I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free! Psalm 119:32, NIV1984

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Story of Christmas

There's something about the sweetness of young children's voices . . . and when those voices are speaking the very Word of God, something in me melts every time.



So for Christmas this year, from our family to yours - and with the gracious consent of the amazingly talented Jim Brickman - we offer this retelling of the coming of the King, the One whose birth we celebrate this day.

video

For unto us a child is born
And unto us a Son is given
And the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6


Cobb Kids quoting the Christmas Story from memory, December 2007
Music:  Joy to the World, The Gift, Jim Brickman
We Three Kings, Peace, Jim Brickman

Recorded by G. Revis in the Cobb Home, December 2007

Photo by TCobb.  Cradle to the Cross Wreath crafted by Caleb Voskamp.





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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Hope




Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
Oh, my people, trust in Him at all times.
Pour out your heart to Him, for God is our refuge.

Psalm 62:5-8, NLT



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Friday, December 14, 2012

Eight Nights, Eight Lights... The Story of Hanukkah and Christmas

What would you say if I told you that Jesus celebrated Hanukkah?


What would you think if you discovered that the only biblical reference to Hanukkah appears in the New Testament?



How would you respond if I told you that Hanukkah is not just a Jewish holiday, that without Hanukkah, there would be no Christmas?







It's true!

You see, during the years we commonly refer to as the "400 years of silence," the time during which we have no record of God giving His people any word through His prophets, the people of Israel came under the oppression of the Greco-Syrian Empire.  By 168 A.D., Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the ruthlessly cruel Syrian ruler, had destroyed Jerusalem in a flash of relentless anger and had completely desecrated the Temple of the Lord.  He then set out to annihilate the Jews, declaring that all Jews who would not embrace the culture and religious practices of Hellenism (pagan Greek religion and culture) must be put to death.  Faithful Jews fled to the hills to live in caves, but many were hunted down and viciously murdered by the savage Syrian armies.  Jewish history records the stories of devout Jews who, though brutally tortured and facing certain death, refused to turn from the Lord or dishonor His Name.

In the midst of this relentless persecution and oppression, one family among the Jewish people rose up to lead the people of Israel back to reclaim, restore, and rededicate the Temple of the Lord.  Led by the son known as Judah Maccabee ("the Hammer"), these sons of the priest, Mattathias, and those with them, eventually defeated the Syrian armies and reclaimed the Temple.  On Kislev 25, 165 B.C. (December of that year), the Maccabees rededicated the altar in the Temple of the Lord.

Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud, says that only one day's worth of pure oil remained in the Temple but that the menorah burned for eight days.  Jewish people, today, remember and celebrate that miracle by lighting eight lights for eight nights on their Hanukkiyahs (the nine-branch menorahs that hold one candle for each of the eight nights, plus one shammash (servant) candle which is used to light the others.)

So why does it matter to us?  What's the connection?

If Antiochus Ephiphanes and his soldiers had succeeded in annihilating the Jews, there would have been no Jewish baby born to be Messiah.

The reclaiming, restoring, and rededication of the Temple by those fiercely loyal Jews prepared the way for a certain young Jewish girl and her husband to take their baby boy to the Temple and place Him in the arms of Simeon, who proclaimed,

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of all people
a light for revelation to the Gentiles 
and for glory to your people, Israel.
Luke 2:29-32, NIV 1984

And the Gospel of John records that when that baby boy grew up...

"Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, 
the Feast of Dedication.  
He was in the Temple, walking through the section
 known as Solomon's Colonnade."  
John 10:22-23, NLT

So why celebrate Hanukkah?
Because Jesus did!

Why light eight lights during these eight nights?
Because it's not just a Jewish holiday!

It's a celebration of the faithfulness of our amazing God to preserve, against all odds, the people He had set apart for Himself, those through whom He had promised to send a Savior who would be the light of the world.

So light the candles!  And worship the Lord!  Celebrate!  Tell the whole world the great things our God has done!

Because in so doing, we remember how the Lord preserved His people and prepared the way for the coming King.







The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2, NIV 1984


The Word gave life to everything that was created,
And His life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
And the darkness can never extinguish it!
John 1:4-5, NLT

*****


If you would like to know more about the Hanukkah, the Feast of Dedication, and how God used the events celebrated during this holiday to prepare the way of the Lord, I highly recommend the following resources:

The Feasts of the Lord, by Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal
The following articles by Dr. Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries
   "No Hanukkah, No Christmas"
   "Hanukkah and Christmas, Bridging the Great Divide"



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Friday, December 7, 2012

The Sweeter Gift


In the misty, grey cold of Christmas morning, I held her filthy hands and looked her in the eyes.

"God has not forgotten you," I whispered.

Salty tears ran down her wind-chapped cheeks and her lips trembled across teeth that hadn't been brushed in . . . months?

"Could we sing Amazing Grace," she asked?

"Of course!" I smiled.

I knelt beside her, there on the frozen concrete, and we sang off-key . . .

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind but now I see.
( - John Newton)

It was just a moment on Christmas morning a year ago.  

But it's the moment I remember most from last Christmas.

For years now, my parents, my husband and children, my brother and sister, their families, and I have spent Christmas morning on the streets of our city, handing out clean socks, warm blankets, hot biscuits, and paper cups of steaming coffee.  I struggle to remember the gifts we've opened and the meals we've eaten those Christmases past; but I remember the men, the women, the children we've visited on the streets . . .





...The two guys who asked my children what they had found under the tree that Christmas morning . . . the one who said he remembered getting a bike for Christmas when he was a boy . . . the way he smiled, his face tender with the memory.

...The man who pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket...showed my dad the last of the savings that he had pulled out of the bank before moving to the streets with his wife.

...The lady who told my children and their cousins about her grandchildren near their ages . . . and how she said, "I'll probably see you next year.  I'll be here."

...The four-year-old boy with his mom, bundled up in blankets but so, so cold . . . and how I cried all the way home, laid awake nights praying for him.

I don't know all the reasons they're living on the streets.  Job loss.  Broken homes.  Mental illness.  Broken dreams.

I don't know how to fix all the broken lives, broken hearts, broken hopes on those streets.





But I know this . . .

Jesus said, "For I was hungry . . ."

And I know this . . . sweeter than any package we could open is this gift of seeing the ones we too often look right past.
  

Can you imagine . . . to Him?

During this season of Advent, I want to slow down instead of scurrying past.

In the midst of the celebration, I want to take time to really see.

My friends, Dave and Jess, say it better than I could say it.  
(And they don't sing off-key!

Watch:




But when the Son of Man comes in His glory,
and all the angels with Him,
then He will sit upon His glorious throne...
Then the King will say to those on His right,
"Come you who are blessed by my Father,
inherit the Kingdom prepared for you 
from the creation of the world.
For I was hungry, and you fed me.
I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink.
I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.
I was naked, and you gave me clothing.
I was sick, and you cared for me.
I was in prison, and you visited me."
Then these righteous ones will reply,
"Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?
Or thirsty and give you something to drink?
Or a stranger and show you hospitality? 
Or naked and give you clothing?
When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?
And the King will say, "I tell you the truth,
when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,
you were doing it to me!"
Matthew 25:31, 34-46, NLT



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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lists and Links and a Free Christmas Bucket List Printable

Last year, inspired by some of the bucket lists I saw online, I made a bucket list for fall. My kids enjoyed that bucket list so much that they asked for a Christmas bucket list also.  


A simple list with some important reminders.  A festive list with a few fun ideas.  A place to write down the names, the dates, and the places.  A bit of inspiration to slow down in the rush of the season . . . to make sweet memories . . . to mark the moments.




I've updated the Christmas Bucket List for 2012.  If you'd like to download and print a copy, click here.



If you're not familiar with the Jesse Tree Readings for Advent, (mentioned in the bucket list, above) the stories from Scripture that trace the lineage of Jesus, the root of Jesse, you can find a beautiful rendering of these stories over at Ann Voskamp's place, A Holy Experience.  Ann has made the Jesse Tree Journey devotional available for free, with the full Bible text for each reading included and beautiful, full-color as well as black & white illustrations to cut out and use as you mark the days of Advent. This is my favorite way to count the days of Advent!  Click here to find Ann's Jesse Tree Journey devotional.

And as we mark the moments in preparation for Christmas, I'm continuing to count His endless gifts and grace . . .

#1579  kids and husband hanging lights on the house
#1580  Christmas music playing while we work
#1581  white lights and a red bow on the reindeer out front
#1582  a festive wreath on the door
#1583  nutcrackers on the mantle
#1584  red plaid bows on the candlesticks
#1585  coming home to the house all lit in Christmas lights
#1586  small town Saturday night
#1587  bar-b-que for dinner
#1588  live band playing country music
#1589  French toast for breakfast
#1590  Jupiter blazing next to the full moon in the night sky
#1591  cranberry orange tea with honey
#1592  homemade apple bread
#1593  10 little fingers & 10 little toes...new little one in the family
#1594  impromptu dinner with Gram, Grandad & Granny
#1595  troubleshooting...figuring it out
#1596  leafy greens with feta, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds
#1597  listening to the Lifeway Women cd 
#1598  skimming through books at the Christian bookstore
#1599  morning fog hanging low in the field
#1600  getting the squirrel out the door
#1601  the laughter that followed the frantic frenzy of a squirrel in the house
#1602  boy-child jumping up and down, so excited to find ice cream in the freezer


And give thanks for everything
to God the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 5:20, NLT






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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When Things Get Squirrely

There are red plaid bows on the candlesticks and the Crowder Christmas mix is playing on Pandora while we work.




Little toy mice peek from the toes of the stockings that hang from the mantle, and a half-dozen nutcrackers stand at attention nearby.





But in case you thought we had it all together here...
In case pretty words and peaceful pictures have led you to believe that all is pretty and peaceful, that things are always perfect beneath this roof...

You should know that there are a couple of contentious kids in the mix... one fussing that the other keeps singing out loud, making it hard to focus on calculating simple interest and discerning between transitive and intransitive verbs.

There's a frantic scramble to complete a project, fill out some required forms, and get to a meeting on time...

And as we're walking out the door...

There's a squirrel.

Yep! A live one!  A little brown squirrel who runs right in my front door as we are walking out, chased in by one proudly predatory little fur-ball.

Under the desk, tucked between a bag of Christmas wrapping paper and the little stool that holds the printer, the squirrel refuses to come out.

And a squirrel in the house on a school day can just turn everything on its end!

So we turn the farm table over on its side, and together with a couple of boxes, we make a barrier between it and the back door.  We open the door and begin to stomp and holler and carry on.  And that poor squirrel looks like someone has lit a fire under his little clawed feet.  He scrambles out of his hiding place, up the side of the box and back down.  And out the door he goes, like someone is firing a shotgun behind him all the way.

And the cat?  This pretty princess?



Like a heat-seeking missile, she shoots straight after him across the lawn.



Some days, things just don't go the way we've planned.  There's a diversion from the pretty posts we've planned because... well, some days, things just get a little squirrely.

But in the midst of the mess, there's the miracle... the giggles, the laughter, the coming together of all the fussy kids toward one end . . . Even if it is the end of a farm table that's been turned on its side to corral a wayward squirrel!




He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Eccelesiastes 3:11, NIV 1984

(even squirrels in the house on a school day)

linking up today with Emily over at Chatting at the Sky, for
 Tuesdays Unwrapped



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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving

Give thanks to the LORD,
for He is good!
His faithful love endures forever!
Psalm 107:1, NLT




It's Thanksgiving, friends . . . a day to pause and give thanks . . . a day to remember that this is the command that God has given for all of our days . . . that we would "be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (1 Thess. 5:18, NLT)  

It's a day to remember what Jesus said . . . that "in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!"  (John 16:33)

I'm praying His sweetest blessings over each of you today, and . . . 

Continuing to count His endless gifts and grace . . . 

1569  warm muffins in the morning
1570  praying with my mom & dad
1571  witnessing the baptism of another long-prayed-for friend
1572  Granny in my mother's kitchen baking yummy cakes and pies
1573  licking the bowl
1574  boys playing ultimate frisbee and basketball for hours
1575  games of Blokus with my firstborn and brother-in-law
1576  leaves changing on the trees
1577  a brand new ball of yarn to knit
1578  family gathered to give thanks

I will thank the LORD with all my heart
as I meet with His godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the LORD!
All who delight in Him should ponder them.
Everything He does reveals His glory and majesty.
His righteousness never fails.
Psalm 111:1-3, NLT


Linking with Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience



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Monday, November 19, 2012

For Zion's Sake

The world has much to say about the land, the nation, and the people of Israel.  


God's Word has much to say, too.  

These are a few of those things:

This is what the LORD of Heaven's Armies says: 
"My love for Mount Zion is passionate and strong;
I am consumed with passion for Jerusalem!
Zechariah 8:2, NLT

overlooking Jerusalem

For the LORD has chosen Jerusalem;
He has desired it for His home.
"This is my resting place forever," He said.
"I will live here, for this is the home I desired.
I will bless this city and make it prosperous
I will satisfy its poor with food.
I will clothe its priests with godliness;
its faithful servants will sing for joy."
Psalm 132:13-16, NLT

inside the Old City of Jerusalem

Because I love Zion,
I will not keep still.
Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, 
I cannot remain silent.
I will not stop praying for her
until her righteousness shines like the dawn,
and her salvation blazes like a burning torch.
Isaiah 62:1, NLT


the Sea of Galilee

It is the LORD who provides the sun to light the day
and the moon and stars to light the night,
and who stirs the sea into roaring waves.
His name is the LORD of Heavens Armies,
and this is what He says,
"I am as likely to reject my people Israel
as I am to abolish the laws of nature!"
This is what the LORD says,
"Just as the heavens cannot be measured
 and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored,
so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done.
I the LORD have spoken!"
Jeremiah 31:35-37, NLT

one of many beautiful towns in Israel

... the people of Israel... are still the people He loves 
because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  
For God's gifts and His call can never be withdrawn.
Romans 11:28-29, NLT

the Jordan River

But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you.
O Israel, the One who formed you says,
"Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are Mine.
When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.
when you go through rivers of difficulty you will not drown.
Isaiah 43:1-2a, NLT

looking out from the Golan Heights

When you walk through the fire of oppression, 
you will not be burned up
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom;
I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
Others were given in exchange for you.
I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me.
You are honored and I love you.
Isaiah 43:2b-4, NLT


praying at the Western Wall

But you, O LORD, will sit on your throne forever.
Your fame will endure to every generation.
You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem - 
and now is the time to pity her,
now is the time you promised to help.
For your people love every stone in her walls
and cherish even the dust in her streets.
Psalm 102:12-14, NLT

inside a bunker at the Golan Heights

O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls;
they will pray day and night continually.
Take no rest, all you who pray to the LORD.
Give the LORD no rest until He completes His work,
until He makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth.
Isaiah 62:6-7, NLT

Jerusalem


The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father's family, and go to the land that I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation.  I will bless you and make you famous and you will be a blessing to others.  I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt.  All the families on earth will be blessed through you." 
 Genesis 12:1-3, NLT



Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.
For the sake of my brothers and friends
I will say, "Peace be within you."
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your prosperity.

Psalm 122:6-9, NIV 1984



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Monday, October 29, 2012

Weekend Visitor

Fall waltzes in, just a weekend visitor, and we pull sweaters and boots out of the closet, inviting her to stay.  We sip hot cider and bake pumpkin muffins.  The boys play football in the street.

We visit the pumpkin patch, pick out a fat pumpkin for the front walk and snap pictures of the kids among the scarecrows.












Come Tuesday, the weather will be warm again.  We'll hang our jackets on their pegs and trade our socks for sandals.  But today...we'll revel in the glory of October...the clear blue sky, the crisp fall air, the sound of children laughing in the street.

Continuing to count His gifts and grace . . .

1534  morning coffee and quiet time on the patio
1535  golden white rim of sunlight around the clouds
1536  wrapping up a birthday gift for a friend
1537  new dress shirts and slacks for his new job
1538  no cavities!
1539  yummy Bisquick chicken
1540  avocado and strawberries in salad
1541  hearing my boy-child tell what he's learning in science
1542  fluffy, clean, just-groomed dog
1543  tiny kittens piled up together in a heap
1544  toddler "tea party"
1545  my kids on the floor working a puzzle with their toddler cousin
1550  boy-child playing patiently with the little one next door
1551  clear sky, crisp air, and a hot cup of coffee
1552  rolling out the history timeline and attaching new artwork
1553  firstborn coming out of ballet class giggling with her friends
1554  lacrosse practice starting again
1555  special student home for a visit, bringing her beau for us to meet
1556  pancake dinner at Gram & Grandad's
1557  gathering with other women to hear our favorite Bible study teacher
1558  stunningly beautiful worship music
1559  yummy popcorn treats
1560  a field trip with my children to see a student in her school musical
1561  coffee and catching up with another student
1562  picking out a pumpkin for the front walk
1563  Friday night dinner out with Gram & Grandad  
1564  caramel apples
1565  boys playing football in the street
1566  tall boots and warm sweaters
1567  seeing a friend baptized...cold weather, broken water heater and all!
1568  this reminder, as the earth shakes in the West and storms rage in the East:

As long as the earth remains,
there will be 
planting and harvest,
cold and heat, 
summer and winter,
day and night.
Genesis 8:22, NLT






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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sukkot 2012

Then celebrate with joy before the LORD your God . . .
Leviticus 23:40, NLT







  









Continuing to count His gifts and grace . . . 

#1513 Gathering with old friends for a weekend of celebration
#1514 Gracious friends hosting us by the dozens
#1515 All those tents lined up in the field
#1516 Worship under the stars
#1517 Late-night s'mores
#1518 Watching the sun rise over the trees
#1519 Morning mist over the water
#1520 Snuggling under blankets
#1521 Warming up by the fire
#1522 Rocking chairs on the front porch
#1523 Kids on the zip-line over the lake
#1524 Him on the wave runner pulling kids on the raft...their smiles
#1525 Tiny hands holding fishing poles over the water
#1526 Kids splashing in the pool
#1527 Sand volleyball
#1528 ATV rides
#1529 Chef-prepared gourmet meals 
#1530 Little ones making graham cracker sukkahs
#1531 Him teaching so simply and beautifully the "why" of celebrating Sukkot
#1532 Her smile and her kindness as she worked long hours behind the scenes
#1533 Looking forward to next year's celebration


This will remind each new generation of Israelites
 that I made their ancestors live in shelters
when I rescued them from the land of Egypt.
Leviticus 23:43





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