Friday Stuff (For the I-Am-Not-Going-to-the-Mall-Today-Kind-of-Women)

Minimalist Baker Pumpkin Pie

We are so grateful! We have had a wonderful time up here in Tennessee this week; our friends have opened their home and hearts to us in such a beautiful way that I honestly feel super spoiled. Not to mention that we have eaten the most amazing food (and just for the record, I am enjoying a slice of pumpkin pie and a cup of Wilbur Cocoa Breeze Blend coffee even now), and had spent so many bonding hours in the kitchen together that I think someone needs to write an ode to the Kitchen soon.

Now some Friday Stuff for those of you who chose to stay at home today instead of going into the craziness of a mall:

On Advent Reading:

There are so many good Advent companions nowadays that I won’t even try to recommend you all of our favorites but here are a few of them:

God Rest Ye Merry: Why Christmas Is the Foundation for Everything by Douglas Wilson

Some other free -and great- online readings for the season are these:

Good News of Great Joy by John Piper

Readings and Devotions for Advent, the Twelve Days of Christmas, and Epiphany

On Christmas Gifts: 

I have not bought one yet,  but hey! I already know how I want to wrap all my gifts! Hope that counts as being a good and on-time planner.

Here are some pretty gift tags that you may want to print -in case you are also hoping to be a good planner this year.

On Disappointments: 

The moment you reach page 167 of a book you are liking a lot and read the words the author -which is a woman- uses to start a paragraph: “A few times a year,  I officiate a wedding…” That, my friends,  is disappointing moment.  I won’t lie, I still love the many words she has right, but I would be very careful when reading her books. All Truth is God’s Truth, but all words to be true must be proved by Truth itself.

On Changes: 

They always come and make us grow. Changes stretch us, and help us see how much we still need to change ourselves.

Changes help us to be challenged, to put in practice what we say we believe, to humble ourselves and raise us up. We must have a heart willing to open the door to them and welcome them into our lives. God will use them for Hid glory and our good.

On Fake Bread:

I am humbled and grateful to be a guest on my friend Diana’s blog. I am writing an exhortation to Pilgrims like me, who at times are tempted to eat fake bread…

“Remember this, dear Pilgrim, the food in exile, the food of self-righteousness, the bread made out of rocks, will never, never, satisfy us. It only feeds the idols of our hearts but never our soul. All bread made with our own efforts will always leave us empty, it never nourishes us, it will always kill us.” Continue reading here.

Praying God will grant you a restful weekend, dear Friends,

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky

The White Dragon and The Promised One

The Magpie, Claude Monet

-Please, momma, tell me the Christmas story again. All of it. 

-Come, let’s sit by the Christmas Tree, little One.

This season of the year reminds us of The Story that changed all stories, just like all the decorations in our home remind us of how this Story changed us.

Spring, the season in which life comes forth pushing hard through the icy ground seeking sunlight, air, space, reminds us of the coming of our Savior into a world full of Winter; a world in which the White Dragon, who was called that not because he was good, but because he always was dressed like an Angel of Light to disguise people, ruled.

All creation was in a long Winter, the White Dragon was a cruel ruler and kept the eyes of men blind and their ears deaf. All was cold and arid, but some knew about the Promise of Life that the King of Light had given the world from the beginning, and they patiently waited for Him, the Messiah. They waited for Him to come and break the ice and melt the coldness in the hearts of men, and open their eyes to see and their ears to hear. Day after day, they kept expecting the Promise of Life. Spring came, then Summer, Fall…and Winter. Again. Year after year they longed for His appearance.

The Dads and Moms kept telling their children about the Great Promise: The Promise of Life. And when they died, their children told their children about it. Some got tired of waiting and abandoned all hope and were content to worship golden calves and wooden gods. But God (and, Oh! How I love that phrase, “But God!”) always kept a remnant, and He himself nourished their faith and hope. They kept searching the Scriptures, they kept longing for the Advent of the Seed that would break the head of the White Dragon.

One night, when there was a lot of buzz in a tiny city (a city so small that only those who read the Book knew about its existence and always kept an eye on it) a star shone like no one had ever done before. It was so bright that the White Dragon trembled, but he did not understand why. Because, remember, the White Dragon even though he was very powerful, he did not know all things, he knew he was going to be crushed to death on the head but he did not know the time. He did not understand the Seasons.

And that is why we now fill our house with lights. We want the world to know that here, in our home, in our hearts the Promise lives.

But, going back to the star and the tiny city… There in the most unexpected place, a beautiful young lady was about to give birth to her first son. Her husband was there, holding her hand, praying for her, comforting her. There were not doctors or midwives to help them. He did not know exactly what to do. Trying to find clean cloths and lukewarm water was not easy. And then, when her face was full of tears and her body full of sweat, the Baby cried. He was alive. And they kissed him and she cried and her husband held her tight and kissed her forehead and they worshiped The Promise Giver  and The Promised One, and Heaven was rejoicing. The time had come. The Promised One had finally come!

The hard soil in the World full of Winter began to thaw.

The angels rejoiced in such a manner that they could not stay in Heaven; they had to be heard and seen by humans, they had to announce to the World the great news of great joy. They chose a group of shepherds, not the nice kind of shepherds that some artists like to paint, remember little one, that those shepherds were like the people we sometimes avoid in the streets. But they chose them to tell us something about the Promised One: He was coming to transform the hearts of men no matter what kind of people they were.

The White Dragon heard about all this while visiting the castle of a king name Herod. He has there behind the king’s throne when a group of Wise Men, dressed with fine clothes stood before the king and asked him if he knew where was the Real King to be found, the Newborn King, the Promised One. When the king heard this he trembled and the White Dragon started to speak into his ear, “Calm down.  Tell them you also want to go worship him. Maybe they will tell you where he is to be found. Then you can go and kill him. You are the king and this babe is a threaten to your kingdom… ” While king Herod was repeating those exact words to the Wise Men, the White Dragon murmured… “I must kill Him. He is. He is the One.” and he was trembling and was full of fear and fury.

But the King of Light kept the Promised One safe. Through visions and dreams the Wise Men knew that they should not tell king Herod were the Prince of Light was staying. And the humble family with their hands full of gifts that helped them pay for a long trip moved to a land known as Egypt. A land which reminded them of the time  when their forefathers were slaves and were delivered in a glorious way by the only true Promise Keeper, by the mighty Hand of the Savior of Nations. There, in that barren land they hid.

As you can imagine, my little one, king Herod and the White Dragon became furious when the Wise Men did not come back to tell them about the new born King. And full of hatred and fear the White Dragon spoke again into the king’s ear, “Kill them all. All the babies. Get rid of them all!” And the king agreed. This had to be done. Yes, that is also part of this story, little one. Women, men, children, all were crying desperately out in the streets. The White Dragon was out there too, inflaming the hearts of each soldier carrying a sword with revenge and hatred, he kept blowing cold ice into their hearts, eyes and ears so that they could not see what they were doing, and could not hear the cries for mercy. Meanwhile, King Herod was drinking wine and eating figs in his castle.

That night was dreadful. But King Herod and the White Dragon were sure they had won the battle so they feasted until morning. But God, and yes… But God! (and never forget that those two words can change the course of any story) He could not be conquered by powerful men or dragons.

No one knew yet what was going to happen. All seemed the same for a few more years. The Pharisees and Scribes kept teaching in the synagogues and loading people with such heavy burdens that they could not carry themselves. The tax collectors were still stealing from men. The merchants in the Temple were making more money each day. The lepers, the blind, the deaf all were begging for money, for mercy. Some women were entangling men with sweet words, perfumes, good looks; others were spending all their money trying to find a cure for their sickness. Some men were fishing, others learning how to make tents, and others learning the Scriptures at the feet of great teachers. No one really knew what was about to happen.

But one day, when the Promised One was about thirty years old, he came to be baptized and something that has only happened once took place. The Heaven was opened and the Father of Light, the Promise Keeper spoke and announced that this was His Son, His Beloved Son, the Prince of Peace, the Promised One. And the Spirit of God came in the form of a dove and rested upon Him. And all was glorious and the icy hard soil of the World full of Winter kept breaking up, little by little.

Little one, can you imagine that? WOW! It’s one of those amazing mysteries that surround this story and make us see what a fascinating thing His appearance is.  Oh, what a moment I am sure that was!

The Promised One walked among men and women. Rich and poor, healthy and sick. He taught them in the synagogues and on the mountains.  By the sea and around tables full of great food and wine. He went to weddings and held children in His arms to bless them. He healed and delivered many from the diseases and chains that the White Dragon had placed on them. He got very angry too against all the merchants in the temple. He brought back to life many that had died. He cried too.

The White Dragon started to see the signs of Spring, of Life. He knew then that the Promised One did not die that one night when many innocent babies were slaughtered. He had to come with a plan soon. He had to destroy the Prince of Peace. This time he whispered to the ears of the Pharisees and Scribes, “Kill him. He says He is One with God. Kill him. He will bring down all your teachings and you will lose your power. See? People are following Him. Kill him!” And they heard him, and agreed. And starting to plot a way to do so.

But you know what, little one? These men who bragged about how much they knew the Scriptures, did not see that it was written in the Book that it was them who were going to be part of the scheme to kill the Promised One.

The White Dragon then came and spoke into the ear of one of the Promised One’s closest friends. He spoke convincingly and blew coldness into his heart, filled it with greed, and seared his conscience. Judas was his name. He did not have silver or gold, but he had Jesus; sadly, he rather had silver and gold than Jesus. He gave up everything to follow his greedy heart and instead of finding forgiveness and life under the One Tree, he found his death on a tree.

The Promised One was praying on the mount. His friends were asleep while He was sweating drops of blood. Yes, little one, you heard me well, drops of blood. That tells us of how anguished he was. He was becoming obedient to the point of death and death on the cross. He was getting ready to drink the cup of God’s wrath, to crush the White Dragon’s head. To free his own.

Men and women came in the dark up to the mount. This time, however, they did not come to listen to him teaching, nor to be fed. They did not bring their children so that He would bless them, he brought them to see how the God Man, the Promised One, their only Hope was being taken away.

They followed him, watched from behind, many laughed, they were being entertained, amused to see how the soldiers mocked and hurt with cruelty the Prince of Peace. They placed a crown of thorns on his head. The thorns that represented all the sins of the world. The thorns that sprung forth from the earth that day so long ago, in which the first man and woman ate the forbidden fruit that the White Dragon offered them.

The crown of thorns was made up of all the sins that the world has ever known, and as they brutally placed it on him, it pierced the Messiah’s forehead. The White Dragon, said to himself, “So you thought you were going to crush me on the head?” And he laughed nervously.

Almost everyone (one did not, but instead hid in fear) followed closely the series of events that came one right after the other one. The whipping, the mocking, the tearing off his clothes, the trial, the loud voices, the confusion, His silence. They followed him through the Via Dolorosa up to Golgotha.

The White Dragon was there. You could see his reflection in the eyes of the soldiers when they laughed at Jesus. You could hear him in the laugh of the mockers. The trees were not clapping. Yet. The stars in heaven were silent. The angels were expectant. The women were crying.

One man took the nails and drove them through his own Creator’s hands and feet and nailed Him to the cross, avoiding at all times his eyes, eyes full of staggering mercy.  The White Dragon watched closely but did not understand why every time one of the Promised One’s drops of blood fell on the ground the Winter land thawed more and more.

In a moment, all heard the One on the Cross cried with a loud voice, “It is finished!” and as he expired, a great darkness descended over all, the earth shook, the rocks broke their silence. The veil of the temple was torn. “This can not be happening,” the White Dragon thought and shrieked loudly.

Three days of waiting, of crying, of wondering what had really happened. Three days of losing all hope. Three days of forgetting all the Words, all the promises. Three days of darkness.

But God… But God!... had spoken from the beginning and He is not like a man to lie, His promises are all truth and Amen. He, the Promise Giver, The Promise Keeper, the Father of Light had spoken and Jesus, Oh, and listen to this carefully, little one, Jesus, the Promised One, the Savior of the world rose from the death conquering death, defeating the White Dragon, setting the captives free from the bondages of sin. Oh, what a glorious truth!

This is, my little one, the story of Christmas.This is the Grand Story, The Story that changes all stories.

This is why Christmas is good news, why we celebrate, and why we are glad and rejoice.  Let’s be merry, let’s be glad. The Promised One has come!

Merry Christmas!

Becky

Sin and Hiding Places

We are reading the story of Christmas and all stories, if we really want to understand them, must be read from the beginning. So we started in the Garden. And it is there that we see the beginning of a pattern that has continued to this day: When men and women know that their sin has been discovered they hide from God -or at least we fool ourselves into thinking that we can actually hide from an omnipresent, omniscient God-.

But because of Jesus, because of who He is and what He has done, we now have a perfect place to hide from all the shame and guilt of sin. Paul reminds us that our lives are now hidden with Christ in God.

 

Christ is the perfect hiding place.
 Run to Him.
Do not hide your sin, yourself, your shame.
Come to Jesus.
Only at the foot of the One Tree
our sins can be really washed away,
our sins can be blot away,
and our hearts be restored.

This is why we can be merry. This is the reason why Christmas is good news.

Jesus, the Savior has come! 

What a glorious truth! No more hiding, no more running away, no more “trying harder.”  Our life is hidden with Christ in God. Alleluia!

This is one of the reasons why we have lights and candles decorating our homes in Christmas, to remind us that because Jesus Christ came to save us, to redeem us, we don’t have to walk in darkness anymore.  We don’t have to walk in fear, Jesus is our Prince of Peace.

Celebrating His coming,

Becky

Praying Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it with justice
and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

 

The Nativity, Albrecht Dürer, 1511

Father in Heaven, you rule in Heaven and on earth. Your dominion knows no end; it doesn’t stop when our world seems to be going wild, or when it meets the brokenness of men. You are King over all, and as our Good King we trust in you.

Thank you because you sent Jesus, Immanuel, God with Us. Oh, He has come indeed! He came into this world, He broke the timeline to which we are bound; He did what no other god can do: He became one of us.  He came to save us, and did not wait for us to seek Him. Jesus came, He made himself nothing, He came in the form of a man, and humbled himself taking the form of a servant, and even there He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross to save us from the curse, from the guilt, from the death penalty. He came to save me! Glorious Grace, scandalous grace, amazing grace!  The Glorious Impossible has come.  You gave us Jesus, Father,  and in Him all the treasures, all the mysteries of life are hidden. All that our soul longs for is found in Him. Thank you for Jesus!

Father, I pray that you will give us the faith, to each one of your children, to live like we have been truly redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus. Give us faith not to think and live like those who don’t know you. Give us a a bold faith to seek in You, in your Word, wise counsel. Oh, that we don’t seek advice in the latest trend, or in the stats, or in the government, or in those friends who don’t love your Word. Draw us to your Word, to Jesus.

Help us live as children of God, children of the Everlasting Father. Help us to love one another so that people will know, will recognize that we are truly your children. Help us do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility counting others as more significant than ourselves. Help us not to look only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. Help us, Everlasting Father, to eat and drink, and move and come and go, and speak and listen, and feast and sing and do all mundane things as your children. Help us be poor in spirit, help us mourn for our sins and with those who are mourning, help us be meek and merciful. Help us, Everlasting Father, to be pure in heart, to be peacemakers,  and to endure persecution as many of your children have done before us. Help us live in such a way that people will be drawn to you, our everlasting Father.

Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to fight a battle and to win it. The Prince of Peace came and crushed the Dragon’s head; He came and death could not hold him back. The Prince of Peace came and destroyed with His outstretched arm the power of sin over us. The Prince of Peace came and Hell trembled. He came and brought peace between the Father and His own. Oh, what a wonderful truth! Father, help us be like Jesus, that we may make peace where peace needs to be made. Help us to leave our offerings before the altar and go and be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. Help us, at the same time, to fight the good battle of faith. Help us not to faint, help us endure. Help us stand strong in the day of battle. Help us not to shiver before your enemies. Help us, O Lord, to keep peace.

Thank you, Father, because we can rest assured that Jesus’ Kingdom shall have no end. Thank you because the world will be filled with the glory of the knowledge of God just as the many waters cover the seas. Thank you because you reign overall, you are Sovereign, All Mighty. Thank you, Father, because as we celebrate in this season the fulfillment of your Promise, as we light candles and lights, and sing of the immense joy that fills our hearts,  we are reminded of the glorious truth that changed the world, that changed our hearts, that changed eternity: Jesus has come indeed!

In Jesus’ Precious and Powerful name I pray,

Amen

Becky

Beauty for Beauty’s Sake

“Beauty is God’s inspiration to delight in Him. Wonder and awe whisper to us that there is something beyond, something more.”    Steve DeWitt, Eyes Wide Open

 

Image credits: Photograph by Andrew Osokin at Peta Pixel (Amazing!)

 

It always amazes me
 that God creates beauty for beauty’s sake.
*****
So, I take my pencils and trace,
just for the sake of trying to make
something beautiful.
*****
I choose the right colors for my home,
and flowers for the table,
and arrange them beautifully in a vase.
*****
The Christmas ornaments,
all chosen carefully;
we want it to be beautiful.
*****
The food on the table,
the wine,
the candles,
the music.
“Beautiful,”
we sigh.
*****
The books on the shelves,
filled with beautiful words,
and beautiful art.
*****
The smiles,
the tears.
Family,
friends.
*****
All beautiful.
*****
I am always surrounded by beauty.
Art made in heaven.
Flawless.
All glorious.
*****
This is certainly a beautiful world.
And I give thanks
to
God
alone.
The Creator
of all things.

 

Becky

Make sure you go see the whole photography series of snowflakes by Andrew Osokin. It is breathtaking!

What I Will Be Listening During December

These are my favorite Christmas albums, and I will be listening to them all day, every day during December.

Behold the Lamb of God, by Andrew Peterson

Joy: An Irish Christmas by The Gettys

Three traditional Christmas songs that Sandra McCracken recorded in her kitchen.

The Word Became Flesh, “a musical interpretation and celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God. The biblical narrative from creation through the fall to redemption is retold as familiar hymns, Christmas carols, and new choral pieces are performed, resulting in an epic presentation of salvation that resonates in mind and heart.”

Veni Emmanuel:  Ancient & Traditional Latin Christmas Carols (Classical Academic Press).

O Come, Emmanuel by David Nevue

I also love to listen to Kenny G. He has recorded many great Christmas songs, hymns, and carols.

Mary Selby recorded a beautiful song for the season, Out of Heaven, and I am loving it!

What will you be listening this season? Any song/ album you think I am absolutely missing? Please, share!

Happy Advent, friends!

Let the world rejoice, our Savior has come!

Becky