Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Season for Hope


I didn't stuff myself this year for Thanksgiving, but I made a ton of stuffing. My husband and I enjoyed the day with our family and about 95 others. We live and work at a residential ministry for at-risk youth. Thanksgiving is a big deal around here . . . as is Christmas.

Fun, exciting . . . and also, for some, extremely difficult.

I'm guessing that in similar ways that's true for many children and teens all over the world. Some do all they can to scrape together bits of hope and joy to get through their holidays. It's not easy to smile when surrounded by or feeling brokenness and pain.

As I enter the Christmas season, I've been wondering if I could, in some small way, bring about the beginnings of a smile or some hope. The joy of a baby in a manger and knowlege of this one who now invites relationship with him? Glimpses of possibilities for a new turn in their life story? Yes, I think so. Others once did that for me.

I am challenged to ask God to help me be especially aware of at least one teen who needs that experience of hope. I can invite her to join us for one of our holiday celebrations. Show her love. Show her Christ.

Will you join me in that challenge?

To share: If you have done this during past Christmases or someone has encouraged you in this way, tell us about your experience. Plan to do something like that this year? Share your ideas.

Enjoy this season of celebrating the gift of Christ. Immanuel--God with us!

"The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us"
(Matthew 1:23 NIV).



Jan
author of the Live Free series, Standard Publishing

true stories, true hope

for teens, young adults,
and those who care about them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Turkey ... yuk!

Camy here, probably the only person on the entire planet who hates turkey.

I don’t hate Thanksgiving, but let’s just say I’m not salivating over the gigantic roast Butterball on the table.

I’m not sure why I don’t like turkey. It just has a strange taste that’s different from chicken or duck. (On a side note, I’d like to try roast goose at some point, just to try it.)

But I endure the icky smell of gobble-gobble ready to be gobbled because I love Thanksgiving dinner.

In Hawaii, we always had a family gathering (my mother’s side of the family, usually) with TONS of food. And really good food, too.

Grandma sometimes made sushi for us (I tell you, Grandma has a way with sushi that is fabulous! Whenever I try to make it, I have too much vinegar or sugar or something.)

My mom makes Chinese chicken salad. Aunty Jan brings sashimi (don’t say eeew until you’ve grown up eating it every year of your life).

The turkey ... eh. Some years we didn’t have turkey, we had something else, and that was terrific.

The best part was sitting around talking with everyone about anything. My mom’s family laughs a lot and they love to tell stories (that’s where I get my itch to write novels). It’s always fun, warm, a little loud, and comfortable. I am very thankful for my loving family.

This year, I can’t make it to Hawaii so it’s me and Captain Caffeine. It’ll still be nice—just the two of us, being thankful for the gifts God has given to us like each other, our home, our dog, our church family here in California.

But no turkey. :)

What are you thankful for today?

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

I don’t measure up?

Our Struggle with Comparing our Weaknesses to Others' Strengths

As believers, we all know we are special creations, unique and precious to God. Yet why do we struggle with comparing our lives, our bodies, our talents (or lack of talents) with others? In reality, we need to look past who we "dream" to be and consider God's dreams instead.



In God’s word, we read: “God-of-the-Angel-Armies speaks: ‘Exactly as I planned, it will happen. Following my blueprints, it will take shape,” says Isaiah 14:24 (The Message).

The word “planned” here is translated “compare.” [i][i] It’s as if God has weighed the different possibilities, looked at them from all angles, and then chose the best way. He makes the blueprints . . . then He constructs them into our reality.

This is the life the Lord has constructed for us. Not the life, body, health, or circumstances we wished we’d had. Or the perfect life we can never attain. But the blueprints and the form He is forming into reality.

“Remember your history, your long and rich history. I am God, the only God you’ve had or ever will have—from the beginning telling you what the ending will be, all along letting you in on what is going to happen, amazing you,” we read in Isaiah 46:10-11. “I’m in this for the long haul, I’ll do exactly what I set out to do.” (The Message)

It’s okay to have longings. But even before we worry about what we desire for our lives, the first step is to not let our dreams motivate us, but instead let His.

God has longings for us even greater than we imagine, and He’s willing to tell us these things as we seek Him out.

All of us have a problem with comparing. How do we deal with it? (Revised from Tricia’s book Generation NeXt Parenting.)

1. Discover your passion . . . and be okay with it.
“Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well,” says Galatians 6:4, “and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (NLT).

As long as I can stand before my Maker and see pleasure in His eyes, why do I wonder about what others think . . . or worry I don’t measure up? When I seek God, do what He asks, find joy where my passion lies, and feel His pleasure, then comparisons won’t matter.

2. Cultivate a Quiet Heart.
“God, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans,” says Psalm 131:1-2. “I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.” (The Message)

God’s arms are open to us, and He wants nothing more than for us to be content there. We don’t need to be king of the mountain, queen of the slim and beautiful, prince of the popular, or princess of grandiose plans. Through prayer and focus on God, our quiet hearts will remind us He is enough.

3. Conform to Christ.
“Conforming to the image of God is a long and steady process of internal change as we abide in Christ. People simply do not change overnight, nor can they be forced to do so,” write Neil Anderson and Robert Saucy, authors of The Common Made Holy. “Abiding in Christ is being yoked to the gentle Jesus (Matthew 11:29).” [ii][ii]

If we are connected with Jesus, have a quiet heart, and focused on our passions … what is there to compare? God has us just where He wants us … in His hands.

What can be better than that?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Scary Patient

First, let me say thanks for the kind comments after my post about my gallbladder surgery. It went very well and I’m feeling so much better. God filled me with incredible peace through the entire process. He actually allowed the surgeon to get me in early, which never happens. Now I’m almost healed up and I’m working on getting my energy back. It’s nice to have the scariest part behind me (the scariest part being the anticipation).

Something extremely cool happened while I was waiting in the pre-op room. In addition to me, a pregnant woman who was having the same surgery, and an older woman, two prisoners were awaiting operations. One went in as I was entering the waiting area. The other came in soon after that. Let’s just say that it didn’t look like they were doing time for unpaid speeding tickets. All of us were relieved to see guards manning their bedsides.

I couldn’t help wondering how the nurses and doctors felt as they prepped these guys. Were they nervous? A part of me expected them to treat the men a little differently. Not that I thought they SHOULD, it just seemed natural to be more guarded.

I noticed that my nurse (Jenny) was also assigned to the second prisoner. It was so touching to overhear her talk to him in the same sweet caring tone that she’d used with me. She offered him extra blankets, made sure he was comfortable, and in every other way treated him like any other patient. I’d already sensed based on some things she’d said to her fellow nurses, that Jenny was most likely a Christian. Her kindness toward this man from jail showed her true Christ-like spirit.

It made me think about my attitude toward people who look rough or scary. Obviously I need to be smart and careful, but am I also kind? Do I see them as monsters or as individuals that God sent His Son for? I saw in Jenny a woman who cared for people as Jesus did—by putting fear aside and looking at the need. What impact did it have on the prisoner, I wonder?

What impact might each of us make if we looked past the surface and treated them as God does. Obviously we won’t all encounter hardened criminals, but we do deal with people who look or act strange, kids with disabilities or from different cultures, and those who are just plain annoying. Do they see any difference in how we treat them?

This is just one of those experiences that made me think. Hopefully it gave you something to think about too.

Now go be nice to someone J.
Jeanette

Monday, November 17, 2008

watch this



I shared this with my Sunday school girls yesterday. It's so full of God's Spirit, it's hard to find anything to say that adds to it.

Love,
Julie

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name

I'm watching my grandson's build. When I was a kid, these were called Lincoln Logs (T) and Tinkertoys (T). These are called Frontier Logs (T) and FiddleStix (T). Do you notice the (T) after the names. That means the trademark is registered, and nobody can come along and call something they make by those names. But Frontier Logs (T) look just like Lincoln Logs (T) to me. And FiddleStix (T) look like Tinkertoys (T). But the manufacturers of the second sets of toys have changed the style just enough to be able to claim they are a new toy. They tell me, (I've never been there) that there are streets in major cities like New York where you can go to venders where you can buy "Knock-offs" of famous watches, purses, shoes, clothes, and a ton of other stuff. Imitations of practically anything that costs big bucks can be purchased for a tiny portion of the original price. 
That reminds me of the verse that says the shepherd knows his sheep. 
John 10:14 "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me." 
There won't be any "knock-offs" in Heaven.
That means two things to me. 
When I am accepted by Christ, I am the real thing.
Those false religions that claim to be genuine are not, and in the end, will not provide entrance into His Presence. 
Think of the price God paid for us. I am Donita K. Paul, child of God. (T) 

Friday, November 14, 2008

Christmas presents for girlfriends

Camy here. I know, I know, I’m a freak because I’m thinking about Christmas presents and it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet. But bear with me, here.

I usually end up getting something completely cruddy last minute because I can’t think of what to get my girlfriends. (Presents for parents is another problem entirely—and another blog post)

So this year, I’m starting early.

For some, I want to keep it a secret. So I try to be extra observant in the months before Christmas so that I can make an educated guess about what my friend would want or need.

Another sneaky way to go about that is to ask the friend’s parents/siblings/other friends for ideas, clarifications, sizes, favorite colors, etc.

For a lot of my friends, though, I want to make sure I get them what they’d really like. And that usually means asking them.

I decided to knit most of my gifts this year for my friends because (a) it’s cheaper and (b) they’re all the sort of people who really appreciate hand-made stuff.

To simplify things, I gave my friends a list of gifts to choose from:

Fingerless gloves
Scarf
Shawl
Cowl
Hat
Purse
Socks

Then they gave me favorite colors.

Voila! Instant happy friends who are looking forward to their Christmas presents.

Since we’re all pretty poor, why not pick something you can make or a list of small things you can get for your friends this year, and then let them choose what they’d want?

If you do beading, give them an option of jewelry or trinkets you can make for them. If you do scrapbooking, ask them for pictures you can make into a mini album for them. If you bake or cook, give them a list of yummy things to choose from.

Think out of the box this year. But do it early so you have time to make all this stuff before Christmas!

Camy Tang writes romance with a kick of wasabi. Her novel Single Sashimi is out now, and she runs the Story Sensei critique service. In her spare time, she is a staff worker for her church youth group, and she leads one of the worship teams for Sunday service. On her blog, she gives away Christian novels every Monday and Thursday, and she ponders frivolous things. Sign up for her newsletter YahooGroup for monthly giveways!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Chat


It was my first Webchat. Writing fast and furious, I fielded questions about writing the true stories of the Live Free series, about teen issues, and about my own story. At times my thoughts flew faster than my fingers. I valued the opportunity, the questions giving me glimpses of what others are thinking about and wrestling with. Hopefully, prayerfully, what I shared will encourage a few. (If you'd like, read the chat at Abunga—scroll to September 10th.)

I thought about it later. It would have been amazing to sit down and chat in person, for all to talk and share what God has been showing us about these topics, to pray together. I’m guessing some that joined—whether silently listening or participating with their questions—might have longed for some human contact, eye-to-eye knowing that people care; perhaps some honest on-our-faces prayer and gathering of hope that God really is here listening, weeping for those who are scraping the bottom for a bit of healing or direction.

He is here, listening, inviting relationship.

Challenge for this week for me . . . perhaps for you too: Ask God to help me see someone who needs the hope he gives. Sit with them. I don’t necessarily have to say much. I can pray.

I can pray for you too. Feel free to e-mail me through my site, http://www.jankern.com/

Jan
author of the Live Free series, Standard Publishing

true stories, true hope

for teens, young adults,
and those who care about them.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Nervous

I am about to leave for the hosptical to have surgery. Several weeks ago I discovered that the obdominal pain that I’d been experiencing off and on was not due to stress; it was due to gall stones. So I’m off to have my gall bladder removed. I’m so nervous! Aside from having my wisdom teeth removed many years ago, I’ve never had surgery before. Since I had to wait awhile for an opening, I had just enough time to hear other people’s horror stories, read websites that pushed alternatives to gall bladder surgery (some of which I later learned were dangerous), and let my imagination run wild. I’ve heard everything from “You’ll breeze right through this” to “There are certain things that I can’t eat anymore so be prepared. It’s a total trial and error thing” to “Gall bladder surgery feels like getting hit by a truck!”

One thing that helps me get past all the scary comments and websites that leave me wondering if I should just live with the pain for awhile longer is the idea that many people are praying for me. More friends have reassured me than frightened me half to death. I know I have a great doctor who made the right decision.

So why am I still so nervous? It would probably be weird to NOT be nervous in a situation like this. After all, they are taking one of my organs out. But I keep going back to all the prayers that have been are going up, and the reality that I have a great God looking after me.
Maybe you can pray for me too. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day Tomorrow



Simple post. Quick point.

I feel sorta special. I voted early and have been bragging to my husband. I went last week and only had to wait ten minutes. He plans to get off early tomorrow and vote rather than going early in the morning. I wonder how bad the lines will be?

I just saw a news statistic that said if McCain is elected 23% of the people will be very upset. If Obama is elected, 22% will be very upset.

I know that trying to understand what each candidate stands for is important. I know voting is too. Caring about our country is vital. But the bottom line is, no matter the election results--God holds the future. I can rest in that thought.

Love,
Julie

Girls, God, and the Good Life

 
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