A Worthy Goal

By: Vivian Wilson

Typewriter With 2015 New Year's Resolutions And Christmas Tree T

Another year is coming to a close bringing the dawning of a new year.  Standing at the threshold of 2015, an opportunity for a new beginning beckons.  It is time to evaluate attitudes, desires, failures, successes, and to set goals.

Goal setting has never been a discipline that I have practiced, but I am learning that to live life intentionally requires goals.  Anyone can set a goal, but simply setting a goal doesn’t guarantee achievement.

Reaching a realistic goal begins with a plan. Implementing the plan, and seeing it through requires commitment, focus, effort, determination, and perseverance.

Living an intentional life means that I have to be alert and engaged in life moment by moment, day by day.

I must use my brain.  (I’m getting tired just thinking about this).  It is so much easier to drift through life day to day than to be intentional about making choices and being disciplined in my actions.

Galatians 6:9  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we so not give up”.

In the process of moving forward toward the realization of a goal, I know that there will be times of failure, discouragement, disappointment, uncertainty and doubt, and the temptation to quit.  God understands our human weaknesses which is probably the reason the word perseverance is mentioned twenty times in the New Testament.

Romans 5:3  “Not only so but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.

So goals must be noble and valuable to be worth the effort.  There is no greater goal than one which brings eternal benefit.  While I have set some practical goals, like taking care of my physical body, my goal for my spiritual life is to model God’s grace by being alert to opportunities that are in front of me every day, to be holy (set apart), in the center of God’s will by prayer and reading God’s Word, and to make a difference in the lives of others by applying His Word.

The New Year brings a renewal of hope for good things to come, an excitement to see what changes may come, and the blessings that lie ahead because I choose to live intentionally.  I choose to be engaged in a life led by and empowered by the Spirit of God.  This will be a good year!

I wish for you a happy and blessed New Year lived out intentionally.

Vivian

Endings…and beginnings

By: Ms. O

I hate endings. I really do. Okay…well not ALL endings…but a good many of them. Some are forced upon me…some just happen…some I bring upon myself.

I know that in my house, the end of certain things were timed “just so” I would find them. The end of the milk carton for instance. Seriously…which part of that 1/12 of a cup left in the bottom of that gallon jug meant it should be saved…until I pulled it out….dumped it…washed it…and took it to the recycling bin. Same goes with toilet paper. I can’t count the times that I would reach for the roll…only to find two sheets…not even enough to blow my nose with…and no new roll in sight. Come on people…if the end is in sight…can you please at least let me know…one way or another?

I totally despise that whole “all good things come to an end”. What killjoy penned that? It never fails…when I am having a great time…family…friends…gathered around…that statement rolls around in my head…and I’m thinking…oh no…how much longer can I hold on to this??

There is nothing like being on a diet that makes you never want to use the last point/calorie/portion of the day. I would get all excited about the bowl of popcorn…frozen yogurt…fat free/sugar free/taste optional pudding….and next thing I knew…the bottom was there…no food to be seen…my treat is…gone. The end of my eating is here…and the stretch of nighttime overshadows the wished upon feeling that I will be full until morning…ugh.

Christmas is over again…for another year. It’s time to take down the tree…reel in the light strands…take down the garlands and signs…wrap up the nativities, Santas and snowmen…and try to organized in how you put everything away into the tubs it was stored in…which somehow goes well until you find another decoration in say…February…and then it doesn’t matter where you stick it. The house looks naked…empty of the anticipation of the season…it is done…over….the end. It shouldn’t but it does…leave a taste of bitter in my mouth…to know…it is done.

Some of the saddest endings are when we say farewell. The times I have moved and had to say goodbye to friends…loved ones. There is such sorrow to say goodbye…knowing that the miles that separate will be like an impassible cavern. Even worse..is when we say goodbye….for good…at least in this lifetime. I remember saying goodbye to a dear friend…not long before they passed…and I thought to myself…”they will get to Heaven before me…and I hope they have the party going by the time I arrive.” That did not take away my sorrow…but it sure made the end not so…final.

I can’t say that all endings are bad. I was glad when my awkward teenage years were done…although they transitioned into my awkward adult years…there is a difference…I am sure of it. I was glad when the kids were out of diapers…and formula…and the terrible twos and tiresome threes. When I got married, it put an end to eating cooked vegetables. My mom was not at the dinner table with me, watching to make sure I ate them. I felt guilty about it…for about a day…and then it passed by as I passed by that part of the grocery store.

Now the end of 2014 is here. This year has been a blur. How is it when the year begins, it seems like it take a full month to remember to write the correct year…but the next thing you know…we are preparing for the next?

In God’s eyes though….endings are a good thing…especially when it comes to…me.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by it’s deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

God gave me a choice…to put an end to my old ways…which truly did not lead to anything rich or fulfilling…and grab on to the new…His new. I needed to put an end to “self”…and instead focus on being with “Him”…each and every day. I know if I had stayed in my former mind set…my life would be nothing like it is now. God not only gave me the stopping point….but also gave me the beginning…that has not end. I think that is the best never ending promise around. Good bye 2014…hello 2015…I’m listening God…what have you got planned for me….amen.

If You’re Looking For Love in Frozen Yogurt…

By: Amy Dalke

frozen yogurt

Frozen yogurt shops are dangerous.

At least in the financial sense. And really, only if you take Luke Dalke with you.

Because I kid you not, if we don’t watch him like a hawk as he builds his massive concoction, he’ll pile a month’s salary worth of yogurt into that paper bowl.

As my Dad would say, “His eyes are bigger than his stomach.”

That kind of situation isn’t limited to frozen yogurt. In the middle of our living room on Christmas morning, Luke once again felt like he needed a little bit more.

As soon as he soaked up all the happy delight of a brand new pair of neon tennis shoes, he started counting how many presents were left under the tree.

And when every last box was ripped open, and tissue paper decorated the hardwood floor, his nagging hunger for more erupted in an audible sigh. I could tell he was fighting back the nagging question in the back of his mind,

“Is that all?”

He didn’t pitch a fit, or even vocalize his disappointment. (Luke is no poster child for selflessness by any means, but he understands, to some degree, that he is fortunate.)

Still, the expression that lingered across his face was undergirded by layers of discontentment.

Luke isn’t the only “more-chaser” in this household. I have years of experience with this pursuit myself.

Need it. Gotta have it. Give me more.

Newer. Bigger. Better. More.

As we sing along to the theme song of society.

Commercials, billboards, and advertisements work all day long to sell us happiness. If we buy their product, or sign up for their service, or purchase what they are peddling, our life will be richer, bigger, better. We will finally be satisfied. Our lives will be better…because more is always better, right? 

 

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If you buy this phone, life will be perfectly organized and efficient.

If you buy this app, working out will be easier.

If you buy this make-up, you’re face will glow with ageless beauty.

If you buy those sunglasses, you will be officially cool. 

If you look like this, they will love you. (And if you eat like this, you’ll look like that.)

If you drive this luxury SUV, everyone will know you’re successful. 

If you buy a bigger house, you’ll be satisfied.

If you work harder, you’ll be important.

If you wear this brand, use this brand, or drive this brand, people will think you’re more awesome. 

So then life spins on a cycle of discontentment, driven by the message that more will be enough. Except that it never is. And we live with a ripple of dissatisfaction, endlessly stirred by the insatiable desire for more.

You can overload your bowl with a heaping lot of yogurt, but you’ll be hungry again in a couple of hours. You can unwrap a tree skirt full of gifts, and still be unsatisfied.

Gifts, new cars, big houses, and bowls full of yogurt aren’t evil in and of themselves. But when Stuff becomes the object of our heart’s relentless craving, we run on a path of destruction carved out by our own deceitful desires.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” -Luke 12:15

We live in a world that persistently whispers that a little more will make everything better. So how, then, do we live out the truth? How do we live as people who believe real life isn’t found in possessions?

1) Starve the greed by counting your blessings. When you consider how much you already have, the voice of “more” fades into the background. You can’t be thankful and greedy at the same time. So choose to turn the soil of grateful thoughts instead of the greedy ones.

2) Shift your focus from your wants to another’s needs. It’s amazing how stress-free I am when my time is spent focused on loving someone else. When we pour out our lives for the sake of serving others, we don’t have time to dwell on our own lack. And there’s also that thing Jesus said about how we find our life when we give it away.

“If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” -Matthew 10:39

(Funny how we find those things He said really are true.)

So next time you notice that your mind is working up a list of all the things you Just Have to Have, make a list of what you already have instead. Then go look for a way to make someone else’s life a little brighter.

And if you ever take Luke Dalke to Orange Leaf, consider yourself warned. (But please remind him that he already has more than enough.)

Amy

The Sweetest Invitation Ever

By: Vivian Wilson
Mary kneeling before Jesus in the manger and kissing his hand
I love Christmas music. So you can imagine how happy I am that every year KHCB radio airs “The Five Days of Christmas”.  I listen to twenty-four hours of Christ-centered Christmas music. I leave all my radios on for these five days.

I think my all-time favorite is one that I can’t even find available to buy.  It is entitled “How Should a King Come”?  I love the lyrics.

Another of my favorites is “Mary Did You Know”?  As I was listening to the lyrics of this song for about the millionth time, I actually heard the words that are still resonating in my heart.

The words are simple, the truth profound: “Mary did you know that when you’ve kissed your baby, you’ve kissed the face of God”?

There is nothing more precious than that first intimate kiss that a mother gives her new born baby, so full of tenderness, love, and awe. While I can’t know from experience, I suspect the same is true for fathers.

This was no ordinary baby, he was God in the flesh offering himself to all men, inviting us into an intimate relationship with him.

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

While this young mother had the privilege to kiss the face of God, we have by his grace the ability to seek his face and know him intimately.  It is my prayer for us that we will experience and ever growing, deeply intimate relationship with Jesus.

Wishing you a blessed, Merry Christmas!

Vivian

Where is the JOY?

By: Ms. O

I know this is the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”….I have heard it sung many times..since…say…October.

I see the lights lining our streets…strung across the houses…the giant inflatables that are made to bring smiles to our face. The cards I have opened…that I hang across the door from a cute little twine clothes line…tell tales of year long happenings…joyous news that keep us up to date with families that I connect with perhaps once a year. My daughter and I did our marathon baking event…and I mean marathon, people…as in nine kinds of cookies made in one evening. The kitchen smelled like Christmas.

The tree is lit…the house is decked…with bows of…not holly…more like fake greenery. We have so many lights outside…and inside…that the power meter runs non-stop until early in the morning when the timer shuts it down.

There is no mistaking what time of the year it is….but with that comes the “missing”….the empty places.

I miss the part of being a child…waking up on Christmas day….and coming down to see filled stockings and wrapped gifts. We would take turns…by age…which I think was started one year when we used to open them helter-skelter-random-like and a gift got accidentally thrown away…hence the new more orderly tradition began.

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I miss my grandparents. I used to love on Christmas day when they arrived at our house. Each of us would wait patiently by our pile of gifts as my grandma made her way grandchild by grandchild to see what we got. I felt so special showing my loot to her…..as she ooed and ahhhed.

I miss when the kids were little…and Christmas was fresh and new all over again. The excitement would build…the anticipation mounting…striking a chord in me…back to my own childhood Christmas.  I would be awake long before they would…ready for the celebration to begin. To see their “wish list” come true…as they opened their gifts…in an orderly manner of course.

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I don’t know what to do with that feeling of missing. It is an ache that makes me tear up…and wish I had paid more attention to those times when I had them.

I wish there was a magic screen to roll footage of those childhood Christmas’s…to be back once more in our basement…the tree lit up in the corner…and packages in their neat piles once again. What I would not give to hear my grandma’s gravelly voice again….or hear my grandpa fussing at her…us…whoever…even though it was more bark than bite.

I know I was not in a rush for my own kids to grow up…it just happened. It feels like yesterday that they were opening up GI Joes, Barbies, Legos and Cabbage Patch dolls. Now it is a memory that is conjured up by old pictures to remind me what year who got what.

What do we do with this missing?

How do we turn it to joy…because that is what this season is all about…JOY…isn’t it?

‘Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy. “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.…’ John 16:19-21

I read this, knowing the disciples were not quite grasping that fact that Christ was leaving them. The pain was real for them…because they knew the “missing” was coming. To have the fullness of God though, things had to change. He went away….to return with great news…for their future. …and ours.

That does not mean the disciples did not miss “the good ole days”…not all. But Jesus explains that with this “change” comes renewed hope…and joy…and intentional living. The future was set…and waiting for them to take up the cross and follow Him.

So when the “missing” brushes my subconscious…let my tears turn to joy.

Because of my childhood memories…I wanted the same for my own kids. Growing up we had traditions…and that carried on.  We have a wealth of things to “remember when” about…that bring back scenes of family…and home. And with that comes anticipated joy in our future…of what’s to come.

I remember with my own kids…after all the gifts were opened….I would be a collapsed heap of tired on the couch…thinking…”oh my…that was quick”…not realizing the full impact of that till years later. Now, as I look back on my life…I feel God beside me saying to me…”that went by in a blink of an eye, didn’t it””…and I know He is right…and what lies ahead will do the same…but it does not take away the joy of it all.

Pull your loved ones close…pause in your celebration to remember the moments…and know that God came to us as a child…who grew up way to fast…but we savor His life…because He gave us the reason to savor it…Love fulfilled.

Merry Christmas to all….and to all….and good night. Amen.

Dang it, Elf! You forgot to move…again?!

Written by: Amy Dalke

SER-EN-DIP-IT-Y (n)

This was originally posted on December 21, 2013. The 8 year old is now 9; and he no longer believes in the Elf…or Santa. (Or the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny for that matter.) But whatever.

Dearest Elf,

Since there are still nine things on my to-do list, and I need to make at least five more grocery store runs before Christmas Eve, I will get right to the point.

What gives you the nerve to be lazy on Day 21 of your 25 day temp job? 

Your failure to persevere did nothing to improve the 8 year old Dalke’s already-rocky Santa-belief-system. Thanks for that, by the way. You know what I’m talking about…Saturday night?

Don’t even tell me you were too tired to move. I know that creative juices can wane towards the end, but really? Cut us some slack, and just move your lanky limbs twelve inches to the left. It doesn’t take acrobatics. Luke doesn’t even care if you’re cool enough to fit in with other toys.

He just WANTS YOU TO MOVE. Because when you don’t move, Mr. Elf…well…then we have problems.

Don’t give me a lame excuse like, “I was too tired.” Because let me tell you. Tired is not an option. You witnessed my mid-morning meltdown yesterday, right? That’s because my mind has a panic switch that gets tripped every year, right around this time. T-minus 3 or 4 days before Christmas…like clock work. I might make cooking look easy (Ha. I can’t even make that sound real…) – but I am not Betty Crocker, and I will never win a Celebrity Chef show. The most difficult task ever is to reconcile the recipe to the current resources – and then somehow come up with a list for the balance. Suffice it to say that it is not easy-peasy for me to make sure every item on every recipe is accounted for on the 2 page grocery list. It’s practically like an audit, and you know I don’t do details. Lest that seem too “Rookie” level for you, try making your menu with these “Don’t Forgets”:

  • Mom Dalke can’t eat mushrooms
  • Larry doesn’t do vegetables. (Oh, except corn.)
  • Lauren will say “anything” is fine…but she really prefers not to eat pork
  • Alex is lactose intolerant
  • Kathryn…well, who knows what her most recent weird food thing is.
  • Luke only eats foods with these basic ingredients: pizza, chicken nuggets, and cinnamon toast.

If it’s so hard, you ask, why bother? Well, Elf, I forget you have lived here for three short years. If I don’t plow through the menu stress, then we may have to eat H-E-B Pre-Cooked Christmas dinner, like that one time nine years ago. (Oh Jesus, you know I’m super thankful for food and all that…and I know some people have nothing to eat. But that was far from tasty. Far.)

Grocery Anxiety was not the only mountain I had to climb yesterday, Mr. Elf. While you stayed in ONE SPOT all day, I was getting dizzy in Hobby Lobby…mentally scrolling through Pinterest DIY feeds…trying to remember exactly what I needed to buy to make Stocking Stuffer History. Meanwhile, I also searched high and low in 5 different stores for something worth $14 dollars, so that Child No. 3 has gifts of equivalent monetary value to Children Nos. 1, 2, and 4.

…AND, dear Elf, while you were sleeping with your freaky-never-blinking eyes, Luke and I made ornaments for all the grandparents; I reorganized the bookshelf that my OCD could not handle anymore; and made sure every restroom facility was stocked with toilet paper.

I may have more grace for you if you had at least finished baking the sugar cookies for me, or if you had remembered to order the belt for Larry before the Christmas shipping deadline passed. (Oops, sorry Larry…no belt for you.)

After shopping. and honking at slow-drivers, and feeling my blood pressure rise to the tune of Carol of the Bells, I realized I forgot to buy a stocking for Lauren’s fiancé. Oh Joy to the World. Awesome.

That realization came after I drove into the garage and ran over the new stand-up desk I bought for the office. The only thing that would have made me laugh at that point was if I had run over one of those cars dressed up like a reindeer. THAT would have been hilarious.

(People-pleasing disclaimer: I am so sorry if you put antlers on your car, but I secretly hate them. And I cannot lie anymore and say they’re so cute.)

Alas, Mr. Elf, I felt somewhat like Alexander (you know, the one who had the very bad day.) So shoot me if I fell asleep and forgot to move you. Luke claims he’s too old and too smart to believe in Santa anymore, so I can’t really hold you responsible for shattering his innocence. He clearly busted me way before Saturday night:

Sunday morning conversation:

Luke: “Mom, did you know Skippy [the Elf] didn’t move today?”

Amy: “Oh, he didn’t?” (Get a grip, Mom, you need to be quicker than that...)

Luke: “Nope, he was still stuck in the lantern.”

Amy: “I think he might have gotten a little sick yesterday. Maybe he didn’t have enough energy to fly back to the North Pole last night.”

Luke” “I don’t think that’s it. I’m pretty sure you just fell asleep and forgot to move him.”

So, dear Elf, if you can no longer fulfill your elf-ly obligations in the Dalke household, perhaps you could be like a Gift Wrapping Fairy instead?

Love,

Amy

How to Let the Light of Christmas Shine Through

By: Gail Armatys, HeartSong Life Coach

I’m not sure where you live, but if you are located anywhere close to my house, this is the season of light.

Displays, simple or grand, they light up our yards and our streets. Lights placed in the shape of nativity scenes, Disney characters, Santa and his reindeer, or Cajun style – Santa and his gators, fill the sky with light.

It is fun to see the different personalities displayed in each yard. All with a nod toward bringing joy…all with an abundance of light.

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The Purpose of Light

As I walked through the neighborhood, enjoying the sights and sounds of Christmas, it occurred to me that there really is something to this thing we call ‘light’. Though it appears that light is a man-made object, you know – electricity, outlets, plugs, surge protectors, light bulbs, extension cords and such – the truth is, light is God’s idea and it has a purpose.

The purpose of light? To reveal and bring life.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God’s very first command is “Let there be light.”

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God knew –  and still knows – we need light to live and overcome the darkness (translation: evil, pain, despair, death) found in the world.

“Darkness and cold are great examples of evil. They are the absence of something.They are lacking.”  Pastor Ben Trammell

That ‘something’ is light and life.

Living in the Light

Scripture tells us,

  • “God is light.” (1Jn 1:5)
  • We are to “walk in the light.” (Isa 2:5)
  • God’s “word is a light for our path.” (Ps 119:105)
  • God “made his light shine in our hearts…”(2Cor 4:6)

These biblical references remind us that our path is revealed through God’s presence and his word. As we walk with him as he directs, and as we read his word, his light changes us, and we begin to reflect him and shine from within for others to see.

In life, we often find that darkness tries to overcome our light through challenges, confusion, pain, loss, and discouragement. But there is good news!

Light always comes when we seek it.

Look again at the verses of scripture above. They reveal practical ways for us to move from darkness to light. For example, based on these verses, you might ask yourself, “Am I walking in God’s presence, his light? Do I read his word regularly? Am I following the path God is shining his light for me to see…the one he’s revealing as I give up my old ways, attitudes, and thoughts?”

As you listen to your answers, what steps can you take today to draw closer to the light?

Letting the Light Shine Through 

As you may have noted, I tend to think of pretty much everything in terms of life purpose and action steps.

In light of that fact, (please pardon the pun), let’s take a moment to reflect on  perhaps the most important question we should ask ourselves this holiday season concerning light.

“Is the light of Christmas shining through me?”

Maybe this is a difficult time for you. Or maybe you are in a time of gracious prosperity. Either way, God calls each of us (because he loves us and knows it is best for us) to spend time with him, to be in his word, to walk a certain path…to receive the light…and yes, to be the light.

You and me, we are to let the light of Christmas shine through.

In the beginning, said another way, “Let there be light!”

Purpose Prayer

Thank you Lord, for the beautiful lights of this season.  The ones in our yards, in the sky, in you – and in me!  I humbly receive your light as I seek you in your word, in prayer, and in the steps I take.  No matter what, may your Christmas light shine through me. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Purpose Steps

Commit to making time each day this week to read his word in scripture and to pray.  Ask God to reveal his light through you as you go about your days.

Record your experiences and opportunities to shine as well as your thoughts and feelings as God answers your prayer.

Light Me Up/TobyMac/Veggie Tales

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23rntfd6qC8