Friday, December 26, 2008

Good Intentions 2009

I stopped making actual *resolutions* years ago. I felt like every January I was just setting myself up for failure by *resolving* to do so many good-intentioned things. By April I was always painfully aware that I hadn't lost 15 lbs, I still swear when I stub my toe, and I am short temperered from time to tim.
So last year, I didn't resolve to do anything, but I did *ATTEMPT* to make a spiritual improvement in one area, verses 15 resolutions in the physical; I told God I would make an attempt to *DO THE HARD STUFF* this year. Well, God has quite the sense of humor, doesn't He? I was sure put to the test.
My Step-Brother died, My dog died, my Aunt died.... but I did the hard stuff that was required each time, versus just doing the bare minimum to get through the situation.
Now, I am not looking for sympathy, or to pat myself on the back. I want to encourage whoever is reading this to do the same. When a loved one dies, go to the nearest family and cry together.... make them a meal... clean their home, and above all, even when your tired of hearing about death, loss, and mourning...LISTEN TO THEM. Let them tell the story for the 100th time.
When the elderly neighbor needs a ride...give it to them and go even further by taking them out for a slice of pie. Listen to them talk. Make them feel alive and valued.
Go to the Childrens Cancer Ward, or wherever is hardest for you to go. For me, it's just attending the funeral that's hard. But you know, going, and plodding through gives the people you love support, and it makes you grow so much spiritually.

Make a list of the things you would like to do the very least, and then challenge yourself to *attempt* to do some of these. It makes you appreciate life and all the little things that normally get you down seem like water off a ducks back in comparison. You'll be a better person for it and you know what? This is where the rubber meets the road for a lot of Christians. It's the difference between lip-service and a servants heart.
My *attempts* for 2009? I haven't decided. I'm almost afraid I'll get what I ask for again. But you know, I'm richer for it. I have confidence through the strength of Christ that I didn't have before.
Attempt to do the hard stuff. It won't be easy, but it will be rewarding.
Happy New Years.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why I Celebrate Christmas

Here it is...Christmas Eve... I'm so excited. For one magical day, I turn into a kid again. So does my husband! We were a bit late on getting the tree up, but we managed last weekend, and it is beautiful.
Many Chistians do not celebrate Christmas, or refuse to have a tree, or anything to do with Santa Claus. I respect their right to do so. BUT, not I. I teach my kids and grandkids about Jesus, Mary and Joseph...the angels & wise men... AND about the man Saint Nicholaus, who really lived at one time, and excemplified an unselfish nature by giving to the needy all the time.
Christmas trees were supposedly once used by pagans... Well, they aren't anymore, and I've never been a pagan, (not even sure if I know any pagans either), and I have decided MY TREEwill represent eternal life through Christ. I will remind my family that it points heavenward as a reminder of why we celebrate.
Since God made the world, (pagans included), and made the pine trees, and all the material we use to decorate it... I still say GOD GETS THE CREDIT, regardless of what some ancient religion did thousands of years ago.
I will be baking cookies, and playing with grandchildren... visiting my folks.. and making phone calls to the family up north. Tinsel is dripping from my ceilings, and the wreath is on my door. Whoo-hoo! Christmas time is finally here!
May yours be everything you want it to be.
Blessings In Jesus!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Merry Christmas Ya'll

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Twelve yellow roses
eleven blueblonnets
ten gallon hats
nine cowboy boots
eight enchiladas
seven jalapenos
six armadillos
five chili beans
four oil wells
three pickup trucks
two tumbleweeds
and a possum in an oak tree

Chrsitmas in Texas is, well.. *different* than the traditional Christmas's portrayed on cards, and in the movies. As a child, I imagined a traditional Christmas as sort of a *New England-ish* affair... Snow covered firs and blue spruces... piping hot mugs of spiced cider... A real Currier & Ives event.

But here in Texas, Christmas day is rarely cold, let alone snowy, we tend to decorate the cactus along with the dog house, and the B-B-Q grill, and many celebrate the day with homemade tamales along with the usual ham, turkey, and cranberry salad. Everyone knows someone's Mother or Grandmother who still makes tamales and sells them by the dozen. I never realized how unique a Texas Christmas was until I went to Ohio and experienced a more *Northern* holiday. It was pretty much everything I had ever dreamed of; snow, pines, caroling, ...very picturesque. But no tamales!

This Christmas the high in the Fort Worth area will be about 65 degrees. We have family coming from Ohio. I am excited to host them. I wonder how they will interpret the way we celebrate? Will they notice the chile-pepper lights on the Christmas tree? Will they even like tamales?

My husband grew up in Germany and he tells stories that are so nostalgic. I have a picture of him and his brother, when they were about 10 and 8, with a European Saint Nicholaus, in Stutggart, and it looks like something out of a fairy tale.

On one of my groups online, the girls are sharing Scottish, Irish, and English holiday cookie recipes. It is a sign to me that the concept of Christmas is relative to the country, or state, or island you live in or on. How fascinating to think of people all over the world reverencing the Son of God in different ways?

Here's a story of a South Texas Christmas... It's very cute, and gives one an idea of how different it can be.

One things for sure; I am thrilled to be celebrating the birth of our Savior. Traditions, as long as they reverence Christ, all come from the same source, with the same intent: To honor his birth.

Merry Christmas to Ya'll... and to Ya'll a Good

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Final Proclamation Of Joy To The World

I wanted to share this with you.:-)

(Taken from the Mennonite Weekley Review)

Each Advent we begin a new liturgical year, with its telling of stories familiar and new. We embark again upon a series of re-enactments, beginning with Christ’s first coming, God’s incarnation in the form of a child.
We participate in the paradox that by pretending certain events have not yet taken place, we will gain new, unexpected truths from the stories of how they came to be.

Advent holds further paradoxes as well, which we shall see as we wait for the Christ born in a manger in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago to be born again this year.
Each Advent we long for the Christ child. Women who have given birth remember the waiting, belly protruding, for the baby to come. Others recall the wonder of placing a hand on a round stomach and feeling the baby move inside the womb.

We wait for the joy of seeing the infant arrive, of holding the tiny child and feeling as never before how much we want to nurture this new life.
We know it will not be easy. The child whose arrival we await each Advent will not stay small and helpless. He will grow into a leader who demands of us more than nurture. He will require our whole lives.

It will be difficult to follow the way of this Savior whom John the Baptist heralds, yet it will bring joy. In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer asks, “If we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? … Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows the journey’s end. But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy. Discipleship means joy.”
This joy is a paradox. It is what we ultimately seek, yet is not a comfortable feeling. It is not the glow of a fireplace or the warmth of a quilt.

Instead, it is dynamic contrast in Handel’s Messiah.
It is Mary’s emotion as she sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
We celebrate with Mary her child’s birth, and see the truth in the dramatic reversal of fortune she describes. Indeed, in past months we have seen some of the proud scattered in the thoughts of their hearts, and some of the rich sent away empty.

Yet there remain so many lowly ones yearning to be lifted up, and hungry ones crying out for good things.
Christ inaugurated God’s reign during his time on Earth. Yet we long for the time when it will break fully into our world so much in need of restoration.
Even on Christmas morning, we still wait for the day described in Rev. 11:15: “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. And he shall reign forever and ever.”
Each of our re-enactments of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, prepares us for that day, when we can truly declare joy to the world.

Celeste Kennel-Shank

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiness...It's A Tough Gig

I wonder about this world and it's values, or the lack-thereof. I know there are lots of people with strong Christian values, and other people with just good moral values, but it seems that we are overwhelmed by pop-culture that says we should shun anything moral, or pure and just go for sheer hedonism.

When I consider what the Bible has to say about holiness... it seems clear to me that Christians are to be the opposite of pop-culture. Now, you may be picturing a NERD in your head, but I don't think that is the general idea. I think when pop-culture tells us to put our 6 year olds in clothing that looks like something a streetwalker would wear, with *HOT* spelled out on the bottom of the pants...we should excercise some common sense. What happened to keeping our children pure and innocent? *BRATS* dolls are another common sense no-no, imho, but yet I know mothers who will defend their decision to let their little girls have them. They look like hookers! How can you say this is acceptable?

Little boys are playing video games with very suggestive content and some parents don't seem to mind. I've actually heard parents say: "Well, their going to learn about it sooner or later". *IT* can be violence, divorce, racial hatred, and sex. (I'm sure there are others)... But it is the parents JOB to protect our children. They don't NEED to learn everything all at once. Yes, they will most likely be exposed to everything in their lifetime. But if given the proper love, and training, they will recognize SIN AS SIN... not water it down as something we just endure. AND it's never going to be the popular descision! You will always be the one who seems like a wet blanket...raining on the kids parade. But in the end, they will love you for it. Just think how proud your making God???

So as you consider all your holiday shopping and what you'll buy for the kiddies... please take into consideration what they are being exposed to. Whatever you give them, they will interpret as acceptable. Movies, Games, dolls, and clothing... we all have a choice to make.
The Bible says: *Be HOLY as I am HOLY*... Who's side are you on? Gods, or the worlds?

Furthermore; Be verbal about sin. When there is something that is just plain WRONG, ...say so. Explain WHY it's wrong. There's going to be a day when little children become vocal and opinionated teens and they need to know where the line is, EVEN if they challenge it.

Be brave. Take a stand. Be Holy.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

You know, here we are again... it's mid-December and the yuletide season is in full swing.
Admittedly, I suffer from holiday depression and have no idea why? It all starts when I hear the first broadcast of *I Want A Hippopotamaus For Christmas* and ends with *Old Lang Syne*... lol..
I just get so overwhelmed.

So this year I decided I was going to be proactive and had all my shopping, with the exception of stocking stuffers done by the end of November. Mission Accomplished! Also, to help curb the oppressiveness of poverty between December 25th and March 1st, I started a savings account to accomodate my Christmas budget. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A LITTLE CHING-CHING MAKES!!

So, now that I'm on a roll, and have succesfully managed what usually beats me down, I have been in a chipper Christmas mood, whistling carols, and greeting everyone with a *Merry Christmas!* Is it possible that organization and a little extra spending cash can have that big of an impact on your emotional status??? Guess so.

But that brings my thoughts around to those less fortunate. This year the company I work for; Bimbo Bakeries has helped sponsor a family from Keller, Texas as the crew for *Extreme Home Make-Over* builds them a new home after their home was flooded.

And, they have adopted two Metroplex families who are in need this Christmas. Both families are single parent households, with many children. One family is supported by a mother, who is caring for 4 of her own children, 2 of her grandchildren and battling cancer while she cleans homes to make a living. It makes you stop and appreciate what you have. We are not wealthy, but we are capable, employable, and in good health. It's amazing what we take for granted.

The company has all the employees involved. We had staff meetings and discussed the best way to assist them. Our conclusion was to have anyone who wanted to participate donate specific items and money to be given to the families on behalf of Bimbo Bakeries USA. Once the meetings were over, my office was a-flurry with activity.... everyone discussing what they could do to help. (Again my heart leaps out of my chest with pride).

Apparently everyone was so excited, most of us went out last night after work and shopped for the families. This morning I was thrilled to pull into my company parking lot and see so many employees carrying boxes, and bags filled with household goods, clothing, and food.


The whole idea that I work for a company that cares about people makes me love my job even more. I know just how blessed I am. Do you?

So from my house to yours.... from Scott, Kelly, Hutch, Star, Porch & Minnie Lou;
Have a blessed Christmas Season.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

OH JOY! It's Christmas!

Here it comes with a vengance; Christmas. The media portrays it as something financial along with *predictions* of how well retailers will fair.
Where is Jesus, I ask?
Families will get together, and some just long enough for it to turn nasty. I am kind of stunned at just how dysfunctional some of my own family has become... and always relieved that there are plenty of good-natured normal relatives still alive and well.

I am very blessed to have a handful of people whom I'm related to either by blood or marraige who know Christ, and don't forget WHY we have the holiday in the first place. They help me tolerate the insanity of December, because for me, this month is like a non-stop full moon in the county emergency room. Whatever the most inappropriate thing to do or say seems to take center stage, and it really is all I can do to plod on through the retail madness and family nuttiness that always, always, always accompanies Christmas. I think it's the devils way of raining on our parade and causing division... It's his way of keeping the focus off The Savior. He's just jealous... and looking steal our joy. It is VERY easy to just throw your hands in the air and surrender.
However, the season is not without it's joys. Christmas-time can, and has been filled with love, kindness, and surprises. Sometimes its something simple like hearing from an old friend, or seeing a toddler all dressed in velvet open presents under the tree. A sprig of mistletoe here and there, some holly on the hearth & baking pies and Christmas goodies brings out the best in me, but nothing, and I do mean NOTHING warms my soul like reading the Christmas Story found in Luke 2:

Luke 2
1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Isn't it glorious???
So while I might get a little overwhelmed at my to-do list before all the family (functional and otherwise) descend upon my humble abode for celebration and merriment, I have never forgotten why we are celebrating. That knowledge keeps me centered when it seems the world is spinning off it's axis.
Because of this child, this innocent babe, conceived in a virgin vessel, and left to die alone on a cross years later for our sins...we can rest assured that those who know Him and are dedicated to Him will live on together for eternity. Blessed assurance.
So regardless of how wierd you old Uncle Pete is, or how crazy cousin Nancy may appear, now is the time to open your home, and heart and be the candle on the hill. Try to lay old grudges aside. Give a hug to those least expecting it. Let it all go and let them see Jesus in you. Don't let the devil get a foot-hold just because your siblings are self-centered, never help with Mom and Dad, talk behind your back, and generally do all they can do to rub you the wrong way. Just don't let it happen. Rebuke it, and claim joy, kindness, and a sense of calm in Jesus Name.
Keep claiming it too and watch old red-legs run.
May your Christmas Season be Merry & Bright.