During this holiday season, reminders of Christmas are all around: lit trees, decorations all around, my little village is up, festive music can often be heard throughout the house and nativity scenes (both large and small) have been placed in prominent places as a constant reminder of the Reason for the season amid all the other ‘noise.’
So, as I am trying to integrate Christmas music and meditation into my day, I have transitioned to adding Christmas music to my morning walk playlists. Personally, I have found that when I’m walking, whether the fresh air or the exercise or just the lack of other ‘noise,’ my ever more foggy brain clears up and if only for 45 min, I can think deeply, meditate and let the insights just flow. My playlists are diverse from Evie (1970’s pop) to Josh Groban to Bing Crosby to contemporary Christian. But the songs like “Where’s the line to see Jesus?” (Becky Kelley) and “Happy Birthday, Jesus” (Heather Henry) and “Mary’s Prayer” (Bebo Norman) and “Mary, Did You Know?” (Buddy Greene) leave me terribly emotional, weeping emotional.
Now, anyone who knows me knows I am a sentimental crier; the old cotton commercial could make me cry for Pete’s sake. Sappy movies? Don’t even get me started. So, when a worship song touches me deeply, the neighbors driving by might find me absolutely sobbing.
People who know me have described me as a deeply ‘passionate’ person (I’ve never known whether to take that as a compliment or a criticism…. It certainly has been both a blessing and a curse for me), a driven ‘can do’ person (not in recent years, for sure), an empathetic sensitive person, but I hope everyone that has known me well would say that I have always been passionate about holy living and living a life of integrity, no matter what the personal cost, even when the controversy around us has at times been intense.
Yesterday, as I was walking, my mind drifted back to that Bethlehem scene again. I wondered what gift(s) I might have been found giving the baby King Jesus if I had been aware of Who He was, the God of all creation, come down to earth on a mission to live among humanity, then die for the sins of mankind, MY sins. I considered all the ‘gifts’ I have aspired to give HIM during my Christian life; frankly, I wasn’t impressed.
As I look back at my life, from the time I was in high school till now, I have spent so much energy in my life trying to please God, represent Him well, serve Him with my gifts, and challenge others to live their lives single-mindedly for the Master. Now, as admirable as that may sound, these attempts have been met with very mixed results and responses, some positive and some negative. I don’t want to sound all negative and down on myself with a distasteful false humility. That’s not what this is about. I have just been more willing to be transparent and introspective in the last 5-6 years.
So, today I want to focus my attention on my OWN assessment of my ‘gifts’ to God, my trying to please Him, my attempts to live holy and godly in this present world in a manner worthy of the gospel of my Savior. I am faced with verses like, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14).
Wow! I come away with my head down with a sense of regret at the disappointment I feel I might be to my Lord; that’s how it feels more and more these days. So many perceived failures, so many misunderstandings, so often have I fallen short of the holiness I strove for, so little to show for all my years on this earth. My life has certainly NOT turned out how I had dreamed it would as a young adult passionate about ministry and service and a living life fully committed to Christ.
Now I want to stop right here and clarify something as I bet many friends and acquaintances will assume that my self-analysis is pretty hyper-critical, exaggerated for attention, a type of self loathing, etc. Facebook is the perfect place for people to throw out a “whoa is me” and wait to get ‘patted on the back’ which is their true intent: to have people who know them (or barely know them) reassure them of their goodness and value. These status updates are really about looking for attention. PLEASE don’t comment about any perceived goodness or value on my behalf!!! While I might appreciate your intent, it will completely miss the point I am trying to make. Scripture is the ONLY lens with which to view oneself and in that I fall miserably short! I hope this clarifies my point.
“There is none righteous!
There is none that seeks after God.”
Scripture likens our righteousness
to “filthy rags.”
“The heart is deceitful and
desperately wicked…” (Jeremiah).
Ecclesiastes reminds us that “all is vanity.”
The apostle Paul, who had the right
to claim his service was really worth
something great instead said that it was
nothing compared to the glory of God.
(Read Phil. 3 )
Yet, as I look back over my life, I have tried SO HARD to bring gifts of “gold, frankincense and myrrh” with my life (my very BEST! No, let’s be more precise, I’ve wanted to be PERFECT, yep, that’s the word)! In fact, how immature and arrogant for anyone to think that perfection and holiness are attainable in these bodies! So, if I am honest, I haven’t brought much but wood, hay and stubble. How can one who has spent her life so driven, a perfectionist by nature, so sure of how to live this Christian life ‘correctly’ (the worst arrogance imaginable), so impassioned to serve Him with the core of her being, and so ministry-minded get to the latter days in her life and determine that she’s doesn’t have much to show for it????
Truth is, I feel more like the fictional ‘little drummer boy’ than one of the great wise men of the Bible. I guess the questions for today are these: Am I ok with that? Should I be ok with that? More importantly, what does my Savior think of that, the One I have committed my life to loving and serving? Can I (and should I) be content if all I ever bring to my King is a ‘simple song’ after spending my whole life TRYING and STRIVING to make my life a sweet smelling sacrifice of frankincense to give my King?
(Part 2 to come…..)