Sunday, December 24, 2017

Colors of Christmas - White

One may argue the accuracy of this post's title. In physics, white does not exist as a true color. Others argue if a color is distinguishable by the human eye, it does exist. I'm all for simplicity. If I can see white as my screen's background, or see a stick marked, "white," in a box of crayons, then white is a color.

During this Christmas season, we read about white in the account of Jesus' birth and the twinkling white star the wise men followed to find the Christ child:
Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!               Matthew 2:9-10 The Message
In other ways, there's no denying that white stands for purity. The symbolism is seen in a bride's wedding gown. In nature, nothing is more beautiful than a blanket of freshly fallen snow covering a dirty landscape. A white canvas is ready for the artist's touch. White represents a blank page. A clean slate.

Jesus' life was a life of purity. He was fully God, yet fully man. As a human, he was blameless. Pure in every sense of the word. He stood apart because of his sinless life.

As Christians, we strive for that purity and cleanliness. I relate to David as he cries out for this here:
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-wash, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.  Psalm 19:12 The Message

One of the most beautiful answers to his plea and ours is God's proclamation:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.  Isaiah 1:18 NIV
Jesus came to wipe our slates clean.

We celebrate his birth this week. Paired with his birth comes new life. Mine. Yours. Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!

Merry Christmas, dear friends. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Colors of Christmas - Silver and Gold

It's impossible to mention Christmas and silver and gold together without immediately thinking of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Rudolph was a well loved classic at our home and with it, Burl Ives' wonderful song, Silver and Gold. Rudolph. Hermey. Yukon Cornelius. Clarice. Oh, and that big bumble, the Abominable Snowman. What wonderful memories.

The colors silver and gold together cannot help but invoke thoughts of royalty. Silver crowns. Gold tassels. Silver swords. Gold jewelry. Colors fit for a king.

So it's fitting that during Christmas, our king arrives. And while he was not recognized by all as the Savior of the world, he was, and is, in fact, our Lord of Lord and King of Kings. This tiny babe of lowly birth came to earth with royal worth.
On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. Revelation 19:16 NIV

Gold and silver reflect. They are typically colors that glow, sparkle or shine brightly. Golden sunshine brings light to darkness and warmth to the earth.

Jesus' glory shines in the darkest places. His son-shine brings light to the nations. His spirit brings warmth to our lives and joy to our hearts.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
    God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
    those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
    down the path of peace.  Luke 1:79 The Message 

Silver and gold. Reflecting Joy. Reigning Peace. Bringing Life.

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Colors of Christmas - Red

The flip side of the green, feel good, warm and fuzzy color of Christmas, is red. Red is the tough, prickly, in your face color of the season.

Think about it.

Red is the color of blood. Blood is not usually an every day conversation topic. Blood shed is in the news for crimes against humanity, criminal acts and prison terms.  Blood causes many folks to become woozy and faint.

 As an accountant, being "in the red," is not a good thing. Red indicates losing money, being underwater, or generally having issues that are unwanted.  Red may be an indicator of a heavy debt load.

At Christmas, the things that are prominently red have prickly parts.  Holly, for instance, has red berries, but its leaves are sharp and extremely prickly.  The red, showy bracts of a poinsettia have pointy ends. And the ends of the Grinch's shoes?  Pointy spikes! Yikes!

As Christians, we should be humbled by what the red "prickles" mean for us.

Jesus' blood is a symbol of his sacrifice. His blood shed is not for crimes against humanity, but for humanity's crimes against Him! The prickly crown of thorns was jammed on his head. He was beaten. Tortured. Hung on a cross. His crucifixion took place to pardon our prison term.

My life hovers "in the red." I carry a huge debt load as human, sinner number one.  My sin debt is in the heavy red zone. By the grace of God, Jesus came and took my debt load on himself and wiped my slate clean. The amazing part? He does it over and over and over again. For me. For you. Wahoo!

The prickly holly leaves and poinsettia points are reminders of the jagged and rough journey Jesus took on our behalf. His life was not an easy, feel good, warm and fuzzy one. He endured the prickles of  hypocritical religious leaders and ultimately an angry mob to turn over his life for ours.

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 53:5 NIV 

And for that we say, "Hallelujah!"  Praise his name!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Colors of Christmas - Green

One need not look far to notice the colors of Christmas. Green and red. Silver and gold. And white, while not technically a color, is visible everywhere.

I'm sure there's historical significance behind these traditional Christmas colors, but, for kicks and giggles, I'm going to share what these colors mean to me. And maybe, just maybe, some of my thoughts will align with history, but if not, no biggie.

Here goes.


Green signifies new life. New life sometimes defies the odds. The flower poking up through the sidewalk crack. The wildflower growing in sand. How about those cool air plants that live without soil? At Christmas, we celebrate the new life of Jesus. The birth that defied the odds. A baby born of a virgin. Never happened before. Never happened since.

A green Shoot will sprout from Jesse’s stump, from his roots a budding Branch. The life-giving Spirit of God will hover over him, the Spirit that brings wisdom and understanding, The Spirit that gives direction and builds strength, the Spirit that instills knowledge and Fear-of-God. Fear-of-God will be all his joy and delight.  Isaiah 11:1 The Message

Our Christmas trees are evergreens. Ever. Green. If green signifies new life, then ever green signifies eternal life. Pretty cool. Our Christmas trees signify our guarantee of eternal life if our faith rests in Jesus Christ.  He is the way, the truth, the life.

 And this is the way to have eternal life—by knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth!  John 17:3 Living Bible

Christmas wreaths hang outdoors on our garages and homes. They adorn our walls. Those green wreaths are circles of life. Generation after generation, grandparents and parents pass down the Christian heritage of a life lived with, and for Jesus.

Come, children, listen closely; I’ll give you a lesson in God worship.      Psalm 34:11 The Message

Green. A really fun color to think about during this season.

Oh yeah, and green:  My hubby's favorite color. Not historically significant for sure, but true nonetheless.

Next up.  Red.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


This tree has character. It stands at the corner of a blueberry field near a busy, rural thoroughfare in West Olive. Its stoic presence greets us each Sunday morning as we drive to church.

The features of this tree are not beautiful. It is misshapen and crooked. Its branches are gnarly and a fair share are dead. This evergreen has had a hard life. It has been the victim of not one, but two, lightning strikes.

 Its trunk is scarred. Its bark is shredding. Compared to neighboring trees, its color is dull and boring. In spite of its odd characteristics, this tree is special. This particular tree's beauty is in its character.

Webster's definition of character is, "the group of qualities that make a person, group, or thing different from others."


I'm not quite sure how it happened, but being "different" in today's society isn't about character, it's about separation. In today's world, being different isn't tolerated. Differences in skin color, political party affiliation and sexual identities aren't celebrated, they are slammed. Differences in opinion are not discussed or debated, but protested and boycotted. Written comments are hateful. Spoken words are spiteful.  And it seems the more we highlight the need for equality, the more we point out our differences and separate ourselves with polarized divisiveness.

Quite frankly, I've had enough. Enough of the bickering. Enough of the hate. Enough of judgmental jargon.

So today, I'm going to take Paul's words from Romans 12:18 and live it out, and I'll definitely need God's help to do it.  The NIV translation states it this way: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

I'm going to start by cutting out an expanded section of Romans 12 and placing it where I spend time each day. Maybe my bathroom mirror. Maybe my desk at work. My laptop. My dashboard. And maybe, just maybe, as far as it depends on me, I may make a difference.

Here's the passage. From Romans 12:14-21. From the Message:
14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.
Today I'm going to praise God that I'm different. I'm scarred, gnarly, struck by the lightning circumstances of life. And tomorrow, I'm going to celebrate that we are all different. Misshapen but beautiful. Black. White. Hispanic, Republican. Democrat. Presbyterian. Baptist. God created each of us with character. God created each of us as his children, with care.

As far as it depends on me, I'm not going to highlight our differences. I'm not going to give anyone special treatment because they are different from me. I just want to love on everyone. I'm asking God to help me love others the way he loves me and see his special creations through the lens of his love.

Special. Loved. Made with character.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A "little" boogie...

Church. It's the place you'll find my family on most Sunday mornings. Today was no exception. We attend church to be filled, to participate in worship and to fellowship. But our service today warmed my heart, not because of the sermon or the fellowship or the Scripture. Nope. Today's worship was special for one reason.


Today, children reminded me of true, pure worship.

Today is Palm Sunday. We have a tradition in our church of giving kids, young and old alike, palm branches on this special morning. And during the singing of traditional Hosanna hymns, the kids excitedly participated with exuberant waving, flailing even, of these leafy greens. These kids didn't hold back and raised their palms in simple, joyful praise.

Earlier in the service, as is typical on Sunday mornings, our praise team led us in worship. Today's songs included a toe-tapping, hand-clapping spiritual. Two pews ahead of us, a young family worshiped with Daniel, their toddler.  Daniel bounced, slid and danced to the beat of the music. He was the picture of pure happiness, complete with twinkling eyes and wide smile.

Daniel's dancing reminded me of a Facebook post I had seen earlier this week. Amy, another young mom from our church, posted a video of her sweet daughter.

It's obvious that God created the jubilant joy of music in our very souls. Kids unabashedly celebrate this gift. I wonder why, as adults, we squelch this precious gift. Maybe it's fear or worry of humiliation, but whatever reason, we seem to have lost the innocence of pure worship.

After watching kids worship, I need to try to refresh my bones and get back to the pure joy of worship. I can learn from kids, but I can also learn from David.  He wrote about dancing in Psalm 51, here from The Message:

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!
Let's dance like no one's watching!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Road Goop...

Having an extended break between Christmas and New Year's has been such a blessing! Life seems far less hectic when work is not part of the daily agenda. Time moves at a slower pace.

Sleeping in. Homemade breakfasts. Daily devotions. Family game time.

The weather during Christmas break is usually cold, overcast and snowy, but a few days ago, God blessed us with a day which was sunny and unseasonably warm. From my perch on the couch, I pondered a bit of exercise. A walk seemed a perfect way to enjoy the weather without exerting too much energy. My son, Barry, was home early from work and after very little arm-twisting, he agreed to be my walking partner. We decided Kouw Park, our local township park on the shores of Lake Michigan, should be our destination and turnaround point. giving us a four mile round trip walk.

Living in a rural area, our relatively quiet, county road was our walking surface.  During other times of the year, this trip is made while driving, and we barely notice the surface of the roadway, except to see the haphazard squiggly black marks of the county's crack-seal treatment.  But since our walking pace was slow and relaxed, we were able to enjoy a great deal more of both the scenery and the roadway.

It was on our return trip that Barry noticed a set of initials in the rubber seal coat.  D.G. Ha. We laughed about the fact that those are the initials that represent our last name. De Graaf.

And a few feet further, another set of initials:

And then, best of all, we spotted a fish. And I'm gonna call it a Jesus fish.


In all the months I've driven down this road, I've never noticed these "signs" in the pavement. It wasn't until I slowed down the pace of life and walked that I was able to see these markings which are plainly visible.

The same is true of my Christian walk. Most days, my world is speeding along, my to-do list so long I don't notice the markings God has placed in my path. The people I encounter, the creation around me and the Holy Spirit inside me go unnoticed because of my hurried existence. And then the gift of an extended break helped me reflect on God's blessing and presence. He hasn't changed in this time, but he's given me the gift of quiet and I've noticed him.

Thanks God. Help me to see you with my God eyes. Help me to look for you every day.

God’s wisdom is so deep, God’s power so immense,
    who could take him on and come out in one piece?
He moves mountains before they know what’s happened,
    flips them on their heads on a whim.
He gives the earth a good shaking up,
    rocks it down to its very foundations.
He tells the sun, ‘Don’t shine,’ and it doesn’t;
    he pulls the blinds on the stars.
All by himself he stretches out the heavens
    and strides on the waves of the sea.
He designed the Big Dipper and Orion,
    the Pleiades and Alpha Centauri.
We’ll never comprehend all the great things he does;
    his miracle-surprises can’t be counted.
Somehow, though he moves right in front of me, I don’t see him;
    quietly but surely he’s active, and;: I miss it.

Job 9:4-11 (The Message)