Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunday School

This Christmas season is the one-year mark of when God started making big changes in my heart and life.  Actually, He started months before then.  But this time a year ago was when I really started to see it. 

The changes have been nearly palpable.  A year ago I wanted to live in bed and had to force myself to work and church.

Next week I start teaching Sunday School.  (Voluntarily.)

I don't know that I have any real point to this post other than to ask for your prayers as I go into this endeavor.  We will be going through the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  I've been through this book at least twice on my own now, and I can honestly say it had led to huge changes in my life.  It has pointed me to my Creator and helped ignite a new desire for Him.  It's an incredible and powerful thing, and I want each person in our class to experience it too.

Specific prayer requests:
  • For the Spirit to soften and prepare hearts to receive His truth
  • For people to come whom God wants to be there (we currently average 6-8)
  • For hearts and minds to welcome thoughts and ideas that are a little non-traditional and possibly controversial
  • For people to actually read their books during the week
  • For people to act on any convictions of the Spirit
  • For lives to be transformed and changed
  • For each of us to incorporate into this study the practice of prayer from our last study
  • For wisdom as I present this material, and for only God's truth to come out of my mouth
  • For a renewed energy and passion of this material so I can commit the necessary time and effort toward preparation 
I truly appreciate your prayers!  If you are willing to commit to remembering us, please continue praying through the next three months or so.  I am excited to see how God works and changes lives through this study!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Final Harvest

All harvest season long the farmers have been fighting the weather, steadily trying to bring in the corn and beans.  And all season long they've met delay after delay, whether from rain or snow or pulling grain carts and combines out of thigh-deep mud.

Even now as I've driven the South Dakota and Minnesota counrtysides to and from work, I see a handful of fields with corn and beans remaining.

I was driving home last Wednesday night, the jet-black sky further hindering the visibility of the road in the snow that was falling thick.

This was the start of the biggest snowstorm to hit the Midwest in decades.

As I came around a curve, big lights shone bright in a field off the highway.  A combine and a grain cart were hard at work to bring in the corn before it became impossible to operate.  The combine was quickly repositioning itself to resume its place after dumping a load of grain, its massive headlights only magnifying the appearance of the blanket of blowing snow hanging in the air.

These farmers knew that within hours, it would be impossible to finish the harvest.  This may even be their last shot altogether, because once snow falls in these parts, it's there to stay until spring arrives.

We, too, have a harvest to bring in.  Not of grain and produce, but one of souls.

The harvest is plentiful.

There are a few in this world that make up the faithful elect who labor endlessly and spend every ounce of themselves to point people to Him and help usher in the Kingdom.

But many others remain.  Others who see the fields white and ready, but do little to bring in the harvest.

We know a time is coming when we will no longer be able to finish this work.  Each day that passes brings us one day closer to that time.  Like the farmers laboring to bring in the harvest even as the storm begins, so we must labor to bring in the eternal harvest.

When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?

(Italicized verses from Matthew 9:37 and Luke 18:8.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Baby Jesus In a Manger...Who Are You?

Baby Jesus in a manger, I love You...

In our Americanized homes and churches, we arrange Nativity scenes.  A Mary bent over a manger, a Joseph leaning on his staff, a sheep and a donkey peering over their shoulders, three Wise Men on bended knee...and a baby Jesus displayed in a feeding trough.

Lying there, to earth a stranger, I love You...

It blends in with the other decorations. Just another part of the season, lost amist the lights and garland and presents.

But this week, as I was listening to a Christmas sermon on one of my drives home, the Spirit opened my eyes just a crack to the magnificent reality of the awesomeness of this scene.  For He gave me a glimpse into the wonder that is God-made-flesh.

The Creator of the Universe is a mysterious Being.  If you've ever seen Louis Giglio's presentations, my guess is you were blown away by the huge infiniteness of our universe.  Earth isn't even a blip on the screen in the panoramic view of billions of galaxies. 

Our Creator spoke all of these into existance.

This same Creator carefully formed you inside the womb.  He knew you before you were even conceived.

He made everything around us - the earth, sea, trees, bugs, animals - with incredible detail.

He says to us, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9)."  Now we can see a limited view of the cosmos that stretches for distances beyond comprehension.

His thoughts, His knowledge and plans...that's how far beyond us they are.

Shepherds heard the angels singing "I love You."

This Creator became a baby, limited Himself to the confines of flesh.

This little baby that looked like any other...this was the LORD.

What if this baby was in His little the very sanctuary where I worship?

What would I think, feel, as I saw this humble little baby and knew that God Himself was laying before me?

What would I do as I looked upon His infant face?  Fall on my knees?  Sing?  Cry?  Rejoice?

Would I dare hold Him?

I do not think my heart could handle such a thing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Candy Cane Interpreted

I think this is the last Christmas Traditions post.  I hope you have enjoyed exploring our holiday practices with me.  I learned a great deal, and while many of our traditions don't share Christian roots, I feel better knowing their origins.  I still quite enjoy the beauty of lights and trees and carols, and I am comfortable adopting such traditions as my own, because they each still remind my why I celebrate this season in the first place.  The Creator of this great universe came down to our world as a tiny baby, and He is the reason that any of this matters to me at all.

If you are just joining, please peruse the several previous entries for more Christmas Traditions uncovered.

Personally, I prefer the cinnamon flavored ones.

I always eat the long stick part first, then eat the curve.  When I was younger, I would eat the stick down until it was level with the other side, making an even-shaped "U".  Then I would stick the whole thing in my mouth and pretend I had a retainer.  (I was one of those odd children who eagerly anticipated getting glasses and braces.  I thought they were cool.)

After hearing the Christian symbolism behind the details of the candy cane, I quickly accepted that as the true origin.

Once again, I have found this information to be not entirely true.

As Christmas trees became a popular tradition in European homes, people would often decorate them with small treats.  Straight white sticks of candy were one such treat.

According to tradition, in 1670 the choir director of a cathedral was irritated with fidgety and disruptive children during the living Nativity.  To encourage (or bribe) them into good behavior, he passed out these white candy sticks as an incentive.  He curved the sticks to represent a shepherd's staff, just like the staffs the shepherds used in the Nativity.

Red stripes were not added until after the start of the 20th century.  In fact, Christmas cards made before the 1900s show white candy canes; cards made after that time show the stripes.  When, where, and why the stripes appeared is unknown.  The common story is that a candymaker in Indiana fashioned the treats as a way to spread the Good News.  The hardness of the candy is representative of God the Rock.  White is for the purity of Jesus, born of a virgin.  Peppermint flavor symbolizes cleansing hyssop.  The curved top represents a shepherd's crook, or "J" for Jesus.  The red stripes are for Jesus' blood, and the three small stripes represent the Trinity - Father, Son, and Spirit.  (Explanations for the stripes vary.)

In the 1950s a machine was invented that enabled the mass production of candy canes.  Today, if you walk down any store aisle with Christmas candy, you'll see all kinds of variations:  traditional canes, tiny canes, extra large sticks, colors across the rainbow, and just about every flavor imaginable.

Like I said, I prefer the cinnamon.
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Friday, December 18, 2009

A Pear Tree With A What? And Why Are the Ladies Dancing?

If you're interested in any other Christmas traditions, it's possible I may have already posted about them.  Check out the last several previous posts to see if you can find what you're looking for.
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Last year the Christian radio station I listen to had a call-in competition drawn out over twelve days.  On day one, the caller had to finish the line from the song:  "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me..."  Each day added another line, until on day twelve the caller had to complete all twelve days.

I can comfortably count down from about the seventh day of Christmas; anything above that gets a little shady.

As with just about any information available today, the roots of this song are controversial.  Some agree with Christian meanings, others deny the possibility.  And as with anything, you can use whatever information you find to fit the argument you wish to present.  (I found a good article supporting non-Christian roots for this song at, if you wish to read further.  This article swayed me to believe the secular origins to be more true than the religious.)

First of all, the twelve days begin on December 26th and end on January 6th. Some cultures celebrate Christmas during this time period rather than on December 25th. January 6th is referred to as Epiphany, marking the day the Magi visited baby Jesus.

Even though this song probably did not originate from Catholic persecution as many claim, the Christian interpretations giving to it in later years are still kind of fun.  I'm going to tell you what they are anyway.

So, here we go...

Day 1 - A Partridge in a Pear Tree:  The partridge represents Jesus and His devotion to His people, as a mother partridge is devoted to her chicks even to death.  The pear tree represents the cross that Jesus died on.

Day 2 - Two Turtle Doves:  Old and New Testaments

Day 3 - Three French Hens:  Three virtures of faith, hope, and love...or the three gifts of gold, frankencense, and myhrr given to baby Jesus by the Wise Men.

Day 4 - Four Calling Birds:  Four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John

Day 5 - Five Golden Rings:  The Law of Moses, Pentateuch, Torah...(all words for the first five books of the Bible)...Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy

Day 6 - Six Geese A-Laying:  Six days of creation in which God created all things.  Eggs may also represent new life, or creation.

Day 7 - Seven Swans A-Swimming:  Paul wrote about seven gifts of the Holy Spirit:  prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading, & compassion.

Day 8 - Eight Maids A-Milking:  The Beatitudes - those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, the meek, who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.

Day 9 - Nine Ladies Dancing:  Fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Day 10 - Ten Lords A-Leaping:  Ten Commandments

Day 11 - Eleven Pipers Piping:  The eleven faithful disciples (Judas was the twelth disciple, but betrayed Jesus)

Day 12 - Twelve Drummers Drumming:  Twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.  (Refer to Rich Mullins' song "Creed" for an easy reference.)

Next post:  The Candy Cane, Interpreted


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Santa Who?

Welcome!  If you're here for the first time, this is merely one of many posts I've done recently about the history of our Christmas traditions.  If you're intrigued, please browse previous entries, and come back for more!
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I've had various phases of Santa Claus throughout my life.  In my younger years, I was like any other child, waiting in eager anticipation for his arrival to receive my gifts, yet inquiring details such as how he could get into our house since we had no chimney.

Eventually I learned the truth behind the magic of presents appearing under our tree.  Santa became just another thing of Christmas.

In my more recent years, images of his face seen everywhere induce a creepy factor that ranks a little below that of Ronald McDonald.

All in all, Santa seems to dominate Christmas much more than baby Jesus.  That has been a source of irritation to me...until I started to learn where Santa came from in the first place.  Admittedly, this led to a sense of satisfaction that though people may try to keep Jesus out of Christmas, their celebration of Santa Claus still stems from deeply embedded Christian roots.

Santa Claus (through the course of language root words and translations over the years) came from the Saint Nicholas, born somewhere between the years 260-280 AD in what is now modern-day Turkey.  He was raised to be a devout Christian.  His wealthy parents died when he was still young, leaving him a substantial inheritance.  The young Nicholas took Jesus' words to heart to sell all his possessions and give to the poor, ultimately giving away his inheritance to those who needed the help.

He lived a life dedicated to God and was eventually named Bishop of Myra.  He was well-known for his generosity and concern for the poor, particularly children.  He traveled throughout the land, helping whoever he could.  It is said that he did not like to be seen giving money and gifts, so he would leave his gifts at night, sometimes tossing them in through open windows.

Probably the most popular story I read (with varying details, of course) tells of a poor man with three daughters.  The time came for the daughters to be married, but the father could not afford a dowry for each of them.  He decided to sell one of the daughters into slavery to provide a dowry for the other two.  Nicholas heard of this, and left three bags of gold at this family's house - one for each daughter - to provide for the dowry and prevent the one daughter from being sold.

During Nicholas's life, the Emporer Diocletian began persecuting Christians.  Nicholas was thrown into prison for five years.  Once the Emporer was replaced by Constantine, Nicholas was released and he resumed his life's work.

Nicholas died in the year 313 AD.  His life and good works led people to celebrate him for years to come.  His name eventually made it over to early America, where his character has grown and evolved into a red-suited obese man who lives at the North Pole.

In the 1800s, Santa Claus was said to drive a wagon pulled by horses and dropped gifts down chimneys.  He was also described as smoking a pipe and wearing baggy pants.  Later, the famous poem "The Night Before Christmas" was written, thus creating the image of a man who rode in a flying sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, among other descriptors.

All throughout the world Santa is celebrated as part of the winter season.  Each culture varies in their practices, from hanging stockings over the fireplace to leaving wooden shoes on the doorstep.  But regardless of the arrival of gifts, Santa remains known as a generous man who bestows his wealth on children.

Next post:  A Pear Tree with a What?  And Why Are the Ladies Dancing?


Monday, December 14, 2009

Mary's Journal - A Shared Post

My friend Lyla over at A Different Story has been pondering the life of Mary, mother of Jesus, these past several days.  We were chatting last night when she asked me if I thought Mary's journal would be worth reading, and what she would have written.  Mary did a lot of pondering, much treasuring of things in her heart.  So Lyla posted the question on her blog, and I offered a response.  After you read them below, (or before you read, I suppose) please drop by her page and offer your own thoughts.

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My question for you is this: Once the shepherds packed up their dusty gear and tore out through the streets to praise God, what might Mary have written on her page for that day?

Would you share what you imagine Mary may have pondered and treasured in the comment box with us today?

Every difficulty from the past nine months – the probing questions of disbelief, the near-divorce, the disownment by my own family, feeling suddenly lost in this dark world with only my faith to cling to, my own doubts – all these things slipped away as I stared into the eyes of my son for the first time tonight. The miracle of new life is beyond anything I imagined.

Poor Joseph is trying so hard. He struggles with doubt too, worse than mine. How can he possibly believe that I remained faithful, yet now carry the child of Another? He wants so badly to believe, but it has cost him dearly as well. What family wants their son to marry the girl who was unfaithful? Yet I can see it in his eyes tonight as he holds his son, this new hope and joy refreshed.

This child…this little baby…he was born to save the world. To save me. I am not just a mother. I am responsible for raising a King.

How? Father…how? The task overwhelms me.

And then…then these grubby shepherds showed up. He was born, we cleaned him up, and had barely settled down to rest when these young rag-tag smelly boys burst into the barn. But they were so excited we couldn’t send them away. It was hard to hear what they were saying because they kept trying to talk over each other. Something about angels appearing in the sky out in the field where their sheep were. The angels told them Jesus had been born and to come see and worship.

Why them? Why should anyone know? What about this picture would cause anyone to believe anything great has happened? I’m seen as an unfaithful wife, bearing my husband an illegitimate child. We are forced to sleep with the smelly animals. We are nobodies from nowhere.

Yet…if this baby is really who God says he is…why not everyone? Where are the leaders, and where is the king?

These young boys have left an image in my mind I will never forget. Such tender hearts, such poor lives. But they get something that no one else has grasped yet. They know this baby is something great. And that seems to be enough for them.
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To go directly to Lyla's post and read other's comments, or to enter your own, click here.  On Wednesday we'll return to our regularly scheduled looks at Christmas Traditions, specifically - Santa Claus.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Why Do I Have to Buy You a Gift?

 Been researching Christmas.  The list of previous blogs on these topics is becoming too long to keep linking to each time, so feel free to browse through the several posts prior to this one.
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I used to suffer from gift shame.  Well, more than I do now, anyway.  You know...that feeling you get when someone gets you a gift and you didn't get them anything.  So then you feel the need to go do something about it, like buy a bigger and more expensive gift...

But that's not the point of this post.

I always used to think that giving gifts at Christmas time symbolized the wisemen giving their gifts to the Christ child.

Not totally untrue, if you take a Christian stance on the matter.

However, gifts were being given long before the arrival of baby Jesus.  Ancient Rome seems to have the longest-standing record.  In those times, officials were expected to bring gifts to the Emperor.  Eventually the practice spread amongst the commonfolk as well.

Good ol' Saint Nick seems to have had an influence on this practice as well.  After all, he was known for being quite the charitable guy.  (More on him next time...) 

In America, exchanging gifts began around the 1820 era.  Gifts were small and simple (fruit or pieces of candy).  Over the years, gifts evolved from small snacks to huge and massive commercial products, as I'm sure you've well noticed.

Not a whole lot to offer on this topic.  But stay tuned...more to come...

Next post:  Santa Who?


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What Does the Christmas Tree Have to do with Christ?

To read what I've learned thus far about other Christmas traditions, check out this post, this post, and this post.
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What does the Christmas tree have to do with Christ?
Well...nothing, really.

...or does it?

The Christmas tree is also a tradition that originates from cultures of centuries past.  Remember the winter solstice celebrations?  Greenery of all kinds was used throughout cultures for varying reasons.  Some people hung evergreen boughs over their doors to keep evil spirits away, while other people used them as a reminder that all green plants would soon begin to grow as the sun god recovered from his winter illness.

The use of an actual tree may or may not have Christian roots.  There are several legends...stories...whatever you want to call them...that offer explanations for the Christmas tree.  As to which one is true...Google literature is conflicted about this, so I'll let you come to your own conclusions.

It is generally agreed upon that the first use of trees can be credited to the German Christians.  Perhaps the earliest story is from the year 722.  Saint Boniface was a monk who happened upon some people gathered around an oak tree, preparing to sacrifice a child to a god.  Boniface knocked the tree down to stop the sacrifice, and up grew a small fir tree.  He used the triangular shape of the fir to symbolize the holy Trinity - Father, Son, and Spirit.  People then began to revere the fir as they had once revered the oak, and began hanging the trees upside-down from their ceilings.

Another story tells of Martin Luther, who was walking home one winter night and was rendered speechless by a brilliant night sky hanging behind the trees.  He was so inspired that he brought a tree into his home and decorated it with lit candles to recreate the starry image for his family.

Paradise Plays were done in the 11th century.  These plays told the story of Adam and Eve, their eating of the forbidden fruit, and their banishment from the Garden.  The only stage prop was a fir tree decorated with apples.  This was celebrated on December 24th.

There's also a cute story about Christmas trees, animals, and spiders.  Long ago, people used to invite their animals inside to view the tree.  After all, animals were first present in the stable when Jesus was born.  But the spiders were banned, because the housewives didn't want to have to clean up their webs.  Feeling left out, the spiders went to the Christ Child and complained of this.  Late at night, the Child let the spiders into the house to see the tree when no one else was around.  The spiders were so excited about the tree that they covered its branches in webs.  The Child turned their webs into sparkling tinsel, which thrilled the housewives when they saw it.  Thus, tinsel was born.

Fast-forward a few hundred years to America.  The Christmas tree was eventually adopted into our culture...but not without reservations.  The conservative Puritans didn't want to defile a holy celebration with pagan rituals.  But after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were pictured around a Christmas tree, the trend quickly became widely accepted in American homes.

And here we are today.  As I type, I am sitting only inches away from my own six-foot prelit tree.  This year I have it decked out in shiny red strings of beads, bright red glass balls, silver bows, and red candy canes.  Simple, but elegant, if I do say so myself.

Looking at a brightly-lit tree in my living room is one of my favorite parts of the season.  : )


Monday, December 7, 2009

Where Did Our American Christmas Traditions Come From?

Welcome back!  If you're just now dropping by, you might want to visit the previous couple of posts to catch up to speed on my research of Christmas and its traditions: here and here.
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Where did our American Christmas traditions come from?
Our current American Christmas traditions are a far cry from those of the early Roman winter solstice celebrations.  In fact, early American celebrations mimicked the ancient chaos and noise.  But things gradually shifted to a more calm and serene picture, thanks to a few specific influences.

In 1819, Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent.  This was a story of a wealthy man who welcomed the poor into his home for Christmas.  These different social classes intermingled and celebrated many "traditions" together.  Irving's story perhaps helped recreate a warm, friendly, generous image of the holiday.  Many of the traditions he wrote about are thought to have been made up.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol around this time as well.  It, of course, encouraged peace and sharing.

In 1828, New York City instituted its first police force because Christmas riots were getting out of hand.

I found this statement from my source interesting:  The family was also becoming less disciplined and more sensitive to the emotional needs of children during the early 1800s.  (I would say this practice has never stopped and can be seen on the extreme far opposite end of the spectrum today...but that's for another post that I will never write until I have children and can thus escape the criticism of writing something I know nothing about.)  Christmas became an excuse for parents to dump gifts on their kids that they normally wouldn't give otherwise.

Many traditions were resurrected from other cultures and customs as Christmas gained popularity in the States.  Americans fell back on these old traditions because they didn't know what Christmas celebrating was supposed to look like.  Over the course of the years, traditions have been adopted and adapted, and continue to grow and change today.

Next post:  What Does the Christmas Tree Have to do with Christ?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Why Christians Claim December 25th as Jesus' Birth

I'm in the middle of exploring our Christmas traditions - why we do what we do this time of year.  This is the first post of several based on what I've uncovered regarding our various practices.  Read my previous post for a complete explanation of my endeavors.
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Why December 25th?
The date isn't so significant as the season. Ancients celebrated the winter solstice (the half-way point of winter), and each culture had their own significance to this period of time.

Germans honored the god Oden, whom was believed to fly around during the night and decide which people would live or die.

Romans celebrated Saturn, the god of agriculture. Society was turned upside-down for a month, with slaves commanding their masters and peasants ruling the city. Businesses and schools shut down so everyone could get in on the action. They also celebrated the birth of Mithra, god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25th.

Europeans in general found the winter solstice a convenient time to celebrate. They slaughtered livestock because it was hard to feed entire herds during the winter, and thus they had a new supply of fresh meat. Beer and wine hit their fermented stage at this time as well and flowed aplenty. (Invite a few friends over, throw a steak on the grill, pop open a can of beer...)

It wasn't until the fourth century that church officials decided to declare Jesus' birthday a holiday. Since no one knew for sure when that was, Pope Julius I declared December 25 to be the lucky day. It's possible that this season was chosen in an attempt to either mix and mingle with pagan traditions, or to draw pagan society into embracing this new celebration.

Contrary to current practices, the Christmas season - or winter solstice, rather - was quite the riotous and chaotic time. The Roman society was not one of peace and order. Combine that with beer, wine, and people who love to party...get the picture?

Puritans actually tried to outlaw celebrating anything Christmas. In fact, when they immigrated to America from England in 1620, they did not bring tradition with them. For twenty-two years (1659-1681), it was illegal in Boston to celebrate. Guilty parties were fined five shillings. (However, just down the road in Jamestown, Christmas was well recognized.)

Finally, after the American Revolution, English customs were dismissed. Christmas celebrations were officially restored on December 25, 1789, and continue today.

Next post:  Where Did Our American Christmas Traditions Come From?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

'Tis the Season

Every once in a while I stumble across new information that I wish I could have bypassed altogether. I prefer to know what's already in my head and not have it all messed up by a truth that somehow escaped me previously.

What tripped me up this time?


It all started when I was having a conversation with a friend about Jesus. She was throwing questions at me left and right, which was fine with me because I could answer most of them. But then she asked me one that started this whole mental fiasco.

Jesus was born on December 25th, right?

Well, no, not necessarily, I replied. No one really knows for sure when He was born. We just adopted that date as His birthday to celebrate.

This is the God Christians worship, and they don't even know when He was born???

My friend was borderline-outraged at this thought. You see, she grew up in a place where Hindu is the prominant religion. She knows much more than I do about some of the world religions, and she was quick to point out that, while other faiths may not be true, they at least know their gods' date of birth.

How can the one true religion not even know when Jesus was born??

It was a thought that's never bugged me, so I simply brushed aside her indignation and asked her why it really mattered at all. But after I thought about it some, her argument kind of made sense to me. While a single birthdate seemed like such an insignificant detail to me, it's also a basic piece of information into anyone's identity. Christians try to proclaim Jesus - how can we not know such an easy detail?

I digress.

As she and I were having our conversation via instant messenger, I was googling information about Christmas traditions that we practice.

And that is where I tripped up.

You see, I thought I already knew the importance behind the main traditions - the manger scene, the star, the wise men, angels, presents, the date. I figured the Christmas holiday descended from ancient Christian celebration.

I was dismayed to learn that many of the things we do each Christmas season evolved from pagan rituals, of all things. I also quickly learned that there were many other traditions that I know nothing about. Why do we have Christmas trees? Why exactly do we give gifts? Who decided Santa enters homes through the chimney?

I finally came to terms with this new realm of knowledge and decided that if I'm going to participate in holiday traditions and at the same time try to post Jesus' Name all over them, I should probably understand what it is I'm doing. we go. I'm going to post what I learn over the course of several days, as this would otherwise become an exceedingly and unnecessarily long post. I hope you stick with me through this - otherwise things may seem random and confusing.

Ultimately, exploring these things has led me to really question why I am celebrating this season in the ways that I do. I don't like the thought of having a Christmas season in which Christ is largely left out. But I'm also coming to terms with participating in a common and cultural practice simply for the sake of participation. Somewhere in between is a balance of fun human traditions and a celebration that revolves around the One I worship.

Next post: Why Christians Claim December 25th as Jesus' Birth.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Work Unto the Lord

Seems like the lessons He gives me don't always find permanent residence in my life.  And so He reminds me again, patiently cycling through the things I once learned but have since forgotten.

These words came back to me yesterday as I drove and listened to sermons.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...

Work consumes my life.  Not because I want it to, but because that's just how things are right now.  Not that long ago I heard these words whispered to my soul, and it changed my attitude toward the job I was floundering in.

But life goes on, and so does my focus.  Lately, work has become a chore again.  It requires much greater energy than before to do quality work like I should be doing anyway.  The days are shorter and darkness settles in many hours too early.  I have taken on new ministry projects that I would much rather pour my efforts into, but simply don't have the time.

Working is a burden.

Work at it with all your heart...

God isn't content to let me simply relearn a lesson.  Rather, He ups the expectations the next time around.

Don't just work your job with all your heart - work your everyday life with all your heart as well.

Clean my house as though Jesus is staying there.

Engage in conversation as though I were speaking to Jesus.

Prepare my food as though I were feeding Jesus.

Get ready in the mornings as though I were going out to meet Jesus.

Practice my music as though it's Jesus I will play for.

These things are not that far from literal.  Jesus Himself said that whatever we do for the least of His children, we do for Him (Matt 25:40).

This is the challenge before me today.  I have the day off, but the hours ahead loom over me like a dark cloud with all the projects and things I need to accomplish.  But I am not just hacking away at a list of duties.

I am working unto the Lord.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Been trying to write...sort of half-heartedly.  I have ideas, partially formed, resting inside my mind.  Once in a while something stirs them up and I make a mental note to write about it later.  But when I sit in front of this empty white space, my mind takes on the same form.

Empty and white.

Any thoughts I had previously have checked out, and I never know if they'll return.  I could force something into black and white.  But that never feels very good.  Nor does it usually end well.

So I sit back and wait.

I don't want to put something out there that was forced, that was written just for the sake of having something to keep my site hits up.

I want it to be real.

Because who wants to read something shallow and disconnected?  And why should I put thoughts and ideas out there if I'm not actively thinking about them myself?

So I continue to wait.  I don't like knowing that when I miss a couple of days, my readers disappear.  And I don't like that it takes weeks to rebuild that network.

But then I have to remind myself why I'm doing this in the first place.

It's not to have the most readers, or the best stories, or to be a favorite stopping point of fellow bloggers.

I write for the LORD.  At least, I hope and pray that I do.  He gives me the words, and I trust that His words will not return empty and void, but will accomplish their purpose.

It's a fine line to walk, this balance between monitoring my stats and writing because it glorifies God.  But sadly, there shouldn't be a line there at all.  There should be no self in what I say or do.  There should be only Him.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Tuesday's sermon asked me if I was willing to surrender. 


I realized I was not.

I was driving home from work, listening to these questions as the day's last light gave way to the night sky.  In just over an hour I would be strumming my guitar and singing songs of worship alongside a small handful of other offering their voices to their Maker.

Are you willing to surrender it all?

Are you willing to do whatever He says?

If He asks you to move to a different country tomorrow, are you willing to go?

My own list continued.

Am I willing to relocate and start over in a new place if He asks me to?

Am I willing to walk next door and tell my neighbors about Jesus tonight if He asks me to?

Am I willing to send an email to make amends with an old friend who may not even know how hurt I was, if He asks me to?

Am I willing to spend all night on my knees praying if He asks me to?

As I was thinking through these questions, I decided that I wanted to choose songs to sing Sunday morning that asked us these same things.

All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give...

Lord, I give You my heart, I give You my soul, I live for You alone...

Take my heart...mind...will, conform it to Yours...

I rehearsed in my mind words that I would speak to the congregation.  Words that would challenge them, cause them to truly question and determine their desire to surrender to Him.  I didn't want us to simply sing empty words for the sake of making noise.  I wanted us to corporately give our all to Him.

But I quickly realized that if I were to issue such a challenge, then I needed to make sure my own heart was right.  To merely lead these songs and sing these words without having examined myself would be hypocritical.

I don't know what happened after that night.  Maybe it was because I was catching a bug and not feeling well.  Or maybe the enemy knew my intentions and distracted my thoughts.  Maybe I should have given the questions more attention when they were fresh in my mind rather than waiting for a more convenient time in my schedule.

Whatever the reason, after that car ride, I was never able to come to that same place again.  I don't know if I felt ok with God's desires for me...or if I simply had become calloused to the idea.  I do know that my time before Him continues to feel distracted and distant.

I didn't offer any words from the stage this Sunday morning.  I simply invited the people to join our small team in singing songs to our Maker.

I can feel the difference in my music when I am playing to the Lord and when I am simply playing.  This morning I was simply playing.  I didn't want it to be that way, but each strum of the guitar felt empty and hollow.  I was still fighting sickness this morning, and singing was a struggle for my weak voice.  Maybe that accounts for the disconnect between my heart and my hands.

Maybe it doesn't.

I know and I've seen the Spirit do His work despite me, despite the actions that I simply go through.  I'm glad for that.  It's comforting to know that He's not limited to my performances.

In the meantime, my own heart needs to find its way home.  Back to the place of humble kneeling before the throne of Him who asks for my all.

Friday, November 13, 2009

His Promises to You

If you are weary and cannot hear His voice, do not lose heart. My knowledge is greater than yours, and I will never be tired. Put your hope in Me, and you will find new strength. For as long as your eyes are on me you will not grow weary; you will soar like an eagle.

If you stand in the middle of the crossroads of life, unsure of the path to take, He holds out His hand and says, Don't be afraid, for I desire to give you the best, and I will fill you with hope for tomorrow.

If the path you walk is dark and you can't see what lies ahead, remember that He offers just enough light for the next step.  My words will light your way, even in the midst of darkness.  When you walk with Me, you will not fall; I will hold you up and show you the way.

If each month you wonder how the bills will be paid or when you will have food, He says to you, Do not worry, for I will take care of your needs.  You may not have abundant wealth, but you will not go hungry, nor be without clothes.  I care even about the little sparrow in the sky - how much more do I care about you!

If you gave into sin and are now feeling the burden of your choices, do not turn from Him, for He has not given up on you.  He begs you, Come here, My dear child.  I long to hold you in My arms and trade your burden for Mine.  Find rest in Me.

If the doctor's words cut straight through your being, and your life now revolves around the illness, hold onto Jesus' words:  It is not for the healthy and the righteous that I came, but for the sick, the wounded, and the sinner.  It is you who are broken whom I have come to redeem as My own.

If the phone call carrying the message of death tells you your friend and loved one will no longer be by your side, He speaks to your soul, The pain of suffering and loss is great, but do not lose hope.  If you are My child, you will live with Me.  In that day, I promise you will never again feel the searing pain of loss or shed another tear of sorrow.

Each morning you rise to a new dawn, and regardless of the events of yesterday, He whispers gently to your soul, Arise, My child, today is a new day.  Hold My hand and walk with Me, for My love will hold you up and My mercy is endless.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

True Rest?

Somewhere deep inside the recesses of my mind, thoughts are developing and brewing.  Tough thoughts, difficult concepts that aren't yet ready to emerge.  But when they are, I'll let you know.  In the meantime, here are some thoughts from my journal not that long ago.
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Life is a steady constant of ups and downs.  There are days when I feel comfortable with where I'm at.  And there are other days that seem to have no other purpose than to drain the life out of me.  On one such heavy-laden day, I read a friend's post about rest.  That night, as I crawled into bed with weary bones and droopy eyelids, I turned to the verse she wrote about.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  -Matthew 11:28-30
If I had chosen the end to this story, I'd have laid back onto my pillow and drifted off to peaceful sleep amidst rest and relief.

Alas, that was not the true ending.

Rather, my brain shifted into overdrive as new questions rushed to the surface.

Your yoke is easy and your burden is light. ...But Jesus, didn't You also say that anyone who wants to come after You must deny himself and take up his cross and follow You?  We interpret the cross as burden, but for You it meant death.  To follow You and take up our crosses means we follow You to our own deaths.

How is that a light burden?

Or maybe not that question so much as this:  How do we change so that death becomes a burden that is light?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sabbath Follow-Up

A short while back I posted some thoughts about the Sabbath and how we tend to glaze over it (go here, here, and here to read more) .  I also contemplated what it should look like in my contemporary lifestyle, and I committed myself to putting my musings into practice.  I don't want to be just another person who harps and rants about all the things everyone is doing wrong, and then do nothing to change my own deficits.  So here's an update, so to speak.

That first Sunday after I posted, my plan was to come home after church and lunch to rest, reflect, nap, pray, and ultimately focus solely on God.  No grocery shopping, no folding clothes or ironing, no doing dishes or other computer (!!!).

I was discussing my plans with a friend over lunch that day and told her what my plans were to do and not to do.  She gently reminded me that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

I pondered this, and ended up lifting a few of my restrictions.  Was I being too ritualistic and Pharisee-like by trying to avoid all those things?  Honestly, I'm not sure.  Maybe I was.  But I think my intentions were true.  On the modern flip-side, what does it look like to rest in the LORD on His day?  Is it still ok for me to be on facebook?  Hang out with friends?  Bake cookies simply for the sheer joy of baking?

Weeks later, these are questions I still ponder.  Perhaps the ultimate question is this:  Is what I'm doing distracting me from thinking of/speaking to/being with God?

Needless to say, I have not been successful at adopting monk-like behaviors on Sundays.  I still facebook, drive across town to visit friends, and bake stuff just because I want to.  I also don't always get my laundry folded and put away on Saturday, which requires finishing on Sunday so I have clothes to wear to work on Monday.  A couple times I've even spent my afternoons shopping to stock the food pantry or buy things for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

While I have been making a conscious effort to take a few small steps toward observing the Sabbath, I sure haven't been overly successful.  I kind of like the way I'm doing things now, but I'm not convinced my patterns are the most honoring to the LORD.  I still have some work to do.

There's a part of me that finds appealing those monk-like behaviors of silence and solitude.  I'm a far cry from that now, but maybe one of these days I'll get there.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More Love to Thee

As I get older, my appreciation for the old hymns grows deeper. I still prefer to sing the contemporary songs (most of the time), but sometimes the words of hymns blow me away.

A few weeks ago we sang "More Love to Thee," and I have to be honest - for the first few verses I wasn't paying much attention to what I was singing.

But then we sang this next verse. And the words brought me to attention mighty fast.

Let sorrow do its work
Send grief and pain
Sweet are Thy messengers
Sweet their refrain
When they can sing with me
More love O Christ to Thee
More love to Thee
More love to Thee

It's true that the hard times and challenges in life are what cause us to grow the most in our faith, if we let them. But to request them?

To refer to sorrow, grief, and pain as sweet?

To recognize that these three sing with us, "More love O Christ to Thee"?

Oh, to possess the wisdom and understanding the writer had when she penned these words!

Monday, November 2, 2009

At the Proper Time

These are interesting days surrounding my small community of friends. Seems like I'm being constantly reminded by stories on blogs or the relentless weather that the line we walk remains fuzzy at best. Sometimes it disappeares altogether when the snow blows in.

One friend wrapped up five years of dedicated work and walked out the doors of her office into a world of uncertainty and unemployment. She believes the Father is faithful and will provide. In the meantime, finances are adjusted for the income that doesn't come from quiet days of sitting at home.

Other friends have spent weeks fighting discouragement as they have no choice but to surrender to unforgiving weather that has kept them from even beginning to harvest their fields. Just when it looks like the reaping can start, another round of rain settles in for a couple of days, and progress is delayed yet again.

My own life, as of late, is filled with ups and downs of unsuccessfully finding that right balance between career and calling. God is shaping and reforming my desires, and as He works, my focus turns toward giving and serving. But these are things that demand time I currently am unable to give, and progress feels at a standstill.

Tonight as I drove home from work, I looked between the snow not yet melted and the fields disappearing under standing water, beans and corn looking quite soggy and sad. I thought about my friends. One has a harvest and can't get to it. The other stands in the middle of a freshly plowed field, not yet green with the promise of a harvest to come. And me...I stand on an open road under cloudy skies, knowing from where I've come but unsure of how I'm supposed to get to what lies ahead.

I think of the different places each of us are in life.

And I'm reminded of a promise:

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. -Galatians 6:9

The storms of life are relentless. Just when we think the time to harvest has come, another storm passes through to muddy the ground and slow our progress. And it's hard to push forward.

But push forward we must, for we have a promise to hope for.

One day, at the right time, new life will spring forth around us.

The skies will clear.

The ground will become firm beneath us.

We will reap a harvest.

Friday, October 30, 2009

WANTED: Fellow Workers

I keep writing and talking about the ways we fall flat in putting our faith into action. But I don't want to be just another person who runs her mouth with nothing to show. I certainly don't have it all figured out, and I continually struggle with not doing the things I know I should.

My purpose in this post is not to praise what I'm doing, but rather to show you that in some small way, I am trying to walk my talk. And I need your help.

I was driving in the rain a few weeks ago (an almost daily occurrence lately) and brainstorming ways to give more and have less. Christmas is around the corner, and I know my mom will be asking for my wish list.

The problem is I don't really have much of anything on my wish list. The last thing I want is to ask for more, because there's nothing I truly need that I don't already have. So I was trying to figure out what I could put on my Christmas list that I could use to benefit others.

My mom had just left my place that morning after spending the weekend with me. She was gracious enough to dump off an old sewing machine that someone somewhere had decided I needed to have.

(I don't know how to sew.)

It hit me then that I could ask for materials to make blankets and put the old machine to use (and/or crochet). Then I could give those blankets away. Right now my plan is to share them with local homeless people, because it sure gets cold here in the winter. That plan could change, and I could decide to donate them to any various organization out there who distributes blankets locally and around the world. But for now...that's my plan.

The problem is two-fold: 1) I am a very slow crocheter and currently this sewing machine is not working, and 2) materials are spendy.

Here is my offer to you if you've been looking for a way to extend your resources. Would you help me in this endeavor? I'm afraid I may succumb to discouragement if I have only my own meager progress to watch, and I don't want to give up. So would you pray for this project as I pursue God's plan for it? Would you be willing to donate supplies or even make a blanket of your own?

The thought of the one or two blankets I could make on my own doesn't satisfy me. I believe with the support of each other, we can do much to love many.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Mission We Don't See

This is a hard post to write.

These thoughts have been bouncing around in my head for a couple of weeks now. Once in a while I try to catch them, but before I can put them into writing, they slip through my grasp and resume their race around my mind. I sit and watch them, observing, sometimes see them take shape. I learn from them.

But they sure are tricky.

So tonight I sit and try (perhaps in vain) to draw these thoughts in long enough to make sense of them, to paint a picture of the challenge they present to me.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Each week we gather to fill the cushioned pews, brought together by a common belief, dressed in our Sunday best, all tidied up for another time of worship and fellowship. Lunch comes after the sermon, either at home with our families or out together with our fellow Church-goers. We flock together, are drawn together.

Then Sunday ends, and we move on with Monday, rarely carrying anything over with us into the new week.

We forget that on Monday, our Mission begins afresh.

I have been blessed to have been a part of a few Church bodies throughout my life who support missions wholeheartedly. These small gatherings of believers send large amounts of money to finance the work of the few missionaries who have dared to follow the voice of the Creator.

They do a wonderful work, these believers. They leave their own homes and countries for the sake of sharing the gospel to a lost and broken people.

But I can't help but notice...I think we've missed something major.

The Gospel thrives in many of these underpriviliged and persecuted countries. Underground Churches are growing exponentially as new believers sacrifice their families and comforts for the sake of knowing Christ. They love Him.

Without the comfortable seats, the beautiful songs, the educated preacher, the heated baptistry...they love Him.

All the while, we cling to our comforts and occasionally try to think of ways to fit Jesus into our lives without giving anything else up. We carry on while our country tries to extinguish God from our Pledge, schools, and holidays.

We are a wealthy people with many possessions living in a country of opportunity. We shop for new furniture, the latest gadgets, and bigger homes. We drive newer cars, eat at nice restaurants, shop at name brand stores.

We are surrounded by people in need, jobless, and living on the street. There are people in our communities who can't afford to buy groceries or clothe their kids. Teenagers wander around aimlessly, searching for a place to belong, finding identity in rebellion and crime. High school girls carry babies in their arms, forced into responsibilities beyond their years while still learning how to find their footing in a vicious and unforgiving world. Men stare at the pictures on their computer screens and deaden their pain with the bottle. Women wake up next to different partners each morning, looking for love but not realizing it runs deeper than a one-night stand. Couples divorce as though they committed to nothing, and their children grow up never learning what it is to love and cherish your partner.

This is the country we live in. These are the things we are surrounded by every day, and yet somehow completely oblivious to. Instead, we set our sights on the things we don't have. We shut out the hurting and the pain.

Jesus said, "it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:23-24)."

Whether or not we consider ourselves wealthy, the fact is that we are rich.

Filthy rich.

Christian or not, the people of our nation make up the tiny percent of the world's population who can afford to buy food every day. And yet, our nation continually tries to snuff out the presence of the Provider of our wealth.

Our Churches send missionaries to the farthest corners of the earth. And rightfully so, for Jesus is the Deliverer of all peoples and nations. But we neglect the mission field sitting right outside our doors.

Indeed, I believe it is our own nation in which it has become the hardest for people to know the true Christ.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Despite complaints of constant wet and early snows, God has painted many beautiful scenes this fall. Been taking several pictures on my phone to and from work over the past weeks. Here is a glimpse into some of the beauty I've been blessed to experience.

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Early morning sunrise through fog and mist

Evening sunset

Another beautiful sunrise

And another

A view of the power plant from fifteen miles away

Beautiful colors along the highway

How many times do you see green leaves and grass under a blanket of snow?

Bright yellow leaves

From my own backyard...

Amazing colors out my back door that I nearly missed.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Psalm 19:1

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Story From the Good Ol' Days

For whatever reason, I have had more notable conversations than usual with some of my patients. I like that. I enjoy hearing my patients tell me something that makes me ponder a bit.

I was working with one of my elderly patients at the clinic. She and her husband used to farm, back in the day. But now she lives alone as he has since passed on.

I was setting up a piece of equipment for her to use for an exercise, but the last user had reassembled it incorrectly. I tinkered with the thing for a while as she watched, and then finally was able to put all the pieces back into place as they belonged.

"You're quite a mechanic. I have no ability to do anything like that," she said to me.

I told her no, I'm really not that mechanically talented. As is the tendency, one subject leads to another, and she was soon telling me a story from her days on the farm. She was the wife of a farmer, but not as much an active participant in the farming. Her knowledge of machinery was pretty much nil. She couldn't tell one part from the next.

Sometimes equipment broke down. If the men couldn't figure out how to fix it, her husband would ask her to come take a look and see if she could get the job done.

"I'd tell him, 'I don't know the first thing about what you're trying to do.' He'd say, 'That's why I want you to come look at it. You don't know the right way to do it like we do. Maybe you can find a new way that we haven't thought of.' "

For whatever reason, that struck me as incredibly profound and wise.

When I can't get something done, the last thing that occurs to me is to ask someone who knows absolutely nothing about what I'm doing to help. But this husband not only had the wisdom to think beyond his own method of getting the job done, he also had the trust and confidence in his wife to do something that he couldn't.

No huge epiphony or spiritual application here. Just something for me to ponder.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Time For Everything

"Eventful" is probably an adequate way to describe the past...well...few weeks at least.

Things are changing. Maybe not even changing, but different from the expected.

I expect to see red and yellow leaves falling with a bright blue sky as a backdrop on a crisp and cool day. But instead I've seen snow.

The farmers expect to spend long days in their combines, bringing in the corn and beans before winter hits. Instead, they spend their days inside as the soggy mess outside teases their futures and livelihoods.

I expect to continue on in the pattern of every day life with its usual ups and downs. Instead, everything at work is about to be turned on its head as we bid farewell to a coworker and frantically try to figure out how to bridge the gap she will leave.

There are seasons. And there are uncertainties. There is the usual, but rarely can it be trusted.

This is what we call life. The earth doesn't stop turning simply because things are out of the ordinary.

Instead, we get knocked to our knees for a time, then stand up and move forward the best we know how. Someetimes we stumble, sometimes we keep pace.

Onward we push, and forward we move.

One step at a time.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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It was not my intention, but this post carries similar tones to a couple of others I have recently read. My friends Lyla and Jennifer have shared their own thoughts at A Different Story and Getting Down With Jesus.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tonight I watched them file into the gym, one or two at a time. I walked above them on the walking track, looking down as they heaved basketballs up toward the net only to chase them across the floor when the shot fell short.

I watched these young girls, still young enough to be care-free in the way they raced each other from one basket to the next, not yet weighed down by things adults find necessary to stress over.

I observed them as they interacted: the older ones shooting quietly together while the younger ones shrieked and giggled across the gym. They can't be much older than fourth grade, but not younger than second.

I prayed for them.

One by one, as they walked through the heavy double doors, I bathed them in prayer.

I don't know that I like kids. I don't know how to interact with them. They demand a lot of energy.

But these girls, these beautiful young creatures of God...these are the ones my heart is heavy for.

I prayed for their purity.

These young hearts, so unscathed and innocent. But at that age where all of that is about to be ripped away, if it hasn't already been. I pray not, but the truth is that too many of these young ones have already been stripped of their purity. There are people in their lives who have robbed them of this precious gift at an early age.

And for that awful crime, these girls will pay the consequences for the rest of their lives.

For the others, they will soon face a decision. They will have to choose how much they are willing to give in order to have that boyfriend. Be accepted socially. Quench their burning desire to know they're lovable. Beautiful.

I prayed for these girls, innocent or not. Pure or robbed. My heart aches for them to know the Truth. To know that they are lovable and have already been bought at a price. I yearn for them to hold onto their purity so that one day they have every ounce of themselves to give to the one man they will marry.

They are so young. But already they stand on the edge.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Boys and Their Dogs...and the Glory of God

There's something about a boy and his dog. Boys like dogs. And when boys like to hunt, they really like dogs.

My brother has a history of bringing dogs home...and then leaving them for my parents to take care of. He never usually had more than one at a time, and the only reason they stayed at home was because he couldn't take them along to college. Ultimately, what he really wanted was a quality hunting dog.

We always had dogs and cats on the farm growing up, but eventually our dog population died out. In high school, my brother adopted his coach's German shorthair. (That put an end to our cat population.) I can't remember if this was the first dog...but it was one of the many. There was also a cocker spaniel, a couple strays, and finally a Springer Spaniel.


I didn't mind Maverick like I did some of the others. He didn't bite me (like the cocker spaniel) and didn't eat cats (like the German shorthair...of course, by then there were no cats left to eat). He was gentle and friendly and had large amber eyes that would search your own.

Maverick was also a little quircky, which caused my mom to not appreciate him as much. You see, Maverick liked to run.


All day long.


He never slowed down.

He also looked severely malnourished and scrawny, despite finishing off large bags of dog food in small amounts of time. He ran off everything he ate, and then some. (Despite my best efforts, I have never been able to accomplish this.)

Maverick had a method to his running. He ran the same route around the house.


All day long.

This is why mom wasn't his number one fan. He ran paths and wore out the grass all over the yard...including the grass in the middle of the front yard right next to her garden.

Crop circles, my brother called them.

Not only did he run ceaselessly, Maverick also barked on occasion. Not at squirrels or rabbits or strange cars.

No, he barked at the sky.

As he ran pell mell around the yard, he would point his furry nose to the sky and bark at nothing at all.

Maverick has since gone on to join doggies of previous lives past (thanks to a run-in with a rabid 'coon), and the grass has grown back in our yard (much to my mom's relief). But he spent his short life doing what he was created to do.

He ran in circles. He barked at the sky. There was no purpose to this, except that he was a dog, and that's what God created him to do.

He ran and he barked for the glory of God. He did what he was created for, and he loved doing it.

All around us nature proclaims the glory of its Creator. Birds fly, cows graze, horses gallop, flowers bloom, clouds rain.

All things were created by Him and for Him. -Colossians 1:16

I, too, was created for the glory of God. But unlike the things of nature, I often forget my purpose.

I forget that I was made for Someone greater.


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