Putting Down to Pick Up

Putting Down to Pick UpI have no doubt that moms who are worth their weight in baby wipes would concur with this statement: parenting is a very overwhelming job, especially throughout the first few months of an infant’s life. After all, the baby just spent nine months tucked inside a cozy bubble, and the desire for that warmth and closeness isn’t left behind. While the infant’s primary interest is wrapped up in ensuring his tummy is full, besides a laundry list of needs that Mama is often the one to meet, it is essential for the baby to be cuddled and cooed at and given much me time. The benefits are great for mom too. Who can resist those tiny arms and hands and that precious fuzzy head? Often due to various other tasks that demand time and attention, mommies, and even grandmas, can become experts at multitasking: vacuuming with baby in tow, rinsing and loading dishes into the dishwasher, brushing big sister’s hair with the new little “helper” sharing the space. But there are many times when a mother has to choose to put something down to pick up her precious bundle and devote full time and attention to the little wonder that God has given as his special blessing. And though it can be tremendously hard at times, I believe many mothers would also concur that it really is totally worth it!
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was no exception. She had to put some things down to pick up her dear little Son. She was a virgin, but being pregnant during the period of betrothal would mean scorn, stares, and isolation from those in her community. She had to put down her dignity, her family ties, and any preconceived notions about the beginnings of married life as she expected the birth of her prodigious Son sooner than she would have dreamed. Oh, how special it was to her, however, to hold God’s Son. And everything she let go was worth putting down for the sake of not just that moment, but for the benefit of the entire world for all of time into eternity.
Then consider her Son. Jesus spent his life putting things down and picking up other things, some of which he would have rather left alone. He put down his heavenly sovereignty and picked up an unprivileged start to his earthly life in a dank, stinking manger. He put down his entitlement to a throne and scepter and picked up scorn and skepticism from particularly the educated and elite in the Israelite society. He gave up his glory and his rightful place of worship and picked up a rugged cross, the instrument of his death. He laid down his life and lifted up the souls of those who put their trust and faith in him for eternal salvation. And though it was incredibly hard at times, to Jesus it was totally worth it – what a wonderful Savior!
This Christmas, what might you put down and what might you pick up in honor of the humble, loving Son of God? To truly devote oneself to the Savior, there are choices to make, things to put aside, and sometimes challenging things to pick up to live out the life that will bring him honor and glory and live as he desires. And though it may be particularly hard at times, it will be totally worth it!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12: 1-2, ESV).
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Of Carols and Kings

Of Carols and KingsOf Carols and KingsI was visiting my daughter and her family back in mid-October – great time, and lots of fun with her two little ones. It’s very common for a continual stream of music to be playing on the VERY LOUD speaker system, something to which I have become accustomed. About midway through the week, the selection turned from the worship music genre typically played, to Christmas music. No, that wasn’t a typo (i.e., I really meant Christian music). Katie had decided it was time to start getting into the Christmas spirit, despite harvest and pumpkins and the fall colors one would normally enjoy during that season. She expressed that it was something “I just need this year.” I tend to be a bit old-school and come from a time when even Thanksgiving and Christmas were quite separate holidays. So, I would prefer to have my carols with a cup of cocoa a lot closer to at least the end of November, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the festive Yuletide entertainment as well.
After I returned home later in the month, my husband purchased a little gizmo that plays music on demand. Saturday, October 25th, it was gray, cold, and snowy outside. It seemed like a perfect fit for another round of Christmas carols. I requested Christmas music and listened to about four numbers, but it still felt early (for both the snow and the holiday music). Interestingly, the next morning as I did my exercise routine, I turned on the local Christian radio station. They too had opted to put together a Christmas playlist, explaining that while they would return to regular programming until closer to the holiday season, they thought that their listeners needed a little bit of Christmas cheer. One of the first songs I heard was “We Need a Little Christmas.”* Apparently, many people felt like Katie.
It is undeniable that this year has been extremely trying for so many reasons. Before it began, likely no one would have predicted that unlike the year’s numerical meaning of clear vision, insight, and near perfection, 2020 brought us months of uncertainty, frustration, and even hostility. We certainly are looking for something in our lives to lift our spirits and help us to harken back to happier days. But is it merely a feeling of goodwill, comfort, and joy that we seek, or do we need something more?
Before Jesus was born, the nation of Israel had a challenging existence. There had not been a prophetic utterance from God for over four hundred years. They were under the severe rule of the Roman Empire, and they were looking for a leader to bring deliverance and restoration of their once powerful kingdom. Much is found in the Old Testament about the Messiah, and God’s people clung to words like those found in Isaiah, “The government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:6b-7, ESV). So, the people of Israel wanted someone to rescue them practically and politically, and when God sent his Son into the world as the Word says in the Book of Acts, “[The people in Jerusalem and their rulers] did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath” (Acts 13:27b, ESV). God sent them the King of kings and Lord of Lords, the One who would provide for their deepest needs and longings, the One who would set them free from the ravages of sin and provide them more than an abundant life on earth, but life eternal. They did not understand that God’s kingdom is one like no other, and the guarantees of peace, prosperity, and power are realized within the heart, above and beyond one’s circumstances.
And so, we too need King Jesus whom God sent into the world over two thousand years ago. Though he came in a humble manner, he wields infinite power to give us his strength. Though he came into an impoverished setting, he bestows his riches for salvation on all who call on him. Though he came as a servant, he reigns eternally and extends that authority to all who follow him. At Christmastime, we think about the baby who came in the environs of a stable to a poor family in the unassuming town of Bethlehem. But let us remember and embrace him as the King, majestic, glorious, splendid, who rules and reigns forever. We need his leadership, his provision, his peace, his protection, his guidance, and his gift of redemption, and we need it now!
“Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray… let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O LORD; you cover him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:1-2, 11-12, ESV).
Resource:
*Herman, Jerry, “We Need A Little Christmas” (1966). Vocal Popular Sheet Music Collection. Edwin H. Morris & Company, Inc. New York, New York. Score 5566
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Perfect Surroundings; Christmas

Perfect Surroundings; ChristmasFor those of you in colder climes where the appearance of snow is a winter norm, there can still be something unsettling about the amassing of the white powdery stuff, especially if it appears too early in the fall or hangs around too late in what should be spring. For me, there is really only one time of year when cold and snow feel absolutely right—the Christmas season! That will surely make sense to you when I share that I grew up southeast of Buffalo, NY within five miles of Lake Erie. But even when we lived in a basically one-season part of the US, locals suggested turning the air conditioning down to about fifty degrees on Christmas Eve and donning sweaters to pretend we were spending an idyllic Christmas in the perfect surroundings. In truth, even during the years in Buffalo, we would often have a dry, green Christmas Day and then an Easter with three-foot drifts. Those are the times when the environment did not seem to match the occasion.
Our first snow here this year in The Springs was on 10 October, way too early in my estimation. We were out of town when the next storm hit, and then at the end of October, Mr. Snow showed up again. By that time, I was beginning to do some early shopping for Christmas since we were traveling for Thanksgiving, and it made sense to take Christmas gifts with us versus shipping them to each family. The snowfall had subsided by the time I drove, and with the sky still a nice US northeastern gray (only appreciated by those of us who grew up there), I donned my sweater, winter coat, scarf, and gloves to keep me cozy. It felt like the perfect day to get holiday shopping started. One over-eager radio station had even started playing carols in their mix. It all went really well until the sun emerged through the clouds. At our altitude, the sun appearing can bring up the temps quite quickly and intensely. I turned off the heater, and I began shedding layers faster than a Siberian Husky relocated to the tropics. By the time my left ear began to burn from the sun in the driver’s side window, I was not going to continue the drive, much less the quest for the perfect Christmas gifts that had been “so much fun” just an hour before. The environment had changed, and my desire to make some early purchases melted with the snow on the ground.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem on what we now refer to as the first Christmas morn, the environment could not have been more out of place for a coming King. The first roof over his head was a stable. His first bed was a manger filled with hay. His welcoming committee, aside from his mother and earthly father, were common animals. His first visitors were the lowest of the low in society, shepherds. Nothing could have been further removed from true royalty, and yet, there he was in such humble surroundings, born into the world for ALL of the world! God knew; God planned for it to be just so. As much as he deserved the finest reception for his advent here, his entrance in humility opened the door for anyone with a needy, repentant heart—rich and poor, intelligent and ignorant, young and old, the mighty and the weak—to come to him and receive his loving embrace and saving grace. Only God in all his wisdom knew that his Son, the King, would best come in a time and place that would defy the world’s preconceived notions and norms so that he could change the hearts and lives of any and all who would turn to him.
So, come to the place where he lay. Imagine the environment where he first entered the world, and know that in spite of what you may see around him, here lies the Savior. The occasion of his coming can melt the heart of all who choose to bow before him and make the biggest change in each repentant life. Those who trust in him can look forward with anticipation and joy to a perfect time and glorious surroundings when he comes again. “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:7-11, ESV).
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Silent

SilentThe story of its creation and promotion has several variations and differing nuances. The length of its rise to fame spans decades; its influence has continued for two hundred years. Not only is it known throughout Christendom, but also it is likely recognized and employed during the holidays by even those who have not come to faith in Christ. What, might you ask, would have such an enormous impact on humanity save for the Word of God itself? It is the beloved carol sung and played throughout the Christmas season, Silent Night.

This year is the 200th Anniversary of the musical composition and inaugural performance of the song known for its beautifully simple lyrics and melody. An authentic score was found in 1995 pinpointing the date of Mohr’s original writing as being in 1816. Tales abound as to the reason this carol was written, as well as about the circumstances of its employ. Silent PostA faulty organ at St. Nicholas church in Oberndorf, Austria is often given as the reason for Mohr’s request that the song be accompanied by guitar. Some credit ravenous mice for the problem, believing they damaged the organ’s bellows. No matter. When Father Joseph Mohr passed on the lyrics to organist, Franz Gruber, his request was for the stringed instrument, two voices, and a choir to bring the first sounds of this tender carol to the listeners’ ears. And so it was that Franz Gruber created an accompaniment and fashioned a melody that along with Joseph Mohr’s poem has touched the hearts and lives of people ever since.
As I think back to the night about which Silent Night is written, the birth of our precious Lord and Savior in a lowly stable, I wonder just how silent a night like that could be. Wouldn’t there have been a lot of hustle and bustle around a young mother about to give birth in such an unlikely place? Could the animal occupants, perhaps shooed and unsettled from their regular stalls, hold back their moos, baas, bleats, and other utterances that would normally be heard among them? And what about Mary herself, a young lady having her first child? Would she have delivered without a sound or a cry as she brought forth that baby boy? Though the Word itself is silent on the probable ambient noise surrounding the birth of the infant King, it is not hard to imagine that the awe and wonder of his arrival was met with a holy silence all around as his presence dawned on our fallen world. The Savior, the promise and hope that all mankind so desperately needed, captivated his mother, his earthly father, the animals surrounding him, and the shepherds who came to worship him, and the earth held its collective breath. The same awe and wonder must have captivated Father Mohr as he penned his apt lyrics.
And what about us? How silent is our reception for the Savior of the world? Our lives are most likely filled with parties, plays and concerts, shopping days, baking and cooking, visiting and being visited. We barely have room to breathe let alone make room for an uninterrupted audience with him. The title of the song in its original German language is Stille Nacht. In English, “Stille” can be translated silent, but also quiet, peaceful, calm, and of course, still. How often do we take the time to just be still before the Lord? His Word does encourage us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10, ESV). It is only in the still moments that we can truly reflect on who he is and what his coming means to us and to the world. It is only in the realm of silence that we become aware of the awe and wonder experienced by those who were first in his presence, and we can then become captivated with the One and Only Son of God sent into our world to save us. Can you take some time to be still to focus on his coming this Christmas season?
Click the Music Box
Silent Post
Music Box from the Silent Night Chapel
in Oberndorf, Austria
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:11-12, ESV).

Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright
‘Round yon virgin mother and Child;
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Father Joseph Mohr

References:
Stille Translation
World’s Best Loved Carol
The Story Behind Silent Night
History of the Song
Celebrating Holidays

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The Big Reveal

The Big RevealA few months ago we were delighted to hear from our youngest daughter and her husband that they are expecting their first child next March. As is the trend with today’s parents-to-be, they opted to find out their baby’s gender before birth. Katie had an ultrasound and a blood test done. Though the news was concealed inside an envelope, it was a little too simple to just open it up to know whom they will be welcoming into their family. So, the envelope with the precious information was passed off to a couple with remote acreage. They prepared an elaborate contraption that when hit would explode, shooting the appropriate colored chalk in the air (blue for boy, pink for girl) revealing the gender of the little one Katie is carrying. On the last Saturday of October, we had a celebration brunch with some family and friends and then headed out as a caravan to the said property for the Big Reveal.
Chase is licensed and experienced using a rifle, but it took him a couple times to correctly hit the target, which was about one hundred fifty feet away from him and all of us who were cheering him on. Waiting with great anticipation, many of us held cell phones to catch the “big reveal,” making it a bit hard to pay attention to all the details. When the rifle shot finally made contact with the disclosing mechanism, a small puff of grayish smoke appeared above the target site, leaving most of us a bit confused. Some noticed, however, that a pile of pink chalk had spilled out on the ground, causing them to shout, “It’s a girl!” Daddy-to-be wanted to get it right, however, so the property owner fixed the target, and a few minutes later we watched as a huge pink cloud appeared above the site, causing us all to clap and shout for the news that a baby girl would be born.
Of course, God needed no advanced procedures or technology to foretell the birth of His Son. The first pronouncement came hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, as Isaiah states, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV). The surrounding passage speaks of a great light shining and exceeding joy for the nation of Israel. Closer to the event, God sent the angel, Gabriel, to Mary to reveal that she was carrying His Son. No ultrasound was needed; no blood test was taken; no shot was fired at a faulty device. The almighty God sent His reliable messenger to the chosen mother to let her know that she would have the promised One, and to inform her, “and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31b-33, ESV). Though their conversation was quiet and private, God’s news exploded into the world. There was excitement and celebration when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, and the baby boy she was carrying “leaped for joy.” And Mary glorified the Lord in her celebration of the baby who would be born to her for all mankind.
Jesus’ birth happened just as Mary was told. God employed angels once again to make the grand announcement. It was to shepherds in the field that the angel of the Lord appeared. Though the sight caused the shepherds to be afraid, there was no error or doubt regarding the message. “The angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:10b-14, ESV). The shepherds responded by visiting Jesus and then proclaiming what they had been told by the angel. When they left, they too gave praise and glory to God for the baby boy who was born to be the Savior of the world.
I didn’t mention before that even with the most sophisticated testing to date, gender predictions can be wrong. But God’s accuracy rate is always 100%. Jesus was in fact born, lived a sinless life on earth for thirty-three years, and then died on a cruel tree to make atonement for the sin-stained world. We can rejoice continually because He was resurrected from the dead, and He lives forever to rule and reign. So let the angels sing and the blue chalk fly! ‘Tis the season to remember and celebrate the Big Reveal: “It’s a Boy!” And, He has been born for you.

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The Great Problem Solver

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that our problems seem that much more highlighted during the holiday season. Insufficient finances, broken relationships, self-esteem and depression issues all intensify in the weeks that lead up to and encompass the “season of joy and mirth.” They are often matters over which individuals have no control. Many put on a happy face and muddle through this time of year; others turn to a panacea of their own making, actually adding to their difficulties. Christians should know where to turn, but even with sincere prayers, they hang on to the trouble as if it were a cherished gift opened by a child on Christmas morning. Even possibly having memorized the verses that tell us to “not be anxious about anything,” they are aware of the futility of their actions, but they are unable to cross the divide to full faith and trust in the Lord who truly does care and who has their best interest at heart.
I’m not immune to this dilemma. We are experiencing some serious trials this year within our family circle. I’m the mom of grown children, but a mom is forever a problem solver. We put band-aids on boo-boos, put food on the table for our hungry charges, and wipe away tears caused by our children’s stress and anguish. I was thinking about some of the situations we are facing as a family and verbalizing to the Lord that I, as the mom, want to bring solutions to my children’s problems. I considered the Scripture from Philippians 4:6 that I referenced above: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Verse seven continues: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (1984 NIV). It appears that the verses leave us hanging, wondering as to how the issues about which we are anxious will be addressed by our merciful God. As I continued to ponder the verse, I felt that I heard God’s still, small voice say, “I am The Great Problem Solver.” In that moment, the answer became very clear to me.
When we realize that God is the problem solver, we rest in that truth, and we thank Him for answers that we cannot yet perceive, and His peace will inevitably be ours. I may put band-aids on boo-boos, which is a quick fix at best, but God deals with the deep wounds in a fashion that brings healing from within. I may put food on the table, but God produces and provides the sustenance that I set there. I may wipe away tears from the eyes of my loved ones, but God who sees through to the very heart of their hurts and fears will bring peace and comfort to them as we lead them to surrender all unto His capable hands. I felt relief and peace because a burden really was lifted from my shoulders. I no longer need to carry problems; they are the Lord’s to bear and fix in His time and by His will for our lives.
As many of you, I am still not good at giving up the problem solving title. However, my gift to myself for this Christmas and New Year is to continue to trust in God’s problem solving abilities and thus procure His peace that passes all understanding. May that be a precious gift to you as well this holiday season.
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It’s Time… To Praise

The media is saturated with news that is disconcerting: People in positions of authority or in high visibility careers are committing immoral, if not illegal acts. Previously unknown individuals are solidifying infamous reputations by committing random acts of violence that show no respecter of persons. Unusual weather patterns are wreaking havoc across the world. Identities are stolen, throwing victims into financial crisis. As of late, millions of people are finding that their medical insurance will not pass muster in this new age of government health care.
As we make an attempt to digest the information and deal with disturbing life events, we will choose a personal response. Here are some possibilities: We can panic. Much like Chicken Little we can proclaim, “The sky is falling!” maybe bury our heads in the sand or hole up in a bunker to shield ourselves and our families from the terrible tide. We can be apathetic. We can quote Solomon and say, “there’s nothing new under the sun” and plod on day to day, because, after all, nothing’s changed and nothing ever will. We can pour ourselves into the latest cause, believing that we can effect change. This is a viable option and may bring improvements to our own or other people’s situations, but we need to couple that with an even greater response: We can praise God who is sovereign in every circumstance and desires to give us “a future and a hope.”
We understand from Scripture that God inhabits the praises of His people. When we worship and praise Him, most especially in adverse times, we assure His presence in our midst. What better time could there be for His protection and power?
Intertwined amongst the passages of Isaiah are many verses that foretell adversity for God’s people, but promise His help and safety when they praise Him and Him alone. Here is a sample from Isaiah 43:
“Fear not for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
When you pass through the waters I will be with you;
And through the rivers,
They shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire,
You shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
This people I have formed for Myself.
They shall declare My praise.”
No doubt we are living in perilous times. On the traditional church calendar we are presently in the season of advent, celebrating the arrival of the Christ child. It is possible that on the eternal calendar we are close to the advent of Christ the King, coming for His church. So, while life can be difficult, and we may face more trials in the near future, we are eagerly awaiting our sure hope. Let’s praise the Lord, “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in [our] hearts to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). Surely the Lord’s presence will sustain and revive us. And who knows that it won’t be our final rehearsal for an eternity of worship and praise:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul.
And all that is within me bless His holy name!” Psalm 103:1
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Choose Life

Time and the television have moved on from the tragedy that happened a week and a half ago. Taking place during Hanukah and very close to the Christmas season, some have welcomed the relief of the holidays to move their focus away from something so painful by concentrating on the season known for peace and joy. But, there are many who cannot leave the sadness and heartbreaking images behind. Those who are directly affected by this senseless carnage will always carry scars that this societal wound has inflicted upon them.
I was riveted to the TV, watching the developing story on a national news network. When it first broke, the reports changed often, and the full toll of this act of violence was unknown. But as the day wore on, the tragedy’s full impact was unbelievably distressing: 26 lives gone, 20 of them children. The perpetrator added the life of his mother and his own life to the total. As evidenced in the myriad number of interviews and accounts in the media, we, as a nation, were stunned once again; this was the worst elementary school shooting in the United States, and the second worst school shooting ever, topped only by the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Amidst thoughts and prayers for the families and the hurting community are these contemplations: “What changes need to take place in relation to gun control?” “Do armed guards and airport-quality detectors need to be a part of every school?” “What role do sadistic video games play in the lives of those who perpetrate such crimes?” “Where was God on December 14th in Newtown, CT?” “Is there even a God, and does He care?” “How in the world did this happen again in America?” These will be normal ponderings in the wake of such an event. It is at the core of every caring heart to get to the bottom of this matter of random and pointless violence. However, do these questions address the underlying problem in America and the world today?
As did many pastors on the Sunday following the incident, our pastor addressed the issue. He talked about our society as being immersed in a culture of death. One does not have to look much beyond his backyard to understand the claim. Oh yes, there are still good things happening around us, but too often they are marred and upstaged by road rage and robberies and street gang violence and shootings, and the list goes on and on. Life is no longer precious. Counter to God’s admonition to “choose life,” as a culture we choose death through the things we allow to entertain us, in some of the choices of convenience we make, and even in a few of the laws that have come into being to rule our land. It is through these choices that evil can and will get its foothold. Interestingly, this culture of death is as old as the fall of man, but it seems to be spiraling out of control and is coming ever closer to what one might imagine the setting will be when God says enough and closes out the era of earth and heaven as it presently exists.
So, what is the answer to this dilemma? How best can we choose life, and how do we allow it to guide and direct our steps in and through our walk in this world? As with all things with which we deal in life, the answer is found in the Word of God, and in this case, the Word itself is the answer. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it…The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 14 NIV.
As we allow the Word of God to truly become a part of us, the Lord’s light and life can penetrate our inner thoughts and guide our actions. We can make choices that reflect our close relationship with Him. His Word that is, “sharper than any double-edged sword, [that] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, [will judge] the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12, NIV. Even if years pass, the Holy Spirit can bring to mind a verse or passage from Scripture that will lead us to make a valiant move, or deter us from making a foolish or costly one. The Word, Jesus, will not just dwell among us, but fully in us and make a significant impact on the darkness that is all around us. If only that young man had the Word of God saturating His inner being, would we be living in the shadow of so dark a tragedy as we are today?
Throughout this holiday known as the season of light, “Let Christ’s Word with all its wisdom and richness live in you. Use psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to teach and instruct yourselves about God’s kindness. Sing to God in your hearts. Everything you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Col 3:16-17, GWT. May this serve to provide to you and those around you a light-filled, joyful Christmas and a peaceful New Year.
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Practicing God’s Presence

As a youngster, I had a friend who stuck closer than a brother. His name was Teddy, and lest you think that I met a Theodore at school, church or in the neighborhood, and he became my bosom buddy, Teddy was my stuffed bear. (Incredibly creative name, don’t you think?) No one but me could understand the attraction; he was an ordinary bear to the unperceptive eye. My mom rescued him from the attic of our first home, which had also been her childhood home. A little washing, a little fluffing, and I was in love! No other stuffed character ever matched Teddy’s appeal. Teddy was my constant nighttime companion and was a big part of my daytime play as well. I talked his ear off (almost literally), and the testament to Teddy’s friendship and faithfulness in my life is his presence in a plastic bag on my closet shelf. Despite his ragged and haggard appearance, I just couldn’t bear to get rid of him.
Twice this week in my devotional time, I’ve come across the phrase, “practice the presence of Christ.” As believers, we can always count on God to be with us, but how does one keep himself fully aware of His constant companionship? There are two exercises that instantly come to mind: prayer, along with reading, understanding and memorizing God’s Word.
Unlike Teddy, one cannot see God nor physically touch His being, but He is always there. He does not listen to us with stuffed ears that perceive nothing, but with a compassionate ear and a heart that hears prayers, cares about our needs and “works for the good of those who love Him who have been called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28. He is so attuned to our person and our needs that He even knows those needs before we verbalize them. To speak to Him in prayer confirms and nurtures one’s relationship with Him and allows Him the place to speak back to us in various ways.
While Teddy never entered into the long talks that I initiated, God does! Some will hear the “still small voice” that God can use to speak to the hearts of those who have a relationship with Him. Sometimes God will use circumstances to speak volumes to His children, or He will use the words of others to make an impact on people’s lives. Certainly, God uses His own Word, His letter to humanity, to express His desires, commands, love and grace that He holds for those who follow Him, and to call to those who do not yet know Him in a personal way. When one reads the Bible and makes the literal words and the concepts a part of his being, God can bring those verses and passages to his mind and heart when guidance, comfort or even correction is needed. Taking time to read the Bible and memorize its precious promises, timely advice, and apt cautions will open a direct line of communication to the heart of God. This discipline, combined with prayer, will help one to recognize and acknowledge God’s presence every day.
Goodbye, Teddy. Hello, most gracious, loving Lord! Your presence is my heart’s desire, both now and in eternity. Thank you for the ways that You make yourself known and that I can daily experience Your love and care in my life. Amen!
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