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Give me a word, Lord: GIFT OF GAB OR TERROR OF TALKING

Exodus 4:10-12 But Moses pleaded with the Lord, “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.”  Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”

If you didn’t know me in my early days, you wouldn’t believe that I was the shyest girl in my class. I was deathly afraid to speak in public. I would prefer to dig a hole and crawl inside rather than open my mouth and speak in front of other people. I didn’t just have a little fear of public speaking. I was downright terrified of it. In fact, I had such a fear that I put off going to college for a few years after graduation because I didn’t want to take speech class. That sounds crazy to me now, but at the time, when I weighed my fear of public speaking in one hand and my future career in the other, the fear of public speaking won by leaps and bounds. Fast forward to present day, and I think it is safe to say that I finally found my voice. Yes, God has blessed me with the gift of gab. I have a lot of things to say, and I really need to say them. In fact, I get teased because when I’m trying to say all the stuff that I need to say, I talk rather fast causing people to doubt my southern roots.

Although I’ve been given the gift of gab (and I utilize this gift fervently), I still actually prefer writing my thoughts down to share as opposed to public speaking. It is easier to take pen and paper and let the thoughts pour out. Afterwards, I can read over the words and make corrections and make sure that what I am saying is what I mean to say, whereas once the spoken word is out there, it is there to stay. I had a wonderful teacher in high school named Mr. Jackson who always told us, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” It’s been a few decades since I sat in his class, and those words still run through my mind when I’m preparing to speak.

Moses was chosen by God to deliver His people from captivity in Egypt. God spoke directly to Moses and explained what He wanted Him to do. God said what He meant, and He meant what He said, but how did Moses respond? “O Lord, I’m not very good with words. I never have been, and I’m not now, even though you have spoken to me. I get tongue-tied, and my words get tangled.” We have all probably responded this way at one time or another. “Not me, Lord. Anyone but me! You know there is someone out there who is better qualified that I am to do what you want.” Moses was human. He had natural fears, and he voiced those fears to the Lord. But isn’t it interesting how God responded? “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” These words bring this wordy girl confidence and courage.

I love the Lord, and I love to tell others about the Lord, yet there are many times when I feel ill equipped to share. I am afraid that the words will come out wrong. I’m afraid that although I mean what I am saying, I may not say what I mean. But I must confess that it is in those times that God always shows up and shows out. When I am invited to speak at different engagements, I pray that God will give me the words and the boldness to proclaim His Word, He has never failed. When I’m speaking to patients, offering words of encouragement through scripture and prayer, or when I’m not sure what to say, God always provides the words. He never fails. If you want to share the gospel, and let’s face it, that is what we are all called to do, you MUST SHARE THE GOSPEL! You aren’t good with words? That’s okay. God will give you the words. Do you get tongue-tied? Have no fear. God will untie the tightest tongue. Do your words get tangled? God specializes in untangling the tangled webs we weave. It’s okay to express your fears to God. In fact, He wants you to, but it is not okay to let those fears keep you from sharing the gospel.

Whether you have the gift of gab or terror of talking, if you are following the will of our Lord and Savior, He will equip you with the words. God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. I am living proof of this. You can rest assured that if God tells us to do something, He will make a way for us to do it. He will give you the words. You only have to open your mouth! And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone. (Mark 16:15)

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Give me a word, Lord: CUT IT OUT

1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

Psalm 51:10-12 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you.

As I write these words today, I am riding along side my ride or die partner–my sweet husband, Jeff. We have taken some amazing rides together over the past few years, but today isn’t an exciting, fun filled journey. We are actually en route to the dermatology clinic to have a basal cell carcinoma removed from Jeff’s face just below his nose. This isn’t a new thing for him. Jeff is a fair skinned, red head who has worked outdoors farming and in the oil field most of his life. That Mississippi, Gulf of Mexico, and Middle East sun is no friend to a fair skinned, red head! Because of this, my dear, sweet hubby gets to see a dermatologist every six months to eliminate the sun damaged areas. Every once in a while, the spot turns out to be a cancer, and it has to be excised. The doctor told him to expect to be in surgery for two hours today. They will excise the cancer, take the specimen to the pathologist to examine to see if they cleared all the margins (got all of the cancer out). If not, they will excise a little more, examine the specimen, and repeat until the cancer is totally excised. In a couple of weeks, we will return to have a second cancer removed from his temple.

The spot is a tiny little spot, and it seems that it would be easy to excise looking at it from the outside. But we don’t yet know what lies beneath the surface. That is the way sin looks to us sometimes. On the surface, something doesn’t look so bad. We decide it’s okay to let the sin into our lives because it isn’t really going to hurt us. It’s just a tiny little thing that can’t do too much damage. It may even be something that no one else can see. No one else knows about this sin that we’ve allowed to creep into our lives…but God knows.

That is how sin consumes us. We give it an inch, and it takes a mile. For the most part, we don’t intentionally set out to fall into the trap of sin. We don’t wake up one morning and decide that this is the day we are going to fall into this great big sin. No, we are all born sinners, and we unfortunately have ongoing sin in our lives. Some examples of chronic, intentional or perhaps unintentional sins, include refusing to forgive someone, being a chronic complainer or “pot stirrer”, disobedience in tithing, using foul language, or even substance abuse. We may be indulging in those “little” sins, but we aren’t participating in “big” sins like murder, theft, or adultery so we feel like we are doing good. We tend to put our sins on the scales and weigh them out. We get rid of the big sins, but the little ones won’t hurt us, right? Wrong! Sin, all sin, separates us from a relationship with the Father. Christ didn’t bear our sins on the cross so that we could keep on sinning, but He did do this so that He could intercede for us with the Father.

Christ wants us to cut sin out of our lives. He doesn’t want us to just shave it off at the surface. No, Christ wants to excise those sins from our hearts and minds with the precision of the greatest surgeon. How do we cut sin out? First and foremost, we must repent. We must recognize the sin, ask for forgiveness, and turn away from it. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (1 John 1:9)

After repentance, we must ask God to help us to see the sin as a sin. For, “Who can know the Lord’s thoughts?  Who knows enough to teach him?” But we understand these things, for we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16) Next, we need to ask God to give us a desire of the heart and mind to remove that sin from our lives and keep it out. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence,  and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation,  and make me willing to obey you. (Psalm 51:10-12) Finally, confess that sin to God and grab a hold of the forgiveness which the Father is ready to deliver.

It’s time to cut it out, y’all! If we want that loving relationship with our Lord that we crave, we have to cut sin out of our lives!

(And if you don’t mind, say a prayer for my husband today! I know he’s in the hands of the Great Physician.)

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Give me a word, Lord: FRIENDSHIP

Proverbs 18:24 There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

God has truly blessed me with wonderful friends in this life. Friends have come and gone through the years but not without leaving an imprint forever on my heart. One of my dearest friends has COVID 19 currently, and because this virus is crazy and doesn’t read any of the textbooks and causes a different physiologic response in everyone, I have been spending a lot of time in prayer for my friend and in quiet reflection. Friendship is just one of the many gifts that God bestows upon us, and it is a gift that should be treasured over gold, fortune, or fame.

Friendships bring joy and laughter into our lives. I recall the many good times with friends in which we’ve laughed until we literally cried. We’ve shared our good times, joys in life, births, adoptions, marriages, and so much more. But friendship isn’t just about sharing the good times. True friendships are important for maintaining our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. Yes, it is quite true. We all need a good friend or two to walk through life’s journeys as we travel through the hills and valleys.

We have friends, but do we all have truly close friends? Is there a person or persons whom you have allowed into the innermost part of your life? For you see, a true friend is one that shares deeply with you and is not there just for the good times, but remains close through the bad times. What makes a friend a good friend? A good friend has many qualities. A good friend is someone whom you can be honest with, rely on, talk to, and someone who also listens to you. It is someone who knows the most intimate parts of your life and loves you in spite of yourself.

If you spend a little time in scripture, you will see that the Bible has a lot to say about friendship. Abraham was called a friend of God. He was the only one in the entire Old Testament who was given the honor of being called a friend of God. Jesus had a close group of friends that we know as the twelve disciples. During the three years before the crucifixion, they had become very close friends. They walked together, talked together, fished together, ate together, sailed together, and just hung out together. Jesus wasn’t merely their teacher and master, He was their very good friend. During the last supper, Jesus spoke these words to his treasured friends, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15:13-17)

Jesus shared what it means to be a friend, and He called the disciples His friends. He laid down His life for them, but guess what? He laid down His life for you and me also! Jesus knows what true friendship is, and He demonstrated it in the greatest act of friendship ever when He took on the cross for each and every one of us. We didn’t choose Him, He chose us! Christ is the best friend you will ever have. He wants us to talk to Him. He wants us to share the vivid details of our lives, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Christ knows us inside and out, better than we even know ourselves, but just like our best friends here on earth, He not only likes us warts and all, He loves us! Enjoy your friendships today. Pray for your friends, and pray to the very best friend you will ever have. Today, I thank God for friendships!

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Give me a word, Lord: DEAD ZONE

Colossians 4:2-6 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. That is why I am here in chains. Pray that I will proclaim this message as clearly as I should.  Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.

Cell phones have become indispensable it seems. We carry our phones with us wherever we go throughout the day. We don’t want to miss an important phone call or a text. But every now and then, our cell phone fails us. We may be in an area with a poor signal and our phone doesn’t work. It drops our calls, and we can not even make or receive a simple phone call from these areas. I call this the “dead zone”. Our house has a big metal roof, and pretty much the entire house is a dead zone when it comes to cell phone reception. There are certain areas near doors or windows in which the phone will work properly, but a lot of times, we have to make and receive our calls outdoors. (We don’t even want to talk about internet reception.) On my drive to and from work, there is one area on the highway that is an absolute dead zone. I always catch myself telling my friends or family on the other end of the line, “I’m going to lose you. I’m about to drive through my dead zone.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like being in a dead zone.

I was thinking about those dead zones this morning, and this made me ponder the thought of other dead zones in our lives. I can’t help but think of those spiritual dead zones that I’ve encountered through the years. I can recall times that I have been pleasantly involved in conversation and interaction with the Father, and other times in which I seemed to have entered the spiritual dead zone. The problem at those times, however, was not that of a poor cell phone signal. It was a problem of a poor Christian signal. Yes, I confess, that those dead zone periods were due to my own signal growing weak. I wasn’t spending time reaching out to God. I wasn’t calling on Him, sharing the praises in my life, sharing my despairs, sharing my hopes and dreams, and sharing everything that was going on in my life. God had not turned off the signal. He had not failed to answer the call, but rather I wasn’t attempting to even make an effort to place the phone call.

As I said previously, I don’t really like being in a dead zone. I don’t like having my phone calls dropped or having to stand on one foot with one arm in the air trying to reach a cellular signal, but more so than that, I really, truly dislike being in a spiritual dead zone. I think that may be the loneliest place in the world. So how then do we keep a strong signal? How do we stay out of the spiritual dead zone? We simply must make an effort to stay connected. For you see, God keeps an open line for each and everyone of us 24/7. The reception is always great, and He is always there. It is us who produce a lapse in reception or signal. To prevent ourselves from entering the spiritual dead zone, we must stay connected.

First and foremost, we must build a daily practice of prayer. In order to stay connected spiritually, we have to talk to God on a regular basis. Set aside some quiet time each day to really spend time talking to the Savior. Yes, He already knows what is going on in our lives, but He wants us to share those details with Him. He wants a personal relationship with each of us. We have to get down on our knees and share ourselves with Him. How can we connect with someone if we never spend time in their presence, if we never talk to them, or if we never share ourselves with them? We can’t. Make prayer a priority in your life. Work prayer into your daily schedule. You may have a quiet time first thing in the morning or late at night, or you may even find that you do as I do and have a continual prayer that begins when I wake up in the morning and continues throughout my day and even through the night if I awaken during my sleep. We must connect through prayer. It is imperative!

Secondly, we must build a practice of daily scripture reading. I have often heard people say that God doesn’t speak to them. Well, personally, I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, but I have heard Him speak. Sometimes it is that still small voice within me urging me in a certain direction, but other times, it is through His Word. When we read the Bible, the living Word of God comes to life. It tells us how we should live out life, and it teaches us what is right and what is wrong. The scripture shows us how to love like Jesus loves, and it convicts us when we are walking outside of God’s plan for our lives. Yes, we must stay connected through scripture.

Finally, we must stay connected with fellow believers. This is very important. Can you be a Christian and not go to church? I suppose you can, but I can’t even imagine life without my faith family. We need others to walk alongside us on our faith journeys. For one, our Christian brothers and sisters help to keep us accountable in our actions and our walk with Christ. Also, our faith family will lift us up when we are feeling weak, down, or discouraged. Faith filled friends help us to grow in our faith and knowledge in Christ, and they help keep us grounded and rooted in Christ. We need relationships with fellow believers. Christ set the example for us as He surrounded Himself with disciples and friends. We were created to be relational people. I absolutely believe that connection with a church family is necessary in helping us to remain connected to Christ.

My friends, if you are in a spiritual dead zone, today is the day to get out of that zone. Call out to Christ. I promise you that there won’t be any static on the line. He is willing and able to take your call, and I know He is ready to hear from you! Won’t you connect today?

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Give me a word, Lord: KEEP PRAYING

Daniel 6:10 But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.

Yesterday morning at church, I was reminded of the story of Daniel and the lions’ den. Oh I know that this is an old familiar story, but it is still one that should be revisited from time to time. Our pastor pointed out three positives to remember during times of persecution, which included the reason, the reaction, and the result of persecution. You may or may not be feeling the weight of persecution at this moment, but if you are serving God faithfully, sooner or later you will. If we live for Christ, and we long to follow Christ more than the world, we will be persecuted. The thing we have to remember is when we remain in Christ, He remains in us, and nothing or no one can snatch us away from Him.

How should we react when we are being persecuted? Let us take a few moments to look at Daniel so that we may glean some knowledge from his actions. The administrators and officials didn’t like Daniel. They didn’t like that he held a position of authority in the kingdom. They had tried to find fault in him and were constantly looking for evidence to give to the king that would bring Daniel down a notch or two, but they found Daniel faultless. They soon realized that the only way they would be able to get Daniel into trouble would be using his worship for his God against him. So these guys hatched up a plot, and they brought it to King Darius. They told him to give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. (Daniel 6:7) The king agreed, and signed this into law. Daniel knew about the new law, but what did he do? He kept on doing what he always did. But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. He kept on praying, y’all! The result of Daniel’s persecution was courage and commitment. Daniel’s courage to continue to pray caught the attention of many, and his commitment to prayer caused many to praise God.

God opens our eyes to different things every time we open His Word. The Bible is definitely active and alive. My biggest take away this time was the fact that no matter what we are going through, the situation doesn’t change who we are in Christ. We must keep on praying. Keep on getting down on those knees and worshipping and praising our Savior. Daniel didn’t sway from his normal routine. It was his routine to go to his room, kneel by the window facing Jerusalem, and pray three times a day. When he was told that he could no longer do this, he didn’t go hide in a closet. He didn’t scream and shout in rebellion. He didn’t cause a scene and pick a fight on social media. He simply continued doing what he always did. He prayed.

We tend to get caught up in the lions’ den part of the story, and we tend to overlook the praying by the window part. Daniel gave us a great example of what to do whether we are enjoying good times or bad, peace or persecution. His daily routine was to pray to God three times a day every day, and even when he was told that he could not do this any longer, he prayed. We have to have faith in the Father in all situations. In Sunday School yesterday these words struck me: “Faith guarantees nothing but what is beyond this life…the hereafter.” We are going to have trials. We may even suffer persecution. Having great faith doesn’t mean that we will escape any of these things, but folks, we aren’t living for the here and now. We are living for eternity. This is not our home. We are just passing through. If you want to make a difference in this world, your employment, your school, your church, and your family, then you must keep on praying!

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Give me a word, Lord: GIVE ME SIGHT TO SEE YOU CLEARLY

John 9:25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!”

Luke 18:35-42 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. When he heard the noise of a crowd going past, he asked what was happening. They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.

Thursday morning, my husband and I had an eye doctor’s appointment. I regretfully inform you that I am a terrible patient. I haven’t had an eye exam in at least 10 years. Oh, I used to go to the eye doctor a least once a year. That was when I was practically legally blind. I had the absolute worse vision. I couldn’t even read the big E on the Snellen’s Eye Chart. I guess I had had poor vision for years, but I didn’t get my first pair of glasses until I was in the tenth grade. I dreaded getting those glasses so bad. I was a skinny little thing, not much more than 89 lbs. I had a terrible overbite, and now I was going to be cursed with glasses. I thought I would hate those glasses, but on the ride home the day my new glasses arrived, I vividly remember looking out the window and seeing that the trees actually had individual leaves. Prior to that, the trees appeared to be covered with a green blur, but I couldn’t discern the individual leaves. I had not even realized that I couldn’t see the leaves until that moment. I was amazed! I battled with contacts for a while. We never got along very well. Finally in the late 1990’s, I had Lasik surgery. During the procedure, the doctor told me that everything was going to go black for a second, but then my sight would return. I was not prepared for the absolute darkness that came upon me. It seemed to last an eternity, but suddenly, I could see again. Not only could I see, but after the procedure I could see the clock on the wall all the way across the room and I could read the numbers…without glasses or contacts!

The eye appointment Thursday reminded me briefly of how it feels to have poor vision. The doctor dilated my eyes, and I strained to see clearly for the next few hours. This doctor visit helped me to remember to be thankful for my eyesight. It is one of those very important things that we just seem to take for granted. Consider the beggar mentioned in scripture. There was already a loss of pride and dignity in living the life of a beggar, but can you just imagine the stigma of a blind beggar. He wasn’t able to work. He wasn’t able to provide for a family or for himself. He merely had to rely on the goodness of strangers to care for his needs. Then along comes Jesus. The blind man couldn’t see Him, but he could feel his presence and power. Although he was being told to be silent by those around him, he persisted and insisted on pleading for Jesus’ attention and mercy. He did not presume that Jesus would come, but he knew who He really was. Jesus loved his faith and restored his sight and life to him.

Because of my extremely brief period of blindness, I have an a tiny inkling of the feeling that this blind beggar felt when his sight was restored. I can remember almost holding my breath as panic washed over me for those few seconds of blindness, and I remember the great relief when my sight returned. I was praying the whole time, and I was definitely praising God when my sight came back to me. Now, just imagine this man, possibly blind since birth, who had faith that he could be healed by Christ. Christ healed him, restored his sight, and scripture tells us that he not only praised Christ, he began following Him, and because of his praises, others joined in and praised Christ too.

In 2009, I had a Lasik “tune-up”, and by the grace of God, my distance vision has been 20/20 since then. I require reading glasses to read the small stuff, but praise God, I can see. Today, I recognize that my eyesight is 20/20, but what about my spiritual sight? My eyes required a “tune-up” a few years after my first surgery, and I think that we could all use a tune-up for our spiritual vision. Only this tune-up can’t occur once every few years. It is one that must occur daily. We take our eyesight for granted until we witness a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a beautiful flower covered field, snow on a mountain peak, or any other glorious creation of our God. Likewise, we tend to take our relationship with God for granted until we see Him move big in our lives. Shame on us! God is at work all around us, everyday. He is attentive to the little things just as He attends those big things. If we don’t see Him, it’s probably because we aren’t looking, or we have developed spiritual blindness. Thankfully, to see Him clearly, all we have to do is open our hearts and our eyes. Are you seeing clearly this morning?

I leave you today with words from a song written by Bob Cull, Open Our Eyes Lord. Open our eyes Lord. We want to see Jesus, to reach out and touch Him, and say that we love Him. Open our ears Lord and help us to listen. Open our eyes Lord. We want to see Jesus.

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Give me a word, Lord: SHARPENING MY SWORD

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.

Jeff and I just finished teaching a series called The Bible for Grown-ups by Andy Stanley. It was a short, but quite interesting study in which Andy explained how this great Word of God came together. It is really quite amazing when you realize that although the Bible is one book, it is actually a combination of 66 books that where written over a 1500 year period of time and penned by about forty different men of very diverse backgrounds. Isaiah was a prophet. Ezra was a priest. Matthew was a tax-collector. John was a fisherman. Paul was a tentmaker. Moses was a shepherd. Luke was a physician. And the list goes on. Although it was penned by more than forty men over fifteen centuries, there is one startling fact about the Bible that no other book can claim. It was penned by many authors over a very long period of time, but the Bible does not contradict itself, and it does not contain any errors. All of the writers proclaim the same simple truth: there is only one true God, and there is only one way to salvation — Jesus Christ. I challenge you to find any other book like that. I think that would be an impossible feat. How then did such a book every come about, and how has this book survived for centuries? Because the Word of God is alive.

Jesus Christ is the living Word of God, and although penned by man, the Bible is the written Word of God. The Bible is alive because our God is a living God. He breathes life into us, and His Holy Word is eternal and shows us the way to eternal life. Our scripture today reminds us that The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. It is able to cut into our hearts and our minds and divide up the things which are godly and those things which are not. The Word of God has a way of reaching into the depths of our thoughts and lives and expose the things that needs exposing. The Word also brings us to the alter. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2Timothy 3:16) Yet it also brings us healing, restoration, comfort, and hope like nothing else in the world.

The Bible is active and alive, and it truly is an amazing book. The Word of God is a fire to refine and a hammer to convict (Jeremiah 23:29) It is a mirror to reflect (James 1:22-25), a seed to multiply (I Peter 1:23-25), and rain and snow to grow (Isaiah 55:10-11). The Word of God is a sword to cut (Hebrews 4:12) and gold to enrich (Psalm 19:7-11). It is food to nourish (Matthew 4:4), a lamp to guide us (Psalm 119:105), and water to cleanse us (Ephesians 5:26-27). And the Word of God endures forever (I Peter 1:25)!

Today and everyday as you are putting on the full armor of God, please don’t forget to keep your sword sharpened and ready. If we arm ourselves with the sword of the Spirit, we will be ready for whatever challenge the day may bring!

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Give me a word, Lord: JUST LOOK AROUND

Matthew 6:25-34 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Oh my goodness, there is too much fearmongering going on in this world! I can hardly bear to turn the news on, and don’t even look at the internet. Yes, this world is a scary place, but we really have nothing to fear but fear itself. When I was a little girl, I knew about God. I knew who He was, but I didn’t really know Him. I knew Him to be the epic “I am.” In my youth, I really couldn’t begin to comprehend who He was and is. As I grew up, I realized that He was more that just an unimaginable entity. I began to think of Him as a force. He became someone to me that I could reach out to and someone who listened and acted on my whispers. But now I know, God isn’t merely a pronoun or noun. God isn’t just a verb or an action word. God is alive, and He is everything and everywhere that there is goodness and light because He is goodness and light!

I’ve shared with you before that I used to be a chronic worrier. I had a PhD in worrying! I wasn’t just good at it. I was the best. It took a whole lot of prayer and a whole lot of time, but I have finally overcome my intense passion for worrying. Oh, those seeds of worry still pop up from time to time, but I’ve learned how to shut them down. Turns out, all I need to do is look around! Today’s scripture became my sword for fighting the battle of worry. I have read these verses multiple times through the years and they still bring me great comfort. If we focus on worry and things of this world, we will soon become consumed by it. However, if we look around looking for God, we will see Him. Look at the birds in the sky and the trees. Are they starving to death? Nope! God makes sure they have food to eat and survive. They don’t have to plant a crop and harvest and store up food in a barn. God takes care of them. What about the flowers in the field? They are here today and gone tomorrow, but just look at them! Pick a flower and really look at the beautiful intricate design of it. God took a lot of time out of His busy schedule to create those beautiful flowers, and they only last a short season.

What does this tell us? God cares about the details, y’all. He cares about little birds. He cares about beautiful flowers. And you better bet that if He cares enough to take care of birds and flowers, He is really going to take care of us! He created man in His image. He created us to have a relationship with Him. If that doesn’t speak to you about God’s passion for man, then let me remind you of one more thing. He gave us His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and rise again so that we may have eternal life with Him! Oh yea, buddy, I believe He cares about us. He cares a lot!

So no matter what circumstance you are facing today, no matter what challenge is coming your way, just remember to look around. God is very near. He may not change your circumstance, but we can definitely trust His plan. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

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Give me a word, Lord: GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

Hebrews 11:5-6 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

Over my vast years of practicing as a family nurse practitioner, I have encountered death more times than I would like. It seems that I am encountering it much more frequently these days. Lives are being lost due to COVID-19, accidents, and even suicides. It seems that every week brings news of another person who has lost their life. I’ve spent a lot of time counseling with families who have lost their loved ones recently. That is never an easy thing to do, but there is one thing that gets me through: FAITH. Faith in Christ gives me the words and strength to face these challenging times. I couldn’t do anything without Him.

Hebrews 11 is a great chapter to remind us about faith, and it gives examples of a few great men of faith. Enoch is mentioned briefly in verses 5 and 6, but his faith walk wasn’t a brief one. Enoch was Adam’s great-great-great-great grandson, the great grandfather of Noah, and the father of Methuselah, the longest living man in the Bible. Enoch lived 365 years on earth, and God just took him away. (Genesis 5:24) He didn’t die. God literally snatched him away to be with Him. Yes, God took Enoch straight to heaven, and he never had to experience death. He was spared from death. Why? The scripture tells us that Enoch pleased God, He was a man of integrity. He walked in obedience to God and complied with God’s laws for all of his 365 years on earth. He was so closely engaged with the heavenly Father that the Father simply transferred his presence from this life on earth to God’s presence in heaven in a heartbeat. Apparently, he really, really pleased God! The Bible only speaks of one other that was “taken away”: Elijah the prophet.

When we look at the life of Enoch, we must remember that he too lived in a tumultuous time. He was here on earth prior to the flood, and if you recall, the flood was God’s wrath on the earth because of the sinful living of man at the time. I look around at this world today, and I’m thankful when I see a rainbow because I remember God’s promise that He would never flood the earth again. Yet, I know that a cleansing is coming. The people have strayed so far from God, and it is hard to live a life pleasing to the Father when there is so much turmoil surrounding us. Although the situation for Enoch was much different, we see from scripture that he lived a righteous life that was pleasing to God despite his surroundings.

Enoch was gone in a heartbeat, but he was not forgotten. He was remembered in scripture, and his legacy lives on. He leaves behind a legacy of faithfulness to God. When I think of those who have lost their lives in recent days, I think of the legacy that each one left behind. I can’t help but ponder what kind of legacy I am leaving. What will people say about me after I am gone? Will I be remembered as a child of God? Will I be remembered for my faith or will my friends and family remember all of those times that my faith was weak? Friends, we have choices to make in life, but the most important choice we make is whether or not we are going to place complete faith in Christ or not. I take time every now and then to look back at my past to see how far I’ve grown, and each year, I see that I have grown a little closer in m walk with God. Each year, my faith is strengthened. Each year, I walk a little more uprightly. But I’m no Enoch. I know that there are still areas in my life that need a whole lot of improvement, but thankfully, God isn’t finished with me yet. I’m going to keep striving to live a faith filled life with prayers that when I’m gone, though I may be forgotten, my faith in Christ will not be.

Let us continually walk in faith sharing the gospel so that when we are gone, Christ will not be forgotten! May others see Christ in us.

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Give me a word, Lord: MONKEY BUSINESS

Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 

1 Timothy 6:6-8 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Last night as we were reading our nightly devotional, I was reminded of old videos of monkeys with their hands trapped in holes. Do you know what I am talking about? If a hole is cut into an object such as a coconut or a log, and then some sort of bait is placed inside. The monkey will put his hand in the hole, grasp the bait in his fist, and then find that he can not remove his hand because he refuses to release the treasure that is within his fist. His fist will not fit through the hole, and he refuses to let go of the goods that are keeping him from obtaining desired freedom. I’ve laughed at the monkeys over the years, but I had never really reflected on it biblically. After some thought on the subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that we all practice a little bit of monkey business.

No, we aren’t dumb enough to get our hands trapped in a hole because we refuse to open our hand up. We have more God given sense than that, but what things of this world are we grasping hold of that are keeping us from freedom in Christ? Hmmm. That is a very deep subject. It is with great misfortune that we are a part of a society that thinks more is better. We are always seeking the new and improved version of this gadget or that. We want the newest, shiniest car. We want a bigger and better house. We want a better job. We want, we want, and we want. But what happens when we finally get that new gadget, that bigger house, or that better job? Are we completely satisfied? Did it fulfill all of our hearts desire? Are we finished searching for the next big thing? Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is usually no.

Why then do we keep searching? This simple minded monkey lover thinks that the reason we are not feeling fulfilled is because we aren’t filling our lives with the right treasure. We search and search and try to find the thing that fills that empty void within us. When we obtain one thing, we find out that wasn’t what we needed, and we go on to the next thing. It is a never ending cycle in which we always feel less than satisfied. The void remains no matter what lovely gift we obtain.

For you see, my friends, the treasure in which we are searching can not be found in earthly possessions or material objects. Those things may bring brief satisfaction, but it is a satisfaction that will not last. The treasure of our heart’s desire is eternal. The treasure is a relationship with Christ our King. Our treasure is found only in the One who died on the cross for our sins and rose again. Nothing or no one will satisfy the yearning within you but Christ. God made each and every one of us. We were all designed in His image, but we are each unique individuals. We have different likes and dislikes, talents and skills, but there is one thing that we all share in common. God designed each of us with a void, and emptiness, a little sense of incompleteness. Why would He do such a thing? He left room inside of each of us for us to invite Him in. The problem with mankind is that we don’t recognize that only One can fill that void, and we waste entirely too much time trying to fill it with things of this earth. However, those things of earth leave us trapped in debt and disappointment, but when we let go and let God, we are finally free…free eternally in Christ!

I do love monkeys, y’all. We have owned several lemurs through the years, and those little guys are characters indeed. It is fun to watch them as they get themselves into trouble and can’t seem to find their way out. We’ve had to help them out of a few sticky situations from time to time. Thank God, we are NOT monkeys, y’all, and thank God that we have One who is always willing and able to help us out of all of the sticky situations of life. We only have to be willing to let go and let God! Where is your treasure?

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Give me a word, Lord: BEHIND THE SCENES

Psalm 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Philippians 2:12-15 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

COVID 19 has been a thorn in the side of the world. If we watch the news, all that we hear are the terrible things related to this virus. The virus is malicious, and the media is evil. COVID 19 attacks without warning and lives are still being lost. But even in the midst of the storm, God is still working behind the scenes. I met a gentleman early last year. He and his wife were very pleasant people. He was looking forward to his retirement from a company in which he had worked as a logistics man for much of his life. Last week, I learned that this gentleman had died from complications of the COVID 19 virus. I was saddened. My first thought was, “He worked hard his whole life so that he could retire, and as soon as he retired COVID stole his life away.” I bought a sympathy card to send to his wife, and I prayed that Christ would bring comfort to her.

Well, that is not the end of the story. Christ not only brought comfort to the wife. Through her, he brought comfort to me, and this man, even in death, is feeding thousands of hungry people. I saw his wife yesterday, and I greeted her with a great big hug. (I know you aren’t supposed to hug in a COVID pandemic, but we have both recently recovered from COVID so I think a hug was not only okay but well warranted.) She cried a bit, but she did not seem defeated or depressed regarding the death of her lifelong spouse. Instead, she told me of what great things this man did in the two weeks of retirement just prior to contracting the virus. I mentioned that he was a logistics man. I didn’t really know what that meant, but his wife explained to me that he was in charge of placing orders for large deliveries of food and supplies to military bases and large organizations. It had come to his attention that thousands of people were hungry due to the pandemic. People were without food and lacked resources due to the pandemic to aquire food. He and his sister decided to form a partnership to feed the hungry in the southeast United States. They partnered with a woman who prior to joining forces was feeding 25 families a week with 25 bags of groceries.

This man got on the phone and began calling suppliers. He reminded them that they would need a tax write off for the year, and suggested that they send stockpiled goods as a donation to feed hungry people and use the donation as a tax write off. Those suppliers agreed. He then called trucking companies and arranged for donated transportation to deliver these supplies at no cost. Within two weeks, the twenty five bags of groceries per week turned into literally tons of food in a warehouse that was soon being delivered to North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Thousands of people are now being fed through churches across the entire southeast thanks to this man’s desire to feed the hungry.

The man’s sister was distressed about his death. She had not only lost her brother, the lead logistics man in their new venture to feed the hungry was gone. The newly formed team still wanted to supply the food, but they didn’t know the suppliers or how to do the logistics of it all. But God…Oh BUT GOD! Turns out, this man’s co-worker is about to retire this month. She worked right under this gentleman, and she actually wrote all of the contracts with the suppliers. She agreed to join the team and handle the logistics.

I have to tell you that I greeted the grieving wife with great sadness, but I left our visit in awe. God never stops amazing me, Peeps! Consider for a moment how God worked out every single detail in just two short weeks to make sure that thousands of hungry people were fed. He took a freshly retired man, placed a yearning in his heart to feed the hungry, put everything in order to make it all happen, and He made all of this happen in a mere two short weeks prior to the man getting sick and dying from the same virus that caused the hunger situation in the first place.

Wow! Isn’t God great, y’all? My friend deserves a great big round of applause, but I know that none of that would have been possible without God working diligently behind the scenes to make it happen. Our God knew what was going to happen. He knew that this gentleman would soon be called home. He didn’t allow this project to take off only to see it fail. He already had the next logistics person lined up and ready to continue the efforts of my friend.

You may not see God. You may not realize that He is at work, but I am here to shout from the rooftops that our God, the God I serve, is constantly working behind the scenes for my good and His glory. He takes care of the tiny details. He opens doors that need to be opened, and He closes doors that need to be closed. He uses young healthy people, and He uses those who are nearing the end of their earthly days. He uses those willing to serve Him to accomplish much for the Kingdom. God places a yearning in our hearts to do things. The things may be little or they may be big, and we may think that there is no way that we can accomplish those things, but God can. God will. If you submit fully to Him, you can move mountains. Allow God to work behind the scenes in your life, and I guarantee you that you will see great things happen. But don’t put Him on the back burner, and ask Him to only be a behind the scenes kind of God. Allow Him to be the God of your life! Let Christ be the ruler of your heart. You won’t ever regret it! God is so very good!

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Give me a word, Lord: I WANT TO BE LIKE PAUL

I Timothy 1:12-16 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

Have you ever sat down and considered the life of Paul? Most would not refute the statement that the Apostle Paul was the greatest Christian who ever lived. If Paul were here, he would refute it. In the scripture we just read, we see that he considered himself to be one of the worst of sinners. Paul began his life as Saul. Paul was a Jew, but he was not born nor raised in Judea. Paul was born in a city called Tarsus located in the Roman providence of Cilicia, therefore making Paul also a Roman citizen by birth. While growing up in Tarsus, Paul was exposed to commercial trade, diverse populations, education, and pagan forms of worship. He was educated at the best schools and universities. He knew the law inside and out. He knew the Old Testament laws, but he was not a believer in Christ as the Messiah. He was a Pharisee, and he spent his days persecuting and murdering Christians. However, one day on the road to Damascus, he met Jesus and his life was forever changed forever.

I can’t help but think about the fact that God orchestrated everything to work out for our good and His glory. Our pastor always tells us that “it’s all rigged,” and I do believe that Paul meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus was definitely rigged. Paul’s sight was taken from him on the road to Damascus, but when it was later restored, he not only received physical sight, he gained spiritual sight as well. He realized that Jesus Christ was the Messiah, and he did a complete about face. Rather than hunting down, persecuting, and murdering Christians, he became one himself. Not only did he convert on that road he was traveling, he became a true beacon for Christ. God knows who each of us are from the inside out, and He knew that Paul was very knowledgeable in regards to Old Testament teaching. Paul was able to teach and preach the law and use it to motivate people towards Christ, and at the same time he was able to teach and preach the new command and the new covenant given by Christ. God took a perfect example of a sinner, and He made him one of the greatest apostles and soul winners ever known to man.

Why is it so important to consider Paul? Because we are all just like him! Hopefully we aren’t out there persecuting and murdering people, but we are all sinners. And if we have accepted Christ as our Lord Savior, we have also been forever changed. God has been with you from the very beginning, and just like Paul, God has also been orchestrating your life too. Consider that for a moment. Who have you become in Christ? We spend way to many hours pondering over past failures and sins, and when we do this, we are not being who God created us to be. If we are in Christ, those sins have been forgiven. Those past mistakes, however, have helped to shape us into the people that we are today. God has made you to be exactly the person that you are. He knows the number of hairs on your head. He knows the difficulties you are enduring. He knows your heart. He has big plans for your future, and those plans involve living life abundantly! The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I really want to be more like Paul because he taught us how to live like Jesus. He didn’t talk the talk. He walked the walk. I’m so very thankful for my salvation, but being saved personally isn’t enough any more. I want to share the gospel with everyone. Today is a great day to be a Paul! This world needs more Paul’s and a lot less Saul’s!

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Give me a word, Lord: WHAT DO YOU DO?

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

“What do you do?” That’s a question that we have all been asked many times in our lives, and we in turn have asked the question many times. It is a common question that can be used as an icebreaker to get to know someone we have never met before, and it also allows that person to get to know us. However, if we really think about the question and our Christian response, every single Christian could answer the question with the same response. My answer to the question should be, “I serve Jesus Christ by working as a nurse practitioner.” I’m not merely a nurse practitioner. I am a servant of Christ. It is true that I work for man as well. I have employers who expect me to show up on time for my shifts and put in the hours deemed necessary to make a paycheck. I also serve my patients. I try my best to meet their health care needs. I must make proper diagnoses, prescribe the proper medications, and provide adequate teaching. I serve my co-workers too. I have to be willing to work well with my co-workers and pull my weight to make sure that the work day runs as smoothly as possible. It is true that I serve others all day long, but my primary purpose and calling in life is not that of a family nurse practitioner. My calling is to serve the Lord Jesus.

When we wake up each morning with the attitude that we are going out to face the world as a servant of Christ, our whole outlook changes. Getting out of that warm cozy bed at 5:00 am doesn’t seem so bad when I realize that I am getting up early to equip myself with the Word of God so that I am prepared to serve Him better as I walk out the door. The difficulties that arise throughout the day are small in comparison to the trials that our Savior endured on that cross. He gave everything for me. He gave His life for my sins so that I may be made right with the Father. When I contemplate on the anguish that our Lord suffered, my daily trials and sufferings pale drastically in comparison. Christ suffered for me so that I may have eternal life. Because I have accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, I am a new person in Him. My salvation changed who I am, and I am a brand new person in Christ. I was created to serve and glorify Him. When asked what I do, I could easily say that I am a nurse practitioner, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a farmer, a writer, a Sunday School teacher, church treasurer, a daughter, a friend, and the list goes on infinitely. It is true. I do a lot of things. I wear a lot of hats, but I always tell people that the favorite hat I wear is my crown. It sits toppled to one side of my head most of the time, but it is there, and I wear it proudly. For you see, my favorite job description and title is daughter of the King.

Because Christ died for me and because I am His child, the desire of my heart is to serve Him. Matthew 28:19-20 reminds us of our calling. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. We are not called to merely do our jobs, earn a paycheck, and pay our bills. We are called to go and make disciples of all nations, and we are called to teach the new disciples to obey all the commands given to us by Christ.

So the next time you are asked, “What do you do?”, how will you respond? Will you take the opportunity to share Christ? Let us began using every opportunity we have to go and make disciples. Share the love for Christ by sharing your heart, and let everyone you come in contact with know that you are a child of the King, and let them know that your job is to serve Him!

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Give me a word, Lord: MOVING FORWARD

Philippians 3:13-14 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

I spent the entire day yesterday taking down the Christmas decorations and storing them away for another year. I wasn’t moving slowly, but I did kind of overdo it with my decoration efforts this year. Last year was tough on everyone, and I know that the One who got me through every single difficulty was the One we celebrate at Christmas. Although we weren’t going to be having any big parties this year, and no one but immediate family and friends would enjoy the decorations other than myself, I still wanted to do it up big. Why? I know that we celebrate Christ every day, but I felt like I needed to really celebrate big this year.

Yesterday, as I was taking everything down and struggling to stow it all away, I was temporarily regretting my decision to go big this year, but when I woke up this morning, there were no regrets. Today as I finish getting my house in order, I reflect on the fact that God has granted us another year to get our hearts in order. We must learn from yesterday’s experiences and difficulties, but we can’t live there. One thing that keeps us from becoming the very people that God wants us to become is the fact that we try much too often to live in the past. We have regrets of things we should’ve done but didn’t. We struggle over past sins and mistakes. We have trouble getting over past hurts or past behaviors. The problem with this is that it distracts us from Christ, and it distracts us from our future.

I’m sure that you have had a few circumstances that may have knocked you to your knees over the past year. Before we try to get back up, maybe we need to spend a little time there on our knees. Maybe God even put us on our knees so that we would remember to come to him in our time of need. After we spend a little time on our knees, we always get back up. We get up, and we try again. The difference is, after spending time on our knees in prayer and talking over our troubles with the Lord, we get up with renewed strength to overcome those difficulties. Yes, my friends, I spent a lot of time in prayer over the past year, and I know that it was only Christ that brought me through the trials.

Each of us survived many trials over the past year. We are still in the midst of some of those trials. It’s hard to keep moving forward some days, but we must keep seeking the prize! This is the perfect opportunity to get renewed strength to win the race. Just as we are stowing away the Christmas decorations and cleaning up our homes, we can also use this time to put away the worries over the past, and clean up our hearts. Let us start out this new year looking forward. We must forget what lies behind us. We have to continue to press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. We are not merely rats running a race of no consequence. We are children of the King, and we are racing towards the ultimate finish line. Keep looking forward, Peeps! Learn from the past, but don’t lay down there and take up residence. Keep moving forward and push on towards that great finish line!

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Give me a word, Lord: FUTURE FULL OF FLOWERS

Psalm 23:5-6 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Are you and optimist or a pessimist? I think that as a believer in Christ, we must be more optimistic than pessimistic. When I face the coming year, I can worry over the future events that are yet to come, or I can rest assured that my future will be bright. When asked why I am so optimistic about the new year, and what I think the new year will bring, I can joyfully say that I think the new year will bring flowers, lots and lots of flowers, fresh garden vegetables, and homemade jelly! Oh yes, we must make lots of jelly. These are a few of my favorite things. How can I know that the new year will bring these things? Well, that’s simple. I’m going to plant flowers, lots of flowers. I’m going to plant and care for our garden, and I’m going to make the jelly. I know that these things will be a part of my coming year because I intend to do what is necessary to make these things happen. If you know me at all, you know that my thumb is as black as soot, but praise the Lord. He gives me great soil, water, and sunshine, and He gave me a husband with a very green thumb.

This past year was not one of my favorites. There were a lot of trials, losses, and difficulties, and it looks like this year has started off on the wrong foot as well. If I were pessimistic, I’d look at the coming year with a frown on my face and run the other way. But, because I know Christ, I can face the new year with optimism. C. H. Spurgeon once said, “Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainstream of joy.” We read this words and quickly think about the mainstream media. We tend to get caught up in the trials of life, the negativity that surrounds us, and circumstances that are beyond our control. These things try to steal our joy away. But those difficulties haven’t met our God yet! No! We can’t let the trials of life stand between a joy filled life with Christ. What then do we do? When we find ourselves discouraged or down, we must remember that we need to give our troubles to God. We simply need to share all of our concerns with Him, and He will provide the strength to not only endure the difficulty, but also to overcome it!

It really boils down to the fact that our attitude is a matter of choice. We began each day fresh and new, and we can face the day with fear, or we can face the day with faith. The first thing I do each morning when I wake up is pray. The next thing I do is grab a cup a coffee and dig into God’s Word. Afterwards, I can rest assured that no matter what I may have to face during the course of my day, I will not be facing it alone. Does this mean that I won’t have any bad days? Of course it does not. But it does mean that I can face each day full of hope and faith in Christ, and at the end of each day, no matter how bad things seem to have been, I can look up and thank the Lord for seeing me through every trial. My hope is in Him, and His unfailing love carries me through every single day.

I love Psalm 23 in any version, but I really like this New Living Translation. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. READ THAT AGAIN. My cup overflows with blessings. One of my favorite sayings that my family has heard hundreds of times is: “My cup is overflowing, and I’m drinking from the saucer.” With Christ, this is absolute truth. He bestows blessings upon me that I definitely do not deserve, and He gives me so many blessings that my cup literally overflows. The next part is even better than that. His goodness and unfailing love with surely pursue me all the days of my life. Y’all that is better than a big old slice of chocolate cake and hot cup of coffee! His goodness and unfailing love pursue me! Wow! Isn’t God amazing? And you can be sure that if he is pursuing this old redneck girl from Mississippi, He is pursuing you too!

Are you optimistic about the coming year? What do you think it will bring? I think it will bring lots and lots of flowers, but I know that it will bring hope, love, laughter, and life. And with that hope, love, laughter and life, we can plant seeds joyfully sharing the love and light of Christ to those we come into contact with every day. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future!

I’m going to leave you with the words to a familiar old hymn, I Know Who Holds My Hand: I don’t know about tomorrow. I just live from day to day. I don’t borrow from the sunshine, for the skies they turn to grey. And I don’t worry for the future, for I know what Jesus said. And today I’ll walk beside him, for he knows what lies ahead. Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand. I don’t know about tomorrow; it may bring me poverty. But the one who feeds the sparrow, is the one who stands by me. And the path that be my portion may be through the flame or flood;
but His presence goes before me, and I’m covered with His blood. Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.

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Give me a word, Lord: FIND A PENNY, AND PICK IT UP

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Psalm 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.

Psalm 62:1-2 I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will never be shaken.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

Find a penny, and pick it up. All the day you will have good luck! I have no idea how many times I chanted this as a child. I can recall my childhood days of shopping trips and huge parking lots. We always scoured the ground as we walked looking for a coin that someone had inadvertently dropped, There was a little rule to this luck game though. The penny had to be heads up to bring good luck…at least that was what we were always told. If it were tails up, the coin was left behind for some other lucky person to find. Oh what a joy it was in finding a shiny coin and putting that coin into my pocket.

Nowadays a penny isn’t worth much at all, but I still catch myself looking to see if a discarded coin is heads up or not. I didn’t realize until recently that the “heads up” part actually has a lot more significance. I read a story about a wealthy employer who had invited his employee and spouse to his home for a weekend. The employer lived a true life of luxury and his vehicles cost more than the employee’s home. He took them out to the finest restaurants, and the employee was enjoying the lavishness of it all. She knew that it wouldn’t last long, and she was soaking up every minute of it. One night, as they were walking from the car to a restaurant, the rich employer stopped for several seconds looking down at the ground. The employee looked trying to discern exactly what the employer had spotted. She saw nothing but a darkened aged penny and some discarded cigarette butts. After a few moments, the employer bent over, picked up the penny, and put it in his pocket with a big smile on his face.

The employee was shocked. She thought, “why in the world would this man of extreme wealth pick up an old discarded penny that wasn’t worth a thing.” It troubled her throughout the meal, and finally, she mentioned to the employer that her child had collected coins and wondered if the coin he found was of some special significance. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out the penny with a smile and told her to look at the penny and read what it says. She read the words, “United States of America.” He said, “not that, keep reading.” Then she read, “In God We Trust?” The man said, “Yes!” And he went on to explain that if he trusts God, then the name of God is holy, even on a coin. He explained that whenever he found a coin, he sees that inscription. It is on every single United States’ coin, but we never seem to notice it. He further explained that when he sees a coin, he stops and prays and places his trust in God at that moment. He picks the coin up as an act of response to that trust, and stated that for a short time, at least, he cherished the coin as if it were gold. He also shared that it was God’s way of starting a conversation with him. He said, “Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!”

I think of all the coins that have passed through my life over the years, and I just let that phrase slip right through my hands with out giving it a second glance or acknowledging the name of God. This story sheds a whole new light on “Find a penny pick it up!” I look around at this beautiful country that God blessed us with, and I recall that we were founded as “one nation under God.” I can’t even entertain the thought of watching the news this morning because it is just another reminder that we are no longer one nation under God. Oh, don’t get me wrong. God is still in charge, but this nation is so divided. There is utter chaos ongoing, and I’m afraid it is going to get much worse. I trust that God has a plan though. His plans are always so much better than anything I could devise in this simple mind of mine. I just get a little impatient at times waiting for the plan to unfold. But then, I am reminded of a simple but significant phrase on a seemingly worthless penny, “In God We Trust.” I think I’ll start looking for pennies again. We need that simple reminder all day every day, and it is written on al of our coins. Place trust in God. The future seems uncertain, but I know my God is bigger than all of my fears. I’m going to trust Him!

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Give me a word, Lord: DON’T WIDEN THE PLATE

Colossians 3:1-4 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

When I think of the statement, “don’t widen the plate,” the first thing that comes to my mind as a nurse practitioner is a diet. I spend a good bit of my day teaching portion control and proper eating habits. but today, I’m talking about a different plate. I’m talking about home plate on a baseball field. In case you are like myself and are not really a big sports fan, let me explain the basics. A home plate in baseball is 17 inches wide. It doesn’t matter if it is school ball, minor league, or major league, the plate size is supposed to be 17 inches. That basic fact is important for today’s ramblings.

As I said, I’m not really a big sports enthusiast. God didn’t bless me with athletic abilities or skills. He gave me some other great skills which I am very thankful for. He gave me the skill to be a nurse practitioner, farmer, wife, mother, grandmother, and writer. He even gave me the skill to fall gracefully and not so gracefully from which I’ve earned the title “Queen of Klutz.” No, I’m no athlete, but even I have heard of Coach John Scolinos. He retired from coaching in 1991 after beginning his coaching career in 1948. In 1996, he made an speech that impacted many coaches in the field of baseball using a simple home plate. He began his speech with a room full of 4,000 baseball coaches at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, TN, with a 17 inch home plate hanging from his neck like an oversized necklace. The visiting coaches were likely on the edge of their seats awaiting great knowledge and baseball secrets to roll off of the tongue of this wise and renowned coach. They got way more than they bargained for.

After speaking for several minutes, Coach Scolinos finally got around to the home plate that was hanging from his neck like an elephant in the room. He asked the crowd how wide home plate was, and they answered 17 inches. He even asked about the size of home plate for different leagues and age groups. the answer was always 17 inches. He then, after a long pause, asked what do they do if a big league pitcher can’t hit home plate? Should the plate be widened to 18 inches, 19 inches, or perhaps 25 inches? If it is enlarged, maybe they would have a better chance of hitting it. The coach then turned the plate towards himself and used a Sharpie to draw a house on the plate. He then said, “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids, with our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We just widen the plate!” He went on to speak of America, our schools, our churches, and our government. We are constantly individually and corporately widening the plate.

I don’t know baseball, y’all, but even I understood that, and I understood it to be completely true. He spoke those words in 1996. Coach Scolinos died in 2009, but wow, what a mark he left on this country. There is so much wisdom in these words, but now, 24 years later, we are still widening the plate. We wonder why society is failing? We wonder why everything is not as it should be? Well, we keep widening the plate. The game of baseball has instructions and guidelines. The players, coaches, and umpires know the rules of the game, and they know the standards which they must uphold. They don’t changed the rules to suit the player or the game. We have an instruction manual for life. God gave us His Holy Word, the Bible. Unfortunately, we don’t follow our manual the way that the baseball players follow theirs. We tend to pick and choose the parts that we want to follow. If there is something we don’t like, we simply ignore that part. When we get angry, we pick out a piece of scripture that goes along with our current rage, and shout that part to the world, but we leave out the context in which the scripture came from. We quote scripture on good days, and then shout obscenities on other days. We look and see what is good for society and assume it is good for ourselves, even though we know that the Word of God contradicts this. We try to add to the Word or take away the stuff we don’t like. We can’t keep widening the plate! “And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book.” Revelations 22:19

If we want our country back, our homes back, our families back to the way things should be, we have to stop widening the plate! We must join together and read the instruction manual for life every day. Learn the standards that Christ has given us. I’ve always been a rule follower, and following Christ is something that I want to do with every ounce of my being. I’ve heard it said that the Bible is just an old book of rules or that it’s too hard to follow the standards of the Bible. I’m here to tell you that it is not! When you give your heart completely to Christ, serving Him becomes a joy, and learning the standards for living a godly life becomes a yearning. It’s not hard work. It’s pleasing to the mind and soul. Today’s challenge is to get back to the basics! Let’s get back to God’s Word and remember His ways because His ways truly should be our ways! Don’t widen the plate!

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Give me a word, Lord: DON’T BE A TURKEY

Today is a day for a good day! The Lord created this day just for you. Let’s get out there and enjoy it. Don’t be a turkey today! Be the one that God created you to be, Today’s devotional is an excerpt from my book, Inspirations from the Funny Farm. I hope you enjoy it!

Galatians 6:14 “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.”

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.”

Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

Matthew 15:18 “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.”

As I walked down to the barn early one morning just before daybreak, I spied with my little eye a white hen lying on the ground. The hen was all crumpled up surrounded by a few loose feathers. At first glance, it appeared that a predator had killed the hen during the night. Sadly, this can happen on a farm from time to time. I failed to inspect the chicken closely as I was in a hurry to feed all the animals and get on with my day. In my mind, I made a mental note to dispose of the poor old dead chicken after I finished my chores in the barn.

I am only human, and I admit that sometimes mornings on the farm are a struggle. There are many a days that I roll out of bed, throw my old robe on, walk outside and pull on those old muck boots, and stumble to the barn while rubbing sleep out of my eyes and wondering why in the world am I doing this? But before I even have time to collect my thoughts and spend any time at all contemplating the subject, I hear the answer loud and clear. As I approach the barn, it truly comes alive with all the morning noises: chickens cackling, roosters crowing, cows mooing, goats and sheep baaing, and pigs oinking. Those loud, chaotic, early morning shouts of joy (and sometimes impatience) from the creatures that I so dearly love, can turn a frown upside down like nothing else.

As I fed my furry and feathered friends, I quickly forgot about that “dead” chicken I saw on my way to the barn. I visited with my barn crew, talking to them, singing to them, and just enjoying the morning and as I tried to share the joy with them that they so freely give to me. After everyone had been fed, water buckets and troughs were all filled with fresh water, and everyone was noted to be in good shape, I gathered eggs and said my morning goodbyes.

I had just latched the barn gate and turned around to head toward the house when I saw that chicken out of the corner of my eye. Oh, it was still laying there, but this time, our tom turkey was jumping up and down on that chicken like a kid on a trampoline. That poor chicken wasn’t dead. It was just playing possum and pretending to be dead so that the mean old turkey would leave her alone. I quickly scooped her up and carried her to shelter to recover from the damage done by the turkey dance. After she was held in isolation for a while, she quickly recovered.

Turkeys can just be plain mean sometimes. God didn’t bless turkeys with a whole lot of smarts to begin with, and I suppose maybe they feel like they have to act out to try to appear smarter than they are, but they fail so miserably. We have owned several breeds of turkeys through the years, and I must admit that I haven’t found that one species is any smarter or more kind than another.

Turkeys can also be territorial. They will accept you into their flock if you are the hand that feeds them, but that doesn’t mean they have to like you. And just because you feed them, provide safe harbor for them to rest their weary heads, and keep them safe from predators, it doesn’t mean that they owe you or your kin folks any kind of allegiance. We’ve had turkeys that “tolerate” my husband and I but failed to “tolerate” our children. The turkeys would pounce on our sons for no reason at all. They would also jump on our vehicles and scratch them up…again, for no good reason at all. They can just be downright ornery!

Why do they feel the need to act out this way?  Who knows? I’ve tried to have conversations with them, but unlike some of our other pets, I can’t make heads or tails of what they are saying. It seems that they just want to feed, mate, and be left alone. They appear to act out to try to show that they are tougher than they actually are or perhaps they feel threatened and are acting out as a defense mechanism. Maybe they just want to show us who is the boss, but they aren’t smart enough to realized that the farmer is the boss.

How many times do we act like dumb old turkeys? If things aren’t going our way, we get defensive and act out. If someone argues with us and makes us feel inadequate, we get angry and we act out. We take it out on the person closest to us even if that person hasn’t done anything wrong. When we get passed over for a promotion, don’t get a compliment for a job well done, or don’t get something we want, we get our feathers all ruffled up and throw a fit. We don’t like to lose. We don’t like to be wrong. We don’t like to not get our way. We want to be admired. We want to be praised.  We want to be loved. Many times, we feel that we are not getting any of these things or that we are not getting enough of these things, and we start acting like a dumb old turkey. We tend to forget that this is not what life is about. It’s not about us gaining praise, admiration, and always getting our way. Life is about praising God, showing admiration for Him, and recognizing that He loves us and because He loves us, we should show that love to others…all others…even those others that act like turkeys that we don’t want to love. If we could just learn to recognize that the true meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ is love,  we would all be a whole lot smarter and a lot less turkey like.

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Give me a word, Lord: READY FOR A VISIT WITH THE KING

1 Peter 4:7 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.

2 Peter 3:10-11 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.  Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live,

Wow! A crazy chaotic year has ended, and with the New Year, we cling to hope and faith in a Christ filled future. I think I’ve said it more times this past year than any previous year, “I’m ready for Jesus to return!” My question for you today is, “are you ready for a visit with the King?” A few years ago, an elderly patient told me that she was ready for Jesus to come back. She said that she always made sure that her home was clean and tidy because when He returns, she wanted to ask Him to come in and have dinner with her. Can you even imagine it? Can you imagine supping with the King of king, Lord of lords?

Personally, I try to keep a fairly tidy home, but I’ll admit, when company is coming, we do a little more intense cleaning to prepare our home. I want everything to be perfect. I want our guests to know that they are important to me, and I want my home to declare this. If I were to plan a big dinner party, but failed to clean the house first, how would my guests feel? If the dirt of a day’s trudging in and out of the dogs after romping around our eighty acre farm remained on the floor, dirty dishes remained in the sink, or just day to day clutter was lying around, how would my dinner guests feel? They would look around and think that I had not prepared for their arrival. Perhaps they would think that I had busied myself with the meal, but I had not taken the time to prepare the home for their visit. They might think that I had invited them over, but really hadn’t expected them to come. It would appear that I had taken the time to arrange a visit, but I hadn’t taken the time to prepare for the visit.

I think that maybe this is how some of us are walking in our faith walk. Many of us say that we have accepted Christ. We have the “membership card” tucked safely in our wallets. It is like a “get out of hell free card” that we hold on to. But, we aren’t really walking with Christ. We may have said that we invited Him into our hearts, but that was the end of that. Sometimes people make a head decision, but there is no heart decision. You have to have both, y’all! You can’t just make a mental decision to follow Christ without allowing Him in to be the ruler of your heart.

Our hearts have to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but we don’t have to spend years cleaning our hearts and lives up before we invite Christ into our hearts. No! If we wait until we feel we are deserving enough, the time will never come. So how then do we prepare for a visit from the King? Unlike the preparations for a dinner party in our home, Christ is the one that has extended the invitation to us. He has extended an open invitation for salvation and a relationship. We only have to accept that invitation, and allow Him to be the Lord of our hearts. When we accept Christ as our Savior and have made both a head and heart decision to follow Him, He helps us clean up those things that were keeping us from a relationship with Him. Oh yes, my friends, He not only shows us the things that are dirty and that need to be cleansed, He helps us clean those things up! I have a dear old friend that will come over before a party and help me prepare. She helps me get everything tidied up, and she helps me prepare the food and set the table for our guests. Christ is an even better friend! He provides everything we need to have our table set and prepared for His glorious return! He gives us His Spirit to guide us and show us the way. He gives us His Word which helps to lead us and encourage us as we walk daily with Him. He gives us grace, mercy, and oh so much love!

I don’t think I will ever feel that my home is totally prepared for the return of Christ. I fear that I will be like Martha, rushing around to make sure everything is perfect for the arrival of the King, when I know what Christ would rather me do is be like Mary and sit down and soak up the glory of His presence! We do not know when that great day will come, but one thing that I do know without a shadow of a doubt is this. When Christ finally returns, my heart will ready, and until that day, I will continue to strive daily to work on the things that separate me from Him. I am so ready for a visit from the King! Are you?

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Give me a word, Lord: LIVING WATER OR PUDDLE OF MUD?

Jeremiah 2:13 “For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!

John 7:37-39 On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

John 4:13-14 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again.  But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

In Jeremiah chapter 2, the prophet Jeremiah is proclaiming the Lord’s case against His people. His people had strayed away from God. They were doing their own thing and living their own lives without regard to God and His goodness. They had angered God, and He chose the prophet Jeremiah to make His case to the people. In verse 13 of this chapter, Jeremiah shares that the people have done two evil things in the eyes of God. The people abandoned God. They abandoned the fountain of living water. The second thing they did was that they dug for themselves and filled cracked cisterns that could not hold water. We see throughout the Bible scriptures that the living water is a reference to Christ. Just as we require water to live, we require the Living Water for eternal life.

There are multiple references in the Old Testament of thirsting after God. Two thirds of the human body is water. Water is an absolute necessity to live. When we haven’t had enough to drink, our mouths get parched and dry, and we crave water. We need it to survive. The same thing happens in our spiritual life. We need the Living Water to survive. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We need Christ, and when we distance ourselves from the Living Water, we end up with a pot full of mud. We get bogged down in the daily drudgery of life. Rather than filling up with the Living Water, we end up wallowing in a puddle of mud!

God proclaimed in Jeremiah that the people had abandoned the Living Water. They had the opportunity to walk right up to the well and fill their pots with fresh clean water. They had every opportunity to walk with God, quench their spiritual thirst with the Living Water that was so freely flowing. However, they abandoned God. Instead, they dug down below the free flowing well of Living Water and tried to fill their cisterns or clay pots with their own water source, but their pots were cracked…much like their lives, and the water leaked right out of the pots. Their pots were full of mud, but there was no Living Water.

I think that this is what is happening in today’s society. Christ is still offering the Living Water. It is flowing abundantly. It is the “fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” Our hearts crave this Living Water. We can’t survive without it, yet we try to do things on our own. We try to dig our own wells in life. We try to find our own sources of joy and happiness, and we try to fill our pots with things we hold dear. BUT…our pots are cracked, and in the end, the pots are just filled with nothing but mud. There is no true joy. There is no true happiness to be found in our pots. No, my friend, we can only find true joy and happiness from the river of Living Water.

Are you feeling thirsty today? Why don’t you go fill up at the spring of Living Water that flows eternally. Fill up with the Spirit. Get up, get dressed, and get to church! Choose the fresh, bubbling spring of Living Water that gives eternal life rather than an old mudhole that leaves you dirty and still thirsty at the end of the day.

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Give me word, Lord: WALKING WITH GOD

Deuteronomy 5:33 Stay on the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. Then you will live long and prosperous lives in the land you are about to enter and occupy.

Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

With the events of the past year now in our rearview mirror, many of us are not merely walking into the new year. Many of us are running into the new year! Everyone wants to move well past the turmoil of last year and jump right into a new year. A new year is like opening the cover of a brand new book. The book smells new and fresh. The pages are not worn, and they may even stick together at first. But wait, as you open the book, you find that the pages are blank. There is nothing there. The pages of the book for the new year are completely blank. It is a blank slate. Who knows what wonderful adventure lies within the cover of this new exciting book? In this particular book, only God knows. For you see, God is outside of time. He already knows what will happen in the coming year, and He knows exactly how to prepare you and help you make it through.

Our cousin, Carl Strosnider, shared this statement on his daily devotional site this morning, “Walk with God, and you will never step into anything He can’t bring you out of.” As I read those words, my mind said, “Whoa! That is deep, and deeply true!” It touched me, and really made me think about how I want to walk into the new year. How can we walk with God in the coming year? We only need to follow Christ with every part of our being. If we are following Christ in all of our actions, thoughts, and ways, we can’t help but stay on the right path. And we must ask Christ to walk before us and with us through each and every day of life. As you make your new year’s resolution this year, are you resolving to walk with God?

I can’t help but think of the men walking to Emmaus after the crucifixion of Christ. “He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.” (Luke 24:17-21) Do you remember the story? Two friends were walking along and sadly discussing the events. They must have been so distressed. They thought that Jesus was the Messiah. They thought that He had come to rescue them, but He was crucified. They thought that this was the end of the story. They thought that their Savior was gone. They had no idea that they were walking side by side with the Messiah.

Jesus spoke with them and took them through the scriptures explaining things concerning himself, but they could not see that it was Jesus himself walking with them. Finally, as they arrived home, it was getting late and they invited Jesus to have dinner with them. He then revealed Himself to the men. “As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!  They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them,  who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.” (Luke 24:30-34)

The men had absolutely no idea that they were walking right along side of Christ the King! As we enter this new year, we remember the chaos of the past year. We recall the tragedies. We think about the heartaches. We remember the struggles. We talk about these things until we are blue in the face. We share our grief, anguish, and unrest with those around us. We try to handle everything on our own. We may even want to wallow in our own little pity party for a while. We may feel alone, isolated. Yes, this past year has been difficult, but there is great news! We do not have to walk into the unknown of the coming year alone! Christ cares about our troubles. He cares about our lives even down to the most minute detail. He wants to walk with you as you begin writing the pages of the book of the coming year. Just as He chose to walk with the two men on their way to Emmaus, Jesus chooses to walk with us too! And just as they asked Him to stay a little longer, we can ask too!

Yes, we have started a new year, a new book. We have no idea what will happen this year, but Jesus already does! He knows exactly how to prepare us for the things to come. He goes before you, and He walks with you! Let’s commit to walk with Christ this year!

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Give me a word, Lord: HOPING FOR A HERO

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Yesterday, we closed the gate on 2020. It was a wet and rainy night here. We didn’t ring in the New Year with fireworks and blasts of excitement. We rang it in quietly tucked in our cozy, warm beds. No fireworks, no raising of an apple on Time Square, no, I just snuggled up in my big old king sized bed next to the man I love and thanked God for the past year, and I asked Him to be with me in the coming year. We spend this time of each year in great reflection. We remember the successes of the past year, and at the same time, we remember the trials and failures. We smile with pleasure as we remember the good times that we shared, and a frown sneaks across our brow as we remember the low times. As we walk into this new day and new year, we must forgive and forget, and move forward seeking the path that our Lord and Savior has planned for us. Oh what a plan He has for us!

I saw a thing on Facebook last night in which a friend asked that everyone share their favorite scripture. The scripture would then be written in a 52 week planner, and each week of the coming year, you would focus on that scripture for the week and also pray for the person who shared the scripture. I thought that this was an absolutely wonderful idea, and I shared it to my status on Facebook. I thought long and hard trying to figure out my favorite scripture. I have so many favorites, and I couldn’t choose just one. One of my very favorites is Philippians 4:6-7, but Jeremiah 29:11 is right up there on the top also.

If we read Jeremiah 29:11 in context we soon realize that it doesn’t mean what we thought it did. We cling to this verse with thoughts that God’s plan is to prosper me. However, there is a lot more to it than that. The Israelites were in exile, a punishment from God as a result of their disobedience. The prophet Jeremiah confronted the false prophet, Hananiah, who had boldly proclaimed that God was going to free Israel from Babylon in two years. (He did not, by the way.) Jeremiah called out Hananiah’s lie and then stated the promise we read in 29:11. God did indeed have a good plan for the Israelites, and it was a plan that would give them hope and a prospering future. But before He gave the promise, He shared instructions from God. In verse 7, he proclaimed, “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Wait, what? Surely that wasn’t what they wanted to hear! The Israelites wanted to go home. They didn’t want to stay in bondage any longer. They wanted God’s plan to be their plan…to get the heck out of Dodge. But that isn’t how God works. God wanted the people to stay right where they were and help the people that enslaved them prosper, and by helping their captors prosper, God promised that they too would prosper. But wait, there is more! In verse 10, Jeremiah delivered a little more distressing news from God. “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” The Israelites had to remain in captivity for seventy years. That had to hurt, but thankfully, the words of verse 11 came next. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Verse 11 is where it is at! God’s promise is to give us a future and a hope just as He promised the Israelites while they were in bondage. What does this mean for us? We are going to go through some very difficult days, and some of those days will be much more trying than others. We must remember God can turn those difficult situations into key moments that make His plans for us prosper. God is NOT out to bring harm on us. He loves us so much, but sometimes in our darkest hour, we feel that He isn’t there. We feel that He has left us. We ask Him why He isn’t there, or where did He go. He didn’t leave. He never leaves, but sometimes we endure dark moments so that we can experience the most important lessons to help us grow closer to God. It is always in my darkest days that I learn to depend totally on the Father!

God has a way of using the scariest and darkest times of our lives to show us His saving power and grace. Everybody has their favorite superhero. Don’t you just love Superman, Batman, Ironman, or Spiderman? They always swoop in at exactly the right moment, just in the nick of time, to save the world from certain doom! Well, my friends, we have a real life superhero that puts all of these fictional heroes to shame! God sent His Son to save the world. That same God that sent His Son to forever change the world is the same God that is here with you and me today. And that same God has plans for you, and those plans include a future filled with HOPE! Today, rest in the arms of the true Superhero: Jesus Christ. Place your hope in Him. I leave you with these words from Paul in Ephesians 1:18. “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”

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Give me a word, Lord: CLOSE EVERY GATE

Psalm 30:13-17 O Lord, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!

Today is New Year’s Eve, and this day marks the close of what most consider a pretty awful year. I have always been one to do a year end review at the end of each year as I reflect back on all of the blessings of the previous year. Despite the tragedies of this past year, there have still been a multitude of blessings. Tonight, our family will complete reading through the entire Bible as a family. We did this a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it so much. This year, we read the New Living Translation version, and we read and saw things that we had not even noticed before. God’s Word came alive as we read through the chapters nightly, and oh what a blessing we received. My husband, Jeff, retired from offshore a few years ago to manage our farm and help his dad out with his farm. He wasn’t looking for a job, but a new job fell right into his lap. It has been such a blessing. He is mostly working from home, and he is still able to do all of the farm work that needs to be completed. I have retained my job through this trying year. Many people lost their jobs, suffered pay cuts, and lay-offs, but I didn’t suffer the loss of even one days wage, not even when I missed two weeks work due to COVID. That was definitely a blessing. Our oldest is about to start a new and wonderful adventure. His beautiful wife started a new role in her employment this year and loves it. She is also working on her Master’s Degree while working full time. They have given us the most wonderful grandson, and he started kindergarten this year. He is bright and inquisitive, and he is an absolute joy. Our second son lost his job offshore, but was immediately blessed with a new position locally which he enjoyed, and before the year end, he was offered a new position offshore. His beautiful wife changed employment too, and due to the pandemic, she has had more days at home. We have been blessed with getting to see her a little more often. Our third son is residing with his biological parents in Arkansas, and he is starting a family of his own. Our youngest graduated high school this year and completed a Certified Nurse Assistant program. She spread her wings and sought out her biological parents this year and spent time with them, but she eventually flew back home to us. We live on an eighty acre park-like paradise with animals galore. Our home isn’t the finest one out there, but it suits us perfectly. It is cozy and warm, and it is full of family and life. We’ve endured sickness this year, and God protected us and healed us. We’ve all grown a year older, and with that year, with have been enriched with much wisdom! 2020 wasn’t really that bad after all, was it?

I chose the scripture from Psalm 90 this morning. The context of this Psalm is not a very happy one, and therefore, I felt it speaks to the heart of 2020. This is a Psalm of Moses and it was written in a time when God’s people were “consumed by [God’s] anger” and “overwhelmed” by God’s wrath (90:7) because of their “iniquities” (90:8). Nevertheless, beneath the bad news of God’s judgment lies a bedrock of confidence in God’s everlasting goodness. Rejoicing and prosperity will come again (90:14, 17). The psalm reveals a reflection of the timelessness of God, the shortness of our lives, and it reveals our dependence on God’s grace in order for our efforts to be successful. This year has been difficult. It has been hard. It has been long. Everyone is anxiously awaiting the New Year with hopes that it will be a better one as we close the gate on 2020. Let us closed the gate and latch it securely as we rejoice in God’s blessings and have faith in our futures knowing He holds us in His hands.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916-1922, George Lloyd, was playing golf with a friend when they had to go through a gate. His golfing partner pushed the gate closed, but he did not latch it. George noticed this, and he went back and secured the gate. Then George told of an old doctor friend who lay dying. After calling his family and friends to his bedside, he gave these parting words, “Close every gate through which you have passed.” Lloyd George went on to say that he owed more to that bit of wisdom than to anything else he had ever heard. I think we can glean some great knowledge from this as well. Life on the farm has taught us many times how important securing a gate when exiting can be. An unsecured gate can lead to a whole lot of extra work on the farm if the cows get out! Around here, every gate that is opened is then closed and latched. I even double check the latch most of the time!

Figuratively, as the sands of time trickle down at the close of this year, we need to close the gate. We need to latch it securely and walk away as we move into the coming year. Let’s close the gate on yesterday’s heartaches and failures. How do we close the gate? We must forgive and forget. God graciously forgives our mistakes and our failures, and when he does, he wipes the slate completely clean. The gate is closed. Once that gate is closed, we have to make sure it is securely latched. How do we do this? We forgive ourselves. This can be hard, especially if we spend the the end of the year reviewing all of our mistakes and failures rather than seeing the goodness and blessings of the past year, but God sent His Son to show us ultimate forgiveness. He sent the perfect example. He has forgiven us, and therefore, we can forgive ourselves, and we can then latch the gate securely, and move forward just as God wants us too. Why do cars have huge windshields and tiny little rearview mirrors? We need to check behind us occasionally, but we need to focus on what is in front of us! The future is bright my friends! Let us close the gate on 2020 and start walking cheerfully into 2021. Just keep holding onto the hand of the Lord and rest knowing that God has got you!

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Give me a word, Lord: HELL, FIRE, & BRIMSTONE

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 25:46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.

Revelation 20:15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Anyone who reads my devotionals knows that I attempt to write to encourage and inspire. Today’s devotional may be a bit different, but hang with me, Peeps. I feel like it’s important. It may be the most important one of all. I keep hearing the words, “2020 has been a terrible year.” Perhaps it has been one of the worse years of your life, but I have to tell you something. If you don’t know Christ as your Lord and Savior, there will be an eternity of days worse than all of the days of 2020. You are probably thinking, “Okay, KK, we don’t need all this gloom and doom. We’ve already had enough this year. What’s up?” I’m here to tell you that I love you, and I’m truly concerned about your future.

Yes, part of the reason that these words came to me is because of some of the events of 2020. Just in the recently passed months, there have been several distressing losses and events that have brought much grief. A young pastor friend of ours died suddenly in a motor vehicle accident. COVID has wreaked havoc on the nation, and has touched many lives of loved ones and acquaintances. We suffered through the virus, but our symptoms were mild in comparison to many. People have lost their lives to this horrible virus, and others are surviving on oxygen and a prayer. A high school classmate is on life support in critical condition after sustaining head trauma in a motorcycle accident. Another high school classmate lost her son this week tragically. I’ve diagnosed two patients with metastatic cancer in the past month alone. One thing that I know is that death is sure. Unless Jesus raptures us home first, we will all die at some point, and the thing is, we don’t know when that time will be. Each person I’ve mentioned likely had plans for the following day. They had appointments scheduled on their calendars. They had plans with family and friends, but suddenly, their time on earth was over much sooner than they had planned.

For those loved ones that have passed away that have placed trust in the Father and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we have comfort knowing that they are already in their heavenly home. We grieve the loss. We cry tears of loss, regret, and sadness caused by the loss, yet at the same time, we can rejoice because we know that they are in the arms of Jesus. They are no longer suffering. They no longer have pain or the troubles of this world. They are finally free! But what about those that didn’t choose Christ, oh how we mourn their loss! Perhaps they thought they had one more day to make the choice to follow Christ. Perhaps they thought they would do it next year. Perhaps they thought they weren’t good enough yet. Perhaps they just did not believe. The thought of even one lost family member or friend spending eternity in hell literally breaks my heart. We are not promised tomorrow, my friends. Today could be our very last day on earth.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in the middle of a huge wildlife management area. It was heavily wooded. I was waiting for a deer to wander through, but because of the extensive underbrush and tree coverage, I only had a small trail with a width of about 20 feet to watch. I stared down that trail for three hours, and I saw a lot of birds, but not one deer. While I sat there waiting, still, not moving, I began praying. I began silently speaking prayers over all of the families I mentioned above. Then, I began wondering, did they all know Christ. I made a mental checklist in my brain of the ones who I had spoken with about Christ, and the ones that I knew without a shadow of a doubt were enjoying their heavenly home, and then I made a list of the ones that I had not had a conversation with regarding our Savior. Sadly, the second list was much longer.

This realization, my friends, is what prompted today’s devotional. This is the most important thing that I will ever say. Jesus Christ died for our sins…all of our sins. And just as prophesied, he was resurrected, and He will return some day. He came and suffered death on the cross so that we may be made right with God. When we leave this earth, whether by death or rapture, we are going to stand face to face with God. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior, your name will be found in the Book of Life. You will spend eternity in your heavenly home. If your name is not written in the Book of Life at that moment in time, it will be too late. There won’t be any do-overs. There won’t be any second chances. No one back home can pray you through those pearly gates. Time is up, and you will be spending eternity in hell. Eternity in hell…it’s spoken of so light heartedly by many. I’ve heard the expression, “I’m going to bust the gates of hell wide open.” Oh, how I pray that you do not! It is not a place that you want to spend one second, much less eternity. “The smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever, and they will have no relief day or night, for they have worshiped the beast and his statue and have accepted the mark of his name.” (Revelation 14:11)

I do NOT want anyone to spend eternity in hell. I want to shout it from the rooftops. I want everyone to know about the wonderful, free gift of salvation. When we depart this earthly home, we are guaranteed to spend eternity in only one of two destinations. We have to choose our final destination while we are still here on earth, and we need to make that decision immediately. Tomorrow may not arrive for many of us. It will be too late. So, today, I ask you this very important question. Do you know where you will spend eternity? Are your sure? Will you walk the streets of gold singing praises to our Savior, or will you be in smoke and torment forever with no relief day or night? It is hard for me to write these words. I’m not trying to scare anyone into salvation, but please hear the cry of my heart today. If you haven’t made a decision to follow Christ, won’t you do it today before it’s too late? You alone get to choose. Please choose life everlasting with the Father. Don’t choose hell, fire, and brimstone!

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Give me a word, Lord: STILLNESS OF THE DAWN

Psalm 62:1-2 I wait quietly before God,  for my victory comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation,  my fortress where I will never be shaken.

Psalm 62:5-6 Let all that I am wait quietly before God,  for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation,  my fortress where I will not be shaken.

This morning, I’m not sitting at my cozy kitchen table writing, nor am I sitting on the back deck listening to the creek trickle along. Nope! Today I am writing to you from another one of my happy places. I am sitting way up high in an old hunting house…waiting on a deer. I’ll confess that when the alarm buzzed at 5:00 am, my body said that I should stay in that warm, comfy bed, but my brain said go so here I sit bundled up in my hunting suit feeling like the Pillsbury dough boy.

My husband drove me to the hunting house while it was still very dark out. However, the sky was clear and crisp, and a beautiful full moon lit up the dark night sky. I settled in, and I waited. It was very dark and very still. I sat here quietly waiting in the stillness for the dawn of a new day. Slowly, the sun began to make its presence known. The first glimmer of orange peeked through the pine trees. It looked as though the trees were on fire. Slowly, but surely, the sun gradually rose higher and the darkness was overcome by the light. Birds are happily singing praises to the new day. The cows are lowing in the distance. Three does have walked through already. This moment in time is absolutely splendid!

Before coming out today, I was thinking about all of the blessings of 2020. As this year comes to a close, we thank God for helping us make it through the year. I bet that I could spend all morning making a list of all of the bad things that happened this past year, but instead I choose to see the goodness. I sit here in the stillness of the dawn thanking and praising God for the goodness of 2020 as well as the bad. A lot of great things happened this past year, and we received many blessings. We can’t discount those blessings and ignore them just because we think we saw more bad than good this year. Today I am able to be still and count those blessings and praise God for every single one!

We rush through life running from one task to the next. We wear ourselves down with the busyness of each day. We start each day overwhelmed with the pressures of society, and we are drained before we even walk out the door. It doesn’t have to be that way, my friends. We have to make time to be still. Take time to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, and take time to be still in the presence of God as each new day dawns.

I love this old hunting house. I get to sit up here and see nature at its best. Through this dirty old window, I’ve seen deer, wild turkeys, hogs, bobcats, squirrels, and birds, and this morning I’ve already seen a doe, a yearling, a four point buck and a six point buck. I’ve enjoyed sunrises and sunsets. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, but I must confess that the thing I love most about it is the stillness that I get to enjoy with my Lord and Savior.

Take some time today to be still with the Lord! I guarantee you that that stillness will be the best part of your day too!

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Give me a word, Lord: NO FEAR!

Psalm 27:1-6 The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident. The one thing I ask of the Lord—the thing I seek most—is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his sanctuary I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing and praising the Lord with music.

I love to read through the Psalms. David had a powerful way with words. Psalm 27 is a great Psalm to read when we are feeling fearful or afraid. David had many opportunities to be fearful. As a young teen, he cared for the family sheep and fought off wild animals. As he grew a little older, he took on the giant, Goliath, with a slingshot and stones. Later, he dealt with the wrath of King Saul. He fought many battles in his lifetime. I’m sure that he felt the darkness of fear creep in a time or two, but this Psalm gives us great insight of how David handled his fear. He recognized that God was his light and salvation, and he realized that God was enough. He didn’t have any reason to be fearful of anyone or anything because God was with him.

We all face fear in our lives. We face our own kind of giants on a daily basis. Some of the giants are much larger than Goliath. It seems that every morning we awake to new giants, new battles, and new heartaches. We may feel overwhelmed. We may not know how to approach these difficult life challenges. We may feel that we can’t stand up to the difficult circumstance that we are facing, BUT we can! We can stand up to every challenge and difficult situation we face just as David did. We too can be delivered from fear by focusing and depending on the Lord.

David knew that he could not stand up to the difficulties alone. He proclaimed that God was his light and salvation, and in doing so, he understood that God grants the right perspective for life. If we look at life’s challenges through our own clouded lenses, we can not see clearly. We allow the worries and fears to overshadow our perspective. But if we learn to lean on God and rely on Him through every situation, the clouds slowly fade away, and we begin to see life through God’s glorious perspective.

David said, “Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident.” Confident in what? He knew where his strength came from. He knew who fought his battles for him. He did not puff up with pride when he fought Goliath. Do you recall what he told Goliath as he stood before him? “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the Lord will conquer you.” (I Samuel 17:45-46) He didn’t proclaim that he would defeat Goliath himself. he informed Goliath that the Lord would conquer him. The Lord will fight our battles too if only we would believe in Him. We have nothing to fear.

God will provide whatever is needed to meet every circumstance and challenge that we face. He only asks that we live for Him and trust in Him. When we learn to place our focus on Christ rather than on our fears, He will give us the strength we need, and He will take away our fears. Today, give it to God. Get up, get dressed, and put on the full armor of God, and know that He is with you today and always. Let go, and let God! No fear! He is here!

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Give me a word, Lord: TODAY IS A GOOD DAY FOR A GOOD DAY!

Psalm 34:1 I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.

Psalm 118:24 This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 31:7-8 I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to my enemies but have set me in a safe place.

Have you ever considered that the frame of mind that you have when you start your day seems to set the mood for the rest of the day? If you wake up grumpy, then you are apt to stay grumpy all day long. Not only that, you are apt to let that grumpiness overflow onto everyone you come in contact with throughout the day. It’s true. And our attitude doesn’t merely determine the mood for our day, it sometimes sets the tone for our lives!

I read this funny story that I want to share today. There once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and saw that she had only three hairs on her head. “Great,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” So she did and had a wonderful day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. “Hmm,” she said, “I guess I’ll part my hair down the middle.” So she did and had a wonderful day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only one hair left on her head. “Wow,” she said, “today I get to wear my hair in a ponytail.” So she did and had a wonderful, wonderful day. The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Thank God!” she exclaimed. “I was running out of things to do with my hair!” I absolutely love this! Personally my hair has thinned significantly over the past year due to telogen effluvium. I fight with my curly locks each morning trying to cover the thinning areas, and I’ll confess that I need to adopt this lady’s attitude when it comes to my hair! If a bad hair day made for a bad day, this girl would have a bad day every day! This kinky hair is always having a bad day.

How can we make everyday a good day? I have found a simple solution. Start each day off in the Word of God. Seriously! It is such a simple, yet profound thing to do. Last March, I began writing a daily devotional. I have made it a priority in my life. I try to sit down and read scripture and write the devotional first thing everyday right after saying my morning prayers. I always ask God for a word to share, and He keeps providing things for me to write about. I have shared things related to personal experiences along with things that have been placed on my heart. Most days, I wake up and I don’t have a clue what I am going to write about, but God is always faithful. I read a little of His Word, and tada, a devotional forms.

We all have troubles in our lives. I have friends and families who are enduring great loss, others are dealing with sickness, loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of a relationship, and so much more. When we are feeling those great losses, we must reflect on the Word. Turn to the book of Psalms. I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul. (Psalm 31:7-8) God knows our troubles. He knows exactly what is causing anguish within our souls. He KNOWS, and no matter what we are going through, His love never fails us. He is with us always! But note something important from this quote from Psalms. He said, “I will be glad and rejoice.” The psalmist, King David, made a choice. He chose to be glad and to rejoice in the unfailing love of God. It was a conscious decision. He chose to be glad and rejoice despite his circumstances. He was having trouble. There was anguish within him, yet he chose to be glad and rejoice.

We would do well to as David did. I am the only one who can control my attitude and outlook on life, and you are the only one who can control yours. We can choose to be grumpy Gus’, or we can choose to be happy and joyful. We can wake up each day and have a terrible, no good, very bad day, or we can wake up and have a joyful, happy, very good day. We get to choose. Today I have decided that today is a good day for a good day! This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it. Today, tomorrow, and the next day….they are all going to be great days thanks be to God!

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Give me a word, Lord: HE’S ALWAYS HERE

John 14:15-21 “If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

I read a meme this morning, “And just like that…Santa is gone until next year…But Jesus is still here with gifts that never end.” Consider this wonderful truth this morning. Oh, I’m not bashing the big man in the red suit. I love Santa Claus and all of the magical things he stands for. I even go to church with a real live Santa who shares the true Christmas story with children throughout the Christmas season. But it’s December 26th now, and old Santa has retired to his vacation home at the North Pole. We won’t see or hear about him until the end of next year. Yes, as Christmas day has drawn to an end, Santa has left us.

Now consider for a moment the period of time after Christ was crucified. The men who lived and walked and learned from Christ must have been quite distressed in the days immediately following His crucifixion. They had fully trusted that this Jesus was who He said He was, and then suddenly, He was gone. Was He who He said He was? Was He the Messiah? Was He God incarnate? Can you imagine their confusion and distress? They watched Him die. He was gone…forever…the One they loved…gone…or so they thought.

In John 14, Jesus tried to explain and prepare the disciples for His bodily departure, but they were clueless. He explained of the Advocate that He would send. He would send the Holy Spirit to live within them…within each of us. The disciples didn’t get it at that moment. They didn’t understand until later after the resurrection, but just imagine the moment when they finally understood!

Yes, my friends, Christmas has come and gone once again. Santa has left us here to pick up the mess following the celebration, but we are not alone. Christ never leaves us. He has always been with us, and He promised that He would never leave us. He has never ever broken a promise. “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Christmas has come and gone, my friends, but Christ hasn’t gone anywhere! He is still here today, and He will always be with us! He will never leave. Recline in that thought today, Peeps!

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Give me a word, Lord: IT MEANS MORE!

Isaiah 7:14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Isaiah 6:9-7 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

The Grinch story written by Dr. Seuss years ago has been made into cartoons and movies for the whole world to see. The old green Grinch is a despised character with a tiny heart, sad and lonely, and his desire was to make the whole town of Whoville be as miserable as he was. He thought that he could steal Christmas, and if he took away all of the packages, ribbons, and tags, and even the lights from their trees and the roast beast, he would ruin Christmas for the Whos! He expected the town to wake up sad and broken the next morning, but to his great surprise, he had not stopped Christmas. The village came together singing a Christmas song with great cheer the next morning as they celebrated Christmas despite the absence of the material things of Christmas. This puzzled the Grinch, but he suddenly realized that maybe Christmas was something more. His old shriveled lonely heart grew three sizes, and he returned to Whoville with all of their belongings and celebrated a Whoville Christmas feast with the Whos. My favorite quote from the book is “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.

Isn’t it awesome that Dr. Seuss reminded children all over the world of his simple, fantastic fact in a children’s book. As we wake up on this cold and icy Christmas morning, the lights of our tree are shining brightly. There are packages neatly wrapped beneath the tree, and all is well in the Hodge home. But, it’s not the pretty lights nor the brightly colored packages that bring us the sense of Christmas. It is the fact that we are celebrating the birth of our Savior! We are celebrating the day that our Lord came to earth to be with His people so that we may have a way to spend eternity with Him!

God orchestrated the birth. Isaiah prophesied the coming King over 700 years before the birth of Christ. Micah again prophesied it 400 years before the birth. It had to occur in the tiny city of Bethlehem, and God made it happen. A census was ordered that brought Mary & Joseph to the Bethlehem just in time for the King to be born in the city of David. It was pre-ordained, and God work it out behind the scenes so that it would occur just as He planned. The birth event was something so extraordinary, something that have never before occurred. A miraculous virgin birth. Jesus came to us, fully God and fully man. Jesus left His heavenly throne and came to earth to live among man. God gave us the best gift ever on the very first Christmas day!

That baby grew up and walked with man. He felt all of the things that man felt. He felt joy, laughter, sadness, and tears. He felt pain and aches just like we do. And one horrific day, He suffered unimaginable pain on that old rugged cross so that we may be made right with the Father. That terrible dark day Christ died for our sins, and that dark day became the brightest day for us. His gracious, merciful act made us right with God so that we may be joined eternally with Him.

You may have received what you think is the best gift you could have ever received today, or you may have received the worse gift. No matter what kind of gift you received, it can not compare to the greatest gift ever given. Today we celebrate the birth of our King! He wasn’t born is an ornate castle with servants galore. He arrived in a stable, and was placed in a manger, a feeding trough for the animals. He wasn’t clothed in fine linen robes. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. He wasn’t surrounded by a paparazzi of people wanting to catch a glimpse of the King. He was born in a lowly stable surrounded by cattle, and poor, dirty shepherds were his first visitors. Christ didn’t arrive with all of the pomp and circumstance that one would expect, but He arrived just as it was prophesied and right on time. Dr. Seuss couldn’t have said it better! “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.” Christmas really doesn’t come from a store. Today, let us give thanks to our heavenly Father for orchestrating the very best Christmas ever which changed our lives forever! Merry Christmas, my friends! Celebrate the Reason for the season today and everyday!

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Give me a word, Lord: THE CHRISTMAS CROSS

Luke 24:5-7 Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Last year, we spent the month of December reading through the book of Luke as a family, one chapter each night beginning December 1. As we reached chapter 24 on the 24th of December these words came to my heart. I would like to share this with all of you on this Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas from Hodge Lodge!

The Christmas Cross

It’s Christmas Eve, and the house is very quiet
As I peacefully recline and enjoy the pretty lights.
Bright white, green, purple, yellow, red, and blue;
They offer up such a gloriously blissful hue.

Nativity scenes are scattered around and even adorn my tree.
I love them all because they mean the world to me.
But even more than the lights, the tree, and the scenes,
One ornament stands out, shining with the brightest gleam.

A single little shiny cross reminds us why He came.
If not for the cross, the Baby in the trough wouldn’t mean the same.
We’ve been reading through Luke, chapters one thru twenty-four,
Remembering the first Christmas, and oh so much more.

Mary was alerted, “You are going to birth a son.
The Holy Spirit will come. He will be the Holy One.”
Mary was astonished. She had never known a man.
Only trust and faith in God could make her understand.

More than 700 years before, Isaiah did proclaim.
He prophesied the birth of the Messiah and even told His name.
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace;
He would come to earth a sinless man, so that from sin we could be released.

He had to be born in Bethlehem, as that was part of God’s plan.
A census was called, and they travelled there as part of David’s clan.
Sometime while there, Mary birthed the Son.
She swaddled Him up, the perfect, majestic One.

The angels alerted the shepherds at night
They told of the child that came to make us all right.
The shepherds were fearful, but they believed.
They hurried to Bethlehem for the Christ child to receive.

The Christ child was given the name Jesus,
Or Immanuel, meaning God is with us.
Remembering the birth, joy fills my heart,
But don’t forget that the birth was just the start.

That little baby grew up, fully God, fully man.
He showed greater love than anyone on the land.
He grew in stature, wisdom, and grace;
A perfect man with the most beautiful face.

He performed many miracles. He served the poor.
He taught lessons for life, and He gave us much more.
He walked as a man, but He was indeed deity.
For the reason He came, was to save you and me.

He came to suffer and die on that old rugged cross.
He knew if He didn’t, we all would be lost.
Jesus became the final sacrifice for you and for me
To give us the gift of everlasting life you see.

We think of salvation as a free gift from above,
But that gift was paid for with Christ’s love and blood.
That single little shiny cross reminds us why He came.
For if not for the cross, the Baby in the trough would NOT mean the same!

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Give me a word, Lord: THE REST OF THE STORY

John 3:16-17 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Paul Harvey was a well known radio personality, He was born Paul Harvey Aurandt (1918-2009), and that man had a way with words. I remember tuning in to listen to “The Rest of the Story” back in the 1980s. At that time I was working at the Movie Star factory prior to going to college. Paul Harvey’s boisterous voice rang out on the radio shortly after the lunch buzzer rang. He would tell a story and end the broadcast with “and now you know the rest of the story.” It was good, clean radio, and anyone listening could tell that this was a good, godly man. The story I am sharing today is a bit long, but it is a good one. This is a parable shared by Paul Harvey every year for many years. After a little research, I found that the parable was written by Louis Cassels (1922-1974) from South Carolina. You many have heard it, but it is worth a repeat.

The man I’m going to tell you about was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family and upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe in all of that incarnation stuff that the churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

He told his wife I’m truly sorry to distress you, but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve. He said he would feel like a hypocrite and that he would much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. So he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then he went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.

Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another … and then another. At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against the living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled outside miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large landscape window. That is what had been making the sound.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures just lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter. All he would have to do is to direct the birds into the shelter.

Quickly, he put on a coat and galoshes and he tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light so the birds would know the way in. But the birds did not come in.

So, he figured that food would entice them. He hurried back to the house and fetched some bread crumbs. He sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail of bread crumbs to the yellow-lighted wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs.

The birds continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them but could not. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction … every direction except into the warm lighted barn.

And that’s when he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Any move he made tended to frighten them and confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

He thought to himself, if only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe warm … to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see … and hear … and understand.

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

“Now I understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why you had to do it.

The story ended there, but that wasn’t the rest of the story. That man finally understood. He finally understood the true meaning of the Christmas story. He finally understood that Jesus came to earth to mingle with His people and to speak their language. He finally understood that Jesus came to show us the way…the way to be safe in the shelter of the Most High. He finally understood that we are in the dark and lost without Christ! The idea that God became man and walked among us is one of the most profound claims of Christianity. God didn’t have to send Jesus to be born those many years ago, but He wanted us to know Him. Without Christ, we are like those poor, cold, scared birds. Oh but God! God sent His Son into the world as a man – to demonstrate his love for people, to show his intimate understanding of human life and to personally deliver the message of salvation. Because of this remarkable act, we no longer have to be cold or scared or in the dark. The Light came to us! ….and now…you know…the rest of the story!

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Give me a word, Lord: GUIDING LIGHT

Matthew 2:9-11 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Everyone was chattering about the Christmas star that appeared in the southwest sky last night. It was supposed to be seen best about 45 minutes after sunset. I was still at work at that time, and we are still seeing any possible COVID patients in the parking lot. I was walking in and out of the building to check on patients while scanning the night sky. I had already asked my husband to get my camera out because I wanted to try to get a good picture of the star. When I arrived home at 7:40, he greeted me at my vehicle, and we drove over to the cow field. Thankfully he had a flashlight to guide our steps so that we would not step in one of the many land mines left behind by the cattle. We looked to the southwest sky, and we found the brightest star, but sadly it was a little too late for a great photo-op. It was still quite surreal. We were standing out in a cow pasture on a cold, dark night, looking up to the heavens trying to find the brightest star. It was a clear, beautiful night, and there were so many beautiful stars in the sky. It was impossible not to reflect on the glory of our God.

A couple thousand years ago, the brightest star ever known to man lit up the western sky. God ordained it, and it was so. Let’s consider the wise men today. We often think of there being only three of them, because only three gifts were mentioned, but technically the Bible doesn’t cite a number. We do know that these men were likely to have been from a certain group of priestly scholars also known as Magi. They studied many things including astronomy and ancient writings. Many scholars believe that they were from the royal courts of Babylonia and Persia. These men knew the ancient writings, and they knew that God would give a sign when the Christ child was born (Isaiah 7:14). They had never seen a star like this one before, and we have never seen one since. It must have been a spectacular site!

When the wise men saw this brighter than life star in the western sky, they knew that it meant something really big had happened, and from their studies of ancient writings, they must have put two and two together and realized that this was the sign sent by God to alert the world of the newborn King. They followed the star to Bethlehem, and they found the Child in a home with His parents. (Note: they weren’t in the stable any longer, so the wise men arrived some time after the shepherds. The lowly guys received the first invitation.) The wise men brought gifts to celebrate the arrival of this newborn King. The gifts were fairly strange, but fitting for this particular King. The first gift was gold which symbolized Kingship on earth. The second gift was frankincense which was an incense that represented the deity of Christ. Lastly, they gifted the King with myrrh. What a weird gift to give a newborn baby. Myrrh was an embalming oil and symbolized the coming death of the King. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never taken gold, incense, or especially embalming oil to a baby shower, but that’s what these guys did. They had studied the scripture. They knew the prophecy, and we can tell this by the gifts that they brought as the gifts symbolized Christ’s Kingship, His deity, and eventually the death that He would endure for our salvation. That’s pretty deep!

The wise men knew the prophecy, and when they saw the guiding light, it led them right to the Christ child. These men were not the only men who knew the prophecy. What about the scribes and priests of the day? What about the religious leaders that knew the law and recited the scripture on a daily basis? They knew of the coming Messiah, yet when this guiding light lit up the night sky, they didn’t go and look for the King. Why do you think that was? Our pastor touched on this a bit in last Sunday’s sermon. I think it is because a lot of people have head knowledge of Christ. They know who He is. They have been to church, they have even studied the Word, and they know all about Christ, but these people do NOT know Christ. They have the head knowledge, but they don’t have heart knowledge. Apparently, the wise men had both! That’s why we call them wise!

The alignment of Jupiter and Saturn last night was a great sight to see, but it was nothing in comparison to that great star of Bethlehem that directed the wise men to Christ. We look up into the sky and search for that guiding light, the star of Bethlehem, and we do not see it. It is no longer there. The Christ child is no longer in a home in Bethlehem. We can’t follow a star in the sky to find Him, but have no fear. We have the Son to guide us now, and that is better than any star. He fills us with the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit guides our paths. When we give Him full reign of our lives, that bright guiding Light within us takes us exactly where we need to go. That guiding Light is within each and every believer in Christ. Do you have the Light within you? Are you letting the true guiding Light lead you today? Are you pointing others to the Light?

We knew about the Christmas star because it was all over the news. We knew to go out and look for it last night. The wise men knew the stars well, and they knew the ancient scriptures. They didn’t have a news team to alert them. They saw this guiding light, and they followed it to the King. When you look up at night and see all of the beautiful stars dancing in the sky, remember that one bright star, and let those stars remind you of Jesus. Let them remind you of the true Light, and point others to the Light. Look for Christ today…if you look for Him, I guarantee you that you will find Him. He is the Light in this dark world! Follow the guiding Light!

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Give me a word, Lord: IMMANUEL: GOD WITH US

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Matthew 1:22-23 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means “God with us”).

I do not know a lot of Hebrew, but there is one word that I know and love. The word is Immanuel. Immanuel literally means “God with us.” When Jesus was born to Mary, He was called Immanuel. He was born into this world fully God and fully man so that God could walk among His people. He came to be with us so that we could have a way to be with the Father eternally. Our sins made it absolutely impossible for us to come to God, so He came to us.

God took an extraordinary step to come to us because He wanted to have a relationship with us. He came as a baby, and grew up as a man so that He could make us right with the Father. He made himself susceptible to all the things that we are susceptible to daily. He felt sorrow. He was tempted, yet He did not falter. He felt the things we felt. He came to over power the claim that sin had on us, and He cancelled that claim. He came to be with us in the flesh. It is an astonishing, amazing, and wonderful thing to consider. God came to be with us in the flesh so that we may be with Him eternally! Wow!

More than 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah the prophet prophesied the coming of the King. He called Him Immanuel. For 700 long years, the people awaited the promised Messiah. Can you imagine the anticipation? It had to be very hard to wait for this special promise. In Matthew, we see the promise fulfilled as the King was born. Immanuel came to earth in the fleshly form to be with us. And now, 2000 years later, we await His promised return. Oh, the anticipation is almost unbearable at times. I can hardly wait!

The name Immanuel points to the nature of the One who bears the name. He is God incarnate – God coming into human flesh – and dwells by His Spirit in the hearts of His people. He always was, is, and always will be with us! The events of 2020 have overwhelmed us. The things that we have seen and witnessed this year have somewhat dimmed the light within us. We can not give in to the anxiety that fills the air as we hear of tragedy after tragedy. We can’t allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with the things of this world. Why? The answer is Immanuel. God is with us. Don’t forget this very wonderful truth. God is still with us! He watches over us daily. He knows exactly what is going on in our lives…even before we do. He fights battles for us that we do not even realize are ongoing. He sends His angels to protect us. He blazes trails for us, and He defends us. He truly is with us.

This Christmas season as the hustle and bustle exhaust you, and you do not know whether you are coming and going, please remember these words…GOD…IS…WITH…YOU! He is ever present, and He is fighting for you! This is promised in 2 Chronicles 32:8, “but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” Again, we see this promise in Nehemiah 4:20, “Our God will fight for us!” One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Don’t you see? God is with us. He is fighting for us. He loves us so much.

God didn’t send His Son to be with us the short 33 years that He walked on earth. God sent His Son to make a path for us to have eternal life with Him. He was always here, and He will always be with us. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:10) As you walk these rough and rocky roads of the present, seek His presence! He is with us! What a glorious feeling it is to know and trust that our loving Savior is with us to the very end…every single step we take…God is with us!

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Give me a word, Lord: HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN?

Luke 1:28-34 “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”  Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”  Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

As we rush into the celebration of Christmas this week, we begin to slow down and ponder the story of the birth of the King. I wrote about Mary a little while back as I pondered the idea of whether or not Mary knew exactly who the Child she was carrying was. Today, I’m pondering the birth story with a little bit different twist. How did a virgin girl give birth to the King of kings? How in the world did this miracle happen? Well, Mary asked this same question herself. The angel answered her question with this response, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” That’s a good explanation, but wow, still hard to comprehend and understand. But…it happened just as the angel said! Our God can do ANYTHING!

We tend to put God in a little box. We can’t possibly understand His power and authority, so we just put Him in a little box and store Him away on a shelf somewhere. We call Him out of the box when we need Him like He is some kind of genie in a bottle. That is NOT the way it works, my friends. God is BIG. God is HUGE. He is everywhere, all the time. He is all powerful, and He is all knowing. He created us and this entire universe, and He deserves our attention all of the time. He deserves our praise on a daily basis.

Mary didn’t understand how she could conceive this Child, but she accepted the fact and believed that this would happen exactly the way the angel said it would happen. God has always been in the baby miracle business. Isaac was born to Abraham in Sarah in their old age. They were knocking on the door of one hundred. How could an old woman like Sarah give birth to a baby in her old age? How could this happen? …God. What about Samuel? Hannah was barren, and she prayed for a son. She promised to give the child back to God, if He would only bless her with a son. God heard her prayers, and a barren woman gave birth. How could this happen? …God. Then Elizabeth and Zechariah were childless, but they were chosen to be the parents of John the Baptist. They were also up in age, and were well past the age of reproduction. But Gabriel delivered the message to Zechariah that they would bear a son that would announce the Messiah, and it happened just at old Gabriel proclaimed. How could this happen? …God

Don’t you see? God is at work in the lives of His children on a daily basis. He can give a child to a virgin, and he can give a child to a elderly woman. If He can do this, we have to see that there is NOTHING that He can not do. So why then do we tend to put God in a box or on the back burner in our lives? Why don’t we recognize the sovereignty of our God? Consider for a moment the person that you love most in this whole world. How much do you love that person? Take that love and multiple it times infinity. That is how much God loves you. He cares about every single detail in your life. He hears you when you cry. He feels that pain too. He hears you when you are joyful. He rejoices with you. He cares about the things that you care about, and He knows exactly how to meet your needs.

I don’t know what is going on in your life right now, but I’m sure there is a trouble or two on your mind or in your heart. Don’t let those concerns overwhelm you and steal your joy this Christmas season. We wonder how things will work out. We ponder over how things will end. We worry when we can’t see the solution to the problems in life. How can this happen? How will I work this all out? Instead of asking how it will work out and how it can happen, we should be confidently saying, “I can not wait to see how my God is going to work this out!” Or maybe we should declare with confidence, “I’m not sure what you are teaching me through these circumstances, God, but I’m just going to trust you. I know you are in the fire with me, and you are not going to let me get burned!” We have to have faith through the fires in life. We have to recognize that we can’t control what is going on, but God can. He is in control. Everything an and will happen just as He ordains. How can this happen? It can happen because we serve a Holy Father that loves His kids unconditionally and infinitely, and He is actively involved in each of our lives. Let go and let God have control. He will works everything out for our good and His glory…every single time! Let God carry the weight while you wait….

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Give me a word, Lord: WOMEN OF THE WORD

Matthew 1:3a Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar

Matthew 1:5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth.

Matthew 1:6b David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.

Yesterday, our church lost an iconic figure. Mrs. Roberta Balch left this world to take up residence in her permanent dwelling place in heaven. I bet she is sitting at the feet of Jesus this very moment. I didn’t know Mrs. Roberta extremely well, but I knew her enough to know that she was a godly woman and that she loved the Lord. This was easily noted by looking at the children that she raised. I’ve attended church with her daughters Lila and Bernice. Lila shares scripture daily to friends and family on social media, and Mrs. Bernice sings praises with the voice of an absolute angel. Her son, Donald, preached a sermon at our church recently. Yes, you can tell that Mrs. Roberta was a woman of the Word through the life she lived and the children she raised. She leaves behind a legacy of love for the Lord, strength, and endurance. I know that her family is grieving her loss at this moment, but I know that they have peace knowing she is in the arms of our Savior. What a legacy Mrs. Roberta left behind!

When we study scripture, we seem to remember the male figures of the Bible. This is quite natural because there are so many important male figures discussed in scripture. However, we can’t forget the women of the Word. They were pretty important too. In fact, when Matthew listed the genealogy leading up the birth of Christ, Matthew felt that four women were important enough to list by name (with the exception of Bathsheba…he just called her Uriah’s wife). He called out Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.

Tamar was married to the son of Judah, Er. Er was evil in the Lord’s sight, and He took his life. The responsibility for Tamar to bear a son was left to Judah’s younger son, Onan. He refused to have a child with Tamar, and wasted his seed. The Lord took his life too. Tamar was left childless, and Judah didn’t give his son Shelah to her as promised. It was kind of understandable as it seemed she had caused the death of his two other sons. Tamar decided to take things into her own hands, and she posed as a prostitute and tricked Judah into relations with her. This union produced twins Perez and Zerah. Ironically, out of the bloodline of Perez came David and later Jesus Christ.

Next, Matthew mentions Rahab. Rahab, a prostitute of the Canaanite city of Jericho, is known for helping the Israelites defeat the pagan city of Jericho and for her place in the lineage of Jesus Christ. Rahab’s story begins during the invasion of the city of Jericho by the Israelites. She protected the Israelite spies as they were checking out the city of Jericho, and she was remembered by the Israelites and her family was protected. Ultimately, Rahab married Salmon, an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. Her son was Boaz, the husband of Ruth.

Ruth is mentioned next. I love the redemptive story of Ruth. She lost her husband, but instead of returning to her own people, she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi, to her home family. She caught the attention of Boaz, and he redeemed her and made her his wife. He didn’t have to marry her. There actually was another kinsman who could have redeemed her, but it was like a story of love at first sight. Boaz wanted to marry Ruth, and he ended up taking her as his wife. From this marriage eventually came a descendant, Joseph, who was the earthly, adoptive father of Jesus.

Finally, Matthew mentions Uriah’s wife. I giggle when I read this. He called out by name a woman who pretended to be a prostitute to conceive with Judah, and he called out by name a prostitute, but he doesn’t acknowledge Bathsheba by name. Yes, Bathsheba and David messed up big time. David was strolling on his roof one night, and he looked over and saw a beautiful woman bathing. He decided that he had to have this woman, and he summoned her. Shortly after, he learned that she was pregnant. David tried to cover up his mistake. He decided he would have Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, come home from the battlefield. They could get together, and then all would appear to be okay. However, the plan fell through when Uriah refused to go home while his counterparts continued to risk their life in battle. After two attempts to “reunite” the married couple failed, David sent word to put Uriah on the frontline in the fierce battle so that he might be killed. After Uriah died, David took Bathsheba as his wife. The son that they had conceived out of wedlock died, but then came Solomon who was know as the greatest king ever.

All of these women have something in common. They are grandmothers in the family tree of Jesus. They were not all wonderful examples of godly women. They made mistakes, and their mistakes were recorded for the whole world to read. They had affairs outside of marriage. Two prostituted themselves. They lied. They cheated. They messed up big time, yet God picked them to be part of the greatest story ever told! He chose these four broken women to be part of the lineage of Christ! Each woman left her mark on this world. Each woman left a legacy behind that led to the birth of the King. We may not all feel like we are living the godly life or the example that was set by Mrs. Roberta, but as children of the King, God has given us His name. We are the children of God. He has given us His lineage. We are adopted sons and daughters of the King. Most importantly, He has given us the gift of salvation which has made us right with The Father.

I look back on my own life, and I see the many times that if messed up royally. I’m so very thankful that my biggest life mistakes were not recorded for the entire world to read in the most read and printed book of all time, but even if they were, it wouldn’t matter. All that matters is that I have been made right with the Father. I have been adopted into the family of God. I am His child. He is my Father. I pray that the legacy I am leaving behind reveals that I am a child of God. That’s all that really matters! Be a woman (or man) of the Word! Don’t just read the Word. You have to live it! What kind of legacy are you leaving behind?

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Give me a word, Lord: WHERE IS THE LAMB?

Genesis 22:7-8 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.

John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

We have been asking this question around our farm lately, “Where are the lambs?” All the sheep are pregnant. They have usually birthed by now. We check everyday, but no babies have arrived as of yet. We were hoping that they would birth earlier in the month in time to be used as sheep for a live nativity, but no, they aren’t in any hurry to arrive this year. Maybe they are waiting for Christmas. Wouldn’t that be something? A barn full of baby lambs being born on the day that we celebrate the birth of the true Lamb of God would be pretty amazing.

I was reflecting back on some very familiar scripture this morning. I’m sure you all remember the story of Abraham and Isaac. God tested Abraham when he told him to take his son Isaac to Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on the mountain there. God has never asked anyone to sacrifice their son before or since, but Abraham got up early the next morning and loaded up his donkey. He took two servants and his son with him, and he headed off to the place that God had instructed. When he arrived, Abraham and Isaac went up to the appointed place. Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering, and Abraham carried the fire and the knife. Isaac realizes something was missing, and he asked his father this very specific question, “Where is the lamb?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb.”

I notice a few things when I read this scripture. First of all, when Abraham and Isaac left the servants with the donkey, Abraham told the servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship, and then WE will come back to you.” Abraham knew that God had asked him to sacrifice his son, yet he informed the servants that they would both come back to them. Abraham trusted God. He did exactly as God asked, but he knew that somehow, his son would be coming back with him. Another point to consider was Abraham’s response to Isaac’s question, “God himself will provide the lamb.” Abraham knew that God would provide. He didn’t know how, but he trusted that God would provide, and what an amazing foreshadowing of the events to come was demonstrated on that mountain. God did provide a lamb for the sacrifice at Moriah. A ram was caught in the thicket, and this ram took the place of Isaac. The lamb died instead of the son. The lamb died to save the son.

Fast forward a few hundred years. Isaiah prophesied of the coming Lamb, and 700 years or so later, God fulfilled the prophesy. He sent His son, the perfect Lamb of God. John the Baptist was baptizing people in the Jordan River when he saw Jesus, and he shouted, ““Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” God sent Christ to take away our sins. He was the perfect Lamb, unblemished, without sin, and the Holy Son of God. He sent that perfect Lamb to die so that we may have everlasting life. The perfect Lamb took away the sins of all people. He took our place on that cross. God provided the Lamb that will save us all!

The Lamb is Christ. If you don’t know Him, there is no better day that today to get to know Him. He loves you so much! Don’t keep searching for the Lamb. Invite Him into your heart today! If you’ve invited Him in previously, but you just aren’t feeling His presence lately, maybe it’s time for a heart purge. Get rid of all of the stuff that is keeping you from a close relationship with Christ, and make room for the perfect Lamb of God today!

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Give me a word, Lord: SILENT REFLECTION

Luke 1:11-20 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

There are quite a few unsung heroes in the Bible, and one that is often left out of the Christmas story and the nativity is old Zechariah. Y’all remember him don’t you? He was the husband to Elizabeth. Zechariah and Elizabeth were very righteous in the eyes of the Lord. They were good people. They followed the commands of the Lord, yet they were getting up in age, and they had no children. Surely the towns people gossiped about them. They probably thought that these two upstanding citizens had a deep dark secret that only God knew, and therefore, God was preventing them from receiving the gift of children. You know how the gossip mongers can be. Nonetheless, this childless couple remained faithful to the Lord, and the Lord knows and remembers His faithful children.

Zechariah didn’t have a clue that he was going to be part of the greatest story ever told. He didn’t know that God was preparing the scene for the birth of the Savior. First, God sent His angel Gabriel to announce to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth would be parents. They wouldn’t just be parents of any old John Doe, they were going to parents of John the Baptist! Look at Gabriel’s introduction of the child that was to be born to them: “he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Wow! Not only were they going to be blessed with a son in their old age, they were being blessed with the one that would prepare people for the coming of the Lord and turn the rebellious to godly wisdom.

I can only imagine what Zechariah was feeling and thinking. That old fellow didn’t keep his thoughts to himself. He voiced his doubts out loud as I’ve tended to do from time to time. That verbalized doubt must have stung Gabriel for Gabriel had to remind Zechariah of just who he was. He quickly let Zechariah know his name, that he stood in the very presence of God, and that God sent him to personally deliver this good news to Zechariah. Gabriel was an important angel, and apparently Zechariah didn’t know it. Remember where Gabriel was going next? He would soon be stopping by to visit a virgin by the name of Mary to announce her pregnancy and impending delivery of the King of kings. Yes, Gabriel was important, and old Zechariah didn’t give him his due respect so Gabriel silenced Zechariah. He informed him that he would not be able to speak until the child was born because he did not believe what he had told him.

Zechariah returned home, and just as Gabriel announced, Elizabeth became pregnant. They didn’t tell anyone for five months. (Zechariah couldn’t speak anyway.) They kept the pregnancy to themselves until Mary went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, and the baby leapt in the presence of the Mary who was carrying the Christ child. “At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41) Nine months after Gabriel’s announcement in the temple, Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy. The people wanted them to name the child Zechariah after his father, but Elizabeth told them that his name would be John. Zechariah asked for a tablet, and he wrote the name John on the tablet, and immediately, he was able to speak again.

Zechariah was silenced for nine whole months. He wasn’t able to speak for nine…long…months. We must remember that those nine months were months that were leading up to the birth of Christ. I bet Zechariah didn’t see it as a blessing at the time, but wow, what a blessing it was. God gave this man nine months to quietly reflect on the events that were about to happen, events that would change the world forever. Zechariah and his wife were birthing John the Baptist, a mighty disciple for Christ. He baptized many in the name of the Savior, and he even baptized Jesus. Shortly after the birth of John, the King of kings and Lord of lords was born. Zechariah was given nine whole months to quietly reflect on these glorious events.

Here we all sit, some 2000 plus years later, on the verge of celebrating that great birthday of the King. Are we quietly reflecting on this wondrous event? Are we recognizing the glory of it all? Are we silently remembering that silent night long ago, that night when the Baby was born that would change the world? I am willing to bet that most of us aren’t having too many silent days. I know that I’m not. I’ve been working harder than ever recently, and I am exhausted at the end of each day…BUT there is always time for quiet reflection. I challenge you to find some time to be silent this season. Spend some time with the Savior each and every day. Give Him more than five minutes here and there. He deserves your time and your presence. Don’t make Him send Gabriel down here to Ssshhh you! After all, His presence was the greatest present ever given to this world! Christ deserves our praise and honor every minute of everyday!

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Give me a word, Lord: I DON’T UNDERSTAND

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

There was young boy selling newspapers on a very cold day in a large city. The temperatures had dropped. It was bitterly cold out. It was so cold that when the boy came upon a police officer, he asked, “Do you know where a cold boy could find a warm place to sleep tonight?” The policeman looked at him, and then said, “Go down the street to the big white house, and knock on the door. When someone answers, say ‘John 3:16’.” So the boy did as he was instructed, and knocked on the door. When the door opened, he said, “John 3:16,” and he was immediately invited in. He sat there and thought to himself, “I don’t understand this John 3:16, but it sure makes a cold boy warm.” Later, the lady of the house prepared a hot meal for the boy. As he ate, he thought, “I don’t understand this John 3:16, but it sure makes a hungry boy full.” After filling his tummy, the lady took him up to a huge bathroom with a big tub. The boy recalled that this was the first real bath he had ever had in his life, and he thought, “I don’t understand this John 3:16, but it sure makes a dirty boy clean.” After the bath, the lady took the boy to a nice bedroom with a big feather bed, and she tucked him in and kissed him good night, and the boy thought, “I don’t understand this John 3:16, but it sure makes a tired boy rested.” The next morning, the lady asked if he understood John 3:16. The boy confessed that he had never even heard of it until the night before. The lady sat down with her worn bible, opened it to John 3:16, and explained the scripture to him. He accepted Christ into his heart that very day.

Now, I don’t know if this is a true story or not, and I can’t give credit to the original author as I can not find out who wrote it, but I definitely think it is a story worth repeating. John 3:16 is probably one of the most memorized and recited verses in the Bible, but do we understand it? Sometimes, you must go back to thinking like a child to really understand something so very complicated. We could never truly understand how God could send His only son to die for you and for me. How could God do that? How could He love us that much? When I look back on my life, and I think about all of the times that I have royally messed up, I have to wonder how could God send His son to die for me? The thought of it brings me to tears when I think of the suffering that Christ did on the cross so that this goofball could be forgiven of all of my sins and mistakes in order to make me right with God. I’ll never understand how He could love me that much. That kind of love is absolutely incomprehensible.

But God…oh, but God, He loves us. He loves us no matter what out past looks like. He makes a cold boy warm. The very thought of the love that Christ shows for us is enough to warm the coldest heart. That love can melt the iciest of hearts, and it can even turn hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. Yes, that love makes a cold heart warm. The love of Christ also fills us up when we are feeling empty. When we receive Christ as our Savior, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We are filled with joy, love, and peace that transcends all understanding. The love of Christ certainly makes a hungry person feel full. When we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior, He washes away all of our sins. The blood of Christ ran red so that we might be made as white as snow. He wipes the slate clean. No matter how dirty we are at the moment we come to Him, He washes away all of the filth and grime of our past life, and cleans us up and makes us new. Yes, the love of Christ makes a dirty person clean. When we have Christ, we don’t have to worry and fret and wear ourselves down the way we tend to be in the habit of doing. Jesus tells us to take His yoke upon us and we will find rest for our souls. Resting in Christ is definitely the best place to rest. I had a rather tough day Monday. It was a typically busy day, but in addition to the heavy workload, I received sad news after sad news. I learned of a death of a friend, made a diagnosis of cancer in a child, and by the end of the day, I felt defeated. As I lay in bed that night, I began my nightly prayers with my eyes hot with tears. I fell asleep praying in the arms of my Lord. You want to know something? When you fall asleep in the arms of the Savior, you wake up the next morning in the arms of the Savior, and there is no place on earth I would rather be!

Yes, I may not completely understand John 3:16 either. I will never understand how God could love a lowly sinner like me enough to give His Son to die for me, but I am so thankful that He did. John 3:16: I don’t understand it, but I believe it with every ounce of my being! I thank God that He loves me despite myself!

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Give me a word, Lord: NOT ALONE

Daniel 3: 24-25 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”  He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Our little country church was somehow gifted with a truly wonderful pastor. Bro. Shane is a true man of God, and he preaches with a passion for saving lost souls and at the same time works hard shepherding the flock. We have learned so much from his sermons. Yesterday was a perfect example of it. I have heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego since my early childhood days, but I had never really thought about it as a Christmas message. I learned that it is actually a Christmas story, and in fact, Christmas came early for these three Jewish teenagers.

Y’all remember the story. It’s very familiar. King Nebuchadnezzar decided that all of the people must bow down and worship his gods and his giant statue every time they heard music play. There were people in the administration that didn’t like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and they made sure that the king was aware that they were not following the decree to worship the king’s gods and statue. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to follow the culture of the people around them. They stood strong in their faith in the one true God. The king called the teenagers before his throne, and he gave them a chance to change their minds and follow his decree. But they stood firm in their faith even when their lives were in danger. They stood firm. The young men informed the king that their God would rescue them, and even if He didn’t, they would not worship his gods or bow to his statue.

The king was infuriated, and commanded that the fire be heated to seven times hotter than usual. He had the teens bound and thrown into the fire. The fire was so hot that the men throwing them into the fire died instantly. But God! Oh but God! Don’t you just love that phrase? King Nebuchadnezzar noticed that the three young men were walking around seemingly unharmed in the fire, but they were NOT ALONE. There was a fourth figure in the fire, and even the king recognized that the fourth person looked like a son of the gods. The king ordered that the teens be removed from the fire, and they came out without so much as a hair on their heads singed. They didn’t even smell like smoke! They were not alone in that fire. Jesus was there with them. Wait a minute…Daniel is part of the Old Testament. That was before Jesus was born, right? That was before the Christmas story. That was before the nativity, quite a few years in fact. We have to remember that Jesus didn’t just evolve when He was born as the baby in Bethlehem. He has always existed, and He is intertwined throughout the entire Bible, including the Old Testament. It is true, Christ appears in every book of the Bible. Sometimes He is spoken of in words, sometimes in shadows, and sometimes in prophecy, but He is revealed throughout the scripture from Genesis through Revelation.

Yes, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were able to experience the gift of Christmas early. Christ came to them while they were in the fire. Those young men didn’t turn their backs on God, and He didn’t abandon them when they needed Him most. He stood with them in the fire, and He rescued them just as He rescues us. We may not be in a literal fire, but as Christians we are going to find ourselves in hot spots from time to time. The world wants us to be like them. Non-believers don’t like that we are different from the world. They don’t like that we are filled with joy because of our faith, and they want to steal that joy. They want to ostracize us, isolate us, and make us feel alone. Paul told us that we would suffer, but that we should count it all joy! We have so many reasons to be joyful.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced Christ coming to them in the fire. Later, that same Christ that rescued those young Jewish boys came to rescue you and I. Christmas came for us too, and it came right on time! Christ came for you, and He came for me! And because He came, we never have to worry about being alone. Nothing or no one can steal our joy, and we have so much to celebrate! No matter how hot the fires seem to be that you are facing, you are not facing the fire alone! Christ is with you. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and He will never leave you!

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Give me a word, Lord: ‘TIS THE SEASON

Luke 2:4-7 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

It truly is the most miraculous, wonderful time of the year! Think about it, Peeps! A miracle occurred some 2000 years ago when Jesus came to earth as a mere human babe. He was fully God, yet fully man, and He did this just for you and for me! There is no wonder that we are filled with so much excitement around the season. Those of us who feel the true excitement recognize that the true reason for the season is not just the birth of the Christ child, but the fact that Christ went to the cross so that we may have everlasting life with the Father. This truly is the greatest act of love ever known. We should definitely celebrate BIG!

Last night, we drove to Columbia, MS, to see their Main Street light display. We went a couple of years ago, and they do a pretty nice job with the lights. A friend said that they had a Santa on a rooftop and a live nativity this year. Well, that was something we needed to see! It was truly a wonderful experience. Sure enough, old Santa was on a rooftop of one of the businesses wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, but there was a little twist to the tale he told. He credited the true reason for the celebration to the birth of the Savior. The rooftop skit was followed by a herald of angels down the street on another rooftop. After a bit, angels carrying candles walked down the center of the street. The angels were followed by Mary and Joseph who walked to a stable set up near the courthouse. Next, came the shepherds who were carrying live baby goats that were bleating so sweetly. Then came lots of angels who were followed by soldiers, flag bearers, and wise men carrying their gifts. The whole processional was spectacular and breathtaking.

Afterwards, I was thinking about the state of this world. Here we are in the middle of a pandemic, election battle, and in a world full of chaos, but none of that really mattered at that moment. For a brief few moments in time, people gathered around, and Santa directed them to the cross. How amazing is that? I have to give Columbia big cheers for not only setting up a beautiful light display but also for reminding their citizens and visitors of the true meaning of Christmas.

If you aren’t feeling all Christmassy this year, I can understand. It’s been a tough year. It may have been the toughest year many of us have endured in our lifetimes. Do you want to know what I have found during this horribly, awful, terrible year? My faith in Christ has grown stronger every single day, and because of this, I want to celebrate Christmas bigger than ever. I’m not talking about the gifts and goodies, y’all. I’m talking about the Gift and the goodness of Christ. Christ came to earth as a baby boy. He came so that He may feel what you and I feel. He came to save a lost and dying world. He came to die so that we may live! That is worth celebrating every single day of every year, but especially this year! If you are missing that Christmas spirit, pull up a chair or better yet, get down on your knees, and have a little talk with the Savior. That is where you will find joy everlasting!

It is Sunday morning, mid December. Sunday has always been my favorite day of the week. Sundays mean church and family. We gather at our church with our faith family and sing praises, we worship our Lord and Savior, and then we gather around the table with our family for a big Sunday meal. COVID has changed a lot of things, but one thing that it SHOULD NOT change is our need to worship our Lord and Savior. I’ve got to say that I get a bit frustrated when I see people shopping in large crowds, going to restaurants to eat, and traveling all over while our churches are sitting empty. If we are able to go into those crowds, restaurants, and stores, then I’m pretty sure that we are able to sit in the house of the Lord and worship our Savior especially during this season. If you are sick or at high risk, by all means, please stay home! But if you are able to shop, dine out, and get into the hustle and bustle of the crowds, get up and go to church this morning. You will be so glad that you did. Do it safely. Wear a mask. I won’t argue this point. Masks do work. We’ve used them in medicine for many years to prevent spread of germs from the caregiver to the patient. Sit with your nuclear family. Spread out. If we can do this in restaurants and stores, we can do this in church. We can worship safely, but my friends, we can NOT stop worshipping!

‘Tis the season of peace, love, joy, new life, and the beginning of everlasting life. There is so much to celebrate! We can’t fill up the shops and dining establishments, and leave the house of the Lord empty. It just doesn’t make good sense. ‘Tis the season to celebrate Christ! If you are able, I challenge you to get up, get dressed, and go to your house of worship this morning. Our Savior deserves our time and our presence! I love you, and so does Jesus! ‘Tis the season to show our love for others and for Christ! ‘Tis the season to celebrate the Reason!

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Give me a word, Lord: THE SWEET GIFT OF FRIENDSHIP

Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I woke up this morning with pretty much every joint in my body aching. There are two reasons for this. The first reason is because a front is moving through, and it’s raining. I’ve been able to predict a front for several years thanks to my arthritic joints! However, the other reason is because yesterday was one of the best days of the year. Yesterday was our annual Christmas candy making day. We started around 8:00 am, and we made candy until well after 8:00 pm. A few friends and family were unable to make it because of COVID and other obligations, but the few of us who gathered pumped out a whole lot of sugary confections! We had so much fun. We laughed, we joked, we worked hard, and we made mistakes. I actually forgot a pan of almond joy cookies in the oven while I was making candied pecans and answering a phone call. When I remembered, I ran to the oven, and as I pulled out the tray, the cookies slide right off of the cookie sheet and into the oven. I almost cried, but instead I laughed, and my sweet sister, Chandra, said, “It’s okay. I’ve got this.” She cleaned up my mess as I hurried back to the pecans before I ruined them too! Christmas candy day isn’t about the candy, y’all, it’s about the love of family and friends. That is the truly sweet part!

As I sit here reflecting on the day, I know that the best part of the day was late yesterday evening. We have been reading through the Bible again this year as a family, and we normally sit down around 8:00 pm to read. Well, 8:00 rolled around, and my husband said, “Time to read the Bible.” Everybody stopped, we gathered around the living room, and we read Amos 4:1 – 6:14, Revelation 2:18 – 3:6, Psalm 130:1-8, and Proverbs 29:21-22. It was so pretty heavy reading after such a carefree day. We briefly discussed what we read, and we prayed together. That, my dear friends, was definitely sweeter than a combination of all the sweet confections that we created yesterday. We enjoyed sweet, sweet fellowship in the Word and in prayer with the sweet people God has given me!

This is why God gives us friends and family. Two truly are better than one, and four and five are even better! There is no way I could have made all of those sweet treats alone yesterday, and it sure wouldn’t have been as fun. Two or more can definitely have a good return for their labor. I wish you could see all the sweet treats we made, and I wish I could let you taste a sample. The fruits of our labor were definitely sweet! Also, when one is down, the other can help lift the other one up. My sister jumped in and did just that when I dropped a whole pan of cookies into the oven! A friend will keep you warm, not just in the literal sense, but also warm inside. The kindness and love and joy of friendship definitely warms the heart! And no matter what, we stick together. We can not be overpowered because we are wearing the full armor of God together and for one another! We strengthen one another with our love for God and our love for one another. We sharpen one another with the Word of God as iron sharpens iron.

Yes, this morning, I am thanking God for friends and family, today and every day! God sure blessed me with some awesome friends and family, and I don’t think I tell them enough what a blessing they are to me! Friends are a sweet gift from God, and they are truly sweeter than all the candy in the world! If you have friends and family that work with you, pick you up when you are down, warm your heart, and strengthen you in your faith walk, well, Peeps, you have been blessed greatly by our Holy Father! Enjoy the sweetness of friendship as the gift God intended it to be!

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Give me a word, Lord: CANDY COATED MEMORIES

“We who have sweet fellowship together walked in the house of God in the throng.” Psalm 55:14

“Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was out to death in body but made alive in Spirit.” I Peter 3:18

Today, we continue a tradition that started way, way, way back when we were in high school. Today is Christmas candy day. It is one of the best days of the year! I’m scurrying around preparing for the soon to be sugar induced coma that is apt to come after 10 or 12 hours of candy making, so today, I’d like to share an excerpt from my book, “Inspirations from the Funny Farm.” Please enjoy…and have some candy!

Way back in the dark ages when I was still in high school, my best friend Lisa’s mom invited us to her home to make Christmas candy. I know in my heart of hearts that Nanny Herndon didn’t have a clue as to what she was starting that fine December day. What began as a fun activity to occupy the time of some silly teenage girls turned into a huge annual tradition that now involves our whole families and other friends for more than 35 years!

When I say that we get together and make Christmas candy that doesn’t sound very impressive so I’m going to explain Christmas candy making day. Beginning in November, we get together and decide on a date for candy day. Then Lisa, Dana, Melissa, and I put our plan into motion. We now include sisters, aunts, cousins, children, husbands, in-laws, neighbors and friends in candy making. Everyone participating brings ingredients for candies that they intend to make. We take turns hosting candy day at our homes. I always love it when I get to host candy day on our farm. It’s probably because I’m most comfortable in my own kitchen, but also because I just love having our home full of family and friends. There is nothing quite like it.

We gather around 8:00 am, and then we just pick a recipe and get to work. Some work on recipes alone making their own sweet confections while others work together as a team. We then make candy: lots and lots of candy! We have tried to make just about everything we can think of, but some of our yearly favorites include Oreo truffles, Martha Washington’s, peanut butter truffles, Christmas crack, white trash, fudge, divinity, haystacks, and oh so much more. We set up folding tables all over the house, and by the time we are finished, which is usually close to 8:00 pm, the tables are over flowing with so much sugary sweet confections that we could probably open a candy shop or put a diabetic straight into a coma. At the end of the day, we divide up the finished products and everyone takes a portion to their own home. I then package my candies up and give them away as quickly as possible to co-workers and friends. Trust me, leaving all that sweetness laying around the house is dangerous to my waistline!

While we are making the candies, we have so much fun. Everyone just falls into sync and everything gets done without anyone having to be told what to do. We laugh, we make mistakes, and we catch up on what is going on in our lives. We share our troubles and our burdens. We lift one another up, and we praise one another. I’ve come to realize through the years that candy making day isn’t just about making five billion calories of candies. Candy making day is really about love. It is one day of the year that we gather together in the kitchen and have fun with the people that we love the most, and how fitting is it that we get together during the time of year when we celebrate the One that we most love! The older I get, the more special this tradition becomes. There were many years when I was younger that I just “showed up” for candy making. I didn’t really get into the spirit of it. Through the years, I slowly recognized how much this tradition and these people meant to me, and I wanted to put everything I had into making it the best day ever. This reminds me a lot of my Christian walk. There were many days in my youth that I just “showed up” as a Christian, but I didn’t really participate. As I’ve grown older, I have recognized the importance of my calling as a Christian, and I want to share Christ with everyone that I can and take as many people to heaven with me as I can because the day that Jesus calls us home will be the very best day ever!

Traditions are important, and candy making day is just one of many family traditions that brings joy to my life. Making Christmas candy is loads of fun, and it seems to get better with each passing year. I’m happy that my children have been able to share in these experiences with us. More importantly, I’m thankful that our children enjoy the tradition of Christmas and understand the real reason behind the season and who we are celebrating. Christmas is a time of year when we go crazy shopping, decorating, and planning. We get so busy with all the things that we feel like we have to do. Life is busy, and I get that. But Christmas isn’t about the candy making, the decorations, the presents or the bows, Christmas is really about the greatest gift that this world has ever known. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. God loves us so much that He sent His Son to walk on earth, fully God and fully man. He loves us so much that He died on the cross taking on all our sins. I cannot even comprehend that kind of love. I am a sinner. I mess up every single day. Jesus knows me better than I know myself, yet He still chose to suffer and die for me. But joy comes in the morning. Three days later, He conquered death and arose from the grave. He is going to call all his kids home one day. I can’t wait to run into the arms of my precious Father! I know that day will be sweeter than the combinations of all the candy we have ever made on candy day!

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Give me a word, Lord: DID MARY KNOW?

Luke 1:26-35 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”  “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Several years ago, we went to a Gaither Christmas Concert on the coast. I bought the concert tickets as a gift for my daddy and in-laws. The night of the concert, we loaded up in the car and drove to Biloxi. The drive usually takes about an hour, but that night it took at least an hour and a half. A terrible thunderstorm blew in that afternoon. My husband drove through torrential sheets of pouring rain. The wind was blowing. We could hardly see the road. By the time we arrived, we were wondering if it was even worth the trip. The drive south was pretty awful! However, once we were inside the comfort of the coliseum, we were mesmerized by the wonderful concert. It was so uplifting, and we all enjoyed the show. They sang Christmas songs, joked with one another, and had us laughing out loud. At one point in the show, Bill Gaither was teasing Mark Lowry. Mark was talking about the song he had written as they were making the introduction to the next song. Bill said, “You have only written one song.” Mark came back with, “When you write the perfect song, you only need to write ONE song.” I have to agree. Mark Lowry is best know for co-writing the beautiful song “Mary Did You Know.” I heard this song on my drive in to work yesterday morning, and I have to say, it is definitely on the top of my list of favorite Christmas songs. I bet you have heard it, and even sang along, but just in case you haven’t, let me share the lyrics.

“Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you. Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand? Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God? Mary did you know. The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The dead will live again. The lame will leap. The dumb will speak the praises of The Lamb. Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations? Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.”

Wow! Isn’t that awesome? You know, we recognize Mary as the mother of Jesus, and she is an important part of the Christmas story of the birth of our Savior, but we focus our attention on the Christ child as we should. But have you ever considered how Mary must have felt? Did Mary have an inkling of who this Christ child would be? Did she have any idea that the child leaping within her womb would actually be able to walk on water one day? Did she even faintly comprehend that this child would be the Salvation for the world or that the One she delivered would be our Deliverer? Did she comprehend that this child would give sight to the blind, calm storms, or walk where angels trod? And my favorite part, did she have a clue that when she kissed that precious baby boy, she was kissing the very face of God! The thought of it gives me chills! What an awesome blessing to be chosen to carry the Son of God! I can’t help but wonder, “Did Mary Know?” One fine day, I’m going to sit down and ask her. I can’t wait to hear all of the exciting stories that I am sure she will share.

But what about you? Do you know this baby boy that we are celebrating, the One you’ve heard about in song and scripture? Do you know that He came to deliver us? He came to be our salvation. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and raised the dead. He caused the lame to leap and the dumb to speak. That little baby Jesus did not stay in that manger. He grew up, and He walked on the earth just like you and I. But there is a grave difference between Jesus and us. He walked with pure perfection, unblemished, and without sin, and He was born to die. Yes, He was born to die on the cross for our sins so that we may have an everlasting relationship with the Father. When I try to ponder all of these things in my heart, I don’t know whether to cry or sing! I bet Mary knew! The question is, do you?

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Give me a word, Lord: I DIDN’T GET WHAT I DESERVED! THANK GOD!

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

A couple of years ago at Christmas, our Pastor, Bro. Shane, made a statement in His sermon that really stuck, He said, “To enjoy Christmas, embrace what we deserve. To enjoy Christmas, you must enjoy the Savior. To truly enjoy the Savior, we have to truly realize what a Gift He is!” Y’all think about that for a moment. Try to wrap your head around it. Let it seep into every pore of your body and fill you with delight. Many times, November and December roll in faster than an Amtrak train, and we scurry around buying gifts for those we love. We want it to be perfect. The decorations have to be just right. The tree has to be beautifully trimmed. The ridiculous number of gifts under the tree have to be wrapped and adorned perfectly with glittering bows and paper. We have the incorrect mindset of thinking that all of those things matter. We put so much weight into the “getting ready for Christmas,” but not nearly enough weight in the “celebration of the Savior.”

Over the years, I have had so many packages under the tree for my children and family that the twelve foot tree was almost dwarfed by the gifts. Yea, I use to be really ridiculous with my gift giving. I can’t help myself. I love to give. But think about this. Do my kids “deserve” all those gifts under the tree? Probably not, but oh how I love my kids, and I absolutely enjoy giving gifts to the precious jewels that I get to call mine! I give the gifts because I love them! Now, consider this. Do you and I deserve the gift of salvation? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Yet, a little over 2000 years ago, God showed His love to us in an unprecedented fashion. He gave us the greatest gift ever! He gave us His Son who came to earth fully God, but also fully human. Jesus was born to die! He was born to die for each and every one of us, Our heavenly Father loves us so much that He gave us the most wonderful, special, perfect Gift in the world because He loves us. He gives us His grace and mercy. We didn’t do anything to deserve this special Gift. We could never earn this Gift. We were given the Gift of salvation because each of us are jewels in our Father’s eyes, and He just couldn’t help Himself. He loves us that much!

I hate it when temporarily lose sight of God. Sometimes my vision gets clouded by the million and one tasks that I am trying to complete, but praise God! He never loses sight of me. Do I deserve the 5,987,465 chances that He has already given me? Do I deserve the next chance that He is already going to give me? Absolutely not, but guess what? Our God is so loving and so faithful that no matter how many times we mess up, no matter how far we roam, no matter how much trouble we get ourselves in, and no matter how busy we find ourselves, God WILL ALWAYS BE GOD! He will always be right there by your side. He will never leave you. And even if He has forgiven you 5,987,465 times, He’s ready and waiting to forgive you again and again. We don’t deserve this, but He truly loves His kids and just as we desire a close relationship with our children, God desires a close relationship with each and everyone of His kids!

To enjoy Christmas this year, you must enjoy the Savior, and to truly enjoy the Savior, we have to truly realize what a Gift He is! Quit worrying about the presents, and start remembering whose PRESENCE you are in! I pray that you find yourself cozy and warm in the arms of Christ this morning, but if you feel that you are distant from the Savior, I pray you find your way back! He hasn’t gone anywhere He is still waiting for you to receive the greatest Gift ever!

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Give me a word, Lord: MOLEHILL OR MOUNTAIN?

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I John 5:4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

Out here on the farm, we come across small mounds of dirt that have been thrown up above the earth leaving evidence of where a mole had burrowed near the surface. These are called molehills. We know that moles are fairly small, and the hill that they form are also rather small in comparison to hills and mountains. We could very easily step over or even onto a molehill. There is nothing to it. However, many times in life we are guilty of making a mountain out of a molehill. This occurs when we make too much out of a minor issue and give it much more weight than it deserves.

I’ll go ahead and be the first to admit that I have been guilty of this more times that I can say. It is quite easy to get overly upset about the little things in life, and when we do this, those little things grow bigger and bigger until we soon find ourselves face to face with a mountain of anxiety. Sometimes our mountains appear without our assistance, but many times we cause these obstacles to develop through our own actions, fears, or worries. Sometimes, God may allow us to face a mountain to show us that through His we can climb over or even crush those mountains with ease.

Rather than making molehills into mountains, we should make our mountains into molehills. How do we do this? We stop looking within ourselves and looking at the problem, and we must look up to God and remember His power. Jesus said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20) Jesus knows that the problems in our lives are like mountains to us, but He tells us here that we can speak in faith and move those mountains out of our way. He didn’t tell us that we have to have mountain sized faith. We only need faith as tiny as a little mustard seed. With faith in Christ, nothing is impossible for us.

Look at Psalm 97:5. “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” Let…that…soak…in. Mountains can literally melt away in the presence of our Lord and Savior. Anxieties melt away, sicknesses are healed, depression is lifted, broken relationships are restored, addictions are overcome, and mountains are made into molehills! It is easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in the despair of the moment around us, and we can quickly lose sight of the big picture, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The next time you feel a molehill turning into a mountain, look up and remember that the power of the Holy Spirit is within you, and watch that mountain melt away and return into a molehill. We can’t do anything without Christ, but with Him, nothing is impossible. Grab a hold of that mustard seed and melt those mountains today!

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Give me a word, Lord: LEARNING TO BE HUMBLE

James 4:5-10 Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit he has placed within us should be faithful to him. And he gives grace generously. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.

Yesterday a young man named Tyler preached during our morning church service. He is a college student who has been called to the ministry. Praise God that He answered that calling. He did an awesome job preaching about the jealousy of God. The text he shared was James 4:1-10, and he did a fantastic job sharing the truth of the Word of God. Our God indeed is a jealous God. We can not be friends of world and God at the same time. We must love God and chase after Him and not the things of this world.

Praise God that He understands that we are mere humans, and He knows we are going to mess up. The scripture tells us that our God is a passionate God, and His Spirit is within us, and we should be faithful to Him. Yet, He recognizes our imperfections and extends grace to His children. “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Wow! Isn’t that a wonderful thing? God gives immeasurable grace to His kids, but we must humble ourselves before Him to receive this grace.

How do we humble ourselves? James gives us a little insight in this scripture. First, we must resist the devil, and the devil will flee from us. Bro. Tyler made an excellent point when he shared a reminder that as humans, we too often put God and the Devil on level playing fields. It is good for us to remember that Satan is NOT equal to God. He is a fallen angel. He is not omnipresent or omnipotent. He can not be everywhere at once. He is NOT God. When we place our faith in Christ, and we resist the Devil, that old Devil doesn’t stand a chance.

We must come close to God, and He will come close to us. There are many times when we feel alone. We feel that God has left us or forgotten us. This is never the case. God will never leave or forsake us, but rather we have a habit of leaving Him. We get to busy with things of this world, and we move ourselves away from God. If you aren’t feeling that closeness to God that you once felt, let me assure you that God did not move, you did. “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”

But how do we close that gap? Thankfully, James gives us some more insight. We must wash our hands and purify our hearts. Wash those sins away. Christ washed our sins away on the cross many years ago. He can cleanse our bodies and our hearts if only we would allow Him to take full reign of our hearts and minds. We can not divide our loyalty between God and the world. It just won’t work. We must allow Christ to purify our hearts!

James then tells us to shed tears for what we have done. Do you think he is telling us that as Christians we should mope around as sad, miserable beings? On the contrary, James is reminding us that we must feel shame and sorrow for our sins as it is our sins that separate us from our One true love. Sin in our lives separates us from a relationship with Christ, and separation from Him is definitely something to grieve over. When we recognize that sin is in our lives and that we are separated from Christ, we grieve. We cry. We feel great sadness.

Praise God that this isn’t the end of the story. Verse 10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, He will lift you up in honor.” That literally blows me away! God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. He doesn’t just give us grace. He lifts us up in honor! Wow!

My friends, these are some trying times, and it is easy to get caught up in the things of this world. We must remember that the things of the world are temporal, but God is eternal. I’m so thankful for His grace as I continue to strive for humility. Being humble is not easy, but trusting God is. By His grace, we are saved! Praise God!

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Give me a word, Lord: CHRISTMAS BUCKET LIST

This time of year, most of us are engaged in many different family traditions, Christmas activities, and we are busy trying to check off our lists. Our family watches Hallmark Christmas movies every year, and this year, I think we have seen almost all of them thanks to our two week COVID quarantine. I know the plots are very similar, and the ending is always a happily ever after, but the movies are clean and enjoyable. One thing that Hallmark has worked the plot around in quite a few movies is a Christmas Bucket List. It is a list of activities that must be completed before Christmas. I think it is a fun idea, and I’m definitely not opposed to it, but I’d like to offer a twist to the normal list.

  1. Buy presents. Oh, yea, that one is always on our to do Christmas list. It’s definitely nice to buy and give presents, but instead of merely buying presents this year, how about we BE PRESENT. Being present for our friends and family is so much more important that giving a gift that they may store away and soon forget. “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24) Let us spend time together, play together, and pray together this Christmas season while motivating one another to love and good works. Time spent with family and friends is a very precious gift, and it is one that we too often take for granted until it’s too late. BE PRESENT this year for Christmas.
  2. Wrap gifts. I actually have all of my gifts already wrapped and under the tree this year, but what if instead of focusing on wrapping those gifts, we wrapped our arms around those we love with a great big hug. I’d tell you to go hug a stranger too, but with COVID, we better just give some air hugs for now. We need to show the love of Christ this Christmas season and every season. It’s not an option. It’s a command. “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34) WRAP SOMEONE IN A HUG this Christmas and show them the love of Christ!
  3. Send gifts. Okay, Peeps, after you buy the gifts and wrap the gifts, the next logical thing is to send the gifts. Everyone loves receiving gifts, but do you want to know something that everyone is craving? Everyone craves love. How about instead of focusing our time and energy on sending the perfect gift, we spend this season striving to SEND LOVE! Be genuine just as Romans 12:40 tells us, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” There is no better time of the year to show your love for others and your love for Christ than right now. This world is so dark and full of sadness and disdain. This world needs the love of Christ, and you have that love within you. Don’t keep it all to yourself. SEND LOVE out into the world today!
  4. Shop for food. Some people may not think this is fun, but my husband and I love to go shopping for food in a large supermarket. We actually have so much fun doing this. However, we have found something even more fulfilling than shopping for food and that is donating food. Whenever you try to bless someone with a gift of food, time, love, money, or what have you, by giving that blessing to others, you also will be blessed. Recall the words of Isaiah 58:10. “Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.” DONATE FOOD this Christmas season. Help those in need. I promise you won’t regret this. You will be the one receiving the gift, and I bet that you get as much joy out of the donation as the person receiving the gift!
  5. Make cookies. Every single Hallmark Christmas movie has people making and decorating cookies. They do a fine job too. Actually, they are so pretty that they look like they are store bought. Making cookies is a fun way to enjoy time with friends and family, and this leads to MAKING MEMORIES. Hebrews 10:25 reminds us “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” We should gather together in Christian fellowship and in worship, and encourage one another, build strong bonds and friendships, and make good memories together! MAKE MEMORIES this Christmas! Memories don’t cost a thing, but they are priceless!
  6. See the lights. This is a family tradition for us for sure. We love to go out and admire the pretty light displays and drink hot cocoa. It is always a fun time. I think everyone should go out and enjoy the Christmas lights because the lights remind us that light overcomes darkness. So finally, I ask you to BE THE LIGHT. You can probably guess the verse for this one. “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16) It is a cold, dark world out there my friends, and it is up to the children of God to get out there and shine the light of Christ into the dark. BE THE LIGHT this Christmas. Let the light of Christ shine through you and let it be brighter than all of the Christmas lights in town! BE THE LIGHT!

I pray that you all have a safe and healthy Christmas season. Let’s shake things up a bit and check off a new Christmas Bucket List as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior!

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Give me a word, Lord: STOP AND SMELL THE POINSETTIAS

Luke 10:38-42 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I’m sitting here in my home quietly sipping my coffee and enjoying the beautiful Christmas lights. You would think I didn’t have a care in the world, but inside this kinky hair covered head is a brain that is making a long list of things that I need to accomplish over the next few weeks. No, I’m not just scheduling out my day, I’m planning the next three weeks leading up to Christmas. I’ve finished my Christmas shopping, but I still have quite a few homemade gifts to complete. I need to clean the house today. I have some continuing education I need to finish for my second job. I want to organize my cabinets and clean out my refrigerator. Next weekend we will be busy making Christmas candy, and then our church is presenting “A Night in Bethlehem,” and we are providing the live animals and barnyard as the Bethlehem shepherds. I am very excited about recreating a night in Bethlehem for our community! And then begins the gift exchanges and parties. All of those things are fun and exciting. I’m not complaining, I’m just busily trying to plan out my busy schedule.

I love this time of year. I love that we are celebrating the birth of Christ! I wish we would continue the celebration all year long and not just in December. The thing we have to remember as we celebrate is that we are celebrating the birth of our Savior, and we must slow down and enjoy this season in our lives. We can’t get all caught up in the busyness of it all, and we can’t forget the true meaning. Our scripture today is quite familiar. Martha was very busy preparing her home for Jesus. She was extremely busy with the preparations. However, Mary paused. She sat at the feet of Jesus soaking in all of the words he was saying. She realized the significance of the moment, and she paused to enjoy the moment.

This my friends is exactly what we need to do right now. We have our jobs to do and chores to complete, but we can’t let the busyness of life get in the way of us enjoying the true meaning of Christmas. Let go of all of the worry and stress of the season, and slow down and smell the poinsettias. Stop and enjoy the beautiful lights. Drink hot cocoa, and watch a Christmas movie. Most importantly take some time to truly enjoy the season. Reflect on the glory of God and the birth of Christ. Rather than stress out with the busyness, take some time to truly enjoy Christmas. Study the Word. Read through the book of Luke. Share the love of Christ with everyone you meet. Christmas isn’t about the preparations, shopping, and all the gifts. Christmas is about THE GIFT. The Grinch figured it out when he shared, “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, …perhaps… means a little bit more!”

Slow down, Martha! Take some time to be a Mary this Christmas season and all year long! Remember that we are celebrating the greatest gift ever given to this world! Focus on THE GIFT, not the gifts.

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Give me a word, Lord: WORRIER OR WARRIOR?

Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Psalm 18:39 You armed me with strength for battle; you humbled my adversaries before me.

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

If you follow my blog, you know that I’ve admitted previously that I used to hold the title “Worrier Queen.” Oh, y’all, I was so good at my job too, unbelievably good! I could find something to worry about even when there was NOTHING to worry about. I cannot tell you how many nights of sleep I have missed due to some concocted thing that I worried over and lost precious hours of sleep. Now than I’m in my fifties, I sure do regret missing all of that beauty sleep! Praise God that I gave up that title. Worrier Queen is not they person I want to be, but rather I want to be a Warrior Queen for Christ! I know that I haven’t received “queen” status, and never will, but glory to God, He is teaching me daily to be a warrior for Him!

How then does one go from being a worrier to a warrior? It isn’t easy. I’m not going to lie to you. It took me fifty four years to get to where I am now, and I still work on it every day. I couldn’t do it on my own, but God! Oh, there’s that but God again, and I must say that the only way I could have changed my status from worrier to warrior is because God has changed me. You see, I recognized that I was a worrier. I didn’t like being a worrier, but I couldn’t do anything about, at least that is what I thought. Turns out, I was wrong. I couldn’t do anything about it in and of myself, but with the grace and strength of God, I could. Philippians 4:13 promises us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. We only need to learn to let go and let God.

The transition from worrier to warrior definitely didn’t occur overnight. I recognized that worry was consuming my life, and if worry, or anything else for that matter, is consuming you, then how can you have room for Christ to consume you? The simple answer is you can’t, and when I realized this, I began to earnestly pray for God to help me to stop being a worry wort, and He certainly did. He never fails! I began following the instruction manual a little more closely, and in Colossians 4:2 it says to “devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” That my friends is how I was able to give up my old worry wort title, and gradually transform into the warrior that I am still trying to become. I have also read Matthew 6:25-36 about a thousand times reminding me not to worry. If God so graciously takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields with such delicate intricacy, He will surely take care of the ones that He made in His own image, right? And another go to scripture that helped in my transformation is Philippians 4:6-7, “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.”

I armed myself with the Word of God, and whenever a seed of doubt or worry crept in my mind, I prayed. Oh boy did I pray a lot. I even spoke out loud to the old devil and told him that he wasn’t allowed in my home, my family, or my mind anymore. I reminded him that Christ was the King of my home and my life and my heart, and he wasn’t allowed to visit or hang out here anymore. He had worn out his welcome so I pulled up the welcome mat, and I locked the door and threw away the key! My prayer life changed from one of morning, meal time, and bedtime into one that was continuously flowing twenty four hours a day. I wake up praying. I go to sleep praying, and if I wake up during the night, I pray then too. I have seen many prayers answered and many mountains moved through prayer, and I am thankful God has allowed me to transform!

We can all be warriors for Christ. Paul explains how to armor ourselves up for spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10-20. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

Arm yourselves with truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation, the Word, and prayer. Don’t forget to arm yourself with lots and lots of prayer! We were not designed to wallow in the depths of worry and self doubt. We were created to serve our heavenly Father. We were created to be warriors! Won’t you turn loose of the worry today, and live the warrior life that Christ designed for you too? I can not tell you how freeing it is to not allow worry to consume me, and it is an overwhelming blessing to allow Christ to consume my heart, my thoughts, and my life. Won’t you put on the full armor of God today?

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Give me a word, Lord: FINDING JOY

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

James begins his book telling us to consider it pure joy, not simply joy, but PURE joy, when we face trials of many kinds. Was he crazy? How in the world did James expect us to be joyful in the midst of all these trials? Well, he went on to explain that the testing of our faith produces perseverance. Perseverance is defined as persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. So when we endure trials, our faith is tested. As our faith is tested, we persist in following Christ and we persist in our faithfulness until the end of time. Yep, I said it! We have to persevere until the end of time.

But how do we find joy while we are persevering through the trials? We must keep our focus on Christ. As our faith in Christ and I relationship with Him grows fonder and deeper, we begin to see the little silver linings in everything. There truly is something good to be found in everyday. Sometimes we have to look a little harder to see the good, but seeking it and find it is always joyful.

A memory of a terrible, awful, horrible week from two years ago came to mind today. During that week, we had some trials! Let me just tell you!! Tuesday, Crystal’s dog Jace ran under Jeff’s Toyota Tundra with 500 lbs of feed in the bed of the truck, and the truck rolled over Jace. Wednesday, Nanny fell and broke her right arm, and she is right handed! Friday, we went to town to get lights for the Christmas float and had a flat tire on my 4 runner as soon as we got to the end of our driveway. We had worked on the float all day, and had lights all over it for the nighttime parade. We left at 3:30 to line up for 3:45 and…no lights…all that work… and no lights! Then Saturday, Jeff had cleaned his smoker. He threw the drip pan contents way down the hill. We went to Nanny’s and came home to a vomit fest! Two of the dogs apparently partook in a fat dropping buffet, and it did not agree with them. So after already sweeping and mopping the whole house that morning, we had to mop pretty much the whole house again! All of these events occurred in five short days, and things like this happen to us here on the farm on a weekly basis. We don’t throw our hands up and quit though. We persevere. Christ shows us the good in every situation and we find joy in the trials.

Trials! I’m telling you that was just about enough to make us want to bury our heads in the sand…BUT…there is always a BUT! I look back at each instance and I can see joy. Jace, a little schnoodle, was run over by a huge heavy truck, BUT he had no injuries other than a slight crack on his hip. No internal injuries. He is still doing great two years later! Nanny fell and broke her humerus, BUT the way she fell, the fractured bone impacted back into place and set itself. She was in a lot of pain, BUT she didn’t have to have surgery! I had a flat on my 4 Runner, BUT it was while Jeff was driving and with me to change it rather than while Nanny and I were in Hattiesburg the day before. The float lights wouldn’t work because it was too much wattage for the inverter, BUT we were able to find an inverter at Love’s 30 minutes before the parade rolled, and we had lights for the parade. We had two sick dogs for one evening, BUT they were perfectly fine the next day and we learned to bury the smoker droppings. Nobody died! We had a few trials that week as we do every week, BUT we persevered. Just as when our faith gets tested…we persevere. As crazy as it sounds, it is pure joy to go through trials. I have joy in my heart because I never have to go through these trials alone and knowing this strengthens my faith! So this Christmas season, don’t focus on the trials. Focus on the joy! Find joy in every situation!