The Ultimate Fast-Pass

“When we go to Disney you can meet some of your favorite princesses like Cinderella and Aurora.”

“Do you mean they are real?  The stories are true?”

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“Well, the stories are from long ago fairy tales, but you really can meet them.  You’ll just have to wait and see.”

So, she looks up “how to draw” tips, and begins to write her love-notes…

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Later that evening, my sister and I were snuggled up in the guest bedroom talking about the day.

“Deb, she’s so excited, and she doesn’t know the half of it.  It makes me think about God describing heaven for us, streets of gold and all, and I can’t help but think, we’ll be so surprised and overwhelmed with heaven as she will be when she sees the Magic Kingdom.”

I’ve had similar thoughts.

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As I talked about changing my “wristband” FastPass-Plus to include meeting Rapunzel, I said, “Can you imagine the line to see Moses and Abraham and the Bible’s other ‘characters’ when we get to heaven?”

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Since giving Little One the news of our Mama/Daughter-Girl-Time Adventure, we’ve already watched “Beauty and the Beast” and “Finding Nemo”.  We are certain to view a few Mickey Mouse cartoons soon since she doesn’t seem to be as familiar with him.  And, I so want to watch Peter Pan and Snow White to be certain they are fresh in our minds.

If you were going to Disney World, I’m sure you would do the same.

Can you imagine how different going to Disney would be for someone who had never heard of Mickey Mouse?  It would sure spoil their appreciation of details at “Be Our Guest” or “Cinderella’s Table” if they had never seen the corresponding cartoons.   And, one would not go out of their way to visit the “Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor” or ride the “Mad Tea Party” if they had never heard of Alice or Mike Wazowski.

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So, what about us who know we’re going to heaven?

The stories are true.  The characters are real.  And, we’re going to have the opportunity to meet them.  Wouldn’t it be more fun to talk to Paul if you had read about his shipwreck in the book of Acts?  Wouldn’t it be nice to not only be vaguely familiar with Noah’s Ark and the adventure of David and Goliath, but also to know the heart of the men, their struggles, their failures, their faith, and how God worked His plan through them?  And what about the more obscure guys like Balaam and Lott, or women like Job’s wife and Hannah, Tamar and Rahab?

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“I bet there will be a line for David.  I wonder if heaven offers a Fastpass,” I joked.

“I think we might be waiting in line to hear the stories of the humble unknown saints who faithfully lived the hard and hidden life for the eyes of God alone.”  My sister was thinking of people she had seen on her trip to India.  Her words strike me profoundly.  She is right.

Lines are a little different in heaven.  “The last shall be first and the first, last.”  The least of these, the widow who gave her mite, the humble and lowly, the servant in this world, will be called the greatest in that Kingdom.  Maybe the FastestPass in the lines that really matter means letting others go first.

I imagine heaven from such a limited, worldly perspective.

What do I really know about heaven?

I know Jesus is there.  I know I shall see my King.image

Dear Seeker, I pray you are filled with anticipation; that, as you unplug the lights and take down your Christmas tree, something will remain:  awe, wonder, expectation, joy, excitement, hope.

There are presents yet to be opened, Gifts from God, many of them tucked in between the pages of Genesis 1 (“In the beginning…”) and Revelation 22 (“Come, Lord Jesus… Amen.”).

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You don’t have to wait till heaven to meet Jesus or talk to the Father.  We have the Holy Spirit.  We have the scriptures.  We have prayer.  In Christ, the ultimate FastPass is available.  It’s yours if you want it.  Get to know Him now!  It won’t be long and we’ll be seeing Him face to face!

We found Jesus… at the beach.

It is our tradition to hide Jesus among the presents on Christmas Eve after the kids have gone to bed.  Whoever finds Him in the  morning gets to pass the gifts out to everyone, but some how after the holidays last year, we lost Jesus!  We must have carelessly packed Him away and slipped Him into a random plastic bin in the barn; because we found him at the beach this fall in a Rubbermaid tub of umbrella anchors, pails, and shovels. 

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Isn’t it nice know the LORD will never lose us! (see  Jn. 10:28; 6:39)  It is also comforting to know, He is always with us!  (see Dt. 31:6-8; Josh. 1:5; Heb. 13:5)  No matter what we are going through now or face in the coming year, our Heavenly Father knows and cares about us.  (see 1 Pt.5:7; Ps. 55:22; Mt. 10:29-31; 6:25-29)

I hope you remember Jesus this Christmas, but also that you won’t casually set Him aside and forget to enjoy God’s presence, His comfort, forgiveness, grace, peace, joy, hope, wisdom, truth, guidance, and love, all year long!

Try Something New This Year

Why not start a simple Christmas morning tradition of your own:

  • swipe the baby from your manger scene or pick up a more durable “Jesus” at the dollar store to hide among your gifts
  • read Luke 2 as a family
  • sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus with your little ones
  • put up a stocking for the Savior and let everyone write or dictate a short thank you note to Him
  • or be creative and come up with an original way of reminding your family what Christmas is all about…

Just to keep it “real”… 

(in case you were ever under the impression that I have it all together)

Over the past few months, I have found Jesus in the glove box in the truck, in coat pockets, on the mantle, on bookshelves, and half a dozen other random places around the house; He never made it back to storage in the barn.  So, wouldn’t you know, and I do hate to admit it, now that it’s Christmas, we can’t find Him!!!  

Even if you are not, like me, literally “looking” for Jesus, I hope that you are Seeking Him this Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holy-days to you as you remember and anticipate Christ’s “advent”; His first “coming” and His return!

Lingering in a bed of grace…

Warm and cozy, light as a feather, one of the best purchases ever made was my “puff”.

No matter how cold it is, I’m always snuggled-in-cozy, sleeping under the fluffy layer of eiderdown bought with babysitting money more than 20 years ago before my family left Germany. The only “down-side” (goofy pun intended) is getting out of bed in the morning… Oooooh, how unbearable, to slip a leg out from under or pull the comforter back!

Don’t you love the word…”comforter”?

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This morning, like so many others, I lie here contemplating in my nest… smiling contentedly with the mental image of “a bed of grace”…. “I’m lying in a bed of grace!”  Oh, blessed, graced life!

“Grace upon grace”, I came across that beloved phrase again yesterday and thought about the context all day…

  • John 1:16-17 “For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.  For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”

What have I received?  His fullness, grace upon grace, grace and truth… I’ll take it!

I flip through my journal or skim over past posts and see grace… Layers and Layers, Blankets of Grace; time after time the LORD has covered me, protected me, comforted me when I deserved to be exposed and left out in the cold.

What could ever persuade me to leave this happy place?

And so began a mental chain of references…

  • Gal. 3  “who has bewitched you?”  (Context:  to forget grace and return to the legalistic burden of the law)
  • Gal. 1  “deserting Him who called you by grace” (Context:  “for a different gospel”… “Seeking the favor of men… Striving to please…”
  • Heb. 2  “so great a salvation”… (Context: “pay closer attention… do not drift away…” and do not “neglect so great a salvation”)

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a natural product for healthy sleep… nothing warms better”

I was persuaded to buy my “puff” after nights of peeking in on Hummel faced children tucked into cozy beds, safe and sound, warm and peacefully sleeping despite the chilly temperatures of the upstairs rooms of homes out on the German economy.

And I was persuaded to grace by those who without a sermon lived a life that was freeded, warmed, softened by grace.   To see grace, a life marked, forever changed, by grace is a beautiful tempting thing… I want one, too!

Knowing the God of grace will never forsake me, what could ever persuade me to leave Him?

  • Comparison, leading either to insecurity or pride, that is the trap for me!  It could, and has persuaded me.  The graceless world can be so cold, and I quickly return to His love, mercy, forgiveness, hope, peace, and marvelous grace!

LORD, let me always remember what I have here and what I’ve known of out there. Keep me here, wrapped in Your grace.  I want to abide; I want to rest in You!

With that thought, I’m ready for this day!

A Shift in Power

Crying, scowling, pouting,… “Mama, I was wrong; I am sorry,” murmured indignantly through gritted teeth.   Grrrrrr, how that gets to me!

I feel my temperature rising.  I start to lecture and quickly fall silent as the Holy Spirit convicts me.  I will not cast another pearl of wisdom before a stubborn and unresponsive swine-like-heart.  The dynamic changes the instant I close my mouth, stop talking to my child, and start talking to the LORD.  He slows my pounding heart, quiets my righteously-angry spirit, and gives me the “for-this-moment wisdom”.

That quickly, the power struggle is over.

“I love you, Little One, but I’m glad you’re miserable.  If you’re unhappy with your punishment, I’ve accomplished my goal.”  The discussion is over, and I leave my child to stew as she carries out her sentence.

There’s no reason for us both to be miserable.  My child needs to feel the consequences of her sin, not me, but  when I react in a way that is not lead and controlled by the Holy Spirit, I am certain to feel my own discomfort as the LORD begins to “lovingly discipline” me.

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Knowing this would probably be a long day, I tied a blue ribbon on my wrist (my color for “faith”… I need a visual reminder!), and prayed, “LORD, help me to teach and discipline my children in faith, not raising my voice or using a harsh tone.  You are their true Teacher, always with them, speaking to the heart I cannot reach.”

Are you feeling overwhelmed?  Stressed out?  Tension headache building?  Frustration and Mommy-Guilt mounting?  — I’ve been there.

As Ruth Bell Graham said, “We are to take care of the possible and let God take care of the impossible.”  God is the one that brings conviction that leads to repentance… in me and in my children.

My primary job is to love God, abide in Him, and keep a gentle, quiet spirit before Him, which enables me to love my children and set an example for them.  In the heat of the battle, when I have hit a wall of an unteachable spirit, I need to close my mouth and pray.

Without fail, the LORD shows me what to do…

  • a specific punishment
  • a verse to write and memorize
  • words to pray with them
  • the nudge to feed the child and put him/her to bed
  • or put them to bed without dinner
  • a hug, a kiss, and over-look the matter
  • … the wisdom of Solomon to cut the child in two (okay, that is out of context)

Are you up for a challenge?

A wise friend once said, “One of you needs to act like an adult here, and you’re older!”  Don’t give the reigns of your home over to your teen, much less your elementary or preschool child; be the Mama and calmly discipline in faith with the LORD’s wisdom.

Now that I’ve written this post, I have a hunch that I might be “tested” to see if I’ll really live this one out.  —  So, here’s my personal challenge…
I’m leaving this ribbon on until I’ve gone 30 days without raising my voice or using a harsh tone.  Just to be clear, I’m not talking about an absence of out-of-control yelling; I’m talking about not a hint of anything but a gentle, sincere, loving voiceStern and serious, yes!  But, I want Pr. 31:26 (NIV and KJV) to be lived out in me by speaking wisdom and faithful instruction with the law of kindness on my tongue.

Even if it takes me until my youngest child graduates, the pursuit of this healthy habit will only benefit my family. In the strength of the LORD, why not join me and make your own symbolic reminder!

Parenting with the Fruit of the Spirit

In addition to praying, “LORD, help me to teach and discipline in faith,” I also pray through Galatians 5:22-23…

  • “Help me to teach my children in love.”
  • “Help me to teach my children with joy!”
  • “Help me to teach my children in peace.
  • “Help me to teach my children with patience!”
  • “Help me to teach my children with kindness.”
  • “Help me to teach my children, modeling Your goodness.”
  • “Help me to teach my children faithfully!”
  • “Help me to teach my children with gentleness.”
  • “Help me to teach my children with self-control.”

It’s an easy prayer to rotely rattle through, but when I beg God in heartfelt sincerity to change my home and begin with me, this is one of the most powerful, convicting, and motivating prayers I pray.

My Journal – old time book binding

In an age of kindles and ebooks, I still appreciate a hard copy. I love the feel and smell of old paper.  Some how my old copy of Pride and Prejudice just reads better!

I am a bookaholic, and this era of instant gratification only feeds my addiction.   Even when I want to hold a particular title in my hands, I’m am able to order it on-line, and within a couple days, it arrives at my door.

I imagine living in the days prior to computers and printers, back before the printing press, to the time of hand written, hand bound books, when literacy, much less having a personal library, was a rare privileged.

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If more time and labor went into every page, how much more selective and intentional would my written words be?

I have been thinking of binding my own book for years, and since I wanted an extra-special journal for an upcoming Spring “shipwrecked” themed retreat, I decided to give it a try.

Here are a few pictures of how I made my journal, and I’ll give a brief explanation of the steps below…

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Some of the tools you would need…

  • paper (I used standard 8 1/2 x 11″ paper which I stained with coffee; for tips, see the end of this post.)
  • hammer, nail, and wood block
  • needle, heavy thread (I used hand quilting thread.), scissors or clippers
  • a small clamp or two may be useful for hold the paper together tightly while you sew
  • strips of fabric
  • glue
  • brown paper bag
  • double stick carpet tape (optional, but helpful)

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General Steps for Binding a Book

  • stack 5 to 10 pages of paper (I used 5 sheets for my book.)
  • fold in half (This will make a 10 to 20 page booklet.)
  • with hammer and nail punch 4 or 6 holes evenly down the fold of the booklet using the wood block to protect your table, an even number of holes works well (I punched 4 and just estimated mine, about 1 1/2″ apart.  If you’re not really good at eyeballing measurements, USE A RULER.  When you sew these pages together, you want all the booklet holes to line up.  I think 6 might have held the top and bottom of the book tighter, but after it was completely bound, I don’t think you would notice any difference.)
  • sew in and out of the wholes, until the pages feel secure
  • clamp or band the completed booklets together (I made 10 booklets: 10 pages each, from 5 folded sheets. That made for a 100 page journal.)
  • tie knots to join each booklet to the next booklet (I used my needle to “sew/tie” the knots more easily.)
  • take a strip of fabric and slip it under each row of threads (I used muslin, because that is what I had.  But, I read that heavier material might be better.  I found that using a needle to lift all the threads made it easier to slip the fabric under.  Because I sewed and tied my pages tightly, which is what you want, I found it helpful to have something thin and stiff to push the fabric through.  A dull butter knife worked really well for me.)
  • glue the strips down (I added brown paper to before this step to the front and back.  These were slightly larger than the booklet pages, maybe 1/8″ all around.)
  • glue a piece of fabric over the spine (Later I had the idea of using double sided carpet tape that I had on hand, which is much heavier; so my book actually has both.  That worked really well!!  If you used the tape, you wouldn’t have to wait for the glue to dry, but you also have no room for error, as it adheres as soon as you place it.)
  • glue (or tape with heavy double sided tape) the cover over the book (Since I only had a little tape, I only used it on the corners and the binding, and used glue for the rest of the cover.  When cutting your cover, keep in mind, it is nice to have it 1/4″ larger than the booklets on all sides.  Mine was a little too large at the top and bottom; so I tore it down to where I wanted and then burned the edges a bit to make it look old and worn.  That worked well since my cover was layered brown paper, but it is best to plan ahead since tearing might not be possible if you were making a hard cover with cardboard.)
  • If you want the paper to look more like old weathered leather, you can take a brown ink pad and lightly brush it over the cover.  All the raised wrinkles take on the color, highlighting the texture.
  • FYI – As can you see in one of the pictures, I used the Duck double sided carpet tape to reinforce the inside of the cover too because I also want to add a “secret” pocket for small papers.  (The nice thing about carpet tape is one side has a peel over cover; so you only have to deal with one sticky side at a time.)

Even if you find these directions helpful, there are so many other professional websites and videos on line you can check out that will show you more precise and traditional tools and methods.  Looking at the different ways to bind books might help you come up with some better ideas using things you already have around the house.

How I made the cover

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  • gently pull open the bottom of a brown paper grocery bag (You could also cut off the bottom.)
  • mix glue with a little bit of water to make it easier to spread
  • evenly coat one side of the bag
  • fold into thirds as you would a letter for a business envelope
  • press out all the wrinkles and excess glue from the center to the edges
  • now is a good time to coffee stain it (You can make a more concentrated stain with instant coffee and a few tablespoons of water; then paint the stain where you want it with a brush.)
  • put the paper in the oven at a low temperature or near a heater vent to speed the drying process (This should be obvious, but please remember to watch your paper closely; you do not want to start a fire!)
  • when the paper is dry, cut or tear it to the shape/size you want

(note for retreat ladies who might be interested:  I made my map the same way, except I only folded it in half, not thirds, and used a little less glue so that it would not be as  thick or stiff.)

Staining paper is easy!

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Instant coffee works great to have a darker more concentrated stain.

  • preheat oven to 200
  • pour a few teaspoons of instant coffee into a 9×11 pan
  • add water enough to cover the bottom, about 1″
  • immerse the paper
  • place on a baking sheet
  • if you want stripes, put them directly on the oven racks or using wire cookie cooling racks layered over the baking sheets  (I experimented with adding a few coffee grounds on to soaking paper, dripping more coffee on some pages, soaking some pages longer/shorter,… I like that my pages all look unique.)
  • you can crumple up the paper, tear the edges, or burn the edges depending on the look you want (When you are burning paper it is best to do it near a sink and over a metal cookie sheet just in case a spark falls or your flame gets out of hand.  Do be careful.  I would used a candle or a lighter rather than a match, only doing a small section at a time to have more control over the burn.)

One Last Bit of Advice …

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Value words!!!  Especially treasure The Word!

Words are powerful, written or spoken.   But the Words of God are all-powerful because they were spoken and inspired by Omnipotence Himself.  For long ages, kings labored long to make their own copy of the Scriptures, and bent over scribes penned scrolls for the masses to gather and hear.  Still, around the world, numbers of persecuted Christians feast on a single rare copy, memorizing entire books to carry it with them.

In a land where most every hotel drawer and dollar store provides easy access to the Words of God, this priceless treasure is too often unappreciated and neglected.  With shelves full of translations and commentaries, have I taken for granted the most prized words of all time?  Yes.  Sadly, I admit it.

Let’s find and dust off our copy of the scripture!  (Looking for a place to start?  Check out 2 Kings 22.  What a great story!!!!  Josiah, who became king when he was only 8, tore his robes when he heard the words from the book of the law after it was found in the long neglected temple.)

LORD, thank You for the written Word, and thank You for my own copy.  Thank You for bringing to mind the days when I held my Bible close and never went anywhere without it.  Portions of Psalm 119 come to mind, and I echo, “Oh, how I love Your law!!!!”