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BORN AGAIN – AGAIN

JANUARY 16, 2011
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Oh, what a week it has been! Nice things happened, bad things happened, miracles happened—and through it all we are praising the Lord. I am so glad we walk with the Lord and can literally see His hand at work in our lives!
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Let’s start with the nice things: Our son-in-law Fernando is here with us for a couple days this week. Fernando is a missionary in his native land of Ecuador. He has some meetings to attend in Cleveland, OH and decided to fly into Chicago and spend a little time with us and then drive on to Cleveland tomorrow. Of course, not having Laurie and the kids here with him makes us sad, but we are enjoying these few hours with Fernando. He loves the Lord, and he loves to laugh, and he loves our daughter and grandchildren, and that makes the fellowship very sweet indeed! We are so looking forward to the time later this year when, the Lord willing, the whole family will be back for a short furlough.
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Nice thing #2: Julie broke some good news to me this week, as well. She and David have decided to bring the family up here from Alabama at the end of the month to celebrate Robbie’s birthday with him (a few days early.) It is also Benjamin’s 13th birthday so we will celebrate both birthdays together. How fun! We were just there at Christmas but we can never have too much time together! I’m so excited!
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Nice thing #3: Robbie will be going into the hospital sometime in the next month or so for some oral surgery. Because he is so severely handicapped, any dental work that is done on him has to be done in a hospital under general anesthesia. One of his seizure medicines causes his gums to overgrow his teeth and periodically he has to have the tissue cut back. At the same time they will do fillings or whatever else might be needed.
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Bob took Robbie to see the dentist the other day in preparation for this work. While they were there, he was dismayed to find out that neither the dentist or oral surgeon takes Medicaid any more, and that is Robbie’s insurance. What a nice surprise it was to find out that both of these kind men had decided they wanted to do the work on Robbie for free! In fact, the dentist still had the thank you note and pictures of Robbie we had sent him the last time on his bulletin board. We are very grateful for them both.
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Now the bad things: Something else that came out of the visit to the dentist was his recommendation to us that we allow him to pull all of Robbie’s teeth! He said, for the sake of Robbie’s health that this would be the best thing we could do. Robbie is tube-fed and no longer eats anything by mouth so he does not need his teeth. He has ground them terribly over the years and the dentist said he is susceptible to infection, which in Robbie’s case could be fatal. In his words, “You need to think of Robbie’s well-being above your own.”
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Well, that is all we have done all these years, but I understand what he meant. It is a gut-wrenching decision for me and I am really struggling with it. Of course, I don’t want to put Robbie at risk. We have lived with the reality of Robbie’s fragility for the last ten years, fighting to keep him alive at times; knowing that at any time the Lord could take him through seizures or asphyxiation or pneumonia. We know he has already lived out his life expectancy. We would give our lives for that boy.
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At the same time I think of his handsome little face and his sweet smile, and it tears me up to think of disfiguring it this way. Robbie has enough strikes against him as far as people accepting him the way he is without adding something else to possibly make others turn away. Maybe infection could happen—but maybe it won’t, either. If we were to do this, there is no un-doing it later. He can’t wear dentures, so his smile, which is such a precious part of him, will be ruined for the rest of his life.
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It may seem strange to some people to think that in my mind Robbie’s smile would be as important to me as preventing him from possible risk of infection. I can’t help it. At this moment that is how I am feeling. Please pray for me that the Lord will open my mind to whatever is the right thing to do and that if it is following the doctor’s recommendation, I will be able to accept it with peace and comfort. Bob is leaning that way, but as I said, I am really struggling. We will have to make the decision soon and are praying about it now.
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Bad thing #2: I got a call the other day from my mother, “Craig [my 54 year old brother] is having open-heart surgery in two hours!” What??? He had gone in for a test that morning, ended up with an angiogram and then was told by his doctor that they had to do surgery immediately. He had one blockage, but it was a bad one and in a very dangerous place. In fact this particular blockage is called the widow-maker. It is the kind that kills you suddenly with no signs or symptoms to forewarn. He had been feeling just fine and had no idea that there was a problem at all.
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That they caught this just in time is nothing short of miraculous. The doctor told Craig yesterday that he had, at the most, six months to live—maybe as little as six weeks. We are praising God for His intervention and for His healing! It was amazing to me to see how well Craig is recovering in just the first couple days. He’s far, far beyond where I was after a week! He was enjoying all the company yesterday and seemed his normal self.
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I am sure he is feeling a rush after realizing how close it had been and how the Lord had spared him. Craig told Bob and Fernando yesterday when they went to visit him, “I feel like I’ve been born again—not in the spiritual sense this time, but physically.” We don’t always get a second chance at life. How thankful we all are that we still have him with us! I know Craig is ready for Heaven whenever the Lord will take him, but still I know that he is glad to be around a little longer to be a grandpa to Isaac and the new grandbaby on its way.
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Our lives are filled with the blessings and challenges; the day-to-day routine and the unexpected. We say it so often—“Who knows what a day will bring forth?” Whatever it is, God is there. We see God performing miracles in our lives. We feel His peace and comfort and presence when we are burdened with care. When we trust Him we know He will lead and provide. That is what it is like to be His child.
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The Bible tells us in Philippians 4:6 to thank God for everything—good and bad. “Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” It is easy to give thanks for the good things the Lord brings into our lives. It is more difficult sometimes when we are faced with hard trials to find something in them for which to praise Him—but there is always something. In this problem about Robbie’s teeth I can praise Him that we have had ten years longer already with Robbie than we had thought we would; that his smile—however it may appear—reflects the happiness, love and contentment that he is feeling inside, whether he can say it or not; and that no matter how Robbie is physically or mentally, God has blessed our lives with the gift of this precious child.
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Everyday we can thank Him for the good and the bad, but when we stand amazed in the face of the miraculous, we are humbly grateful for His watchcare, His intervention, His power and love—and yes, sometimes even the second chances He allows us.
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“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)
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A BLANK CANVAS UNFOLDS

JANUARY 9, 2011
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Happy New Year! We are off to a good start—better anyway than last year. I looked over Sundays with Cindy 2010 as I printed several copies of it to give as Christmas gifts. There were forty-six entries, 146 pages. The first entry in 2010 was called “A Fizzle and a Thud.” I was sick at the time I wrote it—too sick to write my usual devotion for the week. Well, Sundays with Cindy 2010 ended with a fizzle and a thud, as well! There were no entries for the last three weeks. I wrote a devotion for the first of those weeks but the website was having a problem and I could not post it. The following two Sundays we were traveling to and from Alabama. *Sigh.* I am sorry that it ended that way.
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But this is a new year and a new start! I am looking forward to what the Lord will do in our lives in 2010! The big question for me is, “I wonder if this is the year that Jesus comes back for His own?” I am so ready for that to happen! So ready for Heaven—but in the meantime life must go on here on earth.
The year unfolds as a blank canvas. We don’t get to know what will be revealed ahead of time. I am glad for that. I don’t want to know ahead of time the challenges and trials we may have to face. God gives strength for those things at the time we need it. If I knew too much too soon I would waste precious time and energy worrying about it. Better to walk by faith, trusting God for the path ahead and to lead me step by step through the hard times.
But isn’t it nice that He gives us glimpses ahead of time of some of the good things we have to anticipate? In our family we have the birth of a new baby to look forward to in a few weeks! Laurie will be delivering her baby girl sometime in February and we are all so excited about that! Julie and David are a few steps closer in their adoption than they were at this time a year ago. Will this be the year they finally get the children they have waited to welcome into their family for so long? Sometime this year we are expecting the Naranjos to return from Ecuador for a few months. Oh, happy day for this grandma! Having joys like these to look forward to makes the journey today easier.
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There will be changes in our family and in our home and I am anticipating the things I will have to do here to make way for those changes—or should I say make room? The Naranjo family—all eight of them—will probably be staying with us, at least for a while. We have the bedroom space, but not a lot of closet and drawer space. I am already thinking about the wardrobe cabinets and plastic dressers for the kids I can bring in and where I will put them.
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There will be changes in lifestyle as well. Gone will be the days of a quiet house where Robbie sleeps and I sit with my computer on my lap and write eight or ten hours a day. There will be life and noise and activity and fun! Grandma will help with home-schooling, play games with the kids, and rock the new baby. Robbie, hopefully, will wake up and enjoy the hustle and bustle and the sound of little kids’ voices and laughter. Gone will be the quiet suppers for two in front of the TV. Our table will be filled to overflowing and Grandma will have to start cooking for real again! Gone will be the privacy and peace of an older couple, but taking its place will be the love and joy of having family here again under our roof! And what will make it complete will be when the Sanchez family joins us for a visit and we squeeze in even closer! Can you see I am excited about those changes?
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There are other changes I am anticipating, as well—changes that may not be quite as exciting, but certainly challenging. These are the changes I have been praying about, and actually working on for the last few months—changes in me. It is natural when we stand on the threshold between the old year and the new, to take stock of our lives. Many people make resolutions (or at least they have in the past) to do better in the new year—to lose weight, or quit smoking or drinking, or control their temper, or spend more time with their families—whatever. I quit making resolutions a long time ago. They never lasted more than a few weeks and then I was right back to my old ways.
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Resolutions don’t work for me and I know why—they are dependent on my willpower and my strength. Unfortunately my willpower and strength aren’t what they used to be. I can’t do it on my own. And so I turn to the Source of power and strength—the Lord. I can’t change me, but He can.
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I have been praying that the Lord will change me (my mindset, my will, my obedience to Him, my priorities) in two basic areas—how I relate to others and how I relate to myself. I began to see a need in my life to put people first again. I have spent the last ten years alone much of the time as I stayed home and cared for Robbie. He was my first priority as his needs were so great. Gradually, though, I began to fill my life with projects to fill the empty hours and days as I sat by his bedside. Though they were good and often a ministry, I finally saw that they were hindering my relationships with other people—eating my time, keeping me isolated, becoming more important in my life than the people I loved the most.
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I asked the Lord to change me in this area—to help me see what I could completely cut out, and what I could cut down on, and to give me the strength to actually do it. I asked Him to give me the determination to step out as I could and do for others. I have always looked at writing as my ministry for the Lord and to others, but I began to realize all over again that our love and service ought to go beyond words and become action. I have always respected pastors who are not just scholars and orators hiding behind a desk and a pulpit, but who are real people-persons, out there showing their love in real ways for their flock. I am limited still in how often I can get out of the house, but not as much as before. I need to get out of my comfortable rut and out there meeting face-to-face the needs of family, friends and others to whom I can minister.
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I am asking the Lord also to change my attitudes about caring for myself. It is far easier for me to see and desire to care for the needs of others than it is to take care of my own needs. As I get older, though, I realize that if I want to continue to care for Robbie, Bob, my grandchildren and other loved ones, then I need to take better care of myself. For some reason my physical needs have always had a low priority in my mind. I don’t know if it is because I think of my spiritual well-being as having far more importance, or if it is because I have no fear of death, or if I am just so lazy that it is not a priority. To God it is important however, and if I am to be obedient to Him I ought to take it more seriously. This old body, He says, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and as such ought to have the care and respect that the tabernacle in the Old Testament or Solomon’s temple received. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (I Corinthians 6:19, 20) No, I am not making resolutions to lose weight or manage my diabetes better, but I am asking God to change my mindset on this and to help me realize that this is not something I can slough off if I want to be obedient to Him—and I do want to be obedient to Him.
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I cannot change myself. I am weak, but I know that just as Christ changed me into a new creation through the power of His blood, He will continue to work in me and change me if I allow Him to do so. I leave you with some Scripture that reminds us of the good work He has done in us already, and His promises to finish that work:
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“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17)
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“And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)
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“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)
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“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)
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Just as the New Year unfolds before us as a blank canvas, so do the rest of our lives—ready to be created into the masterpieces only Christ can make of them when we allow Him to work in us.

ANGELS (?) WE HAVE HEARD ON HIGH

Every other year our church does a living nativity called Journey to Bethlehem as an outreach to our community. It is a huge event with more than 200-300 people from the church involved, and attracts thousands of people from around our area. I was able to go last night and tagged along with my sister Cheree and her husband and son.
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Actually, Journey to Bethlehem is much more than just the nativity scene. It starts in the church auditorium with a wonderful Christmas concert by some of our church’s very talented singers. This is where you wait for your journey to Bethlehem to begin. When it is time for your group of people to begin I could scarcely tear myself away from the beautiful music!
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A guide led us across from the church building to the family center. It is amazing to see as we step into the gym that it is no longer a gym, but is transformed into the village of Bethlehem, as well as Herod’s palace. Hundreds of people are in Biblical costume, sitting outside their homes and going about their daily chores, or selling their wares in the village market place. There are bakers and poultry, cheese, vegetables and grains vendors; sellers of leather, copper, jewelry, cloth, and flowers; tentmakers, dyers of cloth, and so on all trying to hawk their products as you walk by their booths. A well stands in the center of the village with a live goat tied nearby. I was amused as we passed the tentmakers’ booth. My sister Corinne and her husband Ray and youngest son Sam were supposed to be making and selling tents. As we walked by, Sam said, “Buy one, get one free!”
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Our tour guide took us to Mary’s house where we witnessed the angel of the Lord suddenly appearing to her, making the announcement that she was to be the mother of God’s only Son. We were then lead to Joseph’s carpenter shop. He told us of his thoughts when he heard that Mary was expecting a baby and it was not his, and how the angel appeared to him and told him not to be afraid to make Mary his wife. We were led to Herod’s palace and saw him questioning the wise men who came from the east searching for the newborn king of the Jews and heard Herod’s evil plans. (Another nephew, Lance, was one of the Roman guards. He played the part to the hilt, being as stern and authoritative as he could be—the complete opposite of the normally smiling and pleasant person he normally is!) We stopped at the tax collector’s booth where we registered for the census and paid our taxes, and then moved on to the inn in Bethlehem. We were informed there was no room and, in fact, the innkeeper had been forced to send one young couple out to the stable since she was about to give birth.
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From there our tour guide led us outside. It was pouring rain all day yesterday and didn’t let up at all for our Journey. All day I had thought about the poor shepherds (another nephew, Caleb, was one of them) standing out in the field and wondered how they would fare in the cold and wet. They had a big bonfire going, so I am sure that helped (although I wondered how that blaze kept going in the rain. It must have been a miracle!) There were live sheep there with them. Suddenly a bright spotlight shone down on them, and they hid their faces from the light. A voice boomed out of loudspeakers somewhere—the angel’s voice, obviously—and Cheree jumped! (Later, when I went to my mother’s condo which is about a mile from the church, I could hear the “angel” voices booming in her parking lot!) The angel told them about the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, and the shepherds headed for the stable with us following through the rain.
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Mary and Joseph and the baby, as well as more sheep and a donkey, were at the stable, just as you would picture the scene. It does give you goosebumps as you look at the scene, and not just from the cold. You imagine how it must have been that night, bearing a baby all alone in such lowly circumstances.
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From there we were led to a barn where we were offered hot cider or coffee, and heard our pastor speak for five minutes about how the journey led from Bethlehem to the cross and an empty tomb and how we can be saved through that babe who became our Savior.
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Journey to Bethlehem is a beautiful experience and I can see why it is so popular in our community. It is one thing out of all the commercialism of Christmas that makes you stop and focus on the true reason for it all.
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I was thinking about those shepherds all day yesterday. Oh, not just those young guys playing a part at Journey last night—but about the actual shepherds who were out in the fields outside of Bethlehem that night more than two thousand years ago. Who were they? The Bible doesn’t give us their names. Most likely they were lads—sons of the owners of the sheep, or maybe hired to care for someone else’s sheep. I don’t know—maybe they were older adults. They were poor, I am sure, and probably had no expectations of being anything other than poor, lowly peasants all their lives.
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That night changed their lives. Here is the account as Luke 2:8-20 tells it:
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And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
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It was a night like any other night they had watched over the flocks. Can you imagine their fright when suddenly out of the darkness, the glory of the Lord shone ‘round about them and angels appeared before them? They wasted no time, however, once they had heard the message the angels brought. They hurried to Bethlehem and saw for themselves the Messiah, the Savior, Christ the Lord. They spread the word, not caring if others thought them crazy or not. And then they returned to their quiet, ordinary, lowly lives as shepherds out in the fields outside of Bethlehem.
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They returned with a difference, however. They returned praising and glorifying God for these glorious things they had heard and seen—the angels, the Christ-child—and for the fact that for some reason God had chosen them to be the first to hear the announcement of His birth! Who were they, that God would choose them above all people to hear it first? Just as God had chosen a lowly peasant girl to bear His Son, a poor carpenter to raise Him, and the humblest of places for his birth, He had chosen them.
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They returned changed. They would remember that night for the rest of their lives. I am sure often they would lie out in the fields, scanning the skies for a glimpse of the glory they had once seen and talking among themselves of that night they could never forget, remembering the sound of the angels’ voices and the glory too bright for their human eyes. They probably relived over and over in their memories how they had quickly sought for the stable and the baby lying in the manager. No, something like that they would never forget!
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We are ordinary people. I doubt that any of us sharing together here today have great wealth or position or power. We go about our ordinary lives, doing our ordinary jobs. But one day God chose us to show us a great miracle and a glorious message and to lead us to His Son, our Savior. He chose us, the lowly and humble and ordinary and yes, foolish and weak, as I Corinthians 1:26-28 puts it: For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen… We may not have heard the angels’ voices, but we heard and responded to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
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He changed us. When we truly meet the Savior we cannot forget it. Our very purpose in life is changed from living for self to living for God and bringing glory to Him. Our standing before God is changed from His enemy to His beloved child. Our lifestyle is changed from walking in darkness to walking in the light. Our desires are changed from earthly concerns to things that matter for eternity. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

We are challenged as well to, like the shepherds, tell others of the Savior. Everything they had heard and seen that night they told to all they met. They spread the word in Bethlehem until the entire town was abuzz with the news. What?! The Messiah had come?! Not everyone believed, but some did, I am sure. They saw the change in the shepherds. Their words and their lives were witness to all that God had shown them and done within them. Like the shepherds we are chosen to be witnesses. Isaiah 43:10 says, Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen… Acts 1:8 talks about the change and the challenge: But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Christmas is the perfect time of the year to be witnesses to others, when they are more focused on the birth of Christ and perhaps more open to reason He came.

This Christmas I am praising God for choosing me, nobody special or great or wise, to be His child. I am thanking Him for changing me and praying that I might bring glory to Him. And I am challenged, especially now at this time of year when we are more open to others and they might be more open to hearing about why Jesus came, to be a better witness for Him.

THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE

I used to work with mentally handicapped children, ages preschool through high school, when we lived in Colorado Springs. Loved it, loved it, loved it! Most of them were fun and sweet and they made me smile and laugh every day. A few were ornery, and even a little violent. You didn’t want to get within pinching, biting, hitting, or head-butting distance. I loved them, too, but they were more challenging to work with. One thing I noticed that most of the kids—especially the higher-functioning ones—had in common was that they liked routine. They often did not handle change well. Robbie doesn’t seem to mind change so much, but he certainly seems to love his routine.
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Little ones often do not like change, either. Maybe it has something to do with the undeveloped brain—I don’t know. I remember when my grandson Benjamin was only two; he had a complete meltdown because Mommy moved Daddy’s underwear from one drawer to another! Oh, the trauma!
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Then there are some of us—and I won’t mention any names here—who may have more fully developed brains who still don’t handle change well. I will confess—I am one of them. I am a traditionalist. I don’t mind my quiet routine. I tend to be less than flexible, shall we say, when my “perfect” plans are suddenly changed by someone else. (Give me a few minutes to think about it, though, and I’ll usually come around.) I’m too lazy to change, sometimes.
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And then you have to admit, not all change is good. We’ve been seeing that in our politics and government the last few years. “Change” has been the byword and many have blindly jumped on the bandwagon for the sake of change, never asking themselves the question “But what kind of change?” There is change for the good, and then there is change for the bad. Some people seem not to care as long as there is change. They ought to care.
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I am facing a new change, and a new challenge—one that I hope will be for the good. I finally got that new laptop Bob gave me for my birthday (and as an early Christmas gift.) I am very happy with it except for one thing—it came with Windows 7 rather than the Windows XP that I am used to. All new computers now come with Windows 7, so there’s just no getting around it. I am also switching to a newer version of Office, which means I will have to learn the ins and outs of Word, Powerpoint and a host of other things all over again. *sigh* I think I will be happy with the changes, once I’ve figured it all out, but in the meantime, it’s a pain to have to switch. I guess I will have to look at it as a mental challenge.
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There are other issues, too, with the change to Windows 7. I discovered last night, to my dismay, that none of the software for programs that I use on a regular basis, like The Print Shop and my greeting cards program, is compatible with Windows 7 and I am going to have to go out and buy all new software for those programs. That is what I would call a financial challenge. I did, in fact, buy a new version of The Print Shop last night, since that is the one I really cannot work without, that is compatible with Windows 7. I figured it would be the same Print Shop I have used for over ten years (I update it every two years) but updated and compatible with my new computer. I was horrified to see it was a completely different version with about 1/20th of the capabilities of my old Print Shop. There’s no way I can use it to do the work I do. The problem is, once you open software, unless it is not working, you can’t return it. Now I am out the money I paid for it, and I still have to find and buy the correct version. My money and I are not easily parted and to think that I wasted $40 on it just galls me!
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Anyway, back to the challenge of change! Life is a series of changes every day, isn’t it? We begin life as helpless infants but gradually we grow from babyhood to little children; from little children to teenagers; from teens to adults; and someday down the road to seniors and then if we know Christ as Savior, on to Glory with new bodies! Mom and I were just talking about that yesterday—how we are so looking forward to our new bodies, and wondering what those new bodies might be like. We learn new things every day—how to walk and talk; how to count to ten and tie our shoes; how to drive a car, do our work, raise a family… New circumstances, experiences, challenges, blessings or trials crop up every day.
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God made us the way we are but He does want us to change! First of all He wants us to repent from that old sin nature and the sins we commit every day and turn to Him for salvation. The word “repent” means to make a 180 degree change in our hearts and in our behavior. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation … (II Corinthians 7:10) When we are sorry for our sin, we will accept the salvation Christ provided through his shed blood and become new, different, spiritual creatures in Him. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (II Corinthians 5:17) This change is easy—He’s already done the hard part. All we have to do is believe and repent.

It gets more challenging, though. There are choices we must make, steps of obedience to take. As we go on to live our Christian lives, He wants us to grow and mature and be obedient to Him. We start out, just as in our physical lives, as newborn babies. We begin to grow through hearing and reading His Word. As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: (I Peter 2:2) As we begin to understand His Word, and learn from it, we become more mature in our faith and knowledgeable concerning doctrine and closer to Him in our walk. That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Ephesians 4:14, 15) He tells us, But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3:18)

We get past the babyhood stage, and maybe we’re more mature Christians, but it still is a challenge to be good children every day. We’re still fighting that old sin nature and the temptations of this world, and the devil himself. The Lord reminds us, For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (Ephesians 5:8) There’s been a change in us! Don’t look and act like the rest of the world! When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (I Corinthians 13:11) Grow up and act like heirs, mature sons of God!
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The final change comes, then, when we join Him in the clouds. Behold, I shew you a mystery;
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (I Corinthians 15:51, 52) Can’t wait to put away this weak, corruptible body, and that old nature, and change fully into the new Cindy who will live with Him forever! Now THAT’S a change I can believe in!
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One final word about change: Yes, there needs to be a change in us, but I am so glad God does not change! He says, For I am the LORD, I change not… (Malachi 3:6) The Bible tells us that He is faithful and that means unchanging, dependable and trustworthy, Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; (Deuteronomy 7:9) What a promise to rest upon! What a blessing for which to thank Him! I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 89:1)
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It’s a challenge sometimes for us to accept change or to change ourselves, but praise God –He’s done the hard part for us and if we trust Him to help us, we can grow and mature into followers of His who bring glory and honor to Him. And praise God for His everlasting, unchanging love and salvation and watchcare over us!

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. (Hebrews 13:8)

TIME WELL SPENT

It’s been a busy week. I’ve had the privilege of spending extra time with my mother this week as she’s been laid up with three compression fractures in her back. It’s so hard to see her hurting, and not able to eat because of the pain medications. I tried to make things that I knew were normally her favorites, to try to tempt her appetite, but until she could back off the pain meds a bit, it didn’t really work. The time spent with her was nice, though, as we talked and watched a few chick flicks together. I took my crocheting along and made some progress on the baby sweater, bonnet and blanket set I am making for Laurie’s baby. Bob was able to arrange his work schedule so that I could be with my mom. He travels a lot for his job, and of course I am always home with Robbie, so I appreciated his willingness to help out with that.

Then, of course, there was Thanksgiving, which also happened to be my birthday. I traditionally make the turkey, stuffing and gravy for our big family meal, so there are not a lot of early preparations I can do ahead of time. It’s all basically done on Thanksgiving morning, keeping an eye on the clock so that the turkey goes in the oven on time. As usual, everything tasted wonderful, but someone made the comment, “All that time making all of this and then it’s over in a matter of minutes!” We did take the time to thank the Lord for his abundant blessings in our lives and to share with one another some of the things for which we are most thankful.

Those were times well spent this week. Then there were the wasted times. Time I spent staring at a computer screen, struggling with writer’s block, I guess. Too much time spent in research for the book I am writing, and not enough time actually spent writing. Time worrying about the deadline that is looming and wondering if I will get it done in time. Time doodling as I waited for inspiration to come…

And what a waste of time my one attempt at snagging a Black Friday bargain was! Bob surprised me big-time with my birthday gift this week—the money to buy a new laptop for myself! And just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend sales, I thought! I poured over the ads until I found the perfect one for me—at a savings of $250 if I could get in on the doorbuster special! I went on Wednesday night to check it out and make sure they had it in stock. Yes, they had nine of them. Great! Even if there were twenty or thirty people ahead of me, they wouldn’t all be there for the exact same thing I was there for, would they? The chances of me getting the laptop I wanted seemed pretty good.

Not quite. I got up and out the door in the wee hours of the morning and pulled into the parking lot twenty-five minutes before the doors were to open. Call me naïve. I had only done the Black Friday, doorbuster thing once before with my sister many years ago, and then it had been a little crazy, maybe, but fun and not stressful at all. This time, when I got to the store ready to buy something I really, really wanted I was dismayed to see there were already 100-150 people ahead of me in a line that stretched from the doors clear around the side of the building. I went to the back of the line and started to shiver almost immediately. It was only about twenty degrees and I wasn’t dressed warm enough. Eventually a couple store employees came down the line handing out vouchers for the items people wanted, so they could go back to their cars and wait. The laptop I wanted was long-gone. I was disappointed of course, but grateful to get back to my car and go home and crawl back into bed.

As I lay there, trying to get back to sleep but still shivering, I thought about what a waste of time it had been, and that I would never, ever do that again, no matter how great the bargains sounded! I’m sure I would have felt differently if I had been able to get the computer, and then even the one or two hours I stood in line waiting to pay for the thing might not have seemed like a waste, but at that moment it all just seemed like a big waste of time. Oh, there will be other sales, probably almost as good, and if I am patient I will eventually get the laptop that is best for me.

Time is so precious to me, and I am sure, to you. Once those minutes tick by, they cannot be reclaimed. We are allotted in our lives so many years and months, weeks and days, minutes and seconds. Having a birthday this week made me think about time and wonder how many more years the Lord will allow me here on this earth. I am eager for Heaven, and yet, I want the time I have left here to matter. I go to bed sometimes thinking regretfully, “Well that was a wasted day!” On the other hand, on the days when I have really accomplished something I feel good when I go to bed, and grateful that I used my time wisely.

Robbie has had his days and nights mixed up again this week. He sleeps all day and evening and then, just about the time I am going to bed, he wakes up and wants to play all night. I feel badly that he is staring at the ceiling all night because Mom just can’t entertain him any longer. It’s hard to get him back on the right track because if he really wants to sleep there is nothing we can do to keep him awake, and if we do manage to wake him up before he is ready, he immediately goes right into seizures. I would love to convince him of a better way to use his time more wisely!

The Bible is clear that we are to use our time wisely. Romans 13:11 says, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (A good verse for Robbie, wouldn’t you say?) We do not know how many days are left to us individually, but the Lord says that our salvation—the time when He will take us out of this world, whether it be through death or the Rapture, to eternity with Him—is near! Until that time there is work for us to do for Him! Wake up and get to work!

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“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17) Using our time wisely means using it within the will of God. We sometimes are unsure of the next step in God’s will for our lives, but there can be no doubt in many instances of what is not God’s will. “Circumspectly” means not acting foolishly or sinfully as we did before we were saved, but being obedient. Our hearts know, our consciences know what is right or wrong; what brings glory to God and what does not; what is a waste of time and what is worthwhile. And “redeeming the time” ought to give us the sense of urgency, that because the days are evil we ought not to waste time.
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What is truly God’s will, and the whole purpose of the Gospel, is that men and women, boys and girls receive the salvation Christ has offered through His shed blood. It is our commission as believers to be witnesses to others of the Gospel. It is our sole purpose to bring glory to God through lives that are a testimony of that salvation. It is our responsibility to use our time toward that end. Our days are numbered here on earth and we are to “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving…Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:2, 5)
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God has promised blessings when we obey Him. Time is short. Time is precious. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3) The time is at hand. We waste so much time chasing the material things of this world, the foolish things, the selfish things. Anything that draws us away from what is of eternal value. Time spent helping others is never a waste. Time spent being a testimony or sharing the Gospel is never a waste. Time spent in prayer is never a waste. Time spent obediently and wisely following God’s will is never a waste.
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Redeem the time—time well spent.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

It has been a long, arduous journey for Julie and David for the last three years in the world of international adoption. They had no idea in September of 2007 when they embarked upon this journey that the country they felt led to adopt from, El Salvador, was the slowest in the world to cut through the red tape and procrastination, and would allow its children to languish in orphanages for years rather than releasing them into good, loving families who were eagerly willing, ready and able to provide good homes for them. After three years they were still waiting on approval from the two agencies in El Salvador that handled international adoptions.
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So many times they questioned if they should try a different country or quit altogether, but over and over as they fervently prayed, the answer always came back to them, “Be still, and know that I am God. Wait on the Lord.” They determined that until God closed the door on El Salvador completely, or showed them clearly some other direction, they would hang in there. Lately they had wondered if the door might actually be closing. Their adoption agency, fed up with dealing with El Salvador and seeing almost no movement over the last three years, was talking about pulling out if something didn’t start happening very soon. David and Julie started talking about their options if that happened and looking at different avenues. They must renew their application with Immigration again very soon and they were beginning to wonder if they even should.
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This week the call finally came. They had been approved by both agencies! Oh, the joy! They were ecstatic! I was thrilled—more grandchildren! Whoo-Hoo! The good news didn’t stop there. Not only were they approved, but because they were willing to take a sibling group of up to three, they were promising to put their application aside for special processing in order to speed it up. (That remains to be seen. We’ve heard those kinds of promises before.)
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Soon,, we hope, they will be matched up with the children God has for them. Who knows how long that will take, but perhaps now that they are fully approved, and with sibling groups so hard to place, it won’t take months for it to happen. Even then, there is normally still a ten month (at least) waiting period after they are matched before the adoption is finalized and they can bring the children home. But at least there is light at the end of the tunnel now.
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Please pray for Julie and David as they continue the rest of their quest to bring children out of orphanages and into a loving home. Please pray for wisdom to know God’s will, patience and strength for the journey, and peace with decisions made. Pray for Benjamin, Joshua and Hannah, who are so willing to share their mommy and daddy and home. Pray for the children who are waiting for a family who will love and care for them and have no idea that Julie and David are waiting eargerly for them, too. And pray for the children in orphanages all around the world or out on the streets all alone. We cannot help all of them but we can help some, and if we cannot help some of them, perhaps we can help one.
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The Bible says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27) We generally hear very little in our churches about caring for orphans. My own church supports Compassion International and the Baptist Children’s Home, but in my whole life I doubt I’ve heard more than one or two messages on the subject. Even if we are not called to actually adopt children or be foster parents, it is the duty of us all–churches and individuals–to in some way demonstrate our love and kindness to orphans, whether it is by supporting a child through Compassion International, or doing a Christmas shoebox for Samaritan’s Purse, or just taking an interest in the kids on our block who have no father in their home. We show our love for Jesus when we show our love for the “least of these.”

POTPOURRI IV

Plans, Preparations and Prayer — It’s that time of year again. We start planning Thanksgiving dinner—who’s bringing what to my sister’s house. I always cook the turkey, and along with that, make the stuffing and gravy. It’s tradition, and in our family we are really BIG on tradition! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year, right after Christmas. Not because of the meal, and certainly not for the parades or football games. I don’t really relish spending the whole morning in the kitchen. The gathering of the family is always wonderful, of course, but even more than that, I really take to heart the part about giving thanks.
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I try always, every day, to have an attitude of gratitude for all that God has done and is doing in our lives, and to be thankful for not only what He does, but for Who He is. I don’t really need a special day of the year to remind me to count my blessings and be grateful. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and more introspective and reflective, or because I’m walking closer to the Lord, or that the last ten years have been so hard and yet so good and we have seen the hand of God sustaining us through it all—whatever the reason, I thank Him every day.
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I think something that opened my eyes to how rich we are was visiting Ecuador for the first time eleven years ago. I had the privilege of returning last year and celebrating Thanksgiving there. Once again I was struck with how much we have physically and how blessed we are compared to most of the rest of this world. Being truly grateful was especially brought home to me when I spoke to a group of ladies about the spiritual riches we have as daughters of the King, regardless of our economic situation, citizenship, class, or race. Thanksgiving last year was probably the most meaningful of my life.
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This year I have been putting together shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. I have to turn them in at church tonight. I loved shopping for them and then trying to squeeze everything into the boxes. With every little gift I bought, I wondered about the child who would receive it. Where did he or she live? Would the shirts I bought fit them? Would the older girl like a little stuffed poodle or would she think it was too babyish? Which ball would the boy like better? Too bad a soccer ball won’t fit in the shoebox! Do they really want a toothbrush and toothpaste, wash cloth and soap for Christmas? Not my idea of a great gift, but apparently those things are precious to them. Into the shoebox they go, and with them the thought once more that things we take so for granted are of great value to those who cannot get them. It is hard to imagine that while our children and grandchildren have so much, these kids barely have the basics in life; that the yo-yo or harmonica or markers or jump rope in that shoebox will bring the same happiness to a poor child that a Wii or a IPod would bring to one of our kids.
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I have bathed each of those shoeboxes in prayer, that the child who receives it will know Jesus as his or her Savior and feel the love and watchcare of Christ throughout his/her life and follow Him faithfully. With each box, too, I have breathed a prayer of thanksgiving for the privilege of sharing with that child and for all that God has done in my own life.
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II Corinthians 9:7-13 reminds us to share with the poor for we are abundantly rich and have much for which to thank God. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men.” Our giving brings thanksgiving to God both from the one who receives, and also from us, and glorifies God.

Pain – My mother is back in the hospital this week with terrible pain in her back. No one is sure what is causing it, for it is not in the usual places where you would think of back pain and seems to move around. Mom is a pretty stoic person. You seldom hear her mention when she is hurting or if she is sick, so when she does finally say something, you know it is pretty serious. When I called her Thursday morning and heard the almost panicky, excruciating pain in her voice, I knew it must be bad. She went to the emergency room that day, but they couldn’t find anything and sent her home with some pain pills. Later, after phone calls to several doctors, they decided to admit her, but for almost two days she waited for a hospital bed to open up.
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It is difficult to watch your mother, or any loved one, suffering. I had never heard such pain in my mother’s voice before. My sisters Cheree and Corinne had to watch her suffer, for they are the ones who could be with her and take her to the hospital. (Bob was in Michigan and I had to be home with Robbie.) The pain pills helped some, but it wasn’t until they got her in the hospital with painkillers delivered by IV that she got some real relief. We are praying that the doctors will get to the bottom of this and be able to fix whatever is wrong.
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As long as we are in our earthly bodies there will be pain and suffering, disease and injuries, and the inevitable aging. How wonderful for the believer to know, though, that these sufferings are but for a little while and we will have new, perfect bodies someday! No more pain, no suffering, no diets or contact lenses or hearing aids! Romans 8 says in verses 18-26, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”
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I hate seeing my mother in pain, but I am so thankful that we can trust the Great Physician and know that He has His purposes in suffering, and her life in His hands. One thing is certain—we surely won’t take our new bodies for granted after all we have suffered through with these old carnal ones!
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Pink, Pink, Pink! – I started crocheting a tiny baby sweater this week. I will also make a matching bonnet and blanket to go with the sweater. I love the yarn. It is so soft and a beautiful shade of lustrous pink. Just looking at that color makes me happy! I crocheted a “coming-home-from-the-hospital” sweater set for each of my grandbabies and it makes me happy to be doing this one now.
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Everything I have sent for the new baby so far has been pink, pink, pink! If little Amanda turns out to be little Michael instead, he is going to look mighty funny coming home from the hospital in all that pink! We certainly enjoyed having a boy, Matthew, the last time after his four big sisters, but it will be fun to have a precious little girl again, too.
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I don’t think you’ll find “Thank Heaven for little girls!” anywhere in the Bible. It’s not exactly Scripture, but I’ll still quote it and believe it! What is Scripture, though, is, “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD…” (Psalm 127:3) and “Children’s children are the crown of old men [and old women!]” (Proverbs 17:6.) The first time in my life that I truly felt I was leaving a heritage behind me was the day my first grandchild was born. It made me want to be a better person, a more faithful follower of Christ so that my grandchildren would have a godly example to follow. And every grandparent can tell you that there is no better reward or crown in this life than to have grandchildren!
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Thank you, Lord, for pink—and blue!