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Something in the Air!

December 20, 2014

There really is something in the air this time of year! Sort of an anticipation…excitement. The older I get the more I realize that it really has nothing to do with brightly wrapped packages or decorations, or shopping or food…

Maybe it has to do with memories…stories…love shared…

Maybe it’s the time of year when we think more about what others might want than what we want. Maybe it is the act of giving – either to loved ones or to the Salvation Army kettle. Maybe it is the cheery “Merry Christmas” we say to shop keepers and strangers.

There is just something in the air…some feeling…almost like homesickness. It’s sweet tinged with sadness – wistfulness. Cause while Christmas has joy in it there is also sad in it. For me, I miss my family. Mother always made Christmas so special for everyone. I have no idea how she did it all – she never forgot anyone – she was always cherry. Invariably on Christmas Eve my Father would come into the kitchen look at Mother and say, “Ruth did you remember…” She always had – she had been planning and making lists for months… Why he waited until Christmas Eve to worry about it…I think it is a man thing! (Sorry men.)

Each year as I fell asleep on Christmas Eve I could still hear her in the attic wrapping gifts till the wee hours…she was amazing. But she had a terrific role model in her mother, Virginia Bell. My Grandmother made every occasion special. Even when my sister, Anne and I had the mumps at the same time, my grandmother let us have a tea party outside – she tied balloons to the the lawn umbrella making it festive and fun.

My Mother grew up in China – far away from any mall or Hallmark store. My Grandmother planned months in advance so she could write back to the States for the items she would need for Christmas. She could not run out to the store at the last minute. There were some Christmas gifts that a local artisan could make – like a doll baby bed or a rocking horse – but most things had to be well-planned in advance. My mother followed her example.

Mother and Daddy both egged our anticipation on…Daddy would go around and say in a conspiratorial tone, “I know some secrets”! It drove us wild with excitement. Often he arrived just in time for Christmas – usually from NYC – with is big brown leather suitcases filled with gifts – we knew he always did some shopping in NYC. His gifts were the “extras” not on Mother’s list!

My childhood memories are sweet…it was a very different world then. But I think at Christmas we get a glimpse of what it was and still could be… yes…there is something in the air!

(I am sadly aware that Christmas can be a nightmare for some…abuse, neglect, loneliness, absence of a loved one, hurtful family history is more pronounced for many at this time of year. It is not always a Hallmark experience. May I suggest you start to change it for yourself. Change expectations, start new traditions, surprise someone, look out the less fortunate…and remember December 25th is just a date on the calendar. You can make it through the day. And Christmas can be celebrated any day of the year.)

With all the trappings let us remember that we are really celebrating the fact that the God of the Universe, chose to visit our planet to redeem us! Every ribbon, every bow, every light, every garland – points to the celebration of God’s great gift to us.

Consider the Least

December 14, 2014

Let’s consider the least…

“Least” means: smallest, insignificant, over-looked, of little value, ignored, lowest in consideration, position or importance.

A very small village in the hills of Judea is known as the “city of David” – the great King of Israel, perhaps Israel’s greatest king. Bethlehem was David’s hometown.

It is in Bethlehem’s hills that David tended his father’s sheep and probably penned many of the Psalms.

Rachel, wife of the patriarch, Jacob, is buried there.

Ruth and Boaz met and fell in love there – Ruth was David’s grandmother.

It was also the scene of a horrific slaughter of male children under the age of 2 years so ordered by Herod the King. That was their identity – much like Columbine’s identity. Or Sandy Hook’s. Known for the slaughter of many children.

We are celebrating Christmas…Bethlehem was the least of all the towns in Judea.

Yet God chose it to be the birthplace of His Son.

It was in the fields around Bethlehem that the shepherds watched their flocks and the angel host appeared with the “good tidings of great joy.” It was in Bethlehem the shepherds saw the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes.

It was over Bethlehem that the great star of the East shown and it was to Bethlehem the 3 wise men came to see the baby in the stable.

We sing the Christmas carol, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem. It says, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

Consider what took place in that “least” village!

As Jesus was in the temple He observed those giving their offerings to the temple treasury.

The wealthy put lots of money in – made an occasion of it.

In the busy temple a poor widow slipped in, unnoticed by the others, and put in her offering: two small copper coins. A small widow woman was insignificant, unimportant. Unnoticed.

Except by God’s own Son.

He noticed and He pointed it out to His disciples. He told them, “This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They gave out of their wealth; but she gave out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.”
Consider whom we read about in the scriptures to this very day.

Consider the one Jesus noticed and praised!

In Jesus’ day children were not valued except as the family “mini-servants”. They were unnoticed – they were just a “bother”.

Wherever Jesus went there was always a crowd – people pressing in – jostling Him. Mothers, wanting Jesus to bless their children brought them to Him. His disciples didn’t want to be bothered with them – they didn’t count; they were not important. Jesus was “too busy” but Jesus paused what He was doing to welcome them. Then when His disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the kingdom He told them that unless they could become like little children they would never enter the kingdom of God.

Consider the quality needed for God’s kingdom.

God told the people of Israel that they were chosen by God to be His family not because they were large in number – they were the fewest. He chose them because He loved them – no other reason.

Consider whom God chose.

Where are you? Are you wanting to be important? Noticed? Significant? The prophet Zechariah told us not to despise the day of small things. Nothing is too small for God to use in a big way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26, 2014

Enjoy your day – may it be filled with laughter and happy memories as you make new ones.

God bless you.

Amnesty vs Forgiveness

November 24, 2014
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There has been much discussion about amnesty these past days. If it is indeed amnesty that the President ordered or some other term – there is even the discussion about what to call it. Did he have the legal right to do it or not? There will be arguments for months to come.

Will those in the country illegally having birthed children while here get to stay? If not, what happens to the children who are legal Americans? What about those who have been here illegally for years and fear being caught?

It’s very complicated. But I am not sure why there is a debate on “illegal”. Obviously it takes great minds to complicate something so simple. However, that is not my point here. I am glad we have such a great nation that so many want to come here. I am thankful for this country and her people.

Last night I read this, “God does not condemn but forgives. The sinner is accepted even before he repents. Forgiveness is granted to him, he need only accept the gift. This is amnesty – gratis.”

If that is true how should we, as Christians, respond? God loves us while we are still sinners. He is ready to welcome us at anytime. I disagree with the statement above – the sinner is not “accepted” before he repents – no he is loved before he repents. Acceptance comes when we repent and ask Him to be our Savior. But we must repent first.

So I go back to our national conversation. Does any of this apply? Those here illegally have a process to become legal. We are a nation that welcomes others and gives them opportunities to build a better life. To grant amnesty to millions who have flaunted our laws and will flood our social systems seems foolish. They need to quit breaking the law, first, then get in line for the process. There should be no short cut and no rewards for law breakers. However, I am of the opinion that once here, folks need to learn our language and pay taxes, learn our history and love our nation. That’s the way God does it.

He doesn’t see sinner who has been sinner so long it is part of his identity and tell him, “That’s Ok. I forgive you. Go back to what you were doing and make a good life.” He is still a sinner. He must repent then he is forgiven and can begin a new life in Christ. God doe not give amnesty to sinners. He grants forgiveness to repenters.

Health Insurance

November 17, 2014

Along with many Americans, I received notice this week that my health insurance premiums will more than double. I am at a loss as to what to do. I tried to log onto my provider’s website to check my options but they are experiencing “technical difficulties”. I am angry.

Coming on the heels of the revelation of Mr. Gruber saying the new ACA was deceptive and designed to be confusing so that it would pass into law because we, the American voters, are stupid makes me doubly mad. Well, I for one, am not stupid!

I knew it was a bad bill. I knew it was deceptive. I knew it was wrong. Not because I read it but by the way the creators acted from the beginning. And when Mrs. Pelosi said, “We have to pass it so we can know what’s in it.” I knew it was wrong. That is the exact opposite of the way any bill should be passed. It should be read and understood by everyone who casts a vote on the bill. That should be a requirement of our lawmakers – to know, read and understand what they are voting on. That might slow some of these deficit-raising bills down!

I don’t think we as Americans have even seen half of what is coming. Our legislators have been acting in self-interest rather than being public servants.

I watched Mr. Hannity’s interview of President George W. Bush this past weekend. While traveling on Wednesday last week, I read President G. W. Bush’s book, “41”, about President H.W. Bush. Whether you agree with him or not, liked him or not, he is a man of principle and conviction. He is a man of honor. He is a decent man. Actually, both “41” and “43” are.

It’s a book worth reading. The contrast with “44” is very sad and very telling.

As much blame as has been heaped on “43”, and given an opportunity by Hannity to criticize “44”, he wouldn’t do it. That shows character.

Some of you may disagree with me. Some of you may get angry with me. That is OK. We can agree to disagree. But things are very upside down in our world right now – in our country. I pray God will be merciful to us – though we continue to spit in His eye.

Back to my health insurance problem…maybe they will answer the 1-800 number they provided. Do you think?

My Father’s 96th Birthday & Memory

November 10, 2014

I was able to drive down to Montreat on Friday to be with my father for his 96th birthday. Franklin and Jane were with him for lunch and I got there in time for dinner. It was a contrast to the huge celebration we had last year with about 900 guests and all sorts of media coverage – this was very quiet. Just my father’s caregivers, my son and me. I preferred the quieter celebration! I have never cared much for crowds and people surrounding my father vying for his attention. I used to say that when my father arrived, “The circus came to town.”

The caregivers are very devoted and sweet. They have an important job, not as the world might count important, but to us as a family it is important – and they do it with sweetness, gentleness and love as unto the Lord. We are very blessed to have them taking such good care of Daddy. Care-giving is very intrusive for a family. Privacy is stripped away. But those that care for my father are sensitive to that and try to give us as much privacy as possible. I appreciate that. We are very grateful to them However, we have to make accommodations for the staff being ever-present.

Anyway, my father is unable to converse much theses days. He no longer asks questions but if you ask him a question and if he can hear you and if you give him enough time he may respond with a nod or brief yes or no. He always responds when we speak of spiritual things – his spirit is very much alert and keen. Once in a while he will make a statement. I was reminiscing with him about how he used to take us children for walks in the woods. One day as we were walking, he pointed out the gravesite of our beloved family dog, Belshazzar – we did not know he was dead! (My parents had made the decision to put him down while we were at school – he had bone cancer.) I told Daddy, “We all cried.” My father said to me, “I cried, too.” I told Daddy, “He was a great dog.” My father replied, “He was my favorite.”

My father enjoys the memories he has when we were young. Isn’t God good to give us memory – to recall all the good and happy times?

God wants us to remember His goodness to us. Over and over He says in the Bible to remember. And we have so many blessings to remember! Just opening my eyes each morning. The breath I take. The ability to hear the birds or laughter. Being able to get out of bed on my own. These things come more clearly into focus after I have been with my father because he is so limited these days. He does not hear well at all. He has macular degeneration and doesn’t see well. But he is patient and grateful for the help that is given to him. He is loving and, when he isn’t, I don’t take it personally. It comes from frustration and confusion.

As I sat with him this weekend I couldn’t help but think that here was a man who changed history; left a mark on the world in which we live. He walked with the world’s most powerful people. He walked with the poorest of the poor, sitting with them in their misery. He preached to millions in the world’s largest stadiums…now his world is quite small – limited mostly to his bedroom. He is quiet and still. His memories keep him company.

Yes, I thank God for my memory and the memories I have.

Bless God

November 6, 2014

I have been reading through the Psalms this Fall. What a rich time I have had! I recommend it to you.

Recently I was in Psalm 145. What caught my eye was, “Everyday I will bless Thee.” How do we bless God? I looked up the word “bless” in the dictionary. Among other things, it means “to call holy”, “to feel gratitude toward”. He is holy. And the Psalmist lists the things for which we can be grateful:

He is great.
His acts are mighty.
His majesty is splendorous.
His works are wonderful.
He is power.
He is full of abundant goodness.
He is righteousness.
He is gracious.
He is merciful.
He is slow to anger.
He is great in lovingkindness.
He is good to all.
His mercies are over all.
HIs kingdom is glorious.
His kingdom is everlasting.
His dominion endures.
He sustains all who fall.
He raises up all who are bowed down.
He gives food in due time.
The satisfies the desires of every living thing.
He is righteous in all His ways.
He is kind in all His deeds.
He is near to all who call on Him in truth. (The NEB says “with singleness of heart.)
He fulfills the desire of those fear Him
And He keeps all who love Him.

That makes me want to shout!
Meditate on these things…surely we can feel gratitude for all of that.
And we can bless the Lord everyday!

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