Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thankful Thursday #4

With so many things going on my Thankful Thursday was started but finished very late.  Looking back of the past week, here are some of my favorites.

1.  Spending time with the kids at my school.  They are all so excited for the holidays.  Their unrestrained joy has kept me going day after day.  In spite of the bitter-sweetness of the season for me this year my heart lifted in genuine happiness today as I shared their laughter during our lessons today.  Praise God for his blessings.

2.  Two weeks of Christmas Break!  Time to relax (really? with shopping to finish, wrapping to be done, cookies to bake and Christmas meals to plan and prepare?)  OK. Time to make preparations for the birthday celebration coming on Christmas Day.  Then, time to relax.

3.  A chance to visit with out of town extended family last weekend.  We had a chance to see a play, do a little sight-seeing and just hang out together.  Every opportunity to share love with our families is a blessing from God to be remembered and savored.

4.  Just the little blessings of being able to get up in the mornings, have a cup of coffee or tea and read my Advent meditations in the quiet of the early day before going to work which is a blessing all of it's own.

5.  Opening and reading all the lovely Christmas cards and letters that have arrived.  It's the only time of the year that we really get letters in the mail.

 God is good all the time.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Keeping Christmas Well

Like many people I truly love the Christmas Season.  But do I keep Christmas well?    I love decorating the house (you will be seeing pictures of that soon) and wrapping gifts in beautiful paper with shiny ribbon and placing them under the lovely tree that was chosen and cut by the whole family. I write Christmas cards and donate to the food bank.  There will be Christmas music and lights and laughter, good food and family time.  I put up my nativity sets every year.  Some years I even sing in the choir or ring the bells. And of course, the whole family will definitely attend the Christmas Eve Candlelight service.  But the question I keep asking myself is, "Do I keep Christmas well?"  I am trying to figure out what that means. This year I have been especially focused on Advent with daily readings and prayer trying to capture that true essence of "Keeping Christmas". 

I have also been going through some other readings from old stories written by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) famous for his writing of The Story of the Other Wise Man.  Below is a quote from his writing called Keeping Christmas.   

"There is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day; and that is keeping Christmas.

...Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellows are just as real as you are, and try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to admit that probably the only reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what your are going to give to life;...Then you can keep Christmas

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and the desires of little children; to remember the weakness and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and ask yourself whether you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts, and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open--are you willing to do these things even for a day?  Then you can keep Christmas.

.Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world--stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death--and that the blessed life that began in Bethlehem two thousand years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love?  Then you can keep Christmas.

And if you keep it for a day, why not always?  But you can never keep it alone."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Jesus The Savior

An Advent Prayer

Yeshua, my Saviour.  You are God forever and yet you became a little child.  Thank you for saving me from all my sins.  You reached down from on high to rescue me.  Help me to live with the continual awareness of my need for your saving grace, now and always. Amen

Santa Maria dei Fossi Altarpiece (Detail) by Pinturicchio, Italian-Made Fresco Reproduction on Plaster, 6 inches x 7 ¾ inches x 3/8 inches 

"Indeed, Jesus is Yahweh come to earth.  If you have ever pictured God as a distant, wrathful Being, you will have to reconsider that portrait in light of Jesus Christ, who is God bending toward us, God becoming one of us, God reaching out in mercy, God humbling himself, God nailed to a cross, God rising up from the grave to show us the way home.  Jesus, name above all names beautiful Savior, glorious Lord!"  

                                                                                         Ann Spangler
                                                          IMMANUEL, A Daily Guide to Reclaiming Christmas       

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thankful for my mom

On this Thankful Thursday I am thankful for my mom who is celebrating her birthday today.  At 82 years old her body might be wearing out but not her spirit.  She is still going strong with places to go, things to do. and people to see.  She volunteers with several organizations, entertains regularly, visits family members around the country and travels the world whenever she gets the opportunity.  And no matter what the challenges of her life she rises above as an example of how to live life well.

Looking at the flowers in Costa Rica

Sailing down the river in Guatemala

Hanging with her great-grandson on the wedding day of one of her granddaughters in Wisconsin last summer.

Happy Birthday to my mom. May she be able to look back on her 82 years on this earth and see the hand of God in every situation and know she has always been loved and cherished through every moment of her life.