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Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem…to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. Luke 2:4-5

God’s timing is immaculate. Many years ago, I studied the Bethel Series, a 1961 Bible study developed by the Adult Christian Education Foundation in Madison, Wisconsin. In that study, we reviewed all of the events that came together just prior to the birth of Jesus. Each occurrence had specific meaning, the combination of which meant Christ came into the world at the perfect time.

Alexander the Great studied under Aristotle in their native country of Greece. As King of the Macedonian Empire in the fourth century B.C., Alexander brought the Greek language and culture to all of the nations he conquered, unifying the people in a new way. He believed Greek enlightenment was for all peoples and he wanted every nation to be as advanced as his own. Within the next two centuries, the Roman Empire had expanded throughout Europe and beyond, which led to a long period of peace under Roman rule. The Romans had also built many roads to far off places, making trade possible among a wide variety of nations and peoples. The Romans had so efficiently organized their world that there were no wars between rival tribes, nations, or factions. Meanwhile, every Hebrew man, woman and child knew about the old time prophets’ predictions of a coming Messiah. Though many Jews were living beyond their native land of Israel, the dream of the Savior was still alive.

This period in history is referred to in Galatians 4:4-5: “…when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” The stage was set, the players were in place, and a star broke forth from its moorings in space and sped across the night sky. A man and his very pregnant wife found a stable when no room was left at the inn, and a Child was born. He came in the fullness of the world’s time and yours and mine.

Thank You, Jesus, for being our “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Amen


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RoutineThe boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. Psalm 16:6


As a college counselor, I used to conduct workshops for single moms to provide support for them in making positive changes in their lives. During that time, I was newly divorced and although my girls were grown, I could relate to these women trying to improve their lives and provide for their children without much outside support. One of the things I always included in the workshops was how to establish a “new normal” and establish “rituals” and “boundaries” for the single moms and their families.


Rituals have been an important part of civilization and culture since time began. Early rituals were determined by basic human needs: food, water and shelter. People hunted, gathered, and grew all their own food, built their own shelters, and located near a steady source of clean water. Today’s basic needs are the same, but fullfilled in different ways. Inflation in most developed countries has made it difficult to keep up with rising costs, making education and training even more important. How we help our children feel secure can depend a great deal on how we embrace new rituals and set down new boundaries during times of change. I know of one woman who had trouble explaining to her kids where all the money went and why there was none left for extras. One payday, she had her entire check cashed in one dollar bills and placed the pile of money on the kitchen table. She gathered the kids around (even her three-year-old) and together, they divided the money up into piles for each of the bills due. There wasn’t much left over, and the kids learned the importance of budgeting. They wanted to do the exercise every month so they could “help” mom pay the bills. A new ritual was born.


The psalmist talks about “boundary lines” being “pleasant places.” Boundaries can help us feel secure, and they can teach us about God’s goodness and provision. If we truly believe that God is in control and will take care of us, then we can be content with our lives through good times and times of change.


Grant us bread, O Lord, and help us trust in You to provide it. See us through the inevitable changes in life. Amen


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The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7


My friend’s granddaughter is very young and already has two little children and a “sometimes man” who appears to be ill prepared to raise these children with their mother. This young mother was recently diagnosed with a debilitating disease that will sap her energy and require medical monitoring for the rest of her life. She recently posted on Face Book that she is so tired she doesn’t know if she can get through another day. My friend’s daughter, the mother of this girl and grandmother of the two tiny ones, also has health challenges. Understandably, my friend is concerned for the future of her family members.


This story plays out all over the world. For various reasons, many young children are not given the attention they so desperately require by those charged by blood and society to be their caretakers. Many parents, particularly those in low income brackets, are overwhelmed by parenting duties. They may have had poor parenting themselves, lacking role models and skills for any job. Public assistance may seem the only logical sustenance for one who possesses no job skills or devalues gainful employment. Babies happen with alarming regularity, and each child deserves a secure future with food, shelter, education and love every day. I saw the void in homes I visited as a county social worker in the 1970’s. It had been there before I came, and it is still there today.


Families involved in a faith community are never perfect, but they have a better opportunity to connect with others struggling to balance home, family, and work. The visibility of families in need within the church community hopefully leads to earlier intervention in time of need. Pastors and church elders provide a crucial service in helping people get help. Yet many times churches turn a blind eye to those who appear “different” or “too needy.” God would not have us behave this way. In fact, He says clearer states the poor in spirit will “inherit the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3). Is there someone in your church or community that you have passed by? Let them know about God’s amazing love.



Father of orphans and protector of widows, lead us to a time of peace fairness for all. Amen


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But whatever anyone dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 2 Corinthians 11:21-23


I am an open book when it comes to self-disclosure. I meet someone new, and within ten minutes, they know more about me than they probably want to know. I never used to be that way. Growing up with my alcoholic mom and my very private dad, I was loathe to tell anybody about my family, much less have people over. Would my mother be in a drunken rage? Would my father be embarrassed to see someone new come into our home and find out our dirty little secrets? Best not to open that Pandora’s box.


But when I became a Christian, I discovered that we are all broken. None of our lives is perfect and our stories to share might just help other people through their struggles too. At first glance, Paul’s words in today’s Scripture might seem like “story topping.” Is he saying, “Woe is me. I’m the most persecuted person on the planet, and nobody has had it worse off than I have?” Actually, he’s saying the exact opposite. Paul wants people to know what he’s endured in the name of Christ so others will identify with him and listen more closely because they’ve been through some challenging times themselves.


When I wrote my memoir, Then I Am Strong: Moving From My Mother’s Daughter to God’s Child, several titles were considered before this one was chosen. I decided on another passage of Paul’s words, 2 Corinthians 12:10, “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (italics mine). The book reveals my days “BC” (before accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior), God’s miraculous intervention, and my growth in Christ since that time. I believe it is through the transparent sharing of my experiences that I can best serve my Lord.


Stir us to tell our stories for Your glory, Lord. Amen


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In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2


My father was an Air Force pilot and he didn’t believe in it. Not one branch of the United States military acknowledges its existence. But the Bermuda Triangle has been rumored for many years to have mysteriously swallowed up a number of aircraft and ships. The region forms a triangle from Florida to Bermuda to Puerto Rico, and popular culture credits the mysterious happenings there to paranormal activity or extraterrestrial beings. Although the legends still abound, there has never been any significant proof that the area is any more dangerous than other shipping channels used daily by aircraft, cruise ships and commercial vessels.


God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit form a different kind of triangle, one that we can get lost in without fear. According to, “a vortex is a region in a fluid medium in which the flow is mostly rotating around an axis line.” Examples of a vortex would be smoke rings created by moving air, whirlwinds such as tornados and cyclones, and whirlpools made by circulating water. “Once formed,” the website says, “vortices can move, stretch, twist, and interact in complex ways.” When I think about the power of the Living God, I can imagine much swirling, twisting, and interacting. I can feel the vortex of love and grace that God has placed around me. He walks with me, leads me, shelters me and most definitely moves both my soul and spirit—and sometimes even my body. John the Baptist described a coming vortex  of Jesus’ power when he said, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but One Who is more powerful than I is coming after me…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).  On the day of Pentecost, “suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind… Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and …they began to speak in other languages…” (Acts 2:1-2).

It is easy to get caught up in the vortex of God’s power!


Blessed Lord, catch me up in Your power and love and send me far and wide in Your holy Name. Amen


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Bill EllistonNow there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:4


Bill Elliston is a professional cyclist who happens to be married to my niece, Virginia. Our whole family knows that Bill is very dedicated to his sport. When he is not racing in events all over the globe, he coaches and trains in and around their home town of Easton, Pennsylvania, putting on hundreds of miles a week even in the off-season. In fact, Bill rides his bicycle to his aunt’s house, about ninety miles from home, every year on Thanksgiving Day, no matter what the weather. He sets out on his cycle before Virginia leaves the house in the car with the food she brings to share at the family meal.


Virginia says they frequently arrive at the same time, but Bill gets far more attention than Virginia does. All the cousins storm out of the house, bringing Bill hot apple cider and holiday treats to replenish him after his arduous trip. Virginia jokes that she often stands quietly by in a snow bank, holding her casserole dishes and waiting for someone to notice her instead of her husband.


Our family all love Bill and we are very proud of him. But this annual scenario reminds me that we often pay attention to those people in life who “make a splash” by having some outstanding talent, some highly observable trait that we admire or envy. The quiet casserole-bearers often go through life overlooked and underappreciated. Both are loved by God; some just get more human attention than others.


The Bible says we all have talents, big or small, and each person’s talent is equally important to God. Let’s remember to notice—and express our appreciation—for those who perform small, quiet tasks that keep the world going. It’s not all about the most visible, but also about those who perform in the background.


Let us be ever mindful, Dear Lord, of the talents of all Your beautiful children. May we show appreciation for the smallest gift brought in Your name. Amen


For more information about Bill Elliston, see


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My soul also is struck with terror, while you, O Lord—how long? Psalm 6:3


She was about my age and close to my height and weight. We both had blonde hair. Depression had been an issue for each of us in the past. But there was one difference between us: when she hurt inside, she took a sharp object and carved up the skin on her wrists, her legs, whatever she could reach. She had been hospitalized for mental illness and then sent to the sheltered workshop where I worked as a counselor. It was 1972 and her program was called “work readiness:” preparing her for a job she would never be able to hold down because of her profound, untreated clinical depression. She had been placed in the laundry area, where she had easy access to wire coat hangers. Everyone was clueless. Nobody was cutting back then, and I was the first person she had shown.


My first question was, “Why?” A stupid question, but I was a young counselor, just out of graduate school myself. Her answer: “Because I can control hurting myself. I can’t control when other people hurt me.” Cutting is a distraction, a brief respite from the emotional pain a person is going through. “Self-harm typically starts at about age fourteen,” says Karen Conterio, a former cutter and author of the book, Bodily Harm. “As more kids become aware of the practice, more are trying it,” as young as eleven or twelve. The cutter may have serious emotional problems, a history of sexual abuse, or an unhappy home life. But some are just “regular kids going through the adolescent struggle for self-identity,” says Wendy Lader, PhD, clinical director for SAFE Alternatives, a program in Naperville, Illinois.


The cutting today’s young people engage in is a psychiatric condition which needs treatment from mental health professionals trained in dealing with this condition. We must remember that adolescents struggle with many voices calling out to them to be smarter, cuter, and more popular. If Jesus were to encounter a cutter today, He would be in the healing business, not the business of exorcism.


Healing Lord, we beseech You to make Yourself known to these good children who feel the need to harm themselves. May they know that You provide healing and hope in their darkest hours. Amen


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Michael j. FoxWe are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9


Canadian born actor Michael J. Fox was at the peak of his film and television career when, at age twenty-nine, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This debilitating condition is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system mainly affecting the body’s motor coordination. Caused by the death of dopamine-generating cells in the brain, the disease has no known cure. Symptoms digress from shaking and difficulty walking to thinking, behavior problems, and dementia in later stages. Depression is also common among people with this diagnosis.


Fox waited for several years until disclosing his condition to the public. He is semi-retired from acting, but has become a strong advocate for research toward finding a cure. He created the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and he has been given many awards and honorary degrees for his tireless work for those afflicted with Parkinson’s. In his first book, aptly named Lucky Man, Fox speaks of his initial denial of the disease, drinking to excess, and generally giving up. But Fox is now sober, embracing his disease, and concentrating on being an advocate for others. His second book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist describes his life between 1999 and 2009, with much of the book centered on how Fox began campaigning for stem-cell research. A prime-time special, Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, which aired in 2009, saw the actor discussing his condition, his family, and his work.


Michael J. Fox is a prime example of an individual who turned a devastating diagnosis into a positive, life-giving message for others with debilitating diseases and disabilities. Life could have spiraled downward for Fox, leaving him bitter and depressed. But instead, he has used the gifts that he had—notoriety and the public’s ear—to transform his life into a living sacrifice for his fellow sufferers. Though his life may not have turned out the way he expected, his legacy will be far greater than that of a Hollywood superstar.


Lord, bless those who live with life-changing conditions and bless those who give so much back for their sake. Amen


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Jesus Christ in the CloudsIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1


Once when I was visiting my parents out of state, my father took me to the public library to print off my boarding pass for the trip home. My parents never owned a computer, but my father was fascinated with how easily I navigated my way around the airline’s website. He was particularly interested in how I could type something, but if I made a mistake, I could simply delete it and type in the correct words. My dad was very organized and spent a good deal of time typing out lists and instructions and personal letters, all on an old Smith Corona typewriter. I too learned to type long before computers. Young people today do not realize how frustrating it was to complete an entire document only to find an error. The only thing to do was to retype the entire piece.


I often think about the dedication of the people long ago who wrote longhand translations of the Bible in various languages. Then came the printing press and all the type setting that had to be done. What a grueling job. What if no one had ever taken the time to make the words of the Bible available to others? Such perfect words would have been lost forever. But that was not God’s plan. He set those people in the right places at the right time with the right technology to complete the job of passing His Word down through the ages. Isaiah 55:11 quotes God as saying, “So shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God’s Word is His very essence coming to us for His purposes. How we receive it and what we do with it is of utmost importance.


I don’t profess to understand everything about computers, but I still find them critical to my writing. Even though we may struggle to comprehend every nuance in the Bible, God’s Word is critical to our journey here on earth as well.


You are the Word, Lord, and Your Word is life to us. Amen


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Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. Matthew 7:7


Yes, I know today’s Scripture doesn’t say, “Text and you will receive a text from Jesus.” But what if the Lord started sending us signs via text messaging? What would those look like? I’m not very “text savvy,” a detriment to my image with my ten grandchildren. But I’ve learned a fair amount from them. I thought BTW meant “bring the wheelchair,” but it turns out, it stands for “by the way.” And TTYL means “talk to you later,” not “louder.” So if I can figure this out, I’m quite sure Jesus would be a whiz at it.


So your smart phone makes that little sound that signals a text message coming in. You don’t have Jesus in your address book, but He has more power than the cell companies, so His name appears clearly at the top of the message. The message says, IMU, which means “I miss you.” Please do not text back OMG. That would most certainly offend your Lord and Savior. If you text back, BBZL (“been busy lately”), He might say, HT? (“how’s that?”). You say, LIAB&U? (“life is a bear, and you?”). He says, IKICI (“I know, I created it”). Then He adds, STBU, which the kids think means “sucks to be you.” But Jesus actually means “so try better understanding.” Next, you text HOW? (“how?”), and Jesus fires back RYBIFU (“read your Bible, it’s for you”). WDIS? from you (“where do I start?”). PG1 He says (page 1). OIC, you text (“oh, I see”). Then you add, CLESS (“clueless”), to which Jesus responds, IWSU (“I will show you”). You go get your Bible and open it to Genesis 1:1, and suddenly you are flooded with an intense understanding of the words printed therein. It’s like they are A&W (“alive and well”) and M&B (“moving and breathing”). You reply, IGIN! (“I get it now!”). Jesus says, TTYLF, which the kids think means “talk to you later, friend,” but He really means, “the thing you longed for.”


Jesus doesn’t really need to text with us because He can actually talk to us without a phone. All we have to do is listen.


Deliver us from technology, Lord, and talk to us Your way. Amen