Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Last Day of the Year

It's hard to believe that it's already the last day of 2008!  As I look back upon this year, I see where God has worked in our lives.  He has brought us through so much--good times, such as great family times and the birth of a nephew, and sad times, as we lost several loved ones this year.  I thank God for the blessing of my family, my friends and how He has worked in our lives.  I don't know what 2009 will hold, but greater than the uncertainty is the peace of God's promise that He will never leave us.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Baby Talk


I love frosty mornings!!!  Today is one of those...it just seems so crisp and fresh, doesn't it?  It makes me want to get out there and take a walk/jog just so I can feel the cool air burning in my lungs.  That's what I'm gonna do as soon as I finish this!  I first wanted to write about this while it was on my mind.

The other day I was changing Jake's diaper I could hear Emily talking "baby talk" to Jake.  She was saying something like, "Is Mommy changing you diapa?"  Then she said, "Wah go pay in minit?"  As I was listening to her I started thinking about how I don't like "baby talk" because as Jake is learning to talk, he needs to hear the right pronunciations of words so that he can eventually get them right.  If he always hears baby talk, he'll never get it right!

When a child is learning to talk, we model to them the right words, sometimes intentionally and sometimes without realizing it.  And when they first start talking we laugh and think it's cute how they don't "get it" right away (you can tell I love this from reading my blogs)!  Do we fuss at them and raise our hands in surrender and declare "No hope!" when they say "moy" instead of "more"?  No!  Do we get worried that they'll never learn to walk when a child falls down as they are taking their first steps?  Of course not--that would be absurd.  Well, I must confess that sometimes I am more tempted to do that when it comes to issues of character in my children.  But why would I expect them to "get it" right away?  

I realized that morning that I need to show the same kind of patience toward them in all aspects of learning as I do when they are learning to walk and talk.  The most important thing for me is that I model good character qualities such as compassion, forgiveness and unselfishness.  Then, just as they learn how to talk from hearing correct pronunciation, they will learn good character traits from seeing them.  Unlike walking and talking though, instilling good character traits takes years.  But that gives me a chance to model patience, right?  I just recognize that in just about everything I do, there is an opportunity there to teach my children about living for God.  And just like walking and talking, I trust God that one day He will help them understand and they will take off on their own!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Retaliation?

I have been reflecting on the sermon I heard today, not only because it was a good sermon, but also because the message is so counter to our culture, yet so vital to true Christian living.  

The sermon was about Jesus' teaching on retaliation in Matthew 5:38-42.  This passage is one that really speaks to me because it reminds me that living for Christ isn't just about following rules--it's about following a person.  Jesus was a great example of this teaching, as He was for all of His teachings.  To live for Christ is to love Him--and that means not just reading His teachings, but also living them.

This passage is further proof of Jesus' words in Matthew 5:17 that He "did not come to abolish [the law] but to fulfill it."  He recognized how pious Jews had twisted the law to fit their own personal likings.  He wasn't changing the law, He was simply explaining the actual meaning and intentions of the law.  So, what does it mean for us?  It means the same thing that it did back then; in matters of personal retaliation, vengeance should be left to God.  Paul wrote about this in Romans 12:19, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."

There is so much to be said and thought about with this passage of Scripture, so I encourage you to look it up and see how it applies in your life.  Do you have a grudge you're hanging on to?  Are you holding out for some sort of revenge, great or small?  Heed the words of Jesus.  In this world where we are saturated with secular ideas and relative "truth", we need THE Truth more than ever!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas friends!  I hope that you have all been having a wonderful Christmas season, and not sharing the sentiment of Emily's rendition of the song "The First Noel".  After all, the chorus that she sings says, "Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well....."  Of course she really thinks that's how the song goes!!  

Speaking of songs, I have been listening to one this year by the group Selah, and I wanted to share some of the lyrics with you.  Some of you may know this song, but as I have thought about what the song says, it has been a reminder of the great mystery of God.  I realize that I don't have to understand everything about God before I trust Him with my life.  I don't understand the mechanics of the workings of my house, yet I live in it and use the lights, the internet and television every day.  But that's another blog for another day.

But as I was listening to this song, "Mystery", the other day, I was overwhelmed by the love of God, realizing that before He even created man He knew that He would have to sacrifice His Son for us...yet He still created us!!  I believe that God is wholly sovereign, and I say, who can understand His mind?  I don't have to.  I believe, based on His Word and His work in my life, in His perfect goodness.  I believe that He is totally in control.  I believe in His plan for humanity.  I believe in His everlasting love.  And that's what makes Christmas more special than anything else.  I really look forward to tonight, when all of our family will gather around, and we will talk about Jesus--what He has done and what He is doing in our lives and for world.  I hope that you will find time to do that as well.  Merry Christmas!!

"Mystery" by Selah
A child was born on Christmas Day
Born to save the world
But long before the world began
He knew His death was sure
The pain and strife secured

Mystery, how He came to be a man
But greater still, how His death was in His plan
God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh, what love is this, that His death was in His hands
Mystery

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Three Sweet Arrows


Emily told me the other day:
"Mommy, I must be getting sick; I've been bleshuing all day."

Let me break that word down for you.  Bless-you-ing.  Yes, that's what she calls sneezing.  I can't bring myself to correct her.  No way.  Kind of like when she sings "Away in the manger" and at the last line says "the little Lord Jesus asleep on the head".  Well, He probably was asleep on His head, right?  I actually did try to correct that one before she sang it in church, but she was emphatic that it was not "hay" but "head".  Oh well...she'll learn too soon, right?

Ashlyn sang her first church solo tonight during the Christmas play and did a great job.  I've tried to get her to sing before, but have never been successful until now.  I can't help but wonder if perhaps she did it this time because the verse was about the animals in the stable (she sang about the cow who gave Jesus his manger to sleep in).  She loves animals...it sometimes works to meet her where she is!!  There may have been other reasons that she decided to sing this time, but no matter what the reason, I was proud of her--not just for singing, but for her excitement and great attitude toward her Christmas "performances" this year!

Finally, Jake has been learning some words to "Jesus Loves Me".  It was playing in the car tonight, and when it was over, he uttered two syllables..."a--din".  He said it a couple of times more until I finally figured it out:  AGAIN!  When I flipped it back, he said "Yeah!"  Then he was trying so hard to sing it.  He came out with a few words...Bible, so, Jesus.  At least it was the important ones!  

I've lost my patience with my kids on more than one occasion, but even in the worst of those moments I (obviously) wouldn't trade them for the world.  I take the responsibility that God has given to me as their mother very seriously, and I just pray that His grace will cover my mistakes as I try to set a good example to them of a Godly parent and person.  What a blessing they are to me!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Love

LOVE....

...is patient.

...is kind.

...is not jealous.

...does not act unbecomingly.

...is not selfish.

...does not keep a record of wrongs.

...does not rejoice in sin, but only in truth.

...bears all things.

...believes all things.

...hopes all things.

...endures all things.

LOVE NEVER FAILS. 
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Christmas is about God's promise of mercy and grace delivered.  It's about His LOVE for humanity--for you and me.  It really is all about Jesus--the embodiment of perfect LOVE.

Day after day I fail to show true love--to my family, friends and even to my Lord.  I really really want the life of Christ to radiate in my life so that I can learn to love as He loves.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Center of the Nativity

Thankfully my internet connection has been re-established.  It was on the blink for the last couple of days, I'm guessing because of the high winds yesterday.  We are too rural to have a cable or DSL connection, so we are on a broadband antennae type thing.  It works well most of the time, but when bad weather comes it's not always reliable.

Anyway...the Christmas season is rolling on for us, with too much food and not enough sleep--and I am enjoying every minute of it!!  More importantly, however, I am so thankful for all the great fellowship with our friends and loved ones, always keeping in mind the reason of our celebrations.  Speaking of that, I want you to notice something in this picture.  

This is a play nativity set that we got Emily for her birthday.  It has been the best thing--she loves to play with it, and it keeps her out of my breakable one.  But do you notice how she has the animals placed?  I was discussing this with a good friend of mine the other day, and she said that her daughter does the same thing.  When we set up our nativity scenes, we carefully place the shepherds, the wise men and the animals either in or around the stable, but most always facing OUT.  However, both of our children are very particular about placing the characters in a circle around the front of the stable so that they can ALL see the baby Jesus.  Not only are they very intentional about the arrangement, but if it's messed with, they are quick to let us know that it's not right!!  I just thought that was so neat, as it reminds me of the precious and unreserved admiration that comes from the hearts of children.  I pray that I will become as dedicated to making sure Christ is the center of all my attention!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Emily's Song

Some of you may have seen this clip, but I liked it so much I wanted to put it on here.  Emily is always making up songs to both familiar and unfamiliar tunes.  She also adds some words in there that I'm sure you would never find in the English dictionary.  We don't know what she's saying half the time, but we still love her songs.  She titled this one "Every Night and Every Day".  This has become one of her favorite hobbies.  Poor Jake is just trying to get on camera in this one.  Enjoy!! video

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

To "Anonymous"

Well, it seems that I need to make a clarification.  Thank you "Anonymous" for your comments, although I wish you had left your name so that I knew to whom I was writing.  But that's okay.  I appreciate your expression of concern, for I am, after all, an imperfect human and sometimes say things that either come across in the wrong way, or may be just flat incorrect.

In this case, however, my words came across the wrong way.  I agree with most of your comments.  We are  absolutely "guilty" before a Holy God--BEFORE we become saved.  I am not a "fluff" Christian who only wants to hear feel good sermons and thinks that life is just happy-go-lucky all the time, thinking that God doesn't have a "wrath" side.  I agree that there is way too much of that going on in the emerging church.  I agree with you that before we can ever become saved we have to know that without Christ, we are absolutely, 100% guilty of sin.  It's where we have to be in order to truly accept the gift of His imputed righteousness and justification.  It's a gift that astounds me, for it is wholly undeserved; it is the essence of God's grace.

The scripture you quoted describes what happened when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, and what still happens today when a non-believer is convicted of sin.  What the Spirit does there (convict in order to bring salvation) is entirely different than what the Enemy does (guilt people into a life of shame).  This is the distinction to which I was referring.  1 Timothy 3:6 talks about the "condemnation incurred by the devil".  Revelation 12:10 tells us that the enemy "accuses [the brethren] before our God day and night."  This kind of guilt is from the enemy, not God, as is stated in Romans 8:1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  He has taken our "guilt" away.  

In my last post, I was referring to the ongoing feeling of guilt that is clearly not brought on by the Spirit.  Yes, when I do things that are not of God, I am convicted of it and know that the Spirit is urging me to confess.  But I do not live a life filled with guilt.  That kind of attitude, from the enemy, would only keep me from fellowship with my Father.  But the discipline and conviction brought on by the Holy Spirit allows me to move freely to Him within the realms of His grace as a means of restoration and growth.  There is a difference, and this is what I meant.  I will re-word my post, lest anyone else get the same impression.  Thank you "Anonymous"!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Celebration!


I love this time of year!  I love the festivities, the celebrations and even the busy-ness and flurry of activity that comes with it.  I couldn't go at this speed all year long, but for only one month, I find it exhilarating and fun!  Don't get me wrong, I don't ever want to forget the REASON for the celebrations, and I am saddened by the fact that many don't even know why they are "celebrating".  But, as I honor and remember the birth of my Savior, I find it a blessing to be able to be with friends and family, as well as participate in traditions such as exchanging gifts, decorating, baking and even Christmas movies and music.  

In a way I feel like I've kind of come almost full circle on this particular matter.  Growing up, Mom and Dad made a very special effort to keep the holidays Christ-centered for us.  Yes, we probably had too many gifts some years, but I always remember our Christmas Eve tradition:  candles lit, Dad reading the Christmas story, each of us taking our turn to tell what the Lord had done for us or what we were most thankful for that year.  Those were special times...times that I will forever cherish in my heart.  In fact, when I think of Christmas traditions, Christmas Eve always stands out as the warmest memory for me.  Having said that, as I grew older, I started pondering the whys of many things.  I questioned so many things about my faith, traditions, family and life in general.  It was just part of my growth as a person and as a believer.  Regarding Christmas, I eventually got to the point where I wondered if we should even give gifts.  Did it take too much away from the real meaning?  Was it really necessary?  So, even though I never stopped participating in gift exchanges, etc., I always kind of felt guilty about it--I couldn't enjoy it.  

I've come a long way from that.

As I've said before, I just thank God so much for His patience and tireless effort with teaching me new and wonderful truths.  I used gift exchanging as an example, but the truth is, I feel like I have (in my mind) sort of melted down every tradition and thought towards Christmas, and what has emerged is a new sense of wonder and appreciation for this time of year.  No longer do I feel guilty (this kind of guilt is not from God anyway) about participating in family traditions, but I am humbled and thank God for the blessing of family with whom to share.  I sincerely do, in the midst of all the commotion, know that Christ is the reason, and Jason and I will not neglect to teach it to our kids.  

As far as coming full circle, I have come back around to simply enjoying the Christmas season.  It's not different this year because I have less things on my schedule--I don't. It's not because I have less people to buy for--definitely not that.  I guess I'm just finding the joy in the celebration.  It's all for Christ!  When our traditions are based upon His blessing and Gift to us, then those traditions can be embraced and held dear.  It's all about making Christ the ONLY priority as we celebrate His life; then, as He walked among man, now, as He is preparing a place for us, and to come, as He will reign as King!  I hope that you can find joy in the celebration!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Relationship


Before I get into what I really want to write about today, I want to tell this story on Ashlyn.  Two days ago, she, Emily and I were working on a "project" as they like to call it--actually, a little craft that pertained to the Christmas story.  As I was helping Emily constructed her two-dimensional popsicle stick stable, I was leading them in a discussion about what it might have really been like on the night that Jesus was born.  Finally, after we had each shared a little, I posed the main question, "We see lots of pictures of what others think it may have been like that night, but I wonder what it was really like?"  Without even looking up, Ashlyn flatly replied, "I don't know Mom, why don't you just ask God about it when you die."  I was so taken aback by her response that I think I laughed out loud.  I guess she'd had enough of that discussion!!

I'm glad, however, that Ashlyn has the mindset that one day we will have our questions answered.  I have such a desire to teach my kids about God's love for them, and lately I've been thinking about how I present the things of God to them.  I'm finally realizing that those "things" should never be separate from anything else.  Do you see what I'm getting at?  God should not be my top priority in teaching my kids OR in my life.  He should be THE ONLY priority.  Everything else that is said and done should revolve around Him and what brings Him glory--nothing should be separate from my relationship with Him.  

For example, have you ever thought of having morning "devotion" with God and then when it's "over", you feel like you then can continue on with the rest of your day?  It's like the top priority has been accomplished.  I have been guilty of that so many times! The truth is that my time with God should never end!  He is omnipresent and is always with me, so why should I limit my relationship with Him?  I believe that is what it means to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  The scriptures surrounding that verse tell us to "Rejoice always" and "in everything give thanks".  It doesn't mean that we have to physically be on our knees all day.  It just means that we can live our daily lives and still let God be a part of every moment.  I believe that He desires that, for He loves us completely, and wants us to love and know Him as well.  

I want to live my life in this way, building upon my relationship with my Father, seeking to please Him in that way.  It has nothing to do with do's and don'ts, just enjoying being a daughter of the King.  Loving.  Giving.  Sharing.  Growing.  Living...the abundant life that Jesus Himself came to give.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

For His Glory

Praise the Lord I am feeling much much better tonight!  I'm thankful that the illness was short lived, and I'm praying that the rest of my family remains healthy.  I still feel slightly weak, but tomorrow I expect to be back in full swing (much to Ashlyn's dismay--she enjoyed having another day off of school today).  

The other day I was reading, and I couldn't wait to blog about it, but obviously, haven't had the chance until now.  I was reading a passage in 1 Corinthians 10 about how our attitudes should be, no matter what we are doing.  Verse 23 says, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful, but not all things edify."  Now, this scripture has a great meaning to me, not all of which I will get into today on this post.  But, one of the things that God spoke to me about is how we should be treating our fellow believers.  According to 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1, we should be very cautious in certain things that we do, not necessarily because they are wrong before God, but because of the offense it could cause another believer.  My first instinct is to rebut that thought and say, "If God doesn't think it's wrong, then I have every right to do it."  That's true, I guess.  We do have the right.  But, isn't part of being a follower of Christ giving up our rights?  

Let me clarify something here.  Paul, in this passage, is specifically talking about eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  Legalism would say that it is wrong.  Paul did not believe it was wrong--unless the person knew it was offensive to a fellow believer and ate it anyway (those who were weaker in the faith, i.e. those who still followed the law).  In verse 31, he writes, "Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  In other words, we do have freedom because of grace, but within that freedom, we must still do everything to God's glory, honoring Him, even if it means refraining from something that we may not be convicted of in order to keep from offending a fellow believer.

Why should we worry about offending another believer?  Here is the heart of my devotion today:  John 13:35, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  Sometimes, in order to respect our fellow believers, we may need to forfeit our rights.  God would rather us live peaceably and lovingly towards each other (believers) than act out on the freedoms that come with grace.  Now, this doesn't mean that we should live legalistically just for the sake of others, I'm not saying that.  But, I do think that we should be careful with our attitudes, not to be haughty and look down upon those who may struggle with legalism, etc.  It is all for His glory, and Jesus Himself said it--the world will know that we belong to Him when we love one another.

Once again, these are just things to think about, and I wish that you would look these scriptures up yourself and see what God says to you through them.  He is faithful to teach when we quiet ourselves and listen to His Word!

A Little Slump

Hello everyone.  I just wanted to write this quick note to say...

Sorry I am lagging behind on my posts.  Last week was very busy, then Thanksgiving weekend put me behind, but yesterday and today I have been sick...I don't know if it's a virus or what.  I have some thoughts that I can't wait to share from the book of John.  I'm just not up to it today.  Pray that my kids don't get whatever this is!!

Keep checking my site...I'll be back in a day or two!