Musings: December 2017

Chopping up the last of my garden carrots and sweeping them into a snowy-day soup, I marveled at their color and texture, so much brighter and more tender than any store-bought veggie, even though they were yanked out of the ground by my exuberant grandson back in October. It’s clear that these orange roots were once a living thing, and in these days of rest and family vacation following a tumultuous year, a busy semester, and a vibrant celebration of Christmas, I feel grateful to be among the “living things” who are able to enjoy the vivid blue of a winter sky, the sound of “single-digit snow” squeaking under my snowshoes, and the warm presence of a tiny person beside me on the couch as we turn pages and share stories together.

On My Mind

In the spring, I began a slow slog through the book of Jeremiah. The challenge has been to dwell in the encouragement of Jeremiah’s faithfulness while he carried out an overwhelming (and discouraging) assignment from God, particularly when he was required, time after time, to deliver the somber message of judgment and exile.

Even so, like daylight shining through the cracks around a slammed-shut door, the promises of God shine through Jeremiah’s prophetic words. Reading Jeremiah 21:8, I understood that God’s reprise of Deuteronomy 30 was a renewal of His vows. Then, flipping pages back to its first mention and reading onward, I found a warning against the subtle slippage that erodes faithfulness one grain at a time.

“But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them,  I announce to you today that you shall surely perish …” Deuteronomy 30:17

Year end is a fitting time for assessment and reflection, so I’m taking the temperature of my own following heart these days and using Moses’ cautionary words as a wake up call:

  • What is my heart turned toward, what is it beholding, that may deafen me to the voice of God?
  • Am I spreading my worship thin, deifying substitute gods who draw me away from a faithful following, and a single-eyed service?

On the Blog

If you haven’t already filled your heart with enough Christmas cheer to last until December 2018, here’s a list of my Christmas offerings from December:

On December 1, The Redbud Post shared a collection of my Christmas book reviews for their theme of The Sacred Amidst the Secular.

My Sunday School teaching on the well-loved carol, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, found its way into a blog post that has enhanced my singing and my worship throughout this Season of Listening.

And . . .

. . . turning the corner into the New Testament as my patient husband and I finish up our 2017 read-through landed my thinking with the Acts-One Faithful who were given a command to wait in Wait for the Spirit of Christmas. Wait for the promise to be fulfilled. Wait for power from on high. Because Christmas is a celebration of waiting fulfilled, I spent some time pondering the path of the impatient in what Tozer has described as these days of “the interim time.”

I reviewed four books in December, and am happy to be maintaining this one-book-per-week pace. My Goodreads goal for 2017 was 52 books, and I read 57, so I’ll likely stick with a 52 book goal for 2018.

Love Big, Be Well by Winn Collier is an epistolary novel based on the sweet correspondence between a fictional pastor and his flock. It’s guaranteed to make the reader fall in love all over again with ministry and with the church.

Sing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty emphasizes the importance of congregational singing — it’s not just something we do to fill up the time before the sermon. Martin Luther said it well:  “Let God speak directly to His people through the Scriptures, and let His people respond with grateful songs of praise.”

Karen Wright Marsh wrote a book that gathers in one place her reflections on the lives of historical figures in church history, delivered in talks at the Bonhoeffer House on the campus of the University of Virginia. Each chapter of Vintage Saints and Sinners stands alone, but together, they’ll remind you that even the most celebrated of the “saints” were sinners too, and modern day believers can also travel a pilgrimage of faith that is both gritty and joyful.

Alexandra Kuykendall wanted to make some changes that would bring joy back into her celebration of Jesus’ birthday. She conducted an experiment that she hoped would help her to capture the essence of the season, and Loving My Actual Christmas is her lab report. She longed to set her family up for success by lowering expectations, lightening their load, and limiting their activity level. If you’re doing a post-mortem on Christmas 2017 and vowing to do better next year, here’s a great place to begin. The Perennial Gen very kindly shared my review over at their place because I was writing from the perspective of Loving My Mid-Life Christmas.

On My Nightstand

It’s time for me to take another stab at G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, and I’m planning to do a monthly pondering post about my reading here. More details to come in January!

 

 

On My Heart . . .

. . . is a load of thanksgiving for each one of you who reads, for you who faithfully comment, share posts, and encourage me along the way. I’m convinced that I’d be writing something somewhere whether anyone was reading it or not, but it’s so much more fun to know that others are with me in this faith journey, and that we are Living Our Days in community.

A Blessed Beginning of 2018 to You!

 


Join me over at Leigh Kramer’s place to read what others are sharing about their reading, writing, watching, thinking, and eating lives. The December musings are always the best!

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular ponderings, Bible studies, and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.

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Loving My Mid-Life Christmas

For the past several years, change has been the only constant in our Christmas celebration.

Grown up sons marry, pack up their collection of treasured ornaments, and hang them on their own trees. College guys come home when they can and join in the fun on an intermittent schedule. Teens branching into individualized creativity grab an ax, stride manfully into the woods, and return bearing a Charlie Brown tree for their bedroom, which they will festoon with enough lights to interfere with normal sleep patterns.

Our Christmas gatherings have become a moving target with a schedule that requires both flexibility and diplomacy, but I’m learning to appreciate the Christmas that is and to let Christmas past be past — fondly remembered but not slaying my enjoyment of the here and now.

Alexandra Kuykendall, author of Loving My Actual Christmas, struggled with loving “Christmas present” as well. Visions of Pinterest perfection left her exhausted and so done with Christmas that she finished the season by stripping the decorations off the tree and stuffing them into their boxes, not caring if she ever saw them again.

In addition, Norman Rockwell gatherings around a flawless feast didn’t match the reality of the recent loss of her father and the empty chair at the table

Alexandra wanted to make some changes that would bring joy back into her celebration of Jesus’ birthday. She conducted an experiment which she hoped would help her to capture the essence of the season, and Loving My Actual Christmas is her lab report. Each of the four weeks of Advent and the lighting of each of the four candles represents a theme, so the Kuykendalls implemented those themes as the framework for their actual Christmas.

Who among us doesn’t appreciate a little more Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in our celebration of Jesus?

I’m sharing my review of Loving My Actual Christmas over at The Perennial Gen, so I hope you’ll click on over and join us there. Insights from the book may be just what you’re looking for to align your own celebration with the reality that surrounds you, and while you’re visiting, be sure to check out the collection of other posts.

You’ll be inspired by the wisdom there as you put down solid roots into the dirt and light of midlife.

 

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Additional Resources

Alexandra shares even more details about her Christmas experiment on her own podcast, The Open Door Sisterhood. She also engaged in a soulful and enlightening conversation on the Ears to Speak podcast, episode 5 in which she discussed the Christmas realities of budgets and complicated relationships, planning realistic and joyful traditions, and her journey of discovering how to live out a Christmas that is full of love and is spiritually intriguing to the people around you.

This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.