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!