Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another Grassroots Movement

This message came in an email to me today:

When driving to, from, and through Frankenmuth, Michigan, I'm always intrigued with the many small simple crosses in the front yards of the homes we pass by. Those crosses are a statement of support for Frankenmuth's Christian foundation.

Two years ago an atheist living there complained about two crosses on a bridge in town. He requested that they be removed and the town removed them. He then decided that, since he was so successful with that, the city shield should also be changed since it had on it, along with other symbols, a heart with a cross inside signifying the city's Lutheran beginnings.

At that point, the residents decided they had had enough. Hundreds of residents made their opinions known by placing small crosses in their front yards. Seeing this quiet but powerful statement from the community, the man removed his complaint. Those simple crosses remain in those front yards today.

After passing those crosses for two years, it finally hit me that a small cross in millions of front yards across our country could provide a powerful and inspiring message for all Americans passing them every day. I think it might be time to take this idea across America.

We have an administration that says "we are not a Christian nation" and everywhere you look the ACLU and others are trying to remove from our history and current lives any reference to God, prayer, or the fact that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. Our administration can't bring themselves to talk about "radical Muslims or Islamic terrorists" for fear of offending them, but they can talk about Americans "clinging to their guns and their religion", or insinuate that our own military troops coming home from service overseas might turn into terrorists. The majority of Americans are Christians, why are we letting this happen to us?

It's time to stand up and make a statement..a small, quiet, but powerful statement. If you agree, place a small white crossin your front yard or garden for all to see that they are not alone. It would be a beautiful thing to see crosses all across America.

God has richly blessed America but America is falling short of returning thanks for it...we can help to change that.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Preview to Christmas Giving

This article is no longer posted on its original site online, so I have copied and pasted from the document I saved.

I don't know about you, but I yearn for every thing I do to be done with relevance and meaning. God has even stirred me to watch my words - that they be few and rich, not watered down by overuse and unimportant blather. (I still need to work on that, but I think I'm improving, with the help of the Holy Spirit.)

Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh...

Begging for Myrrh
Stressed out by Christmas presents? Try this simple approach to godly gift giving.
By Trina Conner Schaetz

If you're like most Christian parents, you enter the holiday season intent on focusing your family's celebrations on the "true meaning" of Christmas. We set up our nativity sets, bake birthday cakes for Jesus, and reenact the birth of the Savior so that our children aren't confused about what Christmas is about. Some of us even choose to keep Santa out of our holiday to prevent our children from losing sight of Jesus' birth.

But Santa or no Santa, most families find that the whole gift-giving commotion ends up fizzling our focus anyway. Even if Mom and Dad try to reign in the gift explosion, kids get oodles of presents from Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Bob and Aunt Susie, friends, and even neighbors. As a result, our visions of a meaning-filled Christmas get buried under all the wrapping paper, and by December 26, we start making promises to do things better next year.

In an effort to maintain some control over the lessons learned at Christmas, my husband and I have come up with a way of giving gifts that seems to work beautifully. Maybe you've tried limiting your giving to three gifts per child to echo the three gifts Jesus received from the Magi. But our idea takes this plan a step further. The three gifts themselves symbolize those that Jesus received from the wise men: "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh" (Matt. 2:11).

On Christmas morning, our immediate family takes time to reflect on why we celebrate Christmas. Each child receives three presents: one to represent gold, one to represent frankincense, and one to represent myrrh. As we open them, we talk about the special significance behind the gifts that Jesus received, and how they symbolize Jesus as King, as God, and as Savior.

Gifts of Gold
When Jesus was born, gold was even more valuable than it is today. It was a gift that was fit for a king or someone of the highest regard. What a great symbol it was for Jesus to receive such an offering from the wise men, as he is indeed the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Not only did the gold gift signify Jesus' kingly position, but in their book, Gifts for the King, (published by Priscilla and Aquilla Ministries and available at, Bill and Leah Miller suggest that the gold may also have helped Mary and Joseph escape Bethlehem. It may have paid for the family's expenses and protection while they traveled secretly to Egypt to flee King Herod.

This Christmas, explain to your children how the wise men's gift of gold was significant to Jesus and his family. Then give each child her own "gold" gift. The present should be something of great importance to suggest how valuable your child is to your family.

Gold gifts often end up being our most expensive presents. For example, a gold gift might be the bicycle a child has been dreaming about, the CD player she has been saving for, or a piece of jewelry that seems appropriate. For an extra treat, wrap the "gold" gift in shiny gold paper with iridescent gold bows or ribbons.

Gifts of Frankincense
Frankincense is a white resin or sap taken from the wounds of a tree found in East Africa and Southern Arabia. Today, frankincense is known for its antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. No wonder people in ancient times begged for it. It was probably one of the ancient world's first "cure-all" medicines, healing everything from infections to headaches. Surely Mary and Joseph could use the gift of frankincense with a new baby around.

Frankincense was also a sacred substance. In Exodus 30:34-37, God specifically requests that frankincense be used as sacred incense in his Temple and forbids the Israelites to use frankincense for anything besides his religious purposes. God commanded the Israelites to place frankincense in front of the Tent of Meeting to scent the place where he had promised to meet with them.

Years after that temple was destroyed, God sent his own Son, Jesus, to be a symbolic "Tent of Meeting" for all people. How appropriate, then, that the wise men brought frankincense as a gift for Mary's baby. Jesus had become our Emmanuel: God with us.

With that in mind, your child's "frankincense" gift should correspond with the way he "meets" with God. For example, you could give your child a new study Bible, a devotional book, a journal, or worship CD as a frankincense gift. A younger child might enjoy a Christian video or CD of children's praise songs. Eventually, your children will be able to identify the ways they most enjoy spending time with God and will be able to suggest future ideas for their frankincense gifts. As a symbolic touch, decorate frankincense presents with bright white paper and bows to represent the sacred white incense that Jesus received.

Gifts of Myrrh
Like frankincense, myrrh is also a resin taken from a special tree; however, rather than being white, myrrh is a dark, earthy color and has a rich aroma. In ancient times myrrh was used to scent anointing oils, perfumes, and embalming liquids. Today you can still find myrrh added to some soaps, oils, and lotions.

Miller notes that myrrh was more costly than gold or frankincense because it was needed for the sacred embalming process before a person's burial. Still, it seems strange to offer an embalming liquid as a gift to celebrate a baby's birth. But when you consider that Jesus was born to eventually die for our sins, the symbolism behind the treasured gift of myrrh becomes easier to understand. John 19:39-40 confirms that Nicodemus did, in fact, anoint Jesus with myrrh as part of his burial preparation.

I am not, however, suggesting that you give your child a gift suitable for her funeral. Instead, remind your children that even though Jesus started out as a little baby, he was sent to die on the cross to take the punishment for each of our sins. Then, as a family, be thankful for Jesus' sacrifice.

For a "myrrh" gift, present each child with something to "anoint" her body. For instance, you might give scented bath soaps, perfume or cologne, lotion, or shampoo. For younger children, choose colorful bath bubbles or playful tub soaps. To stretch your options a little farther, consider buying combs, hair products, comfy towels, or even make-up if it's age appropriate. If you look hard enough, you might even find something made with real myrrh. Wrap the myrrh gift with earth-toned paper to represent myrrh's rich dark color.

The Real Gift
With a little creativity, these three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh will help remind your children that Jesus is our King of kings, our Emmanuel, and our Sacrificial Lamb. When the extended family arrives bearing even more gifts, your children will already be focused on Christ and be able to receive additional presents gratefully and graciously. They might even enjoy telling other relatives about their "wise men"gifts.

Have fun with this approach. Your kids might not get it at first, but as the years go by, it will become a treasured family tradition; it has for us. No matter how many gifts come flooding through your door, the three gifts will help your whole family remember that the most important gift given on that first blessed Christmas came not from the wise men, but from God: the gift of his Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Trina Conner Schaetz will celebrate the holidays with her family in Wisconsin.

Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today International/Christian Parenting Today magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Christian Parenting Today.
Winter 2002, Vol. 15, No. 2, Page 30

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Word in Season

Sylvia Evans visited our church this weekend. Friday evening, she ministered the word - logos and rema - to the church's elders and deacons and their spouses. She had a 'calling up' word for John, and a confirming and commissioning for me centered around Isaiah 50:4.

Saturday, she ministered to the ladies of our church in a similar manner. How blessed they were! (How blessed I was, too, because in many cases, as I was in my seat praying for each woman sitting before Sylvia, God gave me a picture that often matched something Sylvia spoke prophetically for that woman. I didn't always understand the picture's meaning, but she ended up explaining it. I pray the Lord refines His gift in me, enlarging it, so I can be His voice to speak the Word of life to the weary.)

It was a wonderful weekend! I am excited to see how God will do His work in us as we study the Word and walk in it.

Waken my ear, Lord, and give me the tongue of the learned. Help me only to speak what You reveal, and wait for Your timing.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Freedom of Worship

Ground Zero.

Since 9/11, every American knows this term. It has taken on a new life since that day. Before that day, it meant "the point on the Earth's surface where an explosion occurs" (Wiki). Today, it evokes memories of a specific day and place in NY City where the World Trade Center towers used to stand.


We all have pictures in our minds that match terms, and mosque is no exception. When you hear or read the word, "mosque," what do you picture?

Something like this?

Or this?

But, what if it looked like this:

This is a picture of the abandoned Burlington Coat Factory store that Muslims in NY City want to convert into a mosque. This building on this street is not visible from Ground Zero. They are not proposing tearing it down to build minarets and domes, they simply want to remodel it. (This is what I heard from a student who lives near that neighborhood.)

Additionally, it will not be exclusively a place of Muslim worship and prayer, but a community center open to the public of any religion or none, with YMCA type offerings such as a pool and gym.

We get tripped up over words, and the images those words evoke.

What about the word "church"?

If you live in New England, you may picture something like this:

If you are Catholic, perhaps this image:

Would you picture this:

or this:

What about this:

Now to address the subject of the Christian church that wanted to rebuild on or near Ground Zero, but was refused...

Interestingly, I found this story, posted just yesterday:

It is short, so please go read it. I am not clear on whether the church was refused permission to build, or simply could not come up with a solid building plan before a deadline. Feel free to do your own research on this and let me know what you come up with.

With all this in mind, I have to say that I have changed my opinion on the Ground Zero Mosque subject - I support it. I would be a hypocrite not to. I feel strongly that this country was founded upon the desire and need to worship God the way conscience tells you to, in spite of the disagreement of many over what that should be like. Freedom of worship is a basic tenet of this country's heritage, and should remain so.