Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christ is Christmas by Nina Keegan

(Isaiah 9:6)
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

There's a wonderful old Christmas Carol that bids you tidings of comfort and joy during the Christmas season. When I think about that song, I realize that there is probably nothing I could think of that could be a better gift than just pure joy and comforting peace for Christmas and all seasons.

We are so busy in our days of Christmas, there's so much to do, to plan, we want everything to be so special for our families and loved ones, down to the last detail. We all would love to have the picture-perfect, movie like, Christmas we see in all the old classics we watch repeatedly each year. We agonize over the perfect gift for everyone on our lists . We brave the ever growing traffic, door buster store deals, and immeasurable mall crowds armed with our list in hand trying to check it all off. We are constantly wondering if we have the right sizes, the right colors, did we remember to buy all of the miscellaneous extras like loads of batteries and a plethora of scotch tape?

We bake trays and trays of all the old favorite Christmas cookies. We douse them with colorful frostings and Christmas sprinkles and perils of every imaginable kind.
We plan our Christmas feasts, so elaborate, and set our tables accordingly. Once a year, during this special time, we may even break out the china and the crystal, the fine linens and our best silverware.

We of course must attend at least one to many to count, holiday office parties and gift exchanges. We agonize over getting it all done and squeezing it all in.
Our homes begin to fill up as the kids are on break from school, our young adults return home from college and our out-of-town guests head our way for an overdue and welcomed visit.

We set in motion each holiday tradition that has been handed down from many generations before us and we add new ones that we make with our own families and cherish each year. We gather everyone around to decorate our Christmas trees with hundreds of tiny lights and fragile heirloom ornaments. We sing our favorite Christmas carols, and of course we cannot forget, standing patiently in the long and winding lines while waiting to visit with Santa!
We hang all of our stockings by the chimney with care, each one taking its rightful place and personalized with the names of our loved ones.

We spend hours wrapping our many gifts and purchases in heaps of beautiful foiled wrapping papers, tissue papers, ribbons, bows and colorful name tags.

Oh we forget no one, no stone left unturned. We've got Christmas covered from head to toe, top to bottom, and finally after all of our hard work; we declare ourselves to be officially ready for Christmas.

Have we really forgot no one? Haven't we left someone out? Did we stop and take time to remember the very reason for this most holy day of the year? After all, this fuss and celebration, all of the beautiful lights, candles, wrappings, gifts, toys and goodies are because of a baby, a special baby born on this day to save our souls from sin and sadness. Jesus, a baby born to be a king of all kings. He was born to bring us that sweet comfort and pure joy. He was born to give us peace on earth. It is His birthday...

2000 years ago when this wonderful king of all kings was born, He was born in a lowly stable, and placed in a manger of hay. He was surrounded by farm animals. There was absolutely no room for him anywhere, all of the inns were full yet the star shone so high and brightly above him. That blessed night in a city far from their homes, in the presence of this new born baby, shepards, and wisemen came to pay homage in celebration and honor of that tiny baby's birth. They came to kneel before him and praise him. They were witnessing the very first Christmas, a little baby, a miraculous birth! They witnessed the birth of the child that would change our lives forever. 

Somewhere along the line over the thousands of years that have passed since the birth of Jesus, we have lost site of the true meaning of this blessed holiday. For many it's the day of Santa and gift getting. We forget that Jesus is, was, and always will be the best gift we have ever, or will ever receive. Christmas should not be just one day, but a frame of mind for all our days.

It seems even today, 2000 years after his birth that there often is still no room for Him. This time it's not in the way of inns or hotel rooms, it's in the way of our hearts, and our souls.

We all should have a stocking hanging on our fireplaces with Jesus written on it boldly in beautiful glitter and gold. It should be the very biggest stocking we have and we should fill it with gratitude, peace, kindness, joy, unselfishness , a healthy portion of tolerance and of course, love towards one another. We should spend the entire year trying to fill that stocking so that is bursting at the seams and overflowing with the apparent goodness of mankind.

Instead of waiting for the new year to make our resolutions, and declare change over our lives,maybe we should offer them as birthday gifts for Jesus. This Christmas let's let Jesus know how we plan to be better people, how we all can do just one thing that could change the lives of others for the good. Let's show Him that Christmas will be in our hearts not only on this special day but each and every day! Let's give Him the happiest of birthdays. Let's make sure there is plenty of room for him today and always! Let us give the gift that will always keep on giving, the one size fits all, no returns, batteries, cords , instruction booklets, or receipts needed. Let's give the gift of love.. Happy Birthday Jesus, we love you!!!!!

I would like to wish each and every one of you tidings of comfort and joy and the very blessed and merriest of all Christmases!!

( Luke 2:2-15)
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill to all men.."

The Visit of the Shepherds

Luke 2:15-20
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

One Nation Under God by Nina Keegan Owens

There just are no words yet available to possibly describe the beyond horrific happenings that took place this past week in a tiny school in Connecticut. We as a nation our so deeply saddened and horrified over the unfathomable shootings of so many precious babies and teachers . Ghastly fear floods through the mind of every parent and paralyzes every person who has ever loved a child. We ask why? We who have children and have dropped them off at their elementary school doors day in and day out, have never ever imagined there could be something so horrifying that would change the face of our nation forever. We just cannot fathom the evil that could take the lives of these tiny children while they sat making christmas decorations in their classrooms.

We are numb... All we can do now is pray! We pray for answers. We pray for understanding. We pray for peace. We pray for the Lord to intercede as we pray for Him to hold each and every person tightly that they might know some kind of comfort....

Psalm 71
In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge;
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Free me from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
redeem me, O Lord, the God of truth.

Look around us... My have times changed since the days of my youth. The world was different then... Things were simple then. We didn't worry about evil people looming in our malls and schools. We did not worry about terrorist attacks. We had no color coded warning systems representing levels of heightened security. We didn't have all the social media, internet exposure, graphic TV programs, video games glorifying violence. We didn't have horribly violent movies that make violence look so acceptable! It is everywhere.. In fact it is hard to escape...

When I was a kid, children played outside, never worrying about being abducted , we went to church every Sunday, people had family dinners. We ate together and had conversations. We said our prayers together, out loud, so God could hear us. Life, families, it was all so different then. What has changed?

God was everywhere! He was allowed in our schools. He was allowed in our parks. We were allowed to have nativity scenes, statues of God, and prayers in public. God was in our government! Prayer was everywhere! We prayed before football games, before baseball games ,we prayed in our schools every day as we said the Pledge of Allegiance ! We prayed before we ate our meals. Yes God was not ousted, He was there! We called on Him , We trusted Him with our families, and our nation! We were one nation under God! That is the founding principles of our country! That is why we were the strongest nation on earth. We looked to our country with pride ,we had integrity, people did the right thing. There was a level of pride, a code of ethics, values and a morality that is lost today from our nation's canvas.

I understand that America is a nation of immigrants, that we are a melting pot, that we all have arrived here from many nations all over the world. I also acknowledge the fact that there are many different religions and as many different nationalities; but we all came here from somewhere else to thrive in the land of the free. Many fleeing from their own countries and arriving here in the land of opportunity, the land of freedom, the land of civil liberties and equal opportunity. Many came here to escape oppression and great lack. Regardless of the reason people willingly came to this nation, to the nation that is ONE NATION UNDER GOD, period, end of story !! That is our national motto that is the great principle we as a great nation are founded on. How then is it that people of other nations and other religions come here and try to remove God from our nation when they came here knowing that we were already established as one nation, a nation under God? Why after our founding fathers fought so hard for what we have in this country, are we trying to change it all? Why would the premise of removing God and all His wisdom, protection, and glory ever even be entertained? How does anyone ever think that could be a good idea?

We must have God back ! When we take him out of the equation; evil comes in the back door! God can restore our nation if we would only allow Him to do so! There must be revival! We must turn back to God and ask him to bless us, to keep our nation strong. We must allow Him to be in our schools, to be in our government, to keep us safe and protected. We must ask God for forgiveness for how we haved lived and invite Him back into this wonderful nation and ask for His divinity and His guidance. God came that we might have life....We need that life here and now....

John 10:10
The thief comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

<1 Peter 2:9 >
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, A HOLY NATION, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

We as Christians believe that Christ is our Lord and Savior that he protects us and keeps us safe. There is Bible verse after Bible verse about letting God in and letting Him protect our lives, our families our nation; but there's also the evil one that comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The more we take God out of our nation, the more evil there is waiting and ready to kill, to steal, to destroy our nation, our children our plans for Good. The Bible says that the evil one moves about the earth, he's a Devourer of the innocent! When we remove God from our world we open the door, wide open, and we are standing there left completely unprotected, no armor, we are left so vulnerable, evil takes over....

1 John 4:4
You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

We can overcome evil with good We are greater with He who is in us than he who's in the world. As it says in Isaiah 54, No weapon formed against us will ever prosper when we have God protecting our great nation. When He is sitting at the throne, when He is at the helm, we can allow him to govern our nation back to greatness. He can and will protect us and keep us. We can restore this nation back to health and breathe life and hope and happiness into a saddened world.

Lord we are so sorry that we have cast you out of our nation that we have left you standing in the outfield and not calling you into our daily lives and asking for your protection for our country. Lord we know your heaven is full of new baby angels that you've taken up to spend eternity with you. These little friends that once played together on earth, now with play together with you in heaven. Please bless these families Lord, bless and comfort the families and every single person involved in this unimaginable tragedy. Blanket them in peace and surround them with your angels as we as a nation cry out for your love, forgiveness and protection and as we plead to let you back in our nation. Thank you father ! We praise you! We love you in Jesus name!!! AMEN!

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I dedicate this blog to all the families of those who have lost loved ones in the tragic events of Connecticut this past week. May the Lord give you peace and loving comfort for your hearts and souls. in Jesus name

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rooted In Christ by Nina Keegan Owens

I don't know a whole lot about the ins and outs of gardening, in fact, that whole green thumb thing, well... let's just say my thumb is more of the brownish variety. I love to plant flowers and selecting all the various plants and flowers to make beautiful borders and potted arrangements is not the problem, in fact, they actually can look quite professional when I finish planting even if I do say so myself. Then comes the hard part, keeping them alive!! Living in Texas, it's always so hot and plants are in constant need of water and require weeding continually. It is imperative that the plants have good soil, fertilizer, and of course as I've recently discovered, pruning! Ummm.....pruning?....

After a trip to the nursery armed with samples of my dead and brown, crunchy, plants and clippings from the,"there is still hope yet"ones; the diagnostician of sorts began a lengthy lecture on yes, pruning! Plants grow so fast and all year in Texas. They require pruning or cutting them way back so as they can go through a new growing cycle. I was actually told that cutting off all the pretty blooms can make the plants thicker, fuller and able to produce many more blossoms. Cutting off the plant when it is at its height of beauty did not seem to make much sense to me. However, who am I to question these professionals that know best and actually grow things for a living? Who knew that cutting off something beautiful on the outside of the plant is so good for its life and longevity. This process is vital to the production of a rich and beautiful harvest. So....pruning it is!

Pruning is defined as to cut or lop off superfluous or undesired twigs, branches, or roots, to trim away, and to rid or clear of (anything superfluous or undesirable).

Do you ever feel like God is in the major pruning business in your life, like He has just about lopped off all you can take? Maybe you feel like you have hit your bottom and there is nothing left to prune away. Do not be discouraged. God is just stripping away all the negative parts that are blocking blessings in your life and stifling your faith. Sometimes God must take us down to the bare necessities to remind us of what is important and that no matter what we are going through, we can fully rely on Him.

God is that professional pruner in our lives, He is our master gardner and He knows what is best in every area of our lives. We, like plants need to be shaped and groomed, pruned, watered and fed. Sometimes when we are in what seems like a stagnant, rough patch in our lives, where we feel like we are so lost and broken; we are just undergoing some needful pruning so that we can grow and develop in our walks with God. At those times in our lives, God prepares us for a new life, new blooms and the beautiful fruit we will eventually produce. Our branches must be strong, Our roots sturdy and deeply entrenched in rich soil, (the word of God). We need only to see the trees in winter, so bare, and so desolate, a harsh transitional time, a must for them to be brilliant in spring and so densely heaped full of buds and beautiful blossoms to realize the amazing transformation one can make. Even in the toughest climates, deep roots stay protected. We too will remain strong and protected when we are deeply rooted in Christ.

(John15:2) Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away. And every one that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bring forth more fruit.

The more deeply rooted we are in Christ the more beautiful our harvest will be. We must grow in our faith by allowing God to prune us and change us into who He has fearfully and wonderfully made us to be. We may not always like the pruning process, in fact at times it can be quite uncomfortable, but rest assured it is necessary for our spiritual growth and divine well being. The fruit we will produce from that pruning and spiritual growth is life changing. It is the fruit of the spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

We not only should expect God to prune us, but we should invite him to do so and thank Him in the process. We should pray that God removes (prunes) away all things in our lives that are not of Him. You may be stuck in a relationship that is not God's best for you. You may have an addiction or stronghold that binds you. You may be hanging out with wrong people that could lead you astray and take you down the wrong path. You may just need to have negativity and unforgiveness pruned away. Negative people in your life are like weeds that choke off the beautiful vine. If the weeds are left to grow wild in our gardens, you will never have a beautiful, rich, harvest.

Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

God does not ever remove something from your life without replacing it with something bigger and better, God is in the restoration business. We must trust Him. He knows what He's doing and God never makes mistakes. Everything God does in your life has a divine purpose. Sometimes we have to suffer to evoke change in our lives. We may have to end a long term relationship, or endure certain hardships. We may not always understand what God is doing because we can only see a tiny pinpoint of our lives at a time but God sees an eternity. We could never handle all He knows and has planned for us at one time so he doles out precious nuggets to us on a need to know basis. Our Godly designed path may be foggy up ahead. We may only be able to see what's right in front of us but God goes before us making the pathway clear, He makes the crooked places straight. He clears the path of any debris that we could stumble upon. He weeds the path and makes it beautiful. He places everything we need in exact locations on that beautifully landscaped path. He always goes before us and gently guides us, leading us and encouraging us to be better. When we come upon rough waters and rocky terrain, well... it's during those times, He carries us...

I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. Isaiah 42:16

1 Peter 1:6: So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.

Give your life over to Christ. The master gardner that can turn you in to the most beautiful of all creations. Of all the lovely and amazing things God has made, it's you He is most proud of! you are created in the image of God! Let Him break off the dead branches that are a hindrance to your spiritual growth. Those trials and setbacks you face are temporary. They are only there to get us ready for a beautiful new season of spiritual growth, blessings and welcomed change. Keep yourself firmly planted and deeply rooted in the word of God so when you are in the midst of a trial, you will be well equipped to stay strong and grow immensely in the knowledge and wisdom of God's love.

Luke 8:11-15
"This is the meaning of the parable of the seed" The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

Heavenly Father, we love and trust you with our whole hearts. We give our lives to you to prune away all things that keep us from being our best. We know that when you have stripped away all that is not of you , we will be a beautiful new creation full of joy and happiness. We thank you for loving us so perfectly!
In Jesus name we pray..