Merry Christmas

I have not sent out any cards yet.

This is the first one – the first MERRY CHRISTMAS written this year.

Recall the famously known prophecy, even Charlie Brown’s Linus recited it: ” 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

For “to us”…. repeated twice. Us, meaning all – everyone – no one left out!

To all of us, a child, a son, is given. 

THIS is the MERRY CHRISTMAS: baby Jesus born in the manger – deity, God, made human – for to us.

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Not for the idyllic creche decorations to don the mantels…

Not for the theme of Sunday school plays so the girls can be angels and the boys can play shepherds with cotton beards…

But, for to us, with a purpose: “and the government will be upon his shoulders.”  

What?

Picture this: our government, the United States government, and every other world nation government stacked up on the shoulders of this Jesus like Atlas carrying the world….the image that He holds it all, He carries it all…. BUT – unlike Atlas, Jesus…. He rules over it all.  The prophecy from Isaiah points to a time when the full purpose of Jesus is revealed and His government rules over all governments.

Fast forward to another famously known verse, the one that people raise up in the football stands: John 3:16 — “he gave his one and only son” – the verb, gave, is the action and points to the cross where Jesus died. Just like the story, If you give a Mouse a Cookie, one thing leads to the next.  Jesus died, so that he could be buried, so that he could rise from the dead, so that he could appear to many – alive, so that he could ascend to the heavens and sit at the right hand of the father, God, so that he could await for his return to the earth and save his people,

so that finally – HIS pure government will rulethere will be no other governments left.

But for now… He rules from heaven and nothing on earth happens unless power is given it by God – the government is on His shoulders, and He rules even now, over it all.

Jesus is Wonderful — because He does great things with love…

Jesus is Counselor — because he guides and directs even those who do not know Him because He is sovereign and in charge of it all…

Jesus is Mighty God — because there is no one who holds more power…

Jesus is Everlasting Father — because He and the Father are one, always existing, timeless, having no end…

Jesus is Prince of Peace — because he came to earth as a baby, died as a man, and defeated death as a King, all for the purpose of offering us PEACE in a place where there will be no more tears, just peace, forever.

Jesus in the manger, came for everyone!

Jesus on the cross, died for everyone!

Jesus in heaven, loves everyone!

Merry Christmas to you all – everyone who breathes air on this earth!

Borrowing the words of Charles Dickens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSyx6DaUwxA

Not Even One Christmas Card

It’s funny

and I little bit creepy, when, out of now where, I can hear Diana Ross singing in my head:

“Do You Know

Where you’re going to?

Do you like the things?

That life is showing you

Where are you going to?

Do you know?”

(Diana Ross – 1975)

Normally, I do not ever think about Diana Ross, yet as I sat down to write this New Year letter and pondered what I might say, this song played strong in my mind – a throw-back to radio pop music when I was just thirteen.  Thirty-eight years later, this portion of her melody resonates in my mind; Scary what the mind retains!

I must also confess that this is probably the first year of my life that I could not muster up the usual Christmas spirit.  Almost none of the usual build-up-to-the-season by way of children-pleasing traditions were played out – partially due to the fact that most my children are not young anymore and not around to embark on the usual preparations – and partially due to the fact that my home had been in such a turmoil of disruption for the previous 5 months that climaxed with a great flurry of workers as last minute details fell into place just thirteen days before the time of celebration: Christmas.

Nonetheless, the tree was put up, decorations set out, gifts shopped for, and food preparation done. We ate, we gave and received gifts, we delighted in the visual pretties.  I admit though, not even one Christmas card was sent by me.

Feeling a bit like George Bailey, I sat alone and watched, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this past Saturday night. Part of my pondering included a slump.

Five days later, everything is put away except the manger scene figures that sit on my kitchen window sill.  Life is a whirlwind here at my house.

All I wanted for Christmas was Peace. My kids asked me, and so that is what I posted on my refrigerator on a sticky note: “I want Peace for Christmas – Mom.”

My son, Samuel, in all his charm and wit gave me a pillow with the letters  P-E-A-C-E  stitched across it.  So, in a sense, I got what asked for.

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Coincidentally or divinely arranged, our pastor preached on peace this Christmas Eve; fitting, as it was what I had been pondering all the season since Thanksgiving.  Peace.  Not the kind of peace in the quiet moment.  Not the kind of peace that comes with calm scenery or well loved music.  I am talking about the peace that fills the soul with total satisfaction and a knowing that all is well.

I believe in my heart there is no peace found on this earth….and there never will be.

You see,  no “things” or people bring me peace.

Truly, I say to you my dear friends and family, peace only comes when we abide in Him and with Him.

Loving Jesus brings me peace.  And it seems only when I keep my focus on Him, do I have peace in my heart.

And still, Diana Ross’ lyrics repeat in my mind.

Do I know where I am going to?

Do I like the things that life is showing me?

Where am I going to?

These are all great questions to ponder as a New Year approaches.

Put another way, I might re-word the inquisitions:

What are my goals?

What is life showing me?

Where am I headed?

There will be no New Year resolutions for me tomorrow evening; no temporary intentions to fix myself.   But I will be pondering and striving with resolves all the year through; decisions and answers to hold close.

Resolve #1:

My goals are to serve my King – the One who was born in the stable and laid in the manger.

Resolve #2:

Life is showing me that there is no peace or comfort found in it.  Only struggles and challenges and hard things that need seeing and hard things that need doing.   Life also shows me that with a right set of eyes, there is beauty and joy in the seeing and doing.

Resolve #3:

I am headed toward a Kingdom – where the whole of my salvation sits at the right hand of His father.

Herein lays my Christmas spirit.

It is an ongoing everyday way of being. I just may keep those manger scene figures out on my new window sill all year long…

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It is my prayer that each one of you may be able to answer those impertinent yet important questions that Ms. Ross sang so many years ago: what are your goals, what is life showing you, where are you headed?  I hope you can answer in a way that brings you true peace this New Year of 2015.

I hope you each had a merry Christmas with your loved ones, as I did.   ‘Tis the season for remembering what is important – family and special people are near the top of my list.  At the very top, is the One most important.

Do you know Him?

 

Give Hope: Send Balloons!

“I fought depression during  the last and worst days of my chemo cycle.  A dear friend sent me a dozen helium balloons in bouquet fashion.  Clipped to the string of colorful ribbon were encouraging words calling me back to Hope: ‘When you stick to what you know, the what-if’s don’t matter.’ ”   p. 118, Towdah, A Cancer Survivor’s Song of Hope

I am a frugal shopper and I know.

A dozen helium balloons, delivered, is not acquired via pocket change.

This dear friend did not consider the cost of the gift – she thought more highly of the effect of encouragement this gift would have on my struggling heart.

“And do not forget to do good and share with others,

for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Hebrews 13:16

“Stick to what you know” — such wise words delivered so cheerfully!  This was good and it was shared from the heart; I am sure the sacrifice pleased God!

This gift lifted me immediately out of the slippery slope I was on and reminded me to stand on the promises of God.  Sounds a little trite, but it was true.  I began to recall all the ways God had upheld me and carried me through my struggling days, weeks, and months.  I knew a lot about God and it was ALL graciously good!

One moment was all it took.

One moment for my friend to decide she was going to do good and share.

One moment for me to receive the balloon bouquet.

One moment for me to take to heart the gift

and be transformed in my thinking by remember all I knew about God and sticking to it!

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HOPE was restored for me.

What about you?  Are you willing to make sacrifice to do good and share with the one you know is suffering during this Christmas season?

TOWDAH

Be the first to comment on my blog today and I will send you a free autographed copy of my book and  a letter of encouragement to your friend or loved one who is suffering this Christmas season.  Message me on FB with your address & details – just click on my name below:

Sheryl

Merry Christmas!

Give Hope: Carry!

Traditions, and everything-as-usual, flies out the window when you are suffering with illness or disease during the holiday season. I should know because I suffered greatly through Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter in 2010 & 11.  I am a cancer survivor.

Over the next five days, I want to share with you how you can help ease the sadness and pain of a suffering friend or loved one during this holiday season.  God has equipped you for this good work: you have opportunity to be His hands and feet and give the comfort that is so dearly needed.

“Carry each other’s burden, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2

Illness is  a burden.

Disease is a burden.

Both renders  the one afflicted, weak.

And the one afflicted needs help carrying the weight of the every day life that is suddenly too heavy to carry alone.

What does this mean?

Meet your loved one at their level of  need.  Often times that means making yourself available to do the mundane – the physical load that they are too weak to do.

The laundry, the dishes, the shopping, the meals.  There is no mystery about it.  It is the daily-do’s.

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“…we received at least one hundred and four meals,…my hands could not run under cold water or manipulate knives very safely,and as my nausea and fatigue plastered me to the couch more days than I liked, I was blessed by the hands of many, many people who prepared and labored to ensure that my family had good meals to eat.” P.47 Towdah:A Cancer Survivor’s Song of Hope

The simple act of offering a meal had more impact than you might think.

 It gave me peace of mind; one less thing for me to think about.

I was able to take that nap I needed.

The burden of meal making was lifted off of me!

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Do you know someone who needs a burden carried this holiday season?

Pray.

Consider how God has equipped you to help carry the burden. Be God’s hands and feet.

In this simple act you will fulfill the law of Christ, loving your neighbor as yourself, and give hope to the one who is suffering.

TOWDAH

Be the first to comment on my blog today and I will send you a free autographed copy of my book and  a letter of encouragement to your friend or loved one who is suffering this Christmas season.  Message me on FB with your address & details –

Sheryl

Merry Christmas!

Don’t Glaze Over

Stripping the house of all the trimmings and glitter and bobbles got me thinking.  It was not about the decorations and the memories attached to them; a child’s handcraft, a grandmother’s glass delicate handed down from one generation to the next, a friend’s gift. No.  Not the sentimental’s.

I was thinking about how stuff and tradition can often overshadow the plain and simple of Christmas.

The blue spruce stood sturdy. Prickly and bare it stood. Quietly.

Did I make sure that I did not miss it?

Laying the breakables carefully in the box…closing the lid… I stood reflecting upon the plain and simple, making sure I did not miss it in the lighted festivities.

Jesus. He was plainly born in a simple stable of long ago. Not likely a clean wooden barn with fresh cut straw. More probably in a damp manure laden cave-like abode, adorned with the strong oily scent of animal’s.

His birth announced to the lowliest of the day; shepherd’s on the hillside, in the night. Most slept and missed it. The birth.

The arrival of the King of Glory.

No trimmings and glitter or bobbles to decorate the scene.

Quietly.  He lay plainly on his mother’s breast. I know; or I can assume quite confidently.  It is what all mother’s do after the birth of their baby. Holding close for the seeing and the smelling and the feeling of the miracle. Birth.

Onlookers gaze upon the baby child and every mother, just like Mary, ponders what she hears.

But some missed that part.  Our traditional, decorative scenes package it all up in one clean swoop.  The wise men are placed at the scene. But, scripture says they were not there when the angels proclaimed and the shepherds went to see…

Yet, the wise men quietly knew.  They persisted in following.  Months of travel and then they simply arrived at the home where the child, Jesus, lived. And they bowed down and worshiped Him, the King of Glory, Messiah.

Three men on camels, crossing the desert, following a star, are painted in gold on one of the ornaments I just packed away.

How long did they travel? How did they know of the birth?  How can one follow a star?

Reflective, I pile my boxes on the stairs to be taken up to the attic and I sweep up the few remaining green needles from the floor.  I am amazed at the steady persistence of the wise men to follow and seek after Truth.  Full of faith.  Prepared and ready, they brought gifts.

I made up my mind.

I want to aim to be as persistent in my following Jesus this New Year.

This is the plain and simple of Christmas.

Join me in it.

Don’t glaze over and be stupefied by the trimmings and glitter and bobbles and tradition and sentimental’s and end up missing out.

Join me in it.  Full of faith, let’s be prepared and ready for our meetings with Jesus. As we pray. As we worship. As we seek to know Him more and more. Deeper and Deeper.  As we see Him, Jesus Messiah, in our every day living.

016HAVE A BLESSED NEW YEAR FRIENDS!

JOY…it’s simple.

I admit,

that Will Ferrel’s debut as ELF may not be enticing Christmas viewing to all of you readers, but I do love a few of his quotes:

“The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.”

…and the scene when he stands decked out in green tights with all elf-like accessories, proving a point by loudly proclaiming:

“I’m singing/I’m in a store/and I’m siiiiiingiiiiing!/I’m in a store/and I’m siiiiiingiiiiing!”

These lines appeal to me and touch my heart because it is a valiant attempt at JOY. The uninhibited manner in which ELF declares what he knows and feels to be true is a good reminder to me.

JOY, is simple.

Isaiah 9:6 is simple.

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And one of my favorite Christmas Hymns is simple.

“Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room…”

http://alwaysasongofhope.com/2013/12/03/the-honest-truth/

“Joy to the world! the Savior reigns….”

http://alwaysasongofhope.com/2013/12/05/it-is-he/

http://alwaysasongofhope.com/2013/12/13/jesus-wrapped-in-armor/

“No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow……”

http://alwaysasongofhope.com/2013/12/04/the-fix-to-the-ugly-s-word/ ‎

“He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness”

http://alwaysasongofhope.com/2013/12/12/not-even-a-nickel-needed/ ‎

“And wonders of his love
And wonders of his love…”

http://alwaysasongofhope.com/2013/12/16/no-deadbeat-dad-here/ 


And wonders and wonders of his love…

http://alwaysasongofhope.com/2013/12/17/i-have-it-do-you/ ‎

Listen here — and sing it out…

…are you in your PJ’s still ?

Stand up and sing for all to hear! Spread the Christmas Cheer and proclaim the Savior’s birth and the JOY that knowing Him brings!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J820DMrPvZI

Merry Christmas to you all!

I am singing…I am siiiiiniiiing!  Are you?

Not Even a Nickel Needed

“Psychiatric Help 5 cents —— The Doctor is IN”

Remember this?

The Lemonade stand revamped and Lucy, smugly standing and waiting for Good O’le Charlie Brown to come and unload his downcast concerns.

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Herein lies the stereotypical scene of the counselor.  The one who is ready and waiting to hear the troubles and woes of someone.  The one who is prepared to help and advise someone. The one who cares for the well-being and healing of someone….for a price.        A mere nickel or more.

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Not even a nickel needed,

the Baby Jesus was born with all this counseling capacity.  

He would grow to be, and remains to be, the ultimate Counselor.  And yet…He is even more than this stereotypical Counselor that hears our troubles and woes and helps and advises and cares and heals.

“And he shall be called Wonderful Counselor…”  Isaiah 9:6b

He is the Wonderful Counselor.  

The One who over-arcs all as counselor that makes the plans,

determining and deciding,

and who is holding all things accountable to unfold according to His plans.

Like a seed.

For to us….Baby Jesus.

Given…Jesus.

With the government upon His shoulders….He is the Wonderful Counselor.

Like a seed,

this little Baby Jesus we tenderly view in the manger, embodied all the fullness of potential – planning, determining, deciding, holding all things accountable to Himself.

Ponder.

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As did his mother Mary.  We too need to ponder this Wonderful Counselor.

Not even a nickel needed.

How awesome is it to be the recipient of such an all encompassing fullness within the gift of the Baby Jesus?

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Next up:  Jesus wrapped in armor….stay tuned.

The Honest Truth

I love to watch Christmas movies.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas is among my family’s favorites! Down to earth humor alongside honest truth. Linus, though portrayed as the younger, more insecure character holding his blanket, often comes through with the honest truth.

Linus quotes from Isaiah 9:6 (KJV),

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” 

This is how Linus explains the honest truth about Christmas to the ever depressed and clue-less Charlie Brown.

“For unto us”…

It always starts at the beginning.

Us.  Who are we anyway?

Quoting from Genesis 1:27 (NIV),

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

We are God’s creation.  Formed in the womb by Him.  Logically, honestly and truthfully we are God’s children; a people belonging to Him, because we are made by Him.

I am going to take the liberty to make a broad summation – and it may sound a little strange…but I am going to say:

“For unto us”…Christmas exists.

It was for us that the Child was born.

It was for us that a Son was given.

Wow.

It’s kind of humbling to think of Christmas like that; and that is the honest truth.

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Join me over the next few days as I attempt to make sense of the passage that Linus so aptly quoted!

Be Wrapped!

It happens the same way every year.  Thanksgiving comes and goes and the seasonal music fills the air everywhere, the shopping begins, the invitations come, the calendar fills, and one activity runs into the next….busy, busy, busy.

No matter what, I join in along with the rest. It begins on the day designated to decorate the house.  I put the Christmas CD’s on and drag out the boxes from the attic.  My children gather to help me pull out each decoration and we reminisce over each item and look for that certain spot to display it best. Snowmen, snow globes, wall hangings, bells, and the N-O-E-L blocks that everyone mischieviously takes turns at moving the letters to spell LEON, an inside joke, just to bug mom!  

Mangers of all kinds are placed around the house.  One for the kids to handle and play with, one for looking pretty, one as a ceramic candle base, one made from a foam craft kit, and one made out of cardboard – fashioned together with brotherly and sisterly love four years ago.  Each child runs in wont to be the one who is privileged to set up the pretty set – the one that is not allowed to be played with.100

I watch as the delight falls across the faces of my children.  I feel my own countenance lighten and be filled with joy.  I smile a genuine contented smile.  And it happens.  The Christmas spirit arrives.

Traditions each claim its day as the weeks draw nearer to December 25th, the spirit seems to be stronger than the day before.  I wonder at it; this phenomena that overcomes me each year.  Wrapped within each tradition is HOPE.  Hope of good coming.  Hope of gatherings, yummy special food, people, hugs, and all that warms the heart.  Each of us yearns for this.  In HOPE we delight and expectation keeps us going.

What a mirror of the delight that Mary must have had in the expectation of birthing her son, whom she would call Jesus.  What HOPE must have filled her as she was witness to shepherds drawing near the stable, kneeling before her son, the Son of God.  Scripture says, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  I imagine the smile she had…most likely a very contented smile. Surely she was filled!

I believe, it is the HOPE I have in Jesus that makes the decorating, the shopping, the singing, the going and doing all so beautifully full – filling me with what I call the Christmas spirit.  As I delight in the remembrance of Jesus’ birth – how he came humbly to this earth for the one purpose of dying on the cross for my sins, your sins, all human sin – I am filled with expectation and HOPE.  Risking sounding trite:  What an awesome gift!

We just finished decorating our tree this evening.  All the usual bantering and bustle was present. We are one more “tradition” day closer to the 25th.  I sit and allow myself to be mesmerized by the glimmering of sparkles and lights on the tree.  I rest in love; the love of my Savior and am filled by His Spirit. These traditions are so wrapped in HOPE.

Christmas Day.  Jesus’ birth.  It was, and is, only the beginning of the story…His death and resurrection is the purpose for His coming to us as a baby in a manger.  Jesus is the wrapping; Jesus is the HOPE.  Expectation of His return keeps me going.

As you go about your traditions and doings the rest of this month, I ask you to reflect and absorb the true gift and meaning of Jesus lying in the manger.  Be wrapped!

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Just for your delight and pleasure, I am going to share with you

the Gramma Christmas Cookie recipe

This cookie was the ONLY cookie that my husband’s mother baked for Christmas.  She made them by the dozens, giving them as gifts and filling a tin of them for everyday consumption during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  When she passed away, twelve years ago, I found the recipe in her recipe book, a tattered and yellowed paper clipping. In memory of her, I carried on the tradition and it has become the ONLY cookie my children and my husband care about for my baking season at Christmas.  They are wonderfully satisfying and totally delicious. Some liken desserts to “heaven” especially if chocolate is involved….this cookie may be one of them.  But I ask you, as you bite into these tasty morsels, keep your mind and heart on the HOPE of heaven gained only because of the birth of God’s Son, Jesus!  Enjoy!

1st layer: 1/2 cup butter, 1 egg yolk, 2 TBS water — beat these together.  Add in 1 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1 tsp.baking powder.  Press into a 13 x 9 greased pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

2nd layer: sprinkle 1 bag of chocolate chips onto the hot 1st layer crust.  Return pan to the oven for 1 minute. Spread the chocolate smooth.

3rd layer: Beat together 2 eggs and 3/4 cup of sugar. Add in 6 TBS melted butter & 2 tsp. of vanilla.  Add 2 cups of finely chopped nuts.  Spread this mixture over the chocolate layer. Sprinkle with colored sugar sprinkles.  Bake for 30 min.  Cut into squares when cooled (a plastic knife works best).

* VARIATIONS on a good thing:  I use a variety of chips — peanut butter chips swirled with the chocolate, or butterscotch chips, or mint choc. chips & then use peppermint extract instead of vanilla….be creative!