Would You Let God Pick Up Your Pay Check?

I hate suffering, mine or anyone else’s. Jesus’ suffering on the cross especially troubled me.

Over the years I heard many teachings about Jesus’ crucifixion.

God was usually presented as an angry God, Who sent His Son to do a dirty job, refused to let Him out of the deal, and then turned His back on Him while He was suffering.

Worse than that, it was implied that all that happened to Jesus was exactly what God wanted to do to us because of our awful sins. The only thing that stopped His Rage and Fearsome Judgement was Jesus taking our place.

Year after year, I heard the Easter Story told that way. I felt shame in my sins. I felt God’s Anger toward me. I felt relief that Jesus was willing to take my place.

When I was told I was saved, I thought Jesus saved me from God because I was bad and God hated me. It made me want to run to Jesus, but stay away from God.

I did not understand how torturing and killing your children could possibly be God’s Good Plan.

God said His Plans were good. I wanted to believe what He promised, as recorded in Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

But if what God supposedly did to Jesus was His Good Plan, I was afraid of what kind of “good plan” He might have for me.

I began to ask Christians to explain the cross to me. Many simply recited, “Jesus died on the cross for my sins.” Some said I needed to be grateful and not overthink it.

But I wanted to know more. I believed there was more to know. Finally I found one who could answer my questions. It was someone who had been there. It was The One.

The answer to my uneasy questions about Easter began with one simple revelation. What I had been taught about God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit was true. They were Together One God, The Trinity. And there was never a moment when They were apart.

The evil placed upon Jesus at the cross was part of the ultimate battle of good and evil. The simple answer to the cross was revealed to Paul.

“For the wages of sin is death, but The Gift of God is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 6:23

Satan is a reliable pay master. When we sin, he wants to be sure we get paid what we earn. He wants us to experience death in every way possible.

We would all be in satan’s pay line, except for the Amazing Gift of God. God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit United were all at the cross together as One to save us. We did need saving … but saving from satan, not God.

Isaiah long before the crucifixion of Jesus foretold that people would get confused and think God was to blame for Jesus’ suffering. But Isaiah pointed out it was The One Who chose to take on the evil being dispensed by satan.

“He certainly has taken upon Himself our suffering and carried our sorrows, but we thought that God had wounded Him, beat Him, and punished Him.”
Isaiah 53:4

Jesus chose to take everything satan would dish out for a very important reason, which He revealed ahead of time. However, that reason is rarely included in The Easter Story. I’ll discuss it in my next blog posting.

The Glorious One God is with us today. When satan drives another nail into the list of our sins on the cross he is preparing for us, he laughs in anticipation of paying us.

And The One God, Who is with us always, will ask us, “Would you like Me to pick up your pay check for you?”

Jesus Himself explained it.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”
John 3:16-17

God is not here to condemn you. He is here to save you.

But you get to choose whether to receive the wages you earned or The Gift God wants to give you.

It turns out there was much more to tell in The Easter Story. I shared what I learned in my book, “If You Only Knew … Who I AM!”

And in celebration of The Gift, I will share more in my upcoming blog posts. Please pass it on!

www.christianreading.com/cjones 

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What Is A Lie?

In a recent blog posting, we considered the question, “What is Truth?”

Today we shall consider the opposite of Truth. What is a lie?

To answer this question, we can look at the “subject matter expert.” Jesus identified satan as an expert liar.

“He [satan] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
John 8:44

Some of us might admit to to “bending the truth” sometime. Most of us would not like to think of ourselves as liars. See how you do on this mini-test.

1. Have you ever told a “little white lie?” Something that was mostly true, but not completely.

2. Have you ever told something that was true, but left out a big part of the whole story? You did not tell the whole truth.

3. Have you ever told a lie for “a good cause?” Someone asks you if their dress makes them look fat. You definitely think it does. But you don’t want to hurt their feelings. So you say, “Oh no, it’s beautiful!”

4. Have you ever “technically” told the truth, but did so with the intent to deceive? Get a family member to go ring the doorbell and then tell the person you are talking to on the phone, “I’ve got to go. Someone is at the door.”

Now for the hard questions.

5. Have you ever lied to yourself? You told yourself what happened to you didn’t matter, but it did, very much. You told yourself you were not addicted to drugs, alcohol, food, bad relationships, but you were.

6. Have you ever told yourself that lying this one time would not be that big of a deal?

Is lying a big deal? Yes! Why?

When a person lies, they are acting against God Himself. God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit are One. They All are The TRUTH.

“Now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your Words are TRUTH.
2 Samuel 7:28

Jesus answered, “I am the way and The TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6

“But when He, The Spirit of TRUTH comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
John 16:13

If you were to take a survey and ask what sins would send someone to hell, you might get a variety of responses. But many would not list lying among them.

However, read the following chilling pronouncement.

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and ALL LIARS —they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8

That warning should bring us all to our knees. Lying is serious. It is addicting. One small lie leads to another, and before long, it has become a way of life.

The sad truth is when we lie, we may reach a point where we no longer recognize we are lying.

What can we do? We can begin with a sincere desire to know the One Who is The Truth.

We can ask God to reveal to us any times we have not been truthful. We can repent.

We can ask God to put a guard on our thoughts, so we can resist any future temptation to lie.

At least daily we can ask God, “Have I told Your Truth today?”

“Guide me in Your Truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior,
and my hope is in You all day long.”
Psalm 25:5

“You will know The Truth and The Truth will make you free.”
John 8:32

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in The Truth.”
3 John 1:4

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What If You Don’t Like God’s Plan?

God assures us He knows The Plans He has for us and they are Good Plans.

God does not always reveal all the details of The Plan ahead of time. But what if you have seen enough of what appears to be The Plan and it does not sound good to you? Is God open to negotiation?

Jesus knew The Whole Plan. Kneeling in the garden of Gethsemane, He reflected on the path ahead of Him.

Even though He was God, Jesus gave Himself no special privileges in being human. A whip across the back or nails driven into His Body felt the same way as it would for you.

As a human, Jesus showed us up close and personal what it was like to suffer. He showed us by suffering physically. But He also shared with us the mental anguish that can come by staring into the abyss in anticipation of what is to come.

Jesus said to His Followers, “My Soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
Matthew 26:38

Have you ever been there, so overwhelmed with sorrow, you felt like dying? Jesus asked His Friends to keep watch with Him.

But He knew His Friends could not change God’s Plans for Him. As many prayer partners as any of us might have, all of us together cannot change God’s Plans.

The battle between our will and God’s Will is personal. Jesus went apart from the group and talked to God alone.

I think of the many times in my life I’ve said, “I surrender all to God.” But then I am presented with something really hard and I want to say, “I surrender all, but that.”

Can we ask God to change His Plan? Jesus did. However, note, He fully acknowledged it was God’s Call. He was just asking.

He fell with His Face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”
Matthew 26:39

I have been there, trembling in the darkness, considering all the plans I had that might never come to be. I have felt God patiently waiting for me to lay them down and come to Him, empty handed, trusting that He will replace my tiny plans with His Glorious Plans.

Jesus waited for God’s Answer. God was silent. Jesus turned to His Friends while He waited. They were sleeping. He gently chided them, perhaps reflecting His Own Thoughts.

“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 26:41

Jesus returned to The Father to try one more time. But this time, His Prayer was different from the first time. The first time Jesus prayed, He had said, “If it is possible …”

This time, He said, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may Your Will be done.”
Matthew 26:42

We have often fallen prey to the notion that we can “name it and claim it” and if we do so in what we think is absolute faith, God ought to fall in step with us.

When we are willing to consider that our plan may not be God’s Plan, and we are willing to lay it all down before Him, True Trust is born.

We begin to understand it is not about Him falling in step with us. It is about us falling in step with Him.

In the moment of complete surrender, Jesus not only heard God’s Answer, He saw God’s Answer. He knew what He had to do. And He did it for you and me.

“For The Joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at The Right Hand of The Throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:3

“I pray that out of His Glorious Riches He may strengthen you with Power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have Power together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is The Love of Christ, and to know this Love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all The Fullness of God.

“Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His Power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
Ephesians 3:16-21

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How Much Do You Trust God?

How much do you trust God? Jeremiah 29:11 records God’s Promise to us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”

God knows The Plans, but He does not promise to tell us all of His Plans in advance.

He does not promise that everything will appear to be good for us all the time. In fact, Jesus said in this world we would have trouble. But He promised more than trouble. Read all of what He said.

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

So what do we do when things seem especially bad and really scary?

Daniel 3 tells the story of three young men who refused to obey a king’s order to worship a graven image. The king threatened to throw them in a fiery furnace if they did not obey.

Their answer to the king says it all.

“If this be so, our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

“But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Daniel 3:17-28

Whatever is frightening you is not from God. It is a graven image. I have to remind myself of this Truth over and over again, as I feel the heat of the flames.

We realize God has All Power and Authority. We realize He can deliver us. But then we look around and see all the places where it appeared He did not deliver. We don’t understand.

And then comes the nagging thought. What if He does not deliver? The Truth is that He will deliver, but not always in the ways we expect.

The young men were indeed delivered from the king’s hands, just as they proclaimed. They knew God had a Plan for them, either on earth or in Heaven.

God also has a Master Plan of which we are only a part. How we handle being in our “fiery furnaces” affects others around us.

The young men were thrown into the fiery furnace. But as the king’s servants reported to him, there were four men in the fire, not three. The God they served was with them and in the fire became visible to others as a Profound Witness.

Whatever fire you are in, know this. You are not alone. There are four of you together. There is God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and you.

And you will be delivered. Trust God!

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

“When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Isaiah 43:2

“There is no fear in love. But Perfect Love drives out fear!”
1 John 4:18

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Tell Me The Truth!

Pilate asked perhaps the most significant question of all time when He asked Jesus, “What is Truth?”

Pilate’s question came at the end of an interesting question and answer exchange between Pilate and Jesus.

The Jews had delivered Jesus to Pilate for the final necessary sanctioning of His Crucifixion.

Pilate began his questioning of Jesus by asking, “Are You the king of the Jews?” (John 18:33)

“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about Me?” (John 18:34)

Jesus had asked His Disciples a similar question, as recorded in
Matthew 16:13-20.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His Disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Jesus asks us the same question. He is not so much interested in what others have told us about Him. He wants us to come to our own conclusions.

He wants to know Who we say He is. He invites us to be participants in Life, not just spectators of how others try to live life.

So now let’s go back to Pilate.

After more questions and answers, Jesus told Pilate why He had come into the world.

“In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to The Truth. Everyone on the side of Truth listens to Me.” (John 18:37)

Pilate, who was standing in The Presence of All Truth, retorted, “What is Truth?” (John 18: 38)

But he didn’t hang around long enough to explore it further with Jesus. He thought he knew what the truth was. And what he believed was the truth was not giving him peace. It was giving him indigestion.

How are you doing with The Truth? Are there truths you have come to know that you would stake your life on? Do your beliefs bring you anxiety or Peace?

Let’s start with the question Jesus asked. Hear Him talking directly to you.

“Tell Me the truth, (insert your name). What about you? Who do you say I am?”

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The Beauty Within Restored and Revealed!

I am doing a book study with a friend. One of the subjects we are discussing is God’s Promise to restore what we have lost.

When we think of something being restored, we often think of things or people we lost. We think of them being returned to us, just as we last saw them.

If that were true, they would be replaced, but not necessarily restored.

What does it mean to be restored?

What if you had a fine piece of furniture, perhaps a chest of drawers originally built by a fine furniture maker and passed on to you?

It might be very valuable to you, but over time, it has become marred with chips and scratches. It’s still beautiful in a way, but you realize it is not as beautiful as it once might have been.

You search old pictures hoping to see a similar piece, so you can see how it originally looked.

One day, just below one of the deeper scratches, you notice a different color to the finish. You are intrigued. You become a little daring and scrape away a little of the finish.

But it frightens you. You suddenly fear that if you continue, you might destroy it. So you stop. But the idea never leaves you that there is something deeper than what you see.

One day you are visited by an elderly relative, who comments on the furniture piece. She tells you it looks so different from when it was built.

You are surprised and beg to know more. She then tells you of how the furniture maker carefully carried out his craft. You discover that your furniture piece was once even a different color.

She ends by suggesting you get it refinished. She assures you it can be restored.

She tells you of a furniture maker who can do the work. She assures you it will look just like the original furniture maker built it to look.

You excitedly agree. The day comes when the furniture maker arrives. The first thing he does is begin to sand away the finish. You are initially alarmed, but you allow him to continue.

Bit by bit, you begin to see your chest transformed into something unlike what you have seen before.

But still, it looks rough and unfinished. When you express concern, he says simply, “Patience. I’m not finished yet.”

You watch in wonder as the old is removed and he carefully applies a new finish. Soon you have a new chest, that resembles the old one in some ways, but is completely different in other ways.

Your chest has not been replaced. It has been restored.

What about people? Can they be restored? Can you be restored?

Is it possible that the people we see as flawed or even outright evil are not so at all? Is it possible they are simply painted over, chipped, scratched, such that they no longer look on the outside as God created them to be?

Is it possible that when they look in the mirror, they do not see the person God created them to be? They only see the person they appear to have become. And when others agree, they believe that is who they are.

Is it possible that you have never seen the re-finished, restored version of yourself?

When God restores, He does not give people or things back to us, as we believe them to be. He brings them back to His Original Design.

Picture a world where everyone is restored to God’s Original Design for them. Animals, Plants, everything in perfect order. No more knowledge of evil. Only knowledge of Good.

No more violence. No more crying. No more pain. No more doubts or fears. No more death.

Everyone is the shining masterpiece God intended from the beginning of the world. All use the talents God has given them to live together in Love, Joy and Peace.

That is the restoration God had in mind. The process begins now with our being willing to let Him work on us and all the rest of His Creation.

We will need to be patient as He removes everything He never put there.

We will need to maintain faith during the exposed, rough part of the process, knowing that The Creator is not done. He will be preparing us to receive The Glory with which He will cover us.

Faith will be important. We must believe that the finished product of what The Creator intends will be much better than what we thought was the best possible.

What will such a world look like? We don’t know yet. But we can be absolutely certain that it will be very good and all will be full of The Glory of The Lord.

Some people would call that Heaven. Some would say it will come one day in a far off place.

But Jesus saw it as beginning now. He prayed to God, “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Are you ready to take your place in The Kingdom? Are you ready to be restored to The Perfection God intended for you before He even created you?

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ephesians 2:10-11

If you are ready to be a part of His Kingdom, can you also believe that all … everyone and everything … He has created can be restored to be a beautiful part of His Kingdom?

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.

“But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
1 John 3:2

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Memories of Agnes Black, Chief Nurse VA Medical Center

I have so many memories of Agnes Black, it will take more than one blog posting to share.

Agnes Black was the Chief Nurse at the Lexington, Kentucky VA Medical Center for many years. As such, she was my boss.

She was a no nonsense, straight laced leader, who set the bar high for all her employees. And she not only “talked the talk,” she also “walked the walk.” She led by example.

She had a phenomenal memory. She knew every staff member by name. She knew most of our family members by name.

She could reprimand the most wayward staff member and then turn right around and ask them how their sick mother was doing.

Agnes had that mysterious quality we call “presence.” When she entered the room, we had the urge to stand and salute. When she found a problem, there was a particular electricity that filled the air, sort of like the feeling just before lightening strikes.

My VA friends will remember her infamous rounds on all shifts.

When I first started working at the VA Hospital (not yet a medical center then), I was the night nurse on a large psychiatric unit.

The nursing assistants kept things in order by a combination of compassion and control (take downs and restraints if necessary).

At night, after they assured all was quiet, they sat in chairs placed strategically in the center of the hall, where they could see anyone who moved. They feared no one.

Since part of my assignment was to give morning medications to all the patients and there was no unit dose system in those days, I spent a great deal of my night “setting up meds.”

One night I answered the phone to hear a hushed voice say, “She’s making rounds.” The caller then hung up. I was baffled.

When I walked out in the hall, one of the nursing assistants asked me who had called. I relayed the strange message.

I thought I had seen everything, but clearly I hadn’t. In the blink of an eye, those big, burly men came up out of those chairs, and started frantically running through the halls, straightening up things and even waking a few trusted patients to help.

Like a legion of Paul Revere’s, they sounded the alarm, “She’s making rounds!!” Even though the patients understood, I still didn’t get it
… until … I heard the sound of a key unlocking the door. And I heard a slightly out of breath nursing assistant say, “Good morning, Mrs. Black.”

And there she stood, just as formidable at 3 AM as she was at high noon. And in that crisp voice, she said, “Good morning, Carolyn, get your flashlight. Let’s make rounds and you can tell me about your patients.”

We walked every inch of that building together and she saw everything, from a dirty wash cloth carelessly tossed aside (probably by the nursing assistant who had frantically cleaned up the break room) to a spider making its web.

She took notes and said she would follow up with the Nurse Coordinator (the days before they were called Managers), Housekeeping, Engineering, etc, etc. There was no doubt that the impact of her rounds would reverberate through the hospital the next day.

I think Agnes secretly enjoyed the delirium created by her rounds. And she was sneaky. She knew about the warning calls each unit made.

One night when our crew called the next building to report she had left our place and was likely headed to theirs, she doubled back to us. Just as we had all settled down, we heard the key in the door again!

There stood Agnes. She calmly said, “There’s just a couple of more things I wanted to check.” So while the other unit was calling us to say, “What happened, I thought you said she’s making rounds,” we were quite aware she was STILL making rounds. No one relaxed for the rest of the night. We needed medication more than the patients did!

Besides my up close and personal experience with Mrs. Black’s rounds, there was another night of rounds years later that became the stuff of legends. It was recounted by Agnes herself.

She was making rounds on one unit, who dutifully called the next unit to report she had left their unit and was headed their way.

However when the phone rang, no one was at the nurses station to receive that important call except Mrs. Black. She answered the phone.

The caller whispered, “Mrs. Black is making rounds.”

Agnes replied, “I know. I am Mrs. Black!”

According to Agnes, the caller immediately hung up and she never knew their identity. But whoever that anonymous person was, they should know that years later, Agnes was still chuckling at the memory.

I wonder when Agnes got to The Pearly Gates, if she told Saint Peter, “I’m ready to make rounds!”

And if she did, I imagine the angels of Heaven putting out the call, “Agnes is here! Get everything in order. She’s coming your way!”

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Alien Report About Christmas

If we were an observer from another planet, we might agree that humans reach a whole new level of strange behavior that defies explanation during what we call the Christmas season.

The following is the report of an alien scout to his commander.

This is the strangest place I have yet visited. As you know, you sent me to earth to observe humans during what they call the Christmas season.

Since you sent me here at the height of what is supposed to be the most joyous season, I had great hopes of seeing a level of Peace and Joy that might even exceed that on our planet.

So far, peace and joy seem in short supply.

The life forms here apparently limit some of the most joyful music to only certain times of the year. To play their “December music” in any other month but late November or December is considered unusual.

Their Christmas music is a very odd assortment. They play songs every year sung by people who died years ago. I have not actually seen these dead people in the flesh.

But they have somehow captured and preserved their likenesses and voices. It’s a little creepy, but we might want to explore how they are doing this.

They play these Christmas songs everywhere, on radios, on tvs, in stores, even on the streets. Even those seeking shelter in their own homes are often sought out, so they can be exposed to the music. I think it may be a form of mind control.

The music seems to affect humans differently. Some seem happy and even peaceful. Some seem agitated.

I’ve looked for some of the ones they sing about. But so far I have not been able to identify them.

These humans seem to truly honor reindeer. They have reindeer statues on their lawns. They sing about one with a red nose. He seems to have been a real hero.

I tried to get a glimpse of these creatures by waiting at a place where they are supposed to cross the road. It was clearly marked “deer crossing,” but these creatures must be quite independent. None ever came. I shall continue to look.

The humans also put a lot of emphasis on someone they call Santa Clause. At first I thought he was the head reindeer, but he apparently is some advanced human life form.

He can do things other humans cannot do. He apparently cannot fly himself, but he commands some of the reindeer who can fly.

He has some magic power that all the thicker humans wish they had. He eats constantly, mainly a diet of cookies and milk. He is rather thick around the middle, but is able to deflate himself and be skinny enough to slide down chimneys.

The humans hold him in such high esteem that they dress like him and give gifts in his name.

I have also noted another very puzzling practice of these life forms. They decorate their houses inside and out during the Christmas season. But as soon as the season ends and it is the darkest time of the year, they turn off the lights and take down the decorations. Very strange indeed.

They also argue a lot about what is a proper way to greet each other in this season. Instead of just saying “hello,” they insist on a special greeting during the season.

Some insist on saying, “Merry Christmas” while others say, “Happy Holidays.” Both sound pretty close to what they call “merry” here, but apparently the argument has something to do with a baby named Jesus.

I have tried to research Him, since apparently He also fits somewhere in this season on planet earth.

I asked many humans about Him. Many were too busy to answer me. Some tried to explain. They often used the same phrases, but I did not understand.

I asked a small human if she knew where to find out more and she said the strangest thing of all. She told me to ask Him directly.

When I asked her where to find Him, she told me He was in my heart. I don’t understand.

Can you send me further instructions? Who is this Jesus? How do I find Him?

In due time the scout received an Answer. It didn’t come from the planet commander. It came from The Grand Commander of The Universe.

I AM called
    Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

I am the Alpha and the Omega,
Who is, and
Who was, and
Who is to come,
The Almighty.
Revelation 1:8

You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13

And so it was that the scout learned about Love, Joy and Peace … and the true meaning of Christmas.

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Why Send Christmas Letters?

I have been sending out Christmas letters for years. I come by it honestly. My parents sent them out too.

I can still see my father sitting at his old manual typewriter, typing out the family updates, wishing people well and encouraging them to write back.

We waited eagerly to hear back from friends and family. And we never “kept score.” Not receiving a card back was reason for concern and further checking to be sure everyone was alright. It was not a reason to eliminate them from next year’s list.

I found some of those precious letters from my parents. They tell the story of their lives. Joys, sorrows, hopes, dreams.

Our annual Christmas letters do likewise. I have collected all forty of them in a book and they are a treasure to me. They are truly The Story of Us.

Not only do they give the details of our lives, but they also show subtle changes, lessons learned and lessons shared with others.

Why do we still send Christmas letters? Why do we believe the recipients of our letters would even be interested in the details of our lives? Why would we even care about people who have not been a part of our lives for years?

Everyone who has ever touched our lives, whether briefly or longer, has helped to shape us in some way. They brought smiles, laughs and joy … or hard learned lessons that stung at the time, but ultimately bettered us. They nourished us or pruned us. Either way it was for our growth.

When we send our Christmas letters, we reach through time and across miles to say, “You still matter to us. You touched us and made a difference in our lives. We still think about you. We remember you with love and joy. We still want to share life with you. How are you doing on the journey?”

We like to think that even if we never hear back from those to whom we send letters, perhaps for a moment they think of us. Perhaps they think of how we affected their lives and how they affected us. Perhaps somehow we are connected again.

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He Who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

“It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart …”
Philippians 1:3-7

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The Great Christmas Card Adventure

The first Christmas after my mother died, I helped my father with his Christmas cards.

My mother had always been the organized one, who kept the list up to date. Her death several months before Christmas had left many things up in the air.

I thought it would be a relatively simple task. However, we could not find my mother’s most current list. We worked from the previous year’s list. Right away we hit a snag.

Our conversation went like this.

Me: Let me read through the list and see if we’ve got everyone you want to send a card to. (I began to read the list. Several names down, he stopped me.) (Names changed in following scenario to protect the living and the dead)

Daddy: Wait! I think Jack’s dead.

Me: OK, I’ll take Jack off.

Daddy: But I’m not sure. He was pretty sick and I think he died. But he might have pulled through. If he didn’t die, he’d be upset if I didn’t send him a card.

Me: OK, I’ll put him back on.

Daddy: No wait, what if he did die?

Me: Then he won’t get the card.

Daddy: But then his family will know I didn’t know he was dead. I wonder if Pearl sent a sympathy card if he died. But then I really don’t know who died first … Pearl or Jack … if Jack died.

Me: Why don’t we send a card to Jack and his wife and just write a general note that could be taken as an expression of sympathy or season’s greetings? Just don’t ask him how he is!

Daddy: Yes, that sounds like a good idea. (He picked up his pen to write a note, than paused and looked puzzled.)

Daddy: Wait a minute. It’s coming back to me now. I think it was Jack’s wife, Ann, who was so sick. And I think she died.

Me: OK, then we should take Ann off, but leave Jack on.

Daddy: No, don’t do that yet, because I’m not sure. I shouldn’t send a card to Jack if he’s really the one who died.

(Daddy looked very sad at this point.)

Daddy: I sure wish your Mama hadn’t died. She would know who is dead and alive.

Me: She probably does, Daddy. I wish she was here too. But since, she isn’t, why don’t we just send cards to everyone on the list. Whoever is alive can know we still think of those who have been promoted, as still living.

Daddy seemed satisfied with that. We did get a few back with family explaining who had died and expressing sympathy to Daddy in the loss of my mother.

It was not only Christmas greetings shared that year, but it was also a shared grief. That in itself was comforting.

And Jack really appreciated the Christmas card, since he had just lost his wife, Ann.

It was much easier to help Daddy with his Christmas cards after that first year. Several years later, after Daddy died in November, he received Christmas cards from people who did not know.

As I wrote them back, I smiled at the precious memories. We all thought of Daddy as still alive. And we were right. He had just had a change of address!

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