Each year at this time I contemplate the meaning of Christmas. In the midst of shopping, spending, wrapping, and socializing; I pause to consider the true significance of the season.

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, goodwill toward men! (Luke 2:13-14)

All the meaning of Christmas is expressed in those two lines. At Christmas we are to praise God and be grateful for the many gifts He has given us. We are to enjoy a time of peace and share our joy with others. At Christmas we remember to celebrate the birth of Jesus and give thanks for the blessings He brings.

This Christmas I pray you enjoy a peaceful and glorious holiday season. Please know that God is with you through every season of the year.

How do you celebrate a peaceful Christmas? What gives the most meaning to your holiday?

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Every year brings lessons and experiences that contribute to my growth and understanding. As 2018 draws to a close, I’m considering the events that happened this year and the lessons I have learned.

God sends us the people we need when we need them. I started attending a new church this year and immediately made awesome new friends who have enriched and blessed my life. I’ve taken time to connect with some old friends to strengthen and renew those relationships too. I’ve found that when I remain open and welcoming to new encounters, the people I need to meet find their way into my path.

Prayer has to be consistent and persistent. This year I completed the Let Prayer Change Your Life study by Becky Tirabassi. I learned that God wants me to talk with Him, and when I do, my relationship with Him grows.

I’m not perfect. This year I got two speeding tickets while driving through a particular neighborhood. I learned that though I try to be a generally good and law-abiding citizen, I am not immune to sin. I sometimes break the rules and need a penalty to remind me that I still screw up.

I’m not as smart as I think I am. This year I had an embarrassing experience that involved sending an email to the wrong address and then having to admit my mistake. I felt stupid, and I learned that sometimes I need the experience of public humility to remind me I’m not as extraordinary as I pretend to be.

Mindfulness increases discipline. For a few years I have struggled with food and weight issues, so this year I took positive steps to reverse my bad eating habits. I am learning that behaving mindfully helps me make the decisions I need to reach my goals.

It’s a long walk to the top. “Slow and steady wins the race,” I told my nephew as I held his hand and struggled to hike up the side of Crazy Horse Monument. “Did you ever read The Tortoise and the Hare?” All journeys take time, and I am continuing to learn that when we look upward and keep moving, we will eventually reach our destination.

Appreciate all you have. I have been blessed with a soft bed, a warm fire, people who love me, and a food bowl that’s filled regularly. I am always learning that when I am content and grateful, I feel richly rewarded.

Try something new. In October a friend invited me to an event in a neighborhood where I don’t usually travel. I was a little apprehensive about journeying into an unknown area, but the show was great and we had a good time. I learned that sometimes when we venture into unfamiliar territory, we discover that new experience is its own reward.

I am looking forward to the new experiences and discoveries that lie ahead in 2019. I am expecting many changes and new developments in the next year, and I’m excited about learning all the lessons that 2019 holds. I pray you enjoy a happy new year and many blessings in the year ahead.

What did you learn in 2018? What are you looking forward to as we approach the new year?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

The change in weather brings a change in perception. I’m eager to leave behind the activity of summer and settle in for the cozy nesting of fall. Here are a few reasons I love God’s most colorful season.

Returning to a regular schedule. After of summer of spontaneity and adventure, I am happy to return to my well-worn routine. I spent the summer months collecting fresh ideas for projects, and I’m eager to refocus my energy on the work I value most.

Beginning new classes, small groups, church programs. Every fall is an opportunity to meet new people and explore new ideas. I’m happy to reconnect with friends and family after a summer spent doing my own thing, and I’m grateful for the chance to make new connections and forge new relationships.

Cooler morning walks.

Rainy afternoons spent reading on the couch.

Unpacking my collection of warm fleece and cozy pajamas.

A renewed understanding that the seasons of our lives are always changing and that what may seem to be an ending is only the beginning of a new phase in time.

And my favorite reason for loving fall is the constant reminder to be grateful for all I have. Everywhere I look, decorations and banners declare: “Be Thankful” and “Give Thanks.” Fall is the time to contemplate what is most important in my life and appreciate the people who share it. Every day is an opportunity to celebrate each blessing and acknowledge each gift.

In the fall I take the time to thank God for my safe and comfortable home, my family and friends, my work and opportunities. I value the special people I know, and I’m grateful for the moments we share.

This fall I pray you encounter a blessed and fruitful new season. Know God is always with you to keep you in his care.

What do you enjoy about each change of season? What are you looking forward to sharing this fall?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

I found this rock with purple painted flowers beside the walking trail in my neighborhood. Someone took the time to decorate this fragment of stone and leave it there for me to discover. I took it home and placed it on my desk – a visible reminder that we often find good and beauty where we least expect it.

Unexpected discoveries add joy and color to our lives. A chance conversation that reconfirms our faith, a sudden opportunity that perfectly meets our need, a moment of joy in an otherwise normal day – all serve as reminders that God hides gifts and bounty where we least expect to find them.

God is always surprising us. He places brightly colored blessings along all the paths we walk. When we remain open to receiving his gifts and take the time to look for the clues he leaves, we find evidence that he is always present, good, and active in our lives.

For now the rock remains on my desk, reminding me to watch for the surprises God sends. Soon I may return the rock to the gravel beside the walking trail, an unexpected and colorful gift for someone else to discover and enjoy.

Today I encourage you to welcome the unexpected moments of color you encounter. Remember God is always giving, we just need to watch and welcome the blessings he sends.

What unexpected blessings have you uncovered recently? What gifts has God left for you to find?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

For those who need some extra inspiration today, I offer a few of my favorite Bible verses.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Remember that God knows all you need, and he will always act on behalf of your highest good.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Have faith that God is always with you, and let his presence give you peace.

“I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:38-39).

Believe he cares for you and has a plan for your well-being.

“For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you’” (Isaiah 41:13).

Trust the Lord holds you in his mighty right hand.

God will wipe away every tear from their eyes . . . ; There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away . . . ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Revelation 21:4-5).

Know that no matter what happens, God is always in control, and he always promises a new beginning.

Today I pray you know that a loving God cares for you. Be at peace and trust that God is aware, and he knows everything you need.

What is your prayer today? What verses remind you that God has you in his care?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

Years ago I rode the bus to work each morning. I stood outside in the rain and cold, boarded the drafty and creaking bus, clung to my seat and fought off motion sickness throughout the jolting, jarring ride to my office building. The best part of my morning commute was the elderly, smiling bus driver. When we reached our destinations, the driver called after each passenger as we stepped down onto the pavement, “Have a blessed day.”

I carried those words with me throughout those days of gray cubicles, fluorescent lights, and narrow hallways. Have a blessed day. The bus driver’s blessing reminded me that someone cared enough to speak a prayer for my well-being and that blessings can be found in every place and situation we seek to find them.

We all share this jolting, jarring road through life. We sometimes face long and tiring travels, unexpected turns, surprise dead ends.

But God is always at the wheel. He takes us where we need to be and delivers us to each destination for a purpose. No matter what we face each morning; God, our driver, speaks words of protection over us and tells us that he cares for our well-being. He comforts and inspires us, and reminds us his blessings can be found in every place we seek to find them.

This morning I encourage you to speak a blessing over someone you know. Remind them that you care for their well-being and that God is always taking them where they need to be. This morning I pray you have a blessed day.

Where is your journey taking you today? What blessing do you need to hear?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail

This week I’m exploring a few truths I have learned about God.

"For I know that the Lord is great" (Psalm 135:5).

God is always listening. I was raised to avoid conflict by keeping my mouth shut. I have learned that God is not offended by hearing our true opinions. He created us with minds and emotions, he knows our every thought and feeling, and he encourages us to share every truth with him. We need not keep any secrets from God, but we can always tell him how we feel and know that he will still accept us.

God wants me to listen, too. I have been guilty of not always paying attention, of being busy, self-centered, and caught up in my own agenda and goals. I forget to focus on others, to hear their stories and concerns, to offer my understanding and compassion. God wants me to listen to the people in my life, and he asks that I listen for his voice, too. He gives me quiet promptings about the next steps I should take, and I need to be receptive to those moments when he speaks to me.

God blesses me, whether I notice or not. An old friend once told me this simple prayer: “Thank you for my many blessings, even those I cannot see.” I often take for granted the good things that come to me each day: the loving friends and family, my safe and comfortable home, my gifts of health and purpose. I try to remember to thank God daily for all my benefits and blessings; but I know that on the days I forget, he is still giving. I have been richly blessed, and I am grateful to the God who always listens, loves, and gives me everything I need.

What are you grateful for today? What have you learned about the God who always hears and responds?Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail