Christmas Tradition: Jesse's Branch

Have you noticed the trend to incorporate natural elements in interior decorating? Well, here's an advent idea that brings together creative design and spiritual truth. I love to use each tradition to instill biblical teaching into our children's minds and hearts. And they loved being a part of this one.

The boys and I went outside this morning to "find a really neat branch."

Then while they were napping, I decorated the branches with tags I had in a scrapbooking paper pad, having first written quotations from some of the following verses on them: Isaiah 4:2,3; 11:1,5-11; Jeremiah 23:1-5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12; Acts 13:22,23; Romans 15:12,13; Revelation 22:16. (You could use gift labels or even an address label template instead. Just holepunch in a corner. Tying pretty little ribbons through would be a nice touch depending on your style.)

Acts 13:23 (ESV) has to be one of my favorites: "Of this man [David]’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, JESUS, as He promised."

And Romans 15:8-13 (ESV), which I couldn't put all of on the tiny cards, but which I'll quote here:

8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy. As it is written,
"Therefore I will praise You among the Gentiles,
and sing to Your name."
10 And again it is said,
"Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people."
11And again,
"Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol Him."
12And again Isaiah says,
"The root of Jesse will come,
even He who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in Him will the Gentiles hope."

13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

I wrote out that thirteenth verse on the larger center card as my hope for all who may see our "Jesse's Branch."

Micah asked, "Mommy, can we keep our branch forever?" He's definitely my sentimental historian, my traditions man. Yes, I think this is a tradition we will definitely keep (even if our particular tree branch doesn't make it from year to year). Hope your families will enjoy this new tradition as well.

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving Tradition Revisited: Cranberry Salad

I still remember grinding cranberries and apples and oranges in an old-fashioned hand-grinder in preparation for Gramma's cranberry salad, a tradition most of our family members have maintained to the third and fourth generation. But I have to admit, I cheated this year. (Only sorta sorry, Gramma.) But it's faithful to the flavor and it's so much faster, which gives me a little extra time cuddling on the couch with the kiddos, tickling and sharing things we're thankful for. Okay, here goes:

Stir together...
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
2 heaping Tbsp orange marmalade
1 small Gala apple (peeled, cored, finely chopped)


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, dear ones. I am reminded this morning of Habakkuk 3:17-19--

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like the deer’s;
He makes me tread on my high places..." (ESV).

It feels like the constant refrain of society recently has been "economic recession," and yet as children of God, the physical trials are just one stanza of the song. Our chorus must remain "yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation." That's my challenge for myself today, to keep my focus on Him. I trust you'll have a wonderful Thanksgiving trusting in Him as well.

book review: Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome

A worthy read. So helpful. At points, I was so encouraged. At others, so humbled all I could do was pause from reading and pray. Kent & Barbara Hughes take you back to the Scriptures to define "success" the way God does. Very insightful exogesis, apt illustrations, transparent testimony, practical application--for all these reasons, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome is a must-read-and-re-read book for those in the ministry as well as a helpful tool for those who support those in the ministry. Ladies, the chapter on "How the Pastor's Wife Can Help" is a great reminder no matter what your husband's main role is. I'm recommending this as a "Sell!" to our Campus Store and a "You've Gotta Read This" to the rest of you. Enjoy!! And may the Lord use it in your heart as He did in mine! With love, michelle

Jeremiah: Prophet of the Heart

Why is Jeremiah always referred to as the "weeping prophet"? I know he wrote Lamentations, but in reading the prophecies God spoke to and through Jeremiah in the book named after him, I am convinced a better nickname would be the "prophet of the heart."

Next time you read through the book of Jeremiah, circle the word heart. You'll see an incredible emphasis--a revelation of God's heart, a transparent heart on the part of Jeremiah, and a concern for the heart of the people God and Jeremiah are addressing.

As I was talking about this idea with my husband who is currently studying Hebrew and has been working on a sermon about Jeremiah using the original language, it was fascinating to me that his conclusion was the same.

This realization has made this Old Testament prophetic book so precious to my heart, so real for my faith in this God Whose emphasis is the heart and Who takes the time to communicate from His heart to His people's hearts.

Thank You, LORD!

book review: Orange Pear Apple Bear

Micah was so excited with this recent library find. Author Emily Gravett arranges and rearranges the four title words "Orange Pear Apple Bear" to create clever thought images. Her watercolor illustrations throughout are simply delightful. Ending with a final "There," the entire book is accomplished with just five words. "Orange Pear Apple Bear" is sure to give young readers the encouraging experience of success: "I read the whole thing by myself, Mommy!" Now that's something to celebrate! Thanks, Emily! Hope y'all enjoy!

So what's next... CHANGE?

Yes, and no. Obviously, certain things--even major things--will undoubtedly change as our country progresses toward liberalism, but One will NOT change: Our God is still on the throne. He rules over Heaven and Earth. Our hope is not in a man. It never has been. Our Hope is in GOD alone. I've been repeatedly reminded of this Truth as I've been reading through Jeremiah recently. Jeremiah was a prophet who lived in times not unlike our own. The people embraced iniquity.

They exalted idols, and (allow me take a little tangent here) though "all our gods have been domesticated, tame" (to quote a song we sing at church), the "idols" are still "like scarecrows in a cucumber field" (Jeremiah 10:5, esv). I read that the other night and thought Cool phrase! (Sorry, that's the writer in me) and then as I thought about it more, I thought, What use is a scarecrow in a cucumber patch. It's not the crows that are the threat. It's the little bugs on the ground that march unaffected by some stuffed fleece and straw hat, and it's the immense heat of the sun. Our "idols" can do nothing to ward off those things that threaten our growth. But God can.

And back to that, "The LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the Everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation" (Jeremiah 10:10, esv). "O LORD our God... We set our hope on You for You do all these things!" (Jeremiah 14:22, esv).

So, no matter what "change" we see take place in America over the next four years, keep always in mind that God is still on the throne. Sometimes He gives people what they beg for and sends leanness to their souls. America needs change, that's for sure. But what we need is a revival. Let's guard our hearts and be ever diligent in our fight for Truth, always keeping our hope firmly set on the Everlasting King.

When I Consider How My Light Is Spent...

When I Consider How My Light Is Spent
by John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, "God doth not need
Either man's work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait."

Am I so busy speeding about doing this and that that I neglect the other more important form of service, waiting on the Lord? This poem reminds me of Mary and Martha. My prayer this week is that the Lord would allow me to faithfully wait before His throne, to sit patiently beneath His feet and learn from His Word that Truth that I need, and then and only then to rise again and do His bidding when He sends me thence. LORD, renew my strength as I keep silence before You. Amen.