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It Just Wasn’t The Same

Christmas Day has come and gone and we survived. It was the first Christmas without my mom. My mom loved everything about Christmas. Many years, she began decorating for Christmas almost before the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers were in the fridge. She decorated every room in her house, except the bedrooms. I’m sure that’s where I got my love of decorating for Christmas. (I don’t love taking the decorations down.) She loved the Christmas carols and for as long as I can remember until her health began to fail, she sang in the Christmas cantatas and special Christmas programs at her church.

For years, her sister, my aunt Grace, would arrive early on Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, and they would begin baking dozens of different Christmas cookies, candies and cakes. By late the next day, they were exhausted but proud. There was enough cookies, candies, and cakes to open their own bakery. But that’s not why they did it. They divided the baked goods, and my mom gave some away in small gift boxes and used the remainder to serve, as she and my dad entertained many times in December. When my sister and I married, it became our tradition to join in on the baking days.

Marie, my sister, and I would also take my mom shopping one day during December. For reasons I won’t go into here, my mom never drove, even though she learned how and got her driver’s license. So we would take her shopping. But it wasn’t a hardship or inconvenience. We loved spending the day with her at the malls as she shopped for my dad and other relatives and friends.

This year, my sister and I carried on these traditions started years ago. We shopped and laughed together one day. One afternoon, we baked and we laughed. (If you don’t believe I baked, check out my Facebook page. I have pictures to prove it.)

On Christmas Day, my sister  and her family had their Christmas meal at lunch and exchanged their gifts. Then, those who could come, including my dad, came to my home for dinner and sharing gifts. Everyone did well until my daughter opened her’s and Stephen’s gift from my dad. She got teary-eyed, then I got teary-eyed and my sister’s eyes filled with tears. That only lasted a moment and we moved forward.

I’m at my sister’s now, staying with my dad while Marie and her husband take a long weekend break. I asked my dad how Christmas lunch went and he answered, “It went okay. But it just wasn’t the same.”

And he’s right. It just wasn’t the same.

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Day 25: THE GIFT OF HIMSELF

 

Good Morning and Merry Christmas! I understand with the dawning of Christmas Day, Advent has ended. And yet, the priceless gift, given for all, comes to us in a baby . . .

Luke 2 (New King James Version)

Christ Born of Mary

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Glory in the Highest

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, 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, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[d] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.”

The beginning of our Savior’s life. His life begins humbly, in lowly surroundings. But His beginning did not stop in from doing anything that God had sent him to earth to do. He answered the call on His life.

What about you? What about me? Have we allowed our beginnings and our history to keep us from answering God’s call? If so, it’s not too late. He remains at the door, knocking. All we have to do is answer, by opening the door.

Abba Father, You have given your most precious, your greatest gift—Your son. He willingly came to earth and was born in a manger in a stable. What a humble beginning for the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. At the end of His life, He was victorious over all. May we, your sons and daughters, not look at our beginning or our history or even where we are today, but look to You and answer Your call. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I pray, AMEN and AMEN.

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Day 22: The Gift of Administration

 

1 Corinthians 12:28
And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

Years ago, I wondered why God created the gift of administration. I considered it one of the “lesser” gifts – not that there is such a thing.  I asked God one day why He created the gift of administration and He quickly showed me that He is a God of Order. When He created the world and all that is within, He did it in an orderly fashion. On the first day, He created light and dark. On the second day, He created the sky, separating the water from the sky. On the third day, He created the land. He didn’t create light one day and go back three or four days later and create dark.  There was organization and order to what He did. Okay – I got it – and once I got it, He showed me that what I had assumed I had learned over the years of being in the administration field, wasn’t the case at all. He had given me the gift of administration. To the extreme. I write that, not to brag at all, but to say that I can drive people nuts (and have done so) because I am so organized. I make lists for everything. I sometimes jokingly say I need a list of the current running lists I have!

This gift has been and is truly a blessing. It has opened doors for promotion in my career that I probably would not have gotten without this gift. It has saved my job countless times as various bosses run out the door, yelling, “where’s the…..” and I find the requested item and hand it to him/her before apoplexy starts. And the gift has helped keep me on track personally. Just don’t come to my house and look in my closets – the gift of administration stops at all my closet doors and refuses to go in!! J

How has the gift of administration helped me spiritually?  I have served in numerous volunteer positions in churches over the years and I have used this gift in many of those positions, especially in teaching and in committee work.

I have served as a Church Business Administrator for over fifteen years at two different churches.  Many people do not want to think of the church as a “business” and I totally agree with their viewpoint. A church is a ministry, but there is a business aspect to it. After all, if there is not someone to make sure the power bill gets paid, the ministry will cease to function very quickly.  But the gift is also used in other aspects of the church office.  Countless numbers of times I have been used to talk to people who are in need of encouragement, who need prayer, who need someone to listen. I have been humbled and honored to be the one to talk and pray with them. How does administration play into that? It allows me to adjust my schedule to help these people, which is what I love to do.

I am also a Christian counselor and have had the opportunity to counsel a number of people on being organized and time management. If a person’s lack of organization prevents them, for whatever reason, from doing what God has called them to do, then that is an aspect of their life that they should work on improving so they can do the things God has for them to do.

So the gift I thought of as a “lesser” gift has and continues to play an important role in my life. I love every aspect of administration and I am grateful to God for blessing me with this gift.

Has God gifted you with the gift of administration? If so, are you using it to His glory? If not, and you desire to be more organized, pray and ask for the gift of administration. Before you know it, you just might be making lists, too!

Father God, Your gifts are beyond measure!  How awesome it is that You know the very gifts we need and You bestow those gifts upon us!  Thank you, Abba Father.  May we never take any gift for granted, but use them to bring You honor and glory! AMEN!!

 

 

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Day 21: The Gift of Family and Friends

. . . but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 24b

God has gifted me today with a wonderful family and great friends. If you have read my past blogs, you probably read about my family. I am married to my soul mate and best friend, Dave. I have two wonderful adult children, Kim and Kyle and a fantabulous (my new word I created: a combination of “fantastic” and “fabulous”) grandson, Mackenzie. I am blessed that my parents are still living* and I have one sister who I love dearly. There are also “family” members who, although not related by blood, they are still precious family to me.

God has blessed me with many faithful friends throughout the years. (There is not enough space to write about all of them and to avoid offending anyone, I have left out the names of the two that I mention.) I have one friend with whom I grew up. Our parents were best friends and she and I have been friends for as long as I can remember. We don’t get to spend as much time together as I would like, but when we get together, it’s as if we had seen each other the day before.

Another friend is a strong and mighty prayer warrior. I know that I can call her any time – day or night – and she will drop what she is doing and pray with me over the phone. She has a delightful laugh that cheers me instantly when I hear it!

I have a number of “online” friends through the American Christian Fiction Writers group. I had the pleasure of meeting some of these writers in September at the ACFW Conference and they are just as sweet sincere in their desire to help in person as they are online.  These men and women will take time out of their incredibly busy schedule to answer questions, give advice, and/or encouragement when needed. Many of them are successful, published authors who made a commitment to help those of us who are just getting started. And they keep their commitment every day.

I belong to a group of writers, Christian Writers United, in the county where I live. This group started in November, 2008, so we are just a little over two years old. Some of the original members left and some new members joined and we have become a cohesive family. The members in this group are exhorters and no one puts him/herself above anyone else in the group. We are there to encourage and support one another.

I saved my very best friend for last. There really is a “Friend who sticks closer than a brother” and his name is Jesus. We are all human and as hard as we may try to not fail our friends, there will be times when we do. It’s the nature of the beast. This Friend, however, will never fail us. He will never leave us or forsake us. He is available 24/7/365. He loves us unconditionally, extravagantly, recklessly. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior and Best Friend, find a Bible and read Romans 10:8-13. Pray and ask Jesus to be your Savior and Best Friend. It will be a friendship for eternity.

Abba Father, thank you for being the Friend that is closer than a brother. I pray that if anyone reads this devotional and does not know you as their Savior, that they will read Romans 10:8-13 and will pray to receive You into their heart. I pray that You will bring Christian friends into their lives to help them as they begin their friendship with You. I ask your blessings on my family and friends and on the families and friends of everyone who reads this devotional.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

* Since the writing of this post in 2009, my mother went home to be with her Heavenly Father, and her earthly father and mother. This will be our first Christmas without her. She loved Christmas and it will not be the same without her.But I know she is having the most magnificent and holiest of Christmas celebrations ever!

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Day 20: The Gift of Freedom

 

My present today was the gift of freedom.  When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he sets us free from the bondage of sin. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36) Once saved, our lives are no longer tangled up in sin and shame.

The Bible says that where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (II Cor. 3:17) This is so true. Have you ever been in a worship service or even been worshipping by yourself, and you knew the Spirit of the Lord was present? You felt completely free during that time to worship uninhibitedly, freely.

We are given the freedom to approach God.  In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. (Eph. 3:12) We don’t have to build up our courage, or wait until we think the timing is right. We don’t have to wait for an invitation. We have the freedom to approach God any time – day or night.

The freedoms that I mentioned fall into a category that I call spiritual freedoms.

There are also freedoms that I call secular freedoms. These are freedoms that allow us to express our beliefs publically. We have the freedom to worship where we please, when we please and how we please. We do not have to hide our Bibles, much less our faith. We are free to witness to others anytime. We have the right to assemble together in church buildings and storefront buildings and borrowed locations all over America. My concern is that these freedoms are in grave danger. Other religions in America are being given preferential treatment while Christianity is being choked out of existence. We as Christians need to stand up for our rights and not have the defeatist attitude that seems to have overtaken so many. I, for one, love my freedom to worship publically and do not want to lose it.

Father God, I pray that you will give us the courage to stand up for our rights as  Christians. I pray that You will show us when to act, what to do and what to say. I ask that You stir the hearts of all Christians that we might stand united as one for our religious freedoms. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Day 19: The Gift of Contentment

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

The Apostle Paul wrote these verses as he sat in a dirty, foul-smelling Roman prison. Yet, he was truly content. Had that been me, I’m sure I would have been screaming – furious at the lack of cleanliness, furious at the circumstances, furious at the unfairness of it all.

Still, I have experienced times of true contentment. I have realized that these times of true contentment are when I have listened and been obedient to what God has told me to do. Or the times when I have relinquished to God a problem I’ve been wrestling with and I’ve left that problem with Him to solve. I’ve completely let go of worrying about it, of trying to “fix it” and left it in Jesus’ most capable hands to resolve it as He sees fit. That is very hard for me to do – I’m such a fixer – I want to fix everything. And I’m impatient too. I want to fix it and I want to fix it NOW! So in addition to giving that problem to God, I have to be content with His timetable – not mine. It’s not easy, but I’m learning. One thing I do know – God’s solutions are always more satisfactory than mine would ever be and the contentment is much sweeter than when I try to fix the problem. In fact, there is no contentment when I try to fix the situation.

My commitment is to learn to live in true contentment all the time. It should be easy. All I have to do is unfurl this fist that is tightly woven around this problem…..

Father, I ask in the name of Jesus, that You would help us let go of the problems that would prevent us from being content. I pray that You would enable us to leave those problems in Your hands, knowing that Your solutions are always for the best. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

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Day 18: The Gift of Time

 

In the busiest season of the year, who could not use a gift of more time in the day?  I certainly could! Instead of 24 hours, could I have 30? Here’s the thing: if I had 30, I’d need (or at least think I’d need) 35 hours in a day. Just like a suitcase that is bulging at the seams, I can always pack more “stuff” into my schedule. Do you think God had me (and you other “A type” personalities) in mind when He assigned only 24 hours to each day? Maybe He doesn’t want us to cram as much as we possibly can into each day. Interesting thought…

If God doesn’t want us to fill our day completely with our “to-do” list, what does He want us to do with the gift of time He has given each of us?

Some time ago, I wrote a blog on what God wants me to do each day. The premise of the blog was to ask God every morning what He wanted me to do that day. I would listen, and whatever He told me to do, I would do it to the best of my ability with His help. Some days, there would not be a specific answer from God. However, there are things God expects us to do every day without having to be told: to be His light in the world; to be Jesus to everyone we meet throughout the day; help those in need, to the best of our ability; to “pray without ceasing.” (I Thess. 5:17)

There is also this little word “priorities.” I fully believe that God is a God of order and priorities. He showed us this in the book of Genesis, when He created the world. Each day, God created specific things—light, sky, land, birds, creatures of the sea, animals, man and woman. There was an order to everything He did and there is still an order to His work today. So what are our priorities for each day? Obviously, mine will not look like yours, and yours will not look like mine. Yet, there should be a few priorities that are the same. We should all have our Bible reading and prayer time as one of the top priorities on our schedule. If we don’t, we need to re-do our schedule. I realize that some people cannot have their Bible reading and prayer time early in the morning because of their work schedule or other obligations. But those two activities need to be on our schedules.

No matter what our schedules look like—if we have a job outside the home, if we are stay-at-home moms whose schedule is even busier than those who work outside the home, if we are the breadwinner, a single mom, a widow or widower, it makes no difference. God expects us to use our time wisely. After all, He gave us the gift of time. Should we not use it the way He desires us to use it?

Father God, thank You for the gift of time. Thank You that, in Your wisdom, You only gave us twenty-four hours a day. Every day, but especially during this season, help each one of us to use our days to do what You would have us to do. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.