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Category Archives: Holiday Traditions

The Sparkle Box

sparkle box picWith the busyness of the Christmas season, I was determined to read The Sparkle Box book to two of our grandchildren last night. I’ve read it to all our grands the past few years and each time it helps me to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas—the birth of Christ and sharing the love of Jesus with others.

The story depicts a little boy, Sam, who anxiously wants to open the sparkle box that sits on the fireplace mantle. His mother tells him that they must first fill the box up before opening it on Christmas day.

Unknowingly to Sam, his mom begins writing down acts of love their family offers throughout the Christmas season and puts the slips of paper into the sparkle box. There are several, but not to give the whole story away, here’s the one that touches my heart (and the heart of our grandchildren) the most.

“Mittens and candy bar given to a man in need.”

While driving back home from dropping off some blankets and other items at the homeless shelter, Sam noticed a man curled up and lying on a park bench. Sam’s mom said, “That’s someone who might get one of our blankets.” A few days later, while shopping with his mother, Sam bought some mittens for the “mitten tree” at his school and a candy bar for himself. But as they were leaving the store, the man they had seen lying on the park bench entered the store. Immediately drawn to the tired-looking man, Sam ran by him sticking the gloves and the candy bar into the man’s hands as he and his mom left the store.

To read The Sparkle book online, you may go to this website https://www.thesparklebox.com/ It is free to read through December 31. 2018.

After finishing the book, our grandkids said that they would like to go by and visit their friends at the nursing care facility and take them some Christmas gifts. Emy recalled that her friend enjoys ceramics, so she said she’d like to buy her a paint set. And Max said he’d like to take his friend some sugar packets because his friend loves lots of sugar in his coffee.

lights shine brightOur grandchildren’s ministry, Lights Shine Bright, makes routine visits to a local nursing care facility. Each grandchild has been assigned a special friend who doesn’t receive many visitors. They (Lights Shine Bright) will present the Tale of Three Trees at the nursing care facility during the Christmas season.

I am thankful for the time God gifts to me, to intentionally spend time with our grandchildren, as we live out a love for Jesus and others.

Reading books to children and grandchildren can be a cherished memory. Our daughter started a Christmas tradition of reading 25 Christmas books with her children throughout the Advent season. One-a-day!

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2018 2: 01 pm - in Holiday Traditions

 

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Your Life Has Purpose

max-jack-muddy

Max and Jack

 

I received an early Christmas gift from our five-year-old grandson Max. Though he didn’t realize it at the time, his gift will never wear out or lose its value.

Intentionally nurturing our grandchildren’s faith in Christ is my greatest passion and joy. That’s why this exceptional gift from Max blessed me so deeply.

After reading Advent stories and making a craft, I set my grandkids in front of our television to watch the Christmas DVD, The Crippled Lamb (by Max Lucado). The older children fondly remembered the story from past Christmases and our grandson Jack proudly announced he’d read the book the night before.

As my daughter and I warmed ourselves under blankets, we observed the children’s attentiveness to the story.

crippledlambAt the conclusion, I seized the opportunity to discuss the movie’s theme. I told my grandchildren that God has purpose for everyone’s life, including people with disabilities. Initially, the crippled lamb felt useless and left out. Then on the night of Christ’s birth, the little lamb realized his purpose as he laid next to baby Jesus, warming the Savior of the world’s tiny frail body.

During our conversation, Max stated, “Yes, just like Leo who can’t hear.” Leo is our ten-year-old neighbor who was born deaf. I said, “Exactly, God has a purpose for Leo’s life just like He does for everyone.” Then Max pronounced, “I think we need to all make a circle, hold hands, and pray!” So we did, but before I had time to ask Max what he wanted to pray about, he simply spoke to God, asking him to heal Leo “so she could hear better.”

The gift Max gave to me was one of eternal value. One that came wrapped with love, compassion, and sincerity.

 Scripture says:

15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:15-17)

Dear Heavenly Father, please keep our hearts tender toward the Gift of your Son, Jesus, at Christmas and each day throughout the year.

Be sure to keep watch for the everlasting gifts of Christmas.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)

The early Christmas gift from Max will remain in my heart forever.

This Christmas, may you know that your life has purpose, and is of great value, just because…

God created you…to have fellowship with Him and to share in His love through Christ with others. (Genesis 1:27, 1 John 1:3)

Our ultimate purpose is to give our Creator all the glory that is due Him. Like the little crippled lamb in the story, we may feel useless and left out from time to time, but please remember, God does have a plan and purpose for everyone, including you.

God’s plan is for everyone to receive salvation (from and sin and death) through His Son. If you have never accepted Jesus as your personal Savior, please take this moment to consider praying right now and asking Jesus to come into your heart.

The Bible clearly states that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). And the Bible also tells us, God provided a way for us to have our sins forgiven and to restore our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Salvation is a free (but costly) gift offered to all who will receive it. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Receive the greatest gift this Christmas, the gift of eternal life.

Pray to receive Jesus as your personal Savior: (Pray in your own words and from the sincerity of your heart.) The simplest prayer (like my grandson Max’s) will be heard and answered by the Creator of the World.

Dear Jesus,

I’ve tried to live my life without you, but this has left me feeling empty, lonely, and sad. I know that my sins have separated me from you. Please, God, forgive me for living a life of pride. I have committed many sins against you, and I have also hurt others. I am so sorry, God.

I now want to ask Jesus into my heart, so I can live for you, God, and spend eternity with you and all my loved ones who put their trust in you.

I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that He was raised on the third day from the grave, and is now in Heaven preparing a place for me.

So, dear Jesus, please come into my heart and give me new life.

Thank you, Father, for loving me and giving me purpose. With the help of Your Holy Spirit, I will do my best to live a life that honors and pleases you.

The Bible says: “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

 The Bible also says: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Wow! You are now a new person in Christ, and that means you are a child of God.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13).

To help you grow in your new faith in Christ, I encourage you to locate and start attending a good Bible-teaching/preaching church. I recommend checking out The Church of the Nazarene. There are other good churches as well; I only recommend the Nazarene Church because I’ve been a member of the Church of the Nazarene since 1985 and have grown deeper in love with Jesus through the teachings of the Bible through the Nazarene Church.

I also encourage you to begin reading the Bible, starting with the Gospel of John.

Other Recommended Reading:

The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren

The Crippled Lamb DVD & Book, Max Lucado

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2016 12: 03 pm - in Christmas, Eternal Life, Faith in Jesus

 

Joy in Death?

God’s Word…Life and Truth

A Merry Christmas

A Christmas card from a long-ago neighbor arrived with sad news.

Her beloved husband of fifty-seven years went home to be with Jesus.

Our family lived next to Bud and Iris for ten years.

Bud was kind and friendly to everyone, including our rambunctious children.

I think it appropriate, learning of Bud’s passing through a Christmas card.

He and his sweet wife know Jesus as their personal Savior.

There is joy in death, when we know our loved one is in the loving arms of Jesus.

May the Psalms draw you near to God.

“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).

 

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2015 2: 46 pm - in Christmas

 

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Who is the King of Glory?

12919-Jesus_Hands_Resurrected_400w_tn“1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him. For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas and built it on the ocean depths.

Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?  Who may stand in his holy place? Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence, O God of Jacob.

Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord, invincible in battle. Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter. 10 Who is the King of glory? The Lord of Heaven’s Armies—he is the King of glory” (Psalm 24 – NLT).

As I shop for just the right gifts for our family, as I lay awake pondering on all the activities of the season, as I decorate our home, as I recall loved ones who have passed,…there’s a longing in my heart to simply be with Jesus. Do I give the King of glory full entrance into the innermost and uppermost place in my soul? In all the “pomp of external ceremonies,” is there room for Jesus?

Matthew Henry Commentary

This psalm is concerning the kingdom of Jesus Christ, I. His providential kingdom, by which he rules the world (v. 1, v. 2). II. The kingdom of his grace, by which he rules in his church. 1. Concerning the subjects of that kingdom; their character (v. 4, v. 6), their charter (v. 5). Concerning the King of that kingdom; and a summons to all to give him admission (v. 7-10). It is supposed that the psalm was penned upon occasion of David’s bringing up the ark to the place prepared for it, and that the intention of it was to lead the people above the pomp of external ceremonies to a holy life and faith in Christ, of whom the ark was a type. A psalm of David.

Who is the King of glory? (Matthew Henry Commentary)

He is Jehovah, and will be Jehovah our righteousness, an all-sufficient Saviour to us, if we give him entrance and entertainment. He is strong and mighty, and the Lord of hosts; and therefore it is at our peril if we deny him entrance; for he is able to avenge the affront; he can force his way, and can break those in pieces with his iron rod that will not submit to his golden sceptre. In singing this let our hearts cheerfully answer to this call, as it is in the first words of the next psalm, Unto thee, O Lord! do I lift up my soul.

May we simply be with the King of glory this Christmas season.

 

 

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 11: 32 am - in Christmas

 

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God’s Word…Life and Truth – “No Complaining” Thanksgiving Challenge

gas sign

On my commute to work this morning, $1.88 per gallon caught my eye.

Rarely pumping my own gas, I don’t take too much notice of gas prices.

I do recall, however, complaining about the nearing $4.00 per gallon.

So, I am thankful for lower gas prices

and a thoughtful husband who fills up my gas tank. smiley 2

I’d like to propose a “No Complaining” challenge this Thanksgiving.

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s more common to complain about something/anything, than it is to be grateful.

If you’re up for it, “like” on Facebook for “No Complaining” Thanksgiving challenge.

Facebook friends: May the Psalms draw you near to God.

Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him. For the Lord is a great God, a great King above all gods. He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains. The sea belongs to him, for he made it. His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,  or he is our God. We are the people he watches over, the flock under his care.

If only you would listen to his voice today! The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness. For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ 11 So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest’” (Psalm 95 NLT).

 

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2015 10: 37 am - in Holiday Traditions

 

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God’s Word…Life and Truth

Do you know that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday?

Lord, out of the mouth of children___This week I asked my grandchildren what they wanted for Christmas. Before they had time to answer, Max, our 4-year-old grandson, looked up at me and said, “Do you know that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday?” Touching my heart deeply, I responded, “Yes.” Then I asked Max what kind of gift(s) he would like to give Jesus. He instantly replied, “A heart box.” I said, “Oh that sounds very nice; I think Jesus will like that.” Pausing for a moment, Max continued, “How do we get our gifts to Jesus?” “And does Jesus have a cell phone?”

I believe Max’s question requires some introspection.

As we busy ourselves with gift-buying and endless holiday gatherings, let’s remember to intentionally celebrate the birth of our dear Savior, Jesus.

Max’s Heart Box for Jesus

Nana’s Instructions

Help children make a Heart Box. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, fill the box with special “gifts” for Jesus. Place the box under the tree and open on Christmas morning. Family members take turns reading or sharing the gifts given to Jesus.

Suggested prayer: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to our world. These gifts are for You, in honor of Your Birthday. For You taught us, whatever we do for those in need, we do for You.

For similar ideas, see the “Sparkle Box” story at: http://www.thesparklebox.com/

Gift Ideas for Jesus:

  • Showing love to others.

  • Sharing.

  • Obeying parents. (Picking up toys, not fighting with siblings, etc.)

  • Helping others in need. (Purchase a gift for a needy child.)

  • Give canned goods to a local homeless shelter. / Serve at a homeless shelter.

  • Donate new or gently used toys to the Salvation Army, etc. / Volunteer ringing bells for S.A.

  • Pray for the special needs of others.

  • Visit a nursing home or shut-ins, taking homemade cookies.

  • Tangible items (Younger children: rocks, colored pictures, birthday cards, etc.)

  • Make a card for Sunday school/school teachers, etc.

  • Be creative! And let your child come up with his/her own gift ideas.

Store the heart box in a handy place, so that you can get it out every Thanksgiving.

HEART BOX FOR JESUS

Materials Needed:
Wood box with latch (Michael’s or Hobby Lobby), or make own.
Wooden heart
Paint (Various colors, including red for heart.)
Picture of child
Shellac or Mod Podge
Glue
Typed label or handwritten (FOR JESUS) under the heart.

 – Paint the wooden hearts and the wood boxes.  Let dry.

– May choose to decorate boxes with markers, etc.

– Glue picture of child on hearts.

– Shellac (Mod Podge) pictures / and if desired, the entire box. Let dry.

May the Psalms draw you near to God.

“LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants…” (Psalm 8:1-2 NIV).

 

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God’s Word…Life and Truth — Give Thanks

Give Thanks

 “Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 106:1).

Thanksgiving is a time to remember all the blessings in our lives.

Let’s begin now…and continue all year long.

Our daughter started a new Thanksgiving tradition last year. Their family makes a Thankful Tree. The children find a tree branch and place it in a homemade container and then cut out leaves made from construction paper. Each day the children and their parents write something they want to thank God for on a leaf and then hang the leaves on the tree branch.  — Adapted from Changing Seasons In Me, article originally written Nov. 13, 2014.

 

Jack and Julia

I’m not fond of the winter months. In fact, my wardrobe is indicative of this, having many more summer clothes than winter. My hands shiver when walking down the freezer aisle at the grocery store…in the summer!

A thankful spirit often requires a different or new perspective on life’s familiarities. Otherwise, we may find ourselves taking for granted the blessings right in front of us…our family, the changing colors of autumn, a red bird perched on a snow-covered branch, and so on. While driving home from work the other day, my husband called and told me to look outside at the beautiful sunset. I ran out on our deck, only to be disappointed I had missed the window of opportunity.

To keep our children from missing the windows of opportunity, we (parents and grandparents) have the awesome responsibility to train our children to have watchful eyes, for the many blessings we receive each day. This takes intentionality! Children and adults not fully surrendered to Christ, are naturally self-absorbed and can easily miss the joy God intends. Looking at the world through eternal lenses portrays true and lasting blessings. The following story depicts two diverse perspectives from ten men who received the same blessing.

Jesus Heals Ten Men with Leprosy – Luke 17:11-19

11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[b] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

After reading and contemplating the two varying responses to the lepers’ healing, ask yourself how you may have responded? Would it be more like the nine, or the one?  I’d like to propose two diverse perspectives—the temporal and the eternal.

The temporal perspective:

“The nine” cleansed lepers missed their window of opportunity to receive an even greater blessing, far beyond their physical healing. Here are a few possible reasons “the nine” didn’t go back to thank Jesus.

  • Being in isolation for so long, their minds were solely focused on returning to their former lifestyle.

  • They may have thought Jesus was simply doing what He was “supposed” to do…heal people. Therefore, they took their healing for granted.

  • Some may have said something like, “I’m sure God wants me to get busy fulfilling the plans He purposed for my life.”

The eternal perspective:

“The one” leper who came back to thank Jesus not only recognized the miraculous healing in his life, he experienced the greater blessing—the presence of a loving and merciful Savior. His perspective was filled with overflowing gratefulness, a direct result of being Christ-focused rather than self-absorbed.

The following quotes are from the book, Love Made Perfect—Foundations for the Holy Life (1997), authored by Dr. William M. Greathouse (April 29, 1919 – March 24, 2011), minister and emeritus general superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.

“Self-love is the disease of original sin.”  “Idolatrous self-love is our sickness, but it is a sickness God wants to cure.”

To help our children develop a grateful heart like the “one leper,” I believe we must first explain that everyone is born with a sinful nature. The sinful nature will naturally dispose every human heart toward being self-absorbed. The only cure for a self-absorbed life is full surrender to Christ. I recommend reading Dr. Greathouse’s book, Love Made Perfect, for a fuller understanding of loving God with one’s whole heart, strength, and mind—a love perfected in us through Christ alone.

Secondly, we need to stop and “smell the roses.” I love this definition for the idiom “smell the roses.”

To take time out of one’s busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life.

Parent Challenge

Take time to thank God throughout your day. Don’t let the busyness of your schedule or life’s distractions keep you from missing out on the blessings of life. Begin by thanking God for your precious children, spouse, friends, church family, co-workers, neighbors, etc. Practice pointing out the blessings of life to your children, as you drive along the road. The changing seasons exude with God’s blessings.

My new perspective of winter:  I love sitting by a fire on a cold wintry day with my husband. Building snowmen with our grandchildren imparts cherished memories of innocent smiles and silly giggles into my heart. Christmas brings the greatest blessing of all, as our family gathers together to sing happy birthday to Jesus. God warms my heart throughout the winter.

More Traditions

Thanksgiving tablecloth. Using the same tablecloth every year, each family member writes what they are thankful for on the tablecloth. The little ones love to make turkeys as they trace around their hands. Use permanent fabric markers or pens.

Indian Corn: Our grandchildren help me place several kernels of Indian corn by each table setting. Before eating our meal everyone shares something they are thankful for and then they place a kernel of corn into a decorative basket. Our basket goes around the table several times because the children have such thankful hearts.

 wreathThe first Sunday of Advent is November 29 this year (2015). There are limitless resources available to help families prepare their hearts to celebrate Christ’s birth. The Advent wreath is one of my favorites.

Check out Christian Book.com at:

http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/easy_find?Ntt=Advent+devotionals+for+families&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&Ne=0&event=ESRCG&nav_search=1&cms=1

 

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