Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Happy New Year!

posted by Ruth Graham

2014 is here!

I trust you ushered it in with grace and peace welcomed you.

In the South it is traditional to have black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Years Day. The black-eyed peas represent coin money; the collard greens represent green money. So…if you have those on New Years you will have them during the year! Makes for a good story – I have no idea if it is true but, since I like both black-eyed peas and collard greens I have a pot of both on the stove! Hedging my bets!!

Did you make a resolution? Or two. Everyone seems to  make a couple. After the holidays in any group of folks you might be asked, “What is your New Year’s resolution?” It is assumed. We make them but too soon are defeated. I don’t make them… I make commitments.

Last year I commited to read through the Bible in a year with a group of folks from my church. It was a challenging task – especailly since I was on the road so much. But I did it!! I heartily recommend you do it.  Get a Daily Walk Bible in the New Living Translation. It makes it so much easier to read. But even so some of it was tough going. Like Leviticus! And then we rushed through the Gospels and Epistles. I want to go back more slowly this year; dig deeper.

This year I want to memorize more scripture. As I get older, I find memory work so much harder to do. I can recall the scripture I memorized when I was younger far easier than that which I do now. And I was bad about learning the “addresses” – I may know the verse but not exactly where it is found. I feel that that makes me illiterate! I bought the Topical Memory System which is the Navigator’s scripture memory course. They are the leaders in scripture memory so hopefully I will find that  helpful as a launch out more intentionaly.

It is a discipline…I must cultivate. For my spiritual growth but also to exercise my brain. So that is my commitment for 2014…Not a resolution.

What is yours?

Let’s Get Real about Bethlehem!

posted by Ruth Graham

Last July the world seemed to wait with bated breath for the arrival of the little Prince of England. No detail was left unnoticed.

 

Hallmark and others have given us a very unrealistic picture of Bethlehem. Our Christmas cards are gilded  pictures of  glorious Heavenly hosts filling the sky, gentle shepherds stand sweetly gazing at the new family, three kings can been seen in the distance traveling toward them laden with gifts while a brilliant star guides them.

Let’s imagine Bethlehem as it might have been.

The young couple were exhausted from the long journey. The crowds were noisy and unbearable. They jostled the woman who was beginning to feel labor pains.  The baby was imminent. Where was her mother… the women would would normally attend a woman in labor? There was no one…just her husband and a bunch of smelly animals. Where was the basket trimmed in soft cloth awaiting her newborn? There was just a manger. Where was the soft bed with clean linens for her to lie upon as she gave birth? There were none – just cold, stiff hay. The world did not care or notice. The inn keeper turned them away. Many passed  by ignoring them or giving sympathetic glances in their direction. No one showed compassion. No one offered help.

It was all so unfamiliar, rough, noisy, smelly…the young mother must have longed for familiarity, the comfort of home. Did she ask, “Why did this stupid census have to take place now? Why do I have to travel all this way? Couldn’t God have fulfilled the prophecies another way? On another day?” Had she expected, “Since this is God’s Son, He will make it safe, comfortable, easy. I can trust Him for that.” When her expectations were not met…then what? Did she feel sorry for herself? Did all sorts of doubts and questions raise their ugly heads?  “If I am such a special handmaiden of the Lord why does He treat me this way? I didn’t sign up for all of this. I had expectations of a palace – at least a nice tent – not this. I am in a stable full of smelly animals and now a bunch of strangers are staring at me!”

Yes, there were angels but they were not singing Christmas carols. They were announcing Good News for the world to a small band of ignorant shepherds in the field outside of town while they  tended sheep intended for Temple sacrifices.This had never happened before! Did they questions themselves? “Were those really angels? Did we hear what we thought we heard? ” When they did arrive at the stable no doubt they peered at the new family with curiosity – shoving each other for a better view.

 

That changed their lives. They were not just staring at a family – their hearts were drawn to God’s Word Incarnate. Their tongues were set on fire as they spread the news of what they had seen and heard.

The 3 kings would be along – but not for two years!

But this was just the beginning for Mary…the Scripture says, “Mary treasured up all these things in her heart.” This indicates that God gave her an eternal perspective. She remembered what the angel told her about Jesus’ name and purpose. She remembered  the visit with her cousin, Elizabeth. She remembered all they had talked about – the special time being together as they talked of God’s fulfillment of prophecy in their own bodies!  She remembered how Joseph decided not to “put her away” , which he had every right to do – but committed to marry her because of what God told him. Mary had a sweet, humble spirit and saw  fulfilled  promises in every circumstance. She didn’t understand it all but she knew deep in her heart everything was going to be OK.  She felt humbled  to be on the front row of God’s glorious plan.

Cosmic changes happened that night. The world has never been the same.

We, too, can participate in God’s fulfilled promises. He promised a Savior. Is He yours? He can be – right now – as you tell Him you are sorry for your sins and want Him take over your life. He promises you eternal life, peace that passes all understanding even in this chaotic world and His presence always with you – no matter what! He loves you totally. There is nothing you can do to make Him love you less and nothing you can do to make Him love you more. His love for you is complete.

 

 

The Spirit of Christmas

posted by Ruth Graham

My daughter and I had a delightful time yesterday. Each year we take a day to go to the small town of Lexington to see the decorations, visit the shops, go “junking,” as my Mother used to call it, find stocking stuffers, eat a delicious lunch and find ridiculous gag gifts for friends who live far away. It gives us a time to be “just girls”. It started out as a way to celebrate my birthday but has become a tradition whether it is my birthday or not. I was scheduled to have a skin cancer removed and the doctor wanted to do it in her Lexington office so we did not go on my actual birthday,  deciding to incorporate the doctor’s visit in our celebration. It seemed appropriate – as I age more and more things are going to happen, good and bad!

Anyway, everything was so festive, folks were calling out “Merry Christmas!” as they left the shops or passed one another on the sidewalk. The little cafe was full of folks celebrating each other or the occasion. It was almost like a scene out of the movie “Christmas Vacation” but there were no carolers or ice skaters. As a matter of fact is was a somewhat balmy 40 degrees.

Regardless of the pressures we felt, decisions to be made, schedules to keep, lists “to do”, aches we felt we found ourselves caught up in the spirit of Christmas.

There is a special feeling in the air around Christmas, I have to admit. I don’t know when it begins…but it comes as surely as the sun. This year I felt it as I ran errands on a Saturday morning preparing for my grandchildren to arrive. I do not like to run errands, especially on Saturday morning but there was a sense of anticipation that was unmistakable.

The Christmas spirit had struck!

It comes at unlikely times and unlikely ways. It cannot be manufactured – though many try. Even in the most dire of circumstances, it comes. It does not come in Santa’s sleigh, or wrapped up in pretty ribbons or lovely carols sung by choirs. It doesn’t come with the feasting or  partying. It’s not on anyone’s list. It cannot be bought.

I think the Grinch put it best, “Maybe Christmas…doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps…means a little bit more.”

And the little Whos down in Whoville got it right when, after they discovered the Christmas trappings were all gone, stood together and sang, “Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer. Cheer to all Whos far and near. Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp. Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we. Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart, and hand to hand.”

The Christmas Spirit has to do with doing for others – thinking of others before ourselves. And didn’t God start it all? He thought of us, poured His love out on us. “Who, being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,being made in human likenes. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)

He emptied Himself and took on the form of a baby. (Can you imagine the Creator of the Universe limited Himself to the space of a womb?) He loved us so much He found a way to redeem us – though it cost Him the death of His own Son. God is THE spirit of Christmas.

 

Unexpected Death – Purpose in the Senseless

posted by Ruth Graham

When businessman, Roger Rodas, bought his fiery red, Porsche Carrera GT he was on top of the world. An accomplished Wharton School of Business graduate he had made his mark as a financial analyst and was consider to be one of the best in the country. He also made a mark in the world of philanthropy supporting many good and worthy causes. He was a kind-hearted fellow and well-liked by those who knew him. He was young, 40, with a beautiful wife and two children.

On Saturday he made plans to meet up with his friend, Paul Walker, at a charity event for Reachout Worldwide which sends first-responders to devastated areas of the world like the Phillipines (typhoon) and Indiana  (tornados) to aid victims. They shared an interest in philanthropy, giving back as they could. They took it very seriously. Not only did they share an interest in philanthropy but, they shared a love for speed and cars both having invested in high performance automobiles. Roger owned “Always Evolving Performance Motors” in Southern California.

Paul was a successful, famous film star. Voted by People magazine in 2001 as one of the most beautiful people in the world.

It was a beautiful day. Great-to-be-alive kind of day. As the event ended they decided to go for a “joy ride”. I know very few men who would decline an opportunity to take a ride in a bright red Porsche Carrera GT on a fine southern California day!

Both of them had the world by the tail, successful at doing what they loved, young…neither one guessed this was their last day. They never thought when they woke up that morning they would be dead by noon. They never dreamed the beautiful, red car would be their coffin.

Sobering.

Why would I bring this up in a season of joy?

Because of Jesus we know that this is not all there is. Becusse of Jesus we know life has real purpose. There is a reason. Because of Jesus we can be assured our sins are forgiven, our lives made new, we can say with Paul, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?…Thanks be to God!”

Had there been no Christmas, no Bethlehem, we would be hopeless. But thanks be to God there is Christmas! There was Bethlehem. There is purpose – even in the senseless.

 

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