December 28, 2010

True Brotherly Love - Bruce Atchison

We certainly live in a self-reliant culture. For example, people would rather drive than take the bus or walk. Many folks frown upon those who live on welfare payments. In my own experience, I've had friends avoid me after I've asked a favour of them for the second or third time.

On the other hand, I've striven to be as self-reliant as possible, even though I'm almost blind. This character attribute is good in moderation but it can cause us to miss out on being blessed by our brothers and sisters in Christ.

In December of 1977, I went on a short term missions trip with Operation Mobilization to the Mexican city of Saltillo. While there, we went door to door with tracts, held street evangelism meetings, and studied methods of spreading the gospel in foreign lands. From my upcoming How I Was Razed memoir, here's a vignette of how I nearly missed out on being blessed by a fellow Christian.


Since the Americans and Mexicans did not celebrate Boxing Day, we resumed our usual routine. I was blessed again, this time by a kind deed done by a soft-spoken Mexican brother named Adin. "May I please wash your coat?," he beamed. "It looks a bit dirty."

"That's all right, I think it's clean enough."

"Please let me do this. It is my way of serving my fellow Christians."

As I was about to demur again, I suddenly realized that letting him help me would honour Christ. Apart from that, bright yellow tends to show the dirt quickly. I removed the contents of my pockets and handed the nylon jacket to him. As I watched, he rinsed it under a tap over a ceramic scrubbing board and poured a little laundry detergent powder on it. Then he laboriously scrubbed every inch of the coat, rinsed it under the tap, wrung it out thoroughly, and handed it to me. I thanked him several times for blessing me with his selfless act of service, feeling chided by memories of occasions when I forgot to express my gratitude.


How I Was Razed is the testimony of the way I was mislead by a cult church, how I turned my back on God after I felt he perennially failed to heal my eyes, and how he graciously brought me to my senses.

My previous books, When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), are now available online by clicking here or by clicking here to e-mail me directly.

December 26, 2010

Appreciating Advent - Karen Toews

As a child I grew up with a sure understanding of the meaning of Christmas. Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a stable in Bethlehem – a baby who was the Son of God, who would later die and rise again for the salvation of the world. But the significance of the meaning of Advent? Either it didn’t get much press (or pulpit) time or I wasn’t paying attention. The lighting of the advent candle did become part of our Sunday morning service when I was older and for a few years we had a pottery advent candle holder on our dining room table - but it was used more as a centerpiece than a symbol for the Christmas season.

This last month a small group from our church met to study about the hope, joy, peace and love of this season. These weekly gatherings were a personal respite from the busyness of building our house and the mind-work and planning such a project involves. Reading the prophecies and New Testament scriptures leading up to the Christmas story has enlarged my appreciation for the reality of the Advent of the Christ who came to change and save our world. Our church’s Sunday service in this Advent season has also added to the practical application of these truths – by inviting us to to write and submit prayers that related to that weeks’ focus. The act of placing these prayers in the basket at the altar of the church was a tangible expression of my personal hopes, and my desires for the joy and peace and love that only Christ can fulfill.

Christmas Day has come and gone but the Gift of the season remains - and this year for me, a bit richer thanks to a closer look at Advent.

Luke 2: 10, 11 "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

December 24, 2010

TINKLE AND CLANG — Lynda Schultz

A flurry of discordant sound announced the arrival of several sections of the bell choir.

“Move it, you three. You’re late and we haven’t got much time,” chimed the Bell Master from his place on the bottom rung of the carillon.

“Nag, nag, nag,” whispered the D flat to his buddy, C, as they climbed into their places on the top level. “What’s the hurry, anyway? Clang’s got his clapper in a knot for sure this morning.”

“Morning? It’s still dark outside,” protested the F major, breathlessly hauling himself up behind the others.

The smaller bells finally got themselves into place, just as Clang struck the note that indicated readiness and silence in the ranks. He looked around, carefully checking to make sure no one was missing. Worse than a faulty note was no note at all.

“Where’s Tinkle?” he boomed from his assigned spot.

Tinkle was the littlest bell of all. Her spot was high up at the top of the carillon.

Like an evil wind brushing through the tower, the rustle of the bells created dissonance as everyone looked around, hunting for Tinkle.

“I’m here sir. Just polishing, Bell Master.” Her clear, high sound rang out as Tinkle took her place at the apex of the musical arrangement.

“That girl takes herself too seriously. ‘Just polishing, Bell Master.’ As if fingerprints made any difference to anyone,” mimicked the D flat.

“You have something to share with us?” came Clang’s voice from down below.

Everyone froze. More than once Clang had said out loud that he wished they never had to have contact with their human counterparts—the evil always rubbed off a bit, like fingerprints on the burnished surface of a bell.

“Uhmmmmm, no sir. I was just, well, wondering what all the rush was about,” stuttered the offender. “It’s not even daylight yet.”

“Well, if—and I know keeping time for you doesn’t usually include knowing what day it is—you had been paying attention during rehearsals, you would have remembered that dawn today is the biggest moment of our year. Today we bring hope to the world.”

From somewhere in the middle of the bevy of bells came the dulcet tones of one of the G’s. “But, boss, do you really think anyone listens to us? It’s nasty out there. Everyone knows what happened to poor Liberty. Those humans are a mean lot and we don’t seem to be making much of an impact.”

There were a couple of chuckles from the group at G’s unintentional play on notes. The subdued merriment stopped as Clang’s clapper sounded for silence.

“I’ll admit that I sometimes have my doubts as to whether anyone gets our message, but that’s not the point. The point is that we have a message that we have been assigned to deliver, we’ve been practicing faithfully for this last year, and we are going to chime out that message no matter what. It’s up to the Master Musician to do the rest. So, are we ready? It’s almost time.”

The bell choir stirred, positioning themselves, clappers at the ready, all eyes on Clang.


“Yes, sir?”

“Don’t forget, your part is critical. Sometimes people don’t hear the high notes, so you can’t hesitate or show weakness.”

“I won’t let you down, sir.”

Slowly the blackness outside the tower retreated before the insistence of the watery light of a winter sun. As it peeked above the horizon, Clang readied himself, gave the choir one last check, and nodded to Tinkle.

The high, light sound rang out loud and clear, followed by a rolling scale of melodious notes that reverberated across the awakening town.

Far below the tower, in the manse beside the church, a pastor looked up from his prayers. He had wrestled all night with his Christmas morning message. What could he say that would bring hope to a world where evil ruled man's heart, where even Christmas was banned with an “X”? How could he make sense of a world where, in the name of preserving peace, war was wrought?

He listened, remembered, and smiled. Hope was in God’s final note—which had yet to be played.


And in despair I bowed my head/There is no peace on earth I said/For hate is strong and mocks the song/Of peace on earth, good will toward men/
Then peeled the bells more loud and sweet/God is not dead nor doth he sleep/ The wrong shall fail, the right prevail/Of peace on earth, good will toward men./ (from: “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day”)

December 23, 2010

Jesus Brings Joy - Dorothy Bentley

Right before Christmas, the whole city is abuzz with shoppers, dashing to and fro, preparing for the Big Day. It seems like the air is super-charged with frenzied energy.

For my family, our point of arrival is Christmas Eve, when we go to a candle-light service and bask in the soothing glow of the wonderful story of Jesus arriving as a babe, and sing songs of adoration to the King. Finally, a calm settles over our hearts, the lights along the streets are all a twinkle, and our preparations are all ready -- our shopping and our hearts.

What a holy night. My heart sings with reverence. We return home and allow the children to open one small gift before bed, and we enjoy a special treat. Once they are tucked into their covers, we bring out the remaining gifts and place them around the tree. We load the stockings with little treats, and sometimes string additional streamers and decorations from my husband's childhood, to make the house festive enough for a birthday party. We leave the tree lit, and we fall into our bed around midnight.

There is no other night that feels the same. The presence of the Lord, His holy host, angles in a choir, must all descend upon the earth en mass. The peacefulness and stillness permeates my mind and heart, and even if there are troubles, they all disappear in the face of such glory-- Christ was born.

Christ is born.


He is come.

O Holy Night...

God of Heaven and Earth,

Cover our minds with your peace,

And our lives with your joy.

Merry Christmas.

December 22, 2010

Fabric, Tissue, Dresses by Brenda Leyland

Me and Little Sis,1963

The whir of a sewing machine was a familiar sound when I was child growing up in our little farmhouse in rural Alberta.

Mom seemed to always have some sewing project under construction. But of all the garments she made, it was the pretty Christmas dresses I remember the most.

With the arrival of each December the anticipation would begin to swell. Mom would study the Eaton's catalog and bolts of fabric. It was time to make Christmas dresses for her three little girls. Amidst scissors, tape measure, and stick pins, sheets of ecru tissue rustled with anticipation as each pattern piece was carefully laid out on the fabric. It was always an exciting moment when we’d hear the first snip of scissors crunching their way through tissue and fabric. Soon threads littered the floor and we’d hear a whoosh as the hot iron pressed the wet cloth on a newly sewn seam.

Many dresses passed under the pressure foot of that old sewing machine. I remember the holly red velvet dresses and the one with the peacock blue velvet bodice and skirts of whispering chiffon (my all time favourite). As well, there was the jumper outfit made from bright red velvet and paired with a crisp white blouse. My fifth grade dress was a royal blue shift with three-quarter sleeves, offset by a white pleated organdy collar.

My little sisters and I would sigh, while Mom pinned and twirled us around on the chair, checking hems and seams. The final overview had to be made. It sure was a proud moment to stand in our newest finery on Christmas Eve with the rest of our Sunday school class to recite mostly memorized recitations and warble through partly familiar carols.

It doesn’t matter how many Christmases come and go, recollections of pretty handmade dresses and annual concerts in the old country church are as carefully wrapped in filmy memories as any treasured holiday ornament. The wonder of it is that these gifts of love were wrapped up in the celebration of the One who came to express the love of a generous Parent to our world. Who would have thought that the whisper of tissue paper on velvet would echo that great love to three little girls?

Wishing you a Happy Christmas... God bless us everyone!

This essay was written for my mom, Christmas 2006

December 20, 2010

Tear Sheets: to keep or not - Kimberley Payne

On The Word Guild listserv, Denise Rumble asked the question, “Why do we keep all those tear-sheets? Do you just tear out the pages or do you keep the entire publication? And then, how do you store all of it?”

Two prolific authors share their experiences with tear sheets:

Ray Wiseman shares, “I keep them because I like to look back to review topics I dealt with years ago--sometimes it's fun to have a nostalgic moment and go poking through them.

“I have mission mags from the 70s written from overseas and copies of newsletters--that goes way back before I was a 'writer'. This was good research material when writing *When Cobras Laugh*.

“I have most of the major reports and bulletins produced for Rogers in the 80s and copies of the Partners magazines I wrote for in the 90s--kept strictly for nostalgia reasons.

“When I began writing newspaper columns in 91, I would keep a copy in a scrapbook (only the tear sheet with the date and name of publication). I quit doing that a few years ago and now file a hard copy of every column in a three-ring binder. These are strictly for backup, because I have computer files of everything I have written since the mid 80s.

“Newspaper columns features, and books and other articles I keep on my hard drive--other things I have on disks. This way I can do word searches and find almost anything I have ever written about in 25 years.

“I also have kept a few samples of some of the periodicals I have written for.

“I have kept some things thinking I would need them for promo reasons—I don't remember ever doing that.”

How does he store all of it? “All over the place! On a couple of bookshelves and in a box or two. Just before writing this I was searching for a book and found about five volumes on WordPerfect dating back to the 80s--dumped it all in the recycle bin! I need to recycle a few more things.”

Donna Fawcett shares, “I have found tear sheets to be very useful. I have proof of where and when I had those articles published and have actually been asked to supply issue dates of publications containing my articles--once. That editor wanted to make sure I really was who I said I was.

“They are also encouraging to read after I receive a rejection slip:)

“And I use them at book signings as a promotional tool for credibility. I've had people approach my table as skeptics and walk away with a book because of the tear sheets.

“I store them in a binder after laminating them. I keep the magazine cover and my article and laminate them back to back.”

Do you keep tear sheets? If so, what do you do with them? 

December 17, 2010

Telling and Treasuring--Bryan Norford

All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:18–19.

The sight, sounds, and message of the angel chorus, and the culmination of seeing the newborn Messiah, so overwhelmed the shepherds they couldn’t keep it to themselves. They told the story to everyone they met, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. The shepherds, and the story they told, were the centre of the buzz about town.

The hype that first Christmas probably amounted to much the same flutter as today’s celebration. I envy the shepherds that experience: the story so new and fresh that all wanted to hear it. Now, the message is old and has lost its impact; it’s not the message, but the merchandise that draws attention.

Even for us, as Janet Sketchley noted a few days ago, “We’ve heard about the birth of Baby Jesus so many times that we can get kind of blasé about it.” In fact, if we are not passionate about Messiah’s birth, others will likely show little interest.

Perhaps we can learn from Mary. Also the centre of attention, she treasured these things in her heart, rather than show much outward emotion. Pondering, meditating on things seems a habit of hers, as recorded, not only in this text, but also finding her twelve-year-old son debating the temple teachers (verse 52).

Like Mary, we ponder the things we treasure. The rich man locks his money away, where he can run it thought his fingers. The house-proud woman spends hours buffing her place to showhome quality. Is the greatest story ever told the treasure of my heart?

Pondering this treasure might evoke more joy and a less jaded disposition. Then, just maybe, others will want to know the real story behind the story.

December 15, 2010

Blue Christmas - Tracy Krauss

I had to stop and take stock the other day as I read a post about the melancholy side of Christmas written by a fellow Christian. I understand that not everyone finds the season 'the most wonderful time of the year', but I was surprised at the depth of despair I sensed beneath the surface.  For most people, Christmas can be a time full of stress - the busyness of preparations, added financial strain on an already stretched budget, and a social calendar that is bulging at the seams. But for many others, it is a poignent reminder of loneliness - when so many are bustling about from event to event, there are those that have nowhere to go and no one to share it with. Since so much of Christmas is wrapped up in fond remembrances, it can be painful for those that have lost loved ones.

A friend of mine who happens to be an Anglican Vicar, used to hold a 'Blue Christmas' evening during the holidays. She understood that there are many folks who find the holiday season difficult and who cringe while the rest of us are going about our merry way. I never attended - I'm an unabashed lover of the season in all its tinseled glory - but she tells me it serves a need for those who are feeling blue and need a place to share those feelings without being labeled 'Grinch'. Besides an uplifting service, some singing and a sharing time, they also ate a turkey dinner together.

Upon reflection, I am so very grateful that I have fond memories of Christmas. I'm grateful for family, and friends and a church fellowship with whom I can share. I am grateful for financial security that allows me to cook a turkey and all the trimmings, buy a few gifts and still have enough to share with the local food bank and other charitable organizations. Even in our more 'lean' years, the warmth and laughter of the holidays made each one special in its own way. I can't actually recall every gift I've ever been given, but I certainly remember the friendly rivalry around a game of canasta, or the excitement of my children as they woke us early in the morning to check their stockings. These are the kinds of traditions that stick with you and that make Christmas worth looking forward to. (By the way, we've maintained a strange tradtion in our family that involves the children lining up in order of age - oldest to youngest - before checking their stockings on Christmas morning. We did this in my family as a child and continued to do it with our kids. It became quite humorous a couple of years ago with the addition of sons-in-law now that two of my daughters are married. My girls still wanted to 'line up', but the new members of the family wouldn't cooperate. We had to compromise by entering the living room together!) 

In any case, past all the pretence and the commercialism is the real truth of why we celebrate - JESUS. And for those of us that are believers, that should be enough.

December 12, 2010

Jesus glows in the dark - Nesdoly

It was the day the kids were to get their Christmas presents. Excitement electrified the air in Bill Wilson's bus as he drove around the Bronx, picking up kids for Sunday school.

At one stop, the little girl who clambered up the steps stopped beside him and handed him a ball of newspaper, covered with Scotch tape. "For you," she said.

He took it from her. "Thank you very much," he said, placing it aside and easing the bus back into traffic.

But the little girl kept standing beside him. "Open it," she said. "You have to open it."

"But we're driving," he said.

"You have to open it now."

"It's a woman thing," Bill said when he told us the story at my church on a Sunday in 2007. "I knew it wouldn't do to argue. So I pulled that big school bus as far over as I could on that narrow street, took that taped ball and started unwrapping it."

The kids from the bus crowded around as he peeled off the layers of newspaper. Finally he came to the center and a little plastic creche. It was broken and dirty. She'd obviously found it.

"Thank you," Bill said. "That's great." Cars were honking behind him and on the street a couple of traffic cops approached. He made the motion of putting the gift down, but the little girl wasn't done.

"We have to cover it," she said. She took the manger ornament from Bill, cupped it in both hands and reached it up to him. "You cover it."

Bill did.

"Now look at it," the girl said.

Bill peeked under his hand and saw that from the baby Jesus figure came a greenish glow.

Beaming, the little girl said, "See - Jesus glows in the dark!"


I first posted this story on my blog in November 2007 after hearing Bill Wilson speak in our church. As the founder of Metro Ministries, Bill Wilson, has brought that Jesus-glow to the ghettoes of New York for almost 30 years.

He, himself was abandoned when he was 12. "You stay here," his mother said to him one day as she and Bill came to a street corner. "I'll come back for you."

Bill waited and waited, but she never returned.

Three days later, a man passing by in a truck noticed him. He and his wife gave Bill water and something to eat, then paid the $17.50 it took (in 1961) to send him to camp. Five hours later, Bill was at an Assemblies of God youth camp where his life was turned around.

This Christmas, let's remember that Jesus continues to glow in the dark. And most of the time it's through ordinary people like the man who rescued 12-year-old Bill, that same Bill who now drives urchin-loaded schoolhouses through the streets of New York, and through you and me — people who are willing to stop and listen to a lonely person who needs to talk, to drop a bill instead of change into the Salvation Army kettle, to stifle a sharp tongued response and instead smile at the lady who barges ahead of us in the checkout lineup, and to react with grace to the chatter and seat-kicking of the toddler who sits just behind us at the Christmas concert.

Bill Wilson quotes:

"If you want something you've never had before, you've got to do something you've never done before."

"Whatever makes you mad -- that's what God will use you to change."

"If you see a need and can fulfill that need, that's the call."

© 2010 by Violet Nesdoly



December 11, 2010

Ankle deep in diamonds

Fidgety boys wearing bath robes, smirking under terry towel head gear.
Nervous girls in white dresses holding wire haloes in place.
A serious girl under a pole-lamp, bending over a bassinet.

It had been a grey Christmas Eve in our Saskatchewan village, but when we left the church the sky had cleared. Now, flecks of stars and a gibbous moon cast a slant of silvery light on a fresh fall of snow.

My big sister, Elizabeth, took my six-year-old hand, and as we moved out from beneath the direct glow of the a street light by the church, we were suddenly ankle deep in diamonds. And then, just as suddenly, we were the wise men following the star. We were the shepherds beholding the angel. We were the angel bringing delirious tidings of joy. We were Joseph, filled with concern and anticipation.

The story, awkwardly acted by kids whose names I knew, sealed itself inside me through the wordless speech of that night. I was embraced deep within and awakened to a big new fluid circumstance.

Believing was seeing.
Breathing was praying.
Walking was worshipping.
Holding hands with Elizabeth held me in arms universal.
Never again to be a me--I was we.

December 10, 2010

Smells of Christmas - Bonnie Way

I'm sitting at my desk, opening my email while I roll a Mandarin orange with one hand.  As soon as my thumb breaks the skin, the bright, citrus smell of the orange takes me back to my childhood... a dimly lit dining room, darkness outside the windows, toast in the toaster, and the Christmas tree in the corner, lights on, presents peeking out beneath.  It isn't any particular day, just one of many days like that—a breakfast in December—yet that's what the smell of Mandarin oranges reminds me of.

The first Christmas that we decided to get an artificial tree instead of a real tree, it was the smell that I missed the most.  A real tree fills the whole house with that fresh, piney, outdoors smell as soon as it is hauled inside.  Mom tried burning pine-scented candles to mimic that scent while we decorated our new plastic tree, but it just didn't compare.

My aunt and uncle are usually the ones in charge of cooking the Christmas turkey.  They know what time to put the bird in the oven, when to baste it, when it's ready to eat.  Each time they open the oven door to check on the bird, the smell of roast turkey fills my grandmother's house.  It makes us all start drooling and we stare, stomachs growling, at my aunt and uncle debating whether the turkey is ready to be carved or not.

Smells are a powerful tool for a writer, yet one that we seldom use. I'm more likely to describe how something looks in my writing than how it smells. Yet smells are perhaps more strongly attached to memories and feelings than are sights.  Christmas is, as I've noted, a season of smells.  What smells make you think of Christmas and Christmases past?

~ © Bonnie Way,

December 09, 2010

Christmas: A Culture Correcting Invasion - by Jack Popjes

We are pleased to have Jack Popjes guest post for us today.

As professional change makers, missionaries get a special thrill from the Christmas story. What an invasion! Talk about barging in to change cultures!

After moving into the Canela village in Brazil, my wife and I studied and analyzed the culture and language, and translated the eternal truths of Scripture clearly into the Canela language. We saw God's Holy Spirit using His Word to change people's worldview to line up with the way He wants them to think, speak and live.

Moving into a culture in order to bring change is exactly what God did at Christmas. He moved into the Jewish culture which badly needed to be transformed, having drifted far from the clear truths of God’s Word. Tradition, for instance, had encrusted the keeping of the Sabbath with so many rules, God’s day of rest had been turned in a burden not a blessing. People obeyed tradition instead of the plain Word of God. One of the most blatant examples of tradition trumping God’s Word is the way in which the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day treated women.

Every pious Jewish man on waking in the morning and while still lying in bed, would pray the traditional thanksgiving Berakah: "Blessed is He who did not make me a gentile, a slave, or a woman." Every morning the wives of pious Jews heard their husbands praise God and in effect say to them, "I'm so glad I am not you." What a hopeless way to start the day! A Gentile could convert, a slave could become free, but a woman in that unbiblical, tradition-bound culture was forever trapped in her wretched position.

Jewish tradition, not Scripture excluded women from full participation in worship. Herod's temple had walls that separated women from the men. This was not in the original, God-given designs of either the tabernacle or the temple. The Talmud stated, "A hundred women are no better than two men." No wonder, the synagogue quorum was ten men: women simply did not count.

The Mishnah, a collection of rabbinical teachings stated, "Let your house be a meeting place for the Sages and drink in their Words with thirst. Talk not much with womankind. He that does, brings evil upon himself, neglects the study of the Law and will inherit hell." To say that women were not encouraged to study the Scriptures would be a gross understatement.

In this woman-deriding society, God chose a woman, Mary, to give birth to His own Son. Each morning, while pious Joseph murmured his Berakah, Mary nursed her baby, burped him, and then quietly kissed the face of God.

Jesus, the culture-changing Invader, refused to be bound by traditional rules. One day, Mary, another woman, sat at His feet as a pupil eagerly drinking in all He said. When her sister Martha complained, Jesus corrected her unbiblical thinking. "Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Jesus shocked His disciples when He not only talked with a doubly despised person, a Samaritan and a woman, and asked her for a drink, but He also chose that occasion to reveal Himself as the Messiah for the first time.

The Mishnah tradition stated, "Whereby do women earn merit? By making their children go to the synagogue to learn Scripture and their husbands to learn Mishnah, and waiting at home for their husbands to return." Tradition, therefore, taught the only way a woman could serve God, was to have children and bring them up to serve Him.

One day, a woman impressed with His service for God, echoed this unbiblical worldview when she shouted to Jesus from the crowd, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth, and nursed you!"

Jesus immediately corrected that false mindset. "Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it." He taught the truth that anyone—man, woman or child—could hear the Word and obey it. No one was excluded. Not gentiles, not slaves, not women. Women could hear, obey, worship, and serve God directly, not just through the men in their lives.

Christmas is a good time to remember that God invades cultures to change unbiblical mindsets and worldviews, aligning them with His revealed Truth. He commanded His Church to bring God's liberating, life-giving Word to bear against the enslaving, life-destroying cultural mindsets of thousands of societies all over the world.

My wife and I are deeply thankful to God for using us to invade the Canela culture and give its people an option to change their way of life. The joy of knowing that Canela lives were altered for the better as people connected with God is a tremendous reward.

December 08, 2010

Preparing for His Coming—Janet Sketchley

I’ve been working through Beth Moore’s A Woman’s Heart workbook with my Bible study group at church. Gotta say, it’s challenging in places.
Right now we’re looking at the detailed instructions from God—to be followed to the letter—for preparing and consecrating the Tabernacle and its contents and the priests and their garments.
Repeatedly we see reminders that Moses and his workers did exactly what they’d been told by God to do in regard to the Tabernacle. Leviticus 9:6 (NIV*) says: “Moses said, ‘This is what the LORD has commanded you to do, so that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.’
God, in all His holiness and majesty, wants so badly to be with His chosen people. But the gap between His holiness and human wilfulness is so great that Exodus 33 begins with God saying He won’t travel with them anymore “because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” (Exodus 33:3b, NIV*) (This is right after the golden calf debacle.)
Moses pleads for God to stay with them, and God agrees. He gives Moses a new set of the Ten Commandments, along with instructions on how to build the Tabernacle.
The people of Israel have a lot to do to prepare for God’s coming. And when He comes, it is terrifying as well as exciting.
Here in 2010 we’re working through the Advent season, preparing to celebrate Jesus’ coming into the world as a baby.
There’s something about reading the Scriptures detailing the preparations for God’s coming into the Tabernacle, with the people freshly under his Law, that makes me wonder about the preparations for Jesus’ coming as the Son of Man to fulfill the Law and to inaugurate the rule of Grace.
On the surface, we see the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, and before that to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist. But God has been planning since the beginning for this moment.
We’ve heard about the birth of Baby Jesus so many times that we can get kind of blasé about it—especially when we’re overwhelmed by the non-faith aspects of preparing for the holidays.
The Old Testament is a good cure for blasé-ness about God. Perhaps it’s a reminder of the mystery of this Unknowable One who reveals Himself to us.
Let’s pause this Advent season to remember just Who it is that we’re preparing to welcome. We don’t have to fall down in fear at the manger, may the Spirit nudge us to our knees in awe and worship.
Praise God, and “let every heart prepare Him room”.

© Janet Sketchley, 2010

*New International Version, ©2010 (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica
For devotionals, reviews and conversation, stop by Janet Sketchley's blog, God with Us: Finding Joy.

December 05, 2010

Family Matters

by Glynis M. Belec
I have spoken a few times at homeschool support groups or at community workshops and so forth about the importance of involving family early in the reading process. No matter what we say about the importance of reading, if we don't model the desired trait (reading for fun) our little darlings won't do it. No amount of do as I say, not as I do wisdom will matter. Children pattern themselves after us and for the most part, they do as we do.

I don't watch television much but tonight I caught an episode of Super Nanny - that terrific, wise woman who flies into the homes of the not so rich and famous and, within an hour transforms and reforms wee rascals of every ilk.

On the show this evening I picked up on one sage piece of advice she was giving to the floundering parents - "you child is becoming a little you. Make sure the behaviour you exhibit now is one you want to see later in life."

Hmmm...I thought as I pondered the state of literacy in many children. I think perhaps these wise words from Super Nanny, might have great bearing on some young minds today. I see so many children come into my classroom with such poor reading habits. There seems to be little love for books or just plain reading for fun. The children who I tutor privately definitely have some limitations academically, but the common thread is that they do not (most never have) read for pleasure. In turn, words on a page become a chore and then every subject is affected. Even those with a penchant for problem solving and numbers might flounder because reading instructions is too difficult. I see that too often.

One idea to encourage the love of reading that I have passed on to parents is to set aside a family time 1 to 3 times a week where activity grinds to a halt, televisions and computers are turned off, then everyone grabs a book and reads for an hour. Even little ones will enjoy this special time and it begins a formation of good reading habits. It just warms my heart to see a child absorbed in a book.

I am still amazed how God has taken a mere 26 letters and has given us endless combinations that we call words. What a blessing to be able to call myself a writer and combine words that make sense (well most of the time!)

Onward and upward. Thanks Super Nanny!

No Matter What by Marcia Lee Laycock

About this time every year someone comes up to me and starts talking about the pagan traditions of Christmas. The tradition of a Christmas tree, for instance, is said to have originated with the pagan practice of bringing evergreen boughs, or a “Yule Tree” into the home as a symbol of the new life that would come after the winter.

People also complain that the 25th of December has nothing at all to do with the birth of Jesus. Historians believe He was likely born in the springtime. Some scholars maintain that December 25th was only adopted in the 4th Century as a Christian holiday by the Roman Emperor Constantine, to encourage a common religious festival for both Christians and pagans. Historical documents do not seem to bear this out, however. There is no actual evidence, beyond assumptions, that the holiday was actually instituted by the Emperor. In fact most evidence indicates that it was adopted decades after his death in most parts of the Empire.

Another thing that usually crops up at Christmas is the use of Xmas. Many Christians take offense to this, feeling it somehow denigrates the name of Christ. The word Christmas is a contraction of Christ's Mass, derived from the Old English Cristes mæsse and referring to the religious ceremony of the Catholic mass. The abbreviation Xmas probably came about because the English letter X resembles the Greek letter Χ (chi), the first letter of Christ in Greek (Χριστός transliterated as [Christos]). Xmas is pronounced the same as Christmas, but most people just say X-Mas.

Whether or not you know and believe this information, the celebration of Christmas is now, and forevermore will be a Christian event. These days there is a movement afoot to get rid of the traditional holiday names and greetings all together. “Merry Christmas” has been amended to “Happy Holidays,” nativity scenes are banned from many public places and more and more secular music is taking the place of the long-sung carols.

But none of this can change the fact that Christ is at the core of Christmas.

It was the Christ child who was born to save the world, the Christ man who lived among us and taught us about His Father, the Christ God who died on that cross over two thousand years ago, to accomplish His Father’s will. No speculations about origins, no attempt to secularize the traditions will change that reality.

Whether or not you know and believe in the Christ, He was born in a stable in Palestine, He did walk the earth performing miracle after miracle, He was tried by Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.

Whether or not you believe he was God, He was raised from the dead by his Father after three days and because of Him all of us have access to God and the hope of eternal life.

That’s the story of Christmas. That’s reason to celebrate, no matter what.

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