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Annual Pause

It’s a Grab Bag Monday! I have a loose tradition to re-post this each January. 

Which is your favorite month of the year? Of course, January is everyone’s best-loved month, right?

Okay, probably not.

Years ago January was last on my list. Back then I didn’t like cold weather, and January just seemed like a bleak, blustery, colorless month that had to be endured. I wondered if a person could get in on the bears’ hibernation deal.

What changed? Maybe it was when I got married in a January wedding. Suddenly there was a permanent bright spot on the calendar that time every year. Also around that time I launched into my transition from a hot-weather loving/cold-weather shunning girl into quite the opposite.

Whatever the reason, I now like the first month of the year. While not my absolute favorite, it does have its charms. Yes, after Christmas and New Year’s, life resumes with the hustle and bustle of daily routines. …But overall, there seems to be a quiet simplicity that hushes the land. A brisk stillness that can be seen in bare tree branches and blankets of snow. It’s as if nature has paused for a moment.

It’s a welcome chance for me to pause as well, reminiscing with a smile about the holidays, being grateful for countless blessings, and feeling hopeful about the time ahead. Maybe that’s also why I’m drinking hot chocolate more often–it’s a chance to warm up and take a moment to stop and just think…often a rarity in our busy days.

What about you? Is there anything you like about January? What’s your favorite month?

Life with God: Wait for It…

We just wanted to relax. You know what I mean?

No high-speed shoot-’em-ups that would spike our blood pressure. Sure, those proved fun most other times, served with a side of popcorn and adrenaline.

by Armando Maynez

by Armando Maynez

But not that night. It had been an achingly long week, and we craved a laid-back movie. Not Mission: Jurassic Avengers, Part 9. No tear-jerkers–no, thank you. Another time, Buster.

And we knew just the movie. The previews promised a low-key, enjoyable story. We settled into the cushy theater seats, and I exhaled.

It started out nice enough. But then the characters grew more intense, more serious.

And then the cliff-hanger of a climax exploded, when all seemed lost for a little boy, no less! Tears threatened to spill down my cheeks. My throat squeezed tight. What happened to our nice Friday night? The storyline seemed hopeless and depressing.

…But then, wait for it…

Hope happened. A sliver here, a ray there. Soon, the nightmare of a storyline faded and the little boy was okay.

I exhaled again.

If only life resolved itself in a jiffy, like the movies. But life is hard, life can feel dark.

Paul, too, reminds us in Ephesians–more than once–of the truth: that life is dark. And hopeless.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. Eph. 2:1a, 3b HCSB.

But wait for it…

But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!

And this is real, not some flickering images on a big screen. This is truth and hope for our dark world! And there’s more:

…You were without the Messiah, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. Eph. 2:12 HCSB

Wait for it…

But now in Christ Jesus, you were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. Eph. 2:13 HCSB

Who do you know who needs this hope? Who is stuck in the cliffhanger, seemingly hopeless, who you can say: Wait for it! …Wait for Him, who saves us by grace and makes us alive again?

Or maybe it’s you. You need that reminder today.

You need to remember that He’s brought you near through His blood. That he loves and cherishes you.

And that you can exhale, and relax in His arms.

 

Grab Bag Monday: Smelly Again

This month I’m switching things up! Today is Grab Bag Monday, and I’m reposting one of my personal favorites from earlier this year. Next Monday you’ll find the monthly review. This week I’ll get to see one of my favorite musicals, and it’ll inspire that review. Have a good week, dear readers.

Which scents do you love?

I’ve been burning a candle this winter called “Alpine Frost.” It’s green and it smells deliciously like pine-covered mountains (big surprise!). The only downside: I want to drop everything and head for the hills each time I fire it up. It draws me in, and not only because I’m a closet pyro.

photo by Nicolas A. Tonelli

photo by Nicolas A. Tonelli

Not only can we enjoy certain aromas around us, but if you’re a Christian (meaning you’ve given your life to Jesus), you are a fragrance. Do you remember this passage, written by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2 (NLT)?

14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.

This unique picture encourages three reminders about carrying the aroma of Christ.

1. It’s powerful. We’ve all noticed good smells. Friends and family laugh when I insist that one of my favorite memories from traveling to England was the heavenly smell of the potatoes there. I’m not kidding. They’re amazing. The aroma of potatoes baking filled one entire little town that we visited before lunch. And all from a small handful of pubs and tea houses.

Scents can be powerful, and so is the Jesus who fills our hearts. Simply by having Christ in us, His powerful presence magnifies His message like an earthquake ricocheting from its epicenter…far and wide. We may feel small, but each step of our feet lands with the might of heaven. The message of Jesus travels farther than we ever imagine, farther than our days take us. His aroma flows through us and beyond.

2. It sticks with a person.  Have you noticed that you still smell like places you’ve been after you’ve left? Sometimes that’s welcome, sometimes it’s not. There’s a chain of convenience stores that fills each town in the region where I live. Spend twenty seconds in one of them, and–no lie–you’ll smell like it the rest of your day. It’s a major commitment to buy a Coke there. That aroma has staying power.

We can affect people the same (but hopefully more pleasant) way. We can share the fragrance of Christ during the briefest of interactions. A kind word, a smile, a door held open…it has staying power. Given more time, people can’t help but take notice that something is different about us. We can point them to Christ more easily than we realize. And it’ll stick with them.

3. Not everyone likes it. Did you notice the u-turn that verse 16a takes? We meander the previous verses like a kid skipping through a lovely flower garden, then…bam! We smell like the grim reaper. “To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.” What a downer.

But what reality. Not everyone will choose Jesus. Many reject Him. We know this all too well. After someone turns away from the Good News, do you think they want reminders of Him? We Christians come around, and it’s not a pleasant smell to them. We’re like a tuna sandwich left abandoned in a car during a Texas summer day.

But it doesn’t have to send there. We can continue to humbly pester them by showing God’s love, praying that they’ll have a change of heart.

And, as verse 15 shows us, we always smell good to God. And that’s good enough for me.

What do you think? Is it hard or easy to remember that we always “smell like” Jesus wherever we go? Have you ever met someone who didn’t tell you that they were a Christian, but you could sense it in their demeanor?

 

 

 

 

Time Travel: Independence Day, Fred Astaire Style

It’s the tail end of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, so let’s talk Christmas movies!

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Just kidding…a tiny bit, at least.

This last weekend does remind me of one of my favorite Christmas movies, Holiday Inn, which I talked about in this post.

But Holiday Inn covers all holidays, not just Christmas. For Independence Day, Fred Astaire delivers one of his most entertaining performances.

I’ll let you see for yourself in the clip from TCM’s site. Think real firecrackers and jumping feet. My inner pyro gets excited each time I see it.

Keep in mind as you watch that the number took three full days and 80+ takes to get perfect. That helps explain his reaction at the end.

Happy Independence Day!

Watch Fred Astaire’s Firecracker Dance