family life, Friendship, Gifts, Holidays, Rest, Uncategorized, worship

The Who’s Christmas

I have a confession to make. When I grow up, I want to be like Cindy-Lou Who from Whoville. When faced with someone stealing one of the symbols of Christmas, her beautiful Christmas tree, she graciously accepted the lie the Grinch told her about the broken light on the tree and went right back to sleep.  As much as she loved her tree, she knew that it’s absence wouldn’t stop Christmas from coming.

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Over the years, I have heard many discussions about whether Christians should celebrate Christmas. There are debates about timing of Christ’s birth, and the Christmas tree having pagan roots etc. It is not my desire to have a theological discussion about the history of this holiday and it’s origins. I’ll leave that to the heavy intellectuals. Instead, I want to talk about whats right with this picture.

One of the common arguments is that Christmas is too commercial. People shopping for things they don’t need, spending money on things they can’t afford. I think people do that all year long, not just at Christmas. What’s right with this picture is that in the midst of the commercialism, you hear more hymns about Jesus being played in the stores while people of all faiths shop. There is a sense of hope and anticipation of relationship building as people look for just the right gift to encourage a friend or loved one. Sometimes that perfect gift is about healing something that was broken, or maybe helping the relationship to grow stronger. The nervous husband asks, “Do you think my wife will like this”? Mothers of young children swap stories about their children, wondering if a toy is age appropriate. Connections are being made, even if they are just for a moment.

grinch_whoville

Even after the Grinch stole Christmas, he was astonished to hear the Whos in Whoville still singing,

Fahoo forays, dahoo dorays

Welcome Christmas! Come this way

Fahoo forays, dahoo dorays

Welcome Christmas, Christmas Day

Welcome, welcome, fahoo ramus

Welcome, welcome, dahoo damus

Christmas Day is in our grasp

So long as we have hands to clasp…

Every Who in Whoville was singing without any presents at all.

I grew up in a lower middle class family with a single mother where presents were not a given at Christmas time. What I anticipated more than presents was the sense of connection that come with the holidays that strengthened my sometimes fractured family. We came together sharing special meals; telling wonderful old family stories. We laughed and cried and connected heart to heart and hand to hand.

So if you happen to encounter any Grinches this season, just drink a glass of water and rest. Be kind, like Cindy-Lou Who. You may be the one God uses to increase the size of their heart. Because as Christians we know the real message:

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Keep singing the Christmas carols and other songs that make your spirit light. Light your homes to create a warm atmosphere of hospitality. People will notice. Some may even slither down the mountain like the Grinch to join you in your celebration. Make them feel welcome! Like the Whos in Whoville.

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Gifts, Holidays, Rest, Uncategorized

Sabbath Still…

Noooo… I’m not going to do it! I will not rush ahead! Sometimes being stubborn is a good thing!

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Everything moves so fast these days. We live in a society where moving on to the next thing is prized even if we are not quite through with the last thing. We see it in restaurants: no longer can you casually linger over dinner enjoying good conversation, instead we have the servers continually asking the question, “can I take your plate”? Sometimes you have to hold on with both hands in order to enjoy that last tasty morsel.

When watching a riveting television program, you can hardly catch the ending because of the split screen that pops up: one side with the credits scrolling quickly up the page, and the other side of the screen displaying a commercial advertisement.

Holidays Anyone?!?

However, what really blew me away while shopping this week was the fact that while I was at home putting away my summer purses, ridding them from sand gathered at the beach earlier this month,  most retail stores have been putting Christmas decorations on display! The local shopping channel  was actually showing pre-lit Christmas trees on sale in September!

Just when I’ve gotten used to seeing Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations in the summer and early September, they pushed the envelope a little bit further, giving you one more thing to crowd into the month of September. As if back to school shopping isn’t stressful enough enough. (for those of you who are in that phase of life :).

I love Christmas. I have even been known to enjoy the holiday movies during the “Christmas in July” programming sponsored by some of my favorite networks. But this hyper marketing is just too much! As much as I tried to savor my beach moments by continuing to slather on sun screen so I continue to smell like the ocean air, I am bombarded by things that seek to indicate that my Sabbath is over.  There is a constant message that if you don’t hurry and move to the next thing, you are going to miss out.

Well I’m not gonna do it! I am in protest! Although I have purchased my fall Mums and placed them in my garden, I refuse to buy anything related to Christmas until at least November! You’ll not rush me you Marketing Beasts!!! Sabbath is too important.

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Living the Sabbath Life

Sabbath is a lifestyle modeled by our Savior. Luke 6:5 says that he is The Lord of the Sabbath.

When the Pharisees tried to manipulate Jesus into saying that certain things could or could not be done on certain days, he made it plain that he is Lord of all, including the Sabbath.

Jesus is my all time hero in every way; however, I really love how he continually modeled the importance of getting away to rest. Hebrews chapter 4 says that there is a special rest for the people of God and we must do our best to enter that rest. I love special gifts that were planned just for me. It shows me that the person had me on their mind when purchasing the gift.

As the cool evenings and mornings of the Fall season are upon us, don’t ignore the sunny, beautiful afternoon hours. Put on your favorite sweater and press into your Sabbath. Take a leisurely walk at lunch time. Take deep, long, cleansing breaths and enjoy all that your Heavenly Father created just for you.

SUN PROTECTION 1

family life, Friendship, Love, Prayer, Uncategorized

Talking to Daddy

“People let me tell you about my best friend, he’s a warm hearted person who loved me to the end…”

courtship of eddies father

If you recognize these lyrics it means that you are either officially getting old, or that you have parents who let you watch this special show in syndication. The name of the show was, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. As each new story began to unfold, the characters would enter the scene as the end of the upbeat song continued softly in the background, (people let me tell you about my best friend…).

I loved that show. Not growing up with a Dad in my home, I used to fantasize that I was Eddie and that Bill Bixby was my kind, sensitive, Caucasian father. I was well aware that Eddie was a little boy and I was a little girl, but those minor details did not deter me from allowing my imagination to run wild about all the things I would tell my dad when he came home, just like Eddie did.

Fathers are very important to the security of a child. Not just a Father in the sense of biology, but a daddy. The term daddy brings with it a sense of intimacy, whimsy and fun. When my children were young they used to ask, “Is Daddy home yet?” There was a sense of great anticipation in their wide eyes as the words formed on their lips. There was always something that they wanted to tell him or show him, but more often then not, they just wanted to be with him.

I grew up in a time when divorce was rare. It was a time when schools still had father/daughter events to which I would bring my grandfather whom I loved deeply. When my curious classmates asked, “how come you don’t have a daddy?”, I often felt ashamed that although I had a father, I did not have a daddy. That shame ultimately led me straight to the heart of God. Abba, and Aramaic word that translates – Daddy. When I learned that Abba is one of the names used to describe God in the bible, I felt a lifting of my lonely heart. I too could have a relationship with a daddy.

father and daughter

In every episode of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, Eddie would have an earth shattering problem that could only be solved by talking to his father. That is what prayer is for me. My mind is often filled with the troubles of the world. I don’t just muse about difficult situations in my own life, but as I look at so many of the heart breaking situations of our times, I somehow think I can take on those on as well; However, when I crawl into the lap of my heavenly father, I remember again that, “He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together”(Col. 1:17). Children often see their dads as the biggest and the strongest. My children are never afraid when Dad is near.

If you struggle at times with uncertainty and insecurity about your life like me, trust that Daddy knows. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He promised never to leave us or forsake us. Jeremiah 29:11-13 reminds us that he has plans for our lives. We can call him and he will answer as we seek him with all of our heart.

Prayer is not some unattainable spiritual exercise set apart for the super religious among us. Prayer is best initiated in the context of love. Brandon Cruz, the actor who played Eddie on the show, did an excellent job of portraying a son who loved his dad and knew that his father loved him. In an environment of love we can talk about anything.

Evangelism, family life, trust, Uncategorized, worship

The “In Crowd”

Be_Our_GuestMany years ago, when my children were young, The Disney company had a slogan that shaped the values of the entire organization. That slogan was, “Be Our Guest”!  There was a song written with the same title that was song by one of the Disney characters that would fill my children with excitement and glee every time they heard it. When they heard the first couple of bars of the song, “Be… Our… Guest…”, they would stop whatever they were doing and start dancing and singing. The next thing out of their mouths were, “Mommy, Daddy, can we go to Disney World?” That’s powerful marketing.

This theme set the tone for every activity in their parks as well as the company at large. The Disney brand was recited and emulated in businesses throughout the world. They became a company known for the excellent way in which they treated their guests. Walking onto the Disney property, guests immediately feel secure that the proper preparations had been made to ensure that all of there expectations would be met and possibly exceeded. Branding is powerful. It drives everything.

The Shepherds Brand

Psalm 23:1 is a passage of scripture that I have read many times and even memorized. I was taught to recite it as a child. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”. Many of us can quote these familiar scriptures, but I wonder if they really make for change in our lives. I recently re-read this passage in another translation. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”  Upon reading that phrase, “in want”, I realized that my relationship with the Shepherd Jesus was also based on branding. Living under the Shepherds covering represents a well thought out plan by God the Father to make perfect provision for all of my longings and desires. Just like a person paying for a ticket to enter the Disney park has expectation for a time of family fun and connection; we have been purchased by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross which grants us access into everything we need for life and godliness. When we are abiding in the Shepherd, we don’t have to be in want.

To be “in” is a present tense phenomenon that requires faith for today. Just like the children of Israel, I must trust God to provide for my daily needs. Storing up manna for fear of lack only causes things to go bad. John 15:7 says:

“If you remain in me (abide in me), 

and my words remain in (abide in) you, 

ask whatever you wish and it shall be given unto you.”

People are always talking about “out”; coming out, outspoken, outsourced, but perhaps the real key to peace and joy is being “in”. In the secret place. Abiding under the shadow of his wing. Psalm 91:1-2 says:

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge, 

my God in whom I trust.”

Disney’s brand offers you a world of fun as long as you stay in the park. The Shepherd’s brand offers abundant life as we live in Him. Acts 17:28 says,

“In Him I live and move and have my being”

“In”, is a function word used to indicate inclusion, location or position – within limits.

My children were not disappointed when we vacationed at the famous theme park. They squealed with excitement when we walked through the gates and they realized that they were finally “in” Disney World. Maybe we should do a little more dancing and celebrating the fact that we are “In Christ”. Our marketing strategy of love, joy, peace etc. should make people long to be a part of the “in crowd”.

I like being part of the “In crowd”. How about you?

Uncategorized

Grace Gardening

city-wildflowers-with-beeSpring has sprung! The birds are chirping, crickets creaking 🙂 – (not a real word, but I like it).  All of nature seems to call out to me, telling me that it is time to create a new and beautiful canvas on the outside of my home. I love outdoor living. Comfortable seating, tables for eating, fellowship and all around family fun. The only thing that is missing is a lazy river or creek flowing by the side of my home. I love sitting outside looking at water, but if no water is available, the next best thing is gazing upon the lovely flowers and trees that grace the streets of our old Victorian neighborhood.

As I walk the streets of this community, I am awe struck by the creative artistry in the gardens of my neighbors. The curb appeal of these homes stimulate me to execute my own creative plan and begin to imagine what kind of awesome creations will grace my garden this year. When I should be grocery shopping at our local discount store, I find myself filling the cart with colorful little knick knacks that will add fun and whimsy to my garden. That’s the easy part. The hard part for me is the flowers. Which ones should I choose? Do I want shade loving or full sun? Perennials or Annuals? My answer – easy flowers that require little maintenance and attention.

My husband often jokes with me that if you visit our local nursery, they will have a picture of my face with a red circle around it and a line drawn through the middle. The intended message; “Do not let this woman near your flowers! I’ll admit that I have had my ups and downs when it comes to gardening, but I keep trying every year because of the potential joy of a successful planting.

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Living with one another in Christian Community is very similar to some of the characteristics that make the process of gardening challenging and fulfilling. We often prefer people who are easy and need little maintenance. We don’t necessarily want to deal with all of hard work that comes with successful planting. Before we can even begin to think about planting, the soil must be tilled. All the debris from seasons past; the stones, weeds and other foreign matter must be cleared away. We must remove anything in the soil that would hinder healthy growth of the new seedling.

Parable of the Sower

“Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

(Matt. 13:7)

We live in a world that produces many bitter, stoney places in the hearts of people. Storms come and go leaving in its wake devastation and despair. People we interact with every day are afraid to believe that anything beautiful could ever grow in the soil of their hearts again. They have no vision for the garden because of the density of the weeds. The soil of their hearts no longer have the nutrients necessary to nurture a healthy plant.

I recently learned of a different type of gardening called guerrilla gardening. Land that is guerrilla gardened is a piece of property that has either been abandoned or neglected. People who see and have compassion concerning the neglect, boldly take over the land to create a new landscape. Perhaps this type of gardening is what some of the broken people we meet need to flourish.

Seed Balls

Seed Balls are often used in this type of gardening. The balls, which are made from a mixture of clay, compost, and seeds, can be tossed wherever you want plants to grow, and will break up as the seeds begin to germinate. I wonder what would happen if we did this with God’s love. If we used the seed of John 3:16, “for God so loved the world, that he gave his son…” What if we wrapped it in the compost of Romans 5:8 – “God commended his love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. What if we held it altogether with 1Corinthians 13:6-8, remembering that “love never fails”. The possibilities are endless.

Maybe a more appropriate term for this type of spiritual gardening is “Grace Gardening”. This type of gardening flourishes at the hand of our Master gardener Jesus, without very much planning on our part. The beautiful flowers will grow because of unmerited favor. Favor that was generously poured out upon us all because of the finished work of the cross.

I am anxiously awaiting to see what will become of the seed balls I scattered in my garden. No matter what the outcome, I scattered them by faith believing for a beautiful harvest.

 

trust, Uncategorized, worship

You think You’re Cute

woman in the mirrorPsalm 139:23, 24 NIV

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Even though I have lived with myself for  over a half century, I am still amazed at what I still don’t know about myself. I often hear people say things like “you don’t know me, or that’s just the way I am”. The truth is often times, people really don’t know us…and further more, we really don’t know ourselves.

This is why we need to follow the example of David the Psalmist who asked God to search him; to know his heart. There are times when I think I’m doing just fine. Times when I believe my heart is right toward a person or situation, and I boldly make statements, make decisions, or come to certain conclusions that may not be in line with the heart of God at all.

David asks God to test him and know his anxious thoughts. I find that when I spend time worshipping in God’s presence, or even when I simply am quietly listening for him, I realize that many of my thoughts and actions are born of fear or a need to control or manage things in my life. It’s so easy to revert to lordship over my own life versus remembering that I was purchased by God through the blood of his precious son Jesus. My life belongs to him. Colossians 1:17 says that, “He is before all things, by him, all things hold together”.

I love the fact that David had such a love relationship with Holy God that he knew that his fleshy ways were offensive to God. God doesn’t think the flesh is cute!

Child having tantrum

One day last week my daughter told me, “You’re in a way today!” That was her response to a fleshly tantrum I was having due to a place where I felt personally disrespected and misunderstood. I appreciated my daughter calling me to task. She was essentially saying; “this behavior that you are manifesting is not the character of Christ. What’s going on with you”?

I am very grateful to the Holy Spirit who leads me and guides me, that she did not recognize this as my normal behavior. The truth of the matter is, we feel good when we yield to the flesh. It feels “normal”. We justify the flesh because we compare ourselves to others who do the same thing. When I was young, there was a phrase that adults would say when a child would act out – “you think you’re cute”! The inference was that, “you think you are so cute that I won’t give you the discipline you need”. People who think they are cute play on the sentimentality of those they interact with. We must never forget that God is not sentimental He is just!

When David asked The Lord to lead him in the way everlasting, he was acknowledging that there was something greater that God wanted of him. That his life was not his own. We make elaborate plans, think elaborate thoughts, but how often do we ask, “what is the way that is everlasting”? The place of legacy for future generations.

I don’t want the legacy of my life for my children and others that I come into contact with to be one of fear or control. My legacy prayer is that everyone I encounter would see less and less of me and more and more of Christ who is my King!

So put a spot light on me Jesus – clear out all the junk…I don’t just want to be cute, I want to be beautiful like you…

Gungor beautiful things

Friendship, journey, self-acceptance, Uncategorized

Sweatin’ with the Oldies…

sweat1 

Before the Insanity exercise craze, before boot camp, palates and Yoga fitness was popular, there was a man name Richard Simmons. Baby Boomers all over the world know him well. He was one of the first to introduce the concept that exercise and the sweat that is produced as a result, could be fun. Out of this concept came his very successful, Sweatin’ to the Oldies series. What a great idea! Dancing to familiar, beloved songs and burning calories at the same time.

As I laid awake 3:00 in the morning, dripping wet without having exerted any energy at all, I began to think about how I could have my own DVD series or TV show, but I would call it,“Sweatin’ with the Oldies! The shows concept would be based on the Titus 2 concept of teaching women how to walk out their hormonal journey together, on purpose and having fun in the process.

There is really something comedic about how for no apparent reason you wake up in the middle of the night and wake the person sleeping next to you as you swoosh the covers off and on as you alternate between hot and cold, finally ending up looking like a wet dog that someone  has just sprayed with a garden hose. Your freshly styled hair dripping wet completing the Shaggy Dog motif.

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Hormones are a very real part of the journey of women, young and old. ( Men have hormonal issues as well… But that’s for another discussion) 🙂 When not properly educated regarding these things, hormones and the roller coaster effects they have on women can be a bit intimidating. When your heart starts to race for no apparent reason, we are sure that a heart attack is not far behind. So many symptoms, so little time.

Although reading about these things is certainly helpful, there is nothing like connecting with another women who has been where you are going. Like planning a great vacation, they can tell you all about the special places not talked about in the vacation brochures. A Titus 2 woman who is committed to listening and sharing is invaluable.

Older women teaching younger women to live wisely and pure…

Titus 2:5

When I was a young woman, I used to pray that God would send me an older woman who would talk with me, listen to me, and laugh with me – to tell me that it would all be fine in the end. I wanted someone to tell me that the crazies of my life were all a part of the journey.

From the onset of menses, to the post menopausal period, woman need one another. We can help each other by sharing stories and strategies to get through our various seasons with humor and dignity, never apologizing for who we are in the moment, but always striving to get better.

The bible says, two are better than one  –  Ecc. 4:9

As far as night sweats go, I’ve made a decision that I don’t want to go there anymore.

Only day sweats please… Preferably on the beach, with a cool glass of iced tea!

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