Merry Christmas!

There is a meme floating around that in Iceland, they enjoy Christmas Eve as a day to exchange books, drink hot chocolate, and read. May your Christmas Eve be filled with blessings, love, and lots of reading.

The Announcement of Jesus – Luke 1: 26- 38 (HCSB)

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel  was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,  to a virgin engaged  to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary. 

And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.”  

But she was deeply troubled  by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 

Then the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen:You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob  forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man? ” 

The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth — even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 

“I am the Lord’s slave,”  said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

The Birth of Jesus: Luke 2:1-7 (HCSB)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire  should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth  in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,  because he was of the house and family line of David,  to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him  and was pregnant. 

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough — because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

The Shepherds and the Angels – Luke 2:8-20

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before  them,  and the glory of the Lord  shone around them, and they were terrified.  

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid,  for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  Today a Savior,  who is Messiah  the Lord,  was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you:  You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth  to people He favors!   

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed  at what the shepherds said to them. 

But Mary was treasuring up all these things  in her heart  and meditating on them. 

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God  for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

Merry Christmas!

Today I forgo my usual book review post to wish you a very Merry Christmas. May today be filled with unexpected blessings and time to reflect on the beautiful Savior born to us though we were yet sinners. In case you haven’t had a chance to read the Christmas story this morning, here it is, along with the reason He came and His victory over sin and death.

 

Merry Christmas and God bless you.

 

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Hand-made by a local vendor.

From Luke 2 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while  Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,  because he was of the house and family line of David,  to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. 

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough — because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid,  for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  Today a Savior,  who is Messiah the Lord,  was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you:  You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, 

and peace on earth to people He favors!   

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

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From Luke 23

When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”  And they divided His clothes and cast lots. 

The  people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing:  “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One! ” 

The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine and said, “If You are the King of the Jews,  save Yourself!”

An inscription was above Him: 

THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Then  one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at  Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us! ”

But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God,  since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom! ” 

 

And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

It was now about noon,  and darkness came over the whole land until three, because the sun’s light failed. The curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle. And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.” Saying this, He breathed His last.

 

When the centurion saw what happened, he began to glorify  God, saying, “This man really was righteous! ” All the crowds that had gathered for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, went home, striking their chests. But all who knew Him, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance,  watching these things.

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From Luke 24

On the first day of the week,  very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothesSo the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. 

“Why are you looking for the living among the dead? ” asked the men. “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’? ” And they remembered His words.

Meek but NOT Weak

It was 2 A.M. and I should have been writing a new scene to add to my story, but I wasn’t. I was deleting emails. Those precious hours that I sacrificed sleep for were wasted because I just couldn’t bully my way through anymore edits and I didn’t want to admit it.

Thankfully, God hit me over the head, said “Go to bed. We will talk in the morning.”

A Not So Quiet Time With God

As I have the tendency to do, I hit the floor running and didn’t stop until it was my planning period at school. I had this overwhelming need to just snuggle in with God in a big comfy chair (my imagination would have to do because, hello, school chairs?) and dig into His Word.

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Thankfully, I had planned ahead and brought my Bible so I could verse map Matthew 11:29. As I tore the verse apart and looked at gentle in its original Greek, I came across something so powerful it had to be shared.

Gentle = Meek

The Biblical definition of gentle (Greek word praÿs) is mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness. I am not one to stop at the end of a definition. If there is added text to expand on the meaning, I dig in, and BlueLetterBible.org expounded on meekness and revealed a stunning truth.

Meek Does NOT Mean Weak!

In fact, to be meek requires a great amount of maturity, a certain strength that can only be gleaned through complete reliance on God.

“Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend against injustice.Thus meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time (Isaias 41:17, Luke 18:1-8). Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will (Galaltians 5:23).”

– BlueLetterBible.org

Did that hit you square between the eyes like it did me? Oh, my goodness. It still gives me chills. I just want to soak this up into my soul.

The Meek Are Not Weak

This, THIS is what I want my stories to communicate. I want characters who are learning to wholly rely on God rather than their own strength to defend against injustice. I want them to learn and believe that God is permitting the injuries of the evil to purify His chosen ones – His children – and that He WILL deliver them in His time. I want my characters to learn Meek Doesn’t Mean Weak.

Meek but not Weak

Oh my goodness! My soul yearns for this. Screams for it. This is the message my God wants me to permeate through my writing, and what a magnificent message to magnify! All the stories of danger, hurt, calamity, and pain have a purpose, just like they do in real life. It is not comfortable. It hurts. We hate it.

But by being meek – trusting that God is good and in control of any given situation – we gain our greatest strength, Christ’s strength. To outsiders that may sound strange and it is even hard for mature Christians to wrap their head around, but it is true. Complete reliance on God – being meek – is not the same as being weak.

I want that sort of reliance on God. I want my characters to grow into that sort of reliance on Him. And I want, no,  yearn for you, my beloved reader, to know God’s truth as well. His love is so powerful that even the evil of this world can be used for the purpose of drawing you closer to Him.

Meekness means having a relationship that cannot be broken by the worst of what the world has to offer. It is a strength that doesn’t lose faith.

I pray for you today, that you would let the words soak in, the truth of it to settle into the very depths of every broken part to bring strength, healing, and most importantly dependence on Christ.

Did those words hit home for you, too? Did you take something completely different away from it? I would love to hear your thoughts and to pray for any needs you have. Comment below or contact me on the contact tab of my website.

Blessings, friends. I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy Thanksgiving!

HappyThanksgiving

I pray today is filled with many blessings. I challenge you to count your blessings, not just for the good things but also the bad things. Below is my prayer for you.

 

Dear Lord and Heavenly Father,

We praise Your precious name for who You are. Our minds are incapable of fully understanding Your ways or even Your love. You are Creator, Savior, I AM. You have always been, are right now, and will always be. Thank you.

Forgive us our shortcomings, moments of tempers and complaining, and even the bitterness that sometimes tries to work its way into our day and hearts. Help us to turn our eyes to You and see our family, our cooking, our cleaning, and the service of today through Your eyes.

Thank you for Your Spirit that resides within us, for the sacrifice of Jesus so that we might have Your Spirit and a relationship with You. Thank You, Jesus for Your obedience to death, for Your power to conquer death and bring us back into a personal relationship through Your blood.

Bless my readers today with a spirit of joy and gratitude. Open their eyes to even the smallest blessing, even if it may be in the midst of grief. May those who are alone this holiday be brought into the folds of Your love through the heart and kind gesture of one of Your servants.  Help our focus to be outward and now inward.

It is Your Holy and precious name we pray.

Amen.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

 

InEverythingGiveThanks

WCW: The Comparison Trap

 

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The comparison trap.

We’ve all been warned about it. We all try to avoid it. But it happens… over and over again. So what do we do to combat it? Last week, while in the deepest bouts of comparison, I learned a very important concept.

 

Getting Caught

I am a member of a great learning community called Novel.Academy. God led me there and is continually providing me with the tools to “train” and become the best writer I can be for Him.

Novel.Academy

 

Even as great as it is, it can cripple me too.

After three weeks of being away from writing due to family needs and a traveling husband, I finally stepped back into my story last Monday.  Life continually interrupted, but I was able to confidently write a few times before our lesson on Thursday.

Then I fell in the trap.

 

It was an amazing lesson about writing a synopsis. The example was glorious! There was voice, conflict, and excitement. It was everything I wanted mine to be and more! And then I read my own synopsis…

 

It reads like a manual for installing a toilet. Boring and a bit disgusting if you think about how close your face gets to where people’s butts go… but I digress.

 

I just know there is no way I can write like Susie! My story sounds boring and worthless compared to hers. But she cannot write the story that God has given me… Good to know, just not all that helpful to remember when pinned in the comparison trap.

 

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For a couple hours I struggled, and then finally, I just gave up and went to bed.  Waking up Friday morning, my insecurity lingered like a crippling bout of the flu. I didn’t want to get out of bed. Depression was slipping its cold fingers around my ankles and dragging me down.

 

But children have to be dressed for school, and oops! I guess they will have to buy lunch there because mom took too long fighting to get out of bed herself.

 

It was rough, but I prayed for God to help me, to remind me, and to sustain me, and then forced myself to face the morning.

 

The one bright note was Fridays are my Bible Study days, and we are doing this great study on a book called A Confident Heart by Renee Swope. Knowing how God likes to show off, I asked, “So what are you going to show me today?”

 

The chapter title of Friday’s lesson? When Doubt Whispers “I Don’t Have Anything Special to Offer.”

 

I hope you laughed out loud like I did. I love my God. He is beyond words, so great and amazing. The weight of my depression still had me in its grip, though. Hopping in the car to drive my son to school and then Bible study, my Skillet CD started blaring “Undefeated”.

“Hands on my neck

Foot on my back

Closing in from every side

Bleeding me dry I’m fading fast

Left for dead but I will rise up”

 

That is exactly how I felt.

 

I was in a fight, a battle, and I was being defeated. Then in that last line, “Left for dead but I will rise up” I could see Jesus in my head reaching down to pull me up from the ground. He smiled with the confidence of a warrior and pulled me up with His strength, saying, “We’ve got this.”

 

We. Him and me.  Together we can fight against this stupid comparison trap and I can move forward in my writing journey with Him.

 

Sometimes writing is a battle… a battle against yourself, and you just have to fight the feelings that want to rob us and cripple us on our journey. So if you are in the comparison trap right now, turn on some fight music, imagine Christ pulling you from the ground, and soak up His Word.

“We’ve got this.”

Skillet’s “Undefeated”

Wow God Wednesday: When Angels Go Four-Wheeling

Alright, so I’m breaking off from my Writing Wednesdays because I had to share how God worked on our 4-Wheelong trip at the beginning of November. 

Yes, I am that kind of Kentucky girl. A weekend of primitive camping (aka no running water, no electricity, no bathrooms) and taking my brother’s Jeep Wrangler and an ATV through trails wrought with rocks, ruts, mud pools, and hills that make you lose your lunch.
But to be honest, as much fun as it was, there were some scary moments. And as with death, those moments came in threes.
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Angel Sighting #1

My hubby flipped the ATV while trying to come up over a hill at a corner. I watched it tip and then roll over with his head bopping in and out of view. My heart stopped beating and jumped to my throat. I was out of the Jeep running for him within seconds. Praise the Lord, Travis jumped clear. An angel must have pushed him out of the way because it looked bad as I ran to him. We rolled the ATV back over and off we went again.

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Angel Sighting #2

So, as tomboy as I am, I have never actually driven an ATV. I have ridden but never driven. This trip was my first time and while acclimating myself in the playground area, I decided to tackle a hill that was common of the ones we hit on the trail. Steep and deeply rutted – and pure stupidity on my part.
 I can only laugh as I think of it. The angels who were watching must have responded like this: “Alright, she’s going to do it! Get ready to ride.”
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I made it three quarters of the way up along the deeply rutted path. My leg brushed against the wall of mud and the world began to tilt. I shifted my weight and gave it a little gas…and then the ATV stalled. 
The weak hand breaks could do little to stop or even slow the rapid retreat from the top. I fumbled but never found the foot break. Jerk reaction made me stick my foot out as it tilted precariously far, even though I knew it would not stop the roll and would result in a broken leg at best.  Hitting top speed as I rolled down hill the ATV suddenly swerved and backed up on a rut and stopped half way between a roll and a tilt.
I was still a quarter of the way up from the bottom and my husband abandoned the Jeep to come to my rescue. He talked me through what I needed to do, assuring me that it was more dangerous to just back it up the rest of the way than to finish out the hill. Through his help, a whole hoard or angels, and God’s grace I made it to the top and promptly handing the ATV over to my hubby for the rest of the trip.
Don’t worry. Fear won’t keep me from getting back on, but I need some time on a farm with some flatter land to learn more before I tackle the trails of this weekend.
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Angel Sighting #3 – Even Angels Like to Four-Wheel

At the end of the trip we tied down the ATV to our trailer and had my brother and our kids follow behind us onto Interstate 64. Not a quarter mile off of the on ramp, the straps snapped and the ATV fell off the trailer and bounced onto the highway. My brother slammed on the brakes and missed hitting the ATV. Instead of crossing into traffic the ATV rolled off the road up an embankment and back down onto the shoulder. 
No on was hurt. No vehicle on the interstate was hurt, and most miraculous of all? The ATV had no damage. Did I mention we borrowed the ATV from my husband’s uncle? Simply amazing.

So while we were out enjoying a weekend of off-roading, our angels had an exciting weekend of miraculously keeping us safe – and taking the ATV for a joy ride.
As we like to say, God is good all the time and all the time God is good.
How have you seen God work in your life this week?
P.S. Enjoy some of the pictures and videoes from our weekend!

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