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Dec 5 08 8:52 AM
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Dec 5 08 8:54 AM
I wish I could tell you that the whole thing happened because I'm caring and unselfish, but that wouldn't be true. I had just moved back to Wisconsin
from Colorado because I missed my family and Denver wages were terrible. I took a job at a hospice in Milwaukee and found my niche working with the patients
and families. As the season changed into fall, the schedule for the holidays was posted:
DECEMBER 24: 3-11 Barbara
DECEMBER 25: 3-11 Barbara
I was devastated. Newly engaged, it was my first Christmas back home with my family after many years. But with no seniority, I had
little clout to get Christmas off while my dedicated colleagues worked.
While lamenting my predicament, I came up with an idea. Since I couldn't be with my family, I would bring my family to the hospice. With the patients and
their families struggling through their last Christmases together, maybe this gathering would lend support. My family thought it was a wonderful plan, and so did the staff. Several
invited their relatives to participate, too.
As we brainstormed ideas for a hospice Christmas, we remembered the annual 11:00 P.M. Christmas Eve service scheduled in the hospital chapel.
"Why don't we take the patients to church?" I suggested.
"Yes," replied another staff nurse. "It's a beautiful candlelight service with music. I bet the patients would love it."
"Great. And we can have a little party afterwards, with punch, cookies and small gifts," I added.
Our enthusiasm increased as we planned the details of our hospice Christmas celebration.
Now, it never occurred to me that all these great ideas might not float so well with the administration. It never occurred to me that we might have to get
permission for each of these activities-until the director called me into her office.
"Uh, Barb, I'm hearing rumors of a Christmas Eve celebration here at the hospice."
"Well, yes," I replied. Eagerly, I outlined all the plans and ideas the staff had developed. Fortunately for my career, she thought involving our
families with the unit activities was a wonderful idea, too.
"But," she said, "certainly you are not serious about taking the patients to church. It has never been done."
"Yes, I'm serious. It would mean a lot to the patients and families."
"Very seldom do you see any patients at this service, and if they do go, they are ambulatory and dressed." She shook her head. "Our patients are
too sick to go."
"But a number of them have indicated an interest," I argued.
"I cannot authorize the additional staff needed."
"The family members can help."
"What about the liability?"
Now I felt like saying, "What could be the worst thing that could happen-someone dies in church?" But I didn't. I just kept convincing her, until
she begrudgingly gave approval.
Christmas Eve arrived. Family members gathered in the lounge and decorated a small tree, complete with wrapped packages. Then we implemented our plan for the
staff and families to transport the patients to the chapel. While most of the patients had family members with them, one young girl had no one. At just
nineteen, Sandy had terminal liver cancer. Her mother had died of cancer three years previously, and her father stopped coming long ago. Perhaps he
couldn't sit by the bedside of another loved one dying so young. So my family "took charge" of Sandy. My sister combed her hair while my mother
applied just a hint of lipstick. They laughed and joked like three old friends as my fiancé helped her move to a gurney.
Meanwhile, other nurses hung IVs on poles, put IVACs on battery support and gave last-minute pain meds. Then, with patients in wheelchairs and on gurneys, we
paraded our group into the chapel just as they were finishing "Joy to the World," with the organ and bells ringing out in perfect harmony. Silence
descended on the congregation as we rolled slowly down the aisle. The minister just stood there with his mouth open, staring. Everyone turned around to look at
us. We faltered in our steps, each movement echoing in the large, crowded chapel.
Then the magic began.
One by one, people stood up, filed into the aisle and began to help us. They handed patients hymnals and distributed programs. They wheeled patients to the
front so they could see well. They handed out candles to be lit for the closing hymn. One woman adjusted Sandy's pillow and stroked her hair. Throughout
the service, the congregation catered to our patients, guiding them through the worship.
The beautiful service closed with a candlelight recessional to "Silent Night." Voices rang in disjointed harmony as the congregation assisted us in
exiting the chapel and returning our charges to the unit. Many stayed to share punch and cookies and stories.
As I got Sandy ready for bed that late night, she whispered, "This was one of the nicest Christmases I ever had."
When I shared her comments with my family later, we realized the magic that evening was on many levels. The unit had a special climate we'd never
experienced before. Sandy had one of the best Christmases she'd ever known. The congregation had shared in a special, caring way. But we also realized that
this evening impacted our family as well. We felt closer, bonded in purpose and spirit.
Since that Christmas, my family has been blessed with many Christmases together-but I think that one was the best. Like the author Bill Shore, I, too, believe
that when you give to others and give to the community, you create something within yourself that is important and lasting. He calls it the "Cathedral
Our family cathedral is a little stronger for the privilege of giving that Christmas.
Dec 7 08 9:31 AM
Time-tested way to cope with the flurry
of the holiday season.
By Therese J. Borchard
It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year--but not if negative emotions take hold of your
holidays. So let's be honest. The holidays are packed with stress, and therefore provoke tons of depression and anxiety. But there is hope. Whether I'm
fretting about something as trite as stocking stuffers or as complicated as managing difficult family relationships, I apply a few
rules that I've learned over the years. These 9 rules help me put the joy back into the festivities--or at least keep me from hurling a mistletoe at Santa
and landing myself on the "naughty" list.
Now that's a cheery thought for this jolly season.
What I'm trying to say is that you have to predict bad behavior before it happens so that you can catch it in your holiday mitt and toss it back, instead of having it knock you to the floor.
It's simple math, really. If every year for the last decade, Uncle Ted has given you a bottle of Merlot, knowing full well that you are a recovering
alcoholic and have been sober for more years than his kids have been out of diapers, you can safely assume he will do this again. So what do you do? Catch it
in your "slightly-annoyed" mitt. (And maybe reciprocate by giving him a cheese basket for his high cholesterol.)
No, I don't mean for you to schedule an appointment
with an ophthalmologist. SEE stands for Sleeping regularly, Eating well, and Exercising. Without these three basics, you can forget about an enjoyable (or even
tolerable) holiday. Get your seven to nine hours of sleep and practice good sleep hygiene: go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up in the same
nightgown with the same man at the same time in the same house every morning.
Eating well and exercise are codependent, at least in my body, because my biggest motivator for
exercising is the reduction in guilt I feel about splurging on dessert. Large quantities of sugar or high fructose corn syrup can poison your brain. If you
know your weak spot--the end of the table where Aunt Judy places her homemade hazelnut holiday balls--then swim, walk, or jog ten extra minutes to compensate
for your well-deserved treat. Another acronym to remember during the holidays is HALT: don't get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.
If you attend Al-Anon once a week, go twice a week during
the holidays. If you attend a yoga class twice a week, try to fit in another. Schedule
an extra therapy session as insurance against the potential meltdowns ahead of you. Pad yourself with extra
layers of emotional resilience by discussing in advance specific concerns you have about X, Y, and Z with a counselor, minister, or friend (preferrably one who
In my life with two young kids, this means getting extra babysitters so that if I have a meltdown in Starbucks like I did two years ago--before I knew the mall
was menacing to my inner peace--I will have an extra ten minutes to record in my journal what I learned from that experience.
This one's difficult if the toxic people happen to be
hosting Christmas dinner! But in general, just try your best to avoid pernicious humans in
December. And if you absolutely must see such folks, then allow only enough time for digestion and gift-giving. Drink no more than one glass of wine in order to
preserve your ability to think rationally. You don't want to get confused and decide you really do love these people, only to hear them say something
horribly offensive two minutes later, causing you to storm off all aggravated and hurt. (This would also be a good time to remember Rule #1.)
In other words, identify your triggers. As a
person (as described in Elaine Aron's book, "The Highly Sensitive Person"), I know that
my triggers exist in a petri dish of bacteria known as the Westfield Annapolis Mall. Between Halloween and New Years, I won't go near that place because
Santa is there and he scares me with his long beard, which holds in its cute white curls every virus of every local preschool. Before you make too many plans
this holiday season, list your triggers: people, places, and things that tend to trigger
your fears and bring out your worst traits.
By this, I DO NOT mean sporting the polyester skirt with
the red sequinned reindeer. I'm saying that you should lower your standards and make traveling as easy as possible, both literally and figuratively. Do you really want
to be looking for an iron for that beautiful linen or cotton dress when you arrive at your destination? I didn't think so--life's too short for
I used to be adamantly opposed to using a portable DVD player in the car to entertain the kids because I thought it would create two spoiled monsters whose
imaginations had rotted courtesy of Disney. One nine-hour car trip home to Ohio for Christmas, I cried uncle after six hours of constant squabbling and screaming
coming from the back seat. Now David and Katherine only fight over which movie they get to watch first. If you have a no-food rule policy for the car, I'd
amend that one during the holidays as well.
Of course, you don't need the "polyester"
rule if you ban holiday travel altogether. That's what I did this year. As the daughter/sister
who abandoned her family in Ohio by moving out east, it has always been my responsibility to travel during the holidays. But my kids are now four and six. I can't continue to haul the family
to the Midwest every year. We are our own family. So I said this to my mom a few weeks ago: "It's very important that I spend time with you, but
I'd like to do it as a less stressful time, like the summer, when traveling is easier." She wasn't thrilled, but she understood.
Making your own tradition might mean Christmas Eve is reserved for your family and the extended family is invited over
for brunch on Christmas Day. Or vice versa. Basically, it's laying down some rules so that you have better control over the situation. As a people-pleaser
who hates to cook, I make a better guest than host, but sometimes serenity comes in taking the driver's seat, and telling the passengers to fasten their
seatbelts and be quiet.
According to Gandhi, the best way to find yourself is to
lose yourself in service to others. But that doesn't necessarily mean holding a soup ladle. Since my name and the word "kitchen" have filed a
restraining order on each other, I like to think there are a variety of ways you can serve others.
Matthew 6:21 says "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." In other words, start with the things you like to
do. For me, that is saying a rosary for a depressed Beyond Blue
reader, or visiting a priest-friend who needs encouragement and support in order to continue his ministry, or
helping talented writer friends get published. I'd like to think this is service, too, because if those people are empowered by my actions, then I've
contributed to a better world just as much as if I had dished out mashed potatoes to a homeless person at a shelter.
Dec 8 08 11:18 AM
by Rick Warren
"I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Luke 2:10
*** *** *** ***
This may come as a shock to you, but God really likes parties. God is into parties;
God likes to party; God is constantly throwing parties. In fact, the Bible says that God's angels throw a party every time a single person trusts Jesus as
the Lord and Savior of his or her life. They party for joy whenever someone turns away from self-centeredness and turns toward Jesus.
Christmas is a party; it's a birthday party for Jesus. It's why we say "Merry
Christmas." Yet, we often leave the guest of honor out of our Christmas parties! Thinking about this irony, I started asking people, "What are you
celebrating this Christmas?" This is what a few of them told me:
· "What am I celebrating? Not a lot."
· "The blessings that we've had in our family this year."
· "Just the Christmas spirit."
· "Being home and not being on the road for the holidays."
· "This Christmas? I'm celebrating the birth of Christ."
· "Nothing. I just want to get through it."
This last comment is true for a lot of people. Christmas may be a season of
celebration, but they feel they have nothing to celebrate. Perhaps that's true of you, too. You're thinking, "I just want to get through
Christmas. I just want to survive it. I've got nothing to celebrate."
But God, through his angel, tells us that embedded in Christmas is good news of such great joy
that, if we believe it, we won't be able to contain the celebration within us.
But we get so frustrated in our circumstances or so busy simply getting ready for the
celebration that we lose sight of the joy. The good news turns into the fact that your in-laws aren't coming this year or you managed to keep within the
God's good news is so much more than that! The joy of Christmas is based on three things:
(1) God loves us; (2) God is with us; (3) God is for us. Can you hear the celebration in that?!
Dec 11 08 8:24 AM
Christmas: God Is for You
But the angel reassured them. "Don't be afraid!" he said. "I bring you good
news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2:10 (NLT)
Knowing God is for you will change your whole perspective on life. You'll stop
thinking of God as someone looking down from heaven, ready to yell, "Gotcha!" anytime you mess up.
Instead, you'll realize God loves you; God is with you; and God is
for you! God is for your success in life; he created you for a purpose and he wants you to succeed. It is God, your Creator, who will measure your
success in life, and no one else.
This is extremely good news!
It means you don't need to be afraid of God because God is for you. Yet, some
people are so afraid of God they get nervous just talking about him. Do you know why? They feel guilty, and then they start thinking, "If I get close to
God, he's going to lecture me. He's going to remind me of all the things I've done wrong, and then I'll feel even
Nothing could be further from the truth of God. Jesus said, "I did not come into the world
to condemn it, but to save it." In effect, Jesus is saying, "I didn't come to scold you, I came to save you."
And if God is for us, who can be against us?
Jesus came to save us, not to scare us. That's why when the angel was telling
the shepherds about the birth of Jesus, the first thing he says is: "Don't be afraid!"
In fact, when God sends a message to people in the Bible, it's not unusual for the first
words to be: "Don't be afraid." There are 365 messages from God in the Bible that begin with a phrase like, "Fear not!" In other words,
every single day of the year you can read a message from God that says, in effect, "You don't need to be afraid. I am for you; I am with you; I love
We celebrate Christmas because of this good news from God!
Dec 15 08 7:46 PM
Thriving Through the Holidays
by Jim Rohn
The holidays are upon us; a time of celebration and joy. I love the last days of November
through the beginning of the New Year. The pure magic of the holidays is something that I anticipate and enjoy each and every year.
For some though, the holidays have lost the joy and excitement they at other times have had.
The pace of life has grown so fast - much faster than those first holidays I remember in my life - that some people don't enjoy the times they get to spend
with their family and friends during what is supposed to be days filled with joy and peace.
Why is that? Probably a lot can be laid at the feet of how fast paced our times are, but that
I believe our holiday times should be wonderful and filled with lasting and enjoyable moments
and memories. So how can we ensure that we come out of the holidays in January with great memories of the past month? Here are six thoughts that will help you
experience the holidays the way they were intended to be experienced:
1. Be Temperate.
Holidays can be days of excess for many -- too much food, too many cookies and treats. Too much chocolate, schedules that are too busy. One thing that will
help you enjoy the holidays is to be temperate. Enjoy the food. Enjoy the treats. Enjoy the busy schedule of activities and parties. But also be disciplined
enough to know when to hold back, when to say, "No". When we go overboard we regret it and loose the opportunity to fully experience that moment. But
when we enjoy a little and refrain from going too far, then we can enjoy all that little piece of time has to offer.
2. Lower Your Expectations.
Much of the frustration people experience from the holidays is from setting their expectations too high. They expect too much from friends or family, and when
they don't get what they want, they get frustrated. They expect presents to be perfect and when they aren't, they get frustrated or disappointed.
Instead of having huge expectations this holiday season, just take it as it comes and enjoy what you can. And this brings me to my next
3. Enjoy What You Can and Ignore the Rest.
This holiday season, go with an attitude of knowing that things will be what they will be. You can't control other people or their actions. If a family
member pushes the limits of your patience, ignore that and instead focus on how much you can enjoy the time you have with other family members. If things
don't go perfectly - which they won't - then enjoy what you can and let the rest slide. You will feel a lot better about life if you can take all
things a little easier.
4. Stay Out of Debt.
Debt is a killer. It will steal your enjoyment of life. Be sure to stay within your financial boundaries this holiday season. The last thing you want is to
start the New Year with a deeper burden financially. Know where you are financially and stay within those limits. You don't have to impress anyone, just
buy gifts that you can afford and express your heartfelt feeling in the giving of the gift.
5. Take Time for Yourself.
Be sure that no matter how busy you get, that you take time for yourself. Take time to read. Take a long bath if that relaxes you. Take a walk. Spend some time
of quiet in front of a fire. Don't rush through the holidays and sap all of your energy. Your mind and body need to be reenergized, so be sure to take time
to do so.
6. Focus on Your Spiritual Life.
Ultimately, no matter what tradition you come from, the holidays are historically days in which we focus on the spiritual. Men and women are created with a
natural draw toward spiritual life. However, our culture today tends to stay away from a focus on the spiritual, and that has even crept into our holidays. Be
sure to place an emphasis on building your spiritual life and growing in that area. This will help keep you grounded and able to deal with anything that may
come your way.
Friends, we are coming to the end of another year. I have enjoyed this year immensely! This
time of year is another chance to remember the important truths of life and to enjoy time with dear friends and family.
May you experience the very best this holiday season and move into January better than
Dec 16 08 9:55 PM
Christmas: God Changes Us
by Rick Warren
I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who
can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question? Romans 7:24 (MSG)
Have you figured out yet that a lot of times you are your own worst enemy? It's your own
reactions, your own fears, your own inadequacies that cause you to act in foolish ways. I know that's true for me.
I need to be saved from myself because there are things I don't like about me - things I
wish I had done differently, things I'd like to change. But I can't change them, not on my own power. I need an outside power source.
You may be saying, "I can change." I hate to say this, but you can't. In
January, you're going to make a list of New Year's resolutions. And, by the end of January, that list will be in the dumpster. Why? Because you
can't change on your own; you need God's power. You need a Savior, someone who can make the changes you can't make yourself.
Let me make an important point here: God never wastes energy. He doesn't waste effort on
things that are unnecessary. In other words, if you didn't need a Savior, he wouldn't have sent one. The very fact that God sent a Savior means you
The truth is, if you are honest about it, sometimes you feel like your life is out of control.
That's a pretty common feeling. Welcome to the human race!
The apostle Paul felt that way 2,000 years ago. Paul says this in the Bible: "I've
tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can
and does" (Romans 7:24-25 MSG). That's the answer!
Let me be honest with you. You may be looking for salvation in the wrong places, that's why
you're frustrated. You're looking for that one thing that's going to give you fulfillment and meaning and peace in life.
Some of us think that if we could just get married, or if we could just get a certain job, or a
promotion, or attain a certain level of wealth, or have a baby - or if our babies would grow up and graduate! - things would be great.
You're looking in the wrong places.
A lot of people are looking for salvation in a self-help book. Or they're looking for it in
therapy or in a fad or diet. Or they're looking for it in a vacation, "If I could just escape to Tahiti, everything would be great." The problem
is that if you go to Tahiti, you're taking you with you!
The answer is not in a place. It's not in a program or a pill. The answer is a person:
Jesus Christ. You were made by God and for God, and until you understand that, life is never going to make sense.
Dec 18 08 8:53 AM
Christmas: God's Grace at Work
by Rick Warren
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a
gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)
God says, "I will give you my grace." What is grace? That's when God gives you
what you need, not what you deserve. Grace is when God says, "I'm going to take your problem and make it my problem." Grace is God's Riches
given to you At Christ's Expense.
The Bible says: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from
yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV). In other words, you can't earn your way to heaven.
You can't work your way in. It's just a gift.
Did you know that's why we give gifts at Christmas? Because that's when God gave the
gift of his Son to you - by grace. We give gifts because God gave us the greatest gift at Christmas.
I know I don't look like it today, but for three years I was a lifeguard. And every
lifeguard knows you can't save someone as long as they are trying to save themselves. If somebody is drowning and flailing around in panic, a lifeguard
knows to just stay back for a few seconds and wait until they give up. Because if you try to save them while they're trying to save themselves, they will
pull you under too.
When they finally give up, they relax, you put your arm around them and just swim back to
shore. It's really quite easy.
God wants to save you. Jesus Christ wants to save you from your hurts, your habits, and your
hang-ups. He wants to save you for his purpose and by his grace. But you've got to quit trying to do it yourself. You've got to relax. You need to let
go and let God be God.
Dec 19 08 4:15 PM
Christmas Is Near
by Rubel Shelly
Santa is prominent this time of year. So are Rudolph, Prancer, and the
other reindeer. Frosty is big. I've even seen larger-than-life replicas
of The Grinch of Whoville. But, it seems increasingly difficult to find
shepherds and angels. Where are the Wise Men? What became of Joseph and
Mary? Does anyone else recall when Jesus was center stage during this
Did I just say "holiday season"? Why, there's another evidence of our
loss. What used to be "Merry Christmas!" is now more often just "Happy
Holidays!" A penchant for political correctness has taken us to the
point that strangers to our culture would hardly guess there was once a
religious celebration during this time of year.
It was years ago now that columnist Dave Barry wrote: "To avoid
offending anybody, the schools dropped religion altogether and started
singing about the weather. At my son's school, they now hold the winter
program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as
'Winter Wonderland,' 'Frosty the Snowman' and -- this is a real song --
'Suzy Snowflake,' all of which is pretty funny since we live in Miami.
A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged
to the Church of Meteorology."
In trying not to offend, a music teacher in Bethel, Washington,
replaced the word "Christmas" with "winter" in an elementary school
concert four years back. Although a few parents were offended by his
action, school officials backed the teacher. Thus Christmas carols
became holiday jingles.
"In honor of the Lord."
You might simply glance over the selection of greeting cards in your
favorite store. My guess is that you'll find what I've detected. Some
stores don't even stock cards with a religious theme -- no Star over
Bethlehem, Mary and child, Baby Jesus in a manger. Christmas has been
sanitized. It has been stripped of its historic connection to Jesus
Christ. It has been turned into a "secular" holiday.
There is no biblical commandment requiring Christians to celebrate
Mothers Day, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. But, Paul does lay down the
principle that any holiday Christians elect to keep should be
celebrated "in honor of the Lord" (Romans 14:5-6). So I'm not
suggesting that you tear down the secular trappings of the season. If
you do honor this holiday, however, do so with holy intent. Sing of
Jesus. Read of Bethlehem. Tell the real Christmas story.
The root of Christmas lies deep in God's love. Its fruit is borne by
generous hearts, confessing lips, and surrendered lives during this
holy time of year.
(c) 2008 Used by permission. From Rubel Shelly <[email protected]
"FAX of Life" printed each Tuesday. See Faith Matters for
previous issues of the "FAX of Life."
Dec 22 08 9:04 AM
Credo At Christmas
At Christmas time I believe the things that children do:
I believe with English children
that holly placed in windows will protect our homes from evil.
I believe with Swiss children
that the touch of Edelweiss will charm a person with love.
I believe with Italian children
that La Befana is not an ugly doll but a good fairy who will gladden the heart of all.
I believe with Greek children
that coins concealed in freshly baked loaves of bread will bring good luck to anyone who finds them.
I believe with German children
that the sight of a Christmas tree will lessen hostility among adults.
I believe with French children
that lentils soaked and planted in a bowl will rekindle life in people who have lost hope.
I believe with Dutch children
that the horse Sleipner will fly through the sky and fill the earth with joy.
I believe with Swedish children
that Jultomte will come and deliver gifts to the poor as well as to the rich.
I believe with Finnish children
that parties held on St.Stephen's Day will erase sorrow.
I believe with Danish children
that the music of a band playing from a church tower will strengthen humankind.
I believe with Bulgarian children
that sparks from a Christmas log will create warmth in human souls.
I believe with American children
that the sending of Christmas cards will build friendships.
I believe with all children that there will be peace on earth.
~By Daniel Roselle (1920- ) Historian and Author
(Contributed by Chris who lives in Casper, Wyoming)
Dec 23 08 9:00 AM
Dec 23 08 9:11 AM
Christmas Brings the Peace of God
by Rick Warren
You will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can
understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
Once you make peace with God, that's spiritual peace, then you get the peace of God in your
heart and that's emotional peace.
This is the one you really need for daily living. The peace of God happens in your
heart when you've made peace with God. All of a sudden, the stress in your life goes down. You're not as angry as you used to be. Things
don't bother you as much. You're a lot more patient. You're filled with a lot more love and peace.
Why? Because once you have peace with God, you have the peace of God in your
The Bible says, "Don't worry about anything. Instead pray about everything"
(Philippians 4:6 NLT). You have two choices in life: You can pray or panic, worship or worry. Those are your choices. Worry has never solved a single one of
your problems. If you prayed as much as you worry, you would have a lot less to worry about! Prayer can change things. That's why the Bible says,
"Don't worry. Pray!"
"Pray about everything. Tell God what you need. Thank him for all that he's done. [And
if you do this] You will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds
in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6 NLT).
Dec 24 08 8:36 AM
The Christmas Story
Written By William A. Kolb
Gospel: John 1: 6-18 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
This one line is the entire Christmas story. The entire message of the birth of Christ. The
Word, God's fullness, the second Person of the Trinity, sent by God as a message, the message of love and goodness and God's real presence in the
world, sent to dwell in flesh, sent to be human, to live among us and speak our language so that we might receive Him and understand what God wants us to hear
The Word became flesh and lived among us-sent as a helpless, innocent new baby-which says
clearly that weakness in the world's terms can be above and beyond all the world's power and riches and materiality. God's presence is more likely to be found in the trust of a little child than in the worldly wisdom of one who has made their compromises
and has ceased to believe in that which he or she cannot see, touch and feel. What we might call naive trust turns out to be God's presence,
God's gift. He who receives the baby Jesus with the trust of a little child, of such is the Kingdom of God.
God chose to come into the world as a baby child, not as a prophet's message, not as a
spirit, not even as words, but as a human being. In doing so, God has said that the life of flesh is good. He has said in this birth that God adores us and
blesses us and looks at us and says, "It is good." God loves us so much that in order to communicate with us, God has
spoken in our language, the language we can understand, the language of being human. He sanctified our lives by having His Son live a human life, in
which Jesus walked and talked, prayed and cried, loved and suffered, partied and pondered; there is no joy and no pain that we can experience that Jesus does
not understand, and so God understands, walks with us, knows our sorrows and feels our pain.
And God, too, feels pain. We know that from Jesus' experience on the Cross. We know it also
by the fact that God spoke in one common universal language, the language of flesh/humanity, the language of the babe in the manger; and in so doing God was
saying that we his children are created to be one, to share in the language of humanity. God's pain here comes in the fact that we are not one, that we
make unnatural divisions, setting one group against another, filling our eyes and hearts with the evil of prejudice, of alienation one from another.
God's pain comes from our racism, our sexism, our ageism, whatever divides us.
And we have beheld his glory, the glory as of a father's only son,
full of grace and truth. We behold the glory of God's son anytime we see beyond our own needs, whenever we are moved by the emotions of
someone else, whenever we catch a glimpse of the divine. It may come in a moment of art, or of love, or of anguish for another. If
just once in our lives, one time, we catch a glimmer of God's presence in another person or in our self, or in a situation, if just once in our lives this
happens, we have beheld his glory.
full of grace and glory. Grace is God's unmerited,
unearned, unearnable love, generosity, relief from distress. Glory is the brightness of God's presence, God's bright, dazzling light. In Jesus we do
see God and we see God's grace and glory. It fills us and makes our life different. We can never be the same once we behold God's grace and glory. We
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon
Christ's fullness came when he was incarnated,
when he was born as Jesus. His fullness filled the presence of all who knew him, of all who heard him. Most were moved beyond words and transformed.
Some wanted to silence him, and a few of those took steps to make sure he could no longer speak his message of God's forgiving, unconditional,
democratizing love. But they did not reckon with the power of God's love for God's people-all people. And so the grace upon grace that Jesus brought
remains a vital presence among us to this day. We continue to receive all the benefits of his life, death and resurrection, blessing after blessing, new life
after new life. We can be defeated in body but God's grace is always there to lift us to new beginnings. This is pure grace.
St. John goes on to say: The law indeed was given through Moses; grace
and truth came through Jesus Christ. All are good. The law itself is the product of love, given by God as guidance for living this life; e.g.,
love your parents, be faithful to your spouse, do no murder, do not steal. This is wise advice for living a life that will avoid unnecessary tragedy. But
grace and truth came through Jesus, who brings the Good News that even if we break the law, God forgives and loves us. The
news that our bond with God is not one of obedience that earns approval, disobedience that earns rejection; in Jesus we have seen the truth that God's love
is grace: unearned, unearnable and unconditional adoration of us, God's own children. If before Jesus we obeyed the law so
that God would love us, since Jesus we obey because we KNOW that God loves us and we respond with the goodness that the knowledge puts in
No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the
Father's heart, who has made him known.
There were many, many intimations of God prior to Christ. There was the still, small voice of
God speaking to the young Israel. There was the parting of the Red Sea, God championing God's people against great but earthly odds. But in Jesus we have
seen the fullness of God-not just voice, not just saving act, but the face of God, the feelings of God, the compassion and wisdom and patience-we have seen a
model for our own lives, we have seen the caring, adoring Lord.
St. John wrote this nearly 2,000 years ago. At this Christmas time we have heard this once
again, the wonder and the glory and the divine mystery that is the birth of Christ. May it transform us once again.
Copyright ©1999 William Kolb
Excerpted from the sermon Hay and Stars, Part 2, delivered December 26, 1999, at Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee.
Dec 24 08 8:39 AM
Dec 24 08 9:11 AM
The Christmas Truce
by Ron White
It was referred to as the war to end all wars. Yet, two decades after World War I the world
found itself once again entrenched in a global battle. Why was the First World War referred to as the war to end all wars? It earned this name because it was
believed that with all the modern weapons of war, no nation would dare attack another for the sure bloodshed that would follow. The destruction of the First
World War was horrific with over 10 million giving their lives in the name of their country.
In the midst of this brutality, death and destruction, one of the most peculiar sights in human
history evolved on a Christmas night in 1914. It was a sight rarer than watching a Texas baseball team in the World Series. On this incredible night almost a
century ago soldiers on the western front did the unthinkable. Only days and perhaps hours before, these men had found themselves frozen to the bone in the
cold rain and mud. The sound of mortars still rang in their ears. The sight of their brothers in arms falling to the ground from a volley of bullets was still
fresh in their minds. Yet, something remarkable was about to take place on this Christmas Eve.
It was a truce in the fighting initiated by the low ranking men selected to do the fighting and
dying. By all accounts this Christmas truce was not started by the British. It was, in fact, a result of the actions of the Germans. Yes, the country that it
had become easy to vilify during this time period because of their horrific leaders and government policies was in fact a nation of people with hearts like you
and I. These German soldiers lobbed a chocolate cake into the trenches of the British. Imagine that; you are used to seeing grenades land in your trench and
instead the enemy has lobbed a chocolate cake with a request for an hour truce. The truce was for a birthday party for their captain. The truce was
As a soldier in this war, it was comforting to know that your enemy was in the same miserable
conditions that you were- the cold, the mud and the stench of death. Remarkably, it was in these conditions that a truce was born and soon Christmas carols
burst out from the trenches of the Germans, once again, an olive branch. The British were at first reluctant and rightfully so, this was war and any trick is
fair game in war. Although, it was recognized for what it was. Men with hearts, moms, dads, children, hobbies, girlfriends, wives and compassion overcome with
that compassion on the anniversary of the greatest sacrifice in the history of mankind. It was Christmas and the anniversary of the birth of a man who laid
down his life for others, and the Germans were overcome with this spirit.
That Christmas Eve soldiers who had been engaged in the war referred to as "the war to end
all wars' because of this brutality tossed their weapons of destruction aside and embraced, sang Christmas songs and even wandered the battle field playing
soccer with each other and sharing cigarettes. It has been said that hundreds and as many as thousands participated in this most magical holiday
There is something about this time of year that you can't pinpoint. It is something that
you can't put your finger on. It is a spirit that is in the air. It is a spirit that begs you to forget differences, embrace those you love and even those
you don't. It challenges you to give until you can't give anymore. Sometimes the cloud of challenges in life can spur a person to brush aside the
undeniable feelings that are in the air at Christmas. Too often the pressures of life can convince you the spirit of joy and giving that you are sensing is
nothing more than a coincidence of the time of year. In 1914, a handful of low ranking German soldiers knew that what they felt in their hearts about Christmas
These men did not brush aside the impromptu feelings of peace and love for their fellow man.
Instead, they lobbed a chocolate cake and a note of truce. I encourage you to allow yourself to be overcome this Christmas with the same spirit that took these
soldiers captive almost a century ago. You may feel you are entrenched in some kind of your own personal battle. If so, allow yourself to be overwhelmed with
the spirit of giving and joy and toss a chocolate cake out there. You just might be surprised at the outcome…
Dec 24 08 9:17 AM
Christmas: Peace with Each Other
by Rick Warren
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9
Once you make peace with God and have the peace of God in your heart,
you're able to make peace with other people.
God says, "I want you to be a peacemaker. I want you to be a reconciler." The Bible
calls this "the ministry of reconciliation."
As I've traveled from country to country over the past few years, I've seen the same
problem - conflict. Between husbands and wives, between generations, ethnic groups, religious groups, language groups - between nations. The greatest need in
our world is reconciliation. "Peace on earth, good will toward men."
God says, "Once I have shown you grace, I want you to show it to other people. Show them
the grace I have shown you. Be a peacemaker."
Jesus said it like this. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the
children of God" (Matthew 5:9 KJV). If you really know Christ the Prince of Peace, you're going to be a peacemaker, not a troublemaker - at work, at
home, or at school. You're going to build people up, not tear them down. You're going to compliment more than you criticize. You're going to love
people the way Jesus loves people.
Christmas is the perfect time to show grace to other people because we're reminded of the
grace God has shown us - that he gives us what we need, not what we deserve. So let me ask you a very frank question: Who do you need to restore a broken
relationship with this Christmas? That's the spirit of Christmas - "peace on earth, good will toward men."
You say, "I can't do it." When families get together at Christmas, a lot of times
it brings back a lot of bad memories and past hurts and things you just haven't let go of. You say, "I can't let go of it. They hurt me too bad. I
can't forgive them."
You're right. That's why you need Jesus. You don't have it in you to let it all go.
That's why you're still holding onto it. You need to be filled with the love of Christ and the peace of Christ. Until that happens, you're not
going to have the ability to let it go.
Nov 30 09 1:40 PM
7 Questions to Decrease Your Stress this Holiday Season
Dec 13 09 12:29 PM
If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has
made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you ... agree with each other, love each other, be
deep-spirited friends. (Philip. 2:1-2, Msg)
If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has
made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you ... agree with each other, love each other, be
deep-spirited friends. (Philip. 2:1-2, Msg)
God sent Jesus into the world so that our relationship with God could be restored. Christmas is about restoring relationships and many
of us have relationships that need mending.
God wants us to value relationships and make every effort to maintain them instead of discarding them whenever there is a rift, a hurt
or a conflict.
In fact, the Bible tells us that God has given us the ministry of restoring relationships. For this reason a significant amount of the
New Testament is devoted to teaching us how to get along with one another.
The Apostle Paul taught that our ability to get along with others is a mark of spiritual maturity. Since Christ wants his family to be
known for our love for each other, broken fellowship is a disgraceful testimony to unbelievers. This is why Paul was so embarrassed that the members of
the church in Corinth were splitting into warring factions and even taking each other to court.
He wrote, "Shame on you! Surely there is at least one wise person in your fellowship who can settle a dispute between fellow
Christians." (1 Cor. 6:5, TEV) He was shocked that no one in the church was mature enough to resolve the conflict peaceably. In the same letter,
he said, "I'll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other." (1 Cor. 1:10, Msg)
If you want God's blessing on your life and you want to be known as a child of God, you must learn to be a peacemaker. Jesus said,
"God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God." (Matt. 5:9, NLT)
Notice Jesus didn't say, "Blessed are the peace lovers," because everyone loves peace. Neither did he say, "Blessed
are the peaceable," who are never disturbed by anything. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who work for peace" - those who actively seek to
This Christmas is a good time to actively work toward restoring broken relationships.
Dec 14 09 1:36 PM
Happy for the Holidays: 7 Ways to Savor the Season
The holidays can go by very quickly, and if you're not
intentional, it's easy not to make the most of the season. Research shows that "savoring," intentionally living in the moment and
noticing good things as they happen, creates positive emotion that can improve your health, happiness and relationships. So this year, savor the
season! Here are seven ways to do just that:
1. Make decorating the tree an event, not a
Create a meaningful, memorable tradition out of decorating the Christmas tree. Get the whole family involved. If you live alone, invite others over
to take part. Turn on the Christmas music, cook or order in, have some hot chocolate, and take pictures. Have fun.
2. Give Christmas cards in person.
Now, this one is hard if you have 100 people on your list. So choose just a few people to hand deliver cards to. Drop by for a quick visit. It's
a great way to reconnect and adds a personal touch. With so many cards pre-printed with no personal acknowledgment inside, personally signing and
delivering a card will make it heartfelt for the recipient.
Dec 15 09 6:45 AM
"I will bless you ... and you will be a blessing." Genesis 12:2
"I will bless you ... and you will be a blessing." Genesis 12:2
During this Christmas season, we should keep in mind the four laws of God's blessing -
1. Our blessings should flow to others
The Bible teaches us that we are blessed not just so that we can feel good, not just so we can be happy and comfortable, but so that we
will bless others. God told Abraham in Genesis 12, "I will bless you and you will be a blessing to others." This is the first law of
blessing: it must flow outwardly.
2. When we bless others, God takes care of our needs
God promises that if we will concentrate on blessing others, he'll take care of our needs. There's almost nothing that God
won't do for the person who really wants to help other people. In fact, God guarantees this blessing. In Luke 18, Jesus says, "I guarantee
this. Anyone who gives up anything for the kingdom of God will certainly receive many times more in this life and will receive eternal life in the next
world to come."
When you care about helping other people, God assumes responsibility for your problems. And that's a real blessing, for he's
much better at handling your difficulties than you are.
3. Our blessings to others will come back on us
The more you bless other people, the more you help others, the more God blesses your life. Luke 6:38 tells us, "Give your life away
and you'll find your life given back. But not merely given back. Given back with bonus and blessing." You cannot out give God. The more you
try to bless other people in the world around you, the more God says, "I'm going to pour blessings out on you. We'll play a little game
here. Let's see who will win. Let's see who can give the most. The more you bless others the more I'm going to bless you in
4. The more we're blessed by God, the more He expects us to help others.
Jesus said it this way in Luke 12 "Much is required from those to whom much is given. For their responsibility is greater."
Based on the blessings of your life, what would you say God expects from you?
Dec 17 09 6:39 AM
But the angel said to them, "... I bring you good news of
greatjoy that will be for all the people." Luke 2:10 (NIV)
But the angel said to them, "... I bring you good news of
greatjoy that will be for all the people." Luke 2:10 (NIV)
Knowing that Christmastime is God's chosen time teaches us that Christmas is the time for us to renew our
We need not fear God because of the Good News of Christ's arrival; it is a Good News meant to "bring great joy to
all people." (Luke 2:10 NLT)
What is the Good News?
God sent Jesus so you could know what He's like. If God wanted to communicate
to birds, He would have become a bird. If God had wanted to communicate to cows, He would have become a cow. If He wanted to communicate to dogs, He
would have become a dog. But God wanted to relate to you and to me, so He became like us -- a human being.
The thing is this -- I don't have the foggiest idea of what it means to relate
to something like 'The Force' -- some impersonal power in the sky. But when I see Jesus in human form, I can say, "That's what
God's like. I can understand that."
This is why Christmas is not about a religion. You may be Catholic; you may be
Jewish; you may be Presbyterian, or Buddhist, or Baptist, or Lutheran; I don't care what your religious background is, Jesus didn't come to
give you religion. He came to give you a relationship.
Christmas is God saying, "I want to relate to you. I want you to know Me as
much as I know you." That's joyful news. It's good news!
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