Do-It-Yourself

The first time I tried to butcher my own meat I found out the importance of the right equipment. We used a hatchet to detach the joints and a hacksaw to cut through the bones. I discovered that the knife I owned commonly known as a butcher knife wouldn’t cut soft butter.

Mom had a meat grinder. At least it was shaped like a meat grinder, had holes like a meat grinder, a handle that you turn like a meat grinder, but this meat grinder did not grind meat. It turned meat into mush.

When the afternoon was over, I had the smell of wild meat in my nose, the remains all over me, and I had only saved myself $35. Although the meat was edible, it would have been so much nicer if it had been in recognizable cuts of meat.

My husband and I agreed that the next year the carcass would go to the butcher where it would be cut and neatly packaged for a reasonable price. Our part was to deliver the carcass to the butcher, then pay for it when it was finished.

I come from a long line of do-it-yourselfers. I grew up believing that with the right information and the right tools I could do anything. We are that generation, no, that nation of people who believe we can do anything.

And working our way to heaven is one of the things we think we can do.

Ask the man on the street, “How do you get to heaven?”” He will probably answer, “ “By being a good person.”” Or “Obey the Ten Commandments.”” Or “Do good deeds.” But there are some things you just can’t do for yourself and gaining entrance into heaven is the main one.

“Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3, 16 .There it is in Jesus’ words, what you have to do to get everlasting life and see the kingdom of God–simply believe in God’s Son Jesus.

You cannot do it yourself. Nothing you do or don’t do will get you into heaven.

 

 

 

Building an Altar

The dearest place on earth to my heart for many years was the old wooden altar where I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was 7 years old. And I frequently knelt there in that same tear-stained spot at my end of the altar to meet my Lord in prayer.

Years later, at a different altar, I rededicated my life to Jesus, then put my 3-year-old son on the altar to dedicate him to the Lord. That same altar was where I was married the second time and where I dedicated my daughter to the Lord when she was two weeks old. I found my place there at the end of that altar too, where I shed many tears in prayer over the years.

Abraham built an altar at Bethel, which means House of God, in Genesis 12. Then he built an altar in Hebron, which means Friend of God.”

Abraham’s last altar was on Mount Moriah, where Abraham made the ultimate sacrifice, his only son Isaac, but God stopped the sacrifice and provided a ram caught in the thicket to take Isaac’s place. This was symbolic of God providing His own sacrifice, His only Son Jesus. Abraham named that altar Jehovah Jireh God my provider.”

He started at Bethel the House of God, moved to Hebron Friend of God, then went on to Jehovah Jireh God my Provider, the names he gave the altars suggesting he was getting closer to God as he traveled on  his journey.

Can you point back to the altar where you gave your heart to Jesus? In your journey through life, have you moved from worshiping at the House of God, to being a friend of God, to knowing that God is your Provider?

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.”  Hebrews 10:19, 22 NKJV

God always hears our prayers, no matter the position of our bodies, as long as we kneel our hearts in prayer before Him.

 

Lights of the Christmas Tree

In the years when we were teenagers, Mama bought a silver aluminum Christmas tree, and we decorated it with all our old decorations she had accumulated over those early years. Our favorite lights were the old-fashioned bubble lights that looked like oil pumping up inside, made to look like a candle.

We had a couple of little plastic reindeer which looked like a rocking horse. I still have one of those plastic reindeer, pink and fragile, probably 60 years old. There was also a little Santa Claus and maybe an angel made out of the same plastic material. We had a beautiful angel to top the tree but I don’t remember much about what it looked like.

 I still have a few of those items myself, and have picked up a few over the years. Sorry to say, many of those items have totally fallen to pieces, because items made in the 1940s and 50s were made of a low-quality plastic and were not made to last 75 years.

 We loved the silver icicles or tinsel that we threw over the tree branches, and as recently as two years ago, I bought some like them to decorate my artificial tree. I read that the early icicles were made out of lead but the new ones available today are some kind of plastic with a metallic coating.

 What does any of this have to do with Christmas? Many Christians have turned away from decorating a tree for Christmas since it was obviously not part of the early-day Christian church’s holiday observations. There are many traditions that have sentimental value to many Christians and I’m one of those sentimental types. My personal opinion is that what the Bible speaks about, I teach. When the Bible is silent, I remain silent.

 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 NIV

All my memories of Christmases past revolve around the story of Jesus’ birth. He is the Light of the world and that’s what I remember when I see the lights of the Christmas tree.

Christmas Traditions

Christmas has sure changed around our house. When our children were at home, our whole Christmas revolved around school and church plays.

“Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh in the white and drifting snow.” No, we didn’t travel very far to grandma’s house, because our grandmas lived in the same town.

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.” Well, no white Christmas here. I looked it up on weather.com and the historic possibility of snow for Christmas in our area of Oklahoma is 5-10%.

“I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.” Yes, we seldom traveled far from home, and we never traveled at Christmastime. Our time was committed to church and our families were here. Some people we knew traveled to Colorado to ski, but not us.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, fa la la la la la la la la.” Most years the Christmas decorations went up two or three days before Christmas and came down New Year’s Day.

“Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King.” We always had a good-sized adult choir for the Christmas cantata and most years we had a children’s choir too. We practiced every week from the middle of October until about the second week of December. Each year as I stood among the choir hearing the sweet voices raised to heaven, my heart swelled with love for Jesus Christ my Lord who willingly came to earth as a baby to live and die for me. Now Christmas choir practice is a distant memory.

“For is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11 NKJV

And yes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year. There’ll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing, when loved ones are near. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

Traditions change, seasons change, but Christ must remain as the center of our Christmas

The Real Christmas Tree

When we were kids, we always got our Christmas tree the last day of school before Christmas, given to us by the school teachers. Every year for many years, we put the tree up on Christmas Eve and left it up until New Year’s Day.

After I had my own home, I couldn’t get in the mood to decorate until Christmas Eve and I usually left my tree up until long after New Year’s Day. One year I even thought about turning my tree into a Valentine tree, a St Patrick’s tree, and an Easter tree, maybe even a 4th of July tree.

Of course I love a real cedar Christmas tree. I used to buy a real tree every year, usually from the Fire Station or grocery store. The last few years that I bought a real tree, I got a 3 or 4-foot tall Scotch pine to set on a corner table.

I love the smell of a real Christmas tree, but about 5 years ago, I was tested for allergies and discovered I am allergic to all cedar trees. I should have known. It seemed like I always had a cold, with a runny nose and sneezing around Christmas time each year. When I finally gave in and bought that first artificial Christmas tree, I mysteriously didn’t get sick.

Within the Christmas story is the story of the cross. God becoming flesh through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of a virgin, Mary—this is the beginning, but the end of the story is Christ on the tree, the cross of Calvary, giving Himself completely for the whole world.

“Because Christ also suffered for us… who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” I Peter 2:21-24.

From the words of the old hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, written by George Bennard, (1873-1958.) “So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.”

SONGS OF THE HEART

Our holiday has always revolved around school and church Christmas programs. “Away in the manager, no crib for his bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.” Baby’s first song, sung at home and at the church altar for the grown-ups when we were too small to be in the regular Christmas play.

At school, from Thanksgiving on, we practiced for our Christmas play. Mamas made costumes for angels, shepherds, sheep. We envied the two who got to play Mary and Joseph. We sang “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” We memorized the unfamiliar words, singing them over and over with our music teacher, until we could sing them in our sleep. With no shyness,we sang at the tops of our voices, little children loving to sing.

In high school, we began to sing the harder songs. “O, Holy Night.” “Little Drummer Boy.” “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” “Hallelujah Chorus.” We started practicing long before Thanksgiving. Our Christmas concert was the culmination of months of work. We were proud of our hard work and sang with all our hearts.

I lived through it all again with my children. We put on huge productions at church with recorded music to sing to with rehearsals every Sunday night for at least 6 weeks. The music has changed, yet it stays the same. The same songs, new arrangements. Lavish stages, painted backdrops, special lighting.

At school, my daughter sang in the choir as I did many years before, so we had two  performances to work on—one at school and one at church. At times, it seemed music was running through our minds all day and all night.

What better way for God to get His Word into our hearts? He set it to music and caused the world to play it through the airwaves night and day, constantly, for 2 months of the year, sometimes starting as early as Halloween.

Christmas means music to me. It really was a “Silent Night, Holy Night” when Jesus was born. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill unto men.”  Luke 2:14