Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Few Good Men

It's been a rough week for the Wood family. My Uncle Jim ended his short, hard fight with leukemia early Wednesday morning.

He left this world three days before his birthday, just in time to celebrate his greatest Christmas yet with Jesus Himself.

I can't say I knew Uncle Jim well. We visited his family in Southern California several times as a child. The last time I saw him was the summer I was sixteen years old. But throughout my life, Uncle Jim has always taken the time to choose just the right card for me, whether for my birthday or Christmas. I don't know that I ever thanked him for the thought that went into these cards, but even now, I can see him standing in the card shop looking for just the right sentiment to send my way.

Uncle Jim spent his first career in the Marine Corps. He followed in the steps of his older brother, my dad. I can't say that I have ever met two more devoted men to their Corps and their country. I don't know a lot about Uncle Jim's career, but I do know he was stationed in Japan for quite some time, away from his family. I also vividly remember the day I heard that his unit was called up to deploy for the first war in Iraq. Uncle Jim never questioned his orders, he simply served.

He spent his last days with his family by his side...his wife of ten years, two grown daughters, a son-in-law, and his brother. My dad sat by his side every night his last ten days, often without sleeping during the day. He was at his brother's bed when Uncle Jim breathed his last. My dad almost missed Christmas, but he was there for his brother to the end...his brother in flesh, and his brother in the Corps.

Two men who gave us the freedom to be Americans...the freedom to trash the very men, women and governing authorities who fight for us. One man who was faithful to the end, and another who continues...

Semper Fi, Uncle Jim.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas 2006

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While sitting housebound from the snow and ice in Portland, I've been playing around a bit with digital scrapbooking. This is the creation I made this morning from our first Christmas with Dayna.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Weakness and Strength

That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

This has been a rough week. It has been filled with stress at work, stress in my family, physical stress in my body, and stress in my soul. At times I have felt on the verge of a panic attack (it's been 9 years since the last, and I was hoping they were gone.) It's been one of those weeks where I feel like I'm not doing anything right, and I can't make anyone happy. In two days, we're leaving to go home to Oregon for Christmas, and nothing seems to be going the way I want it to go. I find myself getting upset that I might not have the Christmas I want to have. I, I, I...

When did Christmas become all about me? When did I become so selfish?

In speaking with a dear friend of mine (everyone needs a mentor!), I was reminded of Paul's words in 2 Corinthians (12:9) after he had repeatedly asked the Lord to remove a difficulty in his life: But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

My grace is's just what I need when I need it. I wonder why it is so easy to expect, even demand, grace from others when I am so often unwilling to give it in return. But God's grace is enough for me...He'll give me the grace I need so I can extend it to others.

Maybe, just maybe, this won't be the Christmas I wanted to have, but it will be the Christmas God knows that I need.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Greatest Gift

I credit many of these thoughts to Jackie Weiss, who was the speaker at an event I attended last night.

Dayna is at that age where we could get her just about anything for Christmas, and she would be excited. A new can of Play-Dough would send thrills through her soul. A package of stickers would entertain her for the afternoon. A Tootsie Pop is the most exciting thing ever, with that little surprise of chocolate in the center. She doesn't really need anything this year for Christmas, but if she were to ask, I'd try to find the way to give her the world. And in a way, we already have. How many children have seen two continents by the time they are 13 months old?

But what really is the greatest gift I could give my daughter? I really thought about this after last night's event. It was suggested that the greatest gift is absolute truth. I can teach Dayna the truths that are found in the Bible; truths that are black and white in this very gray world. Truth that stands alone, despite anything another person (including myself) may say in contradiction.

Now, I know some of these thoughts are very uncomfortable for some people, including close family members, but the Bible is true. Every word. And God does not contradict Himself.

We started teaching Dayna early about sin. The Bible tells us that sin is anything we think, say or do that is against God's will or Law. We know that God is a holy God, and He can not tolerate sin in His presence. Who, then, can enter His presence? Romans 3:23 tells us "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Jesus gives that answer in John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (emphasis added)

When you ask people how to get to heaven, a lot will answer that it's because of what they do. "I go to church, I give to the poor, I'm a nice person." Others will answer that it's because of what they don't do. "I've never been to jail, I don't cheat on my taxes, I don't lie, kill or steal." But absolute truth tells us that we can only find our salvation because of what Jesus has done. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith --- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God --- not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

As Dayna gets older, she will learn that we earn consequences and rewards for our actions. When I go to work and do my job, I earn a paycheck. When I drive too fast, I receive a speeding ticket. The Bible tells us that when we sin, we don't earn a slap on the wrist or a five-minute time-out. In Romans 6:23a, it says "the wages of sin is death..." That's a pretty harsh penalty, but remember, God is a holy God. We cannot enter His presence if we have sin in our lives. Fortunately, God loves us so much that this verse doesn't end with death. It goes on to say "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." And that truth is the greatest gift I can give my daughter.

Now, I know it's Christmastime, and many of you might be asking "isn't Jesus the greatest gift you can give her?" I will concede that Jesus is indeed the greatest gift. But...He isn't a gift I can give to Dayna. That's a choice she will have to make for herself when the time is right. Dayna won't receive salvation because of anything I say or do. It goes back to my earlier post about our wedding verse, Joshua 24:15. Dayna will have to choose for herself if she is going to serve God and accept His free gift of salvation. However, I can give her God's truth by reading His Word, memorizing it together, and teaching her what it means. Even now, she just sat beside me at the table and told me "God sent Gabriel to Mary to tell her she would have a baby, Jesus. And He would die on a cross to forgive our sins."

I think Dayna will be a lot more likely to choose the gift of Christ if she has been given the foundation of absolute truth. And if Dayna receives the gift of Jesus, she will have indeed received the world...maybe not all the pleasures and thrills of this world, but the endless treasures of the next.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Tale of Two Caves

I remember the days of high school English when we were asked to write a paper that would compare and contrast two different stories or characters. Last night I was pondering the beginning and end of Christ's life, and it dawned on me that both events involved caves.

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: 6b-7)

Our modern creches often depict the stable scene with a primitive shacklike structure, but in all likelihood, the stable where Christ was born was in a cave nestled in the rocky hillside of Bethlehem. I imagine that a cave would have been well insulated from the elements and actually provide more protection from the desert extremes of daily heat and nightly chill. But this is the part that stops me in my a single moment in time, a simple cave, used to feed and shelter smelly animals, was filled with the very presence of God!

The cave was FILLED!!!!

Now go forward about 33 years. That beautiful Christ child grew up. He questioned temple priests, he taught scores of people, he bucked the system and was an affront to the Roman government. Ultimately he was "tried" and crucified. He didn't have a family tomb where he could be buried, but Joseph of Arimathea offered his:

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. (Matthew 27:57-60)

Three days later, his friends went to prepare his body for burial (as there had been no time on the day of his Crucifixion). Imagine their surprise to discover that the tomb (cave) was empty!

The cave was EMPTY!!!!

The empty cave means that Christ was who He said He was. He is the only man, who is also God, who had the power and authority to return from the state of death. He keeps His promises, and He has provided the way for salvation. A wise child told my friend this weekend, "Jesus was born to die." But He didn't stay dead! Praise the Lord!
Two different caves, two different events, two different outcomes, one amazing God!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What's in a Name?

Wilson 24-15...what's that all about? Nine and a half years ago, Dan & I celebrated our wedding day. On that day, we made a covenant before God that we would be committed to each other for life. Let me tell you, while life has been mostly better, there's definitely been some worse (and Dan is a saint for putting up with it!) We've seen mostly richer (by the world's standards), but also had our times of poorer, living month to month. For the most part, we've enjoyed health, but sickness has touched our lives as well.

On that day, July 2, 1999, we claimed the following Scripture as the verse our home and family would be built upon:

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)

When I became a Christian, I took on the name of Christ. While I am nowhere near the woman God has me to be, I try to be always aware of the name I represent when I call myself a Christian, lest by my actions I take the Lord's name in vain.

So, Wilson24-15 reminds me daily that when we got married, we chose to follow the LORD God Almighty, not necessarily the God of our ancestors (or the faith in which we were raised), but the God who has proven Himself to us personally in so many ways.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Apple Pie

My mom always said I was born in the wrong generation. I enjoy the satisfaction of creating something, often without the help of shortcuts. Whether it's quilting, crocheting, cooking or baking. One of my favorite things to bake is any kind of pie. I laugh at the year I had to enter a pie in the State Fair using a refrigerated pie crust...not one week after telling my mother-in-law "I would NEVER use a refrigerated pie crust." Ah...the lessons learned and the pride that stings.

Anyway, this year I'm trying something new for Christmas. Instead of taking cookie plates to my neighbors (a noble thing...I love getting cookies from others; however, do we really need more cookies at Christmas?), I bought 40 pounds of apples in Nebraska City this year. I'm canning apple pie filling to take to them. We'll see how it goes...

I found this recipe online. I'll have to post later to let you know how everything worked.,1837,158189-230194,00.html

What am I doing?

I was convicted at Bible Study Fellowship last week that I need to keep a journal of the things God is teaching me. Having never been faithful about keeping a journal, I wonder if blogging might be the way to go. So, here I am on a Saturday morning watching Dayna "helping" her dad in the kitchen, sipping my homemade cocoa, and generally thanking God for the blessing of my family. Today promises to be a quiet Saturday, getting a few things accomplished, and generally enjoying December without having a million things to do. Joy is found in simplicity.