Sunday, December 20, 2009

Advent...Do YOU live it out?

Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:32 "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door." Many people scoff at those of us with a certainty that the Lord is moving among people and kingdoms preparing the world we know for His imminent return. There are so many headlines as well as buried stories that support this belief, but what if there were not?

Many say that it has been said for generations that the Lord is "coming back in our generation". So why would we believe it now? Every previous generation has been wrong.

What if I am wrong?

What would be the result?

I wonder... did Paul meet Jesus in heaven and say, "Wait a minute! You were supposed to come back BEFORE I died!" Did he think his life wasted that he was "wrong" about the timing?

I think our predisposition to thinking He will not return in our lifetime is the open gateway that we walk through toward a life of lazy Christianity, a sloppy walk, licentiousness. Will my life be wasted if I spend it believing that He could return before I die? Or will my down-to-the-core belief that He could return in my lifetime, or my children's lifetime, change the way I live, the way I act, the way I love and follow Him? Will it give me the courage and the hope to model my life after Jesus the Revolutionary? After Paul the Unapologetic Evangelist?

If those be the results of my belief, then I would die unashamed of being wrong and having lived fully for Him. Before everything I do I want to think "If Jesus returns while I'm doing this will I be ashamed? WHEN He returns will I be ashamed of how I spent my time? money? gifts?"

Thinking like this on a daily basis is hard. I don't live like this. Not all the time. But I want to, and I am praying that the Lord will change my heart in such a way that to live like this every day would be natural. And I trust that He is doing that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent..."His Coming...Our Hope"

As our family has begun celebrating the traditions we practice each year during the season of Advent, really as I began to prepare for these traditions, the Lord reminded me of something I wrote this past summer (which I will post later). He began to show me that Advent for the Believer is a two-fold celebration. The first being the preparation and anticipation of celebrating the 1st Coming of our REDEEMER, Yeshua Ha'Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The second being our on-going preparation and anticipation for His GLORIOUS RETURN and 2nd Coming. Last year as our church studied 2 Thessalonians our teaching pastors used the phrase "His Coming...Our Hope." I think this perfectly shows that Advent has a past and a future!

In my study of the book of Daniel, particularly the 3 weeks we spent in chapter 7, he showed me clearly that Jesus Himself specifically told us that we are to be constantly ready. That He will return as a "thief in the night". In Matthew 24 He says "be on the alert for you do not know which day your Lord is coming (v42)" and "you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (v 44)".

Whatever Advent traditions your family holds, I would challenge you this season to examine your Advent preparation for the day-in-day-out, week-to-week grind of life. Do you let "life get in the way"? Let commitments take over time that should be set aside for family worship and devotions or personal time with your Savior.
I know that I do.
My prayer for this year is that my Advent "season" would continue throughout the entire year. That when the Christmas Advent season comes around next year that the only shift would be in the tools we are using - an Advent Wreath, the Advent Book, and an Advent story in addition to our Bible time; Christmas carols in place of or in addition to other worship songs and hymns. My prayer is that my life would become an on-going anticipation for and celebration of the 2nd Advent of my Savior, and that I would be "prepared for every good work (2 Tim 2:21)" because of it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent...Family Traditions

I'll be honest, our family is relatively new to the Advent traditions part of Christmas, but it has so enriched our lives and celebration of this holy-day that I thought I'd share a little about what Advent is, what we do as a family and some links to places to get Advent "supplies".

First, Advent really just means "coming", but in association with Christmas has come to mean the traditions that we carry out as believers to prepare for the coming of the Messiah which we celebrate at Christmas. There are SO many different things you can do, with your family or by yourself, to prepare with anticipation for Christmas and the 1st coming of Christ, so I will simply share with you what we do in our family.

Each night after dinner we sit down (all in one chair for now since we are only 3, but hopefully we will need a couch for next year (; ) and we begin with our Advent Wreath.

Advent Wreaths come in all shapes and sizes, some are actually greenery, some are metal, some spell out a word, some are a simple circle. What they all have in common is that they hold four taper candles with one pillar candle standing in the middle. You light a new candle each Sunday beginning four Sundays before Christmas and the pillar in the middle, called the Christ Candle, on Christmas day. Ours, which we just got this year, is a Jesse Tree Advent Wreath. The Jesse Tree is a Biblical tracing of the story of the Messiah starting in Genesis. It actually refers to Jesse's, the Father of David, family tree, which is the family tree of Jesus.

This is the Bible reading we do each night. There is Scripture for each night of Advent leading up to Jesus birth. It is wonderful to watch the story of our Redeemer unfold throughout the entire story of Scripture. So we begin with the lighting of the candle, or candles, and read from the Word for that evening.

After our Jesse Tree reading, we read our Advent story book, this year we are using a WONDERFUL book recommended to us by dear friends. It is called "Jotham's Journey". It tells the story of a young Isaelite boy, Jotham, and his travels as he learns about the Messiah who is about to come. The story is broken up into nightly readings for the season. (I believe it is also a trilogy...)

Finally, we finish with "The Advent Book". This book is probably the most beautiful book I've ever seen. Each page is a door with a small portion of the Christmas story, from The Gospel of Luke, behind the door. You open a new door each night until Christmas day. The cool part is that by the time you get to the last door you've read the Christmas story 25 times!

After the Advent Book we finish our time together with prayer and, sometimes, a song.

So that's what WE do. What do YOU do?

Feel free to post a comment and share your Advent traditions.

If you need some additional ideas, I would HIGHLY recommend This is the website of the couple who wrote The Advent Book and they have some truly fabulous ideas. I would also HIGHLY recommend This is one of my favorite blogs and is written by Ann Voskamp. She always blogs about their family Advent time and even has written her own Jesse Tree book titled "The Glorious Coming" which is wonderful. My husband and I have used it before.

So go, prepare, anticipate, and share the Good News: He has come and He is coming again!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

advent...her coming

This season of waiting for our referral has gotten a lot harder. Many friends and family ask us regularly if we have "heard anything." It is getting harder and harder to answer that question. The "Not yet" gets stuck in my throat. The "No" is not naturally said with a smile. Thank you for asking. Please keep asking. It is not the asking that is hard. It is the answering.

We periodically hear about referrals other couples at our agency have received. Until recently, this was hopeful news, but as the holidays draw nearer, I am reminded with each one that my daughter is somewhere and will not be with her family for Christmas.

This is what happened yesterday. I heard about 2 more referrals of girls to couples from our agency. My MIND says "Well, obviously, these were neither one YOUR daughter. They were the daughters of these two families. The Lord has built your family, and you must wait for its completion." My heart cries out, "WHY NOT US????"

As I took my sorrow to the Lord in prayer, He reminded me of Psalm 121:
Psalm 121
I will lift my eyes to the mountains
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip,
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper,
The Lord is the shade on your right hand.
The sun will not smite you by day
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forevermore.

So I wrote it out in my journal. As I was writing He reminded me of something else, as well. Our family is in the midst of celebrating Advent. Advent means "coming" and in the context of Christmas, we are awaiting the coming of Messiah. As we wait we prepare - watching, waiting, and anticipating with joy and excitement - not sorrow and mourning.

I began to examine how I am awaiting the advent of my daughter. Am I preparing, watching, waiting and anticipating with joy and excitement, or sorrow and mourning. I am sad to say that, of late, I have been lazy with my preparation - constant prayer for her and her transition to this country and our family, reading books on adoption, seeking out support groups to know where we will fit best when she arrives, etc - and my anticipating has turned into a 1st class pity-party of "torn-robes and ashes".

I pray that as our wait continues that the Lord would continue to faithfully remind me that He will never leave me nor forsake me - or my precious Rebekah - and that "He will keep [my/her] soul. [He] will guard [my/her] going out and [my/her] coming in from this time forth and forevermore. (Ps 121:7b,8)"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Caleb-isms IX

This weekend was a VERY busy weekend at our house. I am co-director for the children's choir at our church and our Christmas Musical was Sunday night. I was at the church...well...all weekend. On Saturday after dress rehearsal, I met my men for a quick lunch. While we were eating the following conversation happened:

(Conversation set-up: Last week was also a Global Summit at our church and my Caleb got to meet 2 of my friends from Africa. When he met my friend James, Caleb said the when he was "9 or 10" Mommy would take him to Africa with her...ummm...probably not....but I love his heart! We did ask him why "9 or 10" and he said, "You know when I'm a grown up" so we explained that 9 and 10 year olds are still kids and he wouldn't be a grown up until he's at least 20 (; )

Mommy: So, buddy, you want to go to Africa with me when you're 9 or 10.

Caleb: No, probably when I'm like, um, about 20. (NO JOKE HE TALKS LIKE THIS!!)

Mommy: Oh, like 20?

Caleb: Yeah, when I'm a grown up.

Mommy: What will you do there?

Caleb: (coloring...) I want to give out the food to the people who don't have any. I'll go and I'll give them some. I'll hand it out.

Mommy: Wow. That's a good thing to do.

Caleb: (still coloring...) Yeah, and maybe if I find my honey, I mean my wife, she can come too and she can learn them about Jesus while I hand out the food if we don't have any kids yet.

At this point I just smiled. I mean what do you say to that? Got to love his heart...and his mind...though!

PS - stay tuned for my soon to come series on Advent...