Friday, January 22, 2010

The little boy who stole my heart

   Fourteen years ago today, I was in the hospital preparing to deliver my second baby--our first son.  Grant came into this world at 3:12 on January 22nd, 1996.  After Elisabeth had been born, I could not imagine being able to love another child the way I loved her.  But from that very first moment I held this new baby boy, my heart grew exponentially; and he filled the space.  Through the years, he has continued to steal my heart.  
  Grant entered the world without a thought of caution.  In fact, just as I was about to deliver him, there were minor complications; but he made it through without a moment's hesitation and was born perfect and healthy. This is how he continues to approach life.  Even to this day, I'm not sure if he has ever thought about something twice before doing it.  If he has an idea, he goes with it....whether good or bad.  As a mom this can be quite maddening at times.  In fact, it drives me quite batty.   But it is how God has wired him.
   Grant has a cool demeanor and seems to have so much self-confidence.  It surprises me.  He cracks me up with the stories he makes up and tells or in the morning when he has to tell me every single detail of the dream he had the night before.  He loves playing with little children and it makes my heart swell to watch him play with them.  He is becoming a musician, and I am always surprised by his natural ability to "hear" the music.  He's not too cool  to build with his Legos or have Nerf wars.  He is at the age where he tries to "show up" his dad every chance he gets...but Dad can still take him in most things.   He enjoys reading, but he is also athletic.  And although he will say that he "hates" school, he is very smart.  (He just doesn't want anyone else to know it.)  Grant has never had a lack of friends, either.  Whereever he goes, people are drawn to him.  I think it is because he accepts people for who they are.  I've been moved by his compassion toward those who are hurting.  For instance, one year for his birthday he asked for no presents.  Instead he asked for family and friends to give money to donate to the victims of the big tsunami that his Indonesia.
  I am excited to see how God is developing him into a strong young man.  My prayer is that he will be a godly influence to those around him.  I pray that he will allow God to continue to work in his life and be moldable to God's working.
   Happy Birthday Grant!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Life's Wrestling Meet

Grant has taken up wrestling.  This is a sport I have never been interested in.  I grew up in a town where, although the school had a wrestling team, it was definitely not the favored sport.  When I was a teacher, the school's wrestling team was very strong and I attended a few meets; but it never had much appeal to me.   But now is a different story.  This is MY boy out there!
Wrestling is among the most ancient of athletics, right alongside running.  I can imagine Cain and Abel, and maybe little Seth, wrestling with one another out in the field.  I'm sure Adam had to step in from time to time to "break them up."  Wrestling today is one of the most pure sports, as well.  With two people matched up as equally as possible according to size, they step onto the mat with very little equipment or protective gear.  They shake hands and at the signal, they go to head-to-head, hand-to-hand.  Sometimes the stronger one wins.  Sometimes the quicker one wins.  Sometimes the craftier one wins.  Just the two of them with no one else to depend on and no one else to blame.  And when it is over, they shake hands again---no one is angry, no one is upset.  It is pure sportsmanship!

Everytime Grant steps out onto the mat,  my Mother's heart starts racing and my stomache begins churning.  A wrestling match only lasts 6 minutes at the most....but those brief moments seem to last an eternity.  I wrench my hands, hold my breath, cross my fingers, say a prayer, whisper a thanks, and then beam with pride as my son walks off the mat.  It is fun watching him win---especially in those 30-second-pin matches.  It is hard to watch him lose--to watch him struggle against another and not seem to be able to get the edge he needs.  But whether he wins or loses, I always feel so proud of him for getting out there and giving his best.  He does too; everytime he steps out onto the mat, he gives his 100%--his all.

Last weekend while at a tournament, waiting for Grant's turn to wrestle, we stood next to our friends whose son, Josiah, was wrestling.  He was wrestling for the championship in his division and it was a tough match for him.  We were up on the second floor of the gymnasium, right above where Josiah was wrestling, looking down on the mat.  As we stood there, with Josiah down by a few points and struggling to hold on, Josiah's dad was yelling for him to turn it around, cheering for him, shouting encouragements down to him.  I'm not sure if Josiah could hear his dad or not, but he did end up turning it around.  He won the match and took first-place in his weight-class!  And when he did, I looked at his dad.  He was beaming!  He was so proud!  It was as if he, too, had won that match!

And that is when it occurred to me.  Wrestling is not only an ancient sport; it is not only a pure sport; but wrestling is a life sport.  As we go through our days, weeks, months, even years, sometimes life is easy but at other times it is a struggle.  Sometimes we take what comes our way and we "pin" it down with no problems.  But other times, our circumstances are tougher and we wrestle with them--and it is difficult.  Sometimes it takes all we have just to keep from getting pinned.  Other times it feels like we are barely able to keep ourselves on the mat. 

But regardless of the circumstances--whether easy or difficult--God, the Father, is in Heaven cheering for us, encouraging us, and even offering us tips on how to "turn it around."  He wants us to win!  He wants us to pin it down.  When we are struggling with sin or circumstances, God's heart is wrenched; I believe His stomach must churn; I bet He holds His breath.  He wants us to defeat our opponent of sin and difficult circumstances.  He wants us to win!!!  When we do, He beams with pride for us!  When we---His children--win, He wins, too!

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)

"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Emotional dehydration....

Have you ever felt emotionally dry? Has your life been like living in a desert? Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances that we just don't know how to deal with. Circumstances that dehydrate us emotionally. Everything else in our lives can be going along perfectly, but at the same time we can have one area that seems to suck the life right out of us. We laugh, chat, work, even serve; but inside, a part of us is thirsting.

I've been there....I'm there a lot these days. I'm not complaining. I am actually hopeful this is just a season I must go through. My prayer is that I will not totally implode; but that in the end, I will be stronger, closer to God, and able to reach out to others.

Tonight we experienced a wonderful time of worship...It wasn't just wonderful because it made me feel good. It was great because it was like a drink of fresh, cool water to my soul. You see, I have a hope because Jesus is the Living Water. Because of Him, I don't have to thirst when I go through these desert places. He is the well that will never run dry. Tonight when I heard this song, it was as if it was the first time I had heard it. The words jumped out and grabbed me! I was reminded that although I may feel totally drained and dehydrated, Jesus is the well that will never run dry. He is always there!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent Devotions for 2009

Family and Personal Devotions for Advent 2009

The word “Advent” means “coming.” It has historically tied Jesus’ first coming as a baby in a manger to His second coming when He returns to earth for His people.
Our family began celebrating Advent several years ago after searching for a way to really focus on Christ during the Christmas season. This time of year can be so busy, oftentimes with lots of good things; but it is easy to forget about Christ. We desired to teach our children to really focus on Christ as we lead up to the celebration of His birth.
Over the years our Advent celebrations have varied. We set up an Advent wreath and light the appropriate candles each evening. (However we have chosen to use red and green candles instead of the traditional purple and pink.) We have read Advent books. (I highly recommend the Jotham series for elementary and older students.) We have wrapped little “presents” that the children have opened each day as we read a Scripture to go with that “present”. (This was especially fun when the children were little.) And we’ve also had variations of a Jesse Tree (taken from Isaiah 11) where we hang an “ornament” on a special “tree” each day.
Here is a picture of the ornaments our kids made (using Modeling Magic by Crayola):

The devotions that follow are a part of our Jesse Tree. They can be done with the tree or without it. One year we had paper ornaments that we stuck to a paper tree. One year we made ornaments out of modeling clay and hung them on a tree branch that we “planted” in a pot. It doesn’t matter. You can be as creative as possible.
Or if you chose to use this a personal devotions, you don’t need to use the “ornament” suggestions next to each date. Either way, I hope you find these devotions useful.
As you take time to read the Scriptures and devotions during this Advent season, look for three common threads: 1) Jesus represented throughout the Old Testament, 2) God choosing unlikely men and women to accomplish His plans, and 3) the need for obedience if we are to live a godly life.

November 29: Dove/Earth
Read Isaiah 11:1-10
This passage describes Jesus as the branch from the stump of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David who began a line of descendants that lead to Jesus, the Messiah. This passage in Isaiah is also describes the peace and harmony of creation as God had intended it and how it will one day be again.
Take some time on this first day of Advent to be peaceful before God. Reflect on His love and holiness. Commit yourself to being obedient to His Word this season.

November 30: Apple
Read Genesis 2:4-3:24
God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, on the sixth day of Creation. They were the favored of all His Creation! But they were not perfect and one day, they fell to the temptations of Satan in the form of the serpent. They disobeyed God! This is known as the original sin.
Jesus is known as the second, or new, Adam because he ushered in a new creation—forgiving sin and restoring humanity to God’s grace.
We all struggle with temptations. But that doesn’t not mean we must give into those temptations. If we have accepted Jesus Christ, we have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to overcome temptation’s power—whether it be gossip, lying, anger, fear, resentment or bitterness.
Today ask God for His power in overcoming a temptation you are struggling with.

December 1: Rainbow
Read Genesis 6:11-14; 7:1-12; 8:1-22
Noah and the ark is one of the most well-known Bible stories. God was displeased with the people because they of their wickedness. Noah, however, found favor in God’s sight. So God decided to send a great flood to destroy all who would not follow Him. Only those people and animals who were on the ark were saved from the terrible, world-wide flood.
The ark is a symbol that although God was displeased with the wickedness of the men and women He created, He also sees the best in us and renews His covenant with us through forgiveness and mercy. God is a god of second chances.
Do you need forgiveness in your life? Ask God to show you areas where you need forgiveness in your life. He longs to give us a second chance. Accept His mercy today.

December 2: Stars on a Night Sky
Read Genesis 12:1-7; 15:1-6
Abraham and Sarah were very old and still had no children. But God took Abraham out and had him look up at the night sky. From the plateau where they stood, Abraham could see thousands of stars. Those stars represented God’s promise to Abraham to make his family a great nation. Abraham could hold to that promise every night as he looked out at the dark, star-filled sky. Even when he didn’t understand how God was going to do it, he could hold to the promise. Abraham’s people did become the great nation of Israel; but even more, all who have accepted Christ have been brought into the household of faith of Abraham as well.
Is there a promise of God that you just can’t seem to grasp? One that seems impossible? Hold onto it! God is always true and His promises are sure! Pray for faith today as you wait on Him and His promises.

December 3: Ram
Read Genesis 22:1-19
A parent’s love. This is truly the strongest of all human loves. Abraham loved his son Isaac; through Isaac, God has promised to make Abraham lineage a great people. Abraham knew this. He treasured the boy. But how much? God tested Abraham’s priorities. He asked a horrific thing of Abraham. He asked him to take the boy up to the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice to God. Abraham must have been distraught, but he was obedient. Just as he lifted the knife to take the life of his son, God provided a ram caught in a thorn-filled thicket.
The ram in the thicket took the place of Isaac as the sacrifice that day. Many years later, God himself took the test that he gave to Abraham. Only this time, His son, Jesus, was the ram. With a crown of thorns on his head, Jesus became the sacrifice that took our place.
Where are your priorities? Are they aligned with God’s? Is there anything in your life that you would be unwilling to sacrifice if God asked that of you?
Reflect on this thought. Ask God to show you what priorities are out of line in your life. Then turn those over to Him today.

December 4: Ladder
Read Genesis 27:41-28:22
Jacob was sneaky, and as a result his brother was angry with him. To escape his brother’s wrath, Jacob left home to live with his uncle in a far away land. As he was sleeping one night on his journey, God appeared to him in a dream standing at the top of a ladder. After his dream, Jacob awoke and exclaimed, “Truly, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it!” The miraculous ladder in his dream reunited the earth with the divine; it served as a promise to Jacob that God was with him and would bring him back to his homeland.
However, the ladder is also symbol of Jesus coming to earth. Through him, Heaven and earth were re-united. He bridged the gap between a perfect God and sinful man.
Praise God today for providing Jesus as the bridge (ladder) that covers the gap between God and man!

December 5: Sack of grain
Read Genesis 41:47-49
Joseph, the son of Jacob, was cast out by his brothers. He had been the favorite son of their father and they were jealous. Joseph then experiences one trial after another; but through each experience he remains faithful to God and acts with integrity in every circumstance. It seems that Joseph never complained through each difficulty, but he believed in God’s providence in his life. As a result, when a famine comes to the land, Joseph has enough food to feel all who are hungry, even his once jealous brothers, with sacks of grain that are bursting at the seams.
Do you pout when things don’t go your way? Maybe you blame others or get angry. If we approach each event in our lives knowing it is part of God’s plan for us, will we act differently?
What hardships are you facing right now? What things are you experiencing that you don’t understand? Tell God about them. Ask Him for grace to accept these circumstances and to learn from them.

December 6: Burning bush
Read Exodus 3:1-6
Moses was raised as an Egyption by the daughter of pharaoh; at age 20, he fled Egypt and went to the wilderness where he met his wife and lived with her family for another 20 years. Now around the age of 40, he is witness to God’s word when an angel of the Lord appears to him as a burning bush. He is then instructed to return to Egypt to lead God’s people to the Promised Land.
Sometimes God makes His presence known in the most surprising ways. But when He does, it is ALWAYS a holy experience. Moses’ first response when he heard his name called was to go looking for the caller. But once he realized it was God, he hid his face out of fear.
How do we approach a holy God when He calls us? Are we flippant? Or defiant? Or even ignorant? God wants us to seek Him when He calls us, but He also expects us to approach Him with reverence.
Come before God now, seeking His face with a spirit of reverence and obedience.

December 7: Doorpost with blood
Read Exodus 12:1-13
God instructed Moses and Aaron to slaughter a year-old male lamb for each household of the Israelites. There were then to smear the blood of the animal over the doorpost of each household. As a result when the Death Angel came through, he would “pass over” that house and the firstborn child would be spared. This was the beginning of the tradition of Passover and it also marked the exodus of the Isrealites out of slavery.
Just as the Isrealites were saved from the Death Angel by the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of their homes, we are saved from eternal death by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, which was smeared onto the wooden cross on Calvary. The Isrealites were not saved just by because they were Israelites though; they had to have faith and act on that faith by accepting the blood onto their homes. Likewise, we must accept Jesus’ death by bringing Him into our hearts. Just as the Passover marked the beginning of the exodus of the Isrealites from slavery, when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal savior, we begin our life of being free from the bondage of sin in our lives.
Spend time today reflecting on the blood of Jesus and how His death has rescued your from death and sin!

December 8: 10 Commandments
Read Exodus 20:1-21
God delivered the commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai and Moses brought the resulting tablets—and the commandments—back to His people. These commandments served as a guide to the Israelites. These commandments became known as the Law and were a way for them to find favor with God—through obedience and sacrifice—until the time Jesus came to earth. They served to show mankind how sinful he was. Since no one could keep the Law perfectly, they showed the need for a Redeemer.
What sins are you struggling with in your life today? Are there areas in your life that you just can’t seem to get control of? Ask God to intervene in your life. Confess your sins to Him and ask Him for grace to overcome.

December 9: Red rope
Read Joshua 2:1-21
Rahab was an unlikely person for God to use. But, that seems to be the way of God. When the spies of Israel went into Jericho to gather information before laying siege to the city, Rahab hid them from Jericho’s king. As a result, they promised that she and her family would be saved when the city was destroyed. In order to indicate which home was hers, she hung a red chord from the window. As a result, her life and the lives of her family were spared and they were brought into the Israeli camp. Later Rahab married an Israeli man and they had a son named Boaz.
The scarlet chord showed Rahab’s faith in the Israeli spies and their God to spare her life. If she had failed to hang the chord or if she had hung a chord of a different color, things would have turned out much differently; and she and her family would not have been saved. For us the scarlet chord is another Old Testament representation of Jesus Christ whose blood was shed to save us.
How is your faith today? Are you struggling with believing that God will save you? Are you unsure that He wants to use you?
Pray for Him to strengthen your faith. Then be obedient as His Spirit begins to work in your life!

December 10: Wheat
Read Ruth 1:16-19a; 2:1-13; 3:10-13
Ruth, a Moabitess and widow, returns to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi. They are poor and Naomi is old. Ruth, who loves her mother-in-law dearly, goes to the fields to winnow grain for bread. As she does, she finds favor with Boaz, a distant relative of Naomi’s. Ruth asks Boaz to help her and her mother-in-law; and he vows to do so. But he must first give a closer relative a chance. When this relative cannot, Boaz stays true to his promise. He marries Ruth; she and Naomi are redeemed. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed who was the grandfather of David from whose lineage Jesus was born.
Boaz is known as the kinsmen redeemer since he took in the widow of a relative. Jesus is our kinsmen redeemer. We are all children of God in the sense that He has created us. However, without a Redeemer, we have no hope. When Jesus came to earth as a man, He did so to redeem us. Thus, He is our Kinsmen Redeemer!
Praise God today for providing a Kinsmen Redeemer for us!

December 11: Pitcher
Read Judges 7:1-25
Gideon was the youngest of the least; that is, he was the youngest in his family and his family was from the least of the tribes of Israel. However, God chose to reveal his power through Gideon. First, God reduced the Israeli army from over 100,000 to only 300 soldiers. Then He gave Gideon specific instructions to defeat the Midianite army. They were to approach the town with their torches hidden under pitchers, then on command they smashed the pitchers. The resulting crash and sudden light scared the Midianites so that they turned on one another and began fighting among themselves. Gideon was an unlikely leader of Israel, but God used him to help His people cast aside their false gods and obey God’s true laws.
Maybe you feel unworthy to serve God. Maybe you feel that you are the least of all people. But, God has a plan for you! He wants to use you! He desires to make Himself known through your life! But whether He will or not, depends on you. Will you allow Him to use you?
Pray that God will use you. Ask Him to reveal any obstacles that stand in your way.

December 12: Crown
Read I Samuel 3:1-21
Samuel was given as a young child to the priest Eli to serve in the temple of God. As a young boy, God called to him repeatedly. When at last he recognized God’s call, he adhered to it without fail---for the rest of his life. As a result, God used Samuel to anoint the first kings of Israel; Samuel also proclaimed the coming of Christ the King, the eternal king who would have dominion over all earthly kings.
Ask God today to help you know His voice. Then commit to responding to that voice when you hear Him calling.

December 13: Shepherd’s crook
Read I Samuel 16:11-13
David was first a shepherd of livestock. He was the lowliest of all his brothers and his job was to keep watch over the flock of sheep. But when God called him to lead the nation of Israel, he became a shepherd of people to help them become what God wanted them to be. Jesus, too, is known as the greatest shepherd—the Good Shepherd. Just as a shepherd of livestock often has put his own life in danger to protect his flock, Jesus laid down his life to give us abundant life.
Pray a prayer of thanksgiving that Jesus willingly gave His life for you.

December 14: Altar of stone
Read I Kings 18:17-46
Elijah is called by God to dispel the myths of false gods that were increasingly being worshipped by the people of God. Elijah stood up against the people of his culture, including the king and queen. God proved, once again, that He is the God of gods. Elijah built a stone altar and consecrated it with fire showing the people the true light of God.
Be willing to stand up to your culture today. Make your life an altar of God; be consecrated with His fire in your life. Ask God to take care of you and to show Himself through your obedience to Him.

December 15: Whale
Read Jonah 1:15-2:10
Jonah, the errant prophet, had disobeyed God. As a result, God sent a great storm and a big fish to get Jonah’s attention. It worked. Jonah recognized his disobedience, confessed his disobedience, and turned to obedience.
Jonah, being in the belly of the big fish, is a symbol of Christ. When the sailors had thrown him overboard, they were certain he would die in the sea. Instead, God kept him alive in the belly of the fish three days and then had the fish spit him out. When Jesus was crucified and buried, those who witnessed thought he was dead and gone. Those who had worked so hard to be rid of Him were pleased with themselves. But God had another plan; three days later, Jesus rose from the dead---fully alive just as He is today.
Praise God today for His wonderful plan of salvation. And commit yourself to being obedient to His voice.

December 16: Tongs and hot ember
Read Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 9:1-7
The prophet Isaiah is called to holiness, but he fears he is not worthy of revealing the living God. Isaiah sees angels around the throne of the Lord and one of them takes a hot ember from a fire with tongs and touches it against Isaiah’s lips. Isaiah is forgiven of his sins and is able to go forth and deliver the Word of God.
We, too, are called to a life of holiness. This does not mean a life of chants and humming. Holiness is living our lives in a way that pleases God. “Be holy because I am holy.” (I Pet 1:16)
Begin your prayer by thanking God for being sufficient for everything you will face today. Commit yourself to living in that sufficiency as a praise offering. Be sensitive to the Word of God; listen for His voice; look for His hand in your life. Pray today that God would bring you to a level of holiness. That He will show you areas of your life where you need to become like Him.

December 17: Tear (teary eye)
Read Jeremiah 1:4-10; 8:22-9:11
Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. He was exiled and the Lord spoke to him. Jeremiah describes God’s grief as an endless fountain of tears. This grief is due to the His people turning back to worshipping idols. Jeremiah had been called by God to tell the people to turn from their false worship back to worshipping Him alone. But the people refused to listen.
Is there anything in your life today that is keeping you from worshipping God whole-heartedly? Is there anything that is more important to today than living your life for Him?
Ask God to reveal things in your life that are coming between you and your worship of God.

December 18: Outline of Bethlehem
Read Micah 5:2-5
God keeps His work perfectly and completely. This is a promise concerning the birthplace of Jesus. Christ was not born by some chance or accident. God carefully planned and crafted the entire event even down to the place where Jesus would be born.
We can be encouraged because God keeps His promises. He works in ways that we do not always understand; but we can know that He is always absolutely true to His word and that the end result will always be exactly according to His plan.
Praise God today for being in control and having a plan for your life. If you are having any reservations about what He is doing in your life, admit that and turn it over to Him. Recommit yourself to His leading.

December 19: Heart (Representing Mary's servant's heart)
Read Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of our savior, Jesus. Mary’s response is that of disbelief at first; this seemed impossible to her. However, once Mary had the assurance and the promise that nothing was impossible with God, she willingly risked her reputation and accepted God’s calling on her life. Mary became God’s human instrument that was needed to cradle within her the Son of God.
Think about the commitment Mary expressed and all that she risked in order to glorify God at this point in her life. How can you bring glory to God today in the form of servanthood?
God found favor with Mary; maybe it was because of her devotion or her purity or her dependability. We don’t know exactly. A better question is, “Does God find favor with me?” We, too, have been chosen to accomplish something for the Kingdom of God. We must live our life in such a way that when God is ready to do a special work in and through us, we will be ready.
Pray today about the unfavorable characteristics in your heart today. Pray that you would be ready and that God would find favor with you when He needs you.

December 20: Seashell with water drops (historically, the symbol for John the Baptist)
Read Luke 1:39-56
Mary travels to visit her cousin Elisabeth, who has also conceived and is expecting her baby a few months before Mary. Elisabeth, however, is an older woman beyond the years of child-bearing; her conception, then, is also a miracle. When Mary arrives at Elisabeth’s home, the child in Elisabeth’s womb leaps for joy. Even before being born, John the Baptist, Elisabeth’s baby, knew and proclaimed the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
Pray today that God would give you opportunity to share the Good News of his coming with someone you know…that you would be able to proclaim Jesus.

December 21: Tablet with “John” on it
Read Luke 1:57-80
When Elisabeth gave birth to a son, family and friends all expected he would be named after his father, the priest Zechariah. But Zechariah, who had been unable to speak since finding out they were going to have a baby, wrote on a tablet that the baby should be named John. Immediately, Zechariah’s voice came back and he praised God.
How do we use our voices? To worship and praise the God who has created us? Or to tear down and hurt those who are also created by God?
Pray today that God would help you to use your voice as a tool of worship, praise, and building others up.

December 22: Carpenter’s hammer
Read Matthew 1:19-25
Joseph trusted God that Mary had conceived a child through the Holy Spirit and would bear the Savior who would bring salvation to all. Without his obedience, there could have been a very different ending to the Christmas story. He had plenty of room for doubt and questioning, instead he simply obeyed. He must have had a heart that was tender toward God.
What if obedience replaced pride, fear, selfishness, and even laziness in our lives?
Ask God for the grace you need to be obedient---even when things don’t make sense or circumstances are difficult. Make a list of areas which the Holy Spirit shows you in which you need to be obedient.

December 23: Star of Bethlehem
Read Matthew 2:1-12
The three magi, guided by the light of a special star, look for Jesus. The star shines brightly above his birthplace. When they arrive, they humble themselves before the manger and worship him. Caesar has asked them to tell him where the baby is, but they do not do this. Instead after worshipping the baby Jesus, they turn and return home a different way.
Isn’t this the result of true worship? Once we have truly experienced the King of Kings, we no longer want to go our old ways—the way of hostility, materialism, resentment, selfishness, laziness, pettiness or fear. Seeing Jesus changes all that and the old path of our lives is no longer satisfying.
Is there a need to change the route of your life today? Come. Worship. Be changed.
Pray today that God will show you the direction you are heading in your life. Ask Him to give you clear insight regarding your spiritual compass (star); then make the change of course that you know is necessary.

December 24: Baby Jesus in a lowly manger
(Light the center, white candle--called “Christ’s Candle.)
Read Luke 2:1-15
God led Mary and Joseph to just the right spot at just the right time in order to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy. Christ Jesus is born and is laid in a lowly manger amidst the stable animals. Who are the first to see him? Shepherds and animals. God sent his angelic choir in all it’s majesty to proclaim the good news to the shepherds; then they are instructed to go and see for themselves, to show respect, and then to share the good news.
Shepherds and animals—simple and often smelly. But they were the ones God chose to be the first to see Jesus. Maybe God chose them because they were the only ones who were being still on the night Jesus was born. Maybe we need to be still and wait on God as well.
Pray today for those who have not heard the Good News of Jesus birth and for those who have not yet accepted Him.

December 25: Chi-Rho monogram
Read John 3:16 and John 1:34
Merry Christmas! Today’s symbol is the Chi-Rho monogram; it is a combination of the first two letters for the Greek word of Christos, or Christ.
Pray a prayer of thanksgiving today for all that Christ has done for you. Write out a commitment of what you will do for Him…not because you have to, but because you desire to show your gratitude.

(Jesse Tree and Advent devotions taken from many ideas off the internet.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

What is October 31st, really?

Is it:

a.) a fun-filled night in the US that originated from Druid superstitions and beliefs?
b.) the day before All Saint's Day, a day to celebrate the Saints who gave their lives in service to God?
c.) the day Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the Castle Church door, thus beginning the Reformation?

Well, actually it is all three. Did you know....

October 31st is the last day of the Celtic calendar and is known as Samhain, a pagan holiday celebrating the dead, and steeped in superstition. The ancient culture thought the dead souls roamed the villages at night. Gifts and treats were left out on Samhain to pacify the evil spirits. In addition, faces were carved into turnips to fool the roaming souls into thinking a spirit was already occupying that space and therefore protecting the house from any evil spirits.(Hence, the customs of trick or treating and jack-o-lanterns evolved.)

Later, the Catholic church set aside November 1 (the day after Samhain, October 31st) as All Saints Day. This is a day of remembrance of the men and women who lived their lives in service to God. November 1st was selected as a means to turn a pagan ritual into a Christian holiday in hopes of converting pagans and helping those who were newly converted.

Then in the early 1500's, after years of study, prayer, and searching the Scriptures, Martin Luther realized that some of the teachings and practices of the Catholic didn't follow Biblical teachings. He wrote his findings out (all 95 of them) and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517. In that day, if someone wanted to debate an issue, they would post their debate on the door of the church. (It was like a message board for the townspeople.) He intentionally selected October 31, because he knew most of the people would be attending church services for All Saint's Day the following day. By challenging the practices of the Church, Luther was hoping for change within the church. However, his actions instead infuriated the church leaders and he was threatened with banishment and forced to stand trial. At the trial, he was asked to retract his findings. He replied by saying, ' Unless I can be convinced by the clear teachings of the Bible that I am wrong, I cannot and will not retract what I have written." Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen."

Because of Luther's standing up for the teachings of Scripture, his standing up to the false teachings of the Church, and the Church refusing to change their wrong practices, others began questioning the Church and examining the Scriptures themselves. This was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation (named for those who protested the teachings of the Catholic church).

So whether you choose to celebrate today by going trick or treating, enjoying a parade, or attending a party--if you are Christ-follower--take some time today to reflect on the impact of Martin Luther's life. As a Christian, this day should be more than just dressing the kids up and getting candy to eat. It should be a day of thanksgiving for the stand taken for religious freedom and Truth almost 500 years ago. Take some time today to think about it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

God's glory displayed

First, has it really been almost 6 weeks since my last post? Time has been flying by. School is keeping me so busy through the week and every weekend has been filled with much activity. I had to put on my soccer mom/football mom hat for those weeks, but now it is time to hang those hats back up. And now, I am hoping for a few weeks of calm and enjoyment before we burst into the holiday season. ;-)

But the real motivation for this post (now that my excuses have been stated).....

A few weeks ago, we were asked the question in Bible study, "What is your favorite season?" I don't have one. I LOVE them all. Living in the Midwest is such a blessing. About the time you get used to a season, it's time for a change. We have four distinct seasons here in Illinois...and the next one arrives in quite a contrast to the one before it. I really do love each season. But right now, at this time, I am thoroughly enjoying AUTUMN.

Last week on Wednesday, the kids and I went out for several hours and took pictures amongst the fall colors--beautiful red bushes, yellow trees, and green evergreens. It was a gorgeous day. (I was able to get some great shots and will hopefully get them posted soon.) Then on Friday, I had the opporutnity to drive up to Elsah and enjoy the colors of fall along the Mississippi. It was breathtaking and even the kids noticed the beauty of the trees.

However as beautiful as those scenes were, one surpasses them in my mind's eye. Is there anything more glorious than a sunrise on a fall morning? This morning as I was making the bed, I peered out the bedroom window to see the sun rising over the tops of the trees in the woods behind our house. The pinks and blues of the new-morning sky accented the oranges, yellows, reds, greens and browns of the trees. It was, it was magnificent.

My reason for loving AUTUMN is that it is such a visible reminder that God is creative and loves beauty. We were created by a God who doesn't live in a black and white world. Instead He created all the beautiful colors that we get to enjoy. His plan for the plants included this changing of the colors. Was this necessary? No. I'm sure the plants could have "gone to sleep" for the winter without their farewell display. But God in His wisdom made them to stop their production of chlorophyl which in turn causes the leaves to lose their greenness and results in the awesome variety of colors that we get to experience. Why??

I believe there are two reasons. The first is for Himself---for His glory and His enjoyment. Colossians 1:16 says, "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible...all things were created by him and for him." To sum up that verse, He created everything and He created it for Himself...for him to enjoy and for it to glorify Him. The second reason is for US! He loves us. He gives us gifts we don't deserve because of His love for us. Nature is one of His gifts to us.

Be encouraged! As you look at the colors of nature this fall, let it be a reminder that God loves you. He wants you to enjoy His creation. It is His gift to us.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

School days, School days, Good ole' golden rule days....

Has it really been 5 weeks since my last blog post? Well really, I HAVE blogged. It's just that the blogs haven't made it from my head to my fingers.

When it comes to August, I hear most parents moaning, "Oh! I can't wait for school to start!" But not most homeschool moms. Instead, we are panicking, "Oh, no! School is about to start!" So, my August was spent making all the last-minute preparations that still needed to be made in order to begin another school year. And after spending my month gathering up curriculum and finalizing lesson plans, we officially started school...and ended summer...on August 31.

So, here we are. We have made it through our first two weeks! So far we are off to a great start. The kids have been working and studying diligently. They have approached our school days with willing and cooperative attitudes. For this I am grateful! It definitely makes our schooling better!

Elisabeth and Grant are studying American History this year (this is fast becoming MY favorite subject as I inch my way through the book, America, The Last Best Hope by William Bennett.) I LOVE reading about our country's history...and God's hand in it's formation! Elisabeth is studying Calculus and Grant Algebra! (Isn't math AWESOME!?!?!) Elisabeth has enthusiastically begun her Physics class and is already thinking about her final project for the year. Grant has begun his first year of foreign language; he is studying Spanish while Elisabeth is continuing Russian. Both older kids are also studying the Life of Christ this year...although from different texts...but this, too, will be so good. I hope we all learn so much from these studies.

Gavin is continuing his Kindergarten studies. We ended May being 2/3 of the way through; so we will finish up and then begin 1st grade later this fall/winter. He is doing really well this year...and I am too as I strive for patience with this boy. God is good and is giving me insight into Gavin and how to work with him. And I am so thankful for it.

And Elaine is being so cheerful and diligent as she tackles her school work! She is continuing in the reading program we began last year (; this program took her from an unenthusiastic reader to one who LOVES to read and reads daily on her own! She is studying Zoology for science this year and is completely loving it! She remains our animal lover so this text is perfect for her!

We've already had 2 field/park days to hang out with friends. This coming week, we actually have two field to the Symphony and one to Shaw Nature Reserve--with more outings planned over the next few months. And on Tuesdays we continue our "Afternoons at the Y."

In addition, this year, I am teaching a group class. It is a Physical Science class with thirteen 7-9th graders (including Grant). We had our first class on Tuesday of this past week and it made me realize how much I really enjoy being in the classroom. The students were so polite, well-behaved, and, I think, maybe, even a little nervous. Some of them have never been in a "class" before. But it was fun...and watching them perform their lab was neat, too.

So, we're off to another busy school year! And I love it!

"Father God, guide me this school year as I guide our children. Teach me as I teach them. Use me as Your vessel to pour out Your love to Elisabeth, Grant, Elaine, and Gavin."