Writing Next Year’s Christmas Letter

June 12, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Cynthia Ruchti –

The process of putting away Christmas decorations takes me well into the New Year. Even after the bins of candles, stockings, ornaments, and various sizes and shapes of nativity sets have been shelved, I can still walk through the house and discover another little tidbit I forgot during the clean up process. The mistletoe hanging in the hall. The little felt holly leaves tucked at the base of the kitchen canisters. The antique wooden mittens in the family room and the gingerbread house salt and pepper shakers.

Every year, it’s the same. The decorations go up in a day and take weeks to completely collect.

I like to pray over the cards and letters we received during the holidays, remember friends and family and what they reported about their lives. Only then do I feel comfortable putting away, recycling, or (gulp) tossing those Christmas communications.

But today it occurred to me that I am—right now—writing the material for next year’s Christmas letter. And so are you.

The lives we’re living today and next week and next month are the reports we’ll give in next December’s Christmas letters.

What do I want mine to say? “Dull year. Nothing happened. Didn’t bless a soul. Wasted my time. Focused on myself. Avoided hearing from God, so not much to tell ya. Merry Christmas.”

With the year this young, I still have time to make an impact on how that letter will read. I have a wide open door of opportunity to influence others, build friendships, plan meaningful travel, follow through on ideas for quality time with family members, take pictures of fun days with the grandkids, be caught smiling often enough that I’ll have photo images I’m happy to include, listen intently enough to the Lord that I’ll have something to say.

A promising year lies ahead. Maybe I’ll use a corner of my calendar to jot down exceptional experiences as they happen, exceptional verses I discovered in my devotional times with the Lord, exceptional books I read through the year, and exceptional touches with other people so next year’s Christmas letter will write itself and reflect on a year well spent.

PRAYER: Father God, every day with You is an adventure! Forgive me for the times I’ve rushed
past the wonder on my way to the next event. I pray You’ll give me a sensitive heart this year and that my commitment to living all 365 days of it Your way will make it a year worth celebrating.

BIBLE VERSE: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…” (Ephesians 5:15-16a NIV)

Renovation – A Step of Faith

June 1, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Aubrey Spencer –

Before we moved from Illinois to Kansas a few years ago, we spent time fixing up our starter home for the purpose of selling it. We knew that in order to get the best result, renovation was inevitable. Our time frame was short and our project list was extremely long. In a matter of weeks, we painted the entire outside of our house and hung new shutters. We removed carpeting, tile, and a banister from our front porch. Then we sanded, grinded, and painted the concrete on both the porch and the adjoining flowerbeds. And if that wasn’t enough, we took on the job of all jobs – the bathroom! We needed to re-do that little bathroom for a long time, but once we began the renovation process, we realized why we had put if off for so long. What a nightmare! At one point (and I have pictures to remind myself of the craziness) the room was down to the studs in half the room and debris was everywhere. We made countless trips to the home improvement store – thirty miles away – to get more supplies. Water was turned off for days – which was problematic seeing as how that was our only bathroom. And our son Oliver, who was only a baby at that time, had to learn to nap through the mighty hum of the shop vac.

The renovation was crazy, but all for a purpose. We were moving on, stepping out of our boat towards a new opportunity for Him.

Sometimes, it seems that “stepping out in faith” is a lot like our remodeling. Messy. Confusing. Stressful. Hard work. Scary. But all the effort is worth it when the outcome is revealed. Peace. Joy. Excitement. Beauty. It may be downright frightening to let the Master Builder hammer away a new life/opportunity/outlook for you. But, I believe that He has a remarkable masterpiece waiting at the end of the renovation.

PRAYER: Lord, although the process is rarely easy, I thank You for continually renovating my heart and mind and life. You amaze me constantly with how You create such beauty and peace out of chaos and confusion. Help me to remember that the next time I find myself “under construction.”

BIBLE VERSE: “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8 NIV).

Too Busy to Open our Bibles?

May 18, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Family

By Janet Morris Grimes –

How old were you when you first realized that Christmas was about Jesus, and not Santa Claus?

As a child, it was difficult to focus on anything other than Santa, and how could I possibly understand the correlation between the two. As an adult, I still struggle at times to focus on Jesus. From the twinkling lights, the television commercials that tease of all things extravagant, my internal ‘to-do’ list that constantly reminds me of what is left to be done, I fail to remember why I am doing it to start with.

I add to my calendar an appointment to be at church on Christmas Eve for the annual candlelight service. And I go, probably because our family has made a tradition of it, and those few, precious moments together on the church pew remind me of years gone by, when they were babies, trying to keep their hair and fingers away from the dancing flames. I countdown the moments that we can be still, and together, side by side at the fireplace. I crave the excitement of Christmas morning, and surprises, and hugs from loved ones not seen often enough.

It could be that I’ve grown to worship our traditions, more than finding a way to marvel at the way the birth of Christ truly changed the world.

To be honest, I find it hard to worship at Christmas.

Satan probably loves that; the way he can manipulate something that is supposed to be about Christ into something that keeps us from Him. Are we too busy to open our Bibles to recall why we bring gifts to those we love? Are we victims of the PR Campaign of the latest gadget that everyone else is getting?

My goal for this Christmas is to focus on what matters, long after the season is over.

BIBLE VERSE: “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isaiah 32:18 NIV).

PRAYER: Dear God, show us where we belong here on earth. Establish places for us to dwell that are indeed peaceful and honor You at all times. And thank You for creating a place for us in eternity.

No Vacancy

April 30, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Faith, Family

By Cheri Cowell –

Early in our marriage, Randy and I had driven to the North Carolina Mountains for a camping vacation. We always went on these trips during the off-season because it was cheaper, and we were young (and poor) college students. While our peers were heading to the beaches, we were heading to the mountains. On one particular trip we learned a big lesson. Because it was off-season we headed home believing we would stop somewhere along the way at a motel whenever we got tired.

The hot shower after camping all weekend sounded really good, too. What we didn’t realize was it was also a big race and bike week along the eastern U.S. There were no vacancies anywhere to be found. We were so tired that we ended up spending the night in our car at a rest stop (until a policeman tapped on our window- that is another story). Now, we weren’t supposed to register for the government in the morning, and I wasn’t pregnant, but we were tired. We needed a place to stay, and there was no room for us anywhere. No room at the inn, just like the Christ child.

Those words are such sad words. No vacancy. No room for one more. How many of us have filled our lives to the brim? We have filled our lives (and those of our children) with so much that if God wanted to come visit for just an hour, there would be no room. Our hearts are filled with so many things that call our attention, demand our love, and cause us heartache, that when He desires to fill us with His love and peace- there is no room. The innkeepers were too busy making money; after all it was tax season. They were too busy with life to make room for the King. May we take a lesson from the innkeepers this week and make room for Him.

BIBLE VERSE: “So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 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 in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Luke 2:4-7).

PRAYER: Thank You for finding room in my heart to make Yourself a home. Help me keep the clutter out of the way so You feel free to fill my heart with more of Your peace and love. Help me make more room for You this Christmas.

Could God Do That in Our Family?

April 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Daily Devotions, Faith, Family

By Art Fulks –

A friend recently said it may have been the most difficult year he has ever experienced. This seems a resounding theme with many, including myself. As we approach the year’s end and reflect, we can
often get lost in the narrowness of our personal journey. For perspective, God directed me to a unique text.

As I looked for a fresh approach to the Christmas story this year, I came to Matthew chapter one. My eyes went immediately to the subtitle at verse eighteen, “The Conception and Birth of Jesus”. As I read, the Holy Spirit reminded me of 2 Timothy 3:16, that ‘all Scripture is inspired and profitable.’

It is possible that the most unread Scriptures are the genealogies. But repenting and refocusing, I returned to verse one, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” I was so excited that I could not wait to continue. (Just kidding.) Certainly this was not a great attitude. But what I knew about God’s Word allowed me to continue. And He did something incredible in my heart.

As I came to each name, God seemed to make me pause and ponder the life of that individual. Some experienced significant tragedy and failure. For sure, many lived through years more difficult than my own. Most had no ‘Red Sea parting’ experiences. Some lived in dark days where the hand of God was not evident at all. Most were ordinary people, Jews and Gentiles, men and women.

However, verse sixteen confirms that God was at work in the good and bad to accomplish His redemptive plan. He was bringing about the birth of His only Son. Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, lived a life we could not live, died to pay a debt we could not pay, and rose from the dead to secure an eternal victory we could not win.

I know my family will not be used to bring about the birth of another Savior this Christmas. Jesus is the One and only. But could God use the ups and downs of this year to bring about the realization of the Gospel in the life of someone this Christmas, allowing my life and my family to be part of His redemptive plan? With all my heart I believe this to be true. Could God do that in your family? Certainly!

BIBLE VERSE: “…and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.” (Matthew 1:16 NASB)

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