Seeing Jesus

Every time I have tried to write this post, I have been brought to a standstill. I intended to write on the meaning of Christmas, but I can’t seem to move past the events taking place in my family. Several days ago, radio host, Gus Lloyd, posed the question, if there was a survey in which people had to look at a picture of Santa and a picture of Jesus and choose which one has to do with Christmas, which picture would the majority of people pick? He contended that most would choose Santa, and he’s probably correct. I had a whole blog written in my head on that very topic, but somehow, I find myself unable to actually write it.

While it might be true that nowadays, many people associate Santa with Christmas, the Easter Bunny with Easter, and Jesus with ancient stories that have no relevance today, I have been blessed to witness Jesus over and over this Christmas season.

You may know that my father-in-law is very sick and will not be with us much longer. Those words are very difficult to write. For over twenty-four years, he has been a second father to me. Recently someone commented to me that it was asking a lot of me to take care of man who isn’t even my own dad. But, from day one, Dad has always treated me like his daughter. I can’t let him down. But I do.

I have learned that I am not a caregiver. I think I did all right as a mother. My girls all seemed to have turned out okay. But when I take my turns with Dad, I find myself at a loss for what to say, what to do, how to comfort him. I try, but words fail me. I want to be kind and loving when he’s hurting. I want to be stern and commanding when he’s doing something he’s been told not to do. I want to let him know that I am there for him and talk to him about my girls, the weather, or the news. Instead, I often find myself not sure how to talk to a man who used to love talking to everyone, telling stories, and hearing tales but can no longer speak or interact. I want to help feed him, attend his personal needs, and care for his failing body, but I stumble on my own insecurities.

And then I watch my sister-in-law, Chrissy, who so loving and uncomplainingly writes to Dad over and over on his white board and coaxes him to write back. I observe my husband, Ken, as he gently guides his father to the bathroom, helps him comb his hair, and changes his clothes, all with an unwavering devotion and patience. I wipe away a tear as my Rebecca gives up a weekend of studying for her last first-semester law school exam to visit her grandfather and to lay a wreath on his father’s grave. I marvel at my sixteen-year-old, Morgan, really just a child, who has become one of Dad’s most frequent and attentive caregivers. She skipped her school’s Christmas party this morning to wake up at the crack of dawn and feed her grandfather, help the hospice nurse change and shave him, and spend her first day of the break tending to his every need so that her grandmother could attend an important event and doctor’s appointments. I look at these people, and countless others – my daughter Katie who runs countless errands so she can help us out, the hospice nurses who gently wash Dad, Morgan’s teachers who allow her to leave school early to help feed her grandfather when I fear I will do something wrong.; I look at them, and I see Jesus.

I don’t know when society began turning away from God or when Christmas became more about Santa than about Jesus, but I do know that Jesus exists, here and now. He told us, “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Sometimes the most difficult and painful times in life provide us with the opportunity to show the greatest amount of love. So, during this Christmas season, I’d like to remind everyone of the real reason for the season, but I’d also like to point out that Jesus doesn’t come to us at Christmas time only. He is here every day, in the loving hands of those who tend to the sick and dying, in the eyes of a child who finds peace in bringing happiness and comfort to others, in the arms of a loved one, providing care and comfort for the weary. He is there in a million things we do each day. We just need to open our eyes and see Him, and then point Him out to others so that they, too, can know He is here.

Merry Christmas to you all. May you encounter Jesus at the celebration of His birth and every day throughout the year.

1503911_10200877328958367_1431887920_nMy dear precious Jesus, I did not mean to take your place,
I only bring toys and things and you bring love and grace.
People give me lists of wishes and hope that they came true;
But you hear prayers of the heart and promise your will to do.
Children try to be good and not to cry when I am coming to town;
But you love them unconditionally and that love will abound.
I leave only a bag of toys and temporary joy for a season;
But you leave a heart of love, full of purpose and reasons.
I have a lot of believers and what one might call fame;
But I never healed the blind or tried to help the lame.
I have rosy cheeks and a voice full of laughter;
But no nail—scarred hands or a promise of the hereafter.
You may find several of me in town or at a mall;
But there is only one omnipotent you, to answer a sinner’s call.
And so, my dear precious Jesus, I kneel here to pray;
To worship and adore you on this, your holy birthday. – Author Unknown

What I was writing about this time last year:  Tis The Season

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

The Top Ten Reasons Easter is Irrelevant

DSC09185I read a news piece recently that said that the majority of Americans believe that Easter has become irrelevant and that celebrating it is “a waste of time,” “meaningless,” and “completely unnecessary.” While I will not argue that too many people associate Easter with Peter Cottontail rather than Christ, I was surprised at the vehemence of some of the respondents. So I gave it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with a Top Ten List of why Easter has become irrelevant in our present-day society. Counting backwards:

10.  Easter parades just tie up traffic and cause delays. Of course, parades are often associated with holidays, but the Easter parade began, not as a celebration but as a procession. In the Mid-1800s, Christians processed to Mass on Easter Sunday, wearing their new Easter clothes after a long, forty-day period of fasting and abstaining. Onlookers gathered to watch the church-goers go by in their new, spring clothes. For many families, Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection, was the only time when new clothes and shoes were purchased. Of course, today, we have the luxury of purchasing new clothes, shoes, toys, housewares, electronics, and anything else we want, every day of the week. Like so many other practices, the purchase of an Easter dress is just another tradition that we can get rid of. Who needs to celebrate the putting on of new clothes after emerging from Lent a new and better person?

9.  Those silly little Easter eggs are completely pointless. Why would anyone want to look for those when they can find virtual reality creatures instead? After all, the tradition of using eggs to symbolize the Resurrection is so out of date. Lost is the reason for the eggs: the hard shell being cracked open in representation of the empty tomb. Eggs were once only painted red, a reminder of the blood that Christ shed on the cross. Even outside of Christianity, the egg is used in many cultures as a symbol of life and rebirth. But who cares about celebrating life anyway?

8.  Easter egg rolls have no meaning and are a waste of time.  Unless, of course, you use the activity to relate to your children that the eggs are rolled to remind us that the stone sealing Jesus’ tomb was rolled away, revealing the risen Christ.

7.  But why the Easter Bunny? Surely this is a ridiculous and silly tradition. It’s hard to argue that the visitation of the gift-bearing bunny on Easter morning is anything but a commercial invention to sell more chocolate. Of course, many people don’t know that German immigrants, in the 1700s, brought to the United States the tradition of the Easter Bunny, a sign of life and rebirth. Osterhase was a colored-egg laying hare for whom children built nests in which the hare could lay her eggs. But of course, teaching children about ethnic traditions, caring for the world’s creatures, and building homes for others are just more wastes of time.

 

6. Forcing kids to put down their phones and other electronic devices in order to enjoy time in the outdoors or with their relatives is a waste of their potential. Why use their brains to hunt for eggs when their phones can locate the exact geo-location of some trinket or useless “treasure” or even better, the elusive Pokemon character, Magmar (yes, I had to look that one up).

 

5.  Taking a Sunday off from watching  baseball, NASCAR, and other sporting events to spend time with family is just ridiculous. After all, the other sports fans play a much larger role in your life than your family, and maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose parents and siblings will live forever. You can see them any time.

4.  Easter is only about receiving chocolate, and I can eat that whenever I want.  Somewhere, I believe I was taught that Easter is about receiving Salvation, but I suppose that’s not important anymore since we have all we could ever need in this current life. Why worry about a possible life beyond?

3.  Easter Sunday Mass is just another, boring hour of being lectured about some guy who died two-thousand years ago. Nobody today needs to hear about Jesus. He was just some prophet who walked on the earth, cured the blind and lame, fulfilled all of the ancient prophesies about a Messiah, including those about His crucifixion, and then rose from the dead. As they say, those stories will never last. Soon, He will be forgotten like all those who claim to be something or someone they are not. What’s two-thousand years anyway?

2.  The return of the singing of the Gloria and the resounding Alleluia after forty-days of solemn celebrations doesn’t need to be heard, and the Gospel of the Resurrection doesn’t need to be told. Our children will learn about and understand the importance of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in school and from their friends. Oh wait… maybe not. Oh well, I guess it’s just not important then.

1.   There is no reason to view the Resurrection as a glimpse into the afterlife, the promise of a world yet to come for those who believe. We have everything we could ever want right here, right now. We have everlasting peace, the elimination of poverty, hunger, and strife, only benevolent and loving rulers, and the promise that we can live for all eternity in harmony and tranquility. Right? There’s no reason to hope for a new life, a life of splendor and glory, a life in which we will rise from our earthly graves and experience pure ecstasy with our loved ones and our creator. Don’t you agree? I guess you’ll have to answer that question for yourself. As for me and my family, we will spend Sunday morning singing, praising, and worshiping, while wearing our new Easter dresses, and will then host a giant Easter egg hunt with our friends and extended family. You are welcome to join us.

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.  —  COL 3:1-4

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Embracing the Romance.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Technology Has Forever Changed Our Way of Thinking. Here’s How to Take it Back by freelance art director, Cristina Vanko; What is “brain hacking”? Tech insiders on why you should care aired on 60 Minutes, April 9, 2017.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines has just been awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

Avoiding the Thorns

DSC08689Recently, I visited the Holy Lands and made the Palm Sunday walk down the Mount of Olives. One of our stops along the route was Dominus Flevit, where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. On that hillside were thorn trees that are believed to have been the same type of thorns used to crown Jesus at the beginning of His passion. The size and thickness of those thorns was staggering, and the vision has not left me. In fact, I have been almost fixated on those thorns for weeks now, and I think I have finally figured out why.

For years, I pictured those thorns the same way most of us probably pictured them, like thorns from a rose bush or a blackberry bush. Those annoying, little thorns that catch on your clothes as you walk by, and prick your finger when you try to cut off a rose or gather a bucket of berries. Never had I imagined the thorns as anything other than small nuisances. Yes, they were sharp, and yes, they would have drawn blood and caused pain, but in comparison to everything else that Jesus went through, were they really all that bad? Was I ever wrong about that! I can barely stomach the thought of those long, thick, sharp-as-a-spear thorns digging into Jesus’ scalp, his forehead, his skull. But that’s not the worst of it, not at all the reason why I can’t let the image go.

You see, I’ve gone through my entire life brushing away the small, annoying thorns. I’d prick my finger, wipe away the blood, and move on. I never looked back to see if, perhaps, the thorns were bigger than I imagined, the damage done, more than I intended. Were those words I said really just insignificant, skin-deep pricks, or punctures that were deep enough to cut into someone’s soul? Were my broken promises like little, thorny sticks cast into the wind, or did they rip through things unseen by me as I moved through my life without looking back to assess what I had left undone? Have I held my friends and loved ones gently, avoiding any hurt I might cause them, or did I grab in haste whatever I wanted without giving thought to others, tearing away the proverbial flesh of the ones I loved the most?

The thorns of the Ziziphus Spina-christi tree will always be a reminder to me that few things in life are as small or insignificant as we imagine them to be. Sometimes, what we think of as the smallest sins are actually the large thorns that tear into our souls and separate us from the Creator. As I watch the news and see the horrible things being said by candidates of both parties, I feel the dig of the thorns. As I listen to the way we all speak to each other with blatant disregard for feelings, I feel the punctures to my heart. As I recount all of the times I haven’t been there for others in need and think about all of those throughout the world in need of food, shelter, and peace who are receiving little or no comfort, I feel the piercing of my soul. Can others see the blood as it runs down the faces of those being cut by the thorns we all crown them with? Are these the images that Jesus sees when He looks down into the world? Does He still weep?

I pray that we all are able to realize just how deep those cuts go. Nothing is insignificant. We must all try to walk through life avoiding the thorns before the damage we do is irreversible, the wounds too deep to heal.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is due out in the summer of 2016.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)

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It’s All About the Giving

12294857_409592349244777_826596147234890410_nI am usually finished Christmas shopping by the first of November, except for a few stocking stuffers and perhaps an extra gift here or there.  That’s good because this month, we have incurred several unexpected expenses, and Ken asked me to tone down the gift giving.  “No problem,” I told him, “I’m pretty much done shopping.”  Then I went to my gift closet and pulled out everything I’ve bought in my travels over the past year, and guess what.  I haven’t bought nearly as many presents as I thought I had.  As Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief.”

I went through my list, checked it twice, noted that everyone on it had been nice, so what was I going to do?  I had a few small things here and a couple of unique items there, but nothing that added up to anything special for anyone.  The girls are easy.  They get one nice present, an outfit, and small stocking stuffers.  Luckily, those things were already ordered or stashed away.  But what about our parents, our siblings, and our many nephews and niece?  How can I go almost empty handed to our Christmas celebrations?

And that is where my mother and daughter saved the day.  Over Thanksgiving, all of the children were busy making crafts that my mother supplied (as is our day before Thanksgiving tradition). Rebecca decided to make a Christmas gift for her boyfriend’s mother.  Everyone was so impressed with what she made, that the whole family asked for one for themselves for Christmas.  The sparks ignited.  Rebecca and I combed through Pinterest and then spent the afternoon on Saturday scouring the stores for just what we needed to make Christmas presents for everyone in the family.  Ken, Katie, and Morgan all got into the excitement and offered suggestions, and that’s when it hit me.  I was so busy thinking about what to buy, that I had forgotten about what to give.

The only Christmas gift that matters was already given to us over 2,000 years ago.  The gift of self.  Yes, there is certainly a lot more to the story, but that’s what it really boils down to.  God gave us Himself.  It’s not about the toys or the clothes or money spent.  It’s about replicating that wonderful first gift – the giving of oneself to those we love.  So while we may be handing out boxes and bags of things we’ve created, what we’re really going to be giving out is the gift of ourselves – our time, our talent, and mostly, our love.

I’ve learned that sometimes it’s the unexpected detours in life that force us back onto the right road to our destination.  But no matter which road we are on, we are all called to love, to serve, to give.  So whether it’s something handmade or homemade, a visit, a hug, or a helping hand, give the gift of yourself this Christmas.  It’s really the only thing anyone really wants to begin with.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.