Monday, December 9, 2013

Let Him In (A Christmas Devotion)


It is the beginning of the Christmas season.  Have you thought about how you will spend Christmas?  

Two thousand years ago a Savior was born in a lowly manger.  Who was there?  Well, Scripture tells us the angels announced his birth to shepherds. The shepherds were filled with wonder as they made their way to Bethlehem to see the infant king.  Luke 2:17 indicates the shepherds told others what the angels revealed to them.  Interestingly, verse 18 says “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.”  What I wonder is who were the “all who heard it.”  Perhaps the innkeeper, whether of a public inn or the host of a large family establishment, was among those who heard the shepherds glorifying and praising God for all they had seen.  Did he regret he’d made no room for Jesus?  Did he believe the news he’d heard?  
What about the townspeople of Bethlehem?  Surely, the shepherds’ news traveled quickly.  Were they too busy to hear it?  Perhaps, they were asleep as the group, Casting Crowns, sings:

“Oh Bethlehem, what have you missed while you were sleeping.  For God became a man and stepped into your world today.  Oh Bethlehem, you will go down in history as a city with no room for its King, while you were sleeping, while you were sleeping.”  

If there were a few townspeople awake, did they acknowledge this baby as the King and consequently, did they allow Him to make a difference in their lives?  Did they take the key and let Him in?  

My dear sisters in Christ, Jesus’ birth is most worthy of celebration.  We do many things in the name of Christmas, some by obligation, others by tradition, and even some because we as a culture are materialistic.  May I suggest that we all reflect on the things that keep us so busy during the Christmas season.  Ask yourself this question in evaluating these activities and traditions- Does this allow my family and I to turn the key to let Him in?  Some things simply do not.  They serve to busy us into forgetting whose celebration this is anyway.  Every year, more and more of Jesus is stamped out of Christmas traditions in this decaying world we live in.  This is all the more reason we need to re-think how we celebrate Christmas.  We need to be light like Jesus in the midst of darkness.  Consider John 8:12, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying ‘I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  We need to be awake-- not asleep to turn the key and let Jesus in to our abodes.  

There are traditions that many in secular society as well as Christian circles celebrate that my family does not.  Some things are neutral while other things in my personal opinion take away from Christ.  Now, it is my firm belief that we as Christians should give grace to each other by of course allowing different opinions and practices occur in these somewhat grey areas.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Thus, we likewise should extend grace.  Therefore, I don’t want to address specific traditions.  However, I would like to point out one particular thing to ponder about Santa Claus.  Noel Piper, in her book, Treasuring Christ in our Traditions, makes a comparison of some of the attributes of Santa.  Have you ever thought about the fact that children are taught that Santa is all-knowing, giver of good gifts, and can pretty much be omnipresent  (he’d have to if he can deliver presents to all the children everywhere in the world in a single night)!  Jesus is all these things.  Noel goes on to say though that children don’t understand where Santa and Jesus are different.  She says, the major difference is that Jesus loved us even while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), not like Santa because we’d been good.  Just think about that for a second.  It is really profound.  So, my friends, I am not going to say you should or shouldn’t include Santa in your traditions, but I would caution you to be extra careful in how you handle him in your traditions, being certain that your children and grandchildren are hearing a whole lot more of Jesus’ birth as central to this holy day.  

Our children and grandchildren need to observe an attitude of eager anticipation from us as we celebrate our Savior’s birth.  It is a most wonderful time to reflect on what God has done and what he has promised for the future.  I love the passages of Scripture in Luke that tell about the devout and most elderly man, Simeon, as well as the prophetess Anna.  When I read Luke 2:25-38, I get such a sense of grateful expectation from these beloved people of God.  They’d waited years for the Messiah’s birth and their reward was to cast their eyes on the Savior.  Simeon says in verse 34-35, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  That is what Christmas is all about, a remarkable birth for a very specific reason, to die and rise again, to save us from our sin that we might be reconciled to God. May we be like Simeon and Anna, eagerly waiting for Christ because we are promised He will return.

Three Christmas seasons ago, I was approaching Christmas in the midst of depression.  For my family, mental illness is somewhat rampant, so it is no big surprise that it manifests itself as depression from time to time for me. Anyway, it was a difficult time for me.  I was blue and my special needs child was having new symptoms of which we were greatly concerned.  All kinds of tests were being run.  Our adopted daughter was especially needy due too many years of institutional living, and there of course were two other children needing our love and care.  I was overwhelmed to put it mildly.  It was a time of crying out to God to be my ever present help in trouble.  I needed tangible ways to remind me of His closeness that Christmas.  I believe He spoke to my need and my heart that Christmas.  An idea was planted probably years before, and this particular Christmas I pulled out that idea and put it to use.  That year I asked my children what they thought of making our main tree a Jesus only tree.  They surprised me by an enthusiastic “YES” in unison.  So, with the oldest three in tow we went shopping--- I thought it would be easy, but oh was it hard.  You see, ornaments reflecting Jesus, are almost rare.  Maybe that is the way it should be as He is a “treasure” for sure.  We got out old Christmas cards, cut them up and made our own.  We bought a couple dozen glass balls and wrote the names of Jesus on them.  I explained to a friend when out shopping for ornaments that “We just need more JESUS this year.”  But, friends don’t we all.  

I tell you my story not to convince you to do the same.  Instead, I tell it to you because this is just one way we’ve found to help us have a Christ-centered focus for such a holy day and season.  Find ways, whether it is in the decorating, serving, family discussions, reading, activities, maybe even in simplifying traditions/activities that will reflect His love, the light we have in Christ, and most importantly the hope and the glory of His return.   The time passes quickly in our fast-paced society.  We must be intentional.  I encourage you to not let Christmas pass without time for Christ-centered reflection. 
Take home your silver key as a reminder to “Let Him In” this year.  May we not be like the innkeeper with no room for Jesus.  May we all yearn for still more of JESUS this Christmas and all the year through.  My oldest writes beautiful poetry.  I’ll close with his poem the “Key,”

It was a very long night
When this world got the light
And the sky did shine
When two weary people came to the door
Joseph’s eyes were tired
And Mary’s womb was worn
The Christ child to be born
So they stopped at an inn
Somewhere in Bethlehem
The innkeeper would not let them in
He would not turn the key
Little did he ever know
He rejected the key to Eternity.

-Evan White

Friday, November 22, 2013

Eternality of God

**I've decided to put my ladies' Bible study talks on this blog for now for the benefit of those who have to miss from time to time. We are going through Phillip Ryken's book, Discovering God In Stories from the Bible. Each chapter covers an attribute of God which we discuss together in our Bible study each month. We'd love for any local ladies to join us.

In the Andean Highlands, near Lake Titicaca in Bolivia, an elderly man walks out of his dirt floor dwelling to dimly see the sun for another day.  This former sheep and cattle herder hasn’t had an education and cannot speak Spanish, the national language.  He has buried two of his three children, and lived to have forty grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren.  The remarkable thing about Carlos Flores Laura is that he is the oldest living person alive today, if the records are accurate in Bolivia.  Carlos is 123 years old.
Maria Esther de Capovilla, an Ecuadorian woman, a colonel’s daughter lived to see three centuries.  She was the oldest person living in the world in 2006.  Maria’s daughter indicated that her mother’s calm disposition was the reason for her long life.  When Maria was 100 years old, she was read her last rites in the hospital while suffering from a stomach illness.  She got better and lived another sixteen years, dying in 2006, just eighteen days before her 117th birthday.
I did some research about long-living folks.  Experts have given the term, “centenarians,” to those rare people living to their hundredth birthdays.  Even rarer still, are the “supercentenarians,”  individuals living at least 110 years.  Supercentenarians were common in the Bible, but in the modern world, it is highly uncommon.  When interviewing supercentenarians, reporters always want to know the individual’s secrets to long life.   Some people make it their life mission and vocation to study the mysteries of aging.  
One such case, currently under much study, involves a twenty year old woman by the name of Brooke Greenberg from Maryland.   Brooke brought much joy to her parents and three sisters although her life was anything but normal.  She was very tiny and at age five, she stopped growing.  She remained the size of a small toddler, being driven in a car seat, and strolled around in an infant stroller.  Her mental capacity did not extend beyond ten months.  Scientists are studying her DNA in hopes of finding ways to stall the aging process especially with patients succombing to age related diseases.  Brooke passed away of unknown causes just a few days ago.
No matter what discoveries researchers make, no matter what formulas nutritionists devise, no matter what claims people make to the fountains of youth, one thing is certain:  we will all die sometime.  No human being or any living thing on earth is eternal.  Eternality is one of God’s mysterious attributes.  We will do well to ponder and explore His eternalness.  
Merriam Webster’s full definition of the word eternal provides some food for thought if we consider it in the sense of relation to God.  The primary definition is threefold:  having infinite duration, everlasting; of or relating to eternity; and characterized by abiding fellowship with God.  Since God is everlasting, He has no beginning as well as end.  This concept is difficult for us time-conscious people to understand.  A.W. Tozer explains, “Because God lives in an everlasting now, He has no past and no future.  When time-words occur in the Scriptures they refer to our time, not His.”  God has always been and always will be in existence.  I like how Philip Ryken elaborates on this concept:  “He is not in time at all.  He cannot be timed.  He is never early or late.  He never clocks in, and he never clocks out.  He is outside of time altogether.  He is eternal by his very nature.”
The second definition given for eternal is continued without intermission and seemingly endless.  While an intermission through a lengthy musical might be welcome, I’m so glad to report our God does not take an intermission on His existence.  In fact He doesn’t even take a nap as Psalm 121:4 says, “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  Hallelujah that His existence in not just “seemingly endless” as the definition states but we know that it is completely endless.  The third definition is an archaic one relating to Shakespeare, thus no correlation there.  
The fourth definition presents an interesting perspective stating “valid or existing at all times,” also “timeless”.    What could be more valid than the truth of our God’s forever existence.  One of the things I enjoy is thrift shopping.  I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve run across something from my childhood.  In the past month I’ve seen the pale blue butterfly sheets I had as a child, a pillow with the exact same brown calico print of my parents’ comforter when I was in the second grade, and familiar clothing that saw better days in the 80’s.  While still in existence, the styles were clearly not “timeless.”  One day those things will cease to even exist.   Ladies, our God is timeless- in His very being, and in His very message for all the world.  Webster’s gives “temporary” as an antonym and several near antonyms for eternal, two being “outdated” and “obsolete.”  Think about it, He will never be outdated or obsolete.  He doesn’t swoop in as God in any sort of temporary way when he just happens to feel like it or isn’t too busy.  He is eternal in who he is and what he does.  I Timothy 1:17 says, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.”
There are two main points that Philip Ryken makes involving the eternal attribute of God.  First of all, because God is eternal, his judgement lasts forever.  If He were not eternal, then how would he carry out the final judgement of individuals?  Hell would hold no weight.  Furthermore, since God is eternal he has the ability to guarantee salvation.  Everyone who believes in Christ will enjoy the riches of an eternity with Him.  The saints of God aren’t sitting around in heaven wondering when it will all end.  God will last forever, thus so will heaven.  This is so wonderful, we can hardly grasp it.
As is true of all the attributes, Jesus and the Holy Spirit possess eternalness as well.  Jesus conquered death to sit at the right hand of the Father, a “permanent priesthood,”  “living forever” as mentioned in Hebrews 7:24.  The Holy Spirit is “the eternal Spirit” as found in Hebrews 13:8.  
The attributes are all so closely woven and interconnected.  If you take away the eternality of God, what would God’s glory look like?  That would have to mean at some point an end to his glory.  What about his omnipresence?  God is always present everywhere would have its limits if He was not eternal.  The immutability of God would be affected as well, because to cease to be would in fact be a change in His being.  I could go on and on but you can clearly see that if He is not eternal, at some point each of these attributes would be void.  
In studying this attribute, I am most drawn to the fact that He will always be the righteous judge, always be our Comforter, always be our Sustainer, and the great I AM.  Because He is eternal, His promises don’t have an expiration date, His love is always lavished upon his children, His mercy never ends, nor does His extravagant grace ever come to a close.  While we may not be able to grasp this awe-inspiring attribute, we must embrace it and worship him for it.  
As King Nebuchadnezzar learned after God dealt with his sin of pride, God is eternal, but we are not.  All that we have is God’s, our time is but a vapor, may we constantly evaluate our abilities in the light of the giver of good gifts.  Being reduced to a grass-eating, crazy wanderer will have a way of humbling one.  Nebuchadnezzar proclaims in Daniel 4:37, “...for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”  The restored king learned his lesson well in seeing the contrast between the who and what God is---- “with an everlasting dominion, whose kingdom endures from generation to generation” to his own reality as “an inhabitant of the earth accounted as nothing”  (see Daniel 4:34-35).  James 4:14 says, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  Also, Psalm 144:4 says, “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”  
As we focus on the eternal God, may we gain perspective in our time-driven lives.  Before we work on our discussion questions, I’d like to close this time with Psalm 90:12-17.  May this be the prayer of our hearts.  The psalmist says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.  Return, O Lord!  How long?  Have pity on your servants!  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.  Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!  Amen.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

August- New Beginnings

This blog has fallen by the wayside.  However, I really am going to try to do a one month post of the kids' school work, activities, etc.  I know one day they will enjoy being able to look back at a record of themselves.

We started back school the first week of August, making this past week our fourth week completed.   Hooray!  A few things are different for us.  We're modifying Ambleside Online, combining it with Memoria Press Classical Curriculum.  On Wednesdays, the boys attend outside classes.  The other thing that is different this year is that the girls have a classmate.  We added our sweet neighbor, Miss B, a third grader to our homeschool.  So, on any given day at our house, we're covering first, third, fifth, ninth, and tenth grades!  Yep, I'm pretty busy!  If you see my free time somewhere out there, would you mind putting my name on it with a sharpie, so I can get it back one of these days!  Seriously though, my motto these days is "Life is hard, but God is good--- let's give Him the glory in all we do!" Even though this is the 10th year of homeschooling, and Lord willing there are twelve more to go, I know in my heart of hearts I'll miss it when it is gone.

Playing apple math with mom
Cookie Sheet Spelling
Her fabulous apple pie!
Miss Cupcake takes a "steps-forward, and a couple back" approach to learning.  You see, I am a slow learner at patience, so I need lots of PRACTICE.  I discovered some approaches to addition besides just using the math-u-see color number rods.  (She was just memorizing color, not getting concept).  I've added in some Math Mammoth ( for her.  I love the variety of ways the same concept is taught.  The first time she saw adding by the number line method she said, "This is the best. It is more FUNNER, Mom."  With reading, she's decoding words but with still a lot of struggling.  So, we're still taking it slow, trying to reach fluency with CVC words in short sentences.  Little Bobo is Lost is her favorite book with which we do some "buddy reading."  The book is a 1947 old school book reader I picked up at an antique store.  Little Bobo is a deer with many endearing adventures.  We are using lots of picture books for unit studies, many of which are scheduled in the Memoria Press Kindergarten Enrichment (very adaptable to first grade).  One of our favorites this month was How to Make An Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman.  We've done apple math, apple crafts, apple science, geography, and her favorite activity--making the apple pie recipe included in the book with her daddy.  Everyone enjoyed eating it.
Muffy's watercolor of grasshopper

Miss B tells us she loves homeschooling.  She is a bright and diligent student and always eager to please.  She is doing great.  We are focusing on lots of reading, providing a high quality diet of books using Sonlight reader selections, as well as some of Ambleside Online 1.  We are using some of the free lapbook ideas over at  I adapted another book unit on hot air balloons for a lapbook for the book, The Big Balloon Race by Eleanor Coerr.  She's started working on some very nice notebooking pages for learning the states and capitals, is learning cursive, and many other things.  My favorite quote from her this past month, "I really like that book, can I take it home and read it again?"  Music to a teacher's ears when reading becomes a joy rather than a task!  Unfortunately, I can't find the pics I took of her art and lapbook.  Argh!

Miss B, Muffy, and Cousin C

section of Muffy's Mandie in the Secret Tunnel canvas

Miss Muffy, our fifth grader, is working through most of Ambleside Online 4 this year.  Her literature for the first term is Robinson Crusoe.  Her assessment of it thus far is that it is a bit boring.  We've added weekly written narrations to This Country of Ours.  New courses added this year are Memoria Press First Form Latin, Memoria Press Greek Myths study, Memoria Press Insects science study, and Memoria Press Classical Composition Fables.  In her free time, she enjoys reading Cherry Ames (old 50s series about a nurse) and drawing.  She loves her art supplies.  For this term's artist study, I had the girls reproduce John Singleton Copley's portrait of Paul Revere.  She worked on it over a course of serveral days.  She also is getting fairly independent in the kitchen.  I bought her the Keepers At Home handbook which she loves working on spiritual goals, cooking goals, various craft skills, etc.  She will earn badges as she completes the items.  It is a blessing to watch her grow and mature in the faith.

Muffy's copy of Copley's "Paul Revere"

Cupcake's version of Revere, black lines on face are his veins of course!

Mr. S is in his first official year of high school.  He's not excited about biology but is getting it out of the way this year, taking the lab through an outside source.  We are having lots of pep talks about what his responsibilities are and what mine are.  His dad has taken over math with him.  It is going fine as we decided to switch curriculums and do Algebra over so he gets a good foundation.  I've modified the AO 9 for him, by primarily working through the literature and history selections, covering early American and world history.  We thought Paul Johnson's, A History of the American People would be tough, but he is enjoying it and understanding it quite well.  He's reading A Tale of Two Cities, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Gulliver's Travels for the first term (2 of which were sub. titles, not what AO scheduled).  He says The Scarlet Pimpernel is his favorite.   He's also taking an outside writing class and a Christian Worldview class.  Music still seems to be his favorite thing which keeps him busy with piano, cello, and violin.  He is also teaching Miss B piano.

Mr. E is glad to be done with biology and covering physical science this year doing the lab with an outside class, as well as a writing class and Christian Worldview.  His favorite subject is literature with history a close second, using AO 9 along with Mr. S.  There isn't a book he doesn't like.  Best quote of the month from him, "Mom, this is going to be such a great year---- all those wonderful books I get to read."  We are working with him on social/life/study skills to help him develop his full potential.  He would really like to be a middle or high school literature or history teacher and do writing on the side.  He spends a lot of time writing stories and poetry, visiting the ice cream shop, bike riding, and reading great classic literature.

My summer and most of the days are spent in school, preparing or working with the kids.  I was hoping to take some classes for women through the seminary, but decided my plate was full and will postpone those plans.  Matt is back in school at the seminary, working on his THM, while continuing to work full time.  He preached twice in August while our pastor was away.  He's busy, but is a big help keeping things going on the home front.

Till next time.



I guess you could say we've been a little busy since I haven't posted since November.  Perhaps I could manage at least one post a month.

The Cupcake is doing a new phonics program called Primary Phonics by EPS.  She has a workbook and a set of readers.  This past week she got the phonics work done to be able to read the first book, "Mac and Tab".  I'm very impressed with this program.  It has just the right amount of repetition that she needed to build confidence and succeed.  I'll be ordering level 2 very soon because the girl is making great progress; just have to keep reminding her to sound it out, NO GUESSING!  She's also working on d'nealian handwriting each day.  We've made it to letter "P" in her ABC Bible Verses book.  In math, she has learned quite well how to skip count 2's, 5's, and 10's, add with her blocks, and currently learning about time.  Last week I gave her the opportunity to make some money (and count by 10's at the same time).  I gave her a dime for every sock pair she could match.  I'm proud to say I owe her about four dollars!  (Some of those socks had been waiting for their mates for months!-- win, win, for the mom and the child.)  Favorite stories have been folktales like Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Empty Pot, Chicken Little, etc.  Sometimes she helps make a story map for re-telling.  She hasn't completely abandoned Thomas the Tank Engine in her play, but is more a fan of playing American Girl dolls with her sister these days.  She was so delighted to get Audrey Anne (a Target Our Generation doll) for Christmas along with a jeep and salon chair for the dolls.  Oh, by the way she's lost five top teeth all at once, well almost!

Muffy girl has developed a love for honey vanilla chamomile tea paired with a deliciously good book.  She started over reading A Little Princess and sometimes tells me "Sarah" is calling her (to come read and have a cup of tea).  She and her Auntie Missy are still reading Anne of Green Gables together, taking turns doing the reading out loud.  Not to be left out, she's reading The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge with her dear mommy.  We love it and some days would like to transport ourselves to Moonacre Manor and visit Maria, Miss Heliotrope, Wrolf the dog, Zechariah the cat, Sir Benjamin, and the tiny chef with the enormous vocabulary Marmaduke.  She traveled to Nepal in her mind and studies over the last few days, creating a beautiful map/flag scrapbook page, and notebook page for her geography notebook.  After finishing the Real Kids elementary biology, she decided to study about the body from the old "All About...." science series by Random House.  (This is an old series but excellent for homeschooling and getting a lot of information on a particular topic).  She enjoys drawing and labeling diagrams and pictures of what she learns.  Last week she baked chocolate chip peanut butter cookies and a butterscotch pudding pie and this week's creation was key lime pie milkshakes!  

Sir S- is busy with his school work.  He's almost done with a few of his Ambleside Online books for this term.  We're going to skip a few of the term three books and pick up some of the books from the year 8.  The reason being that will put both boys in the same place in history to do year 9 next year.  I CANNOT get enough of the readings done myself for two separate literature and history programs, so I'm tweaking to fix it for next year!  I returned from Cupcake's speech session the other day to find S and his accomplice, Muffy, both with the frizziest hairdo's ever to which he explained it was part of his physical science lab to make lightening with hair and a balloon.  He's progressing nicely with both violin and piano.  I've enjoyed some late night piano concerts as he practices from the music books he received for Christmas.  He got quite a few since that was all he really wanted this year.  He just began a new musical adventure, learning the cello.  His previous strings experience benefits him in this endeavor.  He's getting a good quality sound already.

Mr. E is such a good student.  He jumps to his studies right away to get done early enough to ride his bicycle around town before the sun goes down.  With the colder weather, the snow cone business has changed to the hot chocolate business with his helper Muffy, along with making smores with his new smores machine.  The boy loves his gadgets.  We've been working on fixing up his new room.  He was excited to finally get a bookcase for his prized possessions--- new books by Sir Walter Scott and Robert Lois Stephenson for Christmas.  He's still plugging away at biology and gee wiz I do think his book is tougher than I remember my biology class (which was even AP).  All that vocabulary!!!!  He reached the half way point in the book so there is no turning back now.  

Enough catching up for now.