Tuesday, November 30, 2010

God is not dead...

Sorry for the late start today. The kids and I were ringing bells for the Salvation Army and to be honest I was having a hard time thinking of what to write today. Sometimes its hard to feel joy when all around me there is hate. Maybe not in my family or at my church, but its there. Its a mile down the road, in the yard with all the kids toys, where a few nights earlier we drove by and found out there had been a shooting. Its at the store we go to all the time where a month ago a lady was robbed. Its in the honking horns of people with no patience. Its in the person you see being rude to the cashier. Its in the news where you find out that another child has been molested or killed.

It threatens to take away our peace and causes us to despair, but then there is something deep within that softly calls out.... Peace on earth, good will to men. There is a smile on the face of your child that tells you there is hope. There is the kindness of a stranger that says, "The wrong will fail and the right prevail." There is a life sacrificially given that calls out, "God is not dead nor does he sleep."

God will not forget his promise, if we stand firm, he continues to say...
"I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips. May they have abundant peace, both near and far."(Isaiah 57:18-19)
(Pause my playlist before listening)

Take it deeper....
  • Read all of Isaiah 57. Pay particular attention to the things that stand in the way of our peace. What "idols" have taken the place of the worship of the one true God? What do you think the worship of false idols looks like today? Hint: Matthew 7:3
  • Think of ways that you can bring peace on earth. Start by bringing into your own home and neighborhood.
  • Pray for those that are mourning. Pray for those that are living in fear. Pray for those that are at war.

Monday, November 29, 2010

On whom his favor rests....

Luke 2:13-14... "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."**

A few years back I learned a definition of grace that opened my eyes to God's love for me and the world. Its very simple, unmerited favor*; but for me not being raised in the church some of the language of the church left me confused. Perhaps the real problem was that the idea of grace was foreign to me. I didn't understand loving someone for the sake of loving them; well outside of my own family. I didnt understand loving someone truly without getting something in return. I doubt, if we were honest, that many of us could claim to have known that well.

However here was this idea of grace that all of us seem to need, but not many of us truly understood. God loves us like his own children. Let that sink in for awhile!! For some unfathomable reason, despite all we've done to mess up the world, God loves us and holds us in high regard. He would give anything to bring us back to him. He did give everything.
When I think of it that way Luke 2:13-14 takes on a whole new meaning and the words come alive. Maybe as if a great company of heavenly angels were declaring to me....

"Hey you down there, he loves you guys! The God of the universe, the one we praise day and night, wants nothing but good things for you! He wants peace on earth like you've never experienced. He loves you above all things and he's about to show you how much!"

Something about that kinda love makes me want to be better. It makes me want to offer grace to someone else. It has the real power to change. The fact is he simply cant bring peace to earth when were bound and determined to do as we please. Honestly he loves us way too much to just give us what we want. God's wants to give us what we need because that's good news for everyone, not just me. That's God's grace in action.

Look at this way.... Luke 2:13-14 was the original greeting card**. It was bringing good news, it was celebrating something about to come and it was meant for you.
"When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."Acts3:26*
Take it deeper....
  • Have you realized God's love for you? I mean really realized it. Do you realize that there is nothing you could do to make him love you more than he already does?
  • Are there any things in your life that may be hindering God from blessing you? Give them to God in prayer and recieve all he has for you.
  • Jesus was the good news that was to come. Make a point of sharing that good news with someone today.
  • Make a card for a neighbor and commit to praying for that person throughout the year.
  • If God is able to love us when we were undeserving how much more so should we love others. Take that step to love someone who is unlovable right now. Offer grace to an enemy.... even if all you can do today is fall to your knees and pray for a heart of forgiveness.
  • Go to "Our Advent" page to find out what were doing as a family today.

*Beth Moore Fruit of the Spirit bible study
** http://www.easyfunschool.com/Blessed.pdf

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This child will die...

Luke 2:19 "But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

Imagine with me for a moment the birth of a child, maybe even your child. The pain of childbirth being met with the cry of a long awaited infant. The placing of that tiny life into the trembling arms of the mother. The hope of this promised life. The joyful tear that streams down the face of the father & the quaking voice of the mother as she brings the baby to her breast…… “My Child I have waited for you!”.

Imagine the celebration... the visitors that have come to meet this new life, the gifts and congratulations that accompany them, the first night spent watching your child sleep. This new life now so intricately connected to your own you cant even imagine a life without them but...



The tiny, tender hands you have grown to love will have nails driven through them. The head you have held a million times will have a crown of thorns placed painfully upon it. The feet you kissed & played with will be placed together, nailed to the rough wood of a cross & torn under the weight of their own body. The body that you had tenderly cared for will barely be recognizable.
You will watch as the life you loved will breathe its last breath.


I've often wondered what thoughts ran through Mary's head as she watched her son die. Did she curse God or was she able to hold on to the hope and promise of what was foretold years before? Did she return to the memories of that night in Bethleham as she weathered that storm?

What would you do?

What happens most often is that we forget God's promises in the midst of the storm? We forget all he has done for us or we fail to recognize it. I have no doubt that night in Bethleham that Mary, unaware of what was to come, treasured up for herself the very things that she would cling to as she placed her child within that tomb. That was the only thing she could do. Her hope was all that was left and there might come a day when that is all that is left for you.

If so, what promises will you hold unto when life storms threaten to overwhelm? Have you treasured (stored) up for yourself the promises of God? Have you pondered all the things he has done for you? Have you like Mary, treasured up all these things and pondered them in your heart?

Take it deeper.....

Look to God's word for the promises he has given to those who believe and store them up for yourself.
Ponder the tiny miracles, simple joys and tender moments that he has blessed you with. Better yet write them down.
Talk with your family about what it means to have hope, but most of all make sure that you put your hope in what last forever.... Jesus!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Getting ready...

As I told you earlier we are already preparing our hearts for advent, but we are also preparing our home as well. Right now the kids and Scott are out taking in some of this beautiful weather and I am here sharing as much of our celebration with you guys as I can. Starting tomorrow I will post daily scripture, inspiration and thoughts on how to celebrate.

Of course if your looking to get a heads up on what my family will be doing take a look at "Our Advent" page which I will update weekly. You can also still go to "Things to Do", "Local Fun" or "Fun Links" pages for other ideas. Better yet go to the "Share the Love" page to share your ideas.

That should hold you over for til tomorrow, but to start you off here is a poem by Martin Luther that has inspired me for some years now....

“Ah! dearest Jesus, Holy Child,

Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,

Within my heart, that it may be

A quiet chamber kept for thee.”

That is my prayer during the Christmas season; that Jesus would find a quiet chamber within my heart. That is my prayer for all of you as well as your getting ready today and as you continue throughout this season...."May Jesus find within your heart a place that is soft and undefiled. May Jesus find a quiet chamber kept for him alone."

May God bless each of you with that precious gift.

So it begins...

Tomorrow is the beginning of Advent and the excitement has already begun at our house. "What is to come?", are the silent pleadings coming from the kids hearts. Well perhaps not so much from my 13yr old. However even I am calling out, "What is to come?" Im expecting something new this year, something beautiful. Im praying that, no matter what it takes, God will bring us out of our normal everday lives and into a life lived in him. Im praying that Jesus finds a safe place within our hearts.

Today, all I can do, is do my best prepare my heart and prepare the hearts of my children. I will read the description given to the future Messiah in Isaiah (52:13-15,53:1-12).....
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquitites; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed."
"He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."
"he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the trangressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the trangressors (us)."
I will tell them of God's love for us and how he had a plan of redemption already in place. Honestly, sometimes I need to be reminded of that myself. I need to have that love penetrate me because without it Im just a bundle of fear and anxieties. Im just running around trying to make Christmas special instead of just allowing the wonder of it to take hold of me.

So it begins....

We wait in patient expectation.
His love bursts forth in jubilation.
Our hearts cry out, "We need MORE!"
His calm reply, "You need your Lord."
We grasp, we take,
And still he makes...
no raging scream, no tyrants wrath,
no pointing finger, no menacing laugh
Our souls cry out, "We need YOU, Lord!"
His sweet reply, "I need you more."

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's True...

Before playing video go to my playlist and pause the music

So Mary trusted God for more than her eyes could see......

The words to this song are so beautiful and sum up the hope I have.

When doubts threaten to overwhelm I am trusting God for more than my eyes can see. Im trusting that Jesus is more than just a beautiful story. Im trusting that the tiny babe was more than just flesh and blood, but love in all its glory. Im trusting that one day I will meet my Jesus and that he, with open arms, will welcome me into eternity. I am trusting, as my heart leaps within me, that it is true! It is true! It is true!

Special thanks to "Girl with Blog" for sharing this song.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New things to do...

Looking for more Christmas fun; then check out the new ideas I have posted on the things to do page. Then go enjoy your family and have a....


Oh and dont forget to look at my black Friday post.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Black (Good) Friday...

For the majority of Americans Black Friday means long lines and a shopping frenzy unheard of anywhere else in the world. Of course all in the name of giving, but we are giving to those that already have more than enough. When what we see Jesus doing is giving to the least of these; not his family, friends, bosses, co-workers or kids. So what do we do?

Well that is an something best worked out between you and God. How you choose to live out your faith is something unique to your family, but there is a guiding truth which leads us to a life worth living.

I will admit, I will be shopping on Black Friday, but I will be doing it with a heart focused on God. I will be doing it with a song of hope in my heart and I will not let my witness be wasted for the sake of getting the best deal. I refuse to get caught up in all the drama. I refuse to fight for the best toy. I will be a light and a help to those I meet. That might mean carrying a cart back for someone when my hands are already full or giving up a spot to someone in the parking lot. It might mean sitting in line singing Christmas songs while most everyone else is impatiently grumbling. It will definently mean letting everyone I meet know the true reason for my joy.

Mostly it will mean asking myself some tough questions as I search for the best deal & constantly reminding myself about another Black Friday close to 2000 years ago. See 33 years after Jesus birth he would be crucified and the hopes of his disciples would be crushed. They (unaware of what was to come) would suffer the lost of one that was their friend and only hope and God would watch as his son hung dying on a cross.

Of course we know the rest of the story and its because of that story that we celebrate, but countless others are living without hope. There are those all over the world whose idea of Black Friday means they will watch a child die because of unclean water, they will spend another night on the streets, they will spend another day hungry with no end in sight other than death.

Those are the real statistics of Black Friday! Those are the headlines that will get overlooked when searching through sales ads, but there are other trajedies that will occur on that day. There will be families that go even deeper in debt just so that there kids can have the latest gizmo and gadget. There will be families that will be torn apart because that debt is pushing an already tense situation over the edge and there will be people who will miss out on the good news because our society has chosen consumerism over God. Worst of all that is the reality for believers as well; who have lost sight of whats truly important.

Ask yourself... "Have you lost sight of whats important at Christmas?"

Even if the answer is no; well then are you sharing the good news of Good Friday (a life given freely as a sacrifice) with others or are you hoarding up that joy for you and your family alone? Are you reaching out to others everyday (even Black Friday)?

Are you extending the boundaries of your home so that it includes the world?

Are you living out Good Friday on Black Friday?

Another Gift Wrapping Idea...

Just found a really cool gift wrapping idea that comes from Lynn at Queen of the Castle Recipes.

Thats what I call economical and enviromentally friendly gift wrapping and for my scrapbooking friends this might be a nice way to use those scraps of paper. It could also be used to pack the goodies you made. Of course from the looks of the recipes on her site they wouldnt make it to the bag in my house. Make sure to scroll down to the strawberry butter recipe. Yummy!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Advent Inspiration...

Here are the links and ideas I promised on how to make your very own countdown calender.None of which is listed in the picture above, but if your feeling creative please feel free to be inspired. Just remember to keep things simple and keep Christ at the center.  
For the younger ones try these Advent countdown ideas..  http://www.dltk-holidays.com/xmas/advent.html

To make your very own paper countdown chain (which we have used before) or box advent calender http://www.creativekidsathome.com/activities/activity_14.shtml

Still haven't found what you like use this printable list of daily activities that you can cut out and use as you wish.

Or if your looking for some visual inspiration visit flickr. This site might actually inspire me to do something more creative. Nah!!

That should be enough to inspire you, but if not you can use our family idea....
  1. Take a stocking and decorate it as you like or not at all.
  2. Hang it anywhere you like
  3. Fill daily with activities, scripture or candy
  4. Enjoy the Christmas season
Now you have something you can use year after year. This works perfectly, but I would love to hear your ideas so please comment below. Oh and please share your advent ideas with me. I would love to hear them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Heart to Give

Thanks to my friend Lynne for sharing this video with me. What an inspiration Isaiah 58 is during the Christmas season!
***Scroll down to pause the music from my playlist

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ring Those Bells: Bean and Bailey

Give til it hurts!!! Thats what I'm talking about. If you haven't watched it yet, stop/watch, then proceed.

*scroll down to pause the music on my playlist or watch the video on you tube.

Now that your back this is excactly what Ive been talking about. Giving til it hurts. It's what Jesus taught and lived out to his death. It's more than the 50 cents I give while buying the $100 toy for my kid.

It's taking the time to give back.Perhaps that mean ringing bells curbside while it's 30 degrees outside and raining instead of just throwing in some money.

I will tell you this.... It's Worth It!!

It's worth the cold fingers and toes when your heart is cozy and warm.

For more info about signing up to either ring bells or help in their distribution centers go to http://www.salvationarmyknoxville.org/  or if your not a Knoxville local go to http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/usn/www_usn_2.nsf/vw-dynamic-arrays/4A2D2520606517C4802573F5005661DB?openDocument&charset=utf-8. You can also sign up to purchase a Christmas tree and have it delivered with 25% of the purchase price going to Salvation Army.

See you on the streets ringing those bells.

What is Advent?....

We are only 14 days til the start of our Christian advent which starts on Nov. 28th. For our family that is the start of our Christmas countdown, but a lot of people prefer to start on Dec. 1st. However more important than the date you start on is that you make this a time of expectation.

The long awaited Messiah has come and will come again, but that sense of expectancy is somehow lost in our daily lives. We have forgot that we will one day stand before God in all his glory. At Christmas we not only celebrate his birth, but we celebrate his long awaited return. That expectancy is what Advent is all about. Its living passionately, fully aware that we are awaiting something great. It is also remembering that something great has already happened.... love came down to earth wrapped in flesh.

We choose to celebrate Advent because it reminds us of the reason we celebrate Christmas. It also strengthens our family and takes the focus off gifts. So how do we do this? Well it changes every year. Most of the time the kids awake to a note that gives them some activity to do that day. That might be as simple as praying for a neighbor. Some days it will include activities that we already have scheduled such as caroling or Christmas plays. It always has the days left til Christmas on it & it is always eagerly anticipated.

Personally I believe the kids need more than a piece of candy in a countdown box. They need a piece of what Christmas is all about. They need the joy, the expectancy, the hope of peace on earth. They need to know that their life's have meaning and that they are a part of Gods plan for redemption.. Not just later when they grow up, but now.

Yes that might seem like a tall order during an already rushed Christmas season, but like I said it is as simple as praying for someone each day during advent. It is as simple as reading a Christmas book everyday that focuses on whats truly important. It is as simple as making a point of reading your bible as a family during the Christmas season. Heck if you still want the candy, eat it while reading.

What matters is that you find a tradition that works for your family and I will do my best to share with you what works for mine with some added ideas along the way.

In the days ahead I will share with you some ideas for making the advent calender and some links for celebrating it. However if your interested in learning more about the traditional way of celebrating Advent take a look at this site for a more in depth intro.

As always remember at the center of everything should be your deep love for Christ. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's in the bag...

Here's an update on the Santa Sack I mentioned yesterday. Wal-Mart's is carrying them now. The bag measures 3ft and only cost $5.00. Not bad for something you can use again and again. Want an even greater challenge?! How about trying to minimize the presents for each child to what you can fit in one bag?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Update on the small details...

Hopefully most of you have not yet bought your gift wrap for the Christmas season or if you have; you bought it at a discount last year and donated the difference.

Well if you have not here is a little update on my last "small details" post. It looks like Target is not carrying the St. Jude's wrap. In fact they are also not carrying paper that is made from recycled content. So with that in mind Target is probably not the best bet for your gift wrapping needs.

However Wal-Mart is carrying gift wrap that donates a portion of its proceeds to Friends of Earlier Breast Cancer Testing and carries the pink ribbon symbol to raise awareness. Plus they are carrying the St. Jude's gift wrap.

Now lets pretend for a moment like you have a lot of extra time on your hand. Well if you do and your extra crafty you can make your own Santa Sack or if your not any of the above you can buy one at Santa.cc. This is an idea that my family has used before. Basically you let Santa know that you do not want any gifts wrapped this year. Instead leave out the Santa Sack for the big guy to fill and come Christmas morning you have a big bag of Christmas presents for the little ones to enjoy.

Then you can take all the money and time you saved and donate to some worthy cause that will benefit far greater than the trash can will on Christmas morning.

Yet another way to give back...

Looking for another way to give back this year. Well check this facebook post out by a friend of mine who's daughter is living with Cystic Fibrosis...
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation teamed up with CVS/pharmacy & Warner Home Video again this year! They’re donating $5 of every DVD sale of these videos to the CF Foundation: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales” .........& “The Polar Express.” Stop by a CVS/pharmacy & buy your copies today!
To learn more about this fundraiser or Cystic Fibrosis visit the Cystic Fibrosis foundation. However if you prefer to save the cost of the video and donate that amount straight to the fight against Cystic Fibrosis you can visit http://www.cff.org/GetInvolved/ManyWaysToGive/MakeADonation/.

I know for a fact that your donation will make one very sweet little girl named Sydney extremely happy. Plus it might just mean that she sees a cure in her lifetime.