God With Us

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where the word of the week is with.

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“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthew 1:23 New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

In that simple phrase, “God with us”, can be found the entire message of not only Christmas, but the whole Bible.

The Christmas story is unique in that the God of the universe chose to take on frail human flesh to live a life of love to reach us.

He did not sit on a throne of judgement, counting all of our short-comings against us; he doesn’t require us to reach a certain standard before he will accept or love us.

He came to us as a helpless infant, grew up in our skin, and showed us the way to live to find true life.

He made himself the solution to our need.

He came to us.

God with us.

Whatever you are facing this Christmas, take time to be still and reflect on what Christmas means to you.

Have peace knowing that someone cares for you enough that he came to you. You can trust him with your hopes, fears, joy and pain.

Perhaps the story is best told by a simple and familiar young voice:

 

 

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

Love has come. Peace is here.

God with us. 

Merry Christmas.

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pumpkin, mums, fall, porch

What I Learned this Fall

pumpkin, mums, fall, porch   This post is written for the quarterly link-up with Emily P. Freeman, and contains some of the various things I’ve learned this fall. Enjoy!  

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1. I was surprised to discover how much I like The Greatest Showman!

Since I work at the library, I tend to see what books and movies are popular and well-liked. I don’t consider myself to be a musical-loving person, but after seeing and hearing folks rave about The Greatest Showman, I knew I should at least give it a try. I surprised myself when I almost instantly fell in love with the show. It is flashy and bright, but is refreshingly innocent, and is laced with a beautiful story based in part on the life of P. T. Barnum. If you like music, the music in The Greatest Showman is phenomenal! I found it interesting that the main star of the show is in fact the same actor who I had seen as Wolverine in the past. On first glance, the parts appear so different, but in the end, perhaps not as much as it seems. Both characters have the shared trait of really caring for others and sacrificing on their behalf. You can read about some of the different characters in the show here, and about the actors who played them.    

2. After 20-30 years, I finally replaced my wallet with a crossbody clutch, and am loving it.

You read that right. My durable hunter green leather wallet is at least 20 years old, and possibly as old as 30. I can’t remember whether I got it just before I was married (which would bring the date to close to 30 years), or shortly thereafter. Either way, although the outside was surprisingly intact (proving my theory that it’s definitely worth the money for real leather!), the inside was embarrassingly worn. In my quest for a new wallet, it came to my attention that my current leather purse (I’m a one-purse kind of gal, so it’s my black L. L. Bean handbag until that ones wears out) is kind of heavy. Often when I shop, I find the weight hurting my shoulders. So I started looking into those clutch style wallets, and finally decided that one with a long strap would indeed be the most practical. I found my final choice on Amazon, and have been so thrilled to carry far less with me when I shop. I figured out that I really only need my phone, my money and some cards with me, and can even squeeze in a comb, chapstick and a couple other tiny items, about ninety percent of the time. Many of the extras can live in my car.    

3. Canada’s Wonderland SkyRider stand-up coaster was retired in 2014.

In the last post of What I Learned, I mentioned how I think I am giving up roller coasters. One of the last and most exciting/scary ones I rode was Canada’s Wonderland’s stand-up coaster, Skyrider. As I was enjoying perusing the various coasters I used to ride along with viewing some of the new ones, I was a bit sad to learn that Skyrider retired in 2014. Not that I was planning on riding it again, but it signifies the close of another era in my life; one where I was much younger, more adventurous, and more physically resilient. Did you know that you can virtually “ride” most roller-coasters by viewing a video online? Check out these videos of the various coasters at my favorite homeland amusement park, Canada’s Wonderland. Below is another one of my favorites from my teenager days, my first metal coaster that went upside-down, Dragon Fire. Perhaps, like me, it will be just enough of a ride for you.  
     

4.  Studies show that flowers are good for your health.

In my current devotional book by Bonnie Gray, she mentions that studies show flowers to be good for our health. You can read about the scientific health benefits of flowers, and perhaps next time you’re at the market, pick some up for your own benefit.   roses and pink flowers close-up  

5. We may hear spring peepers in autumn.

Apparently, these tiny musicians don’t know or care if it’s the correct season, and can be heard in some parts of the country in the fall.

6. Most Amish farms are not organic and they do use pesticides.

Do you assume that the Amish must farm organically? I mean, they are known for their simple living and non-modern practices, so that may have been my assumption, too. But just because these farmers are Amish, does not mean that their farms are organic. Either way, I still love learning about this devoted and interesting group of people. It’s refreshing to think about living more simply,  making everyday labor fun, and the strong value of community that help to make the Amish famous. I would love to sample some of their delicious home-cooked foods as well!  

7. I recently discovered For King & Country and then learned of their difficult start.

I found a new favorite Christian music group this summer and have enjoyed listening to the music of For King and Country since then. It was interesting and not too surprising to read that their family went through some very difficult times early on, and to learn how this shaped their music. I’ve always known that music can be born out of our emotional and circumstantial experiences, both good and hard, and that it can in turn affect our emotions strongly. I’m so thankful for the gift of music. It can assist us in telling our story, in reflection, in worship, in questioning, and in celebration. Christian musicians    

8. Many Swedes are already using microchips inserted into their skin.

As scary as it sounds, many of our Swedish friends are having a microchip inserted under the skin in their hand, allowing them added convenience for some of their daily activities. This sounds like the space-age stuff we were always warned about as kids, but I guess it is already becoming a reality in this technologically advanced society. I don’t know about you, but although I’m all for convenience and advancement in technology, I plan to keep my keys and credit cards in my handbag for the time being, and out of my skin.    

9. Mums can be damaged in frost or freezing conditions.

Growing up in Ontario and living much of my adult life in Massachusetts, chrysanthemums are a welcome sign and celebration of fall. They tend to be very hearty and can withstand cooler temps, which makes them suitable for climates that experience colder weather for part of the year. But this year when I was choosing my fall flowers from the farm stand where I work, my farmer friend informed me that frost can damage mums and they won’t necessarily survive freezing temperatures. I didn’t really know that, and for the first time, I opted to cover my potted mums with an old sheet when the temperatures started heading towards freezing. Wouldn’t you know that they lasted longer and looked more beautiful? pumpkin and coral mums  

10. “Vocation” and “calling” are nearly the same word.

I really enjoyed reading a series of blog posts about vocation and found it most inspiring.
Our word vocation derives from the Latin vocare, “to call.” Therefore the words calling and vocation are often used interchangeably. Vocational training in modern times has come to refer to technical training required for and leading directly to a trade such as nursing, technology, or culinary fields. Used this way, a vocation is a job or trade requiring a specific set of skills and technical knowledge. In contrast, many believe that a vocation or calling is, as Frederick Buechner is often quoted, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (1) In other words, a vocation is found at the intersection of your passion and abilities and the world’s needs.
No wonder that when we do what we love, it feels akin something deeper than just fun or work. I love how we are created with so many unique desires, dreams, and abilities within us, whether we use them in our paid jobs or in other meaningful areas of our lives. When we use the gifts that God has given us, it makes us feel more alive, and we can best influence those around us for good.

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Well, that sums it up for another round of What I Learned. Why not consider keeping a record of things you are learning? It’s a wonderful way to reflect on a small part of our lives. Please feel free to share something you are learning in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!