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Christmas Offering

30 Dec

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name.
Bring an offering and come before Him;
Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.
I Chronicles 16:29

 

 

“I bring an offering of worship to my King
        No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
                 Jesus, may You receive the honor that You’re due
                        O Lord, I bring an offering to You.”

The offering that I bring is my heart … my heart that is overflowing with gratefulness from Christmas.  Christmas that brought family together from many miles apart.  Christmas that bridges the gaps in relationships.  Christmas that celebrates anticipated new life.  Christmas that honors and remembers those we still love who have gone on before us.  Christmas that embraces the gift of my heart as an offering to Jesus ~ the Baby in the manger ~  my Savior. 

Our Family ~ Dec 23, 2011

My Mother’s home was the hub of our Christmas reunion as our family made its way across the country from two different directions to spend time together.   Six of us, including a dog, a 2 ½  year old little boy, and a pregnant mom, traveled from central Pennsylvania and Baltimore ~ Ryan and Brittany flew into Indianapolis from Seattle.  What a great time we had as we shared laughter, family fun, little boy antics, and the warm company of many extended family members over the course of 4 days.  Special memories were made and will be tucked away in the recesses of our hearts.

Speaking of hearts, just a little more than a month ago, Tim had a second stent inserted inside his original one from 2004.  This original stent, which he received while living in Albuquerque, was 99% blocked.  As soon as he began to shovel the heavy 6” snow that we received late October, he began having immediate pain and shortness of breath.  We are grateful for these modern day miracles that can open a blockage and fix a heart within moments.

Moments are what seems to have passed by when we look at our grandson and realize that he will be three years old in March.  This tiny pre-mature newborn has grown into a healthy, vibrant, smart, and very talkative little boy.  He says what he thinks, and he must think all the time!  His play world still includes tractors of every make, size, and color ~ and they all tip like in the CARS movie!  Dora and Diego, Toy Story, Winnie the Pooh, and of course, CARS all entertain him.  He loves to sing, he loves his dog, he dearly loves both sets of grandparents, and he loves life.  Cole Michael will be a big brother in May … and he loves to kiss his momma’s preggie belly ~ his baby sister.

Thrilled doesn’t even come close to describing our hearts as we anticipate the birth of our grand daughter in May.  A cheery bright nursery is being put together with love in the Arndt home, accented in pink and frills.  Kim’s first 5 ½  months of expectant bliss has been survived as she has kept up with Cole during the day, grateful for the time when Daddy comes home from work to give her some rest in the evenings. Troy has been with Booz Allen Hamilton for a year and a half, and is now a Senior Consultant.  This next year he will be working on his Masters degree in Cyber Security via an online program through UMUC.   He and Kim are members at the Grace Pointe Community Church of the Nazarene in Severn, MD where they are part of the leadership team for a new contemporary service beginning the first of the New Year.  They are also active in a weekly Bible study, and Kim and Cole participate in the monthly Mom’s group.  We are so grateful that they have found a church home that has embraced them in love, support, and the Word. 

Words are never enough to express my love for my children.  Besides Kim and her little family being only a little more than an hour away in Maryland, Ryan is still living in Seattle,Washington.  He is an assistant store manager for Verizon Wireless, with his sites set on having his own store soon.  He still enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee with friends, watching sports, and reading.  He is still dating the most precious and beautiful young lady, who has stolen all of our hearts … Brittany Bergam.  She works as a medical transcriptionist and is planning on applying for medical school in the near future.  We were blessed to have them both join us at my Mother’s house last week for Christmas.  Time seems to slip by all too quickly when we are with Ryan and Brittany! 

Family at the beach

However, vacation in August was awesome!  Ryan and Brittany, my Mother, the Arndts, along with Mimi and Papaw, packed, overloaded two vehicles, and headed for Bethany Beach, Delaware!  We rented a condo, which was just a short drive to the ocean, swimming pool, golf, volleyball, and shuffleboard!  We played games, ate delicious meals fixed by all, enjoyed Cole’s slow progression toward liking the sand and the surf, and the company was just superb!  Four generations to love, to share, and to cherish!  The final few days of our family time included a birthday party for Tim, who turned 50 years old on August 5th.  With Ryan and Brittany still here, Tim’s mom, along with some of his siblings came for an afternoon of smoked pulled pork and birthday cake.  He was totally surprised and enjoyed every moment of the attention!

Tim is still employed by Kitchen Savers where he remodeled kitchens until he had knee surgery in June, when he had a torn meniscus repaired.  Following this procedure, he then assumed a position in the office as Installation Manager.  He measures the jobs, orders the material, schedules each crew to a job every week, and makes sure it all gets done to the customer’s satisfaction.  His responsibilities require several hours of his time each day, but we are home together each evening for dinner, and he has his weekends free to relax and enjoy life.  Now since he had the new stent inserted in November, his energy level has picked up, and he’s feeling much better! 

After working a couple temporary jobs earlier in the year, I am currently working part time in the office for the Robert Clofine Elder Care Law Firm.  Office duties are shared and we give support to two attorneys and two paralegals.  It is quite an experience to see first hand the pain, heart ache, and the decline in folks as they age and become dependent upon others.  Although the job was not posted as one of ministry, I use it as such as I daily pray for clients and especially for those with whom I work.  Since my hours are part-time, this allows me to keep up with the house, the yard, my writings, and my grandson!  Tim and I have been attending Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene in York, PA.  I am so grateful that God is faithful to always lead us to a church fellowship where the Pastor preaches Holiness in every message.  God’s Word and my early morning time with Him continue to carry me through the day-to-day routine of life.  I keep an active prayer list, gleaning names and needs from Facebook, emails and texts, and nudges from God Himself, spending time praying for family and friends.  This is my ministry for now … for such a time as this.

Click here to listen to …  Christmas Offering by Casting Crowns

Over the skies of Bethlehem appeared a star
While angels sang to lowly shepherds
Three Wiseman seeking truth they traveled from afar
Hoping to find the child from heaven
Falling on their knees they bow before the humble Prince of Peace

 

Just as the wise men traveled from afar, seeking Truth,
hoping to find the Child from heaven,
our family journeyed many miles to
come together to celebrate His birth …



We bring an offering of worship to our King
No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing
Jesus may you receive the honor that you’re due
O Lord I bring an offering to you

The sun cannot compare to the glory of your love
There is no shadow in your presence
No mortal man would dare to stand before your throne
Before the Holy One of heaven
It’s only by Your blood
It’s only through Your mercy
Lord, I come

I bring an offering of worship to my King
No one on earth deserves the praises that I sing
Jesus, may you receive the honor that you’re due
O Lord, I bring an offering to you

We bring an offering to you
We are an offering to you
We are an offering to you, Jesus

We are an offering of worship to our King
No one on earth deserves the praises that we sing
Jesus, may you receive the honor that you’re due
O Lord, we bring an offering to you

O Lord, we bring an offering to you

We bring an offering to you
We are an offering to you
We are an offering to you

 

As this Christmas season comes to an end with the beginning of another New Year, may you join me in bringing an offering of worship to our King …

It’s only by Your blood
It’s only through Your mercy
Lord, I come …

 

Merry Christmas and a Most Blessed New Year!
The Van Hooks

Please feel welcomed to be a regular follower of my blog at https://morselsofmercy.wordpress.com
For those of you who receive my blog via email, check out the new photos on the actual website at the above address.

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Reflecting His Son

27 May

   Be Holy for I am Holy.
 I Peter 1:16

The following is the devotional that I shared two weeks ago at a friend’s church in Lawrenceburg, IN.

You know what it’s like when you first move … you must find new doctors, dentists, hair stylists, and the list goes on and on.  For those of us who move to a different state, some of those chores are even more dreadful.  Last fall, right before our auto insurance was about to expire, we took care of getting our drivers license, insurance, and then plates.  I had been out job hunting that day, so dressed in my nice professional attire, I made my way to the MVD.  I waited in line to take the short test, waited in another line to have my picture taken, and waited again to pick up my license.  As I finally walked out to my car with my new photo ID, I chuckled to myself as I looked at the picture.  The silly computer operator messed my picture up!!  You know when you are working with photos and you don’t grab the corners of the picture just right? You end up squishing the picture or, as in my case, you chub it out!   There was my face with chubby cheeks!  Hehe!!  Oh well!  Next, I needed to run my new license over to an insurance agency where we were getting a quote ~ they were waiting to add my license number to their form.  I walked in with my card in hand and quickly explained how goofy the photo looked … all because the employee at the MVD wasn’t too computer savvy.  The woman on the other side of the counter looked down at the photo … looked back up me … and back at the photo and said  ~ I think it’s a good picture!   Seriously?   I shrugged her comment off, figuring that she had left her reading glasses back at her desk.  It certainly was NOT a good picture!   Ok … now jump ahead through the calendar a few months to February.   I was hired for a temporary position in theYork County Administrative Center, requiring that I wear a photo ID badge.  I marched up to the second floor where the HR department was and once again stood before a camera and smiled.  The nice woman on the other side of this counter handed me my new card … and oh my goodness!  There were those same chubby cheeks again!!  Could both of these people be that irresponsible with their technique of transferring pictures onto cards?  Honestly!  As I walked down the steps and back out to my car, a light bulb clicked on.  Maybe it wasn’t the workers after all.  Is it possible that I could really look like that?  I mean, I look into a mirror a gazillion times a day!  We all do!  I haven’t really noticed that my cheeks are that chubby.  Sigh!!  But I suppose it’s possible that now at the age of 50 and the metabolism not being what it used to be, this could be a true reflection of how I really look!  Wow!   Thinking back about as I stood there in front of the camera, my image was reflected on the lens of that camera and was captured on the computer, that then printed out my picture on those ID cards.  The lens was able to reflect  my dark hair, my pretty outfit, and my chubby face, but it was unable to reflect who I really am.  Who I really am on the inside.  Just to make this clear … we ALL reflect what’s on the inside of our hearts to the world around us.  WHAT we reflect is our choice. 

When we stand in front of the mirror every day, we check that reflection to see how we look … really messed up, cute, blah, just ok, or even attractive  … or NOT attractive.  And if we find that we are not, then we do what we can to fix that, don’t we?  We would never think of leaving the house first thing in the morning without looking in the mirror to make sure everything is in its rightful place.  Now I did say attractive.  I don’t necessarily mean that we are hung up on making sure we are drop-dead gorgeous, because at this age, I guarantee that is not even a possibility.  But I do try to look pleasant and nice-looking  ~  which when turned around says looking nice.  Even the word appealing is appropriate here.  If I were to walk out of the house and enter the front of door of my work place in my grungy but comfy sweats, a big t-shirt, and my hair caught up in a hand band  …  oh and in my monkey house slippers, I would not be considered attractive, nice-looking or appealing … meaning that those I work with would not necessarily want to be around me.  We all can agree that we want to look nice, right?  And pleasant?  And appealing.  All are synonyms for ‘Attractive’. 

 Let’s take the word attractive to a deeper level.  The inside level.  At any given moment, whether you have taken the time to look in the spiritual mirror or not, you are reflecting the inner you.  Who you really are.  Scripture says in Matthew that the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man `unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man `unclean’.

Notice that scripture doesn’t specify that evil is just the things we do or the words we speak … what makes a man unclean comes from his heart.  It’s a heart issue.  What does your heart reflection look like?  Is it attractive?  Is it appealing?  Does it make other people want to be like you … or to have what you have inside?  As hard as we might try to reflect holiness, if the foundation of a holy heart is not reality, then reality will eventually always be reflected.

The first chapter of 1 Peter, verses 15 and 16 are stated very plainly when scripture simply says Be Holy for I am Holy.  God’s design is that we reflect His Son.  It is His design that we choose to confess our sins and repent of them, which means to turn away from them, and then to allow God’s Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

A synonym for reflection is image.  Genesis 1 says that God created man in His own image.  That image or reflection of God became tarnished and messed up because of the sin that took place in the Garden of Eden. 

Later in scripture, we know from the Christmas story that Jesus came as the New Image or Reflection of God  ~  in Colossians 1 it say that He is the image of the invisible God … or I like to say He is God with flesh on.  Jesus came to restore us back to our original image before sin …  by dying on the cross, by His resurrection from the grave, and by leaving us His Holy Spirit to fill us and dwell inside of our hearts.  Be Holy for I am Holy.

There’s another story in the New Testament about the religious leaders of that day who were more interested in rules and regulations than in a relationship with God   ~  They came to Jesus, trying to cause trouble by asking Him about paying taxes.  Jesus held up a coin and asked them … whose image is on this coin?  They answered “Caesar’s”.  So Jesus said … “Give to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God what is God’s”.  As beings who are fashioned in the Image of our Creator, God longs for us to give back to Him what is His, and that is ourselves.  Our image, purified by the blood of Jesus, then reflecting God’s image … Be Holy for I am Holy.

 There’s an old hymn of the church, entitled “O To Be Like Thee”  here are the words …

  1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
    This is my constant longing and prayer;
    Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
    Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.(Chorus) 
    Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
    Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
    Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
    Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
  2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
    Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
    Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
    Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.
  3. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
    Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
    All that I am and have I am bringing,
    Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

I’ve talked a lot about mirrors, reflections, images, being attractive and appealing … but the most important truth that I want us to grasp a hold of is that it’s all about Jesus.  It certainly doesn’t have much to do with our outward appearance, how we fix our hair or how flat our bellies are.  Yes, these things have their rightful places in our daily routine of our social life and being healthy, but what matters most is our appearance on the inside.  Attitudes, bitterness, moods, unforgiveness, and the list goes on and on … the things that will distract, taint, and hinder the reflection of Jesus. 

When your world sees the spiritual mirror of your life, what does it see?  Is the reflection distorted, blurred, and hazy due to the source of the image being broken?  God is extending an invitation to make your spirit whole.  He wants you to bring your sin and lay it at the foot of the cross  … so what you reflect is no longer yourself and the sin that tarnishes your true image, but you reflect God’s Son … Be Holy for I am Holy.

Here’s a song by the Cathedral Quartet, sung by Roger Bennett who died 4 years ago from cancer.  “When the World Looks at Me, Do They See Jesus?”  Click here to listen  May it challenge your heart and even stir you enough to pray about your own reflection to those around you.

Until next time,
Debbie

Breath of Heaven

24 Dec

                                                                                                The Spirit of God has made me;
   the breath of the Almighty gives me life.
Job 33:4

 

The songs of the season are one of my favorite things about Christmas!  There are tunes dating back to when I was a little girl and soundtracks from childhood movies such as Rudolph and Frosty.  Carpenter’s Christmas Portrait would be the winning answer for a trivia question asked to Kim or Ryan  …   “What is THE #1 album that means Christmas to you?”  There are fun songs that playfully express the sounds of the holidays while there are melodies that fill the air with nostalgia and memories of days gone by.  Timeless Christmas carols with their message of a Savior born to take away our sins  …  and newer songs of praise  ~  all drawing me into an attitude of worship. 

A few weeks ago, I caught the familiar sound of a song I’ve heard countless times, but for the first time ever I actually listened to the words…really listened.   Hopefully on this Eve of Christmas Day, you will find a moment of quiet, and you can also listen to this song and allow the words from Mary’s own journey to be the cry of your heart.   

Click to play “Breath of Heaven”  … sung by Point of Grace.

Just like Mary, I have traveled many moonless nights … dark and cold nights where I was so tired and weary from the burdens I carried.  And yes, I’ve also wondered … “what have I done?”   Do I honestly believe that You have chosen me … for this, my life’s journey?

I have traveled many moonless nights
Cold and weary with a babe inside
And I wonder what I’ve done
Holy father You have come
Chosen me now to carry Your son
 

 

Frightened and alone, I have silently waited in prayer … Be with me now, be with me now.

I am waiting in a silent prayer
I am frightened by the load I bear
In a world as cold as stone must I walk this path alone
Be with me now, be with me now

What a precious prayer … how intimate … how personal … how desparate

Breath of Heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me … Breath of Heaven

Breath of Heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your Holiness
For You are Holy … Breath of Heaven 

I, like Mary, have doubted and questioned … but I offer all I am, for the mercy of His plan …
so help me be strong,
help me be,
help me …

Do you wonder as you watch my face
If a wiser one should have had my place
But i offer all i am for the mercy of your plan
Help me be strong, help me be, help me

Breath of Heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me … Breath of Heaven 

Breath of Heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me Your Holiness
For You are Holy … Breath of Heaven

 

A portion of a devotional, dated Nov 28th ~ Streams in the Desert ~ reads …

“And the wind that blew from the sunrise made me hope in the God who had first breathed into my nostrils the breath of life;  that He would at length so fill me with His breath, His mind, His Spirit, that I should think only His thoughts, and live His life, finding therein my own life, only glorified infinitely.” 

 

Won’t you join me, this night before Christmas, in asking God the Father to fill us with His breath, His mind, His Spirit … to think only His thoughts, and to live His life, finding therein my own  ~  to be near us, to lighten our darkness, and to pour over us His Holiness … Breath of Heaven?

Till next time,
Debbie

This is what God the LORD says–
he who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it: 

“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Isaiah 42:5-7