Wednesday, December 31, 2008
As you look back at the year 2008 and ahead to 2009, may your heart be filled with thankfulness, lessons learned, and hope for your future in the Lord. No matter what is going on, God has good plans for you.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Looking forward to sharing the coming year together!
Happy New Year 2009!!!
Saturday, December 27, 2008
My father-in-law even called his parents so they could hear us on the speaker phone. They joined us using their own hymn books from two states away, and we sang some beautiful songs to Jesus. It was a precious time together. They cheered as we finished this song or that. And hearing my daughters sing beside me, so blessed me. My husband's voice blending with his parents' sounded heavenly. It's great to belong to a musical family!
It's great to belong to a family. As I looked around the room tonight, I thought how thankful I am for this family, that God blessed me with a dear husband and in-laws, with three beautiful children and a committed marriage. I even acquired grandparents when I married. They are the best! And it was a joy singing for them on the phone tonight.
Enjoy your family. Thank God for them. And tell 'em you love 'em. Often.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? both, whatever’s handy!
2. Real tree or Artificial? Artificial—no timeline that way, no dropped needles (mostly) and best of all, no sneeeeezing.
3. When do you put up the tree? When our whole family is together (the closer to Thanksgiving the better)
4. When do you take the tree down? Sometime in early January.
5. Do you like eggnog? Bleh!!!
6. Favorite gift received as a child? At Christmas? A doll which crawled. At a birthday? A table top school desk/chalk board with sliding doors and compartments holding chalk, magnetic letters and numbers and cards with words for learning to read and write.
7. Hardest person to buy for? teen and pre-teen nephews :-)
Hey, where's #8??? Great question. I have no idea! But I added 22.5 below.
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Two. We lost one during a move and couldn’t find it, so I gave up and found a 75% off sale and bought a second one. This year, they’re both up! One in the dining room
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Snail mail—call me old fashioned.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? … drawing a blank on this one. I remember my uncle and dad would recycle an ancient dust broom and wrap it up in several boxes for the person to open. It looked like the best present of all! But when my dad got to the center, it was that stupid dust broom. Best part about that? Laughter! “You got me again!”
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Hmm… Love “While You were Sleeping” and Hallmark’s “A Season for Miracles.” This year it was “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” on Hallmark. Also enjoyed “Moonlight and Mistletoe.”
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Usually after Thanksgiving, though never on “get-out-of-the-red” Friday. (that’s my term for the shopping Friday after Thanksgiving)
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Ummm… I’ll never tell. ;-}
15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Sugar cookies in Christmasy shapes and colorful frosting!
16. Lights on the tree? Clear/pale yellow, not colorful since we got this new artificial tree. Never planned to go in that direction, but actually, it’s gorgeous!
17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Oh boy, great year to ask this question. Generally, we travel (thanks to dh’s Mom and Dad!) but this year, after spending a night stranded at the airport, we’re back home. For now.
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. And of course Rudolph.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star!
21. Open the presents Christmas eve or Christmas day? Both. One for the kids on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas morning.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? When people have cranky attitudes while out shopping.
22.5 Favorite part of this time of year? The almost magical feeling of expectation and joy in the air; general good will everywhere.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Red and gold, esp. but also blue with white
24. Favorite part of Christmas dinner.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? To be with our family, safe and warm.
26. Who is most likely to respond to this? Folks who have time between all their other obligations. ;-)
Who else wants to play? Copy and paste onto your blog and let me know if you did!!!
Monday, December 22, 2008
As I stood there, considering our options and, feeling the exhaustion and weariness of a tired mother, I wondered if Mary felt anything similar as they traveled while she was pregnant to Bethlehem. They had traveled for days, riding donkeys, being exposed to the elements. Compelled to a journey demanded of their ruler.
We experienced thirty-six hours of activity and stress, moving from one line to the next. Learning of flight delays and cancelations, waiting at gates, running for food and bathroom visits. Lugging baggage in a rush here and there. My husband and I were there, watching over three children, sometimes carrying our 40-pound toddler, or soothing emotionally tired kiddos and hoping then learning plans had changed. I was one weary mother, traveling at Christmas time. This reminded me of Mary. Unable to see straight due to fatigue, sleep deprivation and exhaustion.
But here's what stood out to me:
From the beginning of Luke's account of the Bible story of Jesus' upcoming birth, when Luke first mentions the angel's visit to Mary, we read she said to the angel: "Behold the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me as you have said." (see Luke 1:38). She trusted God. What a frightening experience, being told she would become pregnant out of wedlock and be asked to face the ridicule of her culture, and being told she would bear the Son of God. Wondering what all that could mean. Amazing prospect, this calling on her life. But she said, "let it happen (to me) according to your word." Such reliance on the mercy of God.
We are always at God's mercy. But, unlike Mary, we often don't know what God is going to allow in our lives, or what He may call us to walk through. Mary knew (to some degree) and still said yes. That's courage. That's trust.
I imagine she had intimacy with God at a level that graced her to know she could trust Him. That knowledge of God brought His favor, His attention, His affection and His calling. He trusted her and she trusted Him.
Just something I'm pondering this Christmas season.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Elmer Towns wrote a fantastic book called "Biblical Meditation for Spiritual Breakthrough." Meditation was God's idea, as evidenced by David in the Psalms:
"Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my meditation." (Psalm 5:1)
We're going to meditate (sometimes ruminate) on something. Might as well be God's ways and His Word. Think about how often you find your mind idly scrolling through things to chew on them... sometimes those "things" are good and helpful, making you feel built up and energized. But, if we were honest, a lot of times those "things" we ruminate on aren't good (like negative memories or arguments or the way we were treated in the past). These thoughts drain our energy, deplete our joy and leave us feeling angry, sad, bitter, resentful. Biblical meditation gives us a focus for our thoughts. We discipline our minds and train ourselves to think on good things. (see Phil. 4) That first verse I mentioned above (Psalm 19:14) is talking about exactly this.
Elmer breaks his book into chunks by following the example of certain key Biblical figures, like David, Mary, John the Beloved, Paul, etc. Then, using Scripture, he shows us how that person meditated. David was a man after God's own heart (God's testimony about him). He chased after God's heart by trying to understand God. John beheld (saw and studied) the love of God. (see 1 John 3:1)
It's fitting this time of year to be like Mary and ponder Jesus in our hearts. The Bible says Mary pondered these sayings in her heart, that she "kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." (see Luke 2:19, 51) It doesn't say that she analyzed them and cut them apart for examination. It says she pondered them--considered the things which had happened and were happening through a lens of loving meditation.
According to Elmer Towns, to meditate like Mary did, you
~meditate on the Bible's account of the life of Jesus
~consider Jesus' life and resurrection
~recall your own conversion experience and
~ponder what it means that Jesus saved (rescued, died for, delivered, etc.) you.
When a sweetheart receives a letter from her beloved, she reads the note with a loving heart. She already trusts the one who sent it, so she doesn't question or accuse, but rather uses the opportunity to see deeper into his heart, to learn about him, to hear his secret thoughts and grow in intimacy with him. That's a wonderful perspective (thanks to Elmer's chapter on Mary) for us to read the Bible through, like a lens. If it's not your standard way of reading the Word, give it a try, even on the hard to understand portions or the chapters that seem harsh. Dig deeper. What's in the heart of God in those places waiting to be discovered?
This season, let's ponder our Beloved in our hearts, reading the Word through a lens of love.
Merry Christmas season!
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
~ Snow falling all around us, arms raised, head back, tongue catching the clusters.
~ The wonder on my child's face as she watched the snow fall.
~ Singing carols with fellow believers.
~ Piano music playing softly "O Come all Ye Faithful."
~ Lights twinkling on the Christmas tree.
~ Crisp, quiet evenings in December.
~ The crunch of ice under my boots.
~ December evenings spent with friends, sipping cocoa and chatting while candles flicker in every direction and a fire crackles in the fireplace.
~ Singing along to Christmas CDs in the car
~ Seeking Jesus in the midst of the busy-ness of this season. Feasting on His Word.
~ Decorating the house with Christmas lights.
~ Baking Christmas treats with the kids.
~ The palpable excitement in the air, especially around children.
Celebrating every free Christmas blessing this season!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Here are the rules:
1. Put the logo on your blog.
Here are my ten favorite blogs (in no particular order):
~Rachel Hauck: http://www.rachelhauck.com/blog.htm
~Lena Nelson Dooley: http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com
~Dawn Kinzer: http://www.dawnkinzer.blogspot.com
~Betsy St. Amant: http://www.betsy-ann.blogspot.com
~Cynthia Ruchti: http://splashinginthedeepend.blogspot.com
~Love Finds You authors' blog: http://lovefindsyou.wordpress.com
~Julie Carobini: http://www.juliecarobini.blogspot.com
~MaryLu Tyndall: http://www.crossandcutlass.blogspot.com
~Susan May Warren: http://susanmaywarren.typepad.com/scribbles
~Sharon Hinck: http://sharonswriting.blogspot.com
Thanks to my friends Dawn and Cynthia (named above) for nominating me. :-)
Check out some of these great blogs!!
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Recently I heard a mom say it was going to be a dollar store Christmas. She explained her small child wouldn't know the difference between a $20 gift and a $1 gift. And that she would be so disappointed if there were no gifts on Christmas morning because of the family's financial struggle.
Can you relate to that? More than one person lately has told me how they're feeling the financial strain this season. As difficult as that is, this season is about going back to the true meaning. We believers have said that, preached that, but I'm seeing a true diversion from materialism this year.
I want this Christmas season to be about family, friends, and most of all celebrating Jesus. Every year we try to focus our family on the fact that this is the season we celebrate Jesus' birth.
My daughter recently shared how just being together as family is a gift at Christmas. She's right.
This year, no matter how much or how little we have, there's always something to be thankful for. God's love for starters. He sent Jesus, the best gift, so we could know Him.
That's reason to celebrate.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Where do you go when you're looking for security?
Below is my assurance. Join me, if you agree:
~ My God reigns.
~ I know Whom I've believed for the future.
~ He's made promises to me about the future, and about caring for my family and me en route.
~ My security is found in my Good Shepherd who knows my needs before I even ask. He's even well-acquainted with the ones I may be in denial about.
~ My kind heavenly Father cares for me. He will perfect that which concerns me.
~ My God can see the future; He's training me today for what I'll face tomorrow. It's a process and that never frustrates Him.
~ My God has the entire universe in His hand; nothing is impossible for Him, or too difficult or vast.
~ My God is sovereign and loving.
So, though the future is foggy, I know where to turn for security and assurance.
Here's what I've noticed. Simply voicing my concerns to God isn't always enough to calm all my anxieties (am I the only one??). But reading His Word brings power into the situation; praying His Word brings more power, and believing His Word strengthens me. My heart is literally uplifted as I delve in and seek His face.
One final thought, no matter how many times we've heard it:
You can have assurance. You just have to know where to turn when facing the unknown.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Do you have a daily devotional time? It's a time of getting alone with God ("go into your room and shut the door"---Jesus meant to find privacy) and listen. Pray. Read His Word. Worship. Sure we spend every moment of the day with Him, but devotional time is specifically set aside and vital for our relationship with Him. Not only our relationship, but also our own sense of well-being and peace. For seeking guidance and answers. It's a time for refreshing, for allowing God to convict us about what needs changing. But don't let conviction keep you from enjoying Him. It wasn't meant to shut you down, only direct you to live better, to dive into deeper intimacy with Him, to be used as clean vessel by God.
Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the refiner. (Proverbs 25:4)
This morning, I came to the Lord, excited about a new day and the opportunity to meet with Him. I opened the Word and began reading. Then I stopped to pray over what I'd read and some teaching notes caught my eye. So I began reading them and I was convicted. But rather than let that feeling of "this area isn't pleasing to Me; let's change it" stifle my joy, I pressed in harder. We were bought with a price, God has the right to tell us we need to change. And in humility, we can say "Okay, I'm here. Change me."
I also like to get back into the Word throughout the day whenever I can. I have a journal and Bible specifically in my writing office; and a set for upstairs in our living room.
This afternoon, I prayed through Psalm 1. And tonight, as the sun sets outside window, I'm reminded of the psalmist when he says:
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalm 1:2)
I want to meditate on God's Word day and night as I pursue Him.
If you do not have a daily devotional routine, make a choice to institute one. Get alone with God. Enjoy Him. Delight in Him. More than once daily, if you can. Wake up to His Word, to prayer and communing with Him, and at night, go to bed with His Word in your mind and heart. You're headed into the heart of God. The place of deeper intimacy with almighty God.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I’m waiting on God. He has spoken promises to me, to my family, and now we wait.
Can you relate with this—do you ever try to figure out what God is thinking, feeling or doing while you wait on Him to help? Do you ever doubt His heart (intentions/motivations) as His answer is delayed?
The enemy of our souls comes to accuse in three ways:
--us to ourselves (“What were you thinking?” “What a stupid thing to do/say!” “You’re never going to get that right.” etc.)
--other people to us (“You know what he’s thinking don’t you? That you’ll never have what it takes to make it here. Your time is limited.” “You know what everybody thinks about you, don’t you?” “They’re talking about you behind your back.” etc.)
--God to us (remember Eden—“Has God said?” or “Do you really think God cares about the mundane details in your life, when He has a world to think about?” “He’s not gonna help you. Are you kidding me? Where is He? If He loved you, He’d have answered this by now…” etc.)
And we fall for it. We believe him (the enemy), rather than fighting those untruths.
One of the reasons for delay is motivation for us to quiet ourselves before God and seek His heart. Pride says, “I know God’s thoughts/heart/feelings/position.” Humility says, “Show me Your heart, God. No matter what I don’t understand, I want You. I’m learning to trust You.” Love seeks Him, seeks His heart, even when we don’t understand.
He’s been showing me His heart while I wait, silencing the accuser, and changing my understanding. God’s delay isn’t about Him not caring, or not having compassion in our circumstances. It is about Him revealing Himself, which shines light on our misunderstanding and corrects wrong thinking.
Here’s the thing—if He answered our requests by pouring out blessing after blessing when we misunderstand His heart, there’s a risk of reinforcing the untruth. What loving parent would do that?
But so that you may know He loves you
He’s in the circumstances with you
His heart is full of loving compassion for you
He will meet your needs
He does care, more than you know
He is sovereign
He is faithful
He will keep His promises
His blessings already surround you
And when you’ve done all you know to do,
as you keep seeking Him and remaining thankful