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.’

Thoughts on Thanksgiving

For me Thanksgiving is the second best holiday of the year.  I love it because there are no worries about shopping for presents, decorating the house and all the multiple parties, services and other activities involved in Christmas.  It is simply a time to gather with family and enjoy good food and fellowship.

It is my second best holiday because as a Christian Easter is the foundation of my faith and therefore the best day to celebrate.

This year my husband and I will be celebrating the holiday alone.  Our kids are scattered all over the USA with family in Missouri, Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia while we live in Michigan.  Our one child that lives in Michigan is in Missouri with her husband’s family.

It will be a bit strange sitting at the table with just two of us.  However, while I will miss my family I have so much to thank God for that it will still be a good day.

The past few days I have been remembering the Thanksgiving 17 years ago.  I had just had a mastectomy and was facing my first chemotherapy treatment in the next week.  Because my doctor had told me “the odds are not in your favor” for winning this battle, I realized it might be my last Thanksgiving with my family.

That I am still here – cancer free – and have celebrated so many more Thanksgivings is reason to rejoice.

Even more reasons:

  • I will be celebrating the day with my best friend, my husband.
  • We are both still able to live on our own although we are aging.
  • We will have a table full of good food.  Instead of a turkey I am fixing cornish hens and will make a much smaller portion of all the trimmings.  Still, we are going to enjoy a good meal.
  • We have a warm and comfortable home.
  • Finally, thanks to modern technology we can still speak with our family and wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.

Some other thoughts by some wise people:

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)

“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.”

John MacArthur

“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”

Warren Wiersbe

“The Christian who walks with the Lord and keeps constant communion with Him will see many reason for rejoicing and thanksgiving all day long.”

To all my faithful readers and friends on WordPress –

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Stand Firm – Love Well

My church has been doing a sermon series on the book of Daniel.  At first glance you might wonder how a book written thousands of years ago has any relevance to today.  As I listened to the messages each week I found it clearly spoke to our current culture today.

As a Christ follower I often find myself in total disagreement with the values all around me.  Much of society speaks and acts in ways so opposed to the words of Jesus Christ.  Everywhere I look – entertainment, fashion and especially politics I find much to disagree with and can often find myself feeling overwhelmed.

How should I respond to my culture when I am so many times in disagreement with it?

Probably each generation thinks they are the first ones to face this perplexing situation – when our own values and lifestyle seem so different from the lifestyles about us.

But we are not the first.

Looking at Daniel we see a young man taken by force from his own home and placed forcefully into a totally alien culture.  The food was different, the religion was different, the customs were different.  Even his name was changed from a name that meant “God is My Judge” to Belteshazzar which meant “Bel protects his life.”  His very identity as a believer in the God of Israel was challenged by this new name honoring an idol god of the Babylonians.

I struggle with the friction between speaking the truth, not backing down from the principles I strongly believe to be right and showing the love of God to those whose beliefs are different than mine.

How do we “stand firm” but “love well.”

Daniel is a good example of that.

He and his friend stood firm on their foundation of faith refusing to bow down to idols and continuing to speak to God when the king said they could pray to no one but himself.  They were willing to lose their lives for their belief in God.

However, if you read Daniel’s interaction with the king he was always respectful and never spoke in anger or showed irritation with the king.  He served within the Babylonian government and obviously worked for the good of the government disobeying only when his basic belief in God was challenged.

We need to follow his example.

Stand firm – never compromise our principles even when it may led to persecution or difficulty.

Love well – never treat those who disagree with us with disrespect or hatred.

My pastor ended Sunday’s sermon with a powerful question:  Do we truly love our enemies as Jesus told us to do.  We often say to “hate the sin, but love the sinner” but in truth do we love the sinner?

A great example of this today I feel is how so many famous Christian ministers are calling for the church to pray for Donald Trump.  We should do so.  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who are in authority over us.

But where is the call for pray for Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff?  The Bible clearly tells us to pray for those who persecuted us.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum – which ever politician you would view as the enemy, I challenge you to pray for them.

Let us Stand firm but love well!

 

 

Do I Reflect Being With Jesus?

Every Sunday I meet after church with a small group to study the Bible and right now we have started walking through the book of Acts.

One story in chapter 4 of that book really makes me stop and examine my own Christian witness.

Peter and John had been brought before the religious leaders who were disturbed at the message they were sharing with the people.  A message that Jesus had risen from the dead.  A message of hope for salvation in those who believed their report.

After careful questioning they ordered them to never speak or teach again in the name of Jesus.  They answered that “We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard. “

History tells us that they did not stop but later it is reported that in Thessalonica it was said of the followers of Jesus “they have turned the world upside down.”

What caught my eye in this passage of scripture is the religious leaders description of Peter and John.  They were amazed at the boldness of these ordinary men who had no special training in theology.  They recognized these two as men who had “been with Jesus.”

How was it these ordinary fishermen became bold and successful messengers of the Good News that Jesus Christ died and rose again and that belief in Him led to salvation?

They had spent time with Jesus.

Examination of my own life makes me question.

Does my witness to the goodness of Jesus reflect that I have spent time with Him?

My language, my attitude, my compassion, my awareness of the needs of others, how I spent my time and my money – would people say of me that “she has been with Jesus”?

That is my prayer today.

Heavenly Father, help me to spend time with you – in Your Word, in Your house, with fellow believers, in quiet times of worship.  Help me turn off the television, the internet, stop fussing about having a perfect house.  Keep me from the things that would distract me from time with you.  Then, help live in practice of what I profess to believe.  Help me treat others so that they will know I have been with You.

 

 

 

 

The Making of a Man Cave

Last spring we moved into a beautiful condo.  While my husband loves that he does not have to mow the lawn on those hot summer days or shovel the snow when the bitter wind is blowing, he has found himself with more free time.

In our old home we had a beautiful hosta garden with over 200 hostas along with roses, lilies, cone flowers and so much more!  In our new home we do have room for a few flowers and he has enjoyed planting some this summer with plans for more come spring.  However, with the much smaller lawn we have it will never be enough to keep him busy.

 

Giving this free time he has returned to an earlier love – painting.  When he was younger he painted but always ended up giving his paintings to friends who expressed that they liked a particular one.  When I married him he told me about his earlier painting but he had nothing to show me.

I was pleasantly surprised when he began painting again.  In the small house we rented when we first downsized from our home before buying the condo there was little room for him to paint.  With the purchase of our condo I took over the second bedroom and filled it with my books, my music and my computer.  My poor husband still had no room to paint.

He decided to make himself a studio/painting room in our unfinished basement.  Hard at work on the room he has added his favorite “big” chair and a game table so it has become more than just a place to paint.  Every man needs a man cave and he now has one.  While he still has painting and trim work to do, he is almost ready for a game night with friends.

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Game table all ready for a game of checkers with friends

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He has his easy chair and a TV ready to hook up

What is great is that he now has plenty of work for not only painting but can also display some of his work.

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Painting table with a new canvas ready for his next project

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His creation series – I had a hard job getting a good shot of this – but it is based on Genesis 1 and 2

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Here’s a better picture of his Creation Series taken at a showing of his work at the local Clinton County Art Gallery

He also loves maps and has some terrific antique maps of London and Paris that he had no where to display.  Now he can put them up on the walls of his studio/mancave and enjoy.

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I was feeling a little guilty taking the extra room for my space, so now I can better enjoy my area knowing my husband has a space all his own to enjoy.

One of the reasons we bought the condo was to get everything on one floor for me.  I had a knee replacement that did not go well and arthritis in the other knee so stairs are difficult for me.   With this new space I think I may be going up and down stairs again.  As he has completed steps in this decorating I have been called to check it out.  Putting up paneling, painting the floor, putting down rugs, putting up lights – all have required my inspection.  Now he is talking about me coming down stairs to sit in his easy chair and read or blog while he paints.

I have to remind him it is a “man-cave” and women are not allowed.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

800 Games and Still Counting

If you follow my blog you know my husband and I are avid Scrabble players.  Very competitive, we started keeping a record of the scores of our games in 2008.  We laugh that we are actually addicted to the game.

My Addiction has Returned

Thankfully we are evenly matched.  It would be no fun if one of us was much better than the other.  We go back and forth on winning the games.  Usually we are never more than one or two games apart.  A few years ago my husband actually pushed way ahead of me with a seven game lead.  I was so discouraged as I did not know how I would ever catch up with him again.  (Do you think losing too many games of Scrabble to your husband would be good grounds for a divorce?)

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Some of our kids bought us a Super Scrabble board a few years ago.  The board has more squares to play on and twice the number of letter tiles as the regular Scrabble game.  We have used it so much that it is falling apart.  We have it taped together but have agreed for our Christmas gift we will purchase a new one next month.  We also need a good Scrabble dictionary as our present one is falling apart.

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This week we played our 800th game.  After eleven years that is roughly 73 games a year or 6 games a month.  Since I did not retire until 2013 we are actually playing more games each month now.  Winter finds us playing more games as we hate going out in the snow and cold.  Summer finds us making road trips so the games take a back seat for a few weeks.

When we played that 800th game I was two games ahead of my husband and he was really hoping to win the game.  I beat him and that put me three games ahead for the eleven years we have kept score.

He threatened to never play again.  But he was only joking as I often whine when I get behind more than two games that I do not want to play any more.

In the 800 games played we have actually tied three games.  When I told one friend of how close our games are she felt one of us was just being nice and letting the other one win to keep our scores close.  However, she clearly does not know us.  We are very competitive and would never willingly let the other one win.

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I am thankful that my husband and I share this common love.  Along with giving us hours of enjoyment, we figure at our age (71 and 79) it may very well help keep our minds sharp.  When we get to 1000 games we are going to have a party! (If we continue at this pace, that means we will be 74 and 82.  Who wants to bet me we will still be going strong in three years?)

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Do you and your family play board games?

What games do you like?

Are you addicted to any games?

Are you a good loser?  Good winner?

 

 

How Do You React When Persecuted?

It’s the holiday season and so it begins.  Many Christians complaining because people are saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  I hear claims that we cannot now say “Merry Christmas.”  But no one is stopping us from saying that.  A few employers may ask their people to use the “Happy Holidays” response to customers, but they still can wish a “Merry Christmas” outside their employment.

Is this persecution?  I don’t think so.

Last Sunday was the National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  Want to know about “real” persecution.  Read my post:

“Miracle Boy”

Now that is persecution!

Reading today from the book of Acts I was impressed again with the early church’s reesponse to persecution.

Ater the apostle were jailed for preaching about Jesus and warned not to do so again, they immediately went to the church and there was a prayer meeting.

Now, if that was us I think our prayers would be:

Lord, we are being so persecuted.  Please save us!  Please destroy the power of our enemies.  Protect us!

But that was not their prayer.

They prayed:

“Sovereign Lord, you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.  You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:  ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one. Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.   They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.  Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

Consider their threats and make us bold to keep sharing your word.

Let’s stop worrying about whether others say and let’s just keep sharing the love of God.