Saturday, December 25, 2010

Memories: Footprints in the Snow

This time of year tends to cause a person to reminisce. Past experiences become a part of the ever-changing landscape of our lives. While Jesus is central to Christmas, it is also a time of togetherness, a celebration of family and love, tradition, and a time to make memories. Tonight I am reminiscing of Christmases past.

When I was a little girl Christmas Eve was always spent at my dad’s parent’s house. The whole family would bring finger foods and the table would almost overflow with the bounty of vegetable trays, fruit trays, cheese and crackers, meatballs, baby cheesecakes, fruit salad, chips and dips, and so much more. Friends and family and neighbors clustered into small groups to mingle or in a haphazard circle to laugh and joke and tease and tell stories. Sometimes Santa Clause would even make a special guest appearance before beginning his worldwide trek to deliver gifts to all the good little boys and girls. Before the night ended we would gather around the tree and exchange gifts.

Christmas day we would go to my mom’s parent’s house. Tables would overflow with food – basically a repeat of Thanksgiving. We would gather in the living room to open our gifts and share in the excitement of each gift given and received, but mostly to watch Nana open her gifts. Nana was the best part of every Christmas family gathering with her child-like excitement over the gifts and the people, though I did not realize this until the last couple of years when watching home videos. Nana was the best part of almost everything family-related, although I was Papa’s girl through-and-through. I was very young and many of the memories of Christmases spent at Nana and Papa’s come in the form of stories that I’ve been told or small snapshots of my own memories.

Holidays were always full of family, but as the years went on people passed away and moved away and things changed. Old traditions fell by the wayside and new ones are formed. Rather than having a large family Christmas, it became time spent with immediate family, partly by choice and partly by circumstances. Memories are constantly being made and reflected upon.

I find that memories are like footprints in the snow. They are evidence of an event that happened, but they are not permanent. In time, more memories come and begin to distort other memories and sometimes completely erase them much like footprints in the falling snow. Sometimes when the snow stops falling, the footprints linger a bit longer, but spring comes and those footprints begin to disappear. This Christmas I challenge you to spend time with those you love remembering past times and making new memories, because like footprints in the snow those memories will change and may, in time, disappear completely.

The Reason for Christmas

The Gift
(Adapted from the Holy Bible)

In the beginning was the Word
The Word was with God
The Word was God

The Word became flesh
And dwelt among us
For to us a Child is born
To us a son is given

He's called Wonderful, Counselor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

He was despised
A man of grief
Familiar with pain

Pierced for our transgressions
Crushed for our sins
We are healed by His wounds

Christ died for our sins
He was buried and raised again
On the third day
Just as the Scriptures said

Our Lord God Almighty reigns
He will reign forever and ever
King of Kings, Lord of Lords


Friday, September 17, 2010

Be Imitators

Ephesians 5:1, 2

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

“Amber! Amber! Amber! You’re here!” she yells as I open the front door and walk inside. She has been waiting for my arrival. A quick hug, sometimes not, and then she disappears. She walks back down the stairs in different clothes, something similar to what I’m wearing (including her mom’s high heels if I’m wearing heels). Her hair has been styled differently and matches mine. She’s carrying an old cell phone, keys, and a purse.

I sit. She sits. I stand. She stands. I run my fingers through my hair; she does the same. I offer to have prayer and she wants to pray too. I make it into a game. I lean over and whisper to her mom, “Watch this.” Then I scratch my nose, clear my throat, cross and uncross my legs, touch my knees, touch my toes, sigh. In quick succession she leans over and whispers, scratches her nose, clears her throat, crosses and uncrosses her legs, touches her knees, her toes, sighs. We call her my mini-me. She makes everyone call her Amber, but that isn’t her name.

I have to be very conscious of my words and actions when she is around knowing that whatever I do, she will do. Whatever I say, she will say.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children…” The verses before this talk about not allowing anything unwholesome to come out of our mouths, but only those things that are useful for building up others. It instructs us to love and forgive as Christ loved and forgave us. And then, it tells us to imitate God, to be like Him. As His dearly loved children, who know of His love, we must strive to live our lives in such a way that we reflect His love. That love is so deeps and so strong that He gave His life, died the death that I deserved to die so that I could choose to love Him in return and spend eternity with Him. What love!

I don’t know what makes me so special and why my little friend wants to be like me, but I love her and I think she knows that. Perhaps it’s because of my love for her and the attention I give her that she has decided that she wants to be just like me. The complete and total admiration is obvious to everyone around.

Isn’t that how we should be with Christ? He has lavished His love on us and the more we come to know and understand the depth of that love, our response to it should be that we strive more and more to imitate God. It should be immediately evident to anyone who sees us and has ever had even a glimpse of our Father, that we are imitating Him in how we live our lives. Our complete and total admiration and Christ-likeness should be what they see, so that instead of seeing us, what they are seeing is Christ in us.

My challenge to you today is to come to know God in such a way that you begin to be like Him. Be imitators of God and live a life of love!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Here am I. Send me. (Part 2)

Yesterday we left off at the part where God made it clear that He wanted me to attend Lighthouse and use my musical talent to serve Him there, which brings us to where God still had bigger plans than I did.

I knew that the group met at a home every Wednesday night for a small group Bible study. I had been putting off attending because it's a long drive for me (about 40 minutes) and was a little intimidated by the group. One day, the leader/ host posted on Facebook an invitation to join them. I remembered that I had told God I would get more involved and so I made the decision to at least go check it out. I thought that I would maybe mention it at some point that I was available to play piano for Lighthouse if they needed me. However, I wasn't eager to actually throw it out there because I'm a little shy when it comes to volunteering. If someone knows and they ask me, that's totally different than me saying, "Oh Oh! Pick me! I play piano!" I didn't have to jump up and down and volunteer myself, because God works around my limitations. Natalie announced that I play piano and sing, which gave me the opening to say, "I do and I'm willing to play for Lighthouse." Well that was easy enough -- I've played and sang for lots of churches. Service to God isn't that easy, because the leader said, "We're having a church plant committee meeting Sabbath at 1:30. Why don't you join us?" Suddenly I had gone from 'just the pianist' to an active part of planting.

Sabbath afternoon, I showed up at the meeting. We were talking about the Sabbath School classes and planning the worship service and basically what goes on Sabbath morning. While we were discussing SS and who was teaching what (keep in mind that there are only about 6-7 households right now), it came time to discuss the youth class. No one really wanted it. As we sat there discussing who could teach that class, I felt God nudging me. Poke. Poke. Poke. You've taught youth before. You enjoyed it. I've given you the gifts -- use them. I spoke up, "I'll teach the youth." God takes us out of our comfort zones so we will depend on Him.

All along, God has had a plan for me. He knew about Lighthouse before anyone thought of it and for the last two years, He has been leading me here. I really believe that. There are times in my life where I feel like God isn't speaking loud enough for me to hear, and then there are other times where I can hear God shouting to me exactly what He wants me to do. This is one of those times that God's voice has been loud and clear.

I told God that I would serve Him. He's endowed me with gifts and talents and I'm humbled that He wants me to use them to help lead others to Him. I feel a little bit like Moses.

But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you
that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of
Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."

Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,
'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is
his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' " Exodus 3:11-14

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!" Isaiah 6:5-8

Here am I. Send me. (Part 1)

Don't tell God that you're willing to serve Him unless you are really willing to serve Him.

For the past couple of years, I haven't had time to be as involved in church as I'd like to be. I also haven't had a church that I could really call my church home. I have come to a point that not only do I have time to serve, but looking at the big picture I can see that God has had a place for me all along and has been working to move me in that direction even before I knew it.

About two years ago, I walked into the University City SDA Church for the first time. I had been toying with the idea of moving to Charlotte after graduation. As soon as I walked in the door, I felt welcome and wanted there. I visited multiple times over the next two years, but had made a decision to go back to Southern and get my bachelor's degree. However, the closer I got to actually attending Southern, the more uncomfortable I became with my decision and I was saddened by the fact that I wouldn't be able to attend UCSDA. After thinking it through and praying about it, I just didn't feel like God was leading me to go to Southern and made the decision to move to my parents (near Charlotte) and look for work. The one consolation to living in Podunk, NC was that I was close enough to attend UCSDA regularly.

Apparently though, that's not really where God wanted me. He just had to get me there to start laying out the rest of the plan. I began attending regularly and learned about Lighthouse. Lighthouse SDA Church is a brand new church that is being planted between where I'm living and Charlotte. Currently there is no SDA church in that area, and they need one. It's literally brand new as in, they haven't even had their first Sabbath yet. After hearing about it, I thought, "Well, when they get up and running, I'll check it out." God had bigger plans.

It seemed like every time I sat down to play piano, I would have this nagging thought that would not go away -- I wonder if Lighthouse needs a pianist.... Finally, one morning I told God that if He wanted me at Lighthouse and wanted me to play piano, they would have to ask me. I thought I had gotten off easy because only one person who was starting the group knew that I play piano, and I figured she had forgotten. God isn't limited by a person's limited knowledge. That night, a few of us were in the car together, two of whom are a part of the group planting the church. They were discussing various churches they had looked at and out of nowhere a hand came flying into the front seat, landed on my shoulder and the ONE PERSON who knew that I played piano said, "You play piano! And you sing! We need you!" I had to just laugh, and then I shared the conversation God and I had just that morning. Still, I was thinking that when they got up and running then I would be there and I would play piano and sing. God thinks bigger.

. . . To be continued. . .