Christmas and the Art of Gift Giving

Giving gifts is an art. Some of us whip out masterpieces every holiday.

And some of us . . . are still finger-painting.

At Christmas and all year, a master gift-giver knows the art of giving freely, without strings attached.

We can all conjure up mental images of gifts gone wrong—or right. The Perfect Gift. The Ugliest Gift. The Unintentional White Elephant Gift. The Generic Gift. The Are-You-Sure-the Nametags-Aren’t-Switched Gift.

What is it about gift-giving that some people seem to do so well, while others of us (raising my hand here) struggle to figure it out?

Here are some lessons I’m learning about the art of gift-giving. Continue reading

Six Thirsty Pigs and the Echoes of Easter

We got our six little pigs this week. When I first saw them, my husband had already settled them into their pen. They snorted and grunted, nosing around a pile of straw. Their beady black eyes widened and their floppy ears rose a little higher when I approached their pen.

Approached, I say, because I wasn’t about to go in there with them.

No way. It’s mucky in there. It already smells a little stinky in there. You have to watch your step in there.

When the farmer's pigs won't drink, he gets right in there with them to show them how it's done.

Those pigs didn’t even want my husband in there with them. They’d only met him once, of course, when he culled them from the truckload of pork-on-hoof delivered to our neighbor. Now, his chosen ones trotted nervously away from him. Multiple scratches on their pink sides witnessed to tussles with other pigs. No wonder they were skittish.

“They’re not drinking,” my husband muttered beside me. “They haven’t figured out the waterer yet.”

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The Christian’s Secret for Survival

Sometimes we are simply besieged. Too many troubles all at once. Enemies too big to defeat alone. We want some sure-fire way to win. Some secret for making it through the darkness.

I know this is where you expect me to say something like “Christianity has all the answers.”

But actually, when it comes to dealing with trouble, Christianity doesn’t have answers.

Not plural answers.

How will I survive this storm in my life? What's the secret?

There’s one answer. One secret for survival. Continue reading

A Vineyard of Your Own

“There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers…” (Matthew 21:33, NIV)

Why does Jesus of Nazareth launch His brief parable with so much technical detail? Perhaps the Master Storyteller, keenly aware of His audience, knew that the set-up was essential. “This must be distinctly understood,” as Charles Dickens said in one of his famous introductions, “or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”

Your life is a vineyard entrusted to you by your creator. Will you produce the fruit of it?

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Are You Ready for Harvest?

Harvest is in full swing here in Minnesota. Around here, soybeans and corn are rumbling down the road by the truckload.

There’s something satisfying about seeing all the fields being emptied, the dry husks tossed aside and the precious crop collected into bins. You can hear the pleasure in a farmer’s voice when his yields are high.

This truckload of harvested soybeans would delight any farmer. Is God delighted with the fruit of your life?

Recently I drove my husband’s lunch out to him in the field, my two-year-old granddaughter beside me. Together, she and I watched our combine fill a waiting truck with a stream of soybeans.

“Ooh, look!” she squealed, “boy beans!” (I wonder where she thought the girl beans went?)

This season, our men have been navigating some unusual harvest obstacles. It wasn’t just that our combine caught fire. It’s also that we’ve had record-setting rainfall. The guys have had to leave patches of standing soybeans where the ground is just too muddy to drive heavy implements. Maybe they’ll be able to get back in there before those precious seeds simply fall to the ground. Maybe they won’t.

I thought about those patches of standing beans when I read John the Baptist’s description of Jesus in Matthew 3:12—

“His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor;
and He will gather His wheat into the barn,
but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Christ won’t leave any beans standing in His field. There will be nothing left on Christ’s threshing floor. Nothing will escape His winnowing.

Are you ready for harvest? Continue reading

Voices from the Front: 3 Things Persecuted Christians Want You to Know

It’s one thing for me to write about persecution. For me, persecution is only a rising shadow on the horizon.

But it’s quite another for believers to speak to you from within persecution.

So I will step aside and let them talk to you. Here is what I just heard in person from Christians from Syria, Israel, and China. This is what they want you to know about persecution.

Persecuted Christians have a challenging message for those of us not yet being persecuted.

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Preparing for Persecution: Let’s Make a Deal

Have you ever felt like a contestant on Let’s Make a Deal?

You’ve already chosen what’s behind Door #1 but someone’s cajoling you to exchange it for wads of cash . . . You shift from one foot to the other. You think, I’d better keep Door #1. No, wait, look at all that cold, hard cash.  But what if Door #1 holds my dream vacation? Then again, what if it’s a year’s supply of llama food?

Let's Make a Deal

Sure, the game show is silly. But how often in life do we confront a risky choice: stick with what we have, or give it up for something else? Continue reading

The Mysterious Case of the King’s Missing Body

Settling into your favorite armchair, you open a book to read a story, a mystery. (It is, of course, a dark and stormy night . . . )

King's Effigy

 

On page one you read–

Ever afterward, Sherlock Holmes and I agreed that this was the strangest case which we had ever been called to investigate. You may well ask what made it so disturbing. It was not that a royal corpse had disappeared from the hearse. Nor was it that grave robbers had absconded with a king’s coffin.

No, to our horror, this king’s body had begun to vanish piece-wise . . . while he lived.

You stare at the page, shocked. Who would dream up such a plot?!

Yet, if you think carefully, some of us may well be party to depriving a living Monarch of His body parts.

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The Question That Easter Answered

I once knew a man whose death threw his entire life into question. The ugly circumstances forced me to wonder: How much of what I believed about him was a lie?

How many of his words were phony? How many kind deeds were merely conscience-purgers? Over two decades have passed since that man’s death, and I still wonder. His was a confusing, disappointing demise.

When Jesus died, it looked the same. But that was just on Friday…

Crucifixion Nails and Crown of Thorns

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