The True Meaning of Christmas

John 3:16-17

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

Thought for the Day:  Remember the true meaning of Christmas

Over the past weeks, since Thanksgiving, actually, the busyness of the Christmas Season and end of school semester has kicked into full gear.  Children’s musical, school observations, grading, planning for Christmas parties, Christmas Cantata rehearsals, etc.  My mind has been put to the ultimate test. This weekend has been spent doing the chores around the house that have been put off for weeks and now, I sit and ponder.  I sit and ponder what it is all about.

Our children’s musical, “Christmas Spirit”, was presented one week ago with children remarkably telling us about the True Meaning of Christmas.  Experiencing the cast members learning their parts so perfectly and so quickly (to my amazement) was such an answer to prayer, and the choir learning the music to such beautiful songs touched my heart.  My heart was touched several times during the rehearsals, but one thing touched me more than any other.  It was when I saw with my eye one cast member “getting it”.  As the lines were rehearsed, we noticed that this child smiled at times when the character should have been very serious.  In watching, we realized that the reason for the smile was that she didn’t understand what the lines meant.  How does a young child understand the meaning of the birth of Christ and the meaning of the Crucifixion? As we shared with the child that Christ is the Son of God who was born in a manger and who died by being hung on a cross for us – for her, she began having a look in her eye of understanding.  She had heard the story of Jesus Christ before, but had never understood the true meaning.  During the presentation, she was able to portray her character perfectly and was able to tell the true meaning of Christmas.  So, what is the true meaning of Christmas.  “That God loves me…He sent His Son beloved, to die on Calvary.  And on Christmas morning, a new hope was born – and now I know the secret.  That’s what Christmas means to me.”

The Christmas musical was about a little girl who saw all the hustle and bustle of the season in the gifts given and the craziness that surrounds the time.  In her heart, she knew there must be more…but no one gave her a satisfactory answer.  It took a dream, or was it a dream, for her to get the answer and for her family to see the answer as well.  That was the same little girl who “got it” in rehearsal.  And she told the true meaning of Christmas to those in attendance.

During the coming weeks, as we go through the hustle and bustle, keep in the forefront of your mind the true meaning of Christmas.  The true meaning of Christmas is that God loves you…He sent his Son to die on Calvary…for you.  Hear that…for you, He died on the cross for you.

Prayer:  God, thank you for sending your Son to be born in a manger for us, and for sending Him to die on the cross for us.  This love you showed to each of us should not be overlooked by the hustle and bustle of the season.  Please forgive us when we let busyness and selfishness keep us from seeing You.  Be with us each day to help us hear over and over the true meaning of Christmas.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  The True Meaning of Christmas


How are You Still Standing?

Psalm 91:1-2

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, He who abides in shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”  

Thought for the Day:  God is as close as our next breath

Spending time in conversation with my new work partner, who will be sharing a classroom and teaching experiences with for the coming year(s), was so special.  We have learned about each other’s children and we have talked about our past work experiences and what brought us to this place.  As we listened, we learned that we are very much alike in personality and that we are anxiously excited to be working with each other.  Neither of us has ever shared a classroom with another person so we will both be experiencing something new….but we can already tell it is going to be special.  Maybe it became special when we realized she was born the year I graduated from high school.  Toward the end of sharing, as we shared about past experiences, I shared about my family and what brought me personality to the place I am today.  Her reply was, “How are you still standing here in this place?  You’ve been through so much.”  I have heard similar statements many times through the years, but there was something in her voice that was different.

Over the past few days, several have brought up the subject because of a song I sang in church on Sunday about finding God’s blessings in the struggles of life.  This morning, awaking very early on a Saturday morning, I found myself contemplating the question, “How are you still standing here in this place?”  My answer, the only answer I can explain, is that I am here because in every tragedy and in every heart-break, God has placed the people and events and memories and His planned blessings in front of me where I knew the direction I was to go.  I sang the words Sunday, “What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near.”  As we have almost made it out of the last tough period, I thought about those words.  From the day that my husband’s position was eliminated in our previous church to the time I was offered my position to teach this coming school year was 1,011 days.  Laura Story’s song, Blessings, became a theme song for us a few months after our time of change began.  I remember hearing those words, “A thousand sleepless nights” and thinking…”I hope this doesn’t take a thousand days.”  But it has.  But in those thousand days we have fallen in love with our new church family, we have made wonderful new friends, we have found a place to live that is beautiful and I can’t imagine being anywhere else.  God has blessed us in a mighty way and looking back, we can see where His hand has led us in such a mighty way.

“How are you still standing?” I am still standing, I believe, because through tragedy one learns to keep the faith and to know God is there…”Closer than your next breath”… and He will never let you go.  There might be a lot of blessings in the tears and there might be many nights where rest does not come.  But, God is in that next breath and God is placing who and what you need to lead you through the hard times.  “How am I still standing?”  That’s easy…God is why I am still standing.

Prayer:  Almighty Father, thank you for loving us in such a special way and for bringing us through storms.  Thank you for sending the blessings of people, experiences, and heartaches to bring us through with the knowledge that You are right there beside us.  You are our Almighty Father and it is humbling to know that you are always as close as our next breath.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God’s Blessings

God Knows Me

Repeated  Devotional

John 17:23

Jesus said, “I in them and thou I me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and has loved them even as thou has loved me.”

Thought for the Day:  God knows us and loves us

Where do I think of when I want to go somewhere for prayer and time with God?  Recently, I have observed friends saying, “It is nice to be alone with God as I hear the bugs making noises”, “Hearing music brings me closer to God”, and “Sitting and listening to the creek is where I feel nearest to God.” Thinking about that today and hearing of the deaths of friends’ parents made me go back in my memory to my place as a young person.  When I was young, I found my way to the piano when I needed to “get away” from the stress of school or from the worry about my brothers.  In one of our homes, the placement of the piano was not perfect and I did not hear about it until several years later.  The piano was placed on the wall to the left as we went in the front door, but was on the other side of the wall from the head of my parents’ bed.  Yes, the only thing separating the piano from the bed was a thin wall.  My time with God and to be alone with music included playing old recital pieces which were full of runs that could get loud.  My time also included singing songs as I played.  Years after we left that parsonage, my Daddy shared with me that in the late hours when I chose to play my mother laid in bed trying to go to sleep.  She would say, “Gordon, you are going to have to go ask her to stop.”  He said that every time that request came from my mother he would say, “I am not going to stop her because she needs this time.”  My Daddy knew me and he knew my need for time alone in that moment.

Today, my Daddy knows me.  Today, my Father God knows me.  With all the billions of people in the world and the many places and faces here, God can see me and He loves me.  No matter where I choose to spend time with Him, He is listening.  As I thought about this, I remembered a Sandi Patty song from awhile back called, “He Loves Me” where she sings about how, in the midst of everything going on in the world today, that God is still there listening, knowing, and loving each one of us.  Today, your Daddy knows you.  Today, your Father God knows you.  Today, God can see you and He loves you.  Find your place and pray.

Prayer:  Almighty and loving God, thank you for loving us as our earthy Father’s love us.  You see us and know every part of us.  Yet, you still love us in a way that is far beyond any love we have ever felt.  Be with us as we find our special place to be with you today.  We love you.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  God is with us

I Want to Turn Back to You

Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Thought for the Day:  Feel Closer to God today

Reading a devotional blog by a female evangelist this morning, I reflected on how her words could enter my heart to bring me closer to God.  As I read her words, her words about what happens to us when we get complacent in our relationships with those around us, I was touched.  Not only does it affect our human relationships, it also affects our relationship with God.  The last week has brought several trials for our family which have caused a few tears.  As I read the words in the devotion this morning, I realized how easily I personally can let these trials create a bitterness inside me that can affect my relationship with those around me and my relationship with God. She gave three very important instructions for getting those relationships back where they need to be and she has given me personally what I need to do right now in my life. 1) Remember – Remember how wonderful it was to walk with God and feeling the Spirit so deeply that you want it back.  2) Repent – Change our mindset that has taken our thoughts away from God and turn our thoughts back toward God. 3) Repeat – Start doing the things you did when you were closest to God and talk to Him about everything.  As I read her blog this morning and saw these three words, I began thinking about what I could do.  Today, I will strive to remember my closeness with God and talk with Him throughout the day in praise and thanksgiving.  Today, I will work to change my mindset from a “woe is me” mindset to “God, what would you have me do” mindset.  Today, I will go back and do those things that I once did that brought me close to him.  I haven’t walked and taken my pictures lately – today, that will come back.

I am thankful today for Jena, the writer of the blog I read this morning.  God brought her into my life as a conference speaker in March of last year.  I remember crying as she spoke as I was in the midst of strong questions about where God was calling me.  Now, I find that my questions about God’s calling for me are still emotionally driven as I still try to foresee His plan for me.  Her words today, written from her heart, touch my heart and bring me to a renewed mindset that God loves me and that He has a plan for me.  God is in control and God is Who brings me peace and joy.

Prayer:  Lord, God!  We praise You today and want desperately to feel Your presence.  Be with us as we remember how wonderful it feels to be present fully with You.  Be with us as we turn our mindset to run toward You instead of away.  Be with us as we repeat the things over and over that brought us closer to You.  Mostly, Lord, help us know You are walking with us and that You are the most important thought we should have at all times throughout our day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Coming Back to God

Have Courage and Be Kind

Galatians 5:22-24

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Thought for the Day: Kindness, be kind

I can’t help it.  When the movie is on T.V., I let it run and watch as I am working around the house.  The 2015 movie of “Cinderella” is a wonderful telling of one of our precious storybook fairytales.  In the movie, Cinderella’s mother tells her the secret of life right before she passes away.  “I want to tell you a secret that will see you through all the trials that life can offer.  Have courage and be kind.”  Through the story, Cinderella is indeed faced with many hard and horrible life events.  But, through it all, she showed courage and she continued being kind.  That kindness is what showed the prince who she was and he fell in love with this beautiful and loving girl.  This is a fairytale, yes, but the message is for real and true people.  As I attended a funeral of a precious man earlier this week, that is the message I heard over and over.  The many, many people who had experienced this wonderful man through the years all had one thing to say about him, “He was the kindest person!”  God used him through his life to be kind to others and through that kindness, showed them Jesus.  He was Jesus to so many and even through his illness, had courage and showed kindness.

What lessons can we take from Cinderella and from Mr. W.T.!  How can we change the way we think and act as we hear about these two perfect examples.  As I heard Cinderella say, “I forgive you”, to the wicked stepmother at the end of the story, I immediately thought about the people I need to forgive in my life.  Her life was turned inside-out by this woman, but she still had the courage to forgive.  I could take a great lesson from this.  As I heard the words, “W.T. was a person I wanted to be like”, I realized that this man, bigger than life to me, had touched everyone he met in a special way.  He was KIND in the best sense of the word, He was kind in the way that exampled Jesus to everyone he met.  “I want to be kind like Mr. W.T.!”

Prayer:  Father God, You are almighty and all knowing.  You know our hearts and You know our souls.  Thank you for giving us examples through life of how to be kind.  Help us to always be kind no matter what happens in our lives.  Through that kindness, we can show Jesus Christ to those around us.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Kindness

My Spirit Feels Alive

Luke 2:19-20

But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.  And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Thought for the Day: Through Jesus Christ, we are alive  

Sitting for a few minutes after several days of Christmas celebrations and then a couple of days of family visiting in our home, has mixed thoughts.  In one way, the festivities and preparations for the Christmas Cantata, Christmas Services, Christmas morning with our children, and Family Christmas planning kept me excited and giddy as we moved through the time.  In another way, the time brought a tiredness as I felt I never sat down and never rested as well or as long as I would have liked.  Last evening, on our one more excursion for our boys to use gift cards they had received and to do a couple of other things, I found I didn’t feel well.  I shared with my husband that I wanted to stay in the car and let them share time in the stores.  As I sat, I worked on a crochet project I had started and relaxed for that time.  When we arrived home, I found that all I wanted to do was to crawl into bed.  Thanks to my loving husband, I was able to do that so I crawled into bed and continued working on my crocheted project until my eyes became heavy.  I did not set an alarm, for the first time in several months, and I allowed my body to get the rest it needed.  Today, I feel better and ready for my day.

As I think about this experience this morning and how a good night sleep helped me feel more energetic, I think about someone else.  I think about Mary and Joseph.  When Mary gave birth to Baby Jesus, they had just traveled many miles with her riding on a donkey.  She must have been so tired and she must have wanted so badly to have a place to lay her head.  Joseph, who walked the distance must have been exhausted.  Not only was he tired from the travel, he also had the extra concern for Mary as he knew she was close to giving birth.  They walked up to that inn door and knocked hoping for a room.  But what they received was a stable.  Then she gave birth to Baby Jesus in that stable having to lay him in a manger because there was no other place to lay him.  Oh, how they must have been so tired.  But then, the angel appeared to some shepherds who came into that stable to kneel beside their baby and to worship Him.  Can you imagine the feeling Mary and Joseph must have had in that moment?  The tired feelings subsided making way for excitement and celebration.  She had just given birth to Baby Jesus, the One who was born to save the world.  Her body was still tired, but her Spirit was alive and awake, and only wanted to celebrate.  As I look at myself and think about how my tired body caused me to want to rest, I think about Baby Jesus and that He is the reason for Christmas.  My spirit is alive and awake today, just as Mary was in her tiredness so many years ago, because Baby Jesus was born and He lives in my heart every day.

Prayer:  God, thank You for this time of year that You give us to celebrate the Birth of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  You sent Him to be born to Mary when she was tired and worn as some of us find ourselves today.  But through that birth, that most special birth, You gave Mary and us the One thing that can make us feel alive!  Help us feel alive in Christ today – and every day.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to feel alive.

Let the Holy Spirit Take Over

Matthew 19:13-15

The children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked the people; but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And He laid his hands on them and went away.

Thought for the DayPrepare lessons for children, then step aside and let the Holy Spirit enter take over.

What a joy it is to praise God!  What a blessing we receive every time we go into the House of the Lord!  Each Wednesday afternoon, I arrive at the Church early to prepare for the evening children’s choir rehearsal.  I make sure the chairs are set up for the children, the musicians have their music, the children have their music folders and reward boxes, notes are copied to send home, and that all the directors and musicians have their instructions for the night.  After I set up for choir, I go home to wait for my youngest to get off the school bus.  By the time I arrive home, I either feel very prepared for the rehearsal or I feel overwhelmed that I forgot something.  No matter how I feel at that moment, it happens.  Rehearsal time arrives.  The children come and I realize that they just want to feel loved and they want to sing.  In my notes and instructions, I do not have anything listed about giving the children hugs and encouragement, and I do not have any instruction about helping the children feel the Love of God.  But, that is the number one thing that happens each week and because they feel God’s love they want to sing praises to Him.

“Let the children come to me, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  As I reflect on the preparation for children’s choir, I know how important it is for the children to have that structure.  As a teacher, I know the more structured and organized the leaders are the better a rehearsal goes.  The disciples tried to stop the parents from bringing the children to see Jesus.  They were probably just trying to keep order.  However, they were not going to be stopped and Jesus called the children to Him.  He blessed them.  As the children come into the Church for Sunday School, Worship, or for Children’s Choir rehearsal they come to learn about God and to Worship Him.  The “rehearsal plan” or “Sunday School curriculum” we use to lead the children is very important, but letting the Holy Spirit enter is more important bringing the Love of Christ to the children.  So, to the children in our children’s choirs……bring on the hugs……they are welcomed!

Prayer:  God, we praise You and thank You today.  You use teachers and leaders to bring Your love to children as we share time with them.  You equip us to teach and lead, and then You enter bringing the children miraculously into Your arms for the most powerful blessing.  Enter into our hearts today.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Church teachers and Directors

Just God and Me

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

But as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed to us through the Spirit.  For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.  For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him?  So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.  And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.

Thought for the DayFind a moment today to be alone with God

Called by the beauty in the leaves, I felt drawn to a dry creek bed that was a short distance from the trail.  As I walked and stepped into the creek bed to walk, leaves began falling from the limbs above.  I watched them drift as the breeze caught them, dancing in different directions as they fell.  It was a beautiful sight to see.  Listening in that quiet place, I could hear the leaves as they touched the ground, sounding much like snow falling on a quiet day.  The sound was very still, yet it was loud to my listening ears. As I began walking back out of the creek bed, I heard loud chatter behind me.  As I turned, I witnessed a chase between two squirrels playing with each other, scampering up the trees and rustling through the leaves.  I giggled and they ran off, but only after giving me another touch of nature on my walk.  Walking up the beautiful part of the trail in our park, one can look down to see the smaller, and most colorful trees from above.  I walked a bit to find a perfect place to sit as I looked down.   I began to thank God for the beauty in those colors I had experienced over the past few weeks, and I acknowledged that the beauty of the colors was about to fade away as they have already reached their peak.

As I returned home after that walk, I realized that the time with God, as I have walked through His nature over the past few weeks, has brought much peace to my heart and to my soul.  I realized that I had not had the emotional moments of tears because of concern over a job and worry about other things happening in our lives.  God placed that beauty there for me, and there are days I felt it was placed there only for me.  Other people seemed to run through or walk quickly through the area, leaving me alone with God’s gift given just for me.  Just God and me, alone.  Just God and me, walking hand in hand through that most glorious place.   Just God and me.

Prayer:  Almighty Father, creator of everything!  We praise You in Your sanctuary.  Thank you for spending time with us, bringing us peace in the midst of life’s storms.  Be with us through every moment of every day to remind us of the beauty you have placed in our hearts.  You are our awesome God.

Prayer Focus:  Those needing to hear God’s voice

Am I Praying Wrong?

dsc_2840-2Romans 8:24-27

For in this hope we are saved.  Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.  Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.  And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Thought for the DayPray the best you can and then let the Spirit intercede.

“Maybe I’m praying wrong” is a thought that I must admit has come to my mind a few times as I have worked to find a teaching position.  I pray, I mean I pray a lot about my situation and I pray in different ways saying different words during my time of prayer.  I have prayed in silence, I have whispered my prayer, I have sat as I have prayed, I have stood as I have prayed, I have bowed my knees as I have prayed, and I have even prayed laying prostrate on the ground.  I have praised God, prayed in thanksgiving, prayed of others, prayed for forgiveness and prayed for myself.  I have even asked for others to pray for me.   I feel like I have covered all the ways a prayer can be prayed.  So, what am I missing?  As I read The Upper Room devotion this morning, I was reminded that when we pray, we can’t really do it wrong because the Spirit intercedes for us to pray the right way to God.  In my lowest moment, after my first husband died, I told my mother, “I can’t pray.”  She said, “Honey, that’s okay because the Spirit is praying for you.”  How comforting that was when she said that, and how comforting it is to have that reminder today that I’m not praying wrong and even if I can’t find the words to pray, the Spirit is interceding for  me.

So, what does that mean in this moment of not seeing this particular prayer being answered?  Fearfully I say, “Maybe I’m not supposed to teach.”  “Now that’s not something I ever thought I would hear myself say!”  As my husband and I sat down in a restaurant yesterday, I said, “What do you think I could do as a second career?”  He was taken aback, but pondered the question.  “My first thought is writing.”  We talked about financial thoughts, that are ALWAYS on my mind.  I shared with him that in searching for other jobs, I could not find any that compared with what I would be making as much as a 23 year teacher.  I awoke this morning praying, truly, for a miracle.  My miracle came in reading The Upper Room devotion when I realized that I have not been praying wrong, and that the Spirit is interceding for me in my prayer.  My miracle will come when God, in His time, brings His will for me to light.  He will.

Prayer:   Father God, You are such an awesome God.  Thank you for how you take care of us even when we do not see Your hand.  We want to pray, God, and sometimes we have difficulty doing that.  Please help us lean on Your Spirit to intercede for us.  We want to be in prayer with You.  Amen.

Prayer Focus:  Those having difficulty praying