Friday, December 30, 2016

Finding Beauty

It was a weird Christmas for me and my family. Grandma was (still is, actually- keep her in prayer, if you would) in the hospital, it was our first Christmas without Grandpa, our usual festivities involving extended family got cancelled due to weather, I was sick to my stomach half the weekend, and my parents, bro, and I ended up split between two apartments at Grandma's retirement community due to us being given a key for a smaller apartment than intended. It seemed a rather woebegone weekend.

As I was getting ready for bed, feeling a little down, I glanced out my window and saw fresh snow being lit by the gazebo below. There it was- a little spark of hope and beauty. The reminder I needed: that God puts good things into our lives, even when times aren't what we'd like them to be. We just have to be looking for them.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. - James 1:17

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Friend Loves at All Times

At least three times this week I sat down to work on writing up my next blog post. Each time, I glanced over to my message notifications and found that a friend was wanting my attention. Sometimes it's tempting to think "Oh, whatever. These people can wait! I'm trying to keep my weekly posts going over here"; then that thought in the back of my mind hits me: "What if they really need you? What if they have nobody else who can help?"  And guess what? That was pretty much the case- with every one of those friends who spoke to me this week.

Looking back over the past several days, I could be kicking myself that I didn't accomplish more of my goals. But that's what they were: just goals. Just things that I wanted to do for myself. Sure, they have their place, but why should they be so much more important than the person who is struggling and needs someone to help them sort things out?

As Romans 12:10 states, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." This doesn't mean to drop everything every time someone wants you to do something, but consider each situation. Are you showing that person brotherly affection and honor in the way you plan to respond? How important are their needs?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Ranting of Weather

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: ... "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war? What is the way to the place where the light is distributed, or where the east wind is scattered upon the earth? "Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain and a way for the thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert in which there is no man, to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and to make the ground sprout with grass? Has the rain a father, or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?"

- Job 38:1, 22-29

The weather can be a great instant jumping point for conversation when one doesn't know what else to say, especially if it has been unusual. Lately at work I have heard a lot of comments about the shockingly high volume of snowfall where I live. Who knew the weather could become such a controversial matter! Half the people are grumbling that they cannot wait for it to go, and others (like myself) are next thing to bouncing with excitement over how white our wold has turned.

The one thing we often lose sight of is that the weather is more than just the result of a bunch of atmospheric pressure. Stop and think: what causes the conditions that cause the weather? It all goes back to God. Many of us find ourselves praying that the weather will be favorable to our whims, but in the moments of actually experiencing it, are we still thinking of God? Do we thank Him when we experience weather we enjoy? What about when we hate the current weather conditions?

Whatever it is doing out there, remember Who is causing it all, and let that drive your response. If you love the weather, give credit to God for His great blessing! If you despise the conditions, remember that it is still God who brought them on, and pray that He will help you be content no matter what comes at you from the sky.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Where Does The Time Go?

We've had a rather extended autumn where I live this year! Just the other day, I walked outside and still saw trees with orange leaves all over them- yeah, in December! It's crazy. Usually the trees are bare early in November. We've been blessed with many t-shirt and light jacket sort of days, and I've thoroughly enjoyed every single one of them. 

Along the way, I began to really grow accustomed to our 50-60 degree days, almost forgetting that winter weather was a possibility. This morning, I was reminded that though it had been so warm, winter was drawing near all along- and suddenly, here it was. Our first snow day of the season! According to the forecast, we are to be in the 20's-30's for an entire week. What on earth happened? Where did my October go?

It felt like I had no warning for winter; it felt like it would never arrive, and I could keep living in this temperate bliss forever. This, of course, is entirely wrong: I'd seen the forecast (and admittedly, kind of laughed it off). People often do the same thing in regards to the coming of Christ- even His followers. We hear about it, we are aware that it will come, but it just always feels like something for later. Plus, really, why even think about it? We're so comfortable where we are at, so there's no sense thinking about future changes just yet. 

We ought not to treat our Lord's coming in such a fashion. Unlike our sudden snow day, there will not be an option to haphazardly prepare ourselves the moment we discover He has come. What would you be doing differently if you knew you would be facing God in 24 hours?

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. - 2 Peter 3:10

Friday, December 2, 2016

Our Blurred Vision of a "Silent" Night

We all tend to take the story of Christ's birth for granted, and on top of that, our cultural depictions of the nativity have caused us to have an askew perception of what it all actually would have looked like. Due to this, many of us have lost (or perhaps never fully gained) an appreciation for the night of Jesus' birth and the hardship of those involved. Hardship, You wonder? But what about a "Silent Night"? 

Imagine it. You're required by your governing authorities to travel roughly 89 miles - without the use of modern vehicles. According to Google Maps, this would take around 30 hours under normal circumstances, but your wife is so pregnant she could pop at any time and likely has to travel slower. Once you get into town, all the boarding houses (which at the time would generally be large shared rooms without actual beds) are stuffed to the gills - you have nowhere else to turn, so you are forced to take up the innkeeper's offer to stay with the animals. 

If you've ever been in a barn, you know they are full of dirt, flies, manure, noise, and a general stench. That's a modern barn, with running water available to hose it out every now and then. The stables of that day would have been smaller, lacking any running water, and most in that day were small caves or cut-outs in stone. Top it all off by helping your young wife give birth to her first child in there- on the ground, with no anesthetic or sanitary precautions. Oh, and that cute wooden manger artists depict? Try a stone trough, full of old animal food, drool, possibly flies, and who-knows-what-all-else, to lay your newborn infant in. 

A lot to take in, is it not? Miraculous? Absolutely. Wonderful? Entirely. Silent and peaceful? Probably not. Nothing in scripture seems to warrant such an assumption, and really, why should it? Despite being the Son of God, Jesus Christ faced hardship at every turn throughout His life and death as a human on earth. Why would His birth be any different?

All this, however, is not to detract from the glory of it all. It IS a glorious occasion, and it shows the incredible humility of our Lord, to forego a dramatic kingly entrance (of which He absolutely deserves and could command!) and instead be born in this fashion. Remember these things as you celebrate throughout the Christmas season this year. Glorify Him, and don't get too caught up in the pageantry.

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed [that is, his fiancĂ©e], who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."  - Luke 2:1-7