DON’T LEAVE US

Simply Shelli

I hate goodbyes and especially when someone is leaving and I know that I can’t go visit them.

In the past several years it seems between moves, changes and the death of dear friends, the goodbyes have become more frequent.

There is this sense of abandonment,  a blanket of loneliness that sets in when I know that separation is coming and I feel helpless to stop it.

I can remember a season when we had buried far too many of our church members.

I found myself turning to a friend standing next to me and saying with tears in my eyes, “they are leaving us”.

I guess that is why I found my recent study in the gospel of John 14, so very encouraging.

Jesus is speaking to his disciples as he prepares them for his crucifixion.

They have been following, learning and believing.

Their faith had grown and so had their love for Christ.

But…

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Killing the Rocky Theme Song

Simply Shelli

It is time to kill the “Rocky” theme song. The 70’s movie that inspired us all to run to the local gym (pretty sure that this was a secret marketing ploy) and body build like professional boxer’s has run it’s course, at least in my world! It is over, finished, the dirge has been sung. And I could not be more happy!

Have you ever had a “Rocky” moment? I have. I decided that on this certain day I would eat everything I want, totally pig out because tomorrow I will transform into Rocky! I will run flights of stairs, I will drink raw eggs, (are we supposed to be drinking raw eggs?) and put nothing unhealthy in my body for like…the rest of my life! There will be no sugar pass my lips and no french fries tempt my mouth! I will, by sheer WILL power get myself in…

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OUR LIFE IS A PREFACE TO A STORY THAT NEVER ENDS

Simply Shelli

Your life matters, live it well.

It is full of choices, choose well.

It is a gift, be grateful for it.

It is filled with sorrows and joys, find Christ in both.

It will know defeat, failure and loss. Find humility there.

It will be marked with success, fulfillment and proud moments. Find humility there as well.

It will struggle with discouragement, fear and despair. Fight those with perseverance, courage and hope.

Life will go by too fast and there is not enough time to live for all that is fleeting and shallow.

Those little ones who demand so much attention? They don’t stay little forever.

That spouse you want to leave? He may be the one who holds your hand when the doctor gives you bad news.

Think before you walk away. Think very hard.

Those parents you never visit? Someday you may long to hear their voice one more time.

Make relationships a priority. We don’t…

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Keeping Up Appearances

Casual, comfortable and uncomplicated are some of my favorite adjectives.

My preferred clothes are the same. My makeup most certainly is and my hair would be, if only it would cooperate. I will don some panty-hose and heels for special occasions but oh how much more do I love my outdoor attire.

It is the reason why my blog site is called “Simply Shelli”. My blogs are pretty much just that. Simple reflections on life, events and faith. I am not much for all the bells and whistles. I figure if people want to read my thoughts, they don’t need lured in with a lot of marketing techniques.

I love simple relationships. If there is too much drama or intensity, I am exhausted. Ask my husband what happens if voices are raised or people get combative. Bring it on and I will remove myself or ask you to reframe your attitude. Arguing wears me down and I honestly have never seen anything good come from it. Power struggles are simply not worth the effort.

I can remember having a really popular friend in Jr. High. To have her spend the night or hang out after school was to compete with any number of girls who wanted her attention as well. There came a day when I decided that there were many other girls in the school to get to know and maybe I should branch out and do just that. I developed some lifelong friendships when I realized friends were the icing on the cupcake of life and not the substance of it.

Maybe all of this is why, in many ways, I love a simple old fashioned church where the pastor just preaches from the word of God and prayer becomes more important than programs. Does it matter if we have a hip worship band providing a stellar performance? If that is what draws people to church, count me out. I’ll take the multiple ages of off key congregants who sing from their hearts as an offering of praise.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for worship well done and gifted people to use their talents but somewhere I lose perspective, if that is my expectation for every gathering.

All of my ramblings would seem to undermine the fact that I used to work in the marketing department of a bank. I do get it. The visual, the flow, the lure. Sell the customer on your product to keep them coming back.

But eventually appearances are exhausting because they are ever changing and provide a temporary and fleeting satisfaction leaving us constantly on the hunt for the next thing.

There is always a new look, product or sound. This year I buy pointed toed shoes and before they are worn out, the rounded ones are back in style. One year quaint and cozy is in, the next, sterile and industrial rules the day.

One day the t-shirts say, “I don’t care”, the next day they say,”Be Kind”.

I can see why as people age, they know what they like, what they don’t and get set in their ways. They have seen many changes over the years that have come and gone, costing money, time and effort that seemed so important in the moment but now look very empty in the face of that which really matters.

Could this be why God chose to send Jesus in the way that he did?

There was no pomp and circumstance. No royal robes, feast of celebrities or marketing schemes.

He displayed a brilliant star that was evidently only observed by the wise men. They came representing that the gospel of Christ is offered to the learned and wealthy, if only they will seek him.

There was a heavenly host that appeared to normal shepherds watching their flocks in the night but no one else seemed to have seen or been invited to this spectacular, private celebration. They remind us that even the most common of people are welcome to the kingdom of God.

As far as appearances were concerned, God kept his son’s shower guest list to a bare minimum but one that represented all of mankind.

His marketing required a star, some angels and a small representation of genuine worshippers.

Leave it to God to make an appearance in the simplest of ways with an impact that would extend an infinity.

MY PICTURE PERFECT HOLIDAYS

Simply Shelli

If only life would cooperate with me.

I have a picture perfect holiday season ready to hang. It is already there, nailed securely in the corner of my mind.

Picture it with me, if you will.

Those serene farm scenes aren’t too far off base.

The carolers bundled in wraps, strolling the neighborhoods come close.

The blazing fireplace, spreading warmth, as snow quietly falls outside a paned glass window is present.

The tree is lit, candles aglow and the scent of cinnamon and pine mix together with sounds of Christmas music playing softly in the background.

But most of all, it would be a picture of peace. No rushing, no schedules. Just celebration and community.

Call it a Norman Rockwell or Currier and Ives scene if you like, but whatever it is, the sum of it would be that everything would stop from Thanksgiving until New Years Day ended.

No one would go to work.

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Christmas Sunday in Quarantine!

Twas the Sunday fore’ Christmas and all through God’s house, not a creature was stirring except Pastor’s mouse!

The laptop was charged and ready for zoom, hoping that congregants would meet in the room.

It isn’t the picture we hoped we would see, as we longed for a program with nativity.

But this is the year of craziness still and we need to give time for some loved ones to heal.

Despite all the set backs this year seems to bring, it won’t stop the joy of celebrating our King!

We’ll sing in our houses or out in our yards, we’ll decorate, bake and send out our cards.

For Christmas won’t end because of a virus. The light of this world, lives right inside us.

Nothing can stop the celebrating his birth, not war, depression or the trials of earth.

So sing really loud, that all may hear, and proclaim from your rooftops that Jesus is near.

The time will soon come when we are all back together, whether on earth or in heaven forever.

As Jesus reminds us we have a good reason to find joy in our hope, celebrating this season!

When One Statement Says It All

Simply Shelli

Christmas is upon us and you know what that means?!

Time to find an evening to watch “Charlie Brown’s Christmas!”

No, seriously, if you are a baby boomer like I am, you have been watching this animated story annually since the 1960’s!

I used to sit, transfixed to the old tube as Linus with his blankie recited the entirety of the second chapter of Luke. I hung onto his every word as if he were Billy Graham preaching a revival. We didn’t know then, that God would use a little cartoon to reach the masses, but for some people that was and still is the only time they would hear the Christmas story in it’s truest form, straight from the scriptures.

The words “ Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth” are not only known…

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When One Statement Says It All

Christmas is upon us and you know what that means?!

Time to find an evening to watch “Charlie Brown’s Christmas!”

No, seriously, if you are a baby boomer like I am, you have been watching this animated story annually since the 1960’s!

I used to sit, transfixed to the old tube as Linus with his blankie recited the entirety of the second chapter of Luke. I hung onto his every word as if he were Billy Graham preaching a revival. We didn’t know then, that God would use a little cartoon to reach the masses, but for some people that was and still is the only time they would hear the Christmas story in it’s truest form, straight from the scriptures.

The words “ Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth” are not only known to Linus, but to everyone who has ever attended a church Christmas play!

Those familiar words begin a beautiful story but if we aren’t careful, we will find ourselves taking them for granted as we know the lines so well.

For that reason, I want to share another verse in the Christmas story that I think will point us towards the amazing hope of that historical event. It is a message that is sorely needed in a time when we may feel all looks hopeless for our world, our nation and maybe our individual lives.

Instead of starting our Christmas story with the second chapter of Luke, I want to start it in the first chapter with our focus on 1:26-38:

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the [s]descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was [t]Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, [u]favored one! The Lord [v]is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How [w]can this be, since I [x]am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the [y]holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and [z]she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For [aa]nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the [ab]bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

So, let’s take a closer look at this passage. We have an angel, Gabriel, bringing a message to a virgin named Mary. Gabriel’s name means “man of God” and his ministry involves making special announcements concerning God’s plans.

We know that Mary is perplexed at his announcement. No doubt, angels visiting people was not a common occurrence and this situation is no exception. After she regroups from the fact that an angel is talking to her, she has to come to grips with his announcement.

She, a virgin, would conceive a child without a man. He would be holy and called the Son of God. As this astounding news is sinking in, she is then told that her cousin Elizabeth, has conceived a son in her old age.

What on earth is happening here? How can these things even be possible? She had to wonder if she was dreaming? How do virgins conceive without sexual relations? How do old women past menopause end up pregnant?  And maybe the biggest question of all that Mary had to wrestle with is “why me?! I am no one important that he should favor me or use me at all?”

But, Gabriel, knowing that Mary is most certainly reeling from all of this profound news makes a statement that sums up one of the most amazing aspects of the character of God. Did you catch it in verse 37?

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”

The God who created the universe, parted the red sea, delivered Israel time and again from her enemies, is now going to provide the Messiah who was prophesied about several times in the Old Testament. The time is now, it is going to happen, no matter how crazy it all sounds.

Why? Because nothing is impossible with God.

How many times would these words that Gabriel spoke come to Mary’s mind throughout Jesus’ life?

Did she remember them when as a child, he was missing and found him in the temple leaving the teachers there amazed at his questions and answers about spiritual things?

Did she remember these words when she was at a wedding and the wine ran out and her son performed a miracle by turning water into wine?

Was Mary aware that her own son, pointed out this very truth to his own disciples when they asked who could possibly be saved from sin?

In Matthew 19 we read: “Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The angel Gabriel and Jesus both knew this truth, but what about us?

When we worry about the affairs of the world, do we really believe that God is big enough to deal with terrorists, world disease, starvation and corrupt leaders?

When we worry about our nation, do we believe that God can work despite who got elected, whether or not the economy collapses, whether rioting breaks out in the streets?

What about our personal lives? Do we believe that God can handle our trials, our sorrows, our losses, our health, our finances, our wayward children?

What about the bad thoughts, habits, attitudes and desires that we struggle desperately to overcome?  Are they too big for God?

Can we truly be saved from sin because God came in the flesh and took our punishment upon him?

According to the apostle, John, this is true:

1 John 1:9″ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Can we be transformed and become born again becoming a child of God, by believing in Jesus Christ?

Again, John tells us:

1 John 5:1 ” Whoever believes that Jesus is the [a]Christ is [b]born of God, and whoever loves the [c]Father loves the child [d]born of Him.”

John declared the same message that is a theme throughout scripture. Gabriel knew it well.

What a profound truth that the angel declared to Mary! What a statement that sums up the whole Christmas story!

Dear ones, whatever situation in life that you find yourself in this Christmas season, may you grab hold of the hope that we have in that babe who came to the world to deliver us from sin.

Because, nothing is impossible with God!

Christmas Affections

I think we all can agree that consumerism can easily put quite the damper on Christmas for many of us.

I wrestle with a limited budget when I consider all the things I want to give to my loved ones but just can’t afford.

Isn’t there a little bit of Santa in all of us that longs to generously give gifts to brighten someone’s world?

I wander through the stores, looking for the perfect gift for either the ones who have everything or the ones who have nothing and my little dent of a gift will be nothing more than just that.

The ads beckon me to toss the confines of frugality to the wind and go all out on a gleeful spending spree. How fun it will be until the credit card bill comes knocking at my door in January.

However, on the flip side, there are some material goods that aren’t about spending but about receiving because they represent more than “stuff” and are tied to a special memory.

Are those so very bad?

The traditions, smells and gifts are often tied to people we love and places that we hold dear to our heart.

Whether it is Grandma’s homemade pies, Aunt Susie’s peanut brittle, Uncle Joe’s sweet smelling pipe or that special star put on the tree each year, we find ourselves wrapped up in memories that hold those people close to our hearts whether they are still with us or not.

My grandpa Hanson adored my mother and knowing her love for dolls, found just the right one for her in a pharmacy in Kansas.

Mom lived in Arizona the year grandpa found it and as a young mother, was most certainly missing home when she received the stuffed Santa, holding a coke bottle in his hand. Although it was a display, the pharmacist had agreed to sell it to Grandpa.

Nobody knew that this would be Grandpa’s last gift to my mom, nor that it would be his last Christmas on earth. He was killed in a hunting accident a month later.

I never remember a Christmas without that Santa on display. In fact he is displayed in my house today. I think of the Grandpa I never knew and what a great dad he must have been.

My Grandma Hanson always put up a tree and I loved her old bubble lights. I can remember the excitement of visiting her house and watching the liquid bubble up in reds, golds and greens as they reflected off of the glass bulbs.

How can I forget the smells of Grandma’s kitchen when mom and her would spend the day making Christmas goodies? Oh the pecan pralines, rum balls and divinity along with fudge, peanut brittle and home made cherry mash!

Imagine my disappointment when I lived in New Jersey and wanted to recreate the cherry mash memory only to discover that my grocery store had never heard of it or cherry chips!

One year, I found some of my own bubble lights in a hardware store and I had to buy them for my tree. I don’t have them anymore but for the years I did, I always thought of Grandma when I put them up.

My parents often drove us to either Bucklin or Copeland, KS for Christmas and each little town we drove through would sparkle and glitter with a string of lights and decor on their main street that delighted us as Christmas music played softly in the background. When, it was dark and we would see a red blinking light on a radio tower in the distance, my mother would say, “well, there is Rudolph!”

We were so excited about our Rudolph sightings that it was a sad day, when we absorbed the truth, that Santa didn’t slide down chimneys and Rudolph didn’t fly through the night skies on Christmas Eve.

I especially love the memories of Christmas eve services, closing with lighting candles as we sang “Silent Night” and the early morning Julotta services in the Swedish churches we served.

All of these memories involve items that perish but are tied to people who don’t.

My memories are good, but I am very aware for many, their memories of the holidays are anything but that.

Maybe there is an alcoholic family member, an ugly divorce, abuse or a death that occured around that season.

For those who hurt, the traditions and smells can overwhelm them with a deep sorrow.

This is why we must hold the temporary in this world so loosely.

It is not that our memories of good times and special people should not be acknowledged but rather that there is a gift that transcends all of our memories, whether good or bad.

This gift came for everyone, no matter their past or present circumstances.

It is a gift of hope that all that is good is wrapped up in Him and all that is sad will someday be no more.

Jesus, the gift of love for a lost and broken world, who desperately needed a Savior, came to freely give his life for ours, if we will but receive him.

He is the beginning of a forever Christmas who can replace painful memories with new ones, meaningless traditions with eternal ones and sadness with joy.

No, we can’t erase our memories and many should be cherished, but they are only a reminder that the best is yet to come!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Adonai, Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel !Shall come to thee O Israel.