Category Archives: Devotion

St. Patrick’s Courage from God

This Saturday is St. Patrick’s Day, when we celebrate his life and legacy. However, this celebration didn’t begin until 1631, almost 1200 years after his death. Since I love Ireland, I thought I’d do a little research on its patron saint. Maybe you already knew this, my kids did, but Saint Patrick wasn’t a canonized saint, and he wasn’t Irish. I know, shocking, however, I don’t want to focus on what he was not, but what he was—an obedient follower of God, who brought Christianity to Ireland. For the history purist, there was another missionary before Patrick, but he wasn’t very successful, or we might celebrate St. Palladius’ Day. 

Here is some of his story that I gleaned from several websites. Patrick was born around  387. As a teenager, Patrick was kidnapped from Scotland/England and taken to Ireland where he was a slave for several years. During this time he developed a strong faith, clinging to God in the midst of pagan Ireland. Before his captivity, his faith was lackluster at best. After experiencing a vision that led to his rescuers, he escaped his captor, a chieftain, who would eventually become one of his converts. After spending years in a monastery and learning about God, Patrick became a priest and then a bishop. Soon after, he followed God’s call to Ireland. His strategy was to convert the clan chiefs, so they would lead their people to God. However, this was dangerous business and his life was constantly in danger. Eventually, Patrick converted a powerful chief, akin to the king, and baptized him. Patrick spent about forty years ministering to the Irish people and planting churches across the Island. He died on March 17, 461 and is buried in Northern Ireland.

Two parts of his story strike a chord with me. The first part that he didn’t embark on this part of his life until he was forty. It seems it’s never too late for God to change our lives and send us on a mission for him. The second part is the faith and courage it must have taken to approach these pagan chiefs. In his own words, he writes in the Confession, “I [was] a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I [was] looked down upon by many.” This reminds me how God chooses the least likely to his greatest works and the courage that only God can provide in the face of impossible odds.

Tradition holds that St. Patrick wrote the following prayer before meeting with the powerful Irish King. However, some question his authorship. Regardless, the Lorica of St. Patrick is a beautiful expression of our relationship with Jesus and a hymn of protection. A Lorica is the breastplate in a coat of armor, like the one Paul tells us to wear in Ephesians six.

As you celebrate, I pray you keep St. Patrick’s words in your heart and remember they apply to each of us as well. Jesus loves us all and is always with us. God protects us and gives us his mighty power when we do his work just like St. Patrick.

What do you need God’s strength for today? Is God calling you to try something new, serve in a new and even scary way? How will you answer? May this be our prayer every morning. (Many people only pray the bold section; however, I wanted to share it in its entirety.) I loved to hear your thoughts, share below in the comments.

The Lorica of St. Patrick
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind, the depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
That may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

 

Put on Your Armor – by: Jenifer Jennings

My guest blogger this week is Jenifer Jennings, a multi-published author of Biblical Fiction. Jenifer is a great critique partner and helped me with my second flash fiction piece. She loves Bible stories and helps them come alive with her creative and beautiful gift of storytelling. I hope you enjoy her post on Barak and Deborah. It gives us all the chance to remember that God always supplies what we need for success–whether that’s a person or armor.

“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:” -Hebrews 11:32 (KJV)

My favorite book of the Bible is Hebrews. This wonderful book reveals Jesus is some many interesting aspects from Priest to King to Prophet while peeling back the layers of foreshadows and pictures found throughout the Old Testament.

One of my favorite chapters of this book is Chapter Eleven, or what is commonly known as the Hall of Faith.

I enjoy writing about people of faith. When we hear of other’s faith, I believe it can strengthen our own. One such character brought me a tremendously amount of encouragement lately.

His name was Barak.

He was a courageous warrior, but he had put down his sword for twenty years. The book of Judges tells us that after a time of peace, the people of Israel did evil in the sight of God. (Judges 4:1) So, God sends a foreign king to rule over them. Being a defeated warrior, Barak hangs up his battle gear and lives a simple, but oppressed, life under the new king.

I can relate. Can you? There have been many defeats in my life. There have been numerous times I’ve wanted to hang up my battle gear and call it quits.

God sends Deborah, a judge at the time, to give Barak a message. “Warrior, it’s time to get back into the battle.” Barak is filled with uncertainty and requests that Deborah accompany him into battle. She agrees, but warns him that he will not have the victory over the enemy. God would send a woman to be the one who claims the victory for Israel. Barak goes into battle with faith that God would bring it to a swift end.

Barak stages a battle with the fierce enemy who conquers in massive chariots. He and his ten thousand men are outnumbered and the obvious underdogs. Just as the battle gets underway, a storm floods the nearby river causing the battlefield to become a gigantic mud pit. Not so good for chariot wheels. In the heat of battle, the captain of the enemy’s army actually retreats to save his own skin. Barak pursues him.

Searching for a place to hide, the captain comes upon a woman whose husband is loyal to his side. She invites him to hide in her tent and says she would protect him by standing watch and not revealing his hidden location. In a divine turn of ends, while the captain sleeps, this woman takes a tent stake and drives it through the captain’s head, instantly killing him. We aren’t told exactly what prompted her to do this, but God had already given the message that it would be a woman’s through which the victory would come.

With Deborah as the encourager support, Jael as a female double agent for God, and Barak as the willing warrior Israel gains the victory over the enemy and peace is restored in the land for forty years.

Writing about Barak was an eye-opener for me. His story was not on my original list of ones to include for my collection of Biblical short stories entitled “Sacrifice,” but I fell in love with his story and had to put him in. Until I began writing it, I never realized how much I was like Barak in life and like Deborah in my writing career. There have been places I’ve taken off my armor and it’s time to get back in the battle. My goal in writing is to be that Deborah encouraging voice in my reader’s lives saying, “God is bigger than anything you’re facing right now. Put your armor back on, warrior, and let’s get back to work for Him.”

If you’d like to read Barak’s story and others found in “Sacrifice” you can find all links here: jeniferjennings.com/sacrifice.

Jenifer is a wife and mother first, though writing is her soul’s desire. She takes Biblical accounts, weaves in historical resources, and adds a dash of fiction to create stories that encourage readers to take their next step of faith.
She married the man of her dreams who reminds her everyday what real love feels like. Together, they are raising two amazing children who keep them laughing.
With a degree in Church Ministry from Trinity Baptist College and an active member of Word Weavers International, Jenifer is always learning.

Her deepest longing is to show Jesus’ love by encouraging others through her writing. Jenifer is a wife and mother first, though writing is her soul’s desire. She takes Biblical accounts, weaves in historical resources, and adds a dash of fiction to create stories that encourage readers to take their next step of faith.

Practice in the Waiting

With the Winter Olympics wrapping up, I need to confess that I have failed to watch more than a couple of videos on Facebook of some of the highlights. However, watching even a few minutes of Shaun White tumbling through the air high above the ground reminds me of the commitment to practice and determination that is required to compete on this level. We don’t get see the bruises and tears—the sheer exhaustion that must come at the end of a week of training. Most of us can’t imagine the kind of dedication it takes to become an Olympic athlete. Most of them won’t stand on the podium, and yet they keep practicing, striving for that goal. Some will fail but return more mature, stronger, more agile. Maybe it will be their time, and they will win but what if they don’t?

More to the point, what are us average humans striving for? Some days, I’m patting myself on the back because I figured out a way to make supper without returning to the grocery store. I mean, sometimes that takes real ingenuity.

  A year ago I attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference. I had just completed my third book and spent significant time honing my skills. I cringe to think I actually let people read my first book, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, after reading several craft books and listening to experts, my writing had improved. Most of you know that I found a great deal of success at the conference, so I won’t bore you with those details. (Click here to read that post. ) I really thought I was ready for publication. I had an agent and two books—wasn’t it my time? Apparently not, but I say that with thanksgiving. Since that time, I have learned so much more about writing and the publishing world. When I spoke to my writing coach and mentor yesterday, she even mentioned how much stronger my writing is now than it was then. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the picture of patience. I detour into doubt. But there’s something about training to be better, trying new things, and exploring alternative approaches that keep me going. Looking back even six months, I know I wasn’t ready. In the process and the practice, I know God is preparing me for just the right time.

“He has planned something better for us so that only together with us would we be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:40).

Few of us will win the big prizes, so where does that leave us? I’m so excited to let you know: it leaves us with Jesus. In this reality, we are just like the athlete wearing a gold medal. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Co. 9:24-25). I’m thinking that crown might just rival a gold medal.

Granted some days, it feels like we’re swimming against the tide, but God is always working. He has marked out a race for us. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance with our eyes fixed on Jesus. (Heb. 12:1-2). When our patience is growing thin and our faith is shallow, we must remember that God works in his time and that what we are learning while we wait may be just the thing we need when it is time. I love that I can look back and see how my writing has improved with practice (Well, maybe love is a little strong, but I’m certainly encouraged that the time has been well spent.) What’s even more important is that I can see how I’ve grown in my faith, and hopefully, when God asks me to do something for him, I will be ready. I know I will be ready to give him the glory because he has molded me into the right person for the right race.

When the drills seem too difficult or the rejection too hard remember this: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Phil. 1:6

What are you practicing for today? What is hindering you from following God’s calling?

Complaining about Blessings

Recently, I’ve become sensitive to people complaining about what I would consider blessings, and I’m almost certain they would as well. With our abundance of things and activities, we become burdened by the very blessings we sought. But for me, the real zinger is when we complain to a person about a problem that she would be happy to have because that means she would also have the blessing. Have you ever realized you were doing this? I didn’t until I was on the other side. When the person is complaining about the very thing, the very activity that I’ve been praying and working to obtain, I think how happy I’d be to have that problem. I just know I’d never complain about it; at least that’s what I like to tell myself.

In Philippians, Paul writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.” (Phil. 4:11-14)

Honestly, when I read those words, and I think about the living conditions of people around the world, I’m embarrassed that I complain about anything. However, I am comforted that Paul continues to be thankful for someone to share his troubles. What is it to understand our blessings, to be content?

This year for Lent, my family is giving up complaining. I know it sounds crazy, and we will likely fail miserably, but we think it’s an experiment worth trying. But there’s more to this plan. For every complaint, the person must put a quarter in a jar and write on a chart the complaint and the blessing. (My daughter said to take her to the bank to trade out a twenty for a couple of rolls of quarters.) At the end of Lent, we will donate the money to the City Rescue Mission. These people have real needs—real problems. Hopefully, we will learn how blessed we truly are and maybe it will be something that we consider before we open our mouths in the future. If nothing else, a good charity will benefit a lot. One trip to Libby’s school during rush hour should result in several dollars.

What are you doing for Lent this year? Are you giving something up or adding something beneficial? As we draw closer to the cross, I pray that this year we can all gain a greater perspective of God’s amazing blessing of grace.

Most Romantic Lines from Literature by Amanda Everett

Y’all are in for a treat this week. My friend Amanda Everett is guest blogging.

Amanda Everette is a southern girl saved by grace. Lover of pretty things, clever words, and her stud of a husband. Not necessarily in that order.

Amanda and I met at the American Christian Writers Conference in August of 2016. We became quick friends and critique partners. I’m delighted by the post. Be sure to read all the way to the end. It brought tears to my eyes. Be sure to check Amanda out on her website at www.amandaeverettwriter.com .

A glance, a touch, that long-awaited kiss beneath a starry sky, the promise of happily ever after—this is what romance is made of. As a writer, and reader, of romance, I can’t seem to get enough of love lately! With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’ve rounded up some of the most romantic lines from literature. You know the type, the ones that make your breath catch, heart flutter, and mind hope that maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear similar words of love spoken to you.

Most romantic lines from literature: 

  1. “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same…If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”

Technically, I combined two different quotes from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, but can you blame me?

  1. “You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.” Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind

Has there ever been a more roguish, charming scoundrel of a gentleman? *swoon*

  1. “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” Winnie the Pooh

The love of a good friend is not to be taken lightly.

  1. “You have bewitched me body and soul.” Pride and Prejudice.

Mr. Darcy—enough said.

  1. “I love her and it is the beginning of everything.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

Okay, so this line isn’t from a book, but a personal letter in which F. Scott Fitzgerald was talking about his wife, Zelda.  I think you can see why I had to include it.

  1. “and this is the wonder that is keeping the stars apart
    i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)” E.E. Cummings

To be forever in your beloved’s thoughts— what more could one want? Some people speculate that Cummings left the “I” lower case so as to be on the same level as his beloved.

  1. “When he shall die,
    Take him and cut him out in little stars,
    And he will make the face of heaven so fine
    That all the world will be in love with night
    And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
    —William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
    It’s impossible to talk about romance without including Romeo & Juliet. I had to recite this for a high school English class and it’s one of the few pieces I still remember to this day.
  2. “I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

To be loved for who you are, isn’t that what we all desire?

  1. “Always.” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

When you think romance, you generally don’t think of Harry Potter, but this line by Severus Snape in regards to his undying love for Lily Potter slays me every time.

Are you feeling a little weak at the knees yet? I know I am! But here’s the thing, no matter how many romance novels I read or chick-flicks I watch, I find I’m still left wanting more. It took me years to realize there is no one on this earth who can ever fully satisfy my desire for love, not even my husband.

But there is someone who can.

He is a poet who seeks to win your affection with tender words. A King enthralled by your beauty. A mighty warrior ready to calm all your fears and rejoice over you with singing. There is one who has known you at your darkest and loves you still. One who has literally moved heaven and earth to make a way for you to be together forever.  He is the ultimate storyteller, the creator of love, God over all…and He is madly, deeply, completely in love with you

So on this Valentine’s Day, perhaps the most romantic line ever written can be found right here:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”-John 3:16

May any semblance of love you read about, any chick-flick you watch, and any relationship you’re a part of always remind you of the greatest love story ever told—that of Christ and his love for you.

A Rage of Foregiveness

Must she forgive him daily? Paige snatched the hedge clippers from the hook on the garage wall. Roses symbolized love, but Brick’s garden of blooms only reminded her of his infidelity. They wouldn’t torment her any longer.

She marched to the front of the house—the tool of horticulture annihilation held above her head like a sword for battle. Paige breached the last line of defense, the porch stairs that surrounded the plants, and stepped into Brick’s sanctuary. The dense humidity made the air thick with their fragrance. The sweet scent slapped her, thwarting her advance. Her breath caught. A memory tugged at her heart—more bitter, than sweet. She shoved it under before it surfaced from where she’d tried to drown it. Heat rose in her like mercury in the thermometer on a midsummer’s day.

Forgiveness.

“Fine, God!” Paige looked to the heavens and waved the clippers in the air. “I forgive him for cheating on me with St. Simons Island’s most decorated good time girl!” She snapped a thorny limb. “I forgive him for making me the number one prayer request at the church ladies’ circle meetings with a healthy dose of ‘bless her heart’ to disguise their gossip.” Chop!  “I forgive him for exploiting my talents to further his career, insisting I stage houses for mediocre photographers when I should’ve been capturing your creation.”

Snap! She hacked a large branch—a shower of scarlet petals fell to the ground. The roses suffocated her with their pungent perfume.

Forgive Brick.

“Really, God?” Guilt, like a thorn, punctured her heart. “Fine. Brick, I forgive you for spending more time cultivating these ridiculous flowers than you spent nurturing our marriage. I forgive you for never standing up for me to your parents.” With the back of her free hand, she swatted away the traitorous tears rolling over her cheeks. “I forgive you for insisting we name our precious daughter after your over-bearing mother.”

“And Brick,” she raised the shears at the last blushing bloom. “I forgive you for breaking your promises to love and cherish me and most of all, that our life would be wonderful.” Excerpted from Island Love is Stormy by Leslie DeVooght

Wow! That’s not the way my Sunday school teacher taught me to forgive people. But don’t you connect with Paige? Haven’t we all been hurt so badly by someone we loved and trusted that forgiveness seemed impossible? We know we shouldn’t hold a grudge, but sometimes it’s so hard to grant grace.

And really why should we? I mean other than Jesus tells us to. Okay, so that’s a pretty persuasive reason. But what about punishment? What about justice? What about that scoundrel getting his due?

But what if God used that kind of logic with us? Ouch. Don’t worry he doesn’t. His grace is all-encompassing. He pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance. He does not stay angry forever but delights to show mercy. He will always have compassion on us, and he treads our sins underfoot and hurls all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. See Micah 7:18-19 Can I get an Amen?

For me, it’s hardest to forgive people who hurt my children. I want to fight for them. I want the meanie to say he’s sorry. I want them to cry like they made my baby cry. As a matter of fact, sometimes I secretly plot ways to do it. Then I remember that’s not what Jesus wants from me, and I pray for strength to forgive.

Forgiveness requires God. We simply can’t do it with our own power. When we start praying for those that have wronged us, our hearts are softened, and we can let them go. I think these ideas border on controversial in today’s society, but we need to forgive to be free—to be joyful.

Honestly, sometimes I think forgiveness may be a little selfish because of how much it helps me move on. The only one you hurt when you fail to forgive is yourself. It eats at you and controls you, while the offender often has no idea of your bitterness. Meanwhile, you exhaust yourself concocting ways to get even or you alter your life and avoid your friends and family to avoid the person who has wronged you. So while we’re sitting at home wallowing in bitterness, she’s at the party having a great time. Is that the justice we so desperately sought?

Friends, as we start this New Year, let’s take time to forgive. Let’s resolve to forgive even if it’s in a fit of rage—even if you have to forgive the same person every day, ten times a day. We owe it to ourselves, but most of all we owe it to God.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-23

In what circumstances do you find it most difficult to forgive?

 

Rejoice – A Word for 2018

“The angel of the Lord said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people!’” Luke 2:10 (Exclamation point added by me, but don’t you think if there’s a place to put one, it’s here.)

As we move on from Christmas and into the New Year, I’m pausing to reflect on the past and consider the future. Mostly because, as seems to be my habit, I get sick in December, and this year is no exception, so I’m writing this post through a fog of cold medicine and blurry eyes with a persistent runny nose.

But while I pause because I’m not feeling great, I hope you also pause to pray, meditate, and choose  . . . a word. That’s right, one word that you will focus on in the next year. Not a list of new year’s resolutions, just a word. Author Beth Vogt gives this challenge every year, and this year, I’m giving it a go. Although I think I probably do this without knowing it every year. Last year, my word would have been hope or delight, and the year before perseverance. This year my word will be REJOICE. 

With this in mind, being a research nerd and Bible geek, I began looking up verses, and immediately landed in Romans chapter five and knew that God had been preparing me for this word. In my Bible study group, two weeks in a row, I was asked to read these verses. The first week the words caught in my throat and brought tears to my eyes, but the next week I read it with gusto, and now, I think they will be my verses for the year. Here they are:

We Rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:2-5

Even as I type those verses, I see my other words and know that this is the place I want to dwell this year. However, just when I thought I discovered the perfect “rejoice” verse, I received my new Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. Oh, yeah, so excited, I ripped off the plastic and danced to my writing spot. I just knew when I looked up “my verse,” there was going to be this beautiful, inspirational definition in Greek or Hebrew that would bless me with deep meaning. And I would then write the most insightful blog post ever written. It would go viral, and editors would be calling my agent begging to publish my novel. Wow! That would have been fantastic, but it was not to be.

As I read Romans Five in my study Bible, it didn’t even use the word Rejoice. I couldn’t believe it. It said Exalt, but then I remembered what Andi Lee, author of a Mary Like Me, wrote: if different translations use different words than it might mean something, so once again I pulled the cap off my highlighter and searched the cross-references. At this point, I remind you, I’m really not feeling well, so I needed to find something and fast.

And there it was. Halleluiah! (Can’t you hear the angels singing? Or is that the cold medicine?)

Rejoice is a synonym for exalt, but what is really exciting was all of the ways these words work together throughout the Bible. With the words on the page literally swirling, I found something that will keep me studying these words all year. But for now, hear this, rejoice and exult can mean leap for joy. I love that and that is what I want to do every morning, maybe not so much after a long day.

This year I want to learn to rejoice regardless of my circumstances, and although this may seem like a ridiculous goal if you’re not a believer, it is what having the Holy Spirit in you means. Friends, I hope and pray that this year we will rejoice together, and we can leap for joy because we are filled with Holy Spirit.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

May you grab hold of the peace God gives and rejoice.

What word will you focus on this year? Leave your comments below. I’d love to pray with you.

Don’t Miss Christmas by Angel Moore

Merry Christmas Friends! I am so happy to have award-winning and Love Inspired Historical author and my friend, Angel Moore, sharing her thoughts on rejoicing in this season of Jesus and family. I hope her message encourages you to slow down and take time to really be with your loved ones and make special memories. For those of you spending your first Christmas without a family member, I  join you and pray that God comforts us with His peace and fills us with Joy to bring us strength.

Angel Moore fell in love with romance in elementary school when she read the story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Who doesn’t want to escape to a happily-ever-after world? Married to her best friend, she has two wonderful sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and three grands. She writes STORIES OF FAITH & HOPE.
Her next Love Inspired Historical book, Husband by Arrangement, will release in March of 2018. The final release of her Mail Order Brides of River Bend series, Bartering for a Bride, will release before the end of December. Find all the latest news and all of her books at angelmoorebooks.com

 

Please take Angel’s precious words to heart this year. (By the way, just love that Angel is guest blogging for me at Christmas. Like her name, she is a messenger for God.)

In a few days, we’ll be celebrating the birth of Christ with family and friends. Have you finished shopping? And wrapping? And baking? I haven’t even decided what to cook yet, but I have bought my wrapping paper.

Do you even want to talk about the traffic? I almost had to send someone to the repair shop a couple of times last week. I prefer one car to a lane.

Somehow, Christmas becomes a frenzy. And we get wrapped up in the frenzy.

I have to stop and remember the things I value most at this time of year. Decorating the tree with my grands is one of the top things. I bought acrylic and plastic ornaments—and I was the first person to drop one on the floor.

Angel’s Grandchildren

The kids laughed at me and then covered my tree with snowflake ornaments. The snowflakes were chosen to match the snowflake stocking holders I have for each of them. They are all different. I explain to my little ones that they are all beautiful and unique, just like God’s snowflakes.

 

I treasure the time with my church family. We share wonderful services filled with glorious music and messages about the birth of Christ. Then we enjoy fellowship and food together.

My mom comes to see me every Christmas. It’s a time we set aside for each other.

All of these things mean more to me than anything I could unwrap under the tree. These are the eternal things. It’s not about the money we spend or the gifts we give.

It’s about the time we share with each other remembering the birth of Jesus. In Luke, chapter two, the story of the shepherds leaving their work to encounter the newborn Savior, is one of my favorites. They glorified and praised God when they saw Christ. And they told others about Him. Mary treasured and pondered everything that happened. She stored the memories in her heart.

I see the shepherds as people like us. Working people. Serving God and wanting to be in His presence. They dropped everything and went to see Jesus.

Let’s remember to be like Mary, too. To focus on the Savior. Not just at Christmas, but always.

Jesus came to earth to restore us to Him. Having us in the family of God is important to Him.

Having our family together and serving Him is important, too.

I have to remind myself sometimes to slow down and not let the frenzy of the season keep me from the most valuable things.

Don’t Miss Christmas. Spend it with your loved ones honoring the One Who loves us all.

Angel’s next Love Inspired Historical book, Husband by Arrangement, will release in March of 2018.

Gifts of a Changed Perspective

I’m so happy to have my friend Juana Jordan sharing a message this week. During this season of busy days, I pray that we will pause and look around for people who need love. What better gift could we give?

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son,” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” — John 19:26-27

Rev. Juana Jordan is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, where she is currently planting the soon-to-be Bridges UMC in the city, a multi-ethnic intergenerational faith community in the downtown urban core of her hometown. As an elder in full connection of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Jordan holds a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Ga. and a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. She is the former senior pastor of Harris Chapel UMC in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., her very first appointment where she served for 5 years and is passionate about pursuing her passion as a Gospel storyteller, teacher and writer, and believes like the Rev. Dr. Nancy Lane that “telling our stories is a holy work.” When time permits, Rev. Jordan can be found at the local kickboxing gym, dancing to the rhythmic beats of the African drums or thrift store and consignment shopping. Follow Juana on Instagram at preachergirl_in_the_city.

I remember praying I wouldn’t be asked to preach this text for a Good Friday service. Of all the seven last words of Jesus, this was a passage I feared. Not only did it not seem sexy enough (yes, there are passages that are sexy, therefore making them easy to preach), but it didn’t seem to offer kindling to get a good fire started — or so I thought. Besides, how could I relate to this passage. I am not a mother nor a wife. I am a no children having, single, never been married preacher and in no way can I relate to the Jesus/child/parent dynamic — or so I thought. So with hesitation, “fear and trembling” and in obedience I accepted the challenge to deliver a message, only to be surprised at what Jesus revealed. I did in fact understand the feelings that can rise up when the one you depended on being there is no longer there. I did understand the anxiety around the thought of being alone for the rest of your life. I did understand the feelings of not wanting to go on or knowing whether you can go on and how to go on when your life is torn apart. As a single, never been married, no children having woman, I guess I really could understood the absence of a family and the fear of not having one.

Jesus was Mary’s son, yes, and he was also her family. Jesus was John’s friend, yes, and he was also his family. And in a compassionate expression of selfless love, Jesus introduced them and “gave them” to each other so that they would be each other’s family. Jesus handled it, in an unexpected way. He covered their silent fears and concerns of loneliness and aloneness in one fail swoop. He sent the message that bloodlines don’t necessarily bind us. It’s the love lines we have with each other that matter. It was a point he made to the disciples: “And they will know that you belong to me by your love for each other.” (John 13:35) In other words, it is our act of love and acceptance and embracing of each other that speaks the language of family. Jesus’ action is a reminder of what he does for all of us — loves us so fiercely by adopting us into his family and connecting us to others who share his call to love beyond traditions and societal and familial boundaries. He reminds us of what it means to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. He reminds us of what family looks like and what its members do — they care for each other.

In this holiday season, I was reminded of this gift of family through this passage. I was reminded of the many times Jesus has turned me and others over to each other and sealed us as members of the same family. I was reminded, in the moments of loneliness, that I am, in fact, not alone, but a part of many families that stretch from my days in college, my work in the cities I have lived as a journalist and now those given through my vocation as a pastor and preacher.

What a beautiful present in this season of Hallmark commercials, movies and holiday billboards that can sometimes taint our mood, cloud our perspective and leave us feeling as Mary and John — that love is gone and we belong to no one and no one belongs to us. What a beautiful sight, when in those times, Jesus, in his surprising, unexpected way, commands us to look around to see who is among us and who is with us and what we have been given. He invites us to change our perspective. How has Jesus invited you to change your perspective this season? Who are those Jesus has invited you to name and claim as family? Because I am almost certain that in looking into their faces, we see Jesus and are reminded once again, like insurance, He’s got us covered!

A Teachable Spirit Takes Discipline

Do you want to be successful? Of course you do, so what’s the secret? A teachable spirit—because if you are willing to admit your weaknesses, learn from your mistakes, and seek out wise counsel, with God as your guide, you will develop the skills necessary for success.

For at least a year, I’ve been praying for one of my children to have a teachable spirit, a couple of weeks ago as I literally wrestled him into his soccer uniform, I had a revelation. God was going to use me to instill this virtue in this stubborn child. Would someone please tell me why God always works like this? I really would’ve preferred he just transform my son’s attitude, but alas, that is not to be, so if you hear me shouting, please know I am doing the Lord’s work.

Proverbs teaches us the necessity for a teachable spirit. “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5.  “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.” Proverbs 9:9.

Seems pretty simple, but sometimes it is easier said than done. When we have poured our hearts and souls into our works, the critiques feel harsh. I think a teachable spirit requires not only a humble attitude but also thick skin. Let’s face it, it’s hard to listen to your work being picked apart line-by-line or even word-by-word. But we can’t grow as writers or God’s servants if we don’t possess this quality. In all likelihood, we will find that we have to change a lot and work tirelessly. Criticism is hard to accept, but when we allow it to refine our work—our lives, we will be stronger, more effective writers and servants.

It is the secret of the wise and successful. They are constantly seeking instruction from experienced teachers and learned text. Proverbs 2:2-6 teaches us to “turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding.”

God gives us human teachers and earthly resources to improve our writing and our lives. It is up to us to listen and read. We must take this instruction and apply it. An instructor at a writing conference told me about the number of writers that argued with her about her comments. Now, let’s just be clear, this person is an expert in the field from a number of angles, and she was trying to help budding writers. It boggles my mind, why anyone wouldn’t be writing down everything she said and begging for more. What a blessing from God to have this person willing to help and encourage me as a writer.

I know I need a lot of work. My bookshelves are filled to overflowing with writing craft books, Bible studies, and Christian living texts. Usually, I’m reading one from each category plus a novel and several blogs. When friends or family members have problems, they will often receive a book from me. (whether or not they want it) Obviously, seeking God’s guidance from the Bible is a must. It is the greatest instruction, story, poetry book ever written. Craft books and novels help me hone my writing skills. Sometimes I can read the same concept in book after book, but it takes just the right author to turn the light bulb on for me. What an incredible feeling to grasp a concept, and I apply it to my own writing and life—surely, a gift from God.

To me having a teachable spirit, is not only listening to advice, but actively seeking out the best ways to write, live, and serve; praying for God to provide me with wise and experienced mentors; and being grateful for the opportunity to learn something new each day that will improve my writing and my walk with Him.

King David wrote, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches him his way.” Even the powerful Kind David, a man after God’s own heart, knew the value of developing a teachable spirit. Psalm 25:4, 9.

 

In what areas of your life do you need a teachable spirit?