Facts don’t change…but the outcome can

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The facts are in. They cannot be disputed. They cannot be changed. Deal with it.

Obama is President.

It is not what we, as Bible-believing Christians, wanted, but it is a truth.

He is making unprecedented changes in record time – much to the disapproval of conservatives everywhere.

We knew it would happen. We knew he was going to go for the biggest change – and he promised the very changes he is making. And then some.

An assault has begun, nay, been stepped up, on the very fabric of American freedom and foundation.

Again, those who listened to his campaign rhetoric, knew what was coming.

Nope. We can’t change what happened. We warned everyone we could think of that an Obama presidency would mean disaster for families, conservative values, and sanctity of life preservation. But, when the votes were tallied, he won. And, since then, many of us have done nothing but complain.

Now, I am not in any way suggesting that we should stop fighting Obama – on the contrary, we should scrutinize his every move, and make a phone call if he does anything in the direction of a liberalistic ideal. We should fight for our every right as we still have them – and fight to get back any we lose along the way.

However, more even than fighting the President, we should take action where we live! How? Support organizations which uphold the values and principles we stand behind. Prayerfully and financially (along with volunteer efforts, etc.) support organizations such as the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), Focus on the Family, etc., which fight for these things everyday – often with more pull than a single individual can muster.  Instead of arguing across the fence about our right to keep and bear arms, join the NRA!  When there is an opportunity to have your voice heard, don’t sit at home and say, “I just can’t believe what those {goofy} liberals are doing now!  When will it stop?”  Get up, get out, and get going!  Stand in front of an abortion clinic.  Talk to women who are considering one and offer CHRISTIAN advice.  Do something!

But there are more opportunities: volunteer at your local pregnancy help center to help prevent abortion in unwanted pregnancies, volunteer at local soup kitchens, encourage your church to have a more active and widespread outreach ministry, pray for our leader.

God never intended for Christians to be spectators – LIFE is not a spectator sport! Nor are we meant to be mere commentators! He never wanted us to sit around bickering and complaining about things we cannot change. He did mean for us to reach out to make a difference. He did mean for us to find ways to serve the downtrodden in society. After all, isn’t that where Jesus spent the majority of His own time?

So while we do need to stay abreast of what is happening here on our own soil, in the White House Oval Office, and abroad, we cannot let it dictate our mood or attitude any longer. If we do, our words will be ineffective because there will be no action to speak of.

I encourage everyone reading this to find at least one way each week you can make a difference: write to your senator/congressman/woman, etc., volunteer, support a worthy cause, etc. Do something to promote worthy “change” – not just moan about the bad.

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Will you accept my challenge this year?

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I have been feeling a need to do this, so here it is:

I am issuing a challenge to each and every one of you – EVERYONE that reads this blog!

The challenge is this:

Read through your Bible in one year with us!

Now, if you have done it before, GREAT!  Do it again!  And if you haven’t, PERFECT!  Do it now!

Here’s how it will work:

I will post a reading schedule at the beginning of each week.  It will list the daily readings for the week, and be the catalyst for comments during the week on the readings we are doing.  I plan to have some free goodies for those of you who participate (by participate, I mean, leave at least one comment per week on that week’s readings!).  And, there is a distinct possibility of having a drawing mid-way through and at the end of the year….if not quarterly!

So, join with us today….we begin on January 1st!

Leave a comment on this posting if you will be taking up the challenge to Sharpen Your Sword all year long!

Preparing for Battle,

Toni

Christmas Poetry

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Christ came to earth, one blessed
Holy night, to offer
Redemption to a world, so lost in His sight
Immanuel is His name, our
Savior He chose to be.
Three gifts were brought to Him, by the
Magi, for the One who would be
Atonement for sins – offering
Salvation to you and me.

Christmas Trees

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Have you ever noticed the differences in Christmas trees?

Some are simple – others are ornate.  Some are flocked – others are a beautiful evergreen.  Some are real – some are artificial.

It seems Christmas trees are a very personal thing in our country.  One person may have a designer tree full of gorgeous department store ornaments, ornate ribbons, and hundreds of lights.  Truly a sight to see.

Others may prefer a simpler decoration – perhaps just lights and some tinsel.  Or maybe all homemade decorations.  There are trees with ornaments depicting our hobbies and memorializing our deceased loved ones.  Some of us use garland, others use ribbons, some tinsel, and others pinecones.  Trees run the gamut from truly country-style to high-end upscale fashion.

Yes, Christmas trees are a personal expression of ourselves.  For us, our tree this year is one with multi-colored lights (I generally prefer clear, but am outnumbered by 3!) and decorations of all kinds.  There are the beautiful ones my Mom bought for my sister and I a couple of years ago.  There are ones the girls have made with no help from anyone.  A few were purchased at the girls’ first or second Christmases.  One is a photo ornament of my late father-in-law given to us by my sister-in-law last year.  Perhaps the most sentimental to me are the ones that John has chosen for the girls each year.  It is a special gift from him each year to his girls, and they all look forward to the tradition.  There are puffs of white tulle in various places on the tree (my attempt at simulating “snow” – actually very cute!), wonderful large ribbons of varying colors and types of ribbon – all made from bows received on ornately-wrapped gifts in the past.  Tucked in the tree in a few cozy spots are small teddy bears – remnants from a set of 12 we bought for Alexis when she was a toddler.  She insisted on using the red beaded garland, so that encircles the tree, as well as a 4′ length of cranberry garland she made this year.  With the exception of ONE – every ornament we have, I believe, is on the tree this year!  And, to top it off, they are all on the front 2/3 of the tree!  LOL….When I asked the girls if I could move a few to the back and rearrange a little – they both said, “NO!”  So, the tree remains a little “front heavy.”  Hopefully it will stand straight until Christmas!

The night our tree goes up, I always like to stay up after everyone goes to bed with the lights out and only the tree lit.  It somehow really helps to put me in the Christmas spirit.  This year was no different, and while I sat, God gave me this thought:

We (God’s children) are like Christmas trees. 

How?  Easy.  We are all different.  No two of us are exactly alike – we all come with different experiences (ornaments) and backgrounds (the tree itself).  The tree itself represents the whole of our lives, and the lights reveal His presence.  Like our individual Christmas trees are to us, we are all very special to Him, indeed. 

He sees the absolute beauty in each ornament as it adds something unique to our lives that no one else has.  He put it there!  The ornaments of our lives are used by the Lord to shape our hearts and bring us closer to Him, while showing an outward sign of what He has done for us, and can do for others.  The ornaments are one way for us to show the love of Christ.

He is the Light that illuminates our trees and shines so that the holes where ornaments are missing, or broken ornaments are placed, can be seen.  Clear or multi, the lights reveal empty spaces and magnify mistakes.  The Light of Christ reveals unrepented sin, and therefore, the lights are the most important of all the elements.

The tree itself was grown and handpicked specifically for us – God knew the exact tree:  shape, size, type, flocked or not – and He knows why that tree was chosen.  Sometimes we are disappointed in His choice of trees, but we shouldn’t be – #1 – we can’t change it.  Our past is our past and our background is what made us who we are today.  And #2, God has reasons far beyond our comprehension for choosing the background we have had.  He can and does use any circumstance for good, and for His purposes.

So, you see, your Christmas tree can remind you of more than the birth of Christ this year, although I am in no way taking that away.  I merely want to add that your Christmas tree can remind you, if you allow God to use it that way, of what He has brought you in your life.  Of what He has brought you out of in your life.  And when you look at the top of the tree – the star, the angel – let that be a reminder to know where He is taking you in your life.

I hope that after reading this, you look at your Christmas tree a little differently.  And I hope that you spend a little time in the Light of your tree, looking to the One who decorated it so beautifully.

Merry Christmas everyone.

The Christmas Gift

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I wrote this originally in my personal journal (don’t you feel like a special friend, now?) as a Valentines poem. But I have been wanting to share it with you.  I changed a few words so it pertains to Christmas…hope you like it…let me know.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 The Christmas Gift

Lord, I have forgotten Your ways

I haven’t read Your Word in too many days

I have missed the mark time and time again

Who am I to say that You are my friend?

 

But, Lord, in Your grace I want to grow

And I’ll need Your help, this I know.

To find my way back to Your Throne

This is a journey I can’t make alone.

 

Lord, I have called upon You only when in trouble

Perhaps that is why lately, all I do is stumble.

I’ve cursed and I’ve cried, I’ve felt I could die

But, Lord, You never left. You were always at my side.

 

You’ve never forsaken me, you’ve always been there

In the morning, at night, and when I say the occasional prayer.

You’re there when I sleep and there when I cry

You’re there when I slip, though I sometimes wonder why.

 

I wonder how a Lord so sovereign and good

Can still love a sinner like me – I’m not so sure I could.

But You do Lord, and I’m blessed

For of every gift in life, Jesus is the best.

 

So, Lord, this Christmas Day, I want to tell You

That whatever it takes, that’s what I’ll do

I’‘ll do what’s needed to get back that fire.

Lord, I just ask You to teach me to desire

 

The things that are good, righteous, and just

And to never lose faith in Your love, but to trust.

To trust in Your provision, Your love, and Your promise

For You o Lord, cannot be dishonest.

 

Lord, You have my heart from now until forever

I will love You Lord, and not lose faith, no never.

So, Lord, be with me as on this new journey I start

And Lord, please accept this Christmas gift – my heart.

Love letters

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Imagine this scenario:

You pick up your mail, like usual. As you sift through the endless amount of bills, credit card offers, sales flyers and more junk mail, you see a long white envelope with an actual stamp on it. You pull it from the stack and realize it is a letter from a dear friend you haven’t heard from in years! You pull into the driveway and read the letter before you even put the car in park!

Or, how about this one:

Ladies, you’re being courted (or dating as is said now, though the two are not interchangeable), and your betrothed presents you with a handwritten letter. The letter tells you about the way his life was before you met. It tells you about how great of a love he has for you and talks of future plans and dreams. And deep within, in the middle of the letter, is a wonderful surprise – a marriage proposal. This is definitely a letter you will read again just before you walk down the aisle. In short, it is a letter you will read over and over again, breathing in each and every word as if your very life depended on it.

Try this one:

You receive a poetic love letter from your spouse. The letter is very long, and handwritten, with all types of prose. It begins with the story of your lives together. It tells of the good times, and the bad. There are pages that talk of nothing but hardship, and other pages that are full of blessed memories. There are poems and beautiful language. You read this letter everyday, especially since your spouse is now deceased. You treasure every single word, and you can almost say the entire thing by heart. It is, by far, your most valued possession.

Now, imagine this one:

Imagine getting any of those letters, and only taking it out once a week to read one or two sentences. Imagine only reading the parts that are happy, and not ever bothering with the parts that are hard to understand.

Instead of reading it all, you pick out little bits of information here and there, but you miss the big picture since you never read the whole thing. But, after all, you don’t have time to sit and read the whole thing. Dishes must be washed, laundry folded, errands run, and emails to check. So you miss out on the wonderful words and sweet poetry your friend or loved one put together, specifically for you.

Are you wondering where I’m going with this? It’s been said that the Bible is God’s love letter to us. And it struck me tonight that if it is indeed a love letter – or a letter at all – we have ignored it unopened on the desk corner for far too long. Unlike the long-lost friend’s letter, or the letter from our beloved husband or wife, we open it and read only a verse or two once a week. And we wonder in the meantime why there are days when we just don’t understand what’s going on. There are days when nothing makes sense, and when we ask God to explain it, we wonder why He doesn’t speak to us.

The truth is, He does speak to us still, and has given us something that the early church would have gladly died for – a book that contains His words and thoughts. We have in our hands something of such great value that people die for it everyday. And we leave ours all too often on a shelf or coffee table to gather dust.

Why don’t we give our Bible the same attention and care we give those love letters? After reading those love letters, we can quote so much of it word-for-word, and yet we have a hard time remembering much more than a few scriptures, and then may only know the jist of it. Knowing its address (the book: chapter and verse) is another thing.

So my challenge is this: treat your Bible and the word of God as 1000 times more important than any other love letter you could ever receive. Read it every single day. Read it all the way through (not all at once, of course!) – and then do it again. Carry it with you when you travel. When you feel worried, scared, happy, sad, or blessed, read it. Memorize it – hide its words in your heart.

Do that, and its guaranteed, when the hard times come, you’ll have a direct line to God – His written word. And you’ll have a much easier time of knowing how to handle everything that comes your way.

Spend time in His word today – and be blessed.

Written in Anger…

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I just finished listening to Adventures in Odyssey with my two girls. We listen every night, and it is a time that our whole family looks forward to. We watch the clock, and just before 6:30pm every weeknight, we turn on the radio (if it happens to be off!) and tune in to the show.

Odyssey is a radio program geared to kids, yet has lessons for all ages. Tonight’s episode was no different.

It was about a little girl and her family struggling to make friends, find jobs, and discover happiness in the Christmas season. The little girl’s father was in prison, and her mother was barely, if that, able to make ends meet. Connie, Whit, and Tom Riley pitched in using the Angel Tree and presented the family with gifts for each, plus something special from their father. Their father had been studying in Tom’s Bible Study group at the prison, and had become a believer. He wrote a stirring, heart-wrenching letter to his wife and children asking their forgiveness, and I must admit, I was in tears at the end of this “kids’ show.”

Now, I’m not writing about Adventures in Odyssey to offer a plug for the show (although, if you haven’t, I HIGHLY recommend you check it out), but rather to use as an introduction to this post. It deals with Christian generosity.

Bear with me for a minute or two, as it will seem as though I am getting off topic – I promise to come full circle.

How much money should a church keep? Enough to create a “cushion” for use in rough times? Or just enough to cover necessary expenses, then trust God to provide when rough times hit? Should there be 20 different funds within the church’s account to use for different things? Or should the money be available to use for those in need without concern over which fund it comes from? (And I’m not suggesting spending frivolously, either.) 

Now, I am ALL for budgets! I think if the companies we are spending billions on were running on a budget like mine (thanks, Lois!), we wouldn’t be spending billions…but that’s another topic. I think that churches should have a budget – something that tells what their monthly and yearly expenses are, and should plan accordingly. But, and here’s where most of your comments will come, I’m sure, I think the money received over and above that should be used to care for the needy in the church and in the community. I think the church’s job is ministry, and that if we sit on hundreds or thousands of dollars in the name of “creating a cushion” that we can’t do that.  I think that when a church is sitting on a “cushion” of thousands of dollars and a single mom calls asking for help with her electric bill, the answer should be a resounding, “YES!”  The answer should NOT be, “Well, I think we only have $50 in that fund.”

Now, what do I mean by caring for the needy? I mean, when there is a widow in need, we provide food, or pay her bills for a month, or help get her to a doctor appointment, buy her medication, help repair her car, help with medical bills, etc. For the children, we provide them with clothes, a Christmas or birthday gift, RELATIONSHIPS, school supplies, needed medical/dental work, etc. We take the man of the house on a job search and help him find and purchase a bicycle or car, if feasible, to get back and forth to that job. We make a monthly habit (or more) of holding a church soup kitchen – providing food, warmth, and a friendly face to the homeless and downtrodden of society.  (Remember, there but for the grace of God, go I.)

Guess what? In every one of these instances, we have the chance to show the love of Christ and present the gospel to them! Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. The least of these!!  And instead, we have become the church that turns its nose up when a beggar walks into our pristine chapel.

So, why then is it so hard for some people, who call themselves Christians, to give the money that is in God’s house anyway? Why is it so hard for us to give of our time, our services, ourselves? Aren’t we supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves? Do we despise ourselves so much that we would ask others to treat us as we do them? And, why on earth, when we behave so badly, do we wonder why so many claim they stay away from church, and many times Christianity completely, because the church is full of hypocrites? Are they really so wrong? All too often the answer is no. They’re entirely too right.

I apologize for sounding so angry….no, actually, I don’t apologize.  I’m not sorry for being angry, and I think its justified in this case. It makes me furious (not to mention shamed and embarrassed) when we preach generosity and love to all, then refuse to back it up with action and actual giving of our time, resources, and ourselves.

I’m going to close this post with this: I am not advocating that churches (or individuals) refuse responsibility for their financial obligations. But churches are not there to make a profit or have the biggest plasma TV money can buy or brand new hymnals because the ones we have are a little old and have yellowing pages. Make improvements where needed, keeping in mind that God has not blessed churches with that money to be able to buy a gold-plated collection plate to collect more money to hoard. And I think that if there is a choice between helping someone in need and buying new pew cushions, the choice should be obvious.

Still seething yet trying to give it up to God,

Toni