I could not wait to get home Tuesday night.
For King and Country was playing on CMA Christmas.
This Christian pop duo was performing their rendition of The Little Drummer Boy.
Did you know that the first recorded version of this song was in 1951 and was performed by the Trapp Family Singers?
Yes, the same family that inspired the Sound of Music.
The Little Drummer Boy has been performed by a variety of artists over the years, from Bing Crosby to Johnny Cash, The Brady Bunch to Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Bob Dylan to Justin Beiber.
But this is my favorite version of the popular Christmas song.
And it is not just because I fangirl over Joel and Luke Smallbone.
The inspiring performance to an audience of believers and non believers alike Tuesday night brought the lyrics to life for me in a new way.
For King and Country was not performing a song.
They were truly offering their gifts to our King.
And they played their best for Him like I have never seen before.
It literally gave me chills and brought me to tears at the same time.
The song that I have heard since childhood stirred inside me and forced me to search my heart in a deeper way.
What do I have that is fit to offer our King?
What could I possibly offer that He would want?
[ What God Wants ] “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you? He wants you to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him. He wants you to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.” Deuteronomy 10:12 NLV
“And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 NLV
God simply wants us to love Him.
That is a gift each one of us can offer to our King.
Do I really play my best for Him?
What does my best look like to our Creator?
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. Matthew 5: 43-47 MSG
Friends, these are questions not just to ask on the day we celebrate our Savior’s birth, but each and every day.
What do we have that is fit to offer our King?
Do we play our best for Him?
Our love for Him and for each other is the present that we can all offer our King.
Let’s offer our best to Him today.
“Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart. Do it for the Lord and not for men.”
Colossians 3: 23 NLV
It was seven pages of a heart conversation.
An expression of love and gratitude written from my mother to hers.
The letter was dated December 31, 1958.
It seemed so fitting to find it on Thanksgiving Eve.
This treasure surfaced last night as I was searching for old pictures.
There is just something about seeing my mother’s handwriting….
Insert ugly crying here.
Before texting and emails, there was the lost art of letter writing.
As I read her words, I could hear her voice narrating the letter aloud as if she were sitting right beside me.
She was in “sentimental mood” as she put it, missing those she could not be with during the holiday season.
I know this ache.
Many of you know it, too.
So she did what I always knew my mother to do: she put her thoughts on paper.
Sometimes her thoughts came in the form of a letter, sometimes a poem.
But they always came from her heart.
Heart conversations to those she loved.
This particular letter had been addressed to my grandmother, Mom’s brother Dick and his wife Jane, and their two children, Dicky and Faye.
She had a word for each of them.
Pride for Dick, for the husband and father he was, with a “wonderful faith in God and mankind.”
Love for his wife, Jane for teaching her about the virtue of patience.
And a heartfelt poem to my grandmother, because “they have not yet thought up words to describe you.”
She was grateful for each one of them in her life and took the time to tell them just that.
Paul wrote letters as well.
He had a word for God’s people and shared his gratitude for their role in sharing the Good News.
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1: 3 – 8
Friends, words of love and gratitude are timeless.
And on this Thanksgiving Day, know from the bottom of my heart I give thanks to my God for all of you.
Blessings in heaps!
It’s that time of year again.
The clocks are turned back, and instantaneously 5:00 pm feels like 9:00 pm.
There seems to be more darkness than light.
Where did the sun go?
The sun feels further away, even though I know that it is still there.
This powerful force is the earth’s primary source of energy.
It provides warmth to our bodies of water, our land and our atmoshphere.
Absorbing the sun’s rays seems to provide warmth to our souls as well.
But this energy is not only absorbed by the earth, but also can be reflected back into the atmosphere.
This is referred to as the albedo effect.
Albedo lets us know how much of the sun’s energy actually gets here and affects the earth’s temperarture.
A planet or a moon with a low albedo absorbs the radiation that falls on it and does not reflect anything back into the atmosphere.
As a result, it does not shine brightly.
But a planet or moon with a high albedo reflects a lot of light back into the atmosphere.
Some surfaces tend to be a very reflective, such as snow.
It reflects back that energy that falls on it.
I love to see God in the details of our lives.
Somedays, there seems to be more darkness than light.
And on those days, I am tempted to ask “where did the Son go?”
He feels further away, even though I know that He is still there.
Jesus is my primary source of energy, providing warmth to my soul.
And just like having a low albedo, on the days I am self absorbed, I do not shine brightly.
I do not reflect His light or love back into the world.
But if we allow Him to, He will make us like snow.
“Take away my sin, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and happiness. Let the bones that You have broken be full of joy. Hide Your face from my sins. And take away all my wrong-doing.
Make a clean heart in me, O God. Give me a new spirit that will not be moved.
Psalm 51: 7 -11 (NLV)
Just like the snow, I can then reflect back His love and light into a world that needs His energy.
Friends, we all experience dark days when the Son feels far away.
But He is always there.
Absorb His light today and remember to reflect His love back into the atmosphere.
Thanksgiving is almost upon us.
And while many of us are planning out our meals or our travel plans, we often miss the essence of the holiday.
Thank you : two simple words, sometimes said casually in passing or quickly in a text to a friend.
But how often do we consider the things that someone has done for us; pause and really thank them for what they’ve done?
My friend, Dawn, is someone who takes the time to pause, ponder and pray.
She never misses an opportunity to stop, reflect and write a note of gratitude to those around her.
This is one of the things I cherish about her.
Each week as I write, she takes time out of her schedule to proofread and offer me feedback.
I cannot tell you how much her support and time have meant to me over the past year.
Every time I think of her, I give my God thanks.
Jesus had a busy schedule, but He always made time to pause, ponder and pray.
“But the news about Him was spreading farther, and large crowds kept gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their illnesses. But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray (in seclusion). “ Luke 5 15-16 AMP
Jesus was deliberate.
He made it a priority to pause.
As the busyness of the holiday season is quickly approaching, my challenge to you is this:
- Pause . Take a breath and be still.
- Ponder. Consider those around you and how important they are in your life.
- Pray. Thank God for this person and pray for them.
As I pause today, I ponder who may be reading this blog.
Know that I am thankful for you, and pray that God’s love and peace overflow in your life.
Take the time today to pause, ponder and pray using this free download from God2Share.
Today is the day.
She will have the test.
I cannot be with her, this beautiful woman forever connected to my soul.
I wish I could sit by her side.
Gently hold her hand.
Offer her some kind of peace as she walks through this storm.
There is a helpless feeling that goes along with watching someone we love so dearly go through something so painful.
Maybe you know that feeling.
Maybe the person you love isn’t facing a health crisis.
Maybe they are going through a divorce, the loss of a loved one, financial problems or addiction.
The pain we face takes many different forms.
We want to be with those who are connected to our souls.
Sit by their sides.
Gently hold their hands.
Offer them some kind of peace as they walk through the storm.
But even when we cannot sit with those we love, we can lift them up to the One who never leaves their side.
“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4 : 5 -7
I am grateful that when I cannot be there, I know that He always will be.
My feelings of helplessness turn to hope.
Father, I know today you are with her.
You are connected to her soul.
May she feel You sitting by her side,
Gently holding her hand.
I pray she feels the peace You offer as she walks through this storm.
May the love and prayers we offer to those we love and hold so dearly carry them through the storms of life.
Pray to the One who never leaves their side or ours.
It is a rainy October morning
There is a chill in the air.
I pull out the afghan my grandmother made me and curl up on the couch with my coffee.
This treasure is over 30 years old.
When Tootie was still alive, she crocheted afghans for everyone.
Children, grandchildren, great grandchildren.
She made afghans for my friends, and even made matching ones for me and my roommate when I went to college.
When she had enough money, we would go to Newberry’s so she could buy more Wintuk yarn to make more afghans.
She did not have much, but she offered whatever she had.
Her afghans and prayers.
And she offered both until her last breath.
This was her way of showing love.
We do not always recognize the ways others show love.
To some, this covering is just simply a blanket.
But for me, to know what went into making this love offering makes this afghan a timeless treasure.
Jesus recognized how others showed their love for Him.
“Now when Jesus was [back] in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very expensive perfume and she poured it on Jesus’ head as He reclined at the table. But when the disciples saw it, they were indignant and angry, saying, “Why all this waste [of money]? For this perfume might have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware [of the malice] of this [remark], said to them, “Why are you bothering the woman? She has done a good thing to Me. You always have the poor with you; but you will not always have Me. When she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. I assure you and most solemnly say to you, wherever this gospel [of salvation] is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her [for her act of love and devotion].” Matthew 26: 1-13 AMP
To some, pouring this expensive perfume from the alabaster vial onto the head of Jesus was seen as wasteful.
But for Jesus, He knew what went into bringing this offering.
This was her way of showing love to Him.
An act of love and devotion.
One that would be told about for many years to come.
As I look down at this worn afghan, it reminds me that love is shown in different ways.
May God give us the eyes to see the many ways love is offered to us.
May He also help us to find the ways we can offer our love to a broken world.
Even if it is through afghans and prayers.
Going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do.
Having a variety of choices appeals to both me and my family.
And if I get out of being the resident short order cook for one evening, that is always a bonus.
One of my friends cannot just order off the menu.
I will refer to her as Sally.
If you have seen When Harry Met Sally, this will make perfect sense.
For those of you who have not, suffice to say that she will customize her order, adding or deleting this or that, or making substitutions.
It always makes me chuckle.
She deconstructs her meal every time.
This dining out experience got me thinking about how we try to make our faith “made to order”.
We deconstruct our faith.
With the free will God has given us, we sometimes try to order it just the way we would like it.
I will have God on Sunday, with a side of Christmas and Easter.
Please hold the small groups or Bible studies.
Can I substitute reading the Bible for a movie with an uplifting message instead?
Before we know it, we have watered down our relationship with God into an ala carte experience.
Friends, I am not throwing stones here.
I need this message.
Maybe you do, too.
God wants us to be fully filled and satisfied.
Our Heavenly Father nourishes us through the Word.
“But Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man is not to live on bread only. Man is to live by every word that God speaks.’” Matthew 4:4 NLV
We cannot hear the words He speaks to us if we are not spending time with Him.
Going without eating for days leaves us feeling weak.
Going without being in His Word and presence also leaves us weak.
And just like we are more susceptible to illness when we are undernourished, we are also more susceptible to the enemy when we are only filled on Sundays and holidays.
We take in food and drink to strengthen our bodies.
In the same way, we take in the Word to strengthen our souls and prepare us for whatever life brings our way.
“Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.” Ephesians 6: 13-18 MSG
God wants us to have a daily diet of His love and grace.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6 : 11 AMP
But God is not only referring to bread that fills us, but also to the Bread of Life that sustains us daily.
“Jesus replied to them, ‘I am the Bread of Life. The one who comes to Me will never be hungry, and the one who believes in Me [as Savior] will never be thirsty [for that one will be sustained spiritually].” John 6:35 AMP
Made to order : our way or His way?
Which way will you order today?
It was a heartbreaking post.
A woman who for decades dedicated her life to military service, was deployed multiple times overseas and sacrificed so much was told she did not qualify for a particular program that offered the care that she needed.
What does it take to be qualified?
My mind wandered to others areas where this word qualify stands out.
The Boston Marathon immediately came to mind.
Having some friends who are runners, I know that you have to achieve a certain time in order to qualify for this prestigious race.
The dedication it must take to prepare for one of these marathons, the daily training and commitment amazes me.
But even with all of the training and sacrifice, it is still possible to be denied a spot.
According to the Boston Athletic Association, there were over 30,000 applications received from qualified runners for registration last year.
Just over 23,000 were accepted.
Due to field size limitations, over 7,000 people, despite being qualified, were not accepted to participate.
It does not seem to make sense.
Qualified but not accepted.
Can you imagine the heartbreak of knowing you have sacrificed so much only to be told you are not accepted?
Yet some of these runners made the sacrifice anyway.
So did Jesus.
Because of Him, I am both qualified and accepted.
And I know that I am not qualified because of anything I have done.
“By ourselves we are not qualified in any way to claim that we can do anything. Rather, God makes us qualified.” 2 Corinthians 3:5 GW
I am not sufficient by myself, but through Him I have what I need to be qualified.
The sacrifice that makes me accepted was not my own.
It was HIS.
There are no field size limitations that take me out of the race.
There is a spot for everyone.
“My Father’s house has many rooms. If that were not true, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you?” John 14: 2
Everyone who believes qualifies to be a part of His kingdom.
Qualified and accepted.
This morning I woke up and thanked God for the blessed union of souls.
No, not the 90’s rock band.
We will talk about them in a minute.
21 years ago today God joined my soul with John’s.
Happy Anniversary to my hunky husband.
I can still feel the weight of the beaded train of my ivory wedding dress as if it were yesterday.
I can still feel his hands holding mine as we said our vows in front of our family and friends.
To stand by your side and sleep in your arms.
To forgive as we have been forgiven.
It was a picture perfect autumn day.
But married life is not perfect.
After you cut the cake and toss the bouquet, you begin the journey of living out your vows.
For over two decades, we have stood by each others sides during some of the most painful and vulnerable moments we have ever endured.
Raising children, the illnesses and deaths of parents, my battle with cancer, job changes –
Our love has endured through many changes and seasons.
We have found refuge from the world sleeping in each other’s arms.
We have had to forgive each other many times since we said “I do.”
Cue the 90’s band, Blessid Union of Souls.
In their song, I Believe, they tell listeners that “love is the answer.”
And they are correct.
But it is how love is defined in His word that is the answer.
This passage of scripture is read over and over again at weddings.
It was read at our wedding.
“ Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 NLT
We forget when we get married, that we are joining two flawed and human souls together.
Our feelings get in the way of the promises we make to each other.
We forget to be patient and kind.
There are days we want our own way.
There are days that we are irritable and rude.
There are days that we keep a tally list of the things we think our spouse has done wrong.
And then we are reminded of this verse.
Love does not have to have its own way.
Love is not irritable or rude.
Love does not keep a list of wrongs.
Love forgives quickly.
God shows each of us this love.
I need a daily reminder of this definition in all of my relationships.
I am grateful for a husband who understands the meaning of love.
But it is because He first loved us that we are able to continue to love each other through this crazy thing called life.
Love is the answer to all of the questions we have.
Today I am thankful for this blessed union of souls.
And I am forever grateful to the One who joined these two flawed and human souls together.
Today is the first day of October.
These past few months have included a season of firsts.
First child graduating high school.
First child going to college.
First time for me checking the “50-59” box.
Joyful and celebratory moments.
But this particular week on the calendar takes me back to a season of lasts.
Even though eight years have passed since Dad’s death, these moments continue to be raw as if they happened yesterday..
Fall marks the end of one season and the beginning of another in many ways for me.
My body is flooded with memories and emotions as I enter the room where Dad and Mom lived out their last years.
The green leather couch remains and my body settles into the place where Dad last sat.
It is in this room where Dad ate his last meal from the Snydersville Diner.
How I miss going there for lunch with him, eating at ‘the big table,” as he liked to call it.
It is here we had our last conversation and he smiled at me for the last time.
How I miss our talks about anything and everything.
How I miss his smile.
In this room, Dad drew his last breath.
How I miss his presence each and every day.
His last night is not something I talk about often.
To see the shell lying in that rented hospital bed that was once a strong able body, knowing that as each moment passed, Dad was slipping further and further away was a painful image.
His last hours were so restless.
He could not seem to get comfortable.
My mother stroked his head.
My sister rubbed his arm and held his hand.
I curled up beside him to try to calm him.
We spoke softly to him, prayed over him.
At one point, he raised his arms and said :
“Lift me up, lift me up.”
My mother, sister and I were at a loss of what to do.
And then we knew.
We were all holding onto him.
The husband and father could not let go.
He was between two seasons.
One at a time, we quietly left his bedside.
We all remained in the room, keeping watch from a distance.
His body began to relax.
And just as the leaves fall from the trees, there was a gentle letting go.
A change of seasons.
As I reflect on those last moments with him, I know deep in my heart he was getting ready to enter a season of firsts.
First time in his new body, free of pain or discomfort.
First time being reunited with family members and friends who had gone on before him.
First time seeing Jesus.
Joyful and celebratory moments.
Friends, there will be many seasons of firsts and lasts.
But God reminds us in His word that there is a season for everything in our lives.
“For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
A time for war and a time for peace.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 NLT
Friends, I do not know what season of life you are in at this moment.
Some seasons are joyful, others more painful and raw.
But in every season, He is with us.