Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas travelers soon to arrive ~ day 1

The stockings are hung in my hallway with care knowing the grandbabies soon will be there.

The first of the out of town family arrives tomorrow. The guest room is clean, there are fresh towels, and two portable baby beds are in place. I have pancakes and bacon for breakfast and whipped cream for the coffee. The packages are wrapped and the kitchen floor has been mopped. I look around and love my cozy home, the walls aching for the sound of my children once again crowding around the table.

We are a family of storytellers and I can't wait for hot tea and stories, both old and new, as we feast, share, and rejoice in another Christmas, another year of God's goodness to all of us.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

got me a college girl Christmas surprise from Emily and

Several months ago our college girl blog was approached by journalist, Emily Biuso, to write an article for Several of us were interviewed and this week the article was published. We were pleased with the finished product and felt that Emily did a great job of capturing what our goals are for college girl. We also look forward to having many more opportunitites to discuss the benefits of a college education for Christian women.

Christmas music ~ day 2

Last weekend we attended two awesome events that brought the joy of Christmas to us in very musical ways. The first one was the Winter Recital for Greene Bird Studios. Our son, Joe, played the piano both as a soloist and as an accompanist for Mollie's Kindermusik students. There were several highlights of the event...sweet little Henry playing in the Kindermusik ensemble, Justin Craigmile's rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas, and one of the little Herr boys, I'm not sure which one right now, playing a Santa Claus jazz piece. He is only 6 or 7 and this is his second year of lessons but we are expecting great things from him in the future. Oh, and Aaron's composition student, Kyle Motsinger, the guy I refer to as "Andrew Lloyd Motsinger" sang two of the songs from the musical he is writing. The icing on the cake was hearing Mollie and Aaron on piano and trombone. We all went to Mollie's cozy home for a reception following the recital...the cheese ball alone was worth the trip!

The next day we went to the Christmas concert at Bethany Baptist Church where we spent two glorious hours listening to both familiar and new songs praising God for the birth of His Son, Jesus. For me, the most beautiful part of the day was seeing the live Nativity with a newborn baby boy and his own Mama in the roles of baby Jesus and Mary. It was no less than stunning.

I think, perhaps, the greatest part of the Christmas season is the music. Today I will bake cookies and prepare the guest room for my family who will arrive tomorrow morning. The packages are nearly all wrapped, my pantry is full, thanks to the $800.00 grocery trip to Sam's Club, and I will listen to wonderful carols as I anticipate the coming celebrations. Today's play list includes Chrismas Star by the Cambridge Singers and the Three Tenors Christmas.

the Christmas the shepherds knew ~ day 3

God, in His sovereign goodness and mercy to me, has been teaching me a wonderful lesson the past few weeks. Or maybe, I should say, He is reteaching and reminding me of His plan for my life, of His watchcare over me.

Last weekend I was so blessed to hear one of the shepherds in a Christmas concert, speak about "his" response to the pronouncement of Christ's birth, lowly shepherd that he was. He reminded us that the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was handed down to the poorest and lowliest of men rather than to the religious or political rulers of the day. What a refreshing and wonderful thought....if He revealed Himself as the Incarnate God come to earth to these people of lowly estate, He may certainly reveal himself to me as well. There is no need for a priest, a pastor, an elder, or any mediary to speak to me on God's behalf. My access to the throne of grace is real and sure and not encumbered by any earthly advocate. I may approach God only because the Lord Jesus Christ has purchased me as His won.

I think it must have really made the religious leaders of the day furious on pondering this truth years later. I know it still makes some religous leaders mad today when they cannot control how God works in the lives of His elect, when they cannot micromanage God.

I also received this wonderful piece in an e-mail newsletter from Jeff Myers and wanted to share it here. May you be as blessed as I was.

by John Carpenter

Most of us don't know a whole lot about shepherds. When you thumb through the classifieds in the paper, you'll not find many ads for them. Personally, I always think of children wearing their dad's bathrobes in a Christmas play.

Shepherds weren't admired in biblical times. They were called loathsome in Genesis. In fact, being a shepherd was sometimes considered a punishment.

The shepherds were despised by the orthodox "good" people of the day. Shepherds were quite unable to keep the details of the cremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations.

Because they worked in an unclean profession, the rules of the temple worship would have prohibited them from entering into its courts. Now think about this for a minute. They were tending to lambs that the priests would use in sacrifice for the sins of those who were worthy to enter the temple gates, but not for them because they were unworthy.

Shepherds were the lowest of the low vocationally. Most Jews would have nothing to do with them. Isn't it interesting then that God chose these lowest of the low to be His heralds to announce the birth of His son on earth? Notice that in Luke 2:17, Luke writes, "Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child."

In essence, these uneducated, unclean, unsacrificed-for men were chosen by God to be the first preachers of the Gospel, the first missionaries bringing the good news.

And how did they respond?

Did they question the logic of a King being born in a poor hamlet like Bethlehem or research the historical prophesies, or debate whether they were even allowed to enter a filthy, dirty stable, as the Pharisees would have undoubtedly done?

No. Once they had picked themselves up off the ground where the sudden appearance of all the armies of Heaven must have knocked them, they knew immediately what to do. They believed. "Come on, let's go to Bethlehem!" they exclaimed, and they ran to Bethlehem. It might have been a mile; it might have been five miles; we don't know. But they ran.

We don't know what transpired after the shepherds found Jesus, but we do know their excitement was undiminished because then they ran to tell everyone what had happened. They didn't care that the townspeople might turn up their noses at them; they had to spread the good news. They believed. They ran. They told.

The shepherds were overlooked and looked down upon by their culture, but not by their God. He chose them for a most special job.

Christ chose to identify himself with them. "I am the Good Shepherd; My sheep hear my voice," he says, and thus transforms this most ignoble of professions into the most noble. Perhaps some of those rough, dirty shepherds who first announced his coming were in the crowd thirty-some years later when the Son of God chose to identify himself with their profesion. What a blessing for them! Their memory would have taken them back to what the angel first said to them.

Listen to the words of the angel one more time: "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people;" For all the people. Even shepherds. Even you and me.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

west side neighborhood association Christmas ~ day 9

Our neighborhood association has encouraged outdoor Christmas decorations again this year with the centerpiece being a nativity. The community college art department provided the life size characters and it really is quite nice. And in a much better location this year. For more than a decade it sat at the corner at the end of our street and then the house was sold and Halloween celebraters who loved the macabre moved in. So last year the family agreed to allow the nativity to be set up but, perhaps in silent protest, their Frankenstein monster in an electric chair remained visible, just over Joseph's left shoulder. In some ways it was prophetic but mostly it was tacky. Anyway, this year's location is much better and on a busier street to boot!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

and this, from "unredeemable" hollywood

I always love it when I see someone who is willing to stand in the gap, someone seeking to reform the existing culture, by God's grace, rather than retreating into a cult-like separatist mentality. So this link in my e-mail thrilled me to no end. I hope others will join me in praying for Jonathan Flora and others like him who are chipping away at the Hollywood agenda and are making a difference. I ordered my copy of A Distant Thunder this morning.

'tis the season for the Christmas Santa tiz ~ day 10

The articles keep pouring in, or should I say, pouring out. The big hub-bub this year has been about some churches canceling services on Christmas Sunday so that people can spend time with their families. While I would wholeheartedly disagree with this practice,it seems as though those making the most noise about it are the same people who are all wound up about church authority and the keys of the kingdom and whatnot. Did it ever occur to them that perhaps God is working in a different way among the elders, deacons, and pastors in those churches as they hold Christmas Eve services or have week long worship services instead? Why not just rejoice in your own celebrating of Christmas and your own Sunday worship and be hesitant to cast judgement? Oh, I forgot to mention that these same folks are the ones proclaiming God's judgement on the Katrina victims. My own opinion is that God will reserve His harshest judgement for those who speak for Him in this way.

Now, about Santa. I have read too many laments through the years about this grandfatherly gift-bearer to be too concerned. In my estimation, taking on Santa is agin to taking on the banished elements of worship that are leftover after the hyper-regulative principle folks have had their way. The argument is the same....these things take away God's glory. How sad, to worship a God who's glory can be taken away by a mere man, let alone a jolly one in a red suit.

H. Clay Trumbull, great-grandfather of Elizabeth Elliot, in his book called Hints on Child Training, has devoted a chapter to adding value to a child's Christmas. He talks about the joy of anticipation and the hanging of stockings, of finding treasures on Christmas morning, of the parent giving of himself to make the morning special. He wisely said "He who would make children happy must do for them and do with them, rather than merely give to them. He must give himself with his gifts, and thus imitate and illustrate, in a degree, the love of Him who gave Himself to us, who is touched with the sense of our enjoyments as well as our needs, and who, with all that He gives us,holds out an epectation of some better thing in store for us: of that which passeth knowledge and understanding but which shall fully satisfy our hopes and longings when at last we have it in possession."

It seems to me that that is a picture of who the original Santa Claus was as told here:

"The legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. Much admired for his piety and kindness, St. Nicholas became the subject of many legends. It is said that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. One of the best known of the St. Nicholas stories is that he saved three poor sisters from being sold into slavery or prostitution by their father by providing them with a dowry so that they could be married. Over the course of many years, Nicholas's popularity spread and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. His feast day is celebrated on the anniversary of his death, December 6. This was traditionally considered a lucky day to make large purchases or to get married. By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. Even after the Protestant Reformation, when the veneration of saints began to be discouraged, St. Nicholas maintained a positive reputation, especially in Holland."

Christmas depression

Today is “finish all my homemade Christmas gifts” day and tomorrow is my “I am finished with Christmas shopping” day. It is a good week. The fruits of my online shopping trips are piled mostly in Amazon boxes in my laundry room patiently waiting to be lovingly wrapped and ribboned. Though it seems like a daunting task when I look at it now, it will be invigorating once I start. I like to pray for the gift recipients as I wrap their gifts, asking God to bless them with blessings far beyond the simple ones I will give.

Psychologists and counselors tell us that they are apt to see more clients during the Christmas holiday season than at any other time of the year. While many of us are enjoying the warmth and joy of Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth and the delight of fellowship with family and friends, others are struggling with the pain that comes to them, some in overwhelming ways, during this time. I believe that many people have connectors back to past Christmases that remind them of either happier times or sad ones and the memories will bring about depression whether they realize what is causing it or not.

I can well understand this since I have the same experience every year at this time. We have lost 3 of our parents during this season as well as several close friends. I have miscarried twice during Christmas. Some of my most difficult times of spiritual wrestling have come during the Christmas season. My dear friend, Renee, lost her husband in a terrible accident 3 days before Christmas 2 years ago. Her Christmastime will never be the same, and neither will mine as I seek to bear her burden.

A few weeks ago I was in the Christmas section of K-Mart and suddenly felt a terrific sadness come over me, a deep heaviness resting on my heart. I wanted to leave, I wanted to cry. What was it that triggered these overwhelming emotions? I don’t know. Sometimes the music will take me back to a time, a story from long ago. Other times it might be a certain holiday food or a smell. One year I was in the hospital preparing for surgery after the loss of our baby and the television in the waiting room was broadcasting live coverage of American troops landing in the Middle East. The room was decorated for Christmas and I can still picture how it looked and the feelings I was experiencing that morning. That moment will forever be in my basket of memories.

Other times I am brought back to the first few years of our marriage when we had three little ones. There wasn’t much money in those days but we were all so happy, living in a farmhouse with no storm windows, dirty, yucky coal heat, and often ice in the toilet bowl in the coldest of Decembers. It was in those days when we established our family Christmas traditions, ones we still have today...a tree from the tree farm, handmade stockings, lots of Christmas music, special treats. Those memories are both sad and happy and I will carry them forever.

Sunday we sang this song and what a blessing it was to me as I thought about its application for those of us who celebrate Christ’s birth and resurrection at this most wonderful time of year. In the midst of our manmade joys and our fleshly struggles, God’s Word, His Son, Jesus, who IS the Word and who was made flesh to dwell among us, to experience our temptations and who is acquainted with our grief, yes, His Word and words abide with us. Amen.

Ancient Words
By Michael W. Smith

Holy words long preserved
for our walk in this world,
They resound with God's own heart
Oh, let the Ancient words impart.

Words of Life, words of Hope
Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e'er we roam
Ancient words will guide us Home.

Ancient words ever true
Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart.

Holy words of our Faith
Handed down to this age.
Came to us through sacrifice
Oh heed the faithful words of Christ.

Holy words long preserved
For our walk in this world.
They resound with God's own heart
Oh let the ancient words impart.

We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

the Christmas tree and other Campbell legends ~ day 11

One family traditon is the procuring and dressing of a tree from Grady's tree farm.

No, this is not our tree nor is it men from the Campbell household loading it, especially not this year since our current tree is on the small side.

Our annual trek to the tree farm came on a blustery cold day but was warm in the fun of children, especially Henry as he helped to cut down a tree for both his home and another one for Grandma and Grandpa.

Friday, December 09, 2005

grandbaby photo of the week

"monstrous" woman of the week

Welcome to the ninth in a series of biographical sketches that I plan to publish on Fridays. The title of “monstrous” has been given to these women as a rebuke to those who have labeled all women who do not follow their agenda for women as “monstrous.”

These entries will briefly tell about women I believe have done many things to further the cause of Christ in America, and some even around the world, and have maintained a godly femininity while doing so. They will be women whose choices in life have also disqualified them from being given the godly woman status in some of today’s hyper-patriarchal circles, though the hypocrisy certainly has escaped some of these list keepers! Hence, the title of “monstrous” has been given to these women as a rebuke to those who have labeled all women who do not follow their stifling agenda for women as “monstrous.”

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy! Oh, and feel free to emulate.

This week's "monstrous" woman is Joni Eareckson Tada, a woman who has inspired several generations through her testimony of God's faithfulness to her in the midst of overwhelming personal struggle. Not only has she been an example in her own life, but God has used her mightily to teach and instruct both men in women as the body of Christ seeks to minister to those with physical limitations.

Disabled at the age of 17 in a diving accident, Joni Eareckson Tada found the strength and courage to live as a quadriplegic by relying on the unfailing love of Jesus Christ. During two years rehabilitation, she learned to paint using a brush held between her teeth.

Today she is an internationally known mouth-artist, author, speaker and radio host. She founded 'Joni and Friends' to offer hope to hurting people by sharing her own experiences. Above all, she is an enthusiastic and highly effective advocate for those with disabilities.

Her first name is recognized in many countries of the world due to her best-selling books, including her autobiography Joni. World Wide Pictures’ full-length feature film JONI, in which Joni recreated her own life, has been translated into numerous languages and shown in scores of countries around the world.

Joni’s role as advocate for disabled persons led to a presidential appointment to the National Council on Disability for three and a half years, during which time the Americans with Disabilities Act became law.

Through her work with Joni and Friends, she records a five-minute radio program, "Joni and Friends," which is heard daily on over 700 station outlets as well as raising disability awareness. Joni is a sought-after conference speaker both in the U.S. and internationally. She is also a columnist for Moody Monthly magazine.

Joni serves on several boards, including the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization as a senior associate for evangelism among disabled persons. She also serves in an advisory capacity to the American Leprosy Mission, the National Institute on Learning Disabilities, Love and Action, Christian Blind Mission International and as a Trustee of the Riverside Foundation.

Joni was named "Churchwoman of the Year" in 1993 by the Religious Heritage Foundation. She was the first woman to be honored by the National Association of Evangelicals as their "Layperson of the Year." She has received the American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award, the Courage Award of the Courage Rehabilitation Center, the Award of Excellence from the Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center, the Victory Award from the National Rehabilitation Hospital and the Golden Word Award from the International Bible Society. Joni holds an honorary Bachelor of Letters from Western Maryland College, an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Gordon College and in March of 1998, an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Columbia University, the first honorary doctorate bestowed in their 75 year old history.

The author of 27 books, her best-selling and award-winning works cover topics ranging from disability outreach to reaching out to God. They include All God's Children, Friendship Unlimited: How to Help Your Disabled Friend, Glorious Intruder, Secret Strength, A Quiet Place in a Crazy World, Diamonds in the Dust, More Precious Than Silver, and A Christmas Longing, which includes reproductions of her best-loved Christmas paintings. The Life and Death Dilemma addresses the tough issues of euthanasia and assisted suicide. She explores the nature of Heaven in Heaven, Your Real Home. When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, is co-authored by long-time friend and mentor, Steve Estes. Mrs. Tada has also written several well-received children's books, including two that have received awards. Tell Me The Promises received the EP Gold Medallion and a Silver Medal in the C.S. Lewis Medal Awards in 1997, and Tell Me The Truth received the EP Gold Medallion in 1998. Her most recent books include Holiness in Hidden Places, You've Got a Friend and Prayers From a Child's Heart, O Worship the King, a book and CD set done in collaboration with Dr. John MacArthur and Robert and Bobbie Wogemuth, was just released in October 2000.

Joni and her husband Ken have been married since 1982. Ken is a high school teacher and a member of the Board of Directors of Joni and Friends. The lovely Christmas cards you see displayed in this article can be purchased at Joni and Friends.

Friday, December 02, 2005

grandbaby photo of the week

Thursday, December 01, 2005

cozy Christmas ~ day 23

We woke up this morning to the most beautiful snowfall. Several inches fell in the night and a flock of junkos crowded to the feeder before dawn, hoping for a big breakfast before the larger birds arrived.

I have been working on some sewing projects, staying up late at night to do the handwork while I watch the second season of the Gilmore Girls. New Campbell kid, Dowen, now has his own stocking, ready to hang with the others and today we will put up the greenery in the front hall and down the stairway. I am enjoying the fruits of my labors from past years, ornaments I made seven or eight years ago with inspiration and patterns from Debbie Mumm's Quick Country Christmas Quilts.

My little kitchen tree makes even counters full of dirty dishes a little cheerier. I am listening to John Fahey's Guitar Soli Christmas, a CD worth the purchase if only for his rendition of Carol of the Bells.