Let There Be Joy - Day 17

The Song of the Angels

David Taylor came home from school sad and discouraged one day in early November.  With tears rolling down his freckled cheeks, he told his mother that his teacher told him that he couldn’t sing in the Christmas program.

“She said that I am awful and that I sing too loud,” David explained between sobs. 

David’s father was sitting in the living room reading the afternoon’s paper and overheard his son’s heartbreak.  Mr. Taylor was indignant and furious.  How could any teacher do this to any child?

Mr. Taylor decided to help his son learn how to sing and after dinner that night, he took David into the living room and had him stand beside the family piano. Mr. Taylor began to play the familiar melody of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear”.  As David opened his mouth, a cat-like screech came out.

“David, part of singing is listening.  Listen ... then sing,” instructed the patient father.  “It came upon a midnight clear, that glorious song of old.”

David’s second attempt was worse than his first!  But when the father was tempted to give up, he thought of the unfeeling teacher and realized, “If a father doesn’t do this, who will?”

And so they continued, a patient father and his little boy, night after November night.  “… From angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold.”

The days of November faded into December, while Mr. Taylor and David spent every evening at the piano going over and over and over the melody to the song.  “Peace on the earth good will to men from heaven’s all gracious King.

And finally, the night before David was scheduled to sing before his teacher, the entire Taylor family gathered around the piano and declared, “The world in solemn stillness lay, to hear the angels sing.”  There was a satisfied silence at the end of the final stanza as the family grinned at each other.  David had learned!  David could sing!

When the day came that David sang for his teacher, she said that he could be in the program!  David was front and center in the third-grade Christmas concert.  He was angelic and on pitch as the song ended with the glorious thought,

“For lo, the days are hastening on, by prophet seen of old,

When with the ever circling years shall come the time foretold;

 When peace shall over all the earth, its ancient splendors fling,

 And the whole world send back the song which now the angels sing!”

Learning to sing had somehow changed the little boy, David Taylor.  While other children were making Christmas lists for Santa and stealing frosted cookies from the jar, David was by the piano, plunking out simple Christmas melodies.  When his siblings were out sledding and skating, David was singing at the piano, “Hark!  The herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King!”  Once the song of Christmas had nestled in David’s heart and voice, it had captured every ounce of his being.

On Christmas Eve, after the family had hung their stockings with care and left out the requisite cookies for the jolly old man of myth, Mr. Taylor looked out the window and saw his pajama-clad boy in the front yard looking toward the sky.

The father quietly walked out the front door and put his arms around David without saying a word.  The son leaned into his father’s chest and said, “The world is lying still, Dad.  Just like the song says.”

“Do you hear them, Dad?  Do you hear the angel’s singing?  I hear them ... do you, Dad?”

The father thought that he was teaching a little boy to sing a sweet song at Christmas time but what had really happened was that the little boy had taught them both to listen ... to listen for the angel’s song.

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1: 13 & 14

Psalm 148

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is your favorite childhood Christmas memory?  Perhaps you could write it out and share it with your family this Christmas.

Go to a school or a church Christmas concert this year and enjoy the faces of the children.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 16

They Are Playing Your Song

Shepherds were dirty, uneducated men with grime under their fingernails and sludge in their brains.  There were a group of these shepherds one night, huddled around a fire in the inky, black of night.  These muddy specimens of humanity were cold and shivering while trying to stay awake.  Their only responsibility in life was to keep track of a herd of dumb sheep that were restless, disobedient and lice-infested.

Shepherds were a hopeless crew of men ... with nothing to look forward to knowing that nothing about their lives would ever change.  Life can become quickly pointless if you are a man who lives with sheep drool on his clothes and sheep dung between his toes.

This night … this particular night … was no different from thousands of other dark, cold lonely nights for this woebegone band of brothers.  When the night couldn’t get any blacker and the sheep couldn’t get any more cantankerous, suddenly, in an instant of time, something so miraculous happened that life would never again be the same for them … or for you and me.

Unexpectedly, heaven exploded into their small, cold and dark world.  The song of the angels burst forth into the war zone of earth and proclaimed the joy of heaven into the hopeless and meaningless existence of the shepherds.  Stars were falling and bursting in rare and glorious colors while the heavens opened and a majestic angel choir began to sing a mighty symphony that can still be heard today!

Jesus invaded this dark, cold world with heaven’s joy and it is still His gift to you today.  His presence in your life makes shepherds dance and angels sing.  Your heart can become an explosion of joy because of the birth of a Baby over 2,000 years ago. 

You can receive joy because of Jesus ... you can walk in peace because of this Baby.

The first word that the angels used to describe the birth of Jesus Christ was the word “joy” ... and it should be the first word used to describe you as well!  Joy is the birthmark of a Christian because when you accept Jesus into your heart you are branded for life with His joy.  You have become a vessel of His presence where there is always fullness of joy.

Your life has now become purposeful as you carry the Christ child to this inky, restless world.  The hopelessness of your life has dissipated because you now understand the honor of transmitting the joy of His presence to the muddy specimens of humanity.

The song of the angels was never meant to be heard only by a solitary group of shepherds.  When the angels sang that night, they were singing to those of you with the drool of life upon your heart and the dung of circumstances in your soul. The symphony of heaven ricochets through the ages and has as its focused destination your cold and lonely existence.  Joy truly has come to your world and nothing will ever be the same again!

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 2:8-11

Let There Be Joy In Me

Plan an evening of singing Christmas Carols this season.  Perhaps you could invite some friends to your home to sing or even go to a nursing home or hospital to sing the great lyrics of the season.

As you sing, let the meaning of the lyrics cleanse the drool and the dung of life that has fallen upon you.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Christmas in Ferguson & On the Streets of NYC

My heart is aching … is yours?

My heart breaks and my mind valiantly tries to make sense of it all … difficult verdicts that instigate violence, racial misunderstandings, words spoken in pain but with truth, heartbroken parents and grieving children.

Even as I write these words … I am wary of being misunderstood or criticized for the way I frame the feelings and opinions that quietly simmer within my heart.

No one is perfect … not teenagers … not policemen … not fathers … not mothers … not juries … not the media … not lawyers or judges … not white people … not black people … not Hispanics. 

We are all just the broken pieces of humanity trying to live peacefully and, at the same time, most of us are endeavoring not to injure anyone else with our own, personal and jagged brokenness.

Let me tell you a story …

Deryl Pendleton was the only black teenager in our youth group when Craig and I were youth pastors in Mobile, Alabama, in the late 1970’s.

Deryl Pendleton 1980.jpg

Can you even imagine that?!!

A white church … in the deepest part of the south … in a city known for searing racial tension … wholeheartedly welcoming in a black kid with barely a penny to his name?!  How we all loved that gangly boy with the massive Afro!

He taught us how to clap on the off-beats and how to worship God with rhythm and joy!

When Craig and I couldn’t afford a new car during those early pastoral years, Deryl, although still in college, gave us his ugly green Grand Torino.  Let me repeat … a black college student … in Mobile, Alabama … gave his white youth pastors … a car. 

Deryl grew into one of the greatest men of God I have ever known due to the Godly influence of both black and white men.  He lived with us during the 1980’s when his family was in transition. 

My boys, at 4 and 6 years old, fell in love with this giant of a man.  His skin was black, his laugh was infectious and his love for God was monumental.

Deryl taught my boys how to burp … who Michael Jordan was … and he mistakenly informed these impressionable boys that mint chocolate chip ice cream was a vegetable because it was green.

When I was tucking one of my dear little boys into bed one night, he asked me why he didn’t have black skin like his hero, Mr. Deryl.  I explained to this innocent child that just like some people have brown eyes and some people have blue eyes that some people have white skin and some people have dark skin.  I looked into my little boy’s blue eyes and said, “It’s the heart that matters, son.  Your heart is just like Mr. Deryl’s heart.”

Isn’t that what matters this Christmas in Ferguson, Missouri … in New York City … and at your home address? 

What matters is the heart. 

What matters is the capacity to love someone who doesn’t look like you … doesn’t dress like you … and whose life experiences have caused jagged edges that have the capacity to wound the brokenness in you.

I have no political answers to the simmering cauldron of racial tension that has erupted over the past few months in America.  I am not a judge or a lawyer.  I am not a politician or a policeman.

I am just a white woman whose life goal is to love more than I criticize …  to pray for understanding when I don’t understand … and to show compassion when others throw stones.

I am just a white girl who often wonders, “Jesus … what would you do?”

I have heard him whisper into my heart, “Throwing stones never heals anything or anyone.”

Caring relationships heal. 

Active and vibrant love heals. 

Prayer heals. 

Simple acts of kindness heal. 

Throwing stones at people only causes more pain.

While I believe wholeheartedly in the right of every American citizen to peacefully demonstrate for causes in which he or she believes, let me gently say, that even peaceful demonstrations are not the healing balm that America desperately needs during this, the season of Christ’s birth.

I believe that what will heal the gaping racial divide in this magnificent country of ours are personal acts of kindness, genuine hospitality and unselfish love offered to those who are different from us.

When was the last time you had someone of a different race in your home for dinner?

When was the last time that you thanked a policeman or policewoman for their service to your community?

When was the last time you invited a black family … or a white family … or a Hispanic family … or an Asian family to your church?

When was the last time you lavished encouragement on a black kid?

When was the last time you smiled at a black mother out with her children?  Or a white father out with his children?  Or a Hispanic family?

When was the last time that you offered a solid and sincere handshake to a policeman?

I believe that political speeches will not heal the racial plague that has infected our nation.

Caustic comments from the media or from outraged leaders will not assuage the pain.

Angry words are empty words.  Opinions are often more polarizing than they are wise.

Only love heals.  Only kindness alleviates trauma.  Only personal involvement and compassion will reconcile.

So … this Christmas season … as you buy gifts for those you love … perhaps it is time to include someone on your list whose skin color is a different shade than yours is.

As you ponder who to have in your home during the holiday season … maybe you could include a family with a different ethnicity than yours.

Drop some gift certificates off at the local police station for these public servants and for their families.

And invite someone, whose skin contrasts with yours, to worship with you at Christmas.

The world is waiting for the children of God to make a difference.

You may be one of the millions of Americans who believes that your vote has never made a difference in the political system.  Let me assure you that kindness makes all of the difference in the world.  Your heart has more power than your vote.

Nothing will change in America … until we all roll up our sleeves and get to work making a new friend or two. 

Nothing will change until we all choose to be kind rather than to be heard.

The greatest gift you have to gift this Christmas is the gift of love to someone who may look, act and talk differently than you do but whose heart is much the same.

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. But now faith, hope, love abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – I Corinthians 13: 1 & 13

What will people remember about you?

Will they remember that you were opinionated … or that you were kind?

Will they remember your righteous anger… or that you were a compassionate friend?

Will they remember that you were outraged at the media and at political leaders … or that your heart was big enough to love those who were different than you?

Kindness makes a difference … love always finds a way … and friendship is more powerful than opinion.  This, my friend, is what Christmas is truly all about.  The Baby in the manger came with the love of heaven in His heart.

He came to love sinners … and political leaders … and religious pontificators … and poor kids … and white mamas … and gangly black boys with massive Afros.  He came because He loved.

He came to heal broken hearts. 

He came offering kindness … friendship … and love. 

And in His coming, He healed.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 15

The Wonder of a Baby

It probably took Mary and Joseph nearly a week to travel the 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem due to Mary’s advanced pregnancy.  Although the timing of the journey was inconvenient, perhaps it was a relief to get away from the wagging tongues at the village well and the old women who were counting the months on their fingers.  Mary and Joseph were required to travel away from their hometown in order to register for the census that had been decreed by Caesar Augustus.

As Mary and Joseph entered Bethlehem, the streets were teeming with a mass of humanity.  It was in those moments, while Mary was being jostled by the crowds, that she felt the first of her labor pains.  Perhaps her water broke on the crowded street, wetting her garment and the donkey on which she was riding.

Did she quietly whisper while in pain, “Joseph!  Please find a place for me to rest!”

Joseph found nothing more than a cave ... a barn ... a stable in which to prepare for the quickly approaching arrival of their Son.

The smelly stable was rife with manure and unkempt animals; the hard ground was saturated with the urine of the barnyard creatures and the clean hay was sparse.  Cobwebs were drooping from the ceiling while a mouse or two scurried by in fear.  The cows were munching on the pungent hay and sheep were sadly looking on as Mary labored and bled.  It was into this putrid atmosphere of mankind that the Savior entered the world!

My heart stops as I picture the enchanted face of this teen-age mother meeting her baby Boy for the very first time!  She was gazing into the face of God ... and He was looking back at her.  God had wrapped his tiny hand around her finger and around her heart as well.

He was her Son ... yet her Lord.  He was her Baby ... yet her Majesty.

Mary was spellbound not only by the ten tiny fingers and the ten miniature toes, but she was spellbound by the presence of God.  Who did this little person look like?  Did he have Mary’s father’s nose?  Or did He display Joseph’s father’s ears?  What we do know is that He came with the heart of God.

Mary could not take her eyes off of her baby Boy so great was her love for this heaven-sent Child.  And the most amazing miracle of all was that He could not take His eyes off of his young mother, a specimen of the world that He came to save, so great was His love for mankind.

Don’t take your eyes off of the true meaning of Christmas.  Know that when Jesus was born ... He was born for you.  Allow the Baby in the manger to wrap His love around your heart.

Bible Reading:

Luke 2:1-7

John 1:1-18

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Make a list of the reasons why you believe that God sent His Son Jesus to the world.

As you ponder these reasons, now make a list of appropriate ways in the 21st. Century to celebrate the grand entrance of Jesus unto planet earth.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 14

The “Busy” of Bethlehem

After Mary returned home from visiting Elizabeth, Joseph and Mary probably had a private, hurried wedding ceremony.  There would be no grand wedding feast or public vows.  Everything had changed for this young, chosen couple.  They had to travel to Bethlehem, away from their hometown, to register for a census.

Bible historians believe that there may have been as many as 1 million visitors slogging the streets of this small, ancient city named “Bethlehem”.

What would happen if 1 million people invaded your town?  What would that do to the traffic patterns?  Or the lines at the mall? Or to the already overcrowded hotels? Or in attempting to get a reservation at your favorite restaurant?

When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem for the census, it was like the mall the day after Thanksgiving in every city in western civilization.  There was no Mapquest to find your way or priceline.com to pre-book a hotel room.

We have never experienced “busy” compared to Bethlehem on this momentous night.  There were donkeys braying and vendors shouting; there was a cavalcade of camels, people, tax collectors and city officials pushing and shoving their way through the dusty streets of Bethlehem.  There was the odor of manure and the smell of crushed and sweating bodies on every corner of every street. 

People’s nerves were taut, their pocketbooks were empty and they were all fed up with a greedy government!  It was a mass of humanity who didn’t know where they were or how to get to where they needed to go.  Sounds a lot like the 21st Century, doesn’t it?!

God chose this moment of chaos and confusion ... of frayed nerves and economic failure ... as the birthplace of His Son.  God chose to invade the traffic jams of humanity with His little Boy.

We have allowed our lives to become as chaotic, confusing and out of control as any city, in any part of the world, at any time in history.  The beauty of Christmas is that it was His presence that changed the purpose of the busy-ness!

God desired to neutralize our expensive way of living and so He sent the Prince of Peace.

God knew that we would need an answer for our stress-induced meltdowns and so He sent heaven’s Darling to be our answer.

In the midst of the mess of humanity and the endless voices of questions with no answers, a Savior was born.  My prayer is that this year, in the middle of your overly active life, that you will have time to gaze in wonder at the Baby in the manger. 

Do not be so wrapped up in the temporary aspects of the season that you miss the divine appointments of Christmas and the glory of it all! The glory of Christmas has always been and will always be the miracle of His presence ... a newborn baby lying in a manger.

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 2:1-6

Isaiah 26:3&4

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Make a list of all of the things that keep you “too busy” during the Christmas season.  How can you shorten this list?

Plan a family night, or a gathering of friends, when you simply enjoy the Savior.  Plan to read the Christmas story from the Bible and sing some well-loved Christmas Carols.  Pray for one another.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

Subscribe to Carol's Blog by Email

Let There Be Joy - Day 13

God Is Always On Time

Elizabeth was too old to have a baby by human standards.  Her body had long ceased to exhibit the possibility of reproduction.  Even when Elizabeth was young and in her childbearing years, she had been unable to conceive a child.  Now, as a woman who had lived nearly 9 decades of life, there was no human possibility that this would ever happen.  There was not a sliver of hope that Elizabeth would ever hold a biological newborn baby in her wrinkled arms!

But God breaks all of the constraints of human standards.  His ways are higher than our ways and He is able to trump any limitation that we exhibit even in our strength. 

“Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth ...” Certainly this “time” was not Elizabeth’s chosen time.  God has a chosen time for prayers to be answered, for His mission to be accomplished and for miracles to take place. Elizabeth’s chosen “time” had most certainly been when she was a young woman but God’s chosen time involved a miracle!  Do not for one second believe that God has forgotten you or that He has not heard your prayers.  When God’s appointed time comes in its fullness, you will give birth to all that God has planned for you.

“Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.”

Many times I believe that the Lord says “Wait” as an answer to our desperate prayers so that His glory is revealed rather than the certainty of mankind’s function.  Most women are able to conceive and bear children in their teens and twenties and even into their thirties and early forties, but it takes the intervention of God for a woman to experience the miracle of birth when in her eighth decade of life! 

Can you imagine the rejoicing of her relatives and neighbors?  Can you picture the scene as the women danced in circles in the village streets?  Can you envision how her friends lifted their hands in praise to Yahweh?

As John nestled into his mother’s arms, and as the nearly 100 year old eyes of Zacharias looked into the newborn eyes of his son, God was glorified.  Prayers had been answered.  Their story had just begun.

The story of Elizabeth and Zacharias is the call to live a righteous life and it is the promise of what persevering prayer will certainly obtain.  God is more than able to accomplish all that concerns you.  His part is to perform the miracles ... your part is to pray without ceasing and to live a life that pleases His heart.

Bible Reading:  (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:57-80

Psalm 138

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What has been the greatest miracle or answer to pray that you have ever experienced?  Write it out and share it with your family this Christmas season.

Define the word “miracle”.

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 12

Christmas Begins With Thanksgiving

One of my favorite benign addictions in life is people watching!  Now, I enjoy people-watching year round, but the time that it is most fascinating to me is at Christmastime.  When I am in the post office line, waiting to mail my packages and cards, I intently observe and even eavesdrop on holiday conversations and frustrations.  When I find myself at the mall, while trying not to be impatient, what brings pleasure to me is to focus my attention on others who are frustratingly focused on the buying of gifts and on the possibility of seasonal sales.  I often try to butt into conversations with words of encouragement or Christmas joy!

Would you like to join me in eavesdropping on one of the most glorious Christmas conversations in all of history?  I believe that this one celebratory exchange just may change your heart forever!

After the elder Elizabeth had blessed the Baby Boy in Mary’s virgin womb, Mary began to worship the Lord.  She broke out into a powerful response of worship and heartfelt adoration!  I have often wondered if, when declaring these words of praise, she fell to her knees and lifted her hands toward heaven!

"My soul exalts the Lord!”

This simple, exclamatory sentence were the first words out of Mary’s grateful mouth in Elizabeth’s presence.  Mary’s choice of words becomes especially beautiful when one realizes that the “soul” is the birthplace of passions, emotions, aversions and desires.  Mary’s soul was not in a state of confusion or denial but Mary was declaring the fact that regardless of circumstances and events that her emotions and desires would always take her to a place of worship.  Mary spent no time rehearsing what a difficult position God had placed her in or how embarrassed she was at what her family had to go through.  Mary took her emotions and her feelings to a place of genuine praise and worship.

And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.”  Mary’s soul and her spirit were joining in a beautiful duet of thanksgiving.  One’s spirit is the place in the human constitution that desires the Lord and all that He has.  The spirit is the place of walking by faith and not by sight.  In this spirit place of Mary’s life that was in constant communion with the Spirit of God, her response was identical to that of her spirit:  sincere and eruptive rejoicing!

How are you responding to circumstances or events that you don’t understand or perhaps might not choose?  What is your soul spending time doing this Christmas season?  Is your soul out of control with spending, eating and impatience?  Or has your soul observed the example of Mary and chosen to exalt the Lord?

My prayer is that your spirit and your soul will fall to their knees and that you will lift your hands and your voice toward heaven!  I pray that eavesdropping on this one holiday conversation will change the choices that you make not only at Christmastime but in every day of the coming year.

Bible Reading: (click on Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:46-56

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Why is it so hard to rejoice in the Lord when our circumstances are difficult?

Make a list of 5-10 Scriptures that you can quote during difficult days of life.  

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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The 60 Most Valuable Life Lessons

Well, it has arrived … the week and the month of my 60th birthday.  Although that may not mean anything to you … it means something immeasurably significant to me.

Turning the big 6-0 means that my life is about to become richer and even more impactful. 

Turning 60 doesn’t imply that I am an old lady … it simply means that the lessons that I have learned over the past 60 years are valuable.

To me … standing on the threshold of having lived for 60 glorious, irreplaceable, incomparable years is something to shout about! 

Turning 60 is a milestone worth celebrating, indeed!  And so, I celebrate with you today!  My gift to you is 60 of the most valuable lessons I have learned on my life journey.

  • 1 – Love your parents with your whole heart.
  • 2 – Always keep a song in your heart. 
  • 3 – People deserve kindness more than they desire your opinion.
  • 4 – Don’t take parenting too seriously.
  • 5 – Take parenting seriously.
  • 6 – The reason you are on earth is to love difficult people.  Think about that       for a minute!!
  • 7 – You can never say, “Thank you!” often enough.
  • 8 – Time spent reading is never wasted time.
  • 9 – Time spent playing is never wasted time.
  • 10 – Love your spouse with your whole heart. 
  • 11 – Wring the joy out of an ordinary day every day.
  • 12 – Introduce yourself to a stranger at least once a week.
  • 13 – Don’t shovel snow when you should be planting flowers.  Know what           season of life you are in and respond appropriately.
  • 14 – Go to church even when you don’t feel like it.  Think about it … God is         waiting to meet with you where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name!  I             wouldn’t miss that meeting for the world!!
  • 15 – Don’t get into debt.  Save more than you spend.
  • 16 – Call your grandmother.  And your mom.
  • 17 – Stay in touch with childhood friends.
  • 18 – Listen to more than one kind of music.  Include jazz, classical,                     worship, Big Band, oldies, country and Christmas music in your                   weekly choices!
  • 19 – Hang out with children every chance you can.
  • 20 – Hang out with older people every chance you can.
  • 21 – Make sure that your addictions are healthy ones.
  • 22 – Go to fireworks on the Fourth of July.
  • 23 – Listen to Christmas music starting on October 1.
  • 24 – Invite lonely people to your Thanksgiving dinner.
  • 25 – Hang up Christmas stockings even when your children are grown and           gone.
  • 26 – Watch football with your husband … or … go shopping with your wife!
  • 27 – Love your children with your whole heart.
  • 28 – Valentines are not just for elementary school friendships.
  • 29 – Keep a prayer journal.  Record not only your prayer requests but also        the answers to prayers that you have received.
  • 30 – Laugh with your kids once a day.  Tease them.  Tickle them.  Tell                 them jokes.
  • 31 – When you get to the end of your life, it will be faith, family and friends         that have made every day worthwhile.
  • 32 – You can never sing loud enough nor laugh often enough!
  • 33 – Long walks on a country road are a healing balm to the soul.
  • 34 – There really is no place like home.  Thank you, Dorothy, for those               words of wisdom.
  • 35 – And … contrary to the beliefs of Thomas Wolfe … you actually can go         home again!
  • 36 – Make sure that you create a home worth coming home to.
  • 37 – Don’t gossip.  It’s never worth it.
  • 38 – Get in the delightful habit of saying positive, affirmative words behind           people’s backs.
  • 39 – Laugh at yourself.  We all make silly mistakes!
  • 40 – Listen to the older generation.  Hear their hearts … listen to their                 opinions … smile at their memories … and learn from their wisdom.
  • 41 – Listen to the younger generation.  Hear their hearts … listen to their             opinions … and share in their dreams.
  • 42 – Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year because a Baby         changed everything!
  • 43 – It is actually more fun to believe!  I’ll take faith over fear every day of           every week!
  • 44 – You are never too old to dream a new dream or to set a new goal.               Never.  I want to dream an amazing new dream and set an impossible         goal the day before I go to heaven when I am in my 90’s!
  • 45 – Memorizing Bible verses is not just for 5th graders!
  • 46 – Worrying is a waste of valuable time.  Why worry when you can pray?!
  • 47 – Life is not about you.
  • 48 – Your life matters.  It matters very much.
  • 49 – Forgiveness robs the past of its power and powerfully changes the               impact of your future!
  • 50 – Babies and children are not spoiled by love.  They are spoiled by                 things.  Hold your babies.  Snuggle with your children.  A                           compassionate, kind and patient mother is a world-changing mother.
  • 51 – Be a better listener than you are a talker.
  • 52 – No one will ever understand like Jesus.  No one.
  • 53 – The words “I’m sorry” are among the most powerful words in the                 English language.
  • 54 – You are always just one day away … one prayer away … one choice           away … from the greatest breakthrough of your life!
  • 55 –“Jesus loves me, this I know” is the most beautiful, rich and true song           ever written.
  • 56 – You are not defined by how much you earn but by how much you give.
  • 57 – When you are too tired to work, too spent to dream and too weary to           take another step … you can always sing!
  • 58 – The great hymns of faith are the greatest treasure of any generation.
  • 59 – You are the most powerful when you are on your knees.
  • 60 – Read your Bible every day.  Your world will thank you for it.
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Let There Be Joy - Day 11

The John-Jump!

Elizabeth had been basking in the miracle of a surprise pregnancy late in life when Mary, her much younger relative, arrived at her house.  A heavenly messenger had just informed Mary that she had been chosen to carry the Savior of the world. 

Mary “went in a hurry” to the home of Elizabeth, the wife of a priest who had been raised in the home of a priest.  Perhaps Mary was longing for the stability and peace found in the home of Elizabeth.  Perhaps Mary was trying to escape the wagging tongues and the crude remarks made at the village well.  Perhaps Mary’s parents sent her to the older and wiser Elizabeth because they didn’t know what else to do with the outrageous story that their formerly perfect young daughter had surely fabricated.

When Mary entered the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the baby boy within the womb of Elizabeth, jumped for joy!  The instant that John, although unborn, sensed that he was in the presence of Jesus the Messiah, he began to leap for joy!

John, although still in his mother’s womb and unable to see Jesus with his natural eyes, knew that he was in the presence of the Lord. There is only one possible response to the presence of the Lord and that is joy!  Elizabeth expressed to Mary that this was no soft little nudging that she felt from the baby within but that it was a gargantuan leap!  John was exploding with joy at being in the presence of Jesus!

“In His presence is fullness of joy!” Psalm 16:11

The spirit of John was responding to the Spirit of Jesus Christ where there is always fullness of joy.

Perhaps as the years went by, these cousins would play at one another’s homes. I wonder if every time Jesus walked into the room if John, the lively one, would begin to jump up and down!

His mother, the proper Elizabeth, might have said, “John dear, stop jumping!  You are being so lively, son.”

“But mama, I just can’t help it!  Every time I am around Jesus my legs just start jumping for joy!” might have been this strong-willed son’s response to the quiet and peaceful ways of his mother.

When Jesus walks into our world, into our lives and into our homes, we must respond with complete joy.  Our heart should begin the John-jump!

In His presence is the only place that you will ever experience true and complete joy.  Joy is not found in having your children home for Christmas, in giving and receiving mountains of gifts, in decorating the house like a picture in a magazine or in eating culinary concoctions that will satisfy your holiday taste buds.  Those earthly delights are all connected to happiness but never to joy.  Joy is found in one place and one place alone:  in His presence!

Perhaps especially at Christmastime we are guilty of looking for joy in all the wrong places.  This Christmas, make room for His presence.  Spend time with your friends and family singing the beloved Carols of Christmas; read the story of His birth from the Bible with those you love.  The greatest gift you will ever give to someone whom you love is the promise to pray for them.

When Elizabeth told Mary that the baby within her womb “leaped for joy”, the word used to describe this action is the Greek word “skirtao”.  The word “skirtao” is used only one other place in the New Testament.

“Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for (skirtao) for behold,your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.” –Luke 6:22 & 23

The presence of Jesus will instigate a genuine leap for joy in an otherwise ordinary life.  However, we are also expected to leap for joy when our life has fallen utterly and completely apart.  When we have been vilified and rejected by people and when we have been victimized by unfair circumstances, that is the time that we are commanded by Jesus to skirtao!!  To leap for joy!

There is no logical explanation for this joyful response in the face of emotional pain and deep disappointment but it is the healthiest response for a believer.  You can jump!  You can do the John-jump at the worst moment of your life because Jesus has promised never to leave you or forsake you.

This Christmas, respond to the joy of His presence especially if you are going through dark events and disappointing circumstances.  May I just gently but sincerely tell you that there is really no earthly reason not to respond to Who Jesus is with complete and utter joy?  There is no circumstance, person or event that has the power to rob one of His children of the joy of His presence.

Christmas has given us the assurance that while living on earth, we can be the beneficiaries of heaven’s joy!  When Jesus came, He paved the way for joy!

Don’t expect the festivities to relieve the pain – Only His presence can do that for you!  When Jesus came to planet earth, He paved the way for heaven’s joy to infiltrate our lives.

My prayer for you during this Christmas season is that you will know the joy of the presence of the Lord.  I pray that like John you will respond to His presence in the most miraculous of ways.  I pray that you will not mistakenly believe that joy is extracted from your circumstances but that you will worship the Baby in the manger and allow your heart to enter fully into the joy of Christmas.

Bible Reading: (click the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:39-44

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is it in our life that is prohibiting you from doing the “John-jump”?

What are some ways that you can practice the presence of Jesus which is where there is fullness of joy?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 10

Do Not Be Afraid

Joseph was a righteous man ... a good man ... and a kind man.  The word “righteous” in Matthew 1:19 is defined this way in the Greek: ‘used of him whose way of thinking, feeling and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God.”

Joseph was not making decisions based upon his own best interest but his decisions were birthed in the conviction of God’s perfect and holy will.  Joseph was learning a significant lesson this first Christmas season: celebrating the Savior is not about maximizing your own desires or preferences but it is about doing whatever it takes to welcome the Christ Child into your life.

This is a sobering lesson that we all need to be reminded of this Christmas season.  Christmas is not about how I feel, about my circumstances, or about the comfort of family and friends.  Christmas has always been and will eternally continue to be about making room for Jesus in the disappointed hallways of life.

Joseph planned to send Mary away privately although he could have had her stoned in the village square.  Joseph’s wise and kind plans were interrupted by a Christmas angel!  How wonderful to know that even when we are doing what we believe to be the highest good, God’s ways are still higher than our best intentions!  Christmas is a time when heaven’s best interrupts our good.

And what were the first words that came out of the angel’s beatific mouth?  “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid …” 

The words spoken to Joseph over 2,000 years ago ring clearly across the ages into our disappointment.  “Do not be afraid,” is the message of Christmas to your life today.

Has God interrupted your life lately?  Perhaps this Christmas you just might want to take stock of your life and realize that God has the right to interrupt your mundane.  God has the right to show you a better way of doing life because your very best human decision pales in comparison to what God has for you!

Was Joseph just an ordinary boy in love with an ordinary girl named Mary?!  Not a chance!  God always has plans other than ordinary for those who choose a lifestyle of uncompromising righteousness.  God desires to use each one of us as the vehicle through which Christ is revealed to every generation.

If you think that Christmas was only about Joseph and Mary ... you are more than wrong.  You might as well join the Grinch and Ebeneezer Scrooge in your opinion of Christmas.  God longs to birth Christmas through you at this time in history.  You are here to reveal the character and the heart of God.  It is what righteous people do - not only at Christmas but 365 days a year!

Bible Reading: (click on the Scripture reference to open in reader)

Matthew 1:18-25

Colossians 1:25-29

Let There be Joy In Me:

Pray this year that Jesus would interrupt your holiday plans.  Ask Him to invade your ordinary life with His extraordinary.

What fear issue does the presence of Jesus help you deal with?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 9

Disappointment and Heartache

Engagement is one of the very happiest and dreamiest of times in the life of a young couple.  It is the singular moment in life when all hours are spent dreaming of the incomparable joy that is to come.  It is the extraordinary moment in one’s life when love seems perfect and trustworthy.

“Joseph, I am with child.”

Joseph and Mary’s love story had been horribly and unexplainably interrupted.  Mary is pregnant and Joseph knows that he is not the father.  Joseph surely must have wondered if Mary had been violated although she was quietly insistent that the child in her womb had been placed there by the Holy Spirit.  I wonder if Mary told him with tears running down her beautiful and innocent cheeks.

Did Joseph wonder if Mary was delusional?  How else was it possible to explain this catastrophic turn of events?  What was once lovely was now tinged with ugly.  What was once anticipated is now dreaded.

Joseph was a righteous man whose pure heart was breaking because his bride was with child and it was not his child.  Mary, his lovely and sweet Mary, had surely been taken advantage of by someone.  She was the kindest girl he had ever known but was the stress of the planning the wedding causing her to break under the pressure?  What could he do?  What should he do?!

Joseph apparently did not believe Mary’s story because his plan was to put her away privately.  This was the kindest and most loving choice for a young man found in the throes of betrayal.  He could have allowed her to be stoned before the baby was born.  Or, after giving birth, he could have allowed both her and the baby to be stoned.  Sending her away never to be heard from again was the ultimate loving sacrifice on Joseph’s part.

It is impossible to even imagine Joseph’s disappointment with God and with the person whom he had loved the most in the world.  Mary had been his world and now he would never see her again.  Did Joseph believe that the girl of his dreams had given her virginity to another man?

Joseph did not deserve this betrayal or this heartbreak.  What he “deserved” was a wedding day filled with joy and the promise of young love.

Now, perhaps, Joseph’s reputation had been sullied on the streets of Nazareth and his boyhood friends were snickering behind his back. 

Joseph had to face Mary’s parents and his own parents. Although he bore no guilt there was still the possibility that they would not believe him.  There was no nuptial frivolity for this disappointed, heartbroken young man.  All hopes of love and joy and promise had been dashed with the announcement of an early pregnancy.

Are you facing severe disappointment as you face Christmas this year?  My prayer for you is that you will allow the promise of Christmas to overshadow the painful realities of your life.  Do not allow Christmas to be defined by your disappointment but allow your disappointment to be forever changed because of the promise of Christmas.

Bible Reading: (click on Scripture reference to open in reader)

Matthew 1:18 & 19

Romans 5:1-5

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the most difficult disappointment that you have ever faced?  Does Christmas help ease the pain of disappointment or does it exacerbate it?

How does Romans 5:1-5 encourage you?

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 8

The Resolve of Your Heart

Mary, the very young, chosen mother of Jesus, utters one of the most courageous statements in all of Scripture.  In response to the announcement of the angel that Mary’s world had just been interrupted with heaven’s plan, Mary clearly said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” - (Luke 1:38)

A “bondslave” was someone who could have gone free but instead chose to stay and serve his or her master.  Mary willingly chose to offer temporary housing to the Savior of the world because that was God’s desire.  When her world collided with God’s ultimate desire, Mary died to self and submitted to God the Father.

When was the last time that you quoted Luke 1:38?  Has God asked something difficult of you lately?  How have you responded?  Have you said, “Behold the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to Your word.”

When God requires one of His children to lay down their will and their way for His best plan, often there is a struggle of the human will.  Unfortunately, rather than respond with the maturity and wisdom of the young Mary, many of us whine and complain.  Some of us even may have the audacity to question whether or not God even knows what He is doing.

What has God asked of you?  Has He asked you to love a difficult person?  Perhaps He has asked you to raise a special needs child or serve an uncaring boss.  God is looking for bondslaves: men and women who are willing to serve Him out of love.  God is looking for those who willingly submit to His ways and plans simply because their heart completely belongs to Him.  God desires men and women who will allow Him to interrupt their perfectly planned lives with His unbelievable and miraculous plans!  It’s called being a bondslave.

Mary’s pure heart and true resolve are revealed through the final words of her statement, “ ... May it be done to me according to your word.”  Is that the resolve of your heart as well?  When your will comes into conflict with God’s Word, God’s Word must win at all cost.  Like Mary, settle this issue of human will and the authority of God’s Word today.  I declare, with Mary, that in my life, it will always be done according to His Word because I am His bondslave.

Bible Reading: (click on the Scripture reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:38

Psalm 119:1-16

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the hardest thing that God has ever asked of you?  How have you responded?

What does it mean to respond as a “bondslave”?  What are some of the heart attitudes that a “bondslave” would embrace?  

HDonateello, World!

If this devotional has been an encouragement to you, would you consider giving a year-end gift to Just Joy! Ministries this Christmas season?

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Let There Be Joy - Day 7

A Miraculous Interruption!

“For nothing will be impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:37) 

Christmas, for Mary, was learning the ultimate truth of this one statement.  When Christmas comes around each year, we must embrace the absolute faith that nothing is impossible with God!  Christmas is a reminder that we must always keep our focus on His Divinity and not on our frail humanity.

You honor God when you ask of Him the impossible.  So this year, rather than giving Santa an enormous and materialistic list, perhaps it would be most sincere to change your focus from temporary to eternal, from material to priceless and ask God for your true heart’s desire.  Impossibility is God’s specialty!  It is what He does best!  He loves to show Himself miraculous in the face of profound disappointment and darkness.

Most of us go through the Christmas season focused on self ... on what we want and desire and deserve.  Some people want a new house ... or a great piece of jewelry ... or for our children to come home for the holidays.  Some folks emphatically believe that they deserve a Christmas bonus, a tree-laden with expensive gifts or someone to clean the house for the holidays.

If these are your desires, you are missing it!  You have Christmas all wrong!  You are missing the hard lesson that the life of Mary teaches all of us today:

Our plans pale in comparison to His interruptions!  The most significant desire that you will ever embrace is to ask God to interrupt your life with His love and His plans. 

What these verses don’t describe is the public outrage that Mary had yet to face.  This girl, who has just had her world rocked with a message from heaven, would now be spat upon and cursed as she walked by.  Formerly she was known as “pure” and a “virgin”, and now her reputation was one of a loose and promiscuous woman.  Perhaps now as Mary daily walked to the village well, she heard the coarse language of the men calling out nasty innuendos accompanied by raucous laughter.

Mary learned, as we all must, that Christmas is not about me.  Christmas is about dying to self, to preference and to normalcy.  Christmas is the clarion call that none of us is able to live for human purposes ever again.  We have all been embraced by the call of Christmas that resounds from Mary’s heart to our world today, “Live for His purposes!  Live for Christ alone!”

Christmas is about the intervention of God into our ordinary lives; it is about Christ being born into our disappointments and failures.

Christmas is not about me but it is about Christ revealing Himself in me and to me!  Now that’s something to celebrate!

Bible Reading: (click on the Scripture reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:36-38

Genesis 18:1-4

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Do you truly believe that nothing is impossible with God?

What is your one “impossible” prayer request this Christmas?  Write it out and give it to God.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 6

You Call This Favor?!

Mary was perplexed!  A strange man had just entered her room and had started to talk about things like favor and God and greetings!  Who is this assertive man and what in the world is he talking about? 

I can nearly hear Mary’s racing heartbeat as she attempted to process all that was happening around her this day.  The Bible says that “Mary was perplexed and wondered what kind of salutation this was”.  Mary’s cheeks were probably flushed and her heart was beating wildly.

As the Angel Gabriel continued to tell the message of heaven to this young girl, perhaps Mary’s fear subsided and a humble awakening began to dawn in her heart.  Gabriel had heaven’s perspective on this miraculous announcement and saw absolutely no reason for fear.

Sweet Mary, who was trying to wrap her heart and mind around the message of the angel may have been incredulously pondering, “Me?!  God chose me?!  I am the chosen one to carry God’s child?  The mother of the Messiah?”

Christmas, for Mary, was about understanding that God’s ways are so much higher than our ways.  Mary was learning, like all of us must, that when Divinity invades humanity ... Divinity always wins!  Christmas is a reminder to me ... and to you ... and to Mary ... that His ways are always higher and better than anything that we could ever think or imagine.

Christmas has nothing to do with dancing elves, reindeer with red noses and snowmen who sing.  Christmas is about an invasion!  Christmas happens at the moment when heaven’s light invades the darkness of planet earth!

Christmas will always drive the worst of sinners to ponder what kind of salutation the Christmas story brings.  Either Christmas is a bold-faced lie or it is ultimate truth.  It can be nothing else.

Either the manger should be placed in the same category as elves, jolly old Saint Nicholas and flying reindeer ... or it is absolute, divine and eternal Truth.

Christmas is not about the holiday spirit that rushes toward us the day after Thanksgiving and compels us to shop, spend, and eat.  Christmas is about the Holy Spirit bringing peace and joy through a Baby Boy to the mess that we have made of planet earth.  It is about the power of heaven’s reality invading one life.  Christmas commences the moment when a person realizes the longing that has always existed to be overshadowed by all that He is and all that He does!

It happened for Mary ... and it can happen for you!  Perhaps an appropriate prayer to pray this Christmas would be,

“Holy Spirit!  Overshadow me!  Overshadow my dreams, my preferences and opinions!  Birth something new and something grand in me!  Create something in me that will change this generation for the Kingdom of Christ!”

Bible Reading: (please click the Scripture reference to open the reader)

Luke 1:29-35

Psalm 17

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Finish this phrase:  Christmas is …

Perhaps you could make a list of 10 things that “Christmas is …” to you.  Ask other people this week to finish that phrase as well.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 5

The Girl Next-Door

Mary had grown up in the same village as Joseph, a carpenter’s son, who was several years older than she was.  Perhaps they had admired one another from a distance ... perhaps Joseph had just been waiting for the darling Mary to grow up!  And now that Mary was 13 or 14 years old, it was settled.  Mary was to become his wife.

Engagement, or betrothal, at this moment in history held the commitment that marriage does today.  Although Mary and Joseph were not living together and would stay pure until their wedding night, the only way out of a betrothal was divorce and the only reason that justified a divorce was adultery.

Mary was in the house one afternoon, maybe working on her wedding attire, or sewing towels for her new home when she sensed someone in the room with her.  Conceivably, Mary looked around to see if anyone had joined her.

“And coming in, Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, favored one!”  The Lord is with you.”

Christmas, for Mary, was the challenge of understanding what the favor of God is truly all about.  Mary was about to learn that being highly favored by God does not mean a life of unbroken happiness nor does it promise that all of your dreams will come true.  There is a tremendous price to be paid by those who are highly favored by God; what favor means, simply, is that God is willing to use you.

God is willing to use the young, the uneducated and the inexperienced in His grand plan for humanity.  Just as the favor of God targeted the womb of Mary, I believe that the favor of God is targeting everyone and anyone who is willing to be part of God’s strategy at this historical juncture.

Christmas, for Mary, was about discovering the intimacy of the Lord’s presence as never before.  Mary was about to be confronted with the reality that favor happens when God places a piece of Himself into an earthly life.  No longer was God a mere concept or a Divine Being Who never engaged Himself in the affairs of every day life.  Because of Gabriel’s message, the presence of God Himself had invaded the life of this young girl, who, prior to this moment had nothing but Joseph, her beloved, on her innocent mind.

Experiencing the favor of God in new ways is one of the best parts of Christmas for me!  To think that God would desire to use me at this time in history is a gift that I never imagined I would find under the Christmas tree of life!

Discovering a fresh lifestyle of intimacy in the presence of Jesus is God’s life-changing Christmas gift to you this year.

Christmas is proclaiming to your world, “The Lord is with me ... and with you!  What a wonderful surprise!”

Bible Reading:  (click on Scripture reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:26-29

II Chronicles 16:9

Isaiah 9:2-7

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What difficult thing has the Lord asked you to do?  Perhaps it is the favor of God that requires diligence in serving Him not only in easy assignments but especially in difficult ones.

Spend some time today listening to Christmas hymns and Carols.  Expect God to meet you during moments of worship.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 4

Peace on the Battlefield of Life

British soldiers were spending Christmas Eve 1914 on a French battlefield  during World War I.  After four months of fighting, over a million men had perished in the bloody conflict.  The bodies of dead soldiers were scattered between the trenches of the opposing armies.

Life in the trenches was despicable.  Perpetual machine gun shelling took a high toll; the weather brought rain, snow and cold.  Many of the trenches in which the soldiers lived were flooded and exposed the soldiers to trench foot and frostbite.

It was in the middle of a freezing battlefield in France, on December 24, 1914, that a miracle occurred!  British troops watched in amazement as candle-lit trees appeared above the German trenches.  The British troops stuck up a sign with the words, “Merry Christmas!” on it and the grandest holiday truce in all of history began.

“From the German parapet, a rich baritone voice had begun to sing a song I remember my German nurse singing to me ... the grave and tender voice rose out of the frozen mist.  It was all so strange ... like being in another world,” a young British soldier wrote in his diary.

            “Silent Night, Holy Night.  All is calm.  All is bright.”

When the German soldiers finished singing, the British decided to retaliate.  Rather than retaliate with the roar of a canon, the army chaps from England sang,

            “The first noel, the angels did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay ...”

When the boys from jolly old England finished, “Born is the King of Israel!”, the enemy began clapping and struck up a rousing rendition of “Oh Tannebaum!”

As the British troops began singing, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful!”, it was at that moment that the Germans immediately joined in.  They were singing with the enemy.

This was a most extraordinary event taking place in the middle of a blood-drenched battlefield!  Two opposing nations were singing the same Christmas Carol in the middle of a fierce war.  It is recorded that enemy soldiers greeted each other in the no man’s land that just minutes before had been a killing zone.  Soldiers wished one another a Merry Christmas and agreed not to fire their rifles on Christmas Day.

The good will spread down the entire length of the 27-mile length of the British line.  It has been told that German soldiers shared baked goods and cider with the British soldiers.  A rousing soccer game began between the opposing nations while others just wanted to talk about Christmas at home.

Thousands of soldiers celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace among the bodies of their dead. 

A solitary voice began to sing “Silent Night” in French ... he was joined by another voice singing in German ... and finally the words were in English.

Who do you need to make peace with this season?  Have you been engaged in a fierce battle that has extracted the very life from your soul?  Christmas is a moment in history when peace is abundantly possible because of the Baby Who came to bring peace for all of the ages.

Bible Reading:  (click the Scripture reference to open in reader)       

Isaiah 53

Let There Be Joy In Me:

Is there someone that you need to forgive this Christmas season?  Make a plan to reach out in love and then follow through.  Perhaps you can meet for a cup of coffee, or send this person a Christmas note or a loving e-mail.  

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Let There Be Joy - Day 3

Lord, Prepare Me For What You are Preparing For Me

In the days during which Elizabeth lived, it wasn’t uncommon for pregnant women to go into seclusion when their pregnancy became obvious.  However, according to Scripture, Elizabeth, who was old enough to be a great-grandmother, apparently went into seclusion from the very first days of her unexpected pregnancy. 

I have often wondered why Elizabeth chose to hide herself away much earlier than was culturally acceptable or required.  I wonder if perhaps Elizabeth found it necessary to prepare her heart for God’s plan.  Elizabeth may have been so filled with thanksgiving and wonder that she knew preparing for motherhood was the single most important priority at her very advanced age.

I can picture tears coursing down her wrinkled and liver-spotted cheeks as she prayed, “Lord!  A miracle!  A bona fide miracle You have given to us!”

I wonder, as Elizabeth began the joy of making sweet little blankets and sewing precious garments of miniature clothing with gnarled and arthritic fingers, if her heart cried out to the God of the universe, “Lord, prepare me for what You are preparing for me!”

I believe that during these days of quiet, yet joyful contemplation, Elizabeth had a heart overflowing with gratitude.  She may have been intent on changing her lifestyle during this time of delightful preparation in order to become the mother that raising a young man of greatness would require.  Elizabeth was preparing her heart for the day of delivery and blessing.

During this Christmas season, for what do you need to prepare your heart?  Do you need to make some lifestyle changes in order to accommodate the destiny that God has chosen for you?  For those that He calls to do a great work, He also calls away into His presence.

Christmas is the season of hope and miracles and it is also the season of preparation for the destiny of God.  I pray that you will take some time today, and every day during this wonderful season, to hide yourself in God’s presence.  Rather than wrap yourself in busy-ness and extravagance, snuggle up in His love for you and ask Him to reveal His destiny for your life.

I hope that you will pray with Elizabeth, and with me, “Lord, prepare me for what You are preparing for me.”

Bible Reading:  (click the Bible reference to open in reader)

Luke 1:24 & 25

Isaiah 40:28-30

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the great work that you have been called to partner in with God?

What are some of the ways that you can prepare for the great work that God has called you to?

What is your favorite Christmas Carol?

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Thanksgiving Prayer

Father God,

As we gather around the bounteous table of plenty and provision, May we be ever mindful that everything we have received is from Your generous hand.

Your hand.

Your hand bestows honor and healing.

Your hand offers forgiveness and friendship.

Your hand ushers in favor and grace.

Your hand.

In this season when our hearts turn toward thanksgiving, we are grateful for You, Father, and for the actions that come from Your miraculous Hand.

We are grateful for all of the seasons of this extraordinary life and for Your faithfulness and steadfast love so evident in each season.

We are grateful for the laughter of children and for the wisdom of the aged.

We are thankful for the possibilities that a new life brings … and for a lasting legacy of faith.

We are grateful for the snow of winter and for the sunshine of summer.

We are thankful for the glory of autumn and the rebirth of spring.

We are Your thankful people, Lord.

Your people … held in the hollow and safety of Your hand.

Your hand.

Father, would You move Your hand once again?

Would Your guiding hand bring home those who have lost their way?

Would Your healing hand touch those who are ill or in pain?

Would Your generous hand provide for Your children once again?

Even in our thankfulness, Lord, we are aware that we need You.

We need more of You.

And so, today, our thankfulness is humbly blended with a heart that asks for more.

More of You.  More healing.  More grace.  More favor.  More wisdom.  More guidance.

And it is with pure thanksgiving that we understand that the more for which we ache has already been found in You.

You have given us more than enough … enable us to be the receptacles of Your more.

Let us be more aware of Your hand than we are of our own desires.

Lord … you are our More and we are thankful.

And so we come to You this day, as Your children, and gather around Your table of more.

More of You, Lord, is all that we ask for. More.

Amen.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 2

Don’t Give Up!  Don’t Ever Give Up!

Zacharias was chosen to be the priest who would enter the holy place in the Temple to offer incense to God on behalf of the people.  However, as Zacharias was standing beside the altar of incense, he received a surprise visitor!  The angel Gabriel had been sent from heaven to bring an exciting message from heaven to Zacharias and Elizabeth.

“Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard,” were the words of the angel at this history-changing moment.  God had been silent for 400 years and at this instant, Zacharias heard the audible answer for which he and his wife had been praying since the day of their marriage many, many years ago.

After all of the years of waiting and praying and believing, heaven’s intervention was about to be experienced in the life and marriage of Elizabeth and Zacharias.  Could it be true?  Was it even possible after decades of marriage that they would conceive and bear a son?  Would Elizabeth’s elderly frame be able to withstand 9 months of pregnancy and then the pain of giving birth?  God, are You really this good?!

It is true:  God absolutely hears your prayers.  He is listening intently to your requests and loves it when a believer comes to Him boldly and unashamedly.  The Bible instructs Christians from every generation to ask and keep on asking, seek and keep right on seeking, knock and keep on knocking! (Matthew 7:7)

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Don’t give up, my friend, don’t ever give up!  The message of Christmas  speaks into our silent world today: we serve a God Who answers the prayers of His children.  While you wait, and while you pray, don’t ever give up!  Keep knitting those baby blankets and when diapers go on sale, go out and buy a bundle or two!

For what have you been praying?  Perhaps an unsaved spouse ... a rebellious child ... a breakthrough in finances ... or health concerns have dominated your prayers for years and years.  You need to follow the example of Elizabeth and Zacharias and continue to pray with expectation and with hope!

It might seem like you haven’t heard from God in 400 years but the answer and voice of God might only be one more prayer away.

Christmas is a time when we should all expect heaven’s entrance into our dusty, dirty worlds.  Christmas is a time that reminds us that miracles really do happen, prayers are actually answered and that heaven is just one response away.

You honor God when you ask of Him the impossible!  Impossible is what the God of Christmas does best!

Bible Reading: (click the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:8-23

Matthew 7:7-11

Let There Be Joy In Me:

What is the best answer to prayer that you have ever received?

Make a list of others who are standing in faith for answers to their prayers.  Pray for them today.

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Let There Be Joy - Day 1

Let There Be Joy Podcast - Day 1



We thought we'd get you in the mood for Christmas with a song and video by Chris McLeod. Enjoy the music as you read today's blog post and Bible verses!    {ChrisMcLeodMusic.com}

It’s Christmas!  The most wonderful time of the year!  What makes this season so miraculously wonderful is not the scrumptious holiday cookies nor is it the lavish gifts … it is not the reindeer who dance or the shoppers who spend.  Christmas is not defined by the decorations … not by the parties … and not by chestnuts that roast on an open fire.

Christmas is wonderful because of Him … because of a Baby that was born long ago and yet continues to live on in the hearts and lives of millions who dare to declare, “Let there be joy!”

Let’s go on a journey to Bethlehem by taking a lingering and delicious look at the Christmas story found in the Bible.  The historical account of the birth of Jesus didn’t start in Bethlehem or even in Nazareth ... but it began with an elderly couple who knew the deep fulfillment of living wholeheartedly for God.

The Bible describes Elizabeth and Zacharias in the loveliest of ways:  “They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”   - Luke 1:6

Elizabeth and Zacharias, had been married many years and yet still had no babies.  The heartache must have been wrenching for this man of prayer and his wife, but the Bible records they continued to walk blamelessly in every aspect of their relationship to the Lord.

For the priest Zacharias and his faithful wife, Elizabeth, there had been no 3 a.m. feedings, no messy diapers and no sweet giggles and baby smiles.  Their life did not turn out the way that they had hoped for or prayed for.

How do you respond to disappointment?  Do you use it as an excuse for over-indulgence or griping and complaining?  Although Elizabeth and Zacharias had empty arms and dashed hopes, they continued to serve God wholeheartedly as the years continued to pass.

The Bible says that the prayer of the righteous one avails much!  (James 5:16)  When you continue to live a righteous life ... and continue to pray ... your prayers will get the job done.

The Bible also says that the righteous live by faith. (Hebrews 2:4)  Elizabeth and Zacharias continued to walk by faith and not by sight.

Elizabeth’s name actually means “God is my Oath”.  Elizabeth believed the promises of God long after others would have given up in frustration.  She believed that God was listening to her prayers while her friends cooed over their own babies and then decades later experienced the joy of rocking their grandchildren to sleep.

I hope that the first lesson you will learn in the Christmas story is to be patient with God.  Trust God even when your circumstances are challenging.  Continue to live a righteous life through days of disappointment.  Pray fervently and believe that God is listening to your prayers.  Continue to embrace a positive heart attitude when you don’t get your own way.

Allow the steadfastness of Elizabeth to remind you that true believers walk by faith and not by sight.  Although she was barren, she continued to believe in the promises and nature of God.

Bible Reading: (click on the Bible verse to open in reader)

Luke 1:1-7

James 5:16

Hebrews 10:35-39

Let There Be Joy in Me:

For what are you praying? 

What are some of the healthy responses you can embrace while waiting for God to answer your prayers?

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