That’s Christmas to Me! ~ HOPE

That’s Christmas to Me! ~ HOPE

A thrill of Hope the weary world rejoices! 

I am not sure in my lifetime if the world has ever felt more weary? I have personally had years that seemed harder for me on a personal level but in our lifetimes I am not sure if things have ever at times felt so weary globally as they do right now. I think we could all use a little Hope for Christmas this year. 

What is it about Christmas that speaks hope to us? Is it the magic that Christmas seems to bring. Movies are made about it, songs are sung about it, we all seem to long for and to cling to a little more hope at Christmas. 

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5 NKJV

I like the way the New King James Version says hope does not disappoint. Some translations say Hope does not put to shame. When we have Jesus and the Holy Spirit we do not have to wait for Christmas to have hope. Our hope is in Him who came to earth as a baby and grew in wisdom and stature and ministered on this earth and gave his life up for us on a cross and rose again and left us with the Holy Spirit to live in us, to be our guide to be our Hope that everything is going to work out all right in the end. Sometimes the path that gets us to the end is hard but when you have His Holy Spirit living inside of you, guiding you, showing you what your next right thing to do is you can be sure that your Hope will not be disappointed in the end. 

So today, stare at some Christmas lights, talk to your Savior and tell him what you are Hoping for this Christmas season and ask Him what your next right thing is. And know that with the close of this year comes Hope in a new year. I think as crazy as the last couple of years have been it has given us all more clear vision of the important things in life. So I for one am going to thrill in the Hope that this Christmas and a new year can bring! 

“Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.” Psalm 33:18 ESV

That’s Christmas to me ~ Advent

Advent is the expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second coming! It is the anticipation of Jesus! I don’t remember Advent being a part of my vocabulary much growing up and in fact it was probably my later adult years that I began to hear so much about it. But now, I love Advent and what it represents. Advent is that period of time anticipating Christmas! We celebrate the baby Jesus at Christmas and during advent we are looking forward to that celebration and in our mind, as Christians we should also be celebrating and thinking on the second coming of Christ. That’s what Advent is all about! 

Advent is usually celebrated the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas. There is sometimes an Advent wreath with candles, 3 blue or purple, 1 rose colored and a Christ candle in the center. The 4 candles represent Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Each Sunday a scripture would be read and 1 more candle lit with the Rose colored candle representing Joy and then on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day the Christ Candle would be lit. 

So let’s anticipate! Just like last year, the Christmas decorating seemed to start early. This year we are dealing with inflation and talk of there not being enough food and/or merchandise for our holiday season. Gas is more expensive which may be a problem for some people for travel. Although the news said that holiday travel over Thanksgiving was at an all time high, possibly because people are just tired of not seeing their loved ones. I have been working on getting all of my Christmas decorations up the past few days and I hope to be complete with my shopping and decorating in the next week so I can sit back and enjoy the lights and the sounds and the smells of Christmas. I love the season as much as the event. I want to cuddle up on a cold night and just watch Christmas movies in front of a fire. I want to visit a light display. I want to bake Christmas cookies with my grandchildren. Yes I am anticipating all of those things but I also want to anticipate Jesus! I want to spend time with the one whom Christmas is about, my Jesus! I want to ask Him to renew something in my heart again. The anticipation of something can be almost as exciting as the event itself. So for me I am looking forward to Jesus, I am going to anticipate the new thing he will do in my heart this holiday season. I am going to ask him to do a new thing in me this Christmas. And then I am going to ask Him what He wants me to do for Him in the new year! I want Him to make a way in the wilderness of my heart. What about you? 

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19

Everyday Thanks!

Well the season of giving thanks is coming to a close. But really if we belong to Jesus we should be grateful every day. Our practice for giving thanks should not be only for the month of November. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the emphasis we put on it. But I hope and pray that in my life, it is just emphasis and that I will use it as a springboard to remember to give thanks daily. I want my thanks to be daily and intentional. 

Jesus is our ultimate example of how we should live our lives and I have found in scripture a few times that we know that He gave thanks. He gave thanks when he fed the 4000. 

“He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.” Matthew 15:36

And when He fed the 5000. 

“Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.” John 6:11

He thanked the Father when for giving understanding. 

“At that time Jesus declared, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.’” Matthew 11:25

One of my favorites is when He thanked the Father before raising Lazarus from the dead. 

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” Luke 11:41-42

Jesus, heart was always in tune with the Father’s. He knew that God knew His heart, yet he verbalized His thanks for the crowd. 

And Jesus gave thanks at the Last Supper that He shared with His disciples. 

“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took break, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” Luke 22:17-20

My point here is this. Jesus gave us an example of verbalizing our thanks. That it is a good example for others to see, but I think it is also good for our own soul. I told you the other day about writing down my thanks. I have a journal a friend gave me a few years ago and while I don’t write in it every day any more, (I need to start back) I do pick it up occasionally and just write down something I am grateful for. I call it my Blessing Journal. I am up to 1762 right now and my plan is to fill the whole book up with blessings that He has given me. Blessings like. 

118. A beautiful sunrise this morning that I almost missed. Thank you for drawing me outside. 

180. Sitting on the floor playing with my grands. 

646. Conversations with my son. 

1029. Morning Kayak rides. 

I love looking back and reading some of my simple blessings that make up my life and I hope that Jesus smiles on my gratitude when I do the practice of it. And I like to think too that it helps me to be grateful for this life that He has given me. Even when it is messy and it may hurt at times, and I find myself longing for the next stage of it. I can be grateful in the here and now and it helps me to remember to be intentional about giving thanks. 

Give Thanks to the Lord! 

1. Praise the Lord! 

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, 

in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 

2. Great are the works of the Lord, 

studied by all who delight in them. 

3.  Full of splendor and majesty is his work, 

and his righteousness endures forever. 

4. He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; 

the Lord is gracious and merciful. 

5. He provides food for those who fear him; 

he remembers his covenant forever. 

6. He has shown his people the power of his works, 

in giving them the inheritance of the nations. 

7. The works of his hands are faithful and just; 

all his precepts are trustworthy; 

8. They are established forever and ever, 

to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. 

9. He sent redemption to his people; 

he has commanded his covenant forever. 

Holy and awesome is his name! 

10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; 

all those who practice it have a good understanding. 

His praise endures forever. 


Immediate Gratitude! 

When Elizabeth was in her sixth month of pregnancy the angel Gabriel which had appeared to Zechariah had another assignment. This time he appeared to a young virgin girl who was betrothed to be married. Betrothed was a step between engagement and marriage in Jewish customs of those days. Engagement was the promise between the fathers and betrothal came with a ceremony but it was a waiting period until the marriage. There had been no relations between the couple. Gabriel appeared to the young virgin girl, Mary and told her that she would give birth to the Son of the Most High, and that she would name Him Jesus. 

“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’” Luke 1:35

Now at first glance this seems to be almost the same question that Zechariah asked but we don’t have the benefit of the original text. It seems that Zechariah’s question was filled with doubt which is why he was struck mute, but Mary’s question was filled with wonder. She didn’t doubt that what Gabriel was telling her could happen, she had faith, she was just wondering how it would happen. This shows that Mary was already a young woman of faith. 

Gabriel goes on to tell her how it would happen and he also tells her about her cousin Elizabeth. How kind of God, to give Mary someone she could go to. Mary immediately submits herself to the plan, which is probably why she was chosen in the first place. God knew her faith and He knew that she would submit. Then scripture tells us she arose and went quickly to see her cousin, Elizabeth. 

Now I wonder what was going through Mary’s mind as she went. She had already submitted herself to God, but do you think she was wondering what Joseph would think, or her parents, or the people of her town. She was a virgin, betrothed to be married to someone and yet she was pregnant. She seems to have determination and faith in the situation but I wonder if she needed some confirmation that someone else would believe that this was happening to her. We women sometime just need someone to talk to, someone to process things with. I think Mary just needed confirmation that someone would believe her and to be with someone else who was dealing with something miraculous. And that is what she got. 

“And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!’” Luke 1:41-42

Again, I am blown away at the kindness of God to give these women each other. Notice that Mary didn’t even have to tell Elizabeth her story. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she just knew. Mary received her confirmation and when she did, she was filled with gratitude. Gratitude, I’m sure that she had Elizabeth and gratitude to have been chosen. 

“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Luke 1:46-49

We can learn a lot from Mary. There would still be outside influences to Mary’s circumstances that could be difficult to handle, but Mary was grateful to God for calling her, for choosing her to be the mother of His son. And what I love is that she was immediately grateful, even when she knew that the next several months may have some trying times. Mary saw the hand of God and she believed the hand of God. 

I hope I am like that. I pray that the Lord always finds me grateful for the things He does for me. 

Today I am grateful to Him! My Jesus who came to earth for me and for you! And to Mary for her faith, and for her example of gratitude! 

Living Grateful!

Do you have or have you ever had a prayer you have prayed for a very long time and you felt like you were just waiting for an answer? Today we are looking at Elizabeth, who was the cousin of Mary and the wife of Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest and Elizabeth, his wife was barren, which in those days was a disgrace among men. If you could not have children there was a stigma attached to it. So I think it would stand to reason that possibly Elizabeth had prayed for a long time to bear a child, yet she did not become bitter about it. How do I know that? Well unfortunately scripture doesn’t tell us very much, therefore, we have to look at what it does tell us. 

“And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” Luke 1:6

This one verse tells us a lot about both Elizabeth and Zechariah. I believe that Elizabeth lived from a grateful heart even before her prayer was answered and really because of her age she had probably given up on getting the answer she desired. Why do I think that? Because she walked blamelessly. When you don’t live from a grateful heart, bitterness creeps in. When bitterness creeps in, I think it would be very difficult to walk blameless. I know that in my life when I feel bitter about something, I get grumpy and in a way even judgmental. I don’t understand why God would bless someone else with something that maybe I have been praying for. Yet Elizabeth was righteous before God and walked blameless. 

Then it happened an angel appeared to Elizabeth’s husband while he was performing his priestly duties and gave them the baby reveal they had been waiting for. Zechariah went through a whole range of emotions during this encounter with the angel. He felt fear and trouble in his spirit and doubt and eventually he would have believed. When he questioned the angel about how this could happen now because of he and Elizabeth’s age the angel told him he would not be able to speak again until the prophecy was fulfilled. Zechariah finished his assignment and then went home. 

“After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived,” Luke 1:24a

God’s plan had been put into action. But it’s Elizabeth’s reaction I want us to see here. 

“and for five months she kept herself hidden, saying, ‘Thus the Lord has done for me the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” Luke 1:24b-25

Now I am having to speculate some of what I am about to say here, but I think Elizabeth was so overwhelmed that her prayers were being answered. I think keeping herself hidden for five months was probably all about relishing in the thought that she felt seen by God and she was grateful to Him that she was getting her answer in the way she wanted it. When she says “thus the Lord has done for me” I believe this is her way of being grateful for the answer God has given her. I have had things before I just had to get alone with God for a bit and relish what He did for me. I believe that Elizabeth had learned how to live from a grateful heart already because she walked with God. But this getting alone with Him was just to be grateful to Him. She may have been overwhelmed with her emotions.

Now I’ll admit that I am reading between the lines to get a part of this back story. But I can see it there through what scripture does tell us. The question for us is how do we live from a grateful heart even when we aren’t getting the desired answers? I think we have to live intentionally being grateful for what we do get. Several years ago I read a book by Ann Voskamp called One Thousand Gifts. I have mentioned it here before. Ann teaches in this book that she went on a quest to find One Thousand Gifts by writing 3 things every day she was thankful for. It is a way to be intentional about saying thank you. I think it helps me to not just look at the things that I feel like I’m not getting the answers for, but to look at the blessings God has given me. I’m not sure if Elizabeth was intentional enough to think of 3 things a day, but I think her demeanor and countenance that we are given tells us she was already living from this grateful heart even before she received this blessing. 

Can you find 3 things you are grateful for today? 

Give Thanks to Him, Who is Worthy to Be Praised!

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” 2 Samuel 22:2-4

It is believed by scholars that David wrote this prayer of gratitude many years before it appears in scripture. But that maybe as David neared the end of his life he was looking back over his life with gratitude and reminds himself of his own words. It is believed that this was originally penned around the time of Saul’s death when David took the throne. But David does a lot of living between the time that he would have originally written this and when it appears in scripture if that is the case. David has sinned and repented, he has gone to war, he had family issues with his own children that he didn’t handle yet through it all, he remained grateful to God for what God had given him and how God had carried him through his life. 

As you walk with God and allow Him free rein to work in your life, much like David your faith and trust in God will grow. David may have penned these words as a young man but as he recounts his words nearing the end of his life, I think he knows God to be these things (rock, fortress, deliverer etc.) on a deeper level. At least I know it is that way with me. 

I have walked with God for a long time. I became a christian in my teens and I spent the next several years trying to be good enough for God. And failing miserably at it, I might add. I fell over and over again as I tried that method. But in my early thirties I started truly walking with the Lord and having a daily quiet time with him and asking Him to direct my path and my steps as I attempted to navigate life. 

I remember becoming very grateful for my salvation and the Lord’s presence in my life as a young woman. I know that I wanted to look at Him as these things, (my rock, fortress, deliverer, etc.) but friends, there are just some things that can’t be taught, but have to be experienced. Or at least that is the way it has been for me in my experience. As I have walked with Him for years now I can honestly say that He has been a rock and a fortress for me when I was not sure if I would be able to take another step. He has delivered me from things that were of my own stupidity and He has delivered me from things that were just plain circumstances of life. But the one thing I can tell you is that He has delivered me. 

I love that David gave us the example of looking back over his life and saying thanks to God for what He had carried him through. David knew life circumstances that were a result of his own sin and David knew life circumstances that were a result of someone else’s sin. But through it all David knew the deliverance of his God and he knew the benefit of saying thanks to God, who is worthy to be praised. I hope that is where I find myself too. I want to live with an attitude of gratitude to Him for what He has carried me through thus far and what He will carry me through in the future. 

Today, I am thankful for Thanksgiving week. Since I work for a school, I am fortunate enough to get the whole week. I will have good time to prepare this week and hopefully will have some down time too. Remember to say thanks to God for all He has done and all He is going to do in your life! 

And Be Thankful! 

In the book of Colossians, Paul is giving instruction to the people in the church of Colossae on how to live the Christian life. In chapter 3, verses 12 – 14 he tells them that as Christians we should live as if we were chosen by God, because we are, we should try to live holy lives and be compassionate and kind. We should be humble and have patience and forgive each other and above all we should love each other. 

Then we go into our study passage. And if we do our best to live that way then we can….

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15 

I noticed that Paul actually puts great emphasis in this verse and the next couple of verses to being thankful. As we are letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts we will be thankful. As we are doing our best to live for Him, we will cultivate gratitude. 

I love the next verse which directs us to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

I love God’s word. I prayed years ago for God to cultivate a love for His word in my heart and He has. I love studying and trying to discern what is meant behind the passages. I can remember as a young woman, reading and not really grasping much of what I was reading. I am grateful for what I have learned. Not that I know much by any means! And I am grateful for what He teaches me as I study now. I love writing about what he is teaching me. And I love singing psalms and hymns. I want to remind myself to do so with thankfulness because of this verse! 

My struggle comes with the next verse.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15-17

Oh I love the verse, I just wonder how many times am I guilty of not doing my every day, mundane tasks with thankfulness in my heart. I confess it here, I am not much of a Martha. I cook and clean because someone’s got to do it. I wish I were one of those people who love doing those things but I really am just not. And I am afraid that when I do those things I don’t do them with a very thankful heart. I pray that God will remind me to do my every day tasks, even the ones that I am not particularly looking forward to or enjoying with a thankful heart for what He has given me. 

Why do you think Paul put so much emphasis on being thankful? I think it is because when we live from a grateful heart and we count even the mundane things, such as work as blessings, we are living a more peaceful life. That’s why the first directive is “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” When we live for Him the best we know how and when we forgive each other and love each other and count our blessings instead of looking at what we don’t have, we are a happier people. 

A couple of years ago I was at a conference and there was a breakout session with a speaker who told us, when you have things before you that you have to do to change your way of speaking them. Instead of saying I have to _____, you name it, whether it be “go to work today,” “clean my house today,” or “go to the store,” whatever it is, change it to “I get to _____.” It truly does change your whole outlook. 

So today, I get to go to my job and for that I am thankful! I am blessed to get to go to work to a job I enjoy with a group of people I truly enjoy being around! 

A Thankful Dedication

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:3-6

I have a precious friend who found her completion in Jesus Christ yesterday. I saw on her Facebook page someone said she won her battle with ALS and truer words were possibly never spoken. I want to dedicate my thanks today to her, Emily Grenn Gray. Emily and I were no more than acquaintances in high school. But she was always someone who had a sweet spirit and a beautiful smile for everyone, even little old me, who felt out of place a lot of the time and was not amongst the popular kids. I never knew anyone to have an unkind word to say about her. We didn’t really have a reason to keep up with each other even though since she married her high school sweetheart, who graduated with me I am sure I saw her at a class reunion or two. But in the last couple of years since I have done this page, Emily and I reconnected through this page. 

She invited many of you to this page, and she has been an encouragement to me as I have written these words. As I have watched and heard of her illness progressing, there have been many mornings that I thought of her as I wrote, knowing that Facebook was becoming her connection to the outside world. They say that if you want to be a writer, you should think of your audience and who you are writing to. There have been times I have wondered what Emily would think of the words that I was putting to this page. And many times she would comment on my post and let me know that my words did, in fact encourage her. I have been in awe of the light she has shown while her body failed her. Her sweet, beautiful spirit and her love for Jesus never wavered as far as I could see. 

That is what brings me and I hope those who loved her the most comfort. I am sure that Emily danced her way into heaven and she is lighting it up even more with that beautiful smile of hers. 

She fought the good fight, she finished her race with pure grace, she kept the faith and now she has had her crown of righteousness given to her by her Jesus that she loved so well. (reference 2 Timothy 4:7-8)

It may sound crazy to some but I will miss her. Even though she and I have not spoken an audible word to each other for many many years. She touched me and my heart these last couple of years deeply. And for that I am thankful. 

I am thankful that God allowed me to cross paths with her again. I will pray for her family. Please say a prayer for them for the next few days too. And I am sure that as I write there will be many times that I will still think and wonder what would Emily think. 

One Man’s Gratitude!

In the book of Luke there is a story about Jesus healing ten lepers. Leprosy is a disease of the skin. It is contagious and because of this in biblical times Lepers had to live apart from the rest of the people. Because of that it was very socially isolating. So in this story Jesus enters a village and there were ten men living apart from the rest of society who stood at a distance and they started shouting to Jesus. 

“And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master have mercy on us.’” Luke 17:12-13


“When he saw them he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went they were cleansed.” Luke 17:14

An interesting note of this story, Jesus doesn’t heal them and then tell them to go show themselves. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests and AS THEY WENT they were cleansed! They had to be obedient for the healing to come. Just a side thought here, how many times do I pray for Jesus to act and I feel He is telling me to do something, but I dig my heels in and think I will just stay where I am UNTIL he acts. It was an act of obedience and faith that the lepers started toward where the priests were before they were healed. Their healing came in the going. It came in the obedience and in the walking out their faith.

But our story today is really about what happened next. 

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:16

This one man out of the ten, headed toward the priest in obedience to Jesus’ directive, but when his healing came, it wasn’t the priest he wanted to see. He wanted to see Jesus. I love the gratitude he felt toward Jesus. I love that he fell on his face at Jesus feet giving him thanks. This man, knew that he had received the blessing of physical healing from Jesus and he was grateful. Now the other men may have been grateful to a degree too. But it seems that they forgot to whom they should be grateful. They probably went on to the priests, they would have had to in order to be deemed cleansed to re-enter society. And they probably took part in a religious ceremony. But this Samaritan, he chose Jesus above the religious ceremony. The nine forgot to say thanks to the one who had really healed them. I wonder how many times I forget to say thanks to him for the blessings that he gives me. I pray I am always found saying thank you to Him who has blessed me far beyond what I can expect or hope for. I want to throw myself at His feet and be grateful. 

Jesus response to this man carries the healing beyond the physical. 

“Then Jesus answered, ‘Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” Luke 17:17-19

Because of his gratitude this man’s healing was not just physical. When Jesus tells him to “rise and go your way, your faith has made you well” he was also healing his heart. Gratitude has a way of doing that. The same goes for us, when we practice gratitude we will find a healing taking place in our hearts. If you heart is hurting try practicing gratitude. Walk toward the healing even before it comes. How do we do that? By doing our every day life to the best of our ability. Just do the thing, get up, go to work, stay in your community. Live it out, walk it out, whatever your “it” may be. And when we are walking in obedience to him, as we go, we will be blessed  and we will find our answers, at least we will find some of them, and as we are grateful to Him, He will also heal our hearts! 

Today I am thankful to Him for all the many ways He has healed my heart. He has healed my heart from grief, hurt, confusion, and my very own sin over and over again! May I always be found on my face at His feet, saying THANKS!