Saturday, December 31, 2011

It is better to be thankful than thanked

"I can do all things 
through Christ who strengthens me"
Philippians 4:13

I wear many titles:  teacher, mother, wife, daughter, nurse (unlicensed, of course), chauffeur (without the jaunty chapeau), chef (but without the tattoos all those TV chefs have) and laundress (picture Carol Burnett's "washer woman" but taller.  And skinnier.  And brunettier...)

Yesterday I found myself very proud of my laundry skills.  My Awesome Girl had gotten a new shirt for Christmas, that she just loved.  I don't know who was happier Christmas morning ~ Awesome Girl with her new shirt, or Amazing Boy, who was so excited his sister was finally able to receive the gift he had gotten her!  And then she accidentally spilled salsa on it.  Sometimes, it just doesn't matter how careful you're being, does it?  Anyhow, she was so disappointed in herself for letting it happen.  She rinsed it out, and I washed it as soon as I could, knowing that speed was of the essence.

I've gotten out some pretty tricky stains in my years of doing laundry.   Some stain removers are better at stains than others.  Some work better on greasy stains, etc.  Water temperature matters, vinegar and baking soda are valuable, and bleach can do more harm than good.  So I have several weapons in my arsenal. 

The stain came out.  I hung the shirt up on the line, gazing lovingly at the white whiteness, and I couldn't wait for her to see (she was in bed) that the salsa stain was gone. 

And then, the next day when she saw it, she crowed happily about the stain having come out.  She was thrilled that her newest shirt as as good as new, and she said things like, "Yay!" and "It came out!" and "It's gone!"  Things like that.  What she didn't say was:  "Thank you, Mom." 

I was hurt for a few minutes, felt a little sorry for myself, overworked, underpaid mom that I am (sarcasm there) but only for a very short time.   Because I quickly realized I really hadn't done anything worth thanking.  The stain came out in only one washing, I guess because it was so fresh.  I didn't even need to try any of my stain-removing techniques.  Probably, her rinsing the stain out right away made all the difference.   I guess it could be argued that she should have thanked me just for doing her laundry, but she does that frequently.  And she does a lot around the house.  I probably owe her a few thank you's too.  And truth be told, it's my pleasure to do her laundry.  My daughter, my son, my husband, are all gifts to me, and though the house is not always spotless, it is my joy to care for them, and make our home a place they love to be. 

Although I quickly recovered from my bout of incredible selfishness, it got me to thinking about how seldom we really "deserve" any thanks we get.   I'm only able to do laundry at all, because of the arms and legs and brain that God has given me.   Anything I do for anyone else is because He has given me the ability.  Anything I do that is special, or wonderful, or above and beyond the call of duty, is only what He expects of me.  My gifts, my talents, my heart.... are all from Him. 

Christmas is over, and now it's the season of thank you cards.  I will be encouraging my children to write them, and writing them myself, with great appreciation for the people in my life who have blessed me.  But I think maybe I should be writing Him some notes of thanks, too ~ for the blessings given me, and for the blessings He has enabled me to share with others. 

~ "I will sacrifice to You
    with a voice of thanksgiving" ~
Jonah 2:9

Friday, December 30, 2011

Show and Tell

"be filled with the Spirit, 
speaking to one another
in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody 
in your heart, to the Lord."
Ephesians 5:18,19

I studied Ephesians a few years ago in Bible study, and I remember when this verse caught my eye.  I'm always intrigued by verses that don't seem the obvious choice of words, or seem repetitive, or as in this case, contradictory.  I was struck by the phrases, "speaking to one another" and "singing in your heart" (emphasis mine).  My first reaction to reading it was, "Well?  Which one?" 

As a mother, when my kids were young, watching me, and learning from me, I felt stuck between "when you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father," and "train up a child in the way he should go..."  But really, I was called to both.  My children needed (and need) to not just hear me lecturing them on the importance of quiet time with God; they need to see me practicing what I preach.  So to speak.  So sometimes I would have my quiet time early in the morning, alone in my room; and sometimes it would be later in the day, on the sofa where they couldn't help but see me.

What can you share with someone in your life, praising what's He's done and what He's doing?  How is He working in your life?  What has He said to you recently?  What did He do in your past to make you who you are today?  Are you in a season of seeking refuge in the shadow of His wing, or a season of boldness and courage ~ armor on and sword drawn?

It's important to have that personal time, in our rooms, with the doors closed, singing and making melody in our hearts, to the Lord.  But growth also happens when we share with one another.   Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is a time to keep silent, and a time to speak.  Look for both those opportunities; He will provide them. 

~ "speak what you know" ~
Job 34:33

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Are you seeking? Or hiding?

"Whom are you seeking?"
John 20:15

Jesus uttered these words.  He was standing before Mary Magdalene, and He was the One she was seeking.  She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him. 

Verse 8 says that Peter and John saw the empty tomb, and the linen cloths, and that was enough for them.  They believed that Jesus was risen based on that.  Did Mary not believe?  Or did her Lord, risen, not look like He had before?  He certainly didn't look like the beaten and bloody Man of three days before.  Yet He stood there in front of her, asking, "Whom are you seeking?"

I feel like He's asking me this question lately.  I am seeking an answer from Him, on His will for my life, but I wonder, if He were in front of me, would He ask me, "Whom are you seeking?" 

He stands right in front of me, fully available to me ~ am I seeking something else?  Do I not recognize Him?  Does unbelief stand in my way, or does He simply not look like I thought He would?

He promises me that if I seek Him, I will find Him. 

~ "He is a rewarder of those 
       who diligently seek Him" ~
Hebrews 11:6

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Do you smell that smell?

"the fragrance of Christ"
2 Corinthians 2:15

We narrowly averted a holiday disaster in our house the other day.  One of us made a mistake while cooking.  It might have been me.  Or the Apple of my Eye.  Or my Awesome Girl.  Or my Amazing Boy.  As a Christmas present to the one who made the mistake, none of us are saying.  So I'll just say "we" did it. 

We were making a microwavable meal, and we forgot one of the steps in the preparation.  We hit "go" on the microwave, and then we went back out to the living room to hang with the rest of the family while our meal cooked.   But then we walked back into the kitchen, to see smoke pouring out of the microwave.  The meal ~ and the plastic ~ were burned to a crisp.  Judging by the amount of smoke, and the blackened condition of the contents of the microwave, we think that was as close as we could have come to fire, without actually achieving flames. 

We (no, really this time) were very grateful for the timing.  We all realized how close we came to a very frightening Christmas catastrophe.  While the Apple of my Eye cleaned out the microwave, I went to a local fast food place to pick up lunch, reasoning that no one was going to want to be in the kitchen making their lunch, with the awful, choking smell that lingered. 

And still lingers...

It's been several days now.  We had all the windows open that first day and night (and it was cold!  Well, Southern California cold.)  We've been cooking and cleaning and living our lives in the house ever since, and we can still smell it.  I tried microwaving a small bowl of vinegar, thinking it would absorb the smell, but it just left the house with a smell of burnt plastic and vinegar...  We don't notice it very much when we are in the house, but when we come home from someplace, we are aware of it as soon as we come in the house. 

It astounds me how hard ~ well, impossible ~ it has been to rid our home of the smell.  I now think that there's nothing we can do; it's just going to take time.  It's amazing how a smell can linger.  We've all been a car, or an elevator, or other small space, and been able to smell the perfume or cologne of the person that was there before us.  Even after the person is gone, the fragrance remains.  And that can be good, or bad.  It's good if the fragrance is that of someone we love.  It can feel like they are still with us.  But it's bad if the smell is unpleasant to us, or is so strong it's giving us a headache.

Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that to God, that believers are the fragrance of Christ.  Lingering, remaining, long after Jesus was carried up into heaven.  A reminder of the love He taught, and the life He modeled. 

To other believers, we are the aroma of life, leading to life, Paul said.  Like the smell of your mother's cooking, or your husband's cologne.  Pleasant and memorable and lovely.  But to those who are not saved, believers are the aroma of death leading to death (2 Corinthians 2:16).  Believers are, to non-believers, a reminder of consequences.  Just like that burned smell in our house is a reminder of the mistake that was made, and the possibly dire consequences.  

It's not about your perfume, or your cologne.  It's simply who you are.  

~ "thanks be to God who always leads us 
in triumph in Christ, 
and through us diffuses 
the fragrance of His knowledge 
in every place" ~
2 Corinthians 2:14

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The passive sins

"in danger of judgment"
Matthew 5:21

How fast can you sin?  If you really set your mind to it ~ to sin as many times as you could in one day, or to sin as early in the morning as possible ~ what would be the way to accomplish it?   I think ~ unfortunately ~ I might have some hints for you.

I've become aware lately, of how much I sin before I've even gotten out of bed in the morning, or while I'm falling asleep at night.  Or even in the middle of the night, if I'm having trouble sleeping.  My body is still and calm, but my mind is going strong.  And although I'm not stealing or killing or taking the Lord's name in vain, there are a variety of ways to sin, in my mind. 

I got mad at a friend of mine last week.  I've mostly forgiven her, but then the anger will come back.  Far less each time, but I know that I'm wrong to have not completely forgiven her.  I think part of the problem is that logically, rationally, I believe she was in the wrong.  Whether that's true or not, it enables me to justify my anger, which has probably kept it going this long.  And my belief that she was wrong doubles my sin.   Now, I'm judging, too. 

I'm very critical at night, lying in bed.  I'm judgmental and covetous and unforgiving and unkind, thinking of people in my life and how they've "hurt" me.  To be honest, it doesn't happen a lot, but because of this issue lately, I've become aware of it.  Reading Scripture before bed helps, but doesn't eliminate the harsh thoughts.  And I spend a lot of that falling asleep time praying for others, too, but the unkind thinking is the kind of sin that sneaks back, and you're doing it again, almost without realizing it.  Vicious thoughts...

You'd think that lying in bed at the end of the day, would be the time I'd be least likely to sin.  And that thinking ~ that I was safe ~ made me more vulnerable.   Maybe my prayer as soon as I climb into bed needs to be for myself, and my heart, and my attitude.  And maybe my first prayer every morning should be one of confession and repentance and for Him to bring blessings on everyone in my life. 

~  "bless those who curse you" ~
Luke 6:28

Monday, December 26, 2011

Viva la difference!

"we have different gifts"
Romans 12:6

I met an amazing person last week.  And I know that even though I know next-to-nothing about him...   I know his name is Andrew.  And I know where he lives.  I think that's it. 

We were driving around last week looking at extravagant Christmas light displays, and we headed a few miles away to one we had read about in the paper.   But this family ~ this man ~ had gone beyond the typical "string-of-lights-hanging-from-the-eaves-of-the-house".  He'd even gone beyond "lights-over-every-square-inch-of-house-and-lawn" and "lights-flashing-in-sync-with-the-music-on-the-radio-station". 

This home had decorated elaborated on the inside, too.  On the front porch area, in the entry hall, the family, the living room, the dining room, the hallway.... all full of miniature figures and houses and lights and ornaments, and all themed and color-coordinated.  I know all this because everyone who came to see the light display was invited into the house.  He just stood there in the doorway, wearing his Santa suit and a light-up elf hat, welcoming strangers into his home, with a smile and a handshake, for a cup of cider and a healthy dose of Christmas cheer.

And this, to me is amazing.  I mean, I decorate my house, but it's nothing unusual.  I decorate the inside, too.  I have ornaments and decorations that mean a lot to me; that I'm quite fond of ~ proud of, even.  But I gotta tell ya, I'm not inviting any strangers in to view them.   So I'm amazed at the outgoing personality necessary to decide to do this.  Especially every night during the Christmas season. 

I'm so glad for all differences that God created between you and me.  It's the variety of gifts and passions and interests and energies in the world that makes us all able to be a blessing to one another.   I don't think I'm ever going to have what it takes to be that open and welcoming with strangers.  But I might be someone who blesses Andrew in some other way.  Or maybe I'm able to bless someone who blesses someone who blesses Andrew.  Well, you know what I mean.

God's got it all figured out.  Just do your thing, for someone else, and God will pass it along!  :)

~ "We have different gifts, 
according to the grace given to each of us" ~
Romans 12:6

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry, Holy, Sacred Christmas

"mighty God, everlasting Father, 
Prince of Peace"

"the angel Gabriel was sent from God
unto a city of Galilee"

"Hail, thou that art highly favored, 
the Lord is with thee"

"Thou shalt bring forth a Son, 
and shalt call His name Jesus"

"Of His kingdom there shall be no end"

"the government shall be upon His shoulder"

"Let it be unto me according to thy word"

"Wonderful, Counselor"

"My soul magnifies the Lord"

"Joseph went up to the city of Bethlehem, 
with Mary"

"her firstborn Son, 
wrapped in swaddling clothes 
and laid in a manger"

"shepherds abiding in the field, 
keeping watch over their flock by night"

"and He shall reign for ever and ever!"

"the glory of the Lord 
shone round about them"

"unto us, a Son is given"

"good tidings of great joy, to all people"

"when the saw the star, they rejoiced
with exceeding great joy"

"gold, frankincense and myrrh"

"Word became flesh and dwelt among us"

"the Sun of Righteousness shall arise"

"the people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light"

"Glory to God in the highest!"

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The wait is over

"they shall call His name Emmanuel"
Matthew 1:23


And waiting.

And waiting...

Christmas is now right around the corner.  While we have to do a little grocery shopping for our Christmas Eve dinner, and a little tidying of the house, we are ready.  I am praising God for a Christmas season where I have felt truly able to think about the idea of Jesus deigning to become a helpless baby ~ the first sacrifice of many He would make for us.   But today, with all the the "must do's" done, we had a tranquil day.  The Apple of my Eye was off of work and our home had an unusual feeling of relaxation.  I was glad to not have a list of things to do, but it made for a rather odd-feeling day.  We all had a feeling of restlessness.

I think it's because today had a feeling of waiting.  We are "ready" for Christmas, but it's not time yet.  So we wait until Christmas Eve, for a special dinner and church service, and we wait for Christmas Day for the special foods and traditions of that day.   We wait to give the presents we have chosen, and to receive the presents that have been chosen for us; we wait for family to arrive to spend a few days. 

About two thousand years ago, there was waiting.  Jesus' mother Mary had grown to be very "great with child" and it was almost time.  She was making her way to Bethlehem, waiting to become a mother, and waiting for the Messiah. 

Mary, of course, was not the only one waiting for the Messiah.  Since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind had needed salvation, and with Jesus' arrival on earth, that salvation was only 33 years away. 

Now, because of His resurrection from the dead, which could only happen if He died, which could only happen if He was born a Man ~ now salvation is in our reach.   Salvation is only faith away.   And now, for that, we don't have to wait.

I know a lot of you reading this know that wonderful truth already.  I just hope you'll join me in wonderful blissful appreciation of not having to wait for what is truly the best gift of all.

 ~ "She shall bring forth a Son... 
and He shall save His people from their sins" ~
Matthew 1:21

Friday, December 23, 2011

People who love people

"If we love one another, 
God abides in us, 
and His love has been perfected in us"
1 John 4:11-12

I went to a funeral today, for a distant cousin.  I think.  I have a pretty big extended family, and it's hard to remember exactly how I'm related to everyone I'm related to.  So if I see them at get-togethers, or exchange emails or phone calls with them, they're cousins.  If I only see them at the annual reunion and at funerals, then they are "distant" cousins.  So this was a distant cousin. 

I think he was about in his fifties, but I'm not sure.  I saw him seldom, and when I did, we didn't really talk.  He was mentally disabled, although that wouldn't necessarily have stopped me from having a conversation with him ( I have two other semi-distant cousins who are also mentally disabled, and I have no trouble talking to them.)  I just never had much opportunity. 

But I was struck by something that was said at his funeral today.  His mother, sister and one of his brothers was there (his father died only a matter of months ago) and during the eulogy, the speaker thanked the people at the home where my cousin had lived for much of his life.  It was a place dedicated to helping mentally disabled adults to live as full as life as possible ~ education, possibly a job, activities, hobbies, etc. 

I thought about all the people at that home ~ employees and volunteers ~ who had served to make my cousin's life all that it could be, and I thought about what that must have meant to his parents.  Three of their four children were born disabled, so they must have relied heavily on all the resources possible to help them raise them.   And I thought, "how do you express the level of appreciation you must feel towards those who help you with your children?"  I mean, I greatly appreciate all the coaches and teachers my kids have had through the years, but that's not much compared to what's necessary to help in a family with three disabled children. 

The fact is, God has put a circle of love and support around each of His children.  He doesn't need help, like my great-aunt and uncle probably did, but He has given us the gift of loving and serving each other.  Teaching, guiding, lifting, loving, supporting.... how many people are there who have helped you become who you are?  And who does He have in your life to grow you further?  And in whose life has He placed you, to make a positive impact?

God gives many gifts to each of us, and many of those gifts, are people.

~ "Share one another's burdens, 
and so fulfill the law of Christ" ~
Galatians 6:2

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walk this way. Or that way.

"walk humbly with your God"
Micah 6:8

My Awesome Girl went to a Christmas party the other night.  Her friend lives a few towns south of us, in a beautiful area that's a little more rural than our home.  Plus, it's a gated community, so the only cars in there have a reason to be there.

I got there a little early to pick up my girl, so I decided to drive around the community looking at the Christmas lights.  Every street ends in a cul-de-sac, so there was no chance of my getting lost (although, if anyone could get lost on a cul-de-sac, it's moi...)

So I drove slowly, enjoying the Christmas music on my ipod, and appreciating all the beautiful lights, and as I approached the end of one street, I saw something in the driveway of the house directly ahead of me.  At first I thought it was a cat, but then it moved, and it didn't move like a cat.  I've seen raccoons before, and it wasn't that big.  I've seen opossums before, but its tail was too big for that.  All the while, I was driving slowly closer and closer, until I realized it was a skunk!  I'd never seen one before.  It was so beautiful, with the striking contrast of black and white, and for some reason, I thought it was stunning to see that white stripe go aaaall the way down its tail.  And its fur looked so deep and rich; not silky, but thick.  Like you'd want to dig your fingers into it, if it were something other than a skunk...  It walked to the left about ten feet, in my headlights the whole time, and then it decided it wanted to go the other way, so it turned around and did a sort of running/loping thing, about twenty feet to the right, then under a fence where I couldn't see it anymore.

After I drove out of that cul-de-sac, and into another one, looking at more lights, I came upon a grassy patch where a few rabbits were silflaying.  (If you've never read the book Watership Down, then you'll need to know that means the rabbits were above ground, eating.  Oh, and go read Watership Down.)

The rabbits continued silflaying for a few minutes, even with my headlights on them, and I slowly inched my car forward, to watch them, but it didn't take long before one of them was spooked, and one by one, they all took off, lolloping away into the bushes.  Although I'm always sad when a rabbit gets tired of me watching it, I love watching them hop away, their little white tails betraying them as they try to hide.  I wonder if they know that they are less hidden when they're running than they are if they just sit.  Might be some instinctual knowledge going on there, eh?

I started thinking how differently the skunk walked, compared to the rabbits.  And how neither of them resembled the way, say, my cat walks.  There are a lot of animals who look similar, but their walks are nothing alike.  Compare the light, tripping walk of a doe, with the heavy plodding of a moose.

Here's the spiritual lesson:  God wants us to walk with Him, but there are a lot of ways to do that.  While we all are expected to follow the same commandments, no two walks are alike.  The way I pray, the way you like to worship, whether we read the Bible first thing in the morning, last thing at night, or both, or some other time.   Whether your church offers communion once a week, once a month, or on special days.... when and how you fast... how loud the musicians play at your church... There's a lot of room for judging one another when we focus on our differences.  But as long as we're walking with Him, He can make the changes He desires, in His timing. 

Walking with Him will have us walking alongside others.  But our focus needs to be on Him.

~ "I am the light of the world.  
He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, 
but have the light of life." ~
John 8:12

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Joy, Joy, Joy!

"such blessing"
Malachi 3:10

Another celebration of Christmas music today.  I want to share with you my love and appreciation of  "Joy to the World."  This has been one of my favorite Christmas carols since I was a child, because we always went to the midnight Christmas Eve service, and "Joy to the World" was always the song we sang at the very end of the service.  So when I heard the opening chords, I knew I had made it through, sleepy and bored, and now we could drive home, get into warm jammies, drink hot chocolate, and open one present before going to bed.  (Santa Claus always came while we were at church.)

So I want to share a little bit of this song.  But first I want to tell you that this hymn was written by Isaac Watts, but really, I'm only sharing that so I can tell you that the music was written by George Frederic Handel, because I never knew that before, and I thought it was interesting.

Last Christmas, at the Christmas Eve service, we sang this song, that I have sung maybe a hundred times over the course of my life.... and I was drawn to the unusual wording in the last verse:  "He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove, The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love."

Now, "He rules the world with truth and grace," I understand without too much analysis.  But now look at the next part:  "He makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love."  The word "prove" means "to establish as truth" but I love its lesser known definition which is: "to put to trial or test".  Now, when Jesus was in the desert being tempted by the devil, He said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."  Jesus was quoting a passage in Deuteronomy, which referenced an episode in Exodus, and his point to satan was that we are not to doubt, or test, God's position or His sovereignty.  His "God-ness," if you will.

But in Malachi 3, God used the word "test" in a different context.  He accused the people of robbing Him when it came to their tithes and offerings and in verse 10, He said: "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse... and test me now in this... if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it."  While we are not to test the Lord our God, we do test His Word, knowingly and unknowingly, every day.  He promised us eternal life in exchange for faith, and we agreed, thereby challenging Him to fulfill His part of the covenant.  John 16:24 challenges us to ask, and then we shall receive.  God pledges Himself to His creatures in a way they themselves can verify:  "If you obey, I will supply all your needs."

Now, Malachi 3 speaks of tithes and offerings, and not giving God all that He deserves, but I ask you to hear this in terms of your faith in Him.  Consider yourself accused.  You, and I, have been holding back.  Exchanging faith for anxiety; choosing not "the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen," but fear based on what we do see.

These passages are from Deuteronomy 8 and Leviticus 26:

"The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land ~ 
a land with streams and pools of water, 
with deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 
a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, 
pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 
a land where bread will not be scarce 
and you will lack for nothing; 
a land where rocks are iron 
and you can dig copper out of the hills... 
I will send you rain in its season, 
and the ground will yield its crops 
and the trees their fruit.  
Your threshing will continue until grape harvest, 
and the grape harvest will continue until planting, 
and you will eat all the food you want 
and live in safety in your land.  
I will grant you peace in the land, 
and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid.  
I will remove wild beasts from the land, 
and the sword will not pass through your country.  
I will look on you with favor 
and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, 
and I will keep My covenant with you.  
You will still be eating last year's harvest
when you will have to move it out 
to make room for the new.  
I will put my dwelling place among you 
and I will not abhor you.  
I will walk among you and be your God, 
and you will be My people."

And how will you be the recipient of all this?  Faith in His Word.  Belief in His promises.  He challenges to you boldly approach the Throne of Grace, bringing Him your everything.  Entrust Him all your faith, and He will open the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.

Joy to the World, indeed!

~ "In Your presence is the fullness of joy;
at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" ~
Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cupcakes with sprinkles on top

"God saw all that He had made, 
and it was very good"
Genesis 1:31

I had a cupcake the other night.  I'm not really a big fan of cake, including the "cup" kind, but I have a friend at church who is an amazing baker.  The cupcakes are from scratch, and the frosting is from scratch, and they are simply delicious.  She makes different varieties, but my favorite is basic vanilla with cream cheese frosting.  I tell my children these cupcakes are the exception to the no-dessert-before-dinner rule.

She bakes them about once a month, so it's only an occasional treat.  And the other evening when she brought them in, they were decorated for Christmas.  Not a lot; just some red and green sprinkles on top of the frosting.  Simple, but pretty and fun and festive looking.

But then I took a bite, and it occurred to me that the sprinkles really didn't add anything to the flavor.  They really don't have any flavor.   I thought to myself, why are these things even on here?  They're nutritionally useless ~ not really adding or subtracting anything.  I mean, they might be considered junk food, technically, but they're not in enough of an amount to actually be bad for you.

So why were they there?  Well, for the fun of it.  They added a little touch of holiday whimsy to the cupcakes, and from that standpoint, I could certainly appreciate them.  And then I started to think of things that God has given us that seem to serve no purpose, except fun.

Like butterflies.  If they contribute something to the earth, I don't know what it is.  Some animals, you can see their purpose.  Like spiders keeping the insect population in check.  Butterflies just, well, flutter by.  They are beautiful and whimsical and pleasing to the eye.  A gift to us from God.

Or how about flowers?  He didn't need to put them on earth at all, although I supposed they help bees make honey.  But He certainly didn't need to create them so varied and so beautiful.  And what about the variety of colors in birds, or fish.  Ever been snorkeling?  There's an unbelievable array of colors, styles, sizes and characteristics.  Beauty and interest, to please us and intrigue us.  How about fireflies?  How about my silly dog?  She certainly excels in the "adorable" department, while not accomplishing much.  Well, she barks a lot, so she's probably a good watchdog.  But she doesn't do anything like bring me my slippers, or open the fridge and get me a soda.  Or bake cupcakes.  Now that would be useful!

When's the last time you thanked God for sprinkles?  Or cupcakes?  Or butterflies?  I'm convinced He was thinking of us when He put beauty and fun and whimsy on the earth. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go snuggle my dog  :)

~ "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, 
whatever is right, whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable 
- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - 
think about such things" ~
Philippians 4:8

Monday, December 19, 2011

Giving is the gift that keeps on giving

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"
2 Corinthians 9:15

Six days until Christmas.  I know, because my Awesome Girl changed the background on my computer to a Christmas scene that includes a countdown at the top.  It's cute, having that.  There's a whimsical, child-like quality to knowing how many days are left. 

Usually, I approach the calendar during the month of December, with a slight sense of foreboding.  It's like when you're planning a party ~ you're looking forward to the event, but there's so much to do, that you're thinking more about the to-do list than you are about the event itself. 

This year, I'm enjoying the countdown more.  Most of our family will not be in town for Christmas, so a lot of the presents we bought, we had to ship.  That forced us to get our shopping down earlier than usual.  So with the exception of a couple of things for each other, we're all done shopping ~ and shipping.  My Awesome Girl has already done the bulk of the wrapping, and I've been writing cards a few at a time.  I'll do some baking next week, but I'm mostly able to relax.

One person who is not very able to relax, is my Amazing Boy.  He can't seem to get the presents out of his mind, so naturally Christmas is taking forever to get here.  He's always been like that.  When he was little, he used to torture himself by looking at all the presents that we had under the tree ~ even though there were none for him under there yet!  And I remember one Christmas Eve, when we were at my parents house for dinner, and even from the other room he couldn't stand knowing that there were presents out there.... lurking..... hovering.... taunting him...  :) 

So it's no surprise to me that he's thinking and talking a lot about presents this December.  But this year is different ~ this year, his anticipation is all about giving

Over the years, my kids have gotten more involved in the gift-giving part of Christmas.  When they were little, they would draw or make something for me, or for the Apple of my Eye.  The past few years they have wanted to go shopping for each other, or Hubby and me, or maybe a friend or two.   But this year I'm seeing them both so excited about what they're giving.   Amazing Boy has said, almost every day, "I can't wait to give Daddy his present!"  or about his sister:  "She's going to love this!"  It tickles me. 

And I have to imagine that it tickles God, too.  He loves giving gifts.  Every good and perfect comes from Him.  So don't you think that a God who loves giving to His children must love to see His children giving?  And if I'm loving watching my child love to give; how much more must God love to see His child (me) love to see my child (who is also His child) loving to give?  {Go ahead; read it a second time if you need to.  It's a fun sentence!}

Yup.  Christmas gets better every year.  

~ "the love for others 
that the Holy Spirit has given you" ~
Colossians 1:8

Sunday, December 18, 2011

We interrupt this interruption to bring you a complete train of thought...

"I meditate on it all day long"
Psalm 119:97

I'm a mom.  I think I might have mentioned this before.  I have two wonderful, sweet, intelligent, beautiful, Amazing and Awesome children.  We homeschool, so we are together pretty much 100% of our awake time.  My first child was born almost 15 years ago, which means I have not had an uninterrupted thought in almost 15 years...

It's not entirely her fault.  Three years after she was born, her brother was born.  Ever since then, they've been taking turns.  Or sometimes double-teaming me.  Now, please understand this is not a complaint, just an observation.  I love being a stay-at-home mom, and I love being their teacher.  I could never understand moms who couldn't wait for school to start again cuz they couldn't stand having their kids at home.  I love spending time with my kids.  But when they have a question, a problem, a thought, a concern or a complaint, I'm who they come to.  Sometimes it means interrupting a train of thought; sometimes it means interrupting a conversation.  

As they've gotten older, they've tried harder to respect my time.  They knew at a very young age that they shouldn't interrupt me when I was on the phone, unless it was an emergency.  Now, they try to wait until they have eye contact with me before talking.  That way I don't have to say, "Wait ~ I wasn't listening yet.  Go back to the beginning."

And frankly, when I stop to think about it, I realize I'm not much better.   I know I interrupt people in conversation.  I generally feel like I have a good reason, like I have a question to ask that will help me understand better.   But even if you've got a "good" reason, interrupting is interrupting. 

I'm thinking about all of this today, because it's been bothering me lately how fractured my prayer and study time is.  Reading the Bible can be hard because it often requires ~ and always deserves ~ concentration.  Studying it requires even more concentration.  And prayer the most of all.  And I can't even blame my kids for interrupting me; it's my own thoughts that can't stay on Him.  Things I need to do; things I'd like to do; things I should have done... you know how it is.  Scripture talks about "meditating" on His Word all day long, but boy, I just don't know how one would do that.  The closest I can come to that is to just keep bringing my wandering thoughts back to Him. 

Sometimes the interruptions are due to circumstances.  Sometimes the fault is all mine, and my inability to refuse to budge from my chair until I've given Him my time.  My time should be a sacrifice, and it should be ~ say it with me ~ without interruption.  I know it's what He does for me.

~ "the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
and His ears are attentive to their prayer" ~
1 Peter 3:12

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Easter!

"She gave birth to her firstborn, a Son"
Luke 2:7

"Jesus said, 'It is finished.' "
John 19:30

Christmases are like snowflakes, doncha think?  No matter how much they may seem alike, they are each different; unique.

Our circumstances change every year.  One year you might be single; the next one, married.  Maybe you travel some years, and have family come to you other years.  Certainly, if you have children, each year is going to have a different feel as your children grow and change; maybe get married or have children of their own.

But I'm not just talking about Christmas Day itself, but the season.  I'll never forget the two Christmases I was pregnant.  It changed my view of Jesus coming to earth, and made me understand a little of what Mary might have felt.   The Christmases when my Amazing and Awesome kids were young, I could not stop thinking about the incredible helplessness of a baby.  It still awes me, that the King of Kings chose to come to us in such humility and vulnerability.

The year that I studied the Book of Revelation in Bible Study, I felt more aware of His majesty; of the beauty He left in heaven, to become as a Man here on our dark, dirty, polluted, selfish planet.

This year, though, I'm finding it hard to separate the Baby in the manger, from the Man on the cross.  It surprises me to keep finding myself thinking about the crucifixion, during Christmastime.  It's almost incongruous, really.  When I think of the crucifixion, I think about blood and pain and guilt and agony and humiliation.  Jeering and selfishness and thoughtlessness and cruelty. 

Christmas is about a baby, innocence, peace and joy.  A quiet night, a single star; a willing Mary and a courageous Joseph.   Angels and shepherds and wise men. 

But this year, I find myself remembering the end of His earthly life, as well as the beginning.  Because His purpose for coming ~ to be our Redeemer ~ began in that stable.  The crucifixion was not the only time He was thinking of us... was loving us.  He gave of Himself from the very beginning. 

I have been a little puzzled as to why I've been founding myself thinking about the crucifixion during this Christmas season.  But then the other day, I read something that summed up my feelings beautifully, and made me realize I'm exactly where I should be in my thoughts.  I have a wise friend, Robert ~ a fellow blogger (to whom you can link here) ~ who often challenges me to think, which is one of my favorite pastimes.  He was writing about remembering the true reason for celebrating the season, and his musing on Christmas became about Easter, just as my musing has been doing all month.  He summed it up by saying, "for a Christian, every day is Christmas, and every day is Easter." 

Now I ask you, does truth get any more real than that?  I would like to say that my thoughts return to those two events every day, the way they are this season.  Remembering Easter while I'm anticipating Christmas feels like what it should be.  It feels like a deeper, more appropriate appreciation of what He did for me.  All that He did for me. 

Now, if only I can hang on to this feeling in January....

~ "She will give birth to a son...
He will save the people from their sins" ~
Matthew 1:21

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cantique de Noel

"Glory to God in the highest heaven"
Luke 2:14

Truly, one of the best parts of the Christmas season is the music.  For the most part, they are songs I've been singing since I was a child, but every year I find myself singing a song I've sung a hundred times before, but hearing the lyrics in a whole new way.  This year, that "new" old song, is "O Holy Night"

I was particularly struck by these particular lyrics: 
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

"Sweet hymns of joy.... let all within us praise Him..."  Are you singing sweet hymns of joy?  Are you praising Him?

I went online today to look up the lyrics, so I could fully appreciate the wording, as the author intended, and what I found is that the version I am accustomed to, albeit beautiful in its own right, is not the original.

So I wanted to share with you the words of the original poet, Placide Cappeau (1808-1877)
Midnight, Christians, it is the solemn hour,
When God-man descended to us
To erase the stain of original sin
And to end the wrath of His Father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night that gives it a Savior.
People kneel down, wait for your deliverance.
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!
May the ardent light of our Faith
Guide us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Guided the Oriental kings there.
The King of Kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your greatness,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
The Redeemer has overcome every obstacle:
The Earth is free, and Heaven is open.
He sees a brother where there was only a slave,
Love unites those that iron had chained.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude,
For all of us He is born, He suffers and dies.
People stand up! Sing of your deliverance,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer,
Christmas, Christmas, sing of the Redeemer!
 Christmas is not just about the birth of a Baby, born in a manger in a stable.  It is the coming of the Savior, to redeem us from the penalty of our sins.  Sing!  Sing of your Redeemer!  Hallelujah!

~ Good news of great joy to all people!" ~
Luke 2:10

Thursday, December 15, 2011

In praise of teachers

"the student is not above the teacher"
Matthew 10:24

I had lunch with some friends today.  I've known them for years ~ we served in ministry together about ten years ago.  Some of them I still see on a regular basis, but others I only see rarely, and even then only because we've bumped into each other at the mall or something. 

It was fun to catch up with all of them, but one of them in particular I got to have an especially long conversation with.  I drove her home, rather than her husband having to come pick her up at the restaurant.  That drive home was such a blessing to me.  She used to be a teacher of mine, and though she no longer holds that position in an official capacity, I think she will always be that.  It's hard ~ don't you think? ~ to ever feel on equal footing with someone who taught you.  It's rare for a student to surpass a teacher, and even if the ability to excel actually exists, the student is liable to always feel subordinate.  

My friend and I started chatting about our kids, and how life has changed since we last saw each other, but before I knew it, I was sharing some of my struggles and predicaments.  Don't get me wrong ~ my life is awesome and wonderful.  But I wonder what God has for me in the near and distant future.  I wonder how I can be a better wife and a better mother, and how He wants me to use the gifts and skills God has given me, for Him. 

She listened and made some observations, and told me she'd be praying for me ~ and I know she will.  And when I left her, I felt wiser, supported, prayed for, and lifted up.  I felt edified.  I love that word.  It's a magical word that says what no other word says: morally and spiritually built up.  That's the best thing we can do for one another, and that's what she did for me.

I'm grateful today for teachers, guides and mentors.  I'm thankful that He places people in our lives for just that purpose.  And today I'm thinking that the best kind of teacher is one who has known me long and well.  I am privileged to teach in certain areas of my life, but even more privileged to be taught.

~ "learn in quietness and full submission" ~
1 Timothy 2:11

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You're stronger than you think ~ yes, I'm talking to you!

"If you go with me, I will go"
Judges 4:8

I recently had an interesting, and almost painful, intersection of life and Scripture.  I love when that happens.  As a matter of fact, if you've read just a few of these humble blog posts, you'll probably recognize that it's my joy to find illustrations of Scripture in everyday life.  But some days are more obvious than others.  Some days, they seem almost scripted by God.  I find it interesting, although not surprising, that the word "script" and the word "scripture" both have the same root word:  the word "write".  So I'm gonna say that this connection of life and Word was, in fact, written by God.

Here's what happened:  I've been studying the Book of Judges in Bible Study, and had reached chapter 4.  This is the account of the Israelites defeating the Canaanites in battle, while under the judgeship of Deborah.  Deborah, as a prophetess of God, had gone to a man named Barak, and given him God's message:  that God wanted him to lead the battle against Sisera, the commander of the army of King Jabin.  Barak agreed ~ with a twist.  "If you don't go with me, I won't go" he said to Deborah.

This is an amazing response, I think, and it leads many readers to the conclusion that Barak was a coward.  In that culture especially, it's almost pathetic, isn't it, for a man to not want to go to battle unless a woman went with him?  Even worse, maybe, for an Israelite to not want to obey God unless he had a woman at his side.

When I was younger, I saw Barak as fearful, and maybe that's accurate.  But as I study this passage again, I don't think that in a critical way.  Perhaps he was afraid; perhaps he was simply cautious.  Perhaps he saw the leadership qualities that Deborah had, and her faith in God, and he wanted that nearby as he went into battle.  And that's not so wrong, is it?

But I also feel sorry for Barak, because of his fears or doubts.  He had been tapped by God, through Deborah, so he had what he need to accomplish the mission:  the skills, the intelligence, the military know-how...  When God calls you to do something, He gives you what you need to do it.  But Barak didn't see in himself what God, and probably Deborah, saw in him.

And this is where the story comes home for me.  I have a sweet friend, a very close friend, who I believe has this same problem.  She is wise, and gifted in many ways, but also often unsure of herself.  I've seen her so many times hesitant, even in areas where I know that she would excel, and it's painful to me that I can't transfer my confidence in her, to her heart and mind.  Many of us have a tendency to focus on our flaws, or our weaknesses, but that's taking our eyes off of His strength.

I hope that I can be the kind of friend who can open her eyes to the gifts and strengths God has given her.  But if I can't do that, I can do as Deborah did for Barak:  be a support, and a companion.  I can be a good friend who reminds her to keep her eyes on Him.   And I can be ready to accompany her, if that's what she needs ~ whatever it takes for her to enjoy the plans God has for her, and get everything she can out of the battles ahead of her.  What joy it will be if I get to be with her when He gives her victory!

~ "With God we will gain the victory" ~
Psalm 108:13

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let there be colored lights

"Like a rainbow shining"
Ezekiel 1:28

It's first thing in the morning, and it's cloudy out; the rain is on its way.  When I got up this morning, the first thing I did was turn on the Christmas tree lights.  I just love how the colored lights change the whole tone of the room.  Generally, I don't turn on the tree lights during the day; with the sun shining outside, it's just too hard to appreciate them, so I wait until evening.  But this morning, with the wonderful gloom outside, it's just lovely.

I think there are few things more beautiful than colored lights.  They combine two of my favorite things:  color, and light.  It makes me realize that a little darkness makes the light more beautiful.

It also makes me think of heaven.  Three times in Scripture (once in Ezekiel and twice in Revelation), we are told that the radiance of God in heaven compares to a rainbow.  Even better, it's like an emerald.  I've always had trouble understanding that, because how can something be green and rainbow?  But today, I look at my Christmas tree, and I think I understand a little better. 

Can you imagine what it would be like to describe a rainbow to someone who's blind?  The best you could come up with is that it's several colors, and striped.  But you really wouldn't be doing justice to the shimmering iridescence, right?  So it must be with Scripture.  The writers of Ezekiel and Revelation were given the unenviable task of describing to us the unparalleled beauty of God in His heaven.  And although they were inspired by the Holy Spirit as their "ghost" writer (ba dum bum) they were also restricted by words ~ or lack thereof.

Earth ain't heaven.  No two ways about it.  But I'm grateful that His Word tells a little of what we can hope for, and I'm glad He knows how much I appreciate the glimpses He gives us here on earth.

~ "The One sitting on the throne 
was as brilliant as gemstones...
And the glow of an emerald 
circled His throne like a rainbow...
From the throne came flashes of lightning 
and the rumble of thunder.  
In front of the throne
were seven torches with burning flames.   
and a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal" ~
Revelation 4:3-6

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hold fast to Him

"After fasting forty days and forty nights, 
He was hungry"
Matthew 4:1

Ahhhh.... the Christmas season.  The time of the year marked by family and friends... singing and gifts... cookies and eggnog and fast food while shopping....  And you know what I'm thinking about lately?


I have several friends who fast regularly.  Some who fast for a month at a time; others who fast for one day every month.  I know people who fast for a specific prayer request, and people who fast for their health.

The different kinds of fasting are endless.  Fasting from all food and beverages; liquid-only fasts; sugar fasts; sunrise to sundown fasts; I've even heard of people fasting from speaking. 

The variety of methods and reasons for fasting seem to be well-supported in Scripture.  In Ezra we see fasting for a specific goal: "I proclaimed a fast, that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children." (Ezra 8:1)

We also see that Esther fasted for three days and nights before going before the king to plead for the lives of her people, the Jews; and David fasted for the life of his son after his indiscretion with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah. 

Fasting can show our sincerity to God; our repentance.  "Return to me, declares the Lord, with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning."  (Joel 2:12)

But Isaiah warns about the futility of fasting with a heart that is selfish, or only doing it for show.  They are powerful words, "On the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers... quarrels and strife and wickedness... You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high."  Indeed, fasting with the desire for others to see your "righteousness" will accomplish that ~ and nothing else.  "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full."  (Matthew 6:16)

But here are the things that stood out the most to me:  first of all, fasting is not about dieting.  It's not meant to be the antidote to your holiday binging.  If you're unhappy with your weight, then self-control and exercise are what you're looking for. 

Secondly, most of the Scriptural references I found indicate that fasting is meant to be accompanied by something else, like prayer, confession, or mourning.  Clearly it's not meant to be just about your body, and what you are ~ and are not ~ taking in, but about your heart and mind being devoted to Him during that time. 

And thirdly, I believe we don't always choose our times of fasting.  He can give us times of fasting, just as He gives us times of feasting.  When we find ourselves in times of plenty, whether it's food, time or money, He deserves our praise and thanks.  When we find ourselves in times of want, consider that those times might be orchestrated by Him, and make the most of them, spiritually.

~ "Blow the trumpet in Zion, 
declare a holy fast, 
call a sacred assembly" ~
Joel 2:15

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Counting down the shopping days...

"I have not stopped giving thanks for you"
Ephesians 1:16

I did a little Christmas shopping today.  Bought something for my sister-in-law, and something for my brother-in-law.  I also bought a little gift for a friend of mine, and something for the Apple of my Eye.  It's a good feeling to have checked a few things off my list, but also to have found the perfect something for someone I love. 

The Christmas season is filled with things to do.  Most of them are good things, like attending parties and putting up favorite decorations around the house.  Some of them are good things that can be difficult, like writing out Christmas cards or paying a slightly higher electric bill due to the lights on the tree and on the house. 

And ~ let's admit it ~ shopping.  I've never been a girl who likes to shop.  When I need something, I want to go in, get what I need, and get out.  I'd rather be home reading, or getting stuff done around the house.  I don't even like going grocery shopping any more than I have to.  So if I didn't have the "deadline" of December 25th, I'd put off Christmas shopping indefinitely. 

And that's a pity.  The truth is, I don't buy presents for people I love because I have to, I buy them because I want to.  Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to show appreciation and friendship to people who are important to me.   But if I weren't "forced" by cultural traditions to buy gifts for friends and family, would I ever take the time to show them love?  Some, yes, but others would surely fall victim to my procrastination. 

Including, unfortunately, the Apple of my Eye.  I see him every day.  Not a day goes by where I don't hug him, give him a kiss, and tell him I love him.  But let's be honest ~ the kids get more of my attention.  They need my help, my discipline and my teaching, and he doesn't.  Much.  :)   And he's not the only one.  My parents, my sisters, my in-laws... sometimes, we need a reason to tell our families how much we appreciate them, or to tell our friends how glad we are that God put them in our lives.  So praise God for deadlines, that force us to get certain things done. 

And what about God?  Christmas is about Him, but we know He can get lost in the busyness and traditions.  I'm so glad that there are reminders everywhere about celebrating Him.  The songs and nativity scenes keep me focused on Him, and remind me to thank Him, and appreciate Him ~ what He did for us, and what He does for us.  Otherwise, who knows how long I'd put it off! 

~ "Every day I will praise You" ~
Psalm 145:2

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Does this mean I'm the bologna?

"Like mother, like daughter"
Ezekiel 16:44

Happy Circumstance #1:  A few weeks ago, I got an email-invitation from a friend of mine.  She and her grown daughter were planning an event, and she was inviting me to join them.   A couple of hours later, I got another invite to the same event ~ from my friend's daughter.  She and I do some volunteer work together, so we're good friends.  I was tickled by the fact that I'm friends enough with both of them to be invited by them independently!

Happy Circumstance #2:  On Halloween, I took my Amazing Boy trick-or-treating in my parents' neighborhood.  I like to do that because then we can pop in on my folks, and sit down and rest a little while we visit them.  Use the "necessary room" if it's necessary, get a glass of water, etc.  And after we left their house, we popped in on a friend of theirs.  She's one of my mom's best friends, and her husband died this year, so I thought I'd check to see how she's doing, ask about her grandkids, etc.  It was a very nice visit.

I've heard the term "Sandwich Generation" used to describe those who care for their parents while still raising their own children, but I think this term might apply to me, too.  I'm not caring for my parents; they are still healthy, youngish, and independent, but I do feel a wonderful sense of being "sandwiched" in-between generations.  I'm friends with my friends, I'm friends with my daughter's friends, and I'm friends with my mom's friends.

Wisdom, laughter, energy, creativity, camaraderie, and fun.  Not to mention wonderful, interesting similarities and differences between generations.  I am so, so blessed.

~ "Your faithfulness endures to all generations" ~
Psalm 119:90

Friday, December 9, 2011

Waiting my turn

"As we have opportunity, let us do good"
Galatians 6:10

I have a new friend.  She and her family just started going to our church.  My Awesome Girl actually knows her daughter; they have a homeschool class together.  I never would have recognized them when they came to church, but my daughter thought their daughter looked familiar, so she introduced herself.  Sure enough, they'd seen each other at class. 

Immediately upon meeting me, the mother suggested carpooling to class, and since they have to drive past our house, she just offered to pick up my girl on the way.  I still have to pick my daughter up, because they don't come straight home, but it saves me (and my Amazing Boy) from having to sit in the car all through the class.  I thought it was so nice of her to offer, especially when there's really nothing I can do in return.  Because they stay late, I can't even offer to bring the girls home. 

Today, the mom called to make arrangements for this week.  They don't have their second class this week, so she offered to take the girls to and from their class.  Again, it doesn't make any sense for me to do the driving, because the mom has something else she needs to do in the area, so she's going to do that while the girls are in class. 

I've known this person only a couple weeks, and she just keeps blessing me.  It's Christmastime, and my to-do list is longer than usual, and she is giving me the gift of time.  And the time our girls are spending together is giving my girl another friend, which is a wonderful gift at her age.

This verse is very personal to me today.  I haven't yet had the opportunity to do good for this new friend of mine.  I know God will give me the occasion to be a blessing to her.  I pray I'll recognize that chance when it comes!

~ "Serve one another in love" ~
Galatians 5:13

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sing, Sing, Sing

"let me sing to my Well-beloved"
Isaiah 5:1

Okay, this only works in the New King James version, so if your version says something else, (like "now I will sing") sorry about that.  But, this is one of those posts that is about what I thought of when I read a line in Scripture, so it's the inspiration that matters.   :)

I read this line today, and was very intrigued by the phrasing.  The singing in question is praising the Lord, but why say, "let me sing"?   "Let me" sounds like asking permission, or wanting to, and not being able to.  And that made me think, what if we wanted to praise Him, but couldn't

There is agony in desperately wanting to do something, and not being able to.  So what would be the reasons for someone not be able to do something they really want to?  Maybe needing permission to, and not getting it.  Or not having the necessary equipment or tools for whatever you wanted to do.  Or simply not having the ability.

So how does that apply to praising God?

I read a few years ago about a woman who is a quadriplegic, and therefore, unable to kneel when she prays.  She looks forward to being in heaven, in a glorified body, and being able to kneel before God, since it's something she cannot do on earth.

I also thought about Helen Keller.  Someone without the ability to speak also does not have the ability to sing.  Of course an attempt to verbally communicate, by someone who essentially can't, would still be thoroughly appreciated by God, but it still might be frustrating not to be able to sing praises to Him the way you want to.

I suppose it could be the case that someone might fear to praise Him because of embarrassment in front of others, or an inability to admit His worthiness to be praised, which means acknowledging one's own humility or vulnerability.

So.... Do you have what it takes to sing praises to Him?  Do you have the capacity for understanding that He is worthy of appreciation?  Do you have His permission?  (I'll give you hint:  He wrote in His Word, "Sing the praises of the Lord, you His faithful people; praise His holy name."  So, yes, you do have His permission.)

So, if you're not singing His praises, why aren't you??

~ "The whole crowd of disciples
began joyfully to praise God in loud voices: 
'Blessed is the King 
who comes in the name of the Lord!  
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' 
But some of the Pharisees in the crowd 
said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!'  
But He replied, 'I tell you, if they keep quiet, 
the rocks themselves will cry out.' " ~
Luke 19:38-40

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

If it's broke, fix it!

"then they got rid 
of the foreign gods among them"
Judges 10:15

Emphasis on "then".  There's a lesson here, and it's all about timing. 

The Israelites ~ again ~ did evil in the eyes of the Lord.  They served the Baals, and the Ashtoreths and gods of Aram and Sidon and Moab and Ammon and the Philistines... man, there's just no end to the number of gods these Israelites would serve, is there?

So the Lord gave them over to the Philistines.  And the Israelites were in distress, so they cried out to the Lord, "We have sinned against you, forsaking you and serving the Baals!"

God's response is surprising.  Unusual.  He refused.  "I have saved you repeatedly.  But you have forsaken Me.  Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen.  Let them save you!"

The Israelites begged.  "We have sinned.  Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now!"

And then, they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. 

And He saw the sincerity He was looking for, and rescued them. 

They saw their error, and yet they asked for God's help without doing anything to rectify the problem??  I'd really like to mock them mercilessly, except I'm pretty sure I'm guilty of the same thing. 

Darn it. 

Note to self:  Confess and repent of my sins.  It will make me more credible when I ask God for His help.

~ "Repent, then, and turn to God, 
so that your sins may be wiped out, 
that times of refreshing may come 
from the Lord" ~
Acts 3:19

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lessons from a worm

"Tola, the son of Puah, the son of Dodo"
Judges 10:1

I've been doing some research in the Book of Judges lately, and came upon something interesting I thought you might enjoy.  It's about a judge named Tola.  

Tola served as a judge for twenty-three years, but gets only a couple of verses in Scripture.  But with a little digging, there's a great lesson to learn from him.

The name “Tola” means “worm” – charming, isn’t that?  His father’s name, Puah, means “splendid”.  And his grandfather’s name, Dodo, means “beloved one”.  Tola, they name “worm”... nice...

But it gets even ickier – and yet more beautiful.  The worm called the tola worm is also called the crimson worm.  In Biblical times, people would grind this worm up into a blood-red paste that would they would use to dye cloth.  It’s still icky, right?  Okay, but that same word “tola” is also used in Psalm 22:6, when David spoke as Jesus:  “I am a worm.”  I always thought this meant that He was treated as such by those He came to save, and it does mean that, as evidenced by the context of the psalm, but there’s more to it than that.  You see, the tola worm is unique for how it gives birth.  It attaches itself to the trunk of a tree, and lays its eggs, covering them with its body.  The eggs are protected by the body until they hatch but when they do, the worm does not budge.  It's there for life ~ literally.  The body of the worm becomes the food of the newly-hatched larvae.   

Now here's the really interesting part:  After giving its life for its young, the dead worm falls from the tree, its blood leaving a stain behind.  But after three days, that stain dries, leaving a white, flaky substance that falls to the ground like snow.

Isn't that a disgusting, beautiful example of Jesus giving His life for us?  He attached Himself to a tree to die, that we might live; that our sins, which were as scarlet, would be white as snow. 

Tola the Judge... tola, the worm... Jesus, our Judge, who called Himself a worm.  Though we don't learn much about Tola, I'm grateful that he is mentioned in Scripture, and for a renewed appreciation for the lessons of God's love that we find in nature.

~ " 'I am a worm.... a reproach of men,
despised by the people...'
All the ends of the world shall remember
and turn to the Lord
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before You" ~
Psalm 22:6,27