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Archive for December, 2016

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Unless you live under a rock, you would have encountered (and maybe even expressed) desire for the end of 2016.

It would seem that society, as a whole, have not appreciated the events of 2016. Whether it has been world events of human tragedies, atrocities or politics. Maybe the numerous losses of life of famous people (far too many too soon, and due to self-induced causes). Or maybe there have been individual and personal tragedies, losses and sorrows.

But, was 2016 so exceptional in a negative way?

As I opened up social media over the past few days I have seen the posts of deaths of famous people, the stupid twitter tweets, but I have seen so much more.

I have seen people posting images of friends and family, of well wishes for the Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years. I have read tweets that inspire and motivate me to do and be better.

Then I read a post by an individual who has struggles, real struggles. I am not talking the struggle of the loss of her favourite actor, or no money to go partying on New Years Eve, but struggles caused by chemical substances in utero. Struggles that have plagued her since before she was born, and about which there is no cure. Real struggles.

And her post inspired me.

For, after acknowledging the common message that 2016 was the worst year in history, she declared the good that has touched her life this past year. She named individuals, events and successes that made this year wonderful.

Her post brought numerous quotes, verses (“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7) and a song from childhood:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]

This chorus is not a sugar-coated Pollyanna way of looking at life, complete with rose-colored glasses. It is the power of acknowledging and giving our lives, every year, every day, to the only one who can give purpose to all of the events in our lives (as is clear in the verses that surround that chorus.

May we end 2016, with thanks, for the many blessings in our lives, and determined to change our thinking as we enter 2017.

Count Your Blessings

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—*money cannot buy [*wealth can never buy]
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

 

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Where is Jesus this Christmas? In this post I was reflecting on our expectation, as Christians, that the world around us acknowledge our faith (i.e. wishing us a Merry Christmas, rather than Happy Holidays … by the way, the root origin of the word ‘holiday’ is holy day).

So, I decided to put my actions where my computer key-tapping fingers are, and do myself a little Festivus experiment.

Since the writing of the post, in early December, I have been intentional in wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. I have done so at every grocery store, retail business, coffee shop and restaurant. I have done it at my hair stylist’s shop, the gas station, with neighbours, and to strangers who I have held a door open for.

Despite the fact that many (I would guess most) of the people who I interacted with, are probably not confessing followers of Jesus Christ, and despite the fact that one of two business have declared that their employees would not be wishing customers a Merry Christmas,

not one person returned my Merry Christmas with anything but, “Merry Christmas” in return.

NOT ONE!

So, fellow followers of Christ … could it be that this has become an issue because we  have failed at initiating the conversation?

Paul tell us, in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

What we need to remember is that Paul is not referring to slavery at the hands of non-believers, but slavery to the laws that they, as Jewish believers, held so dear.

Paul continues in his explanation of freedom in Christ …

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” (v. 13-15)

Hum … could he be saying that if we do not love each other we might destroy each other (and the very reason for the Christ mass / Christmas?). Then he continues with a fruit bowl filled with something that can nourish us, and those around us …

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

 

Folks, the world will follow our lead … but we need to lead, and we need to do so from a place of love, not the law.

For, as Jesus, himself, reminds us, (Matthew 5:13-16):

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Want a New Years (a new Life) Resolution?:

If we are the light, shine like we are reflecting the one who came at Christmas and who resides in us.

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The image, above, tells the story of the Fall of humanity, Christmas and Easter in such a way that I am simply captivated.

Eve and Mary are characters essential to understanding the entrance of sin into the human condition, the coming of the Messiah and the redemption the world.

Eve, the mother of creation, the woman through whom God spread the seed of humankind, the taster of the fruit from the forbidden tree.

Mary, the virgin mother of the Messiah, through her was birthed the saving grace that could erase the the aftertaste of the fruit of the forbidden tree, forever.

They both said yes …

Eve (Genesis 3:6) was offered fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and she took it, because it looked good, and because she desired wisdom.

Mary was not offered the opportunity to accept or reject her virgin conception through the Holy Spirit, for she was chosen (“you are chosen from among many women” v.28) yet she did accept it, whatever it meant (“I am willing to be used of the Lord. Let it happen to me as you have said” v.38).

They both shared their tasks with their significant other …

It is interesting to me that it was not until Adam also ate of the fruit that “then the eyes of both of them were opened” (v.7).

Again a significant other was part of Mary’s story, as Joseph also had a job to do in the story, “and you are to give him the name Jesus” Matthew 1:21.

They both shared with all humanity …

Sadly, Eve’s desire for that lovely-looking fruit that would give her wisdom, only led to the fall of herself, and all who came after her. The seed of sin, through the disobedience of she and Adam, has been birthed in every human since, except …

Jesus. All man, all God, the seed of Salvation of all humanity, birthed into life from the womb of Mary. The seed she carried was the only cure for the genetic predisposition to sin that we all are born with.

They both shared in the gift of life …

“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20). Though she symbolized the beginnings of human life, she was also a vessel through whom death entered our human experience.

Mary was a vessel as well, and through her son, life eternal was redeemed. She has been called the Ark (vessel) of the New Covenant, for she carried, not the law, but the fulfillment of it.

They shared the serpent …

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). For Eve, the serpent was a tempter, whose lies led her to destruction.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Though the serpent has been biting at our human heels for all time, the fruit of Mary’s womb, Jesus, came to crush it’s head and death itself … “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22

They shared maternal heartache …

Eve suffered the heartache of the murder of her one son, at the hands of the other (in a sense, her own sin led his death).

Mary suffered the heartache of the murder of her son, by those he came to save (in a sense, her own obedience led to his death).

They shared something with each other that is shared with us all …

If Eve felt the heavy weight of the sin of the world, it is the weight in Mary’s womb that took it away. In this they, and we are redeemed people.

Merry Christmas to all!

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He’s Still Older than Me

“You know you have a December birthday when you get a birthday gift that says Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas.” The Hubby

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I can guarantee that hubby will get a birthday gift, from me, that is only for his birthday … because we don’t exchange Christmas gifts 😉.

Well, another trip around the sun is completed and now he’s older.

Hubby has lived through:

Bell bottoms, skinny jeans, tear-aways and tight athletic shorts.

Long hair, short hair, mullets, long beards, short beards and goatees.

Rock, Disco, Country, and Indy.

The Vietnam, Cold, Falklands, Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and far too many other wars and battles.

Space travel, AIDS epidemic, 911 terrorist attacks, and not one Toronto Maple Leaf winning season.

He is a good man, who can make others at ease with great ease.

As a son, he loves his parents, and strives to maintain regular contact with them.

As a husband, he is steady and committed.

As a dad, he will always drop whatever he is doing when one of his kids need something.

As a pastor, he believes in the God he serves and in the people in his congregation.

As a football coach, he desires the best for his players … on and off the field.

I pray that, today, he might know how well loved and needed he is. I hope to that he might be reminded that he has a wonderful life (spoiler alert … guess what movie we will go see later today?).

Happy birthday to my older, 49 (and holding … tightly) hubby.

 

 

 

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plan

As the year is coming to an end, I am feeling the pressure of wanting to have a plan, a full-detailed plan, for 2017 …

I don’t have such a plan.

This year our oldest has completed her undergrad degree, and is now working in her field (and starting the process of paying off student loan debt … aka welcome to adulthood). She just moved out into her own cozy suite, leaving ours empty.

Our middle child completed her one year training program and is now working in her first career, while continuing education for the next one. She would love to move into an independent-living situation, but is trying to balance the desire for that and the desire to continue education, debt-free.

Our youngest is in his final year of high school, and is considering the options for the year after high school and contemplating what to do with his life in the future. He is learning about the value of work, and how good it feels to have a job.

We, as parents, are on the edge change.

Though we are investigating using our suite as rental income, we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’) are also feeling this home and property are more effort than joy. We have a lovely swimming pool, which gave summer employment opportunities to our oldest who taught dozens of kids to swim … but it now sits quiet much of the summer (and eats up many dollars … that could go into travel).

I, too am contemplating the age-old question,

what am I going to do when I grow up?

Though I love my current job/career with all my heart, I feel there are strengths and abilities that have been waiting in a dormant state for the door of the cave to open, and bring light to their usefulness. Do I go back to school? What would I study? Do I simply look for employment in my field, or look in an entirely different area?

So many questions, so few answers.

I’m waiting, and I don’t have a plan.

Many years ago the Israelites had a plan, given to them by God, through the prophets. They were going to be saved, redeemed, by a king, appointed by God. They knew he was co ing, they just didn’t know when.

The problem was, their perception of the prophesy and its fulfillment were two very different things.

They had imagined a warrior, who old not just redeem, but elevate them. What they got was a baby, born into low circumstances, who would grow up to be the saviour of, not just the Jewish people, but of Gentiles as well (“he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” 1 John2:2).

We each may be waiting, and wondering how circumstances in our lives will turn out. We may be dealing with the struggle of not having a plan.

But, there is a plan. Though the plan we think we have might not turn out as we had intended, it will be good, for it comes from the giver of good gifts, for all who believe.

 

 

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To me there is nothing more beautifully Christmas than a quiet Christmas eve, with snow falling softly, a fire in the fireplace, loved ones close by and reflection on the birth of the Christ-child. All the anticipation and preparation of the advent season coming to conclusion as the hours tick towards the day we celebrate his prophesied arrive.

Very little of my own vision of Christmas is accurate, as much of what I love is so closely tied to the things that make me feel good.

I do love the symbolism of a benevolent Santa Clause, gift giving, and decorative lights.

Though I will never be a Christmas nay-sayer, I do find it healthy to remind myself that what defines Christmas for me, is not necessarily the definition of Christmas.

Christmas is really the first steps of Jesus toward the cross.

Though the birth of a virgin-born baby is joyous and miraculous, the prophesy of a coming Messiah was not fulfilled until his death and resurrection.

Christmas is messy, from the beginning, with an unmarried, pregnant virgin, and a people in need of a Saviour. The story only gets more muddied as Jesus travels through his short life, with a group of followers who might best be compared to Snow White’s seven dwarfs. Then his life culminates in the dung hitting the fan as his Earthly life comes to a bloody, seemingly hopeless end. It is not until Easter Sunday, when the tomb is rolled aside, and Christ emerges brighter than Mr. Clean, that there is reason for celebration.

And that celebration continues, for all people who humbly accept the gift, even today.

“… we have a Christ gift the entire year.”
(Dec. 24, 1871) Charles Spurgeon

 

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humility

The past week has highlighted for me that I am so very blessed by the workplace community that I am part of, the people who I share the work with and the students who I am paid to assist.

The students I work with, work SO hard! Classes are SO challenging! Finding and maintaining friendships can be a daily struggle.

Earlier this week I was humbled by a student who I rarely get to work with. This student has struggles, for certain, but also great strengths. This year, I have felt like I needed to get to know this teen better. So I aimed to be intentional to say hi, inquire about their weekend, ask about things of interest. Then, the other day, I received a gift from them. I was speechless (a rarity, for sure). A small gift, roughly wrapped by the hands that offered it to me. It was those hands that offered a gift to me, that melted my heart, for I felt as though I needed to be the giver, not the receiver.

Then a student who exhibited great strength and the fortitude to do what was difficult, to be the bigger person, offering well wishes to someone who caused her sadness. As I watched the the humble act, I watched this student grow in years of maturity, right in front of me. This student, with special needs, initiated reconciliation and redemption of relationship right in front of my face … and I wondered if I would humble myself in such a way.

These students are laying the foundation well, for a great tower!

As we celebrate the Christmas season, we are celebrating the birth of the humble king, the ultimate humility. Born as a human baby, grew up in a family of humble means, then he humbled himself to the point of death.

“being found in human form, he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him
the name that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:8-11

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