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Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Confessions

My husband is scratching his head. Why would anyone want to get up while it is still dark to go shopping? Could any deal really be worth it?

My opportunities to do Black Friday shopping have been few and very far between, since I live in Europe. So, I’ll tell you what I’ve done when I did participate in the madness.

I have gone with my niece, a good friend, my parents, and my daughter—not in that order, and I’ve forgotten what years. I really did well one year. I am pretty sure I went alone, very early, and only to one mall. I got some amazing deals and some very nice presents for people. Other years, I wasn’t so fortunate, but I did end up with a cornucopia for my Thanksgiving table (on my table now), some pretty Christmas stockings, a Christmas tree skirt, wired ribbons, and other sundries for decorating. The year I went with my niece, both of us ended up with some nice clothing. I’m sure she’s grown out of what she bought that day, but I still wear the coat I got.

Now, I don’t tent camp for a week before the doors open, and I wouldn’t even stand in the cold for an hour, let alone more.

But, a few good deals and breakfast with my parents—like we did one year—are definitely worth getting up for.

(I am still very iffy about online shopping. I like to actually see and feel things. I like to know if it is cheap or quality, and those little pictures don’t do it for me. I do like to buy books online, and that seems to work okay—especially if I already know the book.
I have no idea how anyone buys shoes and clothing without trying them on.)

This year, across the pond, I’m amused by the video clips of hundreds of people flooding into department stores across the country. The newscasters shake their heads in disbelief. They call it an “American phenomenon.” I guess that’s accurate, actually. Where else do they actually have discounts for the first 300 people to enter a store, early in the morning? Where else would people crawl out of bed hours before the crack of dawn to push, claw, and fight their way to the item they wanted? It is incredible, and it’s true. People actually do this year after year after year.

And this year, I wouldn’t mind doing it myself!

If I could.

Instead, my husband and I celebrated a day-late Thanksgiving at home. It was a good meal, topped off with pumpkin pie with whipped cream. We have much for which to be thankful, especially our family, which is spread over a wide swath of the world.

In a few days, we’ll be gearing up for Christmas, making plans, and babyproofing the house for a very special little visitor (grandson). Christmas won’t be as quiet as today, but we will enjoy every minute with our son’s family.

And, the rest of our Black Friday will be spent doing some things that need to be done.

God bless as you enjoy this holiday season. (May you never get trampled in the crowds! Wherever you are.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thankful for--and More

Photo by: AResiek

On social media in the month of November, many Christians are naming something they’re thankful for each day: husband, family, children, home, food (You’d be surprised how many mention food!), etc. Then, as the month goes on, you get: Bible, church, salvation, etc.

It’s a great exercise, this thankfulness. I’m reminded of the book Ten Thousand Gifts, where the author writes down all kinds of things she is thankful for, especially beautiful things, like the colors on bubbles. We would all do well to cultivate looking for our blessings, writing them down, if only making the list in our hearts.

Thanksgiving week is upon us, and our thoughts go to the meal. I need to make the pies on Wednesday, decide on the final menu earlier. It’s important to decorate, to plan, to make it yummy.

And, in all this thankfulness and in all the feasting, I’m afraid the Giver gets pushed into second place.

In the THANKFUL FOR and THANKFUL TO, we might forget to WORSHIP THE GIVER. When we praise God for Who He is, we are worshiping. We’re giving Him glory.

Who is God? He’s:
Present everywhere
Totally Holy, Pure, Good, Righteous
Creator of the earth and the universe
The Author of moral law
Three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Three are One (Trinity)
The Author of the Bible
Planner and Source of salvation
The Resurrection and the Life
Never Changing
Just and Impartial

Maybe after the turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing, we could take a few minutes to consciously worship the Giver, thanking Him for being our Awesome God.

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God,
be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen (1 Timothy 1:17).

And then, we’ll enjoy some pumpkin pie with big smiles in our hearts.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground

Photo by HRLK

Christians are sometimes accused of being so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good. Sometimes, it’s pretty accurate. They are the guru Christians, always dreaming of the other side. They sit around and think and dream.

I like to think of heaven, too. God gave us a few glimpses, and I’m almost overwhelmed with the beauty. No evil, no sadness, no regrets—only joy; it fills me with anticipation. Who wouldn’t want to go there? Can you imagine it? (I’m not signing up for first in line, you understand! But, I want to go. I desire Jesus.)

See, your head is up in the clouds, too, if only for a minute!

And, here we are—firmly on the ground to live our vapor lives with meaning. We’re here for a purpose: to glorify God, to do His will. Whatever we do, even if it’s washing dishes, we’re to do it as unto the Lord—like a prayer of praise to Him. Even though in the light of eternity, our life is a little whiff, it’s supposed to be a perfume, a fragrance that pleases the Lord.

We’re to be useful to Him.

Did you ever ask yourself how God could possibly want to use you? I’m always encouraged by these verses. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Yep, it’s all about what God does through us, miserable and underserving though we be.

I am always amazed that He should choose to use people to do His work. It’s a humbling thought.

The Bible admonishes, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

Do it now. Do it with all your might. Work for the Lord. Serve Him.

The Psalmist expressed it this way, Serve the LORD with gladness (Psalm 100:2a). (That word serve means to work for God, to be His servant.)

Jesus said, If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour (John 12:26).

We have two missions:
  1. Bring glory to God in all that we say or do. Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  2. Make disciples. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Matthew 28:19-20).

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.” C.T. Studd
Is your head in the clouds again? Are you thinking that serving God means only the “spiritual” things you do? Yes, it’s great to serve in your local church and reach the lost, and work with people for God’s glory. It’s absolutely vital that you have personal time with the Lord, in His Word and in prayer.

Feet on the ground, too. It is also important that you clean your house, wash your dishes, and make your bed. It’s right to spend time playing with your children and being a family. It’s right to make your husband a top priority. And, you need to buy groceries and live.

So, where is the balance? I like this quote from Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., “There is no difference between the secular and sacred, because to the Christian all things are sacred and all ground is holy ground.”

I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O LORD, will I sing.
I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way.
O when wilt thou come unto me?
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart (Psalm 101:1-2).

Let’s walk within our houses with perfect hearts, and from time to time have our heads also in the clouds, thinking about our final home.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review: While the World Watched

While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During the Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Maull McKinstry is one of those books I believe everyone should be required to read in school. In a way, it’s a pity it came out so late. Copyrighted 2011, it tells the story of Birmingham—what really happened—from the eyes of a survivor. I’d call her a victor.

My personal parenthesis: I grew up in the South, and I’d guess you’d say it was segregated back then. But, honestly, this book was a shocker. I had no idea about what was going on in Birmingham. I couldn’t have told you one Jim Crow law. I thought we were segregated in our schools merely because whites lived mostly in the suburbs and blacks in the city. I remember when busing started in Richmond, VA, though it didn’t affect us much. There were only one or two black children in our school of maybe 600. They were as normal as the rest of us, and I don’t think anyone ever made a big deal about it. I had heard about segregated water fountains and restrooms, but never saw them. I certainly had never heard that blacks couldn’t get served at a dime store eatery. Both of my parents had friends who were varied colors. The idea of “color” was a non-issue in our home. I do remember when I was maybe ten going to the funeral of one of my dad’s acquaintances. My mother and I—Daddy must have been out of town—were just about the only white people in the crowd. I remember feeling “different,” but not “out-of place.” It wasn’t until I was married that I saw segregation up close. I worked in a factory for a short time, and the people only ate with people of their own hue. I had a friend who worked with me, but she could not break tradition and sit with us white girls at a meal. I truly didn’t understand. It was close to this time that my husband and I were out one night, driving somewhere, and we happened upon a Ku Klux Klan meeting. They were dressed in those pointy hoods. It was one of the scariest things I ever saw. It was probably the only time in my life that I was thankful to be white. A cross was burning, and these people were looking in our car. Years later, our family was in Birmingham on business, and our host took us to the State Capitol. Nearby, he pointed out the plaque on the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and told us about the little girls who had perished there. Little girls . . . . It made me sick.

Carolyn Maull McKinstry’s book is wonderful. I understand better than ever why Martin Luther King, Jr. decided to involve young people in his marches and why he was so passionate about changing things. They needed to be changed.

Carolyn tells how her parents shielded their children from hatred and even from segregation. They understood how things were, but they didn’t feel the hate. That is one of the reasons when the bomb went off that Carolyn was left so traumatized. She went into depression, then drink. It was too much to handle. (In those days, they didn’t have counselors to talk to people about their traumas.) Carolyn’s family and community carried on. It was all they knew to do. And so, Carolyn suffered alone. Carolyn had been the one who answered the phone and heard the message “Three minutes.”

Carolyn shares about the years before and after the bombing. She tells how the perpetrators were charged but not punished. One did go to jail later, and Carolyn faced him in court.

This is a powerful Christian book. It’s about forgiveness and restoration. It’s also about civil rights—that everyone is valuable, made in God’s image. It’s about love and hate, justice and injustice. It’s about suffering, but it also has hope for victory. Carolyn’s Christian faith and her loving and patient husband brought her through those dark years, and now, she is ready to help others.

This book contains lengthy quotations from speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. and a few of the other civil rights leaders. It has a section in the back of some of the Jim Crow laws.

I believe you will profit much from this book, whoever you are. This is definitely a recommendation.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

To Be "In Christ"

Photo by; Stoonn

Believing and accepting Christ, repentance: those are the grafting. We are put on the Vine by grafting in. This involves cutting and joining and a bandaging.

We start to flow with new sap, new life in an old branch.

The gospel of John, chapter 15 has some profound meanings in simple words. (That’s how Jesus taught—with simple words, full of Divine meaning.) Let’s look at His teaching about our relationship to Him, in the Vine.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full (John 15:1-11).

Some main points are:
  • The difference between being withered, pruned, and thrown away and being left to grow and thrive is whether or not we bear fruit.
  • We can only bear fruit if we abide in the Vine and if the Vine’s Words abide in us.
  • God is glorified—the whole purpose of man—when we bear fruit.
  • A true disciple bears fruit.
  • Jesus loves us as much as God loves Him. We’re to abide in this love.
  • Jesus taught us these things so that we might have lasting, full joy.

These are profound thoughts!

It seems that this passage is teaching two things:
  1. Abiding is actually what it says: staying with, having a close relationship with. We abide with Christ, and His life enables us to bring forth fruit.
  2. Fruit bearing is the Holy Spirit working in and through us. The fruit of the Spirit is described in Galatians 5:22-23, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 

Our nephew Josh shared these verses. They go so perfectly with the idea of the Vine and the branches: As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving (Colossians 2:6-7).
  • Established in the faith
  • Rooted and built up in Christ
  • Walking in the Lord
  • Abounding (Literally: exceeding the measure; overflowing)

How are we doing? Can people tell by our fruit where we’re grafted? Are we rooted and established? Are we overflowing?

This verse expresses the goal of the believer in Christ:

Being filled with the fruits of righteousness,
which are by Jesus Christ,
unto the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:11).


Monday, November 18, 2013

Perceived Identity

Who are you?

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” Okay, right. Dogs think; fish think; birds think. Rocks don’t think; water doesn’t think; rugs don’t think. But, they are.

What do you think you are?

That’s is the idea behind “perceived identity.”

I know a little girl who watched Superman way back when televisions were new. She was convinced she could fly, though she needed a cape first. She and her sister fashioned a cape, and she climbed up onto the roof of their root cellar, built into the side of the hill. She stood on the roof, stretched out her little arms, and flew . . .

Straight down.

She believed she was Superman, but she wasn’t. (Blame the cape.)

In Spain, everyone has a national identity card. The law says you can be whatever you think you are. That is, if I wanted to have on my card that I am male, I could do that. I could continue to wear skirts, look like a woman, and act like the woman I am, but on my card, it would say “male.” I would not have to have any psychological analysis, take hormones, or anything. If I decided I “identified” as a male, I could legally be male.

Simple as that.

In the United States, there is somewhat of a furor about bathrooms. Can children who identify as something else use the other gender’s bathroom at school? (I’m wondering why children should be making sexual identity decisions at all.)

(In case you care, my card says “female.” I am content and comfortable with what I am.)

How do you “perceive” yourself?

John the Baptist knew who he was:
  • I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias (John 1:23; also in Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; and Luke 3:4. It is prophesied in Isaiah 40:3). He knew he was on the earth to announce Jesus—and to fulfill prophecy.
  • John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:27-28, 30).

The Apostle Paul knew who he was:
  • For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9).
  • For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).

Jesus knows Who He is:
  • I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:51).
  • Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12).
  • And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world (John 8:23).
  • Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7).
  • I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine (John 10:11,14).
  • Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25).
  • Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am (John 13:13).
  • At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you (John 14:20)
  • I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5).

And, who are you?

Are you in Christ? Are you grafted into the Vine, so that you can bring forth fruit? Do you know you are a Christian?

You can know: These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).

In the beginning of the church, Barnabus went to Antioch, left, and returned with the Apostle Paul. They taught the people for a year. The Bible says the disciples in Antioch were the first to be called “Christians.” (Acts 11:26) Christian means “follower of Christ.”

If someone were to describe you, would they call you a Christian?

If you describe yourself as a “Christian,” is it evident to others? Jesus said, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16).

What is your perceived identity?

Is it in Christ?

photo credit: <a href="">Fonzie's cousin</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>