Month: December 2016

Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas, and it is a Sunday. My family and I are gathering at GBC at 10 a.m. When I was asked why I will be going to church on Christmas morning, my response was “because He is the reason for the season.”

I was not prepared for the response in return. With great vehemence, I was reminded that this holiday began as a pagan celebration of winter solstice and Christians hijacked the season and the celebration. I was flabbergasted by not only the partial truth, but also the anger behind the vehemence. I didn’t respond then – I let it go.

Today seemed like a good day to address Christmas – why Christians say Jesus is the reason for the season – and to wish you the very best Christmas Day. However, the post I had written I’ve decided to edit severely.

Instead,

May your day be filled with what I long for … Jesus, His hope, His love, His joy, and His peace.

~~~

What is Christmas?

Wikipedia has a great page dedicated to Christmas – To quote Wikipedia, “the belief that God came into the world in the form of man to atone for the sins of humanity, rather than the exact birth date, is considered to be the primary purpose in celebrating Christmas.”

If you don’t celebrate Christmas because of Christ, but you’d like to know more about Him and why I believe He is the only reason to celebrate, please contact me.

May your Christmas be filled with all you long for. I’ll see you, here, in the new year.

Advent and In Memoriam – Part 4

***The next few posts will be different than my norm. They will be dated like diary entries and will be read as such. With the new year and future posts, I’ll e focusing on YOU, but for this season, this is what and how I feel compelled to write. If this isn’t your preference, please bear with me.***

December 18, 2016 – 4th Sunday of Advent

There was no church today. There was enough ice and snow, along with harsh cold temperatures (for Oklahoma), that made it prudent to cancel. Our family has several members who would have come even though they should not get out in such weather.

It was the 2nd day in a row that my 17-year-old daughter wasn’t scheduled to work. She’s saving up for a car – going of to college in 8 very short months – and it was refreshing to spend 2 days with her at home. Saturday, we took her ‘fall’ senior pictures – a little late, but better than never. She and I are both hoping for a deep snow for her ‘winter’ senior pictures. She’s my 2nd to leave home, but it doesn’t appear to be getting easier.

The Advent topic would have been peace, and my days were filled with quiet, peace, reading, snuggles, and family.

December 19, 2016 – Monday

Have you ever noticed what some may call “coincidence”? I call most of it God-moments, when things work out so well and so uniquely it can only be God. Today’s First5 devotional was on PEACE. I believe it was a God-moment that the First5 study of Luke 19:28-48 today would focus on peace, the topic of Advent and the virtue of Jesus I had experienced for the last 2 days.

Here are the highlights of Krista Williams’ devotional and my thoughts about it:

“What a tragedy to miss Jesus and the true peace only He can bring.”

Jesus is weeping (Luke 19:41-42) because those He came for rejected Him. Krista asks, “What is peace?” She answers in a way I never could …

“Peace is the tranquil state of a soul assured of salvation through Christ. …Peace isn’t connected to a lack of noise, trouble or difficulty. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart. Peace is a person. Peace is found in Jesus Christ—He is the Prince of Peace.”

Krista reminded me “He stands ready to be [my] peace today and every day.”

I encourage you, if you don’t have Jesus’ peace today, to find someone who does and ask questions. Contact me if you don’t know anyone. Here are His promises available to all:

Isaiah 9:6 – “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 26:3 – “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

John 14:27 – “”I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Philippians 4:7 – “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

2 Thessalonians 3:16 – “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.”

Psalm 29:10-11 – “The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.

December 24, 2016 – Christmas Eve

Tonight at 6:00 p.m., my chosen family of Grace Bible Church will gather for our annual Christmas Eve celebration. It is a time we set aside to worship and honor Christ. We will have all four Advent candles lit – Hope, Love, Joy, Peace; we will light the large white Christ candle and use its flame to spread light from candle to candle, person to person, around the sanctuary as we sing “Silent Night” …

Silent night, holy night! All is calm, all is bright. …

Glories stream from heaven afar, heavenly hosts sing Alleluia …

Son of God, love’s pure light. Radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace …

Jesus, Lord …

We will also share a meal together – simple finger foods made extra delicious by the Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace we celebrate together as a chosen family.

Thank you for enjoying and celebrating Advent with me. Thank you for helping me to process the loss of a dear friend. You are loved beyond your wildest imagination!

Advent and In Memoriam – Part 3

***The next few posts will be different than my norm. They will be dated like diary entries and will be read as such. With the new year and future posts, I’ll e focusing on YOU, but for this season, this is what and how I feel compelled to write. If this isn’t your preference, please bear with me.***

December 9, 2016 – Friday, Part 2

I’ve been to several funerals. I usually do not go to the cemetery for the internment though. I remember going twice, once for a person who did not choose to LIVE for Christ, although he was a Christian, and today for Barbara.

There is such a stark difference between the two. The body of Barbara was laid to final rest in an atmosphere of

GRIEF ~ tears as loved ones shoveled dirt onto her casket

JOY ~ balloons released while singing “I’ll Fly Away”

HOPE ~ the next generation of children were remembering her as well

LOVE ~ her family was a variety of faith (Amish, English) and non-faith and was visible proof of her capacity for love – a gift from God

PEACE ~ I stood beside her grave, watching young and old, Amish and English, male and female grieve her leaving us, but I felt peace inside – I know, without a doubt, she is with her LORD. I was emotionally exhausted at the end of the day, but there was peace as I slept.

December 10, 2016 – Saturday

I woke early. My mother-in-law, aunt, and I were hosting the annual Ladies Christmas Gathering, and I had agreed to prepare the devotional. I had a plan, but with Barbara’s death, my plan had not been fleshed out.

At my aunt’s encouragement, here’s what I said to my chosen-family ladies. (**NOTE: almost all content can be credited to Suzie Eller on her First5 devotional for Luke 7. Check out the First5 story here.)

Ladies of Grace Christmas Gathering 2016

I was going to do a typical Christmas devotional and read Luke 2.

Then my bible study app, First5, started studying Luke in November, and when we came to Luke 7, I was intrigued. I’m using Suzie Eller’s devotional from that day, with some additions of my own.

Let me recap the story you’re probably familiar with, starting in verse 36:

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

Imagine for me – your very worst sin. You’d be mortified if anyone but God ever knew. Now imagine – your whole neighborhood knew.

This “certain immoral woman” was well-known. When she comes to this house, she has to walk in front of …

kneel in front of …

show her heart and vulnerabilities in front of …

“people who not only know of her sin, but they’ve probably been hurt by it, too.”

Why did she come? Why would she put herself through the pain?

You and I know women. You know we can be catty, haughty, mean … we can say a lot with just our eyes, just our body language.

You know the women she had to pass by as she walked through that house to Jesus …

the lady who opened the door ….

the ladies serving the meal …

and then the men. Probably a customer or two.

WHY would she put herself through that?

Somehow – the Bible doesn’t tell us – she knew Jesus.

She knew “He wasn’t giving her an easy way out. He was offering her a new life. She came because she longed to be transformed. She desperately needed to be forgiven.”

She needed His presence. His Emmanuel, ‘God with us’.

Using our imagination just a bit, let me embellish the rest. Jesus tells Simon the Pharisee the parable of the two debtors, and Simon admits the one forgiven much loves much. Then, in verse 44:

“Then [Jesus] turned to the woman” –

He gently lifted her chin from kissing His feet; He cupped her tear-stained face in His hands; He looked into her eyes and into her soul –

and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.  47 I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”  … 50 “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Simon had no appreciation that the Messiah was near – that Jesus was Emmanuel, God with us.

Do we appreciate His presence?

Like she did?

Do we “overlook or take for granted the immense gift of His presence?”

He is WITH us… Emmanuel.

How do we acknowledge this precious gift … daily, not just at Christmas?

“We wash His feet with our tears. We pause to recognize His presence – in our hearts, in our homes, in our closest relationships, in our hard places, in good places.

We kiss His [feet]. We thank Him with our words and with our lives.

We anoint Him with oil. [Pouring perfume is costly]; it’s what they would have done for a king. He is our King of Kings. How costly has your faith been? Pour out your life in surrender. His will over ours. Trust.”

I stopped there. I had written nothing else, and I was so choked with tears, I couldn’t speak any more. I couldn’t get the image of Jesus looking me in the eyes as I knelt at His feet – my own version of a certain immoral woman – and listen to Him tell me, “Go in peace.”

December 11, 2016 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

My chosen family (Grace Bible Church, Pryor, Oklahoma) has a unique way of doing what most churches call Sunday School. We call it ‘paraklesis’ – we break into groups, we review the previous week’s sermon, we encourage each other, and we pray for each other right then and for the coming week. The groups change on the first Sunday of each month. Since I was in Oklahoma City for the first Sunday, I didn’t have a group. None of the Chupp girls did, either, so I was put in a group with Barbara’s mother, aunt, and cousin. The four of us wept together, but there was JOY as we remembered that we all have the choice to LIVE for Christ now, not just for eternity, and that Barbara had made that choice. There was joy in remembering how in her faith, she was committed, faithful, willing, intentional, listening, learning, humble, and ready.

December 14, 2016 – Wednesday

I’ve been unemployed since September 26th. I took this opportunity of time to begin a freelance career as a writer, but as all freelancers know, it takes time to build an income. I was offered a job today that is a PRN (as needed) office assistant. It pays well enough and is a couple days a week.

This is JOY: I get out of the house, see people, escape from the inevitable for a time, and make a little cash. All this while still having time to write and search for writing opportunities. I am blessed beyond what I deserve.

To be continued …

Advent and In Memoriam – Part 2

***The next few posts will be different than my norm. They will be dated like diary entries and will be read as such. With the new year and future posts, I’ll be focusing on YOU, but for this season, this is what and how I feel compelled to write. If this isn’t your preference, please bear with me.***

December 9, 2016 – Friday

Last night was the viewing for Barbara Chupp, hosted by my chosen family of Grace Bible Church. Today is the funeral service, internment, and fellowship meal. Today, we lay Barbara’s physical shell to rest.

As I sit and write this, I wonder at what Barbara is experiencing now. She is celebrating Advent with the Purpose of Advent. She is enjoying His hope, His love, His joy, and His Peace – IN His presence.

While I do not know or even understand His reasons behind the timing, I cannot fault Him for wanting to celebrate this time, this season, face-to-face with her.

Barbara’s smile lit up the room. I honestly have seen very few like it. She had a way of deflecting attention off herself onto others, usually the person she was talking to, making them feel like they were the most important at that moment.

I remember shared laughter over The Princess Bride as we’d quote the movie together; shared tears over frustrations with parents and children and life; shared joys in knitting and in time with our Jesus; shared concerns about those forgotten and alone.

I didn’t get enough time with her. I regret all the missed opportunities, all the half-present conversations; meals never shared, conversations never finished, laughter never enjoyed. I took her friendship – her place in my life – for granted.

Barbara was a kind soul. She loved hard, deep, and long. And you easily knew who she loved by how she spoke of them. Her mother: I’ve never seen a daughter love her mother so deeply. Barbara looked after the best interests of Martha fiercely, often more than Martha wanted her to.

The children at work: Barbara didn’t plan on working in a shelter. She didn’t plan being put in the role she was in. But she loved those kids. When she stood before us giving us ideas of what they needed for Christmas, her heart for them was evident in her words, in her eyes.

My children: I’ve raised some nerds. I blame it all on my husband. But Barbara got them – she understood them – she was right there alongside them. The last lunch we had with her she had them talking, laughing, engaging – not an easy feat with a 17 year old girl and a 15 year old boy among a group of excessively mature adults (everyone was over 30!)

Looking at her Facebook page, there are more and more stories of how she loved on those around her. There are stories from her time as a dispatcher – from her time in Florida – from childhood – from adulthood. There are stories about her as a co-worker, as an aunt, as a sister, as a daughter, as a friend.

Watching the slide show of pictures last night at the viewing, I saw repeated times of laughter, of silliness, of memories made and cherished. I saw the truth of a beautiful life that improved the lives of all around her.

Barbara would have denied all this. She didn’t see herself the way we saw her. Yet, Barbara showed those around her what it meant to hold on to hope. Barbara showed everyone she met love. She knew, in the way of knowing through experience, the virtues of Jesus that are celebrated during Advent; now, she knows through experience full joy and complete peace.

To be continued …

Advent and In Memoriam – Part 1

***The next few posts will be different than my norm. They will be dated like diary entries and will be read as such. With the new year and future posts, I’ll be focusing on YOU, but for this season, this is what and how I feel compelled to write. If this isn’t your preference, please bear with me.***

November 27, 2016 – 1st Sunday of Advent

In Christianity, we traditionally celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. In some circles of Christianity, a tradition of Advent is observed: a candle is lit on each of the 4 Sundays before Christmas signifying the four virtues Jesus brings – hope, love, joy, and peace. A final candle, the Christ candle, is lit on Christmas Eve to symbolize Jesus being the light of the world.

Our church lit a candle today, but a specific theme wasn’t discussed. Elijah was our topic, and he showed the way to Christ. Elijah showed that there is HOPE.

Afterwards, a group of friends went to lunch including Barbara and her mother, Martha, my family of four, and our pastor, Randy, his wife, and his father. It was a wonderful meal with lots of laughter. Because of placement at the table and size of the group, I didn’t get to speak much to Barbara. It didn’t bother me because I would see her again, and I knew from the smiles and laughter from my kids and others at the table that it had been a good time.

December 1, 2016 – Thursday

For this blog, I’m trying to build up readership – to create a “tribe” (as Jeff Goins calls it) of faithful readers. In that effort, I had posted almost every day during the month of November with a Month of Gratitude theme. I was planning to continue the daily blogging (or at least a regular amount weekly), but was still trying to decide if I wanted to blog about Advent – or do a countdown to Christmas – or do something entirely different, but since I’m currently unemployed, I was also preparing to go to Oklahoma City to work for a cousin of my husband’s to make some Christmas spending money. I had intentions of blogging from there. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

December 2, 2016 – Friday

I’m naturally an introvert. A little less so than my husband, and I can be outgoing if required, but I prefer quiet and my own thoughts. David’s cousin, however, is the exact opposite. I’m not sure she quits talking unless she’s asleep, and there are only two volumes: loud and loudest. I love her to pieces, but she starts strong even at 6:30 a.m.

At 10:00 a.m., we’re busy working when I get a call from my husband.

“Did you see Randy’s email?”
“No. What’s he have to say?”
“Barbara is dead.”
“What?”
“Barbara is dead. Martha found her this morning and couldn’t wake her up.”
“Barbara Chupp? Dead? What? Is this a joke, David? This isn’t funny.”
“No, go read the email.”

I read the email, stunned. I worked the rest of the day with non-stop cousin talking. I prayed while I drove back to the house, and some tears fell as I tried to process. And I remembered some of her last words.

“But the one thing that has been there from the moment I listened to the Holy Spirit and said yes … was guidance from the Holy Spirit … God has protected us over and over again … I just smile and go give thanks again.”

On that rainy, cold night, driving alone back to the house with tears streaming down my face and choked words being spoken aloud to our Friend, I heard.

She got it. She understood Me, My hope for her, and we were finally so close. She had verbally taken that next step with Me.

And I cried harder knowing she was the happiest she’d ever been – she was reveling in the feel of the arms of her Savior, her Friend, her Soul-Lover – and she was happy, at ­peace, joyful beyond description.

And I knew I needed to stop crying before I showed up at the house with red eyes, so I stuffed my grief.

December 4, 2016 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

I woke thinking of my church family. I imagined the lighting of the Advent candle – wondered if Martha would be up to coming – how the people in the special body of believers meant the world to me, and I wished I could be with them to grieve together. I wanted to remember Christ’s love, Barbara’s love, our love.

But life moved in quickly, and the day became full of cousins with sick kids and singing kids and new stoves. And the grief was pushed aside.

December 5, 2016 – Monday

I met up with my husband and other family for dinner. My aunt mentioned that other cousins had noticed and mentioned that I hadn’t blogged in several days, and I realized only as I said the words to her that I wanted to write about Barbara.

I wanted to sit still and quiet with my thoughts, my paper, and my pen so I could fully process that I would not see Barbara again … on this side of our eternity.

I wanted to put focus on Advent, too. The coming of Barbara’s Jesus – the celebration of His birth – was important to her. She spent the Sunday before Thanksgiving helping to redecorate the church for the Advent and Christmas season.

Two very short weeks after that day, after just one Sunday of enjoying the beauty of the season and the atmosphere she helped create, just five days after the first Sunday of Advent, she was seeing her Savior face-to-face.

To be continued…

© 2017 Charlene Birky

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑