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Anticipating Christmas – Patience part 4

Ohio’s beautiful trees took their time bursting into fall color this year. My October 22 birthday often comes during peak leaf season, but some years the trees have been bare by then.  We wondered whether 2017 would ever bless us with Autumn’s brilliance. The last day of October passed and as November arrived, our neighborhood was transformed.

I often hear people say that they like the fall season, but not what follows – the cold of winter. While I’d like to keep the days from getting shorter and colder and the beautiful leaves from falling, I’ve turned the calendar page to November and know that December is quickly approaching. And with it, Christmas.

On November 1, some folks gave themselves permission to listen to Christmas music since Halloween is over . These lovers of the holiday season may have groaned when Christmas trees appeared in stores during August, but now eagerly await an acceptable day to put up their own Christmas trees . If their window shades are down, you can bet they’re secretly watching a favorite Christmas movie well before Thanksgiving. I’m not one of those folks, however, I did practice some Christmas music with fellow flutists this week in preparation for performing at church. And I did begin to make plans with our sons and daughter-in-law for a Christmas gathering in December.

At our mall in 2014. I’m in the middle.

When you hear that there are only 48 days until Christmas, how do you feel? Depending on my state of mind, I might feel amazed that the year is passing so quickly, pleased that I already have several gifts purchased, or a bit anxious about all that will need to be done in preparation for December 25. I’m hoping that the mall holds off on playing Christmas music for a few more weeks.  I’d like to enjoy the beauty of November before seeing Christmas lights come on in our neighborhood. Some areas of Ohio have already seen snowflakes, and I know that it won’t be long until they fall. The sparkly winter season will bring its own delight.

Those who have much excitement about getting to Christmas will need some patience as these weeks pass. For some folks, patience will be needed to get through the holiday season. Perhaps life has changed in a way that makes celebrating difficult. There may be memories of happier family Thanksgiving dinners or Christmas festivities that stand in contrast to today’s circumstances. If you’re one of those people, I hope that you will know the peace and presence of God this year and will find a meaningful way to celebrate.

Having grown up in the Christian faith, my family has observed a season of waiting for Christmas called Advent. This year Advent begins on December 3. Beginning that Sunday, Christian church services will include a focus on the anticipation that ancient Israelites had for the prophesied Messiah. They waited, not knowing how long the wait would be. While we may feel impatient for Christmas to arrive each year, we can count down the days with certainty as to when we will commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised One, who came into the world to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)

A second focus of Advent, meaning “coming”, is the birth of Jesus in individual  hearts and lives.  As we sing Joy to the World, we celebrate the Lord’s coming and plead, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Jesus enters into every life circumstance, whether happy or sad, and every home where He is welcome, whether it is extravagantly decorated or very humble.

The third focus of Advent requires much more patience than waiting for December 25. Christian faith includes belief that Jesus was resurrected after his death by crucifixion and ascended into the clouds after appearing to many people. The Bible contains prophecies, including the words of Jesus himself, that He will return to the earth at an appointed time that no one knows except God the Father (see Matthew 24:36). God’s salvation will be completed.

Patient waiting, accompanied by obedience to the one we have believed will be rewarded.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,  for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8,9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Faith Like a Fisherman?

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to watch my brother cast his fishing line into a Wisconsin lake. Standing on our uncle’s boat dock, he baited the hook and sent it flying through the air into the water. At a measured distance from the hook, a red and white bobber was tied to the fishing line. When the bobber hit the water, it refused to sink, keeping the hook at a predetermined depth and alerting my brother when a fish was biting.  Each time that bobber flipped over, the fisherman would work to set the hook in the fish’s mouth and then reel it in.

As I watched, he pulled in a number of fish which were sorted by size to be put in his basket or tossed back to the lake. Interestingly, I have on my mind today what happened when the fish did not bite and the bobber did not flip.

This morning I was considering some familiar words from Jesus Christ’s disciple, Peter, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) In Psalm 55:22, David expressed it this way, “Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” When I think of the word “cast”, fishing is the first activity that comes to mind. However, according to Joyce Meyer, author of Battlefield of the Mind, “The word ‘cast’ actually means to pitch or throw.” As I watched my brother fish, he would cast his hook into the water. If no fish tugged on the line causing the bobber to flip, he would reel the hook back in, check to see if the bait was intact, and then cast it out again. While it would appear to the fish that a worm was swimming through the water unattached, the line was keeping the control of the hook soundly in the fisherman’s grip.

Are we to cast our cares, worries, anxieties, and concerns to our Lord while keeping them tied to a line that we can reel back to our own hands and minds? Not if we trust Him to handle them and want to be free of anxiety.

What if we pitched each care to God at 100 mph like the best major league baseball pitchers throw the ball to the catcher? Joyce Meyer continues, “You and I can pitch or throw our problems to God and believe me, He can catch them. He knows what to do with them.”

Our next move would be to wait. We would not reel the problem back in, work on the knot or the bait, and send it out again. The next move would be from God’s hand, not ours.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

 

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THREE GOOD MEN – PART 3

On February 17, 1986, my husband and I found out whether our first child was Michelle or Eric.  That morning, our 8 lb. 9 oz., 21 1/2 inch Bundle of Boy took his first breath.  They tell new moms to rest and sleep during the hospital stay, but who could sleep when the most amazing thing ever had just occurred?!  My mind kept replaying the entire event during those first nights.  When Eric was born, my first words were, “He’s so big!”  Today I dug out his baby book to find his first word – duck.

Opening that book began a sentimental journey that was surprisingly eye-opening. The many little stories, facts, and quotations from Eric’s earliest years hinted at the personality, interests and talents which resulted in the Good Man he is today.

  • By age three, Eric was using words like “particular” and “actually” correctly and impressing the oral hygienist by being so “articulate”.  He went on to deliver the commencement speech at both his high school and college graduations.
  • At 22 months, Eric was learning and singing songs, and by age three he was determined to be a drummer.  He completed his college degree in Percussion Performance and has been leading worship in churches and teaching music in camps since his teen years.

  • Speaking of leading, my notes in Baby’s Milestones indicate that Eric was a born leader.  In play, it seems that he like to make the rules and expected the other kids to follow them.  The world needs Good Men with God-given leadership skills to be great husbands, fathers, employees, employers, etc.
  • When we took our toddler out, he exhibited keen interest in other people.  During his first trip to the zoo, he gave some notice to the elephants and giraffes, but mostly watched people.  To this day, I am impressed with how much interest Eric has in what is going on in the world.  He has concern, like many in his generation, for the well-being of those who are oppressed and keeps a close watch on goings-on in the news.
  • My accounts of Eric’s early Christmas celebrations reminded me that by age three he was curious about Jesus.  Nativity sets at churches or in yards fascinated him.  He loved singing Christmas songs and now plans and leads Christmas Eve services, along with weekly worship music.  I also made note of the fact that at age four, Eric was in Sunday School and wanted to go every week so he  could earn an attendance pin.  As he grew older, his interest in church only intensified, and we began having what we call our “deep theological discussions”. He has been dedicated to studying the Bible for many years. As Eric celebrates his 31st birthday, he is in his first year of seminary studies with the goal of becoming a pastor.    Our discussions are getting deeper and I learn something every time.

I am proud of  my son.  I know that many people, events, and trials have shaped him and that God has been working out His plan for Eric from before his birth.  When adversity has come, I have admired how he came through it with deeper faith, maturity, and compassion.  I appreciate his viewpoints and advice, and look forward to what these next years will bring. And I celebrate with him as he anticipates his marriage to sweet Amanda.

So there you have it!  Three Good Men – Part 1, Three Good Men – Part 2, and Three Good Men – Part 3.  All of them are men of integrity who love God and fill my life with joy.

“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,and continues to do this,

not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:25

 

 

 

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THREE GOOD MEN – PART 2

Part 1 of this series was written in September about my youngest son to honor him on his 27th birthday.  As the year 2016 ends, I celebrate by honoring my husband, David, who was born on New Years Eve.  I mention him often in my writing because we share so much of life together.  Describing what I love and admire about Dave in about 500 words is possibly impossible, but here goes.

Of course, Dave is not just my husband.  He was a son and brother for over 20 years before I met him, and he picked up his great work ethic, value of faith, and love of family from his farming parents and six older siblings.  I have great admiration for the way he helped and cared for his aging mother as she lived as a widow and experienced Alzheimer’s Disease.  His example certainly demonstrated to our school-aged sons what honoring a parent can look like.  It takes self-sacrificing commitment to be a good son, a good husband, and a good father simultaneously.

When Dave and I met, he was living at home and finishing an accounting degree, while I was already working and living on my own.  He was brought up in Catholic traditions, while I am from a protestant background.  Once we married and decided to have children, this 25 year old man began facing and making decisions about how to provide for and lead his own family.  I so appreciate the way he has considered my opinions and feelings in each step of our married life.

Dave and I shared the blessing of having had our mothers at home during childhood, so when we had our first child, we decided that I would stay home.  Dave took part in raising our sons by being available for doctors’ appointments and school activities, taking us to church, and leading the boys’ Cub Scout groups.  He put aside his love of farming for a career in newspaper publishing and passed along his strong work ethic by helping Eric and Kyle with paper routes.  He has rarely missed a day of work and has earned much respect from employers and co-workers, but has also been faithful to be home at dinner time and to spend weekends with us rather than at work or on a golf course.

Father’s Day 2008 at Eric’s graduation from Otterbein College

My husband has shown his love for me by supporting me in my volunteer work and interests.  When Eric and I were involved in the church praise band, Dave learned to run the sound board.  When I have come up with a creative idea, he has helped me track down the supplies and make it happen.  When Kyle wants to talk, his dad listens and encourages him.

I am so proud of what my husband has accomplished and so blessed by his strong Christian values that permeate every area of his life.  Dave has become a role model and mentor, not only for our sons, but for other husbands and dads and for people with whom he works.  He is at the top of my list of Good Men.  Happy Birthday, David!

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