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Reboots, Reflections and Resolves.

December 27th, 2012 by stephanie

We will now spend this week watching TV recaps of 2012 and hearing about New Year Resolutions. Shows and commentators will play out the best of this, worst of that, the most memorable moments of celebrities, politics, sports and more. But for each of us personally, it will be a time to reboot our lives. A chance to reflect on what we would like to change for the New Year, and to find the resolve to make those dreams come true.

If you’re anything like me, letting go of the past and moving forward can be tough. As much as I would like to think I do it without much effort, at times I struggle. I have a really good memory. Especially if things have not worked out the way I thought they should, or if someone has done me wrong, or been unkind. I am not proud of that characteristic, but I would be lying to you if I did not admit that part of my humanity. Sometimes, things for me just die hard. But I am working on it. And I think I am making improvements!

Maybe for you the new year holds a new normal or a life transition or change. Perhaps it is the reality of letting go of something near and very dear to your heart. Maybe it’s something that simply needs to go away from your world as you know it.

Think of it this way. There are certain things in life that we just cannot understand and other things that we will not be able change. Like a spouse who has left, or a child who has died unexpectedly, or perhaps a disease that refuses to be cured. At those times, it’s best to stop trying so hard to fix things or figure them out, and just let things be.

Maybe you were hoping for a situation to be resolved or a prayer request to be answered before midnight on December 31 — but the solution or the answer has not yet come. You fear that the chimes from the clock tower will ring then come and go like the fireworks. And as you seek your resolution, once the smoke clears, you will find yourself, alone, left in the fog to carry on in 2013. Maybe, privately, you question God.

Thank goodness God does not answer our prayers because we have been good little boys and girls. It would be a terrible shame if He worked off of a naughty or nice list. If He did, it wouldn’t be grace at work. And His sacrifice for us at the cross would have been in vain.

God works in His time. In His way. And, fortunately, in His wisdom. He doesn’t decide if I am worthy or not of the requests and prayers I make. Best of all, He doesn’t hang on to my past either. He lets it go. I am so grateful that God truly moves on even if I can’t.

If you’re feeling that God is so far out of reach or that the angelic operators have placed your calls on eternal hold, I pray that you will look to the heavens with palms up and say, “O.K. I don’t get it, but since you are everywhere and can see everything…though this is not clear to me, I choose to believe that 1) You know what is going to happen in this situation and, 2) that You, and You alone, can handle this and take care of me.”

Let’s commit to remember together that He is not only the Lord of the past, He is the Lord of the present and the future. Our future. And with that, let’s reboot our mindset, reflect on positive adjustments that can be made, and then, resolve to make this the best year…ever.

Hugs and Happy New Year.

Stephanie
Phillipians 3:13

Happy Boxing Day: 12/26

December 26th, 2012 by stephanie

Most Americans are not familiar with Boxing Day. We see it on those office supply store produced calendars, but always wonder what it’s about. We think of a day where folks maybe get a chance to punch that annoying visitng family member and let out agressions. Or where office pools bet on who would win a slug fest in the conference room? Or, maybe not.

But there really is a Boxing Day. And for our friends in Australia and the British Isles, it’s been around since 1871 and it’s a pretty big deal. Banks close and stores have blow out sales with early morning busters just like we do during Christmas.

Christmas and Boxing Day are actually related. Apparently, servants had to work on Christmas Day. Then, as they prepared in the evening to leave, their masters would “box up” food and goodies to send with them as they headed out to meet up with their family and friends the next day.

Boxing Day is officially December 26 or a workday in the week following Christmas. And now you know. That nagging wondering of what that “box-in-the-calendar” holiday mystery is — has been solved. It’s more about the giving. And not the receiving of anything remotely like a punch in the face.
Just my thoughts,
S.

A Christmas Night Story.

December 25th, 2012 by stephanie

This week, we celebrated the best story ever told. Christ coming to earth, to give Himself as a gift to us. But for those of us Americans, there’s a wonderful national Christmas story from our history that I love to share as well. And it all happened Christmas Night. The year? 1776!

It was winter and visions of sugar plums most likely danced in their weary heads as they longed for the warmth of hearth and home far away. Many were in shredded clothes, and most without shoes in the midst of a winter gale of rain, sleet, ice and snow. The secret orders called for the men to muster near the river at midnight. The crossing, that would take all night, awaited them. They did not sleep. Fishermen, now soldiers, rowed back and forth all night long, in silence, ferrying soldiers to the other side. Awaiting them would be a nine mile march over frozen roads. But in the end. They were victorious. A surprise attack by this surly bunch on the thoroughbred Hessian army (who slept soundly due to having celebrated Christmas late into the night) led to a spectacular victory at Trenton, New Jersey, the following morning. Those were indeed times, as Thomas Paine would write, that ‘try men’s souls’.”

It is very difficult to imagine any man, let alone those soldiers fully committing body and mind in those excruciatingly cold and exhausting conditions. What would possess those men to press on rather than run or retreat? Perhaps something deep in their souls. Maybe an amazing trust in, and loyalty to, their leader or, their acute awareness of the immense task they had undertaken for a new country. Committed to the end. With God’s blessing. They turned pain into purpose and they conquered!

I would bet that those men had our Lord on their minds that night. They knew their families were gathered around trees at home and in the morning would head off to church in celebration. But no such enjoyment for them. Their hearts and bodies found strength only in the Christmas prayers they breathed as they rowed or endured that next painful step. The Spirit of Christ and Christmas was with surely them then, and that same Spirit is, and can be, with us this season.

Whatever river you may need to cross in the days ahead, know that He is with you today and He will be with you tomorrow. You and I can and will endure. Thanks to His blessing, His Providence and the strength He sends our way. May we cross over and into victory.

Merry Christmas.

Stephanie

Advent: The 4th Sunday – JOY.

December 21st, 2012 by stephanie

The season of Anticipation is just about to hit a high note. This Sunday, we will finally light that pink candle in the wreathe that you may have been looking at and wondering about. It’s known as the angels‘ candle, symbolising the angelic proclamation of joy at Christ’s birth.

This season, our nation has experienced quite a bit of unexpected grief. Joy seems difficult…but look again. The JOY comes from the news. The announcement that The Messiah had finally come.

There’s one more candle we can add and light together after this Sunday. A fifth candle. You can put it in the center of your wreath, and it usually suggested that it be white. It will be the “Christ Candle”. It can be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is almost here! The culmination of everything we’ve been looking forward to – together. The joyful celebration that the Prince of Peace has come.

S.

The 1st War on Christmas: The Puritans

December 18th, 2012 by stephanie

Puritans & Athiests actually have something in common.

It’s true. I was shocked when I first learned years ago that Puritans were actually anti-Christmas and successfully managed to ban or cancel it in America (and England) in the 1600’s. If you weren’t aware of this bit of history, you can do some research. I found it interesting that the Puritans beat the Athiests to the punch when it comes to protesting this holiday celebration. But oddly enough, for exact opposite reasons.

For the Puritan, Christmas celebrations were not godly enough. For the anti-religious person, however, who wants God removed from culture, their goal is to rid our world of that dreaded nativity scene and the story behind it altogether.

Some other trivia, in case you never got it in school:
– Pilgrims and Puritans aren’t the same thing. Yes, they both came to America for religious freedom. And both were protestants. That’s where the similarity ends.
– Pilgrims wanted to separate from the church.
– The Puritans wanted to “purify” the church. (Make it better. More holy…etc.) Big difference.
– Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday in America until June 26, 1870 (after the Civil War.)

With that, the war on Christmas that we are hearing about of late, isn’t new. But the reasons behind it are at extreme odds. Whatever your take on Christmas, it was around before us, and I would imagine it will outlast each and every one of us, regardless of what we believe or how we choose, or choose not…to celebrate.

Handle’s Messiah will still be a cherished classic among musicians, kids will still enjoy A Charlie Brown Christmas (if they’re allowed to watch it!), and the Bible and Luke Chapter 2, will still be around when we’re long gone as well.

In all, I guess anything we are passionate about, whatever our beliefs, is worth fighting for…it it brings about peace, joy and goodwill among men, that is.

Just my thoughts,
S.

Advent: The 3rd Candle. JOY

December 15th, 2012 by stephanie

This coming Sunday of Advent actually has it’s own name.

It’s called Gaudete Sunday. And a very big $3 prize for whoever got that word right.
For those of you new to this blog, welcome. We’ve been taking a look at Advent (the season of anticiption) this month, with a few sidebars along the way.
If Advent is a bit new to you, here’s the deal. This coming Sunday, churches and homes around the world will light the third candle in that pretty Advent wreath.
If you’re into colors and symbolism of the season, the last two candles that were lit during the past two Sundays, were purple.
This week? A rose colored candle will be lit.  This is called the JOY candle.

But, back to Gaudete. You will find that it comes from the latin phrase
“Gaudete in Domino semper” – translation: Rejoice in the Lord always.
Thus our candle of Joy.
[You Marines caught that word Semper, at least? Semper Fi = Always Faithful.]

Anyway…in certain what we call “High” Churches, the priest will even change from his purple robes of the past two weeks into rose colored ones. The tradition was that the church as a whole would move from a season of fasting and repentance into one of joy.

So, if you see any of these symbols or colors in wreaths this coming weekend, you will certainly feel a bit more “in the know”.  If anything, that will put a smile on your face. And if you have a moment, remember to read Luke Chapter 2. It has some tidings of great “joy”!

Rejoice!

Just my thoughts,
Stephanie

Hanukkah: What is it exactly anyway?

December 13th, 2012 by stephanie

Over in the Holy Land, a couple of hundred years before Jesus arrived on the scene, the Greeks ruled that particular area. (You remember Alexander the Great? He conquered the world back at that time.) The Greeks wanted to impose their beliefs and culture on those they now ruled over. But the “pesky” Jewish folks would have none of it!

A small band of faithful Jews, rose up and bravely drove the Greeks from their land, reclaimed their Holy Temple in Jerusalem and then re-dedicated it to the service of their God—Jehovah.

The menorah (that 7 candle holder thing that people place in windows?) had always had a place in the temple. It was actually a permanent part of the Temple furniture. It was lit like a lamp. And it was huge. When the people proudly returned to relight the Temple’s menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), there was a problem. They had only one vial of usable/holy olive oil left. Miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days! Enough time for them to properly prepare new oil according to purity rituals.

So, there you have it. This Festival of Lights, is now celebrated to remember this wondrous work. Each night during the 8 day holiday, Jewish families light their menorah: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on until the eighth night of Hanukah, when all eight lights are lit.

And now you know!
Perhaps this information is a chance to “enlighten” a friend or two this week. (wink)
Stephanie

2nd Sunday of Advent: PEACE

December 9th, 2012 by stephanie

Today people across the world will light the second candle of our Advent Season…the PEACE candle. If you have joining us, we are so glad you are here. Please take a look at the other Advent blog posts below…and come back tomorrow as we learn more about Hanukkah. Later in the week, we’ll talk about the 3rd Advent candle which we’ll light next Sunday.
Hugs,
🙂
Stephanie

Happy Hanukkah!

December 8th, 2012 by stephanie

I love this holiday. If you don’t know the story of how this holiday came to be, it truly is fascinating.

I had the immense pleasure of actually being in Jerusalem one year during Hanukkah. It was quite special. I will write more about it all this weekend, but for now, you must watch this clever song done by some very talented college boys.
I listen to it ever December and it just makes me dance and smile.
ENJOY!
Candlelight…remake

Welcomed Interruption: 12/7/41 In Remembrance

December 7th, 2012 by stephanie

We interrupt this Advent Season to bring you a very precious reminder…

When I was in high school, I used to jog around my neighborhood in order to keep in shape. My route usually took me past this one particular house with an RV (recreational vehicle) in the driveway that had a “Pearl Harbor Survivor” license plate. Try as I might, I never saw the resident of the home. One sunny day however, as I came plodding down the sidewalk, to my utter surprise, there was the reclusive veteran out washing his motorhome. My time had finally come.

Carefully approaching him, I pointed to the license plate and our conversation began. “We didn’t sleep for days,” he recalled. “We worked with one hand, and ate and took care of personals with the other.” I could see the memories flashing before his eyes as his face changed shape while he spoke. I was mesmerized. He’d been there. He knew. And I wanted to hear anything he would be willing to share.

If you don’t recall the significance of 12/7/41, Allow me to share with you. If you are under 21 years of age, just know this: 9/11/01 was not the first time we’ve been attacked on American soil.

It went something like this…
Men sleeping soundly aboard U.S. ships suddenly found themselves trying to make sense of what they soon realized were the sounds of alarms, bombs exploding, and gunfire. Dressing as they ran to General Quarters stations they would hear the now famous message, “Air raid Pearl Harbor! This is not drill!” Sadly, ammunition lockers were locked, aircraft parked wingtip to wingtip in the open to deter sabotage, guns sat unmanned. Men were ashore, on leave, resting. But those on board and able to assist fought and worked valiantly.

Those on duty in that sunny paradise never saw it coming. Rumor says a person or two had wind of the notion, but we as a nation, never acted on the data. The Japanese had called the secret mission. Anditcame in three successful waves, Hawaii OperationOperation Z. The target? The United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Target date? The morning of December 7, 1941.

It was that surprise attack that ultimately threw our country into the very war we were trying to avoid: World War II. The enemy was strategic and deadly. 353 Japanese planes were launched from six aircraft carriers that day. They sank four U.S. Navy battleships while damaging four others. They also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, one minelayer, and 188 aircraft. When the toll was taken, the U.S. listed 2,402 killed and 1,282 wounded.

The Japanese only lost 29 aircraft, five midget submarines, and 65 servicemen killed or wounded. Only one Japanese sailor was captured.

What also horrifying, many sailors trapped in the damaged and sinking ships would never be abstracted. Their banging to be heard by those nearby. Those longing, but unable to come to their rescue. A nightmare our servicemen hoped to forget. But veterans that were there, like my new friend I got to speak with that day, as well as those that diligently sat by their radios and read the papers will always remember. As may we. It took that tragedy to force us into a war that would inevitably bring down Hitler and his regime. In time, many others in another land would be freed. And in time, we would all celebrate. That, is something to remember.

I hope you will pause this day, to reflect. And perhaps remind a family member or colleague of the significance of this day in our country’s very rich history. May we remember.

Sincerely,

S.

 

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