The Light of Joy

One of the things about the Christmas season that I get very excited about is lights. I love the look of houses outlined in tiny specks of shimmering light, whether they are white, green, red or blue, I love them all. I enjoy driving home from somewhere and seeing how many houses are embellished with twinkling splendor. Now don’t judge me, but I also enjoy seeing Christmas trees inside people’s homes. It’s not that I am being nosy. After all, don’t we put our trees in windows for that purpose, so the outside world can see our beautiful displays of light?

 Pixabay

Pixabay

What is it about light that we so enjoy? I know that most of us would rather be out and about when it is day time. We enjoy when morning comes and feel loss at the slipping away of light as night time takes over. I personally have to convince myself that darkness is good and God allows the darkness so that we may rest. What I find fascinating about this God of ours is that He didn’t leave us in total darkness. He provided, even before sin became a reality, He provided the moon and the stars to rule the night, so even in darkness the light is still meant to preside.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

There is a lesson here for us, if we are willing to see it. Light is always present even in the darkness. Darkness is, for lack of a better definition, the absence of light. But even in the deepest and darkest dark, somewhere there is still light. If we lost all electricity, the sun would still rule the sky by day and the moon and stars by night. As long as God allows the planets, stars, moons and sun to hang in space, there will always be light. What if those things disappear, or burn out? What if there is nothing left, but darkness? That will never be the case, because God is light and in Him there is no darkness.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

When we think of Christmas we often have images of children playing, laughing and looking with awe and wonder at the lights and decorations. Can you even imagine a Christmas without the idea of child like joy being a part of it? I realize, not everyone grew up with wonder filled Christmases like many of us did. Some of you may not even celebrate Christmas or may think of it as merely an overly commercialized holiday meant to line the pockets of corporate America. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I think most of us can relate to the idea of joy.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Joy is often misunderstood. It is regularly mistaken for happiness, but joy is eternal, whereas happiness is temporary. Let me see if I can explain this in a way that makes sense. Joy is light. Joy comes out in dazzling displays like fireworks and rocket launches, but it also twinkles like Christmas lights and candle flames. The difference is that when the fireworks and rockets are burned out and the Christmas lights break and the flame smokes, joy still shines. The reason for this came in the form of a bundled baby boy, born in a stable over two thousand years ago.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

No matter how deep the darkness is, joy still shines. There is no darkness or evil thorough enough to overcome joy. You might not feel like you have joy right now. Maybe you feel like you have never had joy, but you know those moments that bring tears to your eyes; those moments are shimmers of joy. You experience them when a movie has a happy ending or a musical movement runs together into a river of sound so beautiful it sweeps you along with it. You experience it when you come upon a breathtaking view or stand at the water’s edge when the sun begins its descent into a cloudless sea. This is joy.

Pixabay - nativity

Then when life tries to break you and you cannot hear the music or see the sunset, that is when you must reach back and in, deeper and deeper, to the event where joy first burst onto the scene of humanity. A virgin birth. Shepherds watching their flocks. Animals in the stable. A straw filled manger. This event was and is and evermore shall be the birth of joy. At that moment joy moved from happiness to an eternal possibility. Joy became the essence of bliss.

If you believe in that light, then even when all is dark, all you have to do is call his name. Jesus. And that light of joy will explode, once again in your soul and the darkness will scatter.

How to Keep Christ in Christmas

Last week I discussed Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind. You can read that post by clicking on the link. In that article I gave four areas to look at to take care of yourself during the busy holiday season. Those areas I referred to included, figuring out what you can let go of, setting boundaries, taking care of yourself and practicing gratitude. These things are applicable to all who experience stress during the Christmas season. This week I would like to specifically speak to those who celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

For those of us who follow Christ, Christmas is equal in importance to the celebration of Easter. If Jesus had never been born, we wouldn’t have access to the Almighty God, who created us for His good pleasure. Christmas is the epitome of strength becoming weakness; that almighty power coming into acute focus as the baby born to Mary. He was fully God and became fully man. Imagine, a being who is so huge in our incomprehension, being made into a tiny, fertilized seed, growing for nine months in the womb and making the pressurized journey down the birth canal to explode into the light of a sin filled world. To me it is incomprehensible! Yet, I know it to be true. I also know that it was not just love for us, but love for His Father, that drove Jesus to choose obedience to that vulnerable birth and obedience to an even more vulnerable cross. It is this mentality that needs to drive us as we immerse ourselves in the festivities of the Christmas season.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

We all know how easy it is to get caught up in the busyness of this season. There’s shopping and decorating, baking and cleaning, wrapping and gathering, all good things, but so often as we focus on getting our to do list checked off, we lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday. I know I do. I can easily become overwhelmed with all of the things I need to get done and fret that I don’t have more time to do them. We also, all know that fretting does not lead to peace and isn’t peace, part of what makes this season so beautiful? At least it should. So, just how can we keep the true meaning part of our focus? Here are several ideas.

Keep Jesus Close - As you shop, wrap, bake and decorate meditate on Him. Remind yourself of His birth and remember that He is with you wherever you go. You might think it is silly, but I often imagine Jesus sitting next to me in the car or standing next to me as I wash dishes. Hey, He endowed all of us with an imagination, so I have no shame in using it. Envisioning Him as a person with me, helps me to focus on the fact that He really is there even though I cannot physically see Him. It helps me to remember why I love Christmas, because it is all about Him.

Listen to Music - There is nothing better, in my mind, to help me get in the true Christmas spirit, than listening to Christmas music. It doesn’t just have to be traditional carols like The First Noel, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, or Oh Holy Night, but songs that really speak to the message of why we celebrate this season bring the truth back into focus. It is also good to listen to different versions of these Christ-focused carols. For instance my husband and I both agree that Josh Groban’s version of O Holy Night sings as if he was actually there, feeling the peace and beauty of the birth of Jesus. On the other hand, What Child is This, as portrayed by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is the most amazing and powerful version of this song I have ever heard. The culmination of their voices is almost angelic as they usher us into the powerful glory of our Lord’s vulnerability.

Having music playing while you are in the car going to the mall, or to a party, or when you are wrapping presents or baking cookies can help to keep your mind in a state of peace and joy throughout the season, even if circumstances around you are difficult.

Watch Christmas Movies - I know a lot of people don’t like to watch the same movies over and over. My husband is one of them, but he tolerates my love for seeing these classic movies every year and occasionally watches them with me. There are fun movies like White Christmas and Jingle All the Way, but there are also movies with a message that transcends this particular holiday. Take for instance A Christmas Carol. A book originally written by Charles Dickens, it was first made into a movie in 1910. Hollywood has come a long way since then, but my two favorite versions are the 1984 version with George C. Scott and the 1992 version with the Muppets. I just finished watching the George C. Scott version the other day and these two scenes really stood out to me.

Obviously, Marely is miserable and it is his knowledge that everything he did in life was meaningless. “….mankind was my business….” Wow! If that doesn’t remind us to take a look at our priorities, I don’t know what will.

I love this scene of transformation. Scrooge was a changed man. Oh, that we would be so changed by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ who dwells within us and gives us the ability to be new, each and every day!

Do Something to Serve - I know this seems a bit counter intuitive, when we are so busy, why do something that makes us even busier? The point is to love and worship Jesus by showing love to others. It might be something as simple as baking cookies for your co-workers or leaving a card for your mail carrier, thanking him/her for her hard work. It can be something more complex like visiting shut ins or serving at your local soup kitchen. Often these places are inundated at the holidays, because people are thinking about serving others. Why not schedule your service for February or March, when many of these people are forgotten?

Set Up Some Sort of Memorial - This might be your nativity. Letting your children be involved in getting the pieces out and setting them up helps them to remember Christmas is about Jesus. If you don’t have a nativity and don’t want to make that purchase, decorate a jar with Christmas colors. Every day have you and your family members write down on small slips of paper things they love about Christmas, the Christmas story or things they are thankful for, then on Christmas eve or Christmas morning go through your jar, reading these things out loud. You could then spend a few minutes in prayer, praising and thanking Jesus for all He has done for you.

However you celebrate Christmas and no matter how busy you are, I hope that you will take the time, even if only for a few moments to really think about what the reason for this season really is.

Have a great day!

Getting Through the Holidays Without Losing Your Mind

Most of us are aware, the holidays can be an incredibly, busy time. As women, the bulk of the preparations for holiday gatherings fall on our shoulders. Things might be different for you, but I know for me I am the one who makes the holidays happen. I do the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the meal planning, the wrapping and the packing when we travel out of town. I am also the one to clean up after the gatherings, take down the decorations, get rid of the torn paper, ribbons and bows and unpack and do laundry when we come back into town. This is also a busier time of year at a university bookstore as we are checking in students’ rental books, getting in books for next term and making those available for students who want to buy their books early.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

You might wonder why I do it all. Why don’t I delegate some of the holiday responsibility or just not do some of the typical holiday activities? Realistically, I do it because I want to. I love Christmas. I love everything about it. However, I do understand that not everyone feels this way. In fact, contrary to Andy Williams song It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, the holidays can be the most difficult time of the year.

There are numerous factors that can make the Christmas season more of a burden, rather than a delight. Financial strain, job loss, illness, family tensions, influences from our pasts and the loss of a loved one, can all make the upcoming festivities seem more like a chaotic, commercial filled nightmare.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, the meaning of Christmas is clear. This is the time we celebrate and remember the birth of Christ, the one we refer to as our Savior and King. Knowing this and believing in Him are key to understanding the Christ part of Christmas. However, our society celebrates Christmas without Christ. The gift giving, family gatherings and well wishes are a way of showing love and of reconnecting with those who are important to us.

I’d like to offer a few ways to get through the holidays without losing your mind, even if you don’t celebrate because of Christ. I will do another post, specifically to that next week.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

1 - Pick and Choose

You honestly do not have to do everything. Figure out which things you absolutely love about Christmas and which ones don’t matter as much. I used to send out Christmas cards. I still love receiving cards in the mail, but I have found that is one thing, at this point in my life, that I had to let go of. As much as I love this tradition, I don’t have the time to commit to this holiday task. Perhaps you could do without all the decorating; a single Christmas tree in your window is as much decor as you need. Don’t worry about lights in the windows or a Better Homes and Gardens tree in every room of the house. Love baking, but feeling stressed out? Pick out one or two favorites to make. Let’s face it, often we just plain overdo.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2 - Set Boundaries

You don’t have to go to every holiday party you are invited to. You also don’t have to be at every family gathering. If you have family out of town this can get a little bit overwhelming. For years after we were married my spouse and I traveled back to NY and WI every Christmas. We’d do four or five days in one place, come home for two days and then go to the other place for another four or five days. My spouse being a professor and homeschooling our girls made it easy to make this sort of commitment, but it was hard! We went through bouts of stomach bugs, snowstorms and not being able to have our own Christmas traditions. It was great for our kids in that they built an amazing relationship with both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, but there did come a time when we said, we couldn’t do it any more. Now we usually go to one place for Thanksgiving and the other for New Years, that way we are home for Christmas with plenty of time in between to regroup and prepare for our own holiday celebrations.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

3 - Take Care of Yourself

At the holidays we tend to get less sleep and eat more foods that, while delicious, are not necessarily good for us. Extra calories in cookies, rich high fat meals and eating out more when shopping and party going make us feel sluggish and tired. Those types of food need to be eaten in moderation and we still need to make good choices by eating enough fruits and veggies, as well as drinking lots of water.

In addition, make sure you are getting sufficient rest, as well as exercise. I am preaching to the choir here, everyone. I struggle with getting exercise at other times of the year, but the holidays and the cold, drab weather make it even harder, but we all know that exercise is not only good for our physical health, but our mental health as well.

Investing in your hobbies or learning something new can also be good for you. Knitting, painting, playing music or doing puzzles can give your mind a much needed break from the stressors of the season.

If you have the time and resources you can also invest in your well being by scheduling a massage, a manicure or taking yourself out to do something you enjoy, like a movie or a visit to a coffee shop to read a book.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

4 - Be Grateful

No matter where you are at in life, you have things you can be thankful for. Food, clothes, heat, a bed to sleep in and a pillow to lay your head on. Things might be difficult for you this Christmas, but you can still find things to be thankful for, if you look. Every morning I am able to get out of bed and stand in a hot shower, I am thankful. During loss, and difficulty gratitude can make the difference between thriving and floundering,

These are just a few ideas of how to get through the holidays without losing your mind. I hope you find these helpful.

Do you have lots to do at this time of year? Be sure to take time to relax and enjoy the season.



A Look Back at 2017 - My Favorite Faith Posts

I did this on my fashion page so I thought it would be good to do on my faith page as well. Since we are into a new year, I thought it would be fun to look back at my favorite posts from 2017. I picked one from each month. If you haven't read them and are interested, just click on the link below the picture. 

It is good to look back at where we have been, so we can get a better feel for where we need to go. As far as my faith posts are concerned, I want to keep writing and posting things that I hope will be an encouragement to you. We, as older women, are such a valuable part of society. We are capable, strong and worn, and that is just where God wants us to be. 

Here are my favorite faith posts from my blog from 2017.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

I hope you enjoyed this look back at my favorite blog posts from 2017. As we move forward into 2018, I hope to grow my blog in various ways, while still being true to my belief and faith in Jesus Christ. 

If you have any suggestions or things you would like to see me talk about on the blog, please leave me a comment in the comments section or you can send me a message on Facebook. I appreciate all your input and support. I am looking forward to what this year will bring and hope you will join me on the blog! 

Lessons Learned from Ernest Saves Christmas

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Jim Varney, As a young person he became interested in the theater. By age 17 he was performing professionally in night clubs and coffee houses. He played Jed Clampett in the 1993 movie version of the Beverly Hillbillies and is also known as the voice of Slinky Dog in Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2. However, the persona that ushered Jim into fame was Ernest P. Worrell, a bumbling, annoying, but lovable character that began to show up in adds for everything from grocery and appliance stores to Disney itself. The first appearance of the character of Ernest on the big screen was in 1987 with Ernest Goes to Camp.

In Ernest Saves Christmas, we find Ernest working as a Christmas loving taxi driver. Little does he know, one of his passengers turns out to be Santa himself. Santa, played by British classical actor, Douglas Seale, is searching for a replacement. He has done the job, one he loved, for too long, and knows it is time to pass on the magic. His choice, Joe Caruthers,  a mild mannered actor who does a children's television show, The show being canceled, leads Santa to believe that this is the perfect time for Joe to take over. However, passing the torch is not going to be easy for Santa to do.

There are many funny scenes in this movie and it is hard to really find a scene that speaks specifically to the lessons I want to talk about, therefore I will give you the lessons I learned in a list, then leave you with a few of my best loved scenes. 

Lesson 1 - Stay True to Your Gifts

Joe Caruthers loves children. He likes to teach them and you can tell he is more comfortable around kids than most of the adults in the movie. When his children's show gets canceled, he knows he has to find work elsewhere. His agent, Marty, finds a producer who is willing to give Joe a tryout for a movie. Unbeknownst to Joe, the movie turns out to be a horror flick. When he is told to swear in front of two children to show his emotion, Joe says he can't do it. 

Eventually, after turning down Santa's proposal, Joe realizes that this elderly gentleman is Santa and that the job proposal was real. Joe is overjoyed, for he knows he has found his true calling. 

What are you passionate about? What do you like to do? God has given each of us abilities and yes, spiritual gifts that when used for His purposes will uplift and encourage ourselves and the body. I love to write. Other than being a grandma or a shopper, I would rather spend my days reading a good book or trying to write one. 

I will confess, I have been struggling with the idea of becoming a writer, wondering if that is a realistic goal. After all there are so many good writers already out there, telling captivating and inspiring stories. How could I possibly make a difference? But after watching this movie last night and today thinking about the lessons I can pull from it, I have realized I must stay true to the gifting that God has given me. I don't know if I will ever publish a novel, but I will keep trying to tell stories. 

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,
— Colossians 3:23 (NASB)

Lesson 2 - Don't Give Up Hope

After Joe refuses Santa, saying he is going to do the movie, and a teenage runaway, steals Santa's magic sack, the elderly gentlemen is ready to give up hope. It is easy to feel hopeless when things are not going well. Life can get overwhelming, especially when there is illness, job loss or difficulties in family relations. As I've mentioned before on the blog, hope can be rather elusive. (You can see that post here.) But in the end, isn't God the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit the ones from which true, solid hope flows?

Santa felt that all hope was lost, but in the end, Joe accepts the job and becomes Santa, the runaway returns the magic sack and decides to go home and Ernest delivers the sleigh so the new Santa can get the toys delivered to children all over the world. Hope wins. 

Never give up hope. 

Be strong and let your heart take courage, All you who hope in the Lord.
— Psalm 31:24 (NASB)

Lesson 3 - Be Genuine

This is a bit similar to the first idea of staying true to your gifts, but this is more about how you present yourself to the rest of the world. The teenage runaway in this movie left home after her parents went through some rough times in their marriage. She felt abandoned by them at a critical time in her own development. Pamela or Harmony Star, as she wants to be called, puts on a facade of confidence and bravado, even though inside she is struggling to grow up and deal with her parents' situation. 

Harmony hooks up with Ernest and Santa when she jumps into the taxi Ernest is driving to get away from the restaurant owner she hasn't paid. She hangs out with the for a while, not believing Santa is real, until she finds out about the magic sack. After that she looks for the best opportunity to steal the bag and get away. 

We all have times in our lives where we put on a face. I don't mean putting on make up, I'm talking about that happy face we wear, when inside we feel like dying or feel like we are invisible. Christian recording artist Mandisa has a great song that addresses this very issue. 

God doesn't want us to live fake lives. The best way to help each other is to be real. Obviously, it is good to do that with an attitude of love and tact, but if we all tried to convey the truth about who we are and who God made us, I think, like Harmony, we would realize we could give the "sack" of all our troubles and issues, back to God. 

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2 (NASB)

I hope you learned something along with me from Ernest Saves Christmas. If you have the time, this is a great movie to watch with the family and will provide clean, kid-friendly fun. Enjoy a few of my favorite scenes in fond memory of Jim Varney, who passed away at age 50.

This next few show a number of Ernest's many personalities!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Lessons Learned from Miracle on 34th Street

Last year I did a series on lessons that I learned from a few of my favorite Christmas movies. You can see those by clicking on the title of the posts below:

A Christmas Lesson Learned from Charlie Brown                                                                                          Christmas Lessons Learned from the Grinch                                                                                                 "Come in, --- come in! and know me better, man!                                                                                               It's a Wonderful Life...or is it?

I thought it would be fun to look at a few other movies that I enjoy watching at this time of year and talk about what I have learned from them.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

If you have seen Miracle on 34th Street, either the 1947 version with Maureen O'Hara and Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle or the 1994 version with Elizabeth Perkins and Richard Attenborough, you know the basic premise of the movie deals with belief. An elderly man claims to be Kris Kringle, not a man with the same name, but the genuine article. A woman, Mrs. Walker, must be convinced that there is more to Mr. Kringle than just a nice old man. 

"....if you can't believe, if you can't accept anything on faith, then you are doomed for a life dominated by doubt." 

That line, spoken by Mr. Kringle in the video clip above is very powerful and may well sum up what is wrong with our world as a whole. How often, are we as Christians guilty of doubting the truths that God has given us? Do we really believe He is the good shepherd? Do we really have faith that He came to save the lost? Or are our lives dominated by doubt? 

We all live lives of faith. We have faith or believe the sun will rise tomorrow, when I flip a switch the light will come on and the bank I use is taking good care of my money. Whether people want to admit it or not, most of life is a walk of faith. Unfortunately, we often place our faith in people or things that don't deliver. 

When my children were small, I wanted them to know the truth about Christmas, so I told them about Jesus. However, I also told them that Santa, as a man in a sleigh with flying reindeer wan't real. I chose to teach them about Saint Nicolas, the source of the legend of Santa Claus. My motivation was well intended, but I wonder that I did damage to their ability to believe in things that were simply meant to be magical and fun. 

The beauty of putting your faith in Jesus Christ is that everything else falls into its proper place. If I would have had more faith in Him as I raised my children, I think I would have had more fun with them, rather than being obsessed that they come to know Jesus and live for Him. I think we as parents often forget that our children are watching us and the best way to show them Jesus is to live a life in the Spirit out loud. Of course, we all want our children to follow Jesus, but we must have faith in Him, and in His ability to bring it about in His timing. Hard, I know!

In this movie when Kris Kringle is sent to jail for being a menace and mentally unstable it is up to Mrs. Walker, her daughter and a lawyer friend to get him out. The case goes to trial and arguments ensue to try to prove that Santa Claus exists and Mr. Kringle is him. In the more modern version, perhaps my favorite scene takes place when Judge Henry Harper has a most helpful revelation.

I love that Judge Harper is so satisfied with himself at the end of his speech, undoubtedly because he was able to get out of a very sticky situation. Ha, ha. 

Isn't it true? We, the people of the United States of America put our trust as a collective whole in a being we do not see. Perhaps, we need to revisit why the statement, "In God We Trust" was originally put on our currency. 

I have often thought that the church has gotten too far away from the basic tenants of our faith. We don't talk about things like the virgin birth of Christ, the problem of sin or the outcome of that sin. We have a tendency to dance around the issue. The issue is, we need Jesus. Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas. We need to get back to that. 

One of the best things we can do as we walk out our journey on this planet is to be teachable. God is always bringing new lessons to be learned and drawing us deeper into His amazing layers. Sometimes He even uses movies to teach us things we need to know. 

Do you like this movie? Have you learned anything from watching a Christmas movie? I hope you'll share your ideas in the comments section. I'd love to learn something from you. 

Preparing for Christ

The holiday of Thanksgiving is the perfect spring board for our leap into the Christmas season. It seems rather odd that we celebrate a day of giving thanks and then scramble to find the perfect gifts for those we love, as if they don't have enough already. Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas and one of my love languages is gifts. I love to find gifts for people and I also love to receive gifts from others. Especially, when the person doing the giving has really thought about the person receiving the gift. 

In my last few posts I referred to giving thanks as that which brings us back to center, or back to where God wants us to be in our relationship with Him. What better thing to do before we enter into the hectic mayhem of the holidays. It is often hard to keep our focus on the reason for the season, which as most of you know is the birth of Jesus. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

It seems in our society today belief in God is a common occurrence. If you ask someone if they believe in a higher power or an intelligent designer, many will say yes. They also will tell you that this being is good and would never condemn people to a place  ofeternal damnation. What has become lost in the chaos of our daily lives is the need for a Savior. 

What did Jesus come for? Did He come, so that we might have a holiday to celebrate? Did the shepherds leave their flocks to come see where the baby Jesus was born, so we could have colored lights in the windows and pretty trees in our living rooms? Did the three wisemen leave their homes and travel for months to give gifts to the Christ child so we could give gifts to each other? No. They came because He was and is the Son of God. 

Jesus came so that we might have life and life more abundantly. The book of Romans in the New Testament explains:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23 (NASB)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8 (NASB)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

The holiday of Christmas must lead to the holiday of Easter. The manger makes way for a cross. We cannot have one without the other. So you see, Jesus really is the reason for this season; a season of love, giving and caring.

In the words of Jesus Himself, 

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
— John 14:6 (NASB)

As we begin our Christmas preparations, I pray we will not lose sight of the one who prepared the way for each one of us.

It's Already November! What??

Can you believe it is already November 1st? Or are you like me, still gasping, trying to catch your breath and function through the sugar induced headache of post-Halloween fun? I knew it was coming. Winter always comes, as does Thanksgiving and Christmas. Let's get real here, the holidays do start today, the day after Halloween. Is it any wonder that most stores have Christmas trees, decorated to the hilt, already stunningly displayed before the Snickers bars are even marked half off?

Pixabay - Halloween candy

Since we are only a few weeks out from Thanksgiving, I want to revisit the command Paul gives to us in I Thessalonians 5:18.

in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
— I Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

My plan is to spend a few weeks looking at this idea of gratitude. Next week I will finish up my Mulling It Over series on the Armor of God, but this week and the two Wednesdays before Thanksgiving I will be concentrating on thankfulness. 

Pixabay - thanksgiving

Last year I talked about this subject in two different blog posts. Three Little Commands - Give Thanksand It is Good to Give Thanks both touch on the importance of giving thanks. You can read those posts by clicking on the titles. It might seem a bit repetitive to spend more time on this topic, but as with so many things in my Christian walk, it is good be reminded. I know many things about the Christian life, but I don't consistently live all of those. In addition, the Holy Spirit is more than capable of teaching me new things, as I pointed out a few weeks ago in the post, Even He Called Him Lord.

Today, I would like to lay a foundation for the act of thanksgiving. The first mention of what looked like thanksgiving in the Bible is found in Genesis 4.

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.
— Genesis 4:3-5 (NASB)
Pixabay - Autumn

I do not know if this was a thanksgiving offering, but it is clear that God had already established a system of offerings to honor and worship Him. This was some years after Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden for their choice to sin against God. The fact that both their sons brought an offering to the Lord, shows that they had been taught that this was something important that needed to be done. The word thanksgiving does not show up until years later in Leviticus 7:11-12 where Moses is directed to write about the law of sacrifice of peace offerings. 

The whole system of sacrifice was instituted by God after Adam and Eve sinned. It says,

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.
— Genesis 3:21 (NASB)

While we are not told that God sacrificed animals to make those clothes, it can be safely assumed that He didn't get them at the local Walmart. It would seem to make sense that the first blood letting was done by God Himself in a gesture, both of compassion and instruction, for those children He had created. He already had the plan in place for Jesus, His Son, to be the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption.

By the time Moses becomes the chosen leader of the nation called Israel, God's plan included teaching His people all about sacrifice. The entirety of the book of Leviticus spells out the different offerings, laws and acceptable sacrifices for a variety of life situations. 

Pixabay - bread and oil
‘Now this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings which shall be presented to the Lord. If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil.’
— Leviticus 7:11-12 (NASB)

As you can see, the laws of offering and sacrifice were very specific.

You might be wondering why I am spending so much time on this idea of sacrifice, but the act of thanksgiving is an act of sacrifice. While we no longer require all the offerings of sheep and cows, or bread and oil, thanksgiving requires a giving up of our worries and cares, bringing them to the altar and letting God burn them away, so that all that is left is purest worship and adoration of the Creator.

As we head into the holiday season I hope you will journey with me along this thanksgiving road. It will be the perfect lead in, to the season of Advent. 

Stay tuned for more! 

A Christmas Lesson Learned from Charlie Brown

So what is the lesson I learned from good old Chuck? Simply put, it has to do with child-like faith. There is a certain amount of wonder involved in the whole Christmas story. As far as that goes, there is a certain amount of wonder for many children at Christmas time.

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