Thursday, December 31, 2009


How did this happen? I'm looking at the calendar and realizing that another year has flown by and we are once again about to embark on a new year. I remember as a kid that time sometimes seemed to go by so slowly. Sometimes a week felt like a year (especially around Christmas or my birthday). I hear it now in my own children. One of them has a birthday and then they're already looking to the next one and wondering how much longer till their special day rolls around one more time.

As an adult, though, I've seen a shift. Rather than time dragging, it oftentimes feels like it's flying. It doesn't seem like I should be coming up on my ten year wedding anniversary. There's no way my oldest should be six and my baby should be three. And there's certainly no reason that I should be finding a few gray hairs here and there. Wasn't I just in college?

The Bible clearly points out the brevity of our time here. Psalm 103:15-16 tells us: As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone. Though as a child our concept of time is different (perhaps because we've lived such a short time--a year probably seems a lot longer when you've only lived five years rather than thirty five years), as an adult we begin to understand the truth in these verses.

Our time here on earth is short. The Bible mentions seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength (Psalm 90:10). Now most of us probably know someone who made it past eighty years, and far too many of us also know someone who died far before it seemed like he should. I take 70 or 80 to be a number representing the average life expectancy, and I bring it up to say this: What are you doing with your 70 or 80 years? If you're like me, what are you going to do with the 40 or so years you may have left?

I know that many people come up with "resolutions" for the new year. That's a good start, but that's not exactly what I'm talking about. What are you (what am I?) going to do to make an impact on this world before you leave it? A hundred years after you've lived, people will probably not be talking about you and what you looked like or how smart you were. But you can leave a legacy. Each one of us has the opportunity to change the world--whether it be for one person or one million people.

Maybe this is the year you really do start serving food at the homeless shelter. Maybe this is the year you actually meet your neighbors and invite them to church. Maybe this is the year you stop seeing your marriage trouble as failure and resolve to get help to make things better. Maybe this is the year you leave your work at the office so that you can fully engage in your family. Maybe this is the year. What is it for you? What is God calling you to in 2010?

We've established that life is short and time goes by quickly, so what are you going to do that might not just change someone else's life but might change yours, too?

Happy New Year--make it count!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Let There Be Peace (and Joy) on Earth

I remember the first time I ever saw real snow in Colorado. Growing up in south Texas, snow was really scarce and not ever enough to totally cover the ground. On the rare occasion when it snowed, our snowmen had dirt and twigs mixed in, from rolling the snowball across the ground just to pick up enough snow to make a humble snowman! But in the Colorado mountains, it was everywhere, as far as the eye could see! breathtaking.

What is it about snow that creates such joy? Maybe it is because where my family lives now, in north Texas, it is an unexpected delight! We don't expect it every winter, and lately, it happens once in February just before spring. It sticks for a couple of days and then melts away to usher in spring. This year, we had snow in November and for the first time since we have lived here, on Christmas Eve. It felt like a special gift! We were so excited and will remember it for years to come, I am sure.

Waking up this Christmas morning, the snow covered-houses, trees, and ground created such a peaceful scene after the blustery snowfall the night before. Breathtaking joy and peace. My thoughts immediately turned to thanking God for such a gift!

I Chronicles 16:27 (NLT) says that joy fills His dwelling. I personally cannot look at creation (and snow!) and not believe in a Creator God. John 14:27 (NLT) says, "I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don't be troubled or afraid." The message of Christmas is that the Prince of Peace has come!

One of my favorite songs is Let There Be Peace on Earth. Many are looking for the same kind of peace the Jews were looking for at the time of Jesus' birth. They were looking for a Messiah to bring peace with human weapons and armies -- a great warrior king who would defeat and destroy the Romans who occupied Palestine.

However, we can have peace and joy NOW, in a chaotic world because Christ has overcome the world and sent His gift of peace and joy through the Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him. In Romans 15:13 (NLT) Paul writes, "I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit."

The Christmas snow reminds me of God's gift of joy and peace that He sent when "...he became flesh and made his dwelling among us.." (John 1:14, NIV). "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me!"

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Preparing for Christmas

Growing up in a liturgical church, I did not fully appreciate the beauty and symbolism found in the Advent traditions. The priest began wearing only purple vestments, the banners on the walls were dark purple as well. Certain parts of the service changed to reflect a time of contemplation, not celebration. The Advent wreath had just one pink candle in the midst of 3 other purple candles.

I'm from south Louisiana, and purple is one of my favorite colors, but really! It got a little old, and somewhat depressing, to see all that purple everywhere. What happened to the "12 Days of Christmas" and singing happy Christmas songs, and generally enjoying the anticipation of the BIG DAY? I can remember waiting anxiously for that pink candle to be lit, on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, because it represented hope. The color change alone lifted my spirits in church that day.

Fast-forward a couple of decades... Advent is here again. My children don't see the liturgical signs I did, and I doubt they'd be all that interested in them. But I want them to appreciate this time before Christmas, this period of anticipation that has nothing to do with the presents and singing and lights and tree. I want them to focus on the celebration of Christ's coming. So last year, with the help of my step-mother, I instituted a daily tradition. Using a set of mittens, each stuffed with a trinket, that mark days 1-25 in December, we tell the kids the Christmas story. Each night, a bit more of the story is unveiled. From the Annunciation to their flight to Egypt, we give one piece at a time.

By day 17, when I ask "now where were we?" the kids can repeat the story of Jesus' birth in amazing detail. By day 22 (tonight), we've actually finished the story --can't drag it out too much--and they are asking for more about Jesus' life as a grown up. It's been a little heady to observe their focus on and excitement about Jesus, baby Jesus, Jesus who died on the cross... not the presents under the tree.

That's what Advent is about. To make us focus on Jesus' coming. He's coming! He came, and He's coming again!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Homeless Man in Holy Socks, By Jodi Whisenhunt

I drove my usual route to work that gloomy Tuesday morning in January. It was 42 degrees, misty, and foggy in Dallas. I was nearing my office, a mile or so away. I drove under the overpass and approached a red light. Along the sidewalk strode a man about forty, in need of a shave, slender, carrying a small duffel bag. Nothing intimidating about him. He did not appear threatening. He just walked. But it was 42 degrees and he wore only a flannel shirt, jeans, and flip-flops with socks. If you can call them socks. They were more like holes held together with string.

I, a young, petite female, was alone in my car and afraid to offer a ride. I had maybe fifty cents in my wallet. I wondered what I could give him. I considered making a u-turn and running in to the convenience store to purchase something, anything to warm him, but feared he’d be gone before I returned. Just days before, I’d had a packing blanket in the trunk of my car. If only I hadn’t stored it away. All I had to offer was a prayer for his safety and comfort.

When I arrived at my office, I asked if anyone else had seen him. Though most had entered from the same direction at about the same time, they had not. I peered down to the street from my sixth floor window. I could see quite a distance, but the only people around were other workers scurrying in from the cold. Where had he gone? When I went out at lunch, I searched street corners. Surely, a homeless man in holey socks would be panhandling. There were no shelters in the area. He was gone!

A Colin Raye song played in my mind. “What if Jesus came back like that?” the song asks. “Where would He find our hearts are at? Would we let Him in or turn our backs? What if Jesus came back like that?” I had turned my back! The stranger was in need, and I had not assisted him in any way. I was unprepared.

When I returned home that evening, I packed the blanket back in my trunk. Then I took a brand new pair of my husband’s socks from his drawer and tucked them under the front passenger seat of my car. There those socks remained for five years.

I drove that same route to work every day, and each morning I hoped to see the man along the sidewalk. I prayed for him, that his circumstances had improved, and if I saw him again, I’d be prepared to clothe the King (Matthew 25:34-40, NIV).

The man didn’t ask for help. He appeared en route somewhere. He didn’t stop and glare at me and guilt me into rendering aid. I doubt he noticed me pass him by for his glance was directed at his steps. Though he did not physically get into my car, he has journeyed with me through the past ten years. I’ve often thought of the homeless man in holy socks and wondered what became of him, or if he was even real.

This angel appeared to me to remind me, “There will always be poor people in the land,” and to instruct me, “Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land” (Deuteronomy 15:11, NIV).

I’ve seen other homeless people on street corners, under bridges. One woman approached me in a parking lot some time after this incident. She held a bird in a cage and wanted bus fare to get home. I’d just come out of a fast-food eatery. I gave her all my change, close to $20. We were beside a liquor store. Who knows if I helped or hindered her. I did my part. I gave when I perceived a need. What she did with it was her responsibility. I just didn’t want her to walk the thread right out of her socks.

"A Homeless Man in Holy Socks" originally appeared at Godz Anglz and was recently posted at Aim for Perfection Editing. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let's remember to BE Jesus to the world.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Quiz- How Well Do You Know the Christmas Story?

Each Christmas season in our Bible Fellowship Group, Curtis Rippee, our Sunday School Teacher, would give our group a Christmas story quiz. By the end of the quiz we all were yelling out the "NO WAY!" as answers we thought we knew were wrong.

It is amazing how our view of the Christmas Story is formed by misguided Hollywood Christmas shows, inaccurate songs and even stories past down from traditions. I challenge you to a quiz. Good luck and if you have the chance, pass it on at your own Christmas party, Sunday Schools and family gatherings. The answers are at the end....No cheating.
May you and your family have a joyful Christmas!

Instructions: Read and answer each question in the order it appears. Read the choices carefully and select the best one.

___ 1. Joseph was from:
A) Bethlehem
B) Jerusalem
C) Nazareth
D) Madison
E) Minnesota

___ 2. How did Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem?
A) Camel
B) Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
C) Donkey
D) Walked
E) Who knows?

___ 3. Mary and Joseph were married when Mary became pregnant. (T or F)

___ 4. Mary was a virgin when she delivered Jesus. (T or F)

___ 5. What did the innkeeper tell Mary and Joseph?
A) “There is no room in the inn.”
B) “I have a stable you can use.”
C) “Come back after the Christmas rush.”
D) None of the above.

___ 6. A “manger” is:
A) A stall
B) Wooden storage bin for hay
C) Feeding trough
D) Barn
E) Unknown

___ 7. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
A) Cows, sheep, goats.
B) Cows, donkeys, sheep.
C) Sheep and goats only.
D) Miscellaneous barnyard animals.
E) Lions, tigers, and bears.
F) None of the above.

___ 8. Who saw the “star in the east”?
A) Shepherds
B) Three kings
C) Both A and B
D) None of the above

___ 9. How many angels spoke to the shepherds?
A) One
B) Three
C) A “multitude”
D) None of the above

___ 10. What “sign” did the angels tell the shepherds to look for?
A) “This way to baby Jesus”
B) A star over Bethlehem
C) A baby that doesn’t cry
D) A house with a Christmas tree
E) A baby in a stable
F) None of the above

___ 11. What did the angels sing?
A) “Joy to the World, the Lord is come.”
B) “Alleluia”
C) “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given”
D) “Glory to God in the highest”
E) “Glory to the Newborn King”
F) “My sweet Lord”

___ 12. What is a “Heavenly Host”?
A) The angel at the gate of heaven
B) The angel who invites people to heaven
C) The angel who serves drinks in heaven
D) An angel choir
E) An angel army
F) None of the above

___ 13. There was snow that first Christmas:
A) Only in Bethlehem
B) All over Israel
C) Nowhere in Israel
D) Somewhere in Israel
E) Mary and Joseph only “dreamed” of a white Christmas
(* This answer is subject to debate...)

___ 14. The baby Jesus cried:
A) When the doctor slapped him on the behind
B) When the little drummer boy started banging on his drum
C) Just like other babies
D) He never cried

___ 15. What is frankincense?
A) A metal
B) A fabric
C) A perfume
D) An eastern man-like monster

___ 16. What is myrrh?
A) An easily shaped metal
B) An oil used for burying people
C) A drink
D) After-shave lotion
E) None of the above

___ 17. How many wise men came to see Jesus? (Write in the correct number)

___ 18. The wise men found Jesus in a:
A) Manger
B) Stable
C) House
D) Holiday Inn

___ 19. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem:
A) To inform Herod about Jesus
B) To find out where Jesus was
C) To ask about the star that they saw
D) For gas
E) To buy presents for Jesus

___ 20. When Joseph and Mary found out that Mary was pregnant with Jesus, what happened?
A) They got married
B) Joseph wanted to break the engagement
C) Mary left town for three months
D) An angel told them to go to Bethlehem
E) Both A and D
F) Both B and C

___ 21. Who told Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem?
A) An angel
B) Mary’s mother
C) Herod
D) Caesar Augustus

___ 22. Joseph took the baby Jesus to Egypt:
A) To show him the pyramids
B) To teach him the wisdom of the Pharaohs
C) To put him in a basket in the reeds by the river
D) Because he dreamed about it
E) To be taxed
F) Joseph did not take Jesus to Egypt
G) None of the above

___ 23. Where do we find the answers to all these ridiculous questions?
A) Matthew
B) Mark
C) Luke
D) John
E) A and B only
F) A and C only

1.C 2.E 3.F 4.T 5.D 6.C 7.F 8.D 9.A 10.F 11.D 12.E 13. D 14.C 15.C 16.B 17.2 18.C
19.B and C 20.F 21.D 22.D 23.F

Source of Quiz: (23 questions)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Loving Friend

For Your love is ever before me and I walk continually in Your truth."

Psalm 26:3

Well, it is here again, the time of year that causes my heart to ache and stirs memories within me that are so painful I can barely recount them in full. I can only remember the memories in part, in certain pieces, at certain times. And I am only a removed part of the story. I am not a central figure, not a main character, not a family member, not even the closest friend. I am one of many friends who loved, and still love, a family who lost a wife and daughter . . . this day . . . seven years ago.

I am blessed to be part of a wonderful group of girls who get together once a month. Sometimes one of us might miss due to a husband having a meeting, a sick kid, ballgames, you get the idea. But, we have had the group going for close to 9 years. We add to our group, girls move, but the corp remains. Seven years ago we had our Christmas get together at my girlfriend's house. We had maybe the best night ever. One of our friends was about to have her second child. We were all excited about having Christmas with our young kids. We laughed about how silly the show the "Bachelor" was (it was a relatively new show back then!) and how blessed we were to have our husbands. Life was pretty great. In fact, it felt like it could not get any better this side of heaven, at least for me it did.

That following Saturday, my girlfriend who hosted the Christmas party, called me rather late. In this phone call she told me that one of our members, our sweet precious friend, had been killed along with her daughter. Her husband was also in the car and was in serious condition and in the hospital. Their son was not in the accident. Scott and I could not believe it. She told us it was true, we said we loved each other and hung up. Scott ran out the door to get a paper. The husband/dad is his good friend. He had to find some proof of the accident, he just could not believe it. He found none. But, we did call the hospital. The next morning we were there at 8:00 am to meet and pray with a man who had just lost almost everything. Yet this amazing man had his faith, and his boy.

We were all shaken, horrified, broken-hearted. They had been killed by a drunk driver. This is a sweet, loving, Christian family. They help others, serve the community, love each other. Drunk driving. Drunk driving. Drunk driving. Only by GOD's grace did a family and community move on.

I miss my friend. She was so funny! She loved so much. She left notes. She was very talented. She left notes about her faith. She loved her husband. She was thankful. She loved her kids. She made an impact on my life. I am thankful for her.

My friend taught me much. She didn't seem to ever hold back. What a lesson for us to learn as we head into the holidays. I want to love like this. Christ loves like this- with abandon. I love my girlfriends. I love you, girls! I love my kids! You are my wonderful gifts! I love my husband! My best friend and so much more- you make my life so great!!!

I want to celebrate this year and every year knowing my kids have the knowledge that their mom lives her life to the fullest- not just that she wants them to live their life to the fullest. Do they see me laugh, joke, run, sing? Do they hear me talk to GOD? Do they see me read my Bible? Am I leading them closer to their Savior each day? Do they see me loving their Daddy? Am I soaking it up?

"Guide me in Your truth and teach me,

for You are GOD my Savior,

and my hope is in You all day long."


I wish you all peace and safety this holiday. For those of you grieving the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a relationship, or a job, I wish you the peace and comfort that only the Holy Spirit can bring. In honor of my sweet friend and her precious daughter, I wish you the fearlessness to love with abandon in the power of the Almighty!

Love and Merry Christmas, friends!

"Father GOD, let me love in Your way. Let me lead those you have given me. Let me follow those you have set over me. Teach me to love without fear. I love You."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I will pray

Last night I watched a group of pre-k and kindergartners sing for a Cancer Support Group's Christmas party. The kids sang their hearts out, and they were so cute doing it. They sang a few Christmas songs and then they ended with a song that goes like this:

I will Jesus' name
And believe...things will change
I will Jesus' name
And believe...things will change
And I know God will hear me when I pray
So I won't worry or be afraid
I will Jesus' name
And believe...things will change
I will pray...I will pray...I will pray
When I heard those words last night, they served as a great reminder. When I pray, do I believe things will change? Or do I pray with doubt, thinking 'maybe God's just not up for this one...'? Do I worry? Am I afraid?
I also thought about who they were singing to: a cancer support group, people who have very likely had moments that might cause one to be afraid. I think of how I sang that same song this summer with some children who had very little, and yet they were willing to sing it wholeheartedly and trust the Truth.
You see, it is true. We don't have to worry or be afraid. Over and over in Scripture the Lord proclaims (through visions, angels, His people, Himself...), "Do not be afraid." God knows us completely, and He knew we'd be tempted to fear, so He was kind enough to remind us again and again that there is no reason for us to fear.
And if Him telling us repeatedly not to be afraid isn't enough, we can also take comfort in knowing that there's truth again in the words telling us God hears us when we pray. Psalm 66: 19 says, "But God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer." He does not always give us the answer we're asking for, but He hears us. We will very likely have moments in life that are unpleasant, possiby quite painful, but that does not mean God hasn't heard us. He is right there hurting with us knowing that in the end the things on this earth are only light and momentary troubles that achieve for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Things will change, whether the outcome is different than what we expected or not. I am thankful tonight to be reminded of a Mighty King who is in charge of it all. And so I will pray and believe things will change, and I will choose not to worry or be afraid. The Lord is good, far beyond what we can comprehend. Let's trust in His goodness.