Sunday, December 29, 2013


Most every day I think of that phrase, yet take some time to wait on the Lord, to learn what He wants me to do next. Life is but a vapor. Will I use my days serving Him? Will I bring love, joy, and peace to others? Will I offer  healing to those who are sick, hungry, or in chains? Will you?


Time's Marching Feet

At age 14 my mother moved with her family from the North Dakota prairie to northern Wisconsin. One of the first things she did after their move was walk to their neighbors, friends who also had recently moved from the same prairie town. To get there, Mom had to walk through a pasture and then a mile along a narrow, dirt road flanked by thick woods.

After a long visit, the neighbor said, "Don't you think you should be getting home, Ruthie? It'll be dark soon." But Mom lingered, counting on the same kind of long dusk she had experienced on the wide-open prairie. Later, at the neighbor's insistence, Mom looked out the window at total darkness! With surprise and fear, Mom ran home as fast as her bare feet allowed.

Time is an interesting concept. It can drag on slowly or fly on wings. A mother-to-be seems to wait forever for her babe to be born. And when the baby wakes her up every three hours, the nights never seem to end. Some parents can hardly wait for the time their last child will be gone from home. Other parents don't want that day to ever come.

There are endless examples of how time affects our lives, depending on our perspective. We can waste time, spend it, bless it, or curse it. We consider its past, its present, and its future. We revel in it or agonize over it.  

Jesus spoke often about time. He said that it is not for us to know the time—the hour or the day—when He will return. Paul the Apostle quoted the prophet Isaiah: "As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2)

A new year has come. What will we do with the time God gives us? Will we take time to help a neighbor in need? To answer a child's question? To forgive a family member who hurt us?

We can wait too long to do the things we should, like my mom waited too long to run home safely. Will time overtake us as the darkness overtook her?

Lord, You are the author of our time. This year we choose to commit body, soul, and spirit into Your trustworthy hands, for today is the time for salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


My birthday (and my twin sister’s) is so close to Christmas that, during our growing up years, we hardly celebrated. Because the anticipation of Christmas was so near, we didn’t miss having birthday parties. Perhaps it was best that way. Jesus’ birthday, after all, eclipses all others. This year, again we can joyfully say, “Happy birthday, Jesus!”


Happy Birthday, Jesus

When my children were young, one of our family traditions included celebrating Jesus’ birthday with a cake and a “happy birthday” song. The ritual helped them remember that Jesus, after all, is the focus of Christmas.

The word Noel, as in the popular English carol, “The First Noel,” originated from the Latin and means “birthday.” The song reportedly had its beginning in France during the 15th century, and is believed to have been brought across the English Channel by wandering troubadours. It became a favorite Christmas Eve hymn in western England, when entire villages gathered to sing and celebrate the bringing in of the Yule log.

“The First Noel” is one of those songs that should be sung in its entirety to get a clear picture portrayed by the words. The refrain, “Noel, noel! Noel, noel! Born is the King of Israel!” is the equivalent to our singing “happy birthday” to someone. So when we sing this hymn, we’re actually singing, “Happy birthday” to our Savior King.

“The first noel the angel did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay—in fields where they lay keeping their sheep on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

“They looked up and saw a star shining in the east, beyond them far; and to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night.

“And by the light of that same star, three wise men came from country far; to seek for a king was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.

“This star drew nigh to the northwest; o’er Bethlehem it took its rest; and there it did both stop and stay, right over the place where Jesus lay.

“Then entered in those wise men three, full rev’rently upon their knee, and offered there, in His presence, their gold and myrrh and frankincense.

“Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heav’nly Lord, that hath made heav’n and earth of naught, and with His blood mankind hath bought.”

Lord, we celebrate Your Son’s birthday with joy and thanksgiving. May our joy be reflected on our faces and heard in our glad songs of praise during this holy, Christmas season. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, December 16, 2013


We love to give our loved ones presents they will enjoy. The best gifts, however, should be offered to those we may not know. Sometimes sacrifice of our time and gifts may seem hard, if offered to those not close to us, including our enemies. Jesus’ example of offering healing and a new beginning is meant to show us how to give to those who may not deserve it, may spurn it, or may not even accept it.


The Greatest Gift of all       

When I visited a large museum years ago, the gem room particularly fascinated me. Heavily guarded, the room held row upon row of glass cases filled with the most brilliant jewels one could imagine. The dazzling brightness of large emeralds and diamonds made me blink. One special display held the crown jewels of a royal family. They were beyond description in beauty and value, definitely not the kind of jewelry to wear in a barn.

But precious jewels were found in a barn once—in a stable of Bethlehem where Jesus was born. When the wise men came to pay homage to the Christ-child, they offered him some of their most valued treasures—gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Sent by wicked King Herod to search for baby Jesus, the wise men followed an eastern star to Bethlehem’s stable. “When they saw the star they were overjoyed…and bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.” (Matthew 2:10-11)

Their gifts were presented as a religious offering. Frankincense, an aromatic used in sacrificial offerings, symbolized Jesus’ divinity. The gold they presented to the infant king was a token of his royalty. And the myrrh, used in perfuming ointments and in burials, forecast the future sufferings of Christ. All of the gifts held great value. And so they should, for there is none more worthy to receive such gifts than the divine Son of God. He, our suffering servant and king, is the most valued of all.

Though we may not have rich gifts to present to our Savior, we can offer Him our thanksgiving and praise, our worship, and our hearts.

Lord, in You are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We recognize You as the greatest treasure of all. We bow in awe to think that You left Your heavenly throne to dwell among men as a humble servant. To You, worthy of the most costly jewels and oils, we offer You our hearts. In Jesus’ name, Amen.   

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I collect nativity sets and display them throughout my apartment. I keep one out year-around as a reminder of the miracle of God’s only Son’s birth. May your Christmas celebration be filled with His joy and peace.


A Familiar Christmas Custom

One of our dearest Christmas traditions began back in the days of St. Francis of Assisi. This saint, born in 1182, began preaching the Gospel soon after his conversion. St. Francis took seriously Jesus’ words to His disciples, given in Matthew 10:7-10. “As you go, preach, saying, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs ….” 

St. Francis traveled light, possessing nothing, as he made Christ real to those to whom he preached.

On December 24, 1223, St. Francis found a cave in Italy and built a nativity scene, filling it with animals and hay. A crowd of curious people drew near, full of wonder at the scene, and listened intently as St. Francis preached the message of the miracle of God being born as an infant in a stable.

“Behold your God,” he said, “a poor and helpless child, the ox and donkey beside him. Your God is of your flesh.”

This tradition is still being played out in many churches today, in spite of the glitz and glitter surrounding us. Such an old custom can remind us that the purpose of Christmas is two-fold: to celebrate Christ’s birth and to make the message of His salvation known to all. Like St. Francis of Assisi, we’re all called to preach the Good News.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness; the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”  (Isaiah 61:1-3)

Lord God, help us to see beyond the glitz and glitter, to see Jesus, who is love and humility personified—the Christ in Christmas. Amen.

Monday, December 2, 2013


What a statement! When God opens our spiritual eyes, the light of His amazing love penetrates every cell of our body, mind, and soul. We no longer have to fear the darkness of our imperfect world. When we ask, He will remove all the shadows around us and His perfect love will cast out our fear.




On the bedside table of a cabin where my family and I stayed while in Homer, Alaska, we found a black mask, the kind worn to bed to avoid light from shining in one's eyes. We learned that these masks are common in Alaska and the far north, where it is light for about 20 hours a day during the summer. My grandchildren called them blinders.

Blinders are effective because they shut out all light. They help many people get a good night’s sleep. Conversely, blinders can prevent us from seeing things that might bring us happiness, such as a spectacular sunrise. Or things that might keep us safe, such as an intruder.

In the spiritual context, there are many who prefer to wear blinders in order to avoid the light and truth of God's love. "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Corinthians 4:4) 

The Bible tells us that Satan holds power over the activity of the world. Those who refuse to believe in and submit to Christ as Lord and Savior of the universe remain under Satan's power. He blinds them to the truth of the Gospel. They become so used to the sin in their lives that they'd rather keep the blinders on, even though God's love is evident and surrounds them. It becomes easy and comfortable for them to remain in the dark.

None of us like our shortcomings to be exposed, sometimes even to ourselves. However, once we decide to ask Christ to remove our spiritual blinders, He will reveal to us how much more fulfilling our lives can become when we live in His light. With the blind man whom Jesus healed, we then can say, "One thing I know, I once was blind but now I see."    

Lord, forgive us when we've let the blinders of our own ignorance and stubbornness keep us from seeing You in the light of Your radiant glory and love. Give us the strength and will to avoid the dark temptations of this world. May Your light shine through us as we bring love and healing to those we meet. In Jesus' name, amen.