By Hally Franz –
Operation Christmas Child is one of my faves. I began doing the boxes twelve years ago when my son was 3, and I was participating in a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. We have continued the tradition every year since, preparing a box for both my son and daughter to send to two other children somewhere around the world. We love it!
There are so many ways to serve during the Christmas season. Please indulge my humble attempt at some holiday verse…
Shovel snow for seniors when the precip piles up, Sing carols in hospitals, voices filling their cups. Ring Salvation Army bells for those needing a hand, There are many ways we can serve in this wonderful land.
Deliver baskets of food to families doing without, Visit brothers and sisters unable to get out. Collect mittens and scarves to protect from the cold, Show kindness to each other, the young and the old.
Share resources we have with families in pain, To give blessings to others is always our gain. Tell folks about Jesus, His birth and His gift, Mend fences, forgive, and seek to heal rifts.
Christmas is time to joyfully give, Show one another how Christ wants us to live. Be merry, be jolly, be full of good cheer, Tell His wondrous birth story to all who will hear.
People get passionate about so many things. In recent months, many have been “fired up” about the election. In my home near St. Louis, Missouri, lots of us were pretty excited about the Cardinals chance at “12 in 12” (the twelfth world series win in 2012), even those of us who really aren’t sports fans. Hobbies, exercise programs, entertainment – we get excited about all manner of things in our culture. Let’s get excited about service during this holiday season!
Chant it, cheer it and share The Good News!
PRAYER: Most Righteous God, help me to have a servant’s heart this Christmas season and beyond, to be energized and enthused by opportunities to show the love of Jesus to others.
“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11 KJV).
By Elaine James –
Just getting out of my neighborhood to the bike trail was a nightmare. I had to get over the railroad tracks to the path. Two freight trains stopped dead on the tracks caused me to detour to the underpass. The sidewalk had wooden horses on it for repairs.
Are you kidding me? Maybe I should go back home.
I awoke this day with so much doubt about my days ahead. I just covered my head and did not even want to pray. I wanted to give up. Some days I lose my place and ask “Is God even with me? I feel all alone.” In my crackly morning voice I cried “Lord, help me.” Knowing how important exercise is for the mind, I mustered enough energy for the bike ride. On the reverse of my eight mile trek I was getting warm so I shoved my gloves in my pocket. I had been listening to a sermon on “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18).”
Through the years I have sought the Lord for his vision for my life. I was beginning to believe that the revelation I received in the past was gone. The sermon was energizing me. I don’t have to receive this brain freeze saying I’m washed up! I grabbed for my gloves and discovered one to be gone. I stopped and knew that I had to turn back. It was a couple of miles since I shoved them in my pocket.
Seriously, I have to go back! Oh, I just went through the roughest part of the trail!
With determination I went back seeking that quality glove. I heard God speak “You’re going back for the glove. Go back over my revelation I have given you with the same determination. You don’t want to lose the glove. You should not lose Me either. Sometimes you have to go back over the hard part of your life. Things are not always easy. You have to work for them. But on My path I bring you joy; strength in the midst. If you follow another plan you lose your joy and you feel as if you’re perishing.”
I found my glove, got through the rough patch and obeyed My Lord. As for my brain; it defrosted.
PRAYER: Father in heaven I feel lack of passion and vision in my life. Help! I need to hear from You.
By Cynthia Ruchti –
You’ve noticed too, I’m sure. People joke about how lazy they are. They value “vegging,” the couch-potato kind, not the sweet potato kind. They brag about how long it’s been since they folded laundry, brushing lightly at the wrinkles in their shirt. It was pulled out of the tangle of clothes in the basket. Clean, right?
“Yeah, I didn’t get to the bank in time. Things came up.” They don’t clarify that the “things” were a nap, a snack, and a video game.
What keeps people from getting to their appointments on time? One of two things—doing too much or doing too little.
I lean more toward the “too much” end of the spectrum. I see a five minute window of buffer time and think of two important things I can get done in that window. That often makes me watch the second-hand of the wall clock as I rush up to the desk just before it ticks into place for my appointment time. Not good.
But neither is the world’s obsession with laziness, with doing the minimum necessary at work, at church, at home…just enough to get by.
One of the places where my husband worked developed an incentive program for employees who did their job exceptionally well—a gift card reward. “Great job. Here’s fifty dollars.” “Nice work on that. Here’s a hundred dollars.”
Grateful as we were for the extra money for the family budget, it always struck us as an oddity that “exceptionally well” and “excellent” and “nice work” weren’t expected. They were viewed as so rare as to deserve special recognition.
We don’t have to wonder what God would think of that. He told us. “Whatever you do,” He said through the Apostle Paul, “do it heartily, as unto the Lord.” (reference below)
As I write this, the table of people near me is discussing installing a toilet. “I put in that new toilet and she’s still complaining,” the man said. His friend asked, “How come?” “Oh, it wobbles some.”
I think even toilet installation has to be done heartily, don’t you?
PRAYER: No matter how popular it is, Lord, keep me from ever believing that laziness can be cute. It doesn’t mesh with Your plan for us. Show me where I might be making excuses for not putting my whole heart into something. Laziness is no laughing matter to You. Help me feel the same way.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,” Colossians 3:23, NIV.
By Janet Morris Grimes –
Sometimes I have to chuckle at what our society has become. Just a few short years ago, the following statements would have made little sense:
“You will never guess who just tweeted me?”
“Did you check me in at this restaurant?”
“I need a good status update.”
“Heading to Starbucks to do my homework.”
“Double click on it.”
“Did you Google it?”
“I got an email from my car saying my tire pressure is low.”
“Can you go return these movies to the Redbox machine?”
“I DVR’d the game. Don’t tell me who won.”
“Did you get my Hey-tell message?”
“Hopefully, our video will go viral.”
“Don’t click on that link. You will get a virus or lose your hard drive.”
“I’ve been hacked by someone in Bangladesh.”
“My GPS almost sent me straight into a lake.”
“I am running out of memory.”
These statements make perfect sense to us today, but within a few short years, they are likely to be obsolete as well. It is impossible to keep up with the changes in technology, and at times, the challenge to do so can be overwhelming and exhausting. As soon as we master a new gadget, another comes along to remind us that we will never catch up.
I recently read of a new television series on NBC called “Revolution” that depicts life in the United States fifteen years after an electromagnetic pulse has disabled all electronics. There simply is no power, and survival goes to those who learn to do without it.
I find that frightening as my below average survival skills learned from the Girl Scouts thirty years ago have not been well-maintained. I was forced to clear all remnants of how to weave together a raft made from twigs from my brain so that I could upgrade to the latest version of Twitter.
One only has so much memory available, after all.
I have no idea what the future holds; technology or otherwise. But I know that God has it all in the palm of His hand. And He never changes.
Thank goodness. That is more than enough for me.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV).
By Cynthia Ruchti –
Eavesdropping on conversations yields some of life’s most fascinating moments, and for writers, it’s not only acceptable, but a necessity. Character studies.
I remember walking through an airport a year ago; collecting snippets of conversation like corduroy pants collect lint.
“Okay, then,” a businessman said into his cell phone, “offer them fifty million, but that’s our final offer.”
I kept walking but would have loved to have heard the rest of that conversation.
A middle-aged woman told the younger woman sitting next to her in a boarding gate waiting area, “We’ll have to stop somewhere on the way to the church. I only packed my black tights. I forgot the pink pair. I can’t wear black.”
Funeral? No. Black would have been appropriate. Wedding? Maybe. Pink tights, huh?
The conversation I overheard the other day gave me pause, as they say.
“Looks like granite,” the elderly man said. “But it’s really yogurt.”
Yes! Me, too! I wondered what subject would have evoked that kind of observation. Looks like granite, but it’s really yogurt.
Before the day was over, I found a use for the phrase. A crisis hit, smacking me with the force of a block of granite.
Looks like granite. It seemed immovable. Impenetrable. A problem as heavy and crushing as granite.
But God, the true Rock, crushes “crushing” problems. To Him, they’re more like…yogurt.
Nothing threatens Him.
Does that comfort you like it comforts me? He can’t be intimidated much less overcome.
The next time I feel overwhelmed by something life’s catapult hurls at me, I’m going to rephrase my response. Instead of whining, “This is hard!” I’m going to straighten my posture, raise my eyebrows as I survey the scene, and say, “It might look like granite. But it’s really yogurt.”
PRAYER: Lord, give me the grace to see what You see when You look at the problems that seem so tough to me. Help me find hope in the truth that Your sovereignty trumps everything and turns crushing troubles into something no more threatening than a smoothie ingredient.
“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you,” Jeremiah 32:17 NIV.
Faith step: When your need is great, tap into His limitless need-meeting ability.