Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fried Cabbage for New Year's Day

Do you find yourself cooking the traditional black-eyed peas or cabbage for New Year's Day? It seems to be a thing some Southerners do. If you're one of those, here is a recipe from allrecipes.com you might want to try. 

Fried Cabbage with Bacon, Onion, and Garlic

6 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large head cabbage, cored and sliced
1 tsp. salt, (changed from original recipe, so you may want to add more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika

1. Place the bacon in a large stockpot and cook over medium-high heat until crispy, about 10 minutes. 
2. Add the onion and garlic; cook and stir until the onion caramelizes, about 10 minutes. 
3. Immediately stir in the cabbage and continue to cook and stir another 10 minutes. 
4. Season with salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and paprika. 
5. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes more.

Monday, December 30, 2013

2014 Bible Studies

Plan now to participate in a Bible Study beginning this new year. 

Carol Stroud teaches Precept upon Precept. They will be studying Luke Part 1, a new 12 week study on Tuesdays from 9am-11am beginning Jan. 21 and going through April 5, with a week off in March for spring break. 

There will be a Monday night and a Tuesday morning study of Jennifer Rothschild's Missing Pieces: Real Hope When Life Doesn't Make Sense. It is 7 weeks and will be meeting on 
Monday nights from 6:30-8:00 and on Tuesday mornings from 9:30-11:15. Classes begin February 3 and 4 and will continue until March 24 and 25, with a week off in March for spring break. 

To sign up for the Bible Studies, sign the sheets on the Ministry Table in the Welcome Center or call Lisa at the church office. 

If you need childcare on Tuesday mornings, please register as soon as possible, indicating children's names and ages on the sign-up form.

Word for the Week...and the New Year

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, 
the author and perfecter of our faith, 
who for the joy set before him 
endured the cross, 
scorning its shame, 
and sat down at the right hand 
of the throne of God. 
Hebrews 12:2

This is the verse our pastor preached on yesterday and has chosen for our church for 2014. He encouraged us to focus on Jesus...

...to recognize that the only way to win the race of life is to keep our eyes on Jesus. 

...to realize that when hard times come (and they will), we are not to start with our circumstances and then try to find Jesus. We are to start with Christ and then let Him guide us through our circumstances. He encouraged us with Peter Lord's words, "Glance at your problems; gaze on God."

...to remember that when we feel like giving up, we are winners already in God's eyes. Christ is seated, which means the victory is won. It is finished. 

...to remember that in Christ, there's full acceptance, peace, life, blessing, light, power, grace, joy, strength, and much more. 

...to remember that everything we need, we'll find in Jesus. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Storing Christmas Decorations by Stacy McSpadden

When we sell various items at the store for the Christmas season, people always ask one common question...how do I pack this up?

This is particularly true of Christmas wreaths and garlands.  They are some of the biggest items to pack away, but also some of the most delicate. The best way to insure that your wreaths and door hangings stay safe is to place them in a loose fitting plastic leaf bag to prevent dust, then hang them in the attic or lay flat. This provides a minimum chance of crushing to the wreath. Same is true for garlands. Wrap them loosely in plastic and lay flat across a wide area. The good news is that if the ribbons are flattened, then you can usually fluff them up because most ribbon these days is wired.

Bows are another thing that no one seems to know how to store. Jackie Crone taught me that if you take your bows and tie them to coat hangers, then you can usually hang them in the attic or closet without crushing them. There again, you might want to cover them with loose plastic. If you want extra assurance that those loops stay intact, then stuff some wads of tissue paper in the loops to keep their shape.

Just a couple of thoughts as you tackle putting up those Christmas decorations!

Stacy McSpadden
Interior Designer and Store Manager
Chestnut Hall Fine Furniture and Interiors
3075 Forest Hill Irene Road
Germantown, Tennessee 38138
901.753.8515 phone
901.756.1966 fax

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

God With Us by Christie Smith

(One of Christie's young relatives suddenly went to be with Christ recently. Let's remember to pray for her family during this time of rejoicing at Christ's coming yet grieving over the loss of a dear loved one.)

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were busy with decorations and lights and gift-buying. We were just beginning to recover from all the turkey we ate over Thanksgiving. And having tasted the joy of time spent with our families, we couldn't wait for the days of Christmas to experience that joy again. Now, instead of rushing around to finish our holiday preparations right before Christmas, we stop. We come together not with hearts filled with joy, but hearts overflowing with grief. We come to remember. We come to support. We come to pour our tears into our cupped hands, the only offering we have. 

We come together in times of celebration and in times of desperation. At the beginning of new lives...those being joined in holy matrimony and those entering this world for the first time. And now, as we say goodbye to one of those lives that touched everyone he knew...we gather again as family. 

We struggle to understand, but it is in this struggle that we experience our deepest emotions. And the deepest places are an invitation to touch the Holy. 

I wonder why it is that those moments of grief and despair feel so much like those same feelings of joy and peace? We sing the hymns of old on our wedding days and again on our last days with the ones we love. How can it be that the same song could cause a heart to bleed the tears on the altar of marriage and at the altar of remembrance? I don’t know for sure why the difference between joy and grief feels as thin as lace, with holes that see through and catch a glimpse of the other side.

But what if that thin line between grief and joy is the holy ground where we most know the innocence of a newborn baby while touching the bright red spilling out from the side of the Christ.

I wonder if these deep places, these gaping holes left in our hearts when our loved ones die, are where we bow down next to the manger and can finally see Jesus and actually understand the phrase "God among us."

Is the reason we ache with joy the same way we anguish with grief simply because they are two sides of the same coin? In the tiny space between them is where we find ourselves fully in the presence of Immanuel, God With Us. It is where we worship like the angels did the very first time, like the wise men did on that night they finally found Jesus in Bethlehem.

So as we crawl desperate to the manger this Christmas season, let us remember these moments when we most feel His presence. Let us treasure these days so that every Christmas that follows aren't ones filled with memories of grief, but ones instead filled with gratefulness, not only for the memory of the one we lost, but for the opportunity we were given in our grief to know more of our Savior. 

Let us remember the times when our stomachs hurt with pure laughter, and the times when it was hard to swallow because of the intense sadness rising from our chest into our throats. Let us remember when we felt our hearts tearing apart and when we felt them spilling over with joy. 

For those are the times that we get to bow down and touch the skin of the Baby who knew joy and grief. Those are our best opportunities to truly feel God With Us. 

That's when we truly understand what it means to worship. And it is all worship.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Anticipating Christmas (Max Lucado)

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?" This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. 

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman,  He said to her, "Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"

She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." John 8:3-11

If you have ever wondered how God reacts when you fail, frame these words and hang them on the wall. Read them. Ponder them. Drink from them. Stand below them and let them wash over your soul.

And remember. Remember the message he left. Not in the sand, but on a cross. Not with his hand, but with his blood. His message has two words: Not guilty.

~ Max Lucado, excerpt from He Still Moves Stones and Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional, Day 15 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Preparing for Christmas by Pressing On by Kim Wright

This week Kim has been telling us how to prepare for Christmas, by ponderingproclaiming, and praising. Click on the links to read her posts.

Their wedding plans changed. There were undoubtedly tears, fears, and longings that couldn’t immediately be satisfied.

They pressed on.

There was a journey that had to be made…at the most inconvenient time. “Goodbyes” and “Don’t worry’s” had to be said. “What are we going to do’s?” had to be confronted. There were possibly swollen feet, an aching back, a small bladder, and various other issues that a pregnant woman has to endure while riding on the back of a donkey…for miles.

They pressed on.

There was a town, bustling with people…no rooms left. There was exhaustion, maybe a little concern…maybe a lot. They were just hoping to get settled in for the night.

They pressed on.

There were bugs. There were smells. There were noises…all night long. The ground was hard, the hay was itchy, and the birth pains were beginning.

They pressed on.

There was a mess, but there were relieved parents. The crying meant all was well…He had come. What a humbling, terrifying, awe inspiring moment it must have been to realize that you were now in charge of parenting and protecting God’s Son!

They pressed on.

They pressed on because they knew the Promise that was to be fulfilled through this little one. He was to be called Immanuel, God with us.

We would do well to follow their example. Life isn’t always full of angels in the night sky or moments filled with worship and wonder…sometimes it is hard…smelly…messy… scary.
We can prepare for Christmas by committing to press on, knowing that while following God isn’t always easy…it is always worth it!

Perhaps the most beautiful part of this story being a true one is that we too can press on in the same way that Mary and Joseph did…in the power of Immanuel, God with us.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Preparing for Christmas by Praising by Kim Wright

This week Kim has been telling us how to prepare for Christmas, first by pondering and then by proclaiming. Click on the links to read her posts.

It is good to give credit where credit is due.

Let us ponder this Jesus, and what He did for us.

Let us proclaim the Good News of salvation.

Let us praise the One who made a way for us when there was no other way!

Mary praised God. (Luke 1:46-55)

Zechariah praised God. (Luke 1:64-79)

The angels praised God.  (Luke 2:13-14)

The shepherds praised God. (Luke 2:20)

Simeon praised God. (Luke 2:25-32)

Anna praised God. (Luke 2:38)

If we’re following the example of the real life participants in the first Christmas, we will find that those anticipating Christ’s birth praised God and those who saw that the Promise had been fulfilled praised God. 

One thing to take note of…they each praised Him audibly…out loud…in the hearing of others.

Shouldn’t we do the same?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane by Tony Manley

If you are as old as me, then you are humming the rest of that phrase from an old 70’s song by that title! This Thursday, David and I will be flying to the Middle East to spend Christmas with our middle son and his family. Can you say “wow” with me? Excited, overwhelmed, nervous, ready, not ready...basically, I am all over the board with my thoughts!
They are kind enough to want us there, and we are desirous enough to want to be there. God arranged the flights and dates so perfectly. He has provided a suitcase of “wish lists” for them, and now, all that is left is the flight over.

In the process of getting ready to go, I have discovered some interesting surprises about my heart and Christmas. (I am sure anyone that knows me knew this was going to be about the heart at some point ☺)

Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. I know it, I teach it, I sing it, and I raised my children on it. But I have found out during the last few weeks, that if there is not a Christmas tree, stockings, lights on the mantle, a Christmas holiday spent the same way as the last hundred have been spent – in a sensory frenzy- then Christmas doesn’t “feel” like Christmas. Did I just say that out loud?!
The birth of Christ is not about all the sights, smells, sounds, or tastes of Christmas. I know that intellectually, but evidently I have been surprised at my own heart not being as “Christmasy” as I normally feel.  “But God” had begun teaching me about Advent! Advent is the preparing for a coming event or person. I do not think it is a coincidence that this is the year He chose for me to go through the Christmas season with a “bare house” in order to experience just Him in the den teaching and focusing my heart on Christ’s coming!

A Christmas in the desert is definitely an out of the box event for me, but this year’s celebration of Jesus’ birthday is fresh and focused on His first coming and the renewed excitement of His second coming!
O Come, O Come, Immanuel!

Preparing for Christmas by Proclaiming by Kim Wright

This week Kim Wright is showing us how to prepare for Christmas. Yesterday she suggested we first ponder. You can read about it here

We love to share good news! We call our family and friends; we text it, tweet it, Instagram it, and update our Facebook statuses. When we’re the recipients of good news, it affects how we interact with others. We smile; we speak; we make eye contact and nod our head in greeting at complete strangers. We giggle, we hum…it spills out of us as though it can’t be contained!

When we experience good news, we can’t keep it to ourselves...we proclaim it!

Various angels proclaimed it.

Elizabeth, Zechariah, and even Mary herself proclaimed it.

The shepherds told everyone they knew.

How about you? What is spilling out, not able to be contained? ...Stress?  …Depression?  …Irritation at the store clerk?  …Aggravation at the people in front of you in line?

Are you celebrating the birth of the One who has changed your life? …Your best Friend? …the One who laid down His life to save yours?

Ponder what He’s done for you…if He has truly made a difference in your life…then proclaim it!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Preparing for Christmas by Kim Wright

In considering how to prepare for Christmas, what better place to look than the original cast of characters that surrounded the actual birth of Christ. How did they prepare for Christmas?  

As I studied the various narratives in Scripture, a pattern seemed to emerge…a pattern that I might do well to emulate!

I found instances of pondering, proclaiming, praising, and simply pressing on. 

Please join me as we look deeper into each of these aspects together over the next few days and see how perhaps we, too, can prepare our hearts for Christmas in the same way.

The news of Mary’s pregnancy reached Joseph before the angel’s assurances that she had not betrayed him. While the Bible isn’t clear whether he found out through her lips or someone else’s, we do know that he considered what to do…in other words, he mulled things over…he pondered. Surely, as the rumors swirled, her side of the story surfaced.  "Could it be true?" he must have thought. "…this tale of a virgin giving birth to the Messiah?" He’d heard about it all his life, no doubt…but when this "story" intersected with his plans…his dreams…his life…would he believe it? He pondered how to respond.

The Shepherds were ordinary men with ordinary jobs having an ordinary day…and then they were confronted with the most extraordinary thing they had ever experienced in their lives! They talked it over and pondered what to do…"Let’s check it out!" they agreed. They couldn’t get it out of their minds…they had to see for themselves if this baby was for real.

She had believed in the promised Messiah her whole life. She watched in amazement as the promise unfolded into reality before her very eyes and within her own body! She experienced miracle after miracle: the angel’s announcement, Joseph’s belief, the physical proofs that she was indeed carrying a child (…when she alone knew the truth that she was a virgin.) There were others who heard the Good News as well! Shepherds actually left their flocks…their very livelihood…to come see the Savior when he was born. Just the fact that they found them was amazing in itself! No one knew where she and Joseph were…they didn’t even know they would be there themselves until it worked out at the last minute! Yet these men told her that a host of angels had filled the night sky proclaiming his birth and where they might find him! It was much to take in…yet she was experiencing it firsthand…so “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Let’s take the time to ponder the story of Christ’s birth. Yes, most of us know it by heart. In fact, we’ve heard it our whole lives!  …but do we really believe it? 

When the reality of Christ intersects our hopes, our dreams, and our lives…do we let it change us? …or do we simply continue on as if there was really no baby…no Savior…no promise…no hope. When we’ve been confronted with the extraordinary truth of the Good News, did it prompt us to seek Him? …or did we just go back to business as usual…hearing the story, but not believing it could do anything to change our ordinary existence.

Let’s prepare for Christmas by pondering what we’ve heard about Jesus. Do I really believe it’s true? Is my life different because of it? ...or is it simply a heartwarming story to be dutifully retold each Christmas?

...to be continued tomorrow

Monday, December 16, 2013

Anticipating Christmas (Ann Voskamp)

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional

Joseph's brothers became fearful. "Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him," they said. 

Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph. "Look, we are your slaves!" they said.

But Joseph replied, "Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good."

Genesis 50:15, 18-20

There's a storming mess this side of heaven.

There's this rising much, and there's all of us.

There's always the bloodied, dirty dragging; there's always the ripped underside of things, the dreams and bits of us and unspoken hopes torn to pieces. 

The places where we're torn to pieces can be thin places where we touch the peace of God. 

What was intended to tear you apart, God intends it to set you apart.

What has torn you, God makes a thin place to see glory.

Whatever happens, whatever unfolds, whatever unravels, you can never be undone.

You can stand around a Christmas tree with a family tree like Joseph's, with cheaters and beaters and deceivers, with a family like Jacob's, who ran away and ran around and ran folks down. But out of a family line that looks like a mess, God brings the Messiah. What was intended to harm, God intended all of it for good, and no matter what intends to harm you, God's arms have you. You can never be undone. 

~Ann Voskamp in The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas, December 9

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree by Cathy Westmoreland

When you look at your Christmas tree, what do you see? I see a teaching tool. A Christmas tree is a wonderful way to share Jesus with children. Let me explain.

The green tree reminds me of Jesus being our creator and Savior. He created the beautiful world we live in. He is our tree of life. He died on wood from a tree so that we might have life if we accept Him as our Savior.

The tree stand reminds me that if we would just place ourselves in His hands, He will keep us firmly in His grip.

The lights remind me that HE is the light of the world.

The garland and ribbons going around the tree remind me that He wraps His arms around us in love.

The ornaments are each special and unique, just like each of us. Some are big, some are small, some are old and some are new. They come in different colors and even different weights!

The angels on my tree remind me of that special night in Bethlehem when they brought the good news to the shepherds. Jesus is our Good News!

The star on the tree reminds me of the star that shone over Jesus when He was born and that He is the Bright and Shining Star.

The presents under the tree remind me that I already have the greatest gift of all, Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Anticipating Christmas (Max Lucado)

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional  

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18

Joseph was perched firmly on his branch in the tree. It was thick, reliable, and perfect for sitting....Joseph had no intention of leaving it.

That is, until he was told to go out on a limb...

Common sense told him not to go out on the limb. "Conceived by the Holy Spirit? Come on!"

...But God told him to do it.

I have a feeling you can relate to Joseph. You've been there. Maybe you're in the midst of a decision. It's disrupting, isn't it? You've grown accustomed to your branch...And then you hear the call. "I need you to go out on a limb and...take a moral stand...forgive...sacrifice."

...Eventually you're left staring at a bare tree and a hard choice: His will or yours?

Joseph chose God's...As things turned out, Joseph's fears were justified. Life wasn't as comfortable as it had been. 

Have you been called to go out on a limb for God? You can bet it won't be easy...Ask Joseph. Or, better yet, ask Jesus.

He knows better than anyone the cost of hanging on a tree.

           ~Max Lucado in God Came Near and In the Manger, 25
Inspirational Selections for Advent, chapter 8

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

God With Us by Christie Smith

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us)." Matthew 1:23


One word. A simple preposition. It could've said "God to us"...which He is, or "God for us"...which He is. But, God named His Son Immanuel- God WITH us. 

I try to understand this in my own relationships on Earth. When I do something "to" someone or "for" someone, I'm in control. I'm in charge of what I will allow. I'm in charge of my actions. I'm not vulnerable. Because I'm not in a relationship "with" that person, I'm only in action to or for them. Being with someone takes on a whole new dimension. With means you're not just bringing them a meal during their time of crisis...you're actually there holding their hand through the crisis. With means you're not just there to cheer them on in their victories...you're there during the ups and downs they went through to get to that victory. 

When you're with someone, you're together, you're equal. Many people in my life do things to me or for me, but it's those people that are with me that help the most...that heal the hurts...that make the good times even better. They get me...they understand me...they know what I mean without me ever having to explain a thing. 

God with us. Yes... I like that much better than to or for! 

Some synonyms for "With"... accompanying, alongside, amidst, among, beside, for, including, near, plus.

God accompanying us.
God alongside us.
God amidst us.
God among us.
God beside us.
God for us.
God including us.
God near us.
God plus us.

So this year, how am I preparing my heart for Christmas? I'm trying to understand this simple little preposition "with." I'm trying to understand that just as God is with us in spirit, we are called to be "with" others.

Accompanying others.
Alongside others.
Amidst others.
Beside others.
For others.
Including others.
Near others.

Because God is with me! In the midst of my messy, beautiful life. 

So I should be with others. In the midst of their messy, beautiful lives.

With. Such a small word. Such a huge difference. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I Gotta Have It by Cathy Westmoreland

I want that! I need that! All my friends have that. I have heard these words spoken over and over the last few days. Children and teenagers pleading with Mom for that perfect present that they just have to receive on Christmas morning. Yes, I have been Christmas shopping!

I have been guilty of saying, "I need that," but did I really? Young people imitate their elders. We have a gigantic responsibility as parents and grandparents to let our children see where we place our priorities. Are we always trying to gain more material wealth or keep up with our neighbors? Are we trying to impress people? Not any material wealth can match the treasure that I have in knowing my LORD. I do want to impress my grandchildren with the joy I have in my life because of HIM.

He is the reason for the season. What I need every minute of every day is JESUS. I want HIM and I need HIM. We all need Jesus. I wish I could say all my friends have the greatest present ever given! During this Christmas season I pray that many children dreaming of that special gift will receive the greatest present ever given. I pray that they might come to know the gift that will change their life and they will cherish more and more each day.

Jesus is the one gift I pray everyone would want.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Anticipating Christmas by Paula Roten

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional

"Greetings, you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with you...
Do not be afraid, Mary,
you have found favor with God. 
You will be with child
and give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the name Jesus..."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered.
"May it be to me as you have said." 
Luke 1:28, 30-31, 38

I never get over these words of Mary in response to the angel telling her she will become pregnant with the Son of God. The repercussions of a young virgin becoming pregnant were huge back then:
  • shame for herself and her family
  • possible shunning from family and community
  • always being considered a loose woman with no morals
  • the child being called names, being rejected by other "upright" families, and recognized as the bastard-child

Yet Mary said, "I am the Lord's servant."

Fast forward to present day. 

"Greetings, you who are highly favored: 
  • You will lose your job.
  • You will become seriously ill and battle this illness the rest of your life.
  • Your husband's reputation will be questioned due to a slandering employee.
  • Your child will make a string of poor decisions.
  • You will lose your home and all that you own.
  • You will never receive that affirmation from that special person in your life.
  • You will lose many loved ones, one right after another.
  • Life will be hard."
When unexpected things happen in our lives, may we, like Mary, say, "I am the Lord's servant...My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." (Luke 1:38, 46-47)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Anticipating Christmas (Max Lucado)

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional  

     And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
     For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.  John 1:14, 17-18

...God had come near. No silk. No ivory. No hype. To think of Jesus in such a light is  - well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn't it? It is much easier to keep humanity out of the incarnation.

But don't do it. For heaven's sake, don't. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.

~ Max Lucado in God Came Near and Celebrating Christmas with Jesus: An Advent Devotional, Day 1

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Anticipating Christmas 1 (John Piper)

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional

He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. Luke 1:16-17

What John the Baptist did for Israel, Advent can do for us. Don't let Christmas find you unprepared. I mean spiritually unprepared.

That you might be prepared...

First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior... 

Second, engage in sober self-examination...

Third, build God-centered anticipation and expectancy and excitement into your home - especially for the children...

Fourth, be much in the Scriptures, and memorize the great passages...

~ John Piper in an excerpt from Good News of Great Joy Daily Readings for Advent, December 3

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Anticipating Christmas (Ann Voskamp)

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional

The woman...saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband...At that moment their eyes were opened...So they hid from the LORD God among the trees. Then the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" Genesis 3:6-9

For all the wandering, this is the first question of the Old Testament - God coming to ask after you, "Where are you?"

Where are you in your life? Where are you - from Me?

And for all the wondering, this is the first question of the New Testament, when the wise men come asking, "Where is he?"

We only find out where we are when we find out where He is.
          ~Ann Voskamp in The Greatest Gift, December 3

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Anticipating Christmas (Lawson Murray)

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional

Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Isaiah 40:3

So this Advent season begins with the call to prepare. But what are we preparing for? In the midst of the wilderness of commercialism and consumerism, the prophet calls out to us to make a "highway for our God" - to put in order the road to our hearts. Let's take an honest look within and ask Him to make the necessary changes and preparations for this month of celebration.
     ~ by Lawson Murray in iRejoice: Advent Words for Growth, for Story, for Community, day 2

Monday, December 2, 2013

Anticipating Christmas (Kenneth Boa and John Allen Turner))

As we anticipate Christmas, it is good to look at His story, "a collection of monumental moments that remind us that Christ cared enough to experience life with us. Christmas is the time to remember that Christ not only came, but he stayed, he lived, he cared." ~ Max Lucado, introduction from Celebrating Christmas with Jesus, An Advent Devotional

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save us, 
nor his ear too dull to hear. 
But your iniquities have separated you from your God; 
your sins have hidden his face from you, 
so that he will not hear. 
Isaiah 59:1-2

...just as the result of one trespass 
was condemnation for all men, 
so also the result of one act of righteousness 
was justification that brings life for all men.
Romans 5:18

We are deeply fallen, yet we are greatly loved. The fall that took away our purity could not take away God's love for us. Nothing can. And so the need for the baby who was born on Christmas became inevitable, and the great plan was set in motion. The response of our holy and loving God to the disastrous effects of wickedness is...surprisingly...love.
     ~ Once a Day 25 Days of Advent by Kenneth Boa with John Allen Turner, Day 2

Friday, November 29, 2013


I've been Baptist all my life and a Christian since the age of nine. I've never experienced the teaching of Advent. But the thought of preparing my heart for celebrating Christmas appeals to me. It's entirely too easy to get caught up in "Christmas According to the World:" Santa, decorate, shop shop shop, cook cook cook, and then eat eat eat, indulge our children with so much that they have to clean out their rooms in order to put all the new stuff away. Not to mention feelings of frustration, irritability, busyness, and depression mixed in with tidings of great joy. My desire is to make my mind and heart Christ-centered.

For the last several years, I have intentionally focused on Christ during this season, reading the Christmas Story from the Bible in the gospels as well as reading books that point my heart in the right direction. Perhaps you, too, would like to intentionally block out the world and tune in to the anticipation and joy of Christ.

Here are some suggestions I made last year:

And here are my suggestions for this year. (Please realize I haven't read all these yet, so I can't completely vouch for their contents.)  
  • Reading plans on the free YouVersion Bible app for mobile phones (I counted 18 for Christmas, 3 days-29 days in length):
                   Our Daily Bread Christmas Edition
                   Prepare Your Heart: Christmas Devotions
                   Sounds of Christmas
                   It's Christmas - Devotions from Mandisa
                   Rediscovering the Christmas Season
                   Carols: A Christmas Devotional
                   Joy! to Your World! A Countdown to Christmas
                   Christmas Begins with Christ
                   Countdown to Christmas

Please leave a comment in the comments section below or on our facebook page with Advent selections you've found to be helpful.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

HOW BIG A DEAL CAN "UN" BE by Tony Manley

Can you BELIEVE this scripture passage actually had THE NERVE to list “UNGRATEFUL” in with:  lovers of self and money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to parents, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God - having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)

Come on – UNGRATEFUL - how big a deal are we talking about? Listen, if you only knew how hard my life is or was, how it is not what I deserve, how unappreciated I am, how all the dreams and plans I have worked for and dreamed of are gone, then you would let me wear the word UNGRATEFUL as my sash and even give me some places to wear it proudly! 

But wait, as I reevaluate my stance on deserving the right to flash the crown of an UNGRATEFUL life, I begin to see UNGRATEFUL as the beginning – perhaps the seed - of the other stuff on the 2 Timothy list. With a perspective (heart eyes) originating from an UNGRATEFUL  heart, EVERYTHING is affected. Check it out – that list in 2 Timothy is a mirror of an UNGRATEFUL heart! You see the loving of the created things more than the Creator, the responses of the heart are attitudes from an UNGRATEFUL heart, and an UNGRATEFUL heart is always full of excuses as to why it is OK to be the way that I am!

Thankfully, God is greater than ungrateful. His patience, His intense never-ceasing love, His presence and faithfulness are overwhelming.

God believes GRATITUDE is a big deal.

God believes CONTENTMENT is a big deal. 

God believes MY HEART is a big deal. 

“The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER ceases; His mercies NEVER come to an end; they are NEW EVERY MORNING; GREAT IS YOUR FAITHFULNESS.”  Lamentations 3:22-23

“Create in me a PURE HEART, O God, and RENEW a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

“Enter into His gates with THANKSGIVING and into His courts with PRAISE; give THANKS TO HIM AND PRAISE HIS NAME.  FOR THE LORD IS GOOD AND HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER.”  Psalm 100:4-5a

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


A thank-filled heart is a heart that is actively relinquishing rights. 

A thank-filled heart knows there is only one Lord – and it isn’t me!

Relinquishing means “the ongoing act of voluntarily ceasing to keep or claim; to give up, hand over, let go of, yield, surrender, abandon…”

Scripture screams of the fruit that is produced in the act of dying to self and serving, esteeming others better than myself (Phil. 2:3-4).  The joy of Christ increasing and me decreasing (John 3:30) is the path to peace and contentment. But to be the recipient of a John 3:16 love which bestows the position of John 1:12 – “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, HE GAVE THE RIGHT to become children of God” is a gift that evokes a gratitude and rest that I am fully right with the Father. I enjoy the rights of being His daughter. Why on earth would I want to cling to my fleshly birth rights?

Thanks giving releases me to be free, fragrant, fresh, and fruitful. 

Thanks giving keeps me in a “face to the ground” humble and full of worship posture.  

Thanks giving is a magnet- it attracts others to the character of God and it repels sin. 

I do so love the November calendar. But more than the calendar, I want a heart of thanks giving or as my husband says “a lifestyle of thanks giving.”

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:17

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


As Thanksgiving approaches, perhaps it would be a good thing to focus on verses that tell us to be thankful. This is one woman's perspective on a particular passage of Scripture. What is your perspective on this passage?

…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18

It’s tough to give thanks in all circumstances, our own or others. Suffering through something, or worse - watching someone you love suffer, is a hard place to learn the discipline of giving thanks. But that is where we learn it best… in the valleys of disasters, disease, and disappointments. Without those difficulties we would never learn to trust in Him who gave us His Son. 

To give thanks in everything is a learned discipline. It requires us to act, to do. It is not just an emotional outburst or a warm fuzzy feeling. God wants us to thank Him because it draws us into His presence. It teaches us to look to Him and not at ourselves or our circumstances. By giving thanks, we learn to overcome situations that surround us which can cause us to become discouraged and discontent.

Another reason God commands thankfulness is because it is crucial to our well-being. It keeps us healthy, spiritually and physically.  People with a thankful or positive attitude are less likely to be sick. They complain less. They see life through the glass half full instead of half empty. The sun always shines even on cloudy days. They rejoice when it rains because they know it is necessary for new growth. They also rejoice in trials, because they result in spiritual growth.

I have learned to give thanks even in suffering and sickness. Even though at times my circumstances can be very difficult, keeping my focus on my Heavenly Father has gotten me through. Nothing is more difficult than watching someone you love suffer. We cannot do it alone. It takes help from those around you and from above.

Now if I understand this right, if I give thanks for all my circumstances, the good and the bad, this will put me right smack in God’s will in Christ Jesus. I don’t know about you, but that’s right where I want to be!

Monday, November 25, 2013

LET'S DANCE by Paula Roten

As Thanksgiving approaches, perhaps it would be a good thing to focus on verses that tell us to be thankful. This is one woman's perspective on a particular passage of Scripture. What is your perspective on this passage?

You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band 
and decked me with wildflowers.
I'm about to burst with song;
I can't keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
I can't thank you enough.
Psalm 30:11-12 MSG

I love the contrast of moods in this Psalm. If I didn't know better, I'd say David was a woman! He goes from unrestrained mourning to utter giddiness about something in his life. Something he gives God credit for doing. 

Have you been in the mourning phase? Grieving over a loved one's death, a job loss, a sickness, a move, or the loss of a desire/dream you had? Of course, everyone experiences these lows of life. 

But we have also come out on the other side of some of these lows. I want to be sure I give credit to the One Who "ripped off my mourning band and decked me with wildflowers." 

Still in the mourning phase? Remember, "Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5) Grieving doesn't last forever. God will bring you through this, and you will feel happy again. 

And when you do...let's dance!

Friday, November 22, 2013


Children love to make crafts. This is an opportunity to make learning history fun by using food items to remind them of different aspects about the Pilgrims. Children can weave their own basket using construction paper, or they could just use a cupcake liner or a small craft basket.

Fill each basket with the following food items, discussing what each one represents:

1.  Chocolate Earth Balls - Pilgrims were living in England where the King made the laws and they had to obey them. He told them what church to attend and how they were to worship. They heard about the new world and the freedoms they would have. (Candy stores usually sell these. You can also use malted milk balls.)

2. Tiny twist pretzels - Praying hands. The Pilgrims believed in GOD. They thought that they should be free to worship so they prayed for God's protection as they traveled to the new world.

3.  Oyster Crackers -The weather was so bad that they had to eat cold biscuits and salted meat.

4.  Stick pretzels - Represent the cut trees. They cut down many trees to build homes.

5.  Mini Marshmallows - Remind us of the cold winter in the new land.

6.  Candy Corn and Gold Fish Crackers - Represent the corn they planted and the fish they caught to eat. They also used fish as fertilizer for the soil.

7.  Life Saver Candies - Represent Squanto. God sent him to help the Pilgrims.

8.  Maple Candy - Squanto showed the Pilgrims how to get sap from the maple trees for syrup.

9.  Teddy Grahams - The Pilgrims had to defend themselves against bears and other wild animals.

10. Fruity candies and berries - Food they ate.

GOD is so good to us.