Christmas Sounds of Silence

O little town of Bethlehem
where Jesus Christ was born
now celebrated Christmas morn
with pretty papers torn.
Gifts given and received,
some for you and for me
bring much delight to all tonight
around the Christmas lights.

Good friends and kin will gather
on Christmas day with others
sharing and making memories
to last throughout the years.
Let’s not forget the reason
we celebrate this season.
It’s more than in receiving
it’s found in believing.

God’s gift to us is Jesus
His promise when we trust
and believe in His sacrifice
upon the cruel cross.
He died for your sins and mine
once-for-all for all time
and now lives with God in heaven –
our new home when we’re born again.

Believe and receive God’s gift
then live a life of trust,
knowing that He remains faithful
whenever we might call.
It’s in prayer that God hears us
as we live in faith and trust
that God has a purpose and plan
for all men and women.

Let’s not forget the reason
we celebrate this season.
Christmas is God’s Son’s birthday,
a day when God made a way
to bring peace on earth and joy
to men, women, girls and boys
when we simply in Christ believe
and God’s beloved gift receive.

Keep Going – God Has a Plan

I have a lot to learn. The older I get I find out just how much I still have left to learn. Smartphones, iPhones, iPads, Blackberries (still think they grow on vines!), internet marketing, search engines, html, and all the other high tech things I can’t even pronounce really intimidate me. Do you feel the same way? Of course, there may be a generation gap in here somewhere if you said no! I thought I would know how to handle those things more confidently. Thank goodness, God doesn’t leave me that way!

I may not know if all, but I have learned it’s okay not to know it all. It’s okay for me to admit that “I don’t know”, or that I might have made a mistake. I don’t want to act like I have it altogether, because I certainly don’t. I’m learning on a daily basis.

No matter how old we are, we can still be growing, bettering ourselves, rethinking things, and changing our minds about what we like. It’s okay! I change my mind a lot. Each time, I get a little closer to what I want for my life.

God isn’t finished with me yet. He’s not finished with you either. There’s a lot in our lives to whittle away, mold, scrape off, throw out, and sift. Sometimes it is painful, but sometimes it is welcome. He’s not out to harm us. He doesn’t neglect us. He encourages, guides, and sometimes disciplines. He has in mind for us a fulfilling life. That’s what I want, don’t you? We need to gain wisdom, discernment from our past mistakes and failures. We must swallow our pride and be humble, as we follow His leading and direction.

Trust in Him, for He is not finished with you (or me) you!

Christ Still Loves Us

Luke 7:36-50 NLT “One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.” The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?” And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The sinful woman with the alabaster box is a story Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each tell. In Matthew 26:6-13, Matthew being a former tax collector tells the woman’s story and focuses on the money spent in her use of the oil on Jesus’ feet. In Mark 14:3-9, Mark, being an apostle designed to build up the church’s faith, focused on the deeds the woman did in helping spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Luke, the physician, focused on the healing salvation and forgiveness the woman received. In John 12:1-8, John tells the same story as the others, yet he is the only one that refers to her as “Mary” instead of “the woman”. John the closest disciple of Jesus knew enough to call the attendees by name because he was familiar with Jesus’ inner circle. Although these disciples all had different angles, they all told the same story of a sinner saved by grace. They spread the story of a woman who was used and then refused by men, but who was totally embraced, accepted, and forgiven by God.

Weak Things

1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

He was far from the best speaker in my Public Speaking Class. Poor eye contact, monotone voice, nervous fidgeting. He worked hard, though, and by the end of the semester he had gained ground. The turning point came when he gave his persuasive speech, arguing against abortion. Although the class consisted of Bible college students, rather than using Scripture to support his points, he took a clear logical, fact-based approach. It turned out to be a solid speech.

I had actually forgotten about it. It had gotten lost in the mix of four other speech classes and well over a hundred speeches I had listened to in the last few weeks. That, however, was about to change….

The last day of class another student gave her final speech on what she had learned over the semester. She explained that she had always been personally opposed to abortion, but considered it to be a woman’s choice…until she heard her classmate’s speech. She said the most significant factor of the semester was the impact that one speech made on her. It had caused her to move from being “pro-choice” to “100% pro-life.” That doesn’t usually happen in speech classes. I was stunned.

I couldn’t help but be grateful my student didn’t let his marginal skills at public speaking deter him from addressing such a huge controversial issue. He somehow realized that the message was greater than the messenger. Because he went for it, despite his weakness, a life was changed. And who knows how many other lives?

How often do we sit on our gifts and abilities because they don’t measure up to those who are far more gifted? I often wish I could craft words like Max Lucado. I wish I could deliver truth with the dynamism of Beth Moore. I wish I could teach as skillfully as my friend Joanne Williams. Just because we feel we’re not as gifted as others, it doesn’t mean we have nothing to offer.

God made us all so differently. He positioned us uniquely. Yet he has given us the same call….to use all we have—little or much—for his glory.

Don’t fall into the comparison trap. Don’t be like the one who hid his talent because he lacked the ten or the five (Matthew 25:25). Don’t let anything keep you from being a “good and faithful servant” even if you are a weak thing.


For weeks and months they hike
persevering countless days and nights
with only a star shining bright
as a beaming, guiding light
wisemen or magi alight
persevering camels that fight
sandstorms at night
and windstorms quite
harsh and not liked.
Whatever their plight
they persevere with might
keeping that star in sight.

These camels, stately like a knight
on a steed, persevere day and night
plodding along keeping one bright
glorious shining star in sight.
Persevering these wise men are right
to persevere and not give in to fright.
It is their hope, this shining star so bright,
of which poets over the ages write.
That star, His star, in the sky, so bright
unbeknownst to them will bring delight
for it leads them to the One who is the Light.
The Light of the World, in fact, is in sight.

You know, it’s only God who could write
a story with such intrigue and delight.
Who would ever think that a star shining bright
or camels that plod day-after-day and night
would be part of the greatest story ever told, that’s right!
This story that guided countless civilizations alright.
A story that unfortunately has become an oversight
for many keep Christ out of their Christmas celebration night.
The greatest gift you could give your family tonight
is to read this true story one December night.
This story that never grows old and will delight
when you persevere in doing what is right.

* * * * *

What if the camels had gone on strike?
What if the wise men had given up? Yikes!
What if there had been no extraordinary star?
This story would have had a different ending, by far.

Have you ever felt like giving up?
Do life’s hardships seem like too much?
Perhaps it’s because you’re not looking up?
Perhaps you need to feel God’s loving touch.

If you fix your eyes on your circumstance
then you are not giving the Lord a chance
to perform a great and good work in you.
Is that the reason you’ve been feeling blue?

Consider that circumstance a test
that is sent to grow your faith
then look to the Lord who has your best
interests – always – in His heart.

Don’t give up.
Keep looking up.
God will be there for you
with a good plan for you.

In fact something extraordinary
that He can only accomplish through you.
So that circumstance, less than ordinary,
is sent to perfect, mature and complete you.

View it as a gift.
then you’ll see your spirit
within you lift.
Doesn’t God give good gifts!

Hebrews 12:1-3

James 1:2-4

Hebrews 10:36

Life In Destiny

Within each one of us is a God-given destiny.
In Luke 1 Mary is about to find out her destiny.
Mary, engaged to be married to Joseph,
was visited by an angel on earth.

It’s true. That’s how it really was.
The angel acknowledged Mary as:
“You who are highly favored”. (Luke 1:28)
That’s also how God sees us – favored.

Loved, chosen, fortunate.
As in His favorite.
Yes, even before you were born,
God had your destiny formed.

The angel knew Mary was greatly troubled
and immediately consoled her with these words:
“Do not be afraid.
You have found favor with God”. (Luke 1:30)

You know, God knows, too, when we are worrred
as scripture reminds us often with these words:
Do not be afraid.
Do not be terrified.

Do not be troubled.
Do not be discouraged.
Do not be fainthearted with sorrow.
Do not worry about tomorrow.

Because God knows the fear in our hearts
His word will strengthen us when we start
a daily routine of reading it
with just what is needed to lift our spirit.

The angel told Mary she would give birth to a son
whose name would be Jesus who would rule an endless kingdom.
This baby would be the Son of the Most High,
he would be great and would reign by and by. (Luke 1:31-33)

When Mary questioned
the angel answered,
“nothing is impossible with God”. (Luke 1:37)
Yes, with God there is nothing too hard.

What was Mary’s response?
“I am the Lord’s servant”. (Luke 1:38)
She willingly carried out her destiny,
one that affects everyone’s eternity.

Mary, chosen to be
mother to this baby
that would change the destiny of the world
with this greatest story ever told.

* * * * *

You, too, have a chosen destiny within you
for God has chosen you for something special, it’s true.
Perhaps you have the gift of giving
to someone in need of receiving.

You’re learned the more you give
the more blessings God in turn gives
so that you can bless others more
from God’s wonderfully, abundant store.

Maybe your gift is encouragrment
for everyone needs encouragement.
If you find your world is a bit more cheerful,
perhaps your encouragement made it so.

And you’ll find cheeerfulness
is quite contagious
as others will offer needed encouragement
often in the form of a hug or a note sent.

Whatever your personal spiritual gift is,
it is your destiny to bring it to pass.
Your destiny will affect generations after you.
Perhaps like Mary, living out the gospel message true.

Will you be like Mary and say,
“I am the Lord’s servant” everyday.
This is your destiny
for all eternity.

Luke 1:38

Matthew 6:25

Philippians 4:6

Romans 12:6-8

I Thessalonians 5:11

II Thessalonians 2:16-17

A Stable Life

Sawn from rough-hewn wood
to house cattle it would
one starry night host a guest
that the world could never guess.
Did the innkeeper realize
or was he in for a surprise?

This stable in which donkeys and cows
daily sought shelter and bedded down
was loaned to God one wondrous night
to Joseph and Mary, his wife.
Did the cattle realize
or were they in for a surprise?

This lowly stable though crudely made
is where the shepherds found Jesus laid
in a manger box –
the cattle’s feeding trough.
Did the manger realize
or was it in for a surprise?

You see, the world expected a King
born in pomp and circumstance to bring
salvation to the world,
not Jesus Christ the Lord
born in a humble stable
shared with barnyard animals.

His birth, quite remarkable,
with wonder filled that stable,
was rejected by the curious
and even made others furious.
So many curious never realized
and would be in for a bigger surprise.

Messiah was born that night
in a stable filled with delight
for when the shephers entered in
that stable there by the inn
they found their Savior
who would bring favor.

That little unpretentious stable by the inn
housed the One who provides stability within.
Good news! With God in you
your life is stable too
for God will remain steadfast
despite whatever comes to pass.

God can use the mundane
to bring praise to His name.
Never think God can’t use you
for your life has worth and value.
God has for you a unique plan and purpose
as He’s preparing you for the Master’s use.

Sometimes God uses the pain of humbling
to prepare you for the good that’s someday coming.
Learn to ask ‘what is God teaching me’.
Seeking God will provide stability.
It takes faith to realize.
You’ll be in for a surprise!

This will be a sign to you:
You will find a baby wrapped in cloths
and lying in a manger.
Luke 2:12

Facing Your Fears

I watched the movie, Facing The Giants, on TV the other night.  I had never seen it before, so I was really spell-bound, wondering just how it was going to end.  I like good endings, don’t you?

To have a good ending, it takes a lot of creativity, patience, and intestinal fortitude to make it happen.   It is easier to run the other way, but then you would never know if you could have defeated it.  Standing up and facing it is half the battle.  It is amazing how we are able to pull ourselves together and resourcefully make things happen.

It took me back to when I faced my giant (which was one of many in my life).

“Karen, we can’t find the problem.  All of the tests came back “within normal limits.”  I’m sorry we don’t have better news.”
  Dr. Sullivan, the orthopedist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, gave me the grim report.

“Doctor, this can’t be happening to me.  So how am I supposed to live and raise two kids?  And am I going to get worse?”
my voice was cracking.

“I don’t know what your prognosis will be, but we will put you in a body cast which will give you support to your spine and muscles.  It may help you stand and walk a little better.  When the cast no longer gives you support, then you will have to resort to being in a wheelchair.”

“Oh, this is just great.  Thanks a lot.” I said disgustingly.  “What in the world am I going to do?”
I was facing a giant as a single parent at the age of 38, with no idea of its enormity.

My parents encouraged me to sell my California home and move in with them.  They thought that would be best for the children and me.  But after much thought, I made the decision not move in with them in Indiana.  I insisted our home was in California and that was where we belonged.  Just how we would make it with me in a body cast raising a 9 year old girl and a 12 year old boy was the giant!  And besides I could end up wheelchair bound!

Dad borrowed a van for them to transport us home.  He made a bed for me to lie on in the back, as the cast made it impossible for me to sit on the seat.  We traveled the 2,300 miles across the states on I-80, which gave me a lot of time to think how we were going to successfully make it.  Being a semi-invalid sporting a humongous body cast was a challenge in itself, let alone being a single parent.  My mind constantly vacillated:  “Am I making a mistake not living with Mom and Dad?”  “No, we can make it.  It won’t be easy, but we will make it.”

When we arrived home in California, I had a game plan for the three of us and immediately put it into action.  It required a lot of teamwork and sacrifice, but—–Yes, there was a good ending!

Facing the giant requires making some serious choices, sticking with them and putting your faith in God..  The ending will be good; however, it may not be exactly the ending you want, but it will be good.  “All things work together for good…”  Romans 8:28

Blessings to you as you face your giant, whatever it may be.

One of the best ways I’ve found to help self esteem is with success, and the easiest success to get without putting yourself at risk is to do gardening, so I’ve included a few gardening resources below:

Is it God’s Plan?

Written or spoken, words are continuously pressing us on through life.  They lift us up, drag us down, wound us deeply or heal our hearts.  Words have the power to break confidences, build life-long partnership, or start wars.

Words can make or break us, both as individuals and as a society.  “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”  Then why did I hurt so badly after being told hurtful things?  I thought.  Most of us were probably taught that little chant when we were fairly young. Words can’t hurt. Ignore them. Let them slide off your back.

The man I married abused me emotionally, mentally, and physically. For 12 years I would hear that I was a horrible person, I couldn’t do anything right, I was a miserable failure as a wife, I was stupid.  There were name-calling words that I can’t even repeat.  Those words he screamed at me squelched my spirit. It felt like shooting arrows piercing my heart, leaving me anguished and in despair. Self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, and self-love were all eaten away like a slow growing cancer.  Why doesn’t he just beat me?  At least the physical pain would eventually heal.

And that’s the difference between the damage caused by physical abuse, which leaves visible marks, and verbal abuse, which marks the victim on the inside. Unlike the marks of physical abuse which will heal, the damage from verbal abuse can compound to cause serious emotional damage to its victim. Anger, depression, and low self-esteem can be products of verbal abuse. And they can last a lifetime.

These steps helped me heal from the emotional trauma:
• Examine your feelings. I struggled doing this exercise, as it was very difficult for me recalling the memories. But I had to ask myself, “Why you are so deeply affected by the words being said about you and what you can do to possibly change that feeling?”
• Forgive, then forget. This released me and gave me true freedom.  This is a very powerful step, that when followed, caused a dramatic change in my life. By holding on to the hurtful words, I still made myself a slave to the painful memory. I let it go by forgiving my husband and then forgetting the painful episode all together. It is important to understand the purpose. Going through those painful moments in life made me a stronger person. I had to stop feeling like a victim and use it reach my ultimate goal in life.
• Write a letter. I was encouraged to write down what I felt and how I could be liberated from my emotional prison. I even wrote a letter to my former husband who had wronged me with his words and actions. I told him I forgave him for what he did to me.  I gave it to him, but you don’t have to. You can pour out all your feelings on paper, and after you are done, burn it. You will be surprised how doing this can remove a major burden in you.
• Stay committed to heal. Once I decided to forgive, there were moments when the feelings of anger and resentment tried to creep into my mind again. I constantly had to deal with that. Instead, I reminded myself that I was already free from them. Eventually, they died. I became a renewed and much stronger person; no longer hurting and bitter.
• Pray for healing. God is the greatest Healer of all and there is nothing too great that He cannot give you. When your struggle seems overwhelming, humble yourself before God and ask for His grace to give you the emotional freedom you desire. He will give it to you according to your faith.

Paul’s Problem With God

Have you every wrestled with the same questions as Paul in Romans 7:14-20? Many times I find myself saying with him, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Have you, like me, been there done that. The Apostle also gives the reason for his dilemma with these words, “Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it but it is sin living in me that does it.”

Often as believers we would like to deny that we are really sinners who continually need God’s mercy and forgiveness. Yet in 1 John 1:8 we read, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” John continues with the good news that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and will forgive our sins and purify us. But he also warns us not to feel self-righteous with no need to confess our sins. I find it important to note that in chapter 2, verse 1, John indicates that he is speaking to believers rather than non-believers.

James also seems to be fully aware of the believer’s weakness with his warning, “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). These many ways may be a short temper, a sharp tongue, an unforgiving attitude, an old habit, or numerous other sins we find ourselves stumbling over.

We are encouraged not to allow our being forgiven to be an excuse for continuing to stumble over these things (Gal. 5:13). Yet we know that our sinful nature requires God’s constant forgiveness.

It seems to me that Jesus explained God’s willingness to forgive us if we ask Him when He told Peter he should forgive his brother “not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matt. 18:22). We dare not assume that God’s willingness to forgive us is any less than he asks us to forgive our brothers.

Therefore, take courage when you stumble along life’s pathway as a believer. Our Heavenly Father is ready to forgive as we confess our stumbling and ask for His forgiveness.

Did you ever ask that question? I have many times when circumstances seemed to be piling up on me or when I was facing a situation I would prefer to avoid. Such is the case now as I again face a significant surgery next week. In times like these one can feel rather helpless and alone. So I found myself asking that question once again.

It did not take long for God to answer me, as the immediate thoughts flooded my mind. I am right where I have always been waiting for you to call on me. Remember my promise that I am near to all who call on me (Psalms 145:18), and if you draw near to me I will come near to you (James 4:8). He also reminded me that He is “an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).

Why is it so easy for us to lament over our circumstances, to seek comfort from our families, our friends, and acquaintances? In our loneliness we, like the Psalmist, cry out, “I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof” (Psalms 102:7). Although we can not add a single hour to our lives (Luke 12:25-26), we so often worry over the rest of our lives.

So, if you find yourself asking God where are you, perhaps it is because you have forgotten that the Lord is your rock, your fortress and your deliverer. With David you too can say, “In my distress I called to the Lord…from His temple He heard our voice” (Psalms 18 2-6).

As in many of the circumstances that come my way, I find myself again being asked Will You Trust Me Now? The challenge for each of us is to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). When we do so, He promises that “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:7).

Do you have it—the will to believe? Yes, each of us possesses the will to believe and we exercise it many times each day with little conscious thought. When we turn on the faucet to draw water, turn the switch to start the car, or flip the light switch, we exercise the will to believe that our action will produce the desired results.

Having just returned from having coffee with a group in our mobilehome park clubhouse, I became vividly aware that we each determine what we choose to believe. I recalled a couple old saying: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still” and “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink”.

As human beings we were created with a free will which allows us to believe or not to believe certain things. This is born out by numerous examples of lawless behavior by those who do not really believe that, if they break the laws of man or God, unpleasant consequences will follow.

Each of us has made up our minds about the issues of life. Some have chosen to believe the message of the Scriptures concerning God and His plan of salvation; others have chosen not to believe. In either case, it is we ourselves who make the decision to will to believe or to will not to believe.

The message is so clear and all inclusive as Jesus gave it in John 3:16-18. It is the question I would put to you. Do you have the will to believe in what you may not totally understand and cannot see? (Hebrews 11: 1-2) Just as Jesus explained to Peter, it is not what others say but “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16:15)

Though Peter faltered many times in his will to believe in things he could not see or explain, he maintained his will to believe as he explained in 1 Peter 1:8-9. Like Peter, I too have faltered many times in believing in things I could not see or explain, but I well remember when God like the Good Shepherd helped me once again have the will to believe as told in my story, It’s Never too Late – A Prodigal Pastor Returns.

Which of these two wills do you have? The will to believe or the will not to believe?

Perhaps what came to mind as you read this title was the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20). But did you think also of Christ’s commandments?

Christ did not repeal the original commandments given to Moses. He did, however, endorse every one of them and explain there complete meaning (Matt. 5:27-28). He not only did that, but He also added a few new ones. “A new commandment I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

As I read Christ’s words, I became aware that many of them were commands—not just advice for the good life or recommendations. He plainly showed His authority to issue these commands when He said to His Father, “Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them” (John 17:7-8; John 10:30).

As we take a fresh look at the words of Jesus, we see that He gave many commands. They were not just invitations or suggestions, they were commands. When He said to Peter and Andrew, “Come, follow me” (Matt. 4:18-19), He was not extending an invitation but issuing a command—not only to follow Him but also to leave behind their former way of life, their property, their businesses and their families.

The same call still utters from His lips. It is a call for us to turn in repentance from our old lives, follow Him, and commit to Him fully and totally.

In the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:18-23), Jesus told of those who would start out (try Jesus) and then be turned aside by various enemies. He told Peter what following Him meant and what was ahead of him (John 21:18-19). It was not what Peter would have liked to have heard, but it was what was ahead of him if he followed Jesus.

Although sometimes stumbling along the way, as we all do (James 3:2), Peter did continue to follow Jesus. We learn from studying Peter’s life that, when he was in trouble or stumbling, over and over again he reached out to his Lord and Savior (Matt. 14:27-31).

The Master Himself tells us the importance of keeping these commandments, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…He who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:23-24).

If we are having trouble keeping any of these commandments, like Peter we must reach for His hands. James tells us how to do this: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray” (James 5:13). Prayer is the way we connect with God and receive the help He offers us (Psalms 46:1).

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