Thursday, December 19, 2019

Those Precious Baby Feet

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, "Your God reigns." Isaiah 52:7

Those precious little baby feet of Jesus
that kicked his mother from inside the womb,
that she must have tickled and kissed
became the feet that walked a hundred dusty miles, 
that carried Him to a mountain to pray, 
to a woman by a well, 
to a widow whose son had just died, 
to lepers, 
     the lame, 
          the blind, 
to crowds hungry for food 
     and for teaching, 
across the top of an angry sea, 
to a woman who washed them with her tears of repentance 
     and love, 
to Jerusalem, 
     to Gethsemane,  
          to Calvary. 

Those feet, 
bloody and wrapped, 
were carried into a tomb 
and three days later, 
still marked by the nail scars, 
broke out!
taking Him to his disciples in Jerusalem, 
     along the road to Emmaus, 
          in Galilee,  
                to the Mount of Olives, 
where they left the ground as He ascended into heaven. 

One day He will come back 
and we will all fall at His feet, 
     those precious pierced feet, 
and every knee will bow 
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ, 
the Lord of all, 
came to give His life as a ransom for sinners 
when we were His enemies 
because of God's amazing Love!

And that is why we have Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

At Least 17 Fun Family Ideas for December!

Every year I make a batch of caramel corn around Christmas time. One year when my kids were twelve, eight, days away from being eight, and three, I had it ready when we decorated the tree, so we all snacked on it. The next year the kids asked me if we could have caramel corn while we decorated the tree, so sure, I made some. The year after that they said, "We always have caramel corn when we decorate the Christmas tree!" And, lo, a tradition was born.

We have lots of fun family traditions surrounding the Christmas season. It's just such a good time for traditions and and other fun family times. I have some suggestions for fun for your family from our family and the families of friends of mine.

Marilyn, one friend told me that each quarter of the year they decided to do something as a family from each of these categories: spiritual, educational, physical, and fun. Spiritual could be a Christ-centered Christmas concert. Since they were near Moody Bible Institute they would go to the Candlelight Carols concert and get there early so they could sit in the front row, allowing their children to feel the "palpable blast of the orchestra music". Singing carols to shut ins could be another idea in the "spiritual" category. When our kids got bigger, we suggested that some write a short devotional to read on Christmas day from the point of view of one of the characters in the first Christmas. That turned out to be thought provoking.

Michelle and Emily have advent events. Emily's family does it with several other families and they rotate homes so each Sunday evening they are in someone else's house enjoying a meal, singing carols, listening to a devotion, having dessert, and focusing on Christ's coming, why He came, and His second coming in the future.

We always took baked goods to our neighbors and often included a tract or small booklet explaining the meaning of Christmas as a way to witness to them. Now we take our next door neighbors to a Christian Christmas concert every year and have them back to the house for dessert.

In the educational category, Marilyn said they would sometimes go to an art museum that had a special exhibition of Christmas related art through the ages to see how different artists interpreted the Nativity. Cassie, combines educational with spiritual by having a "Treat Jeopardy" game. She makes up twenty-four bags of treats for each child with a Christ-related question attached. Each night from December 1 to 24 each child can choose a bag, but has to answer the question to win the treat. If they don't know they answer they look it up in the Bible. She sounds like one creative and organized mom! 

I would count going to a performance of Handel's Messiah in this category. Or how about inviting a family with traditions from another culture over and ask them to bring one of their favorite Christmas foods and tell you about how Christmas is celebrated in their country.

Our kids grew up in Bogota, Colombia, so no snow, sledding, snow-shoeing, or any of those kinds of "healthy" activities. But one of our annual activities was a bike ride along paths in the city from a park to the airport--about five miles each way. When we got to the airport we found a place to lock up the bikes and went to the food court, which was outside security, and ordered a pizza (so much for healthy!) Sometimes we brought along a game to play while we waited. My husband and sons are especially interested in airplanes, so they loved watching planes take off and land before we headed home. Depending on where you live, you might not be able to do a bike ride, but any kind of outdoor activity you can do is fun and healthy!

Many friends said for fun they piled into the car (sometimes with hot chocolate) and drove around to see the Christmas lights. Sometimes the newspaper or a website will tell you where the best streets are in your area. In our town a charity puts up thousands of lights in one of the city parks. You pay an entrance fee to be able to drive through the wonderland of lights. Another neighborhood puts miles of luminaries along the roads on Christmas evening and we like to drive through taking it all in.

A variation of this is to check out the decorations in various stores and malls. This was one of our activities in South America. The malls actually had a competition for best decorations so it was fun to go around each one. It was also a chance to buy Christmas presents and, always, get some kind of special treat to eat.

There is often a Christmas movie that is worth taking the family to. One year we were walking through a town plaza and came across an outdoor screening of Elf. We bought some popcorn and sat and watched this movie we hadn't seen yet. I think it is one of my favorite movies because of the memory of watching it under the trees in that plaza with the whole family. 

Another way to watch a movie is at home with as many friends as you can gather. Ask everyone to bring snacks, dress comfortably and just enjoy the season together.

Whatever your December looks like, don't forget to make it fun and a memorable time for your family.

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Thursday, December 5, 2019

My Own Response to a Trial--The Last Two Ways to Pray, Part 5

Tim, a good friend, a former missionary, a PhD, a professor of Christian Leadership, is suffering in a way that directly affects who he is. His diagnosis is a rare and usually aggressive cancer called Richter’s Transformation, in which chronic lymphocytic leukemia transforms to lymphoma of the central nervous system (in his case, centered in his brain). As a result of the disease and the treatment he has gradually lost word access, some cognitive facility, partial ability to see in one eye, complete ability to read, and finally, at times, the ability even to put together intelligible sentences. 

Recently, his wife wrote on their Caring Bridge page, "Over this whole process, thought so very frustrating, I've watched a very tender part of his heart emerge, along with a willingness to submit to the process God is taking him through. Perhaps it was best expressed in a prayer he offered spontaneously last evening: 'Father, may Debbie and I be a strong testimony to your love. Help me to walk according to your will.'" 

My faith: An example
This is the 9th way to pray to prepare for trials and during trials or persecution: That in all circumstances we would be an example of faith. I'll admit that I have often thought that Paul was a bit arrogant to say, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1) But we are called to be examples to our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I remember a friend telling me about her cousin who had a very painful form of cancer of the mouth. She said, "She showed us how to live. Now she is showing us how to die." But I don't want to be that person and you probably don't either.

However, we have no idea how far our example of faith could reach. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "having received the Word in much tribulation with joy of the Holy Spirit so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achai." (1:6-7) And we don't have to be examples in only huge problems. One of the young women my mom discipled was at her house for dinner when my mom's china platter shattered. The young woman told me "I was excited to learn how a godly woman handled that!" (My mom says she asked my dad, "Do you think we can replace it someday?")

My delight: God's power
Not too long ago I re-memorized 2 Corinthians 12:9. "And He has said to me, My grace is sufficient for you for power is perfected in weakness." I reveled in the strength of God through my weakness, because at times I feel so weak--physically, spiritually, or emotionally. I can't. But through the power of Christ dwelling in me, God can!

But as I ponder praying to prepare for trials, I don't like the next verse: Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Paul says he is "well content"--this word means more than putting up with. Paul is saying he takes delight in these trials, difficulties that are not delightful. And so we can be praying that we would delight in God's strength when we have tribulations. Madame Guyon, a French believer in the 17th century, who was persecuted for her faith by her husband, mother-in-law, and the official church, said, "Ah, if you knew what power there is in accepted sorrow." And beyond acceptance, delight in finding God working in and through us in ways we never could.

As I studied these ways to prepare for trials, I wondered if God was preparing me. Peter tells us to not be surprised by trials (1 Pet. 4:12). So I knew that I would experience them at times. I did not expect what came: a decision that crashed the long time plans, prayers, and dreams of someone very dear to us. I felt kicked in the stomach. I was angry. I was sad. I was frustrated. When I went to bed just a couple hours after learning of the decision, I took this list with me and prayed through it. Looking up the verses and asking, no begging, God to work these bits of faith into my life. Quite frankly, I'm still struggling. I asked my prayer partners to pray that I would respond to those who made the decision and the one hurt by it in a mature and godly way, because in my flesh, I don't want to. But God is working in me. He was preparing me to know how to pray and I believe that His power will be perfected in my weakness. 

                             * * *

To remind myself and my friends of these ten ways to pray to prepare for and in trials and persecution I have created this printable bookmark.

To print it out click here. I would like to say you probably don't need to be prepared, but, "In this world you will have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world." -- Jesus

I found these ten ways to be praying, and that seemed like a nice round number. But I know there are others I could have included. I encourage you to pray for one of these qualities each day and to search the scriptures for more ways to be praying for yourself, those around you, and those who are going through trials.

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