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Braking Points

Pausing in the midst of Life to ponder, pray and find footing to continue.

Month

December 2013

PEACEMAKERS

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

Ask any law enforcement officer about dangerous situations he or she has encountered and “domestic violence” will be near the top of the list. Passion and rage ignite in ways that are unpredictable and require vigilance, calm, and actions to defuse irrational behavior. Rage directed at a “loved” one can quickly turn on the person seeking to separate the warring parties.

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Being a Peacemaker has little in common with pacifism. Peacemakers choose to enter conflict. I cringe from that…entering conflict and yet two days before Christmas I know that the Prince of Peace desires that all of us seek ways to bring Peace, bestow Peace, and bless others with Peace. I know I need to recognize where peacemaking is needed as I go through each day.

Ask yourself, where do I see conflict, division, hurt feelings, misunderstandings? Where can I actively be a peacemaker? All the chaos of life seems amplified during the Christmas season, partially because we carry in our heads and hearts “the perfect Christmas” so everything and everyone who falls short of that mark stirs discord within.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matthew 5:9 NIV)

So this Christmas BE like Christ, Bring peace within yourself, within your family, at the chaotic check out line, wherever you go enter the situation as the calming force. Don’t sit on your hands or stick your head in the sand! Yes, life is messy, but because of Jesus we have Peace with God and we have a burden to share that peace with others. You who know Jesus are children and heirs of God, being a peacemaker makes that evident to even those who do not know Jesus.

BE A PEACEMAKER!
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If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:18 NIV)

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!

“I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” lyrics
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)Written during the Civil War on Christmas Day 1863 after the tragic death of his wife in a fire and word that his son had been seriously injured in battle.

Deserving Christmas

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Good tidings, Great joy
Wrapped in rags, Baby Boy
Heaven’s offering, God’s plan
Infant Jesus, Son of man

“Listen to me! I deserve to have my family together for Christmas!”
“I deserve a little respect.”
“I deserve to be able to relax a little this Christmas.”
“I deserve to be with my friends.”
“I deserve that diamond ring.”
“I deserve to be able to avoid going to grandma’s house, with the heat turned to 90 degrees and the television at full volume.”
“I deserve time with my grandkids.”
“I deserve not to have everything I ever did to disappoint thrown in my face at Christmas.”
“I deserve not to be hassled by my Dad to come home this Christmas.”
“I deserve being able to establish our own Christmas traditions.”
“I deserve a Mom who bakes cookies, not one who lounges on the sofa with a drink in her hand.”
“I have come a long way and sacrificed a whole lot, I deserve at least one perfect Christmas.”
“I deserve to have things my way….MY WAY at Christmas.”

For several days now as I recuperate from chest congestion, two thoughts have plagued my mind, one is expressed in the concocted statements above, and the other maybe tomorrow. I feel sure anyone reading this could add to the list. Perhaps in my feverish state my focus turned inward, because while whining about NOT deserving to be sick at Christmas, it hit me,

I DO NOT DESERVE CHRISTMAS AT ALL!

In every role of my life, as a daughter, a sister, a niece, an aunt, a wife, a mother, a co-worker, a friend, I have failed or as scripture says I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I suspect I am not alone although my sins are many. I am not saying all this to be a downer at Christmas, BUT in this season to look outward and upward, Outward to the needs and cares of other and Upward to the ONE whose birth we celebrate. As long as I focus on myself, I will never experience Christmas and will get exactly what I deserve, but God doesn’t want that for any of us.

And so I am thankful to God who knowing

I DO NOT DESERVE CHRISTMAS AT ALL, GAVE IT TO ME ANYWAY!

CHRISTMAS IS A GIFT, OPEN IT AND RECEIVE THE BLESSINGS!

And then SHARE with others!

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God Answers Prayers We Have Given Up On

Zechariah and Elizabeth with John
Zechariah and Elizabeth with John
But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. (Luke 1:13 NIV)

God answers prayers we have long forgotten
God answers prayers we have dismissed as unanswered
Or even denied

When do you think Zechariah and Elizabeth had given up hope for a child of their own? When do you think their last prayer for a child was uttered or even fleetingly crossed their minds with any genuine hope of conception.

And Yet, Gabriel clearly told Zechariah, “your prayer has been heard.”

On this Sunday morning, consider the prayers once prayed fervently, pleadingly that have never been answered or that you see no possible way the answer could be yes. Those prayers on a shelf, dusty, maybe even bitter reminders, you think, of God’s “No’s”, those entreaties with squashed hopes, sometimes these very prayers are the ones God uses to demonstrate that our timing, our reasoning, our finite minds cannot begin to understand all He desires to bring out of the barren spots in our lives.

God does not forget any prayer. Just look at Zechariah and Elizabeth. He savors them as he works in us to make us ready for His ANSWER!

What I Believe Makes Me Who I Am–Theology on an Icy Morning

I am not the most succinct person in the whole world, so boiling things down to a few words about something as all encompassing as “My Theology” is mind boggling. I could point to the Bible and say I find it there and be truthful, but even in there I find more to explore about the world, history, and people. God has planted himself everywhere, if only we could see. Paul wrote in Romans that God is evident in all creation, so none of us are without knowledge of Him.

I encountered a Aborigines’ account of creation and the fall of man in which the evil one was a bat! The Biblical account and this tribal story are remarkably parallel. No wonder that the symbol of death is the “Bat”. We also were visited by retired missionaries, the Eubanks, to Thailand, who shared the story of entering a classroom in Thailand to share Jesus with a group of children for the first time. The majority religion in Thailand is Buddhism. As they spoke to the children, Mrs. Eubanks noticed one child who listened closer, her eyes growing brighter and brighter until her body could not contain what she had to say. She waved her hand excitedly and exclaimed, “I know this Jesus! I just didn’t know his name.” The Eubanks expressed how God surprised them by already working in the hearts of the people of Thailand. He was there a long time before they arrived.

So, the enormity of God and of my meager theology cannot be boiled down easily, but as I consider His Scripture, I realize my basics from cover to cover are there. God’s Love, Justice and Mercy with which I form not only by theology, but my worldview. I am a Christian, but I am not the only Christian.

And so on this cold, December morning, Here is my paraphrased theology in a bursting nutshell:

In the beginning God created and it was good. God existed before all creation, before the beginning and in creating used the words, “Let us make….”, so the One God has more than one person. Human beings with free will sinned and while the good God created remained, weeds grew, blood was shed, storms brewed and sickness with death entered history. God chose Abraham to bless ALL the peoples of the earth.

Emmanuel
Emmanuel

At the perfect time in history The Word (Christ Jesus) became flesh and made his dwelling among us. Out of his life, death and resurrection we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

The Holy Spirit remains within for the believer and in the world to call non-believers to Christ. But this time, this earth has an expiration date known only by God. We are therefore called to be His witnesses to all the World. And until then I pray “Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

I know too that others seeking also to boil things down have done a better job than I. So I turn to “Creed” Rich Mullins’ theology song from the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

CHORUS:
And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man

I believe that He who suffered
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God’s mighty right hand
I believe that He’s returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men

CHORUS

I believe it, I believe it
I believe it
I believe it, I believe it

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son,
Our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church, the communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends

CHORUS

I believe it, I believe
I believe it, I believe
I believe it, I believe it

The Word became Flesh and Embraced me with Grace
The Word became Flesh and Embraced me with Grace

Should have just gone to that first, RIGHT? So At Christmas…Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Here’s the Utube link: http://youtu.be/H-61MaWETiU

Spiritual Arrhythmia–Christmas Reset

Along with my physical issues this morning as I coughed most of the night, I realized my spiritual issues were greater. As I read the scripture from the #She Reads Truth devotional two days ago, I knew it was time to let God do a little heart surgery, so I can truly carry the Christmas heartbeat wherever I go…today not far from this couch, but hey! it is a start.

Even if my letter made you sad, I am not sorry I wrote it. At first I was sorry, because it made you sad, but you were sad only for a short time. Now I am happy, not because you were made sad, but because your sorrow made you change your lives. You became sad in the way God wanted you to, so you were not hurt by us in any way.

The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that. But the kind of sorrow the world has brings death. See what this sorrow—the sorrow God wanted you to have—has done to you: It has made you very serious. It made you want to restore yourselves. It made you angry and afraid. It made you want to see me. It made you care. It made you want to do the right thing. In every way you have regained your innocence. (2 Corinthians 7:8-11 NCV)

Imagine that, letting God in, seeing my sin as He does and longing be all that Christmas can be to the world…read the last sentence again…He sets our heart in rhythm with His and restores our innocence. No white washing my sin, but resetting within.

Everywhere the sounds of Christmas
Fill the streets, the stores, the steeples
Christmas music everywhere

Everywhere the looks of Christmas
Cover homes, churches, people
Christmas lights city squares

Everywhere the feel of Christmas
Peace, love, and joy know no equal
Imitations are everywhere.

Little Drummer Boy
Little Drummer Boy

There is a rhythm to Christmas
The sound of a little boy’s drum
There is a heartbeat to Christmas
That announces a savior has come

In me is the heartbeat of Christmas
But it gets out of sync now and then
Overwhelmed by imitations of Christmas
It falters, it misses, it sins.

Everywhere the sounds of Christmas
Hear a baby’s cry in the night
Christmas sounds everywhere

Everywhere the sights of Christmas
In the darkness there is a new light
Christmas sights everywhere

Everywhere the feel of Christmas
Christ resetting our hearts to do right
Christmas action everywhere

So here in these morning hours
Considering Christmas without and within
Shock my heart back into rhythm with yours, Lord Jesus
Clean out my spiritual arteries of all the debris
that threatens to steal the joy of Christmas
like the Grinch stole Whoville’s presents and trees
I don’t care if this rhymes
Or follows Poetry guidelines
I haven’t got the time
My heart needs a reset right now
So I can carry Christmas with me everywhere.

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, preaching the Good News from God. He said, “The right time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Change your hearts and lives and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:14, 15 NCV)

Whole for Christmas Almost Home

Jonathan Kisler
Jonathan Kisler

Lord, make us whole this Christmas Eve
gather us round your tree
the one from which the manger came
the one carved for the sea of Galilee
the rough one hewn for death’s decree
Make us whole Make us family

This morning dawned clear, bright (sun on the icy grass and paths) and very cold. Everyone in this household seems to be fighting off coughing and hacking or stomach virus. We had planned a trip to Oklahoma next week. Main purpose was to connect with our family there. It has been 6 months since we have been together. But it doesn’t look like it is going to happen. Another icing is predicted and none of us feel healthy enough to brave the weather, the roads and the distance.

Joshua Kisler
Joshua Kisler

I worry that my children and grandchildren will not feel connected at all to us, but I must have faith that God will keep us close, if not in physical presence, then in heart and spirit. Terry and I have nine grandchildren and I want each of them to know how much I love them. So, I am sad that I cannot make this trip. I am delighted that I have three who are in proximity and that we can be involved in their lives, but even that is changing as they grow up with one of them already off to college.

The little bit of verse above came to me this morning in part influenced by The Tale of Three Trees by Angela E. Hunt. As I wrote it some of my sadness dissipated as I realized how wide the arms of God are and that He makes us whole, he makes us one, and he makes us family. So whether near or far apart, this Christmas we will be Whole because of the One who is Holy!

Zoie Engels, Larry Neeley, and Adalyn Kisler
Zoie Engels, Larry Neeley, and Adalyn Kisler

Gabrielle Kisler
Gabrielle Kisler
Abigail, Jordan and Graham Foster
Abigail, Jordan and Graham Foster

Preparing for Christ–One Tiny Seed

The whole of creation in one tiny seed
From the womb of a virgin to meet the world’s need
Came a root and a shoot from one tiny seed
The wonder of Christmas to fill the world’s need
Overcoming our sin, our hunger, our greed
One tiny seed, one was enough to meet all my needs.
One tiny seed
One baby King

Fertilization happens when a sperm meets and penetrates an egg. It's also called conception. At this moment, the genetic makeup is complete, including the sex of the baby. Within about three days after conception, the fertilized egg is dividing very fast into many cells. It passes through the fallopian tube into the uterus, where it attaches to the uterine wall. The placenta, which will nourish the baby, also starts to form.
Fertilization happens when a sperm meets and penetrates an egg. It’s also called conception. At this moment, the genetic makeup is complete, including the sex of the baby. Within about three days after conception, the fertilized egg is dividing very fast into many cells. It passes through the fallopian tube into the uterus, where it attaches to the uterine wall. The placenta, which will nourish the baby, also starts to form.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” Isaiah 11:1

In our yard in Tulsa, Oklahoma we had a beautiful ornamental Crabapple tree. In the spring enormous blossoms exploded on every branch, in the summer lush green leaves shaded the house, but in the fall, the time of crab apple fruit, little dry inedible fruit let us know that for all its showiness, the tree had no sustenance.

In one of those typical Oklahoma thunderstorms, lightening and wind struck the tree down, leaving only a small stump after we cleared the debris, but you know what happened, shoots appeared in the spring and today there is a Crabapple tree in that yard. Not the flowery showy tree it had once been, but a tree that produces real fruit. You see it went back to its original seed.So in the womb of a willing Mary, God planted his original seed. A seed that would meet all our needs, If only we concede that we have a need and He can meet it.image

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