Monday, December 31, 2012

Resolve or Repent

Mechanical egg timerNew Year's resolutions are notoriously short-lived.  Most of mine have had a 2 week shelf life.  There was a decade in my life where my resolutions revolved around three things.  Looking at the scale, inevitably up from the year before, I'd resolve to lose weight.  Staring around at the stacks of clutter and mounds of dirt, I'd resolve to be better at dealing with my household chores. Finally remembering the panicked pulling together of some last minute school project or paperwork, I'd resolve firmly to stop procrastinating.  Can you imagine the result?  

Friday, December 28, 2012

Eve on Resolutions

Why do you think most New Year's resolutions fail?  I think there is probably a whole host of reasons.  Sometimes we don't make our goals measurable; some of what we resolve is just not reasonable, and sometimes what we really need to do is repent instead of resolve. (Helene will be talking all about that painful little topic on Monday).   But for me, discouragement is the biggest reason I fail at New Year's resolutions. Like many perfectionists, I want to get it right the first time.  When I fall off the wagon, I am more likely to cry and give up than to pick myself up and run to jump back on again.  I am even less likely to pray and ask for the strength to meet my goal.  In our walk as Christians, whether we are dealing with true sin that we need to overcome or some personal goal we'd like to reach, we need to remember a few things.  One is not to give up, and the other is not to try to do it on our own.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I am Resolved

New-Year Resolutions list
Now that Christmas is over, our minds turn to the fast approaching New Year.  I'm not a night owl, so I probably won't be staying up to ring in the new year. However, I will eat black-eyed peas (for luck), turnip greens (for cash), and cornbread (because it goes well with beans).  Of course, we don't believe the superstitions, but it surely is a good meal!  Another New Years tradition that many people observe is the making of resolutions.  Many of those resolutions have to do with diet or exercise, but I have heard some people resolve to be kinder to their children or more romantic with their spouse. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Jesus' Wish List

Furoshiki-wrapped Christmas giftI hate buying presents.  I am terrible at it.  I draw a huge blank.  Even for my children, I really have to rack my brain to think of what to buy.   As if that weren't bad enough, most of my gifts have to be transported internationally; they can't be too heavy, too bulky or likely to end up in pieces after being tossed off the back of a 747!  Finding the right thing is a real challenge.  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reason for the Season?

Nativity Scene Zilina
Jesus is the reason for the Season.  I have to admit it; I have always hated that phrase.  I grew up with some wonderful Christian people who believed in celebrating Christmas as a strictly religious holiday. I love them dearly, and I know that they wanted nothing more than to see me become a strong Christian woman.  Still, when I was a child, I always felt like they used the "reason for the season" as a club.  "You're having a good time with those Christmas toys?  Great!  But Jesus is the reason for the season!"  Year after year, I felt a sense of guilt that I didn't think about Baby Jesus often enough during the Christmas season.  About the time I'd start having fun, I'd feel the need to pull out the Bible and read Luke 1-2 again, not because I wanted to, but because I felt shamed into it.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not So Silent Night

Silent Night
Holy Night
All is calm
All is bright
The cattle are lowing the poor baby wakes,
The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes...

What do you imagine the manger scene was like?  I like singing both Silent Night and Away in a Manger, but I am suspicious about the picture they draw.  Few of the times when I was present at the birth of a new baby has the picture been "calm."  Okay, maybe after baby has been given a bath, had his hair washed, is wrapped in clean clothes and swaddled in a receiving blanket and asleep, there's "calm."  For about 5 minutes until his tiny newborn tummy is empty and he's mewling for milk!  As for Mary and Joseph, first time parents with no helpful nurses, no newborn bath-tub, no Johnson's and Johnson's Shampoo, "calm" isn't the word I think of.  And don't get me started on the "no-crying-he-makes" scenario.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Unexpected Hospitality

The holidays are indeed a time for parties, but also a time for unannounced guests.  The old friend that is on the way home for the holidays and realizes that you are right off of their path, or the long forgotten cousin who is just passing through.  Do you rush them off just as quickly as you can because it is almost dinner time, and you don't have anything to fix them? Or do you happily pull out your old tried and true cupboard staples and whip together food for the company?  How do you respond to these unexpected holiday visitors?   Today I would like to take a break from my normal Tuesday post about my Bible reading to continue the holiday theme posts with a look at how Sarah extends hospitality to her unanticipated guests. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Cure for Sin

Like many of you, I spent Friday afternoon sobbing.  My daughter is in kindergarten, and I couldn't help but picture her in that classroom in Connecticut.  I've blogged about how my children are in God's hands no matter what, but a tragedy like this reminds me that I have yet to let that truth saturate my very soul.  So I cried, and I attempted to pray.  I know the Spirit had to intercede for me (Romans 8:26) because I didn't know the words to say.  

The Party Pooper

Rippl SorrowThe holiday bully is a particularly evil form of female predator.  Do you know any? She seems to get a perverse delight from hurting others.  Her tools are psychological - a well placed comment or an arch look. She can instantly size up an unsuspecting cousin or sister-in-law.  Ten extra pounds, an ugly Christmas sweater, a kid who isn't college material, a scorched casserole - it is all fodder!  She pounces!  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life of the Party

The wedding at CanaIt's the Christmas season, and you know what that means.  Parties!  From open houses to parties at church and work, the holidays are full of celebrations.  Me?  I like going to a good party, but planning and hosting one is another matter.  I tend to get entirely too wrapped up in the details.  Helene's post about all the judges out there really hit home.  Every time I plan any kind of event, be it supper with another family or a big party, I have a list of worries.  Is the food good?  Are they having a good time? Am I boring?  Is the toilet clean?  Can anyone see a speck of trash on the floor?  Having such a big list of social concerns myself, I can understand how the "wedding planner" of the party in Cana felt when he ran out of wine (John 2).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Double Vision

Egger-Lienz - Madona

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you. (Lowry, Mark. "Mary Did you Know?" 1984.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Making Substitutions

1 egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie

Monday, December 10, 2012

Imaginary Judges

Christmas tree, choinka 200512242008 ChristmasEve00028
It's the most craftiest time of the year (cue the swelling music).  There'll be trees for decorating, cookies for baking, wreaths for making, and cards to be delivered for all! Pinterest is ablaze with Christmas crafts! Are you looking forward to a season of fun?  Or are you buckling under the pressure? 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Lord Make Me a Servant

FootWashingIn our congregation, we have a set of teenage twins.  The young man has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair.  Although his body is severely affected, his mind is not.  He is a Christian, and he has had the opportunity to lead singing and to preach.  His twin sister is also a Christian, and she is physically a typical teenager.  Recently during worship, the siblings were sitting some rows ahead of me, and I saw something that really touched my heart.  Because of his condition, the young man is unable to take communion without assistance.  As he sat on the aisle in his wheelchair, his sister sat on the pew beside him and carefully served him the cup.  It took two or three times for him to be able to swallow it all, but she patiently helped him take the whole thing.  The scene let me know that this young girl already has the heart of Christ, the heart of a servant.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas on the Prairie

When my daughter was four, approaching five, a very kind Christian woman gently pointed out to me that her attention span was somewhat lacking.  Since this woman was a kindergarten teacher, I took her very seriously.  I asked what I could do to help my child, and my friend suggested reading chapter books to her.  I have always read to my kids, but before that time, I had been reading small children's books.  I had always said I would read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to my girls, and this seemed like a good opportunity.  It had been years since I had read them, and I was surprised to see how much my perspective on them had changed since childhood.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Revisiting the Nativity

Nativity tree2011
The turkey is all gone; now it is time to start thinking about Christmas.  My music has come out, and I am determined to get the tree up this week.  I also spent some time this past week reading over the Christmas story to get in the holiday mood.  As I read over the story, I was once again amazed by how many of the facts are not what I was taught in Sunday school and how we so often overlook the emotion of the moment.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

By Grace Through Faith

Let me share a passage that's been troubling me.  "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand;"(Romans 5) See that's a puzzle there, right.