Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words Or July 20, 20/16
By Nina B

This day – July 20, 2016 – will go down in infamy…
FDR said, “A date which will live in infamy”. He said this in referencing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Infamy means something bad happened – really bad. Sometimes, some people on the outside of infamy; don’t even realize that something you once had is gone, as you go about your day, your life, numb, limp, empty; while others all about you seem to be so utterly unaware. They, laugh, cry, kiss and make up, talk nonsense, argue senselessly with one another about foolishness, hug, skip, run, walk, sleep, get sick, fall down, plot evil, text, seek love, stuff their mouths, dream… all the while you s c r e a m…
S T O P !!!
You just want the world to
something really bad
Sometimes the world does stop for horrendous, evil, happenings – sometimes. A country shooting down passenger planes, the assassination of a president and later his brother, the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11, the kidnapping of young girls to be used as slaves by Boko Haram, the killing of people on Bastille Day in France, the shooting of Blacks while driving, the killing of police officers in Dallas, the shooting of a Black Behavior Therapist with his confused, autistic client. I could go on and on, but the world hardly ever takes notice of our personal days of infamy…
When my father died and I was supposed to go to the coffin, where he laid, to see him one last time, dead in his coffin. I was one of the last ones to go up. I couldn’t go. I wouldn’t go. I screamed. I wanted the world to…
…but it didn’t.
It tugged and pulled at me to put my grief aside. I was only nine – not even quite ten, and the world expected so much of me…
I was supposed to keep going…
I was supposed to keep going the day I lost my innocence at twelve – talk about screaming for the world to see the evil done to me – but it didn’t. It didn’t even notice me. They couldn’t understand my shame, my guilt, my cries for help… I just wanted to hide.
My screaming just wasn’t loud enough to be heard. So, I kept g o i n g ... on empty,
Until I meet true love…
A promise spoken before our families, our friends of “till death us do part” – and six
children later – and thirty-five years of ups and downs and valleys and mountaintops and dark and light and downs, and dark, and ups and downs, deeper valleys, and settling in the valley, and making lemonade because life handed out lemons, so many bitter, sour lemons… and then light. A flash of light, a promise remembered… but, I was the only one who saw the light, who had the hope, who when you’re faced with everything wrong, yet hoped against the odds because, we made a promise. I made a promise… and my promise was…
Lied to.
Subject to cancellation.
A nightmare.
Lost it’s rhythm.
Had become one sided.
Thrown to the floor, dashed, CRASHED, totally obliterated,

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We were broken, but together – I thought – but I  g u e s s   n o t !
Today is another day that is for the annuals of my history, a day that will live in my infamy. No one else will be affected quite like me. Family and friends surely will be moved, but not permanently, extended folk won’t give much of this day a passing thought. Strangers won’t bat an eye, miss a beat, hear the cry, the scream to just S T O P.
Hey everyone, an era has come to an end... Shouldn’t we pause, for a moment of silence? It’s so somber. Will you mark the calendar for what happened? Will you remember it next year and offer to buy me a drink – no, I probably wont drink then either.
I go for walks or run errands and I see couples everywhere. It’s like when you buy a new/used car, and you see that car everywhere –the same make and model that you just brought… You just see that car everywhere. It’s like that when you long for something. I see old couples, cute couples who can’t keep their hands off one another, holding hands couples, men holding their wife’s handbag couples, middle aged couples, young couples, mixed race couples, oddly matched couples… happy, smiling, together couples… I just see them everywhere.
I still would like the world to stop. I would like my life’s partner, my other half, my
The empty dining room
helpmate, my husband; to stop his escapades long enough to see what havoc he has spawned.
I fall asleep, then I wake a few hours later just to find I am still here, in my new norm – not at home. There are new norms, there’s a movement through time and space without much thought of “next”, there’s little anticipation for the future – not yet, the wound goes so deep…
Dude, how do you so easily trash 35 years of living, 37 if you count the courtship?
For those of you not knowing this experience, divorce, (I hope you never do) – its closet ally is death, an untimely death, a “I didn’t see that one coming” – even with all the inconsistencies because - Love is blind, (this is why we are so willing to look the other way when truth is screaming so undeniably in our faces of what is right and what is wrong – we say to ourselves, "it cannot be true… because,  Iloveyou ”, but one sided love is never enough) . Love hopes all things, (Surely he will return, surely he will come to his senses and see reason – but see reason from whose perspective?, Whose reality?...). Love bears all things, (Is it love when someone gets stuck with the proverbial bag – the bag that never should have been unloaded – the bag that was a truck load of… to be crushed under the weight of bearing it all). Love sacrifices… Which means there are gashes, bruises,
cuts, tears, … wounds, that go so deep into the heart that no one will ever, e v e r  understand – it’s the sacrifice that takes the life out of living, the joy, the taste of food, the satisfaction of completion, the anticipation of the night, the touch of love, the reason for going forward… were it not for my God…

…God has the corner on that market of sacrifice. He sacrificed His son, Jesus, for a creation created in His image – who gives no thought, no idea, no care, nada, to what He did – for love, for hope. Does God’s heart break? All the time. But He knows the end of the story. He knows your last breathe, your last cry…
You see all that we do in this life is in actuality preparation for death so that we can have life. We exist to die to be birthed into life… And I realize right now, that I just lost so many of you, (read that dust laden book call the Bible).
Thank you, Jesus; You gave us something more than this life.
Do you really think this life is all that and a bag of chips? Just T H  I N K ! for a moment – this life sucks! But there is more to it if you just read The Book! God’s letter to you, so that you can have life.
You think I’ve gone over the edge – hardly. I’ve landed squarely on my feet and I am standing solely by the grace of my Heavenly Father, Whose hand I can N E V E R fall out of, nor run away from, Who holds every tear I’ve ever wept, Who has heard every scream I’ve cried.
I have never been better - because I am not alone - never was - never will be.
Can you say the same?
Soli Deo Gloria
Nina B. :-)

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pathways by Nina

Sunrise by God, photographed by me
 Waking early in the morning these days, (summer vacation days), I walk down by the lake. It seems so strange to call it simply a lake. I can't see the other side and when I look across the expanse it seems to go on and on forever

Waking and walking early in the morning with my Lord, (although He's not the one sleeping), gives me new life, strength, to get through another day. I listen to praise music, hymns, anything that speaks of God

I walk six days a week nearly five miles round trip. I see only about a dozen or so other folks, who brave the wee early hours to walk, run, sit and write, walk dogs, jump about, sketch, there's a woman who sings in what sounds like Korean. I wonder how many are like me, contemplating life's direction, the next step, or simply the next thing. Still, each new gift of a new day finds me on my same routine. 
Garbage by mankind, pic by me

Walking on Saturday or Monday mornings though I have found to be the worse. The parks would have been visited by partiers, or athletes competing in games; all leaving a little bit of themselves behind, their mark at the park; from the weekend. The garbage cans are full to overflowing and if things could be worse, the fields are littered with plastic water bottles and trash of all sorts. The smells are gagging. There is no going around or away from the smell or the trash - unless you remain at home. The trash is everywhere as well as the stench - to walk around would be too much of a detour. It could be done but too much time would be consumed and accomplishes very little, other than lengthening the walk, as the temperature rises.The garbage containers line the pathway - making it easy for the trash to make it's way into them, but some folks don't care. They throw their trash at the receptacles which sometimes lands on the path and that's the extent of their effort and it sinks! I suppose this is better than leaving the trash where it's made and scattered everywhere - but it is already. 

Scene by God, messed up by mankind. Pic by me
I've considered cleaning things myself - but I would never make it home - it's so much to clean up and thankfully there are park maintenance staff who come eventually to clean - just not at 5:30-6:00 in the morning. So, I walk through the smell and the unsightliness. My goal is set every morning. I have a predetermined course and I won't be deterred, especially on my return trip home. I'm tired, hot, achy and I just want to get home after power walking half my stint. No matter how bad the smell, or how tired I am, my goal, once I reach Montrose Street Harbor, is to get home.

That's the way life seems to be on our way to Heaven. It's exhausting to put it mildly, not to mention smelly and often not so pleasant, but we're not alone in the journey along the pathway, like that poem "Footsteps" suggest; we're carried [a lot] along the way by Jesus. He knows our direction/our goal and if we let Him, (this sounds crazy - 'if we let' the Son of God... But, He is a gentleman like that. He allows us to take the lead if we want to - this is called, free will). However, Jesus can do just that - direct and lead, if we let Him. He walks with us through the stench and unsightliness of life, (God does not always remove the stench and unsightliness, a.k.a. the pain, the hurt-in this too, there is purpose - His purpose). Jesus doesn't turn away or leave us hanging. He goes the distance till the end, all for the purpose of getting us Home - Heaven.

Ginny Owens - "If you Want Me to"

Soli Deo Gloria,

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Moving and Exposure

Moving and Exposure
By Nina Benson
I recently had the task of packing my house of fifteen years and moving. FAST! (A very long, sad story that takes some major unpacking, but, for another time). However, for now it's important to understand that I was under direst!
While, I would not suggest moving under direst circumstances; you do get to see the raw you. The you that you don’t see often; unless you have circumstances that come upon you suddenly, that rips the rose colored glasses that everyone wears, from your eyes, (we all wear them), then you are suddenly thrust, (defined as a sudden or violent lunge… a forceful attack or effort, (it almost sounds like rape – the forceful removal of ones rose colored glasses. It's a taking of innocence and being thrust into a world full of incomprehensible horrors), into the light that EXPOSES everything so clearly. What has happened really has the making for a reality t.v. show. No one could ever write this stuff; let alone live this without God.
The exposure of the light isn't bad, just very painful to the eyes. It's funny and odd; as blind as we are with the rose colored glasses before the light; the truth of the light exposes and makes you see more clearly - in ways you never thought you would or could. 
You see; normally, when moving you have time to plan, tidy as you go along, and then the big day comes, family and friends come. You laugh and joke and pack and you move… And you’re off onto the next big adventure.
But, under direst circumstance, it's a little different. Here are some synonyms for direst that I just couldn’t pass up because they are all so fitting:

1 terrible, dreadful, appalling, frightful, awful, atrocious, grim, alarming; grave, serious, disastrous, calamitous, ruinous, hopeless, irretrievable, wretched, desperate, parlous; formal grievous.
2 urgent, desperate, pressing, crying, sore, grave, serious, extreme, acute, drastic.
3 ominous, gloomy, grim, dismal, unpropitious, inauspicious, unfavorable, pessimistic.
From the New Oxford American Dictionary
To move under such circumstances within a month you don't have time to clean up your act, to laugh or joke and there is no anticipation of a big adventure. There is only the big unknown and everything that was you, is suddenly exposed for all to see.
You find a ton of old stuff that you thought, once upon a time; you'd get to it and decide what to do with it, but when moving so quickly you have to make decisions on a dime, because the next thing is coming to light. I remember reeling from the shear number of decisions I had to make that were so foreign to me. It was overwhelming and I was angry and felt alone - because I was - abandoned.
I didn't want folks to see my boxes, see my need, see my dirt, (especially my dirt), see the stuff that I had always meant to take care day, but didn't. 
Everything was all out there on the proverbial table for everyone to see. It didn't matter to me that everyone else has stuff - this was my stuff that was exposed! And I simply couldn't gather it up fast enough to even try to tidy it... To make sense of it all... To offer some explanation, some reasoning for my decisions or lack thereof, let alone explain others decisions and actions...
Sin is just like this; once it's out in the open
Everyone has sin, but we pretend we don't, (at least, we pretend that our sin is really inconsequential - de minimis). It's all hidden away, packed away, stored in boxes that are way away in some closet that you never go in, let along let others go in; especially the darkest deepest ones... but, when it's all suddenly exposed to the light... When something happens that causes those closet doors, those pad locked drawers, those boxes under the stairs to be yanked out, opened up, torn open - then everyone sees what you have. It's embarrassing, it's ugly, it's frightful... and you will never be the same...
 It's not supposed to be
My Orchid is yet blooming through it all - only God!
When light illuminates the dark - darkness is banished, which is a beautiful thing. 
What was hidden is no longer and has no power. While sin is hidden you must control it. You must do something with it. Sin demands your attention always. 
...But praise God, when His light, breaks into the hidden darkness ... You walk uprightly in the glorious light of your Heavenly Father God. He looks at me, sees me and yet loves me...
Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, June 29, 2015

But It’s NOT Supposed to be RAINING...

By Nina Benson
I was about to get out on my bike and go for early morning bike ride before traffic got busy, then I remembered that I hadn’t taken my morning herbs, (how could I forget my herbs!). Before I even got to my bike, I turned around, closed the garage door and proceeded with my ten minute routine. After my herbs, I remembered I wanted to “reconstitute” some hardened clay and I knew that an hour and a half, (the length of time of my ride), would aid with the process, …. So, what was another five minute delay? I went to the basement, collected the hardened clay in a bucket and was about to go outside to the garden hose… That's when I knew my routine was going to be further interrupted. It was raining.
I checked my weather app first thing this morning and it said NO RAIN for the day! At least not in the morning.
Hubby is back from China and was coming down the stairs and was surprised that I was yet at home. I explained how I returned for my herbs and then remembered the clay in the basement, but was stopped because of the rain. I told him my “” weather app said, "no rain" and even went so far as to show him. I was miffed! He jokingly mused, I guess your “accuweather” app wasn’t so accurate.
But I was on a roll. I showed him the hourly weather predictions and showed him how ALL the little umbrellas were closed until afternoon and that the app even showed a sunny day with light clouds… With his dry tone, “…but your app is wrong, it is raining…” I said in a defeated tone,  ‘But the umbrellas are closed. See how it looks when it’s raining’, I showed him the later predictions for the afternoon. That's when they're open!
“Then honey, go for your bike ride…. Believe your app. It’s not raining”, he said.
‘But isn’t that what we do with much of life’, I said through a disillusioned smile.
Indeed the rain is falling, but I wanted to believe otherwise, because of my routine, my agenda. I wanted to argue my point however blatantly wrong.
This is what we do with sin. We rather believe what isn’t true, what isn’t right, what isn’t of God; so that we can do as we will.
I could have gone out for my bike ride, but I would have gotten wet. Sin usually isn’t that obvious. Sometimes, folks get knee deep or worse, stuck and broken before they realize the truth and suffer the natural consequences of their actions and then they blame God! (Odd: People don’t want anything to do with God when they have free will to do all the sin they please, but point the accusing finger at God when those choices come in for payment. And sinful choices always demand payment due).
Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us knee deep, stuck and broken in our sin. Again we have free will  to turn away from sin and reach out to Jesus for salvation,  healing, redemption, restoration, His love.
You can believe your app or what you know is truth
Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Air Conditioning is Set so it Keeps Everything the Same

The Air Conditioning is Set so it Keeps Everything the Same 
By Nina Benson

Can the air conditioning be turned off?

That would not be the same.

The silverware - it doesn't have a copyright symbol.

"Copyright means nothing here".

Over my spring break son three and I traveled to China to visit my husband who started out doing missionary work, but ended up with a job/calling. This, in itself is a story of mysteries and divine orchestration, (with tick bites while on a final trip before retirement, with his students, to bee stings, that should have been his last, to cancer scares… See another story…). However, before what I am impressed with leaves me, I would like to do something with it.

China! A vastly huge country. A vastly condensed country! There are as many layers to something that is suppressed, hidden, kept out of reach for so long that the living generations haven't a clue of what they don't have; as there are people. I talk like a presumptuous overbearing American. How dare, I? It's just, no stranger showed me really any kindness, any acknowledgement other than a little boy in an open market named Jonathan. He said hello and smiled. He was not afraid, but seemed to be acting on a dare from goading friends, who stood off at a distance. There was also the eighty-three year old woman at the MTR, train station, Stephen carried her wire scroller down the stairs while I gave her my arm to steady her as she walked slowly down –  the wrong side of the stairs. People who had no time for her and did not heed her request for assistance, huffed and walked around. I and the old woman were annoyances.

I think this interaction is the epitome of what my visit with the people of China was like. Stephen would say,  “it's all in my head”, but there was a general disdain for my existence, so I was ignored, saw through, as if invisible. When undeniably in the face of the Chinese people I was looked down upon – like  how dare you come here. When I wasn't noticed or seen, what I saw were gruff, unhappy, empty people walking like in a trance, as if dead inside. When people were with friends there was very loud talking, some laughter, but momentary. It always died away.

How does a people become so? It's as if someone, somewhere is holding up giant signs saying when to laugh, when it talk, when to speak, otherwise there is the empty, the waiting to be told what to do next. It's as if the people move like the tai chi movements through life  – slow and in sync with a purpose long since forgotten… Mechanical.

The mountains were beautiful and unimpeded from view from billboards. Still, in mainland where there was “urban” development there were very few billboards. This is good. Of course, what does the government give the people to dream for, to hope for. National pride? It does not seem to make for joyful people.

The government in mainland, seems to make attempts at giving the people something that others are thought to have that seem to bring pleasures, like – pizza! Not the place to be if this is what you're looking for. Dough made from something like Bisquick with no sauce and a smattering of cheese with a varied assortment of fillings like, tuna salad! And for the Hawaiian pizza, a fruit that was indescribable, but chewy like rubber. It's the illusion of something that is just out of reach…

However, I think it's the lack of control and dependency that I'm experiencing that also colors my perceptions. There are many positives. The country has a natural beauty that leaves me breathless. The many mountains rising through the morning mist is very majestic. The faces of the children are impish and precocious. Seeing the elderly out and about, moving slowly, but going places, or sometimes doing small necessary jobs. Everyone seems to have a place in this foreign society. Everyone has a job that contributes to the collective. But still there is that nagging emptiness that I see in the eyes of so many.

This thought would not be complete without a mention of Hela-Lou, (I'm sure I've spelled her name wrong). She was a god–send when I was desperate for compassion. Son and I made it to Beijing on our trip home. It was our place of transfer. We were told that our connecting flight had been canceled. No reason. No explanation. Suck it up and take it. I was at the end of my rope as far as adventures go. I was simply happy with the thought of going home… Just to have my bubble burst. Fooled you! Home – just out of reach. Actually, it felt like someone had exploded everything. Once we landed there were the endless lines and the miles we walked carrying at least thirty extra pounds in luggage – each. I was hot and sweaty by the time we went through our last check point and showed our passports for the last time. The young woman was as sensitive to our plight as a dust bunny is to fur balls. She was merely the messenger. But you see, she lacked empathy. She did not see that I was a foreigner in a land where I knew no one. She did not care that I did not speak the language. She hadn't a clue that for several nights I had been awake nearly every hour on the hour. She did not understand that I longed for my home.

I started to cry.

I tried to keep it in, but all the weeks emotion had come to a head and hearing that we would be spending the next 24 hours in limbo was the straw that did it. I walked away from the counter and actually let son contend with the mess. But, there was a younger woman whose flight was also canceled, who was Chinese and as she eventually shared had spent four years in New York and was able to speak some English. She was our advocate. She explained that all was not lost and that we would have lodgings at a hotel with meals. Once at the hotel, she explained about the key card and how it turned on the lights and the time for our meals. She also wrote a note in Chinese for the driver who was to come and get us  in the morning. She explained everything.

She showed us kindness.

The lost of control, unpredictability, and forced dependency when there is no show of empathy is frightening. I felt like I was at the mercy of the airlines. If I foolishly thought I had power, I was stripped of that fast. If I thought I mattered, I was wrong. But, I learned I was not alone. God had shown me goodness and mercy and showed me what faith is, in the face of adversity. Perhaps this is what is lacking in the hearts of the Chinese I had seen. Perhaps they have been made to believe that they have no control and must put their faith in and/or be dependent upon a government that has disappointed them time and time again. Perhaps they never learned that to put ones faith in man is to invite brokenness and need and want for something more – they only know how empty man’s words are and know nothing better at this stage of life. But to have an advocate – one who speaks on their behalf is everything – to not be alone. To have Jesus- our ultimate Advocate, is all one ever needs in this life.

Photo taken by me at Big Buddha

Saturday, February 28, 2015

While Rome Burned...

by Nina Benson
It's Saturday. I started off my morning with exercise. Next, I rewarded myself with a seat at the computer and a cup of coffee. On Saturdays, I catch-up with the news that I’ve only heard snippets of on the radio, on my drive home, Monday through Friday.
I tend to be a researcher when I read the news. I search for several sources on the same news item to get a varied viewpoint, hopefully, eventually getting to the truth, (Truth: something that is definitely not synonymous with the word - news). I had heard that ISIS recruits were in all fifty states and that tagging could be found everywhere. My “research” as it were, led me down into a very dark and very deep rabbit hole – I’ve been down this road before, however, today, like most days, I could not ruminate over the subject.
...But how could I not?
The images, the words, the comments, the other news, the wars everywhere, the assassination in Russia, the governmental take-over of the internet by the FCC… This is to say nothing of my own family life concerns, nor those of my dear friends and colleagues at work and my students…
To give thought and/or participate in that, that matters so little… Still…
I had to put it all aside because I had ten teenagers coming over for an art class. I had to set up for it all… they were coming for 9… The news would have to wait – stop for the moment. (God, if it could ever stop – please let it never start again). I had been up and at it since about 5:30-6am…
The art class came and went and was successful…
I took the last young lady to her next destination at 6pm…
Sigh. I started clearing the table of the cups and cardboard and newspaper. Once it was all cleared, I thought about sitting down and eating a little something, (I forget to do this when I’m “on”). Usually after teaching/engaging youth, for a full day I usually like to turn my mind off and engage in something mindless.
Hmmm… how about putting those Monopoly game pieces from Jewel on the game board.  I had fifteen of them and a couple that I found on the ground… Then it hit me.
Then I remembered the news from this morning.
How could I do something so mindless, so meaningless; when the world is literally burning?
I’ve heard it said, that Nero fiddled while Rome burned, (Or played his cithara since the “fiddle” wasn’t invented)… Could I sit idly by and tear off the sides off Monopoly playing pieces and sort them and hope that I have the winning piece, while the world is so out of control.
The question might be: Well what can you do? At any moment, 24/7; I can pray for God’s mercy. I can beseech the throne room of Heaven and plead for Jesus’ return to come quickly. I can read God’s word and seek out His direction.
...But to be idle in times such as these – God there is so much to do … “The harvest is plentiful…” Let it not be said that I knew what was going on, but did  nothing of any consequence and watched the world burn…
Fear Not…

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Let's Keep It Real

Let’s Keep It Real
By Nina Benson
I have a niece who is known for saying, “I’m just trying to keep it real Aunt T” aka; I’m merely being totally, unabashedly honest so that you get the full picture.
Sometimes in this walk, we need this in-your-face type of honesty, because we tend to sidestep the truth, in an effort to avoid… the pain, or doing what we're supposed to do, or whatever, you fill in the blank…
The other day I had the opportunity to get on my trusty bike because temperatures rose into the 50’s for just the day. I rode for about five miles, enjoying the warmth of the sun and blue skies. I had my headphones on listening to a Christian music station and I was surprised at what I didn’t hear – not one Christmas song; even though it was just one day after Christmas. I thought surely, I would hear some reference to the day that is a pinnacle of the Christian faith – but nothing.
I confess that I am a Christmas Scrooge. Before you get worried – it’s not that I don’t believe in the Miracle – of course I do, however, the commercialism of Christmas is unbearable for me. I don’t know if it’s my advancing years, but I don’t particular enjoy seeing houses decorated with light shows that compete with the lights of Las Vegas with the Star Wars theme playing in the background. I can not stand hearing Silent Night done 101 different ways – from techno to Lil Wayne, to Lady Gaga to Disco to Mickey Mouse, and more… Really? And most folks would agree that starting Christmas in the stores after Halloween is a bit much. This year Christmas and Thanksgiving were tandem in the aisles. I don’t know why someone hasn’t come up with a turkey dressed up like Santa Claus as a centerpiece. Oh yeah, because they can still make twice the money if they keep them separate.

Okay, what’s my point? Christmas is over and everything is slowly disappearing for another year…
But that’s my point - Christmas shouldn’t be disappearing.
For nearly an hour I rode my bike and didn’t hear anything to the reference of the birth of Christ. There are songs that reference the Miracle- the unbelievable Gift of God to a sin sick world, that aren’t the traditional hymns of Christmas; but like Handel’s Messiah, which can be listened and pondered everyday from Christmas to Easter and everyday in between.
We need to consider what is real about Christmas and fall prostrate in awe when we really see what Christmas is about and how it doesn’t simply end the evening of the big family gathering.
Pastor Raj from the Oak Park Chinese Bible Church gave his congregation thoughts to ponder a couple Sundays before Christmas: Mary was real. A frighten young woman, probably barely out of her youth – pregnant under very questionable circumstances. Folks today wouldn’t bat an eye – but, back then she was supposed to be stoned, (I think her mother too). She was pregnant with her first child and was going on a camping trip with her betrothed. A two-three week journey by foot, (the Bible makes no mention of her perched on a donkey, (nice card – but not true). Ladies, you want to go on a walking trip at say, nearly eight plus months pregnant and camp out under the stars. Then there’s Joseph. Good Lord man, you believed what that girl told you? Can you imagine for a second the ridicule he got? How dumb can you be? Scripture mentions no close family, other than Elizabeth, whom was pregnant in her old age, (with John the Baptist). The angel of the Lord told Mary about this miracle and suggested that she go and visit her - to help her, (I think God gave her busy work, to keep her focused on other things – Elizabeth’s pregnancy, rather than the thing that He was handling – He didn’t need Mary fretting about what was going on with her – she needed confirmation and something to keep her mind occupied). Then there’s the place to have the Baby Jesus and those shepherds showing up… The Wise men didn’t show for some time after, (again makes for cute cards but not true to the REAL story). I could go on, but I think you get the picture – the real picture.
Why can’t we keep Christmas REAL 24/7, just like Jesus’ death and resurrection? Why not be a shepherd and share this great news! Jesus is the reason for the season, so let’s keep Him REAL! 
Nichole Norderman - Real
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year