Next post January 1, 2015

On holiday. Next post 1/1/15.

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What Not To Say To A Pregnant Woman

[Updated from the archives.]

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The other day we looked at the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary, announcing to her God’s plans in her impending pregnancy. But some people aren’t so good at knowing what to say to a pregnant person.

Advice for Those Married to Pregnant People

Ever been married to a pregnant person? I have. Still am, as a matter of fact. Married to her, that is, not that she’s still pregnant. I remember some of the pregnant life vividly, and one moment always stands out when I think back to those times a couple decades ago. But first let me tell you about an article I just read.

What Not to Say to a Pregnant Person

I found this enlightening article about the things pregnant women hear from friends, family and complete strangers. Here are some excerpts:

Size –”Did you swallow a watermelon,” ‎”You can’t birth a toddler,” “You sure it isn’t twins?” and “Wow! You’re HUGE! Have you got a litter in there??”

Age (looking young) – “I had an old woman in Kroger ask me ‘Do your parents know you are pregnant?’ Totally serious. My fingers were too swollen to wear my wedding bands, so she just assumed I was an unwed teenage mother in need of a pre-birth intervention.”

Age (looking old) – “I was 37 yrs. old and dressed in what I thought was a pretty cute maternity outfit. When I went to the register to pay for my items, the clerk asked me if I was purchasing the items for my grandson. Ugh!”

Family – “My grandmother: ‘I carried my babies like a basketball all in front, I didn’t get big all over like you.’”

Free Medical Advice – “I had a teenage girl at Wendy’s refuse to sell me a Diet Coke, and then proceed to lecture me on the dangers of diet soda and pregnancy.”

Paid Medical Advice – “The worst was when a nurse in my Dr.’s office told me that I had to be lying about exclusively breastfeeding my daughter because there was no way I could be pregnant again if I had.”

Pretty bad, right? I’ve got all of them beat.

What Not to Say to the Pregnant Person You’re Married To

Our son was born 24 years ago, and our daughter 2 years after that. I remember when my wife went into labor that first time as if it were yesterday. She woke me at 1:00 in the morning and told me her water broke. Having paid attention during our birthing classes, I knew to ask how far apart the contractions were. She said they were far apart, so I confidently, although sleepily, told her “I’ll be a lot more use to you if I get some more rest. Wake me when they are closer together.” I proceeded then to go back to sleep.

And she let me.

You might be thinking, “Tim, you should be thankful you’re still married, let alone that you went on to have another kid.” I agree, although I don’t think it’s really a matter of Liz overlooking that extremely poor sleep-addled decision I made that night. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a true blessing in my life, as are both our kids. But my thankfulness for her and them is that, despite the fact that all four of us have made our share of poor decisions over the years, God has blessed us into being one of the best families I know. I think I know how he did it too, at least in part.

It’s What You Say after the Pregnancy

Except for falling asleep on her as she went into labor that first time, I found it pretty easy to do the supportive things for Liz when she was pregnant with both our kids. Whatever she needed, I was on it. And, as you might have guessed, by the time she was nearing the end of her pregnancy with Jenna I had also learned not to go back to sleep when delivery was imminent.

But it’s after the kids were born that the real support began. A baby in the womb is fed and carried and grows. Once outside, it takes more effort to nurture them: feeding, changing, bathing, cuddling, dressing. All these things and more take a ton more effort.

So what is it you say to them after the child is born?

You say “Yes.”

That’s what you say: Yes.

Yes, I’ll change the diaper.

Yes, I’ll cook dinner.

Yes, I’ll run to the store.

Yes, I’ll come home early from work today.

Yes, I’ll _____________.

Because the Bible says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” and “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” (Ephesians 5:25 and Colossians 3:19.)

Is “No” ever an acceptable response? Sure, at times, but if you ever say “No” in a situation where “Yes” is called for, if you ever say “No” harshly, if you ever say “No” in order to keep yourself for yourself instead of giving yourself up for your wife, then – as soon as possible – change it to “Yes”.

That’s what you say.

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Finding Happiness in Winter

There are two songs guaranteed to make my heart bounce happily: Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and just about anyone’s version of “Winter Wonderland”. So imagine my grins when I put on my new Christmas album and heard this:

The months of winter, though, can be more a wasteland than a wonderland for some people. Yet I suspect happiness can be found in both the winter drear as well as the winter cheer.

It depends on what you mean by happiness.

Defining Happiness

What does the word “happy” bring to mind for you? Most people seem to equate happiness with Continue reading

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Gabriel Told Mary Not To Fear Being Pregnant?

[From the archives: a Christmas guest post from Dorothy Greco.]

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Americans generally don’t associate fear with Christmas. We tend to sanitize and commercialize the holiday, throwing in omniscient Santas and schmaltzy music for good measure. Even when we dramatize the Nativity, it’s safe and tidy with the generous magi showing up like long forgotten uncles. But there’s more to this narrative–and that more is far from safe.

The back story could easily earn an R rating and instill fear in the most courageous of souls: angelic visitations, high risk pregnancies, a last minute escape, a jealous king, and the infanticide of baby boys. Mary, Joseph, and Zechariah were not the only ones who needed to hear, Gabriel’s word, “Do not be afraid!”

Two things strike me about the angel’s exhortation. First, God understands humanity’s innate tendency to gravitate toward fear. And second, there’s an unspoken implication that choosing not to fear is an actual option.

christmas-Dec-1212-001-©DGreco

Copyright D. Greco

I haven’t always felt like I’ve had a choice in this matter. Raised in a home with an alcoholic parent, there was a notable lack of predictability which left me grasping for control. As a coping mechanism, I developed Continue reading

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Christmas Elves and the Kingdom of God

If Santa ever needs more little helpers, Thailand has them ready and waiting:

Did you notice the wristbands getting scanned? Also, if you look carefully about half way through the video you’ll see someone looking not at all elfin: a man with a big smile and a clipboard who’s counting heads. That man is from the Guinness Book of World Records because this elf confab was the latest attempt to gather the most elves – Christmas variety – in one spot.

Thai Christmas Elves (CCTV.com)

Thai Christmas Elves: it took me a moment to discern that the children at the bottom of the photo are spelling out SIAM
(CCTV.com)

They succeeded handily; by comparison, a record-setting effort in the United States back in 2009 consisted of just over 600 people, while this Thai gathering brought Continue reading

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Graduation Time South of the Equator, PNG Style!

When you teach in Papua New Guinea, your students graduate in December, not June. Here’s a report from Jan and Doug Hanson at the Christian Leaders’ Training College.*

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CLTC grads

     One thing we like about the southern hemisphere calendar is that the end of the academic year is truly the end of the year. As we reflect upon 2014, we celebrate with and reflect on the newly graduated students that we are sending forth into ministry.

     For some, they will return to their home churches and carry on the ministry tasks set before them. For others, they will begin a teaching ministry in a small denominational Bible college. For a few, they will obtain further training to become Religious Education teachers in the public school system. A few of our Masters graduates (pictured above), after a visit home with friends and family, will return to CLTC and begin work as teachers of Bible and theology.

     As our students scatter across the South Pacific in all directions, please remember them in prayer: for their transitions back into their own culture, for joyous reunions with family and friends, for a willingness to serve where they are called, and for their leadership and impact amongst their people.

Christian Leaders’ Training College…. Training men and women
of the South Pacific
for Christian leadership in today’s world.

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*I always love seeing the colors on graduate student’s robes. It reminds me of my own law school graduation almost 30 years ago.

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Favoritism Has Its Place

[Updated from the archives.]

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Have you ever felt the sting of someone playing favorites and leaving you on the outside? It might have happened in your family among siblings, or in school with a teacher, or at work with your boss.

It doesn’t feel very good, but it still seems to happen a lot. And when it comes to the workplace, you’d think that the needs of a business would discourage playing favorites, not encourage it.

favorite-employeesNot so.

I read a business article that argued in favor of bosses playing favorites in the work force, but cautioned:

“What you’re trying to do is to get the other employees to raise their level of performance, not raise their level of suspicion.”

It turns out that what they mean by playing favorites is showing that good performance is favored and leads to good things for the employee. That makes a lot of sense in the workplace.

That’s not how it works in God’s kingdom, though, “For God does not show favoritism.” (Romans 2:11.)  As Peter told Cornelius:

 I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Acts 10:34-36.)

John explained:

Whoever has the Son has life … . And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:12, 20.)

That’s it. Everyone in God’s kingdom has life eternal by virtue of being in the Son, meaning it’s because of Jesus and not because of us. Since Jesus is the eternally beloved Son of God the Father, and because we are in the Son for all eternity as well, we are as favored as can be.

God may not play favorites, but he certainly loves the favored ones.

Jesus Blessing the Children, Bernard Plockhorst (1825-1888) (Wikipedia)

Jesus Blessing the Children
Bernard Plockhorst (1825-1888)
(Wikipedia)

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Questions to ponder: Do you sometimes wonder whether God seems to love others more than you? When is that thought most likely to crop up?

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God’s Justice, God’s Way – Psalm 137

Reports of new injustices come up every day, both here in the United States and overseas, and they seem to be coming more rapidly as each day passes. Many people ask why this is happening, and many people of faith wonder where God is in all this.

Below I’ve provided excerpts from a sermon I gave a couple years ago on Psalm 137, a psalm demanding justice in a cry from the pit of oppression. The psalmist might seem harsh in desiring a particular brand of justice, but that demand is straight from the heart of the oppressed.

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By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.
(Psalm 137.)

Jerusalem – also known as Zion – is the capital of the ancient nation of Israel, the land God promised his people. In Leviticus 25, we see details about God’s promises concerning this land:

          Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. (Leviticus 25:18-19.)

Sounds great, right? The blessings go on at length in Leviticus 25 and 26, but the bottom line is: follow God; live there safely; eat your fill. Nice.

Until: Continue reading

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Christmas Presents – Never Enough Money

No one can redeem the life of another
    or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
    no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
    and not see decay. (Psalm 49:7-9.)

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Being priceless

No one can do it.

No one has enough money.

No one lives forever.

Everybody dies.

And yet there is One who can redeem you,

One who possesses limitless riches,

One who lives for all eternity.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45.)

You are not beyond redemption, and if you belong to Jesus then here are some truths to keep in mind.

You have been redeemed.

You are God’s beloved child.

You are free because of Jesus.

You live in fellowship with the Holy Spirit because he lives in you.

You have been made new.

You are forgiven.

You are a new creation in Jesus.

You are a priest and royalty and a beloved citizen of the kingdom of God.

You have a home with Jesus, a place he has prepared for you to dwell in for all eternity.

You have the blessing promised to God’s people long ago now made complete in the finished work of Jesus, and so I present this passage not in the expectation of future blessing as Moses recorded it but as seen now in the blessings we have in Jesus:

The Lord is blessing you
    and he keeps you;
the Lord has made his face shine on you
    and is gracious to you;
the Lord turns his face toward you
    and he gives you peace.
(Numbers 6:24-26, paraphrased.)

You are priceless. Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.

You are priceless.

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Advent, Desiring Jesus, and the World Singing for Joy

I watched and felt chills running through me, eyes starting to water, breathing coming shallow, all because of the beauty in music reminding me of our Savior’s coming.

When they played Jesu, Joy of Mans’ Desiring, I couldn’t stop thinking of this passage describing what the Savior will accomplish. No wonder he is a joy to desire.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.”

Therefore Israel will be abandoned
    until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
    to join the Israelites.

He will stand and shepherd his flock
    in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
    will reach to the ends of the earth. (Micah 5:2-4.)

Then the Air Force Band played Joy to the World, which always brings me expectancy of Jesus’ return. Did you know the song is based on Psalm 98, a passage of prophecy about that time of new creation at Jesus’ second coming? The new creation will shout and sing for joy that the Lord has come.

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.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
    burst into jubilant song with music;

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 98:1-2, 4, 7-9.)

 

Even though this psalm looks to a time yet to come, I still read it joyfully for this season of Advent. It reminds me to join with those who anticipated Jesus’ birth 2000 years ago and it encourages me as I look to his return when we will sing that new song along with all creation.

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