Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back . . . Moving Ahead

Like turning to look through the back window when traveling,
I look back to where I've been in 2010.
Snapshots of people, places, and events are clear;
the good times, the bad times, and the in-between times -
all are etched in my mind's memory album.

It's easy to see where I've been;
my photo album is full.
But looking ahead the pages are empty -
full of possibility and hope.

Learning from the past, I know that the pages will chronicle my journey
up the hills and down in the valleys,
along winding, quiet country roads
and through noisy, congested traffic.

And although I won't know what's around the next curve
or how many road blocks I'll face,
I don't have to live in fear of the unknown
nor wonder if I'm up to making the trip.

Learning from the past, I have no doubt
that He who traveled with me the past 60 years
will never leave my side in the new year.
The hills and valleys and curves are already known to Him.
No surprises, no impossibilities can thwart His good plans for me.
My Guide can be trusted.

Yes, the pictures of where I've been are clear and in focus.
But I don't have a clue what images will fill the blank pages.
And when confusion and questions and fear creep into my mind,
He speaks Words that bring clarity and stability and keep me focused:

Fear not; for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name; thou art mine.
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee;
when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned . . .
For I am the Lord thy God.
~from Isaiah 43:1-3~

Songwriter John Newton said it this way:
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come.
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
and grace will lead me home.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Whatcha' aiming for?

More of You, more of You;
I've had it all but what I need -
just more of You.
Of things I've had my fill,
And yet I hunger still.
Empty and bare, Lord, hear my prayer
for more of You.
~More of You
by Gloria Gaither~

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Celebrating at Fort Humbug . . .

A beautiful, joyful sight . . . yellow ribbons welcoming troops home! Home for Christmas!! I have an idea that this was not a "bah, humbug" kind of place this Christmas season! No Ebenezer Scrooges at Fort Humbug!

Please join me in remembering and praying for the many men and women who will be away from their families this Christmas. God bless them everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Waiting . . .

The Advent season is all about waiting . . . hope-filled waiting . . . expecting . . . looking forward to the celebration of His birth. It involves reflecting . . . remembering . . . but also basking in His presence today . . . for our Immanuel is with us this very moment! It's accepting and embracing His gifts of hope, peace, joy and love . . . for today . . . and tomorrow . . . and for eternity!

And so all the candles on our Advent wreath shone brightly today . . . and in the center stood the Christ candle reminding us that The Light of the World makes all these gifts possible . . . and that He should be the center of our focus during this beautiful holy season.

My favorite Christmas Scripture is not in the "Christmas story" but in John 1 . . . In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. How amazing!! But the best part of that passage - in my opinion - is verse 14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory . . . Can you wrap your mind and heart around that?!

God Himself became flesh . . . and so that means that He understands everything human . . . hurts and healings . . . tragedies and triumphs . . . the bad times and the good times . . . loneliness and fellowship. He understands. Because He chose to enter my world and yours and become one of us.

What a gift . . . what love! How can we not give Him ourselves anew this Christmas season? That's the best way we can say "Thank you" to Him for all His immeasurable, indescribable gifts!

Advent is about waiting . . . and just maybe He's waiting for us . . . to let go . . . to forgive . . . to love . . . to speak . . . to reach out . . . to shine our light in a dark corner . . . to really make a difference in 2011.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And the prize goes to . . .

All shiny and new
these gleaming prizes would soon be in the hands of the winners -
all of them -
whether they scored in the game or not.
Each boy dressed in black and white was part of the team,
so a tall, bright-blue trophy would be placed in the outstretched hand of each player.

On another day somewhere down the road,
rewards will be handed out -
rewards that will never tarnish
or be placed on a shelf and forgotten.
And each of us wearing a white robe will receive one
whether we were the outstanding player or not.

We'll win the prize
if we obediently press on toward the goal
to which He calls us.


When the valley is deep
When the mountain is steep
When the body is weary
When we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
When we're battered and scarred
When we've spent our resources
When we've given our all

In Jesus' name, we press on
In Jesus' name, we press on
Dear Lord, with the prize
Clear before our eyes
We find the strength to press on
~Lyrics to Press On by Dan Burgess~

Thursday, December 9, 2010

In the Shadow of the Cross

The setting of Jesus' birth has always fascinated me, and I've tried to imagine what it was like for Mary and Joseph and the Christ Child on that long ago night. A night that forever changed the world! So, I enjoy seeing the many versions of the nativity scene. But my favorite is this one that granddaughter Abby and I placed in our dining room. This year I added the cross.

These simple pieces are special for several reasons. The stable was made 25+ years ago by one of my seventh-grade students, and I've used it every year since. Thanks, Jason! The figures are also that old . . . well, except for the little Indian chief you see in the front! When grandson Isaac was little, he placed that tiny figure at the manger, and each year I've added it to the group worshipping Baby Jesus. It reminds me that everyone - no matter our race or economic status or culture - needs Jesus. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us - to be the Savior of ALL of us.

This year I placed the cross beside the nativity. The red berries around the foot of the cross remind me of His blood spilled for everyone of us. Jesus' story is not complete without both - the manger and the cross! As the beautiful song says: He was born to die. For me. For you. For ALL of us.

My devotional reading for today, written by Woodie Stevens in Reflecting God, so eloquently expresses what my display depicts:
The excitement and spirit of Advent is everywhere. Elaborate decorations with bright and colorful lights transform our streets, shops, and homes. They proclaim a magnificent celebration of life. All over the world, without a word spoken or carol sung, the festive decorations declare, "God has come to be with us."

Yet in the midst of the cradle celebration, there is the dark shadow of the cross. Beyond the dazzling lights, precious lives stagger in darkness, alienation, and the wages of sin. When Christ, the head of every power and authority, became fully human and died on the cross, it appeared He had been defeated; evil had won. The innocent sweetness of a babe in a manger belies the toxic hostilities of powers and authorities deployed against humankind. But God raised Christ Jesus from the dead.

In celebrating the birth of Jesus, let us also celebrate God's power that raised Christ as victor over sin, death, and the grave. . . . Celebrate the triumphant cross at Christmas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Memory Tree

Our Christmas tree is best described as a memory tree - full of ornaments that we've collected the past 37+ years. You won't find any expensive pieces - not a one - but you'll find some priceless ones! They may be getting a little worn and ragged, but that just makes them more special. Some are homemade, some were gifts, and others we bought. As I put them on the tree, and as we enjoy them during this Christmas season, we are reminded of some very special people and events in our lives. And we realize how blessed we are! God has truly lavished His love and grace into our lives . . . and we are thankful!

Below is one of my favorites . . . an ornament I made in 2001 to honor my parents, Edd and Gracie Knippers. They are no longer here to celebrate Christmases with us, but I have some treasured memories of them. Maybe I'll share some of our Christmas traditions with them in a later post.

My header shows two other very special ornaments, also homemade, of our four grands when they were much younger. They truly bring us so much joy! Merry Christmas Emily, Isaac, Abby, and Aiden! You are gifts from God to us!

I hope that each one of you has a blessed Christmas season. May the gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love fill your hearts and your home during this holy season - and all year long!

How silently, how silently
The wondrous Gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
~Phillips Brooks-1868~

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Keep going!!

John David used these words to describe the scenery in a certain area when we were traveling back in the summer. Those words have stayed with me.

Journeying through life, we all encounter those times when it seems that we can't see God at work, and the long, monotonous road stretches out ahead of us.
We may even wonder where it's taking us and wish for a change in scenery.

But we keep going.
We keep going because we know we're where God wants us.
We keep going because He promised to go with us, and we know He keeps His promises - even when He can't feel Him.
We've learned that we can't rely on feelings and circumstances or
what we can see with our human eyes.
We keep going because we know we can't see the big picture, but we know that
each mile - each step - leads us closer to Home.
We keep going because we've traveled these long stretches of nothingness before, and looking back, we know for sure that
when it seems nothing is happening,
something IS happening.

I have decided to follow Jesus . . .
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me . . .
No turning back, no turning back.