Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thankful Thursday #15

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey 

This week...
1. I am thankful for snow.  We all love snow here.  We had our first snow of this winter on Tuesday and had lots of fun sledding.

2. I am thankful for my husband's time off work from Dec. 24th to Jan. 3rd.  We love having him home with us. 

3. I am thankful for our wonderful neighbors.  We enjoyed our visit with them when we gave them our Christmas goodies.  They are really nice people.

4. I am thankful for books that are encouraging & inspiring and draw readers closer to God and His Word.  You can see my top ten reads of 2009 here (the post below this one).

5. I am thankful for the eternal perspective God has given me.  Trials and sufferings on earth are nothing when we think of spending eternity in either heaven or hell.  "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)  May you welcome a new year with an eternal perspective!  "Save some, O Christian!  By all means, save some.  From yonder flames and outer darkness, and the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.  Seek to save some!  Let this, as in the case of the apostles, be your great, ruling object in life, that by all means you might save some." Charles Spurgeon

My Top Ten Reads of 2009

I am playing along with Amydeanne at The 160 Acrewoods.  Here are my top 10 reads of 2009 (besides the Bible, of course :)).

10. Blue Like Play Dough by Tricia Goyer
9. Reflections of God's Holy Land by Eva Marie Everson and Miriam Feinberg
8. In the Footsteps of Paul by Ken Duncan
7. Treasured by Leigh McLeroy
6. Pearl Girls (compiled by Margaret McSweeney)
5. O2 Breathing New Life into Faith by Richard Dahlstrom
4. 40 Loaves by C.D.Baker
3. Fearless by Max Lucado
2. Primal by Mark Batterson
1. If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn

You can click on the titles to read my reviews.  What was your favorite read of 2009?  I'm looking forward to reading more good books in 2010 :).

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our Days



"Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16

Each day is a gift from the Lord.  I want to live my days according to His Word and His will, spending my time on earth wisely and for His glory.  I want to live each day in the light of eternity, keeping an eternal perspective with me always (see the post below).

As each year goes by, I ponder: Are my faith and love (for God and for others) growing?  I hope and pray that they are.


Previous WFW:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Eternal Perspective

As this year comes to a close and you may be making plans for the new year, please keep an eternal perspective with you.  Don't waste your life/your time/your resources.  "Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15-16

Note: Please turn off my playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the video.

Tears of the Saints from HistoryMaker on Vimeo.

IN THE PAST HOUR:
1625 children were forced to live on the streets
1667 children died from malnutrition or disease
115 children became prostitutes
257 children were orphaned because of HIV/Aids.
It gets worse...
2 billion people in the world today have never ever heard of Jesus. 1% of missions financial support, goes to reaching those unreached people. 30000 people starve to death every day.
  ~ Info. taken from historymakers.info/

While you are enjoying your new gifts, feasts with your family, and the comfort of your home, billions of people are suffering and many of them are on their way to hell. 

Lord, please move our hearts to have Your compassion and love and move us into action to save the lost, to reach the unreached, to feed the hungry, and to help the needy.

If you "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," you will want to obey Him/His Word, including the Great Commission.

If you "love your neighbor as yourself," you will want to share the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ with the lost and not want to see any of them spend eternity in hell.

Let's put aside our denominations and our differences on the secondary issues. Instead, let's unite together in prayer and in our resources to move toward fulfilling the Great Commission...to reach those who have never heard of the Gospel...to give them hope in Christ. One Body of Christ under one God working toward one common goal!

"There is enough evangelism taking place today to reach the world dozens of times. Unfortunately, most of it is happening among people who have already heard the Gospel." (~K.P. Yohannan)  Please take a look at this table (taken from Come, Let's Reach the World by K.P. Yohannan) below and let me know what you think.

     To Those Who Have Already Heard  To The Unreached
Tract Distribution 5 billion (99.8%) 10 million (0.2%)
Scripture Distribution 4.6 billion (99.6%) 20 million (0.4%)
Full-time Workers 5.5 million (99.6%) 20,500 (0.4%)
Christian Books 3.5 billion (99.9%) 4 million (0.1%)
Christian Broadcasting $5.8 billion (99.9%) $6 million (0.1%)

"It is unjust to share the Gospel of Jesus repeatedly to people who have already heard when there are those who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus even once." ~Eric (my husband) I agree.  Please check out http://www.gfa.org/ , a wonderful ministry that focuses on sharing the Gospel with the unreached. I recommend you read Revolution in World Missions and Come, Let's Reach the World. You can request a free copy of Revolution in World Missions here .

Let's live in the light of eternity!

~Please visit here for the links to other Spiritual Sundays posts. Thanks so much to Charlotte and Ginger for hosting Spiritual Sundays every week.  Have a blessed New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 25, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Celebrate

What Really Matters
by Dawn Meehan

In the hustle and bustle and commercialism of Christmas, take time to remember the real reason why we celebrate - the birth of Christ, our Lord and Saviour. May you all have a blessed Christmas!

I had a VERY long day with the kids doing little but fighting. By the time we left for church, we were all short tempered, snapping at each other, and not at all in the Christmas spirit. Thankfully, once at church, we calmed down. Things were put in perspective for us. We sang Christmas songs and began to smile at one another again. The kids didn't fight once while we were there. Well, they did use their battery operated candles as light sabers for a minute, but we'll forget about that part.

I never sent out cards (sorry to all my family and friends). It just didn't happen this year. I don't think I ever completely finished my shopping, but it's a little late now. Several items I ordered online have been back ordered. I just realized that the kids have eaten all the cookies I've made and there are none to put out for Santa now. I encouraged them to leave him a glass of wine instead. And I failed to read the Christmas story to the kids before they went to bed.

But you know what? None of that matters. It really doesn't. Christmas is here! Christ is born! And He doesn't care if we sent out Christmas cards. He doesn't care if we ate all the cookies we baked. He doesn't even care if we never got around to baking a single cookie at all! He loves us no matter how much we screw up.
Now that's worth celebrating!
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Dawn Meehan (aka mom2my6pack) grew up in Chicagoland where she began her writing career at the age of 5 with her widely praised, The Lucky Leprechaun, an epic tale of a leprechaun who is- yes, you guessed it, lucky.

Dawn has six children, basically because she didn't want seven. She is the author of Because I Said So and spends her days blogging at BecauseISaidSo.com, changing diapers, cleaning pudding off her ceiling, tackling insurmountable piles of laundry, and explaining to her kids why they can't have a pet squirrel or an indoor slip-n-slide.


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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry CHRISTmas 2009

May Jesus always be on your mind and may His love, peace, and joy always be in your heart! Please join us in celebrating Christ not just at Christmastime but all throughout the year. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4)

Merry CHRISTmas and have a blessed New Year!

Note: Please turn off my playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the slideshow.
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12 Pearls of Christmas: Slow Down, Pray & Give Thanks

All Decked Out For Christmas
by Maureen Lang

One of the reasons so many of us love the holiday season is that it's just so...pretty! Twinkling lights, shiny ornaments, packages that glisten with bows and fancy wrapping. Our houses are trimmed with wreaths and glowing trees, and the neighborhood lights up the night with strands of icicles and glimmering reindeer.

Even we get decked out for the holidays! Chances are most of us will attend at least one party this season, and if we don't usually don clothing or jewelry with a bit of sparkle, now's the time to take a chance with something that reflects the holiday.

Smiles are another reason this season is such a popular one. They accompany that familiar greeting-Merry Christmas! Smiles go with the gifts we give and with the gifts we receive. Smiles go with the old Christmas carols and classic movies we watch every year.

The holiday season is a time when everything can seem amplified. But what if we're all decked out on the outside, from the sparkling clothing to our best effort at a smile, and on the inside we're anything but happy? If life isn't what we expected it to be, the gap between reality and our happy, hopeful expectations seem wider when everyone around us is laughing through the season.

I know there are as many reasons to be unhappy as there are to be happy, and I wouldn't begin to have the answer to make this season bearable for everyone. But I do know a few things that have worked for me:

Slow down. What? During the busiest time of the year? Yep. I know when I feel completely overwhelmed it's because I'm pressuring myself to do too much. So I try to plan ahead, settle for less than perfection, do my best without driving myself and everyone around me crazy. Choose what's really important and let go of the other things. And I've adopted my aunt's favorite saying: "However it turns out, that's how we like it." Works wonders on attitude!

Pray. As my pastor reminded me this weekend from Psalm 34:18: the Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. God may not deliver us from our troubles, but He promises to stay beside us-in fact, closer than when everything seems hunky-dory.

Find a moment to give thanks for what you do have (without looking around at those who have more).

This last point deserves a moment of reflection, and is something I'm still learning to do. I have a child severely handicapped by Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. For years I thought I'd accepted his condition. I obediently said to God, "thank you even for this," since it taught me many things about adjusting to the life I've been given rather than the one I might have chosen.

But as my son gets older, I see new forms of acceptance making that feeling of gratitude more genuine. I think I'm finally letting go of some of the hopes and dreams I had for him, my oldest son. I can no longer imagine him any other way than the way he is, even though I'd be first in line if a cure is ever found.

I still think it's a good thing to give thanks in all things, even if it begins out of obedience rather than tender gratitude for whatever thorn we live with. But realizing it's okay to grow into that gratitude was a blessing to me.

Maybe some of the bruises on our spirit seem tender during the holiday season, a reminder that all the glitter on the outside might not light us up on the inside. My prayer is trust Psalm 34:18. Let's lean on Him this season-He's right here beside us!
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Maureen Lang grew up loving to tell stories, and God has blessed her immeasurably to be able to tell them to a wider audience these days. For the latest goings-on, please check her blog!

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Wondrous Mystery

Magnificat
by Anna Joujan

Holy. Holy. Holy is the Lord. The familiar catch of breath. The sting in the eyes. And the tears begin to flow with the falling rain. Or do the tears fall with the flowing rain. What is it in these words that I whisper that wrenches at my heart so? Why does Mary's prayer touch the core of my being, so many centuries after it was spoken?

I think it must be because I know that she was just a girl, just a human being, with a woman's heart like my own. And so, when I hear her wondering words, I can feel with her the emotion she must have felt. To bear the son of God-what wondrous mystery, what glorious honour! And she was, like me, just a young woman-much younger, in fact, than I am now. And so, no matter how often I hear the story and read her words, it still has the power to bring abrupt and unsought tears.

What a gracious God, to work wonders with such frail and faulty creatures as us!
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Anna G. Joujan was born in South Dakota, as a Canadian citizen, and was raised in Zambia, the child of missionary teachers. Since her family's move to the U.S., Anna spent her childhood and early adulthood traveling throughout the world thanks to various educational and work opportunities . . . France, China, Peru, and Jamaica being some of the stops in her journeys. Her undergraduate degree in French Literature led to a Masters in Information Sciences, and to work as a college and high school librarian, and a cross country coach. She has also returned to Zambia multiple times to teach for individual families and for local schools. All the while continuing pursuing her passions of writing, artwork, photography . . . and running to a fault. She blogs at Full of Grace.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Perspective

A Soggy, Jolly, Holly Christmas
by Melody Carlson

One of my most memorable Christmases started out as a natural disaster. But isn't that a bit how a pearl is formed? An oyster's soft easy life is disrupted by the invasion of sand, but something good comes out of it. When I was eight, we experienced the worst flood in recorded Oregon history. It was only a few days before Christmas when our streets became shallow rivers and the governor proclaimed a state of emergency. My sister and I assumed the flood was simply our new water-world playground and didn't understand the seriousness of washed out bridges and downed power lines and submerged homes. But when we realized this flood was about to nix our usual three-hour trek to our grandparents' home near the coast, we were not happy.

Naturally, our mom, a single parent, protested the sensibility of holiday travel (most of Oregon's rivers were involved in the flood). But Christmas at Grandma's house was our favorite event of the year. And thanks to our persistence, Mom finally gave in. We piled into the car and headed out. Flood waters climbed higher the closer we got to the coast. And at one point the road behind us was closed and the one ahead was flooded and about to be closed as well. The state policeman told us we could cross "at our own risk." We followed a Volkswagen Bug into the water-then we actually watched the bug floating away! Of course, there was nothing to do besides plow on through the water, which appeared to be nearly two feet deep! Fortunately we had an old heavy Chevy that did not float away, but the water seeped in and pooled on the floors.

Fortunately, we made it safely to the grandparents. But once we arrived, we learned there would be no Christmas tree because the road to the woods was closed. Then my grandpa picked up his ax and led us outside where he chopped down his prize holly tree planted in the parking strip. I stared in horror, thinking Grandma was going to have a fit. But then he explained the city had told him to remove the tree for traffic visibility. So we had a twelve foot holly tree for Christmas. It was a little prickly decorating it, but with its shiny green leaves and red berries, it was the most beautiful tree ever! So what started out as a disaster turned out to be a soggy, holly, jolly Christmas after all.

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Melody Carlson, author of Limelight, Love Finds You in Sisters, The Christmas Dog, 86 Bloomberg Place, Diary of a Teenage Girl, The Carter House Girls, and much more... http://www.melodycarlson.com/

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Monday, December 21, 2009

12 Pearls of Christmas: Help & Support

Calling Elizabeth ... HELP!
by Tricia Goyer

Mary, the mother of Jesus is one of the most well-known women of all time. She was also a teen mom facing an unplanned pregnancy. This Christmas we will see evidence of Mary's story all around us. And as you hear it through Christmas songs and Christmas shows think of three things:

1. Mary was signed up for a big task she wasn't prepared for.
2. Mary no doubt faced criticism from people around her.
3. Mary found someone to turn to - a friend who could help Mary to succeed in her new role. It was Mary's older cousin Elizabeth.

Elizabeth played an important part in Mary's life. We know this because the book of Luke begins by telling us Elizabeth's story first. Elizabeth was the wife of a priest. She was very old and had no children, but God blessed her in her old age by allowing her to get pregnant. After Elizabeth's story comes Mary's story ... another surprise pregnancy. Can you imagine what a shock that was to everyone who knew both women? (Yes! I'm sure you can!)

The cool thing is that the angel Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth's surprise pregnancy. It's as if he was saying, "Look, there's someone in your same situation. Turn to her. She can help you."

Mary did go to Elizabeth. In fact she lived with her older cousin for three months. Elizabeth was the first one who rejoiced over the child Mary held within her womb, and I imagine Elizabeth was there to encourage Mary as she coped with the idea of becoming a teen mom.

Like Mary, each of us should have people in our lives who we turn to for help, support and encouragement. Being a mom isn't an easy thing, and facing an unplanned pregnancy is even tougher.

When I had my son Cory I was 17-years-old, and there were a group of women from my grandma's church who supported me. They were the first ones who showed me that the child that was growing inside me was a gift. They gave me a baby shower, and they fought over holding my son after he was born.

As my son grew, there were other women I looked to ... and most of the time they didn't even know I was watching. One of them was Cheryl. Cheryl was patient with her children, she gave them big hugs, she laughed with them and played with them and I modeled myself after her. The thing about finding mentors is sometimes we can observe them without them even knowing. And if we're really lucky they enjoy their role of giving us advice.

Later, when I had two kids, I met a friend named Cindy. She and I were the same age and we became quick friends. Cindy was a support to me because we traded babysitting, talked about parenting problems, and we encouraged each other. She was someone who was walking the same road as me, and her advice helped more times than I can count.

No matter who we are, or where we live, each of us can look around and see the people we have in our lives. Some may cheer us on, some may guide our parenting, and others may just be there to walk along side us. If the mother of Jesus needed someone to look to for support ... shouldn't we? Everyone needs someone to provide a little help and support.

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Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-one books including From Dust and Ashes, My Life UnScripted, and the children's book, 10 Minutes to Showtime. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like Today's Christian Woman and Focus on the Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in the mountains of Montana. Connect with Tricia at http://www.triciagoyer.com/.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Christ of Christmas


Christian recording artist and author of 101 Ways to Give This Christmas Away, Matthew West (http://matthewwest.com/), is offering a free download of the Christmas story from Luke read by the singer/songwriter himself.  Our goal is to reach 1 million total downloads. You can also download a free copy of the Gospel of John in the New Living Translation.  Visit http://www.thechristofchristmas.com/ (To download, scroll to the bottom and click on “Download the Christmas Story”).

Some ways this download is being used:
- Family time listening experience (hot cocoa, fire place, Christmas cheer)
- Christmas E-cards (include a link to the download in your Christmas card this year)
- Posting the link in the comments sections of other blogs you read to spread the word
- Embed the audio file into your Facebook page or website so it plays automatically
- Spread the Gospel though Twitter
- Send the link through a text message or through your smart phone so you can download the file and play it all around town

Please spread the word and help us reach a million people with the Gospel this year!  Let's pray that many will come to know CHRIST during this Christmas season.

Merry CHRISTmas to you and your family!  Peace and joy to the world...because of Him!

Let me repeat that again: Peace and joy to the world...because of Him.  Peace does not come from the condition of this world, nor the condition of our lives.  Joy does not come from receiving or giving perfect gifts, having a picture-perfect decorated house, or getting a bonus check from work, etc.  True peace and joy only come from Christ, our Savior!  I would like to share the poem below with those who have lost their loved ones (who were saved) and find it hard to embrace "peace" and "joy".  I hope and pray that the Lord will give you His peace and joy that comfort you in time of grief and sorrow.

                         Celebrating in Heaven


I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below
With tiny light like Heaven’s stars reflecting on the snow.
The sight is so spectacular please wipe away that tear,
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.


I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear
But the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas Choir up here.
I have no words to tell you of the joy their voices bring
For it is beyond description to hear the angels sing.


I know how much you miss me, and see the pain inside your heart
For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.
I can’t tell you of the splendor or the peace here in this place
Can you just imagine Christmas with our Savior face to face?


I’ll ask Him to lift your spirit as I tell Him of your love
So then pray for one another as you lift your eyes above.
Please let your hearts be joyful and let your spirit sing
For I am spending Christmas in Heaven and I am walking with the KING.

I don't know who wrote this poem; if anyone knows, please let me know so that I can give a proper credit.  You may also find this blog post comforting and helpful: http://bornagainandblessed.blogspot.com/2009/12/12-pearls-of-christmas-jesus-comforts.html .

~Please visit here for the links to other Spiritual Sundays posts. Thanks so much to Charlotte and Ginger for hosting Spiritual Sundays every week.

P.S. I'm hosting a book giveaway on my HSB blog. You can win a copy of 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day by C.D. Baker. The deadline is today at midnight (Pacific time). Hope you will stop by and enter:)! I am also hosting 12 Pearls of Christmas until Dec. 25th on this blog. Please come back everyday to read different inspiring and touching stories written by well-known Christian female authors (Melody Carlson, Tricia Goyer, Susan May Warren, Dawn Meehan, Maureen Lang, Mary deMuth, Holley Gerth, and more...) and leave a comment for a chance to win a pearl necklace. Scroll down to see what I have posted so far.

12 Pearls of Christmas: God Intervenes

The Answer
by Susan May Warren

Whos, Here, we are Whos here, smaller than the eye can see. Whos here, we are Whos here, I'm a Who and so is she...

I've always wanted to live in a musical. When I was a kid, I loved Oklahoma, Sound of Music, West Side Story. I seriously thought that, if the moment was right, maybe the stars aligned, people would break out into song and dance.

I was sorta right. Because in my house, one needs to be able to talk in movie lines and song lyrics to effectively communicate. At any moment, someone might break out with a quip from the Princess Bride, or Finding Nemo. They might sing Tomorrow from Annie, or My Favorite Things like Julie Andrews.

But, most recently we've found ourselves speaking in "Suess"...

It's suppertime, son, and the time is near To call far and wide the sneetches who hear Just the sound of their bellies, the whir of their gear The Gurgles and Burbles that give them great fear Tell them all, tell them loud, tell them clear Their hands they should wash, check their face in the mirror Because the food is now ready and it's time to steer Close to the table, where they'll find hot gribbles here.

Why, you ask? Because David and Sarah are performing in the community theater's production of Suessical the Musical, a hilarious conglomeration of Dr. Suess' fun work, from Horton hears a Who to Horton Hatches an Egg.

As the Christmas season draws close (and the songs from the play linger in my head), one line has stood out to me... "We are here, we are here!" You know the story - that part where, after everyone has called Horton names and they're about ready to boil the speck that contains Who-ville, Horton calls out to the Whos to send up a cry to prove themselves as real. "We are here, we are here!"

It strikes me that sometimes we can feel like Whos...smaller than the eye can see. Tossed hither and yon by the wind, helpless and facing being boiled. Tired, perhaps, or alone. Wishing someone might find us and pay attention.

Someone has, and that's the good news about Christmas. Because we don't have to "make ourselves heard," like the Whos. In fact, even before we realized we were headed for the cauldron, God intervened. God demonstrated his own love for us in this - while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8). That's what Jesus is all about - he's the answer to even the unspoken cry of our hearts, saying, "I am here, I am here." Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

So as this season approaches with its whistles and bells I hope you hear the voice where the Mighty One dwells -- down deep in your hearts, so nothing can shake the knowledge of his love, given all for your sake.

Merry Christmas from Susie May Warren

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Susan May Warren is the award-winning author of twenty-one novels and novellas with Tyndale, Steeple Hill and Barbour Publishing. Her first book, Happily Ever After won the American Fiction Christian Writers Book of the Year in 2003, and was a 2003 Christy Award finalist. In Sheep's Clothing, a thriller set in Russia, was a 2006 Christy Award finalist and won the 2006 Inspirational Reader's Choice award. A former missionary to Russia, Susan May Warren now writes Suspense/Romance and Chick Lit full time from her home in northern Minnesota. http://www.susanmaywarren.com/ Check out her Christmas Novella, The Great Christmas Bowl.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Saturday, December 19, 2009

God With Us


I love all of Jesus's names.  One of them that touches my heart deeply is Immanuel: God with us.  I am forever grateful and in awe that our Almighty God who can have anything in this universe, loves us so much and wants to be with us...to dwell in us. 
"The virgin will be with Child and will give birth to a Son and they will call Him Immanuel (Emmanuel)--which means, 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:23


Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the videos.

The skies don't seem to be as dark as usual
The stars seem brighter then they've been before
Deep within I feel my soul a stirring
As though my hope has been restored
The shepherds say they've heard the voice of angels
Confirming rumors spread across the land
That a child protected well from Herod's anger
Is our Father's Son, and the son of man

Love is raining down on the world tonight
There's a presence here I can tell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel
He's the Savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts He will dwell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel

I feel compelled to tell all who will listen
That peace on earth is not so out of reach
If we can find grace, mercy and forgiveness
He has come to save, He is all of these

You're the Savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts You will dwell
You are in us, You are for us, You are with us, Emmanuel


Rejoice!  Rejoice in the joy of Christ's birth and of knowing that He is with us, in us, and for us!  Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!

P.S. I'm hosting a book giveaway on my HSB blog. You can win a copy of 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day by C.D. Baker. The deadline is this Sunday, Dec. 20th at midnight (Pacific time). Hope you will stop by and enter:)!  I am also hosting 12 Pearls of Christmas until Dec. 25th on this blog.  Please come back everyday to read different inspiring and touching stories written by well-known Christian female authors (Melody Carlson, Tricia Goyer, Susan May Warren, Dawn Meehan, Maureen Lang, Mary deMuth, Holley Gerth, and more...) and leave a comment for a chance to win a pearl necklace.  Scroll down to see what I have posted so far.

Previous Songs:
- Offering- Christmas Version 
- How Many Kings
- Give Thanks
- When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
- He Knows My Name
- Oh Lord, You're Beautiful!
- What the Lord Has Done in Me
- I Surrender All
- Mighty To Save
- Could I Be Called a Christian?
- Cry Out to Jesus
- Jesus, Be the Center
- God of Justice
- Love That Will Not Let Me Go
- I Will Offer Up My Life
- When It's All Been Said and Done
- Knowing You, Jesus
- In Christ Alone

12 Pearls of Christmas: He is Always Enough

Christmas in a Barn
by Mary DeMuth
The Christmas of 2006 we were homeless. We didn't have keys. Not to a car, not to a home. We'd flown halfway around the world, leaving behind a ministry we toiled over. Much, particularly in our hearts, lay in ruins.

Some friends had a camp, and on that camp stood a barn. In the corner of the barn was a tiny apartment, flanked by this caboose and hundreds of acres of Texas pasture. We'd never been there before, so we followed directions at night, making plenty of wrong turns.

When we found the place, we drove a borrowed car over the cattle guard toward what would be our home for a month. String lights illuminated a small porch, a window and a door in the corner of an aluminum-sided barn. We hefted large pieces of luggage to the apartment.

And when we opened the door, Love welcomed us.

The place, usually completely unfurnished in the winter, was decked out with just the right amount of beds, couches and tables. The pantry was full. We had dishes and garbage cans, and cups and forks and food. But even more, we had a Christmas tree. Friends had hijacked the place, decorating it for Christmas. Cookies preened on the table.

I will never, ever forget that Christmas. We had so little. We felt the painful burden of failure. But we were loved, so terribly and wonderfully loved.

Christmas felt right there, in a barn. We heard the nickering of horses, the meowing of kittens, the clop of hooves against the barn floor. Chickens and goats and cows served as a holy object lesson of the incarnation. Although we were warm and clothed, we understood more keenly the Savior's homelessness, how He left the splendor of heaven for the sodden earth. We experienced barnyard life alongside him, without much to call our own except our Heavenly Father and our sweet family.

He was enough, that Christmas. And He will always will be.
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Mary DeMuth writes fiction and nonfiction. Her latest book, A Slow Burn released in October and she has a memoir entitled Thin Places coming out in February of 2010. You can meet her: http://www.marydemuth.com/, http://www.thewritingspa.com/, on Facebook and Twitter!

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Friday Photo Flashback 


These pictures of my youngest son were taken in 2005.  He was 4 years old.  The three stockings were for our 3 kids.  The three presents were for Jesus.  It's one of our traditions.  Whenever our kids do something that pleases the Lord (being kind, helpful, patient, humble, putting others above themselves, etc.), my husband or I write it down on a little piece of paper and put it into their boxes (I cut a little slit on top of each box).  On Christmas day, after Daddy reads from the Bible about Christ's birth, the kids open their presents for Jesus and we read out loud what they have done to please the Lord.  By the way, to us...it doesn't matter if Jesus's birthday is not Dec. 25th, we want to celebrate Him and His birth anyway :).  I expressed my thoughts on this issue in my poem, "What Really Matters".

May Jesus always be on your mind and may His love, peace, and joy always be in your heart! Merry CHRISTmas and have a blessed New Year!

P.S. I'm hosting a book giveaway on my HSB blog. You can win a copy of 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day by C.D. Baker.  The deadline is this Sunday, Dec. 20th at midnight (Pacific time). Hope you will stop by and enter :)!


Previous Friday Photo Flashback:
- Earliest Picture of Me
- To Grandma's House We Go
- Best Brothers...Best Buddies
- Harvest Festival
- I Love Mommy & Daddy
- Corn Roast Festival
- A Taste of Thailand
- I Could Never Promise You
- In Father's Hands
- Thai Version of Wipe Out
- My Graduation Day in Thailand

12 Pearls of Christmas: Faith, Hope & Love

The Pearls We Pass Down
by Holley Gerth

Ten years ago my Grandma Frances went home to heaven in her sleep just before Christmas.

My Grandpa carefully handed me a brightly-wrapped box on Christmas morning and said, "This is her gift. Now I want you to have it."

I opened the lid slowly and tears came to my eyes as I saw a lovely string of pearls.

My Mom gently helped me fasten them around my neck. As I ran my fingers over each one, I thought of my Grandmother and all she taught me through her life...

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
FAITH

At age twenty-nine, my Grandma contracted polio and learned she would never walk again. She had a husband, two little girls, and a future suddenly very different than she imagined.


A pastor came to visit her in the hospital. He said, "Frances, this can make you bitter or better." She often told that story with a sparkle in her eyes as she said, "I chose better." I learned through her example that faith is a choice and with God we can thrive through anything.

HOPE

My grandparents took a leap of faith and started the first Christian bookstore in their city with a small kiosk in the center of a mall. Over the next few decades that little kiosk grew into a large and successful store that touched countless lives.

Many of my favorite childhood memories are of curling up in the back room with a stack of books. My Grandma taught me hope is like a small seed and, watered with prayer, it can grow into a huge blessing for many.

LOVE

For fifty-six years my grandparents shared a life together. I adore these two pictures because one is taken when they were dating and the other just a few weeks before she died. The twinkle in their eyes is still the same-and that's not easy in this world. They faced their share of challenges, like my Grandma's disability, but always got through them together.


My Nana also loved her family deeply. When I went to college, she often wrote notes to me and signed each one, SCTH (Stay Close to Him). She showed me love is a commitment that begins with Christ and then overflows to everyone else in our lives.


I still miss my Grandma Frances, especially this time of year. Sometimes I pull out her string of pearls and hold them in my hands. Then I think about how we're all creating our legacy as we live. And while the difficulties we face may seem hard to understand now, God can turn each one into beauty that blesses our family for generations.

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Holley Gerth - Cofounder of (in)courage, editorial director for DaySpring, author of Rain on Me, wife of Mark, lover of Jesus, friend to YOU.

Visit Holley at Heart to Heart with Holley or follow her on twitter as @HolleyGerth.

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12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thankful Thursday #14

Thankful Thursday at Truth 4 the Journey 

This week...
1. I am thankful that the best Gift in the world is free to all.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)  No gifts can ever compare to Jesus, the greatest Gift of all!

2. I am thankful for any gifts or abilities the Lord has blessed me with.  I desire to use them wisely and for His glory.

3. I am thankful that God never leaves me nor forsakes me (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Praise Immanuel (Matthew 1:23)!  God is with us and in us!

4. I am thankful for running water and clean water.  Water is very important; however, we don't really think about it until we have to live without it.  One of my friends has had no water because of broken pipes.  Daily living has become difficult for her and her family.  Now think about those people in some countries who have no clean waterPlease do all you can to help.

5. I am thankful for Christian writers who are willing to share their stories to help and encourage others.  I am hosting 12 Pearls of Christmas.  Each day until Dec. 25th, I post different inspiring and touching stories written by Christian female authors.  Please scroll down to read what I have posted so far.

P.S. I'm having a book giveaway on my HSB blog. You can win a copy of 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day by C.D. Baker.

12 Pearls of Christmas: God Provides a Way

A Long Ago Christmas Memory
by Patricia Crisafulli

The old farm on a dirt road in the backwoods of northern New York State was described to me so many times, I can imagine the place, even though I never saw it: the big frame house with the wide porch, the pair of maple trees out front, and the barn in the back where my grandparents kept a cow or two, pigs and chickens, and a team of work horses.

That old house came alive for me in dozens of stories that my mother told, of how she and her sisters grew up there during the Depression. The stories had that long-ago feel not only because of the years that had passed, but also because of the era: tales of riding in a horse and buggy in the summer and a horse and sleigh in the winter. My grandfather owned an old Model A Ford, but the tires were patched beyond repair and there was no money for gasoline.

One story that has always stayed with me was of a particular Christmas in the early 1930s, a time my mother remember as the "depths of the Depression," and there was no money. In order to pay the interest on the mortgage, to keep the bank from foreclosing on the farm, my grandfather needed a relatively small sum. The amount I remember being told was $13, but for the little they had in those days it might as well have been $13,000.

Tested by trouble and sorrows, my grandparents relied on their deep and abiding faith. As Psalm 34 tells us, I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. The answer to their prayers was to be found right in their own backyard with gifts of the earth. My grandmother went into the woods to gather bushel baskets full of ground pine, with green sprouts like miniature boughs that spread in great patches along the earth. From willow branches she made hoops, around which she bound the ground pine to make wreathes.

She sat up all night making wreaths, enough to fill a large hamper basket, which my grandfather strapped to his back. At four in the morning, he hopped a ride on the milk train into Syracuse, where he went door-to-door selling wreathes. Night after night, my grandmother made wreaths, and day after day my grandfather sold them.

As Christmas approached, my grandmother had saved coupons that came in tins of coffee to get a Kewpie doll for her daughters. The only other things she gave them were mittens she knit herself.

Then on Christmas Eve, my grandfather came home from the last day of selling wreaths, exhausted but relieved. The farm was safe for another year. From what he had earned, he had a dime left over, which he spent on his beloved wife to buy her a powder puff. That night, my grandmother gave him her surprise: enough money from selling butter and eggs all year to buy four new tires for the Model A Ford.

Hearing this story as a child, my head was too full of the Sears & Roebuck "Wish Book" catalog to really comprehend it. As an adult, I try to fathom living with no money at all. What lingers in my heart, however, is the love of my grandparents for each other: the dashing young American soldier in World War I and the beautiful French girl he met overseas and then returned to her country to marry.

Many years, thousands of miles, and untold hardships later, that love continued. During a very dark December, they found a way together to keep the farm and the family together. And so it would always be for them.

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Patricia Crisafulli is a writer, published author, and founder of www.FaithHopeandFiction.com, a monthly e-literary magazine with stories, essays, and poetry to inspire and entertain.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

His Name Is Jesus




"For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6
A few Christmases ago, my kids and I had a great time studying the names of Jesus.  It helped us know Him more intimately and gain more insight into His character.

"She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins." Matthew 1:21
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12

May the miracle of His birth, the teachings of His life, the purpose of His death, the triumph of His resurrection, and the hope of His return fill your heart with unending love, peace, and joy that only Christ can bring!!!  Merry CHRISTmas to you and your family!

P.S. I'm having a book giveaway on my HSB blog.  You can win a copy of 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day by C.D. Baker.  I'm also hosting the 12 Pearls of Christmas on this blog.  Please scroll down and take a look.  If you leave a comment, you will be entered to win a pearl necklace.  Come back each day to read different inspiring & touching stories written by well-known Christian female authors.

Previous WFW:

12 Pearls of Christmas: Jesus Comforts

How to Cope with Christmas
by Stacie Ruth Stoelting

Last night, I dreamed that God resurrected my beautiful adopted aunt, Mary Jo Hoffman. But morning renewed my mourning for her: Christmas trees, snow globes, and music greeted my grieving heart. Relate?

In previous years, my maternal grandpa (a.k.a. "Papa Ray") died near Thanksgiving and my adopted "Grandpa Morley" died near Christmas. Now, people cannot compare grief. But I believe we all know that the holidays challenge the grieving.

Christmas arrives like a pretty package full of grief triggers: Empty chairs, missing faces, and silent voices seem to haunt the holidays. Here are "12 Ways of Christmas" for the Grief-Stricken that have worked for me:

12 Ways of Christmas for the Grieving

1. Don't put excessive expectations on yourself. Don't expect the holidays to be the same.

2. Rest. Cut down the Christmas clutter and just get away from the typical, if possible.

3. Rearrange furniture to reduce "absence" reminders.

4. Avoid sugar highs and lows because they naturally induce emotional lows. Also steer clear of over-eating and under-sleeping. Eat well-balanced diets. Some mood enhancing natural foods include yogurt, kefir, green tea, omega-3 rich foods (i.e. salmon, cod liver oil, etc.), and lower sugar dark chocolate. One excellent resource for healthier lifestyles is First Place 4 Health, founded by the knowledgeable and kind Carole Lewis: http://www.firstplace4health.com/.

5. Admit grief. Trying to move forward while denying the reality of grief causes one to fall face forward. Does your face smile while your heart weeps? Give yourself permission to cry. Jesus wept. Weeping releases excessive tension. Address depression. Don't deny it. Pretending the nonexistence of depression only promotes its growth. (I include a list of counseling centers on my page for hurting hearts: http://prayingpals.org/linksforhurtinghearts.html.)

6. Forgive and receive forgiveness through Jesus. Release everything to the Lord -including any so-called regrets about your departed loved one. In Loved by Rebecca St. James (FaithWords, 2009), the point of God's abiding love encourages us: "He [Jesus] is ready to...stand in the gap between you and the pain, and to be your constant companion in the dark hours. He loves you."

7. Reach out to the more burdened and hang around kids this Christmas. It may not feel easy. It may even feel impossible. Ask Jesus to love thru you and get your eyes off problems and on to Him and others.

8. Understand the concept of new normalcy. The onset of new traditions and expectations may seem daunting, but God gave you your previous normal. Ask Him to give grace/hope in the face of the new normal. Let Him lead you to a place where you can relax and let Him beam His light on you.

9. Take a "hands off and hands folded" approach to the holidays. Reduce activity and increase connectivity through prayer and Christian companionship. If you're isolated, feel free to join my weekly online prayer group (http://www.prayingpals.org/). And stay in touch with your local church.

10. Face and treat chronic health issues. If you feel sick, everything feels worse. (One excellent resource for those with chronic health conditions is Rest Ministries.)

11. Reclaim your Heavenly purpose on earth. Ask Jesus to grant supernaturally His grace, hope, love, peace, and comfort this holiday season. Then don't fight His help. Be open to His opening of doors to cope and hope this holiday season. Just receive Jesus. Ask Jesus to give you a Heavenly perspective on earth. God holds good things for you! He grants you great purpose for your life hereafter...and here, too. Embrace His grace and seek His face. He's there. I know. In the face of grief, I'm with Him right now.

12. Remember: Trials don't indicate a reduction in God's love for you. He loves you and promises to make things right in the end. Spend time focusing on His unchanging love for you. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39, ESV)

Holidays include lots of grief for relationships/loved ones that left, forsook, or died. But let's focus on the essence of Christmas: the present of Jesus' presence in our lives! Wow, may a relationship with Jesus be our miracle and encouragement this Christmas! "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (2 Cor. 9:15)

Could you think of anything greater than receiving God for Christmas?

While my dream didn't come true today, I know it will: Mary Jo will be resurrected and we will be reunited. This year, focus on a different angle of Christmas: Let Christmas remind you of Jesus' birth to banish death.

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After Stacie Ruth met Jesus, her life blossomed with true joy and purpose! Life's blows hurt her, but Jesus heals and strengthens her. Now an author, actress, and recording artist, she laughs at the irony and praises God, who uses unlikely people...like herself. To find out more about her ministry visit http://www.brightlightministries.com/.

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A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is leave a comment here. Come back on New Year's Day to see if you won!
12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit http://www.pearlgirls.info/

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