What to Expect in the New Year

Happy New Year!

One of the highlights of Christmas this year also sheds a little light on what I think we can expect from God in the coming year.

It was my son’s gift to his sister.

David loves to give gifts. I’m sure it’s his “language of love.” For Mother’s Day, he bought me a wonderful digital camera. This Christmas, he bought Christine an ipod.

I think what he loves most of all is the look of surprised joy when the recipient opens the present: “You bought this for ME?!”

That’s probably why he wrapped Christine’s ipod in a very special way. Knowing she would immediately guess if he just wrapped the package it came in, he put it in a bigger box. Wrapped it. Then he put that into a very large box and wrapped it (all by himself, I might add).

Yes, she was surprised–and joyful.

I can’t help but think that God likes to Continue reading “What to Expect in the New Year”

Holiday Blessings … and a Christmas Story Audio

lighted christmas tree

I love this season, with all the celebrations that lend meaning to our lives!

So here’s a quick note to wish you a most blessed holiday season:

  • A Hanukkah full of new light that continues to illuminate your world …
  • A Christmas overflowing with the gifts only the Savior can give …
  • A new year blessed with all the things that make your heart sing …

And I invite you to sit back and listen to one of my favorite Christmas stories from my book,  Abundant Gifts. It’s called “The Lord’s Presence Passing By” and I think you’ll like it.

“Hilarious” Giving

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”–2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV

I’ve been told that the proper translation for “cheerful” in this verse is “hilarious.”

I thought of that today as I was paying bills.

It was a task I’d been putting off a couple of days because right now, there seem to be a LOT of expenses. Seems like “education” even for public schools is a bigger and bigger piece of the budget. Not to mention, I now have a child in college (who thankfully did get a major scholarship–provision!).

When I finally knuckled down and wrote the checks, I also wrote one for our church and the ministries we support. I thought about “hilarious giving.”

It seemed to fit.

As in:

“Get ahold of this. I wrote a check for my church, which brought my bank account to zero. So I said,

Continue reading ““Hilarious” Giving”

A Gift Almost Missed (A Lesson in Seeing)

This message has to be both seen and heard, rather than read, to be grasped.

It’s only 4 minutes long. Click, sit back and watch, and I hope it will give you new eyes to see the gifts of today. (I’m not scowling, really–just squinting in the sun. Next time I’ll be more aware of the sun! Still getting this video thing down….)

(Little side note: This was shot 2 days ago, and when I tried to get it on this blog, something happened to the blog. In the process of trying to fix that problem, I contacted a friend. The results of that contact blessed us both, reigniting and deepening our friendship. So the “problem” of my blog being messed up was really a “disguised gift,” resulting in blessing for both of us. Remember: God is good, and at work even in our problems.)

“Abundant Gifts from the Word” Daily Devotionals Now Available

For nearly 2 years now, I have been writing daily devotionals for Today’s Christian Woman’s online site that are delivered via email. They are reportedly their most-opened email newsletter.

I am pleased to make those available to you as well, as “Abundant Gifts from the Word.”

Every day, until you decide to stop it, you can receive a very brief meditation on a Scripture taken from the New Living Translation (NLT).

I can’t tell you how I myself have been blessed in writing these.

Every morning, I pray that God would open my heart to the truths he wants me to see and pass on, open my Bible, read and start writing.

Each meditation is 100 words or less.

People have told me that this is the one email they make sure they read every day. They write and tell me how much a particular message blessed them.

I can honestly say that nothing has blessed me, strengthened me, or given me more joy than God’s Word. My prayer is that you, too, will fall in love with God more through his Word.

Just go to www.abundantgiftsfromtheword.com to read some samples and sign up.

(By the way, there is no charge for these. Freely I’ve been given, freely I give.)

What Do We Really Need to Do to Be Close to God?

I’ve been attending an amazing Bible study taught by a woman in my church, Cathy Deddo, who does “manuscript studies.” That’s where the Bible passages are printed out in manuscript form, no verses delineated, just lines for reference points.

We’re studying the Gospel of John. I would like to share insights from this study here on this blog.

One of the life-transforming truths I’m gleaning from John is the whole idea of abiding (from John 15). “There is only one vine, Jesus, and we can either choose to remain connected to it, or we can cut ourselves off from it. The main thing we need to do as Christians is abide in the vine.”

Recently, I spent time with a friend who, I discovered, follows a “spiritual master” and wakes at 3 a.m. to meditate for 4 hours. “Why?” I asked, amazed.

“Well, you know,” she said. “If you want to be close to God, there are certain things you have to do to get there.”

I said, “Not really. All I think I’m asked to do is abide.”

I believe this is the great Good News of the Christian message. We really do not have to do anything. Religion says you have to follow all these rules. But Jesus said, “Abide in me, the same way you’ve seen me abiding in my Father. You see our relationship, one of complete trust. Now trust me, abide in me, the same way. It’s all about relationship. I am the vine, you are the branches. Just abide in me, and the rest comes naturally, like fruit from a vine that is rooted in good soil.”

One thing abiding means, I’m discovering, is that I don’t have to try to give anything I have not first received from Jesus. Like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, the main thing is to listen first. Martha was all agitated by everything she had to do. Mary first sat and listened, and Jesus said she chose the better way.

Perhaps Mary then got up and helped Martha. Peacefully. Full. Able to give, able to do, because first she listened. First she remained at Jesus’ feet.

Abide. Abide in God’s love. Isn’t that simple? Isn’t it beautiful? Isn’t that freeing?

Handling Fame, Fortune … and Cancer

The Purpose-Driven LifeRick Warren is the author of the wildly popular The Purpose-Driven Life and other books.

His books have brought his fame and fortune, what most people think they want.

But recently, he’s also had to deal with cancer.

Here’s how Rick Warren is dealing with all of his abundant gifts … including, the “gift” he never wanted.  (Excerpted from an interview Rick did with Paul Bradshaw.)

“People ask me, What is the purpose of life?”

And I respond: In a nutshell, life is

Continue reading “Handling Fame, Fortune … and Cancer”

Unanswered Prayer?

Yesterday at my church, the Scripture reading was from Luke 1:5-17.

Something struck me in the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah that I never saw before.

Here’s part of the passage:

When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord.”

A few things struck me. Continue reading “Unanswered Prayer?”

Easter in Autumn

Easter lilyThis past Easter, I bought an Easter lily.  I love Easter lilies. Love the sweet aroma , the strong stem and glossy,  symmetrical leaves.

Every year at Easter our church gives the opportunity to buy a lily plant in honor of someone who has “gone before” as witness to the resurrection. I bought mine in memory of my dad, who two years before he died “became one of those born-agains” he used to scorn (including, of course, me).

I had prayed for him for some 30 years before he came to the Lord.

So,  my Easter lily was special.  Once a year, that sweet aroma that spills out of the trumpet-shaped flower would remind me of  hope.  The hope of Easter–life triumphing over death, fully and finally.

The thing about these plants, though, is I never quite know what to do with it afterward.  This year,  I set the pot in my garden under the pine trees. I watered it occasionally, whenever I watered the other plants in that area.

The other day, I looked a bit more carefully at it when I watered.

The plant that, last time I noticed, was a sickly looking stick with no leaves, was now vibrant. Not only that–but two blooms were ready to burst open!

Three days ago, one did open.  Today the second one opened. The fragrance fills the house. For of course, I brought it inside.

There’s even another small plant started–a baby lily, ready for next year.

Easter in autumn. Fresh hope as we head into winter.

“Winter,” in the form of certain stresses, challenges, and even threats, looms. But …  here are my lilies, spilling their improbable fragrance boldly.

Whatever comes, God is reminding me to hold onto hope.  Easter is ever here … not just in spring.  Easter comes in autumn, too. Hope can bloom anytime, anywhere.