Friday, December 30, 2011

What will your word be?

For the past couple of years, I have prayed about a "word" for that year. Some of you have probably heard of this. There's even a site devoted to it called My One Word (My One Word).

The first year I did this, my word was "Hope." Little did I know that by the end of the year, that was about all I'd have to hold on to. During that year, the company that my husband worked for unexpectedly closed it's doors leaving over 300 people without a job in a town that doesn't boast a huge number of jobs to begin with. We were blessed that I still had a job teaching, but the next few months truly stretched our ability to hope and hold on. When he finally found another job, it was one that provided a much smaller paycheck and much harder work week. The challenge of holding on to hope became a DAILY choice to believe.

Last year, my word for the year was "Anticipation." This really goes back to something I felt like the Lord spoke to my heart three years ago. It was a sense of foreboding that things were about to get bad...really bad, but that in 2012 we would see things turn around - miraculously! I make no claim at being a prophet, but when God lays something on your heart like this, you know it! I decided to just hide this word in my heart and watch. I guess I don't have to tell anyone that the past three years have been tough...but there is change in the wind. It is coming - can you feel it? Anticipation is growing!

Anyway, back to this year's word. I was on a run the other day and, as I often do while running, I was praying. (Okay, so sometimes I'm just praying I can continue to breathe and for strength to move the next step, but I'm usually praying!) This time, I was asking for my "word" for the year and the word "INCREDIBLE" kept coming to mind. Okay - this isn't one I'd have chosen, but it sounded interesting. I came home and looked it up.
Incredible: so extraordinary as to seem impossible
Okay, so far I'm liking this word for the new year.

Then a couple of days ago, I was reading a devotional by another blogger and another word almost jumped out at me - "MERCY". Now the feeling this word gave me is hard to explain. It was heavy - not a bad kind of heavy - an overwhelming kind of heavy...the kind that makes you want to go to your knees and bow your head under the weight. It was a worshipful kind of heavy.

Mercy: This one has a LOT of meaning.
1. compassionate or kindly forbearance shown toward an offender, an enemy, or other person in one's power; compassion, pity, or benevolence
2. the discretionary power of a judge to pardon someone or to mitigate punishment, especially to send to prison rather than invoke the death penalty.
3. an act of kindness, compassion or favor
4. something that gives evidence of divine favor or blessing
It doesn't take a prophet or even someone very smart to realize that as a country we are in need of God's much I am in need of His mercy. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that somehow the two words were to be coupled together: INCREDIBLE MERCY. These are my "words" for 2012. Could this be the year when we see God pour out His incredible mercy and save us from a destruction we have brought on ourselves? I guess time will tell, but until then I will hold on to these two words knowing that whatever the year may bring, His INCREDIBLE MERCY is far greater than what I deserve.

What will your word(s) for this year be? Please take a moment to share them with me! You'll be surprised when you look back at how accurate that word has been!

Psalm 25:5-7

New International Version (NIV)

5 Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my Savior,
   and my hope is in you all day long. 
6 Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love,
   for they are from of old. 
7 Do not remember the sins of my youth
   and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
   for you, LORD, are good.

Proverbs 28:12-14

New International Version (NIV)

 12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation;
   but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.

 13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
   but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

 14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
   but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.

Micah 6:8

New International Version (NIV)

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
   and to walk humbly with your God.

Luke 1:49-51

New International Version (NIV)

49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
   holy is his name. 
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
   from generation to generation. 
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
   he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

May I recommend...

I just finished reading, The Surrender of Ethan Moses, by Terry Goetz, and I am recommending this book to almost everyone I see! It is about the life of a man who works daily to find God's will and surrender to that will. (I really don't do justice to the story...I'm sure you can read a tag line about it on or this link will take you to a review of the book by a friend of the author: (Review)

After reading this book, (which I finished in only two sittings - I didn't want to put it down), I look at my "wanderings" in a new way. Things that happen now don't seem so happenstance; they are another step on this wonderful journey our Father has prepared for us.

This morning as I thought about the story, it brought to mind being on a wonderful hike with God. This is a path in which our Father has already traveled and He delights in watching us discover what He has already known since the beginning of time. The thought of this truly is stirring inside me and I wish I could communicate it more clearly.

I know I've taken hikes with my children along familiar paths and it is such a joy to watch them discover rocks and plants and the sunset (we rarely make it out for sunrise) or just all that surrounds them. It may be a path I've traveled many times before, but when I take them with me it is filled with a new joy at watching them see what lies before them. Once I "hid" treasures for them to find and I still laugh at their surprise as they discovered what was prepared for them!

I have traveled these paths many times before...they are like second nature to me. I know the places that are easy, and I also know the places along the path that can be more difficult - rocks that slip underneath your feet or places you just have to watch your step. I doubt my children noticed that along those places I had my hand right behind their back, ready to catch them if they fell.

If I, being human and filled with flaws, can take my children along a familiar path much more can our Heavenly Father lead us along the path He has CREATED for us?

Wow...what an amazing thought, and all before I've had my second cup of coffee!

May your journey today be filled with wonder - and as soon as you can, I definitely recommend reading, The Surrender of Ethan's one of those books you'll find yourself thinking about a LOT as you travel along.

Matthew 7:11

New International Version (NIV)
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Ephesians 2:10

The Message (MSG)

 7-10Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I really didn't expect that...

Have you ever had one of those moments that catch you so off guard your reaction is a total surprise...even to you? Today I had one of those surprising moments.

Today I needed to go to the store to exchange something and on the way there, I saw an old man sitting on the corner with a cardboard sign that said,  "Anything helps." Immediately my mind went to the five dollar bill in my purse. (The fact that I actually had any cash at all is rare...two teenagers usually take care of that! Having any money after Christmas is even more of a rarity! ) I pulled into the parking lot and went on into the store with my son, but I knew what I needed to do. 

While I stood in line to make the exchange, I pulled out the five dollars. Of course there was an argument going on inside my head, but this time I knew the decision was already made. I felt like I had heard God whisper in my ear to give that $5. (Now, for some people five dollars is no big deal, but what can I say - I count every penny!)

We came out of the store and I didn't see him anymore. At first, I argued in my head..."See God, I was willing, but he's gone." Still, I held the money in my hand, we got into the car and pulled out of the parking lot...then I spotted him. I told my son to roll down the window. As we pulled up beside the old gentleman, he slowly rose to take the money and I looked into the most beautiful crystal blue eyes peering out from behind the scraggly grey hair. The wrinkles that lined those eyes told of years beyond even what I'd first imagined. 

We handed him the money and said, "God bless you" and then pulled away as he walked up to the car behind us that had also stopped to give him something. I shifted my gaze back to the road before us and choked out the words, "Can you imagine being that old and having no home?" That's when the tears started to fill my eyes. My son asked me, "Are you crying?" Yes, and no one was more surprised than me.

I am not a crier....oh, I may tear up at coffee commercials, but usually I stay pretty tear free. Not I felt like I could become a regular tear fountain. Where did this come from? I've been praying that God would show Himself real to me this this how it starts? Am I in for a year of waterworks? Is this the beginning of something new?

I never expected that from a five dollar bill.

Matthew 25:40

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

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas thoughts in red and green

Today marks the end of my "Journey to Advent/Christmas" and the blog that follows surprised even me...and I'm getting pretty used to the random direction my thoughts seem take.

As I looked around today at church, I noticed all the beautiful red dresses and ties and I started to wonder - why are red and green the colors of Christmas? 

Red and green separately mean many things - not all of them positive! In different countries, red means a lot of different can mean anger, joy, health, love, and passion. It can even mean danger and warning. Being green isn't something just for Kermit the frog anymore. It means being environmentally conscious, but it can also mean feeling jealous or sick...and of course there's always money and jello (isn't jello always green?)

It is believed by some that red and green are simply the colors that were used in pagan celebrations long ago and adopted as a part of the Christian celebration of Christmas. Perhaps this is true, but since I don't think things like this really happen by accident, I think there must be something more.

It doesn't take a lot of thought really to realize that red is the color of blood and green is the color of life. (Which makes me wonder why it took me so many years to realize just how significant these colors are at Christmas!) We use trees that are "evergreen" just as Christ came to give us life "everlasting" when He came over 2000 years ago. Why haven't I ever thought about this before? I know this is not some deep new revelation, but sometimes the simplest answers are the most difficult for us to see.

The colors of Christmas are red and green because at Christmas, Christ came as a sacrifice to shed His blood and make a way for us to live eternally with our Father in heaven. Red = love + sacrifice -> green = newness of life + everlasting. Simple.

Separately they may mean many things, but together these colors make Christmas mean so much more...and now I think I understand why.

Hebrews 9:22
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

1 John 2:25  And this is the promise that He has promised us, even eternal life. 

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Hallelujah, He is born

This video clip just makes me happy so I decided to share.

From my house to yours....
Merry Christmas and it's gonna be an incredible 
New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

All I want for Christmas...

It is now less than 48 hours from Christmas, and I really expected that by now I'd be in the Christmas Spirit. I finally got a chance to go off by myself to do some shopping yesterday and while we are just about ready - I'm not....ready for Christmas, I mean.

The tree is up - has been since the week of Thanksgiving. Lights are up outside - I will admit that day felt a bit excitement for Christmas coming. The house is somewhat was clean but that is such a temporary state it changes in seconds. So how come I still don't feel like it's Christmas?

I could blame it on our weather in the South. Yesterday it was borderline hot with a storm rolling in that reminded me of hurricane season. Today is a bit colder; but as always, the primary color outside is simply brown. Boring, dull, brown. In other words, it doesn't feel like Christmas. Not that I want snow. Down here, if we get snow it brings everything to a screeching halt and it doesn't last long enough to really do anything other than make a mess. Still, all of that can't be blamed for my lack of enthusiasm for Christmas.

To be very honest, I'm looking forward to the New Year a lot more than I am to Christmas. The New Year means a chance to start over and get it right this time...or at least closer to "right". The New Year offers hope of the past year being over (thank HEAVENS!) and getting a brand new year to start fresh. I love getting a new calendar and looking at the days that are printed there, imagining that this year will be the one that is better...this year I will finally get it right...this year my dreams will come true. Christmas just means a reminder of how much I messed up the year I was given. I didn't save enough money, didn't finally get things organized, didn't spend the time with my family I'd hoped to...didn't, didn't, didn't.

When did Christmas become this for me? I'm not sure because, to be honest, if anything marks a chance for a new beginning, it's Christmas!

On that very first Christmas, God sent His Son to give us a second chance. He had given us all that could be hoped for, and it had been thrown away with a lie that there was more to be had. Oh, there was more - more pain, more frustration, more death. Now He sent His Son to give us life abundantly. He gave His Son so that we could have a brand new start.

So saying all that, I've finally decided what I really want for Christmas. I want a calendar - one that reminds me that it's not the new year that brings hope and new beginnings. It is a small baby in a manger who came from heaven to make a way for me to follow. Christmas isn't so much about gifts from the mall, (or the kitchen for all you who have been blessed with homemaking skills); it's about the gift that came to set me free. It's not about the lights on the house, (which look pretty cool, I must say); it's about the light in the heavens that guided the wise men to a place of hope. It's not about the food I prepare, (thank heavens! I'm a lousy cook!); it's about the feast He has prepared for my soul. It's not about the songs or the movies or even snow.... Christmas is about a new beginning. Behold, the old has gone, the new has come.

Merry Christmas dear friends...I think I've already gotten what I really wanted this year.

2 Corinthians 5:17

New International Version (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Isaiah 43:19

New International Version (NIV)
See, I am doing a new thing!
   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
   and streams in the wasteland.

Revelation 21:1-5

New International Version (NIV)
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

No clue what to give...

I think it just hit me why I'm NOT looking forward to the holiday - I'm not ready! I haven't gotten even one gift yet. Christmas is less than a week away and I've gotten nothing! Well, that's not completely true. I did get one gift for my daughter. I was in the store and it hit me...I got her - oh no... I'm not telling. This might be the one time she actually reads my blog! Let's just say, I can't wait to see her unwrap it and hear her laugh when she realizes what it is. It's not a big gift, but it's one that I know will bring a smile to that sweet face.

Smiles at Christmas are what we all hope for. I talked with a friend today and she is so excited about Christmas this year. She just figured out what to get for her husband and she's practically giddy with joy! She's planning just how to wrap the gift, and you can tell she's anticipating her husband's face when he opens the gift.

That's the difference, isn't it. When you have a gift for someone you love, and you know it's something special that will make their face light up with joy, you just can hardly wait for Christmas....but now that my kids are older, there simply aren't that many surprises - or smiles. Oh, my daughter would LOVE a car, but the budget just won't allow that - not even an old one. Instead, she's asked for cash so she can go shopping. Easy - but not very exciting. My son - he wants some games. Again, easy - but not too exciting. My husband...I have no clue. We probably would both be happy with a nap. See - nothing to get excited and really smile about.

I would love to see that look of absolute joy that we used to get from the kids when they were little. I watch videos of them playing with the bag the toy came in and being completely enthralled. Now it takes a lot more to get them to even crack a smile.

There have been years when the only thing I really wanted was that smile. I worked so hard to surprise and then would watch their faces to show that they knew how special the gift was. Sometimes I got it - sometimes not. They've gotten a lot tougher to buy for now that they are older. They just don't seem to notice.

That got me to thinking about how long God planned our gift on that first Christmas...He'd planned it from the beginning of time. This was no ordinary gift...God gave His treasure - His Son. I wonder if He watched the face of the shepherds and saw that joy? Did He look at the wise men bringing gifts and smile to Himself? Did He watch so many others that just went on their way, not even realizing a gift had been given? What about me? God prepared this gift for ME from the beginning of time...He anticipated giving to me and watching me receive. What does He see from me?

Perhaps the joy of Christmas that I've been missing is due to not knowing what to give...and in not realizing what I have been given. There is no doubt that Christmas is a time of giving. I just have no clue what to give...and I'm beginning to think I don't realize what I have received.

John 3:16-17

The Message (MSG)

"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.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas Carol

Since we recently finished reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, I thought today's Random Thought could be about some of my thoughts on this wonderful Christmas classic.

I mentioned Ebenezer Scrooge's name in my last post. I remember the first time it hit me that there was more to his name than just a grouchy sound. I was in church and we were singing about raising our mind immediately bounced in its ping-pong way and I started wondering what "Ebenezer" meant. Even I could figure out that it didn't mean we were supposed to lift up Scrooge - that story was only a little over 150 years old. So, I did what any person would do; I went home and googled it! I discovered that Ebenezer refers to the Ebenezer stone.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. (1 Samuel 7:12-14 NRSV)

One post I found mentioned Joshua and the twelve tribes setting up a memorial after crossing the Jordan. These stones were referred to as an Ebenezer. Literally, the word means "stone of remembrance" to remind us of God's presence and help in our lives. At the beginning of the story, Scrooge is just that - Scrooge. By the end, he is truly more of an Ebenezer - remembering and an ever present source of help.

This year, the ghosts of each of the Christmases really hit me in their symbolism. Each one is so much more than just a name.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is bright - like our memories. Isn't that usually the case...our memories of the past always seem more wonderful than they probably were. Ever go back to a place from your childhood only to discover it's much smaller than you remember? When I was little, we went to the City Park in New Orleans. I remember the huge roller coaster, the giant storybook characters and houses, the real cars I was allowed to was one of the most wonderful places I'd ever seen! Those of you who have been to City Park already know what I discovered when I returned there as an adult. Everything is miniature - even that huge frightening roller coaster! But that's how memories work. They can fool you. Maybe that's why it's so hard for the present to live up to what we think we remember. 

Poor Scrooge had painful memories that he tried to snuff out with the Ghost's extinguisher cap. I have to admit, I have a few of those....don't we all. The thing is, you can't snuff them out - they just smolder, waiting for a chance to burst back into flames.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is my favorite. He is a giant! That's what the present is - large and IN YOUR FACE!!! It's filled with the here and now and it demands your attention. The past seems bright, but the present simply IS! I find myself being ruled by the Present quite often. I am constantly putting out fires, unable to really concentrate on what is to come because the Present is just so dog-gone LOUD! Present is quickly gone - far more quickly than I realized he would be. (You'd think after dealing with over 52 years filled with "Present" I'd realize by now that it will so soon be done.)

Then there's the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. He never speaks but only directs with his hand. That really does describe the future...unknown. All we can do is follow the lead and move forward to it. In the story, this ghost is depicted in a quite frightening way. To those who do not believe in God and His love, the future is a dark and scary place. I'm so thankful that I don't have to be filled with fear because I know who holds my future and I know He cares for me.

Jeremiah 29:11

New International Version (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future

There is a song that talks about that: 
I don't know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.

I don't worry o'er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I'll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don't seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

Yep, there's a lot you can learn from a familiar old story. No matter where or when I am, God is still there, a stone of help that will not fail.

Psalm 139:7-12
Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
      to be out of your sight?
   If I climb to the sky, you're there!
      If I go underground, you're there!
   If I flew on morning's wings
      to the far western horizon,
   You'd find me in a minute—
      you're already there waiting!
   Then I said to myself, "Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
      At night I'm immersed in the light!"
   It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to you; 
      night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to you. 

Matthew 28:20
"I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."

I think I'll close this Random Thought with the words of Tiny Tim, 
"God bless us, every one."

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I hate Christmas!!!!!

Okay, yesterday I hit my yearly "snap" and practically shouted, "I hate Christmas!!!!" Actually, I didn't practically shout it - I shouted it! Now before you stop reading and relegate me to permanent Grinch status, hear me out.

I truly love the meaning of Christmas. The true meaning is a time to pause and focus on the fact that the God of all creation stepped down from heaven and came to earth as a humble human all in order to redeem us. I love to remember that the God who spoke the universe into being came as a baby born in a stable - the place where sacrifices are born. I love to hear the story of how angels came to men and told them to not be afraid...angels must be pretty awesome. I love that wise men brought gifts that spoke volumes - gold, fit for a king; frankincense, for one who should be worshipped; and myrrh, foretelling that this precious child would die. I love that part of Christmas.

I also love part of the "secular" Christmas, particularly the movies. It's a Wonderful Life is one of my all-time favorites. There is nothing that gets me quite as excited each year as reading with my class "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens.  Then of course, I get to watch "A Christmas Carol" - both the one with Patrick Stewart and the Muppet version. I even love making my family suffer through listening to the songs from The Muppets Christmas and A Star Wars Christmas. "What Do You Get a Wookie for Christmas" always makes me smile.

So with all this that I love, what in the world could make me shout "I hate Christmas," not once, but almost every year? It's the overload of expectations! I just can't DO it! I can't bake the cookies, buy the gifts - or MAKE them, decorate my home, create the memories, teach the TRUE story of Christmas, include the make-believe, attend the performances, travel to family(s), go to work each day, clean the house, help with school projects, and somehow not go into so much debt that I can't climb out for at least 4 months. I've tried dropping a few things off my list, but then I feel like I'm a failure - again.

Maybe it's because I'm the Mom and somehow it's my job to make Christmas amazing. How do others do it? Why can't I seem to make it happen?

On this journey to Advent, I've had moments that have been wonderful, and even some that have opened my eyes to things about the Christmas story I haven't seen before. I had hoped that by now I'd have reached that Whoville feeling of Christmas where we all stand around the tree and sing. Instead, I'm still feeling like the Grinch. I want to speak kind words and blessings on my enemies like Bob Crachit - instead I'm sounding more like Scrooge. (By the way, it's interesting that Scrooge's first name, Ebenezer, actually means "stone of help," or a reminder of God's real, Holy Presence and Divine intervention...but that's a blog for another day. )

When did Christmas become too much? When did it become a time when I feel like such a failure? When did it become a time when I realized....oh my goodness - I need a Savior?

Matthew 9:36

New International Version (NIV)
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Psalm 23

 1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Playing favorites....

I am a teacher, and I am not supposed to have favorites - but sometimes it's hard not to. Some years it's the kid who sees deeper into the passages than most; some years it's the child who struggles to understand but has such a sweet spirit and keeps trying despite how hard it is; some years it's the child who has that heart that is stirred for those around them that struggle; and some years it's all of the above.

Being the teacher's favorite doesn't mean being their pet - sometimes it means I expect more from that child than others simply because I know they have it in them. In that case, being the favored one means they will have to work harder than they ever did before because I refuse to watch them accept less than they are capable of.

So what does all this favor thing have to do with the Journey to Advent? It has to do with something my pastor talked about yesterday. He was talking about Mary being favored of God not because she was somehow more holy than everyone else, but simply because she was a willing vessel. It wasn't so much a matter of calling the equipped as it was of equipping the called.

All I could think about was that being favored of God did NOT mean life all of a sudden got fact, her whole life turned upside down and I'm pretty sure things got pretty tough there for a while. Imagine having to tell her parents and the man she was supposed to marry that she was pregnant. She would have to try and convince them she was still a virgin and this was the child of God - oh yeah, I'm sure that went over like gang-busters. I like the way our pastor explained it - God sent an angel to Joseph too because otherwise even if she had convinced him it was true, he'd have always had a little doubt in the back of his mind. Yet this young woman faced it all and said, "let it be unto me according to your word." So that's what it means to be favored?

I've often prayed for the favor of God to rest on my life, but I'm not sure I knew what I was asking for! We want the favor of God but we also want comfort...we're asking for two opposite things.

Think about it, John was often referred to as the disciple whom Jesus didn't necessarily hand him a life of rose colored sunsets and breakfast in bed! Being favored of God seems to mean He trusts you with a part of His plan for mankind...that usually means some sort of sacrifice.

Now, I'll be honest. I'm not sure I knew what I was asking for when I prayed for God's favor on my life, but I'm starting to get the picture. Does that mean I'll quit praying that way? Nope, but now that I'm starting to understand, I won't be so surprised when life starts to get a little tough. It doesn't mean God has just means I'm one of His favorites.

Luke 1:26 - 38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 2:52
And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in 
favor with God and men

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Now what?

Now what? Ever ask yourself that question? I've been asking myself that quite a bit since I've just about reached my weight loss goal, but at the same time I'm starting to see my momentum slipping. That's one reason I was so excited to get a chance to see the Biggest Loser Sisters, Olivia Ward and Hannah Curlee when they were in Mobile this weekend. I was hoping to get back my motivation for working out and eating right.

I wasn't sure what to expect but I was encouraged and surprised at how funny those two ladies truly are...and how beautiful. They had us laughing as they planted hope in our hearts. So many of the things they shared "hit home" with me, but somehow in the middle of it all, a Random Thought entered in. I started thinking about the wise men looking for Jesus.

Perhaps it started with a question I got to ask. I asked was there ever a point they looked down at the scale and saw a number or had something happen that made them think, "Oh no...this is how it started before!" Olivia related the story of going to her apartment after winning and looking around and thinking she didn't know what to do. She felt lost! Now what? She said she called Bob who told her she knew what to do. Go buy groceries and then workout; do what she knew to do. Simple, right? Simple, but not necessarily easy. But she did it and the panic started to ease. She could do this...and keep on doing this.

Now back to those wise men. After they had finally finished their "journey to Jesus", did they wonder what they would do next? They had searched for years...Now what were they supposed to do? The Bible says they went back to their home country via a different route (to avoid Herod) but that's about all it says. Personally, I think they probably told people what they had seen. They shared their journey and how they had found the Messiah. I mean, wouldn't you?

Here comes the Random thought that connects the two. The Biggest Losers that have "made it" and stayed successful - what was their secret? Really, no secret...they did what they knew to do and, this may be the most important part, they shared what they had found. That's what Olivia and Hannah were doing - sharing what they had discovered along the way. Continuing to do what they knew to do. The secret is to share what you have been given.

This is the Sunday of Advent that is most closely associated with joy...but a lot of people find they have lost that joy. They are like Olivia, wondering what do they do now? Maybe they met their goal of weight loss, or the right job, or marriage, or family, or maybe all of these and maybe none of these - yet they still feel lost. I'm not talking about people who don't know the Lord, I'm talking about Christians! Yes, it happens to Christians too. How do we keep our joy on this journey?

We share. We can share what God has done for us. We can remember all the times He has been there for us. We can help others find what we have found. Perhaps that's the key to keeping our motivation, our joy, our excitement - sharing it with others. In the process, we find that it comes back to us in a double supply.

So, the question what? The answer seems to be, share it if you want it to remain.

The following verse is usually associated with giving of money...but maybe it means a little more. Maybe it's sharing what you've learned on your own journey to Jesus...maybe it's about sharing the joy.

Luke 6:38

New International Version (NIV)
38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

2 Corinthians 1:3,4 ESV
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction,.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Men don't get stressed about Christmas

Yesterday I had a Random Thought...have you ever noticed men don't seem to get stressed about Christmas?

Most of the women I know have said at least once in the past two weeks, "I'm tired." It's not the normal I've got a lot of work to do kind of tired; it's the I'm overwhelmed with all there is to be done to prepare for Christmas kind of tired. It's the having too much to do and I'm trying to create lasting memories tired. It's the reason for this blog.

I put this idea out of Facebook last night and got some interesting responses...
Because we handle everything! We decide how to decorate; we help decorate. We usually decide what gifts everyone gets and then we shop for them. After all that, we cook!
Because women do everything!
Because they know Walmart is open 24 hrs... And on Christmas eve. If it's not there, it's at walgreen's. Or, they can stick some cash in an envelope. What's there to stress about?Men (at least the men I know) expect food... lots of it. They will help, if given very specific instructions. They like written instructions, too.
Women want (maybe not expect) to be thanked for everything we have done and to be remembered with a gift that they did not have to: pick out, purchase, or wrap for themselves.
One young man put in his two cents..because our expectations are...less dramatic. if you ask a guy what he wants in november and he gets it on christmas, odds are he forgot telling you and just thinks youre magic.or he is glad you remembered and would rather be UN-suprised and happy than surprised and in new socks
A few women have obviously had more than a few rough Christmases:
Men expect for the women to take care of everything so that they can sit back and take the credit for everything. Women expect to either get something to get either something to clean the house with or an item dealing with cooking. An electric can opener? ARE YOU SERIOUS??????Mrs Santa is home cleaning and cooking for all those elves. (That one was in response to a question on why you never see pictures of Mrs. Claus! LOL)
I can only speak about my man. He will help as long as he is given specific instructions. But of course I won't be satisfied and I have to do it over. And like Timothy said he won't remember , which makes me seem extremely magical. Or he will just sleep thru the whole thing and yes he expects food and gifts and a stocking. Basically I am superwoman. What was the question?
Finally, one friend posted this:
Focus on the reason we have CHRISTmas...

That's really the whole thing isn't it. We need to focus on what Christmas is really all about. So why does that seem so easy for men and so hard for us? Is my young friend right? Is it just that I just have my expectations too high? I expect my children to show appreciation and excitement for the gifts I've worked to get for them. I expect them to glow with joy in the decorations and music. I expect them to hug me for all that I've done to make the day special. Oh, I may not say I expect anything, but I sure do hope for it.

I wonder if God ever feels like that? Does He look at me and wonder why I don't say thank you for all that He has blessed me with? Does He shake His head in disappointment when I drive past a beautiful sunset and don't even see it - or worse, sit and stare at the television instead of going outside to see the beauty all around me? Does He wait for me to stop "playing with my toys" and come to sit with Him for at least a moment or two?

I know I'm transferring my own feelings on to God...instead I should learn to give as He does - expecting nothing in return. God knows that I won't even stop and notice the beautiful leaves as they turn from green to red then gold. I'll be too busy with my "stuff" to do much more than look up for a moment. I probably won't remember to stop and thank Him for my food at lunch, though He has provided not just that lunch, but the breakfast and snack and supper as well. He knows I won't stop long enough to thank Him for all that He has done...and He does it anyway...

I don't want to be stressed this Christmas, but it looks like I've got a long way to go. For now, I will remember to stop and say thank you for all I have been given today.
James 1:17

New International Version (NIV)
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I thought he was with you...

It's something that happens to every parent at one time or another...they forget their child. I don't mean they forget they have a child...they just leave them somewhere. (At least I hope I'm not the only parent to ever do this!)

Mind you, I only did this once and it was YEARS ago. My husband and I had to be at the church at different times so we took two cars. After church, we didn't even touch base with each other...we were both so busy. It wasn't any big deal, we'd be home in a few minutes and catch up over lunch. I gathered up my materials from my class and headed home. I think I was there a couple of minutes before I asked, "Where's Levi?" That's when I heard those words every parent hates to hear..."I thought he was with you."

Needless to say I rushed back to the church where I was greeted by my son and a friend, who was laughing her head off at me, by the way. He was fine - I was a mess.

So why did I tell you this story on this Journey to Advent? Not sure, but for some reason today I thought about the story in Luke where Mary and Joseph we headed home and realized that Jesus wasn't with them.
Luke 2:41- 49

[41] Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 
[42] When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 
[43] After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 
[44] Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 
[45] When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 
[46] After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 
[47] Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 
[48] When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
[49] "Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" 

I can't imagine what it must have been like for Mary to get that far on their journey and then realize Jesus wasn't there. Like any mother, she probably grabbed Joseph and hurried back to the place she'd last seen her child. Imagine her relief when she found him, teaching in the temple.

I'm sure by now, you see where this random thought is going. I'm on a Journey to Advent and I'm wondering if I've forgotten Jesus. In the middle of all the preparations, the gift buying, the decorating, and the holiday cheer, have I forgotten why I'm supposed to be doing it all? Have I forgotten Jesus?

How far have I gotten down the road, and how could I have not realized He wasn't with me on the way? I need to go back to where I last saw Him, last sensed Him and His presence. If I follow the passage, I will find Him in the temple.

My first thought was, I need to go to church - but I'm already doing that. For some, that is where they are busiest! So I decided to look up what the temple was. According to one source, in classical Jewish belief, the Temple acted as the figurative "footstool" of God's presence. So that's it; I will find Jesus not necessarily when I go to church, but when I take the time to sit in God's presence. 

Christmas is less than three weeks away. The pace of life is moving faster and faster as we get closer to the December 25th...and to the end of another year on earth. Will I keep on moving, or will I realize in the midst of the crowds and the noise, I don't have Him. Will I turn around and take the time to sit at God's feet so that I can once again find Jesus?

Or will I continue on my way saying, "I thought He was with you..."?