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Mary, Did You Know?

Never having watched more than one episode in the past seasons, I lucked into watching “The Voice” this year when a young man from Kentucky blew the judges and audience (and me, too) af5530500-58c5-0133-0b0c-0e76e5725d9dway in his blind audition.  Following Jordan Smith’s first performance, I was hooked and continued to watch and cheer for my fellow Kentuckian.

If you are unfamiliar with the show, singers audition and are then selected (or the singers select depending on the audition responses) by celebrity “coaches” who coach them through vocals, style and stage presence in attempts to win a recording contract.  Viewers vote via texting and purchasing songs on iTunes to support their favorite contestant.

Jordan Smith’s performances were consistently on the top of the charts, sometimes bumping chart staples, Adele, and Justin Bieber, out of the way.  Though he had talented competitors, it was still no surprise to me that he won during last night’s finale.

Along with his beautiful singing voice, there is something about this young man that many seem to gravitate to; maybe his humility, maybe his sincerity, maybe his faith, maybe he represents “real” people; the average Joe … whatever it is, he is a special guy. Watching his mother support him from the first show to tonight’s finale, I guarantee one thing… she knew Jordan was special long before Jordan did, long before his coach, Adam Levine, did and long before America did.  And I would be willing to wager that she held on to that fact when times were tough for Jordan.

I don’t know Jordan’s story but from a very small amount shared during the show’s interviews, I would guess that he had some tough times growing up.  He once mentioned image issues and often more times than not, those personal image issues are heightened when others tease, bully or even try to give well-meaning advice.   As a parent, I know how difficult it is to watch your child hurt from the cruelness of others and watch their self-esteem suffer, particularly when you see the greatness of that child that he can’t seem to see himself.  Probably much like the first time she noticed his great talent, she will likely hold tightly to last night’s win.

Just ask a scrapbooking, photographing, videoing or journaling everything parent, whether it is a cute story, a long sought after accomplishment or just a sweet moment in time, I think we as parents have those moments with our children that we always want to remember.  However,  we also have those rough or challenging moments; temper tantrums in public, siblings screaming because one has hurt the other, experimenting with scissors and their beautiful long hair, the day the teacher calls to tell you that your child is failing a subject, or a multitude of little (or big) imperfections that we’d like to forget.

Reminding myself of those good times and not so stellar moments makes the whole story of Christ and his life growing up that much more relevant.  Jesus’ mother, Mary,  had those moments to hold on to too.

The Bible says (in my paraphrase) that Mary listened to the words of praise spoken about her baby, thought about them, held them close and then treasured them.  Later when we read about him being a preteen, we see his parents doing what I believe is a tad bit of discipline. ( I do believe he was perfect, but I also believe he was a child and still needed parental guidance) Mary and Joseph can’t find Jesus. They search for three days only to find him teaching adults. The Bible says they were astonished, but it also says they didn’t understand fully.

The astonishment of what others think about your child, the marveling at the thoughts of the greatness of your child, the treasured moments that you want to hold onto, that just makes Jesus’  family seem like your average family. Jesus’ family could have lived right down the street with their very average but loving family life.

Mary seems to have paid close attention to the words of others and her son’s actions.   From these actions, she was able to treasure these things about her son and then hold on to them when he had to save the world and not stand in his way.

Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, an aunt, a sister, a brother or even none of these, it pays to listen to what God’s people say.   When God is ready to do a great work in the ones we love or in ourselves, to look with depth into a situation annativityscened hold on to those words and thoughts of others gives us the insight to set aside our desires and we can trust to let God do his thing.

As Mary rocked her sweet newborn,  she held to the thought that her son was special…. more than just special but a Savior.

Luke 2

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29″Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss[a] your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,

31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.” 33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

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

49″Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Devotions, Faith

 

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A Pharisee’s Cheer… “Go Big Law!”

(I was reminded this morning of this article I wrote in 2009. I thought it was an appropriate read 6 years later and thus, decided to add a bit at the end and re-post it. Enjoy!)

When I was in sixth grade there was a realization that came to be in my life.  It was the fact that I was a Kentucky Wildcat. (For those reading outside of the Bluegrass State, I’m talking figuratively not literally.) I’m not sure exactly how I came into that knowledge. Maybe it was when I  traveled numerous times with the Follett family to Kentucky football games and that pride of having a car horn playing the school theme song while others cheered it on did it. More than likely, it may have just been the fact that I thought some of the Wildcat basketball team guys were quite nice looking in their Converse shoes and striped tube socks… (Yes, I signed my name Nancy “Macy” on all of my notes to friends and yes, I am showing my age.)   Regardless of how it came to be…..all I know is that sixth grade brought about my first true conversations of the University of Kentucky Wildcats, their rivals, their players and statistics. with all of mjay_shidlery friends at lunch and that had never been before been an experience.  Sixth grade was also the year that I, maintaining my tomboy image,  decorated my bedroom in Wildcat Blue and White.. I was then the envy of all of my Kyle Macy, Jay Shidler loving girl friends and the envy of all of my UK basketball player wannabe guy friends… I was, without a doubt, a blue-blooded, ‘don’t talk bad about my Wildcats’, type of follower.

As I grew older (and wiser) I maintained that passion and enjoyed watching a game with others cheering right along whether at a live game or on television…. or even on the radio.  I just didn’t want to miss a game.  However, something happened years later that began creating a bit of confusion for me…. I was speaking with a family member who lived out of state and I mentioned the coach at the time, Rick Pitino.  They floored me with their response, “Now who is Rick Pitino?”  This was a well educated, former Kentucky resident and she had no idea who Rick Pitino was nor did she have a clue that he was the UK Basketball coach!  I was stunned… You mean there are people out there who don’t follow Kentucky Basketball? You mean there are people out there who think UK means United Kingdom? You mean there are people out there who don’t schedule their C-sections and wedding plans and vacations around the Final Four or the SEC tournament? It can’t be! But it was true… It didn’t dishearten me, but it did open my eyes a bit.

ukA few years later I moved to Illinois, just a few minutes away from the city of St. Louis, Missouri.  I was completely disappointed that they rarely showed a University of Kentucky basketball game there and that there was far more talk of Cardinals baseball and Rams football than any college program…. I just couldn’t understand.   As years passed, I began to not be able to keep up with UK ball like I wanted.  I tried to catch as much as I could on the radio, internet and national broadcasts but eventually it kind of began to fall out of my interest as I started to see the fun of following the Rams or the Cardinals.  I was losing my blue.  (Do you hear the moans?)

But now we are back in Kentucky and I’ll have to say that I was excited to be back in an area where there was such passion and enthusiasm about a nonprofessional sport.  However, for me, something is different now…. it is not that I’ve become necessarily less of a Wildcat; UK is still always my top team.. it is not that I’ve become disinterested because I still love a good game. It is just that my perspective has changed.  I was once totally consumed with being on the inside of the Big Blue Nation. I sent out Wildcat trash talk with the best of them and didn’t think for once that there might be others out there with passions focused in other areas.  My thoughts were, you are either a Wildcat fan or you are wrong….My perspective has changed because I have now been on the outside looking in.  It is still fun to cheer. It is still fun to have rivals.  It is still fun to wear blue.  Still yet, my perspective is different….

Today in Kentucky there is talk of a new coach… the rumor mill (or possibly the fact mill) is telling of coach John Calipari’s interest in becoming the next UK Men’s Basketball coach.   Sports talk is everywhere… people are either super excited with the change or people are super upset with the change… regardless of their stance, it is everywhere.

(Disclaimer- I am not advocating that UK fans are like Pharisees…… this is not about “the fans”  but about one fan…. read on…)

I realized something today as I was reading about Jesus and the Pharisees…. I think my lack of ability to think outside the Big Blue realm for years could have been comparable to the faith of the Pharisees…..the Pharisees were huge “Big Law” fans.  Though the law was given as a way for salvation, it became flawed when the law began to become more important than loving God.  Those same people who were so focused on obeying and protecting the law were also breaking the law by their lack of love… enter Jesus.  He came to fulfill the law and in doing so he ruffled a few feathers and made some people pretty angry in the process.  They were so focused on their Law Love that they couldn’t really love others. They were so focused on their Law Love that they couldn’t hear the truth though it was right in front of them.  Until they stepped outside and looked in they couldn’t see that there was authority in the truth that Christ spoke and that he was offering them fulfillment of their beloved law.  He was the salvation they needed but they couldn’t get past the thought of  “You either follow all of the law… even the ones we have thrown in there…. or you are wrong”  (Are you seeing the comparison?)… I’m saying my UK fanatic ways were comparable to the fanatical ways of the Pharisee.

Jesus offered salvation to a man who was lowered by friends through a roof in order to be healed.  The Pharisees were so focused on Jesus offering salvation that their thoughts consumed them and they totally seemed to overlook the amazing fact that this man who was paralyzed was now walking.  Truth in front of them and they couldn’t see it.

Now in comparing myself to the Pharisees,…..Though I couldn’t have said it at the time, I’m glad now that I had the opportunity to step outside and look in…I appreciate the new perspective.  Had I not had to step away and take a look from another direction, I would have totally been one of those folks who would have wanted to run a coach with a poor record out of town. I would have considered it nothing other than being a loyal fan.  However, lowering myself to the level of meanness or hatred toward a coach who possibly had a bad year or two, an athletic director who has to make incredibly tough decisions, or a team of students (yes, pretty much kids) is not the true sportsmanship of a loyal fan.  Instead, it would be my blindness of not looking at the picture from the outside and considering what the correctness or truth of a fan really is.  Is it possible that the Pharisees didn’t consider their anger or hatred toward Christ as anything other than being a loyal follower of the law? ….However, it was when they became hateful and mean that they stepped away from their law and were blind to what was true….

That is what I’ll call a Pharisee moment…A time when I am so focused on one thing that I can’t see what the truth is. (And, you know what?  I’d probably even cheer my focused notion on… “Go Big Law!”)… The only redeeming thing about the Big Blue Blooded Die Hard Pharisee moment, It didn’t have an ounce of eternal value. It was just a total non-important Pharisee moment.

Here’s the tough thing though… Unfortunately, that same “Go Big Law” mentality can seep into our lives and while we are cheering it on, we miss our opportunities of seeing what Christ is showing us.  We can easily be so fired up about the law that we forget the people… the people who God placed in our lives.. the people who He saves.  We can also get so caught up in law pep rally that it turns into our own idol… and our own sin.  Thankfully, just like Paul, God loves and forgives a Pharisee too… … all we have to do is ask.

God, show me your truth.

Luke 5:17-26

17One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

20When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.

21The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2015 in Devotions, Faith

 

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Resolutions Shmesolutions…..And Have A Great 2013

IMG_1273Taking the back roads has its perks.  Things like fewer stop lights, if any… scenery prettier than buildings and concrete… and just all around less boring…. I also like to think that they are shortcuts but often times they take just as long if not longer because of the hills and curves.  Anyway, the other morning I had stopped to grab a cup of coffee and then began rushing myself to work through the not-so-shortcut back road shortcut.  I came zooming over the hill only to come to a screeching halt….. coffee was sloshing, but no problem for me… the lid stayed tight.

I looked ahead to find why traffic wasn’t moving and there, sitting in the middle of the road, was a little bitty poodle.  He was dirty and matted and had apparently decided that the line in the middle of the road was a comfy spot.  Amazingly, that little animal was backing up traffic about 7 cars deep on both sides of the road.  The school bus that was leading the line of cars opposite of me was honking the horn…. the dog just looked up… I wondered if possibly the dog was deaf but it seemed as if he heard the noise but just was too stubborn to move.  Finally, after sitting in traffic for a bit, a lady a few cars in front of me hopped out of her and started walking toward the dog.  Still the dog sat.  The lady began yelling at the dog and clapping her hands. In essence, pushing the dog without touching him.   The dog moved…. but only a small step… she now sat in front of the bus…. the lady continued clapping until the dog finally retreated to the middle of another road.

Traffic began moving along as normal once again.  I noticed as I passed by that there was another lady who had maneuvered her way out of traffic to the side of the road to see if she could rescue this poor, little, confused, dirty, matted dog.  She very gently and slowly walked up to the dog and though I couldn’t hear what she was saying, it was apparent that she was talking sweetly in that “you’re a good puppy, aren’t you” voice.   You would think that this unattractive little dog would have been excited to hop in a warm car with a sweet person who obviously cared about its welfare, but instead it barked and growled and when the lady backed up a bit the poodle took off running into a tangled brush area just off of the road.

As I drove past I could see the look on the helpful lady’s face and I think it was one of disbelief or frustration or that of helplessness.  She had done all she could do.  The poodle made its own choice.matteddog

A part of me chuckled at the whole situation… a little dog holding up so much traffic.  He got warnings and he even got sympathy but even after he begrudgingly moved, he accepted nothing from anyone and continued on the same path that he was already on. All I could think of was what a sad, little, stubborn (or maybe dumb) dog.  And it was then that I think I got a little kick in my rear …. you know, I tend to be just like that little dog.  I’ll sit in traffic (theoretically, not technically) … as dangerous as it might be… and a warning may push me to move a little bit, but even at times when I am completely moved, I may run back to the same old routine. Are ya with me?

I usually don’t make New Year’s resolutions but the New Year is a great time to begin a new routine.  I heard on the radio yesterday morning that the average person will have abandoned their resolutions by day 18.  But I have also heard that it takes 6 weeks to create a new habit… so pushing beyond day 18 for a little over another 18 days will create a changed person.  I can imagine that if that poodle had gotten into that car, he would have been cleaned up, nourished and ended up looking like a cute, lovable little guy.  That is a good ending to a bad situation.  So what makes us stop before day 18 rolls around? Could it be fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of failing, fear of stepping out of what is comfortable?….

But you know something else… there were two women in that situation who were very important… the one who moved the dog and the one who tried to rescue the dog… Sometimes we don’t even realize we are in the middle of the road and we need a reminder, someone to move us.  I think that is where God jumps in and does the motivating that gets us to move and provides the rescuing of our lives… maybe it is a friend or family member who urges us to get help, maybe it is an invite to church, maybe it is a song or story that is heard or maybe we look up and step out of ourselves and see the lives we are affecting (just like the backed up traffic).  Then we find ourselves at a crossroad to an encouragement, a safe place, a hope…. a loving God…..or back to the same old tangled brush.

Maybe you are a like that little dog in the road…. possibly in a dangerous situation… maybe it is a habit that is killing you,  a lifestyle that consumes you,  a relationship that alienates you, an attitude that robs you,  an ailment that embarrasses you, or a spiritual neglect that is calling you… Whatever it is, you don’t have to sit in the road or run to the tangled brush… you can hop in the car and be changed.

This can be the year to not make a resolution to change but to actually change.  That’s my prayer.

Philippians 4:13

13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

 

(re-posted from 2009)

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Devotions, Faith

 

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Advent Daily Chocolate: Day 6 – A Proud Mama Moment

nativitysceneMy youngest daughter had a big day recently.  She was invited to come back to her former school to receive an academic award in science. (Must be from her dad’s side) She was excited to go back to see one of her favorite teachers and to also see friends.  Actually, she was excited about every part of the day..ceremony… .. leaving her school early, lunch with her grandmother, getting to go home early instead of going back to school after program, etc.  She received her certificate and pin and I was very proud of her.

Later that evening she was in a play where she was one of the lead characters.  She did such a great job.  She had to act as if she is playing the trumpet and she boogied all over the stage with her horn.  She had many lines to memorize and timing was key… She did it beautifully.   Actually all of the kids did!  Another proud mom moment.

A friend of mine whose daughter was also in the play commented that she, too, was having a proud mama moment and even had another one the night before when her son won the MVP award at his football banquet.

I think most every parent has those moments that they don’t want to forget..(just ask a scrapbooker, a photographer, videographer or a journaler).  But we also have those moments that are rough and we want to forget…Rough moments like temper tantrums in public…. or….. siblings screaming because one had hurt the other…. or….experimenting with scissors and their beautiful long hair….. or…… the day the teacher calls to tell you that your child is failing a subject…. or…. a multitude of little (or big) imperfections.

Those good moments are what we can hold onto to get us through those rough moments…

Thinking that, for me,  just makes the whole story of Christ and his life growing up that much more relevant because Jesus’ mother, Mary,  had those moments to hold on to too….

The Bible says (in my own paraphrase) that Mary listened to the words of praise spoken about her baby, thought about them, held them close and then treasured them.  Later when we read about him being a preteen, we see his parents doing what I believe is a tad bit of discipline ( I do believe he was perfect but I also believe he was a child and still needed parental guidance)…Mary and Joseph can’t find Jesus… they search for three days only to find him teaching adults… The Bible says they were astonished but it also says they didn’t understand fully….

The astonishment of what others think about your child, the marveling at the thoughts of the greatness of your child, the treasured moments that you want to hold onto… that just makes Jesus’  family seem like your average family… Jesus’ family could have lived right down the street with their very average but loving family life…

Mary seems to have paid close attention to the words of others and to her son’s actions and from it was able to treasure these things about her son…. and then hold on to them when he had to save the world... and not stand in his way…

Whether you are a parent, a grandparent, an aunt, a sister, a brother or even none of these… It pays to listen to what God’s people say,  to look with depth into a situation and hold on to those when God is ready to do a great work in ourselves or the ones we love… it gives us the insight to set aside our desires and we can trust to let God do his thing….

As Mary rocked her sweet newborn, she held to the thought that her son was special…. more than just special but a savior

Luke 2

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss[a] your servant in peace.
30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
32a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him.

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

49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2012 in Advent, Devotions, Faith

 

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Celebrate the Season-Advent Daily Chocolate Day 3- It’s All About The Gift

Sitcoms are great for bringing to the audience a sense of humorous tension created by a character who finds himself in a situation that he can’t seem to get out of… Yeah, well my life’s a sitcom.

Several years ago, in preparation for our staff Christmas party my boss asked me to write down everyone’s name on paper for us to draw names for gift giving. While I was in the other room gathering up the paper and a container to pick names from it hit me… Wouldn’t it be funny if everyone got my name? In other words, no one would know that my name would be on every slip of paper and when they selected the gift recipient, they would all have my name.

I could just picture how funny it would be when everyone showed up at our Christmas party with a present for me…. It was a brilliant plan!  So I did it.   For each of the staff members, including myself, I wrote my name. We all drew names out of the hat and I was the only one who knew that they all had my name.  I was laughing inside… I was going to be laughing all the way to the Christmas gift bank until I began to get a guilty twinge. I noticed that one of my co-workers, because he had drawn my name three years in a row, was wanting to trade names with another… they found out that they both had me.  I immediately fessed up.  We all laughed and I rewrote the names and this time did it correctly and our Christmas party went on without a hitch.  We talked about for a few months, laughed about it and then the whole thing seemed to be forgotten.

So…

A few years later, our staff had grown in numbers and my little gift plot hadn’t been talked about for quite some time and I’m pretty sure it was forgotten.  As before, my boss asked me to write everyone’s name down on paper so that we could draw names for our gift exchange.  Well, once again the thought of everyone walking into the Christmas party with a gift for me sounded just too funny.  So I did it again…. I wrote my name on every slip of paper and everyone drew MY name out of the hat.  I truly thought that before the day was over that I would once again be found out, we would all laugh and names would be rewritten and drawn again.  But just like any good sitcom… it didn’t happen the way that I thought it would.  No one seemed to catch on that they each had my name.

After a day or two, no one said anything about it so I knew that I had won.  I was going to get a gift from everyone.  I could just picture how funny it would be when it was time to pass out the gifts that everyone would hand theirs to me.  Then, like a kick in the rear, I realized that I would be the only one who got a gift…. I know, I know, that was the plan, but I love my co-workers; I didn’t want them to .not get a gift.

Because several days had passed, I was too proud or maybe too embarrassed to admit my plan, I  had to find out if they really, truly didn’t know about the numerous duplicate “Nancy” names floating around.  I began hinting but no one seemed to catch on.  So I went to the one staff member that I felt would team up with me…. I still won’t tell who it was…

After much prying and the promise that I would never reveal my source, I was told that yes, everyone knew that they all had my name.  But what I found out beyond that blew me away…. I was told that not only did they all know they had my name but they had plotted against me!  They redrew names and didn’t include me at all.  I was going to show up to the party and not get a single gift!

Now you might think that is completely fair but …. okay, well, I guess it was…… but I couldn’t let them out do me… I had to be a creative thinker and come up with a plan to make them all feel guilty for leaving me out.

I thought and thought and the only thing that I could think of that could possibly make them feel bad was to let them believe that I felt so guilty that I would be receiving all of these gifts, that I went out and purchased a gift for all of them…. but not just any gift…. I wanted to get them something BIG.  Then when they opened their gifts they would be like, “Oh man! But wait, we didn’t get Nancy anything…. I feel so guilty… I feel so bad for trying to out do her…. I feel like such a terrible friend and she is such a good friend… Just look at this gift she gave me.. How will I ever repay her?”  (Maybe a tad over the top but you see where I’m going, right?)

So, my search was on…. I needed to find a great gift for each of them but I had little to spend.  Still yet, I was going to show them.  I began by looking for great items at places like Goodwill and other treasure outlets but nothing.  Then I finally found the store that made my gifts come to fruition.  I drove an hour and a half to a little town that happened to have a store that had great coats for very low cost.  I stocked up.  I bought wool coats, leather coats, team coats, down coats… I was a coat monster….. My husband wasn’t too happy with me but it was worth it….  Those guys were going to feel so ashamed!

I arrived at the party and laughter roared as I walked into the room with my stack of gifts.  Little did they know that the joke was on them.  We ate and talked and then it was time to open gifts.  I made my little presentation… I told how guilty I felt and that I wanted to do something nice.  So they each opened their gifts and they were all amazed at their generous gifts.

Now, I will admit that I didn’t have this great feeling of accomplishment that I had hoped for… they really thought that I had spent a lot of money and they did seem to feel a little bad.  As much as I plotted and planned, I realized as they opened the gifts and I saw the look on their faces that I never really wanted them to feel bad…..I loved them. (still do)  I was just having fun… albeit over-budget fun (which my husband asked that I please not do again) and at that point, I didn’t want them to feel bad at all.  I wanted them to enjoy their gift whether they had gotten me anything or not.

I think a true gift is just that…. something we want people to enjoy.  It is pleasing to the giver when  there is an appreciation for what was given.  During the Christmas season, it is easy for me to get so caught up in the giving and doing parts that I tend to forget about what a great generous gift God has given to us through Jesus.  Not only is there hope, peace and love in that gift but there is the gift of eternal life and it  was given for us to embrace, appreciate, share and enjoy.

This Advent Season, through songs, stories or other means, be reminded of the great gift that God has given to us. But more so be reminded that he would have given this gift even if your name was the only one in the hat.  He thinks that much of you. 

Romans 6:23

 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Advent, Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Celebrate the Season-Advent Daily Chocolate Day 2- What’s in a name?

 

51088xr7fXL._SL500_AA300_I find name meanings to be very interesting. My name is a form of Ann which is a name that means “grace.”  I wonder how many parents pick names because of their meaning or if they just like the name.

My name was not picked by happenstance… I was named for two of my aunts.  Though I could be wrong, I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t name me with the thought that I would practice grace, exemplify grace or bestow grace on those around me ust because my name translated so. (However, I’m sure they’d be proud if I did)

Picking a name for a child is a tough job… my husband and I had the hardest time deciding on each of our girls’ names.  Honestly, I didn’t look at the meanings of their names or if I did, I didn’t give it second thought.  I just went with the name that I liked.

My advent reading today was Isaiah 9:1-7 and I focused on the names that this prophecy gave Christ…the names were descriptive of who this “son” was going to be… Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  I love these terms, not just because I can sing them (Hallelujah Chorus), but because of what these four or possibly five names can really mean.

Wonderful- astonishing, amazing.. wonderful goes beyond good, even beyond great….. wonderful exceeds expectations and in most cases blows us away

Counselor- who can I depend on to guide me in the best direction?  Who can I confide in? Who can I gain understanding from?  Yep, it would be the counselor…. or rather, the Wonderful Counselor

Mighty God-  I love the term mighty.  From what I can comprehend about God… there is nothing that can touch Him… He is mighty and more powerful than all

Everlasting Father- Never ending…. No death…. infinity and beyond … However you best understand it, God is forever.

Prince of Peace- I’m not sure if this title is descriptive of world peace or peace within but I believe that Christ showed us how to live peacefully within ourselves and among the world

I love the fact that Christ lived up to his names…. I’ve experienced the Wonderful and was blown away.  I’ve experienced the Counselor and was guided in the correct direction.  I’ve experienced the Mighty God… so much power and never backs down… fights the enemy for you.  I’ve experienced the Everlasting Father…. time is of no issue… He is always there.  I’ve experienced the Prince of Peace…. there have been times when I thought my world was falling apart or times when I was broken… Peace came in and rescued me..

Christ lives up to his name…Just one of the many reasons to celebrate the season and the hope that it brings.

Isaiah 9:1-7

1 Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

2 The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.
3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
and its people will rejoice.
They will rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest
and like warriors dividing the plunder.
4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery
and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.
You will break the oppressor’s rod,
just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
5 The boots of the warrior
and the uniforms bloodstained by war
will all be burned.
They will be fuel for the fire.

6 For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,[d] Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!


 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Advent, Devotions, Faith

 

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Celebrate the Season- Advent Daily Chocolate Day 1: Love is Blind

When I was a kid I used to look so forward to December 1st.  That was when I could open the very first window in my Advent calendar.  This was the calendar that I received around Thanksgiving and was tortured by chocolate desire for a week or so.  But on December 1st, I could finally look and see what the chocolate design was… you know, an angel, a wiseman, a shepherd, Santa, etc…. and then eat it up.  The main problem though was that by December 2nd, the only thing left behind in those little windows was a hollowed out shell and  the smell of the chocolate …. Yep, I had no self control and I counted down to Christmas in one day.  What do you expect?  The pieces of chocolate were wafer thin and the windows weren’t locked…I had to make sure they all tasted the same…16767

Well, now I’m all grown up and have self control ……. And I also have a job so I can buy an extra calendar or two just in case…..but, this isn’t about chocolate calendars….it’s not about self-control…..  It is about the Advent Season and the excitement that the countdown brings.

I’ve found myself many times when I’m reading during my quiet time, wanting to read more and then a bit more and even more …. pretty much like the chocolate of my childhood, I don’t want to stop until I’m satisfied.  So to add to my regular Bible reading plan,  I’m opening an Advent reading window a day (while eating a piece of chocolate, of course).  I’m doing this so I can share the “chocolate” that is satisfying to me and hopefully to others to.

So grab your chocolate …. the real stuff.. or not….. and hold me accountable to sharing with you a devotion, insight or story a day until Christmas.  Hopefully,  you’ll enjoy it as much as I will.

So, we’ll begin here in Isaiah…. Isaiah 11:1-5 to be exact

Isaiah is prophesying- He’s telling about a person (Jesus), a descendant of David, who is going to have some pretty obvious qualities about himself…. Godly wisdom, Godly Counsel, Godly Understanding…Just these three alone are enough to make you think He would be the one to follow, but as you move on down into the scripture there is something that I read that makes the whole appreciating Jesus thing even more precious.

It talks about his quality of blindness in Christ… not literal blindness, but instead, it is the ability to look at someone and not see them as others do and not judge them because of the way that they appear.  He judges the heart (That is why the Pharisees stayed so angry at him all of the time) .  In other words, he doesn’t love us just because we are attractive, or physically fit, or big givers of our money, are financially sound, teach Sunday School or sing in the choir or any other deed.   He loves us because we are his creation… made in his image..    That’s an incredible hope for a society who lives in a shadow of Hollywood images and lifestyles … It is also incredible hope for those haunted by their past.

We also find out He also judges by what he knows and sees … not rumor…He waits to know our hearts and doesn’t allow the opinion of another to persuade his thoughts about us.   More hope for those plagued with a history of poor choices or a past (or even present) that have been a topic of conversations of others.

When Isaiah was prophesying about this Messiah, he painted a picture of a fair and loving Christ that we fortunately now have an opportunity to know…. personally.

Have you pushed Christ aside because of a sin, a past, a hate, a bitterness or just an esteem that feels undeserving?  Look at how he see us… it’s different than what we are used to …. allow him to show you that love.

What about those who have experienced his love… How is your love? Is your love blind toward others?  Is it based on what you feel is attractive or not so attractive (appearances, financial status, hygiene, rumors, lifestyle, political positions, educational background, personality)?  Today is a great day to practice blind love… to try to see the heart of a person rather than what the world sees.

So, I’m off to buy more chocolate…. I love this time of year!

Isaiah 11:1-5

New Living Translation (NLT)

1 Out of the stump of David’s family[a] will grow a shoot—
      yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
 2 And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
      the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the Spirit of counsel and might,
      the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
 3 He will delight in obeying the Lord.
      He will not judge by appearance
      nor make a decision based on hearsay.
 4 He will give justice to the poor
      and make fair decisions for the exploited.
   The earth will shake at the force of his word,
      and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
 5 He will wear righteousness like a belt
      and truth like an undergarment.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2012 in Advent, Devotions, Faith

 

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