marymcleary

Covering my angst with the soothing wisdom from my mother's prayer journals


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Gifts of the Spirit

 

 

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Christmas plans changed for our family this year. We are a flexible lot and everyone was willing to monitor and adjust to gather a week early. It was no problem for me to have the house decorated since I started as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away, and I ordered gifts online and wrapped them as soon as they were delivered.

Last Sunday everybody enjoyed the meal and the company while periodically stealing glances at those gifts that lay nestled underneath the tree. The most beautiful tree in the world would not be complete without the gifts.

When I was eight or nine years old, I asked Jesus into my heart, and since then His Holy Spirit lives there. Christians, like presents, hold something special inside. We call them the Gifts of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Though we may decorate at a certain time of year we can give and receive these gifts anytime.

Several Sundays ago my small group leader reinforced this when she said, “We take Him wherever we go”, and I remembered an incident a few weeks earlier.

Our favorite football team had a playoff game in a nearby city. As we entered the stadium, members of the ROTC Color Guard walked in behind us and for a little while I stood next to one of the guys. Standing straight as an arrow, it was apparent he took his appearance and his duty seriously. In fact, he looked a little intimidating, but before I thought about it I leaned over to him and said, “I have to tell you. You look very handsome.”

His brown eyes stared at me suspiciously for a moment before turning his head slightly and smiling the most glorious smile I believe I’ve ever seen. It was an “Aw shucks!” moment as he thanked me and turned to go carry our flag.

It isn’t my habit to tell young men I don’t know they look handsome. I think the Holy Spirit prompted me to acknowledge his effort. His reaction was priceless and I was thankful to witness it.

Mother wrote in her journal, “The order of the Divine mind is beautiful. What should we do but try to produce it in our daily lives.”

The colors, the lights, the music and the gifts all make Christmas wonderful, but it’s The Baby that makes it a wonder, and if you’re sad this season because of loss of health, wealth or loved ones I pray you’ll receive kindness, gentleness, love and patience until you feel like sharing again. It can be anytime of the year.

 

 

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New Year Resolutions of Our Twelve Year Old Grandson

007Looking back through this year’s Christmas pictures I noticed two things. First, we have no babies or toddlers. Second, we are basically happy people. I don’t mean to imply there is a correlation between the two.

When our kids were little, Christmas was frantic. We were threading the eye of our Christmas break with the nine-hour trip from our house to grandparents’ homes in a red station wagon packed tightly with Matt’s meds, everyone’s clothes and hidden toys for Santa to deliver on Christmas morning.

All our pictures of those visits show happy people.

Our kids grew up and eventually our daughters and sons-in-love packed their vehicles and headed to our house for Christmas.

The grandkids usually arrived on Christmas Eve Day taut with excitement. I made it my mission to keep them occupied until we opened presents that night and eventually tucked them in bed.

Pictures of one of those Christmas Eves were taken at the model train station. Wearing engineer hats with red scarves around their necks, they were joyful children.

This year we had a nineteen year old, two seventeen year olds, a twelve-year-old and two nine-year olds who arrived for dinner on Christmas Day. We were the grand finale so they were mellow.

In this year’s pictures our grandkids looked perfect while parents and grandparents looked pleased.

Our Christmas pictures don’t show the years of hard work, prayers and frequent head-butting on the part of both parents and kids, but the fruits of that labor are showing.

The Christmas decorations are put away and a New Year full of promise and opportunity lies ahead, but instead of New Year resolutions, I spend New Year’s Eve making Old Year Observations.

I flip through my agenda for the year past and reflect on how faithful He is to us – always. That braces me for the year to come.

I stopped making resolutions for the coming year, but I thought our twelve-year-old grandson would have some that were interesting so I asked him to share them.

On Saturday, after we watched him play the first of three basketball games he would have that day (I’m pretty sure he’s a NCAA MVP in a future National Championship game), I asked him to tell me his New Year resolutions when he and his family came to have lunch on Sunday. He rolled his eyes, but I knew he would come through. He did, and here they are.

(1) Make All A’s the rest of the year.034
(2) Spend more time with Him.
(3) Dribble lower and be a better ball handler
(4) Be a better hitter in baseball.
(5) Don’t be as lazy around the house.

Recently I read that parents have the opportunity to raise a child until he or she is twelve or thirteen. After that age a parent’s main job is to guide the child so he or she will make good choices. Guiding is easier if the teaching has gone well.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Through God’s actions in the past we can learn about the God we serve today.”

Whether we look at the old year and make observations or choose to face the New Year with new resolutions, we can be certain that the God we serve will always be faithful. Parents have the opportunity of sharing that security with their children and guiding them into eternal life.


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We Are the Lights of Christmas

I’m writing another book and one of the characters approaches Christmas with an enthusiasm that wears her out. Arriving home after teaching all day, she falls asleep and dreams.

She heard the music before she saw anything. Light and lovely, the sounds wrapped her in a deep peace as colors of every tint and hue energized her with their twinkling, pulsating motion and she heard these words,

“We are the lights of Christmas. We twinkle and we shine. Aglow in such a dark world; reflecting the Devine.
We are the lights of Christmas – not one of us the same. He glories in our difference as we claim His holy name.
We are the lights of Christmas. Bring others to the Gift of God’s shining love and mercy. His name we will uplift.”


My character wakes up with a renewed purpose – to shine no matter the cost.

Last night our church celebrated Christmas with candlelight services at five and seven o’clock. It was a special time of music, scripture and Holy Communion that brought us closer together as the body of Christ.

The service came to a close as the sanctuary lights went out and we sat in total darkness. The pastor lit one little candle as the soloist began to sing O Holy Night.

One by one the flame was passed to the candles held by hundreds of attendees and soon the worshipers were drenched in a soft glow ignited by a single flame.

In that place and at that point in time, the service was a powerful reminder of a dark world in need of Light.

Lighting the world requires us to go into the dark.

The daughter of a friend felt called to be a missionary. My friend was willing for her daughter to go to the farthest corners of the earth, but when her precious child decided instead to marry a guy from a family who (like most of us) had major “dysfunctions”, my friend was appalled.

My friend experienced a lack of faith and could not see a mission field as any place lacking Light. After several years and a few major setbacks, her daughter’s light has now caught hold and is being carried by her son-in-law and most of the members of his family.

As lights of this world, we are not obligated to please anyone but our heavenly Father.

We have a source and when the source is engaged things are, “Brought to light.” Light doesn’t decide if those things are good or bad. They are what they are, but often the light is accused of causing a problem when all it did was shine, and apparently our Light is a mighty force. Why else would the world try to put us out?

Mother wrote in her journal, “It is amazing that God, the immortal God, chooses to work His divine will on earth through finite and imperfect human beings. We are made from the dust of the ground yet He chooses to put within us His life (light) and breath and to ask us to serve Him.”

Christmas reminds us that light makes a huge difference in a dark world and that The Light of the world came as the Baby Jesus.

Merry Christmas!


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“I know the plans I have for you.”

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the thoughts I think for you. .to give you a future and hope…

For many years I have used a big black agenda as a calendar/journal.  I write appointments, make notes of things I want to remember from my quiet times and I list prayer request.

On New Year’s Eve I go back through the year and instead of New Year’s resolutions, I list Old Year revelations and see His faithfulness on every page.

One of my revelations was how many times the names of my children and grandchildren are on my mind. I want them (in the words of Mr. Spock) to be well and prosper.  Like Christian moms for generations before, I have the privilege and responsibility to pray for them.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Keep my loved ones safe today; guard their paths and light their way, (Angel Blessings from Holly – Christmas 2002).

Heavenly Father, thank you for the precious people you have given me to love.  Help me remember that you love them more than I do and have made plans for them that will glorify your name.  Keep their hearts and minds on you Lord so that they desire the things you have planned for them.  Amen


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Hope

The most heinous mind scripted a diabolical plot last week and the result of that evil act was stunning.  No words were sufficient and the sight of people like Wolf Blitzer approaching children and asking asinine questions led most of us to turn off the TV and grieve.

The culprit was only a tool. My faith tells me the mastermind was our age old adversary who is always looking for whom he may devour and in this one vile act, he got us all.

Parents, grandparents, teachers, first responders all over the country mourned with the people in Connecticut.  The most joyous time of the year was tainted and many may never again rejoice.

That thought staggers me and, if not for the hope of eternity that my faith teaches, I would be left totally hopeless.

Years ago I taught in a Christian school and one of my first grade students and I had a conversation I still clearly remember.  We were sitting at the reading table, the altar of a first grade teacher, and as I worked with a small group, David sat next to me working quietly.

After a few minutes he nudged me and asked, “Teacher, what does become mean?”

“Well, it’s like you will become a man and I will become an old woman.”

A look of great compassion crossed his face and he sweetly replied, “You won’t be old forever.  You’ll go to heaven and get a whole new body.”

“You’re right, David.  Thank you for reminding me.”

Thinking our conversation was over, I went back to work with the other students, but soon I felt another nudge.  “Teacher, I’ll look for you there.”

I realized what he meant and said, “That will be great.”

He nudged me again, “How bout I meet you by the River of Life?”

The seven-year old had been taught to believe and had received the promise.

In her journal mother wrote, “It is such a comfort to drop the entanglements and perplexities of life into His hands and leave them there.  Never try to get out of a dark place except in His timing and His way.”

We can’t alter the “dark place” of last week’s evil act, but because He sent His son, many of those who lost loved ones can look forward to a reunion.  Joy to the World!


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The Next Christmas Hostess

My grandmother’s name was Mary Lilly Bell and until I became a teenager, she was near the top of my love list. As a teen, my love list filled up with other teens and teen celebrities and Mama Lilly Bell got bumped down.  Thankfully, she understood, and continued to love me as much as she ever had.

She told me that her favorite Bible verse was, “I have been young and now I am old and I have never seen the righteous go hungry or their children begging bread.” This is an understandable selection since she lived through two world wars and a depression.

Going to Mama’s house for Christmas was a big deal when I was little, and though the gifts and the decorations were meager, the love was large and the food plentiful.

Through the years Mother took on the central role of Christmas hostess and Mama sat and watched.  She was in her seventies and life had worn her out.

Mother, on the other hand, was picking up steam and had become a Christmas powerhouse. Her thoughtful gifts were carefully wrapped and placed under a live tree.  One year she and Holly got the tree off the street after it had fallen from a truck that kept on going.  Nothing was wasted as she skillfully blended the old with the new.

When we gathered at her house on Christmas Eve hot cranberry tea simmered on the stove and desserts lined the buffet. While Daddy was living, he made the angel biscuits and contributed ample amounts of moral support as Mother baked the ham and cooked the grit casserole and curried fruit.

Mother was a faith walker and The Book tells us to take care of the lame, the blind the widowed and homeless. Since that was basically our immediate family, we lived that scripture each Christmas and though it wasn’t easy, Mother made it possible.

For several years now, I have been the Christmas hostess as Mother joined the kids and grandkids out here on the farm. My turn has been much easier because Mother paved the way.

She wrote in her journal, “There is a great difference between the quality of elderly people who have lived listless self-indulgent and useless lives and the quality of those who have sailed through rough seas carrying cargo and burdens as servants of God and helpers of others. In the latter group, not only has the stress and strain of life seeped into their lives but the sweet aroma of their cargo has also been absorbed into the very pores of each fiber of their character.”

Life is a cycle.Our oldest grandchildren are now in their teens so we’ve dropped a few places on their love list and eventually their moms will become the Christmas hostesses.  They will be excellent and I think I will enjoy watching them take their turn.

 

 

 


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Santas

Well, it’s done.  Our house is decorated for Christmas and as I sit here intending to write this week’s blog, I am often distracted by the memories that accompany each ornament and table topper.

The holiday decor is dominated by an assortment of Santa Clauses that have whelped since I stumbled upon my first one with a football tucked under his arm.  His head was bald, his bead fluffy and white as he sported a jersey with the number 86 (the year I bought him) on the front. He is the elder who is now joined by an assortment of quarterbacks, running backs and a lineman or two.  One looks like Sy on Duck Dynasty but he still has the pigskin.

Yesterday in Sunday school the teacher reflected on how the real meaning of Christmas can be easily lost in the hype of the season.   She mentioned that one of her friends never acknowledged Santa Claus because she didn’t want her kids to think it was him that they worshiped.

I was feeling a little uncomfortable (convicted, perhaps?) when she went on to say, “That made me stop and think and I decided that just because I have candles at Christmas doesn’t mean I worship them so having Santas doesn’t mean I worship them”!

I felt better and as I thought about it I realized my collection of Santa Clauses didn’t start until the kids were in their teens.  While they were young we told them that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday.  Hymns and trips to grandparents’ homes were the focal point of our holidays.

They loved the presents, but they loved Baby Jesus more and we never had that awkward moment when they figured out a fat man couldn’t possibly get down a chimney or be carted around in a flying sleigh.

When I was six my teenaged neighbor told me there was no Santa and then she said, “But don’t tell my sister because she doesn’t know.” I was bummed for the next decade, but thankfully my disappointment in Santa had absolutely nothing to do with my love for Jesus.

I did a little research and apparently Christ reigned in the heart of a man name Nikolas over a thousand years ago and Nick did many good works, and though people still talk about him today they don’t look to him for eternal life.

I guess my point is – Santa Claus, a mere mortal, is no competition for The Christ Child, and though a Santa might be on every table and hang as ornaments all over a tree, Christ reigns in the hearts of His people and we own the season!

Mother wrote in her journal, “To be cheerful is being ready to greet others with a welcome, a word of encouragement, an enthusiasm for the task at hand and a positive outlook.  Such people are like pain relieving medicine.”

Sounds like a Christian to me or Santa Claus perhaps?