Love


Yes, we Christians come in all shapes and sizes and are equally guilty of succumbing to the pressures and traditions of the secular world. While we do put God first on our list of priorities, that doesn’t mean we can’t rearrange a schedule or two to accommodate cultural traditions and special events. What I’m saying is that we’ve decided to start our new small groups next week—when football season is over.

There’s going to be a lot of praying today—not just in church but on the ten yard line, before the extra-point kick, and for many, for the hangover cure on Monday morning.  At church we’ve been reading and studying a book written by our pastor, Mark Batterson called The Circle Maker. One of the recurring themes in the book is to pray big prayers.

For example, when your team is losing by 21 points and there is only a minute left on the clock and it seems completely impossible for you not to lose that ill-conceived bet you placed while the tailgating was in its early stages—that is the perfect time to pray for a win. Why? Because it’s the impossible situations—the miracles—that give glory to God. If it’s not a miracle, we tend to give the credit to coincidence or frankly ourselves. So in other words, go big or go home.

There are so many stories in the Bible about monumental miracles that God performed. It’s these seemingly hopeless situations (a band of three hundred men defeat an army of tens of thousands; the Jews’ triumphant victory of Jericho not via battering rams but by walking circles around the city; feeding 5,000 people from a few loaves of bread) that show just how glorious and wonderful God is and that He alone can make ANYTHING happen. It’s living with RAW DEPENDENCE on God that allows His work to be done.

Throughout the last few weeks in church, Pastor Mark had been sharing story after story of answered prayers. We know they were answered prayers and not coincidence because we mere mortals could not make them happen—only divine intervention delivered these miracles. I kept leaving the services with an overwhelming sense of joy. Story after story—on and on—it’s a true testament that God is at work with us everywhere all the time. It made me wish (and pray) that our news programs would someday turn into hour-long segments of testimonials of the miracles and answered prayers of God. Can you imagine how wonderful our world would be if we heard about these stories all the time? People would become hopeful instead of depressed. People everywhere would start praying and waiting patiently instead of living a life in want of instant gratification. I am confident that someday that is exactly how it will be. We may need to wait for the second coming, but it will happen. It just would be much cooler if it happened sooner. (Or is that instant gratification rearing its ugly head?)

I would very much like to hear your stories. Your answered prayers. Let’s start telling the world about them so we can give hope to others. I would also like to hear about your big prayers. I want to pray for you. I’m going to make a circle here on this blog. I’m praying that people like you will reply to these posts and share your stories and your prayer requests and then share them with your friends and family and your Twitter and Facebook followers and anyone else you come across. Let’s start the ball rolling right here. It’s GAME TIME people!

I’ll start and put myself out there in the hopes that others will follow.

Today I’m praying for:

Opportunities to travel the world to see the beauty that God has created. I pray that I can take stunning photographs and write about the experiences to share God’s glorious creation with others. I want to meet people and learn about their cultures, traditions, and beliefs and to educate and share those wonderful stories with others. And I want the courage and opportunity to share with the people I meet my testimony about how God has blessed me.

Healing—to be pain free from my joint and back injuries and to become fit and healthy enough to climb mountains and play sports again.

For legal help for a friend’s sister. For her to break free of an abusive relationship and get help in the form of physical healing, a job, and a new home.

My friend who is pregnant to be relieved of the physical suffering that comes from being pregnant and for a perfectly healthy baby who will one day come to know Jesus.

For the healing that needs to happen with family members.

To be filled with the fruit of the Spirit and emanate light, grace, and love so that those who meet me will see the joy and freedom that comes from accepting Jesus and putting your faith in God.

As usual, the Christmas season is bustling with activity. It started early this year because our team at work is providing Christmas gifts for a local family in need. This is something I cherish doing each year. I know we should be looking out for these families and children all year long, but at least we can make some kids smile on the morning of Christmas. I can see their faces in my mind—eyes wide open and smiles from ear to ear. And the parents must have a tug on their hearts as they see their kids enjoying presents like other American kids.

So in order to get presents for these kids, I needed to go to Toys R Us before Thanksgiving. Holy hell. A Saturday afternoon spent at that place in the holiday season is my version of what eternity in hell would be like. And to make things fun, God had a great laugh by making me go back to exchange both the gifts I got—on two different occasions. But I’ll tell you. It didn’t take away one bit from the absolute joy it is to give a gift to someone else. Especially a kid in need.

My nieces then asked a huge favor from me. They wanted to go shopping on Black Friday. I told them they owed me big. That was the day we were supposed to sleep in (or fake it while Grandma finds a way to make enough noise to bring the entire house out of bed). But no. I went shopping. On Black Friday. Kill me now.

After that I was beginning to have enough (not completely but near enough) of the material side of Christmas. That night we went to Longwood Gardens to see the Christmas displays. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. It’s so beautiful and the horticulturists who work there are master artists. Not just the display of lights but the various trees and flowers as well as the gingerbread houses and trains—oh my, it’s just so incredibly fun and breathtaking. I was so inspired I went out and bought more crap to decorate my house. Okay, so I wasn’t quite done.

But now, today, after spending a really fun dinner last night with friends and their adorable three-year olds, I started really thinking about the advent. I listened to a sermon online tonight about God’s will and plan for us and how we need to be ready and open for opportunities and to always seek His council before making decisions. So now I’m inspired for the right things. God. And preparing for this season when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. I’m going to light my advent wreath candle tomorrow and say a prayer. Something like this (note, this is something I got online from this Web site and it’s by Victor Hoagland, C.P.—the beginning part, the other part is by God via the prophet Isaiah):

As our nights grow longer and our days grow short,
we look on these earthly signs—light and green branches—
and remember God’s promise to our world:
Christ, our Light and our Hope, will come.
Listen to the words of Isaiah the prophet:

The people that walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those who lived in a land as dark as death
a light has dawned.
You have increased their joy
and given them gladness;
They rejoice in your presence
as those who rejoice at harvest,
as warriors exult when dividing spoil. Is. 9:1-2

Then all pray:

O God,
rejoicing,
we remember the promise of your Son.
As the light from this candle,
may the blessing of Christ come upon us,
brightening our way
and guiding us by his truth.
May Christ our Savior bring life
into the darkness of our world,
and to us, as we wait for his coming.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

So I thank you God for pressing upon my heart the true reason for Christmas. I pray for all of you reading this that you have a joyous Christmas filled with love and mercy and time spent with loved ones. Especially those wonderful children who bring so much joy to our life.

Now please don’t go without enjoying a little laugh from an old sitcom, Laverne and Shirley. This is Lenny and Squiggy singing a powerful message about the holiday!

When life gets busy I tend to ignore things I need to do. Like posting to this blog. I can’t seem to find time to write and do all the things I want to do. Having been on the losing side of the recession, I am always very grateful to be employed, but too much of a good thing can have its downside. Like stress and fatigue. Add on to that physical therapy, doctor’s appointments, getting back into exercising, paying more attention to the Grendel dog who is showing his displeasure at being shunned by peeing in my basement, cleaning up after said incidents, and scrapbooking the past two and half years, and you’ve got reasons galore to not write on the blog.

I always say that people make priorities with their time. When you haven’t seen someone in awhile and you say you should get together (you know what I’m talking about), the truth is, you can see them—you just need to make it a priority. That’s not to say that all my wonderful friends are not priorities—they definitely get lots of “mind time”—that is I think of them often. And luckily I have been able to see some good friends recently—at the beach and up in Pennsylvania, here at home, and occasionally during the week. But I have to say that spending time with my family last weekend was a highlight. It was a cold, rainy day but we managed to have loads of fun. As much fun as I have with friends and co-workers, there was something really fun about our family time together. It’s precious and I thank God for the blessings he has bestowed on us. I’ve been thinking even more about that lately as several friends have lost loved ones in the past week or two.

One of the things I really like about my nieces and nephews is how they can enjoy time with us without having to play video games or spend a lot of money. We spent a small sum on some pumpkins and then the creativity of these junior artists took over as they carved their masterpieces. Each one of them had something funny and creative in mind for their Halloween projects. My little neighbor Cayden and his mama Tracie stopped by to help me carve my Cyclops pumpkin.

It’s the small things that count. The time spent with loved ones is precious. Through all the stress, the leg pain, the errands and chores, and travel for work, what I remember of this fall season are the days I’ve been able to spend with family and friends. A walk today with a friend, a block party, a weekend shopping with the girls, carving pumpkins, sitting on the sand getting the last of the summer rays—it’s been great.

Now that I’ve managed to get the neighborhood kids to toss my pumpkin in the woods (with great fanfare), it’s on to winter. What will the next adventure be? Don’t know yet but I’m sure something fun will happen with all these wonderful friends and family members!

I’m almost done scrapbooking, so maybe some interesting blog posts will crop up. Or maybe I need to get busy writing that novel. Or, maybe actually watching the dang Netflix video that’s been sitting on my TV for three weeks. Hmmm, so much to do, so little time. What’s keeping you busy these days? How do you decide what to do and what not to do? Anyone want to come clean my house? No? Okay, just come over and we’ll get started on the gingerbread house and holiday cookies! Happy fall!

Today is Good Friday. Today marks the anniversary of the day some 2,000 years ago when we all were saved. Jesus survived what none of us could and when he had done what was needed to do to cleanse the world he said “It is finished.” Meaning it has been accomplished. The feat that needed to be overcome to make up for all the bad that has ever and will ever be done by us. Just think how much that takes when you lump everyone from day one to the last day—all our sins big and small. It stinks. It looked so bad that for a moment God could not bear to look at his son.

 

Thank you Jesus! What a great gift you have given us. I accept your gift with love and thanks and hope that others will accept it as well.

I was thinking before I started to write this about how Jesus does answer our prayers—sometimes it just takes awhile. I say that because I have these awful neighbors. These people are the ones that used to throw trash on some of our lawns, write nasty notes, make up new rules for everyone, take three parking spaces in front of our houses, and generally complain about everything. Well today there is a for sale sign in front of their house. Thank you Jesus.

Now that was meant as a joke but in all seriousness, when put in context of the events of the cross I think I will ask Jesus for his grace and mercy (once again) and be grateful for all the wonderful things in this world—even the not-so-nice neighbors. Things could always be worse.

Have a blessed Good Friday and a wonderful resurrection day—Easter!

And if you have any fun egg hunt photos, let’s see them. We can rejoice in many ways this weekend.

Harmon and Tyler on the Easter egg hunt.

Each year when spring starts to show its face I think, crap. Why? Because I have serious allergies, the weather behaves like a manic-depressive, and it reminds me of mud. Rain plus the leftover deadness of winter. I love the snow in winter and around D.C. I always feel like we didn’t get enough. (With the exception of the 2009/2010 winter.) I love summer when it’s warm enough for the beach and the fall feels so good and is so pretty.

Poor spring. I’m hard on you but there are days when you prove to be so lovely and so uplifting that we can’t help but say you are beautiful. Today I walked the dog and felt the cool sun on my face. Last weekend I hiked through a park with my family and the dogs. It’s a time of newness when we watch as things grow and bloom all around us.

I was thinking of all this because of my nephews. They are just the sweetest boys. They are still kind of little but growing up fast. I love visiting with all of the family to see how all of the kids are growing and blooming. Even my neighbors and friends kids are delightful. Another year, more new skills, and the things that come out of their mouths just make you smile. It’s that same feeling of spring. I don’t want to leave the last season but a little reminder of something new makes you enjoy where you are and what you are doing.

So last weekend my nephew Harmon said something to me that made my heart grow a few inches. I was telling my brother that I might want to hire the girls (my nieces) to come down and help me with some landscaping work on my house. Harmon asked if he could come and I told him that he was too little but that in about ten years he would be my go-to guy. “What’s that?” he asked. “It means when I’m old and need help with heavy stuff, I’ll call on you,” I replied. And then Harmon said, “Oh, okay. Well, I’ll come down and help you and you don’t even have to pay me.”Love it. Love him. All those years of presents and trips have paid off. I’ve got my ticket now and am no longer worried about my old age. My nephews are going to have my back. Awesome.

But for now I am going to enjoy the fact that they are still little. Harmon and Tyler, we can linger a little longer in this season—you don’t have to grow up too fast.

I am blessed.

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.
(Proverbs 29:17 ESV)

In a previous post I mentioned my friend Fast Ed and his sense of humor. Well I just got a note from my friend Amy–the cancer survivor who was part of that story. Amy relayed a comment Ed said to her regarding an upcoming trip he’s taking with his wife. Here it goes.

” We are leaving for Botswana the day before Thanksgiving. Really excited about it.  We are limited to around 20 pounds of luggage since we will be flying in small planes to the camps.  So I have packed 19 pounds of bug spray, and 1 pound of other things like clean clothes.”

Fast.  

Having met Ed at Camp Tockwogh, it’s hard to say why he’s so averse to nature. But that’s Ed and we love him. I’m really excited about this weekend because the gang is getting together for a party. So many bright, fun, wonderful friends I have and I love these opportunities to hang out. Many of us live in different states so we don’t get to see each other all the time.

This weekend we are celebrating life. And giving thanks. Our friend Kim just finished chemo and is cancer free. Praise God! We are so happy she is healthy and can live a full life as a wife to our dear friend Rick and as a mother to two beautiful children.

So we’ll miss Ed for sure, but we’ll light a bug candle in his honor and give thanks for our many blessings.

My friend Bob, a wise and generous man, told me a story the other day about how Mother’s Day came about. I’d like to share that with you. I took this off the Web site the Holiday Spot.

In the United States, Mother’s Day was first suggested after the American Civil War by social activist Julia Ward Howe. Howe (who wrote the words to the Battle hymn of the Republic) was horrified by the carnage of the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War and so, in 1870, she tried to issue a manifesto for peace at international peace conferences in London and Paris (it was much like the later Mother’s Day Peace Proclamation).

It should be well to remember that Howe’s idea was influenced by Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker who, starting in 1858, had attempted to improve sanitation through what she called “Mothers Friendship Day”. In the 1900’s, at a time when most women devoted their time solely on their family and homes, Jarvis was working to assist in the healing of the nation after the Civil War. She organized women throughout the Civil War to work for better sanitary conditions for both sides and in 1868 she began work to reconcile Union and Confederate neighbors. Ann was instrumental in saving thousands of lives by teaching women in her Mothers Friendship Clubs the basics of nursing and sanitation which she had learned from her famous physician brother James Reeves, M.D. In parts of the United States it was customary to plant tomatoes outdoors after Mother’s Work Days (and not before).

It was Jarvis’ daughter, Anna Jarvis, who finally succeeded in introducing Mother’s Day in the sense as we celebrate it today. Anna decided to dedicate her life to her mother’s cause and to establish Mother’s Day to “honor mothers, living and dead.” She started the campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. With her friends, she started a letter-writing campaign to urge ministers, businessmen, and congressmen in declaring a national Mother’s Day holiday. She hoped Mother’s Day would increase respect for parents and strengthen family bonds.

So on this Mother’s Day I say, “Mom, you are the best. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.” And since no one says it better than God, here’s to you Mom.

 Proverbs 31:26-29

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:

Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.

 And just for fun, here’s a song that says it all.

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