Thursday, December 31, 2015

10 Most Important Posts of 2015

Of course I think everything I write is important. I wouldn't bother posting it otherwise. Sometimes the posts I consider to be better, wiser, more significant, aren't as widely read as say, a recipe. I recognize that I go back to practical posts more often than wisdom posts, but I like to think that as I get older, and seek to know God and His Word better, that some of what I write will keep others from making mistakes I made and help them live their life purposefully. To that end, I have a collection of the posts I think are "most important" from 2015. 

  • How to Stop Procrastinating -- I'll start with a good New Year's post. We arbitrarily choose the beginning of the year for a new starts in everything from losing weight to taking up new hobbies. But sometimes, those little things that we'd like to become better at just don't happen. Here eight tips on how to get around to it.
  • People with Clean Houses -- You know those people who always seem to have clean houses, trimmed yards, back seats they don't have to unload to give others a ride? I had a revelation this year about how they do it.
  • Ten Habits of Families that Eat Together -- How do they do it? They have developed these habits and it happens. What's their secret? Take a look!
  • 16 Photos You Must Take -- My kids are out of the house (mostly), all grown up. There are so many memories of things we did together--reading so many books to them (even into their middle school years), doing chores, how they lounged while "studying", the bread store we stopped at every time we walked past. I don't have photos of these things. Cameras are with us all the time now and photos don't cost 50c a piece (film and developing) so take these pictures, you'll be glad you did!
  • 60 Conversation Starters -- When the family gets together, or friends, or new acquaintances, the conversation can range from superficial to critical. These conversation starters, set up for printable business cards, can help you get to know each other in lighthearted or deeper ways. Don't go out without some!
  • Start a Spiritual Conversation -- The best kind of conversation to start either to help edify yourself and another or to witness to an unbeliever is one that leads to talking about God. Here are forty-four ways to turn the conversation to a topic that is truly important borrowed from Chris Walker's blog "Evangelism Coach" (with permission).
  • 3 Ways to Stop a Gossip Fest -- Don't think conversation starters are helpful? Next time the guys or girls get together, use these "secrets" to keep them from just having a gossip fest!
  • Get Along at Get Togethers -- Whether your family has a grump, a gossip, or an arguer you can plan ways to get along when you gather. Here are six tried and true ways to help that along.
  • It Happens Every November -- Have you ever thought about the juxtaposition of Thanksgiving and Christmas? At one we profess gratitude and satisfaction and at the next we make lists of things we think we need to be happier. Take a minute to read this post and think about it. It will keep you from being the grump at your family gatherings if you put true thankfulness into practice.
  • 55 Bits of Wisdom -- And finally, everything else I have learned in 55 years of living! Humorous, helpful, and hopefully wise, you'll enjoy reading this list written on my birthday last year.

Have a Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

I am Mary

Last year for our Christmas devotions my husband, daughter, father-in-law, and I each wrote a first person account of one of people involved in Jesus' birth. It was a great way to get a new look at the amazing truth of the Incarnation. We read them on Christmas with the whole family. You can read the one I wrote on Elizabeth here and the one my husband wrote as Gabriel here. This is the one I wrote about Mary.

I am Mary, wife of Joseph, the woman who was given the gift by God of bringing His Son, our Messiah, into the world to be our Savior.

I'm sure you'd like to hear my version of the angel coming to me, but, you know, even after all these years I find it hard to explain. But I'll try:

He was just there. He didn't come in, he didn't dazzle me with bright light, he just started talking. And more than anything, his greeting took my breath away!
"Greetings approved one! The Lord is with you."
I didn't know what he meant and was trying to make sense of it when he kept talking. He told me to not be afraid. That's when I realized that my heart was racing with the start and confusion.

Then he said, "God is happy with you." And he began to give me more information than I could take in, so I concentrated hard because I realized it was important. He said I would conceive a child...that it would be a boy...the boy's name would be Yeshua, Jesus in your language...that His actual identity was the Son of God...the He would be King!

And the only thing I could think of to say was, "But I'm not married!" You know how we never know what to say to someone on the spot, but two weeks later we have the perfect response? Well...I've thought about this quite a bit, and I don't think I would change my statement. I knew how important my purity was to God and the way this man, this angel, answered let me know he was from God.

He explained that God, through the Holy Spirit, would work a miracle in my body and I would have this child without losing my virginity.

I knew then that is this was an angel sent by God and I submitted to God's will for me.

I've been asked why I didn't ask him to explain it to my parents and my fiancé. But he said two things to me that just took care of everything. One was his first greeting, "The Lord is with you," and later he said, "Nothing is impossible with God." I just rested in that, believing God would take care of the details.

And, you know, He did.

I was so thrilled when the angel told me that my relative Elizabeth was expecting a baby. Thrilled for her! And thrilled for me. I needed someone to talk to who would understand. I knew Elizabeth was a godly woman and would be able to help me sort this all out in my mind. So I went to visit her. When I saw her she was delighted that I came and immediately she recognized what was happening. In response to her loving, accepting greeting, I told her the poem of praise that I had composed on the journey down.

In it I said
I rejoice in God, my Savior, who chose me to play an important part in His plan of salvation for all of us. My soul thrills at God's great mercy toward sinners.
This is not about me, but about God. He took notice of this servant girl and favored me by including me in His amazing plan of salvation.
All generations will call me blessed, but I hope no one loses sight that it was God who did great things.  
 He came down to our world to bring us salvation!

May you have the merriest Christmas ever
as you contemplate the Greatest Gift ever!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I am Gabriel, yes That Gabriel

Last year for our Christmas devotions my husband, daughter, father-in-law, and I each wrote a first person account of one of people involved in Jesus' birth. It was a great way to get a new look at the amazing truth of the Incarnation. We read them on Christmas with the whole family. You can read the first one here. This is the one my husband wrote. I think you will enjoy it as his humor comes through as well as his deep spiritual thinking.

Hi, my name is Gabriel. I am an angel. Unlike you might think from watching "It's a Wonderful Life", I was not a human before who died and I don’t need to earn my wings. Like I said, I am an angel. The Bible doesn't tell you when we were created, and we don't think about time like you humans do so I can't really explain it. We, as a movement, have gone on for, well, a long time. We serve God in many different ways. 

You are a very confusing people, but we understand something of how you needed a Savior and I was chosen for the special task of being involved in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Messiah came, I got really active in human history. First, I was sent to talk to Zacharias, a priest who knew the Scriptures. He knew that there would be forerunner to announce the coming of Messiah. But when I told him he was to be the father of that child, he wouldn't believe me.  We angels don't get humans. God sends them a message and they won't believe! “Just give me a sign,” he said. How about an angel appearing? But God must have anticipated this, because he sent me with the ability to make Zacharias mute for his disbelief. When he should have come out of the temple praising and worshiping God, he couldn’t say a word.

But Elizabeth understood the Zacharias' charades, believed, said something about not having a headache that night, and we watched her worship God as her tummy grew with little John! She was an inspiration to us, allowing God's miracle to happen in her body, something that we angels can never participate in.

My next, and most famous assignment, came soon after talking to Zacharias. I didn't have any experience in talking with pretty teenage girls, especially about such a delicate subject, but God gave me some lessons. And that humble, God-minded little girl joyfully accepted the news that God was going to perform one of His greatest miracles ever, right inside her body.

I told her that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. And she accepted that.

She had a question about pregnancy outside of marriage, but again her faith embraced my explanation of the divine incarnation. We angels still contemplate what happened and we don't fully grasp it. I am sure she didn't either, though it was wonderful to observe her over the years holding her baby, watching Him grow and train Him, contemplating Him, and seeing Him as a man doing his Father's work, and although sometimes she spoke out of turn, she listened to Him and learned as she thought about His responses. 

And Zacharias? He came around when John was born and the Holy Spirit himself came down and prophesied through Zacharias. 

But I got into action again the night Jesus was born. Well, your Bible doesn't actually say it was me, but I think a number of you probably guessed that the angel that showed up to talk to the shepherds was me! But I'm not a soloist, and besides, there was a clamoring of multitudes of angels to get in on the action that night and sing at the birth of man's Messiah, so I was joined by myriads of angels and we sang "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased."

We angels have also observed that peace has not come to earth yet, but take my word for it. When God says something is going to happen, it always does. So make sure you are enjoying peace with God, which He offers you to take care of your sin problem And the peace of Christ which can be yours every day while you live in a world that wars instead of making peace. It is my senior colleague Michael the Archangel gets to make the announcement for believers to come up to heaven and meet their Prince of Peace face-to-face, but I hope to be right there by his side singing, or upping the voltage of the glory when we dazzle those who have believed what I said 2000 years ago, 

"I bring you good news of great joy 
which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there was born for you Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

May you have the merriest Christmas ever as you contemplate the Greatest Gift ever!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

I am Elizabeth

Last year for our Christmas devotions my husband, daughter, father-in-law, and I each wrote a first person account of one of people involved in Jesus' birth. It was a great way to get a new look at the amazing truth of the Incarnation. We read them on Christmas with the whole family. Over the next three weeks I will share two that I wrote and one by my husband.

My name is Elizabeth…wife of Zacharias.

But you probably know me best as the mother of John the Baptist.

My husband was a priest and together we studied and pondered many things in the scriptures and determined, to the best of our ability to live according to the commandments of the Lord. —That gave us great joy.

The one sorrow and prayer in our lives was for a child. But God did not choose to bless us in that way. Finally, well, that became impossible. But we remembered Sarah and once in a while we would remind God of how much we would love to be parents.

Then the angel came.

You’ve heard the story of Zacharias in the temple being told we would have a son who would prepare the way for the Lord. Poor Zacharias, he just couldn’t comprehend what he heard. As he delicately told the angel, “My wife is advanced in years.” Like I said, it was impossible…or so we thought.

Then Zacharias came home mute. Have you ever played charades? Have you ever played for ten months straight?

Yes, in my “advanced age” I was privileged to become the mother of a boy. And this boy grew up to become John the Baptist who preached and baptized in the wilderness to help people be ready to believe in Jesus, the Christ.

But I’m a little ahead of my story.

When I was about six months along I had an even greater privilege —I was visited by my young relative, Mary. When she came into my house and called out to me, I actually felt John leap inside me! It wasn’t a regular baby kick, it was a movement of, how can I describe it? It was a movement of joy, and, somehow of…recognition!

Then God filled me with His Holy Spirit and gave me an understanding of what was happening in Mary’s life and I exclaimed, “How has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” That was a great privilege.

But even that was not the greatest privilege of all in my life.

The greatest privilege is probably expressed best by my husband…when he finally got his voice back. He, too, was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about our son:
You will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God.

That is the greatest privilege I had in my life—to understand and believe that God, through Jesus, would forgive my sin by His mercy.

I found salvation in Jesus Christ, the child born to Mary.

May you have the merriest Christmas ever
as you contemplate the Greatest Gift ever!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Too Much on My Plate

I recently discovered I had too much on my plate...
           every meal.

Five years ago I had to go on a steroid inhaler for my asthma and my weight (which due to my health was underweight for only the second time in my life) shot up fifteen pounds almost within a couple of months. Since then it has continued to creep up a few more pounds till I was twelve to fifteen pounds overweight

I knew the meds made me hungrier, but I didn't realize how much I was eating until...
          ...I started using an app that counted every calorie and told me how many I could eat if I wanted to lose a pound a week. I like to think that the Plexus I've been taking helped give me the appetite control that I've had for the last ten weeks during which time I'm proud to say I've lost ten pounds! But the real deal is keeping track of what I put on my plate (and in my mouth).

One thing I've learned is that it's not only too much, but the wrong thing on my plate. That delicious sweet potato soufflé my sister-in-law makes for Thanksgiving? Oh my! Many, many calories.

My favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner, the stuffing, is another dangerous food.

So I'm learning what to put on my plate.

          ....what if I'm speaking metaphorically?

Too much on my plate, too busy, too many projects, activities, events, meetings, sports, lessons, recitals...

That's an excuse I hear for not having family meals, "We have too much on our plate to sit down together."

Maybe what's "on your plate" isn't the right thing to be on your plate. 

If you asked people over 75 what they wish they had done more of with their kids when they were at home, I don't think many would say, "I wish we'd put them in another activity," or "I wish they'd had more extra classes," or "I wish we'd spent more time in the car running from one thing to another."  

They also might not say, "I wish we'd had more family meals," but I bet they would say, "I wish we'd spent more time just enjoying them."

A little chaotic, but oh so worth it!

This month is a good time to evaluate what you've put on your plate and to ask yourself if it is the right things or not. To think about what's important and to put that on your plate and take smaller helpings of things that are sweet potato soufflé and stuffing and the right amount of veggies and meat. 

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