Monday, November 29, 2010

What is Christmas Costing You

I took Tori and Austin shopping on Friday. We didn't do the "get up at 4" deal. We just went out when we got up in the morning to see what deals we could find. It was a fun morning and we enjoyed our time together much more than some of the other shoppers seemed to.

Our trip got me to thinking about the cost of Christmas. With 5 kids, a son-in-law, a grandson, and extended family in town, Christmas gifts can get to be costly. Add to that the decorations, the electricity for all those outside lights, and the huge family dinner on Christmas Eve, and the bill for the holiday becomes a little scary sometimes. Of course, you all know that. I'm sure you are in the same boat when it comes to celebrating Christmas. But, what is the real cost of Christmas?

Do we ever stop to think that Christmas cost Christ his home, his place next to his father, his honor and glory? Do we stop to think what Christmas cost God? He knew that His Son would suffer because of our sins. Because it would glorify God the most, Christ came to Earth as a baby, lived a perfect life in submission to God, and died and undeserved death on a cross in order to redeem a people who would forever glorify the Father. Christmas cost our Heavenly Father a tremendous amount. He gave up His son because we couldn't save ourselves. He gave up His only child so that we could be His children.

I hope that I always remember what Christmas really costs. I hope that I always remember how grateful I should be to the One who gave himself so that I could enjoy eternal life with my Father.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Firm Foundation

When Stan and I got married, one of our first priorities was to find a church home. We were in a new place where we knew no one, so we just started visiting churches and seeing what they had to offer. August of 1982 found us sitting in a small church building on Westwood Blvd. As I sat there listening to the preacher speak, I was indignant that he would be so arrogant. He spoke as if there could be no argument about the truth of what he was saying. Our exit at the end of the service found me mentally checking yet another church off the list of possibilities for us when I heard my dear husband say, " At last, we found our new church." I couldn't believe my ears, but grudgingly went along with him each Sunday.

Gradually, I realized that the preacher was not giving his opinion each week, instead, he was preaching what the Bible teaches. This man backed up everything with scripture. I was challenged to check the Scriptures to see if the things being taught on Sunday morning were the same things that God had been teaching His people for thousands of years. It was, and I was hooked. I am so blessed and so thankful to Dan Hendley for teaching me that my foundation should be the Word of God. Through him I learned that it is my responsibility to make sure that I am sitting under a teacher who seeks God's direction in his life and in what he teaches. I am thankful that the Lord has raised up men like this to lead His church at this time.

Such a foundation enables us to withstand the storms and trials that come our way. Standing on the solid rock even allows us to grow in these situations. When Dan resigned from our church a few years ago, it was heartbreaking, but a great growth experience. I realized how much I had come to trust the man behind the pulpit to speak the truth, and I had stopped checking up on him. Once again, I was reminded of my duty to check what I heard against the infallible Word. Once again, I have the opportunity to sit under the teaching of a man who seeks to speak God's Word into our lives. Thank you, Dan, for pointing me to the firm foundation of the Truth, and thank you, Mike, for continuing to turn my focus back to that same Truth.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Then Sings My Soul

"Then Sings My Soul", which I received for free for agreeing to do a book review for Thomas Nelson Publishing, made both my soul and my mouth sing. In this day and age of some good contemporary Christian music, some of the great old hymns of yesterday could easily be forgotten. I loved being able to read through some of my favorite hymns from days gone by.
The addition of stories about how these particular hymns came to be was an added bonus in my eyes. Not only was I able to wallow in the great theological depth of some masterfully written favorites, I was able to read how God worked to bring those songs into being. It is a joy to read how He used even unbelievers to minister to us today.
I particularly appreciate how the author has arranged the hymns into groups for the holidays. Since I received the book shortly before the Thanksgiving season, I started with those hymns, then moved onto the Christmas section. Reading through the words of these lovely works reminded me of the grace and glory of our God. What a blessing it is to have this book in our home. I know that I will be reading through it for years to come and sharing it with my children and grandchildren.

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Favorite Child

So, I know that as a mom, I am not supposed to have a favorite, but I do. Just don't tell my kids.

Of course Amber is my favorite, after all, she is the first. How can your first not be your favorite? She was the one who lived with me through all of my missteps in parenting. She was the one Itried it all out on to see if it worked. She is the one that I was toughest on and expected the most from. I messed up a lot mostly because I didn't know any better, and yet, she turned out to be a lovely young woman who loves the Lord and her family. I thought that somehow, I could make it all turn out right for her. She is the one who taught me to trust God because He makes it all turn out right. She is certainly my favorite.

Nathan, for sure, has to be my favorite. Nathan is such and easy, loving, gentle person that there is no way he couldn't be my favorite. He is always the quickest to forgive. He doesn't take offense when I yell or am angry unfairly. He is amazingly comfortable with who he is and doesn't worry about what others think of him or his actions. He is willing to be goofy and takes the teasing well. He has learned true humility by not thinking less of himself but by thinking of himself less. He is the one who has taught me that God loves us just the way He made us. Of course, he is my favorite.

Of all my children, Jesse is most like me. He loves structure, order and a plan for the day and his life. He is responsible and dependable. He is the one I call on first when I absolutely need a job done because I know it will be taken care of. He has a great sense of duty and works so hard to meet others needs. Although his temper is short at times, he is always repentent. He seems to know what needs to be done and sets out to do his very best to accomplish the task. He is the one who has taught me that God has created us for good works that He has prepared for us in advance. He is my favorite without a doubt.

Victoria Rose is certainly my favorite child. Her energy is boundless. Seriously, it is boundless. She never stops moving, even when sitting still. If I could just bottle that to sell, I would make millions. Tori is my child full of joy. She doesn't giggle or chuckle. She laughs. She laughs often, and she laughs loud. She enjoys all of life and is eager to meet each new challenge head on. There is nothing that she won't give a try and give her whole heart to when she does. She brings sunshine to all, even on the darkest days. She is the one who has taught me to rejoice in the Lord always. No question about it, she is my favorite.

There is no way that Austin could not be my favorite. He is my baby. He is the end of an era for me as a mom. He is my cuddly one. He is the one who hugs me and crawls in my lap (although that is about to end because he is getting too big). He is the one who is glad to just be with me. He has gotten all of the leftovers. His books, toys, and clothes are never new and it never bothers him. He gets the mom who is tired, slower, and worn, but he loves me anyway and tells me every day. He is compassionate and caring, loving and gentle. He has taught me that God is always about doing what is best for me. He is my favorite, for sure.

I know that it is bad parenting to pick a favorite child. It is even worse when you make it obvious to others, but I can't help it. I just needed to say it, but I would really appreciate it if you don't let them know who my favorite is. I can't imagine the sibling rivalry that would ensue if they knew who my favorite really is.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

But I Have Prayed for You

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Wait. What? If I had been Peter, I sure wouldn't have wanted to hear that Satan was asking to sift me like wheat. After all, remember what happened to Job when Satan went after him. That is not a pleasant thought, but then Jesus says, "But I have prayed for you, Simon." There it goes. Everything is going to be fine. You just know that Jesus is going to keep Satan from doing anything bad, but, no, that isn't what Jesus says.

That my faith won't fail? What is that all about? That isn't going to happen if you keep Satan away, if you put a hedge around me, if you send a legion of angels to guard me. Just think, Jesus, of all that I can accomplish for you if you don't let Satan loose against me. I know those would have been my thoughts. I know that if Jesus is praying that my faith won't fail, it won't. But, I also know that difficult times are coming, and I had better get ready.

Not only did Jesus pray that Peter's fail wouldn't fail, but the last part of this really gets me. "And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Jesus knows that Peter is going to turn away, but He also knows that Peter is coming back. He knows those things about us, too. He knows when we are going to falter and stumble and even turn our backs on Him. He also knows that nothing can take His sheep from His hand. I need to have that reminder sometimes when I fail big time. I can always turn back. Jesus is expecting me.

Not only can I turn back, but He can use my failings to strengthen others. My screw ups can be used for His glory. Even when I make the wrong choice, others will benefit. I benefit too. I get to be reminded of God's immeasurable grace and mercy. I am reminded of Christ's great sacrifice to pay the price of ALL my sins; past, present and future. I am humbled and God can use me even more because in my weakness, He is strong.

Be praying for me. Be praying for all your Christian friends. We are going to make wrong choices. We are going to sin. Pray that our faith doesn't fail. Pray that we are ready when the trials come. Pray that God uses us in our weakness to strengthen one another. I'll be praying for you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Be Diligent and Persevere

There are some things you may not know about me. I am a concert pianist, a gourmet chef, and speak three languages fluently. At least that is me in my dreams. The problem that I see with all of those things is that you must put in a lot of effort and practice. I'd like to accomplish all of those goals, but I just don't want to work that hard at it. I admit it. I am part of the instant gratification generation, and it is a struggle every day. Are you there too? Is there something that you would like to do, but it is just too much work?

1Timothy 4:13-16 says,"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers." My dictionary tells me that to persevere is to continue steadfastly in a course of action in spite of difficulties or obstacles. The thesaurus gives the words tenacity and determination as synonyms for perseverance. Perseverance is not an easy thing. How then, can I accomplish it?

First, I must have a worthwhile goal. I need to find something that is worth the effort, work, suffering, and self-sacrifice that will be required to acquire it. My goal must be bigger than my selfishness, laziness, and pride. Second, I need help. If I really want to accomplish something that is big, I can not do it on my own. I need accountability to others. Last, and most important, I need God. In order for me to do anything that has true worth, I need to check my goals against His. I need to make sure that I am working inside His will for my life.

I am not going to be a concert pianist, gourmet chef or trilingual. While those are good goals for some, they don't meet the above criteria for my life. I am set to persevere in being a loving wife, good mother, and student of my Lord and Savior. The road to success here is paved with many obstacles and stumbling blocks. I will veer off course at times, but with your help and the Lord's guidance, I will persevere and here the words "Well done, good and faithful servant" one day.