It was early morning, and I smelled the aroma of pumpkin and turkey as I walked into the kitchen. Loaves of bread were cooling on the counter. The beginning of the holy season was here. It was a time to give thanks to all those who made the year a little easier for us; dear friends and family, and most of all, for the multitude of blessings from our Lord.
Enjoy this beautiful Thanksgiving rendition of “What I’m Thankful For”:
Shorts and T-shirts changed to football and wrapping gifts. Trees lost their summer foliage, and the wet, black bark stood somberly, against shades of gray. Embers in the fireplace were still aglow from the prior night. The house shifted into a winter wonderland.
We started the day off right – sipping coffee in bed along with the morning news, and then the Thanksgiving parades. Later, my wife scurried about the kitchen donning an old-fashioned apron. The family will be here soon – my favorite time of the year!
The bread rose, moist and golden brown; perfect for a holiday tradition. I lovingly watched her focus on perfection. Cradling the loaves onto an empty shelf, she closed the refrigerator door and spun to her right. A smile flashed across her face. “Jesus is in our kitchen!”
Gasping in His glory, my wife turned to the counter and reached for the last loaf. She handed it to Him gently and then pulled out a chair. He smiled and reclined, gesturing me to do the same. Breaking bread and sipping the wine from our crystal goblets, we spoke of our blessings for this communion of three!
Jesus appeared on this holiday with never a word. He was the brightest of bright shining at our table – the sacrament of life. And as He arrived, so He left; only a broken twig laid upon the dinner table where we broke bread. Tears streamed down my wife’s face as she took His napkin and wiped her cheek. I’m sure He is in heaven smiling and preparing a special place for her.
We set the table in silver and gold and plugged in the charger plates. A centerpiece of memories – holly, and pinecones adorned the table. I lit the candles as the doorbell rang; the holidays were in full swing! My wife, smiling ear to ear, carried out an extra chair for us from the bedroom. She greeted the kids with a great big smile and a huge hug as well! We celebrated that joyous Thanksgiving with love in hearts for each other and our wondrous Father, Jesus Christ.
Will you invite Him to your Thanksgiving meal this year? May you and your family have a blessed holiday and spread the cheer!
Please join us again on Sunday, November 25th for another “Everything Christmas Blog”!
The muddy slush piles up against curbs and trampled footprints scatter about on the snow-covered sidewalks. Storefronts capitalize on impending Christmas shopping with festive, decorated windows. Full of alluring ideas that tax the mind where wallets won’t permit, it’s hard to swallow. But, love consumes our hearts, so we become obsessed with not wanting to forget a single person. We shop online and by foot comparing prices, then wait in long lines. Frustrations mount as, sometimes, we end up paying for overnight delivery because we ran out of time.
Are we losing sight of Christmas? We join together bearing gifts for one another to commemorate Jesus’s birthday on the 25th day of December. But where did the idea of excessive gift-giving come from, anyway? It’s not how this holiday began because there was a time when celebrating this day was a taboo.
Origin of the Christmas Holiday
Jesus’s birth was categorized as a pagan holiday. It is their belief He never existed as a man, only as a spiritual entity. Then, in the 1600s, Rome became the birthplace of Christmas as we know it; so, it’s a fairly new celebration. But, as history reveals, Protestants (the Puritans) in America hated this holiday and banned it in 1644. They believed it was an insult to God to honor a day associated with ancient paganism. The Puritans also considered Christmas trees and decorations unholy rituals as well as traditional foods such as mincemeat pies and pudding.
Pagan Christmas image courtesy of Huffington Post
Commercialism of Christmas
So, how did Christmas ever come to the point of being the ultimate gift-giving experience instead of the rejoicing of a holy birth? Perhaps the commercialization of Santa Claus bearing bags of gifts started the dreaded Christmas creep. New York City’s annual American International Toy Fair is held in February, and the stores purchase and scheme for the following holiday. Isn’t that a little much?
Do you know a whopping 18% of gifts given to others are never used by the recipient? To make matters worse, we spend the next six months paying off the debt we incurred because it was ‘the thought that mattered.’ Scroogenomics author, Joel Waldfogel, summed it up well – “if the spending we engage in doesn’t produce any satisfaction, then it’s hardly a measure of well-being.” Why are we allowing the commercialism of Christmas to affect our purses and create greediness?
Make Your Christmas Count!
I think this Christmas we should, instead, get involved with our communities. Spend money, if you must, giving to those less fortunate. There are orphanages, Senior Citizen centers, hospitals, and homeless people who would appreciate your gift. Take your children with you and let them feel the happiness of another person smiling over an unexpected present. After all, as a Christian, God expects us to help others in need.
Image courtesy of YouTube
Overloading our own kids and others with presents is not the reason for the season! Limit your immediate family gifts to three and make them count. The birth of Jesus should be our celebration. Attend a local church service and enjoy the sensations of the joyous season. Jesus was born to save us – let that be enough for you this year.
God bless and Merry Christmas!
Please join us on Thursday, November 22nd for another “Everything Christmas Blog”!
Give the gift that keeps on giving! Order your book of grace, love, and understanding today!
A wise person believes in God;
A foolish person does not
A wise person loves God;
A foolish person does not;
A wise person fears God,
A foolish person does not;
A wise person has time for God;
A foolish person does not;
A wise person worships God;
A foolish person does not;
A wise person talks often to God;
A foolish person does not;
A wise person listens to God;
A foolish person does not;
A wise person is a friend to God;
A foolish person is not.
A wise person tries to please God;
A foolish person does not.
Are you wise or foolish?
And as the day closed its eyes,
To turn in for the day,
It was gratitude to God
That gripped my heart.
The blessings that come to us
Must not be taken for granted;
As it’s not everyday they come;
And not to everyone they come.
Thus, reason enough, I have,
To lavish praise to God;
Who, in his mercy, so kind to me;
Join me then to sing praise
To raise our voices in praise
Of Him the most high.
The virtue of kindness can be a confusing concept to understand because it can be defined in many ways. Perhaps the best way to understand kindness is to examine other words associated with kindness.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary uses two important words in defining kindness. Those words are affection and favor.
Kindness Is an Expression of Affection
If one demonstrates kindness to another, it expresses a level of affection toward that person. A fine example of how this is manifested in life is found toward the end of the book of Acts in the New Testament.
Paul and his companions had just survived a shipwreck and found themselves stranded on the island of Malta. Luke, Paul’s companion and chronicler, records the kind actions of the natives to their group in chapter 28.
After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. Acts 28:1-2 [ESV]
The Greek word translated here as kindness is philathropia, the same word from which we derive the English word, philanthropy. It means a feeling of good, or fondnessof humankind in general.
In other words, a kind person is one who shows an affection for other people in general. Thus kindness could be defined as an inner motivation to help others, even strangers, especially when they are in need.
As we notice in the passage, Luke was impressed by what unusual kindness these strangers showed by their actions. They welcomed them in and made a fire to shield them from the cold and rain.
Kindness Is A Demonstration of Grace
The word most often translated as “grace” in the New Testament is charis. Among the definitions of this Greek term is “favor.”
Paul the Apostle writes using this term in Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. [ESV]
Grace given by God is more than mercy for sin, though it is certainly that. Grace is also a demonstration of the favor of God.
Kindness is directly linked to grace by Paul earlier in Eph. 2:4-7
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ [ESV]
Kindness Helps Enable Grace
Kindness, as noted by Paul in the passage above, ultimately is an act of God. Moreover, it is an act whereby God displays “the riches of his grace.”
The ultimate act of kindness is given to us by God Himself. He sees the desperate need to be freed from death in our sin and ‘in kindness’ supplies grace to meet the need.
How does God do this? Because of His ‘great love’ Jesus is executed and raised from the grave to pay the price for sin and offer the gift of grace.
The grace of God is offered because of the kindness of God. His kindness is shown to others in many ways through we who have already received His grace.
That is a key difference between faiths like Islam and Christianity. Islam demands submission through fear; Christ kindly calls to the heart in love.
Islam says to conquer and kill your enemies to advance the rule of Allah. Christianity teaches that force is to defend and rescue the helpless.
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4 [ESV]
The kindness that one shows to another in ways large and small provide an opportunity for the heart of another to be softened toward God’s grace. To paraphrase an old saying, “I’d rather see a sermon lived than to hear a sermon preached.”
A Modern-day Example of Kindness to Grace
I was attending a Christian music festival a few years ago and witnessed a moving testimony of kindness leading to grace. It was delivered by a young woman who identified as a lesbian.
She gave her story of how her journey into that lifestyle had come about, and I was impressed by her courage and forthrightness. More importantly, she testified of one particular church group and the kindness they showed to her regardless of her sexual preference.
She said that it began with an invitation to play on a church softball team. She was a bit wary, as she was also a gay activist who had already encountered other ‘christian’ groups that exhibited hostility to her.
However, she accepted the kind offer because she both loved sports and had a level of trust with the person who invited her. She ended up becoming pleasantly surprised with the treatment this team gave her.
She remembered that her manners were somewhat crude at that time. For example, she would often let loose with a string of profanity when she missed a play or made a mistake in the outfield.
Some of the young ladies on the team were disturbed by this and went to their coach, who also happened to be the pastor of the church. They asked him what they should do about this.
His advice was, “Just keep loving her, mistakes and all.” He knew God would work in her heart when she saw the reaction of loving kindness from His people.
That force of kindness through others did move this woman to seek God’s grace. She responded in sincere repentance and faith in Christ.
Through such kindness, God draws others to see His love and the greatest kindness of all, Jesus dying on the cross for each one. That is why kindness is the graceful virtue.
Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001 A Greek-English Lexicon of The New Testament, William F. Arndt and F. Wilber Gingrich, University of Chicago Press, 1979
Top Image courtesy of duncan c’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of Art Gallery ErgsArt’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Evans E’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 3 courtesy of Evans E’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 4 courtesy of BK’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
A perfect scene… a star like none other, sitting above a stable in the peaceful night and it’s announcing the birth of a holy Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew was the only book in the Bible which described “The Star of Bethlehem” occurrence:
What did the wise men witness in the sky that night? Was it real? Was it a star, a comet, or something else? The magi were skilled astrologers and scholars, so their fixation was not in the stars, but on large astronomical events which they believed would predict something happening. But why were they the only men to witness and describe a star guiding them? If they were well trained then why didn’t they understand what they saw in the sky?
Many astrologers of 2,000 years ago, the Chinese, Korean, and Babylonians, documented the heavens because they placed predictions based on events. The writings recorded then, are in a constant review by our astronomers today, and theories abound. But, one thing is for sure, no answer or explanation for this divine incident is clear. Here are the details I discovered, and you may come to your own conclusion.
Enjoy the beautiful song, “Star of Bethlehem”:
I know little of astronomy, but for certain, stars do not move relative to themselves. Planets continuously shift through the solar system. Based on this, how, then, did the sacred star move, leading the magi to Bethlehem? One theory suggests a heliacal rising. The planets Jupiter and Venus lapped each other while moving through the background stars. If the sun caught up to one of the planets, the planet would disappear until the sun moved far enough away from it. Then it would reappear shockingly bright in the sky, just before sunrise. Historical records show this exact occurrence on April 17 of 6 BC to December 19 of 6 BC. But, this natural alignment of planets, sun, and earth would not create a long, extended tail to the ground such as the one described by the magi.
A heliacal rising
A second theory suggests a comet. This seems to be the most logical explanation because it can hang over a city or land mass as did Halley’s Comet on March 8, 1986. Historical astronomy records revealed a tailed comet in the timeframe of the magi’s travels, and it lasted for seventy days. However, from Jerusalem’s vantage point, the comet would have been in the southern sky with the head close to the horizon and the tail pointing upward. The magi described the “Star of Bethlehem” as one they never seen before and comets were frequent visitors in their galaxy. So, as scholarly astrologers, why couldn’t the magi tell the difference between a comet and a star? Apparently, something confused their decision.
Image of Halley’s Comet
A final theory suggests the birth of a star, known as a nova. It certainly matched the biblical description. Once again, Chinese historical records reveal a new star was born in the northern constellation of Aquila in 4 BC. During the time the three wise men traveled from Jerusalem, the star would have lit their sky south into Bethlehem and not in the west. This explains why no one else witnessed this bright star. However, the star did not move, and it certainly didn’t stand over the city of Bethlehem; nor would it have stayed bright for the one to two years they took to find Jesus.
Image of Supernova
Revealing all the facts described in this blog, I will stand on my own theory. The Star of Bethlehem was an incredible act of God and one created for a unique purpose. God can use natural law to carry out His will because He is not bound by the laws He created for this world. When you think of the whole miraculous event of Jesus’s birth, a special star is not beyond His scope. What do you think?
Please join us again on Tuesday, November 13th for another, Everything Christmas Blog!
Give the gift of grace, love, and understanding. Order yours today!
Ascending into the heavens, high above the moon and stars, I can hear my Father, at a glance, calling out your name. The crowd forms and I mingle amongst them searching for the only one who’s ever truly loved me. An orchestra of harps and violins sway like palms on a sunset beach as night falls. There are so many welcoming faces, but I am only looking for just one.
Enjoy this touching song, Dancing in the Sky, sung by Danielle and Elizabeth Nelson!
I reminisce with the earthly tunes I once sang, and memories become a glimpse in time for they were before God called us to be with Him. Everyone looks so beautiful and healthy! They smile at me and file in one-by-one. But I stagger and stumble as though lost. Please, dear Lord, lead me to my heaven sent Angel. I prayed you to make us whole again. This is the grand finale where we will dance a lifetime together. I never quite learned to dance, but I knew it was you, God, who led me to her.
The night is young, becoming a reunion of old friends and relatives shaking hands and exchanging hugs. But, discontentedly my eyes wandered in the dimly lit plateau of heaven. The maître D, in His best dressed-whites, asked if He could help me. I bowed down before Him. He gently placed His hand under my chin and raised my head to face Him. On one knee, I pleaded, “My Lord, have you seen the one I adored?”
He rubbed His chin, thinking for a moment. He knew exactly who I meant, for He heard my heart beating loudly. An amazing smile broke across His face, and He said, “Look behind you! She, too, has searched for you for a very long time.”
We serve an awesome Lord, a caretaker of sorts, as He guards His Father’s place in heaven. It is a house, I pray, you and I will dwell someday. But for now, let us dance in the shadows, under the moonlight, reflecting on the place we first met. God promised, eventually, we’d be together forever so let the heavens dance for us for it’s true!
Heaven – what a beautiful place it will be if we keep a strong faith in Jesus. On earth, it isn’t about being a good person (ethical, going to church, or praying); instead, it’s living a holy life and atoning the death of Jesus of Christ. How can we accomplish this feat? It is done by developing an intimate relationship with the Lord, repenting of our sins and never repeating them, and believing Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Salvation is by grace, through faith. All you have to do is receive it!
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness. [Psalm 29:2 KJV]
The first of a new continuing Sunday series about Godly virtues
What do you believe is beautiful? Is beauty a judgment of the eye from one person to another? Is the beauty of a piece of music only realized by what is heard?
Beauty is often thought of as a matter of personal taste and opinion about someone or something which is seen or heard. Yet especially in the 21st Century, beauty appears to reflect popularity rather than individual tastes.
This idea of beauty is not exclusive to today. But at this time in history, beauty and popularity are linked in the cultural psyche like never before.
That notion of beauty is both false in its premise and shortsighted in its viewpoint. Beauty does not rest on any human opinion and goes far beyond human senses.
That factor has been tossed aside over the past fifty years or so, and true beauty is losing true meaning today.
Beauty Goes Beyond the Senses
A line from the classic movie “The Ten Commandments,” has Charleton Heston as Moses speaking to the Egyptian queen Nefretiri. She is trying to seduce him away from his faith in God with her physical enchantments.
Upon hearing that Moses also “is bound to a shepherd girl,” the queen compares her sensual attributes to those of that shepherd girl:
Are her lips dry and cracked from the sun? Or are they red and moist like a pomegranate? Is it the scent of myrrh in her hair? Or is it the odor of sheep!
In response to her flirtations, Moses replies,
There is a beauty beyond the senses Nefretiri. A beauty like the quiet of green valleys and still waters. A beauty of the spirit you cannot understand.
Society used to hold the view of Moses about beauty. Today, society holds the view of Nefretiri.
The beauty of sensuality which is truly only “skin deep.” True beauty is beyond the senses reaching the depth of the spirit within.
To recover such beauty, we must reach for the beauty of the spirit. The beauty we cannot understand in our natural being.
Why Beauty Is Not Understood
Beauty is not understood in our natural selves. At least, not in what science understands as natural. That is because beauty exists as a concept or an idea.
It is an invisible entity. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary online defines beauty as:
1: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit
Beauty exists without being matter or energy. It cannot be measured as if it were a geometric form or a linear distance.
Therefore, beauty cannot be understood materially. It must be understood spiritually.
This doesn’t mean beauty cannot be appreciated naturally. Humans can and do learn to view and judge art and literature as ‘beautiful’ in a subjective sense.
The same is true about how we look at the “beauty” of an animal and yes, of another human being. It is interesting to note that only humans even realize such a thing as beauty exists.
Animals, even the most intelligent of animals, know nothing of beauty. But as culture and tastes change, so does the human judgment of what is beautiful.
A subjective, ever-changing concept of beauty will never recover true beauty because it cannot understand beauty spiritually.
Understanding Beauty Spiritually
One cannot recover something that someone else lost without understanding something about the object. If my friend loses his cell phone, I could not recover it for him unless I knew some specific details about it.
I need all of those details to be sure I recovered the phone that belonged to him. Without them, I may find a phone, but it won’t be the phone he lost.
The same thing is true on a much larger scale when it comes to beauty. The scale is larger because we cannot sense beauty, and everyone acknowledges that beauty exists.
Beauty in its truest form cannot be described in the same way a lost cell phone could. It also cannot be owned by a human like a cell phone.
Yet, I would submit that beauty does indeed have an owner. Beauty is ‘owned’ by the One who created beauty in the first place, the LORD God.
Society lost beauty because of losing contact with the owner. And, like everything that ends up lost, one must be in contact with the owner in order to recover it.
The Road to Recovering Beauty
The road to recovering beauty involves a transfer of faith from ourselves to the LORD. That is, we must lose faith in our own judgment of beauty and gain faith in the Divine beauty.
This is a simple proposition, however, it is far from an easy one. This is not easy because we are so influenced and bombarded with popular ideas of what and who is ‘beautiful.’
These depictions must be transcended to see that the first principle of recovering authentic beauty is to look toward the holiness of God.
The word translated “holiness” in Psalm 29:2 is Hebrew for “a sacred place or thing.”
It is anything which is specially set aside to be used for the purposes of God.
This is the key to both defining and recovering beauty. The beauty of holiness is the beauty of the purpose of God.
Recovering beauty for our lives in the 21st century means finding the presence and purpose of God in our lives. It means diving into the Divine wisdom of His Word and absorbing the meaning of beauty from the sacred pages.
It means finding the beauty of a sacred place in your life and mine where we call out to God and can know His grace and love. And it means embracing the sacred path of God’s purpose for each of us to know the beauty of such a life.
May the LORD grant us the wisdom and desire to recover beauty in the 21st century, and may the beauty of holiness become real in our hearts.
Sources: The Holy Bible, King James Version
Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew Dictionary, 1906, Public Domain
Featured and top image courtesy of Rick’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset image 1 courtesy of Prayitno/Thank you for’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset image 2 courtesy of Alice Popkorn’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset image 3 courtesy of Alice Popkorn’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Sorry I missed yesterday. I did not do a recreational walk. But there is good reason.
I now work at a Hotel as Housekeeper. I have to be there at 8 am. With Autumn and Winter coming on sunrise isn’t until 6:30ish. While I get home between 2 pm and 5 pm I am A) Sore and tired B) Have other things to do and C) Soon sunset will be too early to walk after work.
This does not mean I am giving up my daily walks. I will still walk on my days off and on the treadmill. Though pictures of my time/distance will not be as interesting.
Right now though is still a physical adjustment to the work. I ran my walking app only during my shift yesterday, it registered almost 6 miles of walking. My hours yesterday were 8 am to 2:30 pm. The app does not measure all the bending, lifting, stretching and other physcial movement I do.
I have done Housekeeping before. I have been a server. When I worked food service at Target I not only walked but lifted frozen boxes of breadsticks among other things.
I have worked office jobs as well. What I have learned is I need to work the physically demanding jobs. I feel better overall when I do.
Got off subject a bit there. Point of this rambling is I will try and post pictures of daily walks as often as possible…they may be futher apart or not as interesting.