball on the top of her wand, that fighting had broken out in the castle. She was determined to help them, but how? The Fairy said a pray and asked God to reveal to her an answer to the problem. She heard back, “show them the real meaning of Christmas.” She knew just what to do, and flew off to the palace.

Meanwhile, the witch headed to the castle to observe firsthand the chaos she had created.

As the Fairy arrived, she gathered families from the village to sing a baby Jesus song in the castle. The Fairy used her magic wand to create music and the town folks began to sing. The divine singing brought tears to the Prince and Princesses’ eyes, as well as the witches, who was watching secretly in the rafters.

The beauty and love of Jesus’s birth broke the spell! Joy filled the room as new decorations were brought out. The birthday party was back on! The best part was the unexpected guest who attended this year, the Ice Witch! The message had finally gotten through to her; she was now too a recipient of the Christmas spirit.
The End!

My summary:
As you read their story you may have observed a few characteristics…

There is always a prince or princess in every (little girls) story.
They have a clear understanding of the true meaning of Christmas
They have a desire to change people’s hearts so they are happy
There is complete acceptance of others
Peace and harmony are important attributes in a “kingdom.”
It has a happy ending.

As we grow into adults, we encounter challenges, which can diminish many of the hopes and dreams of our childhood. With dreams in the rearview mirror, life’s struggles can change us and we lose hope. We can become bitter, defensive, self-absorbed and pre-occupied. But…wouldn’t our existence and the world at large be a much better place if we remembered the characteristics from the story of The Ice Witches’ First Christmas Party, and replicated them instead – in the “Story Of Our Lives”?

‘Toyland, Toyland…Little girl and boy land…While you dwell within it…You are ever happy there…’