Archive: December 2011

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The End; The Beginning


by Charlotte

*sigh*  Can you believe 2011 is almost over?  Looking back it zoomed by at lightening speed.  I have to remind myself of the days that ticked by slowly, of individual moments, and of individual smiles, laughs, giggles, sighs, tears, heartaches, and leaps.  Then and only then does it seem I lived a whole year in the 365 days that were given to me.  And they are a gift.  From the creator to me.
 

*happy grin* The new year is almost here; can you believe it?  A chance to give ourselves the grace to try something again.  A chance to see what will come our way.  Will it be a year of joy?  Or will there be some unexpected heartbreak?  Or maybe a heartbreak that you know is coming, you just aren’t sure of the timing.  That was how we welcomed 2010 – knowing that my Father-in-law’s life was coming to an end, we just didn’t know when or what the road would look like on the journey.  I am blessed this year that no such knowledge is mine.  If there is heartbreak, it will be the unexpected kind.  And the strange thing is that I am not afraid.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like heart break, but I am no longer afraid of it.  I will still avoid it if I can, but there is no fear.  So come on, 2012, I am ready for you.

I started this year with the idea of moving my feet.  How did that go for me?  Pretty good.  I didn’t reach my fitness goal, but that is okay because I will just keep it and hopefully reach it by the end of 2012.  My house lost a lot of baggage – extra “stuff” that was weighing me down.  I smile at the thought of this because the more “stuff” left, the more “stuff” I realized still need to go.  I am better at doing dishes; not perfect, but it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.  I still don’t get meals planned.  I still yell at the kids to pick up their coats, although a lot less often than I used to.  I didn’t expect perfection when I started 2011 so I am not disappointed that I haven’t reached it, but instead I am pleased.  2011 was a great year for me.  I loved it.  I was blessed in it.  And I am glad I had the chance to live it, but I am excited for a new year to begin.  I am excited for the natural second chance a new year gives a person.

This coming year I want to focus on a different area, the area of my heart.  Once my feet got moving I noticed there were some sticky spots.  Attitudes that kept popping up and causing me to stumble repeatedly.  Those are the areas I want to take before the Lord in prayer.  Areas like feeling it is my right to respond to people in anything but love.  My response to how people treat me is my responsibility.  I cannot change the other people, but I can change how I respond to them.  I want the idea that I am not my own to sink way down deep into my soul.  To penetrate my very being until I no longer think of my rights at all.  I am not my own, I was bought with a price.  I have no rights,  the One that purchased me – it is His responsibility to care for me.  If it is okay with Him that situations arise, then I want to trust Him and His wisdom in that.  I was bought with a price.  And it wasn’t a cheap price.  It was more than I would pay for me.

Yes, I am looking forward to 2012 even though I throughly enjoyed 2011.  One must end in order for the other to begin.  I’m ready for a new beginning. 

Wishing you all a new year filled with the joy of our Salvation and the abundant life that was promised us.


Cream Rises 16


posted by Donna

(Continuation of a series taken from the Book of Psalms, which for me, like cream, rises to the top.)

Psalm 116:12

How can I repay the Lord all the good He has done for me?

How indeed?

I cannot.

My best attempts are as filthy rags.

My best behavior still falls short.

My most sincere sentiments, my cleanest thoughts, my deepest meditations, all pale in the light of His glory.

Why?

Take one chunk of time in your day.  Say, for example, you are helping a needy person.  You are providing a service for them with your best intentions, good attitude, expecting nothing in return, sharing your wealth, not in pride but in sincere expression of giving. It’s a good thing. Now look deeper.  That isolated act may be of heavenly value. But what of your unforgiving thoughts towards another earlier that day ?  Or later that week when you failed to thank God for a blessing? Or you chewed out a driver for cutting you off as you drove 10 miles over the speed limit, or 2?

In my experience, I’ve found that I can have isolated incidents of goodness and kindness but I can’t keep it up.  Certainly not for as long as Jesus did. We are fooling ourselves if we think Jesus’ life was any easier, any less stressful than our own.  Bitterness and resentment threatened Him every day like it does us:  ”I’m not taking the water jugs down to the well.  You take them.  I did it yesterday. You always make me do all the hard work.  Mom, tell James to go fetch the water today.  He’s so lazy and I’m so tired.”

Little white lies and stealing would’ve been an easy out for Him, too: “Mom and Dad, I left the caravan and came back to the temple because I left my favorite yarmulke here.  Ya, this one. Oops, you’re right, it does belong to John.”

Unforgiveness could have overtaken Him: “Nathaniel, come here, you’re next. Take off your sandals and sit with Me. Doesn’t that water feel so good on your tired feet? Oh, Judas, you want your feet washed too?”

No, Jesus didn’t have a pressure-free life. He was tempted in all ways, in all things. But He sinned not.  These conversations are hypothetical. They never happened. They weren’t even a thought. God was (and is) good and because Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30), Jesus was (and is) good, too.  Not once in a while. Not isolated instances couched by failure or weakness or downright mal-intent.  Just good.

That’s why Their Word tells us to strive to be like Them.  Made in Their image (Gen 1:26, Eph 4:24).  What image is that?  Jesus said it: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)  Perfect? Me?  How can I repay the Lord all the good He has done for me?  By being perfect?

“Lord, You know all things.  You know all that is in my heart.  I know You are great and greatly to be praised (Psalm 8:1). I want to know more of what is in Your heart.  My prayer today is that You would reveal Yourself more and more and that my eyes would be open to receive.

In all things, whatever You want, I want, too. You want me to be perfect? I trust You to perfect me. And thank You that Your love for me is not performance-based.  You did all the work to reconcile us. I don’t have to repay You for all the good You have done for me.  I am grateful to enjoy all the benefits You bring to our relationship. You are a good God”

Cream Rises 16


These Two


By Charlotte

A fair more than thirty years ago, my mom-in-law was in the hospital giving a regular birth to the man that is now my husband.

(I don’t usually carry on about my man here, but I love this photo of him.  I think he is the most handsome of men.)

Six years ago Christmas was on a Sunday.  You might be wondering why I remember this.  Well, I will tell you.  Because on Monday six years ago the hospital was staffed only with holiday staff as it was the “official” Christmas holiday and I was in the hospital taking a stress test.  Which my daughter failed.  Which led to other tests.  Which led to other failures.  Which led to the decision to admit me to the hopital and schedule a C-section in the morning when the hospital would again be at full staff.

So on Tuesday, December 27 my daughter became my husband’s birthday present.  Just like she has been every year since.

 

 

 


God’s Gifts – His One and Only


posted by Donna

Open this gift last but don’t overlook it:

Everyone knows the story of the 3 wise men, don’t’ they?

Except nowhere does it tell us there were 3.

Scripture might imply that because “wise men from the East arrived

unexpectedly in Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1) bearing gold and frankincense and myrrh.

“We 3 kings of Orient” fit what we envisioned.

So on that divinely significant night, it may have been 2 or 4 or 10 magi

who sought the Christ child, born King of the Jews.

We don’t know.

We do know they were following a star they’d seen in the East.

“It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the Child was.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed beyond measure.”  (Matthew 2:9,10)

Let me ask you this: When was the last time you were “overjoyed beyond measure”?

 

Grown men, 2 or 3 or more of them traveling a very great distance, following a star which guided them to the greatest gift of all.  These men knew that their gifts paled in comparison to that which evoked joy “beyond measure.” Because “entering the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother and falling to their knees, they worshiped Him”.  (Matthew 2:11)

They knew.

They knew.

What wise men!

And what wise men and women and boys and girls who still seek Him.

For the greatest gift of all was wrapped in swaddling clothes

and lying in a manger.

Truly Jesus was the Son the God and the Savior of the world.

 

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

 

The most beautifully wrapped gift of them all: Merry CHRISTmas!

P.S. from a Christmas card:   **JESUS is the gift that perfectly fits the size of every HEART. **


God’s Gifts – His Forgiveness


posted by Donna

 

Please open this gift now:

Remember the mention of wrapping paper with designs on both sides?

Picture this next gift wrapped all in black. Even black ribbon and tag.

Black represents darkness, darkness represents sin.  Surely God would not give us a gift wrapped in black, would He?

 

There’s no black wrapping paper in God’s repertoire. But there is sin in the human world.

And I’m not just talking about the Ten Commandments.

Do not murder.

Do not commit adultery.

Do not steal.

Do not covet.

Exodus 20:13, 14, 15, 17

Yes, those all come wrapped in darkness posing as gifts.

But that’s the short list.  Here are a few more covered in black:

All bitterness, anger and wrath, insult and slander

must be removed from you, along with all wickedness.

Ephesians 4:31

And if you still somehow don’t think you deserve the label “sinner”,

here’s what John, an old friend of Jesus, said,

“If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves,

and the truth is not in us.”
1 John 1:8

So where’s the gift in all this, you ask?

 

Tear the black paper off and reveal the other side.

It’s white….whiter than snow:

If we confess our sins,

He (Jesus) is faithful and just

to forgive us our sins

and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

 

Do you see the immeasurable value of this gift?

If we confess, He is faithful.

He forgives ALL!

We can claim this promise (by confessing)

as our gift from Him (He is faithful to forgive all.).

Then you know what He does?

He removes our sin from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)

And He remembers it no more.

How far away is that?

You can’t get there from here.


God’s Gifts – His Holy Spirit


posted by Donna

Now open this gift:

This gift is an antique.  It first surfaced in the prophet Isaiah’s time but Jesus repackaged it and presented it with His own addition.  2800 years ago, Isaiah prophesied:

The Spirit of the Lord God is on Me,

because the Lord has anointed Me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and freedom to the prisoners to proclaim the year of the Lord.

Isaiah 61:1

Isaiah spoke for Jesus. God gave Jesus His Spirit so that Jesus could give to the poor and the brokenhearted and the captive and the prisoners.  Do you fit into one of those categories?

I know I do. Often. Every one of them at one time or another.

Don’t think you’re a prisoner? Not all prisoners commit crimes, you know. Diseases imprison people; so do jobs and prejudice and unforgiveness.  Among other things.

And the pleasures of this world hold us captive.

In your hour of need, wouldn’t healing be a gift?

Wouldn’t freedom and good news be likewise?

 

Well, in case you don’t believe Isaiah, Jesus Himself made it oh so clear.  “He came to Nazareth where He had been brought up.  As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written” what you read above.  Luke 4:16, 17

 

“He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.  And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him.” And here’s where you get to open the gift:

Jesus said, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”  Luke 4:20, 21

 

What a generous God we have who anoints Himself to fulfill His prophecy and in the power of His own Spirit meets His creation at their every point of need.

The Father, the Son, the Spirit, at your service.

A priceless old truth.

Spend some time enjoying this gift from the Ancient of Days who was and is and is to come.

 


God’s Gifts – His Love


posted by Donna

Next open this gift:

26 words

26 words wrapped in a most unassuming package.

To look at it you’d never guess its profound significance.

Yet Jesus originally presented this gift to a religious leader who came to see Him late one night.  The man, Nicodemus, approached Jesus, thinking himself pretty smart, spiritually savvy, intellectually advanced.  Jesus knew this fellow desperately needed those 26 words.  So after Nicodemus floundered around trying to make sense of what it means to be reborn (“Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again.”), born of God in spirit and in truth, Jesus handed him the plainly wrapped gift.

No fanfare.  No pomp.  No frills.  Just the gift.

To Nic’s credit, he would one day come to realize its tremendous value and he kept that gift, hopefully sharing it with those God assigned him to lead in his particular community of faith.  Here’s what Nic found when he opened this gift:

For God so loved the world

that He gave His one and only Son

that whosoever believes in Him

shall not perish

but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

O Nicodemus, how blessed you were to receive the gift from the Gift.

And so are we!


God’s Gifts ~ His Grace


posted by Donna

Open this gift next:

The apostle Paul tells us about an interesting gift.

Don’t know who Paul is?

Let me have him tell you in his own words.

 

Are they Hebrews?  So am I.

Are they Israelites?  So am I.

Are they seed of Abraham?  So am I.

Are they servants of Christ?

I’m talking like a madman –

I’m a better one:

with far more labors,

many more imprisonments,

far worse beatings,

near death many times.

Five times I received from the Jews

40 lashes minus one.

three times I was beaten with rods.

Once I was stoned.

Three times I was shipwrecked.

I have spent a night and a day

in the depths of the sea.

On frequent journeys

I faced dangers from rivers,

dangers from robbers,

dangers from my own people,

dangers from the Gentiles,

dangers in the city,

dangers in the open country,

dangers on the sea,

and dangers among false brothers;

labor and hardship,

many sleepless nights,

hunger and thirst,

often without food, cold,

and lacking clothing.

2 Corinthians 11:22-27

 

This guy would know a gift when he saw one.

Any man who endures what Paul did would cherish a gift

and give credit where credit was due.

In all his life experiences,

he had reason to examine what he believed

and reflect on why he did what he did.

What made it possible for him to suffer all those things?

Yes, Paul grabbed onto this gift with both hands.

He was the grateful recipient but he credited the Gift Giver.

What was this unique gift?

Grace.

Here’s how Paul tells us it’s wrapped:

 

For by grace you have been saved

through faith,

and this is not from yourselves;

It is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8,9

I’m thinking Paul learned much through his adversities but he couldn’t’ve done any of it without this gift from God.  Paul wasn’t bragging that he’d endured all those terrible things and “Look how great I am”.  He knew God’s grace (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense) carried him through. He says many other times he can only boast in the name of Jesus, He knew he couldn’t earn grace or deserve grace or work for grace. Nor could he buy it or trade for it. It was not of his doing.  He knew a gift when he saw one.

From the hands of God.


God’s Gifts – His Peace


posted by Donna

{This is a short series of Christmas musings.}

Which Gift Will You Open First?

 

Have you ever taken the time to notice the individuality of wrapped Christmas gifts?

In wrapping paper we only see this one time of year.

Some are elegant with designs on both sides of the paper.

Perhaps they are meticulously wrapped, each edge and corner carefully placed.

My Mom is a great gift wrapper and one year, on all our gifts,

there was not a single edge of tape showing.

Quite professional-looking.

Some wrapping paper is artwork – with colors and embossing and elaborate scenes that make you want to study it a long time before the first tear.

Some paper is just plain fun and evokes a chuckle like Disney paper.

Others are beautiful, holding your eye to savor its delight.

Still others, well, there’s just no explaining your attraction.

You just like the way they look.

And how about gifts wrapped by children?

Those are special.

I remember the first year our daughters began helping to wrap.

They needed the arms of an octopus to coordinate cutting the paper, folding the paper, holding the paper, taping it, and doing this numerous times.

I wanted desperately to reach over and take it from them

so I could do it myself in a tenth of the time.

But I resisted.

And these child-wrapped gifts under our tree were some of the most special.

Wrapped with earnestness and innocence and love.

So as we enter this season of gift giving,

observe the appearance of wrapped gifts and say a prayer

for the hands of the one who caringly (or not) wrapped it

(yes, including yourself).

Then look again,

There are many unopened presents in your possession

from the Christmas Child Birthday Boy Himself.

 

 

Open this one first:

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.

I do not give to you as the world gives.

Let not your heart be troubled nor afraid.  (John 1:27)

 

Ah, now this is a very useable gift.  In fact, with each passing day, we could all use more peace.  And Jesus gives it to you.  He left it for you.

So everyone who opens this gift can completely forget about being troubled or afraid.

Really?

That’s His promise. That’s His gift.

Kids sick again?  Claim His peace.

Hard time juggling the checkbook and the expenses?  Add up His peace.

Watching the national news, all bad, all sad?

His peace is not as the world gives.

Read the verse again:

Peace I leave with you.

My peace I give to you.

Are you responsible for coming up with this peace?

No, actually He provides.

He gives it to you.

Hmmm, does that mean you must be in His presence to receive it?

How can I do that, you ask? Jesus lived 2000 years ago.

True, but now He can live in your heart.

IF He’s invited and He never turns down an invitation.

Still wondering how?

He lived for 33 years and towards the end of His young life,

He spoke these words about peace

because He knew He wouldn’t be on earth much longer.

He wanted you to remember what He said after He died on the cross

and after He conquered the grave and lived again.

When those early disciples saw what Jesus had done,

defied death, and sent the Holy Spirit (another great gift to mankind),

they finally understood that Jesus does not give as the world gives.

The world’s gifts might come wrapped in appealing packages

but many of them end up in yard sales or closets.

No, Jesus’ gift of peace begins in your heart where He wants to reside.

And He promises, if you will but accept and open His gift,

even in the midst of trials and troubles,

your heart will not be fearful or discouraged.

There will be peace.

 

So go ahead, reach your open, upturned hands out to take the gift.

It’s yours.


Border Collie


posted by Chelsea

I once heard a joke, one I want to tell you this morning.  Here goes….

You need to change a lightbulb and you ask three different types of dogs to help you.

First, you ask a Golden Retriever.  He wiggles, hangs his tongue out the side of his mouth, and wags his tail and says, “Yeah! Yeah! I’ll help you change a lightbulb!  I LOVE changing lightbulbs! And I LOVE you!”

Next, you ask a Bulldog.  He stares at you and says “Change your own lightbulb.  Do I look like I’m in the mood to change a lightbulb?”

Finally, you ask a Border Collie.  And he says, “Change the lightbulb?! I’ll re-wire the house!!”

We have three “real” Border Collies…

scooter

And we have one child whose personality reminds us of that of a Border Collie…

november 315

This girl does really well with a mission.  She is a great helper; she’s both ambitious and energetic.  When she gets started on a project Lucy is literally a whirlwind of helpfulness.   The harder she works (aka plays) the better she sleeps.  Like our border collies, she excells with praise.  She never stops moving… unless we wear her out completely and she is as aforementioned, sleeping.  She loves to do things with us- Lucy is a busy little do-er.  She’s fun to have around- positive and quite willing.  All of this to say, this morning we get to celebrate all the wonderful qualities of our oldest babe because today our little border collie turns FIVE?!

 

 


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