MARY PONDERED ALL THESE THINGS IN HER HEART

HOW DOES A PERSON CHANGE?

ONE IMPORTANT LINK BETWEEN

PUTTING OFF THE OLD SELF

AND PUTTING ON THE NEW

IS “BEING RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF OUR MINDS”

 

MARY SERVES AS AN EXAMPLE

REPEATEDLY WE ARE TOLD

SHE PONDERED ALL THESE THINGS IN HER HEART

LET’S NOT SAY GOOD-BYE TO CHRISTMAS

WITHOUT PONDERING


Many of you have a favorite Christmas movie. I love especially the scenes from Luke 1 and Luke 2 in Jesus of Nazareth, as pictured below. Olivia Hussey is a believer and has a radiance that seems befitting Mary. She shows awe, wonder, and amazement. We see her pondering, truly.

"Greatly troubled at the saying, trying to discern what sort of greeting this might be"

 

"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to thy word."

"My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

"They went with haste and found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby...But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart"

And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

 

The verses in the captions above are all from Luke. They are so familiar that we tend not to hear them. I listened to my son dramatically read Luke 2 to his children last week, but saw their eyes glaze over. It’s hard when it is so familiar. But at least on this Christmas day, this day that falls once every seven years on a Sunday, let us ponder the verses below the pictures and see if we have a question, a comment, a new insight. And then I will lead you into pondering some other Advent thoughts. Many of these are questions that could be done with children as well.

I promise to keep the homework simple this week — and I’m not giving you a sermon, though if you want one, I’d recommend Keller’s  How To Sing at Christmas — about Mary’s Magnificat I also want to give my website manager David a break this week, so don’t have an easy link, but here is what I can do and you can paste into your browser.

How To Sing At Christmas: http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=6&Name=How+To+Sing+at+Christmas&monthrecorded=&yearrecorded=&scripture=&speaker=all&messagetype=&SKUsearch=&sort=DateNew&CFID=3459427&CFToken=23274446

 

Christmas Day and Monday: Pondering the Word

1. What’s your favorite Christmas movie and why? (I’ve already told you my spiritual favorite, but I also love Elf and love watching it with my daughter-in-law who laughs through it all every time. I have a son who wouldn’t watch it because it wasn’t spiritual and we made him, and he rolled on the floor with laughter.)


2. Read through the above verses that are captions below the pictures. If one quickens you, camp there, and tell us what you see. Ponder, ponder — for He’s speaking to you!

 

3. Name one memory from Christmas Eve or Christmas Day of 2011. Why do you want to remember it?

 

Tuesday: Pondering the Gifts: Though it is true this can become the focus, gifts can also be a way of showing Christ’s love if done not as a duty but as an expression of love. Maybe because people knew I’d be alone this Christmas (though I’m not really — the Lord is so present and I was with dear friends last night) I was given some very thoughtful gifts this year — and each time sensed love from the giver and the Lord. My daughter Annie knew I treasured some small pottery dessert plates that Hallmark once made that have the words grateful, thankful, abundance, and blessed on them. For years she has been combing e-bay, Craig’s list, garage sales…this year she found them! She is the best gift giver in our family for she listens and watches and prays to do it well! I have a friend who reads this blog and and noticed I mentioned I liked Bath and Body and the balsam fragrance and gave me B and B balsam candles. This is “paying attention.” Isn’t that what we all crave — someone who will “pay attention” and not give as a chore? I have a friend who is an amazing bread maker and mailed me, with dry ice, four loaves!  And my sister Sally sent me some old pictures of Steve and me that I had never seen, and I melted. So much love. Gift giving can be meaningful. It’s one of the ways God showed me His love this year, that He is Emmanuel.

Challenge question: The wisemen brought three gifts. What was each and how did each foretell something about Jesus?

 

5. What was one of the most thoughtful gifts you received this Christmas and what do you learn about expressing love through gifts from that giver?

 

6. What was the most thoughtful gift you gave, and did it provoke the response you hoped for?

How might you improve in this area?

 

7. What are some of the most efficacious ways to articulate thanks for gifts given — to people, and to God?

 

Wednesday — Thursday: Pondering the Music

Music penetrates the heart and when done in true worship gives pleasure to God. How blessed we are. I loved your reflections on music at church, The Messiah, your you-tube postings.

8. I’m going to give you some familiar lines from carols and ask for your reflections.

A. For the hard times, for those of you who are persecuted in your families, for those of you with illness, and with heavy burdens — this from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear:

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low

who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow

look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.

O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

 

B. For welcoming Him in on a regular basis, from O Little Town — think of it not just for the salvation from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.

No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin

where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in

 

C. Do you agree with this theology from Away in a Manger? Why or why not? What do your children think?

The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes

 

D. After our studies, does this mean more to you? Explain, from O Come All Ye Faithful

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing

 

E. Joy to the World is really a song of the second coming — what hope does it give you?

No more let sins and sorrows grow

nor thorns infest the ground

F. O Come O Come Emmanuel prays this line — did it happen for you with anyone this Advent?

Bid now our sad divisions cease

and be thou now our Prince of Peace

G. From O Holy Night — He appeared and the soul felt its worth — Are you realizing this?

 

H. Share a line from a carol that impacts you and why

 

Friday-Saturday   Pondering How God was Emmanuel, with us in Advent 2011

8. What stood out to you in your own life and why?

 

9. Share one story you read on this blog and why it stood out to you.

 

10. If you did listen to “How To Sing At Christmas,” what stood out to you?

 

11. Give thanks to God for gifts from Him this Advent.

 


COMMENTS (253) Post a New Comment ↓
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Ladies

I am needing help with number 7 and the questions on the music i have read some of your responses to see if that would help me understand them better but its not usually i can get an idea if i get some examples first.. Help please?

    Reply

    Meg, did you read Elizabeth’s examples above? Your posts may have come in at about the same time.

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ELF. i watch it all throughout the Christmas season, I wrap my gifts to it, I cook to it, I love the sounds of it, I bet I “watched” it over 30 times this month but never really sat down and watched it…..
I did that a lot this year with a lot of things, I have got the sence of things but not the true meat of things.
I was a person in a Bethlaham Exp. welcoming over 2000 people to “Bethleham” as my big girls played different Mary’s and little ones were beggers…..but did I really SEE Jesus??????
I read the christmas story to my kids, read over 40 story books with Christmas themes, you know, crippled lamb, candy cane story, mortmer the mouse, Christmas tapastry, angel pig, christmas star, all the american girl christmas stories and all the little house ones…but did I really hear them????
I just could not get my spirit to slow down enough to really focus on Jesus this year, no matter how hard i tried, and now I am sad, I missed it!
My prayer for 2012 is that I will stop missing HIM as I try so hard to serve HIM….His presence is in our home but Im treating Him more like a chair or the Christmas tree or ELF, then I am the friend He wants to be.
Its as if I lit a candle of HIM (christmas cookie of course), I could smell Him in our home but I just could not pay attention to Him.

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I have 2 memories from christmas that I will treasure. one was sitting with my kids and husband during both Christmas eve and Christmas morning services. having them all worshiping together. usually we are in different areas serving on sundays so it was a huge treat.
and the other one was that Lily really understood this year and was so excited about everything. we were woke up at 6 with 5 kids in our bed opening up their stockings:)
and my favorite gift was not even really a gift but it came on Christmas eve and I LOVE it. its a picture of our family. the sun is shining off the sand and it looks like our feet are glowing……beautiful are the feet that spread good news:) I will post a picture on my blog, since I could never explain it well. Paul also made me one of those picture books of our family that you can order from shutter fly.
My Abby got everyone such great gifts this year. it was a joy to watch her work so hard and spend it all on the people she loves.

    Reply

    Cyndi,
    I love the “5 kids in our bed opening up their stockings” – how I remember those days…I remember crying to my dad when we moved my oldest out of his crib into his ‘big boy bed’ b/c “he’s growing up!”, and now he’s almost 21 – really, really grown up!

      Reply

      yes susan, one of those “kids” was my 6 foot 19 year old:) they grow up WAY to fast!!!

    Reply

    CYNDI — GIVE US YOUR BLOG POST AGAIN SO WE CAN SEE THAT PICTURE YOU DESCRIBE!

      Reply

      so sorry! its ferrellchinajourney.blogspot.com

        and it is the second one down, i posted all my christmas eve failure to get a picture pictures after i put the one of the fireplace on.

        Cyndi, LOVED looking at the pictures! You have such a beautiful family and I love the family picture on the beach! ;-)

        Cyndi, I sure enjoyed your pics! The CHristmas eve ones were a blast :)

        Cyndi, I love that picture of all of you, too. I saved it for me! I love to keep up on things happening in your’s and Angela’s lives on your blogs. They are wonderful…don’t know how both of you find time to do them!

        ….and yours too, Rebecca…I haven’t checked it for awhile…do you still have a blog?

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6. I buy this loose leaf tea from a middle eastern market and mix 3 kinds to make a blend. i put it in jars for my friends who love my tea.
we got Luke creative suite for his computer so he could use his art again, and I got him and Paul paint. Paul loved the coloring book from the chicago art museum of tiffany windows…who knew:) I was going to give it to lily and when i was wrapping it he just LOVED it so I wrapped it for him instead, it was a $2 book but it was his favorite:) I also got him introverts in the church and a daily devo with little notes in it.
We got abby and ellie purity rings and they were there favorite gifts.
got emma a box of change and rolls…she just loves putting change in her change sorter:)
and Lily got special ear buds that stay in her ears so she doesn’t have to ask for help all the time.
I would like to pay attention better to Paul and do a better job with his gifts. this time i just got lucky:)

    Reply

    Cyndi, I enjoyed reading all about your christmas memories…you are a very special wife and mother to your family. They are so blessed to have you:)

      Joyce, I so agree!

      Reply

      you are way to kind! I was in a mood yesterday and my friend took the little girls for 4 hours, that is how I actually got on the blog yesterday:) PMS and post christmas blues all wrapped into one day was not pretty!!!

        I got that too!

B. For welcoming Him in on a regular basis, from O Little Town — think of it not just for the salvation from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.

No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin

where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in

I love how Dee said, “welcoming Him in on a regular basis”-so true. In letting His light sear the dark places of sin in my life I have found freedom to bend back toward Him more often when I am tempted to sin like with control-yet when I do fail, He is faithful.

I have really found this part of my relationship with God to be the most precious, the most intimate times I have spent with Him. Last night I pleaded with him to give me a heart like Mary’s-I don’t even think I understand how ugly it can be inside-I don’t think I can fathom what God sees-both Jesus righteous robe around me, yet can see the dark places inside that need His invasion. He is still chiseling away-he is faithful.

Sometimes my sin causes me to forget my heart is His. It is like that video I made a while back with the picture of an angry girl with her hand up to her face blocking whomever she is blocking-contrast that picture with the quotes and pictures of Mary above-I believe both pictures represent the war within us as believers, yet Jesus has won and He can give us hearts of flesh- like Marys’, well, make us more like Him! :)

I have to be willing to yield, and control stops me from that so I want God to rip that weed out. I know he will and I am willing even if it is painful and I know it just might be, but I am reminding myself to keep my eyes on the prize of His upward call-to keep going deeper and higher in Him. OH OH…A great word picture i heard once was from Dee’s F.B. page from a friend of hers-I forgot who it was! She said it to encourage Dee when Dee was signed with Worthy. She said something like, “God is on the move and you are on His arm.” LOVED THAT-it is a phrase and picture I will remember.

    Reply

    Give us the link of the video you made with angry girl

    I missed that encouragement from facebook — I’m overwhelmed by fb and rarely on!

      Sure, Dee! Will do. It is the one I made for our first time doing The Stonecutter. I am not great at doing videos, and actually I don’t like it now. ;-) If I could re-do it I would add words and change up the pics: http://youtu.be/18-E8y8KjVs

        Thanks for sharing this, Rebecca, as I had never seen it before. Such a profound song.

        Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
        Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
        Jesus ready stands to save you,
        Full of pity, love and pow’r.
        Refrain:
        I will arise and go to Jesus,
        He will embrace me in His arms;
        In the arms of my dear Savior,
        Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

        And that’s only the first verse and chorus.

        I am very weary right now and struggling. It has been a busy week and no time to blog, or no inclination when the time was available. I so much need just to run to Jesus and have him take me in his arms. I feel so inadequate.

        I had saved this in my favorite’s, it is so touching, Rebecca. Praying for you, Diane. .

D. After our studies, does this mean more to you? Explain, from O Come All Ye Faithful

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing

Oh yes it does! What impacted me is what He had to give up to be in the flesh-How in the O.T. they couldn’t look at His face or they would die, yet He made himself poor-He came in the flesh so we could look at His face and touch Him. He is the great I AM in the flesh-as Elizabeth put it so well: “He is the Word—the innermost thoughts, the revelation, the identity of God, incarnate…now in flesh appearing.”

E. Joy to the World is really a song of the second coming — what hope does it give you?

No more let sins and sorrows grow

nor thorns infest the ground

Oh this is my sustenance, my Hope in Him! This is what I need to remember when I struggle with sin and when I see my boys struggling with sin. There will be a new Earth where there will be no more sin.

F. O Come O Come Emmanuel prays this line — did it happen for you with anyone this Advent?

Bid now our sad divisions cease

and be thou now our Prince of Peace

I haven’t encountered any divisions with anyone, but struggled a bit wondering if God wants us to keep going to our church or not. The reasons aren’t that we have been hurt at all, or with expectations unmet-quite the contrary, it is an awesome church. I am just wondering if we are on the same page- focus wise. so we need to be praying and listening to God, yet He has brought peace in the midst as He reminds me of how precious my brothers and sisters are there, and they are-and that He is in control! I think we are going to be really listening to hear if they do have a focus of teaching with an emphasis on Jesus freeing us from the power of sin, not merely a sole focus on Jesus freeing us from the penalty of sin. I am not sure if it is balanced or not so I need to hear.

G. From O Holy Night — He appeared and the soul felt its worth — Are you realizing this?

Oh yes, I am seeing that God limiting himself to wrap Himself in flesh for me overwhelms me with His deep and passionate love for me that He would do this for me. My worth is in Him. As Elizabeth stated so well: “He appeared, and the soul—the depths of me, of who He made me to be, feels His worth—His weightiness, His glory. When I stop and think, I feel silenced. Humbled.”

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7. What are some of the most efficacious ways to articulate thanks for gifts given – to people, and to God?

To people, writing thank you notes, wearing or using the gift you were given and letting that person see you doing so; when my kids made a gift at school for us and gave it to us, I would put it on display if it was a picture or an ornament. Expressing thanks to God in prayer, thanking Him for every good gift; not being wasteful of His gifts. Elizabeth helped me here, too, by saying God must enjoy watching us enjoy the gifts He’s given to us. Maybe that would include not feeling guilty about enjoying a gift He’s provided. Personally, I’ve always struggled with feeling guilty if I have been given a large gift of money; I feel guilty about having it or spending it on myself, like why do I deserve this when others have to scrape for every penny; I have a really hard time just enjoying it. My in-laws are very generous with money b/c they have a lot, and it always makes me feel uncomfortable.

    Oh Susan, this is good-I so love your heart, and loved what Elizabeth said too about God enjoying watching us enjoy what He has given us.

    You are right about thank you notes. I hate this about me, but I still don’t care either way about receiving thank you notes, but am learning that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t send them to others. ;-) I mean, God loves our thanks and praise and He is God! When we were married, I didn’t send thank you notes to those who gave us gifts. That is a HUGE no-no. There were so many and I was overwhelmed with a 13 year old step daughter and a new life in a new home, in a new city with my new husband-so much to adjust too and no time to write notes. An older lady at church brought it to my attention in a bit of a harsh way-she said, “Did you enjoy our gift?” I said, “oh yes!” she said, “Oh, I wouldn’t have known, we didn’t get a thank you note.” Oh my!! That was a hard lesson to learn, but she was right. I should have sent them. SO..I am learning-so thankful for His grace! :)

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A. For the hard times, for those of you who are persecuted in your families, for those of you with illness, and with heavy burdens — this from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear:

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low

who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow

look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.

O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

This verse really resonates with me! It is so peaceful and gives hope to those who are sad.

Speaking of sad, we visited my husbands family over the holiday and his sister is not well. She is a teacher who is in an impossible situation with her classes; 32 in a class, only a short break during the day (these are middle school students), and to make matters worse, she teaches Spanish and some students don’t speak English! I don’t think anyone could be very successful in this situation, and she is beating herself up about it. She has taken time off and is trying to be ready to go back next week. She has taught in the district for 18 years and wants to make 20 for the pension, but I think they are trying to get rid of her. It is sad. Please pray for her health and for a new outlook on the job. Pray she is calm and finds the Lord in her situation. She is a believer but not practicing. Pray that she finds peace in the midst of chaos.
 

    Reply

    Father, I lift up Laura-dancer’s sister-in-law and ask that she find her strength in You, finds You, her Prince of Peace, and has Your wisdom for a new perspective
    In Your Name I pray

      Reply

      Oh yes, how I pray this with Dee for her, Amen

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7. What are some of the most efficacious ways to articulate thanks for gifts given – to people, and to God? Calling people and saying thank you. which i have a hard time doing.. writing a thank you note… using the gift and letting the person see that you are… I have a hard time with this because this can become an idol for me.. an example would be a few days ago my friend gave me a sweatshirt that she doesnt wear anymore and i have been sleeping with it since Monday night.. NOT A GOOD IDEA I KNOW!

Thanking God in prayer for the gifts that he has given us, and enjoying them.

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8. I’m going to give you some familiar lines from carols and ask for your reflections.

A. For the hard times, for those of you who are persecuted in your families, for those of you with illness, and with heavy burdens — this from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear:

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low

who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow

look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.

O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

First of all this is one of my favorite Christmas songs! Remembering to sing this when i am feeling a heavy load and burdened and maybe even sharing it with friends when they are going through a hard time. I need to remember to keep my eyes focused on him as well. and to seek him… I also actaully get a picture with is as well.. I can picture myself on a country road.. walking painful steps and slow and stopping to rest to hear the angels sing!

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B. For welcoming Him in on a regular basis, from O Little Town — think of it not just for the salvation from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.

No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin

where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in

I am so thankful that i have been freed from sin by the power of Jesus.. and remember that we do live in a world of sin and darkness.. but Jesus Saves and came to save us! Me a sinner! Wow!

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C. Do you agree with this theology from Away in a Manger? Why or why not? What do your children think?

The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes

I agree with Elizabeth on this one.. I believed that he cried.. he was born flesh, a human just like we are.

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D. After our studies, does this mean more to you? Explain, from O Come All Ye Faithful

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing

Sorry I am having a hard time with this one.. Lord please help me that you are the word of the father now in flesh appearing.. and that one day I will see you face to face not a spirit but a real human being! so mind boggling!

    Reply

    Meg — I thought you did well with the carols!

H. Share a line from a carol that impacts you and why

“God Rest Ye’ merry Gentlemen”

Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
Doth bring redeeming grace

This is a beautiful picture to me, and even more so to God I am sure! This is something I long to see among the brethren here on Earth, yet I know I fall short in this too-but He can redeem it! I am seeing it here on this blog as our focus is Gospel centered which enables us to freely extend Grace! I so desire that as we embrace together the incarnation and His Grace-that we would be compelled to truly extend His grace and love to one another regardless of the stream we may represent in the river. I really believe God is using the Gospel Coalition to shake up the church, and she is awakening. God has given us a gift with Dee, Tim Keller, and the ladies here-I am blessed-and I/we should take this and by His empowerment go out and be His walking Grace and love toward other believers. He is on the move and we are on His arm. :-)

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E. Joy to the World is really a song of the second coming — what hope does it give you?

No more let sins and sorrows grow

nor thorns infest the ground

My hope is that is he Coming and soon! there will be no more sorrow and no more pain! wahooooo! that gives me great hope and joy!

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this is my answer for 8, i just didn’t know it the first time i wrote it:)

I did that a lot this year with a lot of things, I have got the sence of things but not the true meat of things.
I was a person in a Bethlaham Exp. welcoming over 2000 people to “Bethleham” as my big girls played different Mary’s and little ones were beggers…..but did I really SEE Jesus??????
I read the christmas story to my kids, read over 40 story books with Christmas themes, you know, crippled lamb, candy cane story, mortmer the mouse, Christmas tapastry, angel pig, christmas star, all the american girl christmas stories and all the little house ones…but did I really hear them????
I just could not get my spirit to slow down enough to really focus on Jesus this year, no matter how hard i tried, and now I am sad, I missed it!
My prayer for 2012 is that I will stop missing HIM as I try so hard to serve HIM….His presence is in our home but Im treating Him more like a chair or the Christmas tree or ELF, then I am the friend He wants to be.
Its as if I lit a candle of HIM (christmas cookie of course), I could smell Him in our home but I just could not pay attention to Him.

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I could not pick just one story

Dee: anne finding the dishes that you love
Meg: love how you cleaned up with a joy filled heart as a way to keep from evil

Angela: love the gift of the brush from one daughter to another:)

Diane: loved that you had two men who had no where to go for Christmas to your home!

Elizabeth: Box of sketching stuff for your hubby was so sweet! and the beaded book mark from your son to you daughter! you were both really paying attention.

Susan: I love how charlie brown makes you cry:)

Joyce: teared up when I read how you son is so kind with Kendra and how fun she makes christmas with her child like heart. my brother who is autistic does the same for us:)

Rebecca: love how you always have encouraging words for people here, your honesty about your worry for you son, and the picture of you four energetic ornery boys at the dinner table:)

Laura: loved the daily gifts to your co-worker!

Kim: love how you said you did not like christmas movies and then named two great ones! the little house brought back such good memories and the gift of the magi always makes me cry! great ones.

    Oh Cyndi, you got it right-yes it is interesting my four wiggly and ornery boys at the dinner table. Even my 12 year old is wiggly still. :-)

    Reply

    Thank you, Cyndi. And thanks for thinking of the name of Kim’s christmas movie she watched and liked years ago!

    And you, cyndi, I love how you picked each of your family member’s a perfect gift that they would love! And I can just imagine you getting all your christmas things done to the tune of “The Elf”!!

    Reply

    Wow Cyndi — you are paying attention! Love this personal post.

A. For the hard times, for those of you who are persecuted in your families, for those of you with illness, and with heavy burdens — this from It Came Upon A Midnight Clear:

WOW I never saw that line before, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow…That is so me now. :) I like how glad and golden hours come swiftly. and rest and hear the angels sing. Good encouragement for the Lord is never far from us. We just must stop and rest in His arms and listen.

B. For welcoming Him in on a regular basis, from O Little Town — think of it not just for the salvation from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.

I like this because it is in meekness we truly receive Him. We must feel the need and respond as He opens our heart.

C. Do you agree with this theology from Away in a Manger? Why or why not? What do your children think?

The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes
HA HA this is hilarious to me. I know Jesus never sinned but crying is human and He was fully human. I do not think he was a silent baby. :) Just a sinless baby.

My 8 year old said, yes He cried cuz I cried. Babies cry when they are born. Well it was because they spanked my bottom. She is a hoot. Then I said well after birth do you think He cried? Then she said yes. When He was hungry, or wet, or tired. Then when I asked but He was God and sinless do you still think He cried? She had to ponder it. :) But then we discussed how He was fully human too and crying is not sin. :)

My 10 year old said, yes He cried. Jesus cried when He was an adult too. Crying is not sinning. MY husband got in on that one too! :) Funny family we have.

D. After our studies, does this mean more to you? Explain, from O Come All Ye Faithful

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing
Love this because the Creator who spoke all into existence came down. He was the Word that became flesh!

E. Joy to the World is really a song of the second coming — what hope does it give you?

We just did a study on Revelation. This is meaningful. There will be a day with no more sin or sorrow or thorns. Loved the study.

F. O Come O Come Emmanuel prays this line — did it happen for you with anyone this Advent?

Oh great line. No real divisions here as of now. Wish it would with my aunt though but she has no interest. Ongoing.

G. From O Holy Night — He appeared and the soul felt its worth — Are you realizing this?
Oh yes! I love this. God is everything!

    Reply

    Wonderful ponderings. It was Sara Grove’s interview on Midday that helped me see that line from It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. Glad it ministered to you where you are, Angela.

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H. Share a line from a carol that impacts you and why

I noticed how much the lyrics of such familiar carols stuck out to me different this year. Here are a few– I like this from O Come, O Come Emmanuel “O come, thou rod of Jesse, free”—the reference to Christ bringing us freedom from our idols, our entanglement to sin.

And from O Holy Night “Truly he taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”
I just love all of that. I read that the author was a strong abolitionist, and I appreciate that application—but also the spiritual sense of being free from sin, and freeing others from their offenses with our forgiveness. His love knows no boundaries, and He has indeed taught us to love—and His gospel brings peace.

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    You just brought freshness to two wonderful lines. Thank you!

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Joyce, I just wanted to jump on here to tell you that in my daily reading today the proverb just instantly brought you to mind–Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute.Speak up and judge fairly;defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Really, I just thought of you–the way you stuck up for Frankie with the nurses, and the way you tenderly care for Kendra. You really humble and inspire me Joyce, so thankful for your example.

And if I knew your address I’d be tempted to send you a little painting kit–just love the thought of you painting ;)

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    love this Elizabeth!

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    I agree with Elizabeth. Joyce, you should pick up your paints again. You’re such a caring person and obviously gifted, too.

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    You are too sweet, Elizabeth. Thank you for thinking of me and I will copy this Proverb and keep it where I can see it each day….Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Those words inspire me so much,thank you, Elizabeth:)

    And thank you for thinking of me, but I have so many things ready for me to paint, but never seem to get started! I got all of mom’s painting books and brushes and paints and patterns and everything you can imagine, when she died. And my oldest daughter has gotten me things also…she takes after her grandma and paints such beautiful flowers and scenery also, in oils. Matter of fact, my daughter, Kyla and Dee’s daughter, Sally both had the same art teacher, here in Kearney, NE and had work sent to a art museum in Lincoln, NE, when they were in high school here! That’s how good they are! It’s just that Kendra wants to help mommy and it makes it hard…but I shouldn’t make her my excuse! It’s kinda like sewing or reading a book, once you start, you don’t want to stop…you want to not be interruped! Which is imposible! Dee’s very special friends here in Kearney, a Dr. and his wife, (who is a retired surgeon that practiced with Steve), is my inspiration for art. He has done the most beautiful watercolor painting for years. I use to work for them and admired his work for 10 years there. I don’t know if he still paints, but he should if he doesn’t! I never tried watercolor…just oils, but watercolor intrigs me for some reason!

    I went on and on again…so sorry! That was just so sweet of Elizabeth to think of me…and all of you . Thank you!

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      I know what Dr. Wiebe would say to you, Joyce.

      Paint. Paint. You have to paint.

        Ya, your right!

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Hi all,
Sorry I haven’t posted yet this week. I figured my answers would be pretty lousy. For example, I don’t watch movies at home very often (I buy them and they never come out of the plastic!). I like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Rein Deer because I like to identify with misfits. And I forgot half of the Christmas gifts in a bag at home!! Sometimes I do find the “perfect” gift for people. Love the thought of praying about the right gift to give.

But, even though I don’t sit still long enough to watch movies, I am glued to the computer for hours. Today, I watched a VERY interesting BBC documentary (just got an email about it today) about frankincense. It began with the harvesting of frankincense, followed the old trade route,showed several uses of frankincense, and ended in Palestine (Bethlehem) with the celebration of Christmas. I particularly liked when a rabbi talked about meeting God with all 5 senses. (That was in the last hour). The thing was 4 hours (4 – 1 hour segments)! I liked the first and last hour the best. I had it on in the background — and wasn’t always paying attention.

“Series in which intrepid presenter Kate Humble follows the ancient frankincense trade
route of Arabia across the amazing modern world of the Middle East. Kates journey along
the 2,000-mile trail that first connected the Arab world with the West takes her on a
quest thats steeped in …” http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-frankincense-trail/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TopDocumentaryFilms+%28Top+Documentary+Films+-+Watch+Free+Documentaries+Online%29

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    Thank you for that, Renee! I am alot like you, I don’t turn on the TV, (Kendra does, so I listen to them and if they are good…I will watch), but I am glued to educational type things and documentaries to read on the computor, like you. Thanks, I will enjoy these! But not tonight, I’ve got a head cold and am going to bed early! Early for me!!

    Love and Prayers to all of you:) The weather has been so gorgous here too for winter time!

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      Renee, looking at this site you provided, which looks so good….I wondered if you watched or read the one about…”The truth of Christmas Carols”? So many good documentaries on here!

        Joyce, I did watch the one about the Christmas Carols, “sort of” and WAY in the background! Can’t recall enough to say if I would recommend it; I think I liked the first part and then got really distracted!

        A few years ago, I signed up for an email from the site. I initially went there looking for stuff to use in online classes, but the amount of info there is overwhelming… and some isn’t so good! When I get the emails, daily I think, I see the title or topic of the video in the subject line. I ignore most of them, but watch a few if they sound interesting. Or I leave the email in my inbox so that I might be reminded to watch the video at a later time (the later time rarely happens!)

        I’m sure I miss many very good ones, but do catch a few interesting ones, more related to personal interest than for class.

        I did watch about an hour of it — very interesting. Esp about the part of it being a blessing to a baby… but really, interesting.

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    You are so wonderful on the internet. I will watch this while I work in the kitchen sometime this weekend! (or at least part of it! :-)

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AND what was most memorable was the weather :) (Had a wonderful Christmas… and sorrows were more like “lake billows” than “sea billows”)

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F. O Come O Come Emmanuel prays this line — did it happen for you with anyone this Advent?

Bid now our sad divisions cease

and be thou now our Prince of Peace

No, Nothing that i can think of.. maybe my mom not sure..

G. From O Holy Night — He appeared and the soul felt its worth — Are you realizing this? Sadly no, God help me to realize you are MY EVERYTHING! Help me please O Lord!

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H. Share a line from a carol that impacts you and why

Come thou Long Expected Jesus
Born to set thy people Free
From our fears and sins release us
Let us find our rest in thee

I really like the lines: Born to set thy people free and Let us find our rest in thee

He came to free us! How mind boggling and Let us find our rest in him.. Oh how i need to practice this finding my rest in him and not other people

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8. What stood out to you in your own life and why?

I guess there are two things.. one was when i asked for peace a few weeks ago about brining my client home in bad weather i was crying anxious etc.. and asked him to give me peace and he did.. and then Christmas eve when i walked into my house not even 5 min after my friends dropped me off i had complete peace about my mom and her possibly going to church with me and going over to her house. He changed my heart and gave me peace!

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Pondering How God was Emmanuel, with us in Advent 2011

8. What stood out to you in your own life and why?

Well, I suppose I have a long way to go yet to be more Christ-like. Being around family can be difficult and I realize I wasn’t always the nicest person this past week. I thought I had become a better human too! However, I have a huge personal problem that I believe I am overcoming with God’s help which is encouraging. I guess we take one day at a time, right? God has been with me and my family. It is good.

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This might not speak to anyone as it spoke to me, but this really hit me today.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/12/29/if-you-believe-you-shall-have-all-things/

Martin Luther shows us “how the Law of God is intended to bring about desperation, a kind of desperation that only the Gospel of God can deliver us from”.

Sometimes I can get so legalistic and critical of other Christians, and when I do, I become so very unhappy inside, knowing I shouldn’t be critical, but unable to help myself. Then I have no sense of the freedom and grace that Jesus comes to give. God forgive me, and help me to forgive others and also to forgive myself for being so legalistic. I am desperate, Lord, deliver me from my miserable self.

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    I really enjoyed that too, Diane–thank you for sharing. It’s so good to have you here–your honesty always convicts me and I am thankful for that.

    Wow Diane, you have such a teachable heart-so good. I love how your heart is welcoming Him in to this area of your life. You are a gem-a godly woman who is pursuing God with passion-I love seeing that in you. Many of us can relate to struggling with a critical spirit also, I know I can! I have learned I need to be reminded of the Gospel-the Grace he lavished on me in my undeserving state-that helps me to lavish it on others-yet I need His Grace every day to remind myself! Oh I long for the new Heaven and New Earth! :-)

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    Thanks, Diane! I remember, as a kid, memorizing what Luther said about the purpose of the Law. What you quoted about desperation, from which only the Gospel can deliver…. speaks to me, too. Reminds me of today’s posting from My Utmost for His Highest: “The sign that God is at work in us is that He is destroying our confidence in the natural virtues, because they are not promises of what we are going to be, but only a wasted reminder of what God created man to be. We want to cling to our natural virtues, while all the time God is trying to get us in contact with the life of Jesus Christ— a life that can never be described in terms of natural virtues. It is the saddest thing to see people who are trying to serve God depending on that which the grace of God never gave them.” from http://utmost.org/and-every-virtue-we-possess/

      Renee, wow, great post. I didn’t have time to read it this morning so I am glad I just did. I loved this too: “God does not take our natural virtues and transform them, because our natural virtues could never even come close to what Jesus Christ wants. No natural love, no natural patience, no natural purity can ever come up to His demands. But as we bring every part of our natural bodily life into harmony with the new life God has placed within us, He will exhibit in us the virtues that were characteristic of the Lord Jesus….And every virtue we possess-Is His alone.”

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    Thanks for your encouragement, everyone. Thanks for sharing My Utmost, Renee. We are looking after our two-year-old grandson from Nova Scotia today. He keeps us busy and is such a delight. But it is hard to do anything else but pay attention to him.

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      “But it is hard to do anything else but pay attention to him.” I read that Diane, and thought again at the perfect Plan of Christ coming as a baby–so hard to do anything else but pay attention to Him, I pray I hold on to that.

        Elizabeth, Good connection between Diane’s grandson and Christ coming as a baby! Diane, have fun paying attention to him :) . Just thinking about how much attention young children require/command…. and wondering how my response to Him can be as “automatic” as how I care for young children — i.e., just do it both because the care is necessary but also because I enjoy it, at least with most young children :)

        Ha ha! Great connection, Elizabeth! May we always find it “so hard to do anything else but pay attention to Him, I pray I hold on to that!”

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Hi ladies,

I could use some motherly prayers tonight as things are not well. Sarah and her new friend (who moved in with us) have not been getting along at all. I thought this week away from each other would be good for them, but it has turned into a terrible situation. i won’t go through the details, but suffice it to say that the girls need to calm down. Sarah doesn’t understand that we made a commitment to this girl to get through the end of the school year, and Sarah will be done (hopefully) in 2 weeks so she won’t have to be around her all the time. She thinks we should just make her leave.

I think the girl is “playing” me….acting like everything is Sarah’s fault, and I tend to not believe Sarah because she has been known to lie to us in the past. Sarah claims the girl is not nice to her and she doesn’t want to “take it’ any more. We are in a pickle.

Please pray that my husband and I can help the girls sort through the mess; that we will have the right words and advice; that we will get to the truth in the situation. Also pray the girls are willing to listen and be mature young adults.

Thanks so much….

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    Praying for you, Laura, that you will have wisdom of Solomon here. This is so hard to know what is best for Sarah and for her new friend.

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    Laura, praying for you–so sorry, this all sounds really hard and stressful. I am praying you & your husband can stay on the same page, have wisdom of how to handle it, and for peace.

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Oh Laura, I am so sorry and am praying now and as I go to bed. May the Lord take this from you and give you peace and work all things out for the best, for the girls. I’ll be praying:) ( It’s only 1:57 here)!

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8. I’m going to give you some familiar lines from carols and ask for your reflections.

A. For the hard times, for those of you who are persecuted in your families, for those of you with illness, and heavy burdens – this from It Came Upon a Midnight Clear:

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low
who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow
Look now! For glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.

I imagine my burdens being like a big, heavy sack I am carrying on my back, which has me bent over so my eyes are down on the way before me; self-focused, unable to feel hope and joy, having lost being thankful for the good things I do have. I am only focused on “the burden”. What catches my attention in this is the “look now!” It’s like the psalmist taking his soul in hand, asking “why are you so downcast o my soul, why are you in despair? Put your hope in God!” This refrain exhorts me to look up, to get my eyes off of myself and my troubles. You see, when I get so down from what I perceive are all the things wrong in my life, in my family, the burden, that sack, gets bigger and heavier and bends me over so low, I can’t look up. The road of life can be weary, but God offers me rest, He says I can “hear” the angels singing – they are singing in praise of Him.

Okay, this hits me because the past few days I’ve been feeling really down. I know why. My son had his 18th birthday on Thursday. I see the clock ticking and the years flying and know he’s only a few months away from leaving for college, and I know he will not stay in our state; he can’t, due to the course of study he wants to pursue. My husband has been off work all week, and we’ve not been getting along. He was irritated with me the other night when there was no iced tea for him to drink, and all during dinner he ‘jabbed’ at me for this and that until I lost my temper and told him to “shut up”, then I ended up crying. My mom’s memory is slipping – it was so noticeable on Christmas Day when we were helping her in the kitchen; she was confused about timing the different foods that had to be cooked and I caught her putting a casserole in the oven with the saran wrap still covering it; my childhood home is up for sale; changes are coming. And yesterday, my 11 yr. old daughter said to me, “mom, why are you so depressed all the time?” She then went on to remind me that I have my health and I’m not stuck in a hospital all the time…”Look now!”
Here I have a beautiful daughter who is always with me, we’re always together, and we love each other, but I see some of my ‘idols’ being threatened – my sons growing older, my mom slipping, my security and need for affirmation being threatened. I know I’m looking to the wrong things to meet my needs. I truly believe that’s why God gave Dee that verse from Isaiah to give to me; God is telling me it is HE who knew me before I was born, and carried me in the womb, and it is HE who will be with me even to old age and gray hairs.

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    Susan, this really touched me. I can so identify. Thanks for being so honest and for turning to God when threatened. It is a great encouragement.

    My idols have been very busy poking their heads up this week as well. Change is no picnic. I am aware that this might be the last Christmas that we live near to our oldest son, since he is in the military and may be posted out in western Canada in the spring. I’m mostly in denial yet, but this terrifies me. I want so much to be with my grandkids as they grow up.

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      Oh Diane,
      Yes, I think it is natural for us to want to be close to family, to have them near, and to feel threatened by change. I so hope that you will be able to stay close to your grandkids!

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    Susan,
    Your comment about “Look now” — and comparing it to psalmist — is so helpful. The changes in life are so hard (This morning I fell back to sleep having a dream/nightmare about caregiving/dementia/decisions and woke up in a stress-filled daze). I will “look now!” – to Him.

    Praying for you with the changes and tensions you are experiencing, that you will continue to seek rest in Him.

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    praying for you Susan soo hard! Love you sis!

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    Praying for you, Susan….I’m so sorry:(

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    “God is telling me it is HE who knew me before I was born, and carried me in the womb, and it is HE who will be with me even to old age and gray hairs” this is so raw and real and honest Susan–and true. You amaze me how even with so much around you that just sounds like your getting “kicked” with emotionally–you still speak truth to your soul. I pray your sowing of faithfulness will reap joy ahead…love and prayers to you friend.

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    So glad you are sharing from the heart and that we can hold you up. The time when our children are leaving the nest and are parents are failing is a stressful time. I pray you will sense Him carrying you.

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B. For welcoming Him in on a regular basis, from O Little Town – think of it not just for the salvation from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.

No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin
where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Meek souls receiving Him, and Christ entering in does speak of salvation. When I think of overcoming the power of sin, how often in the ‘heat of the moment’ I am not being a ‘meek soul’, I am not being open to receiving His help to stop sinning – to step back from my anger, or from letting loose with my tongue. I remember one of my Bible study teachers saying once that when we let loose with our tongues and sin, we are saying, in effect, “Who’s going to be God right now – I am”. When I sin, I become closed to Him, I take the stance of stay away because only then can I do what I want to do.
If I think of these words as being help to overcome the power of sin, then it is exhorting me to humble myself and ask Him to enter into the situation with me to help me not sin.

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B. For welcoming Him in on a regular basis, from O Little Town — think of it not just for the salvation from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin.

No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin

where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in

I think this verse is reminding us that He is not far from us – ever. He is quietly waiting for us to accept Him. I don’t think I fit the “meek soul” characteristic though! Maybe I need to practice more…..I remember one of my very good friends saying that I needed to be still so I could hear God speaking to me. Maybe that is what a “meek” soul is; one who yearns to hear and is quiet.

Friday-Saturday Pondering How God was Emmanuel, with us in Advent 2011

8. What stood out to you in your own life and why?

This may sound kind of strange but I have learned to be thankful for the daily grind of trials. :) The core reason I am thankful is because the trials pry my fingers off and make me needy for Him and I turn to Him and again abandon myself really over and over. The more I abandon myself and turn to Him, the closer I am to Him and the more I can sincerely and deeply love others but this is a life long process that can only grow sweeter by His Grace.

Really the prize is Him, and then what comes is His peace and joy in the midst-an undeserved Gift! I am beginning not to desire relief from trials but to desire Him more in the trials for He is in control and my life is His. This is how Emanuel was with me this Advent-I think I am learning to let His light sear my darkness willingly more so than I ever have before-yet still I know I need to grow in this. I want to grow in this-I want to walk a yielded life more and more as I age. My time here with Him on Earth is short.

9. Share one story you read on this blog and why it stood out to you.

There were SO MANY I liked! I will have to say Diane’s story of the two single men that came to their home on Christmas. We were able to see how God worked that out! It started out with Diane being hesitant, yet sensing God leading her in that direction so she yielded herself to God even though she was uncomfortable and invited a few people. Then they canceled last minute and Diane was o.k. having a quiet Christmas with her husband, yet then God brought the two men last minute and Diane and her husband both yielded to God in who He wanted there. SO SO GOOD! I see Diane yielding more and more to God as Mary did.

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    Rebecca, thank you, but I just feel totally unworthy of your kind words. I am definitely not like Mary. I am a loooooooong way from being yielded and overwhelmed by God’s mercy. It is helpful to see the event from your perspective and hopefully from God’s, but, honestly, I wonder if the stress and confusion leading up to Christmas Day was worth it, in trying to “risk” for God.

    The lunch with the two men came and went without major difficulty, but then I fell flat. Lots of good things have happened all this week, but I have found it difficult to truly rejoice over them as I should have, for reasons I have not figured out. We have had family around all week, with darling grandchildren and lots of super cute moments, but I have just felt very “down”. It seems like Satan has been jumping up and down on my heart, and doing his best to pull me down.

    It is hard work, but I am trying to remember to “look” up instead of being bent over by the burdens of life, like Susan said. “My burdens being like a big, heavy sack I am carrying on my back, which has me bent over so my eyes are down on the way before me; self-focused, unable to feel hope and joy, having lost being thankful for the good things I do have. … The road of life can be weary, but God offers me rest, He says I can “hear” the angels singing – they are singing in praise of Him.”

    Thanks, Susan, and everyone else who has articulated the encouragement offered in the Christmas carols. I will keep reading God’s Word, and the encouraging words of others in the hope that eventually my heart will begin to “look now” again to “glad and golden hours”.

Listening to Keller-again, a phenomenal sermon so far.

10. Oh my i loved this sermon. Even sent a link to our Worship pastor at church to listen to before worship team tomorrow morning.

Where do I start!?! :) I love that he reminded me to remember His attributes when I sing.

O.K. I will share what I highlighted in my notes:

1. “When Mary hears the Christmas message she is changed-totally changed.
How do you know you are changed? Look at Mary. When the angel told her God is coming, God is coming as human flesh. She couldn’t comprehend it, then she is changed. She said “My Soul, My Spirit..” She is being changed in the very depths of her soul. She doesn’t say, I’ve seen improvement, but I am moved to the depths-I have never been so empty-so filled, so stripped naked and so clothed by this message.

Every Christian who is a real Christian understands what she is talking about. Something from the outside comes in to you. My soul, my spirit, my being, my foundations. That is what every Christian feels like. What is it that brings about this great change? It is the truths Mary is singing about.”

2. “Christmas is the manifestation of the ALMIGHTY God”…. “When God says, Be honest, be pure, be forgiving do I believe that he is backing that up with his all might? If I believe that then I would step out and say: I might get hurt by doing the right thing in the short run but in the long run the mighty one is on my side. If God is for me who can be against me? Mary sees his might in the Christmas story.”

“Mary sings/says I know the reason you have come is because you are holy to come and deal with our guilt/sin.”

Can you sing knowing the reason he is coming is because of your flaws? What you sing is you say, Oh Lord, to what lengths you went to save me. You are the God to whom the universe is a speck and yet you became a speck…That means at one point he became a single cell-the weakest form of life in the universe. He became a speck, why? Because of my guilt because of my flaws. To what lengths you came to save me. To deal with my guilt, with my flaws.

3. Mary doesn’t simply see God as being Holy and powerful and mighty. She sees a third attribute. First the mighty one, the holy one, and the merciful one. (PRAISE GOD!)

(I LOVED THIS ILLUSTRATION) When a company buys out a company who is incompetent, what do they do? They see this company they bought is full of incompetence, so what do they do? they fire everyone. Is it legal? Yes, they have the right. Is it practical? Yes, they have the power to do it, is it smart? Yes! Now God comes to us because he is powerful he has the right to blot us out, why? The world is morally incompetent from top to bottom. He has the power, the holiness and the right, but thank goodness he also has the mercy. If he was just powerful he would do what the company did-but he is also merciful. He will restore us and redeem us.

“God will do what he says. Every flaw, every grudge, every sadness, every fear, bad habit, bitterness, in your life will come down, it will fall before his triumph in grace, it will fall flat. He will have triumph over every one of them, he said so, for his mercies they endure ever faithful, ever sure, but in his time. Christmas means he will always come, but in his time.”

This REALLY stuck out to me, so maybe I should have just put this, but the above I marveled over too:

4. Mary says, God will not work with people who believe they got what it takes. The Gospel turns human expectations on their heads. That is why Mary predicts here that the more educated you are, the more wealthy you tend to be, the more powerful you tend to be. The more you are sure you got what it takes, the less likely you are to receive any of these things from God. That is the reason revivals always happen among the poor and in many cases why the powerful and elite reject the Gospel.

The story of the former president of Harvard’s wife really stuck out to me too.

The more rich you are-not just by money but the more you think you got it, you will be turned away empty. That is the reason why the poor will be lifted up and the hungry. Most of the people in his church are educated, successful, etc..you think you have what it takes but the Bible says you need to become poor and hungry. The poor are not afraid to say, I am a sinner, I have needs, I need the blood atonement of God. God came just because I am a sinner. The poor are not too proud to believe in the supernatural but we are afraid it is beneath us. That is the reason why Christians who come to their senses whether rich or poor, come together. That is why Christians help the poor. To become a Christian you have to become like a poor person. You have to say I don’t have what it takes. God is completely adequate and only those who know they are inadequate will receive.

If you turn to him he will give you everything you need, for his mercies endure ever faithful, ever sure. Do you when you sing think about his attributes and glory in his holiness and majesty? Do you center everything around him as you sing?

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    Oh, wow, Rebecca. Thanks for your detailed notes. Will listen to the sermon!

      Renee, I am afraid I posted too much actually.. Well, next time I will try to not let excitement get the best of me. :-)

        Rebecca, you could never post too much–your excitement is contagious and inspiring, don’t let the enemy discourage you! So thankful for you! ;)

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    Thanks from me too for sharing these notes, Rebecca. I definitely will try to listen to Keller’s sermon.

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    Wonderful notes, Rebecca — they encourage us all!

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8. What stood out to you in your own life and why?

I clearly felt His presence more than other years, I loved that Christmas fell on Sunday–I wish it was that way every year–it just felt right to get up and go, it grounded us somehow. The preparation study we did here also allowed more reflection. The story of the magi was richer, the songs, “God in flesh now appearing”—had so much more depth. It was as if my eyes grasped a new dimension this Christmas. Everything felt richer, not just familiar. It was a simple occasion here-just us, fairly quiet, but even the small things were more satisfying—like dark chocolate rather than milk (sorry—my husband is a chocoholic, so a big box is next to me ;)
Most of all, I felt Peace, His Peace. And I’m working out in my mind how to keep this, how to bring this into the new year.

9. Share one story you read on this blog and why it stood out to you.

So many great stories. I think the one that stood out most was Annie finding the plates for Dee. I have prayed for similar things like that, and been the blessed giver when God has allowed me to find something. I remember giving my mom some antique illustrations from an out of print book from her childhood—and I received as much joy, or more, in giving it. I can only imagine how excited Annie was—I find more joy in giving a really good gift than receiving, I’m sure we all do.
I loved Susan’s Bible example too. It reminded me of a gift I received in high school. I had been missing my favorite Bible for about a week—searched everywhere. I was frustrated because although it had been falling apart, it had all my favorite verses highlighted and underlined. Then on my birthday, my artist sister gave me a gift—she had bought me a new Bible and gone through the entire thing, highlighting my favorite passages with beautiful colored pencil artwork all along the pages, it’s still what I use today, though it’s been re-covered a few times!

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    Such good sharing. Of course I loved the part about Annie! :-)

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10. If you did listen to “How To Sing At Christmas,” what stood out to you?

Excellent, inspiring sermon—as always! My notes are as long as Rebecca’s but I really can’t add anything new, so I will just give a tiny bit from what stood out most (hard to do!)
Mary hears the Christmas message and at first cannot understand, comprehend, accept it. But then, she is totally changed by it–she is changed at her core. She cries out, “MY SOUL!!!! MY SPIRIT!!” and what we see is that she is changed at the very center of her spirit. Mary is glorying in the attributes of God, she proclaims that the meaning of Christmas shows ME who God is. She gets perspective of God’s omnipresence. God is OMNIPRESENT-is in all, always with us, always sees; God is OMNIPOTENT-all powerful; and God is Omniscient –all knowing.

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11. Give thanks to God for gifts from Him this Advent.

Dear Jesus

Thank you for this day and thank you for all of the small gifts you gave me this advent.. and thank you for helping me with my purity it has been going soo well! Thank you that you are all knowing and all powerful. You are Good even though there were some rough times this year and you will be faithful and Good in 2012 .. Help me to grow in these areas where I was asking why? Thank you Lord

Amen

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    I love this honest prayer Meg “Help me to grow in these areas where I was asking why?”…reminds me of Mark 9:24 “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” I relate and pray that with you

11. Give thanks to God for gifts from Him this Advent.

Lord, I thank you for the fact that you became poor for me, that you became weak, a vulnerable cell-for me. Thank you that you, as Keller said, with your omnipotent fist punched a hole plunging Deep heaven into Earth. You are mighty, Holy, and yet you are also merciful. Thank you that you didn’t crush me under your thumb Lord for you had the right to, yet in your mercy you rescued me instead. Thank you for continuing to rescue me from the power of sin. Help me with my perspective of you-the whole-I don’t want to forget the whole-your mighty power in putting on flesh, your sacrifice, and that you are timeless, that you will accomplish what you said you are going to do, not only in me, but in history. Oh God I look forward to the future too and I don’t want to forget! Help me whenever I sing worshiping you to remember all your attributes-always. In Jesus name, Amen.

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9. I’m skipping ahead ’cause I wont get finished!

So many good stories shared, but one that stands out to me is from Rebecca, when she posted that she was feeling the “gravity of the reality of what my son bears”….it was hard for her to fathom, to think that things may never change here on earth for him; yet she looked up, and Jesus came to her “like a warm blanket” and “a searing light”; He met her in her darkest hour. Thank you for sharing this, Rebecca – it reminds us that He is with us in the lonely hours.

Also, I liked Diane’s honest sharing of her Christmas struggle – her first plans for a brunch fell-through, then she came to acceptance of it just being her and her husband for Christmas, then she ended up having the two single men; and her recent postings of just feeling down for no reason; yet I see in Diane a perseverance, a seeking after God.
I don’t know either, Diane, why you feel down with your family there, but it could be that you are stressed and perhaps physically tired? I know with the holidays, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves with rest and eating well. I just feel like you are on a journey with God, and you are persevering to follow after Him!

I also like Dee’s describing her Christmas Eve with her friends, and the fellowship they had, and the candle lighting and sharing what God has been doing in their lives.

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11. Give thanks to God for gifts from Him this Advent.

Thank you, Lord, for my family being all together this Christmas. Thank you for my family gathered around the Advent wreath on Christmas Eve, to listen to Your Word, and for us going to church together as a family on Christmas Day. I noticed this morning when I prayed by the window, that winter mornings are so quiet, the birds don’t sing like they do in spring and summer. It seems that winter mornings are good for being quiet, and reflective, and spending time with You. Thank you for reaching out to me, for sending Jesus, for preparing me with a verse of Scripture to face life’s adversities, for reminding me that You have always been, and will always be, with me.
Thank you for my sisters in this study, for Dee, for the fellowship we have and that we are like-minded and can talk about You. I love You, God. Amen.

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I confess I don’t read Revelation often because it overwhelms/confuses me, but this was in my daily reading and I can’t explain it, but it gave me such a feeling of hope, and thankfulness I wanted to share:

Revelation 22: 1-6:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”

Happy New Year dear friends, so thankful for you!

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I’m so thankful for each of you.

I’m caring for a grandbaby tonight who doesn’t feel well, so I’m a bit preoccupied. But Happy New Year to all.

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Happy New Year Everyone!! It’s 12:02 here!

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11. Give thanks to God for gifts from Him this Advent.

 Well, I thought God brought Sarah’s new friend as a gift to us and was never happier. I guess I am really bad at “reading” His “signs.” I enjoyed the new “gift” because Sarah was special to someone. Now things are back to the way it was before; Sarah jumping from one “friend” to another – no one who really cares about her again. It is depressing for me. I just don’t understand.

Maybe God is trying to teach Sarah about friendships? She and the girl are fighting and somehow tomorrow I have to get these two girls to get along so we can all live in peace here.

I wish I could see the big picture! It is frustrating. I like Sarah better when she is around her new friend, not the old ones. She tends to get in a lot of trouble around the old friends. The new friend is seemingly “good” but Sarah says it isn’t the way it seems.

Anyway, back to the focus of the question…..thank you Lord for Sarah’s new friend and learning how to be a good friend. Thank you for friendships and painful situations that accompany them so we appreciate the friendships just that much more. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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