Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He will delight in obeying the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-3a

Advent – Day 2: Read: Luke 2

In my reading of Luke 2, I was impressed with the messengers God chose to announce his arrival on earth. His first choice: the shepherds in the field. This is an unlikely choice if you wanted to enter the world with notoriety and fame. Shepherds were second class citizens, low on the totem pole of influence. But they were the first recorded visitors to look into the face of Jesus as an infant. They believed and told everyone what they had seen and heard.

Then there was Simeon, a “righteous and devout {man} …eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come…” Led by the Holy Spirit to the temple that day, he immediately recognized Jesus as the Messiah and praised God, confirming to Mary and Joseph that this, indeed, was the Messiah – in case there was doubt.

And there was Anna, a prophet, who spent her days and nights at the temple. She worshipped God continually. When she saw Jesus, she praised God and “talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.”

From first glances, it seems these three had nothing in common. And yet I notice they were all waiting expectantly for the promised Messiah. And their expectation prepared them to receive the news that the Messiah had come, even in the unexpected way of infancy.

As I pondered this, I wondered how expectantly I wait for Jesus. Not only for his second coming, but for his appearing in my daily life. Do I see him when he visits me? Or am I busy with life’s pressing issues? Would I have been among the first to know that the Messiah had come?

I ask myself, and you, what needs to go so we might live with more expectation? What keeps us from seeing him TODAY?

Advent activity: how is Jesus appearing in your daily life? What needs to change so you can live with expectation?

Today I read an Advent challenge; something that will prepare my heart for Christmas and the celebration of this magical season.

Beginning today, read one chapter of the gospel of Luke every day. There are twenty-four chapters, so you will finish the day before Christmas with a fresh and deeper understanding of the reason why the birth of Christ is celebrated.

I am joining the challenge. Today I read chapter 1.

I took away from the reading a deep awe for the people involved. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph all participated in profound ways. They rejoiced and celebrated what God was doing in sending Jesus as a baby. They were honored to be a part of his grand design.

I am reminded of a verse I read in Ecclesiastes several weeks ago.

Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be. So there’s no use arguing with God about your destiny.

Ecclesiastes 6:10

While some may find this verse disturbing, I find it comforting. Not that my future has already been decided, but that no one can take away my intended destiny. God created me with a purpose and it will be accomplished.

God, through the angel Gabriel, spoke the future of John the Baptist and Jesus before they were even conceived. No one could change it.

You have not been forgotten either. God is as attentive to you as every other part of his creation. Stand firm in your destiny; it will be accomplished.

May your day of worship be blessed with God inspired truth and angel ministrations.

And just like that we are at the end of November, headed right into the next holiday. Perhaps Christmas spilled over into your Thanksgiving celebration in a Thankmas gathering.

As Christmas television specials abound, offering a heart-warming rendition of the magic of Christmas, I keep reminding myself of the real magic of Christmas.

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.

Isaiah 9:6

There wasn’t snow gently falling on evergreen trees covered in white twinkly lights or the scent of fresh baked gingerbread filling the air. But the stable in Bethlehem really is the TRUE magic of Christmas.

May your preparation for the celebration of Jesus be filled with wonder, peace and magic!

Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Luke 12:15

Black Friday!

Are you a die-hard Black Friday shopper? Do you wait until Cyber Monday? Do you like to shop at all?

No matter where you find yourself today, remember that having more “things” will not make you happier. I love shopping as much as the next person, but there is no faster way to bring on discontent than by walking through the mall. I realize how yesterday my clothes are, that my decorating style isn’t a style and I need to update my electronics.

Paul writing to Timothy put it this way: “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7

This is me preaching to the choir because no one needs to hear this more than me. Thanks for listening in to this personal reminder.

Thankful: conscious of benefits received; expressive of thanks

Thankfulness: the quality or state of being thankful

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Always be joyful. 

Never stop praying. 

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Today as I write in a local coffee shop, I can’t help hearing the conversations around me. Shhh…don’t tell anyone I am listening.

I hear all kinds of holiday plans. These cousins coming in, those people going there, destinations near and far, family in to sort through dad’s things, conflict anticipated, nerves already on edge.

I observe human connection over coffee and pastries. Moms with littles sharing drinks and cookies, taking time away from home to keep the kids entertained and the mom sane. Friends gathering to discuss life and hardship, joys and dreams.

I see the gentleman who comes in for coffee to go. As he takes the coffee I hear him say, “I don’t do crowds much. I make too much of a dunce of myself to do that.” And my heart is a little bit sad. I bet he’s a really kind person with a sensitive heart and so much to give!

I love all of what I am seeing and hearing. We need one another. We were never meant to do life alone. But it’s not easy.

As you think about tomorrow, what do you need this year? A quiet, intimate dinner? Loud, boisterous family reunion gathering? A fireplace moment with your memories of the loved one who isn’t here anymore? The joy of celebrating the new ones in your life?

Here are a few thoughts from Romans 12 to help guide you through the holiday.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

Love each other with genuine affection,

…take delight in honoring each other

When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.

Always be eager to practice hospitality.

pray that God will bless them

Be happy with those who are happy,

…and weep with those who weep

Live in harmony with each other.

Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.

And don’t think you know it all!

Romans 12:9-16

The last phrase might just be the most important one, keeping me humble throughout the day and focused on others rather than myself!

Last week as I waited to be called back for an appointment, I browsed the magazines spread out on the coffee table in front of me. One in particular caught my attention, so I reached for it and quickly browsed several recipes, snapping photos of them to try later. Turning the page, a boxed quote jumped out at me.

From EXPERIENCE L!FE, November 2019

As it goes, I was called back for my appointment and didn’t get to read the article. But the quote struck a chord in me so I returned to it later to ponder. You see, I have been known to try new recipes on Thanksgiving or other holidays. And that hasn’t gone over well with my family. And honestly, I didn’t like it either. There is something about the familiar that makes a holiday special.

One year in particular, I made sausage, saurkraut and mashed potatoes for Christmas dinner. I hated every minute of that meal. The food tasted fine and my husband loved it, but what I really needed that year was connection with family and the comfort of traditions.

In an effort to grasp the idea behind this quote, I did what we all do and opened Google. And I was rewarded with an article in a similar vein. The article focused on the health benefits of social connection, both physically and emotionally. You can read the full article here.

The article emphasizes how to connect on a deeper level at traditional holiday gatherings. Spending less time on the decor and the menu and more time on what really develops relationship will yield a more satisfying holiday gathering.

It is not only possible, but likely, that some of you are dreading the holiday. On a recent outing with friends we shared our holiday plans. They confessed that their traditional Thanksgiving gathering is wrought with difficulty. Dysfunctional family behaviors and conflict abound, but as the saying goes, “as long as mom and dad are alive, we will get together.”

As I write, one phrase keeps running through my mind: SLOW DOWN!!

Perhaps a story will help. My husband likes to keep moving when he is driving somewhere. If he gets to the train tracks and there’s a train, he considers an alternate route. If he can’t turn left because of traffic, he turns right, going away from where he wants to be to make a left hand turn into a parking lot and then a right hand turn to go back the way he wants to go. Finding ways around obstacles is his specialty. I just say, “Well, we keep moving, but I don’t know if it will be faster.”

We do that in other areas of life as well. We keep moving to avoid facing an obstacle, like an uncomfortable family dinner. What if we would slow down, take a couple of deep breaths and prepare differently this year.

Here’s a few ideas I have tried before I launch into a potentially uncomfortable event. Taking time to reflect on the needs that will be present at the gathering makes a huge difference. Have there been significant life changes in the last year? Job changes? Children born or those who left for college? Death? Sickness? Just rehearsing simple details about the lives of those in attendance helps foster good, thoughtful conversation.

I ask God to make me more loving to those around the table. I extend forgiveness. Listen more. Talk less. Be attentive.

Perhaps you are feeling more vulnerable this year. Make a plan to take of yourself. Excuse yourself to step outside for a breath of fresh air if you become overwhelmed. Take a walk. Enjoy some deep breathing. Give yourself grace.

Sometimes what I am wearing makes all the difference. Recently, while getting ready for a social event, I reached for a really casual outfit. Immediately I started feeling insecure. What if everyone else is dressed to the nines? Will I feel out of place? I stopped right there in my closet and mentally pictured every person who would be there. I imagined them in their usual attire and asked myself, “Will I feel uncomfortable if I wear this? Can I be myself even if someone is more dressed up than I am?” And then I proceeded to put on my casual wear and never once gave it a thought after I arrived at the event. I believe it’s because I came to peace with it before I left home. I slowed down.

Your insecurity may not be what you are wearing, but you can still pause to reflect on whatever it might be. Choose to be yourself because that’s the person everyone is hoping will show up. You are amazing, interesting and beautiful just as you are. And they need YOU there, not some imaginary imposter who looks like you.

It doesn’t matter if the table is in your dining room or if you will be at someone else’s house. Take time to make true connection with at least one other person this year. And don’t worry about the new recipes because they don’t have the power to fix relationships or create meaningful connections. Only you can do that. The food will be forgotten, but a kind word spoken at the right time will go on forever.

Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Proverbs 12:25

Be the kind word this holiday season! And you will be pleasantly surprised how much kindness comes your way in return.

Or…you can hold your breath, grit your teeth and suffer through the day. It’s your choice and no one can make it for you!

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends!

Thanks so much for faithfully following and reading every day! I appreciate it so much!

Social anxiety? It takes many forms and hits people in different ways, but I think we all experience it at one time or another.

A while back I left a social gathering feeling a more than normal amount of angst. Discussing it with my husband brought some relief, but I woke the next morning still bothered.

Later in the day, while browsing T.J.Maxx, I received the following text from my sister:

Right there in T.J.Maxx, I bowed my head and forgave my offenders. A peace swept over me and the nagging ache in my chest released.

It doesn’t matter what’s happened, sometimes you just need to forgive and move on. Jesus says it like this:

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:14-15

It occurs to me that when I hold a grudge, I am the one who suffers. The offender has gone on to have a perfectly fine day. Forgive from your heart wherever you have been offended and then your heart won’t have a tummy ache!

In a world where change happens at lightening speed, I’m grateful for the consistent character of God who loves me. It is my anchor in the storm. Psalm 103 is a beautiful reminder of all that he has done and will do for me, his dearly loved daughter!

A psalm of David.

Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.

Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.

He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly.

He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.

He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.

For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.

Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here.

But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!

The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything.

Praise the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones who carry out his plans, listening for each of his commands. Yes, praise the Lord, you armies of angels who serve him and do his will!

Praise the Lord, everything he has created, everything in all his kingdom.

Psalm 103


Jonah, or at least the story of Jonah and the Whale, has to be one of the most widely known of all stories in scripture. I think I understand what Jonah was thinking.

He didn’t like what God asked him to do, so he went the other way thinking he could escape God’s presence. Nope. He couldn’t. He found himself in a violent storm with people who knew someone needed to repent. Jonah admitted it was him and the sailors threw him overboard. That’s a really condensed version so if you have never read it, you ought to. You can find it here: Jonah and the Whale Don’t worry! It’s a short story.

So after Jonah repents and is spewed onto the shore, he goes to Ninevah as God instructed him. He proclaims the message that the people must repent or die. Inside he hoped they wouldn’t listen. He reminds me of the child who was told by his mom to sit down so he did, but then said, “I might be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”

The people responded by repenting, hoping that God would change his mind and not bring calamity upon them. Sure enough! God responded to their genuine repentance and relented. He changed his mind about what he said he would do. (Jonah 3:10) This is what Jonah said about it:

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

Jonah 4:1-3

Jonah was mad because God acted according to his character. In other words, because he was unchanging. Even the fact that he relented and didn’t destroy Ninevah is in line with his character.

Do you ever wish God would act outside of his character? Does his compassion and eagerness to forgive bother you when it’s directed toward others? What does God want to say to you about this?