Thursday, December 29, 2011

Perfect Peace

If your life is anything like mine, you've probably spent the last week or two among a lot of family.  The holidays usually bring about time with family members who you otherwise might not see on a regular basis.  For us, we had my family here, and then, a few days after they left, we headed out of town to spend time with my husband's family.  In the last week and a half, we have seen more than twenty family members--though the majority of the time was spend with our parents, siblings, and in-laws.

I can't speak for your family, but in our families, we have a lot of different opinions and viewpoints among us.  Some of us are very black and white while others of us see every color of the rainbow; some of us value presents while others value presence.  We are a mixed bunch.

However, as I've pondered this time, and as I've talked with a couple other family members about this, I've been reminded of Psalm 133:1 which says, How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!  

We aren't all alike--God didn't create us to be cookie cutter versions of each other.  He designed us with free will, with differing opinions and varying interests...and yet, He also spoke throughout the Bible about living in unity with one another.

He doesn't say we all need to agree on everything.  He doesn't even say we have to like all of the choices someone makes or even like how they treat us.  But, He does say in Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

This isn't always easy for me.  There are things people do (family or not) that just flat out make me mad.  Accusing me of behaving in a way that I wouldn't, not respecting me, treating another member of my family poorly--those things make me a little crazy.  I do not like to see injustice, and unfortunately I am quick to feel entitled to "fixing that."  But God tells us that justice is His, and I have to trust that He will take care of it.  It's not my job to tell others what they've done wrong; I don't need to take matters into my own hands.  The God of the Universe is quite capable of handling it, and I know that His ruling is always just and right (as seen through the redeeming grace of Jesus) whereas mine would too often be based on a momentary feeling or hurt.

As you finish out this year, will you focus with me on the unity that God desires?  Will you willingly lay aside the hurts others have caused and "turn the other cheek" so that you can be Jesus to your family (and others)?  I know it won't be easy,--it will probably be really hard at times--and I know I, for one,will probably mess it up sometimes, but I want to live at peace with others.  I want to finish this year the way I want to live out next year--at peace with everyone.  Will you join me?  

Monday, December 26, 2011

Solid Ground?

I went this week with my family to our family ranch in west Texas.

We go often this time of year, mostly because it is deer season.  My husband and sons LOVE to hunt and be outdoors.  It is a fun time - they hunt, we ride four wheelers, the kids run and play outside.  When it gets dark, and we are all back inside, we play games. 
It is great to get away for a few days from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.  We have limited phone access and no internet, so we really do "get away."

This trip brought a couple of challenges as we left to go out there and as we came back. 

The morning we were to leave, I woke up with a severe case of vertigo. I had felt it some the night before - the rooms seemed to be spinning as I was laying in bed.  It did not subside when I got up, so I made a trip to the Urgent Care clinic.  We were headed to an area where it is a bit of a drive back to "civilization" and I didn't want to get out there and have more problems.  Luckily, it was diagnosed as a virus and was given some medication in case it got worse.  It cleared up by the next day.

The night before we were to leave to come home, it began raining (yay - we have been in such a drought, it is badly needed).  What we didn't count on was the mess it would make of the ranch road.  We have about a 2 mile drive from the ranch house to the paved road.   The kind of "dirt" is a clay like substance. When it got wet, it was like driving on ice.  One of our vehicles, pulling a trailer, got stuck several times and it took them 45 minutes to make the 2 mile trip.  As we left a little later, it seems like we slid all the way down the road - sometimes the car was travelling down the road sideways. 

Both of these events reminded me of how uncertain things in life can be.  We often feel like the world is spinning out of control.  Or we seem to slip and slid our way through situations.  Events can leave us feeling like there is no place to get firm footing.

But I do have a place to stand on solid ground.  I do have hope that my world is not out of control. 

I am so thankful that Christ came to this earth at Christmas to give me that stability.  That even as a baby in a manger, He righted my world.
I pray that you also have this hope and stability.  That you know my Saviour that can give you firm footing and help you get back on your feet.

And as you head into 2012, I challenge you to help others find their way in this unstable world.

Happy New Year!

"My Hope is Built on Nothing Less"by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

1. My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
3. His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found,
Clothed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear?

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the music. I confess I am one of those people that starts listening to Christmas music on November 1. Music has always been in my heart. It is part of my heritage, the legacy handed down to me from generations of musicians and singers.

Actually, more accurately, we are loud singers, singing praises to our Lord with all our heart & soul. I have many childhood memories of my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, singing in church or in my grandparents' living room, all with big, booming voices.

As an adult, I always enjoyed returning to my parents' church to hear their choir sing. My dad would stand in the center of the back row, and even over the orchestra I could hear his voice.

I missed going to their Christmas program this year, but my sister went. She shared the same experience, and said, "I don't know if his voice is really that strong and loud or if I just know his voice."

Oh, wow! What a wonderful lesson this Christmas! Do you hear your Father's voice?

In John 10, Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd. He says, "The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice," [John 10:2-5 NIV]. He continues, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me," [John 10:14 NIV].

Do you hear Him and know Him? Will you follow?

Do you hear the Holy Child crying in the manger, crying "I am here?"
Do you hear the Angels singing on high, singing "Come and worship?"
Do you hear the boy in the temple, teaching "I am here doing my Father's business?"
Do you hear Jesus on the seaside, calling, "Come and follow?"
Do you hear Him, teaching, "Love one another as I have loved you?"
Do you hear Christ on the cross, praying, "Father, forgive them?"
Do you hear Jesus on the mountain top, charging, "Go and teach others?"

Over the orchestra, over the music, over all the noise and busy-ness and craziness of this Christmas season, take a minute to stop and listen. Hear God's voice. Hear Him and Know Him.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Stitches! Thank you for joining us in the journey with God. May your Christmas be rich with God's blessings and love.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bread and Stones

Here in the Herod house we celebrate Christmas with many traditions. We have some unique ones! We eat Swedish Pancakes, eat Pepparkrakor and two tone fudge, and light off fireworks, or eat shrimp and barbecue wings,build gigantic sandcastles on the beach, and play corn hole. However, we also include traditional things like sending Christmas cards, opening a new pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve, getting a new ornament that represents an interest each child had that year, preparing our hearts by doing Advent, and reading the Christmas story on Christmas morning. And of course, we give gifts!!

The other morning I just happened to read the passage in Matthew 7 about our Father giving gifts to us. Many people view God as a spiritual Santa, and we all know that this isn't the case. His ultimate goal is not to grant our wishes and make us happy,but rather to work in our lives to complete the good work He has begun in us. But the fact remains that every good and perfect gift DOES come from Him.

My children begin discussing what they would like for Christmas the first time a Christmas commercial airs in November. They begin to ask. And, they ask. And, they ask. This is how we ought to pray! If I pay enough attention, I notice that they are asking for some of the same things over and over again.I figure out what is really of interest to them. Our prayers to God are as revealing. I try really hard to get those things for my children most of the time. Sometimes, they ask for something over and over and it is NOT in my plan to give it, or in their best interest to receive it. (Celeste wanted an iPhone...not gonna happen!) She liked the IDEA of having an iPhone because she saw an older friend that had one. What I know as her Mom, is that she will reap much more joy from getting that mini Pillow Pet to match her big one! I tend to think about God's gift giving in this same light. He knows the BEST gifts to give.

Effective Prayer
Matthew 7:7-11
"Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents-if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him."

What do your prayers reveal about your desires? What gifts from God do you have to be thankful for today? What way can you give back to him?

Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year Or Is It?

Is it the most wonderful time of the year?  For many I am sure it is but there are so many that it is not. For some people the holiday season is the hardest time of the year.  With Thanksgiving and Christmas about a month apart that can make it a hard month or so.

If you have a friend or loved one that has gone through a difficult situation this year or even in years past the holidays can easily bring a range of emotions for that person.  Perhaps they have lost their job, lost a loved, gone through a divorce or a variety of other things.

I think we get so busy in our own lives with all the hustle and bustle of the season that we sometimes don't take time to stop, smile and possibly make someones day.

Christmas is not suppose to be about the hustle and bustle and having to be somewhere way too many nights of the week.  Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, our Savior.  We need to let others see Jesus in us at all times and that is at Christmas time too.

This Christmas when you see someone, especially when you are so busy you don't know what to just stop and smile and tell that person "Merry Christmas".   You may never know what it could mean to them.  You may be the only person that really acknowledges them the whole day.  You never know what a second of kindness during this time of the year may mean to so many.

Will you join me this Christmas season and make a conscious effort to slow down and let those around you see Jesus in you.

Merry Christmas to each of you and Happy Birthday Jesus!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

With Love

With a warm cup of coffee in my hand, I glanced at our December calendar and took a deep breath. Then, I decided that today was going to require something more than caffeine. This evening, alone, I have to be in three places nearly all at once. It seems that most days this time of year look the same.


"How did I let it get away from me again?" I think to myself.

Don't get me wrong. It's all good stuff. Still, every year, in the midst of the Christmas crazies, I begin to feel a bit unraveled. And every year, right about now, I begin to reassess how Christmas is going to look for our family. Clearly, I can't do it all. And, if I choose to chase after the insignificant this Christmas season, I will miss the most important thing of all...Christ, himself.

So I am taking a close look at our family calendar and I am desperately trying to scale back our "have to's" in order that we might spend more time celebrating our Savior. The world is fighting back. Hard. Commercials, marketing gifts I can't afford, bombard me and my children throughout the afternoon. Images of the "perfect" Christmas mock me as holiday movies replay on my television. And then there is the decorating. So. Much. Decorating. Still, I am holding my ground. I simply refuse to let Christ be lost in the middle of the chaos.

Over the years, I have placed some simple anchors in place to keep our family grounded in the real reason for the season. Our Nativity, a treasure from my childhood, sits in its usual place in the hallway, so that it might greet us as we walk through the door. Each evening, our family gathers together, if only for a few moments, and we read a Christmas devotional and countdown to the "big day". And every Sunday, we sit at our dining table and light a candle on our family Advent wreath. Still, I long for more. This time of year, my heart desires to look upon Christ and worship him for all that he is and all that he has done.

When I read the Christmas story quietly and simply ponder the beauty of that silent night over 2,000 years ago, I am reminded that Christmas is about just one thing. Big love. Jesus humbly left his throne in Heaven. He came as a baby and was born of a teenage Virgin. Christ, fully man yet also divine, led a sinless life and then offered that life as a sacrifice for me. He took my sin and my place on a Cross, so that I might be reconciled to God. By his sacrifice alone, I have eternal life in the presence of the LORD. It's a free gift from my Savior to me. And he did all of this for love.

So, this Christmas, I will follow the example of my Savior. In the middle of the busyness, I choose to "do everything in love". (1 Corinthians 16:14) As I hustle through the obligations that will not go away, I will take my Jesus with me. This Christmas season, in all I do, with everyone I meet, I choose to show the love of Christ. And while I hope to conquer the items on my "to do" list, I aspire to greater things as well. There is still time to trim the list and make a little more room for my Savior. After all, it is HIS birthday for which we are preparing.

Perhaps, you have a calendar that looks like mine. Maybe you have a list in your head of what you feel "must" be done to make this a "merry Christmas". This year, I challenge you to prayerfully sift through the distractions. You can't do it all. The best part is, you don't have to. This is one Christmas party where you are free to just come and be. For, Christ has already prepared everything that really matters. And he did it, for you, with love.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Christmas Tree...

We put our Christmas tree up yesterday and it was just so much fun!  I tend to be a little "particular" about how things are decorated...and I gave up on the tree about 3 years ago...when we had a little one in the house trying to sabotage help.  :)
And it is actually very liberating!!!  I know...I know...who finds this "task" to be liberating???  It sounds a little cooky, but I really did.  I don't have a theme.  There is no ribbon or tinsel.  There are lights and there are ornaments.  The ornaments are SO VERY sentimental, and they each tell a story.  There are some that have been around longer than my kids!  This makes me want to put them all up myself so they don't get broken, but I hold back on the freaking out and let the kids do it.  And they are so careful and gentle - for the most part!  When needed...there is hot glue.
The tree is lop-sided and crooked.  It is uneven and totally not symmetrical like it should be - trust me...I have major issues with things being "just right".  Ha! are we!!!  We are sometimes a little "off"...and messy...and broken.  But we are just right in the eyes of our God...  Just like our Christmas tree is perfect in my eyes.
Thank you Lord for this time to celebrate and think about the birth of our Savior!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Is Jesus Enough?

I've heard it be said (and I've said it myself), "Jesus is enough. Jesus + nothing = everything. Jesus is all I need." And it's true, He should be enough. If I received no other good gift in my life, it would be enough because it would be eternity with Jesus. But I am spoiled.

You see, I've been given a lot of good gifts in my life. From the beginning, God has given me other good gifts, "bonus" gifts if you will. I was raised in a godly family. I was surrounded by people who loved God. I went to a Christian university where I was surrounded by more people who loved Jesus, and who taught me more about what that meant. I married a godly man and I birthed two amazing children. I was allowed to go to South Africa three different times and learn more about reaching the world while also falling in love with a whole different group of people--people who have influenced our decision to grow our family as we now are adopting from Africa.

We now live in an incredible town with more than I could ever ask for. We have great neighbors, schools, sports teams, our church family, and, of course, friends. Nothing beats the friends I've made in the last nine years. And I mean it: NOTHING beats the friends we have here. We have been abundantly blessed.

So, what if God took it all away? Would it still be "enough" for me?

I've been thinking about that this week, and I have to tell you, it's rather unsettling to me. You see, I want Jesus to be enough, but I find myself saying, "but, God....". And I find myself becoming rather pouty at the idea that God might ever take away anything that I'm not comfortable losing. Selfish? Yes. Honest? Yes.

What about you? If God told you today to do something that didn't fit into your plans of what your life should look like, how would you respond? Would you immediately find joy and peace or would you struggle? (Please tell me I'm not the only one who would struggle!)

As I move forward in this Jesus life, I want Jesus to be enough--even though my humanity argues it even as I type it. My spirit wants Him to be enough; my flesh says I want it all. It seems like a battle that may not be reconciled fully until Christ returns or I join Him in Heaven. But, I want to continue to fight the battle. I don't ever want to grow so comfortable that I fail to reach the lost. I don't want to grow so comfortable that I no longer grow.

I want to live the Jesus life, even if it hurts.