ADVENTures Day 22–Dark Games

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2 (NIV)

I come from that generation who played outside until dark. “Be home when the street lights come on!!” my folks would say, and mostly we obeyed. This is a bit of a problem since, well, it’s fun to play in the dark. Every once in a while, in the wintertime when it is dark by 5:15, we would stay outside and play and play until someone stepped out and called us in.

We made this a habit during Christmas break, and I think my mom would let us get away with it just to keep us out of her hair. I understand this, now that I have my own two bairns–my two sweet little angels who woke me up on the first of my 10 vacation days with loud shrieking and the unmistakable sounds of trading punches. Sigh. Peace on earth.

One year during Christmas break, we took to playing hide-and-seek in the dark. I. LOVED. IT. No one could beat me. I had the very best hiding place–right on the front porch. This would be the proverbial hiding in plain sight strategy, except I could just step back into the shadows and no one knew I was there. The biggest danger is giving yourself away by laughing. Someone would come so close, even look directly at that dark corner and never see me.

We were out there until someone called–someone with authority called me by name out of the darkness .

My life before Christ was a little like this. I was a good kid–mostly, but some things about the darkness I found hard to resist. Generally I wanted to be obedient, stay out of trouble, and stay safe. But I held back a little darkness here and there, because it was fun–exciting even. It was obvious from watching the people around me that the darkness–as attractive as it seemed–was truly dangerous. After seeing one or two lives in shreds, I worked at maintaining a balance between light and dark.

But it doesn’t really work that way. You can’t love the light and flirt with darkness.

‘It can be bright with joy if you will do what you should! But if you refuse to obey, watch out. Sin is waiting to attack you, longing to destroy you. But you can conquer it!” Genesis 4:7 (TLB)

And this . . .

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. I Peter 5:8 (NLT)

God had allowed Israel to be devoured by the nations around them. He spared a remnant, brought them home, and promised them a Savior. The Lord had to teach His own people not to love the darkness–that they couldn’t be His chosen people and sprinkle in practices from pagan religions. What a treacherous, painful lesson for all those people. Yet, we repeat that pattern, don’t we? Isn’t it all too frequent that those who claim Christ as Savior are holding a little bit of darkness back for themselves?

That was my life for a number of years. I had made the decision to follow Christ, but I tried to bring the darkness with me. The Lord in His mercy knew that I had to be taught just how dark the darkness is. I love Psalm 110:75, “I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

My husband’s testimony is a dramatic example of being rescued from darkness. He would tell the story better, but in a nutshell, he made a decision to follow Christ as a kid. When he grew older, like so many of us, he rebelled because he loved to play in the darkness. One night as he was out with some friends, God simply spoke to him. Clearly, Todd heard Him speak. “You don’t need this anymore.” I love this story. I’ve heard him tell it so many times that I knew there was a specific spot on a particular street in Marion, IL, where my husband heard and obeyed the voice of the Lord. When we went home for Thanksgiving, I asked him to take me there and I snapped this picture.

Boulevard

That night put my husband on a collision course with so many things that followed–a call to the ministry, college, seminary, me. I’m so grateful. He shook us both loose from the darkness so that we would be ready for each other.

God, in all His authority, has stepped out of Heaven and called you home. He gave us Jesus, the Light of the world, so that we would have no fear of being devoured by the darkness. If you have received the gift of the Lord Jesus, then you have so many things to praise Him for this Christmas.

If you are still flirting with darkness, are you tired yet? Maybe your life is in shambles because sin has devoured you. It’s not too late. Light has dawned on those living in deep darkness. He has done all these great things for each of us–and yes, also for you! Don’t refuse His gift!

Leave your darkness and run home to the light.

Merry Christmas.

 

Adventures in Advent–Day 1

Thanksgiving was kind of late this year, so forgive me if I’m impatient for hauling out the holly and such. It’s time–I’ve been waiting since Dec. 26th for this! I’ve been scrolling recipes and planning all the yummies I’m going to make for my favorites. In fact, I need to rescue that recipe with the sausage and cream cheese filled croissants from my news feed before it gets buried, never to be recovered. The good Rev agrees that it will make a fine addition to Christmas breakfast—along with lots of coffee, wassail, monkey bread and whatever else I pin between now and my last trip to the store.

The tree is already up–because I wanted my halls pre-decked when I get home from Thanksgiving at the farm. We jump-started the season a few weeks ago with some sweet friends who joined us for a holiday-ish dinner. Then we lovingly unpacked all our old ornaments, hung (Or hanged? All those years teaching English and I even googled it, but it sounds wrong!) the stockings by the chimney with care, and watched my new favorite, Arthur Christmas. It’s a must see. The reindeer with the cone of shame is my favorite.

I’ve already dreamed up 101 crafty ideas to make my holidays more festive . . . or impressive, maybe. Realistically, I have neither the talent nor stylish taste to bring any of those lofty projects together. The time is already so short that I have predestined myself to feel like a total loser for not getting a Christmas card mailed for the fifth year in a row. Every year I intend to do something special for my students. It never happens. Ever since Eden’s first Christmas, I planned to put together an Advent calendar and do a family devotional every night. You guessed it. Never happened.

Like every year since we had kids, we’ll make a plan to stick to some kind of a gift budget. Then we’ll find some excuse reason not to—usually because we’re in the middle of buying for each other and find just the right thing to push us over the limit. Furthermore, I will completely stress out over one or two gifts, and I will get NOTHING in the mail on time.

It’s not even December 1st, and I’m already tangled up in a list of to-do’s which I will either to-do late, to-do wrong, or simply to-don’t. Except for the food. I pretty much nail that every year.

I don’t usually think of myself as the person who sells out Christmas for materialism, and I really don’t overload my schedule so much that I don’t enjoy myself. But that’s not to say that the things I do for Christmas have any greater purpose than glorifying the season—not glorifying the Son.

I’m not going to pretend that my usual routine will happen any differently this year. If I make any promises or come anywhere near setting a goal, then I’ll get all perfectionist-y (my husband’s word) and make myself feel horrible for falling short. What I can do is—what’s the word? change my settings? I’ll reset myself for Advent—and place a special emphasis on its purpose—preparing my heart for the coming Christ.

I don’t think that means that I’ll buy fewer gifts. We buy almost nothing beyond necessities for our kids throughout the year. I don’t think I’m slighting Jesus if I buy them jammies with penguin slippers that squeak when they walk, and books (lots of books), and a special toy for each curly headed girly. I’m sure I won’t change my cooking routine. I mean, that’s just crazy talk. That’s the one thing I do with any measure of success during the holidays. Plus, that’s just punishing the family and how would that bring any glory to God????

The purpose of Advent is affirming and celebrating the past, that God came and walked among us—and looking expectantly to the future, that He is coming again. From the looks of things (globally speaking), that day may be not be far off. All the more reason to have a heart prepared. All the more reason to make the most of this coming month—when Jesus is on everyone’s lips and placed decoratively everywhere—and exhaust ourselves proclaiming the truth of Christ. He became man to save man.

In an attempt to reset my holiday traditions with more purpose, and in hopes of sharing some of that journey, I plan to post each day between now and Christmas. My personal hope (not goal—that makes it too much about me!) is to mediate on the scriptures and look expectantly each day to Christ, and in doing so make each holiday activity rich with the purpose of pointing to Him and His invitation to salvation. I am eager for whatever insight God has for me. Here’s the first scripture–

“Comfort, comfort my people,”
says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
for all her sins.”

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The Lord has spoken!”

He came—for you and me.

He’s coming—for you and me.

Christmas picture 2

My sad days are gone. My sins are pardoned. Comfort and joy! Let’s do this!