“So the truth of the Incarnation is not just good theology; it is practical comfort and assurance. Jesus identifies with us in our humanity, and now we know that God is for us in Christ. He can be trusted. He went through torture too. When we see Jesus on the cross we can come to trust God with an unutterable trust that never for a moment considers He will not stand by us in our sufferings.” ~Os Guinness
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. Today we want to reprint some thoughts she shared with us several years ago. Here is how I first introduced Sharon to the girltalk audience:
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.
“The incarnation is the supreme example of fulfilled prophecy, the supreme example of God’s faithfulness to his promises….
What God did when he sent his Son into the world is an absolute guarantee that he will do everything he has ever promised to do.
Look at it in a personal sense: ‘All things work together for good to them that love God’—that is a promise—‘to them who are the called according to his purpose’ (Rom. 8:28, KJV).
‘But how can I know that is true for me?’ asks someone.
The answer is the incarnation.
God has given the final proof that all his promises are sure, that he is faithful to everything he has ever said. So that promise is sure for you.
Whatever your state or condition may be, whatever may happen to you, he has said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’ (Heb. 13:5, KJV)—and he will not. He has said so, and we have absolute proof that he fulfills his promises.
He does not always do it immediately in the way that we think. No, no! But he does it!
And he will never fail to do it.”
D. Martyn Lloyd Jones
from Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, ed. by Nancy Guthrie
Just wanted to pass on this Christmas gift idea in case (like me!) you are nowhere close to finishing your Christmas shopping. The Gathering is the new Sovereign Grace album recorded live at WorshipGod11 and it contains 15 songs that progressively tell the story of the gospel and our apprpopriate response. Here’s a more complete description from the website:
The songs on The Gathering can be sung apart from each other, but together they form a progression that reflects the gospel and our response to it. A call to worship (There is One Reason) leads to proclaiming God’s greatness (Greater Than We Can Imagine, Come Praise and Glorify). In view of God’s glory, we more clearly see our sinfulness and need for mercy before his holiness (Shine Into Our Night, Have Mercy on Me). We then rejoice in the good news that God has forgiven us and reconciled us to himself through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Now Why This Fear and Unbelief, Isaiah 53). A fresh awareness of God’s mercy in Christ makes us grateful for his generosity and kindness in every way (Generous King), which leads to eagerly asking for more of his grace (When You Move). A desire to know God’s will through his Word (Your Words of Life, Show us Christ) is followed by expressions of commitment and communion (All I Have is Christ, We Hunger and Thirst). Having rehearsed and celebrated the gospel and its effect in our lives, we want to take this good news to the world (Lift High the Cross). A final song reminds us that we leave relying not on our own strength, but on the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the power of the Spirit (As You Go).
“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near.” Psalm 75:1
“Never let us neglect thanksgiving…As the smiling flowers gratefully reflect in their lovely colours the various constituents of the solar ray, so should gratitude spring up in our hearts after the smiles of God’s providence….We should praise God again and again. Stinted gratitude is ingratitude. For infinite goodness there should be measureless thanks. Faith promises redoubled praise for greatly needed and signal deliverances. For that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare. God is at hand to answer and do wonders—adore we then the present Deity. We sing not of a hidden God, who sleeps and leaves the church to her fate, but of one who ever in our darkest days is most near, a very present help in trouble. “Near is his name.” Glory be unto the Lord, whose perpetual deeds of grace and majesty are the sure tokens of his being with us always, even unto the ends of the world.” Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David
We’ve got a lot going on here at girltalk this week. I’m sure you do too! Later today we’ll tell you more about our Black Friday/Cyber Monday specials at the new 52home@home store. And at your request, Dad will again provide us with the seventh annual edition of his book gift list.
But first, here’s a quick Thanksgiving roundup of some of our favorite recipes and ideas.
Oh, and I’ve been waiting a whole year to tell you about this advent calendar my family used last year. It is called Christmas Opened Up published by thegoodbook.com. The little book that accompanies the calendar provides a five-minute-per-day Bible study to do with your kids that tells the story of God’s rescue plan. It includes a brief opening activity or question, a Scripture verse, questions about the Scripture, and ideas for a brief prayer time. It was a fantastic way to spend the entire month focusing on the gospel over Cheerios with honey each morning. It encouraged the best kind of anticipation for Christmas Day and my kids can’t wait to do it again this year. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did!
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2
This verse has always puzzled me: should I really suspect my dinner guests of being angels in disguise? And do I have to entertain them unawares?
If a heavenly being who spends eternal days worshiping in the presence of the Holy God is coming to dinner, I’d like to know. I don’t want them tripping over the toy helicopter the hallway or eating undercooked Chicken Kiev.
I used to play my own little version of “Who’s the Angel?”, studying the strangers who come to my house. (It’s easy to rule out the people you know—they couldn’t possibly be angels!) But is it the missionary or maybe the visitor from another country? Or do angels come disguised as the hyper toddler who bangs the piano and tracks crumbs on my carpet?
But the author of Hebrews “was not promoting hospitality on the chance that one might ‘luck out’ and get an angel” explains Kent Hughes. Our prospects are no less exciting, though: “He is assuring [us] that some of [our] visitors will prove to be true messengers of God to [us], bringing a greater blessing than they receive” (F.F. Bruce).
So often we focus on the work it takes to invite, prepare, and serve others through hospitality, and we forget to look for God at work! But our gracious Savior delights to send an extravagant “hostess gift”: His messengers!
Think about it: how many times have you been encouraged in your faith or inspired to grow in godliness by one of your guests? How often have you experienced sweet fellowship or hearty laughter or comfort and care in trial? Have you ever see the power of God at work in someone’s life or experienced His provision for you as the result of hospitality? I know I have, many times.
“Hospitality often results in unexpected blessing and reward,” Alexander Strauch reminds us. So let us not neglect hospitality, my friends, but be eager to extend God’s love to others. We never know what blessing God has in store for us!
In “Abounding Works” Nancy rejoices that “The good news continues to be good news from one morning to the next. So, even though I’m mopping up from the feasting, the rejoicing extends from one Sunday to the next, all year long.”
Let the joy of Easter Sunday break into your unglamorous Monday. Allow Christ’s death and resurrection to fill you with transcendent joy on this ordinary day.
Resurrection Sunday is another great opportunity to impress the truth of the gospel on our children. Here’s a few ideas (some old, some new) for helping children enter into the joy of this special day:
~Read Scripture and good books to cultivate personal joy in the resurrection and that will overflow to your children. Nancy Guthrie’s Keep Me Near the Cross is one I try to pick up every year. For kids, Paul Maier’s The Very First Easter is a great resource.
~We like using the Resurrection Eggs from Family Life Ministries, or you could make your own. Each of the twelve plastic eggs contains an object (you could use Scripture references instead), and together they tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Of course the kids love the jelly beans we add as well!
~A few years ago, our friend Rebecca Wilson shared with us one of her Easter traditions with her daughters—Resurrection Cookies. “Not only do they help us remember what we are celebrating,” she writes, “but we find them yummy and pretty heart healthy too.” We’ve included the recipe below.
May your family Easter celebration be full of joy!
1 cup pecans (halves or whole) 3 egg whites 1 cup sugar 1 tsp vinegar pinch of salt wooden spoon Ziploc bag Bible Tape (Packing tape works best)
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place pecans in Ziploc bag and let children beat them with the wooden spoon until broken into small pieces. Read John 19:1-3 and remind them that after Jesus was arrested, He was beaten by the Roman soldiers.
2. Let each child smell (or taste) the vinegar. Pour 1 tsp into the mixing bowl. Read John 19:28-30 and explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink.
3. Add the egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life. Read John 10:10-11 Explain that Jesus gave His life to give us life.
4. Sprinkle a little salt into each child’s hand. Let them taste it, then brush it into the bowl. Read Luke 23:27. Explain that this represents the salty tears shed Jesus’ followers as well as the bitterness of our own sin.
5. Add 1 cup sugar. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because of His great love for us. He wants us to know and belong to Him. Read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16
6. Beat with mixer on high for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3. Explain that the color white represents the purity of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus.
7. Fold in the broken nuts. Drop by teaspoons onto a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper (or parchment). Read Matt. 27:57-60. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid.
8. Place the cookie sheet into the preheated oven. Close the door and turn the oven OFF. Give each child a piece of tape to seal the oven door. Read Matt 27:65-66. Explained that Jesus’ tomb was sealed.
9. Go to bed. Read John 16:20 and 22. Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were very sad when the tomb was sealed.
10. On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are empty!! On the first Easter Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Read Matt 28:1-9. HE HAS RISEN!!!
Each December’s end, after I take down the Christmas decorations, I find it difficult to come up with creative ways to decorate the fireplace mantle or create a centerpiece for the dining room table—something that’s not Christmasy but still wintry. This year I stumbled upon an idea online that is super easy (a must for me!), quick (I hate spending too much time on something so trivial!) and cheap (I spent $1.69 for ice cream salt). This website showed me how to “Create a beautiful winterscape by adding salt, to resemble snow, into clear glass containers and inserting sticks.” See the picture in 52home.
Have a grace-filled weekend everyone! Carolyn for my girls
2011 at 8:50 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
We couldn’t resist giving this “Pick One Spot” entry an honorable mention. The Bice sisters, Becca and Grace, will receive $50 to their favorite home store.
Becca described the project to reorganize their sewing room: “Six hours, five bags of things to give away, four new IKEA boxes, three vintage patterns, two bags of garbage, and one messy room later, we have a clean and organized sewing room that we can now enjoy!”
2011 at 3:51 pm | by Nicole Whitacre
...Cindy Watson! As always, it was a difficult decision; but we think you’ll see why she is the winner of our $100 gift certificate to her favorite home store. Cindy writes about her “spot”:
Here’s one messy entry! This is a room that serves as our laundry room, sewing room, storage room, kids crafts and games room, and even a small section for things that won’t fit in our pantry. So as you can see in the first 3 pictures, it was clean up time.
After 2 days of work, we threw out 4 large black garbage bags full of stuff we don’t use. I am so excited that I actually want to get in there and do laundry, sew, and just stare at my clean shelves. You’ll also notice that there are a couple of empty shelves too—room to grow!