Friday, December 31, 2010

Run Your Own Race


Last night, my husband and I went out to see the movie Secretariat, about a housewife who after her father's death tries to keep the family's horse ranch after a promising young foal is born.

At the birth of the horse, the father tells his daughter to run her race and let the horse run his. I have thought about that a lot today, and just wonder how much am I running my own race, and do I interfere with someone else running theirs.  

It is difficult enough to run my own race, with fears of failure, keeping motivated and focused—without trying to focus on someone else's.  So today, I want to be able to run my own race, and live out my own dreams so that in the end, there is no regret.

I think so many times that our lives are complicated by losing track of the race we are called to run and focusing on someone else's race.  When I do that, it just throws me off focus from what I should be doing, and frustrates others when we meddle and try to tell them how they should be living their life.

For years, I ran the race that others thought I should run, and in the end, it left me frustrated, and feeling like I could not measure up.  The truth is that it was not that I was unhappy because I was not good enough, but that I was not doing what I was meant to do.

I think I did this because I did not want the responsibility of taking the blame if I failed to win the race that I was called to run.  If I was following someone else's orders, then my failure would be their fault in a sense and not necessarily my own.  To be honest, thatkind of thinking is pretty childish.  

This year, I am planning to live this year running my own race.  I am going to do what I need to do for me, and stay out of everyone else's race and focus on my own.

At the end of the movie, right before the final Triple Crown Race, the daughter tells the horse that she has already run her race, because she took a chance and followed her dream and ran her race and tells the horse to run his race.  That is so true!  If we take those chances and follow our dreams, then we have won, because we will live a life without regret and wondering what might have happened.

This year will be full of chances and challenges--just like every other year.  Make sure that you run your race!

Jennifer Meyers (C) 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do I Really Believe What I Claim to Believe?


As a kid, I went along with the whole Santa thing until I was in sixth grade.  I said I believed.  I wrote letters to Santa.  I left out cookies and milk on Christmas eve.  We even watched Santa make his Christmas eve run on the local news station's weather radar.  I said I believed, because I thought the gifts would quit coming if I let known my suspicions that Santa was a made up tradition.

Looking at Christianity, I wonder if we do the same thing with the Bible.  We read.  We agree.  We say we believe, and we even go through the motions of doing church and saying grace, but when it comes to the tough stuff, do we believe enough to step out of our comfort zone and actually do what the Bible tells us to do?

For instance, in the Great Commission, Jesus tells us to go into all the world and make disciples.  Am I doing that?  Well, probably not, and that is bothering me.  Don't get me wrong, I don't feel like I am being called to the rain forest or to Africa, but still, there is a job to be done.  There are plenty of people right here in my own back yard that need to see, feel, and know the love of Jesus. Around half of the people in Tennessee do not consider themselves Christian...and that is the buckle of the Bible Belt. 

This year, I hope to live my life in a way that shows that I believe what I claim to believe.  My hope is to find a way to share Christ with others, whether it is by kindness, or taking time to listen, or even encouraging someone that is having a tough time.  I want to be more attentive to the people that God puts into my path, in hopes that He will use me to help make a difference in someone else's day.

Jennifer Meyers (C) 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Accidents and No Coincidences

I am a planner.  I blame it on seven years of being an elementary teacher in a public school.  I plan everything, and on a good day, I have my day planned out from the time my feet venture out from the warmth of my nice cozy bed to the time they retreat back there for sleep. I even plan the days that I want to relax, so that I don't plan anything for the day.  For me, planning can be a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing, because I know what I want to accomplish that day, a curse because so often life happens, and I have to divert from the plan.

I think that little fact of life makes me appreciate God's plan, because His plan, unlike mine, is always right on course.  Nothing takes Him by surprise, and there are no accidents with God.  Everything has a plan and a purpose, from him speaking the world into being, and even my desire to have everything perfectly planned out (although I do not understand the purpose of that last one yet).

God knew before He ever laid the foundations of the earth and created man, that we would sin.  He knew when He gave Moses the 10 Commandments upon the mountain, that we would not be able to keep them. He knew that we would fail miserably and had planned to send us a Savior--long before we were ever created.

I think sometimes I approach God's plans like I do my own, like this is what he wanted to get accomplished, but if it does not work out  then we will go to Plan B.  With God there is no Plan B.  Jesus was Plan A, because God knew we would need a savior.  The moment we realize that simple fact, maybe  we will see our own lives differently.  Instead of hiding our failures and shortcomings, we would turn to God's plan--Jesus to meet our needs, heal our hurts, and fix our mistakes.

Jennifer Meyers (C) 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Star of Bethlehem

There are few times that I learn something and just am speechless.  My mom had purchased a video called "Star of Bethlehem" a few days ago.  She brought it to my house and we watched it together.  Now, I have always had an interest in stars, planets, basically anything having to do with space because of the sheer vastness and organization that it contains.  Its complexities and intricacies amaze me.  What I saw in the video gave me an even greater appreciation for the immense creativity and planning of our creator and God.

The video is a taped presentation of Rick Larson as he explains the proof behind the Star of Bethlehem and its appearance.  Mr. Larson is a lawyer by trade, and he researched the star for years after making a wise men display in his front yard one Christmas.  This Christmas display gets him to thinking about the miraculous star, and sends him on many years of research to find proof behind the star.  Larson uses an astronomy program called Starry Night, that can display what the night sky would have looked like based on the mathematical formula developed by Keppler.  Keppler used his formulas to to make star charts in the 1600's.  The formula was extremely complicated, and even with doing the calculations by hand with paper and pencil, Keppler's star charts were actually very accurate.  Once Keppler discovered his formula, he began searching for the Star of Bethlehem--but unfortunately he was not looking in the right years for Christ's birth.  The dates that Keppler used to determine the range to look for the star was based on Josephus historic writings that dated Herod's death at 4 BC.  In fact, there was a misprint in the the copying of those manuscripts and all known earlier manuscripts of Josephus' writings put Herod's death at 1 BC.  This allowed a search in the years 2 and 3 BC.

Larson begins searching and begins with the biblical text from Matthew concerning the birth of Christ.  Larson singles out every mention of the Star of Bethlehem and comes up with nine criteria that the star must fulfil in order to be considered.  He finds nine criteria from the Bible that must be met in order to be able to definitively mark a star the Bethlehem Star.  Those are:

  1. The star must have appeared when Herod was still alive.
  2. The star must have been seen in the east by the Magi (wise men) in what was Babylon--or modern day Iraq.
  3. King Herod was not aware of the star's appearance, because he asked the Magi when the star appeared.
  4. The star appeared at an exact time.
  5. The star had to rise in the east.
  6. The star had to be able to be seen in the Southern skies of Bethlehem.
  7. The star endured over a period of time--because the Magi had to travel from Babylon to Bethlehem.
  8. It went ahead of them as they traveled.
  9. The star stopped when it reached Bethlehem.
While some of these criteria are typical traits of most stars, others are not.  Most stars do not appear to stop, and most stars do not just appear.  Taking these criteria, Larson searches the night skies in the years 2 and 3 BC and notices the behavior of the planet Jupiter.  Planets are commonly called wandering stars because of their ability to not follow all of the rules that stars abide by.  During that time frame, Jupiter was in retrograde motion, which means it appears to stop its track and backtrack as it moves across the night sky.  Jupiter is also known as the "King Planet" due to its size as the largest planet in our solar system.  Taking this into consideration, we have a possible candidate as to the Star of Bethlehem.  

Since the Jewish culture observes birthdays as the date of conception, Larson looks at the stars during the time frame which could be the time period that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  This time frame shows Jupiter (the King Planet) making a crown like pattern above the star Regulus (which is known as the King star).  When Larson put the constellations in play with the night sky, he saw the constellation  of the Lion (which symbolizes the tribe of Judah--which the Messiah was to come from) directly above Jupiter and Regulus.  Do you get the idea that God is announcing the earthly arrival of His only son in the midst of the stars?

Fast forward the program nine months, and Larson discovered that above Bethlehem, Jupiter and Venus (the largest planet and the brightest planet) were stacked to the point that they were indistinguishable to the naked eye.  Jupiter goes into retrograde three times over Bethlehem and actually stops over the town of Bethlehem.  

Once finding this, Larson concludes that these two planets formed Bethlehem's Star, and looks to the scripture to find that the night of Jesus' death was marked by a blood moon.  The "blood moon" is an ancient astronomical term used to describe a red moon or lunar eclipse.  The moon actually rose during the lunar eclipse, which means the eclipse began before it rose over the horizon.  According to scripture, Jesus was put on the cross at 9 am on Friday, he lasted 6 hours on the cross, putting his death at 3 pm.  The lunar eclipse began at 3 pm, the time Jesus died.

The Bible tells us that God put each and ever star in place.  He set each of their courses through the universe.  Knowing this, and putting that information with the data that Larson found in his research, God planned Jesus' arrival and death before the foundations of the universe were created and He planned  to tell the story in the stars as well as in the Bible.

Text written by Jennifer Meyers (c) 2010
Photo from web content
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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Season of Miracles

A couple of friends of ours began their family Saturday night.  Their precious little baby girl was introduced to this world.  Her momma and daddy had been preparing for her arrival, every since they received the good news that they were expecting.

We went to see them Sunday afternoon.  Mom, dad and baby were fine, and absolutely beautiful.  My friends were grinning from ear to ear as they looked at this little miracle that they took turns  holding in their arms.  We all were in awe of this new life.  

As I sat there, I just wondered if Mary felt that same way as she looked down and saw this fragile little life.  So tiny and fragile---yet the physical embodiment of God on earth.  I can just imagine how intimidating it must have been to know that you are holding the son of God in your arms and you were responsible for his care and well being.

There are just so many things about the birth of Christ that just puts me into awe, because it all just totally goes against the world as we would expect.  For instance, the God of Heaven and Earth coming to earth as a weak baby, born into a working class family without any wealth or luxuries.  Then again, maybe these things should not surprise me since his adult life was lived out in the same fashion.  Jesus made no name for himself.  He did not demand his rights or respect.  He just remained focused on his mission which was coming to earth to provide hope and redemption for sinners.

Maybe that is why I love Christmas so much.  To me, this is a time of miracles--a miraculous birth, a miraculous star announcing Jesus' birth,  the miracles of hope and healing that Christ did when he walked upon the face of this earth, and the miracle that God himself came to earth to provide a way for me to have a direct relationship with Him.  To me, this may be the greatest miracle of all.

Photo and written text by Jennifer Meyers copyright 2010.
Video courtesy of you tube.  Song in video is "Mary Did You Know" performed by Clay Aiken

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

With Christmas coming up, I am getting serious about trying to keep the main thing the main thing.  It is easy to get tangled up focusing on the lights, the tree, the shopping, the gifts, and the holiday parties.  All too often, I look back after a special occasion and realize that I was so busy with the stuff, that I missed the whole purpose of why I was actually there.  This is so easy for me to do at Christmas, because there is so much to be done.

In America, we have basically reduced Christmas to a sentimental, over commercialized holiday.  We have traded the baby Jesus laying in a manger for trees, lights, tinsel, and beautifully wrapped gifts.  In all honesty, if we actually look at that first Christmas, we see very little of what modern day America actually celebrates, and why we should be celebrating Christmas.

Christmas is just the beginning of the romantic tale of how God, in all of his glory took on human flesh to rescue mankind from sin. He came that night as a baby, with a young girl as his mother and a carpenter as his earthly father.  He was born in a manger with common cattle and his parents present at his birth.  Angels sought out lowly shepherds to be the newborn's first visitors.  In essence, God's earthly birth was in an unsanitary barn, alongside animals, to parents who were common working class people, and the men that the angels sent to welcome God to this earth were shepherds who had been outside in the pastures watching sheep and probably smelling pretty woolly.  Christ's arrival was essentially like his mission--to come to the poor, lowly people who are without hope and share hope with them.

Fast forward years later.  The disciples are present.  The followers are there.  The hopeless and disease are among the ranks gathered as well.  Jesus preaches and heals.  The gossip among the crowd is that Jesus is the messiah.  The hope of the crowd is that Jesus will overthrow the Roman empire and end the Jewish oppression.  However, God in his infinite creativity had a different plan.

Instead of a great coup, God comes to earth to be beaten and nailed to a tree.  Jesus' mission upon this earth was the cross.  From his first breath, to his final words, his mission was to show love and to die on the cross as the final atonement for our sins.  The reason that we celebrate Christmas is because it was the beginning of God's mission to redeem the sinful souls of man.  Every act that Jesus did was in preparation for us to be reconciled with God Almighty.

To celebrate Christmas and not recognize his love, grace, mercy, and sacrifice is to miss the purpose of why we actually celebrate Christmas.  My prayer for you and your family is that you will experience the love, the grace, the redemption and the salvation that only Christ can give.  Jesus is the reason for the season and the cross is the reason why he came.  May the main thing remain the main thing this Christmas!

Credits for this post:  video taken from you tube and music is "It's About the Cross" by GoFish
Jennifer Meyers (C) 2010