Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christmas Traditions Around the World: Iceland's Jólabókaflóð

We all create traditions in our families for the holidays. My daughters and I get together with my mom and roll out, cut out, and bake Christmas cookies. My husband and I cruise the area and marvel at Christmas lights. We gather together to open presents, share food, and celebrate Jesus' birth. I never miss the children's Christmas pageant.

I've always been curious about Christmas traditions in other countries; or even in different regions of America.

Have you heard about a cool custom in Iceland?

As a book lover, I adore this Jólabókaflóð"the Christmas book flood." Icelander's open their gifts on Christmas Eve and one of the wrapped gifts is always a book. Once the clutter is cleared, the receiver of the gift takes their new shiny book, wraps up in a cozy blanket and cracks it open to read the night away. What a glorious tradition. Meaningful because the giver took the time to choose the perfect book. Relaxing as they read well into the night.

We read about Jesus birth from the Bible each Christmas and Holiday stories from Mary Engelbreit's Believe: A Christmas Story.
How can you incorporate book giving into your Christmas?
  • Add a book to your gift list.
  • Share a favorite book with a loved one.
  • Celebrate the joy of the printed word.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Mystery of God

Lamentations 3:25-26
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
    to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.

The city of Cincinnati sparkled outside my hospital window. I viewed the crown on top of Great American Tower and the reflection of lights twinkling on the Ohio River. At two o'clock in the morning, I listened to the tap, tap, tap of ice hitting the window; a beautiful chorus to kick off my recovery. In the quiet of the early morning, God's Spirit dwelled by my side. As did my wonderful husband who slept on the hard as a rock couch, under that scenic the window.

I'm not usually awake in the middle of the night. But this night I'm thankful I was, because I experienced a love I almost can't fathom. The mystery of God's love intrigues me. How can my creator continue to love me, even as I fail and fall? Yet he does. He not only loves me, he pours his grace over me. As I rested in the quiet and listened to the ice tapping the window, I thanked God for the many prayers given on my behalf. I praised him for the miracle of medicine and the wonderful team of people who took care of me.
God is faithful. He met me in the quiet time with his comfort and peace.

As we head into the holidays, find time for quiet reflection. Time to thank God for his many blessings. Time to find comfort in his arms. Time to connect to his love.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Respect and Appreciation

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 

1 Peter 2:17
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

We love that our grandchildren attend schools where they are taught to respect and appreciate the people in the armed forces. On Monday, we visited Max's school for their Veteran's Day program. Students from elementary through high school participated. We listened as the children reminded us why we celebrate the heroes who have fought for our freedom. Boys and girls read thank you notes they wrote to the veterans. On the front row of the audience, several vets from the local veteran's home listened with intent. The band and chorus groups played and sang several songs honoring these men and women. One song in particular stirred my heart, "Let There be Peace on Earth." Two students filled the auditorium with their lovely voices as the words recounted how peace must start with each person.

For me this program tied together Veteran's Day and the appreciation I have for the folks who work and fight to provide my freedom with Thanksgiving Day, a day where I count my blessings. As I listened to Max's class sing the National Anthem, I couldn't help but feel joy for the respect and appreciation being instilled in these children. They are being taught to value each other, just as the apostle Peter noted. As you celebrate Thanksgiving Day, contemplate why we are free to gather and enjoy food and family. Think about the men and women who are away from their families, serving overseas. Pray for each one who has served and continues to, that they may be protected and blessed with peace.
With gratitude and respect, I thank each one who has served and is serving.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Be Kind

Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Tim took me to one of our favorite restaurants for breakfast this morning. At First Watch, I looked around at all the people sitting in community. I didn't know any of them, although I recognized a few of the wait staff, yet I felt comfortable. Tim mentioned too, that he felt relaxed among the group. We noticed the restaurant goers chatting and enjoying each other's company.

We're heading into a season of gathering. On Thanksgiving, family and friends will join together to eat delicious food, serve meals to the homeless, play football or watch the games, or just enjoy the day. Looking ahead, Christmas is around the corner when days will be spent with loved ones and folks out and about. Hectic shopping and busy preparations may equal anxiety and tension. Stress often peaks during the holidays. But as followers of Jesus, we have a job to do. Just.Be.Kind.

The fruit of God's Spirit includes kindness. With compassion and patience, treat people as Jesus did on the many occasions when he opened his heart and let the kindness flow. In the hustle and bustle, preparation and joining together, let your heart's kindness pour over the people God places in your path. "In a world where we can be anything, let's be kind."
"Have courage and be kind. When there is kindness, there is goodness." -Cinderella's mother