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Christmas Miracle…Did You Know?

December 25th, 2014 by stephanie

Crossing of the Delaware.

Crossing of the Delaware.

It was Christmas night. 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.

Shock & Awe ’76 Style

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 committing body and mind to the utmost 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.

This Christmas

On this Christmas night, may we all pause and remember. I would bet, too, that those men had our Lord on their minds that night. And their hearts and bodies found strength in the prayers they breathed as they rowed or wondered how they could endure that next painful step. They knew their families were gathered around trees at home and in the morning would head off to church in celebration. The Spirit of Christ and Christmas was surely with them then, and that same Spirit is with us this season.

Crossing Over

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

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Looking forward to what lies ahead…

December 23rd, 2014 by stephanie

Words from a saint…or so, they say…

There’s a passage from the Apostle Paul (known as Saint Paul to some) that is so poignant for this time of year. Whether 2014 was a banner year for you, or perhaps more of a challenge, the Scriptures teach us to keep moving forward.

That’s such a healthy mindset.

When you talk to people who have “overcome” you ask them how they did it and they will tell you, “I just put one foot in front of the other. I kept moving forward.”

For those of you experiencing difficult times during this holiday season, may I offer you this piece of advice that fell my way this year: millimeter shifts.

Your Journey Begins

Your Journey Begins Here…

Just like the concept of compounding interest…if you simply make minor adjustments and movements, and keep going, you’ll be able to turn around at some point, and realize the progress you have made. Not only that, the view may quite surprise you.

Embrace the journey my friend. And see you on the other side…2015!

[Passage here]

Here’s to what has been, is, and what is to come.

Just my thoughts,
S.

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Advent: The 4th candle

December 21st, 2014 by stephanie

4th candle of Advent.

4th candle of Advent.

Today, we light the 4th and final candle in the wreathe. But not the very last candle of Advent.

The season of Anticipation is just about to hit a high note as the lonely candle is lit. It’s apparently known as the angels‘ candle, symboliing the angelic proclamation of joy at Christ’s birth .

So what about that other candle I mentioned?

There’s one more candle we can add and light together after this Sunday. Yes, a fifth candle. Let me tell you about it.

You can place a final candle in the center of your wreath (they usually suggest that it be white). It is the “Christ Candle” and you can light it on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Just so you know, there are a variety of ways to celebrate advent and the tradition of the wreath. You may not celebrate the same way as your neighbor, but don’t let that throw you.

If you missed this tradition during the last few weeks, do this:

  • Search for a green wreathe (green represents eternity)
  • Locate three purple candles, one pink and one white, and
  • You’re good to go for next year. (They’ll be on special after the holidays if you want to prepare now. 🙂

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost here! The culmination of everything we’ve been looking forward to— together. And I can tell you, it’s been very special to share my annual tradition with YOU.

So, here’s to what has been, is, and is to come.
S.

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3rd Sunday of Advent: JOY

December 14th, 2014 by stephanie

Sheer joy!

Sheer Joy! Snoopy doing the happy dance.

This particular Sunday of Advent actually has its own name in the church world.

It’s called Gaudete Sunday 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, as in Semper Fi = Always Faithful.]

If Advent is a bit new to you, here’s a quick recap: today, churches and homes around the world will light the third candle of the Advent wreath.

There are colors and symbolism of the season as well. The last two candles that were lit during the past two Sundays, were purple.

This week, a rose or pink colored candle will be lit.  This is called the JOY candle.

220px-Adventkranz_andrea

The Pink Candle.

In certain what we call “High Church” environments, the priest will even change from his purple robes or sashes of the past two weeks into rose colored ones. The church as a whole will 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 week, perhaps you will now feel a more “in the know”.  If anything, that will put a smile on your face.

And if you have a moment, read Luke Chapter 2. It’s the place that will share with the story where the shepherds were given “Tidings of great joy” which would be for all people.

EnJOY.

Stephanie

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Advent: 2nd Sunday…Peace

December 6th, 2014 by stephanie

Children's Christmas Pageant.

Children’s Christmas Pageant.

The 2nd Sunday of Advent.

I recall one particular Christmas pageant that I was in as a young girl. (Which seems of late, that tradition is becoming a sweet thing of the past.)We used to put on bathrobes and place bath towels on our heads. Sound familiar?

Magically, those items suddenly transformed us into shepherds. White bedsheets 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”. Our job was to memorized the entire second chapter of the book of Luke. And you know what? To this day, I can still recite almost the entire chapter. (Something to be said for teaching young folks the Scriptures. It sticks!)

It’s interesting, because that’s the exact 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 that section that continues to be one of my favorites. Especially during these confusing and difficult times. Maybe it will 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!”

Last Sunday, churches and homes round the world lit the 1st candle of Advent. The Hope Candle.

This Sunday, we will light Advent’s second candle: the Peace candle. In a world that today doesn’t seem peaceful, peace is definitely one thing most of us can agree on as valuable, and what many of us hold dear.

Peace to you.

S.

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“I Could Squish You Like a Bug!”

December 4th, 2014 by stephanie

Bosco on Paver Patio

Bosco

Just obey me.

I joke that my new puppy thinks his name is “Bosco, ‘No’.” For the first five weeks in my house, that’s about the only words he heard.  Those, and of course the other ones that I utter each time he defiantly disobeys me. I lean over him, look into those adorable eyes, and while trying to get my message across (without laughing) blurt out,  “I could squish you like a bug!” Doesn’t he know I could wipe him off the face of this planet in one swoop?

Why not just obey me and avoid any repercussions let alone the consequences? At times, I get so frustrated. If I could only speak doggie and get through to him…But alas, I can’t.

We’re turning a corner of late. I’m finally able to have some cuddle time where he doesn’t bite and gnaw on me 24/7. I’m actually experiencing moments of peace (when I’m not chasing him down the hall with yet another shoe). In those new quiet minutes, I have begun to think, I sure hope God looks at me that way—when I am being nothing short of a brat. I hope He says, “But she’s so dadgum sweet and cute.”

I wonder if He’s able to adore me when I continue to miss the point, or when I snap back at Him each time I don’t get my way? Does He still look at me lovingly when I do the same things, over and over again? Does He get exasperated having to repeatedly remind me, “Stop it. Don’t do that!”

Though He could truly “squish me like a bug” (and in one breath blow me into eternity)…I hope in those moments He looks at me the way I look at my new puppy.

When I look at Bosco, I see a sweet, innocent creature, that just doesn’t quite yet get it. He tries—he really does. I can see it in his eyes. He simply can’t help himself. He wants to be good, but that intense puppy instinct overrides my rules and reprimands that ask him to go against his nature and adjust. And alas, he does the exact opposite of what I ask or want.

Being good isn’t easy. Obeying when we just don’t understand why we should (or when it doesn’t make sense to us) is tough. But like Bosco, we don’t speak God’s language. And too, we really don’t know much about this immense and complex world out there that we live in—and we never fully will. That’s why God asks us to not question—just simply obey.

I’m grateful to know The Lord understands that I just don’t get it. But I try…I really do. Maybe someday I will grow up, and behave, and just rest peacefully on the porch of life and not fight for my own way all the time. Wishful thinking. Who knows. We’ll see.

Just my thoughts,

S.

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Deuteronomy 30:15-16New Living Translation (NLT)

15 “Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between life and death, between prosperity and disaster. 16 For I command you this day to love the Lord your God and to keep his commands, decrees, and regulations by walking in his ways. If you do this, you will live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you and the land you are about to enter and occupy.

 

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