Monday, December 21, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

No room in the "inn"?

This Sunday, the kids in our church will present their annual Christmas program.  It will be complete with angels, shepherds, wise men, a bashful Mary and Joseph, and of course the innkeeper.  But recently, I read an article by Dr. Tom Phillips, a professor of New Testament and early Christian studies at Point Loma Nazarene University (my alma mater), who has a different idea about what really happened on that night in Bethlehem.  (You can read the complete article here.)

Dr. Phillips is part of the group that is working on the new Bible translation called the Common English Bible or CEB.  His task was to translate the book of Luke.  Knowing the gravity of his assignment, he prayerfully began the research of the original language of the text.  When coming to the beloved Christmas story, Dr. Phillips brought his translation to his Sunday school class for their input.  The class was shocked to read the proposed translation that said the holy family was forced to sleep in the stable, and Jesus was placed in a manger "because there was no place for them to stay in the main part of the house." (2:7)  What?  No inn?  No mean innkeeper who refused the poor couple?  Probably not.  When you get real technical and look at the original Greek, the word used for inn (kataluma) is not the word we think of in our language.  It does not mean a commercial business where paying travelers stay.  The Greek word for that kind of inn is pandochieon.  You will find that word used in Luke 10 in the story of the Good Samaritan.   Mary and Joseph were traveling back to the city of Joseph's family.  Undoubtedly they would have stayed with some distant relative and not a commercial inn.  What this passage infers is that the holy family was denied lodging from their own family because Mary was an unwed mother.  They were banished to the stable downstairs where the animals were kept.

So what does all this mean to me?  Well, it makes the scripture of Christ's rejection even more apparent.  Before he was born, "He came to his own people, and even they rejected him." (John 1:11) 

The program will go on as usual this Sunday, and the truth of Jesus' birth will be told.  But I will be thinking of Jesus' birth in a new light.  My compassion for Mary and Joseph has increased.  What a blessed burden they bore. 

It makes me think of the verse in 1 Corinthians 13:12:

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror,
but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.
All that I know now is partial and incomplete,
but then I will know everything completely,
just as God now knows me completely.

I can't wait for that day, when the story of our salvation is fully known, and I see my Savior face to face.

Have a very Merry Christmas!  I'll be back in the new year!  Until then, be sure to keep enjoying the view...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mary, Did you know?

Our little hula halau at church has been practicing for this Sunday.  We're dancing to the song, "Mary, Did You Know".   Practicing this song over and over (and over... and over) has really given me a chance to ponder this song. 

Here was Mary.  A young girl by modern standards, newly wed to Joseph, far away from home.  She gives birth to a sweet baby boy.   There was nothing ordinary about the circumstances surrounding his birth.  But did things settle into a routine in the years that followed?  What was it like raising the Son of God?

What an overwhelming responsibility.  How could she possibly know what lay ahead in her son's life.  Her son had come into the world to be its Savior, that she was told.  She was also told that a sword would pierce her own soul.  Did that knowledge affect her mothering of Jesus?  Or was it pushed to the back of her mind? 

The song says, "when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God..."  That line is almost more than I can wrap my brain around.  How can an imperfect, human woman be given charge over the Most High?  How loving and trusting is the Father, that He would devise a plan that would so intimately involve us.  Mary played an indispensable role in bring Christ to the world. 

Lord, let me see that even I have an indispensable role to play in my world.  Let me never miss the opportunities you give to bring Christ into the dark places.  I may not be raising the Son of God, but if I don't carry His love to others how will they know Him?

Perhaps I'll get a video of our group dancing.  But until then, enjoy this clip.  (Turn off the music player at the top of the page first.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beware of the weeds among the flowers...

I was wandering around outside admiring the beauty of the azaleas in the yard, thinking how lovely they are.  It's such a treat to have them bloom at Christmas.  Their white purity is glorious.  But something else caught my eye.  I looked to the bush next to the azaleas and saw the most ugly sprouting of weeds.  They were not just ordinary dandelions...these could become trees if left alone.  I couldn't believe how big they had gotten before I noticed them. 

As soon as I saw them, I began pulling them out.  I went for the big stalk at first.  It wouldn't budge.  I used all my strength...nothing.  So I took a tug on the smaller one next to it.  It came out!  Now that the ground was loosened, I pulled again at the big one.  Finally, it pulled out without much trouble.  I thought I was done, but with a closer look, found one more starting beside where the other's had been.  I wasn't going to give it any more growing time.  I yanked that baby out quick!  It was small enough that it came right out.

This got my heart to thinking....

Isn't that how the weeds of sin and disobedience crop up in my life?  I want to focus on the beauty in my life while ignoring those pesky, undesirable habits/attitudes that are growing right under my nose.  When I try to change, going for the biggest problem, sometimes I find that it's just too stubborn to come out all at once.  When I work on it bit by bit, attitudes and habits change.  It is the Lord who directs and enables me to change.  Remember, He is the Gardener.  (John 15:1)

In preparation for Christmas, may I allow the Almighty Gardener to weed my heart of anything that is not put there by Him. 

"When you produce much fruit you are my true disciples.
This brings great glory to my Father."  John 15:8

When the weeds are gone, the garden looks so much better. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Darkness and Light, Life and Glory

 I'm not a morning person by nature.  But I do love the early morning hours when the house is dark and quiet.  Now that the sun is rising later, it's really dark when my alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m.  (Believe me, 6:30 is early for a non-morning person!)   Since I've lived in this house for 12 years, I know my way around pretty well in the dark.  I don't turn on the lights, but just feel my way down to my prayer corner.  Then I light a candle.  The peace restores my soul.

"But even in darkness I cannot hide from you. 
To you the night shines as bright as day. 
Darkness and light are the same to you." Psalm 139:12

In the world, darkness brings out dark deeds.  The term "dark ages" is used for an unenlightened or an unknown time in history.  It brings to mind hopelessness and dispair and even death.  But to Jesus, there is no difference between darkness and light.  Nothing can be hidden from Him and death has no power over Him. 

"The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it." John 1:4-5

When I come to my quiet place, the darkness makes me feel hidden and private.  But I no longer seek to hide from Him, I come to meet Him.  My darkness becomes light when I seek His face.  That is the heart of Advent.  His coming brings light and life.

So the Word became human and made his home among us.
He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.
And we have seen his glory,
the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14

Sometimes, when it is still dark, I put on my iPod and worship.  If I'm really feeling free, I'll dance!  It may be dark and quiet outside my head, but inside the music is soaring and I'm transported to the light.  And there in those moments, even the darkness is light to me.  I finally begin to understand.  I may be surrounded by darkness - physical or spiritual - but in Jesus' presence I'm bathed in light.  When I feel the darkness invading my heart, all I have to do is run to the one who is the Light of the World

 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever
the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
So all of us who have had that veil removed
can see and reflect the glory of the Lord.
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us
more and more like him as we are
changed into his glorious image2 Cor. 3:17-18

I love to sing, but I never feel like my voice conveys the emotion of my heart.  I just don't have the pipes.  But when I dance, my spirit is free and I can better express the feelings of my soul.  (Especially when no one is watching but Jesus!)  Dancing makes me feel the glory of God and the ground beneath me becomes holy.  Holy because it becomes an alter and my dance is the sacrifice.

This song is one that speaks to me.  I love to replace the word "stand" with "dance."

With visible breath, I'm calling your name
With visible tracks, I'm finding my way
With a sorrowful heart, I honor this pain
And offer these tears to the rain
In a moment of truth at the top of the hill
I open my arms and let go of my will
And stand with my face to the wind
With the storm beating down on this sacred ground
If I stand for the grace that I've known
For what I believe
Then I won't stand alone
No I won't stand alone

There's a new pair of eyes to embrace all I see
A new peace of mind and it comes quietly
There's a joy in my heart that you've given to me
And I offer this soul's melody

So I beat on my chest till my song has been sung
And I cry like a wolf at the top of my lungs

And stand with my face to the wind
With the storm beating down on this sacred ground
If I stand for the grace that I've known
For what I believe
Then I won't stand alone
No I won't stand alone

When the thundering voices of doubt try to shake my faith, oh
I'll be listening from inside out and I won't be afraid to

Stand with my face to the wind
With the storm beating down on this sacred ground
If I stand for the grace that I've known
For what I believe
Then I won't stand alone
No I won't stand...I won't stand alone

Here's the song sung by Susan Ashton.  She truly does it justice. (You'll need to turn off the music player at the top right of this page first.)

This Advent season, may you find freedom and may you dance with the Light of the World.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cranberry Crazy

Okay, I'll admit it.  I've gone a little overboard in my love of all things cranberry.  But let me explain.  As with all true addictions, there was a very good reason to get started.  My cranberry experimentation began in part because of my allergies to grapes.  There are some things that need just a bit of sweet-tart to spice things up.  I can't have grapes, so why not cranberries?  

But before I go into that, I'd better back up a bit.  It all started with the wonderful cranberry relish that my stepmom makes every year.  It's a given.  Marilyn will bring the cranberry relish for Thanksgiving.  It's not a fancy dish.  In fact, the recipe was at one time on the bag of cranberries itself.  Into your food processor dump the bag of cranberrys and a cut-up orange (rind and all) and some sugar.   Process until it's combined.  There...done. 

The problem is (not for me) that I'm the only one that will eat the leftovers.  So I ate it with all the Thanksgiving leftovers ~ you know, the turkey sandwiches, pot pies and stuff.   But this year, there were a lot of leftovers.  So I began to get creative with it.  I have stumbled upon two outstanding indulgences.

I first added it to my homemade yogurt.  That was terrific, but as with most addictions, moderation just wont do.  So the next day, I added it to oatmeal. That was great.  Today, I added both yogurt and oatmeal to the cranberry relish.  Now I really had something.  That stuff sticks to your ribs.  I wasn't hungry for a good 3 hours.... *;)

I would love to have had a picture for you, but I had to eat my breakfast in the car while taking Steph to her piano lesson today....  No hands left for the camera...

Now, what does any of this have to do with grapes?  Well, that brings me to lunch.  I have an old recipe for tuna with curry that is so wonderful.  The challenge for me is that it called for grapes to be added for the sweet balance of the dish.  I haven't been able to eat grapes for awhile, so I just had to leave it out.  That really changed the flavor of the dish and I couldn't find another replacement for it....until the leftover cranberry relish!  It's a perfect substitute.  I used all the self-control I could to capture a picture of my masterpiece before I inhaled it...

It even looks festive.  To make this lovely snack (or lunch) take one tin of tuna, drain.  Add a spoonful of mayo (to taste), a couple teaspoons of curry powder (again, to taste), and a tablespoon of Marilyn's cranberry relish.  Spead crackers with cream cheese and top with tuna mixture.  Yum!  If I had them, I'd even add a bit of chopped pine nuts for more texture.

So there it is.  I'm addicted and I don't care who knows it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So much to say, so little time.

I really don't know how all you bloggers get it done.  I know you are real people with real lives, and yet you all manage to post everyday.  Not just any post.  Beautiful, thoughtful, helpful posts. 

This week, I have so many new ideas I'd love to explore....but...  The girls have rehearsal for their ballet performance 4 days this week.  My FIL's 80th birthday celebration is this Sunday and besides replacing their kitchen counters, we've got to get their house ready for 40 dinner guests....  and decorate it for Christmas. 

Ususally, my house and Christmas tree are all decorated by now.  Today, the tree it sits with just the lights on.  (I quickly put them up yesterday before running out of the house for worship practice.)  And the Thanksgivng centerpiece is still out.  This is a first.

It will definitely be a different kind of Christmas.  No bad, just different.  I have managed to keep up with what's really important:  my own quiet time, schooling, and making sure the family has something to eat...  Other than that, regular routine is out the window.

Through it all, I have managed an Advent thought ~

It had been 400 years of silence when Jesus was born.  Seemingly, God had stopped speaking.  So life among God's people had settled into a routine.  And yet, God saw that it was time.  Christmas came. 

O LORD, please break into my life with Christmas.  I am so grateful for your timing.  Even when I life is rushed and busy, You come.  You rescue me from my routine. 

Listen to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, chapter 33:

14 " 'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.

15 " 'In those days and at that time

I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line;

he will do what is just and right in the land.

16 In those days Judah will be saved

and Jerusalem will live in safety.

This is the name by which it will be called:

The LORD Our Righteousness.'
May the LORD Our Righteousness, this gracious promise fulfilled, fill you with His grace today.

I'll leave you with the view from our neighborhood park where Andrew had a homeschool P.E. class yesterday.  No matter how busy I am, the LORD always provides reminders of His glory.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The child that could do no wrong

Growing up in my family, I was the youngest of three girls.  I was very shy and timid.  I loved to dance and sing, cared for little creatures like my pet mice, and lived in my roller skates.  Overall, I'd say I was a pretty good kid.  I was never called to the Principal's office, never put my gum under the table, and never talked back to adults.  This is not to say that I was perfect.  There was that time when I hid behind my backyard fence and sprayed the ice cream man with the hose...  Or the day when I threw my neighbors shoes on their roof.  (In Hawaii, we take off our shoes and leave them at the front door...)  I was duly punished and turned from the error of my ways.

Ephesians 1:4 says this,
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
The part in this verse that stuck out for me this week is, "without fault in his eyes."  It amazes me that God can see me as holy and without fault.  Even before the world began, God's plan was to make me the child who could do no wrong.  Was I innocent?  No.  Was I without sin? No.  But God's plan included the sacrifice that Jesus made, and that by faith I could be holy.  That is love.

And it goes on,
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. (Eph. 1:5)
He did it because He wanted to and it gave him great pleasure.  This humbles me.  God chooses me, redeems me, and adopts me ~ all for His pleasure.  And yet I am the one who benefits.  It doesn't make earthly sense.  But I am also reminded that His ways are higher than my ways.  This sacred romance continues as I am swept off my feet once again.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our Thanksgiving day was very fun.  We started with the usual last minute clean-ups, putting the turkey in the oven, and making the final preparations for our guests.

Then it was out to Kailua Field for our annual Thanksgiving Day flag football game.  All us 40-somethings get out there with the kids and play.  I'm usually quite sore the next day, but it's worth it.

This year, we ended up having a table of twelve for dinner and a total of about 18 for dessert.  What a blessing to have a houseful of family and friends.   Here is a photo recap of our day.

Table for twelve, set with Great-Grandma Ruby's china and crystal.

Steph chops apples for her pie.

 Annual flag-football warriors.

 Rebecca's cherry pie.

the bird

Rachael, Lauren, Rebecca, and Ashley.

 Grandma Marilyn and Grandma Jean

 Mark and Caleb (our nephew to be...)


The usual silliness...
Psalm 95:1-2:
Come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

They say that the first Thanksgiving feast lasted three days.  I jokingly said that it probably took 2 1/2 days to cook, 20 minutes to eat, and the rest was clean up.  That's kind of what happened around here, too.  But I don't mind.  Like I've said before, I love Thanksgiving.  All the preparations and clean up makes the celebration last just that much longer.  It helps me to carry that thankfulness into the next season....Advent!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We Thank Thee All Our God

I love the old hymn that says, "We thank thee all our God, with hearts and hands and voices...."  I'm also thankful for

Card houses

and cousins,

beach days

and rainy days,

Kaneohe Bay

and flag football,

 weird pumpkins

and sandy toes.

Have a very blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My, what big palms you have...

With all the preparations for Thanksgiving, I was getting a little weary. My eldest daughter, Steph, had the great idea of heading out to the Ho'omaluhia Botanical Garden to hunt up some items for our centerpiece. We set out with high hopes but got seriously distracted.  We did find a group of trees that were very unique.

The trees didn't have name plates, so I have no idea what they were. Obviously, they belong to the palm family. These trees were so big, I couldn't believe it. They looked like they were Photo-shopped into the the garden, but out of scale. I picked up a palm frawn that was down on the ground and couldn't believe it's size. It reminded me of the huge fans that the "sisters" danced with in White Christmas.  Steph and I couldn't resist singing a few bars..."Sisters, sisters, there were never such a pair of sisters."

Anyway, it was a lovely break.
I hope that in your holiday preparations you are able to take a moment away
and enjoy the view...

Photos by Rebecca James

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Vow of Surrender

I love weddings.  I never used to cry at them, until I got married myself.  Now I can hardly even watch one without crying - even if it's on TV.  I think it is because once you enter into that marriage covenant and live a few years together, those vows really take on meaning.  A starry-eyed bride can not begin to understand what she's saying.  But don't try to tell her that... She's making them in faith.

Here is a copy of the vows my groom and I made to each other:

I, (Karelin/Mark),
                 take thee (Mark/Karelin),

to be my wedded (husband/wife),

to have and to hold from this day forward,

for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer,
in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish,

'til death do us part,

according to God's holy ordinance;

this is my solemn vow.

During my quiet time this week, it dawned on me that a prayer of surrender to the LORD is very much like the vows I made at my wedding.  When I give myself fully to my Savior, it is for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish....  I make these vows in faith, too.  A new believer can't really know what lay ahead in his journey with Jesus.  But there is a trust, a knowing that God is a good and faithful God.  "Perfect love casts out fear," and day by day, those vows take on new meaning.

There is no better groom than Jesus.  He remains faithful, even when I do not.  He loves me completely, even though I am just learning to love Him.  The best part is, there is no "'til death do us part."
"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Romans 8:38-39
Now that's romantic!  *sniff*
This LORD's day, I want to come to Him with my heart given to be fully His.  There's no better love than the love of God.

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like.... Thanksgiving?

I can't believe there are only 35 days 'til Christmas!  *gasp*  I am determined to be ready this year.  Last year, it just seemed to creep up on me and then was gone before I knew it.  Even so, I'm not going to think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving.

It seems that everyone is so excited about Christmas this year.  There are houses on my block that already have their Christmas lights up - and turned on each night.  I know the stores have been pushing Christmas for weeks, but I don't get out much, and without t.v., I haven't seen the commercials.  But this year it's more than the stores, it's people around me, too.  I started to wonder why.  Maybe it's because this year has been more stressful for most of us. Perhaps we are all looking for relief from the day-to-day struggle and hear some good news for a change.  Christmas is a time when we can set our everyday turmoil aside and feel like kids again.  That certainly is a draw for me.  But believe me, Christmas will come, ready or not.

Don't get me wrong, I adore Christmas, I just really, really like Thanksgiving, too!  (almost and much as Christmas....)  Why?  There are so many reasons.  Here are a few:

  • Thanksgiving is a holiday that is not "religious" in nature, but more patriotic.  All Americans will celebrate regardless of their spiritual condition.  In a time where our country is widely divided, Thanksgiving is something we all have in common and can enjoy together.
  • Thanksgiving is not commercialized (unless you count the groceries stores falling all over themselves to sell you the cheapest turkey and evaporated milk...).
  • Thanksgiving is about family and friends, and coming home.  
  • Thanksgiving helps me to be generous with those less fortunate.
  • Thanksgiving is a chance to be still and thank God for what I already have in Him.
  • Thanksgiving helps me prepare my heart for Christmas.
  • Thanksgiving helps me prepare my house for Christmas.
With the difficulties that 2009 has brought to our country (and our world), Thanksgiving can be a great opportunity to stop and thank God for all he has brought us through.   Yes, Christmas will be here soon (35 days, *gasp*)  but I, for one, need this chance to stop.... and be still.....and truly give thanks.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Old Rugged Cross, my daily companion

I heard the hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, the other day and it got me thinking. 

The lyric, "I will cling to the old rugged cross..." was stirring around in my head. 

Take that line and mix it with Luke 9:23, "Then he [Jesus] said to the crowd, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.'"

I wonder if the cross we cling to should be the cross we choose to take up every day.  Christ's cross was a once-and-for-all proposition.  He said himself, "It is finished."  But my daily dying to self, being that living sacrifice is all that I have to give.  Is that what I will lay down and exchange someday for a crown?

Friday, November 13, 2009

For this child I prayed...

All of my children are awesome!  I never imagined that I'd have four wonderful kids.  Having Andrew as the only boy makes things very interesting around here.  With just the three girls, it was quite a feminine house.  There were dolls everywhere, stuffed animals, Barbies, dress up clothes and pink everything.  I had the girl thing down.  But there was this itch inside me that I couldn't get rid I didn't need cortisone (that's another issue).  In the back of my mind, I wondered what it would be like to have a son. 

I really wrestled with this longing.  I felt like a kid who is surrounded by beautiful gifts, asking for more...  I prayed about it long and hard.  But I couldn't shake the feeling I had of being a spoiled child, having been given so much, yet asking for more.

Our annual women's retreat came along, and our speaker was a dear friend that I had known for many years.  I pulled her aside and told her of my dilemma.  She reassured me that just the fact that I was concerned about overstepping my blessings, meant that my heart was in the right place.  She agreed to pray with me about it, but felt like it was a longing placed in my heart by my loving, heavenly Father.  With much relief and excitement, I went home and approached my husband.  He too felt that our family was not yet complete.

You can imagine my excitement to find out that I was expecting just three months later.  When the 20 week sonogram came around, the proof came of what I knew in my heart.  God had granted my request.  It was a boy!   The girls and I immediately went out an bought a pair of baby blue booties and showed up at Mark's office with them.  What a joy!   By the next women's retreat, I was very pregnant with Andrew.  God is good.

Our house has never been the same since.  There has definitely been a shift in the atmosphere.  As the girls get older there is less pink, no more dollies, and the dress ups and make up are for real.  But now in the mix are various weapons, action heroes, and smelly socks.  Along with my "Little Women", there is a little man.  

These pictures were taken the same day... Flowers on my desk from Andrew, and his toy gun and poker chips on the chair...and he's only nine.

God is so gracious to me.  He places in me desires that He longs to fulfill.  What a loving Father.  What an extravagant Giver of Good things.