Friday, December 08, 2017

December 8, 2006 and December 8, 2017 -- Enjoy again or read for the first time this recycled blog.

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS LETTER

TODAY’S SCRIPTURE

(Mary’s Song) And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.

Luke 1:46-55

THE FIRST CHRISTMAS LETTER

Greetings to all of our family and friends,

This has been some year and I wanted to fill you in. As you know, I became engaged to a fine man, Joseph. The community had been informed about our plans and we were very happy. Then the strangest thing happened.

I was visited by an angel! I know that is hard to believe. I am just a small town girl and was shocked when Gabriel came with a message from God. I was told that I had been picked to carry God’s Son. The angel even told me what to name the baby – Jesus. I was confused at first and could not begin to imagine all the consequences of this announcement. The Holy Spirit came upon me and I conceived.

Joseph was also confused when I told him I was with child. After all, I was a virgin. Why should he believe me? I think he seriously considered walking away, but then an angel told him I was telling the truth. Joseph believed. Joseph understood. Joseph is a good man.

I went to visit my cousin Elizabeth and when I walked in the door, the child she was carrying jumped in her womb. Elizabeth then called me “blessed among women.” Oh what a time we had. Elizabeth was so excited about being with child. Why who would have thought such a thing was possible at her age? Truly a gift from God. She explained that Zachariah could not speak until after the birth. The child she carried was also a son and when the baby was born, Zachariah spoke and said his son would be called John.

Of course, Caesar called for the census and we had to go to Bethlehem. I know this was a hard time on all who had to travel, but being heavy with child made the trip even harder. I was beginning to think we would have to stop along the way until the baby came, but we did make it to Bethlehem. The town was so full there were no rooms. Joseph finally found an innkeeper who would let us have shelter in the stable. Now how could there be no rooms, when I was to give birth to such a special child? 

We had just settled into the stable, when I delivered a beautiful baby boy. Then the most unusual things began to happen. The shepherds came. They said angels had told them about the birth of a baby. A special baby. The Christ Child. They fell on their knees and said this was a blessed baby. The Savior they had been waiting for. The one who would love even the lowliest. When Jesus was eight days old, we took him to the temple and a man named Simeon took Jesus in his arms, praised God, and said his eyes had seen God’s salvation. And Anna, a prophetess, gave thanks to God and spoke about my child to all who would hear.

Joseph and I have been fine. Jesus is almost one year old now and it has been a daily wonder to see him grow and learn.

Well, that is my news. What has your year been like?

Mary, Mother of Jesus

QUESTIONS OF THE DAY
Now how do you top that? If you had received this letter, would you have believed it? What would you put in a letter if you were writing to Mary?

LET US PRAY
Dear Jesus, I am so thankful that you were born. To know that God loved me enough to send His Son to save me makes me want to leap with joy. What a glorious day that was when you were born. Angels proclaiming the news. Never allow the Christmas spirit to leave my heart. Christmas means ………………………………… Amen

Friday, December 01, 2017

I started this blog in 2006 and looked back to see what I had posted that December.  Not to be lazy, but I have decided to recycle those December blogs.  I hope you enjoy reading them again or for the first time.

December 1, 2006  and December 1, 2017

GOD SENT A MIRACLE

I could say so many things about December. I look at December as the end of something old and the approach of something new. Yes, it does close one year and makes us prepare for the next, BUT December reminds us that one chapter in our history closed and another began. With the birth of one small baby, our lives changed. A baby sent for all – Jews and Gentiles, men and women. A baby that changed forever our relationship with God. A baby – visual proof of God’s love for us. A baby was born and one chapter closed (The Old Testament) and another began (The New Testament). God sent us a gift. It is up to us how we use it.

May you welcome God’s gift into every minute of your life.

TODAY'S SCRIPTURE
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

John 1:29-34

GOD SENT A MIRACLE
God said to the angel, “You are right.
These humans of mine aren’t very bright.
I gave them a world full of all they would need
and ten simple rules you think they could heed.

Now look at the mess they’ve made down there.
To straighten it out will take more than a prayer.
They’re asking for a miracle, so I’ll send them one.
A miracle indeed ---- I’ll send them my son!

They’ll want a soldier or, most likely, a king,
but I’ll send them a baby, a wee little thing.”
“What can a baby do?” the angel did ask.
“Can a baby live up to such a great task?”

“He’ll listen and learn as he grows up with man.
That, my dear angel, is part of the plan.
Yes!” God said. “I’ll send them my son.
Through faith in Him, freedom can be won.”

God was right on that first Christmas morn,
The world had a chance when that baby was born.
So don’t be a human, who’s not very bright,
Believe in Jesus and do what is right.

QUESTION OF THE DAY
Yes, the world was perfect. Perfect until God created humans. We have messed it up, but then Jesus came for each of us. Do you know that God sent His Son to take away your sins?

LET US PRAY
Oh, thank you God, We would be lost without the redemption of Your Son. We have made a mess of things down here. It seems no matter how hard we try, things still go wrong. But it is not we, it is me. I try and try, but still mess things up. I do thank you for the gift of Jesus. The Lamb of God. My way to you. Without this gift, I would be lost. Without this gift I would be ………………………………… Amen

Friday, November 24, 2017

LEFTOVERS

Every year the ole turkey bird and Thanksgiving gets shoved further and further into being unimportant. 

Our turkey is still in the freezer.  We had ham.  Giving thanks gets inserted between the dog show, football games, parades and looking at ads for Black Friday.  Family came.  Family left.  And the fridge is full of leftovers: ham, cheesy potatoes, green beans and a few pieces of pie. 

What happened between the 1621 harvest feast celebration at Plymouth Plantation and the 1789 proclamation of a day of thanksgiving as an opportunity for all the citizens of the United States to join, with one voice, in returning to Almighty God their sincere thanks for the many blessings he had poured down upon them and now?  When did Thanksgiving become a day off work, eating too much, sports and shopping instead of an opportunity to offer thanks?  There are those that protest even having a day of giving thanks. 

=  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =  =

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.
For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depts. Of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker
for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Psalm 95:1-7

Every year Thanksgiving gets shoved further and further into being unimportant.

Strangely, as I was searching scriptures on giving thanks, I never found one that said we were supposed to reserve giving thanks to only one day.  Instead I found words like always, without ceasing, constantly.  We are to shout.  Extol.  Bow down.  Kneel.  Words that made giving thanks as important as – breathing. 

God is my God.
I am a person in his pasture.
I am in God’s flock and he cares for me.


I am thankful EVERY DAY and with EVERY BREATH I take.

Friday, November 17, 2017

I Will Never ........

Have you ever said, “I will never _______ ?”

Every time I say that, it comes back to bite me in the...backside.  I often forget never is a very long time.  I often forget God has a sense of humor.

Some of my nevers:

BOXES, DUCT TAPE AND BALING TWINE

When I got married, you could put everything I had in a couple of large boxes.  I did not need a walk-in closet.  I needed one drawer and a dozen hangers.  I assumed one move when we got married and probably one after that would be the extent of my moving.

Wrong.  Life steps in.  A job ends.  A new job is found.  A move here. A move there.  All totaled, I have moved seven times.  Give me boxes, duct tape and baling twine and I can pack up a house in no time.  I must admit, this last time took me a bit longer and took more than a couple of boxes and a dozen hangers.

THE HOG BARN

Having been raised in a small town, I was not prepared for being the wife of a farmer.  First we had hogs.  Having a full time job, I knew I would never have to —— take a shovel and clean out the barn or deal with a sow having a rough delivery.

Wrong.  Hubby was more than willing to have me beside him as we cleaned out the stalls and put fresh bedding down.  He took great delight in telling me I was an expert with a shovel.  Of course, the rough delivery happened one night when hubby was gone.  All I had to do, he had said, was check on them.  He assured me mother nature would take care of the rest.  What I found out, when I went to check, was that apparently mother nature was nowhere to be found either.  This town girl got right in that pen.  (Skip if you have a weak tummy.)  I quickly saw a dead pig was stuck and not allowing the others to travel down their intended path.  I will never have to.... but I did.  I removed the dead pig and watched with amazement as the rest of the litter was born, each alive and healthy.

CAN YOU STRETCH HER?

When we lived on the farm south of town, I told hubby he needed a hobby.  One day a truck unloaded feeder calves.  I told him that was not exactly what I had in mind.  My first reaction was that they were a lot bigger than the hogs we had all those years ago.  The feeder calves came every spring for about three years and then were replaced by even bigger bovine called heifers and cows.  Plus a rather intimidating bull.  I became very good at putting in ear tags, feeding when hubby was on the road and checking on the cows when they were ready to deliver.  Then one day I heard, “I need help. We are going to have to pull a calf.”  WE?  That would be like including ME?  “Yes and take your rings off.”  You want me to put my hands in there and stretch her so you can .... Never.

Wrong.  I have put my hands in places I never thought I would.  And I became a very good “stretch her.”  I could get those feet just where they needed to be so the chains would go on.  Then I would watch in amazement as a new life began.

I AM NOT STRONG ENOUGH

Our family made it many, many years with no serious illness or surgeries.  Until ..... our daughter needed surgery and over the years has needed several.  Until ..... our grandsons were in the hospital or needed surgery.  Until .... I needed some too.  Being operated on and recovery is hard but I am not strong enough to watch a loved one being taken down the hall.  Never, will I be that strong.

And I was right.  Moving.  Working in a hog barn.  Delivering calves.  Those I learned how to do.  But to sit and reassure a grandson that I would be there all night and another one that surgery was successful and his mommy would be back shortly and to watch while another one gritted his teeth and refused to cry after getting his tonsils out.  I am not strong enough.  To stand beside the bed as our daughter awaits her turn in surgery, to sit in the waiting room, to watch as she has trouble coming out of the anesthesia and to ... I am not strong enough.  Never.

And I am right.  On my own, I would never have been strong enough.

But .... I was NEVER on my own.

Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
            Philippians 4:12-13

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
            2 Corinthians 4:6-9

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
            Isaiah 41:10 NIV

On my own, I would never have been strong enough.

HE gave me strength.

Through HIS power I was not crushed, I did not despair,
I was not abandoned and I was not destroyed.

HE held me up.

Friday, November 10, 2017

NAME THAT TUNE

Can you Name That Tune in 10 notes?  8 notes?  5 notes?  2 notes?

Name That Tune was a TV show when I was a kid.  The contestants tried to guess the song on the least amount of notes.  If it worked out for them, they advanced.  If not, they went home with a song going around in their head and wondering how did I miss that one.

I do like music.  Good ole Rock and Roll.  Country when it was country.  A little of this and a bit of that, but no rap.  I like old and contemporary hymns.  (Settle down.  Please remember that when written, Amazing Grace would have been considered contemporary.)

Hymns can tell the story of my faith walk.

As a child, Jesus Loves Me told me everything I needed to know.  In church, we sang In the Garden, Amazing Grace, Holy Holy Holy and Are Ye Able

I believe in Jesus, the Son of God.  I believe Jesus came to save me!  Me!  God loves me so much he wants me to be with him always.  God knows, on my own, I would not have the strength and wisdom to find my way to him so he sent a way.  Jesus!

Mary Did You Know, sung by Mark Lowry, is an amazing song.  Jesus – the Great I Am.


I have been baptized.  I do not remember it, but baptism is the washing away of my sins when I confessed and accepted God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  What would I be without this baptism?  Lost!

Jordan Feliz’s song The River makes my toes tap and lifts my spirit.  Never the same! 


I honestly believe God has a 2 X 4 with my name on it.  It is a very long one because, every so often (more often than I would like), he whacks me on the head to get my attention.  Sometimes to make me do something.  Other times, to remind me that, in His eyes, I am flawless.

I would love to see Mercy Me.  Their song Flawless gives me such hope.


Believe?  Yes.  Forgiven?  Yes.  Will I still have troubles?  YES!!  Life is still life.  Bodies become ill.  Tragedies happen.  The difference is I am not alone in my troubles and God does not intend for me to stay in the trouble.  I am to get through them.  How?

Sometimes by slowing down.  Taking a deep breath.  Jonny Diaz has a song, Just Breathe, which helps me stop.  Take a breath.  Sit at Jesus feet.


Just take a breath is great but sometimes I am so weak.  Sometimes, I need for someone stronger to hold me.  When the world seems against me or life is a struggle, the song, Just Be Held, by Casting Crowns gives me comfort.


Recap:  I believe.  I am forgiven.  I have a refuge in my trials. 

Question:  What do I do with this? 

Answer:  I serve.

My favorite song – my absolute favorite – hymn is Here I Am Lord.  I cannot hear or sing this song without realizing I am to serve God by serving his people.  I am to go where he sends me.  I cannot hear or sing this song without raising my hands, as I lift the words:  Here I Am Lord.  I will go Lord if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.

Please use this link to hear Danial O’Donnell sing Here I Am Lord


Celebrate each day,
Mary

Friday, November 03, 2017

HIDING BEHIND A MASK

As I sat on my porch passing out pencils (yes pencils) and candy, I saw Lego blocks, a dinosaur, a mummy, many princesses and three jellyfish.  Some of those kids were just plain cute.  Some scary.  Some really put a lot of thought into their costume.  Some had parents walking with them.  Sadly, some were sent down the street while the parent sat in the car talking on their phone.

After the pencils and candy were gone, I thought about all the masks and all the hidden faces.  With the mask on, I couldn’t tell the age of the child.  I couldn’t tell if the child was happy or, maybe, scared at the strange creatures walking on the street beside them.  I couldn’t tell if the child was tired or high on the candy they ate walking to the next house. 

So much can be hidden behind a mask.  And we all wear one.

“How are you today?” a friend asks. 
            “Just fine,” we answer.
                        And inside we cry.

“Are you recovering quickly from your surgery?  I have been praying for you,” a church member says.
            “Much better than I thought,” we say.
                        And we want to shout, “No.  I hurt everywhere.  I am tired.  I cannot sleep.”

“Wow that was some party.  I did not see you there,” a very good friend remarks.
            “I already had plans,” we reply.
                        And our brain is exploding, “Party?  What party?  I was not invited.”

“How was your day?” our spouse inquires.
            “Pretty normal,” we respond.
                        And we want to be honest and say, “The kids were awful, I really hurt today and I was not invited to a party.”  But we do not want to burden our loved ones and we do not want to complain.

We all wear masks.  We all hide behind them and think we have a good reason. 

·        No one wants to hear about my troubles.  They have troubles of their own.
·        There is nothing they can do about my aches and pains, so might as well keep them to myself.
·        I will not allow them to see that my feelings were hurt.
·        My spouse has had a rough day too. 

We all wear masks and think no one can see the truth. 

You have searched me, LORD, and you know me,
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:1-10

There is one who can see behind the mask.  God!

God wants to hear about your troubles and about your day. 
He cares and is never too tired to listen.

God can help ease your pain.
You will still hurt but you can take a deep breath and rest in Him.

God understands hurt.
(He does not get invited to a lot of parties and many people do not accept God’s invitations.)

God will gently comfort you.

Friday, October 27, 2017

LUNCH WITH FRIENDS

Every so often we get together with our out-of-town friends.  We eat lunch and then find a corner where we can chat away.   The guys talking about – guy stuff.  The gals talking about grandchildren, new recipes, travel, church, the weather and husbands.   Good food, good friends, good conversation.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Have you ever noticed how often Jesus eats?  He went to at least one wedding.  He had dinner at Levi’s house.  He picked heads of grain to eat, as he went through the grain fields  -  on the Sabbath no less.  He talked with Mary while Martha finished the meal prep. Jesus had a way with fish and loaves.  Jesus invited himself to Matthew’s home.  Oh my!  He ate at the home of a tax collector.  Apparently Jesus failed to abide by the local social standings in his choice of companions.  He had a final meal with those he had chosen.  Jesus even ate fish with his disciples after he died.

We spend time with our friends because, even after all these years, there are new things to learn about each other.  We recall old memories.  We make new memories.  We trust them with our worries and they know we are there for them.  We find new things to laugh about.  We spend time with our friends because we love them! 

I have a feeling these are the exact reasons Jesus ate at so many homes.  On the hillsides with thousands.  In a quiet, upstairs room, with his beloved disciples.

NEW THINGS TO LEARN:  I picture Jesus, making eye contact, listening to every word Levi said.  What story would Levi tell on himself? 

MEMORIES OLD AND NEW:  Can you hear the disciples share stories about walking through fields when they were young?  Can you picture Mary listening as Jesus quietly spoke?  Can you imagine a hillside full of people telling others about the fish and loaves and then asking, “Were you there?”

NEW THINGS TO LAUGH ABOUT:  Do you suppose Jesus chuckled when he thought about the “high and mighty” watching him enter the home of a tax collector?  Chuckle?  I bet before he went to sleep that night, he told God, “Did you see the look on their faces?”  I bet God replied, “Told you it would cause a stir and, my goodness, they knew about it on the other side of town before you got all the way in the door.  Now rest.”

BECAUSE HE LOVED THEM:  Plain and simple:  Jesus loved them!!

OR MAYBE – JUST MAYBE

Maybe my premise is all wrong.  Maybe, just maybe, Jesus ate with all these people – the disciples, women, children, men, sinners – so they could know HIM.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. 
We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14


Maybe, just maybe, Jesus ate with all these people so they could learn about HIM.