Advent: Hope

Today is the beginning is of Advent. Advent is a time for us to prepare for Christmas. It isn’t about shopping, baking, decorations or even preparing for the annual Christmas concert, play or cantata.

Advent is about what God did for us. It is about God’s Radical demonstration of love.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NIV)

Humans were created by God to have a relationship him. Sadly, humans rebelled. It was God who took the initiative to bring restoration and healing to humans.

 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8 (NIV)

Christ came into a dark world so we might have hope.  A hope that endures even in the most difficult situations. A hope that isn’t based on our circumstances. A hope that gives purpose and meaning even when life seems pointless. A hope that is anchored in the past saving work of Christ, the ongoing strength for today and the promise of future reward.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Wreck-It Ralph — updated version

wreck-it-ralphFound this while looking through pictures to post for Throwback Thursday.   After re-reading, I’ve made some changes.

Wreck-It Ralph is lonely, outcast and tired of being the bad guy. After 30 years of watching good guy, Fix-It Felix, Jr. be a hero and welcomed by the other peeps in the game, he decides to do something about. Ralph lives in the dump and is all lone each night when the arcade closes. He leaves the game in search of a medal.

When Hero’s Duty, a new first-person shooter game arrives, Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. He sneaks into the game determined to win a medal. Ralph succeeds in winning a medal but accidentally unleashes a deadly Cy-bug that threatens wipe out every game in the arcade. When Ralph attempts to return home he crash-lands into the cart-racing game Sugar Rush. Ralph loses his medal to another outcast Vanellope von Schweetz.

Vanellope is deemed a “glitch” by King Candy the ruler of Sugar Rush. Vanellope wants the medal because it looks like a gold coin. A gold coin is the required entry fee in the weekly cart race.  King Candy doggedly tries to prevent Vanellope from entering the race. For some strange reason he must prevent her from winning the race. He claims she was a mistake and shouldn’t even exist.  Felix goes searching for Ralph because without Ralph their game is out-of-order. Out-of-order games get shut down.  In a moment of desperation Ralph sees Vanellope’s picture on the cabinet of Sugar Race  and  learns that something is wrong in King Candy’s the explanation. It turns out that it is King Candy not Vanellope who doesn’t belong in the game.  King Candy is really Turbo from another racing game.  After Turbo’s game is shut down he ends up in Sugar Race and becomes King Candy.  He manipulated the plot and game peeps into believing his version of reality. 

Satan is like King Candy he twists the truth and reality to fit his plans. He wants us to believe his lies not God’s truth.  He tells us that we are worthless, a mistake, an outcast and have no value. While the truth is the opposite:

I am not a mistake. I was created in God’s image, He has a plan and purpose for my life. He hasn’t forgotten about me. God loves me.

Who Am I by Casting Crowns

A new year can mean a fresh start and a chance for the best year yet. It can also mean one more year of the same old stuff and junk that is holding me back. Whether 2016 is the best year yet or not is up to me.  I must decide take the steps necessary to make it the best year yet. What changes, thoughts or actions do you need to make for 2016  the best year so far.

TDZ Retrospective: A Masterpiece

Posted April 14, 2013.
057 I made this Piggy bank as a gift several years ago. When The Big Guy was a grad student I was able to use the studio in the student center. The studio was run for and by students. The prices were good plus it was convenient.

I worked on Piggy for several hours until she looked just right. She was so cute. Everyone in the studio agreed Piggy was adorable. Piggy was left to be fired and finished. I was really excited about my masterpiece. When I create things there is a sense of pride in my work especially if I create it as a gift for someone.

062When I returned a few days later to pick up Piggy and some other pieces I was disappointed to find that something had gone wrong in the firing process.  Piggy was perfect except for little dent marks on top.  The student manager offered another product on the house. She went off on a long explanation how Piggy was to blame for the problems. It was hard to “fire” Piggy and that no one ever made piggy banks. Instead she kept offering me a cute panda or elephant “piggy bank”. She didn’t understand why I didn’t want a panda or an elephant. They weren’t the same. Dejectedly I set Piggy at my workspace and selected another piece. The manager started to take Piggy away. When I stopped her, she was amazed that I still wanted a damaged product like Piggy. Well of course, I wanted Piggy she was my creation. I invested time into Piggy.

057Many times we are like Piggy. We were created for a purpose.  However we have gotten messed up with dents and dings from life. It doesn’t mean that God wants to throw us out. He wants to redeem, re-purpose and even use life’s dings for our good.

Like Piggy God can still use us. We use Piggy to collect spare change. All of the spare change is donated to missions, World Hunger Day, Operation Christmas Child and other charitable causes.

 

TDZ Retrospective: Laundry, Dishes and Faith

From August 5, 2012

Household chores are a challenge for me. It seems that there is a constant battle to maintain a somewhat clean home.  I do try to keep things clean and my house is actually fairly organized. (No clean and organized are not synonyms.) Between, work, life and having ADHD it is just hard. Actually my struggles with maintaining a clean home are normal for adult women with ADHD.  I have discovered several things that help me keep things under control. If I can stay on-top of the laundry and dishes life is good.

Ever noticed if you leave one towel or the floor or even one sock somehow a pile of clothes appears out of nowhere. It is as if the clothes jump out of the closet while I’m at work each day. It seemed like that no matter how hard I tried we always had a pile of laundry to wash. Or even worse a pile of clean clothes that never got put up. It always seemed we ran out of clean clothes at the absolute worse time. So there was a constant struggle to do just enough to get by because I never had time to catch up. Dishes were another source of turmoil. I would try to cook healthy meals but never have the time or energy to clean the kitchen after dinner. After a long day of work, fixing dinner and of course trying to squeeze in some laundry I just couldn’t face the kitchen. Then the sink would seem to take over my whole kitchen. Just walking into the room and seeing the mess would zap all energy out of me. I felt defeated before I could even start.  Two baby-steps I learned from The FlyLady were to have a shiny sink every night before you go to bed and system for doing laundry: one load in the morning, swap in middle of the day and one load at night.  Usually I just do a load when I come home in the evening and maybe one before going to bed. When I do those two simple things life and my house is easier to manage.  Another thing I learned from the FlyLady is to have daily routines that “automate” the house and ones life. By sticking with simple routines like picking out clothes for the next day and packing lunches at night life is much easier. While my mornings still start why too early it is less hectic.

So you may be wondering what faith has to do with dishes and laundry. Well the Christian life has routines or  disciplines that make things less chaotic as well. Routines like prayer, Bible Study, worship, service and just some alone time with God.  These are the building blocks that help be stay connected with my faith. When I neglect these routines my life begins to become cluttered with junk.

  105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,    a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105, New International Version)

TDZ Retrospective: Bonsai Trees

From July 8, 2012.
Bonsai trees are an amazing work of art. They are actually miniature trees trained to grow in various shapes. They are not merely little shrubs cut down. Rather they are dwarfed trees that are trained to grow as the tree might in nature. This involves pruning from a master caretaker who knows precisely what the tree need.

Bonsai TreeBonsai trees are trained for years. The above tree has been in training since the 1970s.  Training helps the tree to thrive and protects it from harsh environments. Dwarf Olive treeBecoming a bonsai tree isn’t just a one time event. Rather it is a lifetime process where the tree is nourished and pruned. The Christian life is a lot like a bonsai tree. Being a Christian doesn’t stop with a salvation encounter. That is is the beginning of a life long journey. To grow and mature as a Christian requires the care of the Master Gardner.  What we may see as limitations on our personal freedom are there for our protection.

Bonsai water systemThe bonsai tree is equipped with tubes that provide water keep the tree healthy and thriving. As water provides nourishment to the bonsai tree, Christ provides life to the Christian.

   5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:5-8, New International Version)

TDZ Retrospective: Dogs and Cats

Posted November 27, 2011.

The Big Guy and I have an ongoing debate regarding the superiority of dogs over cats. He is one of those who has been duped into believing cats are better than dogs. (I know kind of hard to believe from a guy who’s school mascot is a beautiful collie.) Anyway we were walking on the beach and saw several dogs with their people playing in the water. He commented that a cat would never do that or be found on a leash. His reasoning was that cats are too smart and independent to walk on a leash. I commented that because they weren’t willing to walk on a leash cats are restricted to a small domain, while dogs could explore a big world. He explained that cats are the rulers of their domain (a rather small domain) and are too independent to conform to an owner.  A dog’s willingness to be trained and led opens the door to exploration and adventure of a huge world. A dog knows that someone else is in charge. A dog also knows that his/her human will provide all of the necessities and more. A dog will be able to spend quality time on adventures with his/her human. We had a dog Polly who would get so excited every time the word leash was even spelled. She knew that the leash meant going somewhere with her humans. Polly loved spending time with her humans.  She so desired spending time with her human that in the mornings she would eagerly wait outside my door for my mom to say it was time to wake the little human up and start the day.

As humans we are often like that with God. God wants us to be a dog. Willing to submit personal freedom to Him. Yearning for quality time with Him. So many times we are more like a cat and want to rule our little domain and spend time with Him only when it suits us. Like cats we fail to realize that surrendering personal freedom and time will open the door to great adventures. Are you a dog or a cat?

TDZ Retrospective: Fortress

Castillo de San MarcosOriginally posted January 9, 2011.

Built between 1672-1695, the Castillo de San Marcos is still an imposing structure.  It was built by the Spanish to protect the town of San Augustine. It was constructed from coquina and built in a star shape. Despite numerous assaults and the town changing hands the fortress was never conquered.  One purpose of the fort was to provide a place of refuge and shelter during enemy assaults for towns people. During one attack by the British each day the Castillo was bombard by cannons from ships. Each night the Spanish troops would remove cannon balls from the fortress walls.  Each morning the fortress showed no visible damage.

As Christians, we have a fortress that is stronger and safer than the tick walls of the Old Spanish fort.  God wants to be our refuge when bombard by the enemies attack. Of course, God’s desire is to have fellowship with us in the times of joy and celebration as well.

 

Castillo

1 I love you, LORD, my strength.

2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

3 I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death entangled me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
5 The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me

6 In my distress I called to the LORD;
I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came before him, into his ears

Psalms 18:1-6 NIV