Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas one and all!

Well, it's now after midnight so officially Christmas. Therefore, Merry Christmas everyone! We had our traditional celebration over at my mother's house tonight. We gathered for a light meal,thanked Papa for His blessings to us, then opened presents. Now some would think "So what's so unusual about that?!" But I should explain that my mother had hip replacement surgery about 3 1/2 months ago...and at 73 that's a big deal! Then add in that my sister and her husband lost almost everything they owned in Hurricane Ike 3-4 months ago. Plus my dear cousin that lives with us has been unemployed since about March. But each and everyone one of us had gifts to give and recieve. How awesome is that?!?! My parents gave their hospitality and love and gifts to come later. My sister gave gifts that she had made earlier this year and stored at my parent's house or in a storage unit that was not ruined in Ike. My dear cousin used the internet and his incredible knowledge of same to find gifts for all of us that were things we can really use or enjoy without sending him into the poorhouse! (I was amazed at his ability to do this! And yes, Dear Cousin, if you read this I mean every word I just typed!!!) And Dodi, Little Critter and I had made gifts for everyone to go along with things we bought during the year. All in all, it was a delightful evening. No whining about how we couldn't afford all the gifts we wanted to get ourselves or each other, no whining about how the government didn't send us enough money to buy things, no whining we didn't get what we really wanted. Everyone got gifts from the hearts of the givers. Gifts that mean something...not just the latest rage or fads. And best of all, we got the gift of Papa's love for us in His provision for each of us. Yes, it was a wonderful evening. Then after visiting for awhile, admiring each other's work on homemade gifts, and delighting in the joys of the treasures we each recieved, Little Critter, Dodi, Dear Cousin and I returned home. We did our Advent devotional, lit our candles, said our Hanukkah prayers and lit those candles, read that devotional and discussed how it could be applied to our lives today, then ended this wonderful day with bringing to rememberance two children's songs. The Hanukkah lesson dealt with the candles bringing light to their surroundings and the Bible verses were dealing with the eye being the candle of the soul. As we were discussing the commentary we'd read and what it meant, Little Critter said it was like Jesus Loves All The Children of the World [we old timer's know it as Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog....but I don't have to tell Little Critter that ;-)] and then we decided it was also like Be Careful Little Eyes What You See. (Two songs we often sing at bedtime...) And now I'm thinking back over the evening and finding my love letters. Papa provided a loving family for us that is free with their hospitality and love, He gave us many friends to share our hearts and lives with, and He provided us more things than we really deserve. And best of all, He gave us His Son to provide a way for us to remain close to Papa always. What an awesome day. Happy Birthday Jesus, we're so glad You came, and are grateful for Your love for us. Our prayer tonight is that each of you are blessed by Papa and find the love letters He's sent you most especially this special day. And may you each feel Papa's arms wrapped around you on this blessed night. Shalom and Merry Christmas...and for my Jewish/Hebrew friends, Happy Haunkkah all this week. Joie
PS We leave for my Dodi's families house in the morning and internet access is sometimes difficult. So I may not be able to post for a few days. Just know I'll be thinking of all my friends and praying for each of you. Be blessed.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah to all my friends, and those I don't know yet. This is a wonderful holiday. I realize many of my Christian friends will be scratching their heads about now....what am I talking about?!?! Well, I just want to comment a minute on this incredible Love Letter Papa's given me. I'm not suggesting everyone has to do as we do, but I'd hate for you to miss the blessing that we get simply because I didn't tell you about it but kept it all to myself. So.....let me explain.
Hanukkah is an 8 day celebration found in the Apocryphal book of 1st Maccabees in the Bible. (Most modern Bibles have pulled the Apocrypha books out of the published Bibles. A real shame, these are some incredible books from the ancient Bible! It is also mentioned in John 10:22 as the Feast of Dedication.)1st Maccabees has to do with the Jewish people fighting against the Roman army, and against impossible odds,
(Does anyone else hear a "But G-d!!!"?) winning the war! It also (even more than the 'in your face' story) has to do with how Papa interjects Himself into the lives of those who believe in Him and at least attempt to follow His ways by providing for them. The Romans had desecrated the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Maccabean family (Judah Maccabee especially) was horrified and set about cleaning, rebuilding and rededicating the Holy Temple. They only found enough sanctified oil to light the Menorah (Lampstand) for one day. But the law of Moses said it was to burn continually. So they lit the Menorah,(here's another "But G-d!!!") sent for more oil to be prepared (a task that takes days to accomplish) and went to get the oil. The Rabbi's (priests) tended the Menorah each day and although there wasn't enough oil for more than 1 or 1 1/2 days, it remained lit for 8 days until the newly prepared oil was not only ready, but arrived at the Temple. This was the second miracle of Hanukkah. (The first being that the Maccabees beat the Roman army of several thousand and reclaimed the Temple)
But as I see it, the key word in this whole explanation was 'rededication'. As my family celebrates this wonderful festival (also called the Festival of the Lights), we are choosing to find ways to rededicate our lives to Papa. The menorah used for Hanukkah (a Hanukkiah) is lit each night of the 8 nights with the Shamesh or Servant Candle. Well, of course to us that represents Jesus! He even said He was the Light of the World! And in John 10, as he went to the Temple to celebrate Hanukkah, He preached a sermon about being the light of His Father. So as we light our candles and praise Papa for His blessings to us, we talk about ways we can better reflect His light into the world around us, ways we can rededicate ourselves to following His ways more closely and spread His good news to those who don't know it. It's a WONDERFUL family time full of sweet memories being made. We also participate in Advent, so each evening, I cook special foods (I use traditional Hanukkah meals and did I mention the chocolate gelt?!?!?), we light the Advent wreath, read a devotional, discuss it, then light the Hanukkah candles, saying the prayers as we light them, sing Hanukkah songs, read from Maccabees or Judith (another Apocryphal book), discuss how the lesson of the story can be applied to us today and then praise Papa for all His goodness to us. It usually takes an hour or so each evening, but is one of our favorite times of the year. The whole evening is focused on Him! What a great way to combat the commercialism of Christmas and the darkness of so much of the daily news stations each day. I would urge everyone to research the Biblical feasts (check out Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16), several times Papa says these feasts are to be celebrated as a permanent regulation for all generations. They are SUCH a blessing, and allow us to make so many more sweet memories for us and for Little Critter. (He loves the chocolate gelt we make, the driedl game and the songs of Hanukkah! He sings them all year round. LOL!) So as everyone is preparing for their Holiday season (whether Hanukkah, Christmas/New Years or a combination of both like us) I wish the Light of the Hanukkah candles shine in your hearts, the provision of our loving Papa fill your homes, and the incredible love of our Saviour radiate from your lives to all who see you. May you find your own love letters from Papa in the coming year. Shalom, Joie

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Cold Love Letter

Tuesday I had to attend a workshop for my job as office manager of an H & R Block tax office. It was in the 20's when I got up and got ready to go to the meeting. As I picked up the other folks riding with me, the owner of the office bought us cappuccino and put gas in my car, then off we go. The weather was icky, the temps miserably cold (especially since Sunday it was almost 70!!!) Then after the lecture part of the meeting, my boss was taking photos of several folks for the websites of each office. (Mine was done last year and didn't need to be redone) But I noticed all these lovely ladies would smile and laugh and talk as they waited their turn, then in front of the camera all smiles disappeared. One of my friends was in front of the camera and I told her to smile, to which she replied "Oh, I hate my smile!" This just broke my's this lovely young woman, with a delightful and charming smile claiming she hates her smile. How that must have hurt Papa. He gave her that smile to brighten others' day, to share His love with others and she hates it....How odd. Then I kept watching. She wasn't the only one. All of the 20 or so men and women had the same response. Now, I'm the first one to often question why Papa made me the way He did....would it really have destroyed some cosmic plan for me to perhaps be more attractive?!?!?! But to say I hate parts of myself? Knowing He formed me in my mother's womb before I was even born, and that He has a plan for me that He wrote before time began. Wow. It reminded me how important it is to remember who I am....I'm a daughter of the King of the Universe! I may not understand why I look or sound the way I do, but I do KNOW He made me this way for a purpose. And part of my purpose is to remind others who they are...or could be. I'm to be His light, joy and love to all I meet. So I made it a point to tell my friend what a delightful and lovely smile she has....and that she should use it often! It brightens other's day. I hope you, my friends, will remember who you are. You're a daughter of the King. That makes you a princess!!! It matters not what you look reflect your Father! And He's beautiful!!! So smile! You're beautiful, just the way you are. Shalom, Joie

Monday, December 15, 2008

Love Letter in the Midst

Well, today Little Critter and I finished our Torah (Bible) study and were working on things for the holidays. We celebrate Hanukkah as well as doing an Advent Bible study (to prepare our hearts to hear Papa better, but we do this year round too....without the candles) and our families still celebrate Christmas. We also celebrate Yeshua's birth, but at Sukkot. But we exchange gifts with our family and friends at this time of the year. So as we're working on cards and things, Little Critter decides he needs to go thru some of his toys and things to give to some cousins. (These are kids that we also fostered for a while. So the kids are pretty close) As he's choosing toys and rejecting or contemplating them for various reasons, I was touched. His generosity of heart was a blessing to my Mommy heart. He picked out things he really enjoyed or has a sentimental attachment to but wanted to share the joy he has had with them with his cousins. These choices weren't just junk!(This from the kid who often refuses to trash the "happy meal" toys he occasionally gets!?!?! Maybe he really IS getting some of the things we're trying to teach him!?!!) It reminded me of the way Papa wants to share his favorite or most sentimental 'toys' with us! While we may ask, whine or beg for certain gifts from Papa....and His Father's heart wants to grant our requests. He can also see the effects and consequences of our requests that we often (OK, most the time) can't see or understand. So just like Little Critter rejected some of his choices (too noisy for Grandma or Uncle Randy...pieces missing from this puzzle....maybe too difficult for the age of that cousin) so Papa sometimes rejects our requests based on the long term consequences or effects of our requests. Does that mean He didn't answer our prayer? No...It means that as any loving parent would do He considered our request and chose the best for us. So when we ask for something and don't get it, remember, as a child of the King, our Father is considering our requests, weighing the consequences/effects and only giving us the best! Shalom, Joie

Friday, December 12, 2008

A new love letter today

This is Shabbot. For those who don't undestand, it's the sabboth day. A day of rest, family, fun and listening to Papa. And yes, Papa is what I call G-d. To me, G-d is formal and stiff. I know Him to be much more than that. He is my Abba, (Hebrew for Daddy). Since Daddy is what young children call their Father, I call Him Papa. It conveys much the same things as Daddy, but even more. To me, Papa is a combination of that grandfather we all loved so much who spoiled us rotten and then sent us home, and our earthly fathers who we wrapped around our little fingers the first time we smiled at them. Papa loves to spoil us rotten, but won't hesitate to discipline us either. His discipline is always done with love and while sometimes painful at first, is for our own good. To help us become the people He created us to be, to live into our potentials. So, now that we understand each's the love letter I got today from Papa.
Each day, I believe, Papa sends us little love letters to remind us how precious we are to Him and how much He wants to talk with us and spend time with us. Today was a typical Shabbot prep day. Lots of cooking and cleaning to get done in between homeschooling my Little Critter. (He's a typical wormy, squirmy little boy of 8 who thinks he's part Superman, part 2 yr old.) As I began to feel that nothing was going to work out 'right' and I'd never figure out what to cook for Shabbot dinner, a friend I used to teach with called. She just wanted to check on me and make sure we were all doing well. I haven't heard from her in several months, so this phone call was both a surprise and a joy. We chatted for almost an hour, caught up on each others news and then vowed we'd stay in closer contact. As I hung up, I thought what a nice surprise...someone calling to tell me I'm important to them. Important enough to stay in touch with. WoW! I'm just a simple homekeeper who homeschools in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Then it dawned on me, Papa feels that way about me too! I'm important to Him. Important enough to stay in touch with. Too Cool! I quickly thanked Him for this little love letter and quiet reminder that no matter how insignificant we feel or how invisible we think we are to others, He never forgets us or looses track of us. I hope you learn to see the love letters He sends you also. He loves you! Shalom, Joie