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WINTER’S BREATH: A Haibun

Snow floats down slowly as if it dances to its own symphony. Oversized flakes, wavering from their normal path, drift in the slight breeze and lay upon all they touch. It is more than snow I see through the window panes. It is hope. It is peace.  Above all, it is a promise of better things, more beautiful things, to come.

Winter’s breath enfolds

Nature welcomes the embrace

Hope is found again

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AGAPE – A Lesson from Ruth

Agape. This is a Greek word usually associated with God’s love for man. This word describes charity, unconditional love at its fullest, a love which offers sacrificing for the good of another person, a full and pure form of love. Yes, it certainly defines God’s love for us as His children, but for the purpose of this devotion, I want to focus on where it is evident in another story: the story of Naomi and Ruth. 

Having escaped the famine in Bethlehem in Judah, Naomi and her family make their home in Moab. Naomi’s husband dies only to be followed by both of her sons. This leaves Naomi with only her daughter-in-laws, Orpah and Ruth,  as family. She learns that the Lord provided for the people in Judah, so she decides to return to her home. Orpah and Ruth begin to follow her, but Naomi turns and says in Ruth 1:8-9:

“Go back, each of you, to your mother’s home. May the Lord show you kindness, as you have shown kindness to your dead husbands and to me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.”

Orpah and Ruth say they will go with Naomi, but Naomi insists they return to their own people. There is a plea for them to return. Although the Bible doesn’t describe Naomi’s mood or tone, the emotions in what she says next show a grief-stricken woman in despair, telling them that the “Lord has turned against her”.  Ruth 1:13

Orpah heeds her command and turns back, but Ruth doesn’t. Then, in one of the most beautiful, love-filled scenes, Ruth says:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17

Friends, this is Agape. 

This is a love so deep, selfless, unconditional and sacrificing. Ruth is not going with Naomi just to be nice or just to take care of her. She is going with Naomi out of pure love. She is willing to leave her gods and accept God. She is willing to leave everything she knows – her people, her land, everything familiar, for the goodness of another. Agape.

I have been blessed to have more than one Ruth in my life – people who have walked with me in unfamiliar land, unconditionally loving me, and sacrificing just to be by my side. 

I can only think of one word which could describe this Agape love:  Christ-like.

Who has been a Ruth for you in your life?

Who is your Naomi that you can be a Ruth for?

©Raelyn Pracht 2021

*This is a repost in honor of Throwback Thursday

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Weekend Writing prompt: MARGINAL (31 Words)

My Bible, with marginal notes,

The Holy Spirit,

Leading and speaking.

I am the scribe like those from the past

Who wrote the scrolls

Transcribed to where my notes now lay.

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2020 in Review

I could sit here and list out all the negative things that happened in 2020, but why focus on that? I would much rather focus on the positive! Yes, there are more than three positive things that happened, but these are the top ones:

3. I had a short story published online. What makes this so special is that I stepped out of my comfort zone for this piece.

2. I beat Melanoma, not once, but twice this year!

1. Above all else, I saw with clear eyes God’s daily, promised and absolute provision for my life.

What are three positive take-aways from 2020 for you? If you really think about it, I bet you could list a lot more than three.

“If He can hold the world He can hold this moment
Not a field or flower escapes His notice
Oh even the sparrow
Knows He holds tomorrow”
– Sparrows by Jason Gray

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A PRAYER FOR THE NEW YEAR

Lord God, as I think about the year ahead I do have hope, but I admit I have some fears as well.

I am carrying into the new year some problems from the past year. I also know that it is always possible that unexpected things might happen.

And so I throw myself on your mercy, dear God. In you I take refuge. I am glad that I can entrust the upcoming year to you, and to entrust my very self to you.

Purify my heart, O Lord. Teach me your ways. Help me to make good, right, and healthy choices.

I also entrust my loved ones to you. I know how much they need your care. Please protect and guide them.

And, dear God, we pray for peace in our troubled world. We ask you to judge what is evil and to protect the innocent. We take comfort in your words, “Behold, I am making all things new.” [Rev. 21:5]Make my life new again .In Christ’s Name, Amen

(This prayer was written on BibleGateway in 2018, but I think it is very appropriate for entering 2021)

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EVERLASTING LIGHT

“O little town of Bethlehem

How still we see thee lie

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by

Yet in thy dark streets shineth

The everlasting Light

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight”

  • O Little Town of Bethlehem

 “At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.” 1 John 2:8

The words of this song practically represent an image of a beautiful winter landscape on a Christmas card, perhaps designed by Thomas Kinkaid. It’s a peaceful scene of Christmas night in a small, sleeping village filled with dark, quiet streets.  The only thing lighting the landscape would be those silent stars going by. It’s a painting of serenity.

Is that really how it was, though? Did the people of Bethlehem lay their head downs and sleep in heavenly peace that night?  Up until then, Bethlehem was a violent place ruled by Davidic kings.  There was hope, though, given to the people by the prophet, Micah. Micah prophesied that God was going to raise up a new Davidic king from the city of Bethlehem (Mic 5:2). Thus, Bethlehem was the place where David’s reign began and from which a new Davidic king would again come. 

When they laid their heads down they had fear. They also had hope. They knew a King was coming who would save them. They didn’t know when. Can you imagine what it would be like to lay your head down at night with fear and to wake up knowing that your hope has come? That night they went to bed, not only in the darkness of the landscape, but also in their personal darkness. In the morning, they awoke to a new light…an Everlasting Light. This Light would shine on them calling to them to bring their hopes and fears to meet it. 

The Everlasting Light…bringing its shine to all the world over 2000 years ago and will continue to shine its light one each and everyone of us today. 

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for the Light…the Everlasting Light that we can bring our hopes and fears to. Help me share and shine my light for others to see. Amen.

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THE WAY

“Away in a manger

No crib for His bed

The little Lord Jesus

Laid down His sweet head”

  • Away in a Manger 

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Allow me to play on words here – to separate “away” into “a way.”   It’s important to remember the great significance of the birth of Jesus. The baby who lay humbly in the manger. The baby who would lead and be the way to the Father and to eternal life.  

Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever receive  – a true, tangible representation of God’s love.  His birth represents an invitation to all of us to become children of God and heirs to the kingdom.  It is one of the many promises of God to us.  We are His children. The kingdom belongs to us through Him.  We are invited to be part of it in every way. We can share in the joy of His birth and share in His glory. Jesus Christ, our brother, was given to us as a gift for our salvation.  He is a sign of God’s perfect love for us-His children.  As Josh Gilligan says in his version of this song, “the hope of man is born today.”  He is our hope. He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Just as Jesus extends the invitation to us, we extend an invitation to Him.  We invite Him into our hearts. We ask Him to lead our way through this world. In John 14:2,  He tells us that His “Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”  We are invited to live with Him there. The invitation was manifested that night in the manger. Extend the invitation to those around you. It is the greatest and most important invitation you and I will ever receive and the most important one we can give.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for sending the way, the truth and the life. Thank You for the gift of Your son. May He continue to lead us down a path of righteousness. Amen. 

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REST BESIDE THE WEARY ROAD

“O ye beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow;
Look now, for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;
Oh rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing.” 

  • It Came Upon the Midnight Clear

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I have listened to many versions of “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” and I have only found one that included the third stanza above.  I find this stanza to be more meaningful than the others. It recognizes how we live in a world which makes us weary – in lives that can weigh us down with crushing loads. These loads are heavy on our shoulders, bending us over.  The longer we carry them, the harder it becomes to keep going. Each step becomes more painful and we become slower under the weight.

Yet, we can rejoice because help comes swiftly if we ask. We can be overwhelmed with the burdens we carry and feel too weary to even look and listen for God. In the last two lines of the stanza above we are reminded to “rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing.”  Notice that Edmund Sears, the lyricist, doesn’t say “rest on the weary road”; no, he wants you to remember that you don’t have to be on the road.  You can rest beside it, Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 to come to Him when we are weary and burdened.  Come to Him before we get on the weary road and He will give us rest.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary,  and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord  will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  Isaiah 40:29-31

PRAYER

Lord, when I am weak and weary, help me turn to You. When I am overwhelmed with the loads I carry, help me turn to You. Help me to look and listen for You, God and rest beside those weary roads I walk upon. Amen.

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DO YOU KNOW WHAT I KNOW?

Do you know what I know

In your palace wall mighty king

Do you know what I know

A child, a child

Shivers in the cold

Let us bring him silver and gold”

  • Do You Hear What I Hear

 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15

This song is a beautiful example of what sharing the hope and love of Jesus with gentleness and respect looks like. The song builds with the smallest and weakest, a little lamb, being told of the Good News. The message continues to be told throughout the song where a mighty king is being told, not by another person of royalty, but instead by a shepherd boy. Not only does the shepherd boy actually get away with speaking to the king, but the king listens!  Then the king shares the message with the people everywhere and asks them to pray for peace.

There are so many beautiful things you can take away from this song especially from the history of it. It is not a very old song. It was written in October 1962 during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis to be exact. People were living in fear and dread. I can only imagine the lack of hope they had. The writers of this hymn were not only sharing the hope of Jesus, but also a prayer for peace.  

In times of darkness and turmoil in this world, or when we feel hopeless in our own circumstances, we can feel like we are the “smallest and weakest.”  That is when we need to stay in the Word, stay in prayer and focus on the hope that has been shared with us. In turn, we must also be the “night wind,” “the little lamb, “the shepherd boy,” or the “mighty king” and share the message of hope and pray for peace for others and the world.

“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15

PRAYER

Lord, give me a spirit of evangelism;  a willingness and comfort to share the gospel and the hope that can only be found in You. Amen.

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RESPONDING WITH FAITH

“Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing o’er the plains

And the mountains in reply

Echoing their joyous strains”

  • Angels We Have Heard On High

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.” Luke 2:1

It was the ultimate birth announcement. Christ was born!  It was the greatest news these messengers could ever share. It was so powerful that it forced a response. the mountains replied and echoed the angels’ delight. The shepherds responded differently, though. In the song they respond with fear, confusion and a question of why? “Why are we singing, praising, celebrating?”  The angels then told them about Christ being born.

The shepherds left for Bethlehem to see what the angels were talking about. Even with a hosts of angels delivering this message they still had to see for themselves. We can be just like those shepherds – having to see to believe. Faith is believing even though we cannot see. Faith is our response to the angels’ message. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

Just like the intensity of the message of Christ’s birth, faith demands a response.

How are we responding today?

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” 1 John 5:4

PRAYER
Lord, help my response to Your wonderful gift be my faith. Help my faith grow stronger in You everyday. Help me trust and place my hope in You and Your plan for my life. Even when I can’t see the steps ahead. Amen.

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JOYFUL ADORATION

“All Thy works with joy surround Thee

Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays

Stars and angels sing around Thee

center of unbroken praise”

  • Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:13-14

Every time I read the Christmas Story I cannot help but think of the joy surrounding the birth of Christ. The joy that surrounded Jesus surpassed humans. It extended to all of His creation.  I love the visualization of the lyrics: “Stars and angels sing around Thee”.  I was thinking about these lyrics as I looked up at the night sky. The sky filled with stars, which I look at today, is the same sky which sang out joyful praises on that glorious night.

Jesus was and is the center of unbroken praise in a broken world. No matter our circumstances or even the world, all His work surrounds Him with joy. We are His creation, We are called to praise and adore Him JOYFULLY. 

Even in the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we are reminded of this joyful adoration:

  “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 13)

The joy we have surpasses all of our circumstances. Our praises and adoration for Him must continue unbroken. We can join in with all of creation who has sang His praise, echoing from His birth to today and forevermore. May we be lifted up to the joy divine.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!”  Psalm 100:1-2

PRAYER

Lord, I praise You. I adore You. I will joyfully come to You daily and entrust my life to Your plan. To You be the blessing and honor forevermore!

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GO & TELL

“Down in a lowly manger

Our humble Christ was born

And God sent us salvation,

That blessed Christmas morn:

Go Tell It On The Mountain,

Over the hills and everywhere;

Go Tell It On The Mountain

That Jesus Christ is born.”

  • Go Tell It On The Mountain

“You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah,  “Here is your God!” “ Isaiah 40:9

Go and tell. This was told to the shepherds on that glorious night. It was told by Jesus later to His disciples in what is called “The Great Commission.”

Go and tell. It’s not a suggestion. It’s a command, an action we are called to take. More importantly, though, it is one we should be excited about taking. Our savior is born!  Jesus, born on Christmas morning, to save us from our sins through the love of the Father who sent Him. This isn’t news we should only share during the Christmas season. This is news we should be excited about shouting from the mountaintops every day of our lives!

We were given a great gift, a miraculous gift over 2000 years ago on that blessed Christmas morn. Why wouldn’t we want to share it?  Jesus came to save us and  dwell among us until it was time for Him to go be with the Father. We need to celebrate Jesus not just for a season, but for the rest of the time we are here in this world. 

The world needed Him. It still needs him. We need Him. So “Lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid!”

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.” Matthew 28:16

PRAYER

Lord, help me to share the good news of You, the beautiful Savior, not just during the Christmas season, but all throughout my life.  When I can’t share it with my words, help me to share it by my actions. Amen.

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OUR FINEST GIFTS

“Come they told me, Pa rum pum pum pum
A new born king to see, Pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the king, Pa rum pum pum pum,
Rum pum pum pum, Rum pum pum pum
So to honor him, Pa rum pum pum pum
When we come”

  • The Little Drummer Boy

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”  Colossians 3:23-24

The Little Drummer Boy may be a fictional character, but his story is one of faith, humility, and love. Can you imagine what it would have been like for him?  I mean, here there was a newborn King to see. His fellow travellers were bringing their finest gifts and he had no gift that he felt was worthy to give a King. He was expected to bring his finest gifts too, but he was a poor boy with only a drum. He failed to see that the drum was the very gift God had given him. God gave him the ability to present a special gift to the newborn King – one that only the boy could give.

God gives us our talents, our skills and our gifts, so we can serve Him. He gives us these “drums”. He desires for us to come to Him and play these drums. He wants us to play our best for Him. 

When we use the gifts God has given us to serve Him – when we play our drums, when we play our best – He smiles at us too as we follow His will for our lives.

“All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:4

PRAYER

Lord, show me the gifts You want me to use for Your Kingdom. Grant me wisdom and guide me in their use. Amen.

©2020 Raelyn Pracht All Rights Reserved

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NOEL

“The First Noel, the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!”

  • The First Noel

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:8-10

According to Merriam-Webster, Noel means a Christmas Carol.  However, in olde english it is said to come from the world Nowell meaning “birthday”. It also has been said to mean “song” and “news”. These are all wonderful definitions which can be applied in their own way.  For the purpose of this devotion, I am going to focus on its definition of “news”. The Good News.

Have you ever stopped to consider how even during His birth, Jesus is teaching us about humility? The angels didn’t bring the news to His extended family, to royalty, or to any rich people.  Instead, the news is brought to poor, lowly shepherds.  Shepherds who slept out in the cold so they could still be with their sheep, caring for them and protecting them. This was a lowly and humble job.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He watches over us, leads us, protects us, and brings us back when we wander off. He was born into this world, most likely surrounded by some sheep. He would give His life for His own sheep.

The news of the Messiah’s birth spread quickly. The King of Israel was born. He was born into a royalty which surpasses our understanding. This King, with such a rich title, would be the ultimate example of humility. 

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. “ Psalm 23:1

PRAYER

Lord, You gave us Your son to guide us, lead us, and protect us. He is our Good Shepherd. Thank You for the Good Shepherd who would leave the ninety- nine for the sake of finding the one. Help us to always listen and follow His voice. Amen.

©2020 Raelyn Pracht All Rights Reserved

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THE TRIUMPH OF THE SKIES

“Hark the herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled”
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
“Christ is born in Bethlehem”
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5

Hark! Otherwise translated to the words Listen! Pay Attention!

This was not a request. It was a command.  Afterall, that’s what heralds do.  They are official messengers sent to announce very important information. What they had to say on the night of Jesus’ birth demanded everyone’s attention. It was what everyone had waited for – the news of the arrival of the Savior.

God gave us His son so we would be saved from our sins and reconciled with Him – to be given a second birth. It was not by anything that we have done or deserve, but through His grace and mercy.  In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us that all of this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ. He also implores us on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18,20.)  Hark! This is the news that we need to hear. This is the good news we need to share.

We need to join the triumph of the skies and proclaim with the angelic hosts about Jesus – the one who holds healing in His wings and gives a second birth.

“A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Luke 9:35

PRAYER

Lord, help me always have my ears open to hear You above all the noise of this world. Help me be able to hear Your still, small voice above everything else. Give me opportunities to share Your story with those who need to hear. Thank You for the good news of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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HEAR THE BELLS

“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!” 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God’s not dead, nor doth He sleep; 

The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.” 

 –I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day 

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is a poem by Longfellow (It was later converted into a Christmas carol). It  is a beautiful reminder of the hills and valleys we travel through in this world.  Written during the Civil War and after the death of his daughter, despair and grief were Longfellow’s  focus – at least in the beginning. He couldn’t see God through the chaos and sadness. He became hopeless. He found no peace and felt no goodwill to men. The poem was written in 1863 yet the words still speak strongly today.  

Even in our darkest days, God is still with us and brings us out of darkness into His light.  Longfellow heard those bells and he was reminded that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.”  His despair turned to hope and thanksgiving. The peace which rang out with those church bells is the same peace offered to us. It is a gift through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Church bells are one of my favorite sounds.  One day when I was traveling, I stopped by this old painted church to take pictures. I pulled into the empty parking lot and right when I got out of the car, the church bells rang out the hymn, “Blessed Assurance”.  I froze. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in awe remembering the blessed assurance we were given on Christmas morning so long ago – an assurance bringing peace, hope and goodwill to men.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;” 2 Corinthians 4:8

PRAYER

Lord, as I listen to Christmas hymns this season, help me to stop and meditate on the beautiful messages of peace and goodwill to men that they offer. Let the words resonate in my heart not only at Christmas, but all throughout the new year.

©2020 Raelyn Pracht All Rights Reserved

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LET NOTHING YOU DISMAY

“God rest ye merry gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Savior

Was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s pow’r

When we were gone astray

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

Comfort and joy

Oh tidings of comfort and joy”

  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Phil 4:6-7

God did not give us a spirit of fear or worry. We can be reminded of what was told to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 1:21, “See, the Lord your God has set the land before you. Go up, take possession, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has told you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”  

God has given us a hope that can only be found in Him. God is our refuge of strength during times of trouble and provides rest for our weary souls.  During all seasons, we can turn to Psalm 23 to be reminded of the promise He gave to restore our souls and lead us “beside quiet waters”. 

Even when we do go astray, step off of His path and follow our own instead, God still loves us and will never leave us. Isaiah 53:6 compares us to sheep that wander away from their shepherd: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  We shall not be dismayed.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

PRAYER

Lord, help me to not be dismayed when things look bleak. Help me remember to go to You in prayer and be strengthened by Your comfort and joy.  Amen.

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PERFECT LIGHT

“O star of wonder, star of night,

Star with royal beauty bright,

Westward leading, still proceeding,

Guide us to thy perfect light.” ~ We Three Kings

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

These three kings followed the star that shined with royal brightness, guiding them to the Perfect Light: Baby Jesus. They were guided by a star, we are guided by the Word of God. It guides us to who Jesus is and how and why we are called to imitate Him and His ways.

We can be the light in this world for so many people. We can shine our living light and outshine the darkness which consumes this world. 

How do we walk in the light? The first thing we have to do is stay faithful in the time we spend with the Perfect Light. This means, through our faith, maturing with His help, so we can lead others to Him. Focus on the reminder from John in 1 John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”

We need to be guided so we can lead others. Ask for wisdom and guidance. Ask HIs light to shine through so you can light the way through the darkness, leading others to the Perfect Light. It’s a procession which will never end on this side of Heaven.

“For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” Psalm 56:13

PRAYER

Lord, help me to walk in the light daily and be a faithful, leading example to guide others to You – our Perfect Light. Amen.

©2020 Raelyn Pracht All Rights Reserved

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THE CHRIST THORN

“The holly bears a prickle,

As sharp as any thorn,

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

On Christmas Day in the morn.

The holly bears a bark,

As bitter as any gall,

And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ

For to redeem us all.”

–  The Holly and the Ivy

“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe.” John 19:2

Holly and Ivy have been decorations for the Christmas season for decades. The Holly’s green leaves with red berries make beautiful accents.There is a powerful symbolism written in each leaf and berry. The Ivy, in its own right, displays strength in what its vine is rooted in. This Christmas carol displays the power of what we may consider as simple accents in its lyrics.

The edges of Holly are prickly and as “sharp as any thorn”. These represent the crown of thorns placed upon Christ’s head by the soldiers. In fact, in Scandinavia and Germany, Holly is known as The Christ Thorn. The red berries symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ shed for our sins upon the cross.

Ivy is a vine. Vines need something to cling to if they are going to grow. Ivy can be a reminder for us to cling to God’s Word, to His promises, to the hope which is found in Christ and Christ alone. We must “let our roots grow up in him” (Colossians 2:7).

It is my prayer for all of us to look at these decorations differently this Christmas and for every Christmas to come. They are more than just Holly and Ivy.  When you look at them, stop and rejoice in celebrating His birth. Rejoice in Him who came to take away the sins of the world. 

He bore the crown of thorns for us. He shed his blood for us. He came to redeem us all.

Rejoice!

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” Ephesians 1:7

PRAYER

Great and merciful Lord, thank You for sending Your only Son to us. Thank You for the undeserving redemption You have given us all through the cross. Amen.  

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UNCHANGING

“O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

How richly God has decked thee!

Thou bidst us true and faithful be,

And trust in God unchangingly.

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

How richly God has decked thee!”

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Jesus was the promise of the new covenant – a promise from a true and faithful God. He came into this world to transform it.  Not only did He change history forever, but He continues to change each and every person who chooses to follow Him.Yet, despite of all the changing He does in the world and in us, He remains the same. All the promises of who He is are perfect and everlasting. However, His followers are made new. They will be given a new heart and a steadfast spirit while He works His will in each of their lives.

Our transformation is a continuous journey, full of repentance and thanksgiving. He makes us new as He remains unvarying, just as it says in Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” He uses transformation, but uses it on us. His promises abide and He remains faithful to each of them. The changes that take place within us serve as a reminder that no matter where we are at, we can never be too far from His reach. Jesus will find us and continue to change us from the inside out.

God is true and faithful, Our trust in Him should be firm and unchanging. He has richly decorated our lives through Him.

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:6

PRAYER

Lord, You are faithful and unchanging.  Your promises are ones we can hold to as You transform us, giving us new hearts and changing us into who You want and need us to be. Amen.

©2020 Raelyn Pracht All Rights Reserved

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A THRILL OF HOPE

“O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn” ~ O Holy Night

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Romans 18:19-21

Webster’s Dictionary defines thrill as the experience of a sudden sharp feeling of excitement. 

The french poet Placide Cappeau chose this perfect word to describe the hope felt by the people on the night of Jesus’s birth in his poem, “Minuit, Christeins,” or translated in English,  “Midnight, Christians”. The poet captures the essence of the people who were heavily burdened by their sins and weary from the darkness of the world. The hymn and music later composed from this poem grabs us even today as we wait for our “souls to feel their worth.”

We wait with eager longing – waiting in hope to be set free from the bondage of the world and the burdens weighing us down daily. It’s incredible, living on the other side of that night. Can you even imagine the exhilaration of the people when they heard the Messiah was born? Freedom was born. Hope was born.

The villagers went to bed on a night which probably felt the same as every night before it. But this particular night was transformed into a Holy night.  It was a night which transformed the world and continually transforms us. 

Lean into it daily. We can always experience A THRILL OF HOPE.

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for giving us hope – for transforming who we are. Thank you for the hope You have given us and the freedom we can find in You. Amen.

©2020 Raelyn Pracht All Rights Reserved

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First Monday of Advent: FINDING PEACE

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he refreshes my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3

I heard on the radio the other day a survey which showed that more people do not like listening to Christmas music than those who do.  The majority of people who do not like listening to it said that is was because it stressed them out. It was just a reminder of all the things they still had to get done.

Christmas can be a very stressful time even become a chore to us . . . if we let it.  We can stress about trying to find perfect gifts, traveling, parties, finances, things we have to bake, cards we have to get out and so on. This year the stress may be even worse. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the large to-do list we create for ourselves.  We can get lost in the list and forget about the true meaning and beauty the season.

Celebrating the birth of Jesus was never intended to be done amidst chaos.  Remember what the angels said:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Even in the midst of standing in long lines, baking cookies, trying to find the perfect sale and everything else we do during this season, we can have peace.  We just need to remember to pause and ask for it.

Reflection

What causes you the most stress during the Christmas season?  Is there something you can change about it to make it more enjoyable?  In your prayers, remember to pray to God for peace and rest this season.

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Throwback Thursday: GOD IS CALLING (Advent 2017)

2 Thessalonians 2:14; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Corinthians 15:58

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

I was recently visiting a congregation in Dallas. I saw listed on the bulletin that we would be singing a hymn I had never heard before. Honestly, when this happens I am concentrating on trying to figure out the tune so much that I don’t really pay attention to the words.  However, this time was different.

I opened the Lutheran Hymnal to #833, “Listen, God is calling”. Since I hadn’t heard it before, I decided to just listen to the first verse before I jumped in. That didn’t happen, though. I was so struck by the words of the refrain that all I wanted to do was listen.  Those words have been with me ever since and I think they are perfect for the Advent season:

“Listen, listen, God is calling

Through the Word inviting,

Offering forgiveness, comfort and joy.”

May we remember to listen to His Word and to remember that we have received the forgiveness, comfort and joy that only Jesus can offer.

 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

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Throwback Thursday: TRIUMPHAL (2016)

“The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”  The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  Matthew 21:6-11

Triumphal is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a ceremony attending the entering of Rome by a general who had won a decisive victory over a foreign enemy.”  It is a fitting title for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before the crucifixion.

Jesus conquers more than the enemy on the cross, He conquers sin and death. He conquers our sufferings, our weaknesses, our trials, and our temptations. We have victory over these things through Him and through the cross – because of Him and because of the cross.  Let’s remember the words in 2 Corinthians “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, you sent your son to us because of your love for us. He went to the cross to save us from our sins and to have final victory over death.  We give you thanks that through Him we share in that same victory.

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Throwback Thursday: INVITED (Advent 2018)

Acts 16:5; Luke 7:36; Ephesians 3:3-7

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:12-14

Jesus was the greatest sign we could ever receive to show us God’s love.  His birth represents an invitation to all of us to become children of God and heirs to the kingdom.  It is one of the many promises of God to us.  We are His children.  The kingdom belongs to us through Him.  We are invited to be part of it in every way.  We can share in the joy of His birth and share in His glory.  Jesus Christ, our brother, was given to us as a gift for our salvation.  He is a sign of God’s perfect love for us, His children.

We invited Jesus into our hearts and He invites us to be with Him eternally.  In John 14:2,  He tells us that His “Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”  We are invited to live with Him there.  That invitation was manifested that night in the manger.  Extend the invitation to those around you.

Reflection

If you have already accepted the invitation then I encourage you to invite others.  Start small, if you wish.  A simple invitation to come to worship with you can go a long way.

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Halloween Writing Prompt: Bats in the Belfry (50 Words)

Bats in the Belfry,

Hanging and waiting for the bells to chime the midnight hour.

On their peal, they will fly out into the darkness,

disrupting the October night sky.

Silhouettes against the full moon,

Embracing their calling, they loom.

They own the time until the bells call them home.

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Throwback Thursday: BE STILL DEVOTION (2017)

Deuteronomy 30:20; Isaiah 28:23; Psalm 37:7

“He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”  Psalm 46:10

One of the most powerful meditations I have found to help me be still before God is listed below.  If you speak each line softly, but aloud and breathe in His presence deeply in-between causing a pause, I believe you will find it just as powerful.  It’s a simple, but solid meditation reminding us of the beauty and power of God. 

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I AM.

Be still and know.

Be still.

PRAYER

Lord, help me make it a daily practice to be still.  It is only when I am still that I can hear your voice.   Lord, you are my God. You are I AM.  It is your voice I want to hear.  Yours and yours alone.  Amen.

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Halloween Writing Prompt: Monsters in the Dark (50 Words)

Monsters in the dark,

lingering, waiting in silence.

You hear them breathe,

Knowing they are there.

They have always been there.

Monsters in the darkness of your mind.

Shivering with eyes fiercely shut,

you wish them away.

Still they remain.

Unwelcome. Uninvited.

Hiding in the corners of regrets and memories.

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Falling Leaves, Warm Memories

*This was for a short story contest where you had to start with the sentence, “By the time I stepped outside, the leaves were on fire.”

By the time I stepped outside, the leaves were on fire. The remnants of hours spent raking now filled an old drum, surrendering to the heat of a controlled fire. This was one of my favorite parts of the fall season – the near-ritualistic burning of the leaves. The smell, one of musky, sweet smoke, brushed with a hint of dampness, always offered moments of nostalgia in its embers. The warmth of the fire offered its own gift of comfort and memories, a sharp contrast to the chilly mountain air of the Shenandoah Valley. I took a sip of hot apple cider, whose fragrance reached my lips well before the taste of times past had.  I stared through the dancing flames and back into a different time.

I was a little girl, heeding Grandpa’s warning, and staying far back from the controlled fire on his property. I had spent most of the morning helping gather the unwanted  leaves and brush. I wasn’t strong or old enough to use the wheelbarrow, so all I carried what I could in my arms against my chest. The earthy smell filled me as I clasped my offering.  It was little help in comparison to that of my older siblings who pushed their wheelbarrows with strength and might.

This 1820’s farmhouse, with its original floors which creaked under the weight of our steps and its pocket doors used to contain the mountain heat,  sat on 11 acres which I desperately wanted to discover. Every year since I could remember, my parents would bring us here, leaving us to help out around the place while they went off to celebrate their anniversary in Gatlinburg or the like. We would get the same lecture each trip: “Be good. Don’t fight. Listen to Grandpa.”

As the years passed, I grew stronger and able to help more around the house and property. As my siblings went off to college, I was left behind as the lone helper. I became enthralled with the lifestyle of owning a property like this. I became great at fishing, catching us dinner many times from the pond nestled towards the front of the property. I mended fences, rode the lawn mower, groomed the horses and learned many of Grandma’s recipes.  

On the last night I was there, we sat outside on the front porch, rocking in the chairs he had made for him and Grandma as a wedding present. I didn’t have many memories of her. She had passed when I was just a toddler. Cancer had taken her quickly.  Now, here I was at 18, sitting in the chair made for her, and although I didn’t remember her, I felt a closeness to her in this spot. I held my first attempt at making her homemade apple cider with both hands, embracing the heat it offered onto my ungloved hands. Grandpa, now in his seventies, rocked beside me, a blanket covering his arthritic legs, and hummed an old hymn just loud enough for me to notice. He stopped, leaning forward in his chair, and pointed out across the pond. A family of deer stopped to admire us from afar before dashing off. 

“I’m going to miss this place,” he said with a cracking voice. He turned to me, tears welled up in his eyes and finished his thought with, “but I know you will take good care of it. It’s in your bones.” With that, he rose and went inside.

I continued to rock on the porch alone, staring at the stars that were now starting to peek through the night sky. I didn’t grasp the entirety of the words he had just spoken. It would be another nine years before I did. 

By the time Grandpa had passed away, my siblings were all married and had moved off to various places. James and Vera headed to the west coast.  Trish and Nathan headed to the Midwest. My parents had retired a few years before and now resided in Charleston.  I had never left the area. I went to the local community college for a year, but quickly decided that school was not where I belonged. I longed to be on a farm. Taking everything I learned from helping Grandpa, I landed a job at Anderson Stables, grooming horses, and caring for the land. The owners, a couple in their late 70’s were not sure I would be able to handle the demands, but after just two days on the job, they were convinced.

This job was where I met my husband. He was one of the horse trainers. I can’t say it was love at first sight, since when he first saw me I was covered in mud and soaking wet after having to take care of a fallen branch despite the weather. He had stopped by to make sure the gates were latched and the owners had everything they needed in case the electricity went out in the storm. He saw me struggling with dragging the branch to a place out of the way and quickly offered a hand. That was the beginning of our love story, but our story didn’t truly take off until the day I received the news of my grandpa’s death. 

His death was not surprising and was a welcomed healing to the suffering he had been feeling  both physically and mentally. However, when the lawyer reading the will announced that I had inherited “Rabbit Run,” a name I gave the old home back when I was seven, I could scarcely believe it. My family, on the other hand, were not shocked or even dismayed. They hadn’t been in the house for years and had no interest in such an upkeep. I, however, welcomed it with opened arms.

Now, as I stand in front of my husband and the flames rising just above the top of the drum in front of him, I think back to all of the falls I spent at Rabbit Run. The brush I picked up, the fish I have caught, the fences I have mended, and all of the many small chores which kept this place going. The leaves we are burning fell with the purpose of making room for  new ones. Memories will fade like the vivid color of flames on the leaves while they are still on the trees,  and become replaced with ones we make for ourselves.

When the fire has ceased, we cross the creaking wooden floor, and head to the front porch. The mountain air is colder than usual tonight, so we wrap ourselves, him in Grandpa’s blanket and I in Grandma’s crocheted afghan. We rock side by side and I hear him hum a familiar song just loud enough for me to hear.

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SURRENDER

*This devotion is based on the painting “The Woman in Black” painted by my husband in 2013 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mpracht)

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Romans 12:1

She is not someone who would describe herself as a person who needs to be in control. However, internally, she knows she is someone who likes routine and is a creature of habit – both good and bad ones. She knows she must surrender, but the shame holds her back.

Surrendering is something she has struggled with on a daily basis. She finally let go, offering her whole self for Him to work through.

Giving up control, even of those things that seem small and trivial, brings her closer to the God who loves and fully knows her- who is more on her side than she is herself. He already knows what the day ahead is going to look like – the temptations that will come, the struggles she will face. 

Surrendering makes her faith stronger, her  trust in Him builds, and she continues to reflect on all His provision.

“Surrendering is the laying down of resistance to the One who loves me infinitely more than I can guess, the One who is more on my side than I am myself.”   A Season for the Spirit  Martin L. Smith

PRAYER

Lord, I surrender myself to you.  I give up my old self: who I was, my old habits, my sinful self, and ask you to create in me a new life, a new, clean heart – each day, everyday.

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Unreal Reflections: 100 Word Writing Prompt

Unreal reflections are ones which stare back at us.They are misrepresentations of who we are, showing distorted images of our greater selves. 

They show what we look like on the outside, just a reflection of a superficial image the world sees.

Our true reflections are intricate maps of who God created us to be, the experiences He has brought us through, and the truths we hold in our heart. 

The reflection you see in the mirror, regardless of how you feel about it, is not who you are. It is merely an outside layer to a deeply woven being.

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Morning Walk – A 200 Word Story

She stepped out the front door into the darkness of the early morning. It seemed that she alone was awake. The world slept on while she, already having been awake for hours, started on her morning walk. 

The quiet of the morning brought her restless soul some longed for peace. The streetlights, along with the bright moon and stars, shone enough on the path to make her feel safe. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath of the summer air, and took the first step.

The morning breeze had a slight chill to it, a deep contrast to the humidity already lingering in the air. It felt good against her skin. The quiet, in its own unique volume, was something she had been craving. Her world had become full of noise, impossible to shut off, and here she found what she had thirsted for.

It was only her and God this morning. It was only her and her prayers. She felt as if she had His full attention. She held out her palms as she walked, praising Him for the silence of the barely rising dawn.

She lost herself in His presence. And she never wanted to be found.

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You are CALLED: Releasing Yourself from the Comparison Trap

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:28-30

Comparison. It’s a trap. It’s a snare used to steal your joy – a joy He has given specifically to you. You know you shouldn’t do it – compare yourself to others, but this social media world you live in makes it so easy, doesn’t it?e 

You have found yourself in this “comparison trap” more times than you would like to admit. It seems to come on during certain seasons. Please realize these seasons where comparison rears its ugly head are the same seasons God has called you into. 

God has a plan for you, one which He called you to and predestined you for. Satan does not like this. He comes to steal, kill and destroy and he will use your human weaknesses to do so.

You are called according to His purpose for your life and His will … not someone else’s life. Not someone else’s job. Not someone else’s financial state. You get the picture. If you really and truly want His will to be done in your life then follow the path with your eyes fixed on Him, not on others.

Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding. 2 Corinthians 10:12

It’s time to take your feet out of the snare of comparison and follow Him down the faithful road He has uniquely set before only you. 

JOURNALING QUESTIONS

In what area(s) of  your life do you find that you compare yourself to others?

How does comparing yourself to others make you feel towards them? Towards yourself? Towards God?

PRAYER

Dear Lord, I know You have called me according to Your purpose. I trust in Your plan for my life and the abilities You have blessed me with. Please help me remember these things when I am tempted to compare myself to others. Amen.

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Throwing out the Rules

I don’t know exactly what happened. Somewhere in the last couple weeks I lost sight of what and why I was writing. I managed to subconsciously, and soon consciously, create all of these rules for myself on writing. It amazes me how subtly things like that can seep into your creative world.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about writing, but not actually doing it.  So, last night I sat down and listed all the things I believe get in my way of writing – both external and internal reasons. There is where I found those rules I spoke about.

Rules like, if I am not writing everyday, I shouldn’t call myself a writer or the biggest one, which happens to be the truest of all my stumbling blocks:

If I am not writing a devotion or a piece of Christian writing then I shouldn’t write it.

Where did this rule come from?  Who says that because God places devotion pieces on my heart, means that He doesn’t want me to write other things?

So, I have decided to throw all these “rules’ out the window – to be bold, but still prayerful; to be courageous and take some risks. 

Afterall, God created us in His image. He made us creative.

I don’t know where this revelation will take me, but I hope you will come along on the journey.

“The scariest moment is just before you start” – Stephen King

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Impact of Relationships – A Thank You

What I have missed the most during this pandemic has been the ability to travel to different congregations throughout Texas. This relationship building not only plays a large part in being successful at my job, but on a personal level it has led me to some amazing relationships. Each of these relationships has helped me build a community of prayer warriors and encouragers.

I am so grateful for the ability to worship at different congregations online each Sunday morning. What a true blessing it is to attend multiple worship services in the same day and still be able to attend my home congregation’s service online.I have already been to three this morning and the messages were not only fantastic, but were ones I needed to hear. 

Although I do believe that some people and places are only in our life for a season, I am convinced that all of these people and places have a lasting impact on our lives.

I have come to realize that people in my life, no matter how many seasons they dwell, help me become a better person and help me grow in Christ.

1 Peter 4:8-10 says:

Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.

Notice, the verses don’t specify a timeline. It doesn’t matter if it’s one day or a lifetime, we must love one another, show hospitality and serve one another, showing grace in each moment.

May this continue to be written on my heart.

Dear Lord,

Thank you to the pastors in my life for working so hard to make sure we can worship together online and safely in person. Thank you to all the friends I have met in my life, whether our time of friendship has passed or continues, you have made an impact. Thank you to God for all the opportunities, including those during this pandemic, to grow in Christ and build relationships.

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42 Word Writing Prompt: Jostle

Thoughts jostle in the space of infinite competition.

Pushing against each other, they vie for my attention.

Where can I hide from their pursuit?

I search for ways to silence them.

I close my eyes, breathe deeply, and try to let go.

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Heart Assessment

I was listening to Spotify the other day when a cover of the song “Diamonds are Forever”. I have heard this song before, of course, since it’s the theme song to a James Bond movie of the same name. Yet, this was the first time I ever actually listened to the lyrics. These lyrics struck me with their power:

I can see every part, nothing hides in the heart to hurt me

It reminded me of how there have been times I have hidden things in my heart. These things, if they had been let out, may have hurt someone or hurt my relationship with them. Sometimes I have hidden things in my heart from others out of fear. It was easier to tuck away things in the darkest secret corners of my heart then it was to be vulnerable.

I have even tried this same tactic with God. It I thought, ‘maybe if I hide the parts of me I am not proud of or the actions I regret deep in my heart, He won’t see them?  

I was only fooling myself. I was only doing a disservice to myself. I could not fool God. How could I have blinded myself to fact that God is Omniscient?

Psalm 44:20-21 says:

If we had forgotten the name of our God

    or spread out our hands to a foreign god,

would not God have discovered it,

    since he knows the secrets of the heart?

It may be a little scary to know that God sees everything in our heart, every dark secret shines in light before Him. However, this is a good thing. We need Him to see what is in our heart, so He can expose the good, the bad , the shameful, the fearful and everything in between. 

Proverbs 4:23 tells us the heart is the place from where all things flow; Where life flows and springs up from.

I can often tell what is in my heart based on what flows from my mouth, what’s stirring in my thoughts, and my overall attitude. Sometimes it’s wonderful, other times not so much.

If you are struggling with what is flowing from your mouth, what’s stirring in your thoughts, or your attitude, may I suggest taking a “heart assessment?”  

No matter what is hiding in the dark corners of your heart, your known and unknown secrets, trust that they are already shining in the light of God’s love. He sees them. He knows them. There is nothing hidden from God.

We don’t have to fear this because we know these two truths:

  1. God will forgive us for all these thing we try to hide

But if we freely admit our sins when his light uncovers them, he will be faithful to forgive us every time. God is just to forgive us our sins because of Christ, and he will continue to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 TPT

  1. We can have a new and clean heart

Create a new, clean heart within me. Fill me with pure thoughts and holy desires, ready to please you. Psalm 51:10 TPT

I don’t know about you, but Psalm 51:10 will now become part of my daily prayer.

I will leave you with this quote by Oswald Chambers:

        “ The human heart must have satisfaction, but there is only one Being who can satisfy the last abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

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One Lesson Learned in 2020

I started 2020 with a fear which carried over from the previous year. This fear had to do with my heart health. 

Just a couple months into 2020, though, this fear was replaced by a new fear: Covid-19. The pandemic brought with it not only fear for the health of myself and those I know and love, but also the financial fears which come with job loss.

Then, two weeks ago, I had a new fear come and replace the Covid one – Melanoma. This diagnosis brought a fear of pain, a fear of medical bills, and a fear of what may come next.

But let me share with you the biggest lesson I have learned in 2020:  

There will always be something in this world to fear. 

Let me share with you another truth:

God is greater than any fear or any cause of the fear. He is in us and with Him we are more than conquerors!

So, exhale, release these thoughts and emotions and remember His words:

4 My children, you have come from God and have conquered these spirits because the One who lives within you is greater than the one in this world. 1 John 4:4

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GOD IS PERSISTENT

Have you ever had one of those “middle-of-the-night, brutally honest, two way conversations with God?”     

I have. 

In fact, due to not sleeping well in the past week from the surgery, I have had quite a few. (I could use another week just to sit and process everything He has shown me.) 

If I am truly honest with myself, though, none of what was revealed to me was a surprise. God has gently nudged me before on the subjects, but I just chose to subtly ignore Him (which you can’t do by the way).

God is patient, but He is also  persistent.

It’s not easy to hear things about yourself – weaknesses pointed out or personality traits you  wish you didn’t have. Our pride says “if you don’t like who I am, that’s your problem.”

It’s our pride which keeps us from taking a deep dive into analyzing the things about ourselves we would rather keep hidden or refuse to admit.  It was my pride that kept me pushing His gentle nudges aside. The irony that my pride was one of the subjects He spoke to me  about  is not lost on me, by the way.

Again, God is patient, but He is also persistent.

Think about the story of Jonah.  God called Jonah to go to Nineveh.  

What did Jonah do? He ran.  What did God do? He persisted.

Jonah didn’t want to hear or follow what God wanted him to do, but God persisted and prevailed.

God’s persistence is a beautiful gesture manifested by His faithful love for us.

Trust in His persistence in your life.  

“But You, O Lord, are a God [who protects and is] merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in loving kindness and truth.”  Psalm 86:15

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Being Still

They stood on the banks of a pond, fishing lines in the water.

“This is not what I was expecting when you told me you wanted to teach me mindfulness,” she said to her friend.

“Being still comes in many forms,” he replied.

Upon hearing those thought provoking words, I paused the show, and the character, who just said words that spoke volumes to me.

When did I decide that “being still” meant only sitting in a quiet room praying and reading my Bible? Why did I define it so rigidly?

Being still means being in His very presence, listening for him, focusing on Him and all things by Him.

So, be still on the banks of a pond with a fishing line wavering in the water.

Be still while moving through the trails of a nature reserve.

Be still on a morning walk.

Be still wherever and however you desire to be.

Find your space.

Be still.

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Another Battle to Fight

The words on the other end of the phone call were not what I expected to hear. Everything had led me to believe that it wasn’t anything to worry about. Yet, there I stood, cell phone in hand, learning another lesson in the agony of unmet expectations. I was caught off guard and I felt the air leave abruptly from me, knocked out in one sentence.

Melanoma.

Again. 

My first diagnosis was May 23,2011, a first look into an unknown fear. I tried to process it. I cried and called out to God. Finally, after a whirlwind of emotions, I finally said to God, “Don’t let this be in vain. Let me be able to help others by using this for good.”

Now, here I am. April 24, 2020. Here in a time when Covid has been my fear, I am faced with the harsh reality of having a Melanoma diagnosis again. A new fear in the same arm as last time.  Just above my wrist is going to be a scar – a Battle Scar. 

Melonoma is not just a battle against a cancer trying to attack my skin, it’s a battle against emotional and spiritual enemies. I fight against the devil trying to steal my joy and against letting the diagnosis define me. 

In the past nine years, I have won this battle, fighting diligently through the highs and lows that come with it. I can list for you every blessing I see in this just as much as I can list every fear and reason for frustration.  I see that as a good thing. I never want to lose sight of the blessings that shine even in the darkness. 

So, why I am writing this? What is the point?

Well, I am writing this for YOU. Whether it’s a scary diagnosis, unexpected bad news, or unmet expectations …. YOU have a  God who is right there with you. A God who created you to feel every emotion instilled inside you,

Let yourself feel what you feel. Give permission to yourself to feel and process everything. And when you have, bring them to the Lord, who walks beside you, upholds you, and brings you to the green pastures to lie down to rest and the still waters to rest beside.

So, as I go forth with surgery next week to remove it, the blood tests to make sure it hasn’t found its way in, and the x-rays to ensure my lungs are clean . . . I will prepare for battle.  

Just as was told to King Jehosophat and all the people of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20:15:

Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

The army may not be vast in this case, but it is still something on the attack. I will not retreat as long as my God is on my side. 

He will always fight for me.

He will always fight for you.

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SWEET PERFUME

As I was driving to work yesterday, the radio DJ asked this question:

“If happiness was a scent, what scent would it be for you?”

This was a great question! It is amazing to me how the power of a certain scent can invoke a memory, taking you back to a specific time or place. For me, there are a lot of scents which happiness could be: black coffee, incense, the smell of old books.

My answer to this question though would be the smell of a rose.

When we were younger, my little sister discovered a rose perfume she could dab on herself . . . or more accurately, douse herself with. The aroma of roses would fill our home and to this very day, more than 30 years later, the smell of roses reminds me of her at that age. It always makes me smile. (although, I didn’t smile back then when I smelled it)

In the Book of John,  Mary takes a pint of very expensive, rare perfume and pours it out on Jesus’ feet. The fragrance of this perfume filled the house.

This is such a beautiful moment. I can only imagine how much this pleased Jesus and how the sweet aroma filled up his nose as He breathed it in. 

I believe our prayers are like that too. Our prayers are the pleasing aroma which God breathes in. How sweet, how pleasant this fragrance must be to the God who loves us. 

As a child, I loved the smell of incense in church. I loved to watch, and still love to watch when I can,  the smoke work its way out of the Thurible. It rises, carrying the prayers of the Saints in its aroma.

Like the blossoming vines of the fig trees spreading their fragrance, our prayers, rising in  rich aroma, must be the scent of happiness for God.

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,  and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” Rev 8:3-4

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A Place to Belong (Thank You, Dad)

Isn’t it funny how so many simple things, like a smell, a specific phrase or one word can invoke a memory?

This just happened to me. I was reading a devotion, here on the morning of the five year anniversary of my father’s death, when a word jumped off the page and instantly played a film in my head about a 12 year old me who experienced her first, very real, introduction to rejection.

This is not about my father rejecting me, but about him rescuing me, just as our heavenly Father does.

“Come to Him—the living stone—who was rejected by people but accepted by God as chosen and precious.” 1 Peter 2:4 The Voice

I was trying out for my first ever select soccer team. This was the club to be in and I wanted to be on that team more than anything. As part of the tryouts, I played on their indoor soccer team. I did very well, even having the honor of being the team’s leading scorer. How could I not make the team after this achievement?

When the coach called me to tell me I indeed did not make the team, I was devastated. I did not understand how this was possible. I remember my dad, who didn’t understand either, calling the coach to see if he could get an answer to this mysterious why.

He came into my room and told me that he thought the reason I didn’t make the team was because of him. My dad had already been a somewhat successful assistant soccer coach in the area, but I didn’t understand what that would have to do with me. My dad did not elaborate on this reasoning of his, and I didn’t ask him to elaborate. Besides, no amount of reasoning would make me feel any less rejected.

The next thing my father did changed me from a young girl feeling completely rejected to one who was invited to be accepted, loved and to have one of the greatest times of her childhood. He offered to coach a team for me. (Side note: he would continue to coach me for years)

He started a team for me, one made of a couple girls like me who had experience, but the majority were ones who had never played before. Looking back, I remember how much he believed in each and every one of these girls, coaching them to become good soccer players. He gave all of us rejects – rejects from other teams, rejects from other sports, rejects from social classes, the list goes on – a place to belong.

That sense of belonging, not wanting to feel rejected, is something we will always have. I am so happy my father gave me that place, but I am overcome with joy in knowing that we have a wonderful, beautiful, loving and compassionate heavenly Father, who welcomes the least of us, the lot of us misfits, into His loving arms.

In Him, and with Him, we will always belong.

But now, this is what the Lord says—
    he who created you, Jacob,
    he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Is 43:1

This piece is dedicated to my dad, the world’s greatest soccer coach and to all the members of that wonderful team of misfits back in 1985 – Paradise Valley Sting.

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MY SACRED SPACE

On January 29, 2020, I renewed my library card. That was the last day I had set foot into the library. It closed shortly after due to Covid-19.

As the days went on, I found myself missing my more than once weekly trips to this beautiful establishment. No longer could I linger at one of the small tables with my headphones playing Nat King Cole as I worked on my writing. No longer could I stop to check out a book on whatever my interest was that day. To me, this library was a world created just for me – a sanctuary from the busyness of life and nothing but a doorway to knowledge, adventure and imagination.


“Do yourself a favor and love wisdom. Learn all you can, then watch your life flourish and prosper!” Proverbs 19:8 TPT

Although it opened back up with very specific parameters, I couldn’t seem to find my way back. Until today.

I walked into the library and found only myself to be in there among the two employees. I was the proverbial kid in a candy store. I wanted a book from every section, to pause before each genre and load my arms up with more books than I could handle. I was back in my little piece of Heaven where I stood wide-eyed and grinning from ear to ear beneath my mask.

I had it all to myself. I walked each row, each genre and forced myself to a limit of only books I could carry in my arms. 10 books to be exact. I found my sanctuary again. I found a quenching to the thirst the vacancy had created.

It seems silly, doesn’t it? To miss a simple place like a library and be saddened by its removal from your life. It was my place. My place to go to escape, to learn, to dream . . . my sacred space. Outside the doors was a busy, chaotic, stressful world surround by demands, but here was peace.

We all need a place to escape to – a healthy place. A place to call our own. I wonder, what is that place for you?

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30 Word Writing Prompt: Syzygy

We are a syzygy –

connected by experience,

aligned by pain our hearts hold.

Now we float,

in the only realms

we can understand.

Life on earth,

is a distant memory.

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WRITTEN MEMORIES

I spent every childhood summer at my grandmother’s house, the house my father grew up in. It’s a small, but charming house which sits just across the banks of Lake Oneida, or as my family and I affectionately call it, “Grandma’s Lake” in Bridgeport, New York.  Every year we would travel from wherever we were living at the time up to this family home to enjoy a family reunion and Independence Day.

As a child, this summer tradition was one full of excitement and exploration. The time was filled with fireworks, bonfires, swimming, boating, fishing, and my absolute favorite – catching fireflies on the grassy bank of the lake.  

It was a magical and fantastic place full of mystery and intrigue.

It had been 27 years since I had stepped inside this family home.  It took me that long to make it back to this special place, but it was exactly the perfect Godly time in which I was meant to be there. July 4, 2014 is forever imprinted in my memory and engraved on my heart.  

There was no way for me to know it would be the last holiday I would spend with my dad.  

There was no way to know that the last face-to-face conversation I would have with him would be on that very date.

We sat across from each other at a small table, covered in a vinyl tablecloth, just he and I. We discussed our favorite mutual authors, Douglas Adams and Stephen King, quoted “Hamlet” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.  We shared our passion for writing and the genres we were working in. He gave me his latest short story, “Chicken Little: The Truth Revealed” to read and provide honest feedback. 

I headed home after the trip with the absolute conviction this was indeed the best conversation we had ever had. I treasured it from the moment it happened. It was just he and I, sharing our love for the written word. 

Almost exactly a year later, he would be gone. 

That conversation, that moment, echoes in my soul  forever.

I am grateful to have in my possession the very story he shared with me that day. What a blessing it is to work on something which meant so much to him. As always, my prayer is to do his work justice and to use what I learned in that conversation to write as he would write. 

As I sit at my kitchen table, thousands of miles away from that magical place, I can feel his very presence sitting in the empty chair across from me. 

And I begin to write . . . “Let us begin by righting a terrible wrong and clearing the name of a true hero. You will soon learn — being Chicken is a good thing.”

SNOW IN AUSTIN

There is something so peaceful about snow falling. When it happens here, I make sure to take it all in.

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” – Lewis Carroll

JOY TO THE WORLD

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come

Let earth receive her King

Let every heart prepare Him room

And Heaven and nature sing

And Heaven and nature sing

And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing”

  • Joy to the World

“And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

What joy and what gladness the birth of Jesus brought to this world.  He came into a world of oppressed and hopeless people.  He came to bring them – to bring us – over 2000 years later, this same promise.

In order to experience the full joy of Jesus we must prepare a place for him.  We must open our hearts to him. How do we do that? What does it mean to actually ‘prepare Him room’?  It means humbling ourselves and letting ourselves let go of the mundane and menial things of this world. It’s giving ourselves totally over to the control of God.  It’s preparing our hearts to meet Him each day by spending time in His word and in prayer.

This joy, this unspeakable joy, is expressed throughout the heavens and earth.  Open your heart and listen.  The angels that sang that night are the same angels that sing over us today.

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” 1 Peter 1:13

PRAYER

Lord, please show me what in my heart or life may be a stumbling block to feeling the joy that Heaven and nature sang about.  Help me to prepare my heart. Amen.

HEAVENLY PEACE

“Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child

Holy Infant so tender and mild

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace”

  • Silent Night

“You will keep in perfect peace, those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”  Isaiah 26:3

The Oxford English Dictionary defines peace as “freedom from disturbance, anxiety or stress; emotional calm.”  When I think about peace during this season, I can’t help but think of the song “Silent Night”. I imagine there being a peace over Bethlehem through the night which was unexplainable in human terms – a stillness and tranquility which could only be provided by God.  The stress and anxiousness of waiting for the Messiah was removed and the peace that surpasses all understanding was given unto the people.  

Now, we wait for Him in our lives. Among the busyness of the season and the pace and chaos  found in this world, we can’t help but search for this same peace. We know this peace can only be found in Christ. We wait to hear His voice, to have our prayers answered. We wait for Him to return.  We don’t have to be anxious or fearful while we wait.  We can wait with the assurance that His peace will sustain us. We can rest our heads at night and sleep in the “heavenly peace” which comes from trusting and remaining steadfast in Him. 

“Cast your cares on the Lord   and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for the peace You have blessed us with. When I am anxious or fearful, please help me receive the peace only You can offer and to have the assurance that it will sustain me. Amen.

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