Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Dip, swipe, press, snip, stitch, wrap, tape, mix, bake--these along with "Go Tell it On the Mountain," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The First Noel," and other holiday classics filled my days leading up to our Christmas celebrations.

Then dinner with extended family: the hustle and bustle, the smiles and introductions with your grandmother's extended family who many only half know (and I have never met). Aromas drift through the air--from both delectable treats, as well as through the conversation, giving a taste into each person's life. "Really, they are married now? How time flys." "Yes, well, coming from Australia, being in the United Kingdom is practically in your neck of the woods so I stopped by." "His new haircut really makes him look so hip." "We are so blessed he was protected." "Oh look at you, how'd you manage to sit at the young table?"

Hubs with his new coat and Skyrim
Then Christmas Eve morning, and my man and I have our own sweet Christmas celebration together. After days upon days of jesting and certainty that we each got the other the best gifts this year, the anticipation was not uncalled for: I received some gorgeous riding style boots and my very own sewing machine(!!), and my husband loves his Jack Bower coat and Skyrim video game.

We enjoyed some amazing homemade french toast from yours truly, and enjoyed finishing up some gifts for our family during the afternoon. Then we spent the evening with my parents, sister, brothers, grandma and great-grandmother exchanging a few gifts and sharing my mom's traditional Christmas dinner together--green bean casserole, Sam's Ham, and amazing hashbrown casserole. I made one of my favorite Christmas treats--Bonoffee Pie (I hope to share the recipe here some day--it's incredible.)

Christmas Eve Dinner with my Family
As the sun was rising Christmas morning we returned to my parent's home to share in gift giving with my family. My family makes quick and delightful work of opening gifts and it is always a wonderfully fun time. We opened more than we expected to receive--including the super surprising gift of my parents buying our tickets to go to Walt Disney World with the family in February!!! Next we worshipped our amazing Savior together at church, and after receiving an exciting gift to each other (and mainly WorshipArts) I'll tell you about soon, we headed out to Grandma Webbs to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening opening a plethora (read, over 100) gifts together with another group of Peter's family.  Smiles, laughs, crinkling paper, the pop of plastic toy boxes, and the occasional tears of joy filled the home.

On the road to Ohio
Then another pre-sunrise morning and a drive down to Ohio, to Tami's parents home--a lovely haven of rest, fun, movies, games and family. I'm loving how chill and relaxed it is here, but I also can't wait until Peter takes me on our annual trip to Easton for my birthday, and then our trip down to have some serious encounters with Jesus at the conference Winter Ramp!

I hope and pray you too have had a beautiful, relaxing, time with your family, receiving and giving gifts of love and time (and of course a few actual presents as well). And most importantly, I hope you have met and experienced the love of Jesus in this time--be it in a private moment with him, while singing his praises in a carol, or through the wonder of family love--as we celebrate his birth together.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Adventures of the 20th

Today was one of those perfect Christmas vacation days. Peter and I slept in until the crazy hour of 11, spent some quality time together lounging around the apartment, and went out for brunch at Cracker Barrel thanks to gift cards and the generosity of awesome people we know. 

On the way home we ran a few errands to grab some more supplies for Christmas gifts, paid a visit to some frogs and their gnome friends, and then headed home. I spent the next 5 or so hours crafting my heart out creating some fun presents to give our family during this weekend's festivities while listening to pretty amazing Christmas music. 

I love living life with my best friend. Peter keeps me positive even when at hour 4 of creating it's starting to feel less expressive and just plain laborious. He challenges me to keep writing (especially by setting some pretty hefty goals of his own for next year) and to not let my standards of perfection keep me from getting things done. Anytime anything that doesn't line up with Christ (stress, worry, frustration etc!) enters my mind he doesn't hesitate to call me out on it and straighten out my thinking with an encouraging word that points me to Jesus. He's brilliant, and as you can see for yourself, "a genius." 


Thanks to you, hubs, for making the holidays amazing with our own little family time to rest 
and delight in all the blessings Jesus has given us.

Interested in that fabulous Christmas playlist? Check it out:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


"You did WHAT? What the ----"

We've all heard it somewhere: a slightly too colorful word or phrase. Swearing, cursing, profanity, vulgarity--it's all around us, and as Christians, it is super easy to add it to our vocabulary. But is it right?

I've talked about swearing and cursing with a lot of people over the years, and the first response usually looks something like: "Well, who defines swearing? What is ACTUALLY a swear word? What is vulgar?" In essence: isn't it all relative anyway? My church recently did a series called "Is it Relative? Living Morally in an Amoral World" and I think that truth summarized in that title applies: words are amoral, but the way we use them can be moral and immoral.

But back to the questions they pose. Lets look at some definitions, shall we? Vulgar is defined as " indecent; obscene; lewd; crude; coarse; unrefined." Swear, in our context, means "to use profane oaths or language." Profane goes a bit further, and was originally in relation to taking the Lord's name in vain: "characterized by irreverence or contempt for God or sacred principles or things; irreligious." It also means "not devoted to holy or religious purposes; unconsecrated; secular ( opposed to sacred)." (Vulgar is also a definition of profane, coincidentally.) And, just to be thorough, I pulled up profanity: "The quality of being profane; irreverence. Profane conduct or language; a profane act or utterance. Obscenity."

So to recap, swearing is using words in a way that are indecent, crude, coarse, not devoted to holy purposes, and obscene. Regardless of context or intent, this is the definition of swearing.

I feel like the recap definition above answers this question on its own, but I'd like to state it because it gets asked: "Doesn't the culture define what is swearing? I mean what about: 'Those who reject Christ's salvation will not enter heaven, but will enter hell.'" This goes right back to words being amoral. Using the word hell in that context is appropriate and is not offensive. Yet often times, when a word becomes profanity, the actual definition of the word loses any "clean" meaning that it had (ex. the alternate for "donkey") or in many cases it wasn't something decent to talk about in the first place.

Though a search result for "profanity" doesn't bring up any scripture, the Bible has a lot to say about how Christians are supposed to live, the conditions of our hearts, and controlling what we speak.

The Psalmist pleaded that God would "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips" (Psa 141:3). And then in Proverbs, there is an actual reference for the idea that we will "eat" our words: "A man's stomach shall be satisfied from the fruit of his mouth; From the produce of his lips he shall be filled" (Pro 18:20). James, as he likes to do, lays it down straight in verse 26 of the first chapter: "If you claim to be religious but don't control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless."

Clearly, there are things we shouldn't say. Isn't this just about the obvious stuff, like dishonoring God's name, or tearing down someone else? I'd say yes, that's included, but I'd say there is also a lot more on the table here.

In Luke 6:45, Jesus clarified it even more: "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks." We get a peak into the condition of our heart through the words we say.

In fact, Jesus expands on this concept in Matthew 12:33-37: "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Every word we say matters--even if done thoughtlessly or ignorantly, we will have to give an account. Our words are very important: "It's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth" (Mat 15:11).

So what are Christians called to be, do, and say?

We are called to a higher standard, to live our lives in a way that leads others to Christ. We are called to live in accordance with the Kingdom of God, to make our bodies, God's temple, a place that He is comfortable in and wants to dwell in because it is laid out according to His desires.

A few things that God doesn't like in His house include "fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness." In fact, He had it written that we should "let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks" (Eph 5:3-4).

Instead, God wants His house (ahem, you and me) filled with "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things" (Phi 4:8). 

And there is an even bigger reason than just making God happy. He wants us to keep a clean house--a clean spirit and mind--for a purpose. It's like "in a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work" (2Ti 2:20-21). That good work is being a representation of Christ to those around us because "we prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love" (2Cr 6:6).

If it is at all in our means, we need to live at peace with everyone around us--and the people around us are a part of our culture (Rom 12:18). We "work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will [otherwise] not see the Lord" (Hbr 12:14).

Speaking with peace and holiness while using profanity cannot go hand in hand; they are contradictions. Think about the context of nearly all swearing: either tearing someone or something down, expressing frustration vulgarly, or simply being idle in a careless, profane way with your speech. Does this promote peace and give an example of living a holy life? It's OK for us to express our feelings, but it's not OK for us to violate God's desires and standards when we do so (Eph 4:26-27).

It's about a lot more than the words you say. It is about living a life that is pure, which is an antonym for vulgar. From my perspective, God doesn't care about the act of swearing; He cares about what the act of swearing means about your heart.

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