Seeking the Savior

Is Christmas still “the most wonderful time of the year”? Christmas, for those who celebrate it, is probably the time most filled with traditions.

We bake cookies, peanut brittle and fudge. We get crafty and make tree ornaments, stockings and wreaths. We decorate the tree with a new theme. Some of us even mail Christmas cards.

We might even call shopping a tradition. I know people who make a day of shopping one of their special times for family fellowship. Friends will meet to tramp the mall and have a “cup of good cheer.”

Do you remember the traditions of your childhood? Maybe childhood isn’t so long ago for you. For others of us childhood is decades ago. What do you remember as your favorite tradition?

My youth at Christmas time included some great expectations. We knew there would be a Christmas program at our church and the kids in our family who were old enough would have a part. There was even a tradition associated with the program. At the end, when we were all released, each child was given a small paper bag filled with candy and nuts. The contents were predictable—it was a tradition after all—but we squealed with delight all the same.

When I think of reciting a poem in front of our small congregation (almost without a hitch), my hands shaking, then receiving my treat later, I still get nostalgic. Our program, like that of most churches, revolved around a nativity scene and the story of Christ’s birth from the second chapter of Luke. We also included arrival of the Magi bringing gifts.

I didn’t need a song to tell me Christmas was the most wonderful time of the year. My family seemed to come together like at no other time. And we had our own traditions.

The Christmas tree was one of our favorites. I come from a large family and decorating must have seemed a little chaotic for my mom, but she let us go full force with the job. The only things we weren’t allowed to touch were the vintage (even then) glass ornaments. My older brother most enjoyed flinging icicles at the tree, which by no means would ever have been artificial. Not in those days.

We did other things to prepare for Christmas, but my absolute favorite tradition was driving around our small town looking at the variety of light displays families used to decorate their homes. Usually, the night of the Christmas program was our special night to make the journey.

In the days before tiny lights with built-in gadgets to make them twinkle (to recorded music, no less) and huge air-filled snowmen and Santas, people kept their decorating modest for the most part. Or at least tasteful. Even families who could afford to decorate with more lights, steered away from the “Christmas Vacation” style of decorating.

I guess we were old fashioned. Christmas meant more than showing off.

Since it was a small town, it didn’t take us long to drive around and see the lights. Short drive though it was, we regarded it as a real treat. Like I said, our family would come together like no other time. We children “oohed” and “aahed” as if we were at a fireworks display. Sometimes Dad would roll to a stop at a house if its decorations needed a little longer to take in.

The display I regarded as most special decorated the lawn in front of the church on main street. There, year after year, we’d roll to a stop to admire the nativity scene. Two small floodlights in the ground shone upward, making it easy to see Joseph, Mary and Jesus at night. We counted off each character, especially baby Jesus, whose story we’d just enacted.

For us, that stop on main street was like the magi looking for the holy family.

This year, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family again. A sister, my children and grandchildren. When my sister and I reach our hometown, we’ll drive down Lincoln Avenue and surely, I’ll be on the lookout for houses with pretty decorations. They indicate to me that people still enjoy that tradition.

But mostly, I’ll keep my eye out for the church and its classic nativity scene. As I’ve done for years, I’ll be seeking the Savior.

Triggers

Stuart, who writes “Storyshucker,” has posted a very well-written and thought out commentary on the recent school shooting in Florida, first and second amendment rights and how people–especially students–are responding.

 

Storyshucker

We remain stunned by the unbelievably brutal attack on innocent high school students in Parkland, Florida. Who knows why the individual, obviously disturbed, felt compelled to do such a violent thing thereby ending seventeen lives and damaging so many more. Hindsight cannot help too much now.

The trigger has been pulled and there is no going back.

In the wake of the horror, debate rekindled over gun control and the meaning of twenty-seven little words. They have been dissected countless times but the conclusion has remained largely the same. Gun advocates cling to that decision because parts of the Second Amendment provide quite a sturdy position from which to take a stand.

But so do parts of the First. Enter the students.

Regardless of one’s political leanings, the organization and determination of the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School must be admired. Their collective response in speaking out was…

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Sweet Tea and a Distasteful Flavor

“There’s a Fly in my Tea! The Importance of Maintaining a Christian Testimony;                By Crystal L. Ratcliff;  CrossLink Publishing 2016

A Book Review

Crystal Ratcliff, has presented a metaphor we can probably all relate to whether we drink our tea sweet or otherwise. Flies are pesky and dirty. We don’t want them crawling on the rim of our glass. The metaphor fits perfectly for the subject of this 11-session Bible study about our witness for Jesus. The cover design adds beautifully to the “ewwww” factor.

Maintaining a sweet, pure Christian testimony, says Ratcliff, means doing many things she believes we can learn from the life of the Apostle Peter. Her first lesson, however, gets someone off on the right foot before the study begins. She challenges her readers to examine their lives in light of their personal salvation and person relationship with the Lord. Since the book is meant to be studied with others, discussing these answers honestly can only be of benefit to each member and to the group itself.

Ratcliff’s style is relaxed and her tone is friendly. She expects the audience is women and that they share their stories within a group. However, the study could be done independently, if necessary.

The fact that Crystal takes the student right into scripture helps them to see how it relates to other scriptures. The lessons include just enough related verses to help the reader understand the lesson and how the lesson should be applied. An aspect of the study I appreciated was her openness regarding her own failings. Done in a safe environment, sharing what keeps us coming back to Jesus for help aids in discussion.

Subjects covered over the eleven-session study are trusting God totally; keeping my focus on God; walking in the Spirit in relation to how we spend our time; and believing who Jesus says he is versus the world’s view of him.

Ratcliff also mentions the tendency Christians have to witness about their church rather than being a sweet and pure witness for Christ alone. In her own way she says we would do better to point people to Jesus rather than a specific church body or denomination.

No church is perfect, she says, because no people are perfect. We all need to learn to pray more faithfully, forgive more quickly, and serve in love. But “our goal in studying this,” she says, “should be to protect ourselves from being an ‘offender.’”

To some readers, “There’s a Fly in my Tea” will seem like a course in Bible 101. If that’s the case, let me suggest you become the person Jesus commanded you to be and disciple others by leading them through this short study. Those new to the Christian faith will certainly get some of their questions answered. Recruit a couple of your more mature Christian friends to join in and they will help teach the younger women, which is a biblical principle taught by Paul.

The narrative sections are refreshing to anyone who even remotely understands the importance of a relationship with Jesus. The lists of questions at the end of each chapter (never more than 6-8) are just challenging enough to keep us teachable.

 

The reviewer received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program. The opinions expressed are those of the reviewer.

 

After That Pause…A Page

Recently I decided to make my blog more like the website I hope to make it on another day. Including a photo of myself works. Including a ‘follow’ button and links to recent posts also works.

Another page under “Author Stuff” is something I needed. My introduction to myself is short and (I hope) somewhat humorous. It’s my way of letting you know who I am in a lighthearted way. “Published Stuff” is for the people who want to know a little more about the “author” mentioned in that page.Snoopy at typewriter

I’ve been writing for ghmsngrg years and this page addition includes information about past and present writing efforts. Sure, I’ve had other jobs. Retail experience in a grocery store, cleaning lady, secretary, bookkeeper, waitress, and proofreader, to name a few. But writing is a career for me, not just a job.

So hover over “Author Stuff” and take a look if you’re so inclined. Thanks for being a regular reader. As always, your comments are welcome.

On Pause…

p90x-the-pause-button

The writer of this blog has an apology and an explanation for my absence in the past few weeks. “I’m sorry” to all of my readers who come by to check in and see nothing new. I’m sorry for myself because posting here enriches my life.

Lately, I’ve been preparing for and recovering from an elective surgery. I’ve also been preparing to move to a new home. In sorting priorities, the blog came in lower on the list.

Next week, when I’m settled into my new apartment, I hope to be back. Perhaps I’ll even share a little about the journey I took with the surgery. There’s actually some funny stuff to tell. Some blessings as well. God is good.

Be a blessing to someone today.

Paula

 

Romans 2:14 (Physics, Baseball, and Faith)

Just in time for the All-Star Game, Bejai posts another great word picture to explain a faith concept. If you trust God and are a baseball fan, this one will be especially meaningful.

THE RIVER WALK

Gratitude for this picture goes out to Steven Dunn, the NY Post, and the greatest hitter of all time: Derek Jeter Gratitude for this picture goes out to Steven Dunn, the NY Post, and the greatest hitter of all time: Derek Jeter

Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. (Romans 2:14)

Read: 1 Chronicles 16:37 – 18:17, Romans 2:1-14, Psalm 10:16-18, Proverbs 19:8-9

Relate: I was listening to a sermon last night where the preacher was using an illustration of how a physicist from Yale University wrote an article in USA Today (I believe) demonstrating why hitting a 90 MPH fastball is a physical impossibility. According to the preacher this article stated that it takes about a seventh of a second (.15) for stimulus response. That is also the length of time it takes for a bat to be swung into position once motion has started. It also takes an absolute bare minimum of…

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Psalm 146:3-5 (What Does Love Have To Do With It)

Signed in to reblog this on my own site and disappointed to see the rainbow header on WordPress. I do not appreciate this free blogger site speaking for me.
This post, however, says some things I have been thinking through for the last couple days. I may step on toes, but I also want to make it clear that I don’t avoid LGBT people. I don’t hate them. I’ve tried to think about what I would write IF I wrote and Beejai has done it so well, I will share his words today.

THE RIVER WALK

Supreme Court Ruling

Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. (Psalm 146:3-5)

Read: 2 Kings 13:1 – 14:29, Acts 18:23 – 19:12, Psalm 146:1-10, Proverbs 18:2-3

Relate: On Friday five unelected officials overturned with finality thirty-one different state’s constitutional amendments in a highly controversial ruling that same sex marriage is a right guaranteed under the fourteenth amendment to the US Constitution. Each of the dissenting judges wrote opinions to this decision. One of them wrote:

A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.

The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval…

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Happy Father’s Day, Daddy… and Mama

I follow Storyshucker exactly because he tells a story so well. Today he brings to mind memories of my own father, who passed away three years ago. If you are a father…or a mama…Happy Father’s Day.

Storyshucker

With Father’s Day coming up this Sunday I’d like to acknowledge the obvious individual…Mama.

She still laughs remembering Daddy’s funny stories. He artfully told his silly tales and endless supply of jokes to keep everyone entertained. Daddy could be truly funny and Mama was the first to laugh. After sixty years of marriage there’s no doubt she’d heard his material several times over but Daddy loved to see people laugh and Mama wouldn’t have him disappointed. She loved him and laughed hard at his jokes, chastised his colorful language, and coyly prompted him to repeat her favorites. Daddy enjoyed making others laugh and Mama happily served as the perfect straight man even if she occasionally found herself the brunt of his playful banter.

An aunt grinned and asked Mama, “How in the world do you live with him?”

“It ain’t easy.” Mama answered, shaking her head.

Daddy’s vegetable garden was perfection…

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Joshua 14:10-11 (The Old Soldier)

This daily devotion from Beejai (I posted another of his a couple weeks ago) is another way to develop a Fruitful Life. God’s plan for us doesn’t go into retirement. Please go on over and read more of The River Walk. It will be worth it.

THE RIVER WALK

Old Soldier

Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. (Joshua 14:10-11)

Read: Joshua 13:1-14:15, Luke 18:1-17, Psalm 85:1-13, Proverbs 13:7-8

Relate: Imagine for a moment that you are employed at the army recruitment office. It is the late 1930’s and although it isn’t official, everybody knows that we are gearing up to join the fight against Hitler. Many of our best soldiers and pilots have already hopped over to Britain and joined in the fighting. Now the brass over you is creating recruitment quotas because we need to swell the ranks. You have been given orders…

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