Saturday, December 31, 2011
Pondering the end of the year, I have come to the conclusion that I am hopeless. I don’t really care that at midnight one year will be gone and another will have begun. Just remembering what day of the week it is proves to be a challenge to me. All that a changing year means to me is that I will be messing up some checks with the wrong date very soon. And, oh yes, at some point I will be a year older.
On the 26th of February, I will suddenly be a year older than I was on the 25th. Amazing.
Remember when it was cool to be “and ½?” We get over that in a hurry when we pass 20. The reality of course is that we age constantly. We grow up, then out, then “over the hill” without any special effort on our part at all. We can stunt the process by ignoring the rules of good health, and we can even end the process sooner than might be expected by breaking the “rules” of healthy conduct. But as long as we are alive we will get older, no matter.
Many people take the time to look at how they are living so that they can make a few resolutions for the New Year. Me? I make and break so many resolutions all year long that the New Year doesn’t get me all excited to be all that I could be. I have to work on that every single day of the year.
There was a time when I was diagnosed with Diabetes 2, and resolved to change my life style and eating habits. That was in May that year, nowhere close to the “New Year.” A couple of years later, I had a heart attack. Even more changes were needed. I have had some success, but it was not, and is not, easy. I did find that I had to be resolute about the whole thing. I had to act on these changes and push through them for any of them to work.
As this year comes to a close I find that I have become quite wishy-washy in my resolutions. I have become weary of so much thinking about what I am eating. I still eat 95% good choices, but I definitely eat too much of each choice. Even food that is good for you has calories and when you are hobbled from serious exercise for awhile, those calories add up fast.
One thing that brought this subject up, was reading in Hebrews about how resolute God is with His Covenants. He keeps His Word because He is true to Himself. That forces Him to be true with us. He doesn’t weary of repeating and keeping His side of the Covenants. And when He showed that the original Covenant wasn’t working due to our sinfulness, He sent a proper sacrifice for our sins: His Son, Jesus Christ, who never sinned and therefore became a once for all, absolutely acceptable sacrifice for us, and a High Priest, everlasting, who sits at the right hand of His Father and sees to it that we are kept for Him for eternity. We are truly blessed beyond understanding.
We are hopeless without Him, but we have Him and that is what we can shout praises to Heaven for this New Year and every New Year. Hallelujah! God is Love… and Love has come for us all!
Happy New Year to all…
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
As we remember the glow of celebrating our Savior’s birth and prepare for the New Year coming, I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get back to basics. Who are we anyway?
As Christians, we often describe ourselves as sinners, saved by Grace. For us that is meaningful, but for many they don’t quite get it. Saved from what? Certainly not sin. There is not actual sin is there? Well, yes, there is. And that sin is serious. It is something that we must be saved from and then protected from as we live out life here on Earth. There are a lot of very scholarly things that could be said here, but today I am borrowing some wisdom from another source. I cannot resist sharing this with you because it hits the nail so exactly on the head, in a very simple way.
One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"
The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."
Though theologically imperfect, this is a great picture of this truth: You are what you eat.
Even as the food a pregnant woman eats also feeds her baby, what we eat spiritually also feeds our inner selves. “The one you feed” really does describe what helps us grow closer to God or further away.
Sometimes we spend a lot of time reading, listening to and absorbing many things besides the Word of God or related books, movies and music, and very little time “nibbling” on the Word. We may not be feeding on obvious “bad,” but it would seem that we are also not “feasting” on the Word in order to remain healthy.
May God bless us all as we attempt to feed the “good” and starve the “bad” for the year we call 2012. May we spend as much time as possible listening, reading, discussing and enjoying God’s Word in every way we can for this next year. Let the Feast begin.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
Lately there has been a lot of noise about keeping Christ in Christmas, and in some ways there is progress being made. More people seem to be saying “Merry Christmas” this year and Christmas specials are being called just that in some cases. Our noses got a little out of shape when ”rules” were made that discouraged or even forbade using that phrase and it was insisted that all celebrations be included under the umbrella phrase “Happy Holidays.” For once common sense and national pride stepped up and demanded that we be free to celebrate our Christmas traditions and Holiday the way we always have. Good for us.
But how far are we really willing to go to keep Christ in the picture? Do we have angels, stars, manger scenes or the cross anywhere in our Christmas décor? Do the cards we send reflect the reason He was born? Will we be going to church this Sunday, since Christmas falls on Sunday?
There was a time that I attended a church for about 10 years that had a service on Christmas morning no matter what day of the week if fell on. I had no problem with that, in fact I loved it. But I had no kids. And I had no personal traditions that didn’t fit with that. I truly enjoyed gathering with my church family on that day and worshiping together the Christ in Christmas.
But I am reminded this year that some Christians wish Christmas would not fall on Sunday because it interferes with the traditions they follow every other Christmas. This breaks my heart. But then I am a little fragile. I was away for a long time and now I cannot stand the thought of not being there unless I am dead, dying or out of town.
Apparently, many of my fellow Christians feel the same way because they come every Sunday even though they are in serious pain 24/7 from the things that ail them. And many more make it every Sunday, too.
When I had my heart attack, I had to spend Christmas in the hospital. No big deal. I really didn’t expect to see anyone until evening when my family would come in to bring me Christmas dinner. But as I walked out to the hall to take my walk, there stood one of my pastors and his wife. They had taken time out from family to come and see me and others they knew in the hospital. They took the Christ in Christmas to mean sharing their time for the comfort of others. I was thrilled to see them, to say the least.
Personally, I can’t remember a time when I went out of my way to do anything like that on Christmas day. Going to church this Sunday and worshipping with fellow believers would be a privilege not a sacrifice. It is the least thing I could do to keep Christ in Christmas.
God willing, I will be there. I hope you will be too. Praise the Lord for all that He is and does!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Have you ever had a conversation with someone you are very close to, and found yourself (or them) suddenly needing to say, “Huh? What?” My Aunt and I have many jovial conversations punctuated with this phrase, or at least a look that says the same thing. It keeps us on our toes, laughing all the way.
Usually it comes at a time when we have gone quiet for a minute, and one of us starts talking about something that we have been thinking about for a minute or two. And usually this means that we start in the middle of the subject with no introduction and we are expecting the other to know what we are talking about. Good luck there. So we end up having to back up and tell “the rest of the story” so the other person can catch up.
As I have been reading the Christmas stories from Matthew and Luke, I was caught by the phrase, “ because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7) I suddenly saw what appears in my mind to be an “after thought.” We make a really big deal out of the nativity scene (and it is well that we do,) but we aren’t even told of these circumstances until Luke tells us that Mary “placed Him in a manger, because….” This could have been a “Huh? What?” moment for the reader, had he not gone back and briefly explained how that came to be.
Looking at Matthew’s account we find that he tells us Joseph was assured by the angel that all was well and that Joseph then went about his business as was necessary. He took Mary, who was at least 3 months along, (see Luke 1:56) and they had a very long trip ahead of them. (I suggest you take a really close look at a map to see how far Nazareth is from Bethlehem.) That was no “over the river and through the woods” little trip. But neither Matthew nor Luke say much about the trip or the inn. Matthew skips over the whole scene of the angels and shepherds altogether, mentioning only the Angels assurance to Joseph and the fact that the birth happened and the child was named Jesus, as per God’s instruction.
Have you ever read a story to a child and tried to skip some of it? Maybe you thought the child had gone to sleep but they called you on it. Unless it is a new book, the child knows that story by heart and will not accept even one word missing as they listen. But look at Matthew. Seemingly out of no where, he is suddenly talking about the Magi, who started on their trip at the time Jesus was born but did not arrive until “the child” was at home with Joseph and Mary and they were receiving guests. Huh? What? Where’s the manger scene? Where are the angels? Someone needs to back up and let us in on what happened before the Magi came.
Luke comes to the rescue. Technically, starting with Luke 1 & 2, then going to Mathew makes better sense for us. But even in Luke, there is not a big deal made about where Jesus was born. “It just so happens” that he was placed in a manager, “because there was no room for them in the inn.” Of course nothing “just so happens” in God’s plans and under His guidance. It is important that Jesus was born in a lowly place and grew up in a lowly household, with a normal family, learning and working as any child or man should be doing as they grow.
We celebrate everything about Jesus, because everything He did or said or suffered, was all for us, personally. He knows us very personally and He lived the perfect life for us knowing that we could not do that ourselves. We thank Him for that and we celebrate BIG time, every chance we get. What He did, even being born at all, was very costly for Him. We owe Him our lives. Let’s pull out all the stops and go for it. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! His name is Holy!
May our celebration be all that it can be in sharing our lives with His and praising Him loudly and clearly at this wonderful time of the year!
Saturday, December 17, 2011
As Christmas approaches, I am reminded that not everyone thinks of Christmas is a time for celebrating. There are many reasons including painful memories, painful life at the moment, hatred of God and anything to do with Christ, lack of money to buy presents or food. One that surprised me a few years ago was fear of family. Yes, a fear of getting together with the family and knowing that the 3 G’s would be there. Who? Well perhaps we should call them the 3 Unwise Men or 3 Fools. They are Grudges, Gripes and Grievances. They are the spoilers. Is anybody familiar with them? Can you relate?
As dysfunctional as my family was and even with all the drinking that went on, one thing we did not do on Christmas was bring the 3 G’s to the table. We had our traditions, which varied some if we went to Grandma’s house, but even there the traditions were imbedded as Grandma wanted them… Stay up ‘til midnight Christmas Eve to open gifts and then try to remember what you got in the morning! The 25th was her birthday…
Anyway, at home we always woke to Dad cooking Blina (a German yeast-risen crepe) that we could fill as we pleased and enjoy with bacon and eggs on the side. NOMS! Oh, excuse me, that’s cat for YUM! Then we opened presents, and played a game of Hooklau… have no idea how to spell it… but it means 31 in Hawaiian. It was fun because it did not require full attention or skill, and people could come and go as they pleased. That was good because there was a lot of cooking going on across the counter in the kitchen.
Just a few years ago in a small group of women gathered for discussion, 3 out of 5 declared themselves to have fear of family. For them, the family gathering meant they had to face, once again, the criticisms of those who openly disapproved of them in some, or many ways: The people who bore the 3 G’s and brought them along to the party. I was a little shocked, but had enough sense to understand what they were talking about and care that the season was so painful for them.
So what can we do if that describes our family gatherings? All I can think of is to “put on the whole armor of God,” in order to thicken our skin, choose to not react in the same old way when these things come up, and keep our eyes on Jesus, the Reason for the Season. And we might also look for that beam in our own eye, which proves that we are just as vulnerable to the 3 Fools, ourselves
Is there someone you have in mind that is surely going to ruin the day for you? Is now a good time to forgive them and ask God to give you Love for them in place of resentment? Is now a good time to give them to God and enjoy the Celebration regardless of what they might say? Is now a good time to Praise God that you have family and friends and Him, above all else?
May God be with you during this season of Love and keep your heart close to His!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Seems like I should wait for baseball season to bring this up, but it is on my mind now, so…
In the past few years I have been privileged to take several close looks at the life of Abraham, the man God chose to lead the way for people to follow the One True God. We know that the fact of one and only one true God was not new with Abraham, but God does not tell us much about what was happening on His behalf at this time. We do know that Abraham and his extended family and the multitudes of people who lived in the area and made up the community were worshipers of multiple gods. They had their BASES COVERED, just in case. How many even remembered the God of Adam and Eve, Seth, Enoch and Noah is not clearly seen at this point. So my question is, “From whence came Abrams faith?” (Don’t you love some of the Kings English?)
When I first answered this question for myself, I concluded that he got his faith from God, in a face to face meeting. I also concluded that we all get our faith the same way. There is no other way.
The other night at our study of Matthew, Jesus was speaking of the narrow Gate (chapter 7), and as we discussed what this meant and how narrow the Gate is, it occurred to me that the Gate is as narrow as Jesus face. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” “I am the Gate.” The only way to the Kingdom, Heaven, God Himself, is through a face to face meeting with Jesus Christ.
That being true, we need to realize that the world does not want to know that. They want to believe that “all roads lead to Heaven” and saying otherwise is selfish and cruel. Thus, the encouraged shunning of Christians and their faith. “All people will get to heaven somehow,” is the creed of the day.
How grateful are we that we can KNOW OUR BASES ARE COVERED through our face to face meeting with Christ? How simple is it to stick to our faith and testify to the truth that without a face to face encounter with God, a future in heaven with all its rewards is absolutely impossible? Okay, it may be simple, but it isn’t always easy. Perhaps we should spend more time looking at that beautiful face while reading and praying and even talking, so that what we pass on is buoyed by His very presence in front of us.
That beautiful [face], that beautiful [face] from sin has power to free us!
That beautiful [face}, that wonderful [face], that matchless [face] is Jesus!*
I encourage you to reach out and touch that face with wonder and awe as you walk daily with Him.
*Hymn, “That Beautiful Name.”
Monday, December 12, 2011
At my age I think it is safe to confess that I am not a good housekeeper. Oh, I have my moments, but they are few and usually involve a lot of music and a lot of changing things around or cleaning something out and establishing new order. Those times are a little like sudden storms of energy.
On a daily basis my home is scattered with words. Papers here, magazines there, books piled on every flat surface and pictures hanging around waiting for me to do something with them. The rest of the clutter shall remain untold, but you can get the picture, I’m sure. I believe that things I use frequently should be kept handy, one way or another.
But what does that have to do with God? Well… It’s been a long week. Last week at this time I was held accountable. Someone who loves me took me to task for a burst of anger that I didn’t even remember. I am very good at dropping some memories into a well hidden place and just getting on with life. I praise God that this is an old ingrained habit that can be worked on as needed, and not a new one. I keep hoping that I can say, “I don’t need to work on that anymore because I don’t do it anymore.” Well, we all know that won’t happen in this life. But we also know that God expects us to grow closer and closer to Him so that He can help us grow farther and farther away from the need to follow old habits while we replace them with new ones, as in “put on” (God) and “put off” (those things not Godly.)”
Sometimes we need to be held accountable for our actions so that we are driven to search our hearts for hidden grudges and irritations. We need to “clean out the closet," changing things around, throwing some things out and making room for more necessary things that work for our good and His.
Recently, a study we ladies are doing, brought us to the place where Leah, Rebecca’s older sister and first wife of Jacob, laid aside her pride and jealousy which kept her distant from God. This even though He had blessed her richly in ways that Jacob could not. With the birth of Judah, she finally bowed her knee and proclaimed thanks that God had indeed blessed her with her sons. She became humble before Him and quit trying to make her husband love her and gave control of her life to God.
Some say this was not a real repentance and humbling because she returned to the same feelings and selfish prayers later on. Consider how many of us have repented of sins that we end up repeating. Leah was not “cured of herself” by her repentance. She would always be Leah and it was Leah that God loved. But she was weak for evidence of someone’s love and came back to struggling to make Jacob love her. I believe her repentance was genuine. I also know from personal experience that repentance does not achieve perfection. It achieves forgiveness and open communication with God that will help us fall into our own traps with much less frequency. The more hidden secrets we remove from our “heart” closet, the more room there is for the Grace of God to grow us into the “Leah” or “Cheryl” that He wants us to be. May God grow you well. And may He do the same for me as I limp along in this sinful body on this sinful earth. And may those who love us step up to keep us accountable.
Monday, December 5, 2011
One of the most enjoyable activities I have ever done is dancing. As a child, I danced in front of the big “picture” Window in the living room of our new house (built in 1950.) Later, I danced wherever I could, mostly by myself, but sometimes with a partner. I love to dance! There is something extremely joyful in dancing. And it is great exercise as well.
It was not until the fall of 2010 that I discovered the fact that my life with God has been a dance. That brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. And it has put new excitement in my step.
As I look back, I can see that the day Christ introduced Himself to me (at age 8,) He also asked me to dance. I started with skipping and hopping, trying to share Him with my friends the only way I knew: Telling them how happy I was, knowing that Jesus loved me.
But soon I was not able to attend church and our dance became a slow dance as I longed to learn more about Him and find a place to go to church. He always kept in touch and kept me desiring a closer walk with Him. He allowed some mistakes in my life while protecting me from making other mistakes that would have affected me in even worse ways down the line.
In the summer of 1961, He finally gave me a church home and Christian friends and guidance. Our dance picked up to a “Swing” or “Jitterbug” as it was called then, where I kept stepping back into the life I was already leading while He kept pulling to Him and His way. Then He demanded a decision: “Who will you follow: him (my boyfriend) or Me? He was very clear about the end result of the two choices. He gave me wisdom to choose Him.
Off we whirled in a very exciting Fox Trot, which would have been delightful had I not decided to lead. Then it became more and more like a bullfight type dance (the Paso Doble) with pulling and pushing and stubborn refusal woven with periods of gentle closeness and successful partnering in the dance. As the anger in my life built, the push in me to be in control grew stronger and stronger.
Then I changed partners. And I danced with him until he died. By then my life was in ruins. I had won the battle and lost who I was or even was supposed to be.
But God was not finished with me. He came asking for one more dance. In fact, He pretty much demanded it. “It’s time,” He said. “Stop this reckless rebellion and listen to me!”
We started slow, with a Tango, but one where I was willing to learn to follow. After about 2½ years, we were able to fall into a beautiful Waltz which now goes on and on.
This morning I was studying Genesis 29:1-14, which starts with the words “Jacob continued on his journey” after having met God face to face. It is said that this is translated, also, as “Jacob picked up his feet and went, briskly and cheerfully.” Meeting God face to face can change our lives forever, and it does, if we let it. Dancing with God, following His lead day by day, is truly the joyful way to go in life. Hallelujah! Amen.