Monthly Archives: December 2014

Red Valentine's heart

Rhonda

It is finished…three words a friend texted me this week when Rhonda won her battle with cancer and danced into Heaven.  Three words that ripped my heart and healed the wound.  Three words that ended the race and hailed the start of a life in Heaven that’s beyond our wildest dreams.  Three words so devastatingly final and yet so fantastically full of hope.

Sent when I desperately needed a kindred spirit friend, Rhonda was a gift from God… an answer to prayer from a lonely heart.  Don’t misunderstand, Brad and I have an incredible relationship, but we all need additional friendships and my circle of close friends was pitifully small.   I will be forever thankful for the way she came alongside me, spurred me on in my faith, challenged me to never “settle” and made me feel accepted even when my “dark side” reared it’s ugly head.  Rhonda was safe–a rare gift indeed.

My heart has a lonely spot again.  I know that God has not forgotten those of us who are left behind.  He will give comfort.  He will bind the wounds and help us keep running our own race to the end.  But it still hurts.  A.A. Milne wrote in Winnie the Pooh,

 

How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.

 

Thank you Lord, for a friendship so deep and dear that loosing it is so hard.

Thank you Jesus, for leaving Your glorious home in Heaven to be born in a barn, grow as a commoner, live as light in the darkness and die so that we might live.  Thank you for declaring “It is finished” (John 19:30).  Death has lost its victory.

 

P.S.  Yes, I did say she “won” her battle with cancer.  Cancer does not win when a person knows Jesus.  I had found myself saying, “She’s losing her battle with cancer” and I stopped mid-sentence.  Rhonda was a light of Jesus’ love, grace and beauty through this ordeal.  She told ambulance drivers, nurses, doctors…everyone about Jesus’ love.  No, cancer did not win.  Rhonda won, in the power of the Holy Spirit.  She ran the race to the end and has the prize.

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God’s purpose for cake…

Okay, this may not be God’s purpose for cake… but at least my LOVE for cake finally has a purpose other than expanding my waistline!  Mix it with a little Christmas baking and it’s a win/win…

Christmas is full of teachable moments. One mom capitalized on a moment in the kitchen and taught her daughter an invaluable lesson about life. I hope it will give you an idea of how you can weave life-defining truth into the fun of the Christmas season!  I know it helped me!

A daughter is telling her Mother how everything is going wrong, she’s failing algebra, her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.

Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack, and the daughter says, “Absolutely Mom, I love your cake.”
“Here, have some cooking oil,” her Mother offers.
“Yuck” says her daughter.
“How about a couple raw eggs?” “Gross, Mom!”
“Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?”
“Mom, those are all yucky!”

To which the mother replies: “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!”

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!

God is crazy about you. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.   Whenever you want to talk, He’ll listen. He can live anywhere in the universe, and He chose your to live in your heart.

It’s a good reminder for us adults too don’t you think?  So when you’re cooking or baking, think of the challenges you face as you add each ingredient.  When you sit down to the meal, or savor the dessert, thank God for the opportunity to see Him “cause everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”  Romans 8:28 Discover God Bible, NLT

Matt and the Elf pic 2

My Elf Experiment…

Matt is a member of our Discover God 4Kids team and my guest blogger today.  When he told me his very funny story about Elf on the Shelf I asked him to share it!

My Elf Experiment…

We have an Elf on the Shelf.

A very well-meaning, family-oriented, God-fearing family gave him to us this year. What did I do to merit such harsh treatment? I thought we were friends.

I am not a fan of the elf doll who supposedly comes to life at night and moves about the house getting into mischief.  The accompanying storybook says his job is to keep an eye on younger children and give Santa a “naughty or nice” report… Santa spy.

Am I a Scrooge, or is there something seriously wrong here?

After all, I thought Santa “…sees me when I’m sleeping, knows when I’m awake, knows if I’ve been bad or good…” Is that not true???

I think I have very legitimate, social and theological reasons for despising the elf—all elves on all shelves—what’s a dad to do?  Am I supposed to be thrilled that our culture has permeated my home with another commercialistic lie to try to bribe my children into good behavior?

My wife says no one cares. She feels differently than I do about the elf… She is excited to establish a fresh, new, endearing Christmas tradition.

My kids feel differently about the elf…   They love that they are finally normal like all the other kids in our neighborhood and can trade elf stories.

I was stuck.  So, I decided to have some fun with it…

“Elf” needed a name. The storybook emphasizes that the Christmas “magic” doesn’t work if the elf has not officially been given a name.  Each family member made a suggestion and then we anonymously cast our vote for the name we liked best.

I was ecstatic when my name idea won! “Mephistopheles” was ready to spring into action. Sadly, I felt it only fair to tell my wife that Mephistopheles was a caricature of the devil in German folklore (which seemed appropriate at the time).  Naturally, I was scolded and the elf was renamed.

“Terwilliger” first appeared on Black Friday (no comment) riding atop one of our chicken figurines. On Saturday he showed up as an ornament on our freshly decorated Christmas tree. (Apparently the magic was working because I know I wasn’t doing anything with that cheeky little troll.)

Then came my “crisis of belief” moment.

Sunday afternoon a few neighborhood kids ran through our living room with some of my own kids. The conversation went something like this:

 

“Where was your elf this morning?”

“In the Christmas tree. Where was yours?”

“In the sink.”

“Ha! Mine was in the sink yesterday. I can’t wait to see where he’ll be tomorrow!”

“I love my elf on the shelf—he’s funny!”

 

I’m not sure why or how, but it stirred my inner elf.

The kids really do like the Elf on the Shelf. It’s fun. It’s silly. Do they think it reports back to Santa Claus about their behavior? I don’t know, but it’s fun and they love it. And they eagerly talk to their friends about it.

Suddenly I saw my elf problem as an opportunity to see God work.

I got more excited as I thought about the possibilities: The kids wake up and search for the elf. They find him, and rather than finding that he has been up to no good, he has written a note to them with an idea for how they can display kindness or goodness or peace or love to their family members. Tied to that, he might emphasize that because God is love we can show love to others.

Not only might the kids try to intentionally show kindness to one another, they might tell their friends about their elf’s notes of encouragement and, in so doing, share something about who God is to our neighborhood.

So my elf problem is now My Elf Experiment. Terwilliger and I are going to make it our mission to daily point our kids to who God is and why He matters, especially at this time of the year. We’ll still probably end up doing some funny things, and I’ll take photos and post them to Discover God 4Kids Facebook page (#elfontheshelf, #myelfexperiment) with updates sharing how it goes, and we’ll see what happens. Maybe this will be Terwilliger’s only year with us as a family. Or maybe—hopefully—he will be the starting point of some children’s conversations (maybe some adults’ too) that leave them longing to not just find the elf on the shelf, but to find a real, loving personal Savior.