Thursday, December 31, 2009

Come to the Manger

I have just rolled back into town from an extended Christmas trip back to Arkansas. As I reflect back on the last week, Christmas is not about the presents and food. It is a time to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus.

While visiting our parents, we were fortunate to attend the candlelight service at my parent’s church. The church is small in comparison to our church here, but the spirit is the same. The church has the desire to proclaim Jesus. The candlelight service was simple with Christmas carols and solos. However, what hit a nerve with me is the pastor’s devotional.

This pastor began to read from his journal. He, like so many of us, was stressing about how to complete the Christmas shopping, pack for his family’s trip to visit grandparents and siblings, attend a multitude of church Christmas functions, prepare several sermons for December plus put together the Christmas Eve candlelight service. In addition, he admitted he had to visit a few shut-ins and the hospital. He also had to do the administration of the church. However, over and over through his writings he stated that God was calling, “Come to the manger.”

This simple statement slapped me in the face. I was worried about how my family would spend equal time at our parents. I was concerned with making sure everyone had a gift to open. While in Arkansas I had not once reflected on why we were gathering. God reminded me in through this pastor’s journal that I needed to come to the manger and rediscover the Christ Child.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Peace

The stockings have been filled. The breakfast casserole is ready for brunch tomorrow. The cheese ball is made. The girls asleep. The house is quiet and still except for my sweetie wrapping his gifts and watching The Christmas Story. (It is a tradition of his to do it this way...)

Our Christmas Eve did not go exactly as planned. We had an expected and unexplained four and half hour power outage this evening. We lit candles and ate a dinner of tuna on crackers, oranges and spicy Pringles.

But the quiet was wonderful and, despite the lengthy to-do list abandoned by the lack of electricity, there was peace in the Vinson house. Maybe that was the only way we would have slowed down to enjoy each other this evening. It was wonderful. Thank You God.

Yes, we are celebrating the ultimate gift He gave, His Son. But I am also rejoicing that He still gives us little gifts all the time, blessing our lives with dozens of joys and countless little pleasures. We are so blessed. Thank You Lord!

Merry CHRISTmas from all of us!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Regrets

I regret my behavior at the late summer staff retreat where Christmas plans were discussed and I left the room in tears.

My husband had only been on staff at this church for a number of weeks. Everything was so new and we were living so far from our extended families. The talk of a mandatory attendance at Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services was just more than I could handle, much less process, in that setting.

My husband, the lead pastor and his wife all followed me. Soon I was completely embarrassed and I am sure my husband was too. Then I felt even worse. At the sight of my tears, the pastor made concessions that we wouldn't have to be there - but I am sure that this gesture of his, while well-intended, did nothing to endear us to the other staff families. Another fact that I am sure of is that my behavior solidified their view of me as being young and, as a result, my input was not valued or wanted on that leadership retreat or any other planning meeting that followed.

We went "home" that Christmas and I was blessed to be around my parents and my in-laws. I just wish I had been able to see the house my husband and I lived in as "home." I wish I could have seen our church there as "family" and not longed for something more. While my desires are understandable, I know that I wasn't looking to my heavenly Father to care for me. I was anything but content in those circumstances.

I don't know your situation this Christmas. Maybe you are far from your parents and you are mourning failed expectations of your kids being with their grandparents this week. Perhaps you even have grandparents heaping on the guilt for not being there - wherever "there" is. It may be easy to look around you and resent the church and the people you are called to love and serve.

Remember what is truly important and don't regret how you handled the situation. Cling to the Father and His gift. Keep Him as your focus and know that He is keeping score. Nothing we lose for His sake goes without His notice. He has promised to pay us back and then some.

No regrets this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Preschoolers and Jesus

This fall, God blessed me with the opportunity to oversee our church's Mother's Day Out program. It has been a wonderful experience and I am really enjoying my work. The families have all been nice and the teachers are fantastic to work with, but my favorite aspect is being around these little people.

The program is designed for those who still count their age by month all the way to pre-k. While overseeing all of the classrooms doesn't allow me to be too involved with any of the classes too much, I love being in the rooms and around the children as much as I can.

It occurred to me during one of these random, drop-in, visits of mine that Jesus was once four years old.

Especially at Christmas we all think of Him as that precious infant, newly born sleeping peacefully for the adoring shepherds as the angels sang. We might even picture Him at about two when we think the wise men may have dropped in for their visit. Then later we think of him at about 13 when He was left in the temple as his parents headed back home. But what about all that time in between?

The Bible doesn't give us any details, but we know that He had to go through all those developmental stages and growth milestones. Being around preschoolers this fall has given me a deeper appreciation for those everyday, growing-up human moments that He had to experience.

Did He like to play with blocks? Did He run around His earthly father's carpenter shop? Did He giggle a three-year old giggle? Oh, and how do you suppose He reacted to the wise men and their very grown-up gifts? I am sure His little preschool mind could begin to comprehend what He was supposed to do with Myrrh!

God faithfully speaks to my heart in a new way each December. The "old" story is transformed into "new" somehow. This Christmas I find myself again amazed that the Almighty would humble Himself to become, not just a needy, helpless baby, but also an inquisitive and inquiring preschooler.

If you haven't already, ask Him to show you something "new" spiritually this Christmas. Maybe even take some time to watch a preschooler and let yourself wonder what Jesus would have been like as a two-year old. I am sure it wasn't "terrible" at all. In fact, I am pretty sure He was pretty "terrific!"

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Snow certainly does make it feel like Christmas, doesn't it? God has blessed us already with one beautiful snow, and now they are predicting more for East Tennessee tomorrow and Saturday. It snowed 2 weekends ago and it was such a treat to watch it fall. They predicted it to begin sometime after midnight that Friday night. I couldn't sleep because I was so excited. I kept getting up off and on looking out the window, hoping to see it falling. Finally, about 5:15 a.m. I got up one more time, and there it was, already starting to stick!! I tried my best to wait before waking up my husband Randy, but after about 45 minutes I couldn't wait any longer. I tiptoed in the bedroom and leaned over him and whispered "it's snowing!!!" He (not whispering!) said, "it's Saturday morning!!!" Then I tried to explain to him that if he stayed in bed he would miss it. I don't think it would have really bothered him though. But he was a trooper and got up when I said, "don't you want to go with me to the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg?" Usually there is a long wait to get in the restaurant, but between the frigid temperature outside, the snow on the roads and the fact that it was 6:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning, we got right in. And boy was it worth it!!!! The snow was gently falling as we sat by the big picture window and watched it cover the mountains. The waitress brought us a freshly brewed cup of coffee and we just sat there admiring God's handiwork as we waited for some of the best pancakes ever!!

By 4:00 p.m. it was almost all gone. We could've stayed in bed and missed it, but thankfully we didn't. We enjoyed the moment,.

This is a crazy time of the year...especially for Pastors and their families. There is so much going on between Sunday School parties, Music Programs, caroling, and the list goes on and on. We could rush right through it all and miss the fun, OR we could slow down and enjoy the moment. I pray you enjoy the sweet moments the Lord gives you today,

Sunday, December 13, 2009


In Luke 1 God sent an angel to Mary and told her that God wanted to bless her and that she would become pregnant and have a son, and she was to name Him Jesus. He would be very great and would be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David and He will reign over Israel forever!

Mary, understandably, was confused and disturbed and fearful and questioned how this could be since she was a virgin. The angel then explained the miraculous conception that would occur and told her that “nothing is impossible with God!”

It is Mary’s response to all of this that has captured my heart these past several weeks. She says, “I am the Lord’s servant and I am willing to accept whatever He wants…”

Friends, that is my prayer….that I would every day in each circumstance say “I am the Lord’s servant and I am willing to accept whatever He wants!”

Often times, however, I am afraid that my response is more like the song that I only know about two lines to....“I will do anything for love….but I won’t do that!” I cannot tell you how many times I have had that tune run through my mind this Christmas!!

Lord, I will love you and teach and pray….but I won’t do “that”! I will ____________ but I won't do _______________. How would you fill in the blanks?

What is the “that” that you won’t do? Visit that neighbor? Forgive that sister? Reconcile to that neighbor? Let go of the bitterness and hurt? What is “that”? Stop that sinful habit? Spend time with Jesus in His word?

May we all come to the place where Mary did and say, “I am the Lord’s servant and I am willing to accept whatever You want…..even “that”!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Did you know that pastor’s wives have secrets? Are you shocked? If you are a pastor’s wife….more than likely you are probably not shocked!

During the 30-something years that my husband has been in full-time ministry, many pastor’s wives have shared their secrets with me….and, admittedly, I have had my own share of secrets. Why? Why do we have secrets? What is a secret? By definition it means, “Done, made, or conducted without the knowledge of others. Something that is or is kept secret, hidden, or concealed.”

Some of the secrets we have “done” or “kept hidden” are sins….and they are definitely NOT hidden from God! You know that He is well aware of them and we must run to Him in desperation for forgiveness and restoration. And restored we are… His grace!

Some of the secrets we have “concealed” are not sins we have committed but are painful, agonizing, hurtful and upsetting experiences. Fearful for others to know, we hide them deep within our hearts and minds.

I have a dear friend (a pastor’s wife) who, for months, took care of their adult son in their home until he died of AIDS. Not one person at their church ever knew why he was sick. Why could she not tell them?

A young pastor’s wife from another town called me one Monday morning a few years ago telling me that she and her husband were divorced. Her husband (the youth pastor) encouraged her to have an affair. They were bankrupt. No one at their church knew any of this.

A beautiful, young pastor’s wife shared with me that her husband was involved in and addicted to pornography.

After a session where I was speaking A mother shared with me the emotional abuse she received from her pastor husband. There was no love in the home and she was full of bitterness.

One was physically and emotionally abused by a family member. Another was not walking with or loving Jesus. Still another hated being a pastor’s wife. One wished her husband would take another job. Do anything--wash dishes at the local restaurant--but don't work in the Church.

Many resent the time their husband spend at church. Some have children who are involved in drugs, alcohol or in same-sex relationships.

My friend…I share all of this with you not to shock you or cause you to feel despair and sadness…but to say if you are in one of these situations….you are not alone. And please, do not keep it a secret any longer. Psalm 44:21 says "Would God not find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart." Please ask God to provide you with Godly council. A Godly woman you can trust to pray with you…for you. Seek council. Run to it.

If you do not or have not struggled with secret sins or experiences, praise God right now! Fall down before Him in gratitude and love....ask Him to protect you from the evil one who would want to defeat and destroy you and your family and your church.

Let us not be condemning or critical....let us help others bring to light that which the enemy would want to keep hidden. Perhaps that is why we keep secrets....the Church, who are to be the most forgiving and loving and merciful of all people....are condeming and critical. Sister, let's not be guilty of that....but model the forgiveness and love and mercy Jesus will empower us to lavish upon those who desperately need/seek it.

Blessings to you my sister!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Desperate Pastors’ Wives

Not too long ago I discovered a book entitled “Desperate Pastors' Wives (Secrets from Lulu's CafĂ©)”. Two words in the title intrigued me. Desperate and Secrets. Desperate? Desperate for what? Desperate for whom? Secrets? What kind of secrets? Why do pastor’s wives have/need secrets?

Today let’s look at desperate and next time we’ll talk about secrets.

Desperate for a meaning of the word “desperate”, I turned to Webster’s and discovered it means “reckless or dangerous because of despair”, “having an urgent need, desire, etc.”

What are you desperate for? What am I desperate for?

Desperate for that new coat. Desperate for our house to sell. Desperate for people who will love and accept me unconditionally. Desperate for people to know and walk with my Jesus. Desperate for my family to be united under Christ. Desperate for joy and contentment. Desperate for a deeper walk with God. Desperate for a freedom from sin. Desperate for someone to know me. Desperate to quit being so self-centered. Desperate for this Christmas to be more meaningful and less commercial. Desperate for a cup of coffee. Desperate for chocolate. I could go on and on....

In Jonah 1:13 it says that “…the men rowed desperately to return to land but they could not, for the sea was becoming even stormier against them.” These men dug their oars into the water and pushed and pushed but the storm was bigger than their strength and they were going no where and totally exhausted. After desperately paddling for who knows how long, the next verse says “then they called on the Lord…”

My dear friend, whatever it is that you are desperate for….whatever it is that I am desperate for, God knows it and is the One who will provide those things for my life that He desperately wants to grant us. We must desperately run to Him recklessly, urgently, with desire….ask Him to make us desperate for what He is desperate for and watch what God does!

Remember that Jeremiah 17:9 says "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Oh God, I ask that You would remove anything desperate in our hearts and lives and desires that are deceitful and sick. Fill us with a despiration for You!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Our church music ministry is smack dab in the middle of our Christmas program, The Christmas Post. Set in the 1940’s, it is the story of a young widow who is struggling to make ends meet by working a second job as a salesperson at a local department store. Throughout the program you walk with her and other characters as they discover the true meaning of Christmas.

The music throughout the program is awesome but the song I love the most is “The Green Stuff.” The character singing this song is the store owner, whose only care is for how much more money he can make. The score is very peppy and very Broadway style. However, I also love the message of the song. Listening to the words and watching the action of the cast makes you truly realize how selfish we can all be at heart. It reminds me that Christmas has become so commercialized and centered on the “give me” side that we often forget the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is not about all the parties we attend or added pounds we put on our waistlines. It is not about having an excuse to eat chocolate fudge. It is not about rushing around the malls trying to get everything on the Santa list. It is not about having the perfectly decorated home and delicious 70 course meal we prepared. I do not believe the Father gave us his Son to put more stress in our lives. He gave us Jesus so that we could reflect on His grace and goodness.

Ladies, the green stuff may be a little tight at your house this year. Everyone is feeling the economic crunch. However, the one thing we do not lack is God’s love. Let’s truly celebrate Jesus’ birth this year because in reality there would be no Christmas without the Christ child.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Special Invitation

I am rushing around today trying to get my house in some kind of order and the Christmas decorations hung. I finally had to sit down, take a breath and enjoy some chocolate chip cookies. I still have much to do but I need gather my costume and my thoughts for our dress rehearsal for our Christmas program.

I would like to invite you, my dear sisters, to Harpeth Heights Baptist Church in Nashville, TN for the presentation of The Christmas Post. Our music ministry has worked very hard on this production and it is sure to bless your heart. The program is December 4, 5, and 6 at 7:00 p.m. nightly with a 3:00 p.m. Saturday matinee.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Greatest Gift of All

Dear Santa
I want a dog for Christmas. Please don’t forget to bring toys for my brother.

When I was a little girl, every year I basically asked for the same thing over and over. I truly wanted a dog of my own. However, every year there would be no cute, fuzzy creature under my tree. Oh, I received dolls and other toys. One year Santa even left me a new bike and a stuffed monkey. (Don’t laugh, but I still have my cherished monkey.)

You see, I was a child who was allergic to everything on God’s green earth. Whether it was food, pollen, or pet hair, I would sneeze, cough, and wheeze. (Yes, my dear sisters, I was even allergic to chocolate! Thankfully, I outgrew most of these allergies and can enjoy my chocolate treats.) Now “Santa” and “Mrs. Claus” knew that a dog was not in my best interest. They put their heads together and always came up with substitute presents. However, the next year I would write my letter to Santa and once again ask for a dog only to find another gift under the tree.

In our Christian walk God does not always answer our prayers in the fashion we desire. For example, I have asked the Father for some pretty selfish things that were on my “want” list. I emphasize the word want because those items were things that I really did not need at the time. My Heavenly Father knew that those items would not make me happy and looking back they would only made me want more.

Like Santa, the Heavenly Father wants to give us good gifts. He wants us to be happy and healthy. He does not want to harm us and He does know what is in our best interest. As we all know, sometimes God says “yes” and sometimes the answer is “no.” So here’s my letter this year:

Dear Lord,
Bless my family and friends in accordance to your will. Help us all to trust you with all our being. Thank you for the greatest gift of all-Jesus.