Thursday, December 27, 2012


The Christmas season is a time of sadness for many people. Thanks be to God, He promises joy and peace in the midst of sorrow. May you be filled with His joy and peace no matter what your circumstance. We join with the angels and sing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth, good will to men.”


Tragedy and Triumph

The hearts of our nation ache for those who lost loved ones in the recent Connecticut shooting. Evil brings tragic deaths and other losses every day, it seems, according to news reports. Many tragedies are far removed from our relatively safe environments, so we feel badly then forget it happened. When young children are struck down senselessly, however, the horror strikes all our hearts.

Sadly, more tragedies will happen in the future. None of us can run from them as they bring despair and hopelessness to many. When sin entered God’s perfect world, it raised all kinds of havoc. Sinful actions severed relationships between families and countries alike, bringing hatred and war. As long as evil exists, we can count on more wars, more severed relationships, more death.

When tragedy happens, such as this most recent one, many people blame God for its cause and subsequent suffering. But God is not an unjust, uncaring bystander who leaves us to fend for ourselves. The Bible tells how Jesus loved children and welcomed them to Himself. He took joy in them, displaying the same emotions we do. He wept, too, when His friend, Lazarus, died. And He wept over Jerusalem, God’s holy city, seeing its pervading ungodliness and spiritual rebellion.

Jesus weeps over the trials we face, too. He knows our sorrows because He sorrowed. And He promises healing to those who suffer loss. Though we will continue to be touched by evil, we have only to draw near to God and rest in Him—His Word and His peaceful presence—to triumph over tragedy.

Thanks be to God, through the love of Christ we can find peace in the midst of tragedy. God has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. All we have to do is trust His Word that it is so.

We cannot possibly explain why tragedies happen. We do know, however, 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) We may not see His good in the midst of tragedy, but that doesn’t mean it will not come.

God promises to heal the brokenhearted, bit by bit, through the loving acts of His followers. Such are the acts of millions responding to the Connecticut tragedy.

Lord, use us to help bring healing to the brokenhearted, especially during this Christmas season when we worshipfully consider the gift of Your Son, Jesus. In His name we pray, amen.

Monday, December 17, 2012


Some experts say that when we think we feel hungry and yet know we shouldn’t eat, we should drink a glass of water. The water will make us feel full and even give us renewed energy. Such is the miracle of water. We can apply this truth spiritually, too. When we hunger after things we know we shouldn’t have, we can instead partake of the Living Water that is always available. Only Jesus can satisfy our thirst.


A Place of Refreshment

While boating in the British Columbia inland ocean, my husband and I motored right up to a beautiful waterfall to fill our water containers. The water spilled down, splashing over us with a fine mist. The icy cold water felt refreshing on such a hot, sunny day. We stayed there for some time, allowing it to cool our bodies and freshen our dry throats.

Bethlehem was known as a place of refreshment at the time Jesus was born. The word Bethlehem means "house of bread." Back then, people leading camels and donkeys and other beasts of burden stopped in that bustling town for provisions. They also watered and fed their animals and themselves at one of numerous inns before heading south to Jerusalem or north to Hebron. The town's businessmen and women made sure they were ready for those who would be passing through.

But was Bethlehem ready for Jesus when he arrived? Was everyone except a few shepherds too busy, too blinded by worry and fear to care? Even the innkeeper shuttled Jesus' parents off behind the inn to a smelly, dark stable. Unaware that their guest was the Bread of Life himself, they didn't recognize the One who eventually would offer a refreshing cup of water, Living Water, to anyone who thirsted after Him.

Christians are encouraged to offer a cup of water in His name to those who are thirsty in both body and soul. Are we saying a kind word to the grumpy store clerk whose feet are tired, whose mind is fed up with impatient Christmas shoppers? Are we blessing—in the name of the One who can refresh —and praying for the stressed mom who is trying to finish baking, shopping, and serving others, all before the big day?

"He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." (Proverbs 11:25) Are we putting the needs of others before our own during this holy time of year, a time that has become harried or hopeless for many people? And if you don’t personally know the One who offers Living Water, what are you waiting for? The time to be spiritually refreshed as well as to be a spiritual refreshment can be right now.

Lord, we thank you for offering us refreshment of our body, soul, and spirit with the Living Water of your Word and your Spirit. As we travel on our own journey in life, may our hearts turn to you, the Bread of Life. And once having partaken of that wonderful gift, give us the willingness to share it with others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, December 10, 2012


I like lots of light. I’ll gladly tolerate frequent cleaning of my many windows in exchange for the view. We can sympathize for the people who are forced to live in a cave or a dungeon. But thanks be to God, His light shines in the darkest places. When we carry the light of Jesus within us, His joy and peace radiate toward those around us. May His light shine through you this holy season. 


The Light of the World

The sun was at our backs while my family and I walked through the John Muir State Park in northern California. Long shadows of the park’s stately Redwoods surrounded us. But my four-year-old grandson saw only his own shadow, and he danced ahead, happily trying to step on it. 

The Christmas lights that dress up houses and buildings and trees remind me of my grandson’s antics. As the lights and candles glow in the darkness, they cast shadows that flicker and dance. They’re like magnets, drawing people to enjoy them. Many towns even hold contests for the most beautifully lit homes and yards. We view them with awe, forgetting that we view them from shadowy places. Once enjoyed, we turn our backs to face the shadows.

Christmas lights are meant to be reminders of the light of God’s love when He sent His Son, Jesus, to be born on earth. During that time, most citizens of the Mideast lived in the shadows of harsh dictators. They had little hope that their lot in life would improve. Then … a sudden light from heaven brought hope and joy and awe. Such a light brought unbelievable brightness to their dark world. It even caused fear.

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.” (Luke 2:8-9)

The shepherds, accustomed to the dark and to the far-off light of stars and moon, must have fallen to the ground in utter fear as they faced the light of God’s glory. Yet, their gaze remained on the light and they hurried to Bethlehem to “see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)

The message to the shepherds is also for us. When we turn away from the flickering, dark shadows of sin—whether a sin as big as murder or as seemingly small as pride or envy—or from life’s difficult problems toward His glorious light, we too will find joy and freedom. We will find forgiveness and completeness. Through Christ, we will become reconciled with God, our Father in heaven.

 Lord, we thank You for Your Son, Jesus, the Light of the world. Give us the strength and will to turn away from the shadows of sin and toward Your life-giving Light. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


My ears find almost no music more beautiful than Handel’s famous oratorio, The Messiah. When my twin sister and I discovered its splendid sounds as teenagers, the best way to express our feelings of rapture was to pretend we were conducting the orchestra by waving our arms and holding onto an imaginary baton. Our hearts could hardly contain the joy we felt listening to those beautiful strains. I enjoy The Messiah so much that I even listen to it year around. Winter or summer, its beauty and message about God’s love and redemption stirs my heart.

Listening to The Messiah is almost as nice as listening to the songbirds that surround us in nature. God has given them a special gift for all to enjoy. Yet, the songs of angels is said to be the most beautiful of all. Imagine how their songs must have stirred the hearts of those lowly shepherds on that cold, dark night of Jesus’ birth. And to think that when we get to heaven, we can join them in singing praises to our everlasting King. Hallelujah!


A Song in the Air     


When I was in the sixth grade in Minneapolis, our class took a bus downtown to hear a young people’s concert at Northrop Auditorium. Hundreds of other students also filed in and filled the rows of plush seats. Everyone was excited—not so much about the concert but the fact that we were able to leave the classroom for a new adventure.

The conductor introduced us to the fine points of classical music and then turned to face the orchestra. When he lifted his baton every voice in the auditorium stilled, waiting for that first note. Would we like the sound of the classics? At home my folks never listened to music on the radio. All I had heard was pop music my older sister played on the piano, and an occasional church hymn or Sunday School song.

Not all the students enjoyed the classical music during that concert. Many whispered and giggled throughout the program. But I became enamored from the first note. How my soul stirred with surprise and excitement at the orchestra’s renditions of Mozart and Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. I felt like I’d been transported to heaven. I closed my eyes and let the music of the classics flow through me. And I have the same feelings today whenever I hear classical music. During different stages of my life I enjoyed other styles of music as well. And I’m sure many of you have a favorite style – country, pop, folk, jazz, rock, inspirational, or others.

This time of year we hear beautiful Christmas carols. But imagine how awe-inspiring it was for the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth when they heard the unsurpassed voices of God’s angels singing words of glory and praise. I doubt that the sounds were hushed – the whole sky must have resounded with their voices. God heralded this memorable, historic event with the biggest choir in all the heavens! And some day His children will hear that choir again.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared…praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.’” (Luke 2:13-14)

Lord, our voices can’t compare to those of Your angels, but our praises ring out in jubilation and humble adoration to You. You alone are worthy of our praise. In Jesus’ name, amen.