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Jesus’ Mama

23 Dec

“Students in an advanced Biology class were taking their mid-term exam. The last question was, ‘Name seven advantages of Mother’s Milk.’ The question was worth 70 points or none at all.  One student, in particular, was hard put to think of seven advantages. However, he wrote:

  1. It is perfect formula for the child.
  2. It provides immunity against several diseases.
  3. It is always the right temperature.
  4. It is inexpensive.
  5. It bonds the child to mother, and vice versa.
  6. It is always available as needed.

And then the student was stuck. Finally, in desperation, just before the bell rang indicating the end of the test, he wrote:
7. It comes in two attractive containers and it’s high enough off the ground where the cat can’t get it.

He was awarded an A.”

My mother-in-love sent me that, and I laughed so hard when I read the line about the cat!

MaryAndBabyJesus_blueI hope this won’t seem insensitive, but a few weeks ago, I surveyed some pictures of the Nativity ~ of Mary with baby Jesus ~ and I was reminded that Jesus had a real flesh-and-blood Mama. As is portrayed in many works of art (though I did not choose to show them here), Mary likely suckled Jesus at her breast and smiled as he cooed with contentment.

They had a normal mother and baby relationship. She probably was frustrated with him if he cried in the wee hours of the night. She had to change soiled diapers (or whatever little Jewish babies wore back then). She watched him play with simple toys … maybe something Joseph carved from a chunk of wood.

She likely stared at her son from time to time … awed by her little one. His birth announcement certainly was out of the ordinary! I wonder if, when she cradled his little hands and feet, she understood that his calling from the Father would take him far away from home, touching and healing so many people.

I love what Erin Davis wrote in her book, Beyond Bath Time: Re-imagining Motherhood as a Sacred Role (Moody Publishers, 2012): “Being fully God, Jesus chose to come to earth. He chose to come as an infant and He chose to be mothered… “

I often speak in Mothers of PreSchoolers groups (MOPS), and the complaints and concerns of these young moms are all pretty much the same, but they also have similar aspirations for their children. I wonder what Mary’s aspirations for Jesus were. Did they line up with God’s plans? Did she and Joseph teach him purposefully?

Did Mary want Jesus to attend school with the priests as well as work alongside Joseph in the carpenter shop? Certainly she watched him develop relationship skills; but did she understand that Jesus ~ a special child with a mission from the Father in heaven ~ would never marry on earth and have children? (Yes, I know that we are “betrothed” to Christ at salvation … but I’m talking about earthly marriage and little children like those Jesus told the disciples not to forbid to come to him ~ Matthew 19:14).

We worship Jesus the King … the divine Son of God. But we must never forget His humanity. Because He came as a wee babe and grew to manhood with character and strength (Luke 2:52), we have an example to emulate as well as a Savior who understands us, our temptations and struggles. He became our righteous substitute (Isaiah 53:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

So I like to think about Mary, right before Christmas … to think about the mission God entrusted her to complete ~ to raise Jesus from babyhood to manhood, all to the glory of God and for His purposes. Put yourself in her place today.

Mary was part of God’s big picture for the world. As Erin Davis said, “Yes, Jesus chose a womb. But that was a little choice. The bigger choice was to make a way for you to be saved from your sin. Remembering that has the power to move you from the little things that make mothering tough to the big idea that you are a critical part in the larger story.” Mothers, take heart. God has a plan for each mother’s life … your life. A mission.

This woman who cradled Jesus at her breast pondered many things (Luke 2:19) and eventually watched him die a terrible death (John 19:26-27). And we know Mary recognized her own sinful nature and proclaimed Jesus to be her own Savior (see Luke 1:46-55, especially verses 46-47).

We do not worship Mary, but we do praise her. We can thank God today that young Mary was His willing servant (Luke 1:38), and at this Christmas season we can commit to obeying Him in all He asks us to do.

- Dawn

Regarding Unwelcome Gifts

16 Dec

Back in 2010, a shopping website suggested holiday gifts that nobody really wants. Here area few samples:

  • Microphone Tongs – So you can sing while serving your salad?
  • A Pet Petter – for those who love their pets but don’t have time to actually spend time with them
  • A Bed Bug stuffed animal – oh joy…
  • A LifeGem Memorial Diamond (created as the by-product of a recently deceased pet. Horrors!)
  • Inflatable Fruitcake

Now I’m not crazy about regular fruitcake, so I certainly wouldn’t enjoy an inflatable one! (But if one of you have a fruitcake recipe that tastes nothing like fruitcake, let me know!)

They say that when it comes to gifts, “it’s the thought that counts,” but I really wonder what people would be thinking when it comes to some of those gifts. LOL!

Here are some thoughts on Some Normally Unwelcome Gifts:

(1) Don’t give a “final sale” item unless you know it will absolutely please or absolutely fit.

(2) Be careful with re-gifting unless you have memorized re-gifting etiquette: Be sure the person you are gifting would actually like the gift; be sure the gift is not dated or old (unless you can somehow freshen it up or the recipient truly loves antiques); and be sure you pass it along to someone who didn’t give it to you in the first place!

(3) Closely related to this … if you got something “for free” with another purchase, count on someone else knowing. They probably saw the same offer. They might have even made the same purchase! Freebies do not normally impress others as Christmas gifts.

(4) Duplicating. It’s also not a good idea to get everyone the same thing. I have to admit that I’m guilty of this one. I tend to think: (A) If so-and-so sees this, they’ll want it too, or (B) This sure does make shopping easier. One of my friends says this kind of shopping saves time and stress. “Make one year a sweater year,” she says, “and another year the bathrobes year.” Actually, that’s not a bad idea, but it’s not a good idea to get everyone the same sweater or the same bathrobe. We need to give it more thought than that!

(5) It’s not the best idea to give self-help books for Christmas (especially if they have to do with losing weight). Christmas isn’t the best time to drop hints about relationships and life-style changes. The book might be helpful and even “spiritual,” but it’s likely going to offend as a gift rather than bless. Similar to this gift is the “You oughtta…” gift. You know ~ the gift designed to help your family member of friend change a habit or get-with-it in some area. Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. Do you really want a “You oughtta…” gift?

(6) Another sometimes unwelcome gift is the run-of-the mill offering. You know … you wrap up some from-the-mix sugar cookies or some other generic treat and hope they’ll think it’s homemade. And fruitcake fits here, too… so unoriginal!

(7) Think simple, not hard-to-use. Especially for the techno-challenged, avoid gadgets and high-tech gifts that require an engineering degree to figure out how to use. Good rule of thumb: If you’re puzzled with how it works in the store, what makes you think others will find it easy to use?

ALL THAT SAID …

If YOU receive a non-returnable final sale item, an improperly re-gifted present, a “freebie,” a look-alike gift, a self-help book, a “You oughtta…” gift, a run-of-the-mill gift, or a hard-to-use gift …

  • Please be gracious and kind. Smile and say “Thank you.”
  • Give your expectations (and disappointments) to God. Remember that Christmas is about God the Eternal Giver, not any one person’s temporary gift.
  • If you receive a self-help or “You oughtta…” gift, ask God for the lesson in the gift (even if it is only to forgive your well-meaning friend. LOL!).
  • Remember the millions who would love any kind of gift for Christmas.
  • Look beyond the gift to the giver ~ some people are just lousy gift-givers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you or care about you.
  • Resolve to communicate more. Help the person get to know you better so they will anticipate what you would love to receive next year.

And while we are talking about unwelcome gifts, remember that many around you don’t appreciate or don’t want to receive the gift of eternal  life in Christ. To them, the Father’s indescribable gift of the Son (2 Corinthians 9:15) is an unwelcome gift … until they see their desperate need for it.

They may misunderstand the meaning of the gift or its value ~ what it cost. They may be cherishing other things in their hearts; they have no room for God’s gift. They may be hurting, confused, frustrated, bitter ~ the enemy blinding them to the beauty of the gift of God, the transformation the Father longs to begin.

Pray for these people during this Christmas season. Pray that God will open their eyes and change their hearts. Pray they will welcome and receive His gift ~ ask God for the right opportunity to invite them to receive it. Without this gift there is no life, no lasting peace or joy.

- Dawn

Straight Thinking about Holiday Oxymorons

9 Dec

My husband and I often laugh at the covers of women’s magazines.  So often they offer high-calorie foods and gorgeous desserts (like the Molten Chocolate Cake shown here) right next to dieting articles (like this one ~ “We lost 230 lbs!”).  Have you noticed that?

Some other cover oxymorons (and it’s not just Woman’s Day):

  • “Your healthiest year ever”… next to a whole collection of muffins and pound cake
  • “Eat healthy fast-food cheat sheet”… next to Corny Cupcakes (cupcakes on a skewer made with brown butter frosting and jelly beans)
  • “Drop 10 lbs in 4 weeks”… next to Simple & Delicious Cheesecake Brownie Bars
  • “8 Reasons why your diet isn’t working”… next to Strawberry Shortcake Parfaits.
  • “Stop Gaining Weight!”… next to “Easy Holiday Baking: Delicious pies and cakes”

You get my point. Why is it we don’t think straight when it comes to food or other things we want?

I laughed at a recent post by Jeff Goins, a writer I follow. He suggested (in an email titled “Giving Thanks ~ for EVERYthing!”) some funny holiday oxymorons:

  1. Remember to be grateful for what you have… Don’t miss these great deals!
  2. Catch up on work before the end of the year… Don’t forget to rest.
  3. Try to get some “me” time… Don’t neglect spending time with family.

We need to think straight about those seeming inconsistencies, don’t we?

When we have that normal stress (“tension”) going on in our lives, it’s important that we listen to a voice outside of ourselves. We need to ask our Heavenly Father what He wants us to do, and search the scriptures for His wisdom. Right thinking can help us walk that fine line of tension this month (and every month).

You’ve felt it.

  • We want the 90″ flatscreen TV for our family for Christmas, but know our budget will only allow for one much smaller (if at all).
  • We want a new dress for the Christmas party when the truth is, we already have three or four outfits that will do just fine.
  • We want to spend hundreds of dollars more on gifts than last year, but we don’t want our family to fall over a financial cliff.
  • We want to sit down and read a Christmas novel like Unexpected Christmas Hero, but there are cookies to bake for Junior’s school party…  and the office party… and the Christmas Eve party.
  • We want to stuff our faces at the holiday office get-together, but a little voice says, “What were you saying to your friend yesterday about not wanting to gain more than two pounds over Christmas?”
  • We want to curl up by the fireplace and take a nap, but God’s Spirit nudges us to visit Sister So-and-So in the hospital.
  • We feel like we owe everyone a piece of our time, but God says, “come apart with Me before you come apart” in all this holiday rush.

It’s the tension of all those extra choices that adds to our stress at Christmas. We need God’s wisdom, don’t we?

The Bible gives us that wisdom. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” That is the protection we need ~ surrendering our will to God’s will.

We’re also instructed, “…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). That is the source of godly priorities.

And we are told, “…seek those things which are above, where Christ is… Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). That is how we embrace an eternal perspective.

What we become and how we deal with circumstances is largely determined by our desires, thoughts and focus. Whether during the holidays or any day of the year, God wants us to make balanced, wise decisions. Seeking Him and responding with proper attitudes is a good start.

So … how are you dealing with the normal stress and challenging tension of these holidays?

- Dawn

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