Thursday, December 28, 2017

Survival Kit for 2018

With all the dire predictions for 2018 in the news, I thought you might need a survival kit for the new year. It is not original with me. Someone gave me one, and I thought it might encourage you as it did me.

The gift bag contained a toothpick, a rubber band, a band-aid, a pencil, an eraser, chewing gum, a mint, candy kisses, and a tea bag with the following instructions:

1. Toothpick--to remind you to pick out the good qualities in others. "Judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1).

2. Rubber band--to remind you to be flexible. Things might
not always go the way you want, but it will work out. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

3. Band-Aid--to remind you to heal hurt feelings, yours and someone else's. "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:12-14).

4. Pencil--to remind you to list your blessings everyday. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

5. Eraser--to remind you that everyone makes mistakes, and it's okay! Just as Joseph, who forgave his brothers who sold him into slavery, said, "'You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.' ...And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them" (Genesis 50:15-21).

6. Chewing gum--to remind you to stick with it, and you can accomplish anything with Jesus! "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13).

7. Mint--to remind you  that you are worth a mint to your Heavenly Father. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:16, 17).

8. Candy kisses--to remind you that everyone needs a kiss or a hug everyday. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7).

9. Tea bag--to remind you to relax daily and go over that list of God's blessings. "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Wishing you a healthy and blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

When God Became Small

My handpainted creche
One Christmas when I was editorial assistant on a Christian youth magazine, we printed a centerfold poster of hands holding up a tiny newborn baby--squalling, eyes squeezed shut, and still covered with the evidences of birth. Across the poster blazed the headline, "GOD WITH US!"

Not the picture we usually conjure up amid the tinsel and glitter of our Christmas celebrations. And we were criticized for that poster.

We usually think of the birth of Jesus as it is depicted in the art of the masters with a halo above His head, beautiful robes on His mother and Joseph, and happy animals gazing on the scene. We set up our magnificent manger scenes that glamorize His birth.

While I appreciate all the lovely art and I too set up a creche I handpainted years ago, they tend to cause us to forget the stark reality of the birth of the Son of God in a cave strewn with hay, His cradle a manger, because there was no room for Him anywhere else.

We so easily forget the blood, sweat, and tears that brought Him into the world. We need to linger at the manger in Bethlehem to truly know how poor He became for us.

In Philippians 2:7, the Apostle Paul paints a word picture of the self-emptying of Jesus, Creator of the universe, at whose words everything came into being. He...

He emptied Himself of His supreme power, majesty, and authority, His favored position, His good reputation to become a servant of all.

We know Christ's ultimate destiny, the reason for which He was born, was Calvary. Without the Cross, the Christmas story is incomplete. He came to die for us so that we may be reconciled to God and have eternal life.

Yet, we need to stay awhile at the manger, for it was here that God actually became a tiny, vulnerable, dependent baby, that He might experience the human condition and minister to us in our weakness.

It was at the manger that God, for our sakes, became small.

"Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!" And find in Him strength and comfort in your human weakness and salvation for your soul.

May you have a blessed Christmas!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Peace on Earth?

So many of our Christmas carols herald peace on earth, just as the angels did that first Christmas, yet this year the news has been full of tragedy, terrorism, dire threats, and predictions of war. Devastating hurricanes, floods, and fires have destroyed large portions of several states and territories. Scandals and controversies have shredded the very fabric of our beloved America. Certainly not the recipe for peace!


The lyrics of one Christmas carol are particularly poignant in the light of such strife: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

The third verse strikes a cynical tone:

And in despair I bowed my head:

 "There is no peace on earth," I said.

For hate is strong and mocks the song

 of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Why was Longfellow feeling so bleak that Christmas when he wrote that carol?

His journal tells that in 1863, when he penned that poem, peace on earth was only a dream. The Civil War, a war that pitted brother against brother, had torn apart almost every American family with horror and despair.

In fact, the day the poet heard the Christmas bells that year, he also received the heart-wrenching news that his son, a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac, had been seriously wounded in battle. As the bells chimed "peace on earth," Longfellow's son lay dying, the result of men's hatred. 

Longfellow struggled with the conflicting messages. But the bells kept ringing and ringing.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The wrong shall fail; the right prevail,

with peace on earth, goodwill to men.

As Longfellow wrote those words, it was as if God, who also lost His Son to man's hatred, said, "Hate is strong, but I am stronger. Rest in Me. Peace will come." And he found peace.

Perhaps you are struggling with peace this Christmas season. You too can find comfort in the promise of Jesus in John 16:33, 


Yes, in this world we will have trouble and tribulation. But God promises to be with us in our struggles. That is the message of Christmas: Jesus is called Immanuel--God with us! And one day, Jesus will return to set everything right.

My Alaskan Waters Trilogy is complete. See

Thursday, December 7, 2017

How to Straighten Out the World

A small boy, filled with all kinds of playful ideas, anxiously awaited his father's return from work. An extra-long day at the office, however, had taken its toll, and the father longed desperately for just a few minutes of relaxation. Over and over again, the boy tugged at his dad's leg with yet another suggestion of something they might do together.

Finally, in total frustration,the father ripped from a magazine a picture of the world and tore it into a hundred pieces. "Here," he said, handing the child a roll of scotch tape, "go put the world back together."

Peace at last, or so he thought. In just a few minutes he was interrupted again. There before him stood his son, holding in his hands a crudely fashioned picture of the world.

"Son, that's incredible! How did you ever do it?"

"It was easy," said the boy. "You see, on the other side of the picture of the world was a picture of a man. As soon as I got the man straightened out, the world was okay too."

Such wisdom out of the mouth of a child!

Over and over in the Old Testament, we read that when God wanted to solve a problem, he sent a man. But the fix was never lasting.

Our Heavenly Father looked down from heaven and saw a broken world--a world that had been shattered into a million pieces by the deadly hammer of sin. But God loved that world. He demonstrated His love in the form of a tiny Baby who would grow up and give His life on the cross to make it possible for us to straighten out. That's the message of Christmas.

"They will call him Immanuel--which means, "God with us"--God in human flesh accomplishing what no other human being can do for us--straightening us out and reconciling us to God.

Now, we are able to help solve this world's problems by sharing the Good News. And when He comes again, He'll make the world all new again too.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!