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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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Thanksgiving + Christmas =Thanksmas

It’s over.  My family made it through the criticism, the sneers, the rejection, the envy and an assortment of other emotionally charged gestures and opinions.  Yes, we are that family who decorates for Christmas on the first weekend in November…..  and we can now finally breathe a sigh of relief and fully enjoy publicly what we had secretly been enjoying for weeks.

Every year, as soon as Halloween is over, my husband begins the routine of decorating for Christmas.  It is a quiet thing that we do…. no photos on Facebook, no talk in conversations to our peers, we just get out the decorations from the attic and begin putting them in their place.  The inside is garbed first and then the outside gets its makeover.  In fact, my husband is always full of surprises for as I was spending a late evening at the office and doing the basketball practice routine with our daughter, my husband had worked his way from the indoor decorations to the outside while I was gone.  When we turned the corner into our cul-de-sac, my daughter and I both said, “Whoa!”………As the Hallelujah Chorus rang throughout the neighborhood, we were blinded by the bright lights on our house. Okay, the Hallelujah Chorus thing didn’t actually happen and we weren’t truly blinded, but we were certainly the Griswold family in our own minds.  It was an amazing sight and also the signal that our household was Christmas decor complete.

Maybe you can picture how it looks….Beginning with the Hallelujah chorus approach from the street, you move through our well lit icicle guttering and step into a fully decorated house with a lighted tree (actually three trees now that I think about it), evergreen scented candles, a fireplace setting with a cozy Santa chair (aka Blue’s Clues Thinking Chair)  and Christmas paraphernalia pretty much everywhere. Oh, and of course, the Christmas music playing in the background….


Now, we know we aren’t alone in our decoration timing, we see it more and more each year, but we also know that there are many who do not understand why we “skip” or “forget about”  Thanksgiving.  But that’s exactly what we don’t do…. We are thankful… very thankful… We are thankful for Christ, thankful for his birth, thankful for the grace, peace and hope he gives, thankful, thankful, thankful and we don’t want to celebrate just for a little while….we want to make the most of it.  We want to prolong the feelings of good will, friendliness, peace, happiness and care for others that we see during the season…. So take our cozy, glowing, spirit-filled house, add the aroma of turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie, other Thanksgiving feast goodies and a dash of evergreen and you have Thanksmas.   That would be Latin-ish for a mass of thanks.

Okay, now that season of peace, kindness, love, joy, hope, giving, thankfulness that I mentioned….  yes, I realize that all of those things aren’t always so evident, but we do tend to see more of it during this season than any other time.  Maybe its the music, maybe the brightly (or blindingly) lit homes, maybe its the scent of cookie and homemade goodies baking….. whatever it is, we see families gather, co-workers and bosses celebrating together, thankful lists, people giving their money to help others, people letting others know how special they are through cards, gifts and time and more.   But the reality is, when the turkey leftovers are gone, the decorations are put away, gifts exchanged and the perpetual strategy to get rid of the new ten pounds creep up on us, we tend to fall back into the same stressful busyness that entraps us until the next year.  So why then is this season so different? I’m thinking maybe it boils down to one thing… EXPECTATIONS.   Because it is expected of us, we step out of the everyday routine and encourage peace, thankfulness, hope, love and all of the other great things within the holiday season. There are no seasonal rules that we have to obey, no holiday laws to break… it’s just a given…. It’s what we do because it is that time of year.

Recently my “verse of the day” reminded me that according to Colossians 3:15 , if we are followers of Christ, we are expected to be that way not just the month of December (and for some, November) but all of the time.  Can you imagine what it would look like if all followers of Christ lived by the expectations of allowing peace to rule our lives and always being thankful? I think we’d see no orphan without a home, no widow in need,  no elderly forgotten, no one disabled who is neglected, no one homeless without hope or needed treatment, no one who is dying without care… people would be freed from addictions, their pasts, stereotypes, loneliness, poverty and hatred…. we’d hear encouragement, feel love, gain wisdom and experience grace… we’d rest well, worry less or even none at all…. we’d spend time being thankful for what we have rather than spending time trying to accumulate more things….. we’d know God better than we ever thought possible…

If we can live by expectations from a holiday perspective then I would think we can live with the expectation of carrying a peace like Christ, which would also be a piece of Christ, and then top it with thankfulness at all times…. Now that would be a complete Thanksmas! …The only thing then that would separate the celebration of Christ’s birth from the rest of the year would be the decorations…. in early November! 🙂

Colossians 3:15

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 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, look and see what the chocolate design was… you know, an angel, a Wiseman, a shepherd, 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… it was like a chocolate free for all.

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 has brought about conversations from 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)?  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, 2011 in Devotions, Faith

 

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Conversations… The Epiphany Factor

I’m not sure if it is my age, my stress level or just the way I’m wired, but I’ve taken notice of something lately that shoots my conversations to a whole new level.  One might call it the lack of common sense, but I just call it the “epiphany factor” which is triggered by the “oh” gene.  You know what I’m talking about; a time during a conversation, when you begin to see things differently or when someone explains something to you and you finally “get it” ….even if it is a conversation of useless knowledge or trivial chat… that moment is the “epiphany factor”.   You tend to see them on sitcoms quite a bit, but at our house in 2011, I have been keeping notes of them for a time such as this.

As far as the reasoning for why these conversations are happening and since I seem to be claiming this “oh” gene (which, by the way, lies dormant in my parents), I’m beginning to believe that I’m wired that way.  I’m not just thinking this because my husband has been trying to tell me this for years, but because I am seeing it in my children more and more and that helps establish the theory that it may just be a wiring issue with me… yep, born that way.

Here are a few of many examples of what I mean…. these conversations include my 16-year-old (Allison), my 18-year-old (Catie) sometimes my 9-year-old, my husband (Chris) and me….

Allison:  So are Vera Bradley and Vera Wang related?
Me:  How does that even make sense? They just have the same first name.
Allison:  I know… Are they related?
Me:  ?? (silence)
Catie:  So, are they related?
Chris:  Yes girls, they are sisters!
Allison and Catie:  Oh…

OR

Conversation in the car in the dark:
Allison: Mom, are my contacts in?
Me: Allison, how on earth am I supposed to know?
Allison: What?? I thought you said the eye place called you and said they were in.
Me: (short pause) Ohhh, I thought you meant in your eyes.
Chris: Oh, brother

OR

Conversation in the car-
Allison:(who was sitting behind me) Mom, I just sent you a picture.
Me: Okay, text or email?
Allison: Text. Did you get it?
Me: No
Allison: Now?
Me: No
Allison: I sent it. Now did you get it?
Me: No, Allison.
A few minutes later…

Allison: Did you get it, mom?
Me: No

After a few more minutes of the same dialogue….
Chris: Wouldn’t it have been easier for you to just hand your phone to mom and let her see the picture?
Me and Allison: Oh…

OR

Conversation after taking photos of my daughter who was climbing out of a tree….
Allison: Mom, help me
Me:  You’ve got it… Come on down
Allison:  I’m scared. I’m afraid I’m going to break something.
Me:  You’re not going to break anything. This tree is strong and sturdy …. You couldn’t break it even if you wanted to
Allison:  I’m talking about me, Mom! I’m afraid I’ll break my arm or leg!
Me: oh…

AND

Regarding a glitch in our van’s brake lights, to stop concern about the battery dying, Chris and I decided to trade cars for the day. Our phone call:
Chris: Hey, I’m not going to trade cars now. I put a band aid on it so it is temporarily fixed… at least until I can get home tonight.
Me: Wow, that is hilarious
Chris: What is?
Me: That is so funny, kind of ironic, that you used a band-aid to fix it.
Chris:(with laughter) I didn’t use a real band-aid. It was a figure of speech
Me: Oh….

This genetic flaw seems to have been passed down to my poor children and unfortunately, the “voice of reason” gene that their father so perfectly owns, lies dormant or at least will be a late blooming gene.    I hope they are late bloomers because I will have to say that the wisdom of the “Oh” gene is about a 1 on a scale 1-10 while the “voice of reason” ranks way up there with a 9.9-10…. It just comes in so handy… and it has saved our family embarrassment over and over.  (Well, not counting that I’ve just now posted our conversations for the world to read.)

But you know, so often my conversations with God are also laced with the Epiphany Factor.  Common sense can’t always play a role in conversations with God because he is so much bigger than that, but I do tend to forget so much when I talk to him.  I forget to be quiet.  I forget to get rid of barriers between us.  I forget that when he makes a promise he keeps it.  I forget that he loves me., etc.  Many times God has to jump in and, either through his word or his people, stop me and be a voice of reason.

In the Book of Job, Elihu, to a certain degree, was like that; the voice of reason.  After listening to Job and his friends, Elihu spoke some things that he felt needed to be said.  Job was wondering why God wasn’t filling him in on the reasoning of why he had to endure his suffering and wondered why God was being to quiet.  Elihu piped in and stated that God was indeed speaking ….. he was pretty much always speaking but Job wasn’t prepared to listen.

Now, we know that Job had been listening and that God doesn’t always answer our prayers in a way we can understand.  He is not always going to tell us why we have to deal with things certain things or go through certain experiences, so Elihu wasn’t completely correct there.  He did say, however, that God does speak to us in many ways, we just have to not try to put words in his mouth. He uses things to get our attention and sometimes we don’t understand what he’s trying to get from us because of our pride…. we can’t make out what God wants because we are caught up in our suffering.

I find myself in that same situation so many more times than I like to admit… even though what I experience may not be as great of a suffering as what Job went through, I will often find myself so caught up in my own suffering or uncomfortableness that I can’t hear why God is allowing me to go through it.  When I finally let go of myself and allow God to be there, he may not show me exactly why I have to experience what I do, but he at least is there to be a compassionate, protecting, listening and mighty friend who comforts me and provides a peace that I can only get through him.  Job’s epiphany factor came a few chapters later when he realized that God’s ways are best…. when I remind myself of that I so often will be given the “voice of reason” and a brand new outlook.

I’m not sure what you may be dealing with today but should you be in a place where God seems quiet or distant, a great start may be not asking why but by asking for his help in taking the focus off of your suffering and allowing him to consume it.  I may provide a peace like you’ve never known.

Job 33

13 So why are you bringing a charge against him?
Why say he does not respond to people’s complaints?
14 For God speaks again and again,
though people do not recognize it.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Be Aware… Penguins are among us

I’m a bit overwhelmed with all of the awareness days and ribbons.  If I wanted to create an awareness day I think I would be out of ribbon choices… all of the colors are taken and most are even taken by several groups.  I’m not knocking the whole awareness thing.  I think, for the most part, it does help educate some.  I’ve been known to see a ribbon of a certain color and go look it up online to find it’s meaning …. the problem is, unless I ask, I wouldn’t know whether they were making me aware of hunger or of Highway and Road Worker Memorials.   Sometimes though, I’m not sure why awareness even needs to happen.  Like today….

Today is Penguin Awareness Day.  I’m not really sure who this day is aimed to make aware.  Thanks to comical little penguins from cartoons and comic strips….Opus, may you rest in peace…. or possibly a nice documentary like, “March of the Penguins” or even for the retro crowd, a Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom episode, most everyone I know is aware of penguins.  About 10 years ago I even became aware that some lived off of the coast of South Africa.  So what are we needing to be made aware of????

Somewhere in some antarctic, uncharted territory are they, like “Kentucky Fried Chicken” Chickens are believed to be, being unethically bred and slaughtered?  Are they in need of counseling as they live in great big groups and struggle to get along?  Are they a gifted group of performers that need recognition or just a lucky break? Wait, maybe the whole awareness thing is aimed toward the seals that gobble up the penguins.  Maybe that would explain the whole black and white awareness ribbon I saw on the killer whale today. (Just kidding)

I suppose there could be some significance to the whole penguin awareness thing… maybe they are gradually becoming extinct… I don’t know…. oh, I get it…. that is the the whole point… I just said, “I don’t know”…..  I’m aware but not fully aware, therefore the need for Penguin Awareness Day!  I feel so relieved to know that my little black and white awareness ribbon has significance.

The reality of it is that often we believe we are aware of something just because we know a little bit about it.

I was reading this morning about Jesus in his hometown.  The people were aware of Jesus.  They knew him as a carpenter’s son.  They knew his mother and siblings.  They knew him but they didn’t know him.  What a shame…. it still happens today.  Some know him and are aware of him but the never know him in a relationship and therefore aren’t aware of who he really is.  That need for awareness is totally legitimate… the awareness of something more than an hour at church, a unpleasant experience with a “Christian”, or an attempt to read a hard to understand version of the Bible… those experiences may make us aware of his name and then we can claim to be aware but it is the investment of seeking and a commitment to him that makes us aware of who he really is …. we begin to see faith at work….   I don’t know… I’m seeing a red, white and black ribbon in the making.

How’s your awareness? How’s your faith?

Have a great Penguin Awareness Day!

Matthew 13:53-58

53When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. 54Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.

58And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

(Disclaimer:  There really is a Penguin Awareness Day.  According to most calendars it falls on January 20th.  However, to my knowledge, there is not a representing ribbon for this day, but I think black and white would make sense.)

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2010 in Devotions, Faith, Fun

 

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Stop! In the name of pug….well, more like poodle.. and Nix the Resolutions

Taking the back roads has its perks.  Things like few 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.

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.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2010 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Celebrate the Season-Advent Day 1- What’s in a name?

I find it pretty funny that, according to several books, my name translates to the meaning, “Graceful” or “full of grace”.  Assuming the translation refers to the art of being graceful (or “lady-like” as my mother would say),  hang around me long enough and you’ll find out how graceful I am not.  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 mother didn’t name me with the thought that either I was a graceful baby or that I would live my life gracefully just because my name translated so.

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 2, 2009 in Devotions, Faith

 

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Sing with me…”Whoa Black Friday, Bam-A-Lam… ” Oh, the memories…

Yes, I know that the song is really “Black Betty”, but it is kind of catchy, don’t you think? I don’t know about you but Black Friday always seems to sound like such a creepy day that I think it needs something like a theme song.

I’ve never quite figured out why a day that kicks off the holiday shopping season has such a dreary name.  Black Friday… it reminds me of a day that we should either be in mourning or scaring the living daylights out of each other… “Move over Halloween, it’s Black Friday… Bwahhhahahaha….”.

I realize that the whole “Black” thing has to do with some accounting term about being on the good side of the economic table, but even having to explain the term “Black Friday” is so boring…. It seems like they could have created a name that is a bit more appealing to the laypeople.  Maybe they could have named it- “Really Big Sale Friday” or “Crazy Standing in Line Friday” or “Fight for your Deal Friday” or “Be Kind Friday”(Sending out a subliminal message, of course) or “Spend Lots of Money Friday” or “Camp Out Friday”… Do you realize how hard it is to convince a 7 year-old that you don’t have to dress in black on Black Friday??  Let’s just say that she now has a new black T-shirt….

Regardless of why it is called what it is, I have never really been a fan of it.  I have gone out a few times during the early morning hours but I will have to say that each time was only because my sister-in-law was at my house and I went to keep her company.  I’m more of a 10:00am, catch the mid-morning deals, type person, but when I’ve gone with her I admittedly have found a bargain or two.

This year there was a twist to our experience.  There was no 4:00am alarm.  Nope.  Toys R Us opened at midnight and we were going to get a deal.  We figured there wouldn’t be much of a crowd.  After all it was Thanksgiving evening and most would be gearing up for the next morning.  My two oldest were ready for their Black Friday initiation and at 11:50pm, off all four of us (my sister-in-law was obviously there) went to get bargains at the toy store.  As we got closer we began to see that traffic was pretty heavy for a midnight… and as we got even closer we found that it was pointless to take the front roads but instead cut to another road and slyly worked our way up from the back.  As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones who had that thought and we were in total disbelief…

Though there was no way to count, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.. hundreds, maybe even thousands of people…. there was a line that stretched amazingly around the whole mall building.  I couldn’t imagine that this could be the line for Toys R Us.  (Apparently, Zhu Zhu pets had gone under my toy radar and I was oblivious to the Zhu Zhu pet craze that allowed parents to actually get their child a clean smelling hamster..not a real one but close enough)…….As it turned out it was the line for the toy store or at least that is what we were led to believe.  We walked to the back of the line and answered as cars passed by and asked us if we were in the Toys R Us line.  We would nod our heads and shrug our shoulders at the same time because we, just like everyone else, just went to the back of the line without checking to see where the line went.  So, our assumption was that we, along with everyone else in Lexington, were waiting to go buy toys.

After a few minutes and a dozen or so cars asking if we were standing in line for the toy store, I decided to be bold and venture to the front of the mall area to just make sure that we weren’t standing in line for the makeup or furniture store. (I know, I know… no one would stand in line for a furniture store…makeup maybe but not furniture)  What do you know, we were in the correct line. But there is a catch to this…. it wasn’t the only line.  There was another line that was about 1/20 the size of the other line.  I got in the short line and called my sister-in-law to come join me and we giggled the rest of the time at our Black Friday maneuvers.  Oh, the memories…..

Well, our night didn’t stop there… one hour in line outside (yes, in the short line), two shopping hours and one more hour in line to check out…. it was now time for other stores to open.  Walmart had better watch out because the Hall ladies were tired, slap-happy and hungry…. Oh, the memories

We tackled the Walmart bargains and again went to get in line to check out.  I double checked my basket to see if it was worth the wait…. the line stretched completely from the front of the store to the very back of the garden center (for non-Walmart consumers, that is a long line) and yes, my goodies were worth the wait.  So we started walking to the back of the long line and it hit me… we were just assuming that this was the only line… while my sister-in-law waited in line, I again took off and navigated to the front of the store to scout out the line construction…. little surpise to find out that there were plenty of two to three people lines but those in the long line had no idea.

I hopped in a short line, called my sister-in-law and we once again giggled at our little Black Friday maneuvers.  Oh the memories…

I’ve thought a lot about those lines since Friday.  I think I was amazed at how easy it is just to get in line and not really know what lies ahead.  Everyone else seemed so confident and patient in those long lines… as if it was inevitable that the long line was the only line available… looking around at the confidence and patience it seemed as if it was the natural thing just to fall into that line, no questions asked… How easy that is with a spiritual walk as well…we know the relationship we need to have with God but then we look around and everyone else seems to be heading for that big long line… they talk the talk, whether it be faith filled or anti-faith filled talk, and seem very confident so we tend to just get into that line because it seems to be leading in the right direction.  We have no idea where it really leads but we scoot along blindly missing so much because we didn’t venture away.

I’m wondering how many people live their daily lives thinking that they are in the best line… maybe they are longing for something different, knowing that there is a shorter line out there just waiting… or maybe they are content to find out that others passed them by….I’m not pointing a finger a any one group of people…there could be many.

What line are you in? Are you tired of living in the long line? Have you stepped away to find the short line?
It is out there… seek it, you’ll find it.

After my Black Friday adventure I went home, fixed some breakfast and fell asleep.  Pretty sure now that the whole Black Friday name is because of the sleep you have to catch up on when you get home… well, deserved name then, I guess.  My father asked me if I enjoyed myself and I believe I said that I would never do that again…. well, at least until next year.

2 Peter 3:17-18

17 I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18 Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2009 in Devotions, Faith, Fun, Life Stories

 

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Little House on the Prairie… My Summer, Part 2

When I zoned out at school as a child, I went to other places and was totally infatuated with the plans that I imagined in my mind.  At that stage of my life I was totally oblivious to the lack of reality that I was seeking and at times longed for….cast

Things like:

  • Being a trapeze artist in the Ringling Bros. Circus
  • owning every breed of dog imaginable and all of them being incredibly intelligent and well trained.. you know, the kind that would do more than just tricks… things like finding Timmy in the well…
  • being a Native American during the days of the wild west
  • living in a little house on the prairie… quite possibly with the Ingalls family

It was years later that I realized the reality behind the imagination…

Things like:

  • trapeze artists aren’t in high demand and who knows how much a trapeze artist’s salary is…even if it is good, you have to be somewhat athletic, I would assume?
  • a house full of dogs means smelly, even if you constantly groom and I’ve not had one dog who can do anything more than the regular “sit” and “stay”…. no, none of them ever learned to stay… and now that I think about it, they only sit when I say it when they are already sitting
  • To be a Native American in the wild west would not have been glamorous but likely quite dangerous
  • Living out a year’s worth of Little House on the Prairie episodes in real life is bound to place a normal emotionally healthy person over the edge.

I figured most of these out by the time I was in High School but the last one, the Little House one… that one just stunned me a few months ago when my daughter recently spent her birthday money to complete her collection of each season of the series.  I never realized how many tears Michael Landon had to squeeze out each week or so.  Now, I’m not knocking the series at all… still love it… but when you watch them back to back you realize what troubles those people had.  The bullying, the blindness, the ruined crops, the death, the orphans, the overweight people, the illnesses, the storms… Mercy! and I thought I wanted to be in the midst of it…

However, there was one episode where a dying mother asked Charles Ingalls to help her find a home for her children.  In his heart, he wanted to keep them but knew in his head that it wasn’t possible.  He searched and searched but found nothing… no one wanted to take three children.  He finally decided to give them each a home separately.  Once again, his heart was aching because he wanted to keep them …. more tears.  In the end there was a happy home for all together.

I experienced a tiny bit of that emotional Little House episode this summer…   A year ago I had a grandmother come to me to share with me the news of a her terminal illness.  It broke my heart because she had full custody of her grandson.  Her family taking him was not an option so she asked me to help her find a good home for him.  Now, I am a Children’s Pastor… I know nothing about this type of situation except that I wanted to grab him, build an extra bedroom and take him home but that was not to be….As it worked out she was able to find someone… only to find out that the situation wasn’t what she had hoped for.  So, she asked me and another lady from our church to help again.  This time though, time was precious….. she was growing worse.

My story was a bit different though.  I had technology to get the word out and I had people longing for a child.  The outcome was good.  We found a family…. friends of mine and for them it was an answer to a 20 year old prayer.  He is loved much by the family.

I have often thought about the grandmother.  Her act was bold, courageous and selfless.  She thought only of this child and his well being.  I’m pretty sure, if I was placed in the same situation, that I probably wouldn’t be able to do that.

I taught the kids tonight about Moses as a baby.  His mother, in some ways, did almost that same selfless act.  She had no way to know that when she hid her baby that her life wouldn’t be ended should he be found… she also had no idea when she placed him in the basket and sent him on his way that he wouldn’t drown… she also had no way to know what the reaction of Pharoah’s daughter would be to a Hebrew baby.  Moses ended up being just fine… and his biological mother even got to help raise him.

Both of these stories ended with a happy ending… not necessarily an emotionally void ending but a heart-warming ending.

Things are sometimes so often like a Little House on the Prairie episode. It may be easier to dream of a different life and definitely easier to dream of living in non-reality … but, hang in there, the episode is not over yet.

Exodus 2:1-10

The Birth of Moses

1 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.

5 Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”

8 “Yes, go,” she answered. And the girl went and got the baby’s mother. 9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses,  saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2009 in Devotions, Faith, Life Stories

 

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Take a hike… seriously… I mean, really… literally….

hikingI don’t know what I was thinking… an hour to spare and I said, ” Why don’t we take this other trail?  It seems silly to go home when we could keep walking for another hour.  It can’t possibly take that long.”  I don’t know if the map was totally exaggerated or if I was oxygen deprived and not thinking straight, but for me to suggest we hike further????? Totally not me.  First of all, let me set the record straight, I do like to hike… as long as the trail is relatively flat, the air is cool and I can wear my flip-flops.   Also, I need to walk with slow walking people… my leg stride is so short that I have to run to keep up with others and believe me, I have a few friends who just about kill me when we are walking… at the mall.  You know who you are..

But the point is, hiking is a fun way to exercise my body and my mind.  I love to look at the world around me as I walk and marvel at creation..( I also, like to stop and sit on creation and take a breather every now and then)  I often wonder what it would be like to be someone walking that same route 100 years ago.  Obviously,  it is a way to get my mind off of the fact that I’m panting and doubled over… but it is way better than walking through a neighborhood or on a treadmill.  Way prettier pictures…

Our hike last Friday was at a place we had never been before… we checked it out for its family friendliness and decided that it was going to be a diamond in the rough… a total treasure that we had overlooked.  The pictures sported beautiful streams, small and medium sized water falls, a river overlook,  rustic bridges, a wild animal or two… we were excited.  We gathered our walking sticks… yes, we are that professional… our picnic cooler, cameras and I threw on my flip-flops and headed out the door.

After lunch we headed to the information center to get our trail map and into the woods we went.  Our walk was a tree covered, dirt path that took us to a water gate that was long deteriorated and gone … probably for a century and a half… there was an incredible rock wall that had stood the test of time but the stream was a trickle…The only wildlife we saw was a tick crawling on a leg and my husband throwing a rock off of the trail to make us think something was moving in the woods…. Our seven-year-old began to grow weary and began stating her favorite hiking place was not the one where we were…her favorite, she reminded us, was the one that my husband had first suggested we go… I kept telling her to keep her opinions to herself… she longed to see a waterfall…I was determined that this would be her new favorite place…mainly because it was my suggestion… so I didn’t want to leave until she could find that picture perfect waterfall.  I wasn’t finding the waterfalls on the map so I thought the river overlook might satisfy a seven-year-old’s desire to see water.

We worked our way back to the main path and I realized that we had a hour before the trails closed… it seemed such a waste to leave after such a short little walk…. we hadn’t even seen a waterfall.  As we stood on the hot main trail, our older daughter decided that wanting a haircut was more important than our physical health and she started to zone out of the hiking mood… the first trail was fun but now in the hearts of all but me… well,  it was time to leave.  Instead, of leaving we took a shortcut through an open meadow that made us all cranky and thirsty.  I hike in flip-flops so it is probably also apparent that I would not hike with a bottle of water or any other kind of liquid for that matter.  We all began to get thirsty.  My husband just so happened to have a Diet Coke Plus in the camera case and the girls were at least able to share that.  About two thirds of the way into our “shortcut” we realized our timing was going to be an issue and now the whole bathroom thing kicked in too.  We were so close to the river overlook that it seemed silly to walk away so my husband said that we could definitely make it if we walked back in double time.  “Double time? I have been walking in double time,” I said.  ….. (Remember my walking stride is short) So I finally shrugged it off and said, “On to the Overlook”  With frustrated hiking daughters, we made it there.  Still no waterfall, but it was a nice view… a cool, safe cliff to sit on and look over into the murky waters of the Kentucky River…. totally worth the walk….  we double-timed our way back to the car… we made it out of the park with 3 minutes to spare before they closed the gates.  It was as if we had accomplished a tremendous feat.

Sometimes it seems that the most difficult thing to overcome happens to be the best experience that we never dreamed it could be.  Our hike wasn’t devastating… but it wasn’t filled with many moments that would be considered incredible at the time either.  However, looking back, had we stopped walking when we did, we wouldn’t have seen the river from the overlook point and we wouldn’t have had the family memory…. now we can laugh about it.

I’m preparing for The Family Adventure (a family event where I work) and I was reading  the Persistent Widow Parable.  You know, that lady kept on “keeping on.”  She didn’t give up asking for justice.  She finally got on the nerves of the judge so he gave in to her request. widow Jesus said that if we see this uncaring, unjust judge answering the request, then just imagine what a loving Father would do.  It would be really easy to look at that parable and take away from it that we have to beg and whine in order for God to answer our prayers the way we want them answered or we should ask God to be our genie in a lamp,  but I don’t think that either is the point.   I think the point may be to not give up before it is time to quit so you don’t miss out on the blessing that God has in store.  Maybe persistence in prayer is not for us to feel good about the accomplishment or the gift, but maybe it helps us appreciate the power of God.

So, if you are hiking and are ready to quit before the trails close… double-time your walk and continue on to another trail… you might see something incredible.

If you are praying and seeking God’s will, don’t give up when things seem quiet…  but instead keep on “keeping on” and hold on for an incredible experience of God at work.

He loves you.

Luke 18:1-8

Parable of the Persistent Widow

1 One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. 2 There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, who neither feared God nor cared about people. 3 A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ 4 The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, 5 but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’”

6 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. 7 Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man[a] returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2009 in Devotions, Faith, Fun, Life Stories

 

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