Thursday, December 3, 2009

O Holy Night

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

So we continued our family devotional time again tonight. We were six again with my honorary son present again and after an evening full of playful craziness among us we settled down after dinner and homework were done while chocolate cookies baked in the oven. We sat at the table together and prayed and then each of us spent time in the word. Neal and Jake were the only ones to wander away from the table for that. I think both of them continued in Job and Isaiah respectively. Trevor (HS) read several chapters in Proverbs and in the New Testament. My young ones worked from their devotional books again and I started my word study looking up verses on joy.

At lunchtime today I asked Neal what CHRISTmas carol he thought we should go over tonight. He actually threw me when he said "O Holy Night." It's not a song that I really know well, so possibly in arrogance, I guess I didn't expect it to be on the top of his list either. I guess I would have been less surprised if he'd said something like "Little Drummer Boy," since he's a drummer, but he said O Holy Night, so I pulled up the lyrics and went looking for a version of the song to play for the kids tonight.

When I have sung this song before it's been with a lot of "lala la's" You know what I mean, right? "O Holy Night, the stars I brightly shining, it is the night of the dear Savior's birth... la la la la la... Fall on your knees, o hear the angels voices..."

So I found a wonderful version of the song today at work by Chris Tomlin, but when we were home with the kids I couldn't find it on Napster. We had to settle for Martina McBride, and although her voice is awesome, she only repeats the 1st verse twice, she doesn't sing any other verse of the song. So I ended up singing the 2nd verse to the kids myself. It wasn't nearly as pleasant to the ears, but the words were just as beautiful.

As I read the lyrics today, where normally I would be singing my "lala la's" I was so moved by the words. Long lay the world in sin and error pining. Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth. These words really touched my heart, thinking about the longing the world had for its Savior. All those years since the fall of man, the world waited to be redeemed. Man, not even knowing, was pining away for the love of God. It was not until that moment, when Christ finally came that the soul, the soul of all mankind realized it's worth, it's preciousness to the Father. It takes me back to the days before my own salvation when I did not know the true love of the Father, so many people still, not knowing of God's love for them, and it makes my heart ache.

To explain the next line to the kids, A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. I talked about the feeling of being lost in the dark. I asked my children to imagine how they would feel if they were lost in a completely dark maze and could not find the door to exit. My wonderful daughter assured me she would be brave knowing God was with her, but I asked her to think about how she would feel practically. Ethan had all the right words, scared, worried, lonely and lost. Tired too, I imagine, wandering in the dark not knowing where to find their freedom. Then I asked them, if suddenly someone flipped on a flashlight, then what? We talked about how if they would just go to the source of that light, then it would lead them to the freedom they were looking for. If only we will draw to the Light, then we can find freedom, direction and hope.

That's what it was like, I am sure for the people of God. They knew the scriptures, had heard the promises and were waiting for the Messiah to come. Pining away. Those shepherds that night on the hill, I'm sure their eyes were drawn to star in the sky, perhaps even in wonder, but what must their reaction have been when suddenly the angel appeared.

I asked Victoria to recite her line that she has in tomorrow's CHRISTmas musical at church, "That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were afraid." (Luke 2:8-9)

Common, hardworking men, doing their jobs, tending their responsibilities and suddenly, the message came, their salvation was at hand. What an amazing moment that must have been. How amazing that they are the ones the Father first declared the Son's coming to. Surely their souls felt their worth. The Messiah had come for them.

Oh how that message needs to be shared today. The Messiah has come, for so many who are just working hard, tending their responsibilities. I so desperately want my children to grasp this understanding. I so want them to look beyond the presents and the tree, past Santa and the crazy push of materialism everywhere we look. The message of CHRISTmas, the true message is a humble truth of God's love for us, and His deep desire that we know Him, know His love, and the sacrifice He was willing to make in sending His Son so we could come to know Him.

The second verse of the song is the truth of CHRISTmas.

Truly He taught us To love one another;
His law is love And His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break For the slave is our brother;
And in His name All oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy In grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us Praise His holy name.

The kids and I talked about the truths here too... His law is love... Every day people question God's love, they talk about war and sickness and then point fingers and blame God, but the truth is, God's heart aches at these things, and aches for those who suffer through them without knowing His love for them. We talked about the "Greatest Commandment"

Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Matthew 22:37-39. All the other do's and don'ts that so many people define the bible and religion by are all wrapped up and accomplished in loving God and loving one another.

And His gospel is peace. We talked about how peace is found in the gospel, the good news, the words of truth the angels proclaimed that night, the Messiah came because "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Jesus came at the Father's bidding to give us eternal life. And that in this "good news" peace is also made between us and the Father.

I am so glad that Neal chose this song this morning, I think it continues to decorate our heart beautifully for the CHRISTmas season, because although no angels may come to proclaim this great tiding in these dark days, each of us who knows Him and loves Him can. We have the power and opportunity to speak the words of truth so that the souls around us might "feel their worth." And when they have, may they fall on their knees in worship for the one who loves them beyond their comprehension.

The good news of the gospel is the greatest gift I hope to give to all who might listen this CHRISTmas season, not only in words, but in love.

Joy to the World

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

CHRISTmas time is here. Tuesday was the first of the month, and we did follow through with my plan to focus on the reason for the season. It was severely challenged and almost fell through, but in the end we pulled it off and it was worth it. We had company for dinner in my honorary son (sort of company, because he really is part of our family now) and afterwards everyone wandered off for 20 minutes or so to read the Word. It was a challenge for everyone in that I didn't really give them any direction, there was no assigned devotion to do, just spend time in the word.

My younger two both had devotional books, they read scripture that correlated with their devotions from those books. Ethan had a calendar oriented one, so he just went straight for the date. I helped Victoria pick a page from hers and they went off on their own to proceed. They both needed a little help, but that's part of the idea behind this whole process, to teach them about having their own devotional times. The older boys went two different directions, one digging into the gospels (off his iPod, ain't modern technology grand?) and the other heading into the Old Testament and the book of Isaiah. Neal continued to read what he's been reading in his daily time of work from the book of Job. Not very Chistmas-y but it's where he's been reading.

As for me, I read a little from each of the chapters I knew the younger two were looking into and I also read the Psalm that was connected to the Christmas carol I knew we'd be talking about when we gathered back together. It led me off onto a short word study on the word "joy." It's where I think I'd like to spend my devotional times for the month of December.

I was actually really pleased by the kids' responses, even Neal was on board. When they came back up to the table they each wanted to share about what they had read. It was almost hard to get the conversation going about the CHRISTmas carol I had chosen for the day.

Eventually I did. I played a pretty "rockin'" version of Joy to the World by Casting Crowns. I had been meditating on the words of the song most of the day, and the phrase that had been running through my mind over and over again was "let every heart prepare Him room..." That was the desire I had to impart to my kids, that I wanted us to make room for Jesus in this holiday season.

It was a hearty discussion, my younger two competing to answer my questions (we're going to have to work on that) the older boys having input and excitement too. I loved having us all sit there together sharing about the Lord. It made me feel like I was doing God's will.

I learned a few interesting things that day as I looked into the carol, for example I found a "lost" verse that I've never heard sung before. It's the 3rd of 4 verses in the song and it says:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

As a family we talked about the curse of our sin nature, and how the Lord came in part to break that. We talked about the "making room" and how when baby Jesus was born there was "no room" at the inn, and how in the world today, it seems more and more, that there is "no room" for Christ in CHRISTmas. I really wanted to impart to my kids the importance of remembering what the holiday is really all about. For our first day I have to say, I think it was pretty successful.

Yesterday we were not able to continue in the plan. It made me a little sad to drop the ball already on the 2nd day of the month, but it is why I said I wasn't going to be legalistic about it. Last night was Victoria's dress rehearsal for the CHRISTmas musical at the church, my honorary son was around but he had to be at church by 5 for worship practice, Neal got off late and got stuck in traffic so he wasn't home till after 5, and had to be to church by 6 for his worship practice. It just didn't come together, and yet truly, it was because most of the family was centering about the things of God, so it's certainly not the end of the world, or the end of the "Joy to the World."

We did decide at the table that for His birthday we're going to try to give Jesus a whole month of the Philippians 2:14 challenge. We're going through a rough phase of sibling rivalry with my younger two, and some tattle-taling and whining tightly intertwined, so having the ability to remind my kids of the gift we're giving Jesus is a good thing.

I really want to dig deeper in to the Word about joy, because to be honest, I have been struggling with it since yesterday. As determined as I was Monday to focus on it and choose to be joyful, yesterday the resolve felt sapped out of me. But I am trying to "prepare Him room in my heart because He is so very worthy. And I know that the word says, in His presence is fullness of joy.

I have not really prepared for the holidays, I have officially bought three small gifts and that's it. The outside of our home is decorated but nary a decoration is displayed inside. I guess my focus is to first decorate my heart, and the hearts of my family with the true holiday spirit, the spirit of CHRISTmas, focusing on the many gifts we've already been given but perhaps have neglected recently to enjoy.

Joy to the World
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the Earth! the Saviour reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.
Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

Psalm 98

... let every heart prepare Him room...

Monday, November 30, 2009

'Tis the Season...

...for Christmas themed blogging. Last year it was the 25 days of CHRISTmas, with the goal of establishing CHRIST firmly in the DePriest Christmas holiday. The goal for 2009 of course remains the same, I want to make sure the "reason for the season" is clear here in our home, but the plan for the process this year that's on my heart is different.

I have to be honest, I haven't been very excited about the holidays. Money is tight and as most people are, we are struggling and juggling. My husband and son thought they had busted me on a false "bah-humbug" attitude yesterday because they hear me singing "Jingle Bells" in the shower, but honestly I think I picked it up somewhere like a virus. It was not an overflow of Christmas cheer.

Then I headed off to church yesterday. As I was driving down the street alone I was rooting around behind myself trying to find my bible and keep my eye on the road at the same time. As I grabbed hold of it and plopped it into the front seat, I noticed my relatively new bible is starting to show signs of wear. Immediately I realized the wear is truthfully from lack of use and too much time sliding around in the back of my van. It's a stark contrast to another bible I own, that is severely tattered and worn. The big difference is that its battle scars came from use, extreme use. It literally is coming right out of it's binding. As I the thought came to me, I knew it was the Holy Spirit pricking my heart.

It was also a preparing of my heart for the message I was to hear at church yesterday morning. My pastor was exhorting us to be in the word. It was actually a great sermon that both challenged and encouraged me, but it's not the point behind this post, so if you want to hear it for yourself, just click here and listen for yourself to the 11/30 message called True Revival. Go, have a listen, I'm sure you will be blessed.

Bottom line for this blog's purpose though, was I walked away inspired, not only to be better about getting in the word, but also about getting my kids deeper into the word too.

So, tomorrow we will have daily devotional times. Different than before, we used to all sit together and read out of a family devotional and pray together. But all my kids are readers now, and so what's going to happen is every day for 30 minutes, all the TVs and computers and iPods, etc., will be shutting down, and we'll divide and each have our own personal devotional time. Then we will gather back together for a Christmas themed family devotional.

As I was driving to work this morning I got an inspiration. I'm not really sure how it's going to all come together, and it may even turn out to be a bigger bite than I can chew, but I'm going to give it a shot.

So here's my goal: every day I want to pick a different Christ-centered Christmas carol (seems like that should be redundant, but it isn't) and explore the deeper meaning, talk about the Truth that lines up with it. And if time and inspiration permit, I think also I will post here about it too. I'm not making the same "25 days" commitment I made last year, because let's face it, it could be a big bomb, but if I hit something insightful or a tad bit inspirational, I will be sure to blog about it here. I hope there are 25 carols worth digging into.

Tomorrow I'm kicking it off with one of my faves, Joy to the World, come by and check to see if it makes the blog!

Merry Christmas!