Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #11

  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:4-7, King James Version)

  Here it is the day after Christmas, and people are taking down their trees, claiming Christmas is over and they want to get back to their regular lives. I like to think that today is just the beginning of Christmas. Oh, there’s the whole anticipation-thing the month of December, but shouldn’t the real celebrating start after Jesus is born? 
When I was a kid, Mom kept her King James Version of the Bible out on one of the end tables in the living room. During the Christmas season, we’d leave it open to Luke, chapter 2. 
Today’s picture is Dad and my sister Pat one Christmas, next to one of those end tables. Can’t see the Bible in the picture, but I bet it’s there. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #10

  "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10

  At the beginning of each year, I pick a Bible verse which I to carry in my heart all year as a way to keep me centered on God and the life He would like me to live. The above verse was not the one I chose for 2018. Actually it was Proverbs 19:21, which reads, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Guess what? The Lord’s plans prevailed again this year. He never intended that to be my Bible verse this year. Sometime in the spring “Be still and know that I am God” began to spring into my head on a regular basis. I began repeating it to myself when I couldn’t sleep at night. I even bought a water bottle with those words etched in it.

This whole month I have been sharing various Bible verses which remind me of the first Christmas and Jesus, our Savior, as a tiny Baby. When I read “be still”, I picture that choir of angels, those shepherds and their flocks at night, the hub-hub that followed the birth of that Baby. And then I see Mary and Joseph, in that humble stable, quiet and peaceful. All is still. A peace has descended, not only in that little town of Bethlehem, but across the world
Christmas 1971, my sister and I on another Christmas morning. I am still with my new favorite toy (which I still have by the way). Pat doesn't appear so still; it looks like she could be clapping.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #9

 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
(Isaiah 9:6, New International Version)

Really there is nothing more I can add to that. There are only a few days left until the day we celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Prince of Peace. Be sure to spend time relaxing and reflecting on that. 
Christmas 1969. Wow! Just like the verse above, there is nothing I can say about this picture. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #8

(In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve been spending the month of December blogging about various Bible verses which remind us of the first Christmas and what the birth of Jesus really means to us. Since we are down to the wire, the next posts are rather no-brainers. The message in them is clear as a frost-filled December night.)

 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, New International Version)

My sister Pat and I, Christmas 1967.
I've shared this photo here a total of three times before, but it is worth sharing one more time. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #7

 Jesus wept. (John 11:35, New International Version)

As this is the shortest verse in the Bible, you may have heard it before. Maybe even memorized it!

Here is the premise of these two words. Jesus has just returned to Judea as He has gotten word that His friend Lazarus was sick and dying. The last time Jesus and His disciples had been in this area, the locals had threatened to stone Him, so the disciples were not as keen to return as Jesus was. But Jesus knew what would happen when He got there and what He was going to do.

Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha, met them outside of town, mourning the death of their brother, who had died four days before. The women were confident that Lazarus would rise from the dead, but they thought it would be only at the end of time when all believers would come back to life.

Jesus, true man and true God, broke down and cried with compassion for this family. Then He went into the tomb and brought Lazarus back to life.   

The whole month of December I have been blogging about Bible verses which remind me of the birth of Jesus. So, what does this short verse have to do with that? Probably a few things, but being as I am not a Bible scholar, I’ll just tell you what I get out of this.

Jesus never cried as a baby. I know I might lose some of you here, but hear me out. Babies cry because they want something. They are hungry, they are cold, they are hot, they have a bellyache, they filled their pants. They cry to get the attention they need to make things better for themselves.

When we want something because it will make us feel better – we want a better paying job, we want a better house, we want, we want, we want – that’s called coveting and it’s a sin. So, basically, since those babies were born as sinners, they start right off doing it, wanting, wanting, wanting. Does it mean babies are selfish and just plain bad? No, it means this is the world that Adam and Eve created when they sinned the first time.

And since Jesus was completely without sin, I rest my case, that He never cried as a Baby. Never cried for Himself or because He wanted something. But He cried later on when He saw what sin was doing to this world. And I think He still cries when He sees all that is going on in this world right now. I think He cries a lot. 
From Christmas 2015. I think this was in the midst of a work in progress. 

Friday, December 14, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #6

 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (New King James Version)

Yet another reminder that God has got it figured out for us. Any struggle we have, He will turn around so that it works out for the good. He sent His Son Jesus to do just that, to take all of our struggles to the cross. It all started with that Baby born in Bethlehem. 
The Moms, Christmas 2013. I should have saved this picture for a post about the meeting of the minds. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #5

 Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (New King James Version)

The book of Isaiah is filled with prophecy of the birth of Jesus; I will share some of them later on. I read this verse in my morning devotions the other day, and something about it reminded me of the coming of Jesus. Probably the thought that when things are rough, when you feel like giving up, you only have to remember that God has once again got our back. He will always get us through, and the greatest way He proved that was by sending His Son, Jesus Christ. 
Christmas 2010, the family getting through the challenge of wrapping gifts. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #4

(In case you’ve missed a few posts, I am spending the month of December blogging about various Bible verses which remind us of the first Christmas and what the birth of Jesus really means to us. I’m also sharing random pictures of Christmases past.)

   While Jesus and his followers were traveling, Jesus went into a town. A woman named Martha let Jesus stay at her house. Martha had a sister named Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to him teach. But Martha was busy with all the work to be done. She went in and said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work? Tell her to help me.”
   But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (New Century Version)

Doesn’t that say it all! How many of us are on a frantic rush to get everything done by Christmas? But here Jesus reminds us of the only thing that is important – spending time with Him.  
My mother's tabletop tree from 2011. If only we would have known God's plans for her, we would have spent more time with her instead of being busy all the time. 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #3

 (In case you’ve missed a few posts, I am spending the month of December blogging about various Bible verses which remind us of the first Christmas and what the birth of Jesus really means to us. I’m also sharing random pictures of Christmases past.)

 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (Living Bible)

God has lots of plans. Plans which we cannot even fathom. Plans we don’t even see coming. One of His plans was to send His Son as a human baby to save us from our sins. What a fantastic future and awesome hope that gives us! 
With my mom, brother and sister, on Christmas Eve 2004. Mom always hated getting her picture taken, but it looks like my brother and I don't like it any better. We know that someday in the future, we will take better pictures. That is our hope. And  we trust that we will be with Mom again someday, and our hope for that is that she's not too mad at me for sharing her picture!  

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Christmas 2018 Blog Post #2

In case you missed Sunday’s post, I am spending the month of December blogging about various Bible verses which remind us of the first Christmas and what the birth of Jesus really means to us. I’m sure they aren’t going to be in chronological order, but I thought I would start out that way.

“And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (New International Version)

Whether or not you know your Bible stories very well, you surely have heard about the serpent tricking Adam and Eve into eating the fruit in the garden. In today’s verse, God has just discovered their sin and begins carrying out judgement. First He speaks to the serpent, telling him what his future fate will be. The serpent, of course, is Satan, and the offspring of the woman, centuries later, is Jesus. Satan may strike Jesus first by putting Him on the cross, but Jesus has ultimate victory.

Amazing how the third chapter of the entire Bible foretells those events.     
Picture from Christmas 2010, the wall honoring our pets who have crossed the rainbow bridge. 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Christmas 2018 blog post #1

For a while now – okay, probably since last Christmas – I’ve been thinking about the theme I should write about during this month. Over the years, I’ve done carols, cookies, cards (that be the big three, I guess), the first Christmas, Christmas past, Christmas gifts. I won’t admit that I’ve run out of themes, but I still need to come up with something original.

A couple weeks ago, on the Christian radio station I listen to, they were talking about Advent calendars. You know, where each day you open a door in this calendar and there is a little gift inside. Then there’s the reverse calendar, where every day you do something good for someone, or maybe donate a different food item to the local food pantry. I was driving to work that morning, when the DJs were talking about this, so I may have totally gotten this wrong, but one of them said something about thinking of something each day which is about the true meaning of Christmas. Which you would think, from the Christian standpoint, would be only one thing, and not 24.

Baby Jesus, the Son of God, was born on the first Christmas Eve, so that He could grow up and die to save us all from our sins. Seems pretty clear-cut, but I’ve been thinking about it. 

Then the other day, when I realized that I better get working on this if I am going to roll out a whole series of blog posts, I also realized what really is important this time of year. Yes, first and foremost, it’s about that Baby in the manger. But I looked at my calendar for the month of December and it is already just about full, not even counting the shopping, wrapping, cleaning, cooking, baking, mailing, and working.

That’s when I really came up with the theme for this year’s Christmas blogs. Three days a week until the end of the year, I’ll post a well-known Bible verse along with just a few words of why it reminds me of Christmas.

 “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2 King James Version)

If only because we might as well start at the beginning. The beginning of this Earth we inhabit and the beginning of the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And just like the earth was without form when it started out, we are without form without Jesus in our life.   
Christmas 2003, Val with her dog Pepper and Nick with his dog Shadow. My plan was to share a past Christmas picture on each post, but when I was looking back, I couldn't find any from 04, 05 or 06. I think those were the years just before digital but right after I stopped keeping pictures in photo albums, so their whereabouts are anybody's guess. 

Friday, November 30, 2018

Wabasha, MN

     If you read Wednesday’s blog, you may recall that I took a road trip to Minnesota with a friend last weekend. Though we checked out a few other towns along the Mississippi, Wabasha was actually our destination.
 Our accommodation for the night was the Americinn. I would highly recommend it.
 Wabasha is a darling little town, but might be most famous for the Grumpy Old Men movies, though very little was shot in or even around the town.
 For dinner, we ran to the even smaller berg of Kellogg for fish fry at the Town and Country.
 And I don’t even know what to say about this. I am just posting it for the entertainment of my kids.
 I’m posting this one for my friend Denise. She should know why. “Do you have a picture of this?”
 So many historic buildings downtown Wabasha.
 Of course, the best shopping was in the Chocolate Escape. Check their Facebook page for our picture. 
 Barton’s Brickhouse Boutique.
 Anderson House Hotel.
 The National Eagle Center. My hubby and I took a tour of it in 2009; Julie and I didn’t have time on this quick trip.
 This is Chief Wapasha II, holding a cedar sprig and an eagle feather staff. The city of Wabasha is named after him. And, yes, there was a Chief Wapasha I and III.
When is the next trip going to be?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Red Wing, Minnesota

    It’s easy to become overwhelmed when one has traveled the same roads on very different trips within one month.

The end of October I was in the same area along the Mississippi River as I was this past weekend. I wanted to organize the pictures and the stories to blend together. I’m afraid that’s not going to happen, at least not seamlessly.
The trip in October, for a wedding, took us from our very cheap motel in Red Wing, Minnesota, to the historic St. James Hotel.
 The original front desk.
 The library just off of the historic lobby.
 An old piece of furniture in the historic lobby.
 A really old safe in the basement.
 Views from outside.

 This past weekend, my friend and I stopped in to explore the Pottery Place mall on our way through Red Wing.
 Many times over the years, I’ve visited the various shops inside the old pottery factory.
 I wish we would have had more time to wander around the two levels of antiques, but we had more towns to visit along the River. 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

God and Google

Come back to the Lord your God.
    He is kind and shows mercy.
He doesn’t become angry quickly.
    He has great love.
    He would rather forgive than punish.
(from Joel 2:13 International Children’s Bible)

Do you ever get this feeling of despair for absolutely no reason? Or for such a stupid reason, that you try telling yourself to knock it off, stop feeling sorry for yourself and stop worrying about something that will probably not happen, but your mood just continues to spiral downward?

The last couple of days have been really good to me; I should have nothing in my heart but joy and thankfulness. Instead – well, I do have some stuff going on, but really? Is it really anything to bring me down? No, not at all.

I tried typing a few thoughts into my Bible Gateway search engine, but nothing said, “Ta-da, here’s your answer.” So instead I typed “what Bible verse do I need right now” into Google. Crazy how God has a direct tie to Google. Coz the above verse was the second one which came up.  

Lord, God, what would I ever do without You? Thank You for being my constant Friend and Provider. Amen. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Serving Up Some Food

 When I look through all the hundreds of pictures I’ve taken on my various trips to Kenya, I always smile when I see the various foods we encountered and almost invariably ate.

In anticipation of the Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, I thought I would share some of the meals I’ve had while I was in Kenya over the last 12 years. I don’t know, I really would give up the turkey and stuffing for some fresh chapati, African bananas and real Maasai Chai tea. 

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. And let me know if you ever want to fly away to Kenya with me and eat some of these foods. There is always another trip on the horizon.

And if you haven’t voted today for our nonprofit, please click this linkThanks!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pleasing to God

I will sing of your love and justice;
    to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
    when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
    with a blameless heart.
I will not look with approval
    on anything that is vile.
I hate what faithless people do;
    I will have no part in it.
The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
    I will have nothing to do with what is evil.
Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret,
    I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
    I will not tolerate.
My eyes will be on the faithful in the land,
    that they may dwell with me;
the one whose walk is blameless
    will minister to me.
No one who practices deceit
    will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
    will stand in my presence.
Every morning I will put to silence
    all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
    from the city of the Lord.
Psalm 101 New International Version (NIV)

Last Sunday, when I was looking up verses to go with the thoughts I was writing about, one of the lines in chapter 101 of Psalms came up. As usual, I pulled up the entire chapter and thought it had some good things to say, good things that would be one more follow-up to the thoughts I’ve been sharing the past two Sundays.

Now, this morning, as I’m working on my Sunday inspirational blog, I can’t remember what I wanted to say about any of the above chapter. Yes, I agree with what it is saying, but what really jumps out at me and has anything at all to do with our society, our government, the sad state of affairs world-wide?

I guess words like “slanders”, “vile”, “haughty eyes and a proud heart” could all be used to describe our most recent political campaigns. When we witness those things, I think, that instead of jumping into the fray with our own come-backs and insults, we need to not stoop to their level. We need to turn off social media, turn off the news, and instead turn to Scripture and to God for guidance and reassurance.

Lord, God, Heavenly Father, guide our actions and our words. Let all we do be pleasing to You. Amen

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What I Need More Often

     It has been another whirlwind week. If you follow me on Facebook or other social media, I’m sure you’ve seen my daily post asking for your vote for us in the MyGivingStory campaign. If this is the first you’ve heard of it, please click here. Then vote and keep voting every day through the end of the month. Oh, and share it with everyone.

But that’s not what this post is about. I can’t believe that I am still behind on posting pictures of my many recent trips and adventures. Mostly, I can’t believe I didn’t share much from the writers' retreat I attended at the Arrowhead Bible Camp in New Auburn the middle of September.

Welcome to Camp!
 The cabin I was in is on the left, lower level. The building to the right is the original lodge; the dining hall and kitchen are on the first floor.
 My room.
 The view right outside my door.
 Took way too many pictures of the loons one morning.
I took a walk on the trails one morning.
 Another water bird.
 A place for the kid-campers to cook their meals.
 With the temperature well below freezing as I write this, hard to believe it was pushing 90 degrees that day. Made the beach look tempting.
Oh, but that’s right. I was there to write. I did get quite a bit accomplished. I just need to go to camp every weekend. Argh. Not so productive at home.
 But the sun will rise on my writing in it's time.