Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Out with the Old & In with the New

Christmas Eve night found me sitting beside one of Adrian's big open fires, with a glass of cranberry juice in hand and some chocolates nearby, The Christmas tree lights were flashing, the fresh fruit salad was made, some carols were playing and the Christmas mood began to dawn upon me as I focused on the incarnation of Christ. I'm thankful for all the Christmas wishes by card, text, whatsapp and Facebook. I must say that it made a pleasant change to scroll down Facebook to read all the Christmas wishes and verses, rather than having to endure the agony of scrolling through all the Christmas ads in my news feed. But Christmas Day and Boxing Day have come and gone.....and guess what? I'm back beside a big hot fire tonight thinking it will soon be out with the old year and in with the new year.
Christmas 2014

I got to thinking....What were some of the highlights in 2014 for me? Well, both my parents were 80 this year and it was a privilege to see them both reach this great milestone in their lives. And of course, as a family we celebrated both occasions by going out for meals. Another highlight of my year was getting a new kitchen installed. It took a while to get everything sorted but, thanks to all the talented craftsmen, it's in and I'm enjoying it! And I even got new glasses so I could see it better LOL! Another highlight for me was planning for and teaching at the Lifeboat Fellowship's Holiday Bible School for children in the summer. I was blessed in my own soul as I prepared the lessons on Prayer. I also enjoyed visiting my 2 favourite counties in Ireland again this year as well as Ayr in Scotland. It's great to have fun and fellowship with family and friends.
Mum's 80th
Dad's 80th

What did I learn in 2014? I really had to think about this question! First thought is 'Not much' but then that would be unappreciative. Here are a few things I reflected upon: 
  • I am far from perfect but God is so good to me
  • Sometimes it's my tears that brings me closer to God
  • God's ways are not my ways but His ways are best
  • Envy and greed can appear in many forms but I must not let a root of bitterness grow
  • I must encourage young people as they learn to do things, even when I think that I can do them better

What are my ambitions for 2015? I don't make New Year resolutions as they can turn out impractical to keep. I'm not a 'high-flyer' who boasts of doing great things, only to be deflated when I cannot achieve them. I'm a 'steady-plodder' who strives to fulfill dreams as God gives them to me. However, I do desire to know Christ better in 2015 and that the love of God will flow through me to others.

I encourage you to reflect upon your life in 2014 and about what you desire for 2015. I wish you a Happy New Year and may you experience God's blessings through Christ in 2015. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

What's it all for?

This time of year is often referred to as 'the run up to Christmas.' Shops are busy and people rush around trying to get everything they want for Christmas...presents, food, drink, clothes and party things. They even have rage over car parks! What's it all for? A couple of days of feasting? Is that it?
Lights in Rushmere shopping centre

It gives me a great kick when people ask me, 'Well, are you all sorted for Christmas?' to tell them 'I haven't started yet.' Don't get me wrong. I enjoy Christmas but it has become so commercialized. But, then, I suppose I can leave things to the last moment now that my children are grown up and their desired gift list is money (although I do have a request in for a mattress this year LOL). It used to give me great pleasure when they were small to see their excitement on Christmas mornings. The weeks of budgeting before Christmas were well worth it to see the expressions of joy on their little faces.
My Christmas tree

I love to see all the Christmas lights and to listen to traditional Christmas carols. But I think it's unfortunate that Christmas songs are replacing the carols that helped us focus on the birth of Christ. However, I do sometimes wonder if the lights and songs in shopping malls are really about getting us in the mood to buy plenty. Last year every time I went to Rushmere shopping centre there always seemed to be one song being played. It was a woman singing 'Santa Claus is coming to town.' Her voice was so annoying that I couldn't help thinking 'l wish he'd hurry up and come and then we wouldn't have to listen to you singing.'
Santa's grotto

Some years back when I lived in Cork, a neighbour woman used to tell me, 'Christmas is for children and men'....meaning it's a time of fun and new toys for children and a good excuse for men to get drunk, leaving all the preparation and cooking to the women. But to be fair I don't think that is totally true. Not all men must have alcoholic drink to enjoy Christmas and modern men are a bit more hands-on with preparations and cooking. And sadly, Christmas does have heartaches for children too. I was talking with some kids recently, asking them what they were getting for Christmas. Most were excited to tell me their 'list for Santa'....all the things they wanted like x-boxes, phones, toys, games, etc. But one little girl that I asked, looked with a sad countenance and answered, 'My Daddy'. This was not an answer I expected to get. My heart went out to her as I was challenged by the stark reality that Christmas doesn't fix all the problems of life....not even for children.

So, what is Christmas all about for you? Don't let it be the way of selfishness where it's only about you and yours. Spare a thought for others who are less fortunate than yourself.....those who suffer because of war, famine, poverty, ill-health, disease, homelessness, or persecution for their faith. Don't forget those who mourn and bear the heartache of a broken relationship. Remember the children who suffer in all these situations too! However, most of all, let this Christmas be a time when you reflect on what the LORD has done for you. The Lord Jesus Christ God's Son left the splendours of heaven to come down to this old sin-cursed world and was born in a stinking, dirty old stable. He came to die on the cross to pay the price for your sin and mine. Do you thank Him for all His love and blessings to you? Or do you leave Him out of all your celebrations?

Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year to you all.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9v6