Am I Going Backward?

Today in my devotions I was reading in the book of Jeremiah and came across a very powerful rebuke from God to His people.  He said, “But my people would not listen to me.  They kept on doing whatever they wanted, following the stubborn desires of their evil hearts. They went backward instead of forward.”  (Jeremiah 7:24, NLT)

I know that God was talking about the people of Judah, but it also sounds so much like us.  We have a terrible tendency to follow our own desires instead of God’s plans for our lives.  We forget that God’s ways are so much better than our own and we run off chasing after things that just don’t matter.

We should be like David who said in Psalm 17, “My steps have stayed on your path; I have not wavered from following you.”  (Psalm 17:5, NLT)  But instead we are like those mentioned in Isaiah 53, “All of us have strayed away like sheep.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own…”  (Isaiah53:6a, NLT)

What we don’t realize is that when we go our own way instead of God’s way, we are moving backward instead of forward.  We are heading in the wrong direction.  We don’t realize it, because our eyes are focused on the wrong things.  We are like a hiker who finds himself lost, because he was focused on the wrong landmark.  We get so focused on what we think we want and when we finally arrive at it we realize that things are really not quite what we had hoped for.  But worse, we find ourselves alone and lost, looking around to figure out where God is.  But God didn’t leave us.  We left Him.  We thought we were walking forward and all along we were walking backward.

I challenge you to stop and ask yourself, “am I going backward?”  Are we chasing after our own desires instead of listening to God and following Him?  We need to learn from that rebuke that we find in Jeremiah.  It’s time for us to move forward!

The Meaning of Life

Ecclesiastes is an interesting book.  It is the ruminations of one of the wisest men to ever walk the earth.  We find King Solomon sharing some very profound statements as he philosophizes over the meaning of life.  If you have never given this book much time, I encourage you to give it a chance and examine this thought-provoking essay for yourself.

In Ecclesiastes we find verses that have been the inspiration for songs, “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven.”  (Ecc. 3:1)  We find one of my favorite verses of all time, “When the clouds are heavy, the rains come down.  When a tree falls, whether south or north, there it lies.” (Ecc. 11:3)  We find practical warnings,such as, “Laziness lets the roof leak, and soon the rafters begin to rot.”  (Ecc. 10:18)  And we find a scathing rebuke of greed, “Those who love money will never have enough.  How absurd to think that wealth brings true happiness!”  (Ecc. 5:10)

At the end of the book we find a powerful conclusion, “Here is my final conclusion.  Fear God and obey his commands, for this is the duty of every person.”  (Ecc. 12:13) That is a fitting ending that brings the book full circle and provides meaning in the midst of a bunch of meaninglessness.  But one of my favorite portions of this book actually comes a little before the end as the author seems to put his wisdom into place.  In chapter 9 he writes this, “This reminded me that no one can discover everything God has created in our world, no matter how hard they work at it.  Not even the wisest people know everything, even if they say they do.”  (Ecc. 9:17)

Throughout this book we see Solomon wrestling with the meaning of life and it seems that even with all of his wisdom, power, and money that he still finds life meaningless from an earthly perspective.  It is only when he sets his eyes Heavenward that life begins to take on meaning as we see in his conclusion.  But along the way Solomon needed to put his own wisdom and powers of observation in place.  He needed to realize that he does not have all the answers, even though he was one of the wisest men to walk the earth.  Ultimately wisdom must begin with the fear of the Lord.  We need to start with God if we are to find any purpose or meaning to life.

I do encourage you to give Ecclesiastes some time.  And if you are interested in talking more about this subject, please feel free to send me an email or give me a call.  Or better yet, stop by Dunn Bros. in downtown Chaska some afternoon and let’s have a chat.

The Investor

My Uncle Bob passed away about a week ago.  I wasn’t able to make it to the funeral, but I will miss him dearly.  He had a major impact on my life and I thought it would be worthwile for me to share why. 

For much of my life we lived within 45 minutes of Uncle Bob and his family.  So we were pretty close with him and Aunt Jan and their daughters: Karen, Erica, and Judy.  Through his life, Uncle Bob has been a missionary, a pastor, a journalist, editor, writer, and professor.  He has been the special assistant to the President of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, has written several books, and has even ghost written articles for Dr. Billy Graham, and President Ronald Reagan.  But I will always remember him as an investor.

Now when I say “investor,” I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of the word, but my Uncle Bob did invest in me in many ways over the years.  We had a lot in common.  He had a background in communication and design and enjoyed photography and art as well as writing.  Throughout my years growing up he was always supportive of me and nurtured my creative side.  He gave me some of his old cameras when I showed an interest in photography.  He always wanted to see my artwork and encouraged me in my pursuits as a graphic designer and then in web design.

When I was a graphic designer for the National Office of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, he worked there as a special assistant to the President and as the Director of Communications.  He had input on much of my work and helped me grow and mature both as a designer and as a person. 

I don’t know if he ever realized it or not, but I considered him one of my mentors.  But not only was he supportive of my artistic pursuits, he was also one of my biggest supporters when I felt God’s call on my life to enter the ministry.  He even committed to providing me with a subscription to Christianity Today every year that I have been a pastor. 

But one of the biggest investments he made in my life is one that he didn’t even make specfically for me personally.  This investment came through a book that he wrote 25 years ago.  That book is called, “All for Jesus.”  It is about the history of the Alliance, and was mandatory reading for my ordination when I became a pastor.  But to me that book is not just a historical book.  It helped shape my philosophy of ministry.  I have more notes in that book than any book I have ever read.  I have highlighted passages, notes in the margin, sticky tabs and paperclips marking pages, and other notes that I have written out and inserted.  I have quoted from the book repeatedly and I would put it among the top 5 most influential books in my life.  It is one more way that Uncle Bob has invested in my life.

That is why I think of Uncle Bob as an investor.  I hope that God is using me as an investor in the lives of others, because I have seen the benefit that I have received from those who have invested in me.  And I write this as a challenge to all of us, that we should remember to thank those who have invested in us and look for ways to be used by God as investors in the lives of those around us.

In case you are interested I am including Uncle Bob’s obituary below…

Rev. Robert L. Niklaus, Jr., age 77, of Deland Florida, died March 13, 2011. He was the husband of Janet M. (McIllwaine) Niklaus for the past 52 years.

Born and raised in Williamsport, PA, he was a son of the late Robert L. Niklaus, Sr. and Harriet (Sims) Niklaus. He lived in Nyack, NY for many years- before and after spending 12 years doing missionary work in Belgian, Congo- he then lived in Colorado Springs from 1989-2003 moving to Lakeville, Ma until 2009 and retiring to Florida. He was a graduate of Nyack Missionary Institute-now Nyack College, Class of 1955. He received his masters in journalism Syracuse University, 1968. While residing in Nyack, he was an adjunct professor at King’s College (Briarcliff Manor NY) and Nyack College.

In 1972 he became Assoc. Editor of the Christian Missionary Alliance’s (C&MA) monthly magazine and also worked for National Religious Broadcasting writing numerous articles for religious magazines, including being a ghost writer for Dr. Billy Graham when he featured as the cover of TV Guide Magazine and President Ronald Reagan for a convention. He had the gift of words and was a model wordsmith. From 1987-1996, he was Asst to the President and later Director of Communications. He authored several books penning the history of Alliance worldwide and traveled with a video team recording missionaries at work to show churches how their support was being manifested. Retired from the C&MA in 2000, he became Pastor of Mullein Baptist Church in Lakeville, MA serving with his wife from 2003 – 2009. Surviving In addition to his wife: 3 daughters: Karen Corinha of Marshfield, MA, Erica Butler of Overland Park, KA and Judy Poferl of Bartlett, IL; sister Mary L. Mapstone of Colorado Springs, CO; 6 nieces, 8 nephews and the “jewels of his crown”. He was “button poppin’ proud” of his 9 grandchildren! He also leaves his adopted children: David Trinn of Vietnam, Lan and Sophy Kong of Cambodia and he was the brother of the late William Niklaus.

The Best Verse in Genesis

Last year for my devotions I read through the Bible and for each chapter I underlined one, and only one, verse.  That was a very difficult assignment because many times there were several verses in the chapter that I would have underlined.  I am planning to start that same devotional plan again this year with a different version of the Bible, but first I am putting some finishing touches on last year’s study.

I have been going back and looking at all of my underlines for each chapter and picking one verse, and only one verse, from each book of the Bible.  If I thought that one verse per chapter was tough, this is ridiculous.  How do you decide between several verses that are worth underlining?  It becomes a very subjective experience that is also dependent upon where I am at spiritually, mentally and emotionally at the time as well. 

But be that as it may, it has been a very interesting undertaking.  For instance, for the book of Genesis, I chose Genesis 15:6, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”  I could have gone with something signifying God as Creator, like, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”   I could have gone with a verse that focuses on the downfall of man and the essence of sin, like Genesis 4:7, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  Or I could have focused on a verse displaying God’s sovereignty like, Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

But instead I chose Genesis 15:6, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”   Why?  Simply because of Abram’s example of faith.  He believed the Lord.  He had faith in God for the present and the future.  In Hebrews 11, which is sometimes referred to as the “Faith Hall of Fame” we see that Abraham is credited for this.  He was a man of faith.  And his example stood the test of time. 

Obviously it could be argued as to whether or not this is the best or most important verse in Genesis.  Maybe you would have a different choice?  But this is my blog and this is the verse I chose.  In the weeks ahead I will unveil some of my other choices for best verses as well.

Reflecting on 2010

So are you ready for the new year?  Today is December 29, 2010.  Which means that 2011 is almost here.  Time to usher out the old year and bring in the new.  Thinking back over this past year it is hard to forget the 3 biggest news stories of the year.  The year started out on a sad note as January brought us the terrible Haiti earthquake that saw over 200,000 deaths and millions without shelter, food, and water.  In July the explosion of an oil rig in the Gulf and the subsequent oil spill left many powerful images for us to ponder.  And then in October we all became transfixed by the intense story of the Chilean miners.  It has been a year of tragedy and triumph, of pain and pleasure, and burdens as well as blessings. 

The end of the year is a good time for us to reflect on the year that was.  And not just from a detached, big-picture view, but personally it is a good time for us to take a look at our lives and what the past year has meant for us.  So what has your life been like this past year?  What have been the ups and downs?  What have been your blessings and burdens, your pains and pleasures?  How has this year been for you?

This is a good time to reflect.  But ultimately I think the best test of whether or not it has been a good year is simply the answer to this question, “Have I grown?”  Good things and bad things are going to come our way, but ultimately it is what we do with those things that determine the overall effect on our lives.  My hope for all of us for 2011 is not that we have the perfect year, but rather that no matter what comes, we grow.  May you grow this year.

World Cup

Chilean miners, October

Simon Cowell left American idol

Haiti earthquake, 230,000 died in January

oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico in July

A Funny Thing Happened While Shoveling My Driveway

So we just had a beautiful Minnesota blizzard this past weekend.  For those of you who did not experience it firshand, the snow started on Friday night and kept falling all day Saturday.  Here in Chaska we got somewhere around 16 inches according to the accounts I have heard.  But what made it so bad was the wind.  I went out Saturday afternoon to begin shoveling out my driveway and when I opened my overhead garage door, I found a wall of snow in it’s place.  The drift was almost 3′ tall.  It was the width of my 3-car garage.  And it was about 5′ long before slowly tapering off to about a foot and a half.  I just stood there staring at this winter wonderland wondering where in the world to start. 

Finally I got into action and began clearing a path by scooping the snow and throwing it as far as I could.  Then gradually after I cleared a path I started picking up a shovel full and carrying it over to the side of the driveway and dumping it there.  After working for about an hour I had cleared away about an 8’X8′ section of driveway and the wind was already filling that part back in behind me. 

Thankfully about that time my next door neighbor came by and offered me the use of his snowblower.  I gratefully accepted and after another hour of manhandling that blower through my huge drifts I finally had a semi-cleared driveway.  I still needed to go back the next day and clear out some more areas by hand, but the bulk of the work was done. 

It was a lot of work, and by the time I got inside I literally had icicles formed on my eyebrows.  In times like those you have to ask yourself, “now why again did I move to Minnesota?”  But you know, a funny thing happened to me while shoveling my driveway.  I found myself becoming more and more thankful.  It began with just a short thought, but snowballed into more of a movement within me to give thanks to God for so many blessings that I was reminded of from this storm. 

For instance, being out there for 2-3 hours in that cold wind and snow I was more thankful than ever for the shelter that God has provided for me and my family.  Sometimes we wish our house was different.  We complain about this or that and we talk about what we would like to do differently with our home, but it is in times like that snowstorm that I am simply reminded of how good it is to just have a home where we are safe and warm and dry.

I also found myself being thankful for the work that God allowed me to do just over the last couple of months to clear out our garage so that there was plenty of room to maneuver and get the cars inside and have stuff not be in the way.  I found myself thanking God for the big driveway, even though a bigger driveway means more to shovel.  I thanked Him for the neighbor who let me borrow his snowblower.  I thanked Him for even just letting me be done and that I was warm again.  I just kept finding myself thanking God for one thing after another.

So while I didn’t enjoy the shoveling, I think our little snowstorm helped me to be thankful.  It is sad, but sometimes it take a moment like that to remind us of all the wonderful blessings we often take for granted.  I don’t want to wish on you a snowstorm to help you be thankful, but I encourage you to be thankful. 

The Apostle Paul in his letter to the church in Thessalonica told them to, “give thanks in all circumstances.” (I Thessalonians 5:18a)  I think tough times sometimes cause us to be frustrated, impatient, angry, bitter, or discouraged and we find it tough to be thankful.  But God wants us to give thanks, no matter what the circumstances of life are.  And sometimes it takes those tough times just to remind us to give thanks.

I Make the Pies in Our Family!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  I like getting together with family and friends, being thankful, watching football and eating too much.  Those are 4 of my favorite things to do all wrapped up into one holiday.  It is also nice that Thanksgiving is a 2-day holiday instead of being relegated to the 1-day holiday status like Labor Day and other national holidays.   Actually, here in Minnesota they have even thrown in Wednesday as well, so the kids got 3 days off from school.  I, didn’t get Wednesday off, but I did go home early.  Basically because I needed to make some pies. 

That’s right, I make the pies in our family.  Are  you surprised?  I was!  One day, when I was working as an associate pastor in my first church back in Indiana, I came home and declared to my wife that I was going to make a pie that evening.  You see, as a pastor, there are many times when it feels like you are not finishing anything, but only adding more things to your to do list.  And that can be frustrating.  I wanted to take on a project that I could begin and end that evening.  Something that would allow me to be creative and expressive and that would allow me to enjoy the fruits of my labor after I was finished.  Is that too much to ask?

And I did it.  It took me about 5 hours and at least 2 trips to the grocery store.  But I made 2 apple pies, completely from scratch.  I peeled the apples, made the crusts (top and bottom), got everything prepared and in the oven, and finally got to bed close to midnight after the pies had a chance to cool. 

And believe it or not, I enjoyed it.  And that got me interested in baking.  Since those first 2 pies, baking has become a bit of a hobby for me.  I don’t do pies often because they take a lot of time, but I enjoy experimenting with different kinds of cookies.  Just ask my children who makes the best chocolate chip cookies!  Along the way I have had plenty of flops.  One of the nice things about having 4 kids is that even when a cookie experiment doesn’t turn out so well, as long as it’s got sugar in it, my kids will eat every last one of them.  So while I sometimes have cookies that don’t turn out the way I would like them to, they never get wasted at the Mapstone house.

So this year for Thanksgiving I made a French Apple Pie (the kind with the crumb topping) and a Caramel Apple Pecan Pie.  Both turned out pretty well.  Most people are surprised when they find out that I bake a “mean” apple pie.  I guess I just don’t look like a baker?  But I found out that you never know what you might be good at until you try it.  And who knows, you just might find that you like doing something that you didn’t expect.  The same is true in the church.  There are all kinds of jobs that need to be done.  Some of them require specific gifts in order to be done well, but others just need someone who is willing to give it a try.  As a church body, we need to be willing to get out there and try some of these things.

I didn’t become a pastor until I was almost 30 years old.  Before that I was a graphic designer.  But before going into full-time ministry I have served in the church in a whole bunch of different ways.  I had handled the sound board, led games at AWANA, worked with the youth group, cleaned the church, served in the nursery, taught Sunday School, headed up a small-group, drawn cartoons for the church newsletter, coached the basketball team, redesigned the church bulletin, served on different committees, and been a deacon.  Some of those things I was good at, some not so much, but all of those provided opportunities for me to serve and to find out what I was good at.  Each one of those opportunities helped prepare me for full-time ministry.  Yes, even serving in the nursery helped prepare me to be the pastor I am today.

I guess what I am saying is that too often when someone asks us to consider doing something at the church, our default answer is “no.”  I decided to say “yes,” to a lot of things that I might not have tried, and it eventually led to me becoming a pastor.  Who knows what God has in store for you?  I never thought that I would be the one who makes the pies in our family.  But I gave it a try and I found out that it was something that I enjoy doing and I am actually pretty good at it.  Who know, you might find the same thing if you are willing to try something new?

Why I Like Funerals

So earlier this week I headed out to Chicago with my family for the funeral of my wife’s grandmother.  Her name was Ruth Romin.  She left behind a loving husband of 65 years, 5 children, 15 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren.  She was a long-time member of the Salvation Army church and was also heavily involved in ministry to missionaries with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  There was a small viewing time and graveside service for family and then a memorial service at her church afterward.  It was a wonderful celebration of a life well-lived.

I have to admit I like funerals.  Actually, as a pastor I enjoy doing funerals more than weddings, I always like to organize funerals and  use the Tuell-McKee Funeral & Cremation Services.  The reason is because I believe funerals have a much better opportunity for ministering to people.  Typically at weddings, people are much more focused on the formality of the wedding itself than on God’s presence.  On the flip side, at a funeral, people are looking for God.  They are hungry to hear from Him, to be reminded of His presence, and to reflect on the promise that He is in control.

Funerals are also a great time to connect with family.  All but one of Ruth Romin’s grandchildren made it to the funeral.  And the one who didn’t make it, had a really good reason.  So Julie was able to connect with her brothers and sister, cousins, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces.  Some of whom she had not seen in quite some time.

But the greatest thing about funerals, at least in the case of the death of a Christian saint like Ruth, is that it is the celebration of a loved one passing to glory.  Ruth was struggling here on earth during the last few years of her life.  She was in pain physically, mentally, and emotionally.  She was not the same woman that had lived such a vibrant, spirit-filled, service-oriented life for so many years.  And so she passed from this life to a better one.  She was, no doubt, welcomed into the arms of a loving Father, with the words, “well-done good and faithful servant.”  She is finally now at rest and peace.  So we celebrated her life and her passing on to glory this week.  We remembered her with stories and reminded each other about how wonderful things are now for her in Heaven.  We even finished off the evening with an ice cream social, celebrating two of her favorite treats here on earth: ice cream and Milky Ways.  You have to love a funeral that ends with ice cream!

But that’s the way it should be.  Because this was truly a celebration.  It is truly great to be a Christian and to know that death is not the end, but rather the beginning of eternal life with Christ.  We are reminded in I Corinthians 15:55-57, “‘Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So, yes I like funerals.  And it is not morbid.  It is because I know what comes next.  And so funerals have become a celebration.  But not all funerals.  Funerals for those who die without Christ, are not a celebration.  They are not a victory.  So if you are reading this and you do not know what will happen to you when you die, I urge you to contact us and ask that question.  I would love to talk with you more about how death can lose it’s sting for you as well.

Not Enough Books in the World

This morning in my devotions I came across one of my favorite little, honest, informal verses in the Bible.  It is the last verse in the Gospel of John.  And it is written in such a simple, almost conversational style.  It is John 21:25, “Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”

Isn’t that a great little verse?  It is nothing overly deep or earth-shattering.  It is not a big theological point or an area of doctrine.  It is not a controversial topic or even something that is key to our discipleship process.  But I just love it, because it reminds me that Jesus’ life here on earth was even more amazing than I already picture. 

I have just finished reading through the Gospels.  Almost every day for the last 29 days I have been reading in either Matthew, Mark, Luke or John for my devotions.  And throughout that time I have been reminded of the amazing life of Jesus Christ. 

I have marvelled at miracles like Jesus feeding the five thousand and walking on water.  I have pondered His powerful teachings like the sermon on the mount and the Olivet discourse.  I have seen his compassion during His visits with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the woman accused of adultery.  I have read of His authority over nature when He calmed the storm, over the spiritual realm as He delivered the Gadarene demoniac, over the spiritual leaders of the day as he silenced them with His answers to their questions and even over death itself as He raised Lazarus from the dead.  I have enjoyed His parables like the one about the prodigal son and the one about the lost sheep.  I have witnessed His humanity as He faced temptation in the wilderness and struggled with the will of the Father in the garden before His arrest.  I have been reminded of His meekness and humility as He kept silent in the face of His accusers and willingly allowed Himself to be led away.  I have seen His love as He allowed Himself to be beaten, and mocked and spit upon and ultimately killed for my sins.  And I have rejoiced over His victory with the stone that was rolled away and the visits with His disciples before returning to His Father’s side. 

It has been a great month of reading about the amazing life of Jesus Christ.  But this simple verse at the end of the book of John, this last verse of the Gospels, reminds me that there was more.  There were others who were healed, other lives that were touched, other bonds that were broken, and other needs that were met.  There were more lives that were forgiven, more eyes that were opened, more mouths that were fed, and more hearts that were transformed.   The amazing life of Jesus Christ cannot be contained in just 89 chapters of 4 books.  There is more.

What was contained for me in these Gospels is enough to compel me to believe, but it is also good to be reminded that Jesus’ life is not completely contained in those 4 books.  My Savior, my Messiah, my Lord is amazing!  And if there were a whole world full of books written down, I would want to read them all.

We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

I don’t like November 1.  Why?  Because it reminds me of the consumer spin that we have put on Christmas.  You know what I am talking about.  The day after that “trick or treating” holiday, while the kids are still nursing tummy aches from eating too much candy, all the stores begin to tear down the pumpkins, costumes and candy from their seasonal shelves and begin to put up their Christmas decorations. 

I don’t like this day, but it isn’t because I miss the pumpkins and other treats that that have been up on the shelves for the past month.  The reason I don’t like this day is because once the Christmas decorations go up, we begin a fast paced slide toward Christmas that is anything but the peaceful journey it is meant to be.

Between November 1 and the end of the year we have two holidays that are meant to turn our eyes toward our Heavenly Father with thanks and praise.  But instead of peacefully and joyfully celebrating this time of year, we have filled it with a flurry of gift-buying, party-going, card-sending, house-decorating, consumer-driven madness, that leaves Thanksgiving and the real meaning of Christmas wallowing in the carnage.

In just a little while we will be standing in the early stages of 2011 and looking back with dazed confusion at the blur that was supposed to be the holiday season.   It happens every year.  It seems like we go to bed on October 31 and wake up on January 2 and an entire two months have passed and we hardly had time to enjoy any of it.

I guess that is why I don’t like November 1.  The stores all rush ahead to try and be the first to get out their Christmas stuff and begin this feeding frenzy that we call the holiday season.  They push it by so fast that all we can do is reach out, grab hold and hang on for dear life. 

So my challenge for all of us this year is to get off the carousel.  This year, let’s stand up and say, in the immortal words of Twisted Sister, “We’re not gonna take it anymore!”  I’m not generally a big fan of quoting Twisted Sister, but this phrase fit so well that I just had to use it.  Anyway, we need to be intentional about getting off this crazy carousel of Christmas confusion.  We need to decide that we aren’t going to get taken for a ride anymore by what the stores and the media and the world in general have done with this time of year.

I encourage you to take your time this holiday season.  Walk a little slower.  Don’t rush.  Enjoy this time.  And make it a point to reflect on what it’s all about.  Take time to give thanks between now and Thanksgiving.  Count your blessings.  Remember what God has done for you.  And then turn your sights on the birth of the Savior.  Take time to consider this Jesus who came to earth as a little baby to become the sacrifice for all our sins. 

This is a special time of the year.  Let’s not miss it just because we are too busy.  Take your time and peacefully enjoy this Christmas season.