Christmas through the years in the Philippines

2006 - 5 weeks after we arrived in the Philippines





Last Day of 2010

If I were to sum up the primary focus of 2010 in my life and our family's life I would have to say "relationships".

It has been an intense year of rebuilding and restoring relationships that have been stretched and stressed almost to the point of breaking within our family due to cross-cultural stress, the addition of two sweet boys to our family, etc.

God is a God of relationships. He seeks us out. He desires for us to talk to Him. He is passionate about us.
He wants us to model that in our relationships with each other - marriage, parent to child, friend to friend.

I am thankful for the godly counselor He has brought into our lives to help us through some of the tough times we've had this year.
I am thankful for His continual faithfulness and leading.

Romans 8:15
15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves,
so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

Favourite Quotes from this year by one of my favourite authors

"Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion."
-- Brennan Manning (Abba's Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging)

"To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God's grace means."
-- Brennan Manning

"If we maintain the open-mindedness of children, we challenge fixed ideas and established structures, including our own. We listen to people in other denominations and religions. We don't find demons in those with whom we disagree. We don't cozy up to people who mouth our jargon. If we are open, we rarely resort to either-or: either creation or evolution, liberty or law, sacred or secular, Beethoven or Madonna. We focus on both-and, fully aware that God's truth cannot be imprisoned in a small definition. "
-- Brennan Manning

I want neither a terrorist spirituality that keeps me in a perpetual state of fright about being in right relationship with my heavenly Father nor a sappy spirituality that portrays God as such a benign teddy bear that there is no aberrant behavior or desire of mine that he will not condone. I want a relationship with the Abba of Jesus, who is infinitely compassionate with my brokenness and at the same time an awesome, incomprehensible, and unwieldy Mystery. "
-- Brennan Manning

Reflecting on 2010 - Fight the Good Fight

Reflecting on the year 2010, this timely blog came in my email from John Piper's ministry,

"The last week of the year is a good time--with God's help--to reflect on the past 12 months, do a little self-assessment, and decide what things to repent of and reach for in the next lap around the sun.

At the end of his first year as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, John Piper led his people in doing this through his sermon "I Have Kept the Faith."

Below is the conclusion of that sermon. Just plug in "2010" and "2011" where you read "1980" and "1981," and the content is still relevant 30 years later.

So, how did we do in 1980? If 1980 were the whole of our life, could we say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness"? My guess is that there are people here who can give three different answers to that question. * One will say, "I fought no fight because I felt no great desire to follow Christ's counsel and trust his promises. Satan and my own flesh got no resistance from me." * Another will say, "I felt some desire to trust Christ and go his way, but whenever a conflict arose, I was defeated every time. I really didn't fight a very good fight." * And a third will say, "Praise God, it was a hard but glorious year. The Word of God came alive for me and helped time and time again to overcome temptation and hold to Christ. It wasn't always easy, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord." Whichever one of those groups you are in now, remember this: by the grace of God, this day is only a rehearsal of the end. His mercy is opening before you a new life in 1981, and you can enter it and finish as a victorious fighter if you will declare yourself from your heart as one who now renounces Satan's power and self-reliance and who trusts Jesus Christ for all his word."

Christmas Novena

I had a dear friend from the US enlighten me to the true meaning of the Christmas Novena - a 9 day service leading up to Christmas Day that a Father Charles Vachetta developed back in 1721.

Father Charles Vachetta, pastor of the Church of the Immaculate in Turin, Italy, wanted to give his parishioners something special for the Advent of 1721. He wanted them to understand the intertwining of the Old and New Testaments so they could see for themselves the love of God unfold from the beginning of time and for all eternity. Father Vachetta decided to give them the gift of a novena--a prayer going deep into the spirit of Advent, leaving one inspired with inexpressible joy. So Father Vachetta began to write his nine-day prayer, to stir the hearts of his parishioners to eagerly await the coming of Christ.

This is an excellent reading the way he wove the Old and New Testament together to point to the coming of Christ.

What saddens my heart is my Filipino friends being told that if they
do this 9 day prayer their wish, whatever it is, will come true.
I do not believe this was Father Vachetta's intent. His was to point his parishioners to Christ.

From the website:

Father Vachetta was a poet and scholar, steeped in Biblical theology. Using the Latin Vulgate, he wove the novena from the psalms and prophecies of the Old Testament which foretold the coming of the Messiah and crowned his masterpiece by retelling the birth of John the Baptist. Then, taking some of Scripture's lesser known prophecies, he composed a canticle, or prayer- song of incomparable beauty called "Let the Heavens Be Glad." The canticle is sung after the seven major prophecies and makes a fitting antiphon for the Scripture readings of the day. The Christmas novena, as it is now known, begins on December 16, nine days before Christmas, and ends on Christmas Eve. Father Vachetta left us the heritage of a lovely Advent tradition and his work continues to prepare hearts for the coming of Christ through the prophecies, psalms and Gospels. His Christmas novena will inspire people for ages to come.

Christmas Happenings 2010

Cinnamon Rolls and Stollen baked for gifts and eating.

Mikayla making a RedWall recipe for Christmas Eve Dinner.

Flowers that were delivered to us for Christmas!

Christmas Eve Dinner

Jerard sleeping through the Christmas morning festivities!

Mikayla, Kirsten, Ben and James

Optimus Prime and BumbleBee Transformer masks

Being silly in the kitchen.

Kurt buried in wrapping paper by James and Ben