Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Celebrating the Christmas Season

I love the Christmas season and all that it brings.  I enjoy the change in weather and the occasional snow day we get. I look forward to getting all of our Christmas decorations out and decorating the tree, as well as, the house.  I appreciate seeing Christmas lights on night walks or drives. I savor the smell of Christmas goodies baking in the oven and the smell of Christmas trees. I relish receiving Christmas cards, family newsletters, and photos. I am also fond of Christmas music; however, I only want to listen to it the day after Thanksgiving and up to December 26th, then I am ready to return to my every day music.

Christmas is also the season, when we as a family, celebrate Christ's birth, even though we know, He wasn't born on December 25th or in a winter month.  Years ago, as a young mother, I went back and forth on the Santa tradition and decided that while I could not ignore "him" as he is all over the place this time of year, that I could acknowledge him as a part of the holiday season, however, I chose to put my main focus on Christ.

In our home, we celebrate with things such as a tree and gifts and on occasion I have baked a Happy Birthday Jesus cake in honor of His birth (not saying it's His actual birthday). We watch movies, bake, and participate in buying gifts for those in need. We focus on quality family time. We also use the season to reflect on Christ's birth, life, purpose, death, and resurrection. 

As I was preparing this blog, a friend of mine posted a similar blog and I want to share her thoughts with you, click here to read Carey Scott's blog, Making Him the Reason. Maybe you are on the fence on how to celebrate this season or possibly you don't enjoy the Christmas traditions and it may help you find a new way to enjoy the season and celebrate. Or maybe you will completely disagree with our blogging thoughts on Christmas celebrations and that is ok.  There is beauty in choices and knowing we are not tied down to one specific way or another to celebrate the season.  There is freedom in Christ and He knows our hearts and motives.  However you choose to celebrate Christmas I pray you find the peace and joy that Christ has for you all year round.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I recently recieved an urgent prayer request from a family member who said they could not go into specifics right now, but they were requesting prayer.  I know that it's not important for me to know what the prayer is about  in order for me to pray, however, when it comes to family, it does cause a little more anxiety when you don't know exactly what you are praying for. It turned out, it was in deed, a big prayer request, and it was not complelty answered the way the family member wanted, however, it was also not as bad as they anticipated either. So, in other words, we are still praying and hoping for God's will and intervention in this situation. We are also very grateful that it was not the worst case scenario.

As I was thinking about prayer, I realized something, prayer is not a means to change God's will, plan, or His purpose. Prayer is a tool to draw us nearer to Him. It's a form of communication between us and the Father. Since we do not know God's perfect will for each prayer request that we pray, our faith must be strong enough to carry us, even when God's will is not the same as our will (desire). 

If we are praying and seeking God, no matter what His will, purpose, or plan is, with a pure heart, He will give us the strength, courage, wisdom, discernment, and comfort we need with each prayer request.

We are not promised a life without trials, tribulations, grief, tests, or sorrows. We ARE promised if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us.  

James 4:8 a Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

We Are Not Promised Tomorrow But We Do Have Today...

If you have been following my blog or have read my book, A  Scarlet Cord of Hope, you know when you read something I have written it is a topic that has touched me deeply in some form or another. While I have a great imagination, when it comes to creative fiction, I struggle to write on topics that I have not connected with or topics that have not affected me emotionally. There is something within me that needs to write truth, emotion, or real tangible hope.

I write to express myself, I write to encourage, I write to find hope, I write to help process my thoughts, memories, or feelings in my head and heart.

Today I write because I have been deeply touched by a woman I have never met nor even knew  she existed.  Her life and legacy has impacted me and I only wish I had the opportunity to know her. I do, however, look forward to knowing her in heaven someday. 

The woman I am talking about is Denai Downs Vaughn.  She recently died in a car accident on Monday November 7, 2011.  She was 37 years old. She leaves behind a husband and six year old daughter. What is incredible about her story is that she created a video blog  talking about how we are not promised tomorrow, but we do have today, this aired the day she died, November 7, 2011. 

I have watched the video several times and each time my heart fills with sorrow for those who loved her and knew her well. However, she is a woman who lived what she believed. Her faith and trust in God, salvation, and eternity is real. While she is reaching out to us to live for today and keep our priority's in tact, she has no idea she is living out her own words.

"We are not promised tomorrow, but we do have today".

Here is the link to her Video

Here is her memorial Facebook Page

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Samaria and the HOPE That is Still Alive!

On my recent trip to Israel one of the areas we went to was Samaria. I was looking forward to going here and had hopes of meeting a Samaritan women.  Have you ever found yourself envisioning what you think a place will look like and you get there only to discover it looks nothing like you had imagined.  That was my experience with Samaria. Samaria is a small town. The population is only 750. Most of the homes and buildings are very old. The city was littered with debris and trash here and there. Samaritan's believe Jesus was the Messiah, but they also believe another messiah (not Jesus) is coming back. They believe only in the Old Testament and read the five books of Moses. They still do animal sacrifices as payment for their sins. The sacrifice area is out in the open in the center of town.

Before we arrived in Samaria we had a lesson on the area and the people who are Samaritans.  During our lesson I began to get a clearer picture of why Jews and Samaritans were not supposed to talk, marry, or worship with one another.  There is a long standing history within Samaria.  The part that has stuck with me has been how Samaritans became Samaritans.  The Israelites made a covenant with God stating what they would and would not do. They broke this covenant over and over, knowing there would consequences. 

One of the consequences was that the Lord allowed the Assyrian's to conqueror the Israelites (Jews) in Samaria. The Assyrians hated the Jewish people and were willing to do anything they could to get rid of the Jews. They knew it would be impossible to kill every Jew, so they decided to corrupt their blood line. They captured Jewish men in Samaria and took them to their homeland in Northern Iraq making them slaves. They relocated Assyrian men to take their place. They broke up families and forced women to marry Assyrian men. The women had no choice, as they were unable to care for themselves at this point in history. Thus, corrupting the blood line making the next generation mixed- half Jewish half Assyrian. This created a division between the full Jewish population and the now half Jewish population

When we make a covenant and then we break it, we never know how far down the line our broken promise will affect generation to generation. I know that God doesn't allow things to happen that He doesn't know about. God uses everything for His purpose and glory. Sometimes we may not see this for years and years and maybe we wont even be alive when the end result is played out, however, that is where faith must come in.

There was more significance to Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well than we realize.  During this time there was division and tension between the Jews and the Samaritans. For Jesus (a Jew) to speak to the (Samaritan) women was a big deal, however, speaking to the woman was not as significant as the location, and the fact that this was the first time that Jesus proclaimed He was the Messiah out loud.  The area where Jacobs Well is located is the same location where God appeared to Abram and made three powerful promises (Genesis 12:1-3). Abram built a memorial alter to commemorate these promises. Jacob later purchased the land and built his own memorial alter and dug a well to serve those who came to worship.The well was still in use (and still is) at the time of Jesus and the Samaritan womens conversation (John 4:6).  The area where the well is located is where Moses read the law of God to the people (Deuteronomy chapter 27 & 28, Joshua 8:30-35).  Given all of the historical events that took place at this site it is no coincidence that Jesus pronounced His messianic identity here. And when He did, He did it to a Samaritan woman.  

This is our HOPE! Even when the Israelite's broke their covenant with God and suffered consequences, there was redemption. Many years and events went on before this happens, however, our concept of time and justice can not compare to God's purpose and plans. God is intentional with everything. We may have to dig a little deeper to see the whole picture. We may have to allow our faith to stand in the gap of time, but there is always HOPE!

ps While we were in Samaria I did not get to meet a Samaritan woman, however, I did meet a Samaritan man and that is who is in the picture with me.

Choices and Hope

Our church youth group recently partnered with My Own Backyard, a ministry that was founded by Kathleen Murphy.  She is a woman who has a passion about serving near and far with a focus on "her own backyard".  She, along with Michele Hazelip, from Front Porch Ministries, organize an event called, HallaBooya, for the Nashville community. This event was created to give the kids in this area something positive and fun to look forward to near October 31st. The past two years we have made it a family event to serve.  My husband brings his DJ equipment and plays music, while our son and I serve where we are needed.  I had the opportunity to work the sign in table. Mrs. G, who is one of the mom's that Front Porch serves, wanted to help me. As the evening progressed, we shared our testimony's with one another.  I also saw her interact with the kids who came to this event. This area is known to be riddled with gangs and drugs.  There were three teenage boys that she saw walking around, she called them by name and asked how they were doing.  She already knew they had been in trouble.  According to Mrs. G, these boys, were not in a gang, but one of the boys seemed to be sitting on the fence. She asked each boy, how it felt to get in trouble and what were they were willing to do differently.  Two of the boys looked at the ground and said they didn't like being in trouble, the one who is "playing with fire," according to Mrs. G. said, " I don't really care, it don't bother me none". She went on to tell them they have a lot to live for and that gangs can't take care of their needs and that the Lord is good and saved her, so she knows He can save them.  She also told them she cared about them and invited them to come see her sometime.  

Mrs. G is a woman who knows what drugs and running the streets can do to you.  She is 54 years old, and most of her life was spent on the streets doing drugs and making wrong choices. She has numerous health issues and has had several marriages.  She is the mother of four kids, and the "baby",  is a teenage girl.  She is trying desperately to protect her from the things she is surrounded by; drugs, alcohol, sex, and gangs. Through out the night I saw her talking to several kids, asking them how they are doing and reminding them how good life can be. She told me she knows most of the kids tune her out, but her prayer is that seeds are being planted within their hearts and minds. She hopes they will remember to reflect  how they feel when they make good choices, as well as, the not so good choices, all the while, holding onto the HOPE that is there when we repent and make deliberate choices to change. 

This is good advice, no matter where we live; if we live in a mansion, in the middle class suburbs, or in a neighborhood filled with gangs and violence, we have choices and we need to remember there is always HOPE!