Tuesday With Teri

Devotions from lessons I'm learning from God

December 24, 2020

Filed under: devotionals — tlmiller82 @ 10:59 am

A Christmas Tree Angel….reposting this story has become a tradition. This year, for everyone, Christmas looks a little different. My beloved life weary angel no longer presided over an evergreen tree. This year her perch is atop a tree fashioned for crab pot wire on our boat. NO longer safely stored in our home, she has had better starts to her year ( as have we all). She lost her head in the transition from house to boat, but we are happy to report she has been restored. I love her all the more each year. Now, in the lopsided tilt of her head, in the small “scar” of glue we used to reset her head, I am reminded not just of grace, but of the hope of restoration. This season we celebrate the Savior Who came to give us a path to forgiveness. In Him our brokenness is restored. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and new beginnings!

 I’m not sure where she came from. (update: at my last post someone recognized her and informed me she is a Nuremberg angel!) I’m not even certain of her age. (update: As a Nuremberg angel, we probably acquired her when my family lived in Germany when dad was in the Air Force…this would make her well over 50 yrs!)

She sat atop the Christmas tree for many of my growing up years, quietly presiding over each holiday season.  I acquired her from my mother many years ago.

Her gold foil, cardboard wings, once ended in perfect points extending her stature to seven inches.  Now her wing span is slightly reduced, as the tips went from being slightly bent, to folded, until they eventually tore off.  Her dark red velvet dress, trimmed with gold brick brack, fits snuggly to her waist before flowing over her cardboard form.  Her once silky, radiant white hair, now hangs in brittle coils around her shoulders.  A little gold foil halo covers a place on her head where some of her hair has given way to the passage of time.

Her head and hands are made of wax, as is the candle she holds in one hand.  I remember her as a beautiful lady, her face perfect and delicate.  Those qualities are now faded.  Her head, once held high and straight, has melted somewhat.  It now bows lovingly downward and a bit to the right.  Two years ago a significant amount of time and effort was put into re-attaching her long held candle to her now miss shaped hand.  Yep, she’s a bit of mess you might say.  I like that about her.

She doesn’t light up or sparkle, and quite often she is too small for the tree, making her look even more out of place.  But I look forward to her presence in my living room each Christmas.  Late at night, when the tree is lit and others have gone on to bed, I find myself thinking of her and all we have in common.

I too, know what it’s like to have my wings bent and torn.  I know what it feels like when your body gives itself over to the challenges of time.  My hair is no longer silky or radiant, and I only wish had a halo to hide the places where it has become thin.  I understand the sagging of her shoulders and the bowing of her head.  I have felt the weight every mother bears for her family.  I know the need to bow my head in constant prayer.   I love her imperfection.  She’s a holiday reminder that God loves us in our imperfection.

A love full of grace, a savior born to take on the sin of the world, a reason to celebrate, reflected in the melted features and unraveled edges of our Christmas tree Angel.

God’s love was revealed among us in this way. God sent His son into the world so we might live through Him. 1 John 4:9

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

The Missing “But” December 22, 2020

Filed under: devotionals — tlmiller82 @ 12:51 pm

Each week, four leading up to Christmas, we pause to remember the advent of Jesus. In some households a candle is lit for each of the advent themes…this week we consider Love.

Love.  It should be the easiest to write about of all the advent themes, and yet for the last few years it has been one of the more challenging.  I actually have been writing this post off and on for days.  For those of you who know me, it will not surprise you to learn I had amassed over 800 words about love.  I rose early to finish the tome and wrap it up in some sort of neat phrase or top it with a scripture, like a bow on a gift….instead, I erased it all.   As I sat with coffee in hand, my mind had wandered to a casual conversation I’d had recently.  It was the sort of conversation that begins with a type of apology/affirmation before it rolls out some sort of negative comment or judgment.  It went a little like this,  “ You know I love you, but, (insert the behavior I wished changed).”   It occurred to me that this is a phrase I will never hear from God.  Suddenly all my previous words seemed inadequate when I thought about the importance of that missing “but”.

I know He loves me.  I know that I celebrate Christmas because of the evidence of His love in sending His Son.  Christ came to take on my sin, to redeem me, a salvation that is brimming with abundant grace. This is love. 

Oh how easily He could say, “I love you, but you need too….”, “I love you, but this needs to happen…”, “I love you, but not like you are…”, yet He does not.  Instead God offers us a love that says, “I love you even though…” 

“…God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8)

This is LOVE.  It is grace, undeserved forgiveness and favor.  Yes, He wants us to love others, yes He calls us to follow His commandments, yes He desires us to live in a way that is pleasing to Him, for this is also for our benefit…yet His love does not depend on those things. 

 Today, I am thinking about the missing “but“.  No doubt my continued struggles with the flesh must disappoint, sadden and exasperate Him…How relieved I am at the  certainty that He is not shaking His head in the heavens and sighing  “I love you, but…”  Instead He is shouting “I love you”.   It is a “no buts about it” kind of love…in every breath, in the beauty of His creation,  in the canopy of stars, in the roar of the wind and waves, in chaos and in stillness He is shouting “I love you”. May we welcome His proclamation of love and  accept the gift of His forgiveness through Jesus Christ His son.

 

Hallmark Christmas Peace December 16, 2020

Filed under: devotionals — tlmiller82 @ 5:33 pm

Each week, four leading up to Christmas, we pause to remember the birth of Jesus. In some households a candle is lit for each of the advent themes. These days we live aboard a boat, so instead we will “turn on” a flameless candle as we consider this third advent theme of PEACE.

It is a Christmas miracle!  Well, not quite, but still an amazing turn of events in our home.  You see, I love Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas movies.  Usually, around this time of year, you can find me tucked up on the sofa in the late evening hours, eyes glazed over, and enjoying a collection of holiday shows.  My beloved is NORMALLY on travel for work for many of those nights, that is not the case this year.  This year, I must share my TV time.  Thanks to Covid, all his work travel is suspended and I was concerned the hubby would put a bit of a damper on my late-night holiday viewing habits.  Oh, there was initial resistance, and binge watching is out of the question, BUT eventually he submitted to watching one per night, most nights.

At first, I thought he just succumbed to my whines for upbeat, holiday themed entertainment, but I believe he discovered a way to enjoy them himself.     He seemed to take pleasure in making a game of guessing the plot, location, and ending of each one.  Him: “Okay, they live in Seattle/Chicago/New York, travel to hometown/small town/big city, endure awkward reunion/meeting/enemy which grows into love as they save the local community center/church/house/farm/business.”  He is not wrong.  Hallmark/Lifetime holiday fare is full of predictable fluff and seldom Oscar worthy performances, but that matters not to me.

I know why I am still drawn to these Christmastime tropes.  First, the scenery.  Who doesn’t love to see city lights, country/small-town/farm Christmas décor, snow covered landscapes and starry nights?  Secondly, I am entertained by the acting.  Yes, I said it, THE ACTING.  I like seeing familiar faces of actors who I recognized from older shows and ‘back in the day’. Its kind of comforting to see actors, perhaps past their prime, resurfacing as a kindly grandfather/wise grandmother or sage townsperson. I also like seeing the young/unknowns whose performances are only slightly above that of a community theatre production.  While sometimes laughable, there is something charming, vulnerable about watching imperfect performers work at their craft to tell a story.  But the biggest reason for my holiday movie habit is the predictability that there WILL be a happy ending.  At some point the characters, separated by time, hurts, distance, values, misunderstandings, or wrongs, will inevitably find forgiveness, healing, meaning, hope and happiness.  People, towns folk, family members, lost loves will be reconciled with one another.  There is ALWAYS a reconciliation, a peace that is restored.  To me, reconciliation is one of the most important aspects of why we celebrate Christmas.

God is our creator, but our relationship with Him needs reconciliation.  Sin (mine and yours) separates man from God. But that is not how God desired it to be, He loves us. God sent Jesus, His son, to earth to take on the ultimate consequence for our sin, and in this He gave us a way for such reconciliation.  There is NO way I could ever be perfect, without sin.  I cannot, even if I tried with all my being, earn God’s forgiveness.  When Jesus died, and rose again, He provided a path for forgiveness.  Through my faith in Him I can ask God to forgive me, and He does.  He reconciles us to Him; He restores our relationship with Him.  This is PEACE.  Peace between God and man.  Accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior brings us peace…the peace prophesied about in the Old Testament….

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace……But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. ” (Isaiah 9:6, 53:5)

The birth of Jesus is worthy of celebration, because His arrival would bring reconciliation between God and man.  That message shepherds heard that night, the announcement of a prophecy of peace fulfilled, was truly good news for ALL people.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with who He is pleased.”

 (Luke 2:14)

As yet another holiday movie character finds their lives/hearts reconciled and their peace restored, I will remember to treasure the sweetest peace of all. Peace on earth, peace among men, peace between nations, communities, or households, will only be found when we first find peace with God. 

The Rev. Billy Graham would share this with those who sought peace with God….

“Lord, I know I am a sinner, and I ask Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.”

 

Journey December 9, 2020

Filed under: devotionals — tlmiller82 @ 3:51 pm
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Each week, four leading up to Christmas, we pause to remember the birth of our Savior.  In some households a candle is lit for each of the advent themes. These days we live aboard a boat, so instead we will “turn on” a flameless candle as we consider the second theme of advent, JOY.

A white square with black typeface print.  I can see it in my mind as clear as if I was still standing in my old kitchen staring at the prominent fridge magnet…its words, a reflection of an effort to course correct:  Life is Journey, Not a Destination  This would become our mantra, a rallying cry, a reminder of our intent to enjoy the journey.  How did this magnet find its way to our fridge?  Well, you see, years ago one member of our household struggled with “journeys”.  Traversing shopping malls, careers, hiking trails or highways, they had a “get to the other place” mindset.  This was not always a bad thing.  This is a focus that often propelled them/us to important places, life events and milestones in a timely and helpful fashion.  But it also created a sense of stress, rush and frustration.  Then one day, they proclaimed they were going to be ALL about the JOURNEY in life.  It was a powerful shift, not easy or natural.  I marveled at the intentional effort, the impact was unmistakable in our lives.   

These days remembering to enjoy the journey is a challenge we both continually face.  Perhaps it is time to buy another magnet for the boat fridge?  This week the journey is weighing on my heart.  As I prepared to write this post about JOY, the image of that old black and white magnet danced in my head like the “sugar plumb fairy” from that famous poem.  I often find my focus is on getting through, arriving on the other side of difficult days, enduring, seeking a completion, a resting place. I am destination minded.   I have been busy white knuckling the reins of my life(and that of my adult kids if I’m being honest), reins I grabbed from the very capable hands of my Heavenly Father, and trying to “journey” my way faster, easier, in and around all the days I deemed to be difficult, painful, hard and unsettling.

Our pastor once said, regarding the life/national/world events of this year, “Perhaps it is not about what God is doing to us, but rather what He is doing for us?”   I’m glad our service was a virtual one, I would not have been proud of the face I made,(an emoji eye roll comes to mind).  But the more I considered his words, the more I felt lead to spend less time wringing my hands and more time looking for the hands of God.  I had been so intent on being saved from the journey, that I almost missed the gifting of it all.  God’s handiwork was easy to see when I stopped and looked. Still the struggle to find joy in the journey continued. And then this….as I checked in with a friend who has been battling cancer. His reply to my “How are your doing?” :

“Every day the Lord gives me is a gift and an excellent reason to give it my best.”  

I was shook at that truth as it applies to us all.  These days of our journey…easy, wonderful, full, precious, painful, worrisome, hard, trying…are gifts, and excellent reasons to give it our all.  Let us seek God in our journey, giving the days our all, knowing  the JOY of Him, ever mindful that He redeems us, He is for us, He is with us.  This is truly news of great JOY to ALL people…..

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child and bear a son, a they shall call His name Immanuel”( which means, God with us.) Matthew 1:23

He came to us, for us and will one day come again!

P.S. I think I do need a new fridge magnet, I want to be reminded to treasure the journey…but I would amend it to read:  Life is a journey, with a destination!

 

Great Expectations December 4, 2020

Filed under: devotionals — tlmiller82 @ 11:41 am
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Each week, four leading up to Christmas, we pause to remember the birth of our Savior.  In some households a candle is lit for each of the advent themes. These days we live aboard a boat, so instead we will “turn on” a flameless candle as we consider the first advent theme, HOPE.

I errantly thought my family was normal growing up.  The first hint that perhaps, just perhaps, we were not normal took place my first Christmas with the hubby and his family.  You see, in my family, gift giving came hand in hand with an intense build of expectation.  Great care and effort went into camouflaging each gift below our tree.  My sister and I would shake and examine each box with our name for days leading up to the grand opening.   My sister was particularly good at guessing what hid beneath mom’s elaborate ribbons and bows.  My mom took pride in being able to fool us.  A box that rattled when shook could be a toy, but it could also be a sweater with a bag of dried beans.  A large box could contain a much smaller gift and a small box could hold a note telling us to look in the garage for a bigger item.  We loved this guessing game.  Having expectations and laughing at our surprise with each opened gift was part of Christmas.

 I was traveling with my then fiancé to have Christmas with his mom and sister.  I had gotten my betrothed a sports jacket, complete with stylish elbow patches.(this was the 80’s after all)  I assumed he would try valiantly to guess what I’d gotten him…so I rolled it up tightly, placed in an extra-long and narrow box and added a brick in the bottom of the box to really throw him off.  I was significantly pleased with myself.  When it came time to load up the car he unceremoniously heaved it into the vehicle with the rest of our things.  We toted that heavy, awkward box from Florida to Virginia and he never tried to guess its contents, not once!   

No doubt he, and my future in-laws, were perplexed when at last he opened the gift.  Oh, he loved the jacket, but he could not PHATHOM why I used an outsized box and included a brick.  They were kind, not judgmental, but it was hard to miss the head tilt that accompanies confusion…and that friends was the first of many times we would discover our differences over 36yrs of marriage.

As a child, my Christmases were filled with expectations culminating in the “big reveal” on Christmas day.  I was never disappointed.  I may have been surprised by the contents, but I was always delighted with the gifts.  This year as I look forward to the celebration of the birth of Christ, I am thinking of expectations.

God’s people were waiting for help.  Prophecy had told of the arrival of one who would save them all.  They had expectations.  They waited for a Messiah to save them from their enemies, yet ultimately man’s greatest enemy is sin.   While many looked for a worldly savior, God sent His son to be the savior of the world. How confusing it must have been when their hope for salvation did not arrive wrapped in triumphant pageantry, political powers or leading a mighty army.  Instead, this gift came wrapped in cloth, lying in a manger, devoid of so much as a bow.  The packaging may have been unexpected, but the gift exceeded the expectations of man.

We may be tempted to set our expectation and hope in the pretty packaging of things/people, but salvation does not come from the world.  Salvation came TO the world in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.  He is our HOPE, our expectation, assurance of forgiveness, peace in chaos, comfort amidst stiving and joy even as sorrow flows.  This week as we look forward to celebrating the birth of Christ…

“May the God of Hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13