Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Are you a Thermostat or a Thermometer?

If you are on any form of social media lately, there seems to be a trend whenever something news worthy happens. People post videos or leave comments stating their personal opinion on what is happening. But do we really understand the impact that have not only on our own lives but on the lives of people around us or who visit our social media sites?

When you think about these things and your life, are you a thermostat or a thermometer?

A thermometer is affected by its surroundings, depending on the temperature, it either goes up or down.

A thermostat affects its surrounding. It controls the heat or coldness.

Do you merely react to what is happening around you or do you have some sort of impact on it.

In the Bible we have two clear examples of who were thermostats and one who was a thermometer.

Noah and Mary, the mother of Jesus were thermostats. Despite where they were living, and things were definitely a whole lot worse than the world we are living in, they remained unaffected by things happening around them. They refused to be influenced by their environment. They held on to their moral upbringing and remained uncompromised in their faith.

Lot on the other hand was a thermometer. Living in the land of Sodom, definitely an evil place and not one you would want to live in. He was not happy there. He could have been a leader among the people living there and influenced things going on, but he didn't. He compromised. When the angels came announcing the destruction of the city, he had a hard time being convinced it was time to go. Even though he was spared, along with a handful of his family members, he wasn't strong enough to influence the lives of people around him. Even his wife took a sneak peek and looked back to see the destruction and faced the consequences of her decision to disobey the angels warnings.

It shows there is no power in a uncompromised life.

We often complain about how we are based on what is happening around us. Our job as Christians, however is to permeate and effect the culture around us.

When you walk into a room as a Christian, it should impact the people there. They should know you are a Christian. Not in a pious or self righteous way, but you should affect conversations.

So what does your social media sites say about you?

Would someone who stops by your page for the first time know without a doubt you're a Christian, or it is difficult to tell?

Do you stay positive when the negative things are happening all around you? Do you refrain from being impacted by what is happening around you and stand firm in your faith? Do you complain about how things are so bad in your life or are you making positive changes?

Might be time to move from becoming a thermometer and become a thermostat instead. Let's make a positive change both in the messages we are reflecting on our social media sites and even what is happening in the world. We can be the type of change that influences people not being influenced by what is happening.

I love how The Message translates Romans 12:1-2, "So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."

From the NIV, " Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." 

For some of us, it might just be the time to adjust our thermostats!!! I think now, more than ever, we have the ability to reach out to people and influence the positive change in our culture. Social media makes the more popular than ever before. 

And when you walk into a room and people change because you are there, count it all joy! You are impacting them in a powerful way by the how your life is a witness to them. 

The best compliment I received on my Facebook site by someone I "friended" is that it is so positive. It's encouraging and uplifting. That is just what I mean when I say how our lives and social media can have impacts on people we don't even realize. What does yours say about you?


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Seeds of Faith and Seeds of Doubt

Do you ever have one of those days in your spiritual walk that make you wonder if you have gotten off the path and have wandered away? Those days when doubt creeps in, a heavy weight feels like it has landed on your shoulders and you just feel like crying but can't really figure out why?

What do you do?

I had one of those days and unfortunate while dealing with it, things kept happening to intensify that effect from a handful of text messages I could have dealt with better had I not been feeling that way to being asked repeatedly for help from everyone who could. Those are the days I think you are beyond feeling overwhelmed.

You are just wiped out.

Even though the days and weeks before you were doing fine, things are going along perfectly, you're reading your Bible, doing your devotions, serving to the best of your ability and then WHAM!

It's like you woke up in your body but in a different period of time.

It's like you lost that lovin feeling.

Then people will ask you "What's wrong?"

They want to know how they can help.

How can they when you can't even figure out what went wrong, what is going on and how to get over this horrible feeling of uncertainty.

I didn't even feel like listening to my praise and worship music like I do every morning when I get up. Even just the idea of celebrating Christmas left such a horrible taste in my mouth. I wanted to run away and tell everyone to just leave me alone.

But I didn't.

Because life still goes on around you even when you are dealing with something beyond the blues. People still need your input and you are called to put your emotions in check and paste on that happy face and fake it.

Not even food sounds appealing either.

I didn't even want to pick up my Bible and read my morning devotions or do my study. I didn't even want to pray. I had nothing I could think of to pray for and I certainly didn't want to talk about what I was feeling, because I didn't know myself.

I even tried to speculate what it might be but honestly, I could probably chalk it up to a series of things coupled with lack of sleep and being so worn out in serving everyone I had nothing left to give.

Perhaps that is why Jesus often went away to just spend time with his Father, to pray. To revive; to be filled with the Spirit so He could give more of himself away.

Add to that mix spiritual warfare at its finest.

The enemy is like that.

Wanting to take advantage of the situation. To keep us down.

So I did what anyone does.

I cried.

A lot.

I told myself I didn't want to feel this way and I will not be ruled by my lying feelings. I prayed and asked God for help. He didn't answer right away. In fact it took til this morning to feel any better at all.

I read my Bible despite being so torn in my mood that I couldn't even pay attention to what I was reading. I found a lot of wisdom in the day however.

During my study of what I was supposed to be reading. I came across the story of Michael and Satan arguing about the condition of Moses body and rather than argue with Satan of lying about it, Michael simply stated, The Lord rebuke you, and he left the judgment of Satan up to God.

I didn't remember this until late last night I thought more about how bad my day was going but that in the past, I may have lashed out at the first person who made me made and let them have it. But I didn't.

I didn't even talk to people who had made me mad to tell them how I felt. I simply chose to be quiet. Quite out of the norm for me as well. I will  usually confront issues rather than wait.

In the midst of my reflection I realized how very much God did answer my prayer, just not in the way I had imagined.

He never left my side even though the feelings persisted.

I could take joy in noting how far I had grown in my spiritual walk this year because I am doing things He would be proud of. My small harvest of spiritual seeds of faith.

Confessing things I am afraid of saying.

Doing the right thing despite how I feel.

Praying first instead of as a last resort.

Controlling my tongue in anger.

Letting rumors lie.

In the end, it wouldn't have been the way I would have handled things. In fact during my last plea to God last night knowing I was facing a spiritual attack, I simply called out, "The Lord rebuke you." The voices of torment went away and I feel into a deep sleep.

This morning I can still feel the effects of yesterday as they tried to rage again but I was able to push it away. Today is a better day.

Today I got through the storm that sought to overcome me, and like I learned yesterday....

You can't stumble if you aren't walking or running in the race for God.

Yes....I'm doing something right. I'm definitely seeing my growth in God and it's a great thing. One that makes me smiling just thinking about it. I got a long way to go, but as long as I am walking, I am moving in the right direction.

Next time the enemy rages against you planting seeds of doubt in your mind, simply take Michael's advice, and say, "The Lord rebuke You and let God deal with him instead.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Childhood Christmas Memories

They say that music soothes the savage beast, but sometimes I believe that music can do so much more. It can move you to tears, it can take you back to someplace in your past where you can instantly remember that song and the memory it is tied to. Memories are like that. Perhaps that is why memory related illnesses are the most difficult to bear as well as the loss when a loved one moves from this life to their eternal home.

It's those memories we take with us.

We treasure them and keep them tucked away in our hearts when a song can bring them back to life and give us a brief look back in time. 

I am constantly looking for songs to add to my Pandora play list for Christmas. There are songs I love and ones that make me cringe. Ones I have to instantly delete, thumbs down (which means they won't come back as a song choice) or unlike them.

For me, my music taste is always evolving.

Constantly changing.

And the older I get, the more I find myself listening to songs my parents did. They take me back to my childhood and a time when I can spend a little time looking back at my past with fondness and love.

Johnny Mathis does it every time.

Perhaps it was my mom's favorite, but to this day, I can't listen to one of his Christmas songs and not go back to my old childhood home and remember Christmas with my brother Mike. Listening to the songs, decorating our house and tree for my mom who worked two jobs. Taking out our Hot Wheels and playing for days while the music played in the background.It was back before the invention of cassettes, DVD's and streaming music. Back when you listened to records. Old 33's that offering the crackle as the needle found its way along the groove on my mom's stereo console.

Those were the days when tinsel, the real stuff, was hung on the trees like glistening icicles.There was a proper way of putting those on and you had to do it one at a time. This made it look amazing if you did it right and gave the illusion of real icicles on the tree.

I remember growing impatient with that tedious process and would throw handfuls in a glob on the tree. I didn't realize that my mom could see them and had to go back and restring those.

I remember Bubble Lights. We never had enough to decorate the tree so there was this strand my mom would bring out and add to the tree. It was like a misfit, but we never seems to notice. We just loved watching the bubbling liquid inside.

I remember all my mom's old vintage blown glass ornaments. The ones we would be oh so careful in removing them from their cardboard box to make sure we didn't break them. I loved looking at the beautiful colors, the glitter that got all over your hands, and finding just the perfect place for these odd-shaped but colorful beauties. In love them so much now, my family is always looking for them in antique stores to take me back to my childhood by finding them on my own tree.

I remember thick strands of colored garland that we would drape in huge swags around the tree. We had blue, green, red and gold.

I remember my brother and I, secretly decorating this giant wood beam that ran the length of our living room and entry way in these giant swags and then adding just the right colored glass bulb to complete the look. I also remember how many of them broke when the swag fell off the nail we thought we secured in that beam. I don't think Mom ever noticed how some never found there way back into the box.

By far, my all time favorite memory were the old fashioned glass bulb lights that went on the outside of our home. We couldn't wait to get to work, untangling them *think Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation* and then stapling them to the eaves under the roof. Then painstakingly screwing in the glass bulbs one by one, ensuring that you NEVER put the same color side by side. Unfortunately by the time you got through a handful of the bulb boxes, you always ran out of the ones you needed and it messed up your color design.

See I was a bit OCD even back then.

You had to wait til it got dark to see which ones didn't work, and then had to go through the process of screwing and re-screwing new bulbs in. This was before the invention of the light sets that when one bulb burned out the rest stay lit.

In fact is is hard to find those anymore. I love it when I see old decorated homes that still use these. If I could find them, these babies would be back up on my house again.

It never failed too, when we found ones that were burned out, we couldn't wait to take them out into the street, throw them high up in the air and wait for them to explode when they landed. Silly, I know but we loved to listen to that sound.

One of my all time favorites was Ribbon Candy. I am thrilled to see that it is making a comeback now that vintage is coming back again. I loved seeing these in all kinds of shapes, colors and flavors. It was a rare find it you had one that wasn't broken. I found some like it and gave it to my kids last year.

Oh music and memories!!!

What are some of your childhood favorites? What takes you back to your childhood Christmas? I'd love to hear and thanks for stopping by and sharing mine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

History Behind Christmas Traditions

A long time ago, I bought a journal from Land's End and it was entitled Christmas Memories. It was a red, hardback book that would capture 20 years of Christmas memories, from what you had a dinner, to the guests who stopped by.

Places for favorite Christmas photos and Christmas Cards (when people sent them). What you did on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as a place for Christmas gifts. I have written in that book for so many years. There are a couple of skips in the book before I really kept to being diligent. There are some sad memories when we lost special people who impacted our lives as well as trials that threatened to overwhelm us. I even had one year I completely skipped because I didn't want to celebrate Christmas because my ex made sure to have our divorce finalized on Christmas but because the courts were closed, he had to settle for the day after.

Yet God brings blessings where we don't often look for them and He restored what was lost more that double what I lost in my new husband who proudly stepped in and filled in all those broken places and restored my faith in enjoying Christmas once again. In fact that moment stands out more so than any other Christmas memory.

In this Christmas Memory book are also the history behind some of the traditions we incorporate into our home every year and I thought I would share some of them with you.

1. Candy Canes: They originated in Germany more than 250 years ago. They were simple plain white sugar sticks designed to keep children quiet during church service back in 1670 as the story goes and since they wanted them to be a reminder of Christmas, they were formed into the shape of a shepherd's crook to remind them of the birth of Jesus. Later as the flavors of peppermint and wintergreen were to the red stripes. Christian meanings behind the candy cane is the J-shape reminds us of Jesus, the white of the cane represents the purity of Christ and the red stripes for the blood that He shed on the cross.

2. Poinsettias. Originated in Central America, especially in the area of south Mexico where they bloom during the winter. There is a legend of how the Poinsettia and Christmas came together.

There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.

'Pepita', he said "I'm sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus Happy."

Pepita didn't know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene.
Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the 'Flores de Noche Buena', or 'Flowers of the Holy Night'.

The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

3. Advent. Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas (or sometimes from the 1st December to Christmas Day!). Advent means 'Coming' in Latin. This is the coming of Jesus into the world. Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.

There are three meanings of 'coming' that Christians describe in Advent. The first, and most thought of, happened about 2000 years ago when Jesus came into the world as a baby to live as a man and die for us. The second can happen now as Jesus wants to come into our lives now. And the third will happen in the future when Jesus comes back to the world as King and Judge, not a baby.

Some people fast, or observe dietary restrictions like not eating meat or dairy during the countdown of those days. We most recently see these as Advent Calendars or a wreath that holds numbered bags to be opened each day as is a German tradition. People place small gifts or candy inside to make counting down the days even better and more exciting.

Other people celebrate the Advent with a candle that is burned down to each day marked on the calendar.

Some use what is called an Advent crown in which one candle is burned on the first Sunday, two the next Sunday and so on with each having a separate meaning.

First Candle - represents Isaiah and the other prophets who foretold of the coming Messiah.
Second Candle - represents the Bible.
Third Candle - represents Mary, the mother of Jesus
Fourth Candle - represents John the Baptist, Jesus' cousin, who told people to be prepared and to look out for the coming Messiah.
Fifth Candle - usually placed in the middle of the other four represents Jesus Christ, the Messiah who is the Light of the World. This candle is lit on Christmas Eve!

4. Christmas Trees. Both pagans and Christians used the fir trees, for pagans to celebrate the end of winter solstice, but Christmas for a sign of the everlasting life of God. Since fir trees stay green all year long and don't lose their needles, they symbolize life and the hope that comes from trusting in God when winter seems like it's an end to all life. Some countries refer to it as the Paradise Tree and can mean to represent the tree God provided in the Garden of Eden to symbolize everlasting life.

The first first person to bring a Christmas Tree into a house, in the way we know it today, may have been the 16th century German preacher Martin Luther. A story is told that, one night before Christmas, he was walking through the forest and looked up to see the stars shining through the tree branches. It was so beautiful, that he went home and told his children that it reminded him of Jesus, who left the stars of heaven to come to earth at Christmas.

5. Christmas Presents. This is based on the giving of gifts from the Wise men or Magi that came to see Jesus' birth. They offered three distinct gifts: Frankincense: a perfume used in worship to signify that people would worship Jesus. Gold: associated with Kings because Jesus would be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and finally Myrrh: a spice used to prepare bodies when they were to be buried because Jesus Christ would die for the sins of all mankind.

There you have it, some of the history surrounding the traditions we have in our home during Christmas. What are some of your favorites?