Tradition by andrea

This time of year it is easy to be melancholy about our traditions. We recall the ones that we enjoyed and let go of the ones that pain us. I remember 13 kids, waking early, listening to adults still bustling about, wrapping, decorating and organizing for Christmas morning. We’d have gone to bed with no sign of Christmas and awoke to piles of packages and a decorated tree. At 5 am we’d all line up, youngest first and for about 30 minutes we’d squeal with delight and chatter away as my mother and older siblings looked on, bleary eyed from a very long night. That was my mother’s tradition. We were never a part of decorating, wrapping, shopping and sharing the joy of Christmas preparations.
When I married we decided to make our own traditions, then with each passing year our family grew. Often with more individuals we were more contentious. It was clear that the traditions I learned didn’t make Christmas or any other day a happy day.
Then I got saved and found the meaning of Christmas and meaning in my life. I realized there were so many more important things to focus on than baubles, wrapping paper and decorations…. Christmas became more of a time to watch others enjoying their traditions and just soaking in the truth of life in Christ. Christmas is a day… life in Christ is the gift.
Now we celebrate Christmas Eve with family, Christmas Day we invite all who want to join us to a Chinese restaurant… no ASAP necessary, just a time to laugh and make sure no one has to spend Christmas Day alone. Our traditions can never fulfill what Christmas actually means; Unto us a child is given, unto to us a son is born and the government shall be upon His shoulders: and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

 

Amidst all the memories of past Christmas’s with drunken parties, the hung over mornings, a sense that something was seriously missing… I’ve found the missing piece and no bauble, wrapped or unwrapped will ever matter more than finding that the true traditions are the ones we experience every day.
The joy of Christmas is in knowing God lives within, the decorations are smiling eyes, a loving heart and a warm embrace to our fellow man.
As an unconventional Christian, I bristle at the term traditionalist. I love reading N.T.Wright, who has challenged my once traditional view of heaven. Scott McKnight, who in his book The Blue Parakeet, challenged me to look at my own cherry picking of scripture. Rethinking Hell, a site I frequent that encourages my faith in a loving and gracious God who does not torture unbelievers for eternity. I thank God I no longer hold to traditional views that I see as unscriptural. I can challenge my own views and others.
Tradition can be a warm fuzzy feeling or it can bring loneliness and heartbreak because we cannot continue an idealized vision of what our family “should look like”. I recall someone saying to me please don’t ‘should’ on me. The many obligations we carry like emotional baggage simply because we can no longer fulfill our traditions.

 

Tradition can also blind us to truth. We accept what was given to us without question. That is why I call myself an unconventional Christian. I allow myself to question, to be challenged and to stand on the love of Christ and not on the word of man.
Today I prefer to find the joy of ordinary days. Any day with breath, any day without drama, any day I share the joy of Christ in my life is a great day. Traditions be damned.
If you’re stuck working to fulfill traditions, make a new tradition. That you’ll celebrate the days that are important to you, your family, your loved ones. Have a “It’s a good day to have a party” party. Instead of struggling through Christmas without a loved one, make a totally different celebration. I’m a great believer in ­­volunteering and encouraging people to find their joy.
Our family will probably be at Sakanas Christmas afternoon for dinner. Although, if one of us doesn’t feel like Chinese we might just decide to have ice cream for dinner and watch old movies for Christmas Day. Whatever we decide we will remember that Dec. 25th is the day, chosen to celebrate the greatest joy in life. The birth of God, come to earth to bring great cheer, love and eternal life. The greatest gift of all is free, eternal life, paid in full by Jesus Christ and offered to all who only need to call on Him and follow. Don’t allow your traditions to hinder you from experiencing Gods gift.

Silence by andrea

It’s enough to make a man crazy, enough to break a man’s faith…. Remembering what broke him apart… Jesus knew what it was to be alone, He knew the silence of God. All these lines are from one of Andrew Peterson’s song, The Silence of God. It’s worth listening to, simply because I think we all feel that way at times.

I listen to this song often because even though I have my own struggles, it has been many years since I’ve felt really alone or known God’s silence. It’s not wise to be so removed from the pain of others that we forget, Christ feels their pain in Himself. For me to grasp the heart of God means I must relate to His pain and yours. Jesus knows your pain and I don’t believe He is ever silent although we can often be either unwilling or unable to hear Him.

 

It is so simple to say, the scriptures say, “my sheep hear my voice”, yet I have cried so hard my own sobs were the only thing I could hear. Or at times I have hardened my heart to the point that even while God spoke I was unwilling to listen. Angry, alone, grief stricken, even suicidal. How does one hear God in those moments? I can only say, remember.

I remember the scriptures, the many stories of those first disciples and all they gave to share the good news of Jesus Christ.They must have felt alone and forsaken. Yet they were focused on one thing, “Jesus”. They knew He was worth everything they suffered. When I was lost, Jesus not only found me, He revived me, breathed new life into me and gave me a love I had never known. Living in gratitude for His mercy, knowing I had done nothing worthy of this great love, keeps me remembering. Is God silent? I am breathing, the world is spinning at over 1000 mph. There is peace in my home, in my family there is healing and deep deep love. No God is not silent.

I can also look across history, seeing the centuries impacted by the gospel. Entire countries transformed into civilized nations. Charities, education, compassion, children became people, not just their parents chattel, orphanages were built and God parents were there to help grow and care for children. Forgiveness became a virtue, where once strength meant how much you owned and how many people you could kill or maim, Christianity taught forgiveness, generosity, kindness – even toward your enemies. Though imperfect, its impact has so transformed the world, there is no place left that has not been touched by the love, grace and mercy of Christ. No God is not silent. He does not work on our time tables, does not value all the things we value but when we value what God values, when we value love and truth, our hearts will open to hear His voice and we will walk in His ways and then eventually when death stands at our door, we will not fear because in death we have the final victory. For then we will hear Him say, “well done, enter into the joy of the Lord”.

God bless, andrea

Revolution! by andrea

The revolution of Jesus Christ the son of the Living God was fought and won 2000 years ago on a cross at Calvary. Death was defeated, evil was confronted and the world was made whole and new again. At the resurrection eternal life was brought into the world by God Himself for all those who choose to follow His ways… the way of death.

Certainly our ways are not God’s ways, we don’t fight like God, think like God or love like God but He has given us an opportunity to choose to be as He is and where He is. On the day of Pentecost after the victory at Calvary, after Jesus had returned from the dead, He sent the Holy Spirit to the world to baptize all those who choose to come to Him with His Spirit. His kingdom is not of this world although it is in this world it is not of this world. He is not finished with this world, there is work yet to do but the truth is… the war is won, the fighting is done and it is up to us to choose who we will follow. His followers, like Christ die to themselves and choose to live in Christ. When we do, we receive the Holy Spirit and He being Christ in us shows us the way of life. Like Christ it is only in dying to ourselves and living for Christ, we then find life, life eternal.

God loves His creation so much, He willingly sacrificed Himself for her and He willingly and lovingly brings you into His kingdom if you are willing to follow Him.

Paul puts it this way… we were once under the law of sin and death but that changed with Christ’s death and resurrection.

When I tried to obey the law’s standards, those laws killed me. As a result, I live in a relationship with God. I have been crucified with Christ. I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.…(Gal 2:19,20)

Therefore, my brothers, you also died to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. (Rom 7:14)

So yes, there is a revolution going on and in its path we have seen nations changed, billions of souls set free from sin and the way of love shown forth through the multiple millions of followers who share the gospel of Christ daily. We share the good news of death and resurrection to all who are willing to listen and follow, to have faith to follow the very righteousness of God, Jesus Christ. He freely gave Himself up on a cross and He freely gives you His love and life, joy and comfort, this day if you will only say yes to His gift.

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (Mat 7:7)

I promise you, no one regrets knowing Christ. There are no perfect churches organized for your convenience under different theological perspectives, but there is only One Head of the Church, that is Jesus Christ and He is willing to love you as you are, where you are today. He only asks that you ask and receive. The promise is yours, the gift is yours, take it. Forget every negative thing you’ve ever heard about the church and join the revolution of faith in Christ alone.

May you come to know the reality of life in Christ, a life made full of the wonders of God, the love of your Creator and His mercy and grace for you.  Don’t think you are not good enough… you are not. Who is good enough to receive God into themselves? Not one of us has been made righteous through our own works. The work was done on the cross. A sacrifice made for you and me, that we may be reconciled to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Simply because He loves you as you are. The love of God “precedes your repentance”, He loves you before you knew Him. Join the revolution of love for humanity, become a soldier in an army that feeds the poor, clothes the naked and loves the unlovable.

God bless, and may the joy of the Lord fill your hearts today and always,  andrea

If you need to know how much the Lord loves you as you are this video is a good start. It can be found on You-tube

The Relentless Tenderness Of Jesus  by Brennan Manning

 

Hopeless

There are some places in our lives we should never revisit… this was mine. So young I didn’t grasp who I was or why I was on this planet. My deepest prayer to an unknown god was “please god, make it so I had never been born. I recall pleading this …. “please please please”….. if You can do anything… turn back the clock and unborn me. I had heard about God, I had heard He made all things and that if He didn’t like you, He would send you to hell where you would burn in agony forever. I would say I felt hopelessness but what I really felt was fearfully hopeless. I had little hope of any good in this life and only certain terror in the next. 

     Parents if you think that someone five or six years old can’t be suicidal, think again. These are the memories I have as far back as I can remember.

     When I questioned my parents about God, my mother would say there was no god, as an “agnostic” and she didn’t want to talk about it. I did not approach my father until years later when he cried and said there was no forgiveness for people like him.

     Somewhere within me was a thread … a strand of faith, there was hope in this life. 

     I already knew that the world was a terrible place with unspeakable horrors and my life even with its hopelessness was far better then most. As a young child, I had opened a book about WWII. There were hundreds of pictures of people with striped suits on so thin they could barely walk, piles of bodies. Pictures of babies being murdered in front of their parents…. the one seared into my mind was a group of strong men, holding a screaming women, while they whirled an infant around and the picture was taken just a split second before its head hit a telephone pole. Ovens with shelves. Bodies of young men strewn across fields. Others kneeling in front of pits with thousands of bodies in them, while men stood behind them with rifles. I thought why didn’t they run but somewhere within me I knew. They had no desire to run. You could see it on their faces. Later this book disappeared off of our book shelf but the pictures never left my mind. The thoughts and questions they raised about the state of humanity have never left my mind. No matter how bad life was…. I was still better off then that woman or that baby; or was I? Maybe death was the ultimate silence, the peace my mind so desperately sought. 

     Today when I see pictures of children with distended bellies or bodies lining hospital doorways from ebola outbreaks. Children taught to behead people who aren’t like them. Prepubescent children taught to use machine guns and commit mass murder. I see a generation of people without hope. How many of those children pray, please, please, please if there is a god, make it so I’ve never been born? Hopelessness run rampant.

     There is the stark reality, whether it is by brutal men swinging babies into poles, by doctors cutting unborn babies from their mother’s wombs, soldiers on a battlefield or the person dying peacefully in their beds surrounded by the most loving of families. The mortality rate is always 100%. 

     There is only one reason for hope and that is in the next life. This life will pass as a wisp in time and eternity will be upon every being ever conceived. Christ came and died, not just to forgive us for our sins but to begin the process of resurrection and new life within each one of us, today. We have a living hope within us. This mortal body has put on immortality. Death with its dark fears has no dominion over me.

     No matter what your scars, your disease, your trauma or fears. Jesus knows what you’re feeling. He knows what you’ve suffered. He took it ALL on Himself on a cross 2000 years ago so that you may be set free from the worry and anxiety of tomorrow. Eternal life is a gift given to those who choose Jesus. That hope and healing begins today in the heart of every one who chooses faith.

Choose Christ, God bless, andrea

(added) 

     I was told this piece was too graphic, too harsh and that unbelievers may miss the point of becoming followers of Christ. I gave much thought to this …. The reality is that life is harsh and there is absolutely no more hope for us then for the multitude of bodies heaped up by men who did not know God. The bombs that dropped on Hiroshima, left few bodies but the death toll was exactly the same for all those people as it was going to be if no bombs were dropped. The end for all of us is the same. From dust we came to dust we go. 

   If you choose to follow the hopelessness of happiness in this world, it will be a fleeting moment in time. BUT if you choose to follow the cross of Christ, there is an eternity that awaits you of joy unspeakable, full of glory. A city whose only light will be from a Holy and loving God.

    We come into this world crying, screaming and fighting for breath, in the middle there are tears, body parts to clean and suffering. We laugh, wonder and try to make our mark on this world but the only mark of any value is the one made on Calvary. I find great beauty and much joy in this world. Although, I weep for those who suffer, cry for those who die, all the while knowing my fate is the same and it is yours. My hope is in Christ and because of Him, I have great joy and I smile when I tell my husband of over 40 years. We are old, joking that the best part about old age is that it doesn’t last long. One day one of us will have to go on alone. I ask him, are you ready? He smiles and nods. I am crying now. Because I know the suffering will be unbearable but it will be full of hope. My hope is in Christ because He rose, I also will rise and so will you. Christ promises to answer all who call out to Him, so call out “Jesus I need hope”. He’ll answer.

God bless, andrea

Col 1: (Paul is writing)

24I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.

One Day by andrea

One day

The birth of Christ is something our family celebrates 365 days a year, Christmas is when the world celebrates His birth together. 

I’ve been told that my rather large family looks on me as a bit over zealous about my faith. I don’t argue that point, I only wish they knew the joy it brings me to have Christmas everyday. To wake to music that celebrates our Savior’s birth and to be reminded to care about my neighbors, to love my enemies and to help feed the poor through all seasons. 

I personally find food drives for Thanksgiving and Christmas somewhat annoying. We give one family enough food for one week, for a single day. The advertising and work put into just one day, spread across the year would seem to me to be far more productive… ? but I’m encouraged that people care enough even if it is for just a little while.

This year something unique occurred for my Christmas. I’ve been involved on Face Book (FB) pages within my own small community. I read how some of my FB neighbors were helping local families. I heard about families that desperately needed toys for their children, used toys. Anything to put under a tree for Christmas morning and many needed a tree. The stories emerged, the one who had their toddler run over by a lawn tractor, after the numerous surgeries and days missed, the father lost his job. Resulting in the loss of their home, then all of their belongings when they couldn’t pay storage fees. I could feel the hurt and only imagine the pain. Even as they were now moving into a trailer, with six children. With nothing. 

As we reached out to this family to help, more families reached out for assistance. Not so their children could have more but so they could have something. I met a few of the (FB) people who were helping these families and heard their own stories. This is an amazing group of people. Some of the most giving people were on unemployment, they needed beds for their own kids. They were helping other people who needed blankets and necessities for their families. There were people who had not eaten in days, it does little good to ask, how does this happen in my upper middle class town? It is happening. Then these FB angels, collected goods and food, one a mother of four, spent Christmas Eve driving to a strange place to deliver food and blankets to complete strangers.

Another family on the move, having their own life drama says, “I have some toys would you pick them up?” My husband then finds out these toys can actually fill a pick up truck. Used beautiful, desirable toys for kids who love trendy toys, new bikes, jewelry and gifts for some of the moms. All for families who would never be able to pay $50 for Monster High dolls with their accessories. The craziness of sorting and distributing these toys and then seeing the tears shed by mothers who would come and say,”thank you” for a donated used toy. All this made Christmas hectic, over-whelming, busy and wonderful. 

With each family I shared how Christ is working in their lives, even in their needs. How He loves them with an extraordinary love. I shared with some “the mortality rate will always be one hundred percent” so live today, pray today, for just this little while enjoy today. Knowing that when you put on Jesus Christ, you put on immortality and you have joy in all situations even in the suffering.

In the end, I was so blessed. Blessed by those that struggled to make ends meet. By those that even in the midst of their struggles reached out to others to help. Blessed by those that donated 
more then they could afford. I was truly blessed. I who needed nothing, needed them to need me, even if just for one day. 

Merry Christmas every day… andrea

Erasing God by andrea

 I don’t think the problem is erasing God as much as it is taping over God. If you ever owned a tape and didn’t punch out the tabs, anyone could come along and rewrite over what you previously taped. So here we have God in our midst, the Christ has come we know for sure He is the way the Truth and the Light and we want with all our hearts to join together as one body, one heart, loving one another but we don’t know about punching out the tabs…. and we allow others to tape over what God gave us until we no longer remember the very real experience of our conversion. Instead we are given doctrine and someone else’s interpretation of scripture. We sit and hear someone else tell us what God says. Instead of learning to listen, to hear God for ourselves we are encouraged to not question the scriptures or the pastor.

      Then sometimes it’s our cultural views or the very important issues of the day that we allow to block our view of Christ. Even amongst Christians I often hear more about the Presidential candidates then I do about Jesus. Politics won’t fix us. Christ exists within all types of governments, we weren’t sent to change governments. We were sent to change hearts. Ultimately, when enough hearts are changed, that is reflected in the culture.

(I left this here for a few days)

….and then Paris. I have wondered so often about what humanity thinks will change hearts and minds. I know Christ changed mine, I believe He is waiting to change those caught in Islam. The terrible truth is, they haven’t erased God, they have written over Him. Called Him another name, written another book… made up another doctrine. Jesus isn’t the Book, He isn’t the doctrine, He is God. We nailed Him to a cross, we killed the King of Glory and yet He lives. He never forced himself on anyone, He never forced the religious leaders to change their ways. He only offered His truth, He offered Himself, a living sacrifice to change our hearts and minds. He still does…

       The awful truth is… the mortality rate is 100%. We will all die. We have a choice while there is time, to choose love or hate, life or death. I choose to follow the God that loves. He loves Paris, Beijing. Washington D.C. He also loves Jerusalem and Baghdad. It doesn’t matter if you have the red, white and blue flag or the black, green, white and red flag… He died for us all. Suffered for us all. So my prayer is that the Lord raise up powerful, loving missionaries that will go into the lion’s den and preach Christ. Because after all, the mortality rate is still 100%. We may as well die for something worth while.

      We will never erase God, I see people turn their heads and pretend they don’t know He exists but we all know. Faith is a choice, it is also a gift. It must be received. Take it, its yours. As we all grieve for Paris and for the Middle East, I still choose to have hope, that the long ugliness will allow the beauty of Christ to shine through to those who need Him more now then ever before. As the one widower said, he will never allow hatred or fear to tape over the love planted in his heart. Powerful message from someone with all the reason in the world to hate except he knows only love wins.

      Be comforted, knowing the Lord is still on His throne and He is merciful, loving and worthy. God Bless, andrea

Rhythm by andrea

  Life has a rhythm, from your heart beat to your first breath, the way you walk through life is your song. How you react to life might be your refrain. It repeats over and over, whether or not it is edifying and joyful will  largely depend on you. 
     Each person in your life, and every event will be like an instrument someone is playing in your song and you have a choice. Learn to sing your own song or learn to drown out the voices. I suggest listening with a tuned ear. There are many songs out there with various rhythms and we must be selective or our lives will become nothing but noise with little joy and no chorus. 
      Being raised in a chaotic home with 12 siblings and all they bring made my life seem far more unstable and hectic than it needed to be. I didn’t know how to listen to the voice of the Lord because when the subject of religion or God came up, it was shut down with mockery and cynicism. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had known there was someone listening who cared. When I finally came to faith, I also realized that the Lord had been speaking to me my whole life. I was refusing to listen. So I stumbled through life and looked to what ever could fill the void in my soul. I would sit next to the radio changing the channel till something came on that reflected how I felt. I was sad, angry, rebellious and lonely and so was my song. There was not a day that went by that I didn’t consider taking my life. To those that know me today, they can’t imagine that person but I remember her well. Today my music is joyful yet meaningful. I like to understand the words and I love music that fills my being with praise and makes my heart melt with the love of God and the awe of His creation. 
    Ask yourself if your life were a song what would be its title? What genre? Would it be country song, a ballad, a hymn, easy listening? Can you see how your song has changed over your life? Can you see if it brings joy or stirs pain, is it angry or does it stir deep emotions in people and which emotions would they be? 
    The rhythm of your life is only part circumstances. It is often which way you choose to bring forth what is within you. Will you go about humming a tune or singing full throated. God gave you songs to sing, choose which ones you’ll sing and ask Him to release in you a new song. A song of salvation of love and worship, an offering to Christ, who alone is the Giver of life.
    Years ago I chose not to play secular music in my home. Why spend the time and effort when I can listen and sing songs that fill me with joy and surround me with thoughts of His glory. I often leave worship music playing and ask the Lord to receive it and bless my home with His presence even while I am gone (don’t tell anyone – they’ll think I’m a little crazy). I believe the Lord has His angels around us, that His presence is within us and that He is able to stand guard over our hearts and minds and our homes.
     I pray my rhythm is the Lord’s rhythm, my thoughts be His thoughts and listening to music that glorifies Christ lifts my spirit and focuses my mind on Christ. I start my day with music and try to sing to myself through the day. Music is an amazing part of my life I consider it a gift from our Creator. 
Psalm 100 says it all
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;1
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.