Where is the Merry in Christmas?

December 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Susan Dollyhigh –

Rehab center, jail, and illness, greet my waking mind. I throw off the covers, put my feet on the floor, close my eyes, and take a deep breath. I trudge into the living room where a Christmas tree, gifts, and stockings greet my eyes. I can’t wrap my mind around the extremes of Merry Christmas and the despondency I feel in my heart.

An epidemic of anxiety, fear, and grief has spread through my family. My litany of sorrows is mind-numbing – my daughter in rehab, my eight-year-old granddaughter wondering why Mommy won’t be home for Christmas, my brother in jail, my sister’s brush with death from an unknown illness that lingers still. Each of these maladies alone could paralyze a family, and each of these situations is so foreign that my family never dreamed of experiencing any of them. Where is the hope, the peace, the joy, of the season?

I pour a cup of coffee, sit down on the couch, and my eyes lock on the Advent wreath adorning my coffee table. The words of the prophet Isaiah, later spoken by Jesus, come to mind, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…” I gaze at the Advent candles representing Hope, Love, Peace and Joy, and feel Christ’s peace gently infuse my spirit.

I know Who the Hope is. I know He is Love. I’ve experienced His Peace. When I focus on Him instead of my circumstances, I feel the constant Joy He gives me, even in difficult circumstances. I’ve found the Merry in Christmas, even Christmas this year. The Merry in Christmas is Christ.

I hope you have Christ in your heart this season – no matter how difficult your life circumstances may be.

Bible Verse: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV).

Prayer: Father in Heaven, I pray for my family, and all families who have heavy hearts this Christmas. I pray that You will comfort us, and grace us with your peace. Thank You for the gift of Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Poor Baby Jesus

December 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Susan Dollyhigh –

Baby Jesus, lying in the manger, tumbled around in a few loose strands of hay. Drew, my four-year-old grandson, turned the plastic ornament until the manger sat upright.

“Look, Nana, it’s Baby Jesus,” Drew said. “I made this at church.”

“Baby Jesus,” Drew’s two-year-old sister, Annalise, echoed.

“Oh, Drew, it’s beautiful!” I said.

“Sit down, Nana,” Drew said. “I’ll show you some more things I made.”

I sat down on the blue-carpeted floor beside Annalise. Drew pulled crinkled drawings, popsicle-stick figures, and other treasures from his box, showed them to us, and then piled them on the floor. Annalise held onto the plastic ornament, and each time Drew showed us something new, Annalise held the ornament up and said, “Baby Jesus.” He was clearly her favorite of Drew’s treasures.

When lunch time rolled around, I told Drew that we needed to clean up before going downstairs.

“We’ll help you, Drew,” I said. I handed Drew his papers and stick figures, but when I picked up the plastic ornament with Baby Jesus inside, I rolled it across the floor – and that was not acceptable, even to a two-year-old.

Annalise picked up the ornament, held it close to her little body, glared at me, and said, “Poor Baby Jesus.”

Feeling reprimanded by this two-year-old, I crawled over to Annalise, looked into the ornament, and said; “I’m sorry, Baby Jesus.”

My apology was intended to appease Annalise, but sitting there on my knees, I felt a true pang of sorrow in my heart. In a precious moment, my grandchildren had shared with me their love and awe of Baby Jesus. In my haste to clean up, I completely forgot about Him.

So many times during the Christmas season, I do the same. I set out the manger scene, and get caught up with decorating, shopping, and baking. And I toss poor Baby Jesus to the back of my mind.

This season, I want to hold this baby in my heart, just the way Annalise held Him in her hand. When I decorate my tree, I want to remember Baby Jesus. When I buy a gift for a loved one, I want to remember Baby Jesus. When I bake goodies for my family, I want to remember Baby Jesus. And when the Christmas season is over, and its time to clean up, I don’t want to toss Baby Jesus across the floor. I want to carry Him in my heart into the New Year.

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth
to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:6-7 NIV).

Prayer: Father in Heaven, thank You for reminding me through my grandchildren that this holiday season is all about Baby Jesus. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

What Does Sin Cost?

November 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Susan Dollyhigh –

“What does a gallon of gas cost?” the pastor asked the little ones gathered around him for children’s church.

Little hands shot into the air. A brown-haired boy answered with great confidence, “Seventy-five dollars.” The congregation laughed softly.

A blond-haired lad called out, “Eighty dollars!” and as if in a bidding war, a freckle-faced little guy upped his answer to one hundred dollars.

Then a wise spectacled-boy calmly answered, “Three dollars a gallon.”

“Very good.” The pastor leaned back on the step he was sitting on. “Okay. How much does a shirt cost at Target?”

“Fifty dollars,” a little girl with pigtails said.

The blond-haired lad decided to try his answer of eighty dollars again.

The pastor declared that the price of shirts had gone up since he last shopped at Target. “Okay let me ask you this, what would happen if I didn’t pay my water bill?”

With wide eyes, little pigtail girl said, “You could go to jail.”

Wise spectacled-boy announced, “They will cut off your water.”

“Yes, I guess both of those things could happen,” the pastor said. “Okay here’s another one, what does sin cost?”

Without even raising her hand, a little brunette who’d remained silent whispered just loud enough to be heard, “Your life. Sin costs you your life.”

The pastor blinked in surprise. “That’s right. The Bible tells us that the cost of our sin is death, but the Bible also tells us that our bill has already been paid. Who do you think paid that bill?”

“Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” the boys and girls shouted.

“Jesus paid the bill for everyone,” little pigtail girl said, then raising her chin, “even cats.”

“The Church is always one generation short of extinction, if our generation fails to guard the truth and entrust it to our children, then that will be the end!” Warren Wiersbe

This Thanksgiving season, I’m thankful for Jesus. I’m thankful that He paid the cost of my sin the day He died on the cross. I’m also thankful that the church seems safe from extinction for another generation. I pray these children will grow up and guard and entrust the truth to their children, ensuring the survival of the church of Christ.

Bible Verse: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NIV).

Prayer: Father, thank You for all your many blessings. Thank You for Jesus. Thank You for parents who guard and entrust the truth to their children. Amen.

The Invitation

October 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Susan Dollyhigh –

I learned so many new things in first grade. Good things like reading and writing. And some not so good things – like what it meant to live on the wrong side of the tracks.

One morning my classmate, Elizabeth*, asked our teacher if she could give out her birthday party invitations. One by one, each girl smiled as Elizabeth placed the invitation in her hand. I waited for mine, and when Elizabeth started to sit back down, I naively asked, “May I have one too?”

I carried the invitation home. And that was part of the problem. Home for me was a mobile home on the outskirts of town. Home for Elizabeth was a fancy brick house downtown.

I was the oldest of four children and money was more than tight. Yet knowing how important this party was to me, my mother bought Elizabeth a Barbie doll. I didn’t even own a Barbie doll.

The next morning, my feet practically floated up the steps and onto the school bus. Elizabeth’s gift was in my book satchel, and I couldn’t wait to get to school. But when I stepped off the school bus, Elizabeth ran over to me, lowered her head, and said, “My mother said you can’t come to my party.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I reached into my book satchel, pulled out the gift, and placed it in Elizabeth’s hand. Throughout the school day, I watched in silence as the other girls jumped up and down, and talked about going home with Elizabeth.

My heart ached as the girls climbed into Elizabeth’s car that afternoon. Hanging my head to hide the tears, I walked to the school bus.

But I soon received another invitation from Someone who didn’t care where I lived. The Holy Spirit spoke to my young heart during a worship service, and issued an invitation from Jesus. When I accepted His invitation, my heart filled with God’s love. Even though I didn’t always understand why God allowed bad things to happen in life, I knew, I could trust Jesus to never, ever take away His love, nor His invitation to be my Savior.

Trust Jesus with your heart, He will never take back His invitation.

Bible Verse: See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1 NIV).

Prayer: Father, thank You that we can trust You with our hearts, and that we never have to worry about You taking back Your invitation. Amen.

*Name changed

What’s in a Name?

September 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions

By Susan Dollyhigh –  

Words sung by our hearts at times are like the lyrics from a 1980’s song that says we sometimes want to go where everybody knows our name. Those words are especially true when that place is Mount Airy, better known as Mayberry. Mount Airy is Andy Griffith’s hometown, and the setting for The Andy Griffith Show. A few years back another Mount Airy native, Ken Lowe, who is the founder of HGTV, returned home to Mount Airy for a visit. When interviewed, Ken told reporters he was glad to be back where he was called Kenny.

I totally related to Kenny’s feelings. When I moved back home to Mount Airy, after being away for sixteen years, it felt good to be back where everybody knew my name, and my heart warmed to be around people who know me as Susie.

Even though Susan is the name on my birth certificate, social security card, and driver’s license, I soon realized, at the heart of my being – I am Susie. I found that “Susie” cuts through the years, and reminds me of who’s important in my life. I share a special relationship with those who know me as Susie.

Even though the Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth, and everything that has life, including man, at the heart of His being – God is Father. I’ve found that “Father” cuts through all that life has brought my way, trying to separate me from Him. Even when I’ve forgotten about Him, or turned my back on Him, my Father has always welcomed me back with open arms. At a time in my life when I lost everything except my Father, I found He is truly all I need. He comforted me through many long, sleepless nights, provided for my every need, and healed my heart when I felt it was shattered and beyond repair. I share a special relationship with my Father.

Do you know God as your Father? He longs to have a special relationship with you. Our Father wants this world to be a place where everybody knows His name.

“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father…’” (Matthew 6:9 NIV).

Prayer: Our Father, thank You for being not only our Creator, Sustainer, and Deliverer, but also our Father who loves us, and knows us by our name. In Jesus name, Amen.

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