Saturday, September 18, 2010
I first found out about this Christmas tradition back in 2008, and I finally mustered enough creativity and energy to make my Jesse Tree in 2009. It was worth the time and effort!
Instead of the traditional advent calendar, you make 25 ornaments that cover the Bible from Genesis to the birth of Christ. The tree and the devotionals that accompany each day demonstrate the overarching Old Testament theme of mankind needing a Savior. It then ends with the beautiful birth of Christ and the gospel message. I highly urge you to consider this tradition in your own home.
As women, one of the joys of our homemaking is creating traditions for our family to enjoy and celebrate year after year. My husband was pleased that I set up the backdrop for him to be able to do family devotions in such a fun and meaningful way in the month of December. Perhaps your husband would love for you to be a helpmate by creating this activity for your home.
It isn't difficult to make, especially if you allow enough time to create each of the 25 ornaments by starting early in the fall. I simply made my ornaments out of felt, glue and embroidery thread; and I bought a tree at Tall Mouse last year. I found a book online that gave me patterns for my ornaments. If you are highly afraid of crafty activities, just color the pattern for the Jesse Tree ornaments, cut the paper out and hang the paper ornaments on the tree. The point of the activity is digging into God's Word with your family, not making fancy decorations.
Here is a website with ornaments you can buy and free devotionals and activities to use with your family: http://www.jesse-trees.com/. If you google the Jesse Tree and look at Amazon for books and patterns, you will find multiple resources to help you. Have fun!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
As His daughters, He gives us the blessing of friends in order that we may build one another up, encourage one another in living godly lives, and admonish one another when we aren't doing what would please God. We pray for one another, mourn with friends who are mourning, rejoice when they are rejoicing and step in to practically help when we need to be the hands and feet of Christ. In God's eyes, the point of Christian friendships is growing our holiness and giving Him glory, not satisfying our own quest for happiness and comfort.
The problem occurs when we become self serving in our friendships and our relationships become cliquish. When we start excluding others outside our circle because it isn't as comfortable to have them there or we make other people feel unwelcome, we are not acting becomingly, dear sisters.
This reminds me of a ministry I joined at a different church right around the time I was married. Because it was a life stage ministry, many of the women were very close friends. I had a terrible time forming friendships because a few of the women were resistant to anyone joining their inner circle. They used their friendships as a power play over anyone new and unknown. I was excluded from parties, outings and even conversations in which I was standing right there. In fact, if it weren't for the godly efforts of ONE woman to include me in events and invite me to her home, I would have left the ministry in frustration.
If we were honest, we all have excluded others, even at church, in the interest of our self promotion or comfort. This cannot be a part of what identifies us! We must have the church body strive for holiness in all areas.
Ponder your closest Christian friendships and ask yourself some questions.
-Do we make it a pattern to invite new women to join us for fun events out--even, perhaps especially, women who are not popular or easy to get to know?
-When we are together, do we talk about spiritually edifying topics, or do we sin in gossip and slander against anyone not in our "group"?
-Would we be resentful if another woman became a close friend to our mutual friend? Can we share our friend's gifts, talents and time with others?
-Are you open to making new friends in your life or are you selfishly clinging to one or two sisters in Christ without meeting others?
-Do you admonish one another? Would anyone in the friendship be resentful if she were admonished?
-Are you both inviting other women to join you at church?
-Would you be willing to be separated for the good of a small group or Bible study?
-Does your husband approve of your friendship?
Answer these honestly. If you realize your friendship is leaving others out and not representing Christ well, then repent and talk to your friend about your conviction. Make some measurable steps toward reaching out to other sisters in Christ with welcoming arms, a smile on your face, and no selfish agenda behind the friendships you form. God will be glorified by your obedience to put others before yourself and to love them. Philippians 2: 1-4 says, "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Does this define you and your relationships with sisters in Christ?
This does not mean we won't have some friends who are closer to us than others. However, always make sure you do not resent the presence of the new woman in the small group, the person asking to room with you at retreat, or the Christian woman who desires to make a new friend in you. Though it does take effort, time and sacrifice, it is nothing compared to what Christ did for us--He died for our sin while we were still His enemies. Be Christ, not a clique.