The Party’s Over – What Now?

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Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of a anticlimax.

But I have to wonder:  If we really understood the true meaning of what we just celebrated – that God Himself came to earth to make things right with us – to restore a right relationship with Him – to bring us His peace – why would we experience such a letdown.

Did we not really “get it?”  The real meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the family gatherings.  It has everything to do with our relationship with this little baby that grew to a man, died and rose again.

Having just celebrated that fact – should not our hearts be filled with joy?

Perhaps the problem is we hear a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas.  What we really need to do is keep Christmas in Christ.  Christmas is only a date on the calendar.  Christ is our source of joy year long.

 

 

Hello to All My WordPress Friends!

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At this time of year I say “Merry Christmas” to all my family and friends who are close by.  For those far away I call, text and send gifts and cards to wish them the best.

But as I have become a follower of many on WordPress and have enjoyed having some follow me, I feel I have gained friends I don’t even know personally.  Reading the posts of many of you has enriched my life – encouraging me, challenging me and sometimes just giving me a much needed laugh.

I have also enjoyed the comments of many of you who follow my blog.

So – to all of you out there in WordPress land, it is my prayer that you have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, or a great Kwanzaa!

The Complete Story of Christmas

Recently I posted about the “real” story of that first Christmas.  How different it was from the beautiful Christmas cards we see where everything is so neat and tidy and there are beams of light coming from Jesus and sometimes even from Mary and Joseph.

The “Real” Story of the First Christmas

Today I wonder if we truly understand the “complete” story of Christmas.

What is the complete story of Christmas?  Is it more than angels appearing to shepherds?  Is it more than wise men from the East bringing gifts?

We read in Philippians of the complete story of Christmas – what it is really all about.

Jesus has always been as God is. But He did not hold to His rights as God.  He put aside everything that belonged to Him and made Himself the same as a servant who is owned by someone. He became human by being born as a man.   After He became a man, He gave up His important place and obeyed by dying on a cross.   Because of this, God lifted Jesus high above everything else. He gave Him a name that is greater than any other name.  So when the name of Jesus is spoken, everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow down before Him.  And every tongue will say Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone will give honor to God the Father.”

The complete Christmas story is summed up in John 3:16:

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.”

The complete story of Christmas is about you.  It’s about how much God loves you.

All about the cross

Right from the beginning God’s love has reached, and from the beginning man has refused to understand.  But God keeps on reaching.  Today, after two thousand years, patiently, lovingly, Christ is reaching out to us.  Right through the chaos of our world, through the confusion of our minds.  He is reaching…longing to share with us…the very being of God.

It’s my prayer this Christmas that you see beyond the baby in the manager to the savior on the cross and the empty tomb.

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy The Moment!

Growing up I often heard my mother say that as you age time flies faster.  I always thought that was silly.  Time is time.  It does not move slower or faster.  A minute is 60 seconds, an hour is 60 minutes.  Same for everyone.

Now that my mother is gone and I am the old lady in the room, I totally understand what she meant.

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As we approach the end of 2019 it is hard for me to believe another year is almost gone.  It seems only yesterday my husband and I put our house in Illinois on the market and took a big step to move to Michigan.  At our age (71 and 79) starting over in a new town, a new state was a little scary.  After our house sold we loaded all our belongings in a truck and headed out for a new adventure.  And here we are already in our second year here.

Come spring I will be 72.  When I look in the mirror and see the old woman with grey hair and wrinkles I often wonder how she got there?  Where is that redhead with the smooth complexion?

My mother was a strong, active woman and I found it hard to keep up with her as a young adult.  The memory of the day I was walking with her and suddenly realized  I needed to slow down so she could keep up with me is still so strong.  Now I see my daughter doing the same with me.

It truly seems time is flying much faster as I approach old age.  (Notice I said approach.  I still refuse to believe I am old.)

Looking at life from the last stage I can say it has been a great ride.  I plan to enjoy these last years to the fullest.

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  • Life, if lived well, is long enough….Seneca
  • Life isn’t a matter of milestones, but of moments….Rose Kennedy
  • The truth about motherhood is that the days drag on but the years fly past…ChildInsider
  • Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind….Nathaniel Hawthorn
  • Yesterday is gone.  Tomorrow has not yet come.  We have only today….Mother Teresa

As we head into the Christmas holidays, enjoy every moment.  Don’t spend time regretting what you may not have, but enjoy what this year, this moment gives you.

 

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What Have You Done For The Least of These?

According to the National Retail Federation, a group that compiles information about consumer spending for major American holidays and events, an estimated 165.3 million people will shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday.

They break the numbers down like this:

  • 39.6 million will shop on Thanksgiving day
  • 114.6 million will shop on Black Friday
  • 66.6 million will shop on Small Business Saturday
  • 33.3 million will shop on Sunday
  • 68.7 million will shop on Cyber Monday

When looking at Black Friday, it appears there are two opposing groups.  There is the group that loves finding bargains or just enjoys the social aspect of hanging with family and friends.  For many in this group it has become a family tradition that they look forward to each year.

The other group thinks anyone who will stand in line for hours or jostle with other shoppers just to get a bargain must be a little crazy.

Before I continue I must confess I belong to the later group.  I have never gone shopping on Black Friday.  In fact, I try to get my Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving and avoid the stores as much as possible from Thanksgiving to Christmas.  Dealing with crowds is just not my idea of fun.

I certainly understand the many who love to shop and who enjoy the social aspect of the day, but I must confess it bothers me a little to see all the money we spent buying more “stuff” when our homes are already full while so many in other countries do not even have clean water to drink.  Or, in our country so many are homeless.

Think of the number of wells that could be dug in Sierre Leone or other countries for the money spend this weekend.  Think of the food that could be donated to food banks here in our inner cities.

I certainly hope I do not come across as a Scrooge trying to take the joy so many get from Christmas shopping.

I just try it might be good when we start writing down our Christmas shopping list to go beyond thinking of our immediate family or circle of friends and look around to see those in need.  Perhaps we could cut down on our own shopping list and help others.

Just a few suggestions:

  • Check out your local food bank or homeless shelter and see what they could use to help the needy this winter.

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  • Check out https://www.worldhope.org/ and donate to help provide clean water or healthcare to those not fortunate enough to be born in the USA.

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  • Check out https://www.compassion.com/ and sponsor a child so that they can go to school and get nourishing food and healthcare they need.

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  • Check out Mariatu’s Hope on Facebook and give clean water to a village or help for a new born.

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Remember Jesus told us:

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Did Mary Know – Do You Know?

There is a popular Christmas song that many love and it gets a lot of air time at the holiday season.  I love it too, especially the line that says “When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God.”

 

 

But I have to ask myself as I listen to this song, do I know.

In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer makes this statement:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”

Another writer, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has written

Our supreme need is to know God.

But, what do we mean by knowing God?

The Old Testament. The Hebrew root yada [[;d”y],translated “know”/”knowledge, ” appears almost 950 times in the Hebrew Bible. It has a wider sweep than our English word “know, ” including perceiving, learning, understanding, willing, performing, and experiencing. To know is not to be intellectually informed about some abstract principle, but to apprehend and experience reality. Knowledge is not the possession of information, but rather its exercise or actualization.

Thus, biblically to know God is not to know about him in an abstract and impersonal manner, but rather to enter into his saving actions ( Micah 6:5 ). To know God is not to struggle philosophically with his eternal essence, but rather to recognize and accept his claims. It is not some mystical contemplation, but dutiful obedience.

Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

The Biblical use of knowing someone implies a relationship.  In Genesis 4:1 we are told that “Adam knew Eve his wife” meaning he had a physical union with her.  Jesus used the word “know” when He spoke of his relationship with His followers.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me (John 10:14)

The Apostle Peter admonishes Christian to

grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, I wonder do we truly “know” Him?  Is He really a part of our everyday life or just someone we visit on Sunday morning? Do we really invite Him to be part of our plans as we work, play, shop?  Better yet, do we invite Him to guide us so that we recognize His plans for us?

Do I know about him or do I know him?

For example, I know about President Trump.  I can tell you he is a wealthy man with a beautiful wife.  He is loved by the political right and hated by the political left.  He is from New York and is a real estate billionaire.

But I do not know him.  If I met him on the street he would not have any idea who I was.  I will never be invited to his family Christmas dinner (not that I would want to).  We have no personal knowledge of each other.

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In thinking how do we come to know Jesus, I think of my own relationship with my husband.  When I first met him all I knew was that he was a father trying to raise two teenagers by himself, that he was highly respected by his church family, that he liked to sing.

As we began to spend time together, slowly I learned more about his man.  He was a veteran of the US Air Force, he loved flowers and was a great gardener, he hated stewed tomatoes.  By the time we were married, I could say that I truly knew him.

However, after almost 35 years of marriage, I realize that my knowledge of him on our wedding day was small compared to what I have discovered over these years of marriage.  Today, I think it is correct to say I know him better than anyone else.

So it is with the Lord.  The more time we spend in His word, in prayer, in mediation the more we will know Him.

This Christmas, do you know about Jesus or do you know Him?  What are your plans to know in your knowledge of Him?

 

 

 

 

The “Real” Story of the First Christmas

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Silent Night, Holy Night

What a beautiful picture we have of that first Christmas!  Mary and Joseph, dressed in plain, but neat, clothes.  The baby is wrapped in a clean blanket and the shepherds and Wise Men all stand or sit on the clean straw.  And one of our most beloved Christmas carols make it all sound so peaceful and clean.

Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright

But was it a silent night?  Was all calm and bright?

According to the Gospel of Luke, Mary and Joseph had just made a long trip from their home town of Nazareth to Bethlehem.  This would not be considered a “long” trip today.  It is approximately 100 miles and MapQuest says it can be made in less than two hours.  However, at the time of Jesus’ birth, travel would have been on foot on rough roads with no Holiday Inn or McDonald’s along the way.  Mary may have had the luxury of riding on a donkey as our pictures always show, but even so with Joseph walking by her side, the trip would have been long and hard.  I can’t imagine making such a trip while eight or nine months pregnant.

Upon arrival in Bethlehem, Luke tells us there were no rooms available at the inn.  The innkeeper is often portrayed as an unsympathetic man who refused a place for Mary and Joseph.  However, if the town was crowded with visitors for the census and there were no rooms available, he may have acted out of compassion by providing a place for them in the stable nearby.  At least there they would have a roof over their heads and some protection from the night.

While we don’t know how old Mary was, most scholars believe she was probably a teenager.  So – here is a young girl, found pregnant before she was married at a time when that brought great shame (and could have brought death by stoning), far from home getting ready to give birth in a stable.  I’m not sure how calm she must have felt or how silent the night was as she gave birth to her son.

I imagine Joseph – worrying about his young wife giving birth without benefit of the comforts of home, wondering how he was going to be able to raise the Son of God.

It appears that shortly after giving birth, Mary laid Jesus in the manger.  While trying to rest, Joseph and Mary had visitors.  Shepherds.

These wthCAFPG1MEere men who were on the bottom of the Palestinian social ladder. They would be placed in the same class as tax collectors and dung sweepers.  In spite of their fantastic story of angels appearing to them with the wonderful announcement of the Messiah’s birth, only one of the Gospel writers – Luke – bother to tell us about them.

Judaism’s written record of the oral law, the Mishnah, reflects this prejudice, referring to shepherds in belittling terms. One passage describes them as “incompetent”; another says no one should ever feel obligated to rescue a shepherd who has fallen into a pit.

Being out in the field with the sheep for a long period of time, I can only imagine that their clothes may have been worn and/or dirty and they were probably in need of a good bath.  Not necessarily a beautiful, neat scene.

They related their story to Mary and Joseph of the angels’ appearance and the wonderful message of peace the angels had shared.  While many pictures of the shepherds visit to the manger show a bright light shining on Mary and the baby and the carol says “Radiant beams from Thy holy face,” Luke’s narrative does not give any hint of that.  Rather, the shepherds were told they would recognize the baby by:

And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.

Certainly they would not have needed that sign if there was a radiant light streaming around the manger when they arrived in Bethlehem.

By writing this I am not trying to detract from the beauty of that first Christmas.  Rather, I hope that we see the birth of Jesus Christ for what it was.  Not a beautiful, serene scene where everything was calm and bright.  Our Savior did not come to a world of comfort and ease.   The writer of the letter to the Philippians said:

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.   Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.

 The beauty of that night was not a calm, serene setting with radiant beams emitting from or around the baby.  The beauty of that night was how clearly it showed the love of God – sending His son not to the king’s palace or the rich man’s house, but to a dirty, cold, dark stable.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son!

That’s the “real” story of Christmas!

Her First Halloween

 

Her First Halloween

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Although I have 20 grandchildren, only one lives close to me and she is the youngest at 3 1/2 years old.  Needless to say, I spoil her!

I am so happy that I was able to share her first trick or treat adventure two years ago.  Dressed as a little bumblebee, we started off with her carrying a small stuffed bumblebee while I carried a plastic pumpkin for her treats.  As we approached the first house you could see she was not sure what was actually going on.  Her mother and I encouraged her to say “trick or treat” to the young woman who answered the door.

I held out the plastic pumpkin and she watched with great interest as the young woman deposited some candy into it.  We told her to say “Thank you.”  It came out “Tank you.”

As we started to walk back down the driveway, she suddenly stopped.  First she looked at me – then at the pumpkin in my hand – down at the bumblebee in her hand – back to the pumpkin which now held candy.

She held out the bumblebee in her hand to me and reached for the pumpkin.  Clearly she had decided holding the plastic pumpkin was a much better deal than holding the bumblebee!

By the time we made it up and down the next driveway, she was asking, “More?”  After a few more houses, she was an old pro holding out the pumpkin, saying “Trick or treat” and then “Tank you!”

This year she is a Ninja turtle – and growing up so fast!  I know there will be many more Halloween evenings and many more costumes.

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But I will ALWAYS treasure that first Halloween and I am so thankful I have those memories!