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Friday, 30 November 2012

Preparing For Christmas #1: Alpha and Omega

   What are these letters?  The first one is part of our alphabet, but it is also the first letter of the Greek alphabet and is called “Alpha.”  The other letter is called Omega.  It is the last letter of the Greek alphabet.  Greek is important because the part of the Bible that tells about Jesus' life was written in that language.  When the Bible talks about Alpha and Omega, all the people who first read it knew exactly what that meant.
   When Jesus called Himself  “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 1:8), he meant that he is the first and the last.  The first means that before creation, he was already there.  The last means that even if other things are destroyed, he will always be there.  He is eternal and will never end.
    Yes, Jesus was born and had a birthday on Christmas, but He existed long before that.  And now that he is not on earth any more, he is still alive in Heaven.

Dear Jesus,
It is hard for us to understand that you have always been God, but we believe what you tell us.  Thank you for being so trustworthy and perfect.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Introducing "Preparing for Christmas"

Next month, I will be posting some advent devotions/object lessons that I wrote when my children were very young.  I wanted to help my family get ready for Christmas in a spiritual sense. From December 1st until Christmas day, I will post a new reading each day.  Each reading is associated with an object that can point us to the qualities of Jesus, the Son of God.  My husband graciously took each of the accompanying photographs. 
   Where there are questions, stop and think about or discuss them.  If you use them with children, you may also want to make connections to their experiences.  At the end there is a familiar Christmas carol or short prayer that links with the day’s theme.
   It is my hope that these devotions can enrich our celebration of the birth of Jesus, who grew beyond infancy to show us the way to the Father.

Monday, 26 November 2012

My Outfit for December

In my last post I referred to someone who wore the same dress for a month to raise awareness of poverty.  With her permission I am doing something similar.  Instead of a dress, I have chosen to wear my black wool skirt, a black wool sweater and a snakeskin print shirt every day in December.  I will change into different sleepwear.
   I chose this outfit for a number of reasons:
  • Wool is a natural and durable fibre worn throughout the centuries and which remains important in developing countries without factory-made clothing.
  • These clothes will be able to be washed and dried overnight in order to wear them again the next day.  I do not have a dryer.
  • It is simple.
  • It would not look out of place to work or at church.
  • Except for the shirt, each item has been in my closet for at least three years and was purchased at a second-hand store.

   There are numerous agencies that help the poor close to home or the poor far away.  If you like what I am doing, please make a donation of any amount to an agency you trust.  To God be the glory.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Newsletters That Inspire

In my mailbox this fall, I received two newsletters I found quite inspiring.   
   One is entitled Breaking Bread and comes to my home twice per year.  It told the story of a Malian widow named Sara Doua who was blessed with a food ration from the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.  The food that would last her family about 2 months consisted of three staple items—135 kilograms of maize, 25 kilograms of beans and 9 litres of oil.  She is grateful the food and for the new dignity that comes from not having to ask her neighbours for food.  I found this story inspiring because it showed me true gratitude.  She is grateful for the same basic meals everyday for two months, when I would probably be grumbling about a lack of variety.
   The other publication was fittingly called Get Inspired.  It is produced by edu deo ministries, which helps build Christian schools in developing countries through partnerships with Canadians from all walks of life.  A little picture caught my eye with the caption “SAME DRESS.”  I later went online to find out more.  A young woman named Brittany McDonnell decided in November 2011 to wear the same black dress for a month (except as sleepwear) in order to raise awareness of poverty and funds for this charity.  She also fasted from shopping for clothing during that period.  I am highly impressed by her creative idea!  You can read more about it by going to this link: www.edudeo.com/blog/nov-15-2011-transforming-livesone-dress-at-a-time
   When you receive newsletters from charitable organizations, don’t just think of them as appeals for money.  There is much to learn!

Monday, 19 November 2012

I Thank God It's Monday

In North America people typically hate Mondays and love Fridays.  They say  “TGIF” and “I live for the weekend.”  I enjoy rest and time with family as much as other people, but living for the weekend is foreign to my way of thinking.
   I can understand that some people do not enjoy their occupations.  But how sad to simply endure most of your days in order to arrive at the thrills of time off work. 
   I love how the Bible is so practical and realistic.  One verse that really helps me stay focused in what my job is really about comes from Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (NIV). 
   When I give my work, whether paid or unpaid, as an offering to God, it is no longer drudgery on the path to “me time.”  My work allows me to be a blessing in the lives of others.  When I experience glimpses of how that blessing is received, it’s a better reward than any pay cheque.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

"...Heals All Your Diseases"

   These words come from my father’s favourite Psalm in the Bible, Psalm 103.  I recently asked him how it came to be his favourite.  He shared that his grandfather (who shared the same first name Marinus) had greatly loved this passage as well.  In 22 verses, this song of praise to God covers so much ground.  It is easy to identify with.
   When my dad reads the part, “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit” it is very personal.  He has experienced healing from episodes of illness, both physical and mental.  Previously in pain with every step he took, his knee surgery in 2009 has made him able to walk with ease.  He is a survivor of thyroid cancer.  The  “pit” can represent depression as well as the grave.  He has been lifted up from them both.
   God’s character is highlighted: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  The God of the Bible is not ruthless but abundantly caring towards his people.
   Regarding our past wrongdoings, we discover “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”  He doesn’t hold them against us anymore!
   These ancient words show that “from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him.”

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Food Wasted

I remember the days when there were only three places you could buy food—directly from a farmer, at a grocery store or at a convenience store.  Things have changed.  Gigantic department stores have sprung up that have an entire wing devoted to food, often sold in bulk.  In addition, food can now be found in the aisles of hardware stores and drug stores!  
   Along with all of the locations stocking perishable food comes the greater reality of food being wasted.  Inventories need to be maintained; variety must be offered to the consumer; dairy products have a short shelf life.  It is reported by the Value Chain Management Centre that food waste at the retail level is about $3 billion dollars per year in Canada.  However, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of food wasted.  The total documented in a report released in October 2012 is $27 billion.
   As consumers, we spend a great deal of time trying to save money on food, but homes are the worst offenders in throwing out perfectly good food, about $13.7 billion dollars worth annually.  Why does this happen?
  • We tend to buy more food than they can use.  If we don’t keep track of what is in their pantries and fridges the result will be waste by spoilage.
  • We may not know how to make the most of the food we have.  Some fruit can be eaten unpeeled for added fibre.  Some food that does not look appealing to eat can still be used: bruised apples can be made into applesauce, wilted vegetables will taste fine in soup and bananas with dark skins make great banana bread. 
  • We may look at the “Best Before” date as an expiry date, but this is not proper.  Yogurt can be eaten up to 2 weeks past the BB date with no danger to health as long as there is no visible mould.  Milk past the date can be used in baked goods calling for “sour milk.”  A dried out roll or heel of bread can be heated briefly in the microwave to restore moisture or dried out further to make bread crumbs.
   I’d be interested in how you avoid food waste at your house.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Hidden Losses

   People do not look forward to funeral home visitation or funerals.  However, when we have lost someone close to us, these events do often help us in the grieving process.  We receive support from friends and family members, even by their simple presence.  We are permitted to speak about our loss and shed tears without shame.  As well, the fact that there was a funeral means that others are aware of the loss and can continue to provide support in the weeks and months to come.
   When a couple loses a baby through miscarriage, it is often a hidden loss.  Perhaps the couple has not yet shared their excitement because “it’s too early.”  There is no public protocol for this kind of loss, and yet the grief is real.
   I’d like to share my personal journey of hidden loss.  My first pregnancy ended in miscarriage.  It was very early, so only my husband and I knew about it.  (We did later share this with our close family).  I struggled privately with guilt for more than two years until I was able to have a healing talk with my husband at a couple’s retreat.  Then, for the most part, I pushed this experience out of my mind as I cared for the children I was blessed with afterwards.
   After reading the book Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo last month, I came to a fresh realization.  I should not forget about this baby because I will see him or her in heaven.  I always believed that life begins at conception, but I have not really lived accordingly in this case. 
   I wonder what the church can do to reach out to those grieving hidden losses.  I’ve heard of a church that holds an annual memorial service for babies lost before birth or in early infancy.  Anyone who wants to come can do so.  This would be a place to let such grief be safely known and shared.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

A Contest with a Difference

   In my role as Enrichment teacher (in addition to my two-day per week Kindergarten position), I told students about a writing contest called “The Meaning of Home.”  This was open to Canadian students in Grades 4, 5, and 6 and was sponsored by a financial company.  Children could write a poem or original story about what “home” means to them, or what they love most about their homes.
   The difference of this contest is that each entry would result in the sponsoring company donating $5 to a Habitat for Humanity project closest to where the entrant lives.  I explained to the students a little about this wonderful organization, which builds homes using donated materials and volunteer labour.  Families who apply to receive a home must put in 500 hours of their own labour and buy the home at a rate they can afford to pay monthly.
   Yes, there are prizes for the best entries, but each student is rewarded with greater awareness of the issue of families in need of homes and gratitude for his or her own dwelling and its inhabitants.  Another bonus is that I will take the 15+ students who took the time to submit something on a walking trip and tour of a Habitat project close to the school.