Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent: The Best Gift Ever

As many of you know, today is the first day of the Advent season-the period of time leading up to the day we celebrate Christ's birth on December 25. Though many of you have done advent calendars in the past, this one is a little different. The ladies in my church got together and made an advent calendar that starts today. What is different is that the verses for each day start at the beginning of the Bible-showing how we can see the coming of the Messiah from the dawn of time. I can't write the whole booklet for you here, but I will give you the key verses for each day and the passages in the Bible.

Nov. 29: Genesis 1:31; Genesis 1:1-3:24
Nov. 30: Genesis 9:11; Genesis 6: 11-22, 7:17-8:12, 8:20-9:17
Dec. 1: Genesis 12:2; Genesis 12:1-7, 15:1-6
Dec. 2: Genesis 22:18; Genesis 22:1-19
Dec. 3: Genesis 28:14; Genesis 27-28
Dec. 4: Genesis 50:20; Genesis 37, 39:1-50:21
Dec. 5: Exodus 3:15; Exodus 2:1-4:20
Dec. 6: Exodus 12:13; Exodus 12:1-14:31
Dec. 7: Exodus 19:4-5; Exodus 19:1-20:20
Dec. 8: Joshua 1:9; Joshua 1:1-11 and 6:1-20
Dec. 9: Judges 7:9; Judges 2:6-23; 6:1-6; 6:11-8:28
Dec. 10: 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 3:1-21, 7:1-8:22, 9:15-10:9
Dec. 11: 2 Samuel 7:8; 1 Samuel 16-17, 2 Samuel 5:1-5, 7:1-17
Dec. 12: 1 Kings 18:36; 1 Kings 17:1-18, 18: 17-46
Dec. 13: 2 Kings 19:19; 2 Kings 18:1-19:19, 19:32-37
Dec. 14: Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 1:10-20, 6:1-13, 8:11-9:7
Dec. 15: Jeremiah 9:7; Jeremiah 1:410, 2:4-13, 7:1-15, 8:22-9:11
Dec. 16: Habakkuk 2:1a; Habakkuk 1-2:1, 3:16-18
Dec. 17: Nehemiah 1:5; Nehemiah 1:1-2:8, 6:15-16, 13:10-22
Dec. 18: Luke 1:76-77; Luke 1:57-80
Dec. 19: Luke 3:16; Luke 3:1-22
Dec. 20: Luke 1:33; Luke 1:26-38
Dec. 21: Luke 1:48-50; Luke 1:39-56
Dec. 22: Matthew 1:22-23; Matthew 1:19-25
Dec. 23: Matthew 2:6; Matthew 2:1-12
Dec. 24: Luke 2:10-11; Luke 2: 1-20
Dec. 25: John 1:12; John 1:1-18

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don't Skip Those Naps!

As we enter into our busiest season of the year, let me remind any parents of young children out there: don't skip the kids' naps! Sleep is one of the body's best defenses against illness. Sleep does a world of good for correcting/maintaining cheery dispositions. Well rested children can "flex" a bit better when spending all day at a distant relative's house. Well rested children eat better. Nothing can ruin a holiday faster than a whiny, cranky, sick kiddo! So, don't let your schedule get so busy that you start sacrificing those important naptimes. Use that time to get ahead on your gift wrapping, baking, or online shopping (or take a nap, yourself!).

Pandora Radio

Looking for some non-commercial-filled holiday music? Want a radio station that plays classic Christmas songs as well as pop Christmas songs? Try Pandora. It's an internet based radio station for which you create an account/profile. Then, you create "stations" based on songs you already know and like. It will then play a "radio station" based on that song--all similar sounding songs. My husband and I are big fans and have an Allison Kraus station, an "Open the Eyes of My Heart" station that's all Christian praise music (yes, for those of you who know my hubby, HE created that station!), a couple of jazz stations, a U2 based station, and so forth.

But now... I've created a terrific Christmas music station. I typed in "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and picked the version by the Cincinatti Pops. So far this morning, commercial-free, we've heard "The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies," "Good Christian Men Rejoice," "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," and so forth--all classic Christmas songs, some instrumental, some sung--but all performed in a traditional style. My children are getting into it and everything.

So, when you're ready to escape the endless retail commercials surrounding the holidays, try Pandora. (There are occasional commercials, but VERY few).

p.s. Now a handbell version of "Angels We Have Heard on High" is on--lovely!

p.s. Now, it's "Joy to the World" performed by the Prague Philharmonic.... does it get any better than this?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving: Proper Perspective

The Pilgrims and the Indians, corn, turkey, pumpkin.... that's pretty much the image most of us have of the first Thanksgiving. (Thanks, Charlie Brown!)

While that is true, it is also true that the first Thanksgiving was very much a thanks giving to God for bringing the Pilgrims through that year, allowing them fellowship with the Indians, and providing them with food for the coming winter. Each group came together sharing of their bounty (and sharing their traditional recipes!).

This Thanksgiving, remember those first European settlers mixing with the American natives and their desire to thank the Lord. Did they have their favorite dishes at that Thanksgiving? Probably not. Did they have all their favorite people around? Most definitely not (in fact, many had died in the year previous). But they did have much reason to give thanks to God.

This Thanksgiving, Carrie and I won't be with our parents--for the first time since we left home, neither of us will be at the big family celebration that my mother's family has every year. We'll both be eating some different foods than are usual, but we will still have a wonderful day! We'll still have much reason to give thanks and to enjoy the fellowship of those with whom we're eating (gorging might be a better term, eh?).

The Thanksgiving meal we have with my mother's side of the family ALWAYS includes the following: turkey and cornbread dressing (homemade and my grandmother's recipe), gravy (for the dressing, of course), cranberry relish, some sort of sweet potato dish (used to be spiked with bourbon), rolls, custard fruit salad, pecan pie and chocolate ice box cake. It wasn't until both of us married that we started including pumpkin pie because our husbands like it (I'd never tasted pumpkin pie until I got to college!).

This year, here's what my immediate family will be doing. We'll get together with good friends, onecouple of which is from Louisiana and the other from Pennsylvania. Did we all grow up with different food on our Thanksgiving table? You bet. But, here's our conglomerate menu: turkey, cranberry relish, stuffing (those Yankees :) ), hashbrown casserole, sweet potato souffle, green bean casserole, rolls, pumpkin cheesecake, pecan pie, apple cranberry pie. A nice marriage of different traditions--in fact, I'll be bringing the pies and one recipe is my mother's and the other is my mother in law's. Even our appetizers reflect our diversity: crab dip, Chex Mix, artichokes....

So, don't sweat it this year if things aren't happening exactly as they always have in the past. It's the fellowship around a bountiful table and taking time out to give thanks to the Lord that's important. Make the most of it--our country is unique in that we take an entire day off from work to give thanks. Pretty neat, I think.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Operation Christmas Child

First of all, it's not too late!!! If you're familiar with this ministry/organization/charity and would like to still send a shoebox, you have until MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23.

Operation Christmas Child is one of many charitable giving opportunities that crop up this time of year. It's a significant part of Samaritan's Purse Ministries, begun by Franklin Graham. Why am I mentioning this particular opportunity among the thousands that present themselves?

1. It's a very tangible way for your children to participate in giving to someone else.

2. It's a reliable way to give something tangible to needy children (no one's going to embezzle tubes of toothpaste or Dollar Tree earrings).

3. It's a Christian ministry; the gospel is presented along with every shoebox.

4. It's easy: pick an age group and a gender that you would like to give something to. Go shopping and/or make something. Pack a shoebox and drop it off. (OK, this isn't quite as easy as giving a check, but it is easier than some of the Angel Tree requests I've shopped for in the past!)

5. It's got a big bang for the buck. You can fill a shoebox fairly inexpensively ($10-$20 should do the trick), attach your $7 donation (helps cover shipping and such), and make a child's Christmas. In the grand scheme of things, this is a relatively small amount of money with a big yield.

How does it work? You and your children fill a shoe box or similar sized plastic container with age- and gender-appropriate items (there's a list of recommendations on the website), wrap the shoe box, and drop it off at a location in your area (a list of these also on the website). Many churches and schools sponsor this, so your child may already have been given a flyer. If you missed the school/church deadline, it's not too late to drop a box off at a donation spot in your city! Then, Samarian's Purse ships the boxes to children around the world, presenting the gospel after the children open their presents. There are all kinds of heart warming videos on the website. Now, you can also "track" your box. If you make your $7 donation online, you'll get an email once your box is delivered. I think that's pretty cool.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Duty as Women

I always find it interesting when my various Bible study involvements overlap in a certain theme. This is one from this week. Both in teaching our youth girls this week, and our women's Bible study I encountered part of our duty as Christian women, in a very worldly culture. These quotes came from George Grant: "...culture is the temporal manifestation of a people's faith....It is time for us to change the world with our tiny pushes of justice, mercy, and humble faith."

So what are we do to? I came across examples of how we are to be spiritual mothers. Susan Hunt has written many books on spiritual mothering, and how we are to be as true woman (2 main books have those actual titles in them-but there are others too.) Here are the 3 key points:

1. Verbal Affirmation
2. Approachable Spirit
3. Challenge to be Obedient

And the story for our youth girls was so great about a young mother who welcomed a teen into her home-despite the dirty dishes and other daily chores with kids. She helped nurture and mentor this young girl into her own leadership role as a mentor. How great is that.

And I also have to mention-in several studies I have done, we have looked at the relationship with Elizabeth and Mary, concentrating on when Mary went to see Elizabeth after hearing the news of being pregnant. Well, think about this. Mary didn't call before she came. She didn't write, she didn't ask when would be a good time. She just went. It never mentions Elizabeth freaking out about the laundry on the table, or the dishes from lunch, or the unswept doorway. Or apologizing for any of that. She just welcomed Mary in and let her stay for a long time, and did all 3 points mentioned above.