December 25, 2011

December 23, 2011

O Holy Night: Fab Music Friday

The most beautiful Christmas carol ev-er is "O, Holy Night."  (Don't even attempt to argue with me on this one because you'd just. be. wrong. Sorry, that's just the way it is.)  There is not a song out there that captures the sacredness, purpose or beauty of the holy birth more wonderfully than this song.  And so, as my Christmas gift to you, I present "O, Holy Night" as sung by the lovely and talented Miss Christina Grimmie.

(Email subscribers, please go HERE to see video.)

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friends.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Be blessed. Be brave. And have a very merry Christmas!

December 22, 2011

What's the Point?

"Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 
~ Luke 2:11-12

(Warning: this post is full of bad photos. I tried, honest, I did. And I promise there's a good word at the end.)

It's Christmas time.

That's Christ-mas time. Ahem.

Although, it is getting harder and harder to figure that out. I have a challenge for you: go to your local superstore and head to the "Christmas" section. Now try to find the nativities. Or the mangers. Or an ornament that is even in a general shape of something slightly religious.

Disappointing - and frustrating - isn't it?

At the Samuels' house we don't make a big deal out of Santa.  We don't paint believing in Santa as something bad - rather, he is more like a non-issue.  We just don't talk about him at all, really.  The boys do get stockings but I don't think we have ever said they were from Santa - they are just 'there' on Christmas morning.

As a mom, though, I do purpose to not decorate with Santa.  Cookie plate in the shape of a chubby Santa face? I'll skip it.  Ho-ho-ho-ing ornament? Pass. Wrapping paper with cute reindeer and Santa hats? Not for me.  But give me a nativity and I am swooning. I love them - maybe even just a little too much (maybe.) There is something so peaceful, so meaningful, in the beauty of a simple nativity. And in a culture that increasingly tells us that talking about Christ at Christmas is taboo, I figure the least I can do is make sure my friends and family are reminded of the true meaning of Christmas when they come into my home.

Here are the nativities that I currently have around my home:

This is the first nativity I ever received.  It was from my parents, 21 years ago, in honor of the birth of our first son, Christopher. And, yes, he was born on Christmas.  And not in a manger, but with just about that much drama and excitement (but that's a story for another time.)

We bought this nativity set several years ago - it is by far the most expensive nativity we have because they are Hamilton-Drake collectible dolls. And in all honesty, I am not that crazy about it but I think it is my kids' favorite nativity: probably because it is the most realistic (even if the green shepherd boy looks like Peter Pan) and because it is the only baby Jesus that we can hide until he is "born" on Christmas day. It is the nativity that the boys have helped me set up each year, unwrapping each doll with (boyish) care - and so for that reason it has the most special memories.

I love my Willow Tree nativity. The pieces are so simple, yet so beautiful.  3 years back I bought the manger at Walmart and loved it.  The next year I went back to buy another one and guess what?  They are no where to be found :( We put this nativity front and center under our Christmas tree as a reminder that our focus is not the tree or the gifts but instead, our focus is the the babe who gave the greatest gift of all - himself.

This nativity was given to me by a friend who said she thought of me as soon as she saw it.  What a perfect gift and I will treasure it always!

This is my newest nativity: It is also by Willow Tree and I purchased it last year on clearance - after Christmas - and never even took it out of the box! So I was so excited to put it out this year and it was well worth the wait. The picture is really cruddy (sorry, I warned you) but trust me, it is beautiful!

No nativity collection would be complete without an outdoor light up set, right?  (Just smile and nod.) I've actually had this set for several years, but thanks to our very, very extended fall this year, Keith finally got around to building a stable for them to huddle in.  I was giggling like a little girl when he put it out (see, it's the small things that make me happy.)

Ok, I confess, this one is maybe over the top.  And slightly embarrassing.  It was a really, really good after-Christmas deal and I just couldn't pass it up (really, I couldn't) - but I think my husband wishes I had because it's kind of a pain in the patooey to put up and maintain through the wind and snow.  Thankfully, we haven't had much any of that this year (may I remind you that we live in North Dakota! Crazy...) so there's been little complaining. Yes, it's a little cheesy. And, yes, the sheep looks like he is a cyclops (he does have two eyes, honest.) But if any of our nativities are going to get noticed, it's gonna be this one.

The point is, I want my family and those around me to, well...get the point.  We need to be reminded that Christmas isn't about presents and Santa and happy holiday festivities!  If it was not for a baby in a manger 2,000 years ago there would be nothing to celebrate in December.  He was the beginning of it all.  He is the reason, the focus, the point of everything that we do.

Or at least, it should be.

At church this past Sunday, the minister quoted the following verse:

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." 
~Luke 2:6-7

2,000 years ago there was no room in the inn for the babe  - the King of Kings. 2,000 years later there is still little room for him: certainly not in our schools, in our businesses, our government...and, sadly, many times not even in our lives. Even at Christmas.

My prayer for you is that you take time this Christmas, and each day of the year, to make room for Him in your life.  Let HIM be the point, the focus of your life.  No, there still may not be peace in the world, but I guarantee there will be peace in your heart.

And that is the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas and much love,

December 6, 2011

Deep Cleaning

I got out my toothbrush today.

OK. Not THAT toothbrush - I brush my teeth everyday. Honest.

No, I got out this toothbrush.

And for two hours I brushed and scrubbed little nooks and crannies throughout my house that haven't been brushed and scrubbed in ... well, a REALLY long time.

Two hours later, I stood back and smiled and breathed out a deep sigh. A deep sigh of contentment and relief and accomplishment.  My house looked cleaner, felt cleaner, and it smelled cleaner ... fresher.

And it got me to thinking.  I think our souls are like that.  Every once in a while they need a deep cleaning. We all do our best on a day to day basis to keep the clutter under control and the obvious cobwebs swept away. But every once in while, we need to pull out that toothbrush and take a closer look.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me..." (Psalm 139:2-3)
Because way back in the corners of our heart are the crumbs and dust that, if left untouched, will eventually begin to become more obvious.  If we don't clean out the corners of our home once in awhile, those dust bunnies will become dust dinos and take over.  And it is no different with our hearts.

Crumbs of anger or unforgiveness become bitterness.

     Seeds of hurt or betrayal become mistrust or even hate.

          Shadows of pride and arrogance become self-righteousness and condemnation.

We need to make time to clean our homes.  And more importantly, we need to make time to clean out our hearts.  Find a quiet space, shut out the world and shut yourself in with God and ask him to help to sweep out those back corners and those neglected closets.

You'll feel fresher ... and freer.
"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account...  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:13, 15-16)

Be brave. Find your voice. And be free.

When is the last time you found made the time or space for self-reflection? Give yourself an early - and priceless - Christmas gift and do it today (or at least this week.)

December 2, 2011

Not Who I Was: Fab Music Friday

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation
the old has gone, the new has come! 
(2 Corinthians 5:17)

(Email subscribers go HERE to see video.)

When we let God work in us, he does great awesome things!
Put yourself back into the hands of your creator and just see what happens - you will be eternally changed.

In the meantime...

Be brave.
Find your voice.
And have an amazing weekend!