Friday, December 27, 2013

Being Wise

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 (NKJV)

Why are the Wise Men called Wise Men? Surely not because they were rich because there are many affluent people who are neither very smart nor extremely wise. All we have to answer the question are their actions: They saw the star, decided to follow it, asked Herod for directions, found the baby, worshiped Him, gave Him gifts, receive a warning in a dream, and returned home by a different road.

Every one of their actions requires choices. After being curious about a new star they chose to study it. They used all their knowledge and resources, including questioning Herod. They prepared for a long journey, including gifts for many along the way. They did not block knowledge received from the Lord (a dream) by deciding only that which they could touch, see, taste, hear or smell was valid.

An interesting contrast to the Wise Men, are the obvious foolish choices which Herod made. He wanted only to be rich and powerful in his little tiny corner of the world. The Wise Men, of course, could have become and might have been wise rulers in their home country.

Throughout the Bible there are many other examples of wise and foolish actions or decisions. When Jesus told his followers to “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” he was calling them to make wise choices based on his teachings about the Father. That call continues through the years and comes to all who await His return. In this coming year, may we all seek to be wise.
Lord, reveal your wisdom and your call in each day of this coming year.  Help us do your will.

 © 2013 V. Colclasure

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Twelveth Day of Christmas---The Little Drummer Girl

Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31b (KJV)

As an eleven year old, I joined the music class in my school. Already late into the year, there wasn't much to choose from except the drums. The teacher gave me a pair of drum sticks and a rubber pad for practice. The other drummers already knew their "licks," as well as the hand signals the teacher used to depict the songs. It was confusing to me, but I followed along, learning the beats.

When I told my mother about the drum, she purchased a pair of drum sticks for me. I felt so proud and took them to school, practicing in music class. At home, I beat on everything, rat-a-tat-tatting all over the house.

At the Christmas rehearsal, the girls wore white dresses with black shoes. Mother bought beautiful, white waffle-weave material and a pattern. While I was in school, she sewed a dress for me and bought a pair of black patent leather shoes.

The night of the recital, I stood near the front. We went through the songs and drum routines, but I was relieved when it was over. I never could remember the hand signals so I played by rote.

Later, I heard "The Little Drummer Boy" song, written by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941. The little boy had nothing but a song to give to the baby King, so he played his best. He gave his heart. I gave mine as well. Today, I cannot hear the song unless I play "air drums" and hum along. "I played my best for Him. Pa rum-pa-pum-rum."

Jesus, in this life, let me continue to play for You until I can play in heaven. Amen.

(c) 2013 E. Bonnie Ryan

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Eleventh Day of Christmas: Go, Tell It On The Mountain

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  Matthew 28:16 (NIV)

Recently, I had the opportunity to become more aware of the persecution our brothers and sisters in Christ face world wide. While hearing stories shared by missionaries, who are much like the eleven faithful disciples, I was humbled that my own burdens pale in comparison to those of our beloved fellow Christians facing hardship for loving our God, believing in salvation delivered to us through Christ Jesus, and spreading the word.

We have the freedom to worship and witness freely, they do not. We are blessed to be able to share God’s word and witness with the intent to make more and better disciples without facing imprisonment or worse. I felt led to share this scripture on the inside of one of the Bibles being delivered to missionaries abroad:

                                 So do not fear, for I am with you,
                                 Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
                                 I will strengthen you and help you;
                                 I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 
                                                                         Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

In an email two days later, that same scripture came back to me. It seems I needed to be encouraged by those words as well as share them. The scripture had a powerful effect on me. I pray the Bible’s recipient receives the same blessing in reading those words for true strength comes through grace by faith.
Heavenly Father, as I reflect on events of past years I am truly humbled and tremendously blessed in Your faithfulness. Be ever present with us as, encouraged in 2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV), we fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith. In Jesus’ name. 
 (c) 2013 Atalie Shackelford

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tenth Day of Chrsitmas - "Lords a Leaping"

Tenth Day of Christmas:  Ten Lords Leaping

…He will save, He will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in His love, He will joy over thee with singing. Zeph. 3:17 (KJV)

Many years ago I experienced a moment of revelation when I saw a drawing of Jesus laughing. His head was tilted back and His mouth was open in a huge smile. “Yes,” I thought, “He was human as well as divine. Of course He laughed sometimes.”

Our God takes pleasure in His children and He offers us joy. Just as he is the source of love, truth, mercy and peace, He is the source of joy. Often, when we come to Him, He rejoices over us.

The ten lords leaping are a symbol of the Ten Commandments. Their leaping is a sign of joy.
King David expressed his joy by leaping and dancing before the Lord as he brought the ark of the
covenant home. John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb when he sensed the presence of Jesus. Several times when people with a crippling disease were healed, they rose up and leapt for joy. 

Their joy came from understanding God’s laws, His grace and His plan. For thousands of years the Ten Commandments have been the basis for law in countries holding true to Judeo-Christian ethics. Later Jesus’ teachings clarified and offered an even more focused understanding of God’s grace and plans for His people. He wants the same for us. He wants us to leap for joy—if not with our limbs, with our hearts. God also wants to leap and dance over us with singing. I think He will be smiling.

Father God, help us to honor your laws and rest in the joy and peace you offer.

© Christy Struben 2013


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ninth Day of Christmas: A Reason to Dance

Let them praise His name with the dance; (Psalm 149:3a KJV).

Little children excited about Christmas gifts dance around the house. We may ask them to calm down, yet the Gift of all time, the reason for Christmas, can even get the grownups dancing. How can we not dance: God sent His only Son to set us free!

Holiday season or not, and even though we are thankful that God sent Jesus for us, the circumstances of life can be overwhelming. How can we dance when getting out of bed is a challenge? How can we dance when the pain runs deep, the loss is too much to bear, or when trauma leaves us frightened and confused? How can we dance when our bodies or minds are afflicted with illness?

I will build you up again, and you… will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful (Jeremiah 31:4, TNIV)… I will turn [your] mourning into gladness (Jeremiah 31:13, NIV).

During one of the most difficult seasons in my life, the song, “Dance, Children Dance” (Leon Patillo, 1979) encouraged me to stay focused and to have a reason to dance in the midst of bleak—and what appeared to be hopeless—circumstances. Problems can be overwhelming, but God stays the same. We can dance because of who He is and because of the hope He gives. We can dance because if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36, NIV)

God has given us the victory through Jesus. Like David, let us dance before the Lord with all [our] might (2 Samuel 6:14, NIV).

Thank you for turning my mourning into dancing. Thank you for setting me free.

© 2013 Nance

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Eight Maids

There are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:25 (NKJV)

Christmas is a time to celebrate God’s gift to us. On the theme of maids, eight women received special gifts that changed their lives.

Jesus taught Martha to relax in His presence. She later declared Jesus as the Messiah.

Martha’s sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening and learning. Worship became visible when she anointed those same feet with oil and dried them with her hair.

An adulterous woman stood condemned to death. Her encounter with Jesus drove out condemnation and placed her on a path forged by forgiveness.

The woman at the well met the Savior and received living water. She became a missionary in her own town.

A woman suffering from twelve-years of bleeding reached out in faith to touch Jesus’ robe. She received instant healing.

Mary Magdalene followed Jesus faithfully after being delivered from demons. On Easter morning she was the first person to whom Jesus appeared, receiving joy for sadness.

Elizabeth, barren for years, conceived in her old age. When Mary visited, carrying Jesus in her womb, Elizabeth’s unborn child leapt, recognizing the presence of the Lord.

And would Christmas be complete without this same Mary, a young virgin who would bear the King? She humbly received the gift and glorified the Lord.

On this eighth day of Christmas, as expectations rise, details beckon, and pressure mounts, consider these simple women who met God. Their stories have been told for millennia. Meet Him in your circumstance. Receive His gift. You will never be the same.

Lord, thank you for the countless miracles you gift us with each day.

© 2013 Katherine A. Fuller

Friday, December 20, 2013

Seven Swans A'Swimming

I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:8 ESV)

Just as swans swim and gain life from the water, humans gain life from the Holy Spirit. “The Seven Swans A’ Swimming” was code for the seven gifts from the Holy Spirit. Some churches emphasize these gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord. The gifts have influence over one’s ability to follow Christ.

When a gift is unused, clean and pristine in the original box, it may bring money value on the Antique Roadshow, but its true value and purpose is lost. When one asks God to help unwrap the gift, from it will flow the Fruit of the Holy Spirit which are Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.

Several years ago I asked God to show me humility. Humility falls under the gift of Fear of the Lord. The Lord quickly answered that prayer and is continuing to do so. People are noticing that I have more gentleness, peace and love. The gift of the Fear of the Lord has been unwrapped down to the tissue paper, so there is more learning and life to be received from the Lord.

We receive the Holy Spirit through Jesus. What a wonderful gift of life Jesus gave to us by coming to earth as a baby human being.

Thank you, Lord, for your wonderful gift of life.

© 2013 Mary Burkey

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Sixth Day of Christmas: Six Geese

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of good, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God Reigns."  Isaiah 52:7 (RSV)

"Honk, Ho-o-nk, Hahnk!" That unmistakable sound makes me look skyward to enjoy the peaceful sight of Canada Geese flying, leaves falling, and sunset descending. Even on gray days when the geese are hidden by fog or low clouds, their persistent voices signal their tenacious progress.

When they gather fro take off, the cacophony of sound incites laughter and thoughts of angels with sore throats. But just at the moment of lift off, all talking ceases and the only sound is that of strong wings rapidly pounding the wind while unyielding bodies fight to ascend. Messengers with bulky bodies, their "V" formation is a visual and audible announcement that winter comes quickly--along with thoughts of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Since the days of creation, Canada Geese have been nature's heralds of God's handiwork; however, God's eternal messengers only spoke to Bethlehem's shepherds once. And upon hearing the good tidings, these herdsman probably ran pell mell to see the One who would be Salvation, the one who would reassure mankind that our God Reigns. Amidst the soft baas of sheep, pigeon coos, and cattle lows, they found the Promised One, the Messiah.

We know the shepherd's story because they told somebody who told somebody who eventually told Luke. In turn, Luke told all readers and hearers of the Gospel. Now, it is our turn to spread the news. Like awkward geese, we become heaven's messengers telling, shouting, singing, "Our God reigns. Salvation has come. The Babe is born."

Lord, Thanks for sending Salvation. Help us to also tell others, "Our God reigns." Amen

(c) 2013   Virginia Colclasure

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fifth day of Christmas: Better than gold!

In these troubled times, run to the One who is Faithful and True - our Lord! Revelation 19:11 (NIV). In the Old Testament, God says He’s our Husband. Isaiah 54:5 (NIV). God wears his fidelity toward us like a golden wedding ring, and the Holy Bible is His love letter to each of us! 

The Pentateuch comprises God’s first five love letters. Known for His extravagance, it’s not enough that He’s espoused to us. In Genesis, He’s also our Parent. With great joy, God prepares the nursery for His first child, Adam. Where we might go out and buy cribs, rocking chairs, and wallpaper for our baby’s nursery, God went out and set up oceans, mountains, and forests for His first child. Oh Master of Quantity!

When Adam sinned, his Father went to him. God wants us to apologize when we hurt Him then be restored to our high-quality relationship with Him. Oh Master of Quality!

The Pentateuch tells us about miracles, the Law, promises, and the Promised Land. Parents, have your children ever persuaded you to change your mind? Of course they have, and God can relate. He changed His mind when Moses asked Him not to destroy those wayward Hebrews. Exodus 32:14 (NIV).

Parents, have you ever punished your child then later gave in because you just couldn’t help yourself? God can relate to that one too. Remember when Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land? It turns out Moses did set foot in the Promised Land. Amazingly, Peter saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus one day on the mountain. Luke 9:30-33 (NIV).

Lord, Your friendship is more valuable to me than five thousand golden rings!  Amen.

©2013 Mary Logan

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Fourth Day of Christmas: Four Calling Birds

Jesus began to preach, “Repent the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt. 4:17b (NKJV)
Paralyzed, I awoke on the operating table, and heard doctors’ talking - then pain pierced me. My mind screamed, Stop. I’m awake! They were cutting me. The excruciating pain came in heavy waves, cutting and stabbing over and over. Stop, I can feel that! Each pain wave came harder and more intense than the last.
Unvoiced screams echoed in my brain. Stop!
Then I heard, “Her blood pressure’s dropping.”
 “We’re losing her.”
It was too late. The pain left abruptly. I died.
I watched, from above the operating table, as the doctors worked on me. The Holy Spirit joined me, saying “It’s okay to die.”
My worries fell free, like unshackled chains. 
A warm soft grey air surrounded me. Beautiful peace flooded my soul and unimaginable, undisputable love blanketed me. There was only peace, sweet peace. I did not want to leave. My past life sped by as a high-speed movie. As I watched all the hard times, tears came with each beating and merciless event.
“Stop crying.” The Holy Spirit commanded. “It’s time to go back. Be joyful.” The Holy Spirit flooded me with joy that overwhelmed me. Tears ceased.
 “This is a gift to you.”
I longed to stay, to follow through to the Light.
He said, “Jesus is the Light of the world. You must go back. You have things to do and people to tell.”  
* * *
            “Lois. Wake up!” Someone kept flicking my index finger, calling my name.
            The four calling birds represent the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, announcing the Good News. God has come to earth. Accept. Believe. Live it. I was sent back to tell you.

Thank You, Lord, for making yourself known to me, for using me to tell the fallen world.
©Lois Gosley 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

The third day of Christmas: Three French Hens

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (KJV)

While on vacation many years ago, I took pictures of the prettiest chickens that I had ever seen.  It was not until I was researching the Twelve Days of Christmas song that I realized that they were French hens. The French hen is one of the most colorful of chickens.

In the Twelve Days of Christmas song, these chickens by some accounts represent the three theological virtues: faith, hope and love. These are the foundations of a Christian life. Without having faith in Jesus, how can we have hope in this world and love others?

Throughout the holiday season we receive many gifts. My favorites are the ones that my family and friends take the time to make. You will see several ornaments on my tree that were made by my children and friends to express their love. There is a lot of love hanging on the tree.

Jesus came to earth to give His life so that we will hope in a lost and dying world.  With the birth of Jesus we received the gift of hope. With this gift of hope we also received the gift of love, the greatest of all gifts.

Love is not always easy to give. Resentments, hurts and past mistakes bind the love in our hearts toward others. When we break those bonds with the help of Jesus, we are free to love and receive love.

This year I want to focus on Jesus. I want my life to be as colorful as those French hens with the right amount of faith, hope and love. I want love to be the brightest of all.

Thank you, Jesus, for giving the greatest gift of all love.

Dawn Sexton © 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Second Day of Christmas: Two Turtledoves

They brought Him (Jesus) up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord…and to offer a sacrifice…a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Luke 2:22b, 24 (NASB)

Climbing to the upper level of Grandpa’s barn, my cousin and I were excited because we had never been that high before. As I turned around, I noticed a nest with two tiny birds. We called down to tell Grandpa, but he warned us,

“Don’t touch those baby turtledoves or their mother will not take care of them. They will die.”

Later, Grandpa explained that if our human scent contaminated the baby birds, their mother would abandon them and they would starve to death.

As I reflect upon that childhood memory, I am reminded that Jesus left the perfection of heaven to be born into our fallen, human world. Under the Law, every firstborn male baby was called holy to the Lord and a sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or pigeons was to be offered.
How ironic that my human touch would result in the death of the baby turtledoves I found, but turtledoves were offered as a sacrifice for the baby Jesus.

The Old Testament sacrificial system required that sacrifices be made repeatedly for the sins of the people. But in the New Testament Jesus shed His blood as the final sacrifice for our sins and ushered in the new covenant. There is no longer a need for the shedding of the blood of birds and animals because Jesus’ sacrifice satisfied God’s anger toward our sins. We have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. When He touches us, we come to life.

Father, as we celebrate Jesus’ birth, may we remember His sacrifice for us.

© 2013 Diane E. Hussey


Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Psalm 9:9 (NIV)

Most sources classify the song, The Twelve Days of Christmas as a “counting rhyme” while others note that the song was originally written for Christians to secretly practice their faith during a time of persecution. Although there was no documented evidence to support the “persecuted Christians” account, the mere mention warrants attention. Historically, secret coded songs were used by persecuted people including Christians as well as African-American slaves to share messages and warnings. In The Twelve Days of Christmas, the “hidden message” is observed in the first line which everyone remembers:

 On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me a partridge in a pear-tree;

Since the twelve days of Christmas end with Epiphany, it was natural to reflect on the unfamiliar symbolization of a very familiar song. In the “persecuted Christians” account, “my true love” is identified as God—not an earthly love—-while the "me" represents every Christian. It was proclaimed on the first of twelve days that a gift had been received from “my true love”. The gift, “a partridge in a pear tree” symbolizes Jesus Christ, a gift worthy of the “first” proclamation and the repeated mentions throughout the song.

Although the “persecuted Christians” account may not depict the actual origin of The Twelve Days of Christmas, the symbolization reminds us of God’s greatest gift: His Son, Jesus Christ. The symbolization also reminds us that many Christians must worship in secret because they are still persecuted for their Christian beliefs and practices especially during the Christmas season.    
Almighty Father, I pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are displaced, imprisoned and persecuted.

© 2013 Sally S. Cherry

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our God Forgives

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Psalms 51:2 (NKJV)

I have a little Chihuahua named Bitsy who loves rolling in the grass. Every month I bathe her. After I dry her off, she usually lays in the sun that comes in the open door. Sometimes she begs to go out. Believing that she has to do her business, I let her go. After five minutes I call to her. One bath day, when I called her back inside, she slinked in and jumped into her favorite chair, hunkering as low as possible. I went to her, wondering if something was wrong. She didn't need to tell me. My nose sensed the answer. She found the foul spray some animal left behind. Bitsy rolled in it, rubbing it into her hair and skin. Her slinking told me she knew she had done something wrong, but she just couldn't help herself. Why did it have to be just five minutes after I bathed her?

We children of the Most High act much like Bitsy. When we sin, our conscience causes us to "slink," knowing we have done wrong. We ask God's forgiveness, and He is kind and gracious to forgive our trespasses. Over time we grow lax in our relationship with our Lord and find ourselves in sinful situations. Like Bitsy, we know we sin, so we ask God's forgiveness. He washes our iniquities. Bitsy repeated her unpleasant actions on many occasions, but I love her. Like our Father in heaven, I forgive her and wash her again. I am so glad we have a loving, forgiving Father who willingly washes us free of sin time and time again.

Father, draw me close to You so that I may not stray far from Your love and forgiveness. Amen

(c) 2013 E. Bonnie Ryan

Sunday, December 8, 2013

He's Only Ten?

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, life, in love, in faith and purity.  1Timothy 4:11-12 (NIV)
      David needed a stepstool so he could look over the top of the pulpit and see his audience.
      “Good morning,” he said, “My name is David and I am the Junior Pastor. As many of you know, I plan to take Pastor Bruce’s job in about twelve years.”
      The congregations laughed.
      David continued, “I am ten right now so I have time to get ready for the job. I listen to Pastor Bruce and follow him around. The main thing I have learned is that it’s hard to be a pastor. There is a lot of work behind the scenes that most people don’t know about. He’s always available when someone needs him. He works long hours. We all know about those birthday calls he makes.”
      Almost everyone smiled.
      Then, David got serious with his audience. “I think I know the hardest part of being a pastor—that is people don’t listen.”
       David followed this statement with a list of Pastor Bruce’s past exhortations that he believed congregants had not taken to heart.
       Then he said, “Raise your hand if you brought a friend to church with you today.”  David paused.  “We have heard Pastor Bruce explain that it is the job of each of us to bring people to God.  Today is Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Let’s honor our pastor by bringing a friend to church each time we can—maybe every Sunday. That’s the way the great commission works.”
Lord, thank you for raising up a modern day David who chooses to serve you at such a young age. Bring us more Davids.

© Christy Struben 2013

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful for a Ransom Paid

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15 (NIV)

Recently several companies’ networks were attacked by a “ransomware” virus. Employees were notified that they could no longer open important files without an encryption code—a code known only to the originator of the virus. Supposedly, for a ransom fee, the hacker will provide the code, but it is suspected that any interaction with the hacker will merely open the door to more infections.

Someone did what employees have been trained not to do: open a file attachment from an unknown source. Apparently there was one person who broke this safety rule at each of several companies. Perhaps they thought, what are the chances of this doing harm? As a result, “business as usual” halted.

On a more personal level, we may know not to open suspicious email attachments, but where we might slip or struggle is with being steadfast in living a life on godly principles. The battle between the flesh and the spirit is intense. We do what we know we shouldn’t—what we don’t even want to do.

The devil dangles temptation in front of us and taunts with smooth talking, “Go ahead. What harm will this little sin bring you?” The consequence of sin is death, unless the ransom is paid. Thank God that His Son Jesus paid the ransom in full, that we can continue not only with the business of life as usual, but with joy and confidence in eternal life.
Thank you for suffering on the cross to pay the ransom for my sin.

© 2013 Nance

Friday, November 22, 2013

Christ is Our Support

Let your love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good. Romans 12:9 (NWT)

One learns so much from having a garden. I have planted all kinds of vegetables. Some need supports so they won't be trampled on. Cucumbers grow best on a wire trellis, as do the early spring peas and Christmas lima beans. All of these have curly tendrils that twist themselves around the wire to suppost the heavy vines. Without the support the vines would cling to the weeds and grass, even winding around themselves, choking their growth.

Are we not like the vines, needing support from a higher power so that we are not tangled up with the demoralizing traps of this world? Jesus always reaches to support us when sin tries to drag us down into the weeds of degradation.

Wire cages surround my tomatoes, peppers and rhubarb to protect them from deer that come and nibble off anything they can reach. Sometimes a few vigorous tomato stems stick out and I find the leaves and blossoms snipped off, leaving the bare stem.

We need Jesus' protection, much like the wire cage, so we do not fall prey to evil surrounding us. If we sometimes put ourselves unprotected into situations that will harm us, then we get "clipped" by the evil one. We may not know how to get back to the protection of our Savior, Jesus. If we stay in the protective arms of our Savior, He will make us grow and be fruitful.

Father, may I always cling to Jesus and remember that He is the support for my soul. Amen

(c) 2013 E. Bonnie Ryan

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pass the Blessings, Please!

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

Losing a loved one, being at odds with family, and having to make choices in difficult situations ­are times in which our hearts ache and we feel at a loss. It’s not always easy to count blessings or recognize lessons in time of despair—at least not in the moment.

In the past two years, I have been clearly, tremendously blessed. I’ve learned to be thankful to God for blessings unknown and not on my radar.
~  Could I have known that after forty-four years I would meet my late father’s best friend from childhood, who would come alongside me in faith and step into Papa’s shoes so honorably?
~  Did you know grocery stores are the perfect place to start bridging gaps or that coming home can make one feel safe and restore confidence?
~  Who would have thought that someone’s passing would reunite estranged siblings who have not gathered in the same room together in forty years?
I know now—and these are just a few morsels on my bountiful plate.
God is good!
As Paul said in Philippians 4: 12-13,”I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (NIV).”
Pass the blessings, please. They are abundant.
Heavenly Father, at this time of thanksgiving and always, we give you thanks for the many blessings you bestow in our lives, those recognized and those unnoticed. We thank you for 
Christ Jesus. Amen.

© 2013 Atalie Shackelford

Saturday, November 9, 2013

No More Tears

“O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33b (NKJV)

Many of my friends have lost children over the years. Just a few weeks ago, an automobile accident claimed the life of my husband’s nephew at the age of twenty five. Who could have guessed his teenage years were the twilight of his life? Who can fathom a parent’s anguish—preparing their child for a funeral instead of a future? David voiced his own grief, crying out the wish to take Absalom’s place.

God knows the anguish of losing a Son. In the fullness of time, God sent His Son to redeem us (Galatians 4:3-5). Jesus gave His life so we could live. His times, thirty three years, were in His Father’s hands.

Time is fleeting; life, fragile. Our times are in God’s hands, too (Psalm 31:15). The youth may approach death’s door, while the elderly may see the Lord’s return. We struggle, watching loved ones decline, grieving when they are gone. We weep at children’s gravesides, young lives cut short. Death seems so unfair.

But Jesus rose again, victorious over death and the grave. From His sacrifice sprang true, glorious, everlasting life. And again, in the fullness of time, God will bring unity to all things—in heaven and on earth—under Christ (Ephesians 1:9-11). In the end, God will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain—those things will have passed away (Revelation 21:4). Praise the Lord! Our times are in God’s almighty hands.

Lord, you took our place, and conquered death. We trust that you hold us, and those we love, in your loving, nail scarred hands.
© 2013 Katherine A. Fuller

Friday, November 1, 2013


I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 (KJV)
            The new spin bikes are in at the gym, adding a smoother ride and more accurate gear lever to the cyclist’s experience. Topping both of those improvements is the monitor, which focuses the spinner on his or her personal goal for the ride. The monitor displays RPM, watts/calories, mileage, time, and the gear in use. There is no room for daydreaming or slacking off. The cyclist constantly watches the RPM, attentive to the target, and works to maintain speed at increased resistance to achieve a certain distance by the end of the class. When the hour is up, seeing the results brings more satisfaction and accomplishment than on the old bikes that didn’t display the goal in clear view.
            Without our life’s ultimate goal in clear view, it is easy to lose momentum, get side tracked, or coast along without doing the work that is set before us. We may finish short of our calling. To stay attentive to those things that really matter and to finish well, we need to maintain our spiritual RPM: reading, prayer, and meditation. With our RPM as priority, there will be a major difference in motivation, persistence, and result. We look forward to hearing the words as spoken by the master in the parable of the talents: Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 ). 
            Lord, help me to live purposefully each day, so when my days wind down I can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (II Timothy 4:7).
©2013 Nance

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fear Not

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. II Timothy 1:7(KJV)

I was asleep when a sudden, intense fear like I had never experienced gripped my heart, making it pound nearly out of my chest. My eyes flew open. Framed in the bedroom doorway was a crimson figure, head crowned with red spikes. No facial features were evident, but I knew it was the devil.

Like a frightened child, I grabbed the covers and pulled them over my head, squeezing my eyes shut. I felt a coldness grip me inside out. I lay rigid and my breathing grew fast and shallow for several moments. Involuntarily, my hands slowly pulled the covers down from my face. Eyes wide, I stared at the doorway. It was completely empty. Relief washed over me.

I relaxed as the blood began to course through my veins, warming me once again. I told myself it was silly, and that it was only my imagination, a bad dream. But was it? Oh, God, protect my family and me. Give us Your peace and love. I determined right then to get more serious about my faith.

In the light of a new day, I pulled out my Bible and read aloud in ll Timothy 1:7,”For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Hearing my voice gave me the confidence and courage to start my devotion to God right then.

Father, thank You for covering me with the peace that casts out all fear. Amen

©2013 Evelyn B. Ryan

Friday, October 18, 2013


“…. ‘Lord when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?  And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee or naked and clothe thee?’” and the king will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’”
 (Matthew 25:37-40 RSV)

           Bertha and Agnes were riding down the road. Agnes was driving, and driving rather fast. Bertha watched very intently as Agnes flew through a stop sign. Wow, thought Bertha, she must not have seen that sign.
            Shortly Agnes drove boldly through another stop sign. Bertha was about to say something when Agnes sped through a red light.
           Bertha hollered. “Agnes, you went through a red light! You’re going to get us killed.”

           Agnes, wide eyed and startled, replied, “What! I’m driving?”
            That’s a funny story I heard, but while grocery shopping, it didn’t even dawn on me to buy items for our church’s food pantry.

I walk past homeless people on the street, like they’re invisible, thinking cash would be used for drugs. I don’t bother to buy them a food coupon, thereby, missing a chance to your hungry, Jesus.
            The youth group at church made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They delivered them to where the poor folks gathered. In the winter, another group had a blanket drive and delivered blankets to them. I was too busy. Did I leave your strangers out in the cold, Lord? 

Dear Jesus: Forgive us for failing to see the Stop and Help opportunities. Open the eyes of my heart to see through Your eyes. Amen

© 2013 Lois Gosley

Friday, October 11, 2013


And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:20b. (KJV)

I learn so much from watching animals. My husband and I recently acquired a two-year-old teacup chocolate Chihuahua that we named Fancy. She was timid, snipping at anyone who came near. After hours of holding her and talking soothingly, she finally accepted me, but still kept other family members at bay. She growled and snapped at them, all the while clinging to me.

Fancy followed me everywhere. One night as I prepared for my evening shower, she pranced around the bathroom, watching me. To my surprise, when I dropped my blouse to the floor, Fancy grabbed it, dragged it to her bed, and promptly curled up on it. When my husband and I realized what she was doing, we smiled and let her sleep on it for the night.

This made me realize that I do the same thing. When I am insecure or unsure of my spiritual standing, I pick up my Bible and read God's word. Sunday services also brings me assurance that God is with me as I worship with other believers. I can talk to God any time in prayer, thus feeling His peace in my heart.

Fancy needed the comfort and assurance that my scent would bring during the long, dark night. My blouse helped her feel that I was near. When I need to feel close to God in this dark world, may I remember to use His provisions as comfort and strength, making them my security blanket, just as my blouse was to Fancy.

Lord Jesus, help me to always feel close to You, even when my actions seem to keep You from my sight. Amen.

(c) 2013 E. Bonnie Ryan

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Text Jesus?

Lord, you are the God who saves me; day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you.” Psalm 88:1-2a (NIV)

A roadside sign this summer advertised a local Bible school’s theme: “Text Jesus.” That catchy phrase connects well with today’s culture and kids, but might it also promote a “disconnect” from God?

omg u r gr8. t2ul. (Oh my God, you are great. Talk to you later.)

Texting is a quick form of superficial communication, one that lacks the components of cultivating relationship. A quick thought is sent in abbreviated form: bbl jk (Be back later—just kidding.)

Where is the depth of sitting with the Word to hear God’s reply? omg simyc  (Oh my God, sorry I missed your call).

Where is the pouring out of our hearts to God and being filled with His presence? Where is the experience of knowing God if communication is watered down to a text message?  wu (What’s up?)

Is our relationship with God something that should be rushed through? Skimmed over? Reduced to acronyms? Wait! Before we criticize the cool Bible School theme here, could it be that prayer in general for our fast-paced society has already dwindled to a text-message type of “arrow prayer”?

yt (you there?)

qq 4 u (quick question for you)

ghm (God help me)

t2ut (talk to you tomorrow)

We have the opportunity for an intimate relationship with the Almighty God—the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent One. Are we going to pass that by because it is easier to text than to pray, easier to say a few quick words when we want something than to engage in regular all-out prayer so we can truly know Him?

Father, help me make the time to commune with you in prayer, beginning now…

© Nance

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dear God, PLEASE ... write me a note.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:6-8 (NIV)

Have you ever had the feeling there is something critical to your very being right in front of you, just out of reach?

In my lifetime I have prayed for anyone I knew or knew of in need. Maybe the acknowledgment of my life being blessed, in more ways than not, kept me from praying for myself.

In a colleague’s office two years ago I notice the book, The Me I Want to Be, which leads me to join a small group, where study of the book would begin in two weeks. EPIC events begin to take place in my life.  

Late one evening after returning from my third trip in four months to Louisiana, I sit at my laptop in the dining room. Weary, I wonder why answers elude me. “I’m just not getting it. Dear God, PLEASE … write me a note.”

Reaching to power off my computer, a strong urge compels me to the website of the cemetery where Papa is buried.  “Why?” I ask, following the lead. For the first time since my thankful entry several years ago, there is a post. It reads, “You are still remembered!!”  My heart leaps. It was posted two days before what would be Papa’s 70th birthday—except—it’s not for Papa—it’s for me. This contact is my “note,” the first of several.

Heavenly Father, your presence in our lives is as important as our every breath. In times of distress we ask to be wrapped in your safe and loving arms. Thank you for your faithfulness which is within reach, a prayer away. Amen.

© 2013 Atalie Shackelford

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rusty Beans

And those parts that we think aren’t worth very much are the ones which we treat with greater care. 1 Corinthians 12:23a (GNT)

So much rain fell this year! While welcome, it always seemed to come when the beans needed picking. (A tip to novice gardeners: do not pick beans when they are wet! Doing so makes the plant rust.) A few times I picked them when damp—better an unattractive harvest than no harvest at all—but mostly when dry, albeit oversized. 

So yesterday I washed my millionth extra-large string bean, running it through a French cutter in preparation for canning. Rust-spotted veggies were set aside to be composted (canning books prophesy dire consequences when using sub-par vegetables). Eyeing the brown pile made me wonder about just cooking them up. 

Composting forgotten, I sautéed the offending beans in sesame oil. Ideas began to flow, and garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, and soy sauce soon joined the party. Mmmmm! The smell! The taste! And no one would ever know they were rusty. After that, I looked for the faintest excuse to sauté more. 

In God’s economy, the last shall be first, and the first shall be last (Mark 10:31). He calls leaders to be servants. Jesus Himself washed His disciples’ feet. He had concern for widows and orphans. He healed the afflicted. In Luke 5, religious leaders asked Jesus why He ate with sinners. His response? The sick need help, not the healthy. 

The weak, unlovely, or defective often are snubbed by a world that holds its own idea of perfection in an unforgiving clasp. But if we look through God’s eyes, we will find treasure in the most unlikely places. Look past that rust! 

Father, teach us to see others the way you do, and to treat one another with honor. 

© 2013 Katherine A. Fuller