Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Heart of CHRISTmas: O Christmas Tree

The Origins Of The Christmas Tree
Throughout history, many cultures have decorated trees ceremoniously. This has sparked many debates as to when and where and why a decorated evergreen became the Christmas tree as we know it and use it today. Depending where you look and who you ask, it may have pagan roots and was later Christianized, or it may have been a Christian symbol to begin with. One place I was reading states:
"An interesting tradition, part history, part legend and very popular in Germany, claims that the Christmas tree dates back to the eighth century. This legend is based on a historical figure, St Boniface, and even a historical event, the destruction of Odin's oak. St Boniface (675-754) was the English Bishop Winfrid who went to Germany in the eighth century, to Hesse to be precise, to preach the Christian faith as a missionary from the Church of Rome. After a period of apparently successful Gospel preaching, Boniface went to Rome to confer with Pope Gregory II (715-731). After a long absence, he returned to Geismar, Germany, for Christmas 723, and felt personally offended on discovering that the Germans had reverted to their former idolatry of pagan divinities and were preparing to celebrate the winter solstice by sacrificing a young man under Odin's sacred oak tree. Fired by holy anger, as was Moses by the golden calf, Bishop Boniface took up an axe and dared to cut down the oak. This courageous, historically documented act meant the triumph of Christianity in Germany over the pagan divinities.

All this is historically documented. The rest belongs to the legend which tells how, at the first blow of the axe, a strong gust of wind instantly brought down the tree. The astounded Germans fearfully recognized the hand of God in this event and humbly asked Boniface how they should celebrate Christmas. The Bishop, the legend continues, pointed to a small fir tree that had miraculously remained upright and intact beside the debris and broken branches of the fallen oak. Boniface was familiar with the popular custom of taking an evergreen plant into the house in winter and asked everyone to take home a fir tree. This tree signifies peace, and as an evergreen it also symbolizes immortality; with its top pointing upwards, it additionally indicates heaven, the dwelling place of God."
Another website I stumbled across had this to say;
"Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth."
Today the Christmas tree is more of a traditional decoration, mostly a glorified gift receptacle, than it is a tribute to the CHRIST in CHRISTmas. I believe that as Christians we need to be careful of traditions that take away from the true meaning. If you have to work too hard and force a tradition to fit in the God box, then perhaps it's time to find a new tradition. The key to giving MEANING to a tradition is repetition I believe. That is why the Christmas tree is no more than a gift holder for most people- yearly repetition of ignoring it as anything other than such! Perhaps decorating the tree together is a great family time tradition. Honestly though I think that if we don't bring something more to the table regarding the Christmas tree, then it's still just a glorified gift holder. Granted, a family tradition to decorate this glorified gift holder, but still devoid of any personal meaning that portrays Christian beliefs. So let me share with you a few symbolisms I've heard of over the course of my life regarding the Christmas tree. Perhaps a yearly tradition of sharing these Christian symbolisms with our families as we decorate the tree together will plant in our children's minds a deeper meaning for the tree than merely a gift-holder...
-The Christmas tree is an evergreen because it is the symbol of everlasting life by salvation through Jesus.
-The Christmas trees triangular shape represents the Holy Trinity.
-We decorate our tree with lights or candles to symbolize Christ being the Light of the world.
-The star at the top of the tree symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem which led the three magi to baby Jesus.
-The angels, which alternately may top the tree or just be used as decorations or other ornaments symbolize the angels which appeared throughout the story of Christ's birth, particularly the one who told the shepherds the news of Jesus' birth.
-Candy canes we hang on the tree have a beautiful story!
Many years ago, a candy maker wanted to make a candy at Christmas time that would serve as a witness to his Christian faith. He wanted to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus. He began with a stick of pure white hard candy; white to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus; hard to symbolize the solid rock, the foundation of the Church; firmness to represent the promise of God. The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. He thought it could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd, with which he reached down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received, by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life. Unfortunately, the candy became known as a candy cane - a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time. But the true meaning is still there for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Author Unknown

Do you know of any other symbolisms related to the Christmas tree and decorations we hang on it? In Christmases past have you done anything with your family to specifically keep the Christian meanings of the Christmas tree in your childrens' minds above the gifts that wind up under it? When you were growing up what was your view of the Christmas tree? What do you want your kids to grow up remembering about it?


If you want to share how you're keeping the heart of CHRISTmas where it belongs this year, or read more from other bloggers on CHRISTmas, please click the button below to see how you can link up! :)

Click to see other posts in this blog carnival or add your own!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Toddler Tales Tuesday

Chicklet (3 years, 2.5 months old) caught me checking my virtual fishtank on facebook. She points to the fish and says, "Oh angelfish! It's a Mommy angelfish and a Daddy angelfish and a Buggie angelfish and a Chicklet angelfish!"

Chicklet brought me a box of paints off the kitchen island and says, handing them to me, "That will be one dollar!"

I fed Chicklet and Bug (1 1/4 years old) each a fried egg. Bug doesn't usually eat much so I gave Chicklet a second egg, but not Bug. Well Bug finished his egg and scooted closer to big sissy. Chicklet fed him a bite, then herself, them Bug, alternating back and forth, sharing until the egg was gone. I was so proud of her!

Before heading home from visiting the relatives for Thanksgiving, we were in hubby's parents' living room. My FIL gave the kids each a chocolate covered marshmallow santa. The santas weren't very big. Well then hubby's brother showed up with his daughter who is 5 months older than Chicklet. FIL gave her a chocolate covered marshmallow santa and Chicklet was giving him her best poor neglected granddaughter look. So he asked if he could give my kids another one so they wouldn't feel left out. I thought, well they're really small and the kids aren't here but 3 times a year so I said yes. Over the course of the next 10 minutes you could just see the kids turn into totally different kids. They went from being all shy and quietly playing on the floor to Bug with wide wild eyes and a goofy crooked grin squealing and stomping his feet, climbing the furniture and then flinging himself off it, and Chicklet also wide eyed and running circles, babbling on and on and crying at nothing. Yikes! What do they PUT in those marshmallow santas?!

If you have a sweet, cute, or funny Toddler (or kid) story, I'd love it if you'd share it! :)
If you would like to post a Toddler Tales Tuesday on your blog, please just leave a link back to my blog in your post so people can see where you got the idea. You may leave a link to your post in my Linky below on the condition that you also post a comment! No link-and-runs please! ;)
If you don't have a blog or would prefer it, you may share your toddler tales here in the comments.

December Giveaways!
Scroll to bottom to link your giveaway!
Awesome giveaways I have found! Check back frequently as I will be removing the ones that are over and adding new giveaway links almost daily! [Click the end date button to go to each giveaway directly.] Green NEW! - added during my previous log-on, Blue NEW! - added during my most recent log-on.

•• Take Time To Smell The Rose is giving away a Thirsties brand cloth diaper prewash and cloth diaper detergent set! ENDS DEC. 31st!
•• Need a homeschooling planner? At The Fence is giving away a The Old Schoolhouse e-book homeschool planner! You have got to go check it out to believe how much good stuff is included! It sounds amazing! ENDS JAN. 4th!
•• Minnesota Mama's Must Haves is giving away a tea set from Green Toys! I love that their toys are made in the USA from recycled milk jugs... seriously how cool is that?! ENDS JAN. 9th!
•• Me And My Boys is giving away a wooden toy from ImagiPLAY! ENDS JAN. 13th!
•• Familylicious Reviews is giving away a pair of My Dwink Box juice box holders! ENDS JAN. 17th!


••Other blogs' Linky lists of giveaways:
- Ice Fairy's Treasure Chest (Ongoing)
-(Sunday) Take Time To Smell The Rose and A Giveaway Everyday
-(Tuesday) Two Of A Kind Working On A Full House
-(Thursday) Piece of ME and I Thode You So



Your turn! :) MckLinky up! You can still link your giveaways even if I have already highlighted them above. ;)
In the space that says Link Title, remember to include 3 things: YourBlogName - Giveaway Title [End date]. Does not have to be in that exact order but I do need all three in some order or another please. Link to the giveaway post specifically, not just to your blog in general.
PLEASE make sure you follow these easy instructions so it is easy for me to maintain and easy for people to view and use. Alot of people have not been doing this and it makes maintaining the list much harder and more time consuming for me. This is not an unreasonable request in the least: most giveaway linkups require this same fromat. You can use proper format and copy and paste it the same (proper) way to all the linkys you use. If this gets too hard for me to maintain due to people not doing this as I have asked, I will stop fixing them and have to instead delete any that I don't have the time to fix. So you see why it's not only courtesy but is also important to use the BlogName-GiveawayName[EndDate] format. (In any order. You can do End Date - Blog name - Giveaway or Giveaway - End date - Blog name or whatever as long as they are all in there.)
ALSO please note: I will immediately delete any entries that are innapropriate and further links from that blog will be flagged. A good way to look at it is if you wouldn't want your 13 year old daughter to have one or read the review in your words then DON'T LINK IT HERE. This is supposed to be a family friendly blog and when I've got people posting giveaways for 'romantic props' or something it is extremely embarrassing and upsetting to find that on my blog where my friends' innocent children could see it.
Your link WILL BE DELETED IF it links to a post that:
**Contains profanity, nudity, or inappropriate inuendo.
**Does not contain a blog giveaway.
**Endorses abortion, divorce, adultery, or things that are anti-God, anti-moral absolutes, anti-ten commandments, etc.
**Endorses a product/company that endorses abortion, divorce, adultery, or things that are anti-God, anti-moral absolutes, anti-ten commandments, etc.
**Is not appropriate for an innocent child to view.
This is what I believe in, and to allow links on my blog that go against that is something that I cannot do in good concience.

Entries will stay on the list until they expire (until the giveaway ends) or until the end of the month.
I will try to delete expired giveaways daily to keep this list fresh and easy to view.
I will create a new list each month. This MckLinky list will run Dec. 1st-31st. Check back Jan. 1st for a new list. Feel free to re-add giveaways that are still going on to the new months list - providing they fall within the above guidelines of course.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Grandpop... A Strange Dream

My Grandpop, also known as PopPop when my siblings and I were tiny, passed away July 1st. He had a stroke in January of 2008, slowly recovered over many months, then had more small strokes and other problems including diabetes, complications from too many prescriptions, and finally after a mini heart attack he went to be with Jesus this July. My mom and Nana were with him when he passed away.
Grandpop was a complex man. I gather he was the youngest of many siblings, the namesake of his father, and also somewhat of a whipping boy for his older siblings. He married my Nana when he was 20 and she 19 and they had 5 children; My Uncle B., Aunt C., Mom, and Aunt W., after a baby girl who tragically only lived about a week. Grandpop was a stern man, a very religious man, and when I was a child he kind of intimidated me. But when he laughed... well when he laughed it made you warm all over it was just such a happy sound! He loved babies. He loved God. And even though he didn't always treat my Nana the best, you could tell that he loved her. As his health declined I think he began to realize how he'd been pushing people away all his life and he mellowed out alot, became more friendly and more willing to say "I love you" and "I'm sorry."
Grandpop was a talented man. You could say he could do and do well everything he set his hand to. He worked in construction, had a handyman business called "The House Doctor" and could build anything. He built an addition on a house he lived in at around 80 years old. By himself with help from my uncle B. on the weekends. He could play the organ, the harmonica, and sang some opera. He met Albert Einstein. He pastored a church. He was a true rennaisance man.

The other night I had a dream. I was at my Nana's house and saw Grandpop walking down the hallway. He looked like he had before the stroke. I saw him again later walking down the hallway, and he had again aged backwards. He walked strong and upright and his eyes had a twinkle. I went to Nana and asked her if she had seen Grandpop walking down the hall and she wouldn't answer me. I told her, "He's waiting for you you know." I have no idea why I said that. I don't believe in ghosts and in my dreams I always know that I'm dreaming. And I don't think that the dead can "wait" for the living. I believe that we go to heaven or hell when we die, end of story. Anyway, Nana responded that she couldn't think about that yet and fighting tears, she told me to leave her be. I went back down the hallway to do something and as I returned, again via the hallway toward the kitchen, there was Grandpop walking toward me. Still aging backwards; he looked about 15 years younger than the last time I saw him before he died. He was gliding toward me but he didn't see me. His face was GLOWING with joy and his bright blue eyes were fixed on something in his arms. I saw it was a tiny newborn baby girl with dark hair. At first I thought it was Chicklet but then as Grandpop got closer and walked right through me, vanishing at the end of the hallway, I saw that the baby was not Chicklet. I don't know who the baby was but I would be willing to guess it's his daughter that only lived a week. He's with her now and the radiant joy I saw on his face just blew me away. And when I woke up, instead of being creeped out, I cried with joy at seeing HIS face so full of joy. A strange dream indeed...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Judge not, lest ye be judged...

... it doesn't mean what you think it means. This is something that really bothers me and makes me so sad to see this phrase used as a scapegoat all the time! People don't even know what that means so they apply it to any occasion when they feel they are being told what to do by someone who has different beliefs. 'Judging someone' doesn't mean telling them something they're doing is sinning or is wrong or is unhealthy... Judging someone means you're deciding whether they should go to heaven or hell based on your view of their life's works. I mean think about it, what does a Judge do? A judge pronounces the final fate of the accused. The judge is not the accuser, the plaintif. Obviously it is not our place to judge who can and cannot enter the pearly gates and if we spend our lives judging in our minds whom should be allowed or barred from heaven, or what punishments people deserve for the things they do in life, then we have been too busy being legalistic to focus on the truth of God's Word and will likely not have had the time to build the relationship with Christ needed. Therefore the harsh measure of judgement which we meeted out mentally to others will wind up being our own judgement in the end. THAT is what I believe that verse means. What goes around comes around. The Bible does NOT tell us that if we see someone who is doing something that is contrary to scripture, that we are not supposed to encourage them to right that. In fact quite the opposite, we are told that we should exhort each other to do Christ's will, that if a brother(or sister) is sinning and we cannot get them to listen to us when we call their attention it that we should then take an elder with us next time. The Bible does not condone being "politically correct."
BUT, lest anyone take this to mean I actually think that we are Biblically supposed to get all preachy and start yelling at everyone from our pedestal that they're living in sin and better straighten up or else... let's not forget that without compassion and love our words are empty and meaningless, and that he who is greatest shall be least and he who is least shall be greatest. I do believe we are supposed to tell people when they are doing something God's word teaches against, but I believe that when you're confronting someone with something like that it should be done with love. And if you don't really have a Christlike love for the person whom you are confronting, then you are likely not going to make any positive impact at all and will likely do more harm than good. So before confronting someone I think you should pray for Christ's love to fill your heart for that person so that when you are speaking to them you are speaking in love as Christ wants us to do.

> PART 1: Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged
PART 2: Religion and Legalism
PART 3: God Bless The Pioneers of New Ideas
PART 4: Incorrectly Politically Correct
PART 5: Feel-Good Theology