Saturday, December 24, 2011

No Room In The Inn

No Room in the Inn

"She brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." ~ Luke 2:7

In these days of modern technology, we never miss a thing with TiVo, voice mail, DVD recorders, and camera phones. But even though our toys keep us from missing a phone call, they can also cause us to miss the real reason for the holiday season.

You can watch Christmas disappear in front of your eyes, in a heap of shredded wrapping paper, and find yourself saying, "I was so busy shopping, so busy attending this, going to that, that I think I actually missed the point of Christmas."

It might be surprising to know that the majority of people missed the very first Christmas as well. People just carried on with business as usual, paying no attention to what was happening just a few feet away.

In Luke chapter 2, we are introduced to an innkeeper who had no time for Christmas. In this familiar story, Mary and Joseph came to the innkeeper for a room, but because his inn was full, he turned them away.

The only place he had for this young pregnant woman and her husband was a stable, a cold, dark, and damp stable—which was more than likely a cave. He was too preoccupied with other things to make the time for Christmas.

There are people like this in the world today. They don't necessarily oppose or hate God outright. They are simply preoccupied. God and spiritual things do not concern them. Their interests lie more in what can immediately satisfy their own physical needs. The innkeeper was too busy to make room in the inn for the soon coming Messiah.

Let me ask you this: have you made room for Jesus this Christmas? If not, there is still time to refocus and make room for Christ this Christmas, today!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Experiencing Christmas Presence Instead of Presents

I have had the fortunate insight to see Christmas for what it should be, giving. Giving to those who are around us and hurting. This Christmas isn't about elaborate dinners or more presents for those that have more than enough, it's about extending ourselves to those in need. Families that are hanging on by a thread, but don't ask for anything, people out of work that we can help with a meal or two or a grocery gift card, a lonely person this Christmas that doesn't have a family Christmas to attend. Let's open ourselves up, step outside of our comfort zones and show the world what Christmas really means, let's be the hands, feet and smiles full of love for those that need to see it the most.

This is what Jesus meant when He came into the world to save us all from sin, it was a gift undeserved but desperately needed. Even though we didn't ask for it, God extended this to us gracefully filled with love. So this Christmas, please, extend yourselves to those in need around you. Guaranteed, there is someone out there with worse than you have it. Trust me!

God will return the favor too!

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,

for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

And again a reminder from Jesus in Matthew 25: 34-40

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I say it's time to practice what we know and start getting out there and helping. Isn't that what the real spirit of Christmas is all about?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Prayer Request

My dearest family and friends. I could use your prayers right now. We found out that our daughter's car needs to have the head gasket possibly replaced on her car and we are faced with an unexpected financial issue at this time, one week before Christmas.

We have faith in God and have sought Him in prayer hoping that things will work out better than expected at this time. We did have one auto dealer ask us to pay a deposit before he would start work on our car and couldn't guarantee it wouldn't cost more. This is something we hadn't counted on, especially right before Christmas.

My husband is literally a silent stress ball right now. You can tell he's holding it all inside but if you could pray for strength and peace for him right now and to let God help him let go of this situation. He's such a loving man who does his absolute best for us not to mention the fact that he's having to deal with leaving town in the midst of said crisis. You know you can only plan for some many unexpected things to happen and yet we don't quite know what we will do.

Your prayers for all of us would be greatly, deeply and very much appreciated at this time. Not to mention that my husband's dad is scheduled for heart surgery on Monday. Please pray that God will really show Himself to my husband at this time and I'll definitely keep you all posted.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are YOU ready for Christmas?

Hard to imagine what most people would think if they didn't understand what Christmas was all about, what the real meaning was behind it all?

If you were to take someone who had no knowledge whatsoever of what Christmas was and had them pass through a local mall, what might they think Christmas was about? Think about it for a minute, you're heading into a very over crowded parking lot filled more than usually. People are racing around in cars trying to rush into whatever space they find available. It's very competitive, so if you don't watch out, you may even lose the one you've been eyening or possibly engage in a verbal war of sorts with the driver of the car that believes you just stole his spot.

Now enter the mall doors where it's filled with busy shoppers rushing around with packages from all kinds of store. Each store front has sales signs designed to entice the shoppers that they have exactly what you're looking for and at the lowest prices anywhere. It seems the goal is to buy as much as you can. Overhead music streams from the speakers overhead telling you that Santa Claus is Coming to town between banners wishing you a Happy Holiday and Season's Greetings!

In the center of the mall there is an elderly man with white beard and a red suit posing for pictures with children dressed in their very best. Another person is offering the parents the opportunity to purchase those pictures. Babies are crying and it generally seems most people are too busy to even smile at a passing stranger. So just what kind of meaning really lies behind Christmas? Even the clerks and cashiers keep asking each person, "Are YOU ready for Christmas yet?"

I am passing along a poem I found today in an email I receive that should explain what it really means. I hope you enjoy it.

“Ready for Christmas,” she said with a sigh
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high…
Then wearily sat for a moment and read,
Til soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.
Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream,
“Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?”
She woke with a start and a cry of despair.
“There’s so little time and I’ve still to prepare.
Oh, Father! Forgive me, I see what You mean!
To be ready means more than a house swept clean.
Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree.
It’s the heart swept clean that He wanted to see,
A heart that is free from bitterness and sin.”
So be ready for Christmas - and ready for Him.

So as you can see, the real meaning behind Christmas should be more about the stuff we need to do and instead reflect on the gift God bestowed upon us all that Christmas so long ago. He gave the ultimate gift. The gift of His son, through His salvation, we receive an eternal life earned merely by the grace of God alone and not by anything we do. Wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas!

By the way, in keeping with the theme of Susan's Photo Challenge for Day 7, " A Wreath With A Red Bow," this is my wreath own our front door, wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

We Complain When Our Lives are Really Easy

We all complain. It's just part of human nature I guess. We complain about how cold it is, that it's snowing, no rain, too sunny, not enough money in the bank when someone else just got a raise; others are finding pink slips this Christmas season instead of a regular check while large corporation heads pick up yet another bonus check; we complain because we have to cook, while others are struggling just to find enough to eat for the day.

If you really look at what we complain about, it all boils down to nothing really. Someone, somewhere has it way worse than we have it now. So where did today's topic come from you ask, I mean, you must think about, where does she get these ideas for posts anyway right?

Well today's post is courtesy of my lunch conversation today with a dear friend of mine that I have known for over 7 years now. She is involved in my life so much, she is part of our family. She has been like a second mother to my daughters at times and we've seen it other at some of our lowest moments. That in my opinion makes a true friend. Plus, like she put it as we were saying 'Goodbye' today, that no matter how long in between our conversations or visits, Facebook posts or just finding some way to communicate, there is never any guilt associated with, "You know it's been (insert length of time here) since we last talked, how come you don't talk to me anymore?" Between us two, we pick right back up where we left off, no guilt needed. That's priceless in my book!

So while we were having lunch today, a variety of topics came up with one of them being the number one thing we hate to do when it comes to housework, her's is a tie between folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom, while mine was cleaning the shower and tub. As we get older, it's harder to get down and really give the showers and tubs the cleaning they desperately need before the old hammer and chisel is needed. I'm sure you get my point.

When she began telling me just how much she hated folding clothes, I laughed and said, "WOW! think about us sitting here complaining about laundry. I mean what is really involved between getting it to our machines, sorting it, adding the detergents and fabric softeners and pushing a combination of buttons, then switching said wash load into dryer and pushing more buttons. Hard to believe, we are sitting here complaining about this!" We both laughed, yet if you really think about it, how hard is it really? Compared to people who don't have the luxury of a washing machine or dryer, who have to do it by hand?

When you really consider it all, there isn't anything to complain about. All the modern conveniences we take for granted, from our computers, to social networking sites, we complain when it takes too long or it's too slow, when in reality, it's pretty darn fast compared to the old way of doing things.

It just made us both stop and really think about the things we complain about when people all around us are barely making ends meet and are hanging on my a thread. Makes you really reconsider all the complaining we do and start to think about ways we can help others if we can. Perhaps its a simple phone call or a card to let someone we haven't talked to in awhile, know we are thinking about them. Perhaps it's finding the time to take a great friend to lunch and really letting them know how much they mean to you. Time is too priceless to waste time and I hope this post touched you in some small way. I'd love to hear your comments!

By the way, I am running a Christmas Card Exchange if anyone is interested. Simply click on the Christmas card picture at the top of my side bar for details. I didn't realize it wasn't working before. Simply email me and let me know you want to participate and I'll include you.

Also an update to yesterday's blog post about my pictures of my painted villages, I forgot to include them so they are below for those of you that asked. In addition, today's photo is my submission to the day 6 photo challenge, "Candy Cane or 5!" This is made of jingle bells and is part of our home decor we've had for quite some time. I love putting it up every year! This are individually hand-painted by our family!

Monday, December 5, 2011

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks! What's it all Mean?

Well I got into the spirit of Christmas over the weekend, did you? For some of you, you don't even have your Christmas decorations up, your tree is only lit because it's prelit and you can simply plug it in, and others are debating if this year is even worth dragging all those decorations up from the basement, garage or wherever you have them stored.

Yet what does all this really mean? I am talking about the simple busyness of the season, the hussle and bussle of the shoppers? I got to experience some of this yesterday while running to Micheal's to pick up some snow for our houses we paint every year. It's a tradition my husband remembered being a part of his Christmas' growing up so it's one we've adopted. We stop by Michael's and grab some plaster houses for about $3.00 since they are now half price, and along with some water based paints we've had for awhile, begin painting various buildings. This year, we'll add a diner and a gas station to our growing collection.

We'll put the Christmas music on, and talk while painting our buildings. Over the years, our kids have joined in along with their friends and we have quite the collection now. All of them have been hand painted from 2005 til now. It brings back so many memories just unpacking them and setting them up. But back the Michael's.

I already have the mind set that you have to be prepared this year to struggle to find ANY parking anywhere you go, especially on the weekends. You have to be prepared for messy, over-crowded stores, and pushy people, kids that have been dragged to one too many stores and now are "voicing" their own opinions on everyone along with really, long lines. Now throw all those together in one store and you have our experience at Michael's. Oh wait did I mention one husband who has been really short on patience lately? Yeah, well now you have the setting for our outing.

The poor couple in front of us had their basket filled to overflowing with 18-inch wreaths that were on sale and because they weren't ringing up at the "sale" price, a debate with the check out clerk ensued. Not to mention, ours was the shortest line up to this point. Now you can imagine the battle going on in front of us with the lady customer who was getting loud and the poor sales clerk, while customer after customer in front of us managed to get out of the store way before us. For each one that checked out, my husband's patience was checking out right along with them.

I on the other hand, managed to remain calm because I had prepared myself for all these things to happen, so when you prepare, you don't get upset. I just sat back smiling, patiently waiting, feeling sorry for the poor clerk who was getting yelled at and had to keep cancelling their order and re-ringing everything up. By the time, we managed to reach her, she smiled and thanked us for waiting so patiently. I thanked her for being so patient with her customers and how busy they must be, while my husband was fuming on the inside and only managed to keep his frustrations on the inside.

This serves as a reminder that we must always be prepared for what lies ahead of us, as much as we can anyway. We serve a God who always knows the paths that lie ahead of us and what the outcomes will be. Now is the time for us, to take an extra breath, offer a smile to a busy waitress or cashier, or even a customer near you. There are far too many in much too big of a rush to see the needs of those around them, and I don't want you to miss it. There is beauty in everything! From the overly crowded stores to parking lots filled to capacity, to busy coffee stands. Let's gift everyone we run into with the love and grace of the God we serve with a caring smile and a kind word.

It's definitely the gift that means more than money and one that everyone can afford to give! Don't forget while you're at it, to wish them a Merry Christmas too!

By the way, for the 5th day of the photo challenge for December, my photo at the top is "Something Warm and Toasty!" It's a mug of hot chocolate, topped with whipped cream, cinnamon, nutmeg and red and green sprinkles! I make them for our family as we enjoy our family Christmas movie night where each night we watch one Christmas movie as we count down the days til Christmas. It brings us together and allows us to really talk about each movie. Tonight it will be "It Happened on Fifth Avenue, a definite vintage Christmas movie!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Being Resourceful

Today while browsing the blog posts of my favorite bloggers, I was captivated from time to time by the fluttering just in front of our patio door. Because of Christmas decorating I moved my desk directly in front of our patio door so that I could have a "bird's eye" view of my backyard. The fluttering today was from a couple of mockingbirds that frequent our yard because of all the berries that are available for them as a food supply. Not to mention when our sprinklers come up the worms are in great supply.

These two have been coming in and out all morning long and for a moment, I just stopped and watched what they were up to. They are gathering all they can for their winter prepartions. Not only are the busy, they are finding all kinds of supplies along the way. From the berries in the mulberry trees that border our back fence, to scraps of dried leaves from a neighbors palm that hangs way too far over our fence perhaps to make their nest a whole lot warmer this year.

What really brought this full circle is how diligent they are in their tasks. They are not wasting time waiting for a warmer day to do this. Waiting for a day where the wind gusts may just blow them into the side of our house or fence. They are doing it now, because they have the resources available to them today. Even though I haven't filled my feeder in a few days, the birds are gathering all the tiny seeds and berries that have fallen into the cracks between our brick pavers. They are doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Those same berries, branches and worms may be gone tomorrow when the sun decides to shine again or the winds die down.

They are braving the elements because they have needs. How often do we do the same?

When some life crisis has us against the ropes, or something seems impossible to fix, what do we do? Do we use all the resources available to us or do we pick up the nearest phone and complain to a friend or family member. Do we blog about our issues and hope for a solution in the comment box or even change our status on Facebook to reflect our current mood?

Yet do we really use all the resources available to us or are we merely searching for someway to get our problem solved without having to do any of the work? Do we drop whatever it is when life hands us a problem and lift up a prayer to the One that can resolve it? Do we ask for others to help lift our petitions up in prayers of their own. Do we consult God's word to see if their is insight or wisdom available there? Do we offer thanks to God for the issue at hand, knowing that behind everything there is a reason?

I for one am guilty for using prayer as my last result. When all my other efforts have fallen way too short of a solution. Most of the time, what I do notice, is that often times, when I go to God first, the problem never seems as bad, and it gets resolved so much quicker than if I handled things on my own without running it by God first.

The scriptures remind us that the birds of the air don't waste time storing up their food, but that God provides their daily needs to them. It's also a great reminder as well, that God doesn't expect us to sit back and wait for the food to fall into the nest as well. We have to be willing to come to Him in prayer, confess our needs and then get to work. In the end, make sure we thank God for answering our prayer even though it may seem like He hasn't heard it yet. Remember He knows about it even before we ask. Who better than to ask for help with anything besides God?

As for me, I've got a bird feeder that needs my immediate attention!

By the way, for those playing along on Susan D's 25 December Photo Challenge, here's my contribution, " A List!" As you can see I write down ideas for posts wherever I can and thought this went perfect with today's message! This is posted at the top of this post!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where is all the time going?

Well here it is, December 1st and just 30 more days and another year has flown by. I don't know about you, but there are points in this year that have grown stagnant and points where someone hit the "fast forward" button and the month was over before I had a chance to change my calendar page.

This time of the year seems to be set to "fast forward." Christmas shopping to get done, Christmas meal planning is in the works, guest lists planned, Christmas packages wrapped and mailed along with your Christmas card list, volunteering opportunities and church festivities all wrapped up inside of 30 days filled with your daily "to do" lists as well.

Yet for me, this is the month I long for, wait for all year long. It's when the weather changes and we can turn the fire place on and enjoy sitting by the fireside. It's where the leaves change color and the mockingbird hurry to gather the last remaining berries off the tree before the rains come. It's where I hope that moods and attitudes change for the better. Where people are just a touch nicer than during the other 11 months of the year.

Before you know it, we have to wait another 365 more days to get a second chance at Christmas and winter again. So today as I watch the last remaining leaves fall from the trees as the winter winds blow outside, I spend time in reflection and a silent meditation of sorts. Christmas music softly playing the background under the glow of the lights from the Christmas tree and just enjoy the mood that all of this creates. A mood of peace, on gratitude for not being busy doing something, on not having anything to do but sit. Although a nice hot cup of coffee sounds good right now too!

It's never too late to slow down. To enjoy the life that rushes by at an exponential pace, almost faster than I can blink an eye. Perhaps if I try, by the end of the day, I won't fall in bed completely exhausted and wonder "what just happened today?" It will end in sigh instead of a gasp and then tomorrow will offer the challenges of a new day.

Let's slow down a bit. If you're think, "yeah, right?!" why not ask yourself, why not? What can you eliminate that will provide you with more time to enjoy the day. What can wait til later? How can you simplify your life?

I look forward as always to your insights, your comments, as the gifts they truly are in my life!

By the way, in keeping up with Susan's 31 day photo challenge, I have posted my picture for today at the top of this blog, "Something Red!" If you're interested in the 31 day December photo challenge, check out my sidebar for details on Susan's page.