Summer Christmas

STORYINGCHRISTMASIf you live in the northern hemisphere, you will probably have a very different picture of Christmas than people here in New Zealand. We have summer Christmas.

When I am in New Zealand, my Christmas holidays would be amiss if I did not go to the beach… a lot. When I’m dreaming of a “White Christmas”, the closest I get are the white sand beaches of east Auckland. Instead of pine trees, our pohutukawa trees blossom red flowers against their green leaves.

I love this beach life. I love living near the ocean.

Once you have been to the ocean, you will understand this statement: There are just some days when you just feel the need to drive a bit and sit next to the sea.

Today is such a day.

We can learn so much from the ocean. That’s probably why there are so many songs that use it as a metaphor. Here are some lines you may recognize:

“In oceans deep, my faith will stand.”

“When sorrows like sea billows roll…”

“Oceans will part, nations will come, at the whisper of your name.”

“Set my feet upon the sea ‘til I’m dancing in the deep.”

I think of these songs and then I think of Christmas. There’s a question that I ask myself as I sit here at the beginning of December: Is there anything about Christmas that is like this ocean?

At first, I’m thinking no. That’s a ridiculous question. Then, different themes started popping into my mind.

I’m sure we can all come up with some great answers. You can probably come with more than me. Right now, God is using the sea to refresh, restore, heal, and satisfy me. But, when I think of the sea as it relates to Christmas, this is what I’ve come up with:  POWER.

Yes, the original Christmas story is about peace. A silent night. Wise men quietly following a star. Silent shepherds watching their sheep at night. A sweet baby asleep in a manger. It has all of these things.

But we must never forget the POWER of God when he comes down to man.

The sea sounds so peaceful to me right now. The waves are so small that little kids are going a few meters in. There are people parasailing. But there are no surfers because the waves are just not big enough. The ocean is calm and quiet.

But have you seen the ocean roar as a storm comes in? Have you seen crashing waves leap over boulders and into cliffs? Have you heard those horrible stories of people getting caught in the wild current, being swept out to sea?

So it is with the Christmas story. Peace has come. Comfort and joy have, indeed, come to earth with Jesus. But so does power. Because the Son of God came to our planet that first Christmas day.

God. The Great-I-Am. He came to Earth. The One who is so great and holy that even prophets could not look upon Him and live. To even hear the name of Yahweh garnered fear and trembling. The LORD, mighty in battle, came.

Power.

But in a tiny baby.

Power that made blind men see, deaf men hear, and dead men walk.

Power that rose himself from the grave.

Power that takes away the sins of the world.

I’m glad the ocean reminded me of God’s peace. And I’m glad it reminds me of God’s power. I never want to forget this part of Christmas.

Resolve Well: Soul

matthew-3

It is well,

It is well

with my soul.

The word “well” is one of those words that has many definitions. As a noun, dictionary.com defines the word as “a hole drilled or bored into the earth to obtain water, petroleum, natural gas, brine, or sulfur”. As a verb, “to rise, spring, or gush, as water from the earth or some other source”. The adverb “well” is defined as “in a good or satisfactory manner”. It can be used as an interjection or in idioms. And as an adjective, the word is defined as “in good health; sound in body and mind; satisfactory, pleasing, or good”. I’ve made the word “wellness” to mean, in my mind, something a little deeper than the word “healthy”. I want to be satisfied with my body, mind, and soul. But, I mainly want to be satisfied spiritually, soulfully. There is a depth that I crave which comes from inside of me. I want soul wellness this year.

Soul wellness is, to me, the easiest to attain and by far the most satisfying. It is the easiest because I believe in a God that gives me peace when I ask and direction when I call to him. It is the most satisfying because it is everlasting. One day my body will be rotting in the ground. I only have to take care of that part of me for a little while. I believe that my mind will one day be uncluttered and filled with freedom and truth.

I want to say every day that, “It is well with my soul”. That I am satisfied with whatever is going on in my life because there is a part of me that is eternal. What are ways that you can take care of that most important part of you this year?

Here is my list:

 

1)      Pray well.

  1. Pray more for other people – family, friends, and my church.
  2. Pray for help and guidance on my wellness journey.
  3. Pray for my husband and my marriage.

2)      Read well.

  1. Chronological Bible Reading.
  2. Combine Bible reading with art.
  3. Good literature.

3)      Listen well.

  1. Spend time listening to God’s soul.
  2. Listen to music that lifts my soul.
  3. Spend time doing art and listening to art’s stories.

Whether your focus is taking care of your body, your mind, or your soul this year, I hope you’ll join me in resolving well. Let me know what you’re doing to make your life better in 2017!

 

 

Storying Christmas: Comfort

storyingchristmas“Comfort” is one of the English language’s most warm & fuzzy words. So I think it suits Christmas perfectly. In the middle of winter, comfort is a big mug full of hot cocoa and marshmallows. It’s a red flannel blanket and a well-loved book. Comfort is the feeling of a fireplace; it’s the feeling of a big bear hug.

I’ve really been thinking and praying for a few months on what to write this December – Christmas season. There are endless articles and sermons and memes that seem to represent this month. There’s so much noise out there – mostly consumeristic. I want to quiet the noise with simplicity.

So, let’s do a little series. Let’s call it, simply, Storying Christmas. Let’s just focus on themes within the Christmas story. Because stories are how we see the world. Stories are how we learn. Stories are how we think and begin to hope. And let’s start with the story of comfort.

I haven’t written on A Little Sanctuary in a couple of months. In many ways, these couple of months have been very difficult. This blog is all about comfort – it’s all about finding “sanctuary”, finding rescue in loneliness. So coming back with a post on this subject seems fitting.

It’s early December, but you’ve probably already started listening to your Christmas carols. Like this one:

God rest ye merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Saviour

Was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

 

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy!

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

 

From God our heavenly father

A blessed angel came,

And unto certain shepherds

Brought tidings of the same:

How that in Bethlehem

Was born the Son of God by name

 

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy!

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

 

The shepherds at these tidings

Rejoiced much in mind

And left their flocks a feeding

In tempest storm and wind

And went to Bethlehem straightway,

The blessed babe to find

 

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy!

Oh, tidings of comfort and joy!

Wstorying-christmase’ll get to the second half, joy, next time; but, just pay attention to the ending of each verse to find the feeling of comfort. The first verse ends with the comfort of being rescued from darkness – Comfort. The second ends with a baby, God’s own son, a Messiah the Hebrew people had waited for centuries to come – Comfort. The third verse ends finding that baby at the end of a storm – Comfort.

The Christmas story is an outpouring of comfort (and joy). That “peace on earth”. Mary is told by the angel not to be afraid – that God the Most High has found favor with her (Mark 1:30). Zechariah prophesied after his son John the Baptist was born that God had come to redeem and save them (Mark 2:68). And I love when Matthew reminds us of prophesy from Isaiah – that Jesus will be called God with us (Matthew 1:22-23).

God with us.

God rest you, merry gentlemen, boys, girls, ladies. Be at rest. Do not be afraid. A baby was born – Emmanuel. God with us. Live in comfort this Christmas season. Live in the feeling of that baby boy coming, sleeping peacefully. There is nothing much more comforting than a mother holding a baby – a baby that grew up and now comforts us, holding us in his hands.

 

Wife Life Wednesday: Sir Ashley Hillary & Her Husband’s Laughter

sir ashley hillary and her husband's laughter

“What do I do? What do I do? I don’t know how… tell me, tell me how to…Mark, how do I….ahhhhhAHHHHHHHHHHH!”

My legs were caught off the ground. The large pack on my back, filled with six books, a laptop, a jacket, and a blanket tried to use the law of gravity to keep me down – but to no avail. I had been scooped up against my will, flying madly toward the peaks in front of me, and I heard someone screaming.

It was me.

“I’m gonna die, I’mgonnadie, I’m gonna dieeeeeeeeeeee!” I heard through my ear-muffs, inside my mind, the faint murmerings of myself predicting my imminent demise. I saw my life flash before me, bright and white and looking an awful lot like snow. Then, I realized that if I were going to die, then my husband might die as well because he was sitting right beside me. It had scooped him up, too!

“WE’RE gonna die diediediediedie! WE’RE gonna dieeeeeeeee!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!” My screams were louder and growing louder. And then the handle came down.

I held onto it for my life. I heard something still screaming, still knowing it was me, and still not being able to control it. I turned my eyeballs slowly to the left.

My husband was there.

He was alive.

And he was laughing at me.

What’s worse than that, is that he was video-taping the last moments of my life. And laughing. Did I mention he was laughing at me???

We were on the ski lift, and it was speeding up, climbing higher, my feet dangling and my legs going sore from the dangling. I was still screaming. A family friend was on my other side. He seemed to still be alive as well. But not laughing as much as Mark.

We had come, for the second year in a row, to Mount Ruapehu with Mark’s dad. Last year it had been stormy and blizzardy so we didn’t use the ski lift. We had to climb up on our own, and I’m sure I almost met my Maker then. As I sat there near death on the ski lift, I couldn’t decide which was worse.

“Stop laughing at meeeeeeee… we’re gonna DIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! We’re gonna diiiiiieeeeee…Why are you LAUGHING?!.”

But he just smiled, grinning more widely than before.

I began whimpering now rather than screaming. I was a puppy who had just been swatted for the first time by an annoyed elder cat. But now, we seemed to be okay. I had a bar in front of me. I hadn’t pulled off my husband or the family friend in my panic. We were all alive. We were all alive.

As we came closer to the end of the ski lift journey, another thought hit me. How were we going to get off this thing?!?!?

I posed the question to my husband as we drew closer, screams rising out of the whimperings once more, growing louder and louder and louder, and I was screaming again as the lift drew into the landing space. A nice man held out his hand, but I couldn’t determine what he wanted from us because I was screaming, “How do we get off, how do we get off, we’re gonna die, markmarkmarkmarkmarkmarkmark AHHHHHH!!!” And my husband grabbed my hand and ran off with me into the snow.

I was panting, having survived another near-death experience going 6% up Mount Ruapehu from the parking lot. The weeks leading up to the trip, I had fervently prayed that the ski lift would be working so that we didn’t have to walk up to the cabin in a blizzard like we did last year. You can read that delightful story here, on my old travel blog.

I looked up at my husband, wide-eyed, as though having just experienced a miracle of miracles. He was still laughing at me.

I looked at the other side of me and apologized for screaming in the other guy’s ear, still hearing Mark chuckle on the other side of me.

I punched him. Or swatted him. I may have missed. I was a little out of breath. It was hard to see with so much adrenaline rushing through me. But, at least I tried.

Thus concluded, and also began, another one of the many adventures of Mark & Ashley. How we survive each one, I will never know.

Mark probably knows, though. He just laughs. He must know something that I don’t. 🙂