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Christmas Comes Early

Last week I expressed my desire to fully enjoy November before plunging into Christmas festivities, while acknowledging that many are already partaking in decorating and seasonal music. Well…things have changed a bit. The beautiful fall leaves have been falling. Santa arrived at our mall (presumably so families can have photos taken for Christmas cards). And, I have attended a Christmas production complete with a performance of The Christmas Song.

Let me explain. While I was a senior at Upper Sandusky High School, my government teacher used a few class hours to show us the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. Mr. Baker told us that while the movie didn’t have anything to do with government, it had everything to do with life. The heartwarming story made an emotional impact on me (and explained why older students had spoken of a swimming pool under the gym floor). It’s a Wonderful Life has remained my favorite movie through the decades.

As the second weekend of November approached, I noticed a promotion in our newspaper for a college production of Merry Christmas, George Bailey. My husband read the story of how the students were to present a live radio performance of the adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life and agreed that it would be worth our time to see it. Was it ever! The young adults did an excellent job of voice acting the various characters and creating old fashioned sound effects with such things as a box of corn starch and a carousel of playing cards. Students took turns playing the piano, adding a live soundtrack. The program was a joy to watch and did justice to the movie that I’ve loved for so long.

Franciscan University is located in Steubenville, Ohio. Tickets are $4.

I won’t assume that everyone has seen It’s a Wonderful Life, or that you know where the movie originated (I didn’t). Movie director Frank Capra based the production on Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story, The Greatest Gift. The story and movie give us glimpses into the life of a man who dreams of accomplishing large things in glamorous places, but is consigned to remain in his hometown running his father’s Savings and Loan. The villain is a rich, selfish man who seeks to run the S&L out of business and own the town. At his lowest point, George Bailey (the dreamer) believes that he is worth more dead than alive and considers suicide. I’ll save a little something for those who haven’t seen the movie and just say that an angel* jumps into George’s life and works to convince him that life is the greatest gift, and that George’s humble life has been very successful. In fact, many lives had been saved or positively affected by George’s self-sacrificing actions. Cue the happy ending – and more Christmas music.

Christmas sneaked in a little early again last evening. As Dave and I watched our local news report, a story was told of Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes being given early to 250 kids who lost their homes and school two months ago during Hurricane Irma. The joyful sounds and smiles of the kids opening the boxes were amazing. You can see pictures here. And then the story got better. The boxes were packed and provided by a church in Texas where Hurricane Harvey had destroyed the pastor’s home. Noting that Pastor Mark Brumbelow and his wife are experiencing their own difficulty, the interviewer asked him about the ambitious Shoebox project. He told her that “You feel better when you help someone else.” He has discovered that it’s a wonderful life when you give.

Perhaps you have an opportunity this week to pack an OCC Shoebox. We did. I rounded up school supplies, hygiene items and books. My husband got involved by deflating a soccer ball and fitting it and a pump into each box. If you’d like to give a box, but can’t get out to shop, you can pack and pay for a box online.

Image result for kids displaced by Irma get shoeboxes

*Clarence (Angel Second Class) is an entertaining character in It’s a Wonderful Life who wears funny clothes because he’s behind the times, having died many years earlier. He accepts his assignment from Heaven to help George in his distress and succeeds in showing George the value of his life. I, for one, am grateful to God that He does send his angels as ministering spirits to believers in Jesus. (Hebrews 1:14) I remember thinking early in life that people become angels after they die and go to Heaven. However, the Bible makes it clear that angels are separate creations than humans. Luke 20:36 says that in some ways, we will be like the angels, but elsewhere we are taught that our bodies will be raised and glorified to be like the imperishable body of Jesus. You can read more about this at https://www.gotquestions.org/become-angels.html.

I’m even more grateful to God for His Son who dived into the sinful world as a baby to show us an incomprehensible love by dying in our place and reconciling us to our Father God. That truth makes my life worth living and secures the greatest gift, eternal life with God.

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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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Impossible love?

When I began writing this blog nearly a year ago, I anticipated struggles. Surely there would be weeks when I would have either no topic or no time to write. It has been a happy surprise to come this close to the first anniversary of Thoughts Collected by Lisa having successfully kept up with weekly writing. Suddenly, however, I’m facing the deadline for post #49 with a list of potential titles, an invitation to write for someone else’s blog on a particular topic, and no time to devote to collecting my thoughts, let alone put them into beautiful prose.

So in the wee hours of the morning when its too dark and too quiet to begin preparing for our weekend guests or continue organizing next week’s garage sale, I offer to you words that were written long ago by the apostle Paul in a letter to his friends about a topic we all find relevant every single day – love.

Love is patient.

Love is kind.

It does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud.

It is not rude,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil,

but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,

always trusts,

always hopes,

always perseveres.

Love never fails.

From the New Testament of the Bible: 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

These words are music to my ears as one who receives this kind of love from Jesus and conviction to my heart as one who is called to love others this way. Is it impossible? On my own, yes, “but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26

 

 

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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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