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THROWBACK THURSDAY: On the Other Side of Easter (Written 2020)

Growing up we had two paintings in my house I can distinctly remember always being there. One was a painting of The Last Supper with Jesus standing up at the table, arms stretched out as if welcoming each disciple, even his betrayer, into them. The other was of an old man, hands folded in prayer, with a cup of wine and a loaf of bread on a wooden table.

As a child I didn’t grasp the full concept of the meanings behind these paintings. I didn’t understand the significance of The Last Supper and really didn’t understand the words Jesus had spoken at that table. The disciples were not much different then I was.

Today we are blessed to be on the other side of Easter. We know the significance of those words. We know what it means to pray like the old man in the painting before partaking in the Lord’s Supper. It is a blessing, an honor, a privilege. Every time that we “take and eat” the bread or “drink from the cup”, we remember Christ’s amazing love for us.

“We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song” – St. Augustine

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: The Last Supper (& how it pertains to me)

Today we celebrate the Last Supper. I was thinking about it a lot this morning. Jesus sat at the table knowing full well the pain & suffering that he was going to endure. Yet, he faced it with an attitude of positivity and strength. When I was thinking about this, I realized that I must reflect that same attitude towards this injury.

I have always been an impatient person. This injury is no exception. I wanted surgery. I wanted the quickest fix I could get. I think God knew that I wouldn’t learn anything from that. What I will learn from is going through the pain & suffering and through that I will learn to be patient, strong, and I will learn to persevere. I thank Him for teaching me these things and for providing me with the most wonderful example of someone who has persevered.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Rom 12:12

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Throwback Thursday: WEAKNESS (Lent 2016)

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Matthew 26:41

I love the above verse. I feel like it really encompasses the idea of Lent.  Lent gives us an opportunity to feel and understand just how weak we really are.  It doesn’t matter what you give up, the flesh will crave it.  We are human. We are tempted. We are weak. 

Our spirit can be incredibly willing to do the right thing, to say no to temptation, but the flesh is weak. Lent defines our weakness for us. Most importantly, it shows us how apart from God, we cannot be strong.

Whenever I think of my own weakness, I hear the voice of Patsy Cline singing those true and beautiful words from “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”:

I am weak but Thou art strong
Jesus keep me from all wrong
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee

During these days, let us walk close with Him because He can and will make strong.

PRAYER

Lord, I am weak, but you are strong. I am tempted, but you can guide me away from all those things that are wrong.  I ask that you help me to remember that with your spirit, I have the strength to move mountains, no matter how weak I may feel.

Isaiah 40:29; Ezekiel 34:16; 2 Corinthians 12:9

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Free Verse on the Book of Jonah

Tempestuous seas,

Waves crashing over my head;

Tossing and turning,

I feel myself being swallowed

by the jaws of guilt.

God’s love comes down

In the storm

Shifting the winds to

Overcome me

My unwillingness to let God Be

the God of compassion . . . to

Let God rain down the mercy

Upon those I have judged unworthy.

I am Jonah.

I ran. I still run.

I sit in stubborn silence,

I will not pray.

I avoid the storms. Ignorance. Not dealing, unfeeling.

Closing my eyes to the storm. 

Plugging my ears to the thunder.

My will to control

is stronger than my faith.

You, Lord, are relentless.

You will set me on dry land.

I will never leave your sight.

Who am I to even think so?

©2021 Raelyn Pracht

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IVA

This is the first paragraph of a story I just started writing. It’s based on a dream I had recently. It was such a vivid dream and played out like a picture book come to life. So much detail in the scenery! I don’t know if writing about it will ever do it justice, but I am going to try.

Iva awoke early that morning. The heavy rain and strong winds kept her restless through the night, not from fear, but rather from excitement. She knew the beauty which awaited her outside the dark, confining walls of Talman Manor. The universe was always brighter to her after a rain. Iva thought rain washed all the ugliness of the world away, leaving only the remnants shining with beauty behind. It was a gift from God wrapped in the remaining droplets which sat upon flower petals and in the greenery bursting with color. Although Iva was too young to truly understand the concept of contrast, she felt it in her innocent soul. All she knew was the world outside her bedroom, which was dark, musty and plain, was an enchanting place where colors danced. Her eyes could scarcely take the magic in.

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Throwback Thursday: LISTEN (Lent 2017)

“for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight;
 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
    doing what is right and just and fair;
 for giving prudence to those who are simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the young—
 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—
 for understanding proverbs and parables,
    the sayings and riddles of the wise.

 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  Proverbs 1:1-7

We spend so much time in prayer, which of course is something we are called to do.  It’s a vital part of our walk with Christ and a meaningful, deep focus during Lent.  However, sometimes we get so absorbed with the “talking” part to God that we forget about the listening part.  

Solomon tells us in Proverbs 1:5 that the “wise listen and add to their learning.” If all we ever do is talk then how can we listen?  How can we hear that still, small voice?   

Keep praying daily but stop and listen as well.  It is how we can grow in our relationship and gain wisdom and understanding.

Psalm 34:11; John 10:16; John 10:27

PRAYER

Lord, help me to listen, to focus on hearing your voice. Quiet my mind from distractions and help me to hear only You.

©2017 Raelyn Pracht

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IN JESUS NAME

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” John 14:12-14

Wonderful Counselor. Redeemer. The Alpha and the Omega. Light of the World. Good Shepherd. King of Kings. Immanuel. I Am.  These are just some examples of the names of Jesus.  

When we pray, we ask for things in Jesus name.  This is more than just repeating things we were taught to say.  Those words have incredible meaning.  They are reminders to us that we have a mediator, an advocate, who is there to answer our prayers and bring glory to the Father through them.  It is in His name that we pray.  It is because of His name that we can come boldly before the throne of God.  

Revelation 3:21; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 John 2:1

PRAYER

Lord, may I always remember the many different roles You have in my life.  Thank you that I can come boldly before the throne and have confidence in praying in your Holy name.  Thank you for being my advocate, my counselor, my father, my friend and so much more.  Amen.

© Raelyn Pracht 2017

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FORGIVING OURSELVES

“He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:9-12

There has been a lot of teaching on forgiveness in our homes, schools and churches. However, I believe the subject of forgiving yourself sometimes gets pushed aside. We are taught that in order to be able to care for someone else, we must take care of ourselves first.  The same can be said of forgiveness.  If we can’t forgive ourselves for things we have done, or perhaps hurt we have caused, then how can we truly forgive others?

The truth and the promise is that God has removed our sins and our transgressions as far from the east is from the west.  If He can forgive us, and not let our past come between Him and His love for us, then shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?

What are you walking around with, deep inside, that you feel you can’t forgive yourself for?  Shame? Guilt? Pain? Lift it up to Him who has forgiven you and believe your sins are forgiven.

Lord, You know what I am struggling with. You know that I can’t seem to put this sin behind me.  Help me to fully accept your love and forgiveness.  Help me see myself through Your eyes.  Amen.

1 John 1:9; Acts 3:19; Luke 7:47

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IN EVERYTHING: A Reminder that God Cares about the Little Things too

As I am reflecting on the last week of the awful weather here in Texas, I find myself crying tears of praise and thanksgiving. My family and I have so much to be thankful for.

We only lost some branches off a few trees.

We did lose power, but were able to find ways to create heat. Mainly, we heated up cast iron skillets on the gas stove and hovered around them.

We never lost water.

Our pipes never burst or froze.

We were able to have a hot meal every night.

The above large subjects were mostly what I prayed about for myself and others. However, I was reminded of something I had forgotten: How much God cares about the little things.

With the snow and ice finally melted, we ventured out to the grocery store. There was one thing we needed more than anything- dog food. We walked into the store and I immediately felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety. The shelves were emptier than even when Covid first hit.

As we got closer to the pet food aisle, I found myself praying for God to provide, for there to be dog food for Cooper. When I turned the corner, it did not look promising. With my heart beating fast, I made my way to the end where the dog food is. There were three bags left in the whole store and one was his exact dog food. A brand we recently changed to. God had provided.

Sometimes we forget that God wants us to bring everything to him . . . the big things like prayers for healing; the little things like prayers for dog food; and everything in between.

When in doubt, turn to the loving command in Philippians 4:6-7:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything 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.

In everything.

Not, in some things.

In everything.

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Eleanor: A Beginning

Eleanor closed her husband’s worn Bible, taking a moment to run her index finger across his name imprinted in gold. She exhaled with a slight smile and set it back into the drawer of the end table. She rose slowly from her wooden rocking chair, making an audible sigh as she shuffled her feet the short distance to the small kitchen in her apartment at River Oaks Senior Living Community. 

She grabbed the cherry-red teapot, removed the yellow post-it note stuck to it,  and filled it with tap water. Carefully, she set it on the front burner. No, she thought, back burner only. That was what Zie, otherwise known as Nurse Mackenzie had told her to do. Eleanor promptly moved it to the left, back burner and turned on the gas stove. 

While she waited for the familiar sound of the whistle alerting her to the water being ready, she looked around her kitchen. The yellow post-it notes surrounded her, all reminders for herself. Eleanor was angry when Zie first suggested it, but she made a promise to try it for a week. The suggestion came after she had left the bath running. Eleanor had every intention of taking a hot bath, but then her daughter called and she got distracted. That was all. Just distracted. 

She looked at the yellow piece of paper that she was holding.  It simply said in black magic marker:

THE TEAPOT IS ON. TURN OFF STOVE.

How did I get here? she wondered. It was just last year when Frank and I moved to this town. 

Frank and Eleanor spent nearly every moment together since he had officially retired from the restaurant business. They would watch movies, take walks and explore the new town they moved to. There was so much exploring to do in this new place and they wanted to take it all in. They never got to, though. They weren’t even in the house a year before his heart gave way.  

How did I get here? she wondered.  It was just last year when Frank and I moved to this town. 

Only it wasn’t just last year when they moved to Abingdon. It was seven years ago. In those seven years, grief took more than its fair share of Eleanor’s heart. It took pieces of her mind too. 

© 2021 Raelyn Pracht

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ASH WEDNESDAY

Genesis 3:19; Isaiah 61:3; Psalm 103:13-14

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:12-14

Today will be a day when many Christians receive a cross of ashes upon their forehead.  This is done on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  What do ashes have to do with the season,though?

Ashes signify where we came from … dust. They signify God’s love, but also his punishment. They reflect our need for repentance from our uncleanliness and sin.  It is a reminder that we need to “cleanse our consciences … so that we may serve the living God.”  They were a sign in biblical times of humility and repentance. They serve as those same signs today.

We are broken people. We carry with us unclean hearts and consciences full of shame, guilt and many other things that can weigh us down. The only way we can be clean is by coming broken and humble before God and offering our complete selves to Him.

Let us humble ourselves before the Lord, confessing our sins in full repentance on this, the first day of Lent.

PRAYER

Lord, I humble myself before you on this, the first day of Lent. I pray that you cleanse me from any uncleanliness and sin that have been in my actions and words.  You and You alone can create in me a new heart and a new spirit. Amen.

© 2021 Raelyn Pracht

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REFOCUS

We all have something we have struggled with for as long as we can remember. For me, it is the struggle with self-discipline. Whether it’s in the area of diet, food, exercising, cleaning the house . . . it doesn’t matter. I struggle with self-discipline: – the discipline to start doing something or to stop.

I have learned one of the biggest and most meaningful lessons of my life because this struggle:

 I fail when I take my focus away from God. 

Peter is a great example of what happens when we take our focus away from God..Just look at Matthew 14:28-30:

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  “Come,” he said.Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and focused instead on the wind. As soon as he did, he became afraid and started to sink. Sinking led to him calling out to the Lord to save him.

This is often what happens to us when we take our eyes off of Him, when we turn our focus to things or people in this world. Just look at the word “self-discipline” – it has the word “self” right in it. We fool ourselves into thinking we can do things on our own and only when we start to sink do we plead “Lord, save me!”

This isn’t what God intended for us. In fact, self-control is one of the fruits of the spirit we have been given. It is just a matter of diving in and grabbing hold of this gift to succeed. It’s about inviting Him to walk beside us in whatever we are doing. We must turn to Him, keep ourselves right beside Him where we belong. Most of all, if we want to succeed in anything, we must keep our eyes focused on Him. 

A TIME FOR REFLECTION

It’s so easy to lose your focus and turn to things, and yes, even people of this world. Even as well meaning and helpful as some of those things or people try to be. 

In what areas of your daily life do you take your focus off of Him and try to succeed on your own?

How can you keep you eyes on Him in these areas?

©2021 Raelyn Pracht

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Throwback Thursday: PROVISION (2016)

Psalm 46:1; Acts 14:17; 1 Timothy 6:17

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2

Recently I was dealing with something that I could not get through alone. I needed help. I had been praying every day, repeatedly saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come.”  Nothing seemed to be happening. I found myself still crying out for help, still waiting for it.  Days went by and I saw no evidence.  I was getting frustrated.  Where was He? Why wasn’t He coming to help me when I called?  Finally, after sharing this with a very wise friend, he said something I have since tattooed on my brain and heart.  He reminded me that sometimes the help we ask for comes from people God chooses to use to help us.

I was so focused on Jesus that I couldn’t see that He had placed the willingness to serve and help onto some of His servant’s hearts.  They were there all along just waiting for me.  I was too blinded by my own thoughts of how the help should come, and by my frustration, to see it.  It was a hard yet wonderful lesson to learn. It has forever changed how I look at His provision.

PRAYER

Lord, you always provide.  It is promised in your Word. Help us to have clear eyes and open hearts to accept and trust in the ways you will provide. They may not be the ways we expected, but our trust in your provision must be there still.

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UNTITLED STORY – One Paragraph

The snow falling outside her upstairs window was a picturesque and peaceful scene. It was a Christmas card image come to life. As she sipped her chamomile tea and stared out at the fresh, pure white precipitation painting the canvas of her world, she couldn’t help but feel the sharp contrast between what was taking place outside and the turmoil swirling inside her head. Or more accurately, her heart.

© 2021 Raelyn Pracht

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Throwback Thursday: SURRENDER ME (October 2020)

“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

In his book, “A Season for the Spirit,” Martin L. Smith defines surrender as

“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.” 

I would not describe myself as a person who needs to be in control. However, I would describe myself as someone who likes routine and is a creature of habit – both good and bad ones.

Surrendering is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I have discovered, at least for me, that surrendering involves presenting the first moments of my day before God and offering my whole self for Him to work through. 

Giving up control, even of those things that seem small and trivial, brings me closer to the God who loves and fully knows me – who is more on my side than I am myself. He already knows what the day ahead is going to look like – the temptations that will come, the struggles I will face. Surrendering makes my faith stronger, my trust in Him builds, and I continue to reflect on all His provision.

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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JONAH: A HAIKU

After studying the Book of Jonah, I wondered if I could summarize the theme of the story in a Haiku. Here is my answer to that challenge:

He stubbornly flees

God relentlessly pursues

Repentance begins

Oh, how often I have run! I am thankful to have a God who is relentless in His love and compassion. A God who sees me though I may try to hide.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
Psalm 139:7

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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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On the Other Side of Easter

Growing up we had two paintings in my house I can distinctly remember always being there. One was a painting of The Last Supper with Jesus standing up at the table, arms stretched out as if welcoming each disciple, even his betrayer, into them. The other was of an old man, hands folded in prayer, with a cup of wine and a loaf of bread on a wooden table.

As a child I didn’t grasp the full concept of the meanings behind these paintings. I didn’t understand the significance of The Last Supper and really didn’t understand the words Jesus had spoken at that table. The disciples were not much different then I was.

Today we are blessed to be on the other side of Easter. We know the significance of those words. We know what it means to pray like the old man in the painting before partaking in the Lord’s Supper. It is a blessing, an honor, a privilege. Every time that we “take and eat” the bread or “drink from the cup”, we remember Christ’s amazing love for us.

“We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song” – St. Augustine

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Learning to Love Leftovers (March 2020)

The leftovers of an abbreviated Thanksgiving meal eaten in the middle of March sat in front of me. This was the fourth day in a row I had eaten some version of this meal. It may have been the fourth day, but it was actually the eighth meal.  It may seem ridiculous to think one of the biggest changes about myself during this chaotic time in the CoronaVirus world would come from food, but it had. 

I have always had a love affair with food, but to me I only enjoyed a specific meal once a week. It was a single date. I would decline a second date until it was made again at some point months down the line. However, since COVID-19 reared its unappetizing head, I have had to not only eat leftovers, but also learn to eat the same thing for lunch and dinner on the same day. This was unheard of for me, and an appalling idea, before this virus invited itself to the table. Believe me, in the beginning I ate those leftovers without giving thanks.

Something happened to me during week two. I noticed a change in the way I looked at food, especially leftovers. Instead of just eating what I craved or what looked good at the time, I saw food as it really was created to be – a necessity. It gradually became less about the pleasure I received from an exceptional meal or the cravings I indulged in, but became more about, well, in its pure form . . . sustenance.

The grocery stores were not stocked with the usual variety of options, the bank account was not stocked anymore since COVID-19 also took my husband’s job, so we were required to buy what was available and to make it last as long as possible. Out of necessity, a new way of eating for me was born. It wasn’t an easy transition, but it was one which had to happen. The current climate called for it.  

When I finally finished that eighth meal of turkey, I truly was thankful.  I was also proud. I had done it. I had conquered this mind block of the fear and loathing of leftovers. I can honestly say I am a better person for it, probably even a healthier person for it. 

It may have been just a simple dinner in March, but it truly was Thanksgiving.

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