Saturday, December 27, 2014

Giving and Receiving

Giving and Receiving


But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

-1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV

On the Outer Banks, Mother Nature both gives and receives. Everyday there is evidence of that with the changing shoreline, incoming and outgoing tides, ocean treasures that have washed up on the beach and clouds that pass by overhead. 

Although the presents of Christmas morning have been opened and put away, the feeling of giving and receiving lingers on as we look forward to the New Year. God’s love has been present in the giving and receiving spirit that is so present in our midst. We have many occasions to give. To be on the receiving end of generosity can be a spiritual experience as God shows us His love through the helping hand of others.

 believe that whether we “received” or “gave” this year, that God would have us take a moment to offer Him praise and thanks for sending us what we needed through our brothers and sisters in Christ. If God used us to give to others, we might offer Him praise for giving us the strength and resources to be used by Him.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, --Galatians 5:22 NIV
One definition for tradition is, “a story or a custom that is memorized and passed down from generation to generation”.  I think of it as a circle of love. It goes round and round to warm and comfort a family in their own specialness.
 It is the time of year to finalize those holiday plans and bring to life those childhood traditions again.  It is the traditions that were set in place long ago that are the common thread in our family,  We will enjoy my mother’s cornbread stuffing because all the cooks in the family now have that recipe. My husband will have a bit of his mother with him as we use her cranberry bowl. It has been passed down now 3 times!  We haven’t decided if we will have my fathers’ fruit ambrosia or banana pudding. He finally conceded and gave us his secret recipes several years ago to our delight! And I will dust off Christmas decorations that have travelled with us from place to place. Whether we are all at the same table together or scattered across many states, it is the comforts of tradition that brings about closeness and bridges any gaps.  It is also a reminder to us of the memories that have helped to shape us and our holidays’ past.
Many families, regardless of their faith or heritage will begin celebrating using their traditions carried from generation to generation. The Jewish community is celebrating Chanukah by lighting the Menorah for eight days.  The Christians will celebrate Christmas, honoring the birth of Christ on the 25th..  African-Americans will honor their heritage for seven days in a fairly new tradition called Kwanzaa, beginning on the 26th.  A local Outer Banks tradition called, “Old Christmas” goes back over 100 years and is still celebrated by some, but this celebration occurs as it always has, in January.
What will you pass down this year? A recipe, an old treasured family tablecloth, that special saw that always cut down the Christmas tree? Maybe we can add to that. Let’s meet this season with peace and the fruit of the spirit in our hearts to love and forgive the offenses from the past. Let it be a time to right the wrongs, make peace, love the unlovable and be merciful. We are all God’s Children and we are a part of His Circle of Love. Pass it on!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Christmas Ornaments

Christmas Ornaments

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall

–Psalm 55:22 NIV

We moved from one house to another this year and fortunately the boxes of Christmas decorations had not made its way from the garage to the attic yet. I thought about getting an early start on my decorating. We put up the tree and then it sat there for a few days, maybe even a week with just the lights. In years past I would have had the help of our children to trim the tree. There would be hot chocolate, half- eaten candy canes strewn about, my husband mumbling about the tangled lights and Andy Williams Christmas songs playing on the stereo as the dogs and cat fought for a place to lay under the tree. If it sounds chaotic, it was. But, I admit I miss all the commotion of this treasured family pastime.

 What happened to the spirit of Christmas this year? I just couldn’t seem to get motivated in my new surroundings. Finally, we looked at the barren tree and decided we had to decorate it. One by one, we opened the boxes and the memories came flooding back to us. The special ornaments like the plastic Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus that my daughter “borrowed” from my parents tree and placed on our tree when she was four years old. Then there was the stuffed Easter bunny that has been on our tree ever since my son realized the connection between Christmas and Easter and decided that we should celebrate both holidays at once, or at least on our tree. The glittered gum balls from grade school along with the hand painted ornaments we made one year when we were feeling crafty were placed carefully on the tree. The tree was filling up with over 30 years of memories. I couldn’t help but think long and hard of where we had been and where we were going. Our life was spread out on that tree. There was the little white church that I bought for the tree the year I went through a serious illness. There were the ornaments that my husband and I gave to each other when times were lean and they were our only gift to each other. The handmade cloth stuffed ornaments that have lasted over two decades still looked good as new. But I couldn’t say the same for the featherless bird (thanks to the cat) that has had a place of honor on the tree for years.

 Standing in the distance, gazing at the tree in all its years of memories and beauty, I was left with a wonderful thought of gratefulness that we have been blessed through good times and bad, through ups and downs. The memories of Christmases long ago continues to live on in the beauty of each ornament. The spirit of Christmas that I was trying so hard to find was there all along. It’s in the love of God and family. Love is at the heart of Christmas and God’s love remains the same even when there is change all around us.  He is the One we count on, the One we look to and the One we have faith in. The One who sustains us. God is there always, standing beside us in all times.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Best Gifts

The Best Gifts
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.   -Galatians 5:22 
It’s the season of Christmas and all through the house are Christmas lists, presents to be wrapped and cookies to bake. Oh, the busyness of it all! The hustle and bustle of the holidays is in full swing. At least, that is how it used to be for us. When our children were little and grandparents were able to travel, it was a large festive time with everyone enjoying overall abundance, prosperity, sharing plans for the future and sharing gifts from under the tree. Now, things are just different. Everyone was spread out for many years and now we are all back together again…that is our Christmas blessing this year! And now, Christmas is no longer measured in material things, but in health, gratitude and joy…as it should be.
The Bible talks of the fruits of the spirit in today’s scripture. I believe God is impressing on my spirit that while material things are nice to give and receive at this time of year, there are greater gifts awaiting us. If Christmas is truly about Jesus then the gifts that are the most important are those that Jesus lived by that are mentioned in the scripture: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Oh how our homes and extended families, our friendships and the workplace would benefit so much if we all practiced these virtues. I think we could start with just picking one of these to focus on. To have joy in our heart. To find peace within and share it. To have patience with ourselves and those around us. To show kindness and to be good to those that are hardest to love. To be faithful to our families and relationships. Offering a gentle touch and a kind word when we can to all. Above all exercising self-control with our actions, behavior and words spoken. We can’t wait for everyone around us to treat us this way. It begins with us.  All I have to do to be motivated to live with the fruits of the spirit as my compass is to think of the people whose countenance and personalities I am drawn to.  And they are the ones that take time, love unconditionally, forgive easily, laugh heartily and in all they do God’s Light shines for all to see.  I want to be one of those people.  I believe that it is true that what we give will be given back to us. The biblical law of reaping what you sow.
Some gifts can be wrapped with bows and set under the tree, but the fruits of the spirit are a reflection of God’s heart and Jesus’ life and they are available to us. If you had a fruit tree and it didn’t bear any fruit year after year, you would certainly get rid of it and replace it with one that was fruitful and productive. Many of us are not bearing fruit right now. And that doesn’t reflect the goodness of God and it speaks poorly of us. Today I will consider it a blessing to be given this roadmap for living, loving and being. Thank you God for these gifts!!