“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32

It’s that time of year when my wallet spends more time outside my purse than snapped shut in it. In fact, I think I am currently in the box-of -the day-club with most of the delivery service vans in our area. It’s Christmas. I’ve saved for this, but every year I am amazed at how much this season really costs. Gifts are not my love language, but I love giving good gifts to my family and friends. I love decorating my house and filling it with the fragrance of freshly baked Christmas goodies. I love festive lunches and shopping excursions ending with dinner somewhere. I love holiday movies with friends, including popcorn and candy. All of this is outside my normal budget, not just my monetary budget but my time and energy budget as well. But it’s Christmas, and Christmas is costly.

Much is written and sung this time of year about the gift of Jesus that first Christmas night in the humble city of Bethlehem. God’s priceless gift of His only Son.  I wonder if Mary and Joseph had any idea of just how costly that first Christmas would be. I doubt they even stopped to calculate the cost to themselves before yielding fully to LORD. In fact, Mary’s instant response to the angel Gabriel who delivered God’s message to her was, “May it be to me as you have said,” no strings attached, no cost considered. It took a little longer for Joseph, who thought about potential costs for a short time, but immediately after his angelic appearance in a dream, he “woke up and did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home to be his wife.” Their obedience was costly.

It wasn’t long before the costs of their decision began mounting up. Misunderstood, perhaps ostracized, pelted with jeers and mockery, they nonetheless obeyed. Mary shunned, left to deal with the changes of advancing pregnancy without the advice and comfort of family, Joseph’s dwindling income as other carpenters were given work instead of him, this chosen couple endured in stoic silence depending solely on each other and the faithful God whom they knew had called them. Their calling was costly.

Then came the census. Late in Mary’s pregnancy they were forced to leave their home in Nazareth and travel over 70 miles to Bethlehem to be registered by decree of Caesar Augustus. Most of the village who traveled to the towns of their lineage went in groups, sharing the cost, sharing the journey. But Mary and Joseph, who both belonged to the house and line of David, went to Bethlehem alone. There were many others on the road with them, but rumors of their shame covered them like the fine dust of the desert road, and no one wanted to associate with them. Their donkey was old and laden with their meager supplies, and they were not able to travel fast due to Mary’s condition. Walking beside Joseph for part of the time, or riding the donkey while Joseph carried their belongings, both fell into exhausted and fitful sleep on the rocky ground each night. Their journey was costly.

There was no room for them in the inn, only a shepherd’s stable was available when they finally trudged into Bethlehem, tired and dirty. Together they made the cave has habitable as they could because it was clear that the time had come, and Mary would give birth there. Far from home and alone, in a cold and dark cave, this teenage virgin and her husband delivered God’s most costly gift to the world. Jesus, laid in a manger used as a feeding trough for animals, swaddled in the cloths used to wrap up the sacrificial newborn lambs raised in the nearby fields, attended only by the very shepherds that cared for those lambs – Christmas came, and it was costly.

This Jesus, God’s Son, left His throne in heaven for the feeding trough of sheep. The Creator of the universe took on the flesh of His creation and became a newborn baby who would draw sustenance from the young girl who carried Him in her body for 9 months. He who was All-Knowing and All-Powerful, learned to crawl and walk, possibly in the wood shavings of a carpenter’s shop. The Word of God learned to talk as his faithful earthly parents recited His beautiful Torah to Him. He played with other children, celebrated the Passover and other feast days, and reasoned with the rabbis in His Father’s House. He was obedient to his parents and “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men”. Jesus’s submission was costly.

Then, after 30 years, when the time had fully come, He left Nazareth and was baptized in the River Jordan. “Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” With those dear words, He began His ministry undergoing temptation in the wilderness from the devil. He was rejected in His hometown, had no place to dwell, and went from place to place, accompanied by 12 disciples chosen by prayer, to proclaim “the year of the Lord’s favor.” He healed diseases, gave sight to the blind, released the oppressed. He spoke in parables, walked on water, fed the multitudes with five loaves of bread and two small fish. He raised Lazarus from the dead, restored life to the widow’s son, overthrew the tables of the money changers in the Temple of Jerusalem, and did so many other things that all the books in the world could not hold them. His ministry was costly.

Three years later, he was arrested, tried, and hung on a cross between two thieves. The perfect, unblemished, Lamb of God, born in a stable for sacrificial lambs, was sacrificed to pay the price for the sin of all mankind. Sacrificed to pay the price for my sin, to redeem me from the slave block of sin and death, and to grant me life eternal with Him. And at that moment, God turned His face away from His Son. His sacrifice unfathomably costly.

Like Mary and Joseph, I seldom stop to count the cost of Christmas. I give gifts of love with time and energy and money. My calendar is filled with dates and calculations to make sure nothing is forgotten, and I don’t overspend. Amid this joyful planning, God reminded me this year of just how costly Christmas is. It is a cost I cannot fully comprehend this side of Glory, a price I could never pay for the Precious Gift I don’t deserve. The gift is Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger; the gift is Jesus 33 years later wrapped in burial cloths and laid in a borrowed tomb; the eternal gift received of my salvation because there is an empty manger and an empty tomb, and Jesus, having conquered death, is now seated at the right hand of the Father. This gift is priceless.

I don’t want to forget, it is Christmas! And Christmas is costly!

Oh Father, let me never forget what Christmas cost You. Fill my heart with gratitude this Christmas and let me respond in obedience to Your Word, sharing the Good News of Christmas willingly, boldly, and without concern for whatever it might cost me. May the reality of Christmas permeate my being with trust and confidence in Your truth, knowing all Your promises are “YES” in Christ Jesus. Let me give freely from the bounty You have given me. Thank You that You did not spare Your only Son but gave Him up for me.  Let me celebrate first this year with worship and praise, not just with wassail and gifts, for what else could I ever desire but You?

Amen ©


This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:18

His mind was a jumble. Nothing made sense. He retreated to his workshop with the empty expectation of finding clarity and even solace. The smell of sawdust, once the scent of hope, now assaulted his nostrils with disappointment. The wood was rough beneath his hands, the chisel stubborn. Before he knew what had happened, the chair leg he had been fashioning was little more than kindling for the fire. He had been hard at work building the furniture for his own home, preparing the special place where he would bring his wife Mary. Now he wondered if there was any point in continuing.

He had been so certain of God’s purpose when he first pledged to wed Mary. She was a descendant from the line of David as he was. Humble and devout, skilled in the arts of homemaking, and more beautiful than words could describe, she had all the qualities of a wife of noble character that Solomon extolled in his proverbs.  Her virtue was unblemished, or so he thought. Mary left Nazareth suddenly over three months ago, without any message left for him. He later learned from travelers passing through that she was staying with an aunt who was much too old to have children but who was pregnant, nonetheless. That was hard enough to comprehend, but he couldn’t wrap his mind around what his eyes had seen, and his ears had heard earlier that day . Mary was home and came to see him immediately after her return. She was obviously pregnant, and she was calmly radiant as she affirmed her virginity in spite of her condition!

He had been too stunned to say anything, mute with shock and dismay. The minutes of his silence might have been hours, but finally he summoned enough strength to tell Mary they would talk later. She smiled shyly and confidently, and left him reeling. Incredulous and fearful, he thought the order of his workshop would provide some clarity, but he knew now that wasn’t going to happen. The sun was setting as he closed the door and wandered up into the hills, Psalm 121 resonating like a mantra through his mind. “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” The only thing he knew for certain was that only God could make sense of this waking nightmare for him.

Much later, with only the stars to light his way, he crept home to his bed. He was still perplexed and confused, but he knew that he would not expose Mary to any public disgrace. Legally he could bring her before the elders for punishment, possibly even stoning to death, but Joseph was a man of mercy. He simply could not do this. And yet, he was fearful to simply take her as his wife. Her shame could extend to him, to his parents. He had only his carpentry to provide a living, and if her guilt was laid on him, they would be left destitute. After hours of thought, his mind was convinced that he would quietly divorce her, she could go away again, and no one would ever be the wiser. He fell into the exhausted sleep of the heavy hearted with the words of the Psalm still running through his mind: “He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you . . .”

God was not finished with Joseph. He was watching over him. God chose Mary and He chose Joseph. His plan did not involve a quiet dismissal by a perplexed and fearful carpenter. And so, just as God sent an angel to appear to Mary, He sent an angel to appear to Joseph in his dream. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. . . All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, God with us.”

Joseph, descendent of King David from whom the promised Messiah would come, heard the Word of the LORD, and obeyed without question. Waking from that dream Joseph was filled with the same clarity and calm determination he had seen in Mary. Washing and dressing quickly, he immediately went and brought Mary home to be his wife. Consummating this marriage would have to wait, but Joseph joyfully embraced this beautiful woman and returned to his carpenter’s shop to fashion the most perfect cradle he could imagine. From perplexity to purpose, all fear left as together, Joseph and Mary gave glory to God each day and prepared for the birth of a Son, whom Joseph would name Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.

Joseph’s perplexity has left me asking some questions of my own life:

  1. Where do I look for answers when life doesn’t make sense anymore?
  2. How will I respond to the truth of God’s Word even when what He asks of me is scary?
  3. In what ways am I preparing to welcome Jesus this Christmas?
  4. What has God called me to do?

Father, thank you for allowing perplexities to drive me to You. Thank You for the truth of Your Word that brings clarity and purpose to the most perplexing circumstances in my life. Help me to be like Joseph and to lift up my eyes to the hills knowing that my help comes from You, the Maker of heaven and earth, and to respond in obedience to Your call. Thank You for watching over my life, my coming and my going, both now and forevermore!



“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” Isaiah 52:7

I always smile when I read Psalm 71:18. I turned grey (or “pewter” as one of my sons-in-love is fond of saying) when I was in my early 40’s, long before I considered myself “old.” I did, however, intentionally decide to embrace the beauty of aging gracefully, and with a cute haircut and some lipstick I tossed my “pewter” head and celebrated. Today I continue to declare the beauty in each passing year, although the “pewter” is more a silvery white now, and I still don’t feel “old.” Each hair on my head, each line in my face is a testimony to God’s faithfulness in my life, day by day and year by year. He has never forsaken me, and He never will, and that is always something to declare joyfully.

One of the advantages of aging is the privilege of sharing our faith stories with the younger generations, and Christmas is a perfect opportunity to do that. We have a tradition in our family of reading the Christmas story from Luke 2 on Christmas morning before a single present is opened. I have pictures of my daughters gathered around their Daddy, everyone in their jammies, with his Bible open. As our daughters established homes of their own, the yearly picture included grandchildren, still in their jammies, sitting on his lap or clustered around his feet. From year to year the expressions of rapt attention never varied as he read the beautiful message of the birth of Jesus Christ and then opened our festivities with prayer. The last Christmas he celebrated with us on earth, my husband’s brain tumor had significantly impacted his ability to recognize words, but still he was determined to read these treasured verses. Our oldest granddaughter snuggled next to him and helped him with the words he stumbled over. But oh, when he prayed, not only that day but throughout the progression of his disease, he never missed a word, he never stumbled or faltered. His speech was clear and strong and beautiful each time he communicated with His Savior.

When I read Isaiah 52:7 this morning, I immediately thought of my husband. The annual picture of him with his Bible open on his lap and children of all ages gathered around him on Christmas morning is a treasure to all of us. Each one is a defining portrait of his life. In small ways and big ways, my husband loved to declare the power and goodness of Jesus, and nothing made him happier than seeing the generations in our family come to personal faith in Christ. Sharing stories of God’s faithfulness in his life, through hard times and good time, he encouraged his daughters and his grandchildren to keep walking with Jesus. As he read the Christmas story each year, he brought Good News and proclaimed tidings of Great Joy to our home and our family.

This year will be his third year to celebrate Christmas in heaven. His joy is complete, his hope a reality, and he will be declaring with all the angelic choir, “Our God reigns!” We will gather again as a family Christmas morning, and the Christmas story from Luke 2 will be read to five generations in their jammies before a single present is opened. And we will remember with thanksgiving those who have gone before who faithfully declared God’s power and salvation to us. We will give glory to God in the Highest, knowing by faith, as my husband now knows by sight, that Christmas is heaven’s declaration that our God reigns, now and forever and ever! Amen!

Father, make us mindful of the blessings and responsibilities of each passing year in our lives. Help us faithfully make known to the next generation and those that follow Your faithfulness and Your goodness. Help us boldly proclaim peace, good tidings, and salvation. Make our feet beautiful on Your mountain, Lord, and let this Christmas be marked for Your glory in our lives and in our homes. ©


“As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” Luke 1:44             

Elizabeth was overjoyed! When she woke this morning, she recognized that her pregnancy could not be hidden and would now be evident to everyone. She had been in seclusion for five long months, wanting to hold this miracle close to her heart and not wanting the ridicule of mocking women to mar her joy. The unkindness and snide remarks about her barrenness should have rendered her immune to any further taunts, but she knew no one would believe she was pregnant. She and Zechariah were past the time of life when that could be a reality, and the jeers would have targeted her mental stability as another point of shame and disgrace.

But today, all that would end! Elizabeth placed her hand tenderly on her slightly swollen abdomen and smiled. She paused to remember that day, over six months ago, when Zechariah came home from his duties at the temple, pale, hardly able to stand, and unable to speak at all. With trembling hands and tears pouring down his cheeks, he pulled out the writing tablet and with signs and words he described his encounter with the angel of Lord. She was grateful to be able to read and understand the words Zechariah wrote, thankful for all the nights he had spent teaching her to read the scriptures. Dumbfounded and in awe, she could scarcely take it in. Her barren shame was to end, and they were to have a son whom they would call John and who would be used of the Lord.

Elizabeth never doubted the promise given to Zechariah and was, therefore, not surprised when she realized she was pregnant. As Zechariah remained mute, she treasured the promises from this vision just as she treasured everything about her pregnancy, even the morning sickness she suffered through in the early months. She could hardly wait now to go to the marketplace when her pregnancy would surely be recognized with surprise by the meddlesome women. In fact, she realized suddenly, she didn’t care what they would say anymore. The Lord had done this for her, shown her His favor and taken away her disgrace. That was all that mattered.

Opening her door that sun-filled morning, Elizabeth noticed a small group of people making their way up the hill towards her home. Shielding her eyes, she let out a cry of delight when she recognized her young cousin Mary leading the way. She hadn’t seen anyone from her family in such a long time, most of them living in the region of Galilee, which was almost 80 miles from the hill country of Judea where she and Zechariah lived. None of them even knew she was pregnant, and she couldn’t imagine why Mary had come and why she was alone, for it was quickly evident that the others with her were continuing on their way after seeing Mary up the steep hill.

As Mary entered her home, Elizabeth’s greeting was interrupted, and all her questions were answered in an instant. For as Mary quietly spoke Elizabeth’s name, the baby in her womb leaped. This was not the fluttering and poking she was becoming accustomed to, but a sudden and enthusiastic jumping, as if in joyful recognition. Then, in a loud voice she hardly recognized as her own, Elizabeth proclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” Then, breathless with wonder, the women tearfully collapsed in each other’s arms.

The marketplace was forgotten that day as Mary poured out the news of her encounter with the angel Gabriel and her subsequent immaculate conception, and Elizabeth shared her own miraculous story. Both women were overwhelmed with praise to God for His mercy and His grace. If anyone could understand the birth announcement given by an angel, it was Elizabeth and Mary. If anyone could understand the power of God to give “life to the dead and call things that are not as though they were,” (Romans 4:17b) it was Elizabeth and Mary. If anyone could recognize, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the presence of the Living Lord, it was Mary and Elizabeth and her unborn son, John.

Like pregnant women everywhere, Elizabeth and Mary could not stop talking, sharing every moment with hearts of grateful joy. For the next three months, the bond these women shared was forged in worship and exaltation. Their hearts were bound forever in recognition of the Savior, the promised Messiah, and the one who would go before Him to prepare His way. For these two women, the impossible was reality, their blessing incomprehensible, their praise magnificent, their recognition complete.

Jesus, thank You for always making Yourself known in this dark and dying world. Help me to recognize You at work around me and respond in obedient and joyful praise. I pray that I would know the truth and be a woman who believes fully that what you have said will be accomplished. Let there be found no doubt in me.

  1. What “impossible” is God asking You to trust Him in faith to accomplish?
  2. How does recognition of the Savior fill your heart with joy this Christmas?
  3. How has God shown favor in your life and how will you respond to Him?
  4. Who do you have in your life that strengthens and encourages your faith, and what will you do to celebrate that gift?©


“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3 (NIV)

Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Titus 2:13 (ESV)

Forty-seven years ago today I was anxiously waiting for the birth of our first daughter, not knowing that she would arrive exactly on her due date of December 1. The nursery was completely ready but there was still much to accomplish. I defrosted the freezer and cleaned the oven; I stripped the wax from the kitchen floor and rewaxed it; I washed all the windows inside and out; I was nesting, getting ready with great excitement to meet our baby. Three years later the process repeated itself with the birth of our second daughter, and six years after that our third daughter was born. With each anticipated birth I spent time getting ready, preparing our home and our family for the arrival of a much-loved baby. We did not know in advance whether we were having a boy or a girl, and at times, the waiting seemed interminable.

God has reminded me of those days of happy expectation this week as my youngest granddaughter helped me decorate the house for Christmas. Arranging candles just so, hanging the stockings from the mantle, and setting up the Nativity scene brought out all her creative gifts. Later, when it was all done and the tree glowed with lights and ornaments while candles flickered throughout the dark room, we settled down for a tea party, complete with Earl Grey and butter cookies, simply enjoying being together. This house was ready for Christmas. All we had to do now was wait.

As I later hugged my granddaughter goodbye, however, I wondered, am I ready for Christmas. I don’t mean the presents I still need to buy and wrap or the cookies I need to bake. Those things will be accomplished. But is my heart ready with excited anticipation to celebrate the greatest gift ever given, the coming of Jesus, and is my heart ready with certain expectation for the return He promised in John 14:3. I want to be ready. I want to be actively waiting and just as diligent in preparing my heart for Christmas as I was in preparing my home for the arrival of my daughters.  I want my heart to shine with His light, so much brighter than my twinkling Christmas tree, and I want to settle down in intimate fellowship with Him this Christmas season.

I am asking God to decorate my heart each week with an ornament that will continually reflect His glory to the darkness of this present world and to help me give away an ornament each week as I wait for His coming this Christmas season.

  • Week 1-The Ornament of HOPE: Hope is built on the firm foundation of God’s truth and His character and waiting in hope involves confident expectation.
    • Meditate on Romans 15:13 and Hebrews 10:23 and journal a prayer of hope to God
    • Send a card to someone who is grieving right now
  • Week 2-The Ornament of FAITH: Faith is the complete trust and confidence in God; it is knowing that God is in control and what He promises, He will fulfill.
    • Read and meditate on Hebrews 11 and journal your own faith story
    • Make a sacrificial gift of faith this week (time, a meal, a donation)
  • Week 3-The Ornament of JOY: Joy and happiness are not the same. Joy is dependent on who Jesus is and not on our circumstances.
    • Read and meditate on Isaiah 9:6 and journal through one of the attributes of Jesus
    • Smile and speak a kind word to a stranger (store clerk for example), and write a note of blessing to someone in your family
  • Week 4-The Ornament of LOVE: God is love, and we love because He first loved us. Love is a gift of grace and mercy.
    • Read and meditate on Luke 1 & 2, and write a love letter to God
    • Plan an outing to look at Christmas lights with homemade hot chocolate and Christmas cookies

Jesus, Come, O Come Immanuel! Let my heart be prepared to welcome You with the adoration of hope, faith, joy, and love. Let me wait in anxious expectation to celebrate You this Christmas season, and let me actively wait with certain anticipation for Your coming again!©


 “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’” Luke 17:15-19

It was the smell and the pain that woke him from his fitful sleep, not the ever-present hunger or the night’s cold wind blowing into the cave. In that first moment of wakefulness, he realized once again that the stench of rotting flesh came from him. As he tried to rub the agonizing pain from his hand, he recoiled in horror at the fingers that came away from his limb like dead leaves falling from a tree. Extending his trembling arms in front of him, he saw the whiteness of the leprosy almost completely covered him now. Sobbing in complete and hopeless despair, he sank back down onto the rags that covered the rocky ground underneath him, praying for a death that could take years to claim him.

It had been three years since the first lesion appeared; three years, six-months and ten days exactly since he had held his wife, ruffled his son’s hair, and kissed his baby daughter’s downy cheek. Three years since he had been to temple, three years of praying for a miracle while he gradually lost feeling in his hands and feet. He knew there were sores covering his face and head. Hair had fallen out in clumps from his beard, and his left ear rubbed away one recent night in his sleep. Three years of living on the outskirts of town with no human contact except that of other lepers. Three years of scrounging for food and ringing a bell to shouts of “UNCLEAN” whenever he came remotely near someone from the village But the physical deformities and pain was nothing compared to the agony in his spirit. Who was providing for his family now? Did his wife even miss him? Did his children remember him? They would grow up without him ever seeing them again. Did God even remember him? Though he was a Samaritan, he was a student of the Scriptures, eagerly awaiting the coming of the Messiah. He knew the priests considered him just as unclean spiritually as he was physically, and the thought of being rejected by God doubled him over in grief. It was with this broken heart that he joined nine other lepers that day foraging for food in the countryside between Samaria and Galilee. It was as he helped his friend hobble into wheat field near town that they heard the laughter and conversations of men coming towards them. Cresting the hill, though still a distance away, the men stopped. The lepers began shouting “UNCLEAN” to warn them, but one man came purposefully towards them, with such compassion in his eyes that the lepers could not look away. Whispering to each other, “Wait! Isn’t that Jesus, the one we’ve heard of? The one who heals people? I think it is! It is Jesus!” Loudly, the lepers called out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” If ever there were wretches who needed help, it was this cluster of torn rag-shrouded men. Though they cried out for mercy, none were prepared to hear Jesus tell them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

With puzzled looks, they turned towards town and the temple. The Samaritan knew that only a priest could declare them free of this disease. He also knew that had never happened. He could not comprehend what the penalty might be for appearing in town, at the temple, before the priest while still diseased. But there was authority in the voice of this Jesus that commanded obedience, and all nine walked forward with the smallest mustard seed of faith to do what Jesus told them to do. It was as they walked that they began to experience changes in their body; feeling returned to numbed feet and hands, sores disappeared as new limbs and ears and noses appeared; the smell of rotting flesh was gone. They stopped, looking each other over with cries and shouts of wonder. They were cleansed, they were healed, they were whole! Jumping and laughing with joy, they took off running – towards home, towards wives and children, towards the life they thought was gone forever. All but one.

The Samaritan stood transfixed. Then he, too, began to run – not forward to his old life, but back down the road towards Jesus. His shouts were just as loud as those of his friends, but his were shouts of praise to God, shouts of worship and awe. When he saw Jesus, he threw himself at His feet, crying in thanksgiving and recognition, for he knew Messiah had come and he was changed forever. With a heart full of gratitude, he heard Jesus say, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” He was healed, his body mended and repaired; he was cleansed, all impurities and sin washed away; he was made well, saved for all eternity from death and destruction. Despair turned to delight, hopelessness to Hallelujahs, loss to love unending. Only then did he go to the priest. Only then did he return to his family and a life that would never be the same but would forever be infused with thanksgiving.

Jesus, forgive me for the sin of ingratitude. Let every day be Thanksgiving in my heart, for I have been healed, cleansed, and made whole by Your blood shed for me. Washed, white as snow, let me shout Hallelujahs and praise loud enough for everyone to hear. Let me fall in worship at Your feet and let this be the priority of my life. Grant me the smallest mustard seed of faith to walk forward, even if it hurts to walk. Let my heart be surrendered in obedience to Your command, trusting You fully, even when I don’t see the miracle right away, for You, Jesus, Messiah, have changed me forever.



“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Psalm 136

Thanksgiving, that most American of holidays, where we spend two days cooking a meal that will be devoured in less than 30 minutes to commemorate the pilgrims’ surviving their first year in the wilderness after fleeing religious persecution in the 1600’s. Fifty pilgrims and 90 Native Indians attended that first celebration which took place after gathering in a bountiful harvest. Prayers of thanksgiving, feasting and games marked the three-day gathering and set the tone for the national holiday we enjoy today.

This week, although most of us did not gather in a harvest from the soil, families and friends will gather again for a Thanksgiving feast of vast quantities of turkey and all the fixings. The Macy’s Parade will kick-off the games as football is played in yards and parks while the TV broadcasts college and professional football all day long. A prayer of thanks may be offered before the Thanksgiving meal, but God will often be forgotten in the festivities of the day. In the three days that follow, thanksgiving will be shelved until next year. Christmas decorations will be put up, and shopping will become a contact sport as we frantically fill out carts with gifts, trying to beat the shortages and increased costs predicted by the media.

I confess I have grown weary of the frenzy and long for the simplicity of gratitude to scent the air of my home more than the aroma of roasting turkey and the lingering perfume of cinnamon infused pinecones. This year, I want to be truly thankful on Thanksgiving, and I want to harvest an ongoing attitude of gratitude to supplant the media-hype necessity of “more and better” equaling contentment. I’ve lived long enough to know that isn’t true, and I’ve lived long enough to know this type of harvest requires a sacrifice.

Psalm 136 seems to provide the tools necessary to uproot the entitlement mentality that threatens a bountiful harvest of gratitude. The psalmist tells us to “Give thanks!” The word used for “thanks” means praise and worship with outstretched hands. Complete abandonment with empty hands reaching heavenward and a heart focused on nothing but giving thanks. These thanks are not so much for what we have been given but it is thanks to the LORD for who He is. It is praise for His goodness and greatness as the God of gods and Lord of lords, sovereign over all, Creator, Redeemer. He does good because He is good. His wonders and His excellency are all around us; the warmth of the sun, the brilliance of the stars; His mighty hand of protection and deliverance from our enemies; His provision and care, and His sheltering presence in our lives. God is good. It’s who He is.

Also, in this psalm, we are reminded that, “His love endures forever.” Different translations of this verse replace love with “mercy,” “lovingkindness,” and “faithfulness.” The repetition of the phrase reminds me of the absolute, irrefutable truth that His mercy, His love, His kindness, and His faithfulness towards me NEVER ends. This is the abundance of an eternal harvest that should invoke continual gratitude, praise, and worship. Regardless of our circumstances, whether this is a season of drought or plenty, stability or uncertainty, rest or persecution, God’s love endures forever and for that we can always give thanks.

It becomes a sacrifice when we confess His goodness with our mouths even when our circumstances feel less than good. We bring Him the first fruits of our lips, not our possessions, and this is not always easy. When my husband was diagnosed with glioblastoma, we made a deliberate choice as a family to receive this as a gift from God. It wasn’t the gift we wanted, it wasn’t easy to thank Him and praise Him in the midst of our sorrow and grief, but it was the sacrifice God asked from us. It will not be easy to celebrate this third Thanksgiving without him, but God is still good and His love endures forever, so I am choosing to bring a sacrifice of praise to the table. He alone is Worthy.

I want to invite you to join me as I challenge myself this season, between now and Christmas day, to harvest gratitude by focusing on a different attribute of God each day and spending sacrificial time in praise, thanking Him for who He is. I have listed some attributes below as examples, and I would love to hear from you about the harvest you reap if you decide to join me in the fields of Thanksgiving.

  1. Elohim – Creator God; Full of strength and power; Genesis 1-2
  2. Good – The embodiment of all goodness; Psalm 119:68
  3. Jehovah – The Self-Existent One; Exodus 3:13-15
  4. El Elyon -God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and Earth; Genesis 14:18-22
  5. Infinite – With no beginning and no ending; Romans 11:33
  6. Love – A love so great He sent His only Son to redeem me from slavery to sin and death; I John 4:7-10
  7. Adonai – LORD God, Master; 2 Samuel 18-20
  8. Shield – Protector; Genesis 15:1
  9. El-Shaddai – God Almighty, All-Sufficient and All Beneficent; Genesis 49:22-26
  10. Comforter – The God of all comfort; 2Corinthians 1:3-4
  11. El Roi – The God Who Sees us no matter where we are; Genesis 16:13
  12. Holy – Totally separated from sin; Revelation 4:8-11
  13. Sovereign – All-Knowing and All-Powerful, in control of every event; 1Chronicles 29:11-13
  14. El-Olam – The Everlasting God; Genesis 21:33
  15. Jehovah Jireh – The God who Provides; Genesis 22:8
  16. Grace – Unmerited favor; Ephesians 1:5-8
  17. Faithful – True in all He says and does; Psalm 89:1-8
  18. Jehovah Nissi – God is our Banner of victory and protection; Exodus 17:8-15
  19. Merciful – His compassions never fail
  20. Omniscient – All Knowing; Psalm 139:1-6
  21. Jehovah Raah – The Lord our Shepherd; He guides us and cares for us; Psalm 23
  22. Omnipresent – Present everywhere all the time; Psalm 139:7-12
  23. Light – Exclusive source of life and spiritual light; John 1:4
  24. Savior – John 3:16
  25. Jehovah Rophe – The God who heals physically, emotionally, and spiritually; Exodus 15:22-26
  26. Just – Holy and Righteous, Fair in all He does; Psalm 75:1-7
  27. Jehovah Shalom – The God of Peace; Judges 6:16-24
  28. Jehovah M’Kaddesh – The God who Sanctifies; Leviticus 20:7-8
  29. Bread of Life: Sustains and Nourishes us; John 6:35
  30. Immanuel: God with Us; Isaiah 7:14 ©


“The master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, ‘Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.’”

His back hurt, his feet throbbed, his whole body ached in exhaustion. The wedding celebration wasn’t even close to ending, and his hope of rest was only a mirage flickering far off in the distance.  Three days ago, his master, the bridegroom’s father, had given permission for his son to finally collect his bride. With shouts of joy, the bridegroom and his friends made their way to the home of his beloved. Together they then ambled slowly through the streets of Cana, receiving congratulations from everyone they met. Their party grew larger with guests following them from every corner in the village, until they arrived back at the home of the groom’s father. Then the joyful celebration began in earnest.

This wedding celebration had been planned for more than a year. The servant had worked diligently alongside his master in the vineyards to make sure there would be abundant wine for the wedding of his only son. Grapes were picked, wine was brewed and sealed in massive clay jars until the cave up in the hills was full. More jars of wine were then buried in the ground behind the house. For weeks now, while other servants were cooking, cleaning, and preparing the choicest foods for the week-long feast, he had been hauling those jars of wine into the storeroom, stacking them carefully, with the most aged wine in front. This wine would be used during the ceremony and for the blessings at the beginning of the banquet when two glasses of the choicest wine would be poured into one, symbolizing the joining of the groom and bride.

Guests from out-of-town began appearing several days before the wedding, further tasking the already harried servants. A favorite guest arrived from Nazareth early on the morning before the celebration with her oldest son, Jesus, and his friends entering not far behind her. The men had traveled from Bethany, near Jerusalem, some 40 miles away, and were weary from their journey. Knowing how important Mary and Jesus were to his master, this faithful servant went out of his way to attend them. As he was washing the dust from Jesus’ feet, he felt the warm hand of this man gently touch his shoulder. Looking up, he was met by the kindest smile he had ever seen, and then Jesus actually thanked him! A lowly servant, just doing his job, was never noticed, and certainly never thanked. He had been pondering this moment continually since his encounter with Jesus.

Now as singing and dancing and feasting was well underway, a frantic commotion among the other servants caught his attention. More guests than the master expected had joined the party, and the servants were scrambling to provide enough food and tasty morsels to satisfy everyone. Alarmed, he went to the storeroom and gasped to find only empty jars littering the stone floor. They were out of wine! Even the ceremonial wine, used only for the prayer of sanctification and seven blessings at the beginning of the banquet, was gone. And this wine was still important for the end of the ceremony when the bride and groom would drink it to symbolize their separation to each other and away from their families. Every jar was empty! The servant panicked, and his aching body shook all over. He had heard the old rabbinical saying, “Without wine there is no joy,” and he also knew that powerful guests could legally sue his master for breach of hospitality if there wasn’t enough wine to last. This was a tragedy, and he had no remedy.

Leaving the storeroom, he found Mary just outside the door, and she noticed immediately his white, terrified face. Without thinking, he blurted out, “We have no more wine!” Mary patted his shoulder and went to get Jesus. The servant stood in the shadows as Mary explained the problem to her son and heard his gentle voice respond, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” The servant’s heart sank even deeper at these words, but then Mary drew him out from the corner and spoke to all the servants gathered around, “Do whatever he tells you.” Again, without thought, the servant pointed to the six stone water jars nearby that were used for ceremonial washing. Jesus nodded and instructed the servants to fill them to the brim with water. Then smiling directly at him, Jesus instructed him to draw from one of the jars and take it to the master of the banquet. The directness of Jesus’ gaze left no room for questions, only obedience.

When the master of the banquet called the bridegroom over, the servant fully expected blame and a beating for bringing water instead of wine. Instead, he was astonished to hear “Everyone brings out the choice wine first…but you have saved the best till now.” Joy flooded the servant’s heart as he turned to see Jesus smiling at him again. He knew God’s glory had been revealed that night, and along with the disciples, this servant put his faith in Jesus. Never was there a more joyful celebration than the one he experienced as a tired but faithful servant in Cana.

Emptiness became abundance, tragedy became triumph, blame became commendation and panic became praise that night as Jesus turned ordinary water to the finest wine and a lowly servant to a grateful saint.

Jesus, sometimes the “wine” in our jars seems to simply run out. We struggle: Not enough money at the end of the month to meet demands that never end; sorrow and grief multiply while joy is only a mirage shimmering in the distance; not enough sleep, illness, work, and caring for others saps our strength; panic, fear and worry water down our thoughts and emotions; and all too often we allow the poor “wine” of this world to consume our focus. Help me respond like Mary did by immediately and calmly turning to You. Help me respond as the servants did, without question but with simple obedience. Turn my panic into praise and fill my jars to the brim with Your overflowing grace and mercy. Help me to sip from the well of Your love with exuberant gratitude, knowing You have saved the best for last. For the day soon will come when Your Father sends You to collect Your Bride and there will be the never ending “wine” of joy in Your presence for all eternity.©


“The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

One of the things I love most about being a mother, a grandmother, and now a great-grandmother, is the opportunity to experience priceless, everyday moments with my family. This past Saturday was one of those opportunities that will forever remain a treasure for me. To celebrate my birthday, my daughters, granddaughters, and sister took me for afternoon tea at a sweet tearoom in downtown Denver. There were seven of us at the table, and my oldest granddaughter and 9-month-old great-granddaughter joined us via Facetime from Indiana. As always, when the girls in our family get together, there is no shortage of laughter and multiple simultaneous conversations. We genuinely enjoy being together, and regularly schedule time to do that. I was blessed Saturday to sit next to my ten years old granddaughter. Rapidly leaving childhood behind, she had dressed with care, and was excited to be part of this girl’s afternoon. With heads together, we looked over the wide variety of teas to sample. She chose a strawberry cream herbal tea for her first pot (at her mother’s strong recommendation). I chose my favorite, Earl Grey, which quickly became her favorite as well. Adding cream and sugar cubes (two lumps, please), we sipped contentedly as we waited for our tea towers of goodies to arrive.

My granddaughter’s eyes were bright with enthusiasm, and she made certain to engage in the conversations going on around her, even sharing some private tidbits with me. When the Facetime call came, we all passed the phone around to wave and talk to the littlest girl in our family. She was exuberant in her joy at each new face, and her delight with us was mutual. Cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and lemon curd, macarons and chocolate pastries were devoured with exclamations of delight. My granddaughter thoroughly enjoyed stirring sugar cubes into her tea while licking macaron cream from her fingers, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her. In fact, my greatest pleasure that day came from watching my girls enjoy the simple goodness of being together, four generations united in Christ, gathered around pots of tea sweetened with laughter and chatter.

As I read this verse today, I couldn’t help but think, with wonder and awe,  of the delight God must experience as He watches His daughters enjoy the goodness of His provision and everyday simple moments. It was not the tower of treats or even the pots of tea that brought smiles to our faces. It was, more than anything, experiencing God’s goodness together and knowing deep down His good pleasure.

Regardless of our family situation or life circumstances, believers in Jesus Christ can celebrate daily the goodness of God:

  • He is with us! He will never leave us or forsake us.
  • He is mighty to save! Nothing and no one can snatch us from His hand.
  • He takes great delight in us! Nothing we have ever done or ever will do can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
  • He quiets us with His love. We need not fear or fret because our loving Father is sovereign and in control.
  • He will rejoice over us with singing! Could there be a sweeter sound than this?

And our ultimate celebration is still to come, when men, women and children of every tribe and every nation will gather around the table for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, and we will sing praise to the goodness of our God for all eternity (and perhaps lick heavenly cream from our fingers at the same time). I can’t wait!

  1. What everyday moment can you celebrate with God today?
  2. How are you experiencing God’s goodness in your own life?
  3. How will you deliberately choose to praise God even when circumstances are hard?

Father,  thank You for the goodness of Your provision in my life. Thank You for saving me, for Jesus who redeemed me to be Your own. Thank You for Your promises and for Your love. Help me today to celebrate with a thankful and surrendered heart Your perfect provision and each simple moment. You are GOOD! I love you, Lord.



“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6:9

It had been a long night on the water with very little fish to show for it. He was tired. The muscles in his youthful, skinny back ached from hours of throwing nets and hauling them in over and over again. And he was hungry. Although he couldn’t remember a time in his young life that he hadn’t been hungry. His mother had packed him a few barley loaves, each no bigger than a pita, made with the last of the barley flour, and the men had given him two of the smaller fish in payment for his hours on the boat. He couldn’t eat any of this though. He knew his mother had been hoping for a bountiful catch to help feed their family, and those five loaves and two fish would have to stretch now for all of them. As he trudged up the road, knowing he needed to just take the provisions to his mother, all he wanted to do was go to his special place in the hills and lie down for just a little while. The sun had not yet reached its zenith; surely a short rest wouldn’t hurt anything.

He thought of the wildflowers that would be growing on the hill as he slowly hiked through the rocky ground. Maybe he would pick some to give his mother since he had little else to relieve her worries. He smiled wearily imagining her pleasure in having something beautiful to brighten her day. As he crested the hill, however, it was not wildflowers that greeted him. The entire hillside was packed with people, thousands of people; men, women, and children crowded together. He didn’t understand. This was a remote place, and he had never seen anyone here before. He dropped his basket and rubbed his eyes trying to comprehend what he saw in front of him, but it still made no sense. This was not a feast day, although Passover was not long off. This was an ordinary workday and yet more people kept arriving from every direction. He didn’t recognize very many faces either, although he did see a lame man and several beggars from Bethsaida.

Looking over the crowd, he spotted his mother and little sisters on the next rise not far from a man sitting under the very cypress tree where he had planned to rest. Skirting through the crowd to reach his family took forever, especially since he had to stop periodically to hear what this man was saying. He was talking about God and the kingdom of heaven and forgiveness of sin. As he drew closer, he saw that there were sick people instantly healed by this rabbi’s touch. All around him people were whispering, “It is Jesus. Could this be the Messiah? He says he has come in his Father’s name, that he is the Son of God.” The whispers made no sense to him either. All this young boy knew was the compassion in this man’s voice was arresting and he was drawn steadily towards this voice through the masses. He lost all track of time, his tiredness and hunger gone. He wanted only to see this Jesus. It was a desperate need in him now.

While he was still a distance away, Jesus looked directly at him. There was such love in his eyes, such tenderness. He heard the friends of Jesus tell him to send the people away so they could buy food. Instead, Jesus turned to them and said, “You give them something to eat.” Incredulous, they told Jesus it would take more than eight months wages to feed a crowd that size. Jesus only smiled, never taking his eyes of this boy, telling them to go and see how many loaves they had. Suddenly the boy found himself led to the front of the crowd, where he handed his basket of five small loaves and two small fish to Jesus. Jesus took the gift, blessed it, and the friends of Jesus began to pass out the food to the groups of people clustered on the ground. The boy watched in astonishment as each person took his fill of fish and bread until every single man, woman and child was fed and satisfied. He watched his mother and sisters eat in plenty for the first time he could remember. And when the twelve men came back from feeding the crowd, there were 12 baskets still full of bread and fish. Then he, too, ate. With tears streaming down his face, this boy’s physical hunger was sated, but as he sat in awe at Jesus’s feet, he was full to overflowing with a love and joy that satisfied him completely.

A tired, skinny, hungry boy seeking a quiet rest came face to face with God Incarnate that day. He’d had nothing more to his name that five barley loaves and two small fish, but he encountered Mercy and Grace on that crowded hillside, and he was changed forever.

  1. When was the last time you came to Jesus, soul-weary and soul-hungry, and simply sat at His feet?
  2. What “little” is Jesus asking you to relinquish so He can fill you to completion?
  3. How has the mercy and grace of Jesus impacted your life?

Jesus, thank You that You are the Bread of Life. Thank You for the promise that whoever comes to You will never be hungry. Thank You for Your mercy and grace in my life. Help me to freely give you my “littles” and my “bigs” trusting You to use it for Your glory. Amen. ©