Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sumner County Holiday Sampler

I just found this article from the Sumner County FCE Holiday Sampler I visited in November. What a wonderful group of ladies!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Publisher's Weekly Review

I was tickled to find this Publisher's Weekly review of my latest release, An I Love You Prayer.

Keep an eye out for it--you can't miss the red foil cover!

And let me know what YOU think. . . . 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thank You, God, for Jesus

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You, God, for Jesus,
Your one and only Son.
A Savior sent to save the world!
Yes, Christmas had begun!

Thank You, God, for Jesus,
Your perfect Christmas gift.

When God sent the King of kings, the most Royal of royals, the Savior of the world, He didn't need purple robes, huge palaces, or royal declarations. No, this was not an earthly king, this was a heavenly King, sent to earth, “God with us,” Immanuel.

This King would be announced by angels, signaled by a star, worshiped by the wisest.

The main characters of the Christmas story would all respond to these God signs and this newborn King--the Star of the show--with faith and humility. They recognized and responded to God’s true calling. And as a result, they’re playing a lasting role in God’s miraculous story.

When we, too, respond to the calling of God, He is able to work God signs through us and to further His story here on earth. We, like these characters, are called to obey, serve, spread the news of, follow, and worship this Baby born in Bethlehem: Jesus, the Savior of the world.

The One who would give His life for each and every one of us.

Oh yes, Christmas had begun.

My Christmas prayer for us all is that we hold in our hearts the indescribable joy of the Christmas story, and accept our own roles that we are called to play in God’s miraculous story. A joyous Christmas to you all . . . 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thank You for the Bright Star

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You for the bright star
That shined and led the way,
So wise men found and worshiped Him,
As we still do today.

Thank You for the bright star,
Your precious Christmas gift.

For over two thousand years now, scientists have been trying to explain “the star in the east” of Christmas story fame. But the wise men in the Bible, they needed no explanation.

Their one line says it all: “Where is the baby who was born to be king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east. We came to worship him” (Matthew 2:2 ICB).

These wise men knew exactly what the celestial phenomenon was about, and they set out on a long journey to worship the newborn King. They journeyed all the way to Bethlehem, the star leading the way. When they did find Jesus, under this magnificently bright star, they worshiped Him and presented Him with precious gifts. 

If you’re a Christian who has heard this story countless times, this is just another part of the Christmas story. But to put it in a more modern perspective, imagine Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, and Stephen Hawking (yes, I know, but imagine . . .) dropping everything to go to the Middle East and present an unknown child with precious gifts. It would raise an eyebrow or two, no?

Still, these wise men were so certain of their mission, so certain of the evidence, that they weren’t concerned with what the world thought of their journey. They had one goal: to find this King and express their allegiance to Him.

Thank You for the bright star that these men had the wisdom and faith to follow. It’s no wonder that thousands of years later, we’re still calling them “wise.”

Are you playing the role of a wise man today?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thank You for the Shepherds

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You for the shepherds,
Who heard of Jesus’ birth.
They saw the angels in the sky
Announcing peace on earth!

Thank You for the shepherds,
Your precious Christmas gift.

When we hear the story of the shepherds, there’s that iconic scene: shepherds on a hillside, gazing at angels in the air, who are praising God and announcing peace on earth. What a glorious sight that must have been! Oh, what I would have given to be a shepherd that night!

Today, as I was reading back through the scene in Luke 2, a couple of new things came to light.

One, it’s what the first angel says. Before the multitude arrives, there’s just “an angel.” He tells the shepherds not to be afraid. (Why are we so scared of angels?) And then this: “Today your Savior was born” (verse 11 ICB).

I wonder how differently people would feel about Christmas if an angel came down from heaven, approached each and every one of them personally, and said, “Today YOUR Savior was born.” I bet there would be a whole lot more, “HEY! Did ya hear? It’s Christmas! Today, my Savior was born!”

The second thing that jumped out at me was what happened after the angels left. The shepherds turned to one another and said, “Let us go to Bethlehem” (v. 15). There was no theological debate, no whining about the long walk, no calling the kennel for the sheep. Just, “Let us go.” And they went.

What an amazing gift to the shepherds, to be of the first to hear, “Today your Savior was born.” For those of us who have experienced the joy of hearing those words whispered to our hearts, “Let us go” and worship and always remember the impact of those words.

Just as importantly, there are many among us who have a void where that joy should be. They haven’t yet heard the message that on Christmas Day, a Savior was born for them too. Let’s help out the angels by reminding the world of the joy that came to earth that day.

Hey, did ya hear? YOUR Savior was born! Spread the word!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank You for the Manger

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You for the manger,
A bed made out of hay.
And thank You for the cows and sheep
That shared their food that day!

Thank You for the manger,
Your precious Christmas gift.

The manger is ranked even lower than the donkey in the Christmas story. At least the donkey has the role of  an "extra." The manger is merely a prop, a place to lay the Baby Jesus.

But I’m a firm believer that our God is a God of significance. With Him there are no accidents, no coincidences. And I believe that the manger was chosen to further His message of humility and sacrifice.

First, obviously, the King of Kings wasn’t born in a palace, on a throne, or even wrapped in a royal robe. Nope, God didn't need our earthly concepts of royalty to crown His King. He chose one of the lowliest places—not even a dirt-floored human home, but a stable for animals—as the first home for His Son, the Savior of the world.

Second, Jesus’s very first accommodations relied on the kindness of strangers. There was no room in the inn, but they were allowed to seek shelter in the stable. And there was no bed, but I can just see the cows and sheep patiently standing by as a little baby was placed on top of their fresh food for the night. Perhaps this is our first hint that having Jesus in our lives is going to require a little earthly sacrifice.

So, let's say thank You, even for the little prop of a manger. Thank You, God, for reminding us that Your ways are not our ways. That Your idea of royalty is not the same as ours. And that in your kingdom, the least can and will become the greatest. Thank You for the knowledge that when we sacrifice our earthly comforts, our heavenly rewards are far greater that we could ever imagine.

Who is a “least of these” that you may have overlooked? What can you sacrifice, what can you give, in Jesus’s name today?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thank You for the Donkey

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season. . . .

Thank You for the donkey
That helped them all to leave
And got Mary to Bethlehem
In time for Christmas Eve!

Thank You for the donkey,
Your precious Christmas gift.

“Thank You for the donkey.” That always gets a giggle out of the kids.

I’ll ask them, “How many of you have a donkey on your Christmas list?” There’s always one who raises his hand. (And I’m saying “his” because it’s usually a boy with a wry grin.) I then ask them, “How many of you have ever said thank you for the donkey?”

That gets a lot of funny looks. I mean, why would you? He’s just an extra in the Christmas story. Donkeys, in general, are an awkward version of the majestic horse. They have huge, bucked teeth, and they even make a ridiculous sound. Hee-haw!

But for some reason, God chose the donkey as the star of several biblical stories. A donkey spoke to His prophet, Balaam. A donkey carried Jesus into Jerusalem on that fateful Palm Sunday. And a donkey carried God’s unborn Son and Mary all the way to Bethlehem.

Can you imagine if a very pregnant Mary had to walk all the way to Bethlehem? (I’m guessing Christmas would have come a couple of days earlier. . . .)

The donkey is our sweet, unsung, unsuspecting hero. It humbly carries its load without complaint and without thanks.

And that’s all the more reason to say, “Thank You for the donkey.”

I know Mary did.

What unsung heroes should you thank God for today?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thank You, God, for Joseph

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You, God, for Joseph,
Who trusted Your good plan.
He took Mary to be his wife.
He was a faithful man.

Thank You, God, for Joseph,
Your precious Christmas gift.

“He was a faithful man.” That’s quite the understatement, isn’t it? 

We know that Joseph is a good guy even before Gabriel visits him. Mary, the woman Joseph is engaged to is [My six-year-old is reading over my shoulder. How do I explain?] going to have a baby, but they’re not even married yet. Of course, we know Mary didn't do anything wrong. She did everything right. It’s God’s baby. [Six-year-old interjection: “Mo-om, all of us are God’s babies!”] But Joseph, not yet privy to this information, decides to divorce Mary quietly.

Matthew even hints that Joseph is only divorcing her in order to follow the law. Still, he must have been hurt, must have felt betrayed, must have thought all of his life’s plans were ruined. Yet he doesn't want to embarrass Mary with a public divorce. He still chooses to put Mary’s feelings first.

Sounds like the perfect man for the job.

God has known the quality of Joseph’s character all along. In fact, God has been planning this whole thing for a long, long time. The prophet Isaiah foretold hundreds of years earlier that Jesus would come from David’s line, and guess what? Yup, Matthew 1 tells us that Joseph is twenty-eight generations after King David, who is fourteen generations after Abraham.

So it’s no huge surprise, when an angel speaks to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take Mary to be his wife, that Joseph obeys. God had planned it all along.

He knew that Joseph, like Mary, would sacrifice his own personal plans for God’s omnipotent, perfect plan.

Would God know the same about you? What plans are you holding onto, despite God’s calling in another direction? Be a “faithful man” today.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thank You, God, for Mary

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . .

Thank You, God, for Mary.
She let faith lead the way:
“I am His servant girl,” she said.
“Let it be as you say.”

Thank You, God, for Mary,
Your precious Christmas gift.

Mary is probably the second most-celebrated star of the Christmas story. And it’s no wonder.

One night an angel shows up and tells her that she’s going to have God’s Son. And Mary agrees. There are so many elements to this that blow my mind . . . and make me want to be more like Mary.

We don’t know exactly how long it took for Mary to make up her mind, but by all accounts it seems to be a done deal in that one visit from Gabriel. It's a carelessly quick decision, considering the gravity of God’s proposition to Mary, wouldn't you think? She’s young. She’s not married. And she’s engaged to Joseph.

Consider the fear of being a first-time mother. Consider the unknown with such a mysterious conception. Consider her options as an unmarried mother in her society. Consider the glares of a less-than-understanding community when she turns up pregnant by someone other than Joseph. Surely Mary’s mind flashed with these scenarios.

And maybe when Gabriel said, “Don’t fear,” he sensed this. He wasn't just talking about the present moment. He knew that her fears grew far beyond a shiny stranger invading her home.

Still, Mary does not falter. We all know the young girl's humble yet amazingly faithful response: “I’m God’s servant. I’ll do whatever He says." (See Luke 1:38.)

She didn't say, “Let me think about it,” “Let me sleep on it,” or even, “Let me pray about it.” She doesn't give excuses, and she had plenty: “I’m too young,” “I’m already engaged,” “I could never explain this to my parents.”

But Mary’s young heart is sure. She immediately recognizes the pure calling of God and. Just. Says. Yes.

How could you be more like Mary today? How would it change your life? How would it change the world?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thank You, God, for Gabriel

In anticipation of Christmas, I'm revisiting a series of guest posts that I wrote last year for Tommy Nelson. Our family wishes yours a very blessed Christmas season . . . 

Thank You, God, for Gabriel,
Who brought news of great joy.
He said to Mary, “God chose you
To have His baby boy.”

Thank You, God, for Gabriel,
Your precious Christmas gift.
                            A Christmas Prayer

While we could point to many beginnings of the Christmas story, Gabriel’s announcement to Mary sets it all in motion. 

This one scene amazes me.

Imagine yourself as a teenager, when an angel visits. An angel visits. Don’t gloss over that phrase. Imagine a glowing man standing right there in your bedroom, illuminating the room and everything in it, telling you that God has chosen you to bring a Savior—His Son, no less—into the world.

Of course, we know him as Gabriel, but we don’t know if Mary even knows his name. From the looks of things, it’s pretty safe to say that she doesn’t.

She apparently reacts to God’s messenger as we would have. Gabriel’s next words are, “Don’t be afraid.” I’m not sure that a shiny, unexpected visitor telling me not to be afraid would make me any less afraid. But he tries. And we get a clear glimpse of Mary’s emotions at that moment.

The story would come across much differently if Mary had said, “Oh, hey, Gabe. Got any God messages for me?” But Mary is clearly no more familiar with daily angelic encounters than we are. She’s just an ordinary girl with an extraordinary visitor.

Gabriel continues: “God likes you. He’s found favor with you.” How would you react to, “God thinks you’re a good person”? Especially when it’s an angel speaking to a teenager! I’m not sure that I’d understand why God liked me, but I’d want to hear more. Wouldn’t you?

Still, a million questions must be blazing through Mary’s mind at this point. “Is he for real? How’d he get in here? What will my mother say? What will Joseph think?”

How will Mary respond? How would you?