Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday Selah: Christmas Blessings & Sorrows

You are good, and You do what is good; teach me Your statutes. --Psalm 119:68
I started my day thinking of the joys and sorrows of this Christmas season. My children were all around me...we had great times together with only a few of the inevitable conflicts when people are in each other's space for too long. We got to visit with family at the annual Christmas Eve party at my husband's grandmother's house. She is soon to be 93 and it is such a blessing that we get to share time with her. We had dinner on Christmas day at my mother-in-law's home, joined by my parents and my husband's grandmother.

But there were deep sorrows amongst all the celebrating. One of my mother-in-law's dearest friends passed away in the early hours of last Saturday. Her funeral was held on Tuesday. She was a wonderful lady and will be greatly missed. Her husband is the uncle of my husband's brother-in-law. He was the one who built the house we live in-in the 1940's. Their family lived here when their daughter was born.

On Christmas day, one of our church friends lost his mother to cancer. Although it was an expected passing, it is so painful for our friend and his family. He was unable to be with her at the end because she lived across the country. He was able to spend a few weeks with her in November.

Last night we got a call that the wife of my husband's uncle was playing with her grandchildren on the family room floor, got up and sat on the sofa with her eyes closed. She never opened her eyes again. My husband is in shock as he was just speaking with his father earlier and had learned that this same uncle was looking forward to to retiring from his job in a few weeks.

As sad as all this is, I was truly blessed by an unopened email that I clicked on this morning. It is an article on Today's Christian Woman website. I want to share it with you...somehow it has made me see how lovely it was that our friends and family were able to spend some precious moments with their loved ones. After the initial pain subsides, they have been gifted with memories that will bless them for the rest of their lives.

He Knows My Name

What an elderly store clerk reminded me about taking my name for granted

December 15, 2008 |

“Call me Bill,” the elderly, slightly stooped, sales clerk told me. He’d just handed me his business card. “For some reason they put ‘William’ on the card. But nobody calls me William. Only my mother did. But she’s long gone now.”

As I stood with this retired furniture salesman, now Home Depot appliance guru, I noticed a faraway look in his eyes. I figured it didn’t have to do with the white Maytag double oven we were currently discussing.

“She used to call me William when she was upset with me!” he said and chuckled. Then he turned serious. “What I wouldn’t give to hear my mother call me ‘William’ again. It’s been all these years since she passed, but I still wish I could hear her call my name. You still have your parents?”

I nodded.

“Well, enjoy them while you can. Time goes too quickly. Enjoy listening to the way your mom says your name. It’s the most precious gift.”

I’d gone searching for a new stove, but left with something far more valuable.

Back at home, I called my mom and chatted. I listened to her voice and enjoyed her quick, easy laugh. William was right; it was a wonderful gift and a strong reminder never to take someone’s voice for granted.

Later that evening as I was praying, William’s words drifted back into my mind. How often do I take for granted something as simple as hearing my name? Especially when God speaks it? How many opportunities have I missed to hear God whisper my name with love and acceptance and grace?

Names have such special meaning. In a sense, they define who we are. They bring comfort when spoken by someone we love. The “William” of childhood—who heard that name only when he was in trouble—now attached great significance to that name because it held a special memory of his mom.

I thought about Jesus’ names and how they bring great comfort to me when I say them: “Jesus,” the Lord saves; “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6); “Immanuel,” God with us (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23).

I thought about Simon, whom Jesus named Peter: “I tell you,” Jesus said, “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

God attaches great significance to us through our names. Through the prophet Isaiah, God tells us, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1); “I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:3).

Too often in my busy days, I go through the routine of worship and devotional time. I pray, spouting off my laundry list of needs and wants and “will yous.” But rarely do I sit quietly with my Creator and simply listen to him say my name.

In his book Life of the Beloved, Catholic theologian and priest Henri Nouwen writes: “We are the Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That’s the truth of our lives. That’s the truth I want you to claim for yourself. That’s the truth spoken by the voice that says, ‘You are my Beloved.’ Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center [God’s] words that say: ‘I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst. I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me.’”

While my head understands Nouwen’s words, too often my heart cannot grasp that the Creator of the universe knows my name. He knows me intimately and cares about me; he considers me beloved.

We have a God who loves us so much he calls us by name. I am overwhelmed.

This Christmas, my house will be filled with the noise and clutter and chatter of five adults and four dogs for a week. The stresses and joys of the holiday will compete for my time and attention. But I hope that somewhere in there, every day and throughout the new year and beyond, I will not take for granted the knowledge that God calls me by name. I pray I will truly listen and hear him say, “Beloved. You are mine and I am yours.” And I will know that he means it.

Posted at 3:54 PM on December 15, 2008.

What a wonderful Christmas gift to have discovered in that unopened email -- to be reassured that I am the Lord's Beloved and He is mine!

And to combine with that blessing, as I typed this post, my son was going around opening windows...the outside temperature is warmer than the inside this morning: where yesterday we needed coats go outside, right now it is currently 61 degrees, and expected to get to the low 70's. We're heading out in a bit to take my grandson to play at the park and enjoy this unexpected gift (as it will go back to normal temperatures by Monday).

Dear Father, please be with our friends and family as they go through these sorrows. Thank you for helping me remember to take advantage of the time You've given me with my family. And thank You for the blessed reminder that You love me. Amen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

IOW: Our Own Favorites

The IOW hostesses are taking a break for the holidays. Loni suggested that we all write about our favorite quotes for this week and next. To read more and to link up your post go to Writing Canvas and sign Mr. Linky. While you're at Loni's place, read the latest about her daughter Jessica, the Christmas Miracle. Pray for them as Jessica recovers from open heart surgery.

"I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone." ~ Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

I love to use My Utmost for His Highest as part of my daily devotions. Our pastor recommended it several years ago and I went out right away and purchased an inexpensive copy at the "Big W" store.

Even though I've been through the book several times (and even treated myself to a lovely purple leather copy last year), I always find that the January 1 devotion is the most moving and heart-provoking of the whole year. And the statement that grabs me most every time, out of the more than 7000 sentences in the book, is the one quoted above.

I long for a heart completely captured by God, willingly surrendered to His will, joyfully following His plan for me. To me that is the greatest gift I could bring the Christ Child. Like the wisemen, I spend a lot of time seeking...searching the old documents...trying to find this King.

Unfortunately my sincerity is often marred my daily events, selfish thoughts, disorganized living. Even the good in my life, the service to my family and to my church get in the way of totally surrendering myself to Him.

So every Christmas I marvel at the wondrous Gift, resolve to spend the new year living devoted to Him, and by the time holiday breaks are over and life settles back into a normal my heart settles back into its normal routine: Reading the Word-sometimes in awe, sometimes in obligation; serving the Lord-sometimes in awe, sometimes in obligation.

I found the illustration of the Christmas Star above and it struck me with the thought of how profoundly it points not only to the manger, but also to the cross. Looking at the radiating points,

I see up into the heavens to God the Father and all creation.

I see the path to the manger and the kneeling shepherds worshipping the new born King.

I see the years of ministry our Lord had during His earthly life.

I see the path He took to the Cross of our Salvation.

I see the stone rolled back and evidence of His ressurection that means we who believe also will have Life ressurected.

I see Love that points to everyone everywhere.

I see that, no matter how I fail to keep that January 1st resolution, He gives me the opportunity everyday to " be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday Selah: A few thoughts for Christmas

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." --Matthew 1:23
Christmas is just days away and I've worked to keep the true meaning fresh in my mind and heart. I can't help but be a bit "Bah! Humbug!" about certain sing-songy cliches about 'the reason for the season.' I even vetoed rhyming Christmas cards this year. I wanted to feel and send an authentic message about our true celebration.

We settled on this verse by Ron Lessin in a beautiful snowflake card from DaySpring cards.
Just think, you're here not by chance, but by God's choosing. His hand formed you and made you the person you are. He compares you to no one else--you are one of a kind. You lack nothing that His grace can't give you. He has allowed you to be here at this time in history to fulfill His special purpose for this generation.
My dear friends, it is my heart's desire: that you feel this loving message from the Lord and that you can fully realize His plans for you as we celebrate the greatest Gift ever given this December 25th. I enjoy writing for and connecting with each of you. I will be thinking about you and praying God's grace upon you this coming week.

I will leave you with the December 25th devotion from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. I hope you can feel the love of the Father and the gift of the Son and the comfort of the Spirit all week and into the New Year.
His Birth and Our New Birth

His Birth in History. "...that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside. Jesus Christ is not the best human being the human race can boast of---He is a Being for whom the human race can take no credit at all. He is not man becoming God, but God Incarnate---God coming into human flesh from outside it. His life is the highest and holiest entering through the most humble of doors. Our Lord's birth was an advent---the appearance of God in human form.

His Birth in Me. "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you..." (Galatians 4:19). Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a "Bethlehem" for the Son of God? I cannot enter the realm of the kingdom of God unless I am born again from above by a birth totally unlike physical birth. "You must be born again" (John 3:7). This is not a command, but a fact based on the authority of God. The evidence of new birth is that I yield myself so completely to God that "Christ is formed" in me. And once "Christ is formed" in me, His nature immediately begins to work through me.

God Evident in the Flesh. This is what is made so profoundly possible for you and for me through the redemption of man by Jesus Christ.
Lord, Thank you for giving me a chance to be what You designed me to be. Thank you for sending your Son that I might become a fragrance lovely to You. Help me share this chance with others. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thankful Thursday: Random

This video is about as random as it gets. I'm so very thankful that our family makes a point to avoid turning the holidays into this:

Visit Iris at Grace Alone for more Thankful Thursday posts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WFW: The Glory of God!

Nothing says rejoicing like the enthusiasm of children!
This is the Dynamo's preschool group singing
"We Wish YOU A Merry Christmas!"
(It's also his first on-stage performance!! *proud Nana sigh*)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Saturday Selah: Grace Woven in Darkness

I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places. --Isaiah 45:3
I have a little linen doily made by my great-grandmother. It is one of the few pieces with tatted lace made by her own hands that remains in existence. For me that makes it all the more precious and I take the task of its preservation seriously. It never sits on a table where food or drink may be used. It is never under a candle holder. When it is on display, it is used to highlight a special item that in no way can harm the doily.

Monetarily, it is not very valuable...a similar one is selling on ebay for under $10. But the value of the doily is not in its materials, for linen and cotton thread are cheap. The value of my doily comes from the hands that made it. My great-grandmother spent time using her talents to produce this little piece to make her home more lovely. She probably never imagined that the work she did in the early part of the 20th century would be adorning her great-granddaughter's home in the early part of the 21st century.

I read a little devotion from Streams in the Desert (1925) by Mrs. L.B. Cowman today that stirred the thoughts of my great-grandmother's doily. The devotion was probably written around the same time my great-grandmother's fingers wove my doily. Let me share with you the beauty woven by Mrs. Cowman's suffering on the mission field of Japan as she collected beautiful words to comfort and sustain her through the difficulties.

December 13

In the famous lace shops of Brussels, there are special rooms devoted to the spinning of the world's finest lace, all with the most delicate patterns. The rooms are kept completely dark, except for the light that falls directly on the developing pattern from one very small window. Only one person sits in each small room, where the narrow rays of light fall upon the threads he is weaving, for lace is always more beautifully and delicately woven when the weaver himself is in the dark, with only his work in the light.

Sometimes the darkness of our lives is worse, because we cannot even see the web we are weaving or understand what we are doing. Therefore we are unable to see any beauty or possible good arising from our experience. Yet if we are faithful to forge ahead and "if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9), someday we will know that the most exquisite work of our lives was done during those days when it was the darkest.

If you seem to be living in deep darkness because God is working in strange and mysterious ways, do not be afraid. Simply go forward in faith and in love, never doubting Him. He is watching and will bring goodness and beauty from all of your pain and tears. ~J.R. Miller
My husband and I are in a time of questioning. We know we are called to be ministers in our own community. But, for some reason, God allowed the little mission church we've been involved with to close its doors. The state convention withdrew its funding and the pastor is moving on to other ministry opportunities. So the work of the past years seems for naught. Except....we have not felt God telling us He has changed our calling. The present time seems to be meant for refreshing and regrouping, bathed in prayer.

I don't know what our next move will be, but I am assured that the Master Weaver has the threads of my life firmly in His hands. I know He has gifted me to weave certain threads He gives me into a design of His choosing, not mine. And I know that the final work will be a masterpiece.
The shuttles of His purpose move
To carry out His own design;
Seek not too soon to disapprove
His work, nor yet assign
Dark motives, when, with silent tread,
You view some somber fold;
For lo, within each darker thread
There twines a thread of gold.

Spin cheerfully,
Not tearfully,
He knows the way you plod;
Spin carefully,
Spin prayerfully,
But leave the thread with God.
--from the Canadian Home Journal

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm a Guest Contributor @ Internet Cafe Devotions Tuesday:

Advent Lost: A Christmas Parable

She slipped quietly into the back pew after the service started. The congregation’s song washed over her, calming her slightly, as she looked around the modest sanctuary through the veil of her hair.

The song came to an end and the worship leader told the congregation to shake hands with everyone around them. Suppressing a surge of panic, she hurried out the doors and went into the restroom she had seen as she walked in the church foyer. She stayed there until she heard the music start again.

IOW: The Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!

Lori @ All You Have to Give is hosting today's In Other Words. Visit her blog to read more and to leave a link to your post.

Confession Time: I've already had some Grinch-y moments this year. :*( The first time was when I saw the countdown to Christmas sign at the "Big W" store --before October 1st. Who needs the pressure to start shopping, decorating, cooking.....that early!!!? [Sorry. Moment of remembered panic here.] What I meant to ask is- why can't we just take it a day at a time? What about all the important celebrations we can have before all the shopping, decorating, cooking!!!!?

Besides all the health-related awareness observances...did the "Big W" store marketers pause to consider that October is Auto Battery Safety Month? And Pickled Pepper Month? And Dinosaur Month? And we just can't forget: Sarcastic Awareness Month! Then there's the weekly observances: First week of October is Get Organized Week, and World Space Week, and Breastfeeding Week? Did they even bother to put out the Teller Appreciation Week cards for the second week of October? Now that is really a big Pet Peeve of mine (observed, interestingly enough the same week as the Teller Appreciation)! Even if we fast forward through the rest of October (and skip remembering Wolf Awareness Week and National Radon Week), we still have November's observances to get through...

Which is, as we all know, Apple Month (oops...did I just do a flashback to Sarcastic Awareness Week?). In the rush to shove Christmas sales down our throats, the stores don't even acknowledge important birthdays (like Rutherford B. Hayes-Oct. 4; Evil Knievel-Oct. 17; Lyle Lovett-Nov. 1; & Harpo Marx-Nov. 23).

Of course, in the race to sell us some "holiday" spirit, they completely forget to display gifts for Hi Neighbor Month (December)...focusing instead on flashy, tinsel-filled displays of toys, jewelry, and way-too-rich foods. Instead of commemorating Ice Cream and Violins Day (Dec. 13), they incessantly blare out announcements of ONLY 15 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT! Like shopping doesn't happen December 26--Hello!!! After Christmas Sales!! (Just like Black Friday, only sadder with broken toys and returned ugly sweaters on the shelves.)

There is always something or someone demanding our attention and our celebration and our money. Greeting card companies and toy companies and political action committees and non-profits call and ring bells and hammer and pound to get one more dime (read spend, spend, buy, buy here) out of us. And I get so tired of trying to make everyone happy and fill everyone's wishes...sometimes I just wanna hide away from the entire season.

Wait! Before you start humming the tune to "You're A Mean One, Mrs. Grinch," and wondering why you even clicked on this blog post... I assure you I really am more Cindy Lou Who than Grinch---once I changed my focus from the rush to the creche.

"Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you...Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name JESUS. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. His will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end." --Luke 1:28, 30-33
Remembering the coming Savior has been the best thing I've done for my family and myself. It took getting outside the commercialization of Christmas and regaining the spirit of awe that Mary felt when the angel spoke to her and promised this Son to resize my heart (previously 2 sizes too small--oh, no...that was the Grinch). After all, the promise to birth the Son of God was given to Mary, while the promise to bear the Son of God was given to all believers. Have you celebrated this promise and shared this gift yet?

Our family makes the time to revisit the story throughout the whole Advent season. When we were deciding this year what Scripture to start with, our 3-year-old grandson popped up, in his sweet little lisp, with, "We need to start with Jesus!"

That's what it's all about, dear friends. And I wonder how relaxed and special the season would be if instead of Grinching-out when I first see the countdown signs...if I just "start with Jesus?"

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in a manger. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this Child, and all who heard it were amazed. -Luke 2:16-18

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WFW: Letters from a Pilgrim Thanksgiving

"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe
The Mayflower Compact
In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, etc.

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.

Edward Winslow, Mourt's Relation
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

William Bradford, Of Plimoth Plantation
"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

The letter of William Hilton, passenger on the Fortune
(The letter was written in November of 1621)

Loving Cousin,
At our arrival in New Plymouth , in New England, we found all our friends and planters in good health, though they were left sick and weak, with very small means; the Indians round about us peaceable and friendly; the country very pleasant and temperate, yielding naturally, of itself, great store of fruits, as vines of divers sorts in great abundance. There is likewise walnuts, chestnuts, small nuts and plums, with much variety of flowers, roots and herbs, no less pleasant than wholesome and profitable. No place hath more gooseberrries and strawberries, nor better. Timber of all sorts you have in England doth cover the land, that affords beasts of divers sorts, and great flocks of turkey, quails, pigeons and partridges; many great lakes abounding with fish, fowl, beavers, and otters. The sea affords us great plenty of all excellent sorts of sea-fish, as the rivers and isles doth variety of wild fowl of most useful sorts. Mines we find, to our thinking; but neither the goodness nor quality we know. Better grain cannot be than the Indian corn, if we will plant it upon as good ground as a man need desire. We are all freeholders; the rent-day doth not trouble us; and all those good blessings we have, of which and what we list in their seasons for taking.
Our company are, for most part, very religious, honest people; the word of God sincerely taught us every Sabbath; so that I know not any thing a contented mind can here want. I desire your friendly care to send my wife and children to me, where I wish all the friends I have in England; and so I rest

Your loving kinsman,
William Hilton

How it began.

Some carried it on.

Most dropped it along the way.

We must pick it back up is THE WAY.

The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. ~~Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Visit Amydeanne @ The 160 Acre Woods for more WFW posts and to link your own.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

IOW: Living Thankfully

In Other Words is being hosted by Deborah @ Chocolate & Coffee. Visit her to find more posts and to link your own post about today's quote below.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. --Psalm 16:11
How blessed are believers even if the only gift we receive is to take Christ's hand, walk down the path of life, and stand in the presence of Holy God!

I lived for a time bitter at past hurts, angry at present irritations, and dreading future problems. What a sad excuse for a Christian I was. By that time I had been walking with the Lord for about 13 years. But when I got overwhelmed with day-to-day life, raising children-at times on my own because of my husband's demanding job, I started to grumble and complain and feel sorry for myself. My self-absorbed attitude left me blind to the pleasures God was offering every day in my husband, children, and home.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path. --Psalm 119:105
My only ladder out of the hole of self-pity I had dug for myself was built with God's word. Each deliberate step I took in reading the Bible, praying the Word, listening to Christian radio broadcasts, and attending a Bible-teaching church, lifted me closer to the path God had planned out for me. It was a very tall ladder--I had dug a very deep hole.
Every word of God is pure;
He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. --Isaiah 40:8
I realize that problems are a part of this post-Eden life we have, but there is always something to thank God for. His gifts are abundantly given.
  • If you woke up this morning
    ---you've been given the gift of life. Find the moments of joy, collect them like treasures: a child's smile, a lover's embrace, a hot cup of coffee, a second of silence...
  • If you are able to read this post
    --you've been given a measure of health. Even if you deal with illness or infirmity, today you are not flat on your back...
  • If you have a roof over your head, modest or extravagant or somewhere in between
    --you've been given the gift of home, even if it's someone else's roof. The Lord placed you there to do His good will...
  • If you have a Bible on your desk or access to one online
    --you've been given a most precious gift - His love letters to you. You have the opportunity right this very minute to hear His words spoken to your heart...
  • If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior
    --you've been given THE most precious gift - life with Him forever. No greater gift has ever been given...
Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.
Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today! --Psalm 95:1-7

Father, help me never forget You are the Giver of all good things. Remind me to pray faithfully when things are difficult -- and to pray more faithfully when things are easier. Lead me to celebrate the joy of Your presence in the ordinary events of life so that thankfulness becomes like breathing. For You are worthy of all praise and thanksgiving. Amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Saturday Selah: It's A Good Thing

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
And to sing praises in Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night,
On an instrument of ten strings,
On the lute,
And on the harp,
With harmonious sound.
For You LORD, have made me glad through Your work;
I will triumph in the works of Your hands. --Psalm 92:1-4
The coming week will be very full of preparations for the large dinner our family will share together on Thursday.

My sisters are coming in from Maryland and Virginia. There will be at least 15 of us (up to 20 if two other families show up) gathered around my parents' tables. They have two tables in their dining room and adjoining kitchen and another they can bring up from the family room if needed.

My oldest daughter, Pastry Princess (and the Dynamo) will be staying at our house through the week so we can prepare our contributions to the feast. We will be making hor 'dourves, salads, and desserts.

I really want to make sure we take time to focus on more than just the copious amounts of food we will consume. Just the fact that we are all able to gather is evidence, in the midst of this year's economic problems, that we've all been blessed by the Lord.
O LORD, how great are Your works!
Your thoughts are very deep.
A senseless man does not know,
Nor does a fool understand this. --Psalm 92:5-6
As our group includes believers and unbelievers, I am seeking ways to be subtle about guiding us to give proper thanks to the Lord. I'm working to compose a collection of Thanksgiving Psalms and thoughts on a little scroll to put at each place setting.
And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into...ministry. --1 Timothy 1:12
I am resolved not to let this opportunity escape without presenting the greatest Gift deserving of our thankfulness in a way that draws the believers and unbelievers alike to express their thanks to their Creator.

Father, help me to be an expression of Your love to our family and friends. Guide my attitude and my actions so that all gathered will be drawn to You alone. Amen.
Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. --Psalm 147:1

Secret Meaning of Your Name

Ok, Linda @ 2nd Cup of Coffee has again led me to play a little long at the keyboard. You can play too by clicking the link at the bottom of the post.

What Patricia Means
You are influential and persuasive. You tend to have a lot of power over people. It's that control freak thing. You don't want me as a passenger in your car!

Generally, you use your powers for good. You excel at solving other people's problems. No, I do NOT meddle!

Occasionally, you do get a little selfish and persuade people to do things that are only in your interest. I thought that's why you have kids: "How 'bout bringin' me a glass of tea, since you're already up?"

You are usually the best at everything ... you strive for perfection. And as a perfectionist, if I can't get it done right it has to wait. Yes, I'm a card-carrying procrastinator, as is typical of most perfectionists.

You are confident, authoritative, and aggressive. That's why our daughter's dog kneels at my feet whenever I am around her (and that's why my feet get wet YUCK! when she does).

You have the classic “Type A” personality. Is this supposed to be a positive or negative thing? At least my dad is happy--he never accepted anything short of an "A." My dh thinks that's where the above characteristic came from *wink*.

You are a seeker. You often find yourself restless - and you have a lot of questions about life. Yes, I get bored. No, I'm not nosy--just curious. (Ok, I confess: I used to read the encyclopedia for fun.)

You tend to travel often, to fairly random locations. You're most comfortable when you're far away from home. I love my home. But I really like those little get-aways my dh takes me on. We just head out and wander in some direction or another until we see somewhere we want to stop. Lately it's been Amish country in Ohio.

You are quite passionate and easily tempted. Your impulses sometimes get you into trouble. Ooops! Yes...But I like to think of these times as learning experiences.

You are wild, crazy, and a huge rebel. You're always up to something. My family just calls me names like: bohemian, eccentric, hippy...

You have a ton of energy, and most people can't handle you. You're very intense. I do tend to overwhelm when I am excited about a project.

You definitely are a handful, and you're likely to get in trouble. But your kind of trouble is a lot of fun. That's why I picked a nice, rock-steady husband and surround myself with sensible friends. That way the fun is always more or less safe. Nevermind my tendency to walk to the edge to look at what's at the bottom of the cliff...

You tend to be pretty tightly wound. It's easy to get you excited... which can be a good or bad thing. Ouch! Yep...I either encourage or take over. It's that "Type A" thing again.

You have a lot of enthusiasm, but it fades rather quickly. You don't stick with any one thing for very long. Who let you into my craft closet?!!?

You have the drive to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. Your biggest problem is making sure you finish the projects you start. Again...somebody's been snooping! It's called C-R-E-A-T-I-V-I-T-Y!

You are very open. You communicate well, and you connect with other people easily. Just put me in the middle of a group. We'll laugh and have fun. But don't put me behind a microphone...suddenly my legs don't wanna hold me up and my voice raises a couple octaves.

You are a naturally creative person. Ideas just flow from your mind. My husband calls me a dreamer...then pats me on the head when I overwhelm him with those ideas. But mostly he indulges me and tries to help me accomplish my dreams.

A true chameleon, you are many things at different points in your life. You are very adaptable. No choice there: raised in a military family, married a military man. It's adapt or be miserable. And miserable just doesn't work in my world. I like to enjoy everything and everyone around me--wherever I am.

So that's me in a few lines. It's amazing how close this little game came to the REAL me. I had fun doing this. Thanks, Linda!!!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Fave 5

I've been inspired by other fun blogs, so I'm joining the Friday Fave 5 today. You can see more at Susanne's blog: Living to Tell the Story.

I've had a fun week, culminating in a snowy morning to wake up to. My son was up early checking the school closings...drat! not even a delay in Wayne County.

1) But it definitely caused my first Fave:This is my neighbor's side yard. I don't have quite as clear a view of the hills behind us as this shows. Our "holler" is sort of narrow at the spot where our house sits.

2) I love my warm fireplace. All our open living spaces are heated by this old "Black Bart" cast-iron stove. The wall was designed and built by my mother-in-law and her husband 30 years ago when they added the family room and new kitchen. The beautiful mantel was a custom project by him as well.

3) My sunroom, still a work in progress, looks out on the backyard. I'm attempting a to cultivate a green indoor thumb. As much success as I have growing a garden out'd think I could grow stuff in the house. We'll know how well I'm doing by the amount of Boston fern leaves littering the floor and my antique chairs. Hopefully the next time I display a picture of the room, the ferns will be lush, the walls will be stained a pickled oak, and the furniture will be painted a creamy white for a Nantucket beach cottage feel.

BTW, on the table is a pineapple plant (the immature pineapple has already turned yellow-pretending to be ripe so I'll harvest it and it won't have to suffer from the drought I put it through anymore). ;-/ Also the dish in the front contains the Dynamo's prickly garden (a Noggin idea), with succulents and cacti. (They don't mind my neglect so much.)

4) The new rug we bought ourselves for our "Stay-cation Beach Get-away" room. We've gone a bit wild and fun in here with our colors and this rug was exactly the right look. And the deal was hard to pass up at a store going out of business sale (sad about that ;-( ...but thrilled with the price!). What a great way to say Happy Anniversary with something that makes us both smile when we see it. No, we didn't hang it on the wall...I had to stand on the step from the main part of the house to get the whole thing in the picture. And yes, we still need furniture...... I'm eager to get the next item, a cozy sofa, next payday.

5) Ooooooo, just the height of luxury and spoiling!! My dear husband bought me not one, but two tubes of Bath and Body Works' Vanilla Bean Noel body cream. It smells like a buttery, vanilla cake (maybe that's why I've been craving Kentucky Butter Cake!). The Dynamo can't resist hugging and snuggling when I use this cream.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Celebrating the Holidays with the Internet Cafe

Holiday Traditions & Ideas

Advent Wreath & Devotions

Our favorite holiday tradition starts on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving. I start by preparing the dining room and making an Advent wreath. We began this tradition 15 years ago. I was dreading the holidays and had completely lost my desire to do much more than put a few gifts under the tree for the kids. Our families were far apart, both sides wanting us to join them. We tried to make everyone happy by alternating with whom we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas.

One year, trying to be the good daughter and daughter-in-law, we drove from West Virginia to North Carolina to spend a few days before Christmas with my parents and my grandmother who had come up from South Carolina. We had our complete Christmas Eve and Christmas day celebration with them on December 21 & 22. We were supposed to leave on the 23rd to get back to West Virginia by December 24 to join my husband's family for their yearly Christmas Eve party-the only time all the family is together in one place. It snowed in North Carolina on December 22 and all the highways were shut down. We finally ventured out on December 24th as my husband is very experienced in driving in snowy weather. We drove all day and missed the Christmas party, arriving at my mother-in-law's house at around midnight. The whole experience really spoiled holiday travel for me.

So, October 1993, as I looked for some way to recapture my joy in the holidays, I found a booklet about celebrating Advent. That year the kids and I made our first Advent wreath and had Advent devotions as part of our home celebration. The kids were young and in order to hold their attention during devotions each evening, I made an event of it. They each received a small gift (candy or such on weeknights and Saturdays, and socks or cocoa mugs on Sundays). We kept the devotions short, but it was such a sweet time.

Gradually, my excitement came back, because we put the focus back on the real reason we celebrate the holidays. I include Thanksgiving because our tradition already included decorating for Christmas instead of shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Our Advent times got more special each year and was I bowled over the year my kids decided they wanted to lead devotions AND they each wrote their own!

As the kids grew, got jobs, and the girls started college, scheduling became an issue. We started celebrating Advent just on Sunday nights. Last year was a scheduling nightmare and we ended up changing the day we did devotions to Monday.

This year there is no way to keep up with everyone's individual obligations, so my husband and I have decided to go back to the way it was at the beginning. We will have devotions every night from the first Sunday after Thanksgiving to Christmas morning. I will prepare treats and small gifts as always for whoever happens to be with us each night. I'm really looking forward to this new phase of our holiday celebration. It will be a different kind of special as we read the word and worship the Savior together.
A Light in the Darkness by Fred A. Hartley:

Christians know Advent, a word which means "coming," as a time of preparation and reflection. For the course of four Sundays preceding Christmas Eve, a period of twenty-two to twenty-eight days, we anticipate the birth of Christ.

Scripture readings for Advent center around the prophecy of a Messiah and His birth in Bethlehem. They tell, too, of our life together in His name, and of His promise to return as reigning King and judge of the world.

Advent is like a light in the darkness. For us it will always be a time of great hope. A Kind called Immanuel has come into our midst, and "He will save His people from their sins."

The Advent wreath represents God's never-ending love and eternity, and the surrounding evergreens, the four Sundays. Set among the evergreens are the four candles of Advent: the first, the Candle of Light; the second, the Candle of Hope; the third, the Candle of Joy; and on the fourth Sunday the Candle of Love is lit. A fifth candle in the center of the wreath, called the Christ Candle, is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to represent the bright light of the Messiah, Jesus, who declared, "I am the Light of the world."
Suggested websites for more information on celebrating Advent:

There are many more. You can also find books, wreaths, and candles at your local Christian bookstore.

Thankful Thursday: Celebrating Together with Him

Psalm 100
A Thanksgiving Psalm
1-2 On your feet now—applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter,
sing yourselves into his presence.

3 Know this: God is God, and God, God.
He made us; we didn't make him.
We're his people, his well-tended sheep.

4 Enter with the password: "Thank you!"
Make yourselves at home, talking praise.
Thank him. Worship him.

5 For God is sheer beauty,
all-generous in love,
loyal always and ever.
Sometimes I just love to read contemporary translations. This week I've been reading Psalm 100 and while it is beautiful in any version of the Bible, in The Message it sounds like a contemporary praise and worship song. It's just where I was headed this Thankful Thursday.

My Thankful List is right out Psalm 100:
  1. I'm thankful that I can be active in my worship of God. I don't have to always be constrained by convention. I can laugh and clap in His presence.
  2. I'm thankful that GOD is the only God. All His words are trustworthy. He made me for His purpose and He takes care of me as I seek to know that purpose.
  3. I'm thankful that His presence is HOME. A place where I can be myself completely--no pretenses or putting on a church-y face. He loves me as I am, while He molds me into His vessel.
  4. I'm thankful that I can understand and appreciate true beauty because I can look to Him to see in Jesus the definition of beauty.
  5. I'm thankful that Jesus loves me and stands up for me when I pray as my true advocate with the Father.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

IOW: Comfort from Jesus

“And I don’t regret the rain,
And the nights I felt the pain,
And the tears I had to cry some
of those times along the way.
Every road I had to take,
Every time my heart would break -
It was just something that I had to get through
To get me to you…”

As sung by Lila McCann, “To Get Me To You”
[Hope Floats Soundtrack]

Who is this God?
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy." --Psalm 103:8
How can I know Him personally?
"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." --John 14:7
I don't know how people survive this life without knowing God intimately. It would never be enough for me to be like the children of Israel -- always waiting for a prophet or judge or other leader to give them a word from God.

I'm greedy... I want to lay claim to all the promises of the Bible. And Jesus promised an abundant life -- He came to earth to give it to me (and to "whosoever believeth" --John 3:16).

And He promised to hear my prayers -- from my own lips -- because I trust Him.
"He answered their prayer, because they trusted in Him." --1 Chronicles 5:20b
I know that struggles and sorrows come with living on this decaying earth and in this aging body, but I can't help grabbing onto Jesus' very words of comfort.
"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." --John 16:33
So that you won't think me a 'glass half-full' woman because of an easy life (although I've been very blessed), let me share:

I suffered the death of my innocence at age 10 when my own grandfather misused me -- all the while assuring me that I was his favorite and he would never do anything to hurt me.

But God pulled me away from the typical self-blame of that circumstance by preparing me ahead of time to endure --

For even when my father (a non-believer at the time) requested my mother not attend church, she sent me on a bus from ages 6-8, to a church where I learned:
"Jesus loves me...

The Bible tells me so!!!"
Then, two years after the devastation of my misuse, at age 12, Jesus met me at the altar of Bethlehem Baptist Church when I prayed to accept Him as my Savior.

Every time Satan tried to use the horror and shame against me, when I took my eyes off my circumstances, and put them back on God:
"...the God of hope fill[ed me] with all joy and peace in believing, that [I] may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." --Romans 15:13
Did I struggle with self-esteem, at times hating myself? Of course. But I found God to be faithful to me even then. He showed me a true Grandfather's love--one not tarnished by the stain of sin.
"The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him." --Nahum 1:7
And then He turned my pain into joy when a mother, after hearing my testimony, came to me with fears her daughter was being misused by her stepfather. I had already developed a relationship with the girl through my ministry with young teen girls [Acteens]. I helped that mother and daughter open a dialogue together. I didn't get to know the end of the story, but I rejoice that I will get to hear the whole thing one day.

Although the summer I was 10 years old has colored my entire life, 20 years after it happened God showed me His purpose in allowing it to happen.
"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 tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." --2 Corinthians 1:3-4
If helping that one teen girl is the only reason I had to suffer, it is completely worth it, because I was able to show that our God is faithful and true.

*******Are you walking a difficult path? God is longing to comfort you. He has a plan for you that includes building you up so that you may help others in their times of need.*******
"For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation." --2 Corinthians 1:5-7

Michelle is hosting In Other Words at her blog Because I Love You.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fall Into Flavor Finale: Fruit Cocktail Cake

I spent my last two years of high school in Okinawa, Japan. Six months after graduation, I married my dear husband. One of the gifts my mother gave me for my new house (ok, my teeny--tiny--itty--bitty apartment - the stove/oven was just 24 inches wide and not much taller) was a cookbook put together by the ladies of our church.

The front page says:

In honor of the season and in celebration of the 27th anniversary (November 16, 1981) of my legal binding*[see note below]* marriage to my soul-mate, I give you the only fruit cake I really like, from Koza Cookery. (And Linda.... it's quick-easy-and yep, has butter!)

Fruit Cocktail Cake

Mix together:
1-1/2 cup sugar
2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

Then add:
1 medium-sized can fruit cocktail, juice too

Mix until well-blended. Put in an oblong pan and,

Sprinkle over top:
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup brown sugar

Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup canned milk

Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1 cup shredded coconut. Spread over warm cake and put under broiler until bubbly and brown.

This cake is delicious served warm or cold. You can even heat it up in the microwave (I sneak and eat it for a quick breakfast---if there is any leftover the next day!)

*[Note: In Okinawa, American pastors are not licensed to marry. We had to go through the US consulate and the mayor of Naha City to get legally married. Because of the time it took to get the paperwork done and my husband's status changed from single to married, for pay and other purposes, we did the legal part a month and a half before our church wedding on January 2, 1982. We celebrate both dates because they are both so special to us. During the waiting time from married in the eyes of the government to married in the eyes of God, we got my identification paperwork changed, my husband moved out of the dormitory and into an apartment-December 16, bought a set of dishes, and many other little tasks. It was great fun being secretly married---only my parents and our pastor knew about it.]*

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday Selah: Encouragement

"I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints." --Philemon 6-7 [NIV]
I started my day reading about endurance. I thought that would be today's Selah topic. I read a nifty devotion about enduring life with teenagers (it applies to life with young adults, too! I'll come back to that in a later post.). Then I stumbled across the above verses in Philemon when I read a brief devotion on encouragement, which I'll share later in this post.

Don't you think that those verses in Philemon are just the heart of the Christian walk?! Each time we share our faith, love our brothers and sisters, and encourage believers, we are stepping in Christ's footprints.

Have you ever tried to walk exactly where another has stepped before you? Practically speaking, everyone has a different stride. Placing your foot precisely where the other has placed his or her foot is a best difficult, at worst may cause you to stumble.

But if you are following Christ's step, placing your foot into the spot He first placed His, as He does when He is leading you to be an encouragement to another...instead of falling, your sense of balance is strengthened. And if you do fall (tripping over your tongue or your fear or such), His is the hand that reaches out to pick you up and set you firmly back into His predetermined path.
"But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we has at first." --Hebrews 13:3-4
I think that is the draw to being a Christian blogger. I have the opportunity to be encouraged by the posts and comments of other bloggers. And I have the opportunity to encourage other bloggers by my posts and comments. I find that it is much easier to be an anonymous (more or less) encourager than to do it face to face. But encouragement is a ministry to which all Christians are called.

I have a few boxes of pretty notecards and a list of addresses of my Sunday school class and church members. I try to periodically send a note to those God lays on my heart. I started the practice after receiving several encouraging notes myself. When I saw how they brightened my day, I understood that I was called to do the same...either through a note sent unexpectedly or by shaking a believer's hand and telling how much I appreciate him or her.

Now to the devotion I read and it's leading to another level of encouraging:
From the Women's Devotional Bible [Zondervan Publishing House]:

"Sweetheart" by Kathryn Hillen
"Let Me Call You Sweetheart--I Can't Remember Your Name."
The pin, almost as big as a saucer, was worn by a middle-aged woman - without doubt, an extrovert. We were at a state PTA convention, encountering many unfamiliar faces. The pin seemed to be her humorous way of saying, "Let's be friends for today, but I'm not even going to attempt to remember your name."

We have many temporary relationships: those beside us on the plane or in the laundromat, the people who camp next to us at a resort, and the neighbors who move in and out with such rapidity. It's up to us to decide if these contacts will be meaningless or significant.

Ask God, "What would you like to say to this person through me?" You may be surprised. He may ask you to speak words of appreciation and encouragement, to witness about Christ, or only to be friendly. When we look a person in the eye and ask about their lives, we show that they are valuable. And even if we never learn the person's name, we have been a channel through which God can reach him or her. That is both exciting and humbling.
Father, help me to step into Christ's footprints as I meet both strangers and friends. Grow me into an encourager who asks You each time what You want me to say in these encounters. Make me a blessing, reaching out to others in Your name. Amen.