Friday, December 21, 2012

The Candy that Says it All

Earlier this month, as I was getting in the spirit of celebrating the birth of the Christ child, I bought a dozen candy canes to hang upon my snowman decoration standing with his little wooden arms outstretched for such a festive purpose.

I was surprised, upon inspection of the candy cane box, to learn the following about the delightful holiday confections.

The candy cane was invented back in 1670 by a German choirmaster, who partially melted and bent white stick candies into the shape of a shepherd's staff to amuse the antsy children in his Christmas choir during the long service.

The custom spread throughout Europe during the following centuries, and came to America with a German immigrant named August Imgard in 1847, who was the first to decorate his tree with the still-all-white candies.

Sometime around 1900, a candy maker in Indiana wanted to create a Christmas confection that bore witness to the true significance of the occasion, so he added red stripes and advertised the following associated symbolism:

White: represented the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus.
Red: represented the blood that was shed by Jesus on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.
"J" shape: represented the name of Jesus, as well as the staff of the Good Shepherd, who sent his son, Jesus, into the world to be the sacrificial lamb for the sins of the world.

It's unknown if this same Indiana candy man added peppermint flavor at this time, but someone did at the turn of the 20th century and the rest, as they say, is history.

So the next time you find yourself nibbling on a candy cane, take a moment to thank Papa God for your most precious gift this Christmas!

Wishing you and yours a happy and holy celebration of the Christ-child's birth.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pass the Iguana Repellant

Does Deb look as scared as she feels?
As I climbed the six steps to the stage that Saturday in December, my hand shook as I reached for the handrail and prayed I wouldn't stumble over my unaccustomed high heels and go sprawling.

I was about to speak to 400 hot-tea-and-scone-satiated women who had paid real money to be there.They expected something worthwhile in return. From me.


Over the past half hour, I'd become intimately acquainted with that dreadful Spirit of Fear the apostle Paul warns about in 2 Tim 1:7 (more about this later). 

In truth, I'm not usually so spirit-aware. It was probably because I'd been recently re-reading Frank Peretti's incredibly graphic novel, This Present Darkness, about spiritual warfare happening unbeknownst to us, right under our noses, that the reality of the situation became so apparent. I could almost picture that scaly, sulfur-breathing fear iguana-creature clinging to my back, whispering self-esteem shattering lies into my ear.

Who do you think you are speaking to these women? They need someone with real wisdom like Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer ... not a flawed fake like you. 

You're going to let them down. They'll all ask for a refund. 

God never called you to do this, you know. You're not a speaker. You're going to FAIL big time. 

Trouble was, there was a glimmer of truth in that last one. And a partial lie is always harder to combat than a blatant lie.

I had never signed up to be a speaker, only a writer. Nine years before when I had answered Papa God's calling to write, I never dreamed it would come to this. The irony of me speaking to audiences was obvious to those who knew me well - I'd always struggled to express myself verbally, to find the appropriate word, the right phrase while the person with whom I was conversing waited patiently (or not) on me to finish my sentence. Words just wouldn't come to me when I needed them most.

A speech therapist called it anomia. I called it a curse.

And then came my call to write. One thing led to another and I began finding myself on stages, trembling behind podiums. Are you serious, Lord?  

So as I tentatively made my way across the stage that winter morning, I prayed desperately. And help arrived. First in the truthful promise of 2 Tim 1:7, which thankfully I'd memorized and was therefore loaded and ready for battle in my spiritual warfare arsenal: "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-discipline."

Power and love and self-discipline. Just the ticket. Say it again, Deb: Power and love and self-discipline.

And as if on cue, the first person who caught my eye in the vast audience was one of my Bible Study sisters who knew of my struggles and had promised to pray for me. One look at her broad smile, and I knew she hadn't just promised ... she was doing it AT THAT VERY MOMENT. In fact, six other heart-sisters and my prayer warrior husband came to mind, and I knew they were all praying too. Power!

In an instant, I felt that evil iguana-creature's claws retract and cause it to loosen it's grip on my mind. It fell to the floor with a thud and a lovely warmth like Holy Spirit honey poured over my skittish heart, calming me and filling me with the confidence and discipline I lacked.

Looking out at the full auditorium, I felt an overflow of love for those women, many hurting, many searching. They didn't need a perfect speaker. They needed someone they could identify with in the trenches. They needed flawed, struggling, imperfect me.

I was here as Papa God's ambassador. It didn't matter how poorly or wonderfully I spoke, He would take care of the outcome. Those listening would each hear only what He wanted them to hear, whether I said it with words, or the Holy Spirit spoke it directly to their hearts.

To my amazement, I didn't have to stare at my notes as I had during my last rehearsal only an hour before. I didn't stumble over words and say bizarre things that make no sense, as I usually do. Thoughts came in perfect sequence and with such little effort on my part, I knew without a doubt this message wasn't coming from me. For His strength is indeed perfected in my weakness.

I had a lot of help. Supernatural help. And some iguana repellant. 

"Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God , my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you" (1 Chronicles 28:20, NASB).