This little LEGO cross hangs on the wall of the care center where someone deeply and dearly loved is dying. His wife sits by his bedside each day. Family and friends come to visit and pray, all under the shadow of this precious cross, crafted by a grandchild with love. It is the perfect gift. It represents, for all of us, our hope that we, too, when we lay in our bed, not long for this world, that over us will be the only true hope of the world, the cross of Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time…
1 Peter 1:3
Photo and Reflection by Michael Demastus
One of my favorite things to do this time of year is to drive around town and look at Christmas lights. Each year I’m amazed at people’s skill and creativity. Some houses are decked out all in blue, some in multicolored lights and icicles, and some are done all in white lights, offset with cheerful red bows. Some lights chase and twinkle, while others give off a steady glow, but all are beautiful. All translate the happy, festive feel of the season.
Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” I suppose there are as many kinds of lights as there are people.
Some people are like flood lights, boldly shining in dark places, bravely speaking out for what is right.
Some people are like candles, glowing slowly and steadily with God’s love in their everyday lives, brightening the existence of all who encounter them.
Some people are Christmas bulbs, living their lives with humor and joy. A person can’t help but smile when in the presence of these people and the goodwill they seem to emit.
Whatever kind of light you are, whatever personality God has given you, I pray that you, and I, and all of us, will shine brightly this Christmas season, bringing joy to others and to the heart of God.
The other night I was sitting at my kitchen table trying YET again to get this quilt to DO what I wanted it to. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve cried. I’ve bugged every friend (and my sister) to the point where I’m sure they have seen my number on the caller ID so much that they start twitching and thinking, “No – not again” (LOL). Now as I sit here and laugh hysterically I start to imagine that God gets a good laugh out of the “Adventures of Gina”! I bet He sits up there coffee in hand, and says . . . “OK, Let’s see what this nut is up to today.” I really am blessed that He loves me. I’m ashamed that I’m so much like this quilt. I don’t always fit perfectly. I’m stretched. I’m misshapen. I’m burnt from the heat of my failures and often off by a hair (hahaha) . . . and yet, He still LOVES me. I have to stop and say THANK YOU Father for keeping me under your Grace . . . without which I would really be lost.
Colossians 1:20-23 . . .
All the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe – people and things, animals and atoms – get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the Cross. You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message – just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message.
Devotional Thought and Photo by Gina Nelson
By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. Proverbs 24:3
Before starting a project whether it be baking, wood working, sewing or gardening, we need to gather supplies. We can’t do a job without supplies or materials. Once we have the materials we have to use them or the project will not be completed. I am reminded of this each spring as I watch birds gather and build nests in our nesting boxes. First the birds spend a few days flying back and forth in and out deciding which location is the best place for their nest. Once the spot is decided upon they fly around the area gathering bits of this and dabs of that to create the nest. Once they are sure they will be able to find the needed supplies they start building the nest. As they build they must continue to gather until they have a strong safe home. They do not just stuff the box with one item. They gather what they need and weave each item in little by little. It is fun to watch the birds fly about choosing nesting material: bits of fur, a few small twigs, long strips of grasses and maybe even some yarn or soft batting. The birds do not just gather the supplies and then stop. They use the supplies and keep on working until the job is done.
We need to do the same with our spiritual “nests”. We should visit around our local area and choose a church home. We can gather supplies such as a Bible, our favorite Christian music, a devotional plan and so on. Once we have the place and some supplies we are not done. We have to put it all together. If we do not follow through and use these items to build a strong faith they will do us no good. The grass sprigs and batting lying on the ground in the collage did not help the birds just by lying there. The birds had to work hard and weave everything together to get it just right. God gives us His Word and His forgiveness but we have to use them to build a strong faith. It does no good to choose a church home if we don’t attend the services on a regular basis. What good is a Bible if we do not open it and read it? Christian music will not uplift us if we do not listen to it. God’s forgiveness will not transform us if we do not grab hold of it and weave it into our lives. Let’s take a lesson from the birds and gather what God has given us and use it to build a strong Christian life.
Devotion and Photo Collage: Marge McCoy
I am the Lord Your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you. Isaiah 41:13
For years my special needs son (now in his 20’s) wore whatever clothing I picked out for him and let me help him get dressed each day. We completed our morning routine like clockwork. As he approached adulthood a light bulb switched on and he started to make more of his own choices and be slightly more independent with his clothing. It stated by requesting to wear a favorite shirt or choosing his own pajamas. He got to the point where he would set aside the shirts I laid out for him preferring to go to the closet to find his own. He progressed to not only choosing his own clothes but dressing himself. He stopped wearing zipper pants opting for elastic so he could pull them on and off by himself. The bus to his workshop comes pretty early so it is necessary that I prompt him along as he gets dressed on week days but he always insists on choosing his own clothes. Since he does the choosing he may wear purple shirts four days in a row. I used to feel funny about that wondering if the people who see him daily think it’s odd that I send him out wearing the same thing day after day. I have come to realize that as long as his clothes are clean and neat it does not matter how many days he wears a certain style or color. What matters is that he now takes an interest in making his own choices.
On Saturdays, “break day” as he calls it, the day is more relaxed and he may spend an hour or longer in his room getting himself ready. Sometimes I find three or four shirts and empty hangers on the floor as evidence of his decision making. When he is finished he comes proudly out of his room pointing to his clothes and saying “all by self” patting his chest adding, “Mommy’s proud” or “Daddy’s happy”. Some days we notice that his socks are twisted or his pants are on backwards or maybe his shirt is inside out. I used to feel I had jump right up and straighten the sock, turn the pants around or re-button a shirt that was off track. I don’t do that as quickly anymore. One day as I was “fixing” his clothing I heard a little sigh escape his lips and I felt like his proud moment had a little shadow of defeat in it. These days if his shirt is buttoned wrong or his elastic waist pants are on backwards who really cares? I do help him change his shoes if I notice they are on the wrong feet (so he won’t stumble or get sore feet) but I make it a point congratulate him on a good try. I fix the footwear but I do not always intervene with the clothing errors. If you see him out and about someday don’t worry if his pants are backwards or his collar is crooked. Celebrate with us that he is gaining independence. He did his best. He is proud!
As I was putting his discarded shirts back on their hangers the other day I thought of how far my son has come and how proud I am of him. Then I thought maybe that is how God looks at us. He watches us grow and struggle and learn. He sees our mix ups but celebrates our progress. The world may glance our way and say, “Wow, that person just can’t get their act together” while God smiles down cheering, “Good for you, you really tried. You did better than yesterday!”
Is there a task with which you are struggling? God is always there to gently remind us of what it says in Isaiah 41:13. I am the Lord Your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.
Devotion and Photo by Marge McCoy
Warning: Spiritual Lesson Ahead:
The street drain was clogged and the street was flooding. I walked down to unclog it. I did not see anyone nod or wave a thank you to me. Some did not even slow down and I had to run to avoid the wave of water though I was already standing in the rain. I wonder if that is how Jesus feels when I have not acknowledged the work He did to make my way clear? Did I make my way more important than Him? Did I ignore Him and cause Him more pain? I owe everything to Him and no thought or feeling on my part ever rightly comes ahead of His directions. I thank Him for the path He has cleared for me. Roy Wasson, walking home in the rain waving to the people.
Devotion by Roy Wasson
Photo by Bob McCoy
He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me. ~ Psalm 50:23
I was watching a news story featuring the family of a recent shooting victim. A distressed teen shot several schoolmates (killing three) and then killed himself. Just a short time after this horrific event the mother of one victim came on television to thank God for the seventeen years she’d had with her daughter. She paid a sweet tribute to her loved one and then she prayed for the family of the shooter. She looked beyond her hurt and sorrow and realized that another family was hurting as well. She wanted them to know that although this young man took something very precious from her she had forgiven the boy. She said she realized that he was really just a child himself and she felt she had to forgive him. She said it was what she HAD to do because she did not want to live a life filled with hatred. WOW, that is powerful! Scripture tells us that we are to give thanks in everything, the good things and the bad. In Psalm 50:23, God says, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.” It’s easy to praise God when things are going well. Thank you Lord for my new job. Thank you that Grandma is getting better. Thank you that I was able to pay off my car loan. It is much more difficult to thank and praise during tough times. It would be especially hard to do so in a time of loss. It is a true a sacrifice to thank God after the violent death of a loved one yet as this grieving mother realized, it can be beneficial. Thanksgiving is not one day on the calendar. It needs to be a year round event. Thanksgiving is a time to honor God. Are you honoring God today?
Dear Heavenly Father, I would like to pray for this grieving mother. This mother who in her time of grief thanked you for the gift of a daughter. This mother who forgave and unspeakable act and reached out to another hurting family. May we learn from her! As we walk down this path called life, help us to find a voice of thanks in the good and the bad. Help us to honor you who have given us so much. Amen
Devotional and photo by Marge McCoy