If you take a survey among Christians and Non-Christians on what is the most important holiday for the Christian, the majority will affirm that it is Easter. But have you ever had the feeling that you just didn’t properly celebrate Easter because you let it sneak up on you? In more liturgical traditions, this hasn’t always been the case. For the last 1700 years many parts of the church have given attention to what’s called “Holy Week”. This is the week dedicated to remembering the last week of Jesus’ life, from Palm Sunday to Maunday Thursday to Good Friday to Resurrection Sunday.
We want to encourage you to not let Easter sneak up on you this year. To that end, here are some suggestions for Holy Week, along with a few resources to assist you:
Read the events of Holy Week in the gospels.
The most important way to prepare ourselves for Easter is through reading and meditating on Scripture. lists the events of Jesus’ final week along with the gospel texts that record them. This is ideal for helping one read through the relevant gospel passages during Holy Week.
2013 at 11:22 am | by Carolyn Mahaney
Homemaking is a vocation often filled with mundane tasks and repetitive chores, most of which are performed in obscurity. It demands a colossal amount of serving and sacrifice. Sometimes between scrubbing toilets and laundering dirty clothes, we can lose sight of the significance of our calling. We look around and perceive everyone engaged in meaningful work. Everyone, that is, except us. And our vision for working at home begins to flag.
What we need is a biblical perspective. For in God’s economy, homemaking is a high and noble calling. By “working at home” we can present the gospel as attractive to unbelievers (Titus 2:4). Our homes can actually be a showcase for the gospel.
And our homes can be a place of momentous ministry. They are strategic locations from which we can reach out and extend care to those who don’t yet know Christ.
Dawson Trotman, founder of the group called the Navigators, once said: “I believe with all my heart that one of the greatest soul saving stations in the world is the home.” And I love what one person observed about Dr. Francis Schaeffer’s wife, Edith: “ As many people were brought to the Lord through Mrs. Schaeffer’s cinnamon buns as through Dr. Schaeffer’s sermons!”
As we realize the exceptional fruit that working at home can bear, we will be inspired to fashion an abode that rivals Peter Marshall’s description of a home he once visited: “There was…an atmosphere in which it was impossible to keep from thinking of God.”
Regardless of their size and style or our financial status, our homes can exude warmth and provide refreshment for all who walk through their doors. They should be pleasant havens for our husbands and children, sanctuaries where we offer care and hospitality to other Christians, and gateways from which we extend the gospel to family, friends, and neighbors.
While we long for our heavenly home, let’s strive to make our earthly home a place of peace, order, joy, and laughter. And let’s make this our prayer: “Lord help me to build the kind of home where all who enter find it ‘impossible to keep from thinking of God.’”
All the boys in our family have recently spent hours listening to the action-packed Jonathan Park radio drama adventures. From the website: The adventures follow Jonathan Park, son of paleontologist, Dr. Kendall Park. While running from a storm, Jonathan and his father collide with the Brenan family as they seek shelter in a hidden cave. After discovering a massive dinosaur graveyard that shows evidence for a worldwide flood, these two families have combined forces to build a new museum, open the fossil discovery, and the hidden cave to spread the message of the Creator!
Updated from the Picture Bible my sisters and I grew up with, the Action Bible now includes dramatized audio. A wonderful way to introduce kids to the drama of Scripture and it has already sparked many a spiritual discussion amongst the cousins.
As soon as the boys get out of school on Monday afternoon, they ask: “Is the podcast ready, yet?” They can’t wait to listen to Pop-Pop and Uncle Chad talk sports and as a mom I love that they are learning about sports from a biblical perspective.
Growing up, my sisters and I always wanted a big brother. You know, to defend us against bullies and for other equally important reasons. Well, it just so happens that I inherited two such big brothers when Nicole and Kristin married Steve and Brian. They have never had to defend my honor against bullies but they have come in handy over the years.
And one such time happened last Sunday night when Steve pulled a blender full of orange yumminess out of the refrigerator and gave me a taste. Score one new recipe! Steve has been making homemade Orange Julius and it is easy and delicious. I now have a blender full (or at least it was full last night) sitting in my fridge. And you should have a blender-full in your fridge too.
“I believe it ought to be our continual aim and desire to go forward, and our watchword on every returning birthday and at the beginning of every year, should be ‘more and more’ (1 Thess. 4:1): more knowledge, more faith, more obedience, more love. If we have brought forth thirtyfold we should seek to bring forth sixty; and if we have brought forth sixty, we should strive to bring forth a hundred. The will of the Lord is our sanctification, and it ought to be our will too (Matt 13:23; 1 Thess. 4:3).” ~J.C. Ryle
We are very mindful that there are many people who experience grief and sadness during the Christmas season. My sister-in-law Sharon is one of them.
On July 8, 2003 Sharon lost Dave, her husband of 32 years, to a brain tumor. We all desperately miss Dave’s joy, his impeccable sense of humor, his servant’s heart, and his delicious cooking. However, the intense grief that Sharon and her five children have experienced these past two and a half years is a testimony to the love they had for Dave, and his love for them.
And yet, through this unimaginable hardship, Sharon’s faith in God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness has remained strong. She has truly grieved with hope. While not a day goes by that she does not desperately miss “Her Bud” (as she and Dave would call each other) she displays a selfless strength in serving others that only comes from knowing Jesus Christ.
For this reason, we asked Sharon to share about both the pain, but more importantly the comfort she experiences at Christmastime. We pray her thoughts will provide hope to those of you who have lost a loved one. And for the rest of us, may we extend discerning care to those we know who are grieving this Christmas.
I believe there is only one answer to the question of how I experience God’s comfort at Christmastime, and that is for me to be on my knees basking in and staying grounded in the Word of God. His words touch my heart and soul, as he is the ultimate comforter. And from him come all other forms of comfort, as well.
Of course, snags are everywhere this time of year. If you’ve ever driven through the mountains, you’ve probably seen signs that read, “Beware of falling rocks.” For me as a widow, the holidays can be full of “falling rocks” in the form of that invitation or Christmas card addressed to only one name, traditions that are no longer an option, having to pass by the men’s department no longer looking for that annual sweater or tie, or even getting a whiff of my husband’s favorite cologne in the crowds of shoppers. Like a thorn on a rose pricks the finger, these reminders of a love lost prick my fragile, already bleeding heart. The challenge becomes surfacing from the pain of the past and wanting to live joyfully in the present with a hope for the future.
Although I have yet to get through the season without heartache and tears, and this will be my third Christmas without my husband, my Lord is faithful to supply the needed comfort. I should add here that I must choose to be comforted, as the temptation can be to fall into the sin of self-pity. If you are a widow, you know you can feel the pain of loneliness even when you’re in a group—even a group of family and friends. Those who help me to surface from the pain are not afraid of my sudden tears that may spill over in an instant unexpectedly, as they realize that may be the only language I can speak at the moment. They respect my need to talk at length about my current grief, or my desire not to talk at all. They give me much-appreciated hugs and tell me they care. They sometimes share remembrances of my husband that make me smile through the tears, knowing the memories may cause pain but are certainly treasured. Comfort has also come in the form of e-mails and phone calls and cards, all with words of love and encouragement. This past Sunday, I was comforted by a word shared during worship from one of the pastors with an encouragement for widows and single parents.
I think it is important to note here that we should not assume someone is no longer grieving, or not grieving as much, because a number of years have passed. I am among those who, before I became a widow, mistakenly thought that the one-year anniversary marked the end of the grieving process, that somehow things became easier and got back to “normal.” Where did that idea come from? That’s not accurate. I believe grieving is actually a gift, a good and necessary gift, a process, and a journey that, because of the depth of our love, may last until I see my Bud again. And, yes, the severity of my grieving is increased during the holidays. But as I respond to the pain and embrace with gratefulness the comforts he sends, I learn endurance and perseverance; and I realize that everything is part of the process of sanctification. And I am overwhelmed—not by my grief—but by his love for me.
Mike, our children’s ministry director, made a discordant sound with his guitar to emphasize to our church’s four and five year olds the mistake in his song.
“Nooooooo” they all gigglingly corrected him. “The Lord is COME!”
The Lord is come.
Maybe it feels to you like he has left. Maybe you feel abandoned by God. You don’t sense the Holy Spirit’s presence. Or maybe you don’t see God’s loving and wise sovereignty at work in your situation or in the world as you would like.
But the Lord has come. God became man to save sinners. If we have put our trust in Christ, God has come into our hearts in the person of the Holy Spirit. And because he has come we know he is coming again. Because he has come we have hope and joy.
May we honor our Savior, come and coming, with child-like faith this Christmas.
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” Matthew 1:23
Are you finding it hard to be happy this Christmas?
Maybe you are lonely at a time when it appears everyone else has someone. Maybe you are dreading another tense and unpredictable family get together. Maybe physical suffering has drained your energy and enthusiasm for the season. Maybe, for a dozen different reasons, you are fretful and discontent.
So often we step into the holiday season on the wrong foot. We abandon the paths of comfort and joy so clearly marked out for us in God’s Word and pursue happiness in the holiday instead. We hope that cookies and carols will somehow numb the pain or distract us from everything we feel is wrong with our lives. Or we just grit our teeth, plaster on a grin, and pray it’s over soon.
But the way to peace and joy hasn’t changed because it’s Christmastime. Rather we have to be all the more intentional about seeking the Savior at a time when the distractions, and sometimes even the trials, are many.
So here are five habits for holiday happiness:
1. Contemplate the Incarnation
Consider the staggeringly glorious news that “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).
If we spend five minutes a day for the next twenty-odd days pondering the wonder of God become man to save sinners, we will be happy this Christmas.
We will be happy because we will have hope.
J.I. Packer, in his chapter on the incarnation in Knowing God, explains:
“The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity—hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory—because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.”
Christmas isn’t a temporary band-aid on the pain of life; it is the announcement of the cure for ruined humanity. The Christmas message is hope to the hopeless. Hope for sinners under the curse of the law. Hope for the orphan, estranged from God. And it is a timely hope and certain hope.
This is “the most wonderful message” of Christmas. This is “good news of great joy”! (Luke 2:10)
If we are finding it hard to be happy this Christmas, the incarnation reminds us that our Savior has already purchased our everlasting joy.
2. Consistently Practice the Spiritual Disciplines
Christmastime is a busy time. There are parties to attend, gifts to purchase, wrap, and deliver, cards to send, and cookies to bake. And that’s on top of all the normal stuff we have to do! Something has to give, and sadly, our spiritual disciplines are often the first to go.
We rationalize: “Things will settle down after the holidays. I’ll get back to consistent quiet times in the New Year.” But as the days move closer to Christmas, our hearts become colder toward the things of the Lord. And we wonder why we are so unhappy at Christmastime?
But it doesn’t have to be this way. If we give first priority to God’s Word and prayer, we will find our joy renewed each morning. Joy that sticks in the midst of Christmas craziness. For as the Psalmist says:
“The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart...they are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb” Ps. 19:8,10 (emphasis mine).
So as things get busy, let’s keep the spiritual disciplines at the top of our Christmas to-do list. Only then can we experience true holiday cheer.
3. Serve Others
Christmas celebrations—intended to be joyful reminders of the incarnation—can quickly become exercises in selfishness. But selfishness is a one-way ticket to a Joylessville. That’s why the third habit for a happy Christmas is to serve others.
The tricky thing is, I often think I am serving others at the holidays. After all, I am buying presents and throwing parties for other people, right? But my lack of joy when things don’t go according to plan reveals that I’m actually just serving myself. I want everything to go my way, to bring me happiness.
I so quickly forget that the Christmas season is about the Son of Man who came: “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). True holiday happiness is found by rejoicing in his coming, and by his grace, emulating his example of servanthood and sacrifice. “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty became rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
J.I. Packer again:
“The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—-and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need.”
How can we make ourselves happy this Christmas? By making ourselves poor. By spending and being spent to enrich our fellow human beings. By seeking our own happiness in the happiness of others. If we are rich in serving this Christmas, we will also be rich in joy.
4. Commune While You Serve
Serving is essential for holding on to happiness this holiday season. But if we try to serve without relying on God’s strength, without meditating on His Word, without offering up prayers to Him, we’ll still be lacking joy. We must commune while we serve if we want to be happy this Christmas.
Remember Martha in the Bible? How easily we morph into Martha at Christmastime! All service and no joy. But our Lord did not rebuke Martha for serving; He rebuked her for failing to choose the best thing (as her sister Mary had done): to sit at His feet and listen to Him (Luke 10:38-42).
This doesn’t mean we are to leave the Christmas shopping unfinished and forget about cooking the big meal. We are still called to serve; but, as Charles Spurgeon suggests, “We ought to be Martha and Mary in one: we should do much service, and have much communion at the same time. For this we need great grace. It is easier to serve than to commune.
Martha experienced the consequences of not communing with the Savior. But we don’t have to be anxious this holiday season. By meditating on God’s Word throughout the day, joy can be ours, even amidst the chaos and the crowd.
5. Turn Gifts Into Adoration
Christmas is full of wonderful gifts, and not just those under the tree. We experience gifts of family and friends, food and fellowship, music and memories.
But we often fail to enjoy these gifts as we should because we fail to remember that “every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).
C.S. Lewis tells us how to turn presents into praise:
“Pleasures are shafts of glory as it strikes our sensibility….I have tried…to make every pleasure into a channel of adoration. I don’t mean simply by giving thanks for it. One must of course give thanks, but I meant something different…Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun….If this is Hedonism, it is also a somewhat arduous discipline. But it is worth some labour” (as quoted in, When I Don’t Desire God, by John Piper).
May every gift we receive this Christmas, every pleasure we experience, cause our minds to run back up the sunbeam to the sun. May we contemplate the glories of the Savior who gave His only Son so that we might enjoy all things through Him.
Happiness isn’t playing hide and seek for the holidays. It isn’t hard to find. Regardless of our difficulty or dread of the Christmas season, we can experience true happiness as we cultivate godly habits. That’s because our happiness is not found in the holidays, but “out of reach” of the holidays, in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
My sister, Kristin, and I both love working in the kitchen, but Kristin loves to cook and I love to bake. Honestly, we should work out some kind of system with each other. She makes all my meals and I make all her breads and desserts. Sounds fair, right? I’ll have to call her about that later.
Recently, I found a bread recipe that I have been really enjoying. It’s called “Crusty Bread” and it’s really simple. Simple ingredients and only a few simple steps to pull off the finished product. And it comes out looking so pretty and professional. I don’t know which I love more, the simplicity or the fact that it makes me feel like one of those Panera Bread makers. It’s not a sweet bread. It’s a bread that you would pair with soup or use to make grilled cheese. And the link below provides many different ingredient combinations that you can use to mix it up and make it unique. I’m trying sharp cheddar next.
Another reason I love this bread is that it would make a really fun gift. Check out the post where I found the recipe. I love how the author wrapped each loaf in a tea towel to deliver to friends. So I’m tucking this idea away for Christmas, but also plotting how I can use it now to bless someone in our new church.
So check out this recipe and see if you get as inspired as I did. I’m off to call Kristin.
Last November I was excited to tell you about an Advent calendar with Christmas Bible study that our family enjoyed. Well, it turns out that announcing it nine days before December 1 wasn’t such a great idea—the publishing company quickly sold out of the calendar and I’m sure many of you missed out on a chance to order. So this year I’m giving you (and our friends at The Good Book Company) plenty of time!
What I love about these Advent calendars is that each day’s “door to open” is connected to a Scripture and a lesson about Christmas and the message of the gospel. The accompanying Bible study booklet includes a short verse followed by a very brief lesson plan including great questions to engage the kids in fun and thoughtfulness about the deep truths of the gospel. They are the perfect length for children and very well done.
We have used Christmas Opened Up in the past and loved it, but I’m looking forward to trying a new one this year. I am really excited to use one of these calendars for Jude and Sophie’s first Christmas season in the Whitacre family.
One of my favorite parts of our morning routine is when CJ and I grab our coffee and sit for ten minutes on our tiny enclosed patio, listening to Albert Mohler’s podcast “The Briefing.” Each morning, Dr. Mohler provides biblical commentary on the latest news in politics and culture. I don’t know of another commentator who daily offers such an insightful, prescient, theological perspective on current events. The Briefing is informative and enlightening and equips me to think, pray about, and talk to others—especially non-Christians—about current events in a winsome and biblical manner. If I had teenagers at home The Briefing would be a mandatory part of their day—although Dr. Mohler is so engaging and interesting I doubt I would need to require it! Today Dr. Mohler provided 7 suggestions for watching the Presidential Debate, and I look forward to catching his program tomorrow to benefit from his biblical analysis.
Here at girltalk we are always excited to pass along great resources, and this is one of the best. I hope all the girltalk readers and their families will make The Briefing a part of their morning routine.
Here is a yummy pumpkin recipe for fall, and a poem to go with it:
Colonial Pumpkin Bars
3/4 cup butter 2 cups sugar 1 (16 oz.) can pumpkin 4 eggs 2 cups flour 2 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. salt 1/4 tsp. nutmeg 1 cup pecans, chopped
Cream butter and sugar together. Blend in pumpkin and eggs. Mix remaining ingredients together and add to creamed mixture. Spread in a greased 10"x15” pan, or (for a cake) in a 9"x13” pan. Bake at 350* for 25-35 minutes, depending on the size of the pan. When cooled spread with Cream Cheese Frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup butter, softened 1 1/2 lbs. powdered sugar 1 tsp. vanilla
Blend cream cheese and butter well. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add vanilla and blend well.
Roxie Kelley and Friends, Just a Matter of Thyme, (Kansas City, Missouri: Andrews McMeel Pub., 1998), 115
Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
Come ye thankful people come, Raise the song of harvest home! All is safely gathered in, Ere the winter storms begin; God our Maker, doth provide For our wants to be supplied: Come to God’s own temple, come, Raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God’s own field Fruit unto his praise to yield; Wheat and tares together sown Unto joy or sorrow grown; First the blade, and then the ear, Then the full corn shall appear; Lord of the harvest! grant that we Wholesome grain and pure may be.
God shall come, And shall take his harvest home; From his field shall in that day All offenses purge away, Give his angels charge at last In the fire the tares to cast; But the fruitful ears to store In his garner evermore.
Even so, Lord, quickly come, Bring thy final harvest home; Gather thou thy people in, Free from sorrow, free from sin, There, forever purified, in thy presence to abide; Come, with all thine angels, come, Raise the glorious harvest home.