Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent - Come, Lord Jesus

The Christmas countdown is on in earnest at our house - our two bright-eyed boys (6 and 10) are practically jumping out of their skin! School finished yesterday. Five more sleeps :)  They can hardly stand the wait! As I child, I much preferred it when school closed as close to Christmas Eve as possible - it made the wait a little more bearable. If we all manage to survive the next five days, it'll be a Christmas miracle, indeed!


It's the presents that are driving them particularly batty. This is the first year we've put gifts under the tree before Christmas eve (indeed, the first year we've been able to shop much before Christmas eve - thankful!). I appreciate on a whole new level the lengths to which my dear Mother was forced to go to ensure that the fragile wrapping paper would do its job of concealment until the appointed time. (I think she was very grateful and relieved when sturdy, economical, re-usable gift bags arrived on the scene. My own kids have boycotted gift bags - one or two are ok, they've informed me, but they would much rather experience the satisfaction of ripping paper...) I had forgotten the agonizing thrill of stacking, sorting, counting, arranging and rearranging; of shaking and squeezing and yes, even sniffing; of guessing and wondering and questioning and anticipating. The following plea can be (and has been) heard from either boy at any time, seemingly out of the blue, day or night: "I can't wait - can't I pleeeeeese open just one little present RIGHT NOW?!"


Ah, waiting...the bane of our existence. At least the kids are honest about it - we adults will invariably attempt to mask the wild eagerness and churning anxiety that accompanies a period of waiting, but have any of us really progressed beyond childhood when it comes to waiting well? I sang a song at a service recently called "Be Still". With very simple and beautiful lyrics, the chorus says,

Be still, my soul, be still
Be still, my soul, be still
Wait patiently up on the Lord
Be still, my soul, be still


A difficult piece of advice to heed even in the best of times.


I love that the observation of Advent has become common practice for so many these days. Advent, which simply means "arrival", can be a beautiful, meaningful time of heart-preparation for the game-changing coming of the Christ-child into the world. The wait is relatively easy for us, though - isn't it? We already know the next part of the story - God is already with us! We have already experienced the miraculous gift of Emmanuel! Can you imagine what it must have been like for the people of Israel; waiting, waiting, waiting for this Advent, their promised Messiah? Waiting for their salvation, their freedom, the lifting of the heavy burden of oppression and persecution, for peace and justice and redemption...what inexpressible joy for the few who were able to recognize Him for who He was!


And what a heart-breaking tragedy for the many who missed Him completely, who failed to grant Him His rightful position...and for those who continue to miss Him. I don't ever want to be numbered among these.


May we intentionally take the time to sufficiently still our souls this Advent season to experience the waiting, the longing, the expectant hope - and to know the deep peace and rest and joy that accompanies His arrival! Merry, merry Christmas - from our family to yours!



Friday, December 12, 2014

Emmanuel!

I've plunked myself down in front of my computer every day this week, in hopes that inspiring insights and excellent encouragement would flow from my brain through my fingers to the keyboard and onto the page - but to no avail. Here's trusting that today will be different :)


The strange thing is, I have no issues to write about today. All is well in my little world. A beautiful peace has settled over my heart, and I'm enjoying it to the full. Well, maybe that's not completely accurate...I'm trying to enjoy it to the full. A bit of me (a much smaller bit than usual - yay!) is on constant alert, wondering what obstacle or test or burden or crisis will come next. However, I am learning to rest in the presence of my ever-gracious Father. I'm practising the discipline of peace and trust, no matter what the situation. I'm not getting it right every time, but more and more consistently, I'm bringing the peace of Christ with me into whatever situation may present itself in my life - and experiencing such grace and joy as a result!


That's the miracle I've been pondering the past little while, that I wanted to share but couldn't find the words - Emmanuel. God with us! That's the whole reason it's possible for me to bring the peace of Christ with me into life's storms and famines and floods and droughts - He is with me. He is with me! Unbelievable concept, but one I'm forced to accept as truth because I've experienced it - I'm living it!


And here we are at Christmastime, a time to contemplate and celebrate the gift, the wonder, the miracle, the awe of Emmanuel. It's the fact of Emmanuel - God with us - that enables us to live the life He's called us to live. We were never expected to accomplish this on our own - the Old Testament proved that the thing was utterly hopeless, impossible. But God with us?! Limitless potential, unfathomable power, endless possibilities!


I guess it's no wonder that the enemy works so hard to distract us from this wonder-filled truth this time of year. There's no way he can rob the glorious event of its truth, but he regularly succeeds in diminishing the peace and joy and power that the fact of His coming makes available to us. This year, let's reclaim it. Let's take back Christmas - let's celebrate with joyful abandon this astonishing thing, this gift of life and grace and freedom and peace and joy! Let's allow our hearts to be filled to overflowing with the wonder and delight of it all! The birth of Christ is deserving of any amount of hoopla and hype - let's proclaim it loud! Let's make His coming the cause and focus of all our merriment and revelry this season! Emmanuel - God is with us! Hallelujah!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beloved

Hello, my name is Joy Elisabeth (Lenentine) Feltmate. I'm a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend, maybe an enemy? I'm short, round, freckled, gray-eyed and red-headed (mixed with liberal amounts of gray these days). I have two university degrees; a bachelor of arts in English Literature and a bachelor of education. I'm a singer, a writer, a speaker, a reader, a baker, a pray-er, a walker, an explorer. I'm a nature-lover, a word-lover, a food-lover, a music-lover, a cat-lover, a rain-lover, a peace-lover. I strongly dislike baked beans, driving on icy roads, professional wrestling, making phone calls to anyone other than my family, confrontation and conflict of any kind and cleaning. I have never travelled outside of North America, though I have driven and flown back and forth across Canada more times than I can count. I have never learned to play an instrument well. I have never tried drugs or smoked a cigarette or had a drink of alcohol (except communion wine, but that was by accident :) ). My favourite number is 17, my favourite colour is turquoise, my favourite food is chocolate cheesecake, my favourite flower is white lilac, my favourite vegetable is fiddleheads, my favourite season is Autumn, my favourite place in the world is Cavendish, PEI. I get actual chills when I hear really good harmonies (eg. Pentatonix - Mary Did You Know; have you heard that yet?!) and I cry when I listen to the soundtrack from Les Miserables. I have been known to read/watch my favourite  books/movies/TV shows over and over and over. I am afraid of bears and losing my phone and keys; I adore wild thunder-and-lightning storms and sitting alone in a dark room lit only by candlelight.


I can be kind, but am often selfish. I can be ambitious and hard-working, but am often lazy and self-indulgent. I can be creative and original, but am often uninspired and dull. I can be encouraging, but am often self-centered and self-seeking. I can be dependable, but am often inconsistent and fickle. I can be authentic, but often hide behind a mask of shame and guilt. I can be bold, but am often fearful. I can trust, but often worry. I can believe, but often doubt. I can be helpful, but have often caused hurt. I have acted on my convictions, but I have often been wishy-washy and silent. I have used words and actions to build up and also to tear down. I can be independent to a fault. I haven't yet learned how to take a compliment gracefully. I have been joyful, positive, honest, inspiring, steady, self-sacrificing, committed, persistent, patient, gentle, generous, thankful and good; but I can be forgetful, scattered, unfocused, unproductive, undisciplined, unfaithful, idle, deceptive, manipulative, procrastinating, egotistical, ungrateful, miserly, narrow-minded, prejudiced and judgemental.


Who am I, anyway? Does anything listed above provide a satisfactory answer? And the more relevant question, what I'm really asking: do I matter? Do I have value, worth, significance? Because when I take a long, hard, honest look at who I appear to be, it's hard to find much to go on. When I start focusing on these things, this list, these credentials, these preferences, these failings and short-comings - I quite frankly get a little depressed. If I were to weigh the good against the bad, the positive against the negative, I know what would come out on top.


When I make a list like this, it's like I'm trying to justify my existence, attempting to make myself more real, to prove to myself that I am indeed here. Seeking to find some meaning, purpose, mission, vision...but it occurs to me that I'm looking in the wrong direction.


I have spent the last few years figuring out who I am, allowing myself to be myself, and learning to love that person in the mirror. Before that, I didn't even feel entitled to have a favourite colour, to prefer one type of flower over another, etc... I was apologetic of my likes and dislikes, ashamed of the positives and the negatives, embarrassed by my whole existence, really. The only thing that has made healing possible was discovering the truth - that it's not who I am, but whose I am that matters. I could be the most wonderful, admirable person on the face of the earth or the most hideous, despicable low life you could imagine (it depends on who you ask :) ), but it's all overshadowed by who my Saviour says I am. The only opinion I need to concern myself with is His. His assessment trumps all others. It's really all about who He is.


But I forget. Often. It doesn't take much at all to distract me from the Truth. One of the enemy's most powerful and popular strategies is to attack and undermine our identity. If he can get us to take our eyes off of Jesus and onto ourselves, his work is all downhill from there. Then it's easy for him to whisper more and more lies into our susceptible hearts and minds, until we're completely deceived, dejected, demoralized and defeated.


Fortunately, there's a simple remedy. One unchanging fact is our position in Christ. No matter what we've done or how we feel, who we are in Christ never changes. The key to victory here is intentionally training ourselves to remember when we've forgotten - because we will forget. Jesus issues this invitation, and the more we take Him up on it, the less we'll be lured into false, negative ways of thinking of ourselves.  
“Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
(Matthew 11:28-30)


When we take the time to simply come, and identify ourselves with Jesus and sit at His feet and learn from Him who He says we are, our vision shifts from ourselves back to Him. Once perspective is regained, truth has a chance to re-adjust our mindset.


It's been awhile since I've shared a song with you. A dear friend shared this one with me several years ago and I'll be forever grateful. It's so often exactly what I need to hear, when I forget who I am. (I'll post the lyrics along with the link - if you can, take a look at the you tube video, it's full of beautifully-expressed truth!) http://youtu.be/eKyY8zfjBMQ 


Remind Me Who I Am

When I lose my way
And I forget my name
Remind me who I am
In the mirror all I see
Is who I don't want to be
Remind me who I am
In the loneliest places
When I can't remember what grace is

Tell me once again
Who I am to You who I am to You
Tell me lest I forget
Who I am to You that I belong to You to You

When my heart is like a stone
And I'm running far from home
Remind me who I am
When I can't receive Your love
Afraid I'll never be enough
Remind me who I am
If I'm Your beloved
Can You help me believe it

I'm the one You love
I'm the one You love
That will be enough
I'm the one You love

Tell me once again
Who I am to You who I am to You
Tell me lest I forget
Who I am to You that I belong to You
Tell me once again
Who I am to You who I am to You
Tell me lest I forget
Who I am to You that I belong to You to You
To You