Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Great is Thy Faithfulness...

I woke up singing this favorite hymn this morning...


"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

"Great is Thy faithfulness!" "Great is Thy faithfulness!"
  Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
    "Great is Thy faithfulness," Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

It has been a favorite truth to stand on for a long time...but I really needed the "spiritual kick in the butt" this morning.

I'm still soaking in the last verse - Pardon, peace, presence, cheer, guide, strength and HOPE.  Keywords to live by today, tomorrow, and I'm sure through the holiday season.

Peace to you as you celebrate His birth, and live in the knowledge that He loves you!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's all about .... um... Jesus!!

It was never meant to be about clever marketing and fad items...giving just for the sake of giving...or raising our kids expecting to receive...oh goodness!

It breaks my heart to see people, out of work, out of money, and still scraping together EVERYTHING they can to "give their kids a good Christmas"....they'll not have adequate food on their table, but there will be gifts from Santa under the tree.

I can almost see Saint Nicholas rolling over in his grave...this is not what he intended either. Stand up people!! Find your spiritual backbone!

OK - so I'm a Christmas nut - but before you write me off you have to know the journey He took me on...from a spoiled So Cal girl that grew up in a house where it was ok to lie (starting with Santa), to a broken hearted, wounded life young adult that discovered the TRUE meaning of Christmas as the little church down the roads steeple bells pealed carols at midnight on Christmas Eve. It hit me then - Christmas was all about Jesus. ALL about Jesus. All ABOUT Jesus. PERIOD.

And through raising kids; arguing with grandparents about why it's ok to "not do Santa" (we'd rather the kids know that the gifts were from you...than to lie to them...), through teaching the kids that it's ok for others to "do Santa" (we respect you and trust you with the truth, and in a few years they will know the truth too, but it's not up to you to tell them), to realizing that others may not have those same convictions, and trusting God to allow the kids (and their now spouses) to set their own holiday traditions (so far no one is "doing Santa").

Isn't Jesus' birth ENOUGH reason to celebrate??

BE INTENTIONAL - in how you prepare for the season, how you spend the day, who you spend the day with! Put a plan together and stick to it!! Don't give in! If gift giving must be a part of it (and that's not all together wrong - just keep it in budget and in control ) then make it intentional, draw names if there's a group of people coming, or do a "white elephant" gift drawing - or something more community minded (please bring $20 - or canned food - or whatever - to donate to our local church/charity/foodbank  to celebrate the birth of our Savior).

Start something new, and BIG!! We get caught up in the lights, commercials, newer/bigger/better THINGS that are saved to reveal in this season. We're suckers. Recognize the fact that we are sucked into the lies of society that we deserve all this stuff, that we need it, that anyone else needs it, that it determines our worth and tells others what we think of them. IT'S WRONG that we are so emotionally tied to this whole gift thing. Most will go into debt to "prove" our love for someone else - why?? We'll dig ourselves out all year long to get our debt into line to do it again next year....so not worth it. For a fraction of the cost, we can provide clean drinking water for a village all year long...for several years! Check out The Advent Conspiracy , or join in with others to adopt a Compassion International child for the year, or commit to a local giving opportunity.

The whole idea is to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. Think out of the box. Start a NEW trend in Christmas gifting.

Some of our favorite things over the years have been: baking cookies/treats for friends, serving at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day, preparing food and serving/delivering for Meals on Wheels on Christmas Day, inviting International Students into our home for their first real Christmas, having a "Happy Birthday Jesus" party with cake and ice cream, giving unexpected gifts to people we didn't know well - just to bless them, sharing our home with people who didn't have family (or many friends) to share the day with....

I'm sure that it will look special and different in your home, but it has to start with you. Pray about it!! Rarely, if EVER, have I heard someone say "Oh, I prayed about it, and Jesus told me to spend lots of money, go into debt and buy my family/extended family/friends TONS of junk!!" Nah. It's not going to happen. Seek His heart and His will for this Christmas Season. It IS, after all, ALL ABOUT HIM.

OK. I'll get off my soapbox now.
Merry Christmas!!
Happy Birthday Jesus!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cross Cultural Workers and holiday blues...

This is such a hard time of year for those who have family scattered around the globe. Whether they are in harms way doing battle, or serving our Lord in a foreign land, or working for a company or a NPO - just being apart from family and friends can be hard on both sides of this global scene.

Recently I got a letter from our friends and partners in ministry, B. and S. O. who serve with a missions group in the capacity that assists families whose children are serving abroad. They wrote about a recent seminar that they attended on Mental Health and Missionary Care for those serving abroad, but I believe that their lesson learned applies to all of us who have friends or family working abroad. They wrote:

"We were attending the Mental Health and Missions Conference in IN, which was excellent.  One of the workshops we attended was on "Attachments", the speaker is a psychologist and spent several years on the field working with missionaries.  From his experience, he told us that those missionaries who knew they (the missionary) was on the mind of someone at home on a daily basis were the missionaries that had the least amount of stress.  He went on the say that the missionary knew if they were on the mind of someone, that someone was probably also praying for them.  If you have not told your children and grandchildren that you are praying for them and you really are praying for them,  please let them know.  What an encouragement this can be to your missionary family plus it can decrease their stress!!  God is good."

So as friends, family members, church workers, prayer warriors, member care people, missions agencies, (ok, I'm finding it hard to NOT find a person who would not bless someone by doing this!), let's all please PRAY for our workers abroad, and be sure to tell them (in a safe way, if needed), that we ARE praying for them! 

For those of you that know someone who is grieving the holidays here in the U.S. while their "worker/loved one" is away, let us remember to also PRAY for THEM, and tell them that we are praying! It wasn't mentioned, but I believe that the benefits will work both ways.

I think that ultimately, WE will be blessed to be used by God in such an instrumental way...

Christmas Blessings,
Marina