final_advent_cover4.jpgSo [the shepherds] hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word . . . and all who heard it were amazed . . . . The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:16-18, 20 (NIV)

The shepherds were no doubt hard workers, but they were nowhere close to the top rung of society in Jesus’ day. Yet, they received their own personal invitation, from angels no less, to go see the Christ child. Scripture does not tell us what expectations the shepherds had, but they were clearly not disappointed because they left glorifying and praising God. After all, can you envision the shepherds’ delight at finding the Christ child exactly as the angels had described?

When I think back over past Christmases, my joy appears to be tied to the expectations that I had. For instance, as a child, I enjoyed Christmas if Santa delivered the gift that I had requested on my wish list. Amazingly, my Santa, a single mom on a tight budget, always came through–even when the gift was a Swatch watch that required her to travel to a city over an hour away. (more…)



. . Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect . . . . 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)

Truthfully, I felt a bit hopeless when called upon to write a devotional about “hope.” The word looks small, but the task of explaining it seems enormous. So I’ll resort to what writers do when they can’t fully explain something with a succinct answer: I’ll tell stories.

When I was six years old, I woke up in the middle of one night and found my dad on the couch getting a shot from our pastor’s wife who was a nurse. Shortly thereafter, an ambulance arrived and took my dad to the local hospital. I didn’t understand the magnitude of what was happening then, and neither did anybody else. (more…)


This is what the Lord says:
Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good
way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ . . .

(Jeremiah 6:16, NIV)

During the busy holiday season, I crave rest more than any other time of the year. And despite what I know God’s Word says about how to get rest, I have often taken matters into my own hands. I’ve tried to force rest, and I’ve even tried to buy it.

For instance, I will carve out an hour or so for a nap. I make sure the ringers on the phone and cell phone are turned off, and I lie down for a blissful, uninterrupted nap, only to be awakened by the barking dog next door or the doorbell. Or, I will try to schedule a massage or a weekend getaway, only to realize that the stress of aligning all the details outweighs the benefit of any temporary rest that I might receive. Even though these are well-intentioned attempts to rest, they still might not produce true rest. (more…)

prepare.jpgBut the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.’ Luke 1:30-31 (NIV)

She had received word that she would become pregnant. News that she could hardly believe. After all, she was a virgin! But this news had come from an angel, so there could be no doubting it. Yet, she and her fiancé had not planned this pregnancy. So how in the world would she prepare for a baby?

She and Joseph would have to make the seventy-mile journey to be counted in the census, so there would be no time or place to set up a nursery. Thank goodness the angel had already given her the baby’s name; she could cross that off her “to do” list. But there were lots of things that she wanted to do to prepare for parenthood. How would she ever be ready for a baby, much less the Savior of the world? (more…)

Within the past few years, I’ve heard numerous sermons defining “neighbor” in the “love your neighbor” commandment.  These recent sermons have taken my close-to-home definition and expanded it to a global level, which is a definition I’d rather not have known.

Not that I was doing a great job of loving my neighbors in the apartments around mine (or now the houses around mine), but the commandment, with its new definition, ignited fear within me.  To be terrified of flying and to think that I now needed to somehow force myself to go to Africa to fulfill this commandment made me feel like a failure.  A role I’m not comfortable with.

I also strapped on to this new “neighbor” definition a requirement, in my mind, that I needed to build houses or somehow meet my neighbors’ physical needs in order to love them well.  Not being even the slightest bit skilled in carpentry or masonry, I again felt like a failure, knowing that there was no way I could build houses for these people out of anything more than Legos (and even that may be stretching it).

So to rid myself of those self-defeating thoughts, I went back to what I know:  I know how to listen well. 

On numerous occasions, I’ve been sought out by people I’ve barely met so that they could share their deepest, darkest secrets with me.  I guess I come across as a “safe” person.  And I’ve tried to use this in my job to help people feel like they’ve been heard.  Like what they say matters, even if in the end it doesn’t change their overall situation.

How many people walk around frustrated because they don’t feel heard?  I think the millions of blogs in cyberspace give us an indication that the number is tremendous.  People want their voice to be heard, even if it’s just a random person stopping by to read what’s on their minds.  

Just as Michelle mentioned, I’ve got to get to know people before I can love them well.  For me, I think listening is the first step.  I need to be willing to pay attention to those who aren’t given the time of day.  I need to be willing to stop what I’m doing and lend an ear, even when no one else wants to.  Especially when no one else wants to.

Maybe this is very elementary, but I think that one way I can love my neighbor is by listening.  Now it’s just a matter of being intentional about it.

Being a Type A personality, I realize that I have a few control issues.  I’ve come to grips with that and have been trying to see how that plays out in different areas of my life. 

With regard to my writing, I thought my control issues were related to constant editing–a desire to have sentences properly constructed and punctuated.  And then I came across this on p.161 in Writing Down the Bones Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg:

Some people are afraid of space and so fill every nook and cranny.  It is analogous to  our mind’s fear of emptiness, so the mind constantly stirs up thoughts and dramas.  But I think it is different with a writing space.  A little apparent disorder is an indication of the fertility of the mind and someone that is actively creating.  A perfect [writing] studio has always told me that the person is afraid of his own mind and is reflecting in his outward space an inward need for control.  Creativity is just the opposite:  it is a loss of control. 

Well, no wonder I often struggle with coming up with something creative!  My writing space could have its picture beside the word “organized” in the dictionary.  It is the antithesis of “loss of control,” and thus creativity. 

I feel better (more in control) when things are organized and had thought that this would allow my brain to concentrate on writing.  But maybe a splash of color or putting some objects other than books and a computer on my writing desk would fuel some creativity. 

What does your writing space say about you?  What have you done to make it a place where creativity ignites?

Last week, I took my computer in to get fixed because it had been acting a little funny.  With the one-year warranty date rapidly approaching, I figured the computer just needed a little tweaking.  Like a car needing a tune-up.  Little did I know that the diagnostics that the computer geniuses would run would cause the computer to comletely crash.  Only after I heard that my computer had died did I realize that I hadn’t been routinely backing up my documents.  For MONTHS.

Thankfully, one of the computer geniuses revived my computer briefly.  Long enough to allow me to back up all of my pictures and documents.  I was so thankful not to have lost the past year’s worth of writing.

That experience has made me think about how I can get into a habit of backing up my documents on a more regular basis.  I can write myself a note and stick it to my computer screen as a reminder, but I was wondering if any of you have fun tips for remembering this important, but often overlooked, part of the writing process.

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