Recently I took a joy date with Jesus. It’s something I’ve been planning for a few weeks now, choosing a day my husband had to work. I went to church the evening before and got up in the morning ready to spend the day with Jesus. It was just him and me…and his great big, beautiful earth. I decided to capture some of the most gorgeous moments of our date.
We all need time away from negativity, hateful words, and soul-crushing actions. We all need to take time to dwell in pure, simple joy. It does not take much, but it adds so much to your life, trust me.
If we could just open our eyes to the beauty of the word and our neighbors, we would see the great BIG love of Jesus. We are too quick to judge, too happy to pick a side, too comfortable in our labels, and too eager to keep up with the Joneses. God doesn’t want any of that. He wants you. He pursues you. He chases your heart. It’s all he wants.
I’m challenging you to take a ‘joy date’ this coming week. What does your joy date look like? What does it feel like? Where will it be? If you’re not sure, just get in the car and take a leap of faith. Be filled with overwhelming JOY.
Reflection and Photos by Josie Rader
Several weeks ago I found a plant in a back closet at work. Its leaves were drooping, reaching for the sliver of light beneath the door. The plant was more dead than alive, but still… it was a little bit alive. And I could almost hear the poor thing crying out for water. I carried it to the classroom, set it in a sunny window, and gave it a big drink of water.
I watered it faithfully every Monday morning. I cut back all of the dead leaves, and within a few days, new growth appeared. A week or so ago, I noticed a white, diamond shaped bud. The next week, the bud opened and another one appeared. My bedraggled rescue-plant was transforming into a beautiful Peace Lily!
The plant made me think of the dry spells in my own life. The times I was dying inside, crying out for sunlight and water. And how, in those times, God provided people to nurture and to encourage. Sometimes the drink of water came in the form of a listening ear. Sometimes the sunlight came in the form of a much-needed invitation to lunch.
God has often used people to answer my prayers. And I hope He has used me to answer the prayers of others. I didn’t have to be an expert gardener to revive the discouraged Peace Lily. Just like you don’t have to have all the right words when someone is discouraged. All you have to do is care.
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness…
Devotional thought by Jean Pike
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