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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Fun Facts About Christmas!

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With Christmas just round the corner, it's time to be in a festive mood and think things the Christmas-way. It is that time of the year, again, when everything turns sweet and nostalgic, a time to remember loved ones, a time when wishes could come true, and yes, a time that holds something special for everyone.
 
I was pleasantly surprised to find these cool Christmas facts from author Margaret Brownley's December newsletter and I'd love to share it with you guys and hope you enjoy it.
Oh no!  Scientists think that Rudolph's red nose might be caused by a parasitic infection of the respiratory system.

Speaking of Rudolph:The story of Santa's 9th reindeer was created by Robert L. May in 1939 as a giveaway coloring booklet for Montgomery Ward.

Some historians say that the new trend of hanging Christmas trees upside-down is really more traditional.  In the 1500s trees were hung upside-down to represent the Holy Trinity.
 
During World War II, the Bicycle playing card company secretly made  special decks for the U.S. government.  The decks were sent to American POWs in German camps as Christmas gifts. When the cards were moistened, they peeled apart revealing a map of escape routes. 
 
For a "green" Christmas put up a real tree. A fake tree would have to be reused for 20 years to be "greener" than a real tree.   Even then, there's all that plastic or metal ending up in landfills.   Oh, my... 
 
When Denny's decided to close its restaurants for the first time ever during the Christmas of 1986 they ran across some unexpected problems.  Designed to stay open twenty-four hours a day, some restaurants were built without  locks.  Others couldn't find the keys. 

The tradition of writing to Santa started in 1871 when Harper's Weekly published a cartoon by Thomas Nest showing Santa sitting at his desk reading letters. 

The most requested gift last year was an Apple iPad.  One of the most requested items during the 1800s was an....apple.

Jingle Bells was the first song to be performed in outer space.

Blame it on the war: The long shopping spree before Christmas began when relatives of soldiers posted overseas during the Second World War were encouraged to mail gifts early.


The 3 stages of man
He believes in Santa Claus.  
He doesn't believe in Santa Claus.
He IS Santa Claus!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Pain as a Starting Point



PHOTO CREDIT: UNKNOWN

My last day of work before Christmas vacation had been a busy one. With the car full of groceries, I pulled into my driveway and let out a sigh of relief. All that was left for me to do was put away the items I had bought and make dinner. As I turned off the ignition, I looked up to see my 12-year-old son racing out of the house. “Zoe’s been hit! Zoe’s been hit by a car!” he screamed.

Rushing into the house, I found my dog lying limp on the backroom floor. Blood oozed with each rattling breath. She seemed lifeless, near death. Her back leg was crooked and floppy, obviously broken.

All three of my boys moved into action and helped to unload the bags of groceries while I called the Emergency Animal Hospital. My eldest son and I lifted Zoe’s fifty-pound body into the back seat while the other two boys jumped into the car.

“What happened?” I asked as we headed to the vet’s office.Devon spoke up. “I was taking the garbage can out to the curb, and I let Zoe come with me.” “Without a leash?”

He looked guilty as tears fell down his cheeks. “Yes,” he said. “I didn’t know she would run into the road. I yelled and told her to come back but she ran right in front of a car!”

I looked back at Zoe. Her breaths were getting louder and now had a rattily, raspy quality.

“Listen guys, this is really bad. She may not make it. And if she dies, we will be turning around and going home.”

The tension and fear grew palpable in the car. At each stoplight Devon began to chant under his breath, “Please be green! Please be green!” His face was tight with tension as we waited at each red light.

I knew Devon adored Zoe. Recently he had been helping me train her. Images of him witnessing our family dog being struck by a car flashed through my head; I felt sick to my stomach. “How will this impact him if Zoe dies?” I wondered.

Glancing at him, I saw that his shoulders were stooped over and shaking with his sobs.

I joined my children’s quiet chant. Instead of repeating “please be green!” as we drove up to each stop light, I silently prayed, “Please don’t let Zoe die. The guilt and blame will deeply wound my son if our dog dies. Please, God, please don’t let Zoe die!”

Zoe came home a few days later, just in time to be with our family on Christmas Eve. It was the best Christmas gift I received that year because I knew both my dog and my son would recover.

God answered my prayer that day, but there have been plenty of times when I haven’t gotten the response I wanted. Sometimes God says no. As a psychologist, I have come to the realization through my counseling experiences that suffering is an inescapable part of our lives. Pain can come in many forms. Sometimes it is subtle and chronic, and other times it tears us apart with its cruelty and finality.

When we suffer, we often struggle to understand God. He might seem distant or unavailable. We begin to wonder if God has left us on our own.

We question whether or not God sees our problem and pain. And, we wonder if he knows about our situation. We ask, “Does he care?”

God, however, promises never to leave nor forsake us. Instead, he longs to equip us with the confidence and faith to face life’s uncertainties. Like Job, we may find life’s trials offer us an opportunity to rediscover and renew our faith. It can provide an opportunity to challenge our assumptions about what we believe. We may wonder: does life or God owe us anything? Can we really trust in God and his promises when we face challenges? How will we react emotionally to pain? Pain can act as a starting point in our search for a deeper relationship with God.

Kerry Kerr McAvoy | Taken from the introduction to Pain as a Starting Point | Kindle Edition

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Holiday Struggles



"But our family always celebrates on Christmas Eve," Ann insisted. "That’s the way we’ve always done it." She explained that her three siblings, who lived in different cities, had already made travel plans. "And Christmas is the only time I get to see my baby brother because he lives so far away from us."

Curtis shook his head. "That’s the problem. Christmas Eve is when my family does our big celebration. Our tradition goes back to the time when my grandfather was a boy during the Great Depression. . ." For perhaps a minute he explained the plans his side of the family had already made to come together.

"We don’t know what to do," Ann said. The couple had married six months earlier when Christmas was far from their thoughts. "Everything else in our lives seems settled except this."  

At the time, I was their pastor and I had heard the story before. How could they possibly please both sides of the family? Neither of them thought about the family conflict until the middle of November.

"Now what are we going to do?" Curtis said. "I don’t want to hurt my parents and Ann doesn’t want to disappoint hers." As he explained, both families planned a big meal and celebration on Christmas Eve. The one factor that differed was that Ann’s family met at 5:30 and Curtis’s didn’t start until 7:00.

They resolved the immediate crisis by going to Ann’s family, eating a big dinner and leaving a few minutes after seven. They arrived late for Curtis’s family gathering. They groaned over having to eat two huge meals.

"We’ve got to do something different next year," Ann said.

"Yeah, I wish we’d thought about it before." They decided to talk to both families to see if they could figure out something so they wouldn’t get caught in such a bind the next year.

Just before they left, Curtis asked me, "Did you ever have that problem in your family?"

I smiled because we hadn’t encountered that problem. By the time our children reached the marriage stage, I figured out that the holy season was a time of good cheer and happiness but it could also become a time of stress, especially when it came to family traditions.

After our oldest child, Wanda, married, we told her and her siblings that we had made one decision about observing the holiday period. "Go to your in-laws first. Honor their tradition. We’ll take the left-over time."

By the time all three of our children married, it gave them hassle-free permission to take care of their in-law obligations first. For us, it meant that some years we’ve celebrated Christmas three days early or two days late.

A few times I felt lonely on Christmas Day, wishing we had gotten together as we had when they were children. I reminded myself, "Nobody knows exactly when Jesus was born. So does a specific day on the calendar make a difference?" Even without that reminder, I knew we had done the right thing because it avoided forcing our children to decide which side of the family to please. That decision has worked for thirty plus years.

Sometimes I do things right. That was one of those times.

by Cecil Murphey
TAKEN FROM CECIL MURPHEY'S NEWSLETTER | DEC 2009

Friday, October 31, 2014

North Korea: The Opportunity of a Generation

People in North Korea bowing down and paying homage before the Grand Monument' statues of Kim H-Sung and his son, Kim ]ong-ll. How long wiU it be before the 25 million people North Korea once again worship jesus Christ?
People in North Korea bowing down and paying homage before the Grand
Monument statues of Kim II-Sung and his son, Kim Jong-ll

Do you know much about North Korea? Most people around the world know very little about this isolated country sandwiched between China and South Korea. You may have heard that North Korea has been led by a dynasty of oppressive leaders all with the family name of Kim, that they have secretly developed nuclear weapons, or that President George W Bush included North Korea in his “axis of evil.” There is so much more to North Korea than meets the eye. 


Here are some surprising facts you may not know:

1. North Korea experienced a massive revival in the first half of the 20th century, with millions of people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. So many churches sprung up throughout the land that by the early 1940s, approximately 30% of the population in the city of Pyongyang (now the capital of North Korea) were church-going Christians, earning the city the nickname, ”Jerusalem of the East”. Billy Graham’s late wife, Ruth, attended a Christian boarding school in Pyongyang as a teen in the 1920s.

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/dam/assets/120415030305-north-korea-06-story-top.jpg
2. In the 1950s the brutal Korean War resulted in the Korean Peninsula being divided into the Communist North and the democratic South, a division that remains to this day. Virtually all Christians in North Korea were either killed or fled south, forming the basis for the sizable percentage of South Korea’s population who are Christians today.



3. North Korea’s Communist founder, Kim II-Sung, came from a devout Christian family. His father was a Presbyterian minister. Once Kim gained power in 1948 he established a bizarre personality cult, set himself up as a god, and launched a horrific persecution against Christians, inventing new and demonic ways of torturing and killing people.

A Golden Opportunity

Christian history is littered with wonderful opportunities which were sadly squandered. In the year 1266, the great Emperor of the Mongol world empire, Kublai Khan, requested that 100 missionaries be sent to his palace in Beijing. He laid down this challenge to Marco Polo: “Send me a hundred men learned in your religion, who in the face of these sorcerers will show their mastery by making the sorcerers powerless to perform these marvels in their presence. Then I will be baptized, and all my magnates and barons will do likewise, and their subjects in turn. Then there will be more Christians here than there are in your part of the world.”

By the time the first team of missionaries arrived in China 28 years later, Kublai Khan was already dead and the Mongol people had embraced Buddhism, which remains their religion to the present time. A golden opportunity was missed.

Centuries later, in 1945 a devastated Japan lay in ruins in the aftermath of World War II. The U.S. General Douglas MacArthur stated, “Japan is in a spiritual vacuum. Send 5,000 missionaries and 10 million Bibles and Japan will be filled with Christianity.” Few Bibles or missionaries were sent, and Japan remains Buddhist to the present time. Only about 1% of Japan’s 125 million people are Christians today. Another great opportunity was lost.

http://media.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/photos/images/2010/oct10/north_korea_sm/north_korea_11.jpg
North Korean naval personnel during a massive military parade
Many Christian and human rights organizations inform the world about the gruesome abuses that take place in North Korea. There are thousands of Christians currently languishing in North Korean prison labor camps, facing dastardly tortures that are comparable to anything depraved men have inflicted on one another in the history of humanity. In this newsletter we have decided not to focus on the rampant persecution in North Korea, but rather we would like to share a wonderful opportunity that exists for Christians around the world to help our brothers and sisters in this needy country.

A Famine of God’s Word 

Due largely to corruption and wicked practices, North Korea has been experiencing a food shortage for years. Hundreds of thousands of people have died of starvation, while the leaders indulge themselves in opulent palaces equipped with all the latest luxuries, including a theme park and wave pool! 

In the six decades since the advent of Communist rule in North Korea, a famine of God’s Word has also been prevalent.Anyone caught reading a Bible is considered a threat to national security. They may be executed, or sent to a prison labor camp for years, which is often considered a worse fate than death.
Only heaven will reveal the multitudes of North Korean Christians who have been martyred for their faith. Their names are unkown to us now. but the Lord Jesus knows them, and He will honor them with a martyrs’ crown (Revelation 2:8-10).
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EXCERPTED FROM THE OCTOBER 2014 E-BULLETIN OF ASIA HARVEST. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION AND ITS WORK IN VULNERABLE AREAS OF ASIA, PLEASE CONTACT office@asiaharvest.org

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Kurds: The People Without a Friend


The Miracle of the Kurds: A Remarkable Story of Hope Reborn in Northern Iraq by Stephen Mansfield is a dream unfolding before the very eyes of the world. Long neglected, despised and systematically annihilated by Saddam Hussein's regime while the world looked the other way, the Kurds numbering approximately thirty million and inhabiting a region known as Kurdistan which spans adjacent parts of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey are the largest people group in the world without a homeland of their own.

With Masoud Barzani as the President of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, his son Masrour Barzani as the Kurdish intelligence chief and Najat Ali Saleh as commander of the Kurdish army, things are certainly looking bright for the Kurdish people. However, the biggest stumbling block to the attainment of independence is the policy of One Iraq pursued by the United States government. Yet, the Kurdish people are America's staunchest ally in the region. It may be pertinent to point out that no American soldier was killed in the Kurdish region between 2003, when it invaded Iraq, and 2011, when it pulled out of the country. Very recently in August when the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) captured swathes of land and made huge incursion into the Kurdish region, 5 top Kurdish commanders were relieved of their posts and detained for interrogation. The captured town and villages were retaken and the ISIS fighters were driven back. Kurdish soldiers are known as peshmerga or "those who face death."

New York Times bestselling author Stephen Mansfield's newest book focuses on the Kurdish people and their resilience which has taken them to a crossroad in their long struggle for independence and survival. Written along the line of his earlier insightful and perceptive books like The Faith Of George W. Bush, The Faith of Barack Obama and Killing Jesus: The Hidden Drama Behind the World's Most Famous Execution, The Miracle of the Kurds is a compelling book which sheds much light on this group of people who called themselves "the people without a friend." Mansfield has also painted a fascinating portrait of Mullah Mustafa Barzani, Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani.

The nine-chapter book ends with an interesting appendix- The Wisdom of the Kurds: 100 Proverbs. Here are several of them which will make you think:
- In a flat country, a hillock thinks itself a mountain.
- Those away from the battlefield boasts about their swords.
- A thief not caught becomes a king.
- Those who do not go to war roar like a lion.
- One gives twice who gives quickly.
- No matter where you go, your destiny follows you.
- A good companion shortens the longest road.
- Loneliness is a nest for the thoughts.
- God finds a low branch for the bird that cannot fly.
- A visitor comes with ten blessings, eats one and leaves nine.
- Part with your head but not with your secret.
- If skill could be gained by watching, every dog would become a butcher.
- The devil tempts all, but the idle man tempts the devil.
- Ability has no school.
Stephen Mansfield is a writer and speaker best known for his groundbreaking books on the role of religion in history, leadership, and modern culture. He first came to international attention with The Faith of George W. Bush, the New York Times bestseller that influenced Oliver Stone’s film, W. His book The Faith of Barack Obama was another international bestseller. He has written celebrated biographies of Booker T. Washington, George Whitefield, Winston Churchill, and Abraham Lincoln, among others. Stephen speaks around the world on topics of faith, leadership, and culture. He is also the founder of two firms: The Mansfield Group (MansfieldGroup.com) and Chartwell Literary Group (ChartwellLiterary.com). He lives in Nashville and in Washington, DC, with his wife, Beverly, who is an award-winning songwriter and producer.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A Letter from God to Me


Dear Noelene,

Now, this is what I am saying to you. Don’t be afraid, because I have saved you. I have called you by name, and you are Mine. When you pass through the water, I will be with you. When you cross rivers, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, nor will the flames consume you. this is because I, the Lord, am you God. You are precious to Me, because I give you honor and love you.
We live in this world; therefore, we are going to have difficult times. God has given each one of us freedom of choice; some of the decisions we make will be wrong and we must face the consequences of those decisions. Sometimes circumstances will be beyond our control – people we love will hurt us. However, God has given us His assurance He will be with us through everything. God’s letter to me went on to say:
Don’t be afraid because I am with you. I formed you and made you for My glory. I chose you so you would know and believe Me; so you would understand I am the true God. I, Myself, am the Lord, I am the only Saviour. I, Myself, have spoken, saved, and told you these things. I will send armies to Babylon for you, and I will knock down all its locked gates.
Babylon was a nation during Old Testament times – one of the nations that held the people of God (the Jews) in captivity. In Scripture (particularly prophecy), Babylon is often used to represent opposition to God that leads to bondage. The things in our lives that hold us in bondage – alcoholism, pride, unforgiveness, eating disorders, fear of the future, guilt over the past, etc. – are considered our “Babylon”. Our Babylon usually blocks God’s good and perfect will in our lives.

God promises He will release us and set us free with His armies knocking down the bondages in our lives. He will open gates we have locked against Him because of sin, worries, and insecurities. He will make a way of escape from the bondages that try to hold us hostage. We must grasp this truth: We are not on our own. God will actually send in His armies to destroy the chains sin has on our lives, so we can live every day to the full. His letter to me concludes:
Forget what happened before, and do not think about the past. Look at the new thing I am going to do. It is already happening. Don’t you see it? I will make a road in the desert of your life, rivers in the dry land of your life, and you will sing songs of praise to Me. Noelene, I am the One who forgives all your sins, for My name sake: for My name sake I will not remember your sins. Love God, your Heavenly Father!
(Isaiah 43:1-18, paraphrased)

by Noelene Curry
Author of "God's Promise for Families"
Extract from the book “God’s Promise for Families”

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Living in Empty Spaces by Cecil Murphey

After the death of my wife, I lived in empty spaces. I had been disconnected from my old life and from the person I loved most. I called it grief, which it was.
But it was something more.
All of us have those times when we can't go back to the old and we can't get a secure hold on the new. The tendency is to fill the time with activities and busy-ness. Anything to divert us from living with nothingness.
In the past that was my pattern, and it worked. Eventually I pushed away the artificial changes so I could flow into the new direction of my life.
After Shirley died, I walked through vacant spots and experienced lonely hours. I tried different forms of writing and widened my social connections. But I was aware of the emptiness and this time I determined not to run from it.
Beyond the tears (and there were many in private), I focused on seeing life differently. I stood at a place I hadn't been before, and each day I decided not to focus on beautiful memories of our relationship. Instead, I chose the path of intentional loneliness.
When I felt alone and like an alien to myself, I took long, solitary walks. The emptiness passed, and I now see those months as a special time. I learned things about myself—insights I wouldn't have grasped any other way. My life is richer and fuller for having done that.

I need the emptiness in life 
to accept the fullness of life.
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Cecil Muphey is a writer, speaker, teacher and survivor.  
This article is taken from Cec's October newsletter. 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Must-Read Book for Every Woman

Megan Clinton, author of the bestselling books Totally God’s and Smart Girls, Smart Choices: Avoiding the 10 Biggest Mistakes Young Women Make and several devotionals in the Totally God’s line is a rebel with a cause. Her latest book, Be Rebellious: Fight Back Against A Culture That Doesn't Care about You is deeply stirring, incredibly powerful and pointedly thought-provoking. The book is a trumpet call to remind readers to stop conforming and stand out as God’s chosen.

Some of the insightful chapters include A Cruel Joke, Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid, No Longer a Victim, Dare to Believe, I Am Woman, Sexy and Sexy, From Facebook to Face to Face, Something to Live For and Rebel and Be Set Free. The book will make you think things through and reevaluate your priorities in life, and give a new meaning to your faith.

The book shows what it means to be a Christian woman in today's world. While there is the tendency to go with the flow, this book gives a clarion call to journey on in faith – out of this world and into God’s heart. Be Rebellious: Fight Back Against A Culture That Doesn't Care about You by Megan Clinton is a must-read book for every Christian woman.

Megan Clinton (now Megan Clinton Allison) graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Pre-Med/Biology and is currently attending Physician Assistant (PA) School at Jefferson College of Health Sciences. As part of the Extraordinary Women travel team with her mom, Julie Clinton, Megan has a passion to see young women find their identity in Christ, be set free, and live God’s dream for their lives. In addition, she is excited to be equipped as a PA to provide medical care to those in need through international mission work. Megan is the author of Totally God’s (with her dad, Dr. Tim Clinton), Totally God’s 4 Life Devotional, and Smart Girls, Smart Choices: Avoiding the 10 Biggest Mistakes Young Women Make (with Laura Captari). Megan was recently married to the love of her life and high-school sweetheart, Ben. They have a teacup Yorkie named Bella.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Beginning Today



Beginning today, I will no longer worry about yesterday.
It is in the past and the past will never change.
Only I can change by choosing to do so.

Beginning today, I will no longer worry about tomorrow.
Tomorrow will always be there, waiting for me to make the most of it.
But I cannot make the most of tomorrow without first making the most of today.

Beginning today, I will look in the mirror and I will see a person worthy of my respect and admiration.
This capable person looking back at me is someone I enjoy spending time with and someone I would like to get to know better.

Beginning today, I will cherish each moment of my life.
I value this gift bestowed upon me in this world and I will unselfishly share this gift with others.
I will use this gift to enhance the lives of others.

Beginning today, I will take a moment to step off the beaten path and to revel in the mysteries I encounter.
I will face challenges with courage and determination.
I will overcome what barriers there may be which hinder my quest for growth and self-improvement.

Beginning today, I will take life one day at a time, one step at a time.
Discouragement will not be allowed to taint my positive self-image, my desire to succeed or my capacity to love.

Beginning today, I walk with renewed faith in human kindness.
Regardless of what has gone before, I believe there is hope for a brighter and better future.

Beginning today, I will open my mind and my heart.
I will welcome new experiences. I will meet new people.
I will not expect perfection from myself nor anyone else: perfection does not exist in an imperfect world.
But I will applaud the attempt to overcome human foibles.

Beginning today, I am responsible for my own happiness and I will do things that make me happy....
admire the beautiful wonders of nature, listen to my favorite music, pet a kitten or a puppy, soak in a bubble bath . . .
Pleasure can be found in the most simple of gestures.

Beginning today, I will learn something new; I will try something different; I will savor all the various flavors life has to offer.
I will change what I can and the rest I will let go.
I will strive to become the best me I can possibly be.

Beginning today! And every day!

- AUTHOR UNKNOWN