“O HOLY NIGHT” written by Placide Cappeau; composed by Adolphe Charles Adams

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Have you ever thought “God won’t use me because I’m nothing special?” I have, and I think most humans with a faith in God have thought and felt that! I’ll come back to this…

This season can bring me blues, but I love Christmas time! My parents and one of my siblings are no longer on earth. Those siblings who are on earth live far away from me in opposite directions! Being the last of eight children, I was accustomed to large holiday gatherings (not just at Christmas). At Christmas, Mom would make tons of treats: divinity, fudge, frosted cookies, gingerbread men. You get the idea. Then, on Christmas Eve around 9 p.m., we would gather in the living room. Dad would read about the birth of Christ from one of the Gospels. We would sing songs like “Away in a Manager” and “Silent Night”.  After this devotional time, we would munch on goodies and open our gifts. That was our family tradition.

As my family changes, tradition changes too. As I struggle with conflicted emotion over adult children and lost family, I desire God’s peace and joy daily.  And, I wonder how God can use me in this season? I am an average person. Does God use the average?

Let’s look at the history of the  song: “O Holy Night”.

Placide Cappeau was born in France 1808. Around age 8, he had a hand amputated. I am sure the other kids called him names and ostracized him. He grew up in spite of that hardship. He became a merchant of wine and spirits.  He was known for his poetry, not his church attendance, although he did attend church irregularly. In 1847, the parish priest asked Placide to write a poem for Christmas mass. He agreed and using Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth he wrote “Cantique de Noel”.  Placide felt it would make a wonderful song. So, he approached his friend (and well-known composer) Adolphe Charles  Adams to compose the music. Adolphe didn’t celebrate Christmas or Jesus as Messiah. But he accepted and three weeks later, at Christmas Eve mass, the song was performed. Knowing how popular the song is now, it is easy to imagine how well-received it was by the church. It became a staple of Catholic Christmas masses.

Then, two things happen: Placide left the church to become part of the socialist movement; and church leaders found out that Adophe was Jewish! Although the song was still popular, the Catholic Church decided not to sing it anymore.

Fast forward ten years: American Abolitionist John Sullivan Dwight made a personal connection with the lyrics. He translated it into English: “truly He taught us to love one another, His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall break free for the slave is our brother and in His Name all oppression shall cease”. The song was embraced by Americans, especially The North during the Civil War.

You might think that’s three ordinary people that God used to bring a beautiful song into so many lives; THE END. Wrong! A violin-playing chemist and professor, Reginald Fessenden, designed a more efficient way to broadcast using radio waves. On December 24, 1906, he played “O Holy Night” on his violin during a radio broadcast for many to hear.

Now to recap: a purveyor of wine and spirits, a Jewish man, and a chemist-professor (no this isn’t a poorly written joke) were used by God to bring the story of Jesus’ birth to millions of people! Sometimes I need the iron skillet to the head for something to sink into my brain. God will use anyone who is obedient! I want to be obedient! Do you?

As you ponder that this Christmas season, ask God to reveal how He is using you – an ordinary person!

God’s blessing and peace to you and  your family!

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My confession – I am stubborn! (don’t tell my husband!)

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I am stubborn. (Some of you are going “duh!”) Often, I think of how stubborn the Israelites were: they didn’t want to leave Egypt (even though slaves – they were in a comfort zone), they didn’t want to trust God would provide food, shelter, land, etc. They wanted to do things their own way. When reading the stories of their travels and trials, I think to myself “they just wouldn’t learn! Time and time again, they wouldn’t trust God.” Then, a gentle voice whispers, “look at your own stubbornness.” I think I am at least as stubborn as they were.

Things I have in common with the Israelites:

  • I like my comfort zone – the Israelites knew what to expect in Egypt, not necessarily comfort, but a certainty of food and shelter.

  • I want things in my time and my way – the Israelites wanted food and water when they first felt hunger and thirst, not waiting for God’s timing. Lack of trusting that God won’t let me down.

  • I fool myself into thinking my ways work, when they don’t. The Israelites created a false god. That certainly didn’t work out well!

  • I give everything to God, but keep holding on with one hand. The Israelites kept after Aaron (in Moses’ absence) for the back-up plan.

 I’m not a good passenger. I like the control of being the driver. I know when I will brake and turn and accelerate.  As a passenger, I am left guessing. In case you didn’t notice, it’s all about “me”! “I” this, “I” that. That’s part of my stubbornness: I want to be in the center of everything and the one in control.  Even though God’s ways are higher, I still take over; sometimes I don’t’ even realize I have!

All that being said, I WANT God to be my pilot! Not the co-pilot or navigator! In the perspective of a parent to an adult child, I can see how God knows things I am unable to see. I watch my adult children and want to advise them and help them avoid the pitfalls. But it has to be their choice, not my choice. That’s how God is with us. He is Abba Father. We have free will. We must willing hold on to Him as He is holding us!

Romans 2:4, “God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.” (MSG)

John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (ESV)

 

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Obedience: An angel in disguise?

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2

The other morning, I stopped at my regular Starbucks for my morning coffee. I have frequented this coffee shop on a regular basis since it opened more than five years ago. For the first time, I saw someone was washing the glass storefront. This young woman was diligently working, checking her work and moving on to the next pane. God whispered to me “give her a bottle of water”.  It seemed silly since she could ask for ice water inside and get it for free. Thankfully, I was obedient. I ordered my coffee and purchased the water.  I took the water outside to the woman and gave it to her. She turned to me with the most beautiful smile! and said “thank you”. Her smile is etched in my memory. Who is the angel here? I cannot say if I was her angel or if she was mine that morning. Is it always as simple as a bottle of water? It can be… I.E. moving a shopping cart, letting a car into your lane, helping someone with car trouble. Or, it may require more of your time and money… I.E. buying groceries for a homebound neighbor, visiting the hospital (does anyone like the hospital?), driving someone to an appointment completely out of the way. I can make it complicated. I am not always obedient. It is NOT about me, but I make it about me. It is about obedience to God’s nudging. So, try it today. Take notice of God’s nudging and be obedient. You may be someone’s angel!

 

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25:40

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The Answer is…

Keep your eyes on Jesus!

The question? In last week’s post, you will find it. The world can be distracting and I take my eyes off Jesus letting the circumstances around me dominate my mind.

Matthew 14:28-31

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

 Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand.

Peter was distracted by the wind and waves. He took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. So many questions have the same answer: Jesus! It seems quite simple, but my earthly flesh rebels. I intend to read His word every day. Then, I oversleep, the dog gets sick, or some other bump in life misdirects me. It seems that’s the first thing dumped off the “TO DO” list. I have told myself, “I will read this afternoon,” and when afternoon arrives there are other bumps in my road. I have put Bible apps on my phone and tablet. Now I can read on my break time. Or just make time wherever I happen to be. I have to choose to do it, to focus on Jesus.

Luke 9:23 

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

The key is to follow Jesus DAILY- 24/7/365. I am still a work in-progress, diamond-in-the-rough. God has redeemed me and given me grace which is all-sufficient! Hallelujah! I hope some of you can relate to this…

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People Watching

Is it really innocent entertainment? Or is it me passing judgment?
It happens nearly everywhere I go: grocery store, airport, gym, coffee shop…
When I people watch, I find myself comparing how: HER body is solid, her face is flawless, her fashion flatters her, and her hair is perfect. Better than mine. Perfect, if only in my eyes at that moment. Herein lays the Perfection Trap. I want perfection: 30 pounds lighter with those flat, solid abs; hair that stays in the right place despite Houston humidity; white teeth. If I were perfect, my clothes would ALL fit (comfortably, that is), I wouldn’t be so self-conscious…seemingly perfect. I’m pretty sure I heard someone say “RIIIIIGHHHHT!” My brain knows that’s not how it works. But I judge myself harshly anyway. I have fallen into the media’s trap of the ideal, beautiful woman, again and again.
God has designed me the way I am. Yes, I can take care of the body I am given. But I don’t have to hit an extreme to keep it functioning well. The Perfection Trap goes around and around like my dog chasing his tail. Francesca Battistelli song states “perfection is my enemy” and it is true. How can I get rid of the world image stuck in my head and replace it with how God sees me? He specially formed me.
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 138:13
Beauty from the inside out.
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
 

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Other times when I people watch, I find fault in the parents of misbehaving children. I call this the Parent Trap.                                                                                                               images

It’s easy for me to think, “My child would NEVER behave like that, especially in public.” Of course, those of you who know my children realize that they are PERFECT!! Again, I am hearing someone say “RIIIIIGHHHHT!” (My daughters are wonderful women, but not perfect.) Or the ever popular “I would NEVER let my child do that!” Somehow, I manage to judge myself better than those parents! Oh wait…am I the same woman who can’t measure up to worldly beauty? I am asking myself. How can I have such diametrically opposed reactions? I am far from a perfect parent. I have not walked in another parent’s shoes. I have no right to condemn them based on a 5 minute glimpse or the entire picture of their life. Yet I do! My flesh gets the best of me! Even Paul had this trouble:
“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” Romans 7:18-19
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

 
Father, I ask for Your vision for myself and for others. May I have Your eyes to see beyond what seems obvious. May I have Your grace for others and for myself. And, when needed, keep one hand on my shoulder and the other over my mouth!
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“What’s Wrong with Me?”

“What’s wrong with me?” that voice in my head says again. Often, God’s gentle prodding replaces it. But, sometimes when the voice playing in my head like a broken recording, repeating over and over again, I get tired of hearing it. So often replayed, that I begin to believe there is something wrong with me. That’s when the downward spiral begins. I might not sense it at first, but the voice wants me to drown in self-doubt, depression, anxiety, fear and even guilt. This voice is not God or from Him. It doesn’t affirm as Abba Father would. I must send it away, turn it out into the street to look for another dwelling place. There is NOTHING wrong with me. I am redeemed by grace. Made in Father God’s image. A child of the King! I begin searching His word for instruction…peace…silencing the voice. God is there in His word. It is waiting for my attention. HE is waiting for my attention. How easily distracted I am by life – to the point of not paying attention to His word. His word: instruction manual, a light for my path, everything I need to survive!
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Psalm 55:22 Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never permit the righteous to be moved!
James 4:7 Therefore, submit to God; resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you for you are NOT under the law, but under grace.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled or afraid.

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God’s promises are true…

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I recently returned from South Africa. My last photo there is looking out at a double rainbow at Cape Town airport. Many times during the visit, I realized God is wherever I am in the world. He was there before I arrived. He’ll be there after I depart. He promises to be by my side always. Personally, I try not to use “always” and “never” unless I am absolutely – 100% – certain. God uses “always” and means 100%. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone wanting to be with me 24/7/365, let alone forever! God is faithful and wants to be with me ALWAYS! Amazing grace how sweet it is!

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