New Year, New Goal – Live Selflessly

goverse-Philippians-2-3-092813I was probably as shocked as anyone when I logged onto “Journey Thoughts” to discover that close to 25,000 people had read my blog on one day!  I live in a small town that boasts a population of just under 15,000 people.  That put that number of “hits” that day into perspective and I praised God for the opportunity to write and share from my heart.  It also forced me to pause and consider what God wants of me in the New Year.

I have said that I am not a great keeper of resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions tend to come and go, most of my best intentions are usually broken by mid-January.  Still, a New Year is a perfect time to start fresh, … new beginnings, new goals, new plans.  I am reminded of my life verse: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  Proverbs 16:9  I may make my plans, sure enough, but I must always keep in mind that God directs my way.  I am on journey with Him and that requires selflessness on my part to follow Him.

I remember when I was a teenager, I came against all authority.  You might say I butted heads with authority figures on a regular basis because I did not like anyone to have control over me.  Growing up in the seventies, with women’s liberation a battle cry for many of my friends and me, I refused to yield to those who told me I could or could not do something.  Those who stood in my way, I pushed aside.  I was my own boss and it was all about ME.  I was as selfish a young woman as I could be.

Then God got a hold of my life and I realized that life was not all about ME, it was all about HIM.  I learned that selfishness was in direct rebellion against God but to live a life of selflessness was honouring to God.  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.”  John 12:24-26

It is easy, especially when one has a large social profile as I have to forget that it is not about ME.  Pride can enter into the equation so subtly that I can think I did this on my own and arrogance and selfishness can creep in.  John 12:25 reminds me that I cannot make decisions for personal benefit rather than for God and others.  It will lead to death and separation from God.  Instead I must live life selflessly, giving myself away for God and others.  It means to die to self.

Is this an easy thing to do?

Nope.

But it needs to be done.

So this year I am making a clear, purposeful goal to live selflessly.  It’s not a resolution, it’s a life change.  It’s a decision to say “Yes” to God rather than saying “Yes” to me!  It may mean turning down offers that may be more self-serving rather than God-honouring.  It may mean tough decisions that might cost me personally but will bring Glory to God ultimately.

At the end of 2014 I pray that I can sing out even more loudly than I did this past year: To God Be the Glory, Great Things He Hath Done!

New Year’s Resolutions for All Ages (2)

goals-and-dreamsYesterday I gave a list of Kid’s Resolutions.  Today we continue Resolutions For All Ages:  Age appropriate resolutions that anyone can keep!

The Teen Years:

12 – 13 years old – I resolve that I will learn the value of money.  I said I’d learn the value of money, I didn’t say anything about understanding it, or do anything to avoid over-spending it.  I resolve to sell at least half of my toy stuffie collection.  It will help supplement my allowance.

13 – 14 years old – I resolve to spend less time texting, being online or playing video games.  Instead I will study more, not argue as much with my parents and keep my room neat and tidy.  Hahahahahahahahaha!  I resolve to be less sarcastic.

14 – 15 years old – I resolve to spend more time around friends who tend to build me up rather than tear me down.  I resolve to be that kind of a friend too.

15 – 16 years old – I resolve to stop rolling my eyes whenever my mother makes a comment that offends me.

16 – 17 years old – I resolve to get my driver’s license.  I resolve to not get upset with people when they ask me what I want to do after I’ve finished high school.  I resolve not to get upset with myself for not having a clue what I want to do after I finish high school.  I resolve to finish high school.

17 – 18 years old – I’ve got nothing…well, I suppose I could resolve to figure out what it means to be called an “adult”, even when I feel like I just want to be a kid again.

18 – 19 – I’ve still got nothing but I’m resolving to work towards something.

Adult Resolutions

19 – 25 – I resolve to work hard, play hard, dream big, love big and find someone to share my life with who loves God more than me, but loves ME more than anyone else!

25 – 30 – I resolve to spend more time with those people who mean the most to me and to put their needs first over mine.  I resolve to dream bigger.

30 – 35 – I resolve to spend even more time with those people who mean the most to me and to continue to put their needs first over mine.  I resolve to love bigger!

35 – 40 – I resolve to worry less about money and status and show more generosity and good will to those around me.

40 – 45 – I resolve to spend precious time with my parents and those older adults who have taught me the values of life when I was too young and foolish to understand or care.  Now that I am teaching those same values to my children, I resolve to keep teaching even when they don’t want to listen or understand.

45 – 50 – I resolve to smile in the face of adversity, to lean on God even more than I’ve ever done before.  I resolve to try to do one new thing that I’ve never done before.

50 – 55 – I resolve to laugh, laugh out loud at least once every single day!

Empty Nesters and Beyond!

55 – 60 – I resolve to spend precious time with my children, my grandchildren and those friends who have stood the “test of time” with me.  I resolve to dream even bigger than I ever did before!

60 – 70 – I resolve to pour myself out in service to my Lord, to share my life’s journey with all who will listen, and to love even bigger than I ever did before!

70 – Glory – I resolve to never look back on my life with regret.  I resolve to accept each gray hair and each wrinkle with grace and be thankful for every day that the Lord has allowed me to shine beyond my years!

New Year’s Resolutions for All Ages

you know it was a good dayThere’s a great Peanuts cartoon that has Lucy and Charlie Brown talking back and forth and Lucy says:

“I counted down the months until Christmas…then the weeks…then the days…then the hours…and then the minutes…

And now it’s ALL OVER!”

Today I’m walking around my living room and I’m still picking up bits of wrapping paper that was scattered on the floor from frenzied gift opening nearly a week ago.  My tree looks a little bedraggled and I’m facing the “deck the halls tear down” in a few days.  Such a big build up and though memories have been made to last a lifetime, I find myself just a little sad that the Christmas season has come and gone for another year.  No sooner has the tinsel been pulled down than the New Year’s champagne is uncorked and yes…the first Valentine’s hearts are seen in the stores.  Wow.

I have tried to make resolutions over the years, but though my intentions are good, I usually fail keeping them after the first week.  Loosing weight is a great goal, but no sooner do I resolve to lose weight than immediately after New Year’s I see all those Valentine’s chocolates hit the store shelves, well…’nuff said.

So I thought about what New Year’s resolutions would actually be practical and that everyone could keep throughout the year, and throughout a lifetime.  I was babysitting my granddaughter, who has just turned three months and I wondered what kind of resolutions she might have if she could verbalize them to me and that led me to writing this list.  Today we’ll focus on the Kid Resolutions.

Resolutions For All Ages:  Age appropriate resolutions that anyone can keep!

Kid Resolutions:

0-3 months – I resolve to make sure that all my immediate needs are met by crying, pooping and eating at all hours of the day and ensuring my new parents get as little sleep as possible.

3 – 6 months – I resolve to bend in such a way so I can successfully suck my big toe without going cross-eyed in the attempt.  I also resolve to sleep through the night at least once a week.

6 – 12 months – I resolve to climb on anything and anyone who looks remotely interesting.  I also resolve to pull the dog’s tail, eat something off the floor, do one perfect face plant while trying out this new concept of using my legs to walk.

1 – 2 years old – I resolve to learn as many new words as possible, especially ones that make people laugh or become horrified when I say them out loud.  I promise to throw something, preferably Dad’s toothbrush, into the toilet several times this year.

2 – 3 years old – I resolve to discover as many new foods as possible that I will then refuse to eat.  Then I resolve to subsist on macaroni and cheese.  I resolve to try to share my toys with the little boy next door, but if he bugs me I resolve to clock him over the head with one of my Tonka trucks.

3-4 years old – I resolve to watch the same Disney movie at least once every single day.

4-5 years old – I resolve to visit Grandma and Grandpa as often as possible and tell my parents I would rather live with them because I have more fun there.

5-6 years old – I resolve to make at least one new friend at school and not clock him over the head with anything if he bugs me.

6-7 years old – I resolve to sit still and not fidget in church at least two Sundays in a row.

7-8 years old – I resolve to make my parents breakfast in bed at least once this year.  I resolve to pay attention when mommy teaches me how to clean the kitchen afterwards.

8-9 years old – I resolve to try to keep my room neat for at least one week…or at least for one day.

9-10 years old – I resolve to do something so epic that it may result in a broken bone…like climb to the top of the apple tree, or jump my skateboard off a step, or balance on the neighbour’s fence.

10 – 11 years old – I resolve to keep my room neat for at least a month…or at least for one week.

11-12 years old – I resolve to babysit my little sister and not complain when she wants to watch the same Disney movie over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duck and Shoot

It was my husband’s idea this year to do some Christmas shopping at Bass Pro in Calgary.  No sooner had we entered the store than we were immediatelyunpopular surrounded by merchandise from “Duck Commander” and “Duck Dynasty”.  It was camo overload!  There were even some full size figures of the Duck gents that patrons could take their pictures beside…which we did.  I giggled at all the little metal signs printed with some of Si Robertson’s quotes from the T.V. show and there was even a huggable pillow of Jase that you could squeeze and he would spout off one of his redneck truisms.  The famous duck calls which sell for nearly $50.00 here in Canada were nearly sold out, which indicates that this is a family who knows how to market themselves and their brand and why they are a financial dynasty!

The patriarch of the Robertson clan, Phil, is outspoken and at times shocking.  He is so blatantly honest and straight forward about his beliefs that sometimes I cringe.  He is NOT politically correct and my Canadian sensibilities tingle when he talks about sex, marriage and raising children.  The thing is, he only says out loud what people think and I agree wholeheartedly with him especially when it comes to his interpretation of the Bible.

Yesterday, Phil Robertson was suspended from the A. & E. T.V. show for comments he made in a recent interview with GQ.  He expressed his beliefs about marriage that the network was afraid would offend some people.

Excuse me????

For a country that prides itself on freedom of speech and freedom of religion, it is interesting how Christians seem to be targeted the most to keep their opinions to themselves in the U.S.  (Yes, here in Canada too.)  For a country who has “In God We Trust” embossed on each coin and dollar bill, and the fact that the country was founded on Christian beliefs and principles, those who still hold to those beliefs are now banned from speaking out in public because it may offend others who do not espouse the same belief.

For shame, A. & E., in an effort to appease a few complainers, you have successfully shot yourself in the foot.

Phil Robertson has an incredible testimony of faith that cannot be silenced.  He has never pretended to be anyone else but who he claims to be: a follower of Jesus.  Each one of his four boys profess to be Christian and his grandchildren are all raised in Christian homes.

That is a true Dynasty!

A Christmas Carol Quiz

I got a great response to last week’s Christmas Story Quiz, so today for our Friday Funny I challenge you to decipher the REAL titles of these exaggerated titles of very familiar Christmas Carols.  (Answers are following the quiz…don’t peak! :)

1.  From dark ‘til dawn, soundless and sanctimonious

2. Celestial messengers from splendid empires                 carolers

3.  In a distant bovine diner

4.  Universal elation

5.  Ornament the enclosure with large sprigs of berry-bearing evergreen

6.  O miniature Nazarene village

7.  May Jehovah grant unto you hilarious males retirement

8.  Those of you who are true, come here!

9.  Are you detecting the same aural sensations as I am?

10.  The diminuative young male who plays a percussion instrument

11.  Primary Yuletide

12.  Heavenly Cherubs announcing in song – listen!

13.  Reigning monarchs of the Far East

14.  Proclaim it to the Hills

Do you have any more you would like to add?  Leave a comment with the exaggerated title and the correct title!

Answers:

1.  Silent Night

2. Angels We Have Heard on High

3.  Away in a Manger

4.  Joy to the World

5.  Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly

6.  O Little Town of Bethlehem

7.  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

8.  O Come All Ye Faithful!

9.  Do You Hear What I Hear?

10.  The Little Drummer Boy

11.  The First Noel

12.  Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

13.  We Three Kings

14.  Go Tell It On the Mountain

Santa is Welcome

Putting up my Nativity Scene this year and decorating my tree and home, was a little different without the children around “helping”.  Being an empty nester means the yuletide traditions are a little different and I have to get used to the fact that I might not have all my babies here for Christmas.  My children know that Christmas is my favourite time of the year.  I decorate the house with gusto and go WAY overboard decking the halls!  I love the end result of course, but I dread the tear down after Christmas.  It took two days to put up and will take at least two days to take down!  Still, I love the Season, the lights, the decorations, the tree and all the whimsical décor that makes Christmas a feast for the imagination!

As a Christian, of course my focus is on the Birth of our Saviour.  I remember my oldest daughter was only two the first time she “helped” me put up my Nativity scene.  I pointed to each figurine as I placed it on the table.  “Who is this?” I asked her and pointed to each one.  “That’s Joseph,” she said, “and the Three Wise Men, and Baby Jesus!”  I pointed to the last figurine, “Who is this lady?”  My daughter answered quickly, “That’s Mary Christmas!”

I am very purposeful in how I decorate my house at Christmas.  It’s not just a fengkneeling santa shui thing going on with a Canadian Home Living décor, it’s mostly about telling the story of Jesus everywhere you look.  I always situate my Nativity Scene very close to a “Last Supper” sculpture I have.  I hang a large spike close to the trunk of my Christmas tree, representing the fact that Jesus’ Cross was constructed from a tree.  The cradle and the cross should always be remembered together.

Finally I place my “Kneeling Santa” figurine on the coffee table.  My children have always had a healthy attitude towards Santa Claus.  We don’t banish the Jolly Old Elf from our home, nor do we idolize his image.  Instead, in this simple, yet effective way we show him in relationship to the Baby Jesus.  He, like all other people, places and things are under the authority of Christ and we know that Santa is merely a legend, but Christ is REAL.

I’ve told my kids about the true “Santa” – Saint Nicholas who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for the mythical Santa Claus we know today.

I don’t have a problem with Santa.  Just like any other imaginary character, my kids know him for what he is and we appreciate the fun and the excitement that goes with a visit to a mall Santa and asking for all the things on a wish list.  We hang up our stockings just like everyone else, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon will be here.  It’s fun!

In researching for this blog post I came across a wonderful “Santa” site…no, not the North Pole – HO, HO, HO!

It’s a website that honours past, present and future “Santas” and I found it of particular interest that the colours of the “official” Santa Claus Coat of Arms are the traditional Christian colours of Christmas. Red is for the blood of Christ, green is for the eternal life in Christ and gold is for Christ the Divine.  Prospective Santas are required to sign an oath that states: I know the “real reason for the season” and know that I am blessed to be able to be a part of it.

So while the children are nestled all snug in their beds with visions of electronic gadgets dancing in their heads; I in my slippers and my husband in his housecoat, will fill up those stockings and then I’ll let my wandering eyes fall upon Santa kneeling and praying beside the Christ Child and it will indeed be a Merry Christmas to all…and to all a Good Night!

Santa’s Prayer

The sleigh was all packed, the reindeer were fed, But Santa still knelt by the side of the bed.

“Dear Father,” he prayed “Be with me tonight. There’s much work to do and my schedule is tight.

I must jump in my sleigh and streak through the sky, Knowing full well that a reindeer can’t fly.

I will visit each household before the first light, I’ll cover the world and all in one night.

With sleigh bells a-ringing, I’ll land on each roof, Amid the soft clatter of each little hoof.

To get in the house is the difficult part, So I’ll slide down the chimney of each child’s heart.

My sack will hold toys to grant all their wishes. The supply will be endless like the loaves and the fishes.

I will fill all the stockings and not leave a track. I’ll eat every cookie that is left for my snack.

I can do all these things Lord, only through You, I just need your blessing, then it’s easy to do.

All this is to honor the birth of the One, That was sent to redeem us, Your most Holy Son.

So to all of my friends, least Your glory I rob, Please Lord, remind them who gave me this job.”

Warren D. Jennings

A Christmas Letter from Jesus

From-Jesus-with-LoveWith social networking, texting etc. etc., writing Christmas Cards along with the annual Christmas Letter may go the way of the dinosaur.  Canada Post is certainly feeling the effects of fewer and fewer Christmas stamps being sold and I would guess Hallmark probably notices that e-cards are getting way more usage than the printed variety.  It’s yet another sign of the times.  Still, I couldn’t just let the season go by without writing my annual Christmas letter and enclosing it in with my Christmas Cards to those friends and family who are not online as much and still appreciate receiving a personal, handwritten note.  It may be redundant, it may be old news to my Facebook chums but it’s tradition and I just can’t stop…yet.

The personal touch…that’s what Jesus was all about.  I suppose if He had been born into this time, He would have utilized social media to get His message of Hope out to a world-wide audience, but somehow I just can’t think of Jesus sitting in front of a computer screen, tapping out His parables and not going out into the public once in a while.  In fact, the more I think about it, the more ludicrous it seems.  Still, I wonder what Jesus would have written in His Christmas Letter* if He were writing one to us today:

Dear children,

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking my name out of the season.  Maybe you’ve forgotten that I wasn’t actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate my birthday on what was actually a time of a pagan festival.  No worries, I do appreciate the sentiment though and being remembered anytime.

I don’t really care what you call the day.  If you want to celebrate My birth just GET ALONG and LOVE ONE ANOTHER.  Now, having said that, let Me go on.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of the Santas and snowmen and put up a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn.  If all my followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for a Town Square scene, because there would be hundreds of them all around town!

Please, stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a “holiday tree” instead of a Christmas tree.  It was I who made all trees.  You can remember Me anytime you see any tree and at any time of the year.  Decorate a grape-vine and leave it up all year if you wish and remember I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my “wish list”.  Choose something from it.

1.  Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home.  They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year.  I know, they tell Me all the time.

2.  Visit someone in a nursing home.  You don’t have to know them personally.  They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3.  Instead of standing by the water-cooler with your colleagues complaining about your boss and how stingy he was with the Christmas bonuses this year, why don’t you go into his office with a gift card and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year.  Then follow-up.  It will be nice hearing from you again.

4.  Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts they really don’t need, spend time with them instead.  Tell them a story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here.  Hold them in your arms and remind them how much I love them!

5.  Pick someone who has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6.  Instead of griping about a retailer in town saying “Happy Holidays”, be patient with the people who work there.  Give them a warm smile and a kind word and even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one.  Think about those who have to work over the holidays and bring them a plate of cookies to tell them you appreciate them for their hard work.  Take it one step further…when you go out to eat after church on Sundays, rather than look down your nose at all the people who “missed church” because they had to work, when that waitress takes your order, pray for her and thank her for her service to you and then leave her a good tip…not the chintzy ones you have been leaving.  My children should always be generous!

7.  There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only have no “Christmas Tree”, they have no presents to give or receive.  If you want to make a difference this Christmas, support a local charity that provides clothes, food, and shelter to those who are homeless or who help families in crisis.  Don’t just send them a cheque at Christmas either, support them year round.  If you can’t afford to support them with a monetary donation, give them your time.  Volunteering your time is just as helpful!

8.  Support a missionary, especially one who takes My Love and Good News to those who have never heard My Name.

9.  Finally, if you believe that I am the real “reason for the season”, how about spending more time with Me rather than spending time complaining about how commercial Christmas has become?  Live every day like you believe that I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE, and remember I am with you always!

All My Love,

Jesus

 

(*similar forms of this letter circulate online each year, the sentiment is similar in each one.)