Drumming Up Amazement for the Familiar

bell

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When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

–Luke 2:15-18

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There’s this effort every year to make the Christmas story new. We pressure ourselves to see it with fresh eyes, so that we can feel it, really feel it, this time around.

It’s difficult to marvel at something so familiar.

At the first Christmas, the shepherds weren't forced to share all the fantastic things that had happened to them, they were compelled. We would feel that way too, I think.

Many times, it feels like we are trying to drum up amazement for the Christmas story. It just feels forced, at least it does to me. Our efforts to ring the bell of excitement often don't work.

But I think that’s okay.

Because sometimes it does work. Sometimes a church service or a song or a book or a sermon or even just a drive down a street aglow with lights captures our hearts and we remember. We remember the story really is true. God actually does exist and He surely does love us. And maybe, we even feel it in those moments.

And I know I, at least, can use a taste of God’s love as often as I can find it.

So let’s continue to seek out and share those moments that stir our hearts. We never know when the Holy Spirit might use them to break through our clutter.

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Father in heaven, help us see You. Help us feel You. Help us hear You. May we be amazed once again by the love story of Christmas. May those who need Your love the most feel it most tangibly in this season. Amen.

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I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – The Civll Wars

“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.”


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

Setting Boundaries and Noticing The Amazing

I’m not sure how long I had been sitting at the computer. My two year old was playing downstairs, more independently than usual, while I was click-clacking away, staring at my screen. Every once in awhile, I would hear a quiet voice call, “Mommy, come play with me.” And I would respond with my usual, “Just a minute, honey.”

As I continued to focus on my screen instead of on him, his patience waned. He made his way up the stairs and began playing with the things directly around my chair. At least then he was in close proximity to me.

He would find things to keep his mind entertained for a bit, but it wouldn’t take long for another “come play with me” request to escape from his lips. But the request, no matter how earnest, was met with the same “just a minute, honey” response I gave last time.

Eventually, he changed his tactic. He marched over to my chair, put his hand on top of mine, and shoved the keyboard drawer closed. Then, he climbed on my lap, grabbed both cheeks, looked in my eyes, and demanded, “Mommy, come play with me.”

I had no choice. Crumpled into conviction, I marched downstairs holding him in my arms. I left my computer and exchanged it for his Duplos.

I spent time with him instead of just next to him.

I wish God would grab my face sometimes.

I know, I know, I KNOW, that I spend way too much of my day distracted. Engrossed in Twitter. Checking this or that blog. Sending texts. Scanning pictures.  Scrolling through Facebook.

The problem is that God is not usually as assertive as my two year old. The Holy Spirit nudges more than pushes, whispers more than shouts.

I wonder how often I have missed God saying, “come play with Me.”

I spend lots of time reading and thinking and writing about God. But often, that keeps my relationship with God on the periphery. It’s something I focus on when I have time. It’s not full engagement. It’s more of a “next to God” life than a “with God” life.

I want more. I want to stop being distracted. I want to live. Fully.

My friends Adam and Christine Jeske have written a book and issued a challenge. To live 31 amazing days in the month of October. As I thought about how I would enter this challenge, I couldn’t escape one thought: I need to draw boundaries.

I can’t notice the amazing around me if my eyes are glued to the screen in front of me.  I can’t be amazed at how God is nudging me if I’m not quiet enough to notice and follow.

Now, I don’t think a strict “give up social media” fast is what I need. In many ways, social media enriches my life. I just need to figure out where it is distracting more than it is helping. Here are two boundaries I can think of right away:

In October, I will not use screens at the table. Whether it is meals or snacks, I will use time at the Table to notice the amazing in my kids.

In October, I will not use screens while outside. Whether on a walk or at a park, I will use time outside to notice the amazing in God’s creation.

And, as I think of more boundaries I should have, I will add them. This challenge gives me an excuse to set boundaries and not miss engaging with the amazing around me.

I already had to put this boundary into practice this morning. Before I finished writing, my son woke up and was ready for breakfast. I put my computer away and sat with him. The first thing I noticed was his astounding skill at making a mess with his food. But then I noticed his eyes. When I took the time to look, he took the time to look back. We had eye contact for almost all of breakfast. And my heart smiled.

I’m excited to see what the rest of the month holds.

You can follow what I notice and do (along with many others) using the Twitter hashtag #31AmazingDays. Just know that some of my tweets may be delayed. You know, due to the social media boundaries I just set for myself.

This should be fun. Would you join me in the challenge?