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Showing posts from December, 2015

Cleaning Out

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As I prepare for the New Year, I like the idea of starting it fresh. Time to do some cleaning out. 

It started before Christmas with the Great Room Switch. We further finished the partially finished room in the basement for our fifteen year old son who just wants to be able to get away from people. Siblings, mostly, which is completely understandable at times. This required a basement clean-out before we could even begin.

As Zachary packed up his stuff, our thirteen year old daughter packed up hers. As he was moving out of his old room, Haley was moving in - and out of a room shared with her 10 year old brother and 7 year old sister. 

They ran into a major roadblock: what to do with the books. I helped them sort through hundreds of books. We bagged and boxed close to five hundred books from the two bedrooms for donation. A couple hundred books remain on bookshelves ... those to be read, and those to be read again.

This inspired me to sort through the craft stuff that has taken over our di…

Ponder

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"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:11-19
My favorite part of this reading isn't the angel's proclamation, nor is it the shepherd's haste…

Make Room

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And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:1-7
She birthed God, and laid him in an feeding trough, because there was no room for him in the upper room of their relative's house. 

Mary and Joseph made room for Jesus. They made due with what they had, knowing it would be enough. They didn't say, "Hey, thi…

Wanderer

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The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:
Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).Matthew 1:18-23
God is with us.

She has always been a wanderer. When she was just fourteen months old or so, and her siblings were s…

Teenage Pregnancy

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A teenage girl sits alone, praying the man she loves won't be angry, won't leave her, when he finds out the burden and the blessing she carries - when she reveals to him that she's pregnant. The baby is not his. She fears he will, as most men would, take back the promises he's made and leave her to deal with her situation on her own.

He considers leaving at first. Instead he stays.

The two journey forward together, despite the reactions of family, friends, and neighbors. Their love for each other, for God, and for the child she carries prevails.

I wasn't a teenager when I was pregnant with Alex, who turns 17 today. I was eight days away from being 24, in fact. My first day home alone with him, however, I felt like I was too young and handed too huge of a responsibility.

We brought Alex "home" to my parents' house on Christmas Eve, so that we could introduce him to family and join in the festivities. We brought him home to our house on Christmas Day. What…

Thunder in the Desert!

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While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called “the Baptizer,” was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”
John and his message were authorized by Isaiah’s prophecy:

Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight! 
Matthew 3:1-3
"Thunder in the desert!" I think that's going to be my new exclamation. Drop something on my foot? "Thunder in the desert!" Discover something amazing? "Thunder in the desert!" I like that. 

What I'm not so sure I like is the "Change your life" part. Change my life. For what? In preparation for God's arrival? But how? How do I change my life to make the road smooth and straight?

Maybe I need to get obstacles out of my way. Perhaps I need to... to...

Let go of anger, stress, and worry.

Clear my schedule of non-essentials - of things that interfere with preparing …

Advent List

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"He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”Luke 1: 15-17
He - John the Baptizer - has a huge task in front of him ... before he's even born! What a list! He'll get the people ready for God! How on earth is he to accomplish that? It seems a monumental task.

What's on your list as you to prepare for the birth of our Lord and Savior? Does it look something like this:
- put up decorations
- get Christmas tree
- decorate Christmas tree
- buy gifts
- wrap gifts
- bake some yummy treats
- listen to Christmas music
- watch Christmas movies
- go to family / work/ club/ etc. parties
- go to Christmas worship
- open gifts
- eat too much

That's it. Done. Right? 

Is that really the way to get…

King of the Mountain

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It was bad news. Very bad news. My stomach was doing flips. I didn't know what to say. And then two unexpected words escaped my mouth, "Thank God!" I was just given a diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis, which changed my entire perception of my present and my future. Words like "severe" and "aggressive," "treatment" and "immediately" and concepts like "quantity versus quality of life" and "risk of incurable cancer" came to the forefront. It seemed that as the what-ifs started staggering through my mind, thoughts of gratitude cartwheeled through, giving me assurance and peace. 
When I heard it, my stomach did flips. I stammered and stuttered.My bones turned to water. I staggered and stumbled.I sit back and wait for Doomsday to descend on our attackers.
Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen,Though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted,Though the sheep pen…

Speak Up

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He stood by the entrance to the shopping plaza, sign in hand, hoping, praying someone would stop and give him money. So many cars drove past, not giving him a second glance. He appeared Middle Eastern and was decently dressed, wearing new tennis shoes and a collared shirt. Why on earth was he asking for a handout? On my way out of the plaza, I pulled up to the light and motioned him to my window. In the 30 seconds or so we had before the light changed, I learned he simply needed $6 and change to pick up a prescription for his daughter. That was it. I told him to meet me at the pharmacy. 

It turns out he was new to the state, relocating with his young daughter and wife, both home sick. He was able to transfer her asthma prescription, but was still waiting on state health insurance to go through when she got sick and her asthma started acting up. He was two days away from his first paycheck. And he was flat broke. I paid for his prescription, for an over the counter medication for his wi…

Feeling Small

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She was talking about the frustrations of being a stay at home mom. Her issues had nothing to do with noisy, rambunctious children or never-ending housework. It had to do with the transition from working to staying home and the sudden feeling that she had somehow lost a great deal of her significance. She was feeling small and unimportant. 

I've felt this way, too. Not only am I "only" a stay at home mom, but I also have multiple autoimmune illnesses that make me feel like a non-functional, overtired, overly-cranky, doesn't do nearly enough with her children stay at home mom. A mom who is always at one appointment or another, sick from disease or medication or a combination, and tired...always tired. Did I mention tired? Oh, and absent-minded, too. Very. I've felt like I could do more and be more for my children. I felt the need to contribute more to the world than just raise my kids. Do something important. Be something important. 



In a moment of stillness amidst …

Season of Second Chances

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Today's reading is from Jonah. I can't remember where I heard it before, but the book of Jonah goes something like this:
God decrees (go to Nineveh)
Jonah flees (to Tarshish on a ship)
Storms follow (Jonah goes overboard)
Fish swallows (Jonah, for 3 days, then Jonah prays and is vomited up onto the beach)
Second chances (God says go to Nineveh)
Jonah advances (He preaches and the people of Nineveh repent!)
God relents (God is merciful and doesn’t destroy the people of Nineveh)
Jonah’s lament (he was angry, he threw a fit, a big one)
Jonah’s case (“So, God, if you won’t kill them, kill me! I’m better off dead!”)
God’s Grace (forgiveness and a second chance)As we draw nearer to the birth of our Savior, it's interesting to think about second chances. God, after all, is a God of second chances (just ask the Veggietales!). 
How many times in life do we need a second chance? A do-over? Words explode from our mouths in anger and even as they spew forth, we wish we could suck them b…

Troublemaker

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The moment Ahab saw Elijah he said, “So it’s you, old troublemaker!”
“It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel,” said Elijah, “but you and your government—you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals. Here’s what I want you to do: Assemble everyone in Israel at Mount Carmel. And make sure that the special pets of Jezebel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah, are there.”So Ahab summoned everyone in Israel, particularly the prophets, to Mount Carmel.Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!”Nobody said a word; nobody made a move.Then Elijah said, “I’m the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don’t ign…

Land of Deep Darkness

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The people walking in darkness

I feel like I've been walking in a sort of darkness lately, a sadness pulling at me, dragging me down. Even though I try to avoid media as much as possible, news of shootings, bombs, attacks, fires, hate crimes, and just plain hate creep in here and there. People rage against helping refugees while gearing up to celebrate the birth of a child whose parents have to flee their country or risk His death... anger and malice, a pall over what should be a time of joyful anticipation.

have seen a great light;

I need that light ... that Light. It is what keeps me going. It is that which lives within me; urges me toward love and goodness in all things; preaches hope in the darkness.

on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.


It is my prayer that God's Light will shine in the hearts and minds of all affected by violence - both the victims and the perpetrators - that they may find wrap themselves in the warmth of God's love and find thei…

Heart Things

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In 1 Samuel 16:1-12, God sends Samuel to Jesse to anoint him God's chosen, king. After seeing men who looked fit for the part, it was the runt, not deemed worthy of presenting, who was chosen as God's anointed one.  After all:
“Looks aren’t everything...God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.” 1 Samuel 7
We're in the heart of Advent. There are a mere eleven days until Christmas Eve, twelve until Christmas Day. In this reading, God gets to the heart of the matter: our hearts are what are important - not our looks, not our appearances. 

As a parent, I worry that my children will judge others by their outward appearance, rather than by their heart and their actions. 

One day when my children were younger, before I was in need of crutches or a wheelchair, we were sitting in a restaurant enjoying our lunch when a man came in on crutches. He was missing one leg and had prosthetic arms and hands. One of my kids yelled, 

Ruth-full

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Oh, Ruth! How we all need Ruths in our lives!

Naomi looses two sons and a husband. She heads for the home she left when she married to start over, her two daughters-in-law with her. Along the way, she comes to the realization that her daughters-in-law would do better to go home to their mothers, as they would be able to find new husbands and have new families with them. One daughter-in-law turns back, but not Ruth:
But Ruth said, “Don’t force me to leave you; don’t make me go home. Where you go, I go; and where you live, I’ll live. Your people are my people, your God is my god; where you die, I’ll die, and that’s where I’ll be buried, so help me God—not even death itself is going to come between us!" Ruth 1:16-17We are blessed with the Ruths of the world - those who point us toward the positive; those who stick with us through thick and thin; those who see the Love all around us; those who assure us everything will be alright somehow. There are Ruths who come into our lives just wh…

Bad Reputations

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If you read Joshua 2:1-21, you will experience a story of a woman with a bad reputation, a king, spies, mercy, promises, and a red rope hanging out a window. 

Rahab, had faith enough to hide Joshua's spies and keep them safe. She had faith and courage enough to speak with the men to whom she'd shown mercy and ask them to swear to her that they would protect her and her family from harm when they returned to conquer Jericho. She hung the scarlet rope used for the spies' escape in her window to ensure her family's safety. The woman with the bad reputation, the "harlot," is the heroine in this saga.

I find it comforting that again and again in the Bible, the least, the worst, the other, the lesser, are the ones who make a difference in a big way. 

As I think about this story in the context of Advent, I think of Mary, a teen, unmarried, having faith enough to listen to and believe the angel and to be "the Lord's Maid, ready to serve." (Luke 1:37MSG) Sh…

Commands, Covenants, and a Case of the Crankies

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Please forgive my lack of typing out all of the reading today. Post-Remicade infusion ickiness has set in. Insert your favorite version of the Ten Commandments in the appropriate space...

God, our God, made a covenant with us at Horeb. God didn’t just make this covenant with our parents; he made it also with us, with all of us who are alive right now. God spoke to you personally out of the fire on the mountain. At the time I stood between God and you, to tell you what God said. You were afraid, remember, of the fire and wouldn’t climb the mountain. He said:
Deuteronomy 5:2-5 ***Insert 10 Commandments here***
God heard what you said to me and told me, “I’ve heard what the people said to you. They’re right—good and true words. What I wouldn’t give if they’d always feel this way, continuing to revere me and always keep all my commands; they’d have a good life forever, they and their children!
Deuteronomy 5:28-29It was nearly impossible for him to get out of bed. Ten minutes before we needed…

Easy Now

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Today's reading is the story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob, recipient of a special and glorious robe, dreamer of dreams, prognosticator of prognosticators, sold as a slave by his brothers to the hairy Ishmaelites, presumed dead by Jacob. Joseph who ended up making a good life for himself while helping many, and eventually helping and forgiving his brothers. When Jacob died and the brothers were scared that Joseph hadn't forgiven them....

Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children.” He reassured them, speaking with them heart-to-heart. Genesis 50:19-21A lot of bad stuff happened to Joseph. A lot, a lot. His brothers sold him into slavery. Potiphar's wife got him in trouble and he landed in jail. But it was this series of unfortunate events, co…

Stairway to Heaven

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Jacob left Beersheba and went to Haran. He came to a certain place and camped for the night since the sun had set. He took one of the stones there, set it under his head and lay down to sleep. And he dreamed: A stairway was set on the ground and it reached all the way to the sky; angels of God were going up and going down on it.
Then God was right before him, saying, “I am God, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. I’m giving the ground on which you are sleeping to you and to your descendants. Your descendants will be as the dust of the Earth; they’ll stretch from west to east and from north to south. All the families of the Earth will bless themselves in you and your descendants. Yes. I’ll stay with you, I’ll protect you wherever you go, and I’ll bring you back to this very ground. I’ll stick with you until I’ve done everything I promised you.”
Jacob woke up from his sleep. He said, “God is in this place—truly. And I didn’t even know it!” He was terrified. He whispered i…

God Sees To It

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Today's Bible reading is long and my time is short, so, in the words of Inigo Montoya, "No, there is too much. Let me sum up." 
In Genesis 22:1-2, 6-14 God tests Abraham, asking him to sacrifice his only son, Issac. Abraham does as God says, and as he takes out the knife for the sacrifice...

Just then an angel of God called to him out of Heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Yes, I’m listening.”
“Don’t lay a hand on that boy! Don’t touch him! Now I know how fearlessly you fear God; you didn’t hesitate to place your son, your dear son, on the altar for me.”
Abraham looked up. He saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. Abraham took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.
Abraham named that place God-Yireh (God-Sees-to-It). That’s where we get the saying, “On the mountain of God, he sees to it.”

Genesis 22:11-14
Several things struck me about this reading, especially thinking about it in the context of Advent.

The first is, how often do we stop and listen to …

Laugh with Me

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God visited Sarah exactly as he said he would; God did to Sarah what he promised: Sarah became pregnant and gave Abraham a son in his old age, and at the very time God had set. Abraham named him Isaac. When his son was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him just as God had commanded.
Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born.
Sarah said,God has blessed me with laughterand all who get the news will laugh with me!
She also said,Whoever would have suggested to Abrahamthat Sarah would one day nurse a baby!Yet here I am! I’ve given the old man a son!

Genesis 21:1-7How wonderful that Sarah could experience laughter in such a miraculous, yet admittedly odd situation! She sees laughter as a gift, a blessing from God. I couldn't agree more.

If there is one thing that serves me well on this rollercoaster we call life, it's my sense of humor - my ability to laugh at life's more ornery situations. Laughter is a priceless tool in parenting, teaching, and living life with…