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Monday, December 17, 2012

Connecticut...A Child's Carol ..God's Answers in the Darkness

"Away in the manger
  no crib for a bed..."

Beep. Beep. Beep.

"Ohhhh...." I pulled my covers over my head with a groan. My alarm was screeching somewhere in the darkness.

"Work," I thought as I struggled to reach the "Snooze" button.

"Brynn!" The name emerged from the back of my sleepy consciousness and I sat up with a smile.

Today was not a work day. Today was the day I pick up my daughter from Tennessee. I rolled out of bed with enthusiasm.

Like the cold floor beneath my feet, however, a thought suddenly chilled me. I pick up my daughter, but some will never see their daughters again.

"Be near me, Lord Jesus,"

How does one deal with a tragedy so deep, so penetrating as the tragedy of Connecticut? My heart tightened in my chest. I stepped out into the darkness with my car keys.

I lingered for a moment under the darkest morning sky. Sailors know this time. This is when they search the sky for their leading star.

It's called the "Morning Star" and it shines the brightest at our day's darkest point. My car rumbled down the gravel lane.

"Please help them, God." I almost said it out loud, but I remained silent as I searched the asphalt for the glimmering direction of the Morning Star.

"We all need your help."

"I ask you to stay
Close by me forever
and love me I pray..."

I wanted to hear God's answer. The morning was still. There were no distractions.

"I am, and always will" God seemed to be speaking to me in the Morning Star's light.

"Bring me your anxiety. Bring me your pain, confusion, even bitterness...even anger."

Starlight streaked the pavement and danced above the stubble of the cornfields. My car sped on.

Fayetteville was silent under the Morning Star. I glanced at the homes of so many of my sleeping children, children I consider my own.

I thought of Jesus' love for the children. He told adults to let the children come to Him. He said the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to the children.

I remembered Jesus said even I could be His child if I turned from the darkness and followed Him. His light can save. His light embodies love.

The shimmering water of the Kaskaskia glinted on the old girdered bridge. God danced in the light of the bridge girders as He gave me my answers.

The final verse of the children's carol I'd sung with the Fayetteville kids flashed into my mind. I sang it softly as the dark fields began melting in the light of dawn.

"Bless all the dear children
in thy tender care

...and take us to Heaven
to live with thee there."

Into the hope of day, under the shelter of the Bright Morning Star, surrounded by the brightness of dawn's early light...I drove on.

Bible Verses:

"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
John 11:25-26 New International Version

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,"2 Corinthians 5:1-2 New International Version

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."Proverbs 3:5-6 New International Version

"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Isaiah 41:10 New International Version
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid."John 14:27 New International Version

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4).

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed,
for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you
with my righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (KJV)

"And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away."Revelation 21:3-4 (KJV)

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." --2 Corinthians 4:17-18 New International Version

“I, Jesus, have sent my angel
to give you this testimony for the churches.
I am the Root and the Offspring of David,
and the bright Morning Star.”  Revelation 22:16

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas List of a Different Kind

Laurie's Gift List...with a lot of help from GOD!

I love lists. There’s something about a checkmark on a list that gives me a false sense of security.
Enter: Christmas.
With glee, I started my gift list. Then God stepped in.
Leave it up to the Big Guy to shake up my life and my list!
It all started last week when He astutely gave me gift item number one:  A Legacy.
God calls us to give this gift to everyone. Legacy is how you want to impact the world.
Here's my take on leaving a Legacy:

Christmas Gift #1 :  A Legacy

“What do you want your legacy to be?”
There it was. Right there on the TV. Black and white.
I was in Bible Study at church. The question was in front of me
Thought-provoking. Intimidating. I was being asked to think beyond today, beyond tomorrow.
Oh, my gosh, I was being asked to think about what I want people to say about me when I am dead!
I grabbed a pen and jotted some words:

“She loved God and it showed.”

That’s it!
That’s what I want my legacy to be. That’s the best gift I could give anyone.
Truth be told, however, if I were to die today, my legacy might read:

“She loved God, but was too busy.”

Sorry about that, God.
It’s Christmas time. We’re all thinking about gifts. How about focusing on gifts we can give that won’t break? How about talking about gifts that last a lifetime…perhaps even multiple lifetimes. That’s what a legacy is all about.As you plan your gift-giving this Christmas, keep an eye out for the best gift you can give: your legacy.

How do you want to be remembered?

What impact do you want to make on your children…and your children’s children?
Relax…this is one gift that has nothing to do with money, but everything to do with God.

Christmas Gift # 2:  Faith

I sat in the pew watching the candle in the advent wreath. Its light flickered in imperceptible rhythm: back and forth, back and forth..
I closed my eyes because Richard was playing the violin and Darling, the piano. Christmas music wrapped me in beauty. Linda’s flute sparkled in the air and Misty’s clarinet flowed like a river. I was washed away.
I listened as Jake and Pastor Dennis read from the Bible and I thought of all the years I’ve had the privilege of wrapping God’s love around me in a place of worship.

My momma started it, taking me to church every week. I remember clearly "Jesus loves me" and "I am His sheep." I remember sensing that I belonged to something bigger than myself or this country or even this earth. I was loved by a Big God who was in charge.

That’s what faith can do for you. That is Gift #2.

Are you giving your children a foundation of Faith? It is never too late to start. Take them to Bible-based church and, please, go back after Christmas, also.

Your children need a foundation of faith. Gift number two is one of the best gifts you can give.

Statistics Prove Church is GOOD for YOU!

Do you want to help your kids?
Check the statistics and take them to church!

Research done by Duke, Indiana, Michigan Universities, as well as The Center for Disease Control, Barna Research Group and Gallup present overwhelming statistics on the benefits of church attendance.

Now is a GREAT time to resolve to attend church regularly. Faith invites you to come this Sunday at 10:15 a.m. We are located on the corner of Alton & High Streets in Freeburg.

Find a great Bible-based church and attend regularly. That is the KEY.  Don't be a holiday "drop-in."
Sporadic attendance does not build a foundation!

-Be a regular church attender.  Just look at the statistically-proven benefits:

Benefits of regular church attendance for parents and children:

___Increases average life expectancy by 8 years

___Significantly reduces your child’s use and risk from alcohol, tobacco and drugs

___Helps rebounding from depression - 70% faster

___Reduces risk of children committing a crime

___Improves children’s attitude at school and increases school participation

___Provides a life-long moral compass

___Provides children with a caring extended family

In study after study, children who actively engage in a faith community on a regular basis have significantly reduced likelihood of life problems and risky behaviors. They are more likely to have a happier healthier and longer life. The studies showed the same results for adults.

What are you waiting for?
You are welcome at church this Sunday!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Denise & Steve Gray hold Caleb Forgy - our "Jesus" at the Jesus Birtday Party!

Special thanks to the moms of Mother's DeLIGHT for some great tips to help children celebrate the TRUE meaning of Christmas!  Here are some tips:

Vanessa's ideas span the whole year, but are good as a Christmas focus:  Her little boys have a box labeled "Boys Without Toys"  -- The little guys know they can place toys in the box to give away to children who do not have as many toys as they do.  They are excited to put toys in the box for the "Boys without Toys!"

This little family also has another way to help others which has had a big impact on their children. They hand out gallon size ziploc bags filled with supplies to homeless people.

Vanessa says, "We always see these people outside of Walmart, street corners, etc. My kids would always ask about them." 

"Now that we have the bags, we hand them out and we talk about how Jesus said to feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty. We put granola bars, etc. and capri suns in the bags. We also include hotel sized soap and shampoo, a washcloth, tooth brush and toothpaste. It has sparked many conversations, and has shown our kids how to provide for those in need."   Vanessa also adds Bible verses in the bags.

Great idea!

Other focused and sharing thoughts include the following:

___Encourage kind deeds by having the child "add straw to Jesus manger" every time a good deed is done.
___Follow a calendar each day before Christmas which lists thoughtful deeds to make each day special.

___Choose a family to buy for and donate gifts.

___Donate to "Toys for Tots" or Prison Ministry Projects that adopt families

___Be sure to focus on the story of Jesus, reading it from the Bible

___Have a nativity set the children can play with -- You'll be amazed how many toys will visit Baby Jesus!

___Make an Advent Jesse Tree

___Sing Christmas Carols

___When you decorate the tree -- point out how the tree and ornaments tell us about Jesus:
                          __The tree points up to Heaven
                          __The star on top is like the star which lead the Wise Men to Jesus
                          __Lights sparkle to remind us Jesus is the Light of the World
                          __Angels remind us of the angels who told the shepherds about Jesus
                          __The bells remind us to ring out the good news: Jesus is Born!
                          __Candy Canes remind us of Jesus: the good shepherd - his staff
                              They are also shaped like a "J" for Jesus! Red represents Jesus blood.
                              White shows Jesus washes our sins away when we give Him our lives

__Some families give a special "Jesus Gift" on Christmas Eve -- usually a meaningful book or movie

__Light the candles on a Jesus Birthday Cake and sing Happy Birthday

__Host a "Jesus Birthday Party" for your neighborhood and be sure to read the Christmas Story  

__Light the Advent Wreath each Sunday and read the Bible Verses Listed in our previous article

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Are you ready to guide your child to understand the REAL meaning of Christmas? In upcoming weeks, we will share a few tips to teach your family how to truly celebrate Jesus birth.


1. Advent Wreath: Light an Advent candle every Sunday before Christmas.

Get four purple and one white ten inch taper candles. Place the candles equally distant in a circle on the table. Decorate the holder base with evergreen or foilage which creates an Advent Wreath.

2. What does the Advent Wreath mean?

--The circle shape of the wreath represents God's eternal love.

3. The first candle is the prophecy candle. Isaiah 7:14

4. The second candle is the Bethlehem candle . Luke 2:1-7

5. The third candle is the shepherd candle. Luke 2:8-19

6. The fourth candle is the angel candle. Luke 2:13,14

7. The fifth candle is the white Jesus Candle John 3:16 Luke 2:6-7