His First Christmas Card


I suffer from a disease… I call it perfectionism. According to Wikipedia, psychologists call perfectionism a personality trait… but to me, it feels more like a sickness.

Perfectionism, in psychology, is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations… perfectionism drives people to attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal, and their adaptive perfectionism can sometimes motivate them to reach their goals. In the end, they derive pleasure from doing so. When perfectionists do not reach their goals, they often fall into depression.

Hmmm… sounds about right to me. And the recent decorating of our tree fully underscores all points above. I set the bar high one evening fully expecting perfection. I anticipated closing out the night by sitting on the couch with my loved ones, sipping cocoa, and admiring the beautiful creation all the while being filled with the Spirit of Christmas. However, rather than the success I fully envisioned, I was met with frustration, disillusionment, and by the end of the evening… depression. And so, today I ask myself a question. Why perfectionism? Why do I feel this incessant need to excel in what I do? Like with the tree. Why did the appearance of a dead conifer matter so much to me? And the answer, I believe, lies in the definition above. Because in truth, it wasn’t really about creating a wonderful memory with my family in celebration of the Christ child. No, it had more to do with the end result. And more accurately, it had everything to do with others’ evaluations. Because if other people loved my tree, then I would be a success, right? Perfection attained.

You know, it seems to me that I have a choice to make this season. I can either have a Christmas that looks perfect from the outside, or, I can have a real Christmas on the inside. Because I won’t have it both ways. For in reading God’s word, I see Christmas came to only one type of person. And He who knows the hearts of all men knew exactly who would receive His message. And so, He sent forth His first Christmas card, by means of an angel and heavenly host. And the most unlikely group of recipients received His word… shepherds. And in others’ evaluations, this must have seemed ludicrous. For shepherds were far from perfect. Such a filthy and smelly lot who lived with animals… why, they were unclean. Surely they were not even allowed to step foot inside a synagogue. Not unless they scrubbed themselves ritually clean. For they were shepherds… utterly imperfect, completely lowly, and so untrustworthy. Ironically, (according to what I read this morning), their testimony was not even accepted in Court. And this is to whom God sent His first Christmas card?

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:8-14

Why shepherds? Perhaps because they didn’t really care about what other people thought of them. Or maybe it was because this group of imperfect men kept their expectations low… for others didn’t expect much of them. Or maybe, it was simply that they were still… their attention not pulled in more than one direction. And so, as God peeled back the envelope of His card… His glory shown forth. And when the shepherds saw, they trembled in fear. But then, God revealed a miracle. And because these men were not perfectionists, setting the bar so unattainably high, they were able to listen. But more importantly, they acted on what they heard. For after God’s messenger spoke, they were moved

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”  And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Luke 2:15

Why shepherds? Because they were not befuddled with worldly things, mindless traditions and others’ evaluations.  A humble folk not highly esteemed by others, they had nothing to lose. Not even a reputation, for theirs was already stained. And so, they hurried toward a Savior…

It’s called perfectionism, and it hinders so much. See, as my high standards escalated over the years to outrageous heights, the more important things seemed to have fallen away one by one. Specifically, the tradition of Christmas cards. But you know… among the myriad traditions out there, could there be anything more lovely than a tradition originated by God? His good news sent forth by the herald to imperfect souls. A tradition that has been perpetuated for over two thousand years. At first, by word of mouth. But then… cards. Christmas cards in order to bring forth good tidings of great joy to all people.

How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of the herald,
who proclaims peace,
who brings news of good things,
who proclaims salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7

In closing, I want to share about the two church services I attended on Sunday. One was nearly perfect, and the other… well, it was fraught with human error. Both provided lovely music and God’s word was peppered throughout. However, I felt God’s presence only once… through the imperfect. And it was towards the end of the night that one song in particular touched my soul. It was as if God were peeling back the envelope of His Christmas card, revealing His glory to me. And I felt Him. A tingling inside. And my hand began to rise on its own accord, in worship of Him. But I stopped it. As my arm hurried upward toward the Savior, I hastily pulled it back. Because what would those around me think? I didn’t want others’ evaluations of me to lessen. And so, after obeying the command of inner perfectionism rather than the Spirit of Him who moved me, His presence diminished…

I suffer from a disease. I call it perfectionism, and it hinders so much. But this year, I realize I have a choice. I can either have a Christmas that appears perfect from the outside, or, I can experience true Christmas on the inside. Absolutely perfect in its imperfection…


A Holy Place


Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. Psalm 24:3-4

I went down South this weekend. There was a ladies’ retreat at Oak Island, NC, and I went there fully expecting to meet God. I had my Bible, pens and notebooks at the ready. One of the notebooks I carried with me is entitled, “God Moments.” The idea for this journal was birthed about eight months ago. The plan was to review every single journal (all 15 of them) looking for those times when God made His presence known in my life. Those times were to be recorded in a special journal, so they wouldn’t get lost amongst my many words. I hoped it to be a faith building exercise. And I can say in truth, that it was. Operation journal review was complete as of this past Thursday, and my God moments notebook has entry after entry. Evidence of an almighty God’s handiwork all along the way.

And so, this weekend I was expectant. I just knew that on the heels of completing this charge (and a charge it was, for I’m certain the idea of journal review came from God), that I would enter His presence in some way over the course of the weekend. And sure enough, He showed up. Friday evening, there was a God moment. And through Saturday, He spoke in other ways. And so, by Saturday evening, my fingers were itching to etch out what I had experienced already. With a little time to spare, I made my way to the water’s edge with all my “God supplies.” Bible – check. Pen – check. Journal – check. God Moments notebook – check. And I settled down on a not so comfortable bench. I buried my head in my notebook, and had the pen ready. But then, I was assaulted. By gnats. More than I could count. They were everywhere alighting on every surface of my exposed skin. I inhaled them as huffed in annoyance! Irritated beyond measure, I thought that I would write in my journal anyway. I was not going to be dissuaded from the task at hand because I was doing a God thing – getting ready to record God moments. I did my best, till a gnat bit my hand. My writing hand. And it stung. That’s when I relented, and gathered my stuff. That’s when I said out loud, “Are you kidding me???” And so, I decided to move on down to another bench.

But then as I walked… I saw. There was the sun. And suddenly, my plan and my written words didn’t seem so important. Because the sun beckoned me. I had witnessed its glorious appearance that morning. I reveled in its warmth upon my skin. But alas, I quickly forgot it was there. Because it’s always there. So regular is the sun’s appearance that I take it for granted. And so, when it appeared to me again that evening, I was somewhat taken aback. Because I saw it anew. I was captivated by its display and a holy hush settled upon me. As the sun slowly sank towards the clouds on the horizon, I felt drawn to it. So I bypassed the benches and looked to an inviting patch of grass. I took off my sandals and sank to the ground. And there, I quietly watched.

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not come closer,” He said. “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:4-5

I didn’t know it then, but the grass on which I was reclined was holy ground. Because not only was I in the presence of the sun, but I was also in the presence of the Lord. And He, like the sun, is always there. I go to Him in the morning, but then, I quickly forget Him. Because I take Him for granted. I get busy and set on my plans. I get engrossed in my words. But He’s there. He beckons me. He draws me. He vies for my attention. He waits for me to bypass the benches in life, and sit on a patch of earth with Him.


Saturday evening, God’s creation gave witness to His glory. As the sun sank lower and lower, it lit up the water brighter and brighter. Subtle peach turned to brilliant orange vividly contrasted against dark, murky waters. And then, the most astounding thing happened. The calm water began to move. At first, I didn’t know what it was. There was a crash that startled me. And then, water began to roll. Waters billowed and began to heap up faster and faster crashing onto the walls surrounding it. This calm body of water on the sound side of the peninsula moved ferociously, though I couldn’t find a reason for it. Not a boat was in sight, and yet, the waters rolled.

I almost missed it all. I had been on the other side of a house, sitting on a bench with my head down in a notebook. I was completely engrossed in what my plans were, and completely oblivious to what was taking place around me. So intent was I on journaling about God moments, that I almost missed a very real God moment. And so, when I roused from my stupor, my spirit echoed the words of Jacob… “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16) For God moments abound. And God surrounds. The lesson I learned… open my eyes! Be still and look around. For creation magnifies the glory of the Lord. Had it not been for a swarming mass of gnats on Saturday evening, I would have missed the sunset. Had it not been for the gnats, I would have missed God!

As a side-note, I’d like to mention just before sunset was the only time I encountered gnats throughout the entire weekend. At first, I thought they were sent from the hounds of hell to distract me from my God stuff. But now I see. God sent them. For those pesky creatures moved me from where I sat. They prompted me to move further along and around a corner so I could see better. And when I finally lifted my eyes, I saw what He wanted me to see. I saw Him.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard. Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a groom coming from the bridal chamber; it rejoices like an athlete running a course. It rises from one end of the heavens and circles to their other end; nothing is hidden from its heat. Psalm 19:1-6

The weight of Glory


Then Moses said, “Please, let me see Your glory.” Exodus 33:18

I learned something this morning (thanks, Stephanie). She mentioned the above referenced passage of Scripture, and the glory of God. And although this happens to be one of my favorite passages in the Bible, I never really looked into what glory means. Because when I hear the word glory, I think I know. But Stephanie said that if you look up the root word, from which glory is derived, you find something more. Because among other meanings, glory comes from a Hebrew word that means: to be heavy, to be weighty, to be grievous, and to be burdensome. So in essence, when Moses asked for God to show him His glory, not only did he see it, but he must have felt the full weight of God’s glory. Because according to the root word, God’s glory is heavy… and weighty. And Moses was near to God. He was with God. Oh, I’m sure… he felt God’s glory.

And the meaning of the word is not at all what I expected to find. See, my son has described God’s glory as sparkle and shine. And truth be known, this is what I always believed God’s glory to be. And so, perhaps it’s this weightiness that I lack today. Because if God’s glory is weighty, shouldn’t I be driven to my knees. Like in Old Testament times, shouldn’t I fall face down to the ground when I encounter the living God in my own living room? Because in the pages of Scripture, you see people doing this again and again. Because when they felt God’s glory… the heaviness pressed them to the ground.

You know, after Moses spent time with God, his own face shone. So indeed, God’s glory is sparkle and shine. But it’s so much more. Because the Israelites were afraid to even come near Moses, so radiant was his face. And this is what the glory of God can do… inspire heaviness and reverence and a holy fear. Because He is God. He is glory. And like Moses, shouldn’t our own faces reflect that light… that glory… after we spend time with Him?

Unfortunately, a byproduct of our hectic lives is heaviness… but not the heaviness of God’s glory. We tend to carry heavy loads and burdens that we’re not meant to bear. We tend to be so consumed by the problems that lie before us, that we are weighed down under the strain. And so, we can miss it… His glory. So weighed down by burdens, we overlook the heaviness of His glory. Rather than knees that bend in worship, our knees are bent because the weight of the world has been laid upon our shoulders. But it doesn’t have to be this way, for we have another option. We have an invitation from Jesus…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”            Matthew 11:28-30

It’s rest that we need. Rest from the craziness of life. It was Henry Drummond (1851-1897), who said, “Rest is not a hallowed feeling that comes over us in church, it is the repose of a heart set deep in God.” Jesus promises us that rest. We simply need to unyoke ourselves from that which keeps us deep down, and align ourselves to Him. His ways. For His burden is light. And when we arrive there… to a heart deeply set in God… the trials and tribulations of this world will dim in comparison to the light of His glory. When we set our hearts and minds on the things above, eternal things, the weight and cares of this world will fall away. And then, that worldly load will be lifted. And then, like Moses, we will not only see God’s glory, but we will feel His glory. We just need take the load off, for in actuality, Jesus has already born the weight of it all. Eternally speaking, the weight has already been lifted. Eternally speaking, God’s glory is right there near us…

Then He replied, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said, “Please, let me see Your glory.” The LORD said, “Here is a place near Me. You are to stand on the rock, and when My glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away, and you will see My back, but My face will not be seen.” Exodus 33:14, 18, 21-23

God’s glory is heavy. It’s so heavy that we cannot even gaze upon His face. Just perhaps, when we let Jesus carry the weight or our burdens like we’re supposed to… just maybe, then, we will then feel the full weight of God’s glory. Just maybe it will be His very own hand that covers us, and presses us down in worship. For He is worthy. We just need to take the load off…

Too full to see


The below content is from June 23, 2013. Yesterday, something out of the clear blue sky gave me the greatest sense of wonder and it reminded me of this old writing. Not coincidentally, my wonderment occurred the afternoon of my son’s 16th birthday. So, in honor of my beautiful son, and the absolute privilege and gift it is to be his mother, I repost…

And just now, I smile at the sparkle I witness in his eye here. Because it’s the same he held at six. Thus, my birthday wish for Levi is that as he matures, he never loses his sense of wonder.

Too Full to See – June 23, 2013


The past two weeks have been full… so full. It was last Friday when I came home to a full sink, a full hamper and a full inbox. And today, I sent well over a hundred emails for work. In my kitchen, I have four full buckets of produce for canning. That’ll be my task for tomorrow. And right now, I am bone weary.

All I can see is what lies before me…

And tonight, honestly, all I feel is tired. But this morning, I felt differently. It was then I tasted a bit of God’s word. And it was what I read at daylight that’s been hovering on the outer edges of my brain all day. It’s what I’ve been wanting to simmer in all day. But I couldn’t stay there… in His word. No, I had to move on.

Chores to do, job commitments, and a son to raise. Life entered the holy hush of the morning, and it hasn’t been quiet since. Not till now.

I’ve come to the conclusion the way we live our lives today cannot be part of God’s plan for us. Our daily schedules are much too full. And for the life of me, I cannot seem to find the exit ramp from the fast lane. Try as I might, I cannot seem to eliminate the busyness. And thus, my days stay full. Thus, I can’t see!

Because life is too full to see, I don’t glimpse the wonder of a holy God.

No, all I can focus on are the dishes, and the paperwork, and the dirty clothes. And sadly, I lose the wonder of life. Because life is a blur. I move way too fast to behold the glory of each moment. And so, I’ve decided. I want it back.

I want the wonder back in my life.

The past few months, I’ve watched at least 150 Andy Griffith shows. And it’s awakened a hunger within me. It’s the call of simplicity I hear in the distance and it’s what I crave. Episode after episode, I watched Andy Taylor sitting on his front porch, slowly strumming his guitar. I watched his friends join him in song. I watched him take time to explain things to his son. I watched, and ached, for that life-style. And unfortunately, it’s truly a thing of the past.

Not often will you find people sitting around the front stoop singing songs and enjoying life. No more can we stop and smell the roses… or more importantly, the Rose of Sharon. Simply, we’re much too busy.

It was parade night last week and even that awakened something deep inside. Sadness, perhaps? Or nostalgia… because a parade is not what it once was. At least not in our small town.

See, I eagerly looked forward to the carnivals when I was a child. And parade night was the best. So many people, so many smells. Lights and sirens. And the best part of the parade was the thumping of the drums you could feel inside your chest. But the last few parades I’ve attended had no high school bands. And not many majorettes. This type of parade is becoming extinct.

And so, I’ve lost the wonder of it.


But my son… he still has it. His eyes sparkled and shone with anticipation. He could hardly contain his giggles and ran around in circles when it was time for the parade. Yes, my son still holds the wonder of life. He still basks in the pure pleasure of each day. And this is what I want… what he has.

I want to bottle up how he feels and drink deeply. I want to remove myself from the fullness, and the busyness, so I can see. Oh, God, please help me to see the wonder of it all. In the midst of each day, help me to stop. Help me to gaze upon Your creation with new eyes. Help me to see – to really see – the wonders of this world. And the wonder that You are…

In Habakkuk 1:5 we read, “Look at the nations and observe – be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it.” And that’s it right there. Look. Observe. But this takes time.

See, we can hear about something all day long. But when we have firsthand knowledge of it (whatever it may be), it changes us. If we want to live fully and abundantly, as He so intends, then we must look and see and observe. We must pay close attention to this thing called life. Otherwise we may miss it all. And that would be a shame. That’s not what God has in store for His children. No, He wants us to be like our very own offspring… full of wonder.

God doesn’t want us to be so full of busyness that we miss His awe-inspiring works. He wants us to witness just how majestic and holy and wonderful He truly is. But first, we must pause our hectic lifestyles and drink in what lies before us.

His creation.

If we stay still long enough, and open our eyes wide enough, just maybe we’ll see what He wants us to see.


The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 (NKJV)

Why do it at all?

You know… in reading some of my blogs, it sure sounds like a lot of work in coming to know God. I’m sure some people may even think, “Why do it at all?” And you know what… I confess there have been times that I’ve thought the same thing. Because I’ve personally experienced smooth sailing when I floated atop the surface of God’s living waters. And I swear, I don’t think I have ever struggled throughout my whole life as much as I have within these past few years. It’s as if the struggling intensified as soon as I decided to go deeper with God. Oh, I had plenty of dark times before my God & me moment of 2010. It was desperation that drove me to Him in the first place. But it seems as if the hard times have come closer and closer together, lengthening in duration, ever since then. Almost like labor pains.

For me, I drifted for quite some time after becoming a child of God. My husband and I moved around quite a bit because of his job. At first, it was great… but then we moved somewhere I really hated. I was thoroughly miserable while we lived up North, but for some reason, I didn’t turn to God. We moved several times more before I finally surrendered, but by then I had accumulated some excess baggage in my heart. That’s what I’m working on now… getting rid of my old junk. I thought I accomplished that this past fall, but deep down, I know something is still not right. Anyway, I’m veering off course. The question remains, “Why do it at all?” Quite simply, I am persuaded. See, when I became God’s child sixteen years ago, I committed my heart to Him. And 2 Timothy 1:12 says it beautifully, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”

Clearly, there will be suffering. But, I will not be ashamed! For I am persuaded that He is able to keep (guard) what I committed to Him, which was my heart. Not only that, I now have a track record with God. I mentioned all the starts and stops with God earlier this week. All those beginnings and endings. Well you know, I may have had some bad endings… but through each bad ending, I learned something about myself. Each time I started out, for God, and ended badly, for me, I realized something about me that shouldn’t be a part of me at all! And when we come to a realization like that, well, that’s called victory. Because when we can identify what’s wrong with us, we can confront it. And through the power of God, we can defeat it. And do you know what else? On the other side of those struggles lies glory. I know it, because I’ve experienced it. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory…” This, my friend, is the purpose of our struggles. Through each one, we are being transformed into the image of Christ. It’s through struggle after struggle that we reach glory to glory.

I imagine there is no one else who’s struggled with God quite like Jacob. He physically wrestled with God. In Genesis 32 we read, “Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks,” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” Jacob held on to God. He refused to let go until he received the blessing. God then renamed Jacob, saying, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Why do it at all? Why continue to venture closer and closer to God, when all it seems to do is cause more and more strife? Because I am fully persuaded. Because on the other side of each struggle is glory. And because when I hold on to God, refusing to let go, there will be blessing. I will struggle again and again, but each time I come out on the other side, I am that much closer to God. With each hardship I face, I will be one step closer to knowing Him. And knowing Him is exactly what I purposed in my heart two and a half years ago. There was a verse that propelled me towards God, but it was only the first half of Philippians 3:10 that I focused on. I now know the verse is talking about God’s Son. And it’s only now that I can begin to identify with the second half of the verse… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…

Here on earth, we will suffer and we will struggle. Jesus did, and so shall we. But rather than run from our struggles, and from God, may we be like Jacob who clung tightly to God. May we tell Him that we will not let go… not until He blesses us. Like Jacob, may we struggle with God and with men, and prevail. And then, it will come… blessing. There will be that glorious Day, for He’s promised it. That’s why I do it.