Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hi sweet friends - I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. I am so sad that we have to wait a whole year until it comes around again!

I so enjoyed doing the Christmas movie series this month, I trust you did too! It took a lot of time, thought and research, but it was so well worth it! I will probably never watch all those movies with the same perspective again. Now they will be even better!

I am going to take a little blogging break until after New Year's and spend some time with my family this week. So I hope you have a wonderful and safe New Year's holiday, and I look forward to linking up with you in 2011!

With love,


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Friday, December 24, 2010

The Blessing of Giving

We are nearing the end of our Christmas movie series, I cant believe that it is almost Christmas! How time flies when you are having fun!

Today I want to share some laughs, and some lessons, from Christmas With The Kranks.

This is another one of those movies that I find hysterical, but that some people find just plain annoying. But for Christmas lovin' girls like myself, who watch every holiday movie ever made over and over during the entire of month of December - I love it!

And believe it or not, amidst all its craziness, it actually does leave us with something important to think about.

If you have not seen this movie, let me give you a super-brief recap:

The Kranks had always made a huge deal about Christmas, but since their only daughter Blair had joined the Peace Corps and was not coming home for the holidays, Luther (Tim Allen, the Dad) talked his wife Nora (Jamie Lee Curtis) into skipping Christmas, and going on a cruise instead.

Although the neighbors made life miserable for the Kranks because they refused to allow such scrooge-life behavior on their street, the real story begins when Blair calls to let them know that she was coming home for Christmas after all.

So with twelve hours notice, they are flung into a frenzy of decorating and planning, to make their house holiday-ready and plan a big party, all before Blair arrives.

Most of the movie is just plain slapstick comedy, however at the end of the movie, we see Luther portray the real spirit of Christmas, when he sacrifices the cruise he so badly wanted to go on, in order to put his family first, and to do something extraordinarily special for someone else.

In this movie clip below, we see that Blair has returned home, and although Luther was glad to see her, he still desperately wanted to go on the cruise.

Then out of frustration and exasperation, Nora expresses to Luther that she had hoped that by seeing everyone make sacrifices for them, that he would finally learn to put others before himself.

Those were strong words, with strong meaning, and apparently they struck a chord with Luther.

As he looked across the snowy street and saw his neighbor and his wife (who was battling cancer) through their front window. They were sitting alone at their dining room table, trying to enjoy a quiet peaceful evening, all the while being unsure what the future would hold.

In that moment, Luthers heart changes. He suddenly was overcome with compassion for his neighbors, and if it had been real life, I believe it would have been God who touched Luthers spirit, and melted his heart.

Because, only the Holy Spirit can help us look past our own selfishness and personal desires, and see the deepest needs of someone else.

Only the Holy Spirit can prick our hearts in such a way that we see people through a different lens, suddenly finding ourselves longing to make a sacrifice on their behalf.

Only the Holy Spirit can serve as our conscious, causing us to make good choices.

Only the Holy Spirit can cause us to feel compelled to bless someone else, even if it requires sacrificing something that is important to us.

Although Luther and his older gentleman neighbor never really got along, his heart went out to them and what they were going through. He knew that the wife, Bev, might not live to see next Christmas, and he wanted to bless them with a dream vacation that they could have never afforded, and would have never planned on their own.

This is what Christmas is all about - giving from the heart.

Yes, Christmas is about gifts. But not just store-bought gives, love-bought gifts.

God gave from the heart when He sent His Son to be born in a manger, and then hung on a cross. He is the ultimate gift giver, and began the Christmas gift giving tradition.

So I believe He calls us to consider how we can give of ourselves too - not only from our pocket book, but from deep in our hearts, and to give gifts that glorify Him.

Just like Luther, who gave up something that he had paid a lot of money for, spent six weeks planning for, and was anxiously and desperately longing to enjoy himself, God calls us to give sacrificial gifts to others when the opportunity presents itself.

The Bible teaches us that we are not to give only out of our excess, because that is not sacrificial giving. If the giving of our time, finances, belongings, etc., does not cost us something, then it is giving, which is great, but not truly sacrificial giving.

I am not saying that we should not give unless it requires great sacrifice, but only that we should keep in mind that it moves the heart of Jesus for us to give of ourselves, sacrificially. This kind of giving strengthens our faith, increases us spiritually, and helps others to see God at work through us.

This is the time of year that most people are giving to others in all types of ways through store bought gifts, home made gifts, acts of kindness, baked goods, special visits, etc. These are more traditional gifts, and in some situations, very sacrificial as well. And we all love giving and receiving gifts!

But I believe the moral of this movie, is to remind us that God longs for us to keep the spirit of giving alive all year long, because it pleases Him, and because it blesses our hearts.

He calls us to put others first, whether it is a family member or a grumpy neighbor, because of His love within us, and the blessings we receive will be well worth the sacrifice.

Lets pray about seeking Gods will for our lives in the coming year, and keeping our spiritual eyes and ears open for opportunities to carry out acts of sweet sacrificial giving to others.

The world can be a better place, one gift at a time.

Deuteronomy 15:10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

Deuteronomy 16:17 Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.

Proverbs 3:27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.

Proverbs 22:9 The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.

(Email subscribers must visit my blog to view this scene of sacrificial giving, at

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Finding A Miracle On Your Street

Whether it is the old 1947 version, or the more recent 1994 remake version, I love watching the movie called Miracle on 34th Street.

There are two primary lessons that I pulled out of this movie, and neither of them have to do with believing in Santa Claus!

Instead, both of them have to do with believing in Jesus as the foundation for finding joy at Christmas, and all year round.

The first lesson is forgiveness, and the second is faith.

The two main characters in the movie are a single parent named Doris, and her little girl named Susan.

Due to the breakup of her marriage, Doris's heart had hardened. She sincerely loved her daughter, but in her efforts to avoid ever being hurt again, she had become stoic, guarded, skeptical, and overly businesslike in all situations. Her attitude was curt, and she rarely showed genuine emotion.

The sad part is, that not only do these character deficiencies impact the mothers own heart, but she deliberately teaches these to her daughter. As a result, Doris influences her lack of faith, hope and trust in others, and even in Santa, into her daughters heart and mind.

It appears that Doris has adopted a mentality of bitterness, and that unforgiveness and a lack of faith in people, and God, was holding her heart captive.

In fact, even after the new man in her life proposes to her with a beautiful diamond ring, the past hurts in her life bubble up to the surface. Instead of gleefully accepting his invitation to marriage, she tells him he is a fool for putting his trust in her, but a bit later, she admitted to him, that she was simply afraid.

Afraid to forgive. Afraid to trust. Afraid to have hope. Afraid to have faith. Afraid to believe in others. Afraid to believe in magic. Afraid to love. Afraid to believe in the unknown.

Fortunately, the mother eventually embraces the importance of having faith in other people. Her relationship with the daughter she loved, the man she wanted to love, and the faith she longed to have, melted her heart.

I started thinking about how this movie would have ended differently, had Doris not regained her faith. Thinking hypothetically, of course, I have to wonder.....

What if Doris......

- had continued to have a fear of being disappointed, affecting all her relationships
- had held on to past hurts
- had not allowed her heart to love someone new
- had not found the strength to forgive her ex husband, releasing her to love again
- had not allowed herself to put faith in a new man
- had not given herself permission to let down her guard and open up
- was determined to hang on to bitterness,destroying her change for future happiness
- had stuck to believing in only what she could see
- had held onto skepticism, instead of embracing joy
- had never allowed herself to have faith in others again
- had continued to instill in her daughters heart the negative outlook about life and people, which would affect her daughters future as well

If these things above had actually happened in the script of the movie, the ending would not have been happy at all.

Doris would have most likely ended up as a sour, grumpy old maid, and Susan would have been on a journey to that same fate. Neither of them would have found joy or happiness in life, because their hearts would have been full of bitterness and resentment.

At one point in the movie, Susan’s mom stated that “faith is believing in things when common sense tells you otherwise”. If you ask me, that was a pretty profound statement, and based on biblical principle.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Sometimes it is hard to choose faith, in people, and in our God. That is why our walk with Christ is often called a "faith journey". Life is a journey, with its ups and downs, disappointments and frustrations, heartbreaks and celebrations. It takes faith to get through it all.

Sometimes it is hard to choose forgiveness. But one of my favorite sayings, is that "unforgiveness is like ingesting poison, then waiting on the other person to perish".

We forgive for our own hearts, not for the other person. Forgiveness releases our hearts from bondage, and frees our souls to love others, have faith in others, and trust in the future that God holds for us.

A quote from the movie, straight from the mouth of Santa, but surely sparked by Jesus in his heart, said ... "if you cant accept anything by faith, then you are doomed for a life dominated by doubt."

Faith is something we choose to receive. Once we have it, then forgiveness is something we choose to give.

Both ingredients are necessary for a life of true joy, instead of a life dominated by doubt. Andd both will lead to a happy ending, just as it did for Doris and little Susan.

Just maybe, if we choose to embrace both of these things with our heart, soul and mind, then we just might experience a miracle on our own street this Christmas. The miracle of CHRIStmas.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

If We Had Never Been Born....

I could go on and on for weeks about the movie It's A Wonderful Life and the many lessons we can learn from it, but I am going to wrap up our conversation today, with a lesson from Clarence.

If you have ever watched this movie in its entirety, you have probably come to love Clarence as much as I have. He is such a down to earth angel, with a good sense of humor, a lovable personality, and a heart full of wisdom and love.

One of my favorite quotes from this movie occurs when Clarence is talking to George, in the moment that George realizes that his own mother does not know who he is. George is suddenly acutely aware that something supernatural is happening, and that Clarence had granted his wish of having never been born.

Watch this brief clip below, and pay attention to what Clarence says to George: (email subscribers must visit my blog to view the clip

Clarence said: "Strange, isn't it? Each mans life touches so many other lives. When he isnt around, he leaves an awful hole, doesnt he?"

George Bailey had spent his entire life selflessly serving others, at his own expense. George did not really view his service to others as a hardship or a sacrifice, he just did what he felt was right. He tried to live an honorable life and be a good man, even if it meant putting his own wants and needs on the back burner.

Everyone could see his value, except for George, until Clarence granted his wish.

To help you see the big picture, lets review a few of the things that would have been different in Bedford Falls, had George never been born:

- His brother Harry would have drowned at age 7, because he would not have been alive to save him from the ice cold river
- All the men aboard the transport ship in the army would have died, because Harry would not have been there to save them had he died as a child
-Mean old Mr Potter would have taken over the whole town, and turned it into a community of strip clubs, bars, pawn shops, prostitution and immoral practices
- The old druggist would have spent his whole life in jail for an accidental poisoning of a child, had George not been there to prevent it
- A child would have died due to taking that poison instead of medicine
- That child's family would have been changed, and future generations altered
- Uncle Billy would have spent his life in the insane asylum
- His friend Violet would have become a prostitute out of desperation and hopelessness, because nobody was there to lend a helping hand when she needed it
-Stores would no longer be in business, and store owners out of work
- His wife Mary would have never gotten married, and become an old maid and librarian
- Georges children would not have been born
- His beautiful restored house would still be in ruins
- The townspeople of Bedford Falls would not have any homes of their own because the Bailey Building and Loan, whose specialty was to help people purchase homes, would not have existed.

Wow - that is a lot of impact that one man had on a community - especially when we consider the fact that George was completely unaware that his life mattered at all.

As a result of being blinded to his own self worth and the value that his life had on others, George had lost sight of the value of life. He had lost faith in himself, and as a result, he was blinded to the impact that he had on other people.

Clarence helped George to see that his life mattered, and that God had placed him in his community, in his family, in that time in history, for a purpose.

George pushed past the feelings that everything was falling apart around him, and fought back his greatest, and chose to embrace the gift of life to the fullest.

Most importantly, George realized through this experience with Clarence - and with God - that he mattered.

George saw the bigger picture, with the help of his angel, and was able to see that God had been orchestrating every detail, every occurrence, and every interaction in his life. He realized that he had been a vessel for God, and his reward, was life.

One of the main things that helped open up the eyes of George Bailey to see that life really was wonderful, was when he realized that not only was he blessed, but that he made a difference in this world.

Seeing how God had used him unknowingly throughout this entire life, caused George to experience a renewed faith in God, and a reawakened faith in himself.

Sometimes I think we fail to realize the impact that we have on others, and as a result, we fail to realize how important we are on earth, and to others.

We fail to see how one touch, one phone call, one prayer, one kind letter in the mail, one word of encouragement, or one helping hand, not only impacts people, but impacts Gods kingdom.

Although we do not have a "Clarence" to show us details about our significance, we can take a look back in time and consider ways that God has used us to impact others, and to glorify Him.

The lesson we learn from these profound words of Clarence, is that WE ALL MATTER.

Even when we have doubts about our self worth, God sees our value, and He wants us to see our value in Him.

Ask God to open your eyes to your own value today. Ask Him to help you see your worthiness in His eyes, and not the eyes of the world, or even your own.

Consider how the world would be different if you had never been born, and the gaping hole that would exist, had you not been a part of this world.

Take a new look at yourself today, through Gods eyes, and from His perspective.

Even if life doesn't seem wonderful on the surface, trust that God is still at work, walking with you, shaping you, and using you to fill a purpose that only you can fill - purposes that you have already met, and purposes that you have to accomplish.

Also, pray about how God wants to use you in the coming year to meet the needs of others, and serve others in His name. Pray for Him to guide you in all your steps, and to continue to use your life to touch lives and impact hearts for Him.

What a wonderful time of year to remember what a wonderful life we have Jesus.

Luke 12:24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! (NIV)

John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. (NIV)

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Three Gifts Of Life In One

(If your time permits, watch the below movie clip before reading today's post, and you will better understand a point I make below. Email subscribers will need to click over to my blog to view the clip. Tip: The main point of this clip is around the 2 minute mark!)

At the beginning of the movie It’s A Wonderful Life, the first thing we see is a scene of outer space. We get a glimpse of an infinite galaxy filled with blinking stars and asteroids, but we soon realize that God and Joseph, who are being depicted as stars, begin to talk with one another. (That part is a little far fetched I know, but stick with me!)

God and Joseph have heard the dozens of prayers that were being sent up to heaven on George Bailey’s behalf. Although everyone did not know the severity of Georges problems, they did know he was in trouble. Family, friends, loved ones and mere acquaintances were all so worried about him and the strain he was under, that they were pleading for God to intervene in his life.

So out of love and compassion for one of His own, God decided to take action.

He called in one of His angels - Clarence - and assigned him to be George’s guardian angel.

In this first movie clip above, we hear and see the three of them talking, and during the conversation, God said something very interesting that caught my attention.

As God was telling Clarence that a man named George needed his help, Clarence asked God if George was sick. God responded by saying: “No. Worse. He is discouraged.”

You see, God knew that spiritual discouragement (spiritual sickness) could be much more damaging to a person’s heart, than any type of physical sickness could be.

George had experienced so much disappointment, heartache, regret, and frustration, that he was overwhelmed with emotions. He had so many unmet dreams, and countless life goals that had not been met.

He was facing trials and great hardships. And as the movie progresses, we see that he was facing jail time, due to the evil Mr. Potter stealing the Bailey Building and Loan’s $8000 bank deposit on Christmas Eve, leaving him liable for financial fraud, theft and misuse of funds.

George had hit rock bottom. He was in the deepest pit of his life and saw no way out. He had no joy in his life at that moment, and fear crushed his soul.

George began to wonder if it was a wonderful life. The enemy began to fill his head with lies, through a variety of means. One of those means, was when Mr. Potter told him that he was "worth more dead than alive", due to the value of his life insurance policy, which prompted George to wrestle with his thoughts about life and death.

Ironically, the holidays are often a time of year when some people experience this same level of discouragement with life the most. When our holidays, or our life, do not meet up to our desired expectations, we begin to see ourselves, and our lives, as flawed and broken. We listen to lies of the enemy, and wrestle with thoughts.

In fact, we may even feel a little like George Bailey, and wonder if life is really all it is cut out to be. We may find ourselves wondering if it really is a wonderful life, considering all the things that are going on in our lives that are less than wonderful.

Luke 2:10… “But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Did you notice that the angel said the birth of Jesus would bring “great joy…for ALL the people”. Does that mean us too? Yes!

Lets face it - life can be hard, and no matter how hard we try to always wear a smile, eventually we will crumble under the pressure. That is the reason that we have to consciously focus on the fact that life is wonderful - no matter what - because of the gift of life itself.

Sometimes it may even seem nearly impossible to find the wonder and joy that the angel talks about in the Christmas story, especially when life seems void of "wonderfulness".

But if our minds are focused on the gift of life, and the Giver of life, we will be less likely to focus on the problems instead of the problem solver.

So how do we do that? How can we remember that life is a gift, despite life? How do we embrace the gift of life, and be thankful for it, when we get bitten by the bug of discouragement?

If you ask me, the answer can be found in one verse in the Bible. One verse that justifies and solidifies everything in Gods Word and clearly explains why Christmas is a time of celebration of life.

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."

This verse reminds us that we are celebrating because of Gods gifts to us - * earthly life, our Saviors life, and the promise of eternal life with Him * - not because of anything the world has to offer.

If you have been struggling with situations in your life which make life seem less than wonderful, remember the three-in-one gift of life that we are celebrating this season.

Through Christ, we can begin to believe that things will work out to Gods glory, that He really is in charge of everything. We will learn to walk by faith, and not by sight. And we can begin to embrace the truth that God wants us to have a happy ending too, just like 'ol George.

During this movie clip above, God tells Clarence that George is getting ready to throw away Gods greatest gift - LIFE - so they spring into action to help see how priceless, and wonderful, life really is.

Celebrating the priceless gift of life is a sure cure for even the worst case of spiritual discouragement.

(Email subscribers need to visit my blog to view the movie clip.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Celebrating The Gift Of Life

(After you read todays post, hop over to She Cooks! Leann Rice invited me to share one of my favorite holiday recipes with her readers, so join us over there today too!)

For most people, Christmas is a season of the year that looms larger than life. It is a holiday that we each experience and celebrate in our own ways, and is an emotionally charged time in a myriad of ways.

But despite our differences in opinions about the holidays, there is one thing we share …… the fact that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus!

In fact, Christmas is the largest celebration around the world every year. Billions of people put aside their normal routines in December to decorate, party, shop, send cards, attend special church services, go carrolling, watch holiday television specials and travel to visit family.

Christmas sights and sounds fill the air everywhere you go, and it seems that everyone is celebrating - howeve - not everyone is celebrating the gift of life.

So many people joining in on the birthday celebration, without ever mentioning the birthday boy’s name. So many people are celebrating, but many are doing so without giving a thought to whose birthday they are celebrating. Their holidays are packed full with all kinds of stuff - but void and empty of life.

Christmas is not just a time to enjoy a celebration, but to celebrate life in three forms - the life of Christ whose birth we celebrate at this time of the year, the gift of earthly life that we have received from Him, and the promise of eternal life.

Three priceless gifts, all wrapped into one.

Ar the top of my favorite holiday movie list, is “It’s A Wonderful Life”, with Jimmy Stewart.

On the positive side, the movie remind us that we must embrace this gift called “life”, and to realize that it really IS a wonderful life - even when life does not seem all that wonderful.

On the negative side, the movie is a true depiction of how our enemy is at work in our every day lives, doing everything in his power to keep us from embracing that gift of life fully.

Tomorrow we will kick off our discussion about how George Bailey teaches more about life than you would have ever thought, including our life walk with God.

I hope you will join me as we continue talking about the REEL side of Christmas this week, enjoying our countdown to December 25th.

Stay tuned. Smiles.

(Email subscribers need to visit my blog to view the movie clips)

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Love The Ones You're With

(Email subscribers need to go to my blog to see the first movie clip)

Another annual tradition at the Miles house is to watch the movie Home Alone.

Although we do have the DVD, it comes on TV about five times a day on various channels, so it is always easy to get good dose of Home Alone laughter anytime!

Just in case you have not seen this movie, it is about a little boy named Kevin McCallister, who is the youngest child in a large family. His immediate and extended family members are all spending the night at his house, so they can all leave the next day to travel to Paris for the holidays.

His family was getting on his last nerve, and after an outburst in the kitchen where he created a mess with the pizza and drinks, Kevin was sent to the attic bedroom as punishment. He was so upset, that he wished he would never see his family again.

Through a series of mishaps and errors and oversights the next morning, and in the chaos of running late and trying to get everyone to the airport, his parents forgot that he was sleeping upstairs. So Kevin was left behind, and left home alone.

Kevin and his family lived in an upper income area, which was being targeted by thieves, so he spends the remainder of the movie not regretting that he had wished his family away, but also trying to protect his home from burglary.

Some of the tactics that Kevin uses to protect his home makes my stomach lurch a little bit, but in the end, it has a wonderful lesson about the importance of family.

In fact, for anyone who has ever felt as if they could not stand their family for one more millisecond, much less another holiday, this movie becomes great food for thought.

No matter how much we love our families, we would probably all have to admit to having at least one of those moments when we wished our family was different or better, or not around at all.

Just like Kevin did, in the midst of chaotic holiday gatherings, or anytime throughout the year, you may have found yourself wishing deep inside that you were alone, or that everyone else was gone. In fact, you may be dreading the family get togethers already! Or you may just be dreading school getting out for Christmas break, because the house will be full of kids, and void of quiet, for two weeks!

But what if there were no more gatherings with family or friends? What if they were gone? What if you were left without family? What if the house was completely quiet for the entire holiday season?

What would life, and the holidays, really be like if our secret wish came true? Would we run around the house in exhuberant celebration like Kevin? Would it be all we imagined? Would it be a time of joy? Or....

....would our wish end up being something we quickly learned to regret? Would we long for what we once had, realizing how precious it really was?

In this movie, when Kevin first realizes that he really is alone, and that his family has disappeared, he is ecstatic! He has an awesome time jumping up and down on the bed, eating popcorn and rubbish, watching violent movies, having the house all to himself - all the things his parents would never allow him to do.

But it does not take him long to realize that loneliness, fear, despair, regrets and new wishes are filling his heart. Although he hated a lot of things about his family, he soon began to miss all the good things his family brought him, such as security, protection, companionship, affection, friendship and love.

He realizes that although his family was not perfect, he still needed them and loved them... and missed them.

Even though we see quite the opposite of a sweet, gentle, loving family in the movie - whic included belligerent kids, sibling rivalry, the bullying brother, the nagging sister and the mean old uncle - there is genuine love for each other underneath all of that. And in the end - they miss Kevin too and regret not treating him kindly, or loving him like they should have.

As the movie progresses, and while Kevins mother is desperately trying to get back home to him, Kevin learns a valuable lesson that we can tuck into our hearts for this Christmas, and all the holiday celebrations to come.

He learns that family can sometimes be a mess - but that family is precious, and it is ours.

Kevin thought he wanted his family gone - but when they were - his heart ached for them to return. He wanted them back.

The Bible has much to say about the importance of families. God provides countless verses and stories about the value of the husband and wife relationship, the relationship between parents and children, and even relationships among extended family members.

His Word teaches us that the institution of family is of divine origin, and meaningful purpose. All these things lead us to the understanding that family is valuable in Gods eyes, and therefore it should be valuable in our eyes as well.

Family - with all their quirky ways, inadequacies, craziness, difficulties, habits, mistakes, faults, differences in personalities and perspectives on life, and even loudness - is a treasure. Unfortunately, sometimes we forget that truth, until they are gone.

Kevin teaches us, and the Bible reiterates to us - that family really is a gift.

A gift that we have been given by God. A gift that we should treasure and never take for granted.

A gift that may seem a little crazy, off the wall, broken, chipped, cracked, dented, imperfect and slightly used - but a precious gift nonetheless, and one that can never be replaced.

Hug the ones you love this Christmas season, and love the ones you are with. Christmas smiles.

(Bonus clip: I found this hilarious, and perfectly relevant short music video about Home Alone, and I just had to share it! Watch it below and enjoy. Email subscribers will need to link over to my blog to view the clip.)

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

All Aboard!!

Yesterday we kicked off our discussion about The Polar Express. A wonderful movie which draws us in with its graphics but engages us in the love of the story, while helping us to embrace the truth that believing is seeing.

Another great lesson to pull from this movie, is that sometimes spiritual believing and seeing, requires a a physical encounter of faith.

At the end of the movie, when the little boy is being dropped off at his house, the conductor steps off the train, and stands in front of him. They are both standing there in the snow, with cold breath on their faces, and wonder in their eyes.

Then the conductor says something very profound. He said "It doesn’t matter where you’re going; what matters is deciding to get on.”

Such a true statement. Sometimes we think where we are going in life is what is most important. We focus on building careers, raising families, making money, gaining financial success, recovering from losses, and just getting through each day.

But even though we are all living in the same world, we all have different paths in life, different careers, different families, different struggles, different sins - our lives all go in different directions.

But our differences do not matter at all, where we are going does not matter at all, and what we are working towards does not matter at all.

God sees us as His children, despite what path we may be on.

He never intended for us to all be alike, or to lead the same lives or to even go in the same directions.

What matters is that we trust God enough to get on board with Him, while the opportunity is still here.

What matters is that we embrace the opportunity to be on a life journey with God, ANd once we do that, that we allow Him to be the conductor.

What matters is that we have faith. Real faith. Faith that believes in the unseen, just like a child.

But lets be honest - it takes a lot of child-like faith to believe that the baby lying in a dirty old manger, was the God of all time; the creator of the universe; the Almighty of everything; the great I Am; the King of all Kings; the resurrected Savior; the supernatural, invisible force that guides every step we take.

It takes a lot of faith to believe that Gods hands and lips wrote every word in the 66 books of the Bible, in all its prophecy, purpose and perfection.

It takes a lot of faith to believe God is still in control, when our world seems to be falling prey to evil and destruction every day.

It takes a lot of faith to trust that God is orchestrating our lives in a predestined way that He ordained.

It takes a lot of faith to believe that God hears our prayers amid the millions of prayers floating to the heavens during each millisecond, and that He cares about having an intimate and personal relationship with us.

But just as the little boy believed in Santa after his personal encounter with him, we will believe when we encounter Jesus in our own lives. And that encounter can only happen through faith.

Just as the little boy "heard" the bells once his faith was reawakened and renewed, we will "see" and "hear" Jesus when we truly believe, with an unshakable faith.

If we long to enjoy an abundant life, with God leading the way, we first have to decide to get on board - with our whole hearts, minds and souls.

Lets make a conscious decision today to hold onto the magic that we once held in your hearts for Jesus, and to have the faith of a child.

Hop aboard my friend, and invite everyone you know. You do not need a ticket, in fact, you can ride for free.

Matthew 18:3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (NIV)

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Do You Believe?

When the Polar Express movie was released a few years ago, the first thing that caught my attention was the amazing graphics and life-like portrayal of the characters. The scenery was beautiful, and almost breathtaking.

However, after I watched the movie, I realized that there was so much more to it than what first meets the eye. The underlying kindness and genuine meaning of the story captivated my attention, and my heart.

You see, it is much more than just a magical story about a train ride to the North Pole, or even a story about Santa Claus.

It is really a story about faith that is lost, reawakened, and renewed.

This movie contains no religious imagery as we saw in The Grinch or Charlie Brown. It does not have any highly comical scenes like Elf.

It quotes no Scriptures, and never once does it mention the words God or Jesus. Yet, it is a movie that touches the spirits of young and old, and has a lesson in faith for all of us.

It is not only a journey to find the magic of Christmas, but a journey of faith, and the faith it takes to believe in the unseen.

At the beginning of the story, we see a little boy, struggling with letting go of his belief in Santa, and trying to force himself to believe that he does not exist.

He is torn between two truths: "Seeing is believing", or "Believing is seeing."

In the movie, when the Polar Express pulls up in front of the boys house, he wonders if what he is seeing is really true.

He sees the train in the snow as plain and vivid as the nose on his face. He sees and hears the conductor inviting him to board the train, and he plainly sees the other children peering through the windows, beckoning for him to get on.

But still, his heart doubts. Through influences from the media, parents and friends, his innocence had been lost. His faith had been crushed. The doubts in his mind were stronger than the deepest longings of his heart.

The little boy has all but convinced himself that Santa does not exist, so he struggles with what he thinks he sees, and wonders whether or not he should step outside of his comfort zone, and take that first step onto the train.

The little boy found himself in a place where many people find themselves every day -in a struggle between the seen, and the unseen, and a struggle between doubt and faith.

You know, it always seems that there is enough evidence for those who want to believe, but never evidence for those who choose not to. As he weighs the "evidence" and lack of evidence in his mind, he hesitates on boarding the train. His own inhibitions, doubts, and lack of faith are standing in the way of him moving forward.

I found it interesting that the conductor did not force the boy to get on - he only extended the invitation - and then - he waited.

The boy had to choose for himself whether he would join the conductor on the journey, and as you know if you watched the movie, he finally did decide to board the train. However, he really only boarded with his physical being, because in his spirit, he still not truly believe.

Throughout his journey to the North Pole, he questioned the existence of Santa and the North pole. He asked the other kids; he asked the 'ghost' on top of the train; he asked the conductor. Despite all the evidence, he doubted.

Unfortunately, there are people in real life who claim to believe in the unseen Savior, but who do not truly believe with their whole spirit.

So many wonderful people, who carry out the motions of being a good Christian - attending and serving in church, helping others, trying to be a good person - but who secretly, maybe even unknowingly, do not believe with child-like faith that the Christ is all He claims to be.

People who have professed faith with their lips, but not their hearts. People who just simply cannot find the courage to push aside their doubts, and believe in what they have not seen. People just like the little boy in this movie.

I wonder if the reason that some people have a hard time truly believing is that they have not encountered Christ for themselves, in their own lives.

The little boy boarded the train, with unbelief and doubts, and he continued to doubt despite the evidence. However, once he experienced Santa for himself - then - he truly believed.

It was not until the boy encountered Santa first hand, for himself, that he could honestly say "I believe".

He finally accepted what he felt in his heart was true - despite what anyone else thought, how old he was, who agreed, or what the world had to say about it.

At the end of the movie, the conductor said something very meaningful to the boy. He said, “The most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.”

Being a Christian means believing in Christ - not because we see Him with our physical eyes, but because we feel Him in our hearts and see evidence of Him in our lives. Once we encounter Christ, our attitude is changed, and our faith renewed.

Once the little boy believed, his attitude changed, and he could even "hear" things that he had not heard before - like the sound of a jingle bell.

Our faith is really the same way. When we are doubting the true existence of Christ, or doubt whether He is involved in our lives, then we have a hard time seeing or hearing Him at all.

Believing comes first. Seeing is the reward for believing.

John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (NIV)

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (NIV)

(Email subscribers need to link over to my blog to view the movie clips)

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Giving A Gift That Means Something More

Now who could have a series on Christmas shows and movies, and leave out Charlie Brown?

Not me - so good ol' Charlie is our topic of the day today.

The Charlie Brown Christmas special is a traditional family show watched in households across the country for years and years. And it is a fun reminder of why we celebrate Christmas.

However, in my opinion, it also provides another valuable lesson, in addition to remembering the real reason for the season.

When Charlie Brown was walking with Linus through the snow to go ice skating, Charlie aired his feelings about the holidays to Linus:

"I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming but I'm not happy. I dont feel the way I'm supposed to feel . I just don't understand Christmas I guess. I like getting presents, and sending Christmas cards, and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed."

Have you ever felt like Charlie Brown? Wondering why you used to love the holidays, but now they seem more of a duty than a delight? Do you ever feel like something is missing? Like maybe Christmas is just not what it used to be?

Or maybe you know why your Christmas spirit has waned, but you do not know how to change it. Maybe it does not look the same as it once did, due to children growing up, families changing, divorces, remarriages, or the loss of loved ones, and as a result, you just do not have the same feelings about Christmas anymore.

One of my favorite songs during the holidays is Where Are You Christmas, sung by Faith Hill. It fits in perfect with the feelings that Charlie Brown was feeling as he struggled with his emotions about Christmas. Here are some of the lyrics to that song:

Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you
Why have you gone away
Where is the laughter
You used to bring me
Why can't I hear music play

My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too

Where are you Christmas
Do you remember
The one you used to know
I'm not the same one
See what the time's done
Is that why you have let me go

Just like is described in this song, Charlie Brown knew in his heart that something was missing.

What he did know, was that he longed for the joy and enthusiastic feelings that other people seemed to feel around the holidays. He wanted to know what had changed and where Christmas had gone. He just wanted to enjoy Christmas again.

You see, Charlie knew there had to be "something more" (just like the Grinch!). He just did not know what that "something more" was.

Through a simple conversation with Linus, Charlie Brown discovered what was missing - the real meaning of Christmas. Linus helped him understand the true reason for the season. Linus gave Christmas back to Charlie.

Little Linus is a shining example of how one person standing up for the real meaning of the season, can affect the hearts of many, and help them discover Christmas.

One voice for Christ can have far reaching impact, and can bring Christmas back to peoples hearts in more ways than one.

Since Linus was not ashamed to admit that Christmas was about the Christ, all the other children came to know about Him as well, or at least were willing to be open about their own beliefs. In a way, they all discovered that "something more".

In todays society, Christmas is under attack from every angle. Our culture and non-believers work very hard to keep people from discovering that "something more" for themselves. Satan is at work trying his best to keep people from celebrating with their hearts and not their pocketbooks.

In fact, on the surface, it may sometimes seem like Satan has the upper hand when it comes to who is winning the battle over Christmas:

- our children cannot pray in schools;
- they are not allowed to talk about Jesus, reenact the manger scene in school plays, or sing Christmas hymns whose lyrics talk about anything besides snow men and holly trees;
- television airs the 25 days of Christmas, with countless movies about reindeer's, Santa's offspring taking over the reins, fancy toy workshops, and various forms of scrooges, as opposed to movies about the nativity or the birth of Jesus.
- retail stores and businesses display "happy holiday" banners instead of Merry Christmas.
- employees are afraid, or even forbidden, to portray religious items in their offices for fear of retribution or disciplinary action.

Because of all this non-Christmas pressure, it is no wonder that even Christians are often hesitant to wish someone Merry Christmas.

But the truth is, that even though the world tries hard to squelch the real meaning of Christmas; and even though Christians are pressured every day to go along with the status quo; and even though our society wants to force Christians to respect and accept the beliefs of everyone else above our own....

We have the power within us to hold onto Christmas. We have Christ. And we are called to be proud and stand up for Him in unity.

In 1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. (NIV)

As long as we carry the real reason for the season in our hearts and minds, Christmas will never go away, and the stronger we are in our faith, the stronger we will be in our witness.

Lets be too proud of our Jesus this Christmas to keep His gift of life to ourselves.

Through living our faith out loud, we can give the gift of Christmas meaning to someone who is not even aware that they were searching for it.

Romans 1:16-17 It's news I'm most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God's powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God's way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: "The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives." (The Message)

(email subscribers will need to visit my homepage to view the movie clip)

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Monday, December 13, 2010


On Friday, I confessed that I have an unusual fondness for the movie Elf. And proud of it sister! I was so glad to hear that many of you share my obsession as well. :)

I just love his attitude and his sense of Christmas spirit. I love his hilarious smile and his innocent perspective on life. I love his outlook on life and love.

But most of all - above all else - I love his enthusiasm.

If I had to pick one scene from the movie as my most favorite - it would have to be when the department store boss announces that Santa is coming. Watch it here:

(email subscribers may need to visit my homepage to view the movie clip)

Hahaha! Okay, maybe something is wrong with me. I just love that clip so much! And not only because it is funny and makes a huge grin sweep across my face, but also because I want that kind of enthusiasm about Jesus.

I cannot help but wonder how I would react if someone told me that Jesus was coming tomorrow at 10:00am.

I can envision myself jumping up and down with excitement, bellowing out and screaming "Jeeeeeeeeeessssssssssssuuuuuuuuuuuuusssssssssss!!! I know him! I know him! Yeah!".

Several years ago, I kind of experienced a situation like that, when I had a dream about Jesus coming that I will never forget.

I dreamt that I was standing alone in a field full of tall grasses and beautiful flowers, with a cool breeze blowing on my face. Off in the distance, my eyes caught a glimpse of a large Greek-style ampitheatre, like the ones that would be found in biblical times.

I noticed that I was surrounded by hundreds of people who were slowly walking towards this venue, when all of the sudden, the wind grew stronger, and clouds began shifting into shapes and forms in the sky.

As I looked up into the bright blue sky, I saw a cloud slowly form into the shape of a shepherds staff. Then I perceived that the staff was gently bobbing up and down as it grew closer, as if an invisible hand were grasping it, raising it each time they took a step forward.

As the staff grew closer and larger than life, I heard people around me begin to yell out "It's Jesus! It's Jesus! Jesus is coming!" Everyone was overjoyed and in awe of the fact that Jesus was about to arrive.

Even though it was merely a dream, I can vividly remember the overwhelming enthusiasm and excitement that bubbled up in my entire body, causing my heart to feel as if it were overflowing with uncontrollable joy. I even remember my face feeling red and hot, and my heart beating fast, thumping hard in my chest.

I felt so overcome with the joy and anticipation of seeing Jesus, that I could barely breathe. I had the urge to spastically jump up and down and scream at the top of my lungs, just like Elf did in the scene about Santa, and chant "I know Him! I know Him!".

Then suddenly, and way too abruptly, I woke up. The dream was over.

For a few solemn seconds, as I lay there in the quietness of a dark house before daylight, I tried desperately to go back to sleep; to transport my brain waves back into a deep rest which would allow me to see the beautiful vision of Jesus right in front of me.

Jesus was coming - and I didnt get to see Him. I longed for the experience that I missed, even though it was only in my mind.

My sleep did not return, but the dream will never leave my heart.

Every time I watch this comical movie clip from Elf, I am reminded about how exciting it will be when Jesus really does return. I cannot wait to exclaim that "I know Him!"; and to hear Him say, that He knows me too.

But on the other hand, my heart weeps, for all those who do not know Him, and who cannot even fathom what it might be like to truly believe that Jesus is coming back.

For people that do not believe He is who says He is. I feel sad for people who celebrate empty Christmases, filled only with presents and decorations and parties - outward examples of what should be an inward celebration.

Last week I focused on the positive attitude of Elf, and how he gives us a great example for modeling our own attitudes.

Today, my focus is on his enthusiasm, and how our enthusiasm should mirror that of Elf's - Outwardly. Inwardly. Spiritually.

Outward enthusiasm for life is critical. It is an attitude of thankfulness and joy that we can portray to others. Our enthusiasm for life becomes a banner of that "something more" that we have inwardly, and it can be extremely contagious to others, in a good way, of course.

Inward enthusiasm for Jesus is necessary, before people can see our outward enthusiasm. What does it matter if we put on a fake smile every day, but miss out on true joy that Christ offers? Will people "catch" our spiritual enthusiasm, if we do not live out our beliefs?

We are created with a special place in our hearts for enthusiasm for Jesus. He did not come so we could be 'happy', but so that we could live a life that is abundant, filled with joy, peace and true happiness from the inside out.

He did not come so that we would have a perfect life, but so that we could lean on Him when life got tough.

This is a wonderful time of year to contemplate how important our faith really is in our life. A time to do a self assessment, and rate our our own spiritual enthusiasm.

In the spirit of Christmas, and the spirit of enhancing our walk with Christ as we celebrate that we know Him, lets put ourselves to the test. Here are a few self assessment questions that we can each ask ourselves:

- Am I really, genuinely enthusiastic about my spiritual journey?
- Am I still overwhelmed with gratitude for Gods gift of life, or have I begun to take it for granted?
- Do I really make Christ the center of my Christmas, or have I inadvertently become more focused on the material and commercialized things about Christmas?
- Have I become so caught up in living life, that I have buried the enthusiasm that I once held for Christ in my heart?
- Is my spiritual enthusiasm being fueled by ALL of my heart, soul and mind?
- Do I really KNOW HIM, or just know about Him?
- Does He really know me?

Matthew 22:37 says “Jesus replied:‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment." (NIV)

If we truly love Jesus with ALL of our being, seriously.... we would not be able to contain our enthusiasm! We would be jumping up and down with the same level of excitement as the Elf was about Santa!

At the very end of this movie, the narrator says this: "So Buddy managed to saved Christmas. And his spirit saves a lot of other people too."

His enthusiasm for Christmas was contagious to the people around him.

Our outward enthusiasm for Jesus is not only an indication of our inward spiritual enthusiasm, but just maybe, it can be contagious to a lot of other people too.

Christ is coming!!!! Are you excited?! Are you showing it?!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

How Is Your Christmas Spirit-o-meter?

I know this movie is not a classic, especially since it was only released a few years ago, but honestly, it is my all time favorite movie ever!

My husband always gives me a confused side glance when I laugh hysterically at this movie, even though I have seen it dozens upon dozens of times. He fails to see the amazing humor in it that I do, but that is okay! To each her own, right?

So I admit it -I love the movie Elf, starring Will Farrell. I kid you not, I could watch it a thousand times and never get tired of it (maybe that says something about my intelligence, or sanity, but what-everrrrrr). Smiles.

I just love to have a good laugh, and this is a sure recipe for that every time.

I enjoy this movie from the first scene to the last scene. But what I love most about Buddy the Elf is his attitude.(note: just in case you do not know - he was named Buddy because that was the brand name that was on the diaper he was wearing on the night Santa visited the orphanage on Christmas eve, when he crawled into Santas bag and was accidentally taken back to the North Pole. Ha.)

Yes, yes, I know - Buddy grew up at the North Pole, where life revolved around candy canes, friendly penguins, hot cocoa, toy making, and song singing.

But even in the real/reel world, when Buddy treks out to find his real dad in New York City, he does not let the negativity, harsh treatment and bad attitudes of society, affect his own joyful attitude about life.

He is a great example for optimism and enthusiasm about life, despite life.

After Buddy journeyed through the Candy Cane Forest, which somehow landed him in Times Square, Buddy found out where his father worked and entered the high rise. When he first met his father, who had no knowledge of Buddys existence until then, everyone found Buddy to be extremely odd.

His green elf outfit, cotton-ball eating, bizarre singing, and crazy smiling was a little out of the ordinary. As a result of his extreme uniqueness, outgoing personality, and positive perspective about life, people shunned him, made fun of him, ran away from him, and pushed him away.

Buddy's feelings were hurt, but it did not change his attitude. He pushed forward, continuing to believe that life was good and that joy was not lost.

Eventually the girl he had a crush on, plus his dads wife, and his half brother, came to realize that there was something special about him, on the inside. They soon began to look past the outward appearance, and see the inward heart.

Eventually, they all embraced him, and his "uniqueness", and by the end of the movie, they all how special he really was.

There are several wonderful life truths we can take away from this movie - in addition to lots of silly fun and laughter - but today I want to focus on one specific lesson..............contagious attitudes.

Think back for a moment .....have you ever been around someone who was negative, discouraged, pessimistic, unhappy and always complaining? Maybe you are around someone like today, and every day.

If so, have you noticed how easy it is to be infected with that persons negativity, and become someone that is negative and pessimistic as well?

I have found myself in those situations before, and forced to spend time with people whose outlook on life was definitely not a bowl of cherries - and I have had to work at not being infected by their negativity. Pessimism is an airborne germ and highly contagious.

The good news is that optimism is just as contagious!

If we are going to be infected by someones attitude, or infect other people with our own attitudes, dont we want it to be with something good!

Buddy the Elf's attitude, although a little off the chart when it comes to enthusiasm, was warm, optimistic, positive, constantly seeing the good in people and situations, finding joy in the little things, and always filled with love. It appears he did not have a negative or unkind germ in his body.

How I wish I could be more like Buddy every day. No matter how hard I try, sometimes keeping a good attitude is just plain hard.

Even when I wake up in the morning and make a personal commitment to be positive, kind, patient, sweet and loving all day long - it sometimes only takes a short while before I find myself stumbling.

Buddy lived in a fictional world, we live in the real world. A world that is packed full of attitude stumbling blocks from daybreak to dusk.

But just as Buddy chose not to let the attitude of the outside worlds affect his own, we can make that same choice as well...... because we have that "something more".

Unlike Buddy, we have several things to help us stay focused on being positive.

For example, we have the Holy Spirit within us to help us with this daunting task of staying positive and optimistic in the midst of hardships, criticism, and chaos.

We have the manger scene, that signifies the Christmas season, and reminds us of the sweet, unselfish, gentle, optimistic and unconditional love that Jesus offers each and every day.

We have Gods Word. More specifically, we have Galatians 5:22, which reminds us that our lives are to bear fruit through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness that we exhibit to others in our lives... and through positive attitudes.

At the end of this movie, Santas sleigh can barely get off the ground because the hearts of the people of the New York have lost their Christmas spirit.

But when Buddys girlfriend, Jovie, begins to sing holiday songs, her Christmas spirit becomes contagious to all those around her. Soon, everyone in the crowd begins singing as well, and the Christmas spirit engine on Santas sleigh is re-energized, helping it soar through the sky for all to see.

Because of Jovies Christmas spirit - her joy became contagious, and others came to believe in Christmas as a result.

Sadly, our world is also lacking in Christmas spirit, not just holiday spirit, but The Spirit. Our world is full of lost people, refusing to believe in the Christ that is the reason for Christmas.

God calls us to spread the Christmas Spirit, not only at Christmas, but every day of the year. And not only with songs, but with our lives, our words, and our actions.

Although the Christmas spirit in the movie was about singing and believing in the worlds view of holiday spirit, in an effort to boost the power of Santas sleigh - the Christmas spirit within us is alive, real and powerful, and His spirit gives us power to get through this thing called life.

It is a spirit that can change lives and impact hearts forever - including our own. It is His Spirit that is truly contagious, and something that we should be excited about passing along to others.

One of my favorite lines in the movie Elf, is when Buddys supposed boss at the department store, asks him why he keeps smiling, and Buddy answers "I like to smile. Smiling is my favorite!"

Consider these three questions today, and how you are ranking on your Christmas spirit-o-meter:

1 - What attitude you have chosen today/this Christmas - do you want it to be contagious?
2 - Are you an angry elf (as Buddy calls the grumpy midget in the movie) or are you a joyful elf?
3 - Is smiling your favorite?

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear... or... is it living loud for all to hear? The choice is ours.

The movie clip for this post could not be embedded:
CLICK HERE to watch a video clip from the end of the Elf movie where Jovie sings loud and clear and spreads the Christmas spirit for all to hear.

I just love this movie. Did I say that yet? Hee Hee. As a result, I am going to harp on Buddy again on Monday. See you then. Smiles.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Gift of Deliciousness

(I am taking a mini break from our holiday movie series today, to tell you about a special giveaway that my friend Karen is doing. )

For the first several years that my children were in elementary school, I would always struggle with what gift to buy their teachers or other special adults in their lives. I didnt want to spend a lot of money, but also didnt want to give something cheap and useless.

Years ago, my kids and I had a great idea - and we have been doing it ever since! We now set aside a special day right before school gets out for the holidays, and spend hours baking special sweets. We package them all up into beautiful goody bags and the kids proudly take them to school - even my teenagers!

Today my sweet friend and fellow Proverbs 31 sister, Karen Ehman, is featuring a couple of my favorite goody bag recipes on her blog, for her third annual 12 Days of Christmas giveaway.

So hop over to Karens blog today, read the post, and enter to win a movie night package donated by me!

The movie package giveaway will include a DVD of me sharing my Christmas Topic "Christmas Angels in Training", a DVD of the classic movie "It's A Wonderful Life" (which my DVD message is wrapped around), and a bag of popcorn!

Check it out. You could be the winner!


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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Real Grinch Tried To Steal Christmas...But God...

"Every Who down in Who-Ville liked Christmas a lot... But The Grinch,
Who lived just north of Who-ville, Did NOT! "

The Grinch's story explains how much the Grinch hated Christmas, so much so, that he wanted it to disappear. In fact, he wanted to stop it from coming altogether.

So he devised an evil plan and carried it out, stealing all the presents, decorations and even the baked ham.

He thought that stealing the things they possessed, would also steal the emotions they felt - but he was wrong. While he was basking in the aftermath of his act, and standing amongst all the presents he had stolen, he heard something faint in the distance.

The Grinch heard the sweet sounds of singing permeating the air, all the way up from the valley of Whoville. He thought he had won - but he soon realized that he was wrong about that too.

In the same way, Satan wanted Christmas stopped too. However, just as the Grinch realized that his sinister plan had failed, Satan heard the news about Jesus. He tried and tried to steal Christmas away, but all his attempts fell short.

First attempt: In biblical times, adulterers, especially women who were pregnant out of wedlock, were to be stoned. So the first attempt of Satan to prevent the birth of Jesus, was done through rumors in the community of Mary and Joseph.

As we read in the Christmas story, Joseph struggled with worry about whether or not Mary had been unfaithful to him. He wondered if he should allow her to be punished, and if he should abandon her to protect his own reputation.

But God sent an angel to visit him and tell Joseph of His holy plan.

If Joseph had believed the rumors instead of focusing on his faith, he could have fallen prey to Satans attempts to steal Christ-mas, before it ever started (Matthew 1:18-25). Josephs heart was set on obeying and trusting in God, even when things looked bleak.

Second attempt: Satan tried to prevent Jesus from having a safe haven for birth. There was no room in the inn in Bethlehem. No shelter from the cold. No protection from the wild.

But God provided a stable for them, which provided warmth, shelter and fluffy hay for the manger.

Third attempt: A couple years later, Satan (the grinch) tried to use Herod to steal Christ-mas, by prompting him to kill all boy toddlers who might be a threat to his authority.

But God told Joseph to leave the city, and provided an escape for them, which allowed Christ to grow into a strong young man who would eventually calm the storm with His hand, and save generations and generations of people.

There were many other failed grinch attempts, in fact, too many to speak of.

All throughout the life of Jesus, Satan tried to steal Christ-mas. He tempted Him, tormented Him, turned people against Him. He tried every trick in the book to pull off the ultimate heist, but failed time and time again.

But God never failed.

Even for three days, after Jesus was crucified and buried, Satan thought he had finally won the battle. He probably had an evil smirk on his face, as he twisted his pointed fingers together in delight.

But God called Jesus from the grave on the third day, restored Him to life, and set Him at His right hand side in the heavens.

No matter how hard he tried, Satan the grinch could not steal Christ-mas! God always won, and He still does today.

Unfortunately, the grinch is still at his thievery, and he is not giving up.

He could not stop Christ-mas from coming, so now his mission is to do everything possible to steal Christmas from our hearts, and to prevent people who do not know Jesus from ever believing in Him.

He tempts people with pleasure and sin. He turns families against each other. He prods into holding onto unforgiveness, selfishness, and worldly pleasures. He revels in our desires for more, and our lives of busyness and chaos that are too full for church and prayer. He fills our heads with doubts and tries to confuse us with science and theology and logic.

He has worked diligently for thousands of years to take Christ out of Christmas, and in some ways, he has experienced some success. He stole Christ from our governments, schools and communities. He stole Christ from our publications and our laws.

But the real grinch does not merely want to steal Christmas from our way of life, he wants to steal Christ from our hearts.

But God calls us to trust Him and not to worry.

The battle is already won. Unless we agree, Satan cannot steal Christ from our hearts, or Christ from our Christmas.

That gift is ours to keep.

The "something more" that we have, can never be taken away.

The Real Grinch Tried To Steal Christmas...But God...SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, December 6, 2010

Who Really Stole Christmas?

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. You really are a heel. You are as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel. Mr Grinch. Your a bad banana with a greasy black peel.

We all know the Grinch stole Christmas, right? But who first stole Christmas from the Grinch?

It all started out when the Grinch was just a boy. He was different, unique, even green and hairy.

In the remake movie version, we get a better glimpse at how this might have all started than we do from watching the old animated Dr Suess version.

At Christmas time, his teacher asked all the students to bring in a special gift for the person they cared about, so he set about his task of diligently making a homemade gift for the little girl he had a crush on.

When the other kids laughed at him, he threw his gift across the room, and was so overcome with anger and embarrassment, that he vowed to never celebrate Christmas again, and to never love again either. Due to years without giving or receiving love - his heart simply shrunk.

He allowed the memories of Christmases past, to determine how he would feel about all the Christmases of the future, and life in general. He adopted a permanent mindset that was laced with bitterness and negativity. If I were to describe how he probably felt inside, I would say:

He had been betrayed - and vowed to never trust anyone again.

He had been disappointed - and vowed to never put stake in anyone else.

He had been hurt - and vowed to never love anyone again.

He had been rejected - and vowed to never let other people get too close.

He had been embarrassed - and vowed to alienate himself from others so that he would never feel that way again.

Welcome to a peek into the mind of the Grinch - before he decided to steal Christmas.

The trials, difficulties and painful emotions of life had stolen Christmas from his heart forever, and sadly enough, this mentality is not that far from reality.

All too often, we allow past or present circumstances to define our attitudes and our future, instead of placing both of those things in the hands of God and trusting Him.

There are many lessons we could pull from The Grinch, but one thing that stands out to me, is that although the movie does not overtly specify a Christian theme, it has a lot of biblical imagery.

For example, the Grinch has red eyes in the original cartoon, although they are yellow in the Jim Carrey remake.

In both the cartoon and remake versions, you will see the Grinch with an evil grin, crooked fingertips poised together for a sinister plan, coldness of heart, and distanced from other people.

The Grinch had a goal to deceive the people of Whoville and rob them in more ways than one. He wanted to change their hearts forever through his acts of evil.

The Grinch was the master deceiver, adept at lying, even to the most innocent of innocent, like little Cindy Lu.

His final deception was assuming the disguise of Santa - a character that most people love, embrace and trust. He disguised himself as something pleasurable and good, when in fact he was evil and bad. He tricked Cindy Lu into thinking she could trust him, and that he was doing her a favor.

He proceeds to carry out his evil plans, and to make matters worse, he takes great pleasure in his thievery. In fact, the narrator in the movie says that the Grinch "steals Christmas with glee".

In the animated version, he even slithers through the living room to steal the Christmas trees, holiday decorations and presents - much like a serpent.

He envies the joy and happiness that the Whos have in their hearts, and he experiences anger and aggression because of this envy. He wants to hurt them, as he has been hurt, and he wants to have control of their emotions and happiness.

The lyrics of the song say it all, as it describes the Grinch in great detail:

a heart with an empty hole; garlic in his soul; no tenderness or sweetness; the king of sin; filled with poison; crooked and dirty; an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled up knots; a soul full of gunk. eyes... sinister plans... coldness... deceit... evil.... theft.... sour.... an empty heart... sounds a lot like someone we read about in the Bible, doesnt it?

You know who I am talking about - that other mean one - Satan.

John 10:10 tells us that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, and that is exactly what the Grinch had in mind when he came up with his plan to steal Christmas from Whoville. In this movie, the Grinch seems to be the enemy incarnate.

He wanted to steal their joy; kill their happiness; destroy their holiday.

He wanted to ruin their lives and dampen their future.

He wanted to crush relationships. He wanted to carry out his evil schemes in the hopes that he could steal so many precious things from them, that they would never celebrate or sing again.

On the surface, this movie could be interpreted as nothing more than an outcry against the commercialization of Christmas, but oh, how it is really "something more".

This movie holds a great analogy of the sinister plans that the worldly thief carries out every day, and how he tries to steal life.

In the same way that the Grinch walked around in broad daylight, in plain view of all the Who's in Whoville, the thief is in our midst too, disguised as something good or pleasurable.

He tempts us with sin, causes us to stumble in our faith, orchestrates trials in our lives, and longs to steal our joy. He fills our heads with lies that nobody cares about us, that we are worthless, that we are unlovable - just like the Grinch. He encourages us to hold onto bittnerness, regret, and unforgiveness.

He is the master deceiver, with a definite plan in mind to dampen not only our present, but our future as well.

He wants to steal not only the joy of Christmas from our holiday, but the joy of Christ from our heart.

But John 10:10 also tells us that Jesus came to give us abundant life.

My favorite part of this movie is when we witness the total transformation of the Grinch. I especially love this scene in the remake version with Jim Carey, where the grinch is crying for the first time, and thinks he is "leaking". Then in that same moment, the sky opens up, beautiful orange sunshine peeks through the clouds and fills the sky with beauty. (Click HERE if you would like to watch this scene)

Then.. something from the skies touches The Grinch's heart. He begins to feel all "toasty" inside - and his heart is changed forever.

Through the support and joy of his community, and a little heavenly intervention, the Grinch transforms himself into something good, from something bad. He realizes that his total self absorption, lack of forgiveness, and bitterness has kept him captive in a world of complete alienation, filled with loneliness, discouragement and feelings of worthlessness.

Even though we know that the real grinch will never embrace redemption, what a wonderful scene it is, when the Grinch finally comes to understand that Christmas really doesnt come from a store.....that Christmas really is "something more".

And that "something more" is love.

The movie does not really specify what that "something more" is - but we know. Smiles.

Only the love of Christ can cause someones hearts to grow three sizes and beat out of their chest. That "something more" is found in the realization that Christmas is not a holiday, but a feeling of absolute peace, stemming from the assurance that we are loved by the Creator of the universe and that life is a gift.

It is a time for recognizing that without Christ, our hearts would be too small too -void of true joy, happiness, and love; unable to love others, trust others, and put our faith in the Something More that we cannot see.

Christmas really does not come from a store.

In fact, Christmas really IS Something More.

Christmas is a state of heart and mind, which can never be stolen away - unless - we give the grinch permission to take it.

(Email subscribers may need to visit my blog to see the movie clips)

Tomorrow - lets take a deeper look at how the first grinch (Satan) tried and failed at stealing Christmas too.

Who Really Stole Christmas?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, December 3, 2010

Longing To Be Like Rudolph

If I were to ask you about a Christmas movie you remembered from childhood, I bet a lot of you would immediately say Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. For some reason, Rudolph just seems to stick in peoples minds forever! Is it so funny how one little animated reindeer can prick the hearts of children and adults for more than forty years.

If you ask me, there is a lot more to love about Rudolph than just a red nose, including his raspy voice, sweet personality, and selfless attitude. In fact, when I think about Rudolph, his shiny nose is not really what comes to mind at all.

You see, Rudolph lived a pretty hard life. He was born into a family that loved him, but desperately wished he were different. As a result of his parents disapproval of his physical attributes, and because he did not look "normal" like all the other reindeer, he bought into the fact that he needed to try to fit in - even it meant hiding who he really was (by covering his nose with black dirt).

When Rudolph could not hide his imperfections any longer, he was ridiculed by peers and adults, and eventually excluded and cast out. Out of frustration and sadness, he ran away from home, searching for someone, some place, some situation, where he would fit in and be accepted. He longed for a purpose.

I bet if I took a survey right now - most of us would admit that there have been times when we felt a lot like Rudolph.

Unaccepted. Criticized. Flawed. Different. Unloved. Cast out. Excluded. Sad. Lonely. Searching.

In fact, sometimes the holidays can bring on more of these feelings than any other time of the year.

How unfortunate that a season of the year which is supposed to bring inclusiveness and love, can sometimes leave us feeling excluded, unloved and without purpose, more than any other time..... and that is exactly why Rudolph is such a great example at the holidays.

You see, although Rudolph intially felt defeated, he pulled himself together and went on a search for his purpose and meaning.

He began focusing on others, instead of himself.

Instead of retreating into a cave of sadness and loneliness and lack of direction, he focused on doing something good.

He warmed up to a fawn named Clarise, let down his guard, and opened his heart. Clarise accepted Rudolph, and his red nose. He saved his loved ones from the abominable snow man. He made a new friend. He led Santas sleigh through the dense fog. He enlightened Christmas for many children. He gained respect and adoration from all who knew him. He made a difference.

Okay, okay. I promise, I really do know that Rudolph is a fictional character. Really. But still, dont you just love what he teaches us?

Everything, and everyone, has a special place in this world - and a special purpose. Rudolph thought he had no purpose - especially with his flaws and imperfections. And, all his little friends on the Island of Misfits thought they did not have a place or purpose in this world either. But they did. And so do we.

For the past ten years, I adopted Jeremiah 29:11 as my life theme verse. In fact, I have often said that God stalked with me that verse. It kept popping up everywhere, all around me, in the least expected places and in the most unusual of ways. God continued to put it in my face, until I put it into my heart.

Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." (NLT)

God sees our imperfections - in fact, He created them - yet he still has a predestined plan for each us, and if we allow Him to, he can turn our pain into our purpose. If we embrace what God calls us to do, then just like little Rudolph, we can shed His light to other people through the way we live our lives.

God calls us to be a light in the darkness, and help light the way for others, similar to Rudolph, but in a more meaningful way, of course. Just as Rudolph learned, we do not need to hide our imperfections, because they may be exactly what God plans to use to impact the lives of others.

John 1:4-5 says, "The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.The light shine in the darkness,and the darkness can never extinguish it." (NLT)

There came a time in Rudolphs journey, that he became proud of his red nose - his light. He realized that his imperfection had a purpose, and it was good.

Hmmmm, I think I want to be like Rudolph one day. Rudoloph just led the way for the sleigh, but we can lead people to the Way.

(email subscribers may need to visit my blog to view the movie clip)

Longing To Be Like RudolphSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Reel Side of Christmas

No matter how old I get, I still look forward every year to watching all the classic Christmas movies.

Whether the movies include real people or animated characters - I love them. Whether they are in black and white, or fully colorized, I love them. Whether they are old or new - I love Christmas flicks!

I always get a twinge of excitement about plopping onto the couch, popping some popcorn, grabbing some hot cocoa, and snuggling with the kids, as we fall back in time and watch the same Christmas movies that we have watched dozens, if not hundreds, of times before.

I thought it would be so fun to reminisce about some of my favorite Christmas classics, and yours, and talk about the life lessons we can pull from them.

So for the next few weeks, I am going to focus on the reel (as in movie reel) side of Christmas, so that we can gleam some real spiritual truths.

Believe it or not, from Rudolphs red nose to the Grinches green face to Its a Wonderful Life - there are some important reel truths that line up with Gods Word and biblical significance.

Even though most movies are primarily meant for simply holiday entertainment, I have discovered that if we dig deep, we can find some great nuggets of truth to take to heart.

Before we kick off this holiday movie series on Friday, I would love to know what some of your favorite classic movies are!

Which holiday movies or cartoons bring back the fondest memories for you?

Which ones have life lessons that impacted your heart over time or as a child?

Which ones have impacted your family in years gone by, or changed your perspective about Christmas?

Come on now, be reel!

The Reel Side of ChristmasSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, November 29, 2010

Officially The Holidays!

It is official - the holidays have begun! Thanksgiving was wonderful, but now its Christmas!

It is that time of year when my kids must officially stop teasing me about listening to Christmas music (since I start around Halloween) and join me in the Christmas spirit and fun, and they have!

In fact, like many families did, we spent the weekend doing some shopping, of course, but also doing all of our home decorating. We picked out a great live Christmas tree yesterday afternoon, came home and put on one of our favorite movies, "Christmas With The Cranks", and then decked out the house from top to bottom.

Three Christmas trees, the fireplace mantle, the tables, the banister, the dishes, and the wreaths placed on all the windows - done! (if you are an email subscriber, click over to my blog to see the pictures.)

Since the decorating was all complete, I decided to officially kick off the holidays this morning by making two of my favorite Christmas recipes. Both of these recipes come from a cookbook that my Grandmother made for us many years ago before she passed away.

My Grandmothers name was Josephine, "Jo" for short, and the name of her little cookbook is "At Jo's from Five to Nine" - an appropriate title since she always cooked up delicious goodies from morning til night! Who knew that a little spiral bound, 61-sheet cookbook, could become such a treasured heirloom.

So as I was sitting here writing, savoring a cup of my hot Russian tea and eating warm sausage balls, I thought I should share the recipes with you!

Russian tea:
In large pot, mix the following ingredients and bring to a boil, steeping for five to ten minutes:
- 8 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 5 small tea bags (or 3 family size tea bags)

In another large pot, mix the following ingredients and bring to a boil:
- 8 cups of water
- 1- 12 ounce can of frozen apple juice
- 1- 12 ounce can of frozen orange juice
- 1- 12 ounce can of frozen lemonade
- 6 ounces of frozen pineapple juice (optional)
- 1 3/4 cups of sugar

Once both pots are boiling, pour the mixture from the first pot into the second pot through a strainer. Serve hot!

Sausage Balls
3 cups Bisquick mix
1 lb sausage
1 16 ounce package of shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup of milk

Mix together with hands and knead into dough. Form small balls of mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until brown.

Hope you are enjoying your first official day of the Christmas season!

Officially The Holidays!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend