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Advent Season: This Sunday light the Candle of PEACE.

November 29th, 2010 by stephanie

I recall one particular Christmas pageant that I was in as a young girl. You remember those. We used to put on bathrobes and placed towels on our heads. Magically we suddenly transformed into shepherds. White sheets and tinsel halos were the costume of choice for those of us desiring to be angels. And Mary? Well, she was always in blue, of course. Anyway, for this one particular production, I was the third angel from the right, and we memorized the entire second chapter of the book of Luke. And you know what? To this day, I can still recite almost the entire thing. (Something to be said for teaching young folks the Scriptures. It sticks!)christmas-wreaths-advent-wreath

It’s interesting, because that’s the same passage that Linus, of the famed Peanuts gang, quotes on stage during the Charlie Brown Christmas Special (The TV classic which I still love to watch each year.)

There is one particular section of the Luke passage that continues to be one of my favorites. Especially during these confusing and difficult times. May be it bring a sense of peace to your heart and to your corner of the world today:

Luke 2:8-14 (ESV)

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.

10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

This past Sunday, churches and homes round the world lit the 1st candle of Advent. It was called the Hope Candle. If you are new to this tradition, Advent season (which begins the 4th Sunday before Christmas) is considered the Time of Anticipation. And if you aren’t sure what we are anticipating, it is the coming of the Baby Jesus. Christ coming to earth.

This coming Sunday, we will light Advent’s second candle: the Peace candle. In a world where we don’t often see eye to eye, peace is definitely one thing most of us seem to agree on and what many of us hold dear.

Peace to you.


Advent: Know what it is?

November 26th, 2010 by stephanie

The Advent season has begun.  If you’re not too familiar with this tradition, don’t worry. You’re not alone. But if you do, know that we’ll be focusing together on Advent in the coming days.

So, just what is Advent anyway? You might have seen or even used one of those clever Advent calendars. You know the ones. Where you open up a little door each each day in December only to find a surprise behind each one.

For the church as a whole, Advent used to be known as the beginning of the Church Year (for most churches in Western civilization that is). It usually begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving, (the one closest to November 30), and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec .24). Advent has its very own colors too.

 I have an Advent wreathe in my house. On the 1st Sunday of Advent, I light the first candle in that wreath. (There are four candles in it by the way.) Three are purple. Then, I light one additional candle each Sunday. This Sunday I will light the candle of HOPE.

The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ – his first Advent – and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.

Basically, it’s all about anticipation. Anxiously awaiting the coming King. The Anointed One. The Messiah. And the hope He will bring. To Christians, that Hope is the assurance of eternal life.

Light a candle this week won’t you? And be reminded: He has come.

Just my thoughts.

Journey to Thanksgiving – 4

November 25th, 2010 by stephanie

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, our journey series comes to a close. So, what does Nottingham have in common with the Pilgrims? The answer: Scrooby, England.

For those of you that immediately think of Robin Hood when you see Nottingham, you are not alone. But now it can ring a bell for you in regards to the Journey to Thanksgiving. Here’s the scoop.

During the 1500s, you may recall, the Catholic Church, and those who were protesting its practices (The Protestants), were battling it out in Western Europe. Apparently, a few extremists up in Scrooby, (Nottingham area) were fed up with the new Church of England, and decided it was time to leave. They wanted to worship the Lord their way. Not the way the State demanded and ordered. To them, religion was between a man and his God. Not a government mandate.

In their first attempt to slip out, they were arrested. At that time, church dissidents were not allowed to leave the country. Finally, about 1608 they managed to escape to Holland. Here they would start a new life. But in time, the poverty, the Dutch culture their children were absorbing, and other political pressures had them realizing this land too, was not their final destination.

In time, they connected with a Company that was seeking settlers willing to trek to the New World. It wasn’t part of their original plan, but after careful thought and much prayer, they began to look toward a pilgrimage to a new land and a new life.

And thus began the journey that truly led to the first Thanksgiving…


Journey to Thanksgiving -3

November 24th, 2010 by stephanie

Today we continue the joureny…Monday, we left off chatting about Christopher Columbus. Spain was in the lead for discovering new worlds…and it is 1492!

Five years later, John Cabot of England got in on the fun and landed on what is now Newfoundland (Canada).

A short time later, in 1512, Ponce de Leon of Spain, also found land. Thinking it was just a huge Island, Florida, was soon flagged for Spain as well. A year later, in 1513, Balboa claimed the entire Pacific coast, the Pacific Ocean, and all the lands adjoining it- again, for Spain.

So let’s take a quick review:

Only 10 years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue, all of the Caribbean, Central and South Americas, Florida, and now the Pacific Coast belonged to Spain. Pretty amazing. But they didn’t stop there.

Spaniards trekked through Louisianna, the coastal Gulf States, and even marched to the Smoky Mountains. Everything from Florida to California by the 1520s was now claimed for SPAIN.

Where were the British? And the French? If they wanted a piece of the pie, they’d better hurry.

More than just discovery of land, however, was taking place at this time. The “earth is flat” concept (believed to be true by all folks except those who were educated or wealthy) was the order of the day. The other discovery taking place was that of the Scriptures. An internal and Spiritual awakening was happening too. The Epistles and Gospels were published into Spanish at this same time making them accessible to commoners. And the Catholic Church was not happy about it. The every-day man was about to have access to God’s Holy Word in his own native language. The days of the Latin-only Bible, available solely to the church fathers or the wealthy, were coming to an end. A new day was rising in more ways than one.

As the story goes, meanwhile over in Germany, Martin Luther was studying for the priesthood. Apparently, he took an unfamiliar, red leather volume off a library shelf while perusing the tomes one day. As he read, he discovered a story of a woman named Hannah who could not have a baby and was pleading with God for mercy. It was his first look at a Bible. And, yes, it was in Latin. But he was hooked. After absorbing and exploring this new written world he found within the Scriptures, he walked to the Wittenburg church and nailed his complaints with the Catholic Church to its wooden door. The famous 95 Thesis. That day, he protested the current beliefs and rituals of his very own faith. Thus, a historic moment in the birth of what we now call The Protestant Reformation. It was the Rennaissance. A time to explore, discover, and question.

Martin Luther, wanted his fellow Germans to experience what he was learning, so he translated the Bible into their common language. Again, Rome was upset.

The Dutch now had the New Testament in their language too.

Over in England, Tyndale was working on his English translation of the same. (The Pope later sentenced him to death for this act). That didn’t stop the French. They soon followed.

Monasteries and nunneries in Germany were shutting down. People were leaving the Catholic Church in droves. They were not only leaving their faith, they were venturing out from their homelands in search of new worlds as well. A new day had begun.

King Henry of England wasn’t helping matters. Rome had controlled the kings of Europe for about 1,000 years. Henry VIII asked the Pope for an annulment from wife Catherine of Aragon (who was Spanish Catholic) in order to marry Anne Boleyn. However, Clement VII refused. Henry, furious with the response, removed England from Papal Rule and decided to make himself head of the Church in England.

It wasn’t a good time for Rome, and it didn’t get better. One of King Henry’s daughters, Elizabeth, was a mere third in line to the throne. But due to amazing circumstances, she found herself queen at the age of 25. When Elizabeth got the news, her answer was “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.” PS118:23. A Protestant herself, she only strengthened the movement of not only her faith, but the political power of England as well.

In 1558, she led her tiny country to a huge David & Goliath victory over the invincible Spanish Armada, literally crippling their means to continuing their new world exploration. England, had overnight, become the Super Power of the world. Poised and ready to take it’s place on the international stage – and so she did.

Companies were formed and ships sailed with hopes of cultivating and settling the New World that had once been dominated by Spain. These companies landed, settled and claimed the entire East Coast for the English crown. The entire area that would one day be known as The Colonies, was simply called: Virigina, in honor of the virgin Queen.

So here’s the recap:

Spain had been replaced as the world leader. The Catholic Church was in upheaval, and a small island west of Europe had risen to Super-power status. It was a whole new normal to say the least… Stay tuned. We’ll wrap it all up tomorrow.


Journey to Thanksgiving – 2

November 22nd, 2010 by stephanie

Today I want to continue our look at  the story of the journey to Thanksgiving. Last time we talked about Leif Ericson. He came oh, so close. But his group didn’t quite hit the area of land known today as the U.S. of A- and–they didn’t stay. A party of settlers that came from his group only stayed about a year. Then, they returned to Iceland.
Rumors of new lands West of Europe were spreading like wildfire. And nations were on a race to settle it under the name of their crown, their language, and their faith.

In the late 1400s, Columbus won favor with the Spanish Catholic King and Queen. People of wealth, as is still the case today, loved spices and silks. But they were  hard to come by back then. Acquiring niceties meant dangerous journies over land that took them through Europe, across the Mid-East, then into India and China. If you could even successfully get there, you had to pray you were able to even make it safely back home with the goods. Weather, robbers lying in waiting, etc….it was a treacherous route.

So, in 1492, in the name of Spain and, “…for the promulgation of the Catholic church and faith…”, Columbus decided to get in a boat and head West– in order to find the East. Yes, you heard that correctly. He headed West. He just knew, if he sailed far enough, he’d find the land of goodies. “You can’t do that!” said the common folk. “You’ll fall off! Everyone knows the world is flat!” Columbus however, as well as educated scholars and navigators felt differently.

Now, in case you have forgotten, or if you didn’t get this part in school, in those days, if you wanted to get an education, you had to be wealthy. And, if you were wealthy, you sent your son to the monastery or other Catholic venue for a proper education. That is where the best schooling (if not most), took place. Interesting too, that was about the only place you would be able to find a library. Once you got there, you’d better speak and read Latin, or the contents of the library would be of very little use to you.

So, it’s quite possible that Columbus and his educated friends had access to the Scriptures. You’ll see what I mean when you read the below excerpts. The only copies of the Bible in those days were rare, and if you did have access to them, you most likely found them in LATIN in those sequestered Monastic libraries. Perhaps Columbus was so confident because he had access to those Scriptures and had actually read from them. Consider the following:

Job 26:10 “He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters
At the boundary of light and darkness.
Prov. 8:27 “When He established the heavens, I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
Is. 40:22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.

PERHAPS — had the average people, the commoners, had access to the Scriptures as well, they might have known these words tool. But Europe, in general, was without the Word of God. The Scriptures were in the hands of and controlled by the powerful Catholic system at this time. Without education available except at the monasteries and palaces, if you weren’t in church or wealthy or educated you truly thought the world was flat.

Columbus knew better, and he truly believed the earth to be “small”. If he sailed west, he just knew he’d hit Asia for sure.
Ironically, he did find land. But his first landing was in what we know of today as the Bahamas. He called the island where he landed San Salvador, which in Spanish translates a THE SAVIOUR.

He later would sail around the Caribbean Islands and would land on Central America. But for some reason, he never quite got far enough North. He never did land on, nor have the opportunity to claim and settle the shores that would one day be referred to simply as, America. That land would belong to another people group, of another faith and language, at another time. Stay tuned…

Just my thoughts.


It’s the Holiday Season…

November 19th, 2010 by stephanie

The tunes and lyrics are ringing in my ears already as I stroll the aisles of the local stores. Meanwhile, the leaves from Autumn that fall on my deck and yard remind me that plenty more of their counterparts still dwell in the tree tops awaiting their timely descent.

The holidays. Yes, that season is upon us. With that, I thought it might be fun to do a bit of a recap on how we, as a country, actually got to Thanksgiving. A bit of a light Thanksgiving History 101 if you will. But with a twist…of course. Ready? Here we go…

About 300 years after Jesus departed the planet, an interesting version of Christianity, and a very powerful religious movement was taking hold of Europe. It was called the Roman Catholic Church. I am sure you’ve heard of it. Even the British Isles, who heard the gospel early on, by about 500 A.D, were deemed “Catholic” when the Arch Bishop of Canterbury made his debut and set up shop in England. For the next thousand years, the Catholic church would rule over all of Western Civilization.

However, 1,000 years after Jesus, another man was about to make his mark in history as well. He wasn’t from the Mid-East, this man was from Iceland. His name was Leif Ericson. And was known to be the son of an outlaw and settler, and a grandson of the same as well. A man with a reputation, no doubt. At one point, Leif was introduced to the King of Norway. While there, he was also introduced to something he hadn’t quite anticipated: Christianity.

As the story goes, while playing chess with King Olaf one day, the sovereign shared with Leif how he used to also worship the same Viking gods that Leif did. He went on to explain how a horrid plague had struck Norway and that many of his loyal subjects had suddenly died. Olaf detailed to Leif how during that crises he turned away from those gods and began to worship the living Christ. The king had been baptized along with thousands of Norwegians, and then the plague stopped.

Leif, not being exactly faithful to the Norse gods, was interested by this new religion. He finally agreed to be baptized and accepted Christianity as his new faith. When he left Norway, he even asked a priest to join him with the intent of spreading the Christian faith in Greenland (Leif”s home at that particular time).

An adventurer at heart, Ericson soon set sail toward the West where he successfully found land. But it wasn’t the area we refer to as present day America. It was actually the areas of Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada). The year was about 1001 A.D.

The Vikings did indeed make it to “The New World”, but they didn’t stay long. When they arrived they noted the biggest salmon they had ever seen and the most wonderful grapes. However, even though they felt they had discovered a land flowing with “milk and honey”, they soon packed up and returned home. It wouldn’t be until much later, when a group of people who landed a bit more south, and were determined to stay, settled the land.

Like the leaves that quickly fall to the ground, as others at the tree top take a bit longer to follow, the folks that arrived at the New World first weren’t the ones who would inherit the land, so to speak. It was all about timing, and we’ll talk about that a bit more in the days to come.

Just my thoughts. And…happy holidays!


It’s Not How High, It’s How Far.

November 16th, 2010 by stephanie

I jokingly shared with my friend as we were taking an evening walk that I was considering writing a book titled Lessons from the Yoga Mat. But then, I would imagine there are probably lots of book products already out there with a title like that.  Yet here is where that desire originated.

While working to place my left toe behind my right ear and attempting to stretch my other extremities toward the far wall as directed, our yoga instructor serenely stated, “Remember: It’s not how high you go, it’s how far.”

Once again, a life lesson struck me as my body pleaded for relief. I never cease to be amazed at how moments of epiphany manage to locate me during times of self-imposed contortion. However, they do. While my classmates ponder the energy in the room, I find myself drifting off to the land of ethereal revelations.

So, I pondered the weighty proverb, then asked myself: How many times in life have I chided myself for not reaching the heights to which I felt I should have attained by now? When, perhaps, I may have missed the point of seeing just exactly how far I’ve really come. And, then, to accept that realization. Why, is it we have to climb higher and higher, when in reality, true success might just lie in the progress we’ve made in the journey? Nawwww. We’re all about conquering and promotion and obtaining. Right?

In all seriousness, some people go really high in life. And we refer to it as “Look how far they’ve gone!” Yet in matters of life, have they made true personal progress? I happen to know a few mega-successful people that have managed to achieve amazing heights, yet at severe cost. They’ve gone super high. But I am not so sure they’ve gone very far.

So, I took stock of what I felt I should have accomplished. Then I took a good look at the wonderful things I have had the privilege to do. As well as the wonderful things that have come my way in life. And it made me smile. These “things” most likely wouldn’t appear very high in some people’s eyes, but they seem pretty far to me.

If you are feeling a bit low of late, or that you haven’t quite hit the mark, take a good look backwards. Notice where you started. Then see just how far it is that you have come. I’ll bet it’s a lot farther than you’ve thought, or even imagined.

So, for this week, when you’re tempted to focus on how high, stop for a brief moment and take notice rather, of how far. It might just put a smile on your face.
Just my thoughts. Yours?

Be Sure Your Sins Will Find You Out.

November 13th, 2010 by stephanie

It was a normal Wednesday night. Suddenly, the bathtub was backed up and full of black gunk. I could hear one of the bathroom toilets (in another area of the house!) start to overflow. “Trouble,” were the words that came out of my mouth. Long story short, after a few wet vacs and fan treatments at midnite, and not much sleep, the next morning I called the plumber.

Just an ordinary, normal guy came to my aid. Got right to work. Followed procedures and meticulously took on the problem at hand. While he was roto rooting the depths of my home’s abode, I popped my head in to check on him. It was then that he started to talk, and talk…and talk.

“Yeah. I’m gonna write a book,” he grunted while holding the pliers in his mouth. “Been doin’ this for over 25 years. I could tell you stories all day.” I figured he was about to do just that. And thus he began.

On one call from his past, he found himself at the home of a lovely woman. While there he began the task as asked and tended to the clogged toilet. He informed her at one point during the rooting procedure that he had the problem on the other end and would soon be pulling it up. All were gathered in the bathroom to see this culprit emerge in real time. As the wad in question surfaced and he began to unwind it, he suddenly realized it was a red negligee. Standing beside the woman was her husband –whom she promptly hauled off and belted in the mouth. That was before she started screaming at him and chasing him down the street. Apparently, the red nighty wasn’t hers!

On another occasion, at a preacher’s home, he learned that the problem was out back in the septic tank. The pastor and plumber headed out to the back 40 and once in the right spot, they pulled the first lid off. As they both peered in, a complete cache’ of discarded sexual protection devices stared back at them. Sometime later, the man called our faithful plumber back to the house. At the door, the Pastor greeted the service man with a big hand shake and thanked him. Apparently, this husband began to pool the neighbors after that first fateful discovery. What he had learned was of interest. While he was hard at work ministering to the flocks, his wife was serving “guests”. At one point, she was reported to have had more than a few men over in the same night. Needless to say, they were divorced shortly thereafter.

There were other stories. And to be honest, they were even more dramatic than the ones above, if you can imagine.
But as I stood there, with a most horrified look on my face, the only words I could muster in response were, “Be sure your sins will find you out.”

Now, these words actually come from Numbers 32:23. And they don’t have much to do with a clogged pipe and drains, but the apparent truths from these aforementioned situations are most evident. We may think we can hide, but in the end, the truth will come out. Possibly literally.

Just ask my plumber!

Read Psalm 139:1-24

And our series comes to a close: 100-110!

November 6th, 2010 by stephanie

For those of you who have been tagging along, bravo! Today we will wrap up our journey through George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Behaviour in Conversation.

I have to admit, I absolutely love this last grouping. Even on the first one, I actually knew someone who used to polish their teeth with their napkin regardless of where they were or who they were with, after every meal!

You know what to do! Pick one, work on it this week, and report back how it went. Let us know. Would love to hear!

Here goes:

100t Cleanse not your teeth with the table cloth napkin, fork, or knife; but if others do it, let it be done without a peep to them.
101st Rinse not your mouth in the presence of others.
102nd It is out of use to call upon the company often to eat; nor need you drink to others every time you drink.
103rd In the company of your betters, be not longer in eating than they are; lay not your arm but only your hand upon the table.
104th It belongs to the chiefest in company to unfold his napkin and fall to meat first, but he ought then to begin in time & to dispatch with dexterity that the slowest may have time allowed him.
105th Be not angry at the table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, show it not; put on a cheerful countenance especially if there be strangers, for good humor makes one dish of meat a feast.
106th Set not yourself at the upper of the table; but if it be your due or that the master of the house will have it so, contend not, least you should trouble the company.
Show interest in others conversation, but don’t talk with your mouth full. 107th If others talk at the table, be attentive but talk not with meat in your mouth.
108th When you speak of God or his attributes, let it be seriously & with reverence. Honor & obey your natural parents although they be poor.
109th Let your recreations be manful not sinful.
Don’t allow yourself to become jaded, cynical or calloused. 110th Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.

And there you have it.



Reflections: November 2, 2010

November 3rd, 2010 by stephanie

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual — or at least that he ought not so to do — but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.

— Samuel Adams in The Boston Gazette, April 16, 1781


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