Earlier this week my students and I were discussing how symbolically winter often represents death or an ending.
Then it started snowing.
And hasn’t really stopped at all today.
I think it’s beautiful how God is redeeming something that’s supposed to be dead. He’s making something clean and beautiful out of decay and death.
That’s exactly what he did with me. I was dead because of sin. He redeemed me and made me clean and beautiful. Thanks God.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord : though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Isaiah 1:18 ESV
I asked my students to complete this prompt, so I thought I would as well.
This year will be different. That’s an intimidating statement to make because who am I to say what this year will hold? Only God knows that. As I look back on the last year, though, I realize I was discontent with many of the relationships in my life. I wanted people to be different, and I sought acceptance from people around me. I was unhappy and insecure when I felt left out, whether I was truly left out or just imagining it. The root of my discontentment was that I was looking in the wrong place for my security. People, myself included, always disappoint, and I will never feel satisfied with a human relationship. Only God can satisfy and define me. This year will be different if I’ll keep that focus and perspective.
Secondly, this year will be different if I am thankful for the deep friendships I’ve already formed rather than attempting to force those in a new place. There’s no need to strive to be accepted by all. Instead I’ll strive to be a better friend to those around simply because that’s what God put me here to do. I’ll focus on demonstrating God’s love and being vulnerable as God leads rather than being concerned about how someone responds to my friendly gestures.
Ultimately this year will only be different if I’ll keep my focus on God and how he defines me rather than how people define me.
What will make your 2018 different?
Sometimes you have to read something to remind yourself of the reality in which some people live. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls is just such a book. Told in stark honesty, this memoir tells the truth of the author’s life growing up with adventurous parents who never saw a need to fit into societal comforts.
In this family, the father dreams of building a glass house for his family. In the meantime his entrepreneur lifestyle and his wife’s starving artist mindset keeps the family scrounging for money, food, and a reliable mode of transportation. The situations described by the author in which she lived filled me with sadness.
I don’t think, though, that the author’s intent was to make readers sad. She never gets dramatic about her descriptions, nor does she give the impression that she regrets her upbringing. There were hard times and times without food, and she did leave before graduating high school, but the story ultimately was about how she became who she is. It’s a story of overcoming and life choices.
It’s a story that will stick with me as I look at people. When Walls first moved to New York, she didn’t tell anyone of her past. That reminds me that sometimes people have hidden hurts and not to judge them.
The Glass Castle is not for the faint of heart. It’s not overly graphic though there are some tough subjects and language. It made me sad and angry at times, but it reminded me of my blessings as well as to be a blessing to others.
I learned that the term cows only refers to female cattle. How did I learn that, you ask? This evening I had the opportunity to play Catan: Settlers of America. Overall, it was a nice change from the original Catan or any of the expansions. It was useful to have played Catan before though because it enabled us to skip over some of the rules. It wouldn’t be impossible to learn though because the rule book is very thorough.
The gist of the game is similar to the original Catan, but it is set in the United States. Players try to build cities farther Eastward and deliver goods to other player’s cities.
The concept is fun because you can recognize cities that you know. It would allow families to discuss history of the Westward expansion. The rulebook explains the history in the almanac.
One nice addition from the original Catan is the resource bonus. If a number is rolled and you don’t have that resource, you get a gold coin. The gold coins can buy resources or help you travel.
The game is very long. With three players we spent 3 hours playing the first time. Of course some learning time was factored into that. The game is easily modified to be shorter though. We played a second time with only half of the original goal and spent half of the time.
Unfortunately it only allows for 3-4 players. We also couldn’t find an expansion option. The board is so large already that expanding it would be hard.
Personally, I found the pieces a bit large and unwieldy. By the time you get a city, wagon, train, and rail on an intersection it’s quite crowded.
Unlike other Catan games where I find development cards to be an annoyance, development cards in this game make a huge difference. They allowed me to win the first time by letting me build two free roads.
I look forward to playing this game again in the future.
Christmas is here, and as I think back upon Christmases past and the marvel of the first Christmas, I am humbled by all the ways God has blessed me.
That first Christmas was enough of a blessing for any of us. There were so many factors working against God’s plan, but because he’s God, everything worked perfectly. A tiny baby with a big mission was born. That tiny baby grew into a perfect man who gave his life at a young age for a crime he never committed, so I could have a relationship with his Father. Wow what a major blessing!
I don’t need any more than that, but God has given me more than that at Christmas. Every Christmas we gather at my grandparent’s house for food, games, and just being together. As a kid I remember playing upstairs with my brothers until my Grandy woke up. The upstairs used to have a vent that connects to the bottom floor. One year my brother and I dropped army men through that floor. Needless to say my Papaw plugged that hole.
Another great memory was the mashed potato mountain. My Papaw had two favorite foods: mashed potatoes and ice cream. That one year he was in charge of making the taters. My family is small, but he made a mountain of potatoes. To make it more festive he put a candy cane in the top. He may be in heaven now, but that memory lives on.
Finally, I’ve been blessed with many memories of games played, won and lost. Those moments have taught me that losing is okay because the true reason for Christmas is being together.
This year I’m thankful for God’s wonderful plan, his many blessings, and the opportunities he provides. This Christmas I hope you know Jesus and strive to be obedient to his call. Be thankful for the opportunities he gives you, marvel at his awesomeness, and trust his perfect plan. Finally, just take time to slow down and enjoy the season.
My first car was named Roxie after a man who used to come into the restaurant where I waitressed. His last name was Rex, and the advice he gave me lingers in my mind as I drive to visit family and friends this Christmas season.
Drive for yourself and for everyone else.
This man hadn’t had a wreck in all of his years of driving, so his advice on driving seems trustworthy. Of course it’s impossible to completely predict how others will drive, but the idea is to watch other cars.
This is not saying that his advice kept me accident free (cough, July’s dumb moment that cost me Roxie’s life), but it has probably kept me more cautious in other moments. As you drive this holiday and beyond, friends, be cautious. Pay attention to your driving as well as what others around you are doing.
Thanks Mr. Rex.
Ah, Christmas break is amazing. After finishing the last day of school, I was able to sit down and just read for pleasure for several hours. I finished a very interesting book entitled The Debt by Angela Hunt.
Set in a fictional Kentucky town, a pastor’s wife must rethink her view of the church when her grown biological son shows up in her life. Her son, whom she never met nor told her husband about, is a minister of a different kind than her husband; he goes to less-than-obvious places to build relationships with people who might never set foot in a church. She begins to see the flaws in the way she and her husband have been doing church.
This book’s purpose wasn’t to condemn church work or even to say that every church member needs to visit bars and impoverished neighborhoods. Rather, it asks us to pause and look at the opportunities God gives to us to be carriers of his word. For some of us that may mean doing work within the church, but for some of us that may mean carrying his work beyond the church walls.
Another main idea of this book was the idea of the church in connection with the world. The church in the book launched a nationwide boycott of a bookstore chain because a book with which they disagreed was being sold there. The pastor’s wife begins to question the effectiveness of such a boycott in spreading God’s love. She begins to see that the church is simply pushing agendas against sin rather than spreading the hope of God’s remedy for sin. One particular quote stands out: “don’t be shocked when sinners sin”. Just like the characters in the book, we need to examine what we’re fighting against. If we spend all of our time telling sinners that their sin is wrong without telling them about Jesus, we’ve missed the call. Remember, God meets us in our sin and then begins to change us, not the other way around.
If you want a thought-provoking yet easy read, this might be a book to add to you Christmas wish list.