Here’s a real throw back to another time and place.  This must’ve been about 42 years ago, judging by the hair on my husband’s head and face.  Mine was short and designed for ease of care with three little ones to attend to.  All of our haircuts were done at home.  We didn’t have much then.  In fact money was always short for us, even for the brief time that we had it.

My girls were dressed in homemade outfits made with my Viking Sewing Machine, which has survived for almost fifty years.  After our move, I hadn’t bothered to use it for a whole year.  When I needed it, I noticed the bobbin case was missing – rending it virtually useless.  I guess God is trying to tell me I need to give up sewing.

When I look at these old photos, the one thing that stands out for me is that we’re all smiling.  Either we were all born actors, or we were genuinely happy.  Those smiles have dwindled over the years.  They’ve been replaced with wrinkles and lines where the smiles used to live.

As we grow older, our tempers grow shorter – we look at things differently – we sometimes feel invisible, because we’re hardly noticed – we become sarcastic, short fused and grumpy.  However, even in the oldest of faces, there is still the capacity to smile.  I hope I die with a smile on my face.  I wouldn’t want to greet my God with a grumpy face.  Of course I won’t, because He’s promised to renew us and restore us to perfection when we enter heaven.  My smile will be a permanent thing there and I’ll have my own teeth, no wrinkles, renewed strength and energy and perfect in every way.  I can’t wait!


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You’ve hung the holiday lights and your yard resembles a Currier & Ives painting.  The entrance to your home is filled with wonderful scents of the Christmas season.  Cookies, pies and special cakes are laid out upon a white table cloth, with candles and lots of beautiful accessories.  The inviting aromas of pine, cinnamon, chocolate and peppermint permeate the air. The roaring fireplace invites you into a cozy, comfy room which beckons you to a different world.  The warmth of hot chocolate kisses your lips or a mug of egg nog, spiced with a bit of brandy adds to the celebration.

Sounds perfect, right?

Maybe not quite as perfect as we planned.  We go through the motions of preparing for this wonderful holiday.  We spend hours looking through magazines for ideas on the most beautiful presentation, the most delicious foods, the perfect gifts.  We scroll through Pinterest, run out to get the materials needed for a special craft, only to spend more than you intended and the craft is a disaster.

The children are filled with extra sugar, mega-energy, super-sized wants and needs and you just can’t manage to get things done.  They are calling for attention.  Your house needs a makeover.  Relatives descend on you and what should be a giant family reunion, may turn into a disaster.  You try to squeeze all this extra stuff into the little time you have between work and extra curricular activities.  Your temper rises, your fuse is short and most likely someone develops a cold or the flu.

Those dreams of the perfect holiday have all but vanished.

You try to manage your shopping so you keep within a certain budget, but know you won’t have nearly enough.  You stress out for not sending Christmas cards.  You remember loved ones who have left this world.  There’s not enough time, nor money, nor strength to get it all done. Your emotions are on a giant roller coaster.

A young woman was about to give birth, that first Christmas Eve.  Mary and Joseph had made the treacherous journey to Bethlehem to be counted in the census.  There was no available room in the little town.  They didn’t know what to do.  None of this adventure made any sense.  It was if they had been moving blindly, after the angelic messenger told them what was to occur.

The baby was not going to wait for the perfect room.  He was going to be born NOW!  So they went to the place where animals slept – a cold, dark and dank space that reeked of hay, manure and smelly animals.  Jesus was born with no fanfare.  He was the King of Kings and yet his tiny body was wrapped in strips of cloth and laid in a feeding trough.  It was not the place for a king.  It was not expected or what they hoped for, but it was part of God’s master plan for us.

The greatest gift ever, was born that night.  In that manger, lay the Son of God and Mary – the Messiah born to save the world from sin.  There were no special trimmings – no extravagant food – no trumpets blaring – only the sound of a cow mooing occasionally or a lamb bleating.  Except for the angelic choir singing the most glorious songs, there was nothing but peace.

We can decorate our homes and make them look perfect, but it’s what’s inside that really matters.  I’m not talking about all the flashy ornaments and gorgeous trimmings.  I’m referring to what’s inside our hearts.

Jesus makes our hearts perfect – way beyond anything the world imagines – complete with the promise of eternal life in a perfect place.  What an amazing gift, with no strings attached.


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Life on this planet is but a whisper in the scheme of things.
We’re born, we grow, we learn, we work, we die.
What has happened to all those days in between?

They have become food for dreams, memories to ponder,
Hopes to continue striving for. They get foggier as we age.
The windshield of our existence needs to be defrosted.

We have but a few years to leave our mark – to create a legacy –
To share with others – to love and be loved.
If only there were more of them. There’s so little time and so much to do.



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Like the Fiddler on the Roof, I love tradition but it doesn’t carry the same punch it used to.  Maybe it’s because we want to make new traditions that fit our lifestyle and some of the old ways are nothing more than old-fashioned.

Did you know that the practice of having a Christmas tree was first started in the 16th century?  The beautiful fir trees that lined the forests of Germany looked like God had sprinkled glitter all over them.  The people often often hung apples on them as a reminder of the Tree of Life.  They also added lit candles to depict the Light of the World.

I have memories of going to the woods to cut down a tree.  We’d bundle the kids up so they could barely move.  We trudged through deep snow and since my husband has an eye for perfection, we had to find just the right tree.  He then would take out his axe and begin chopping.  This is where the fun began.  The kids loved the idea of cutting down a tree each year, but the tradition died after a while.  Like many traditions, they simply don’t fit our lifestyle anymore.

I also remember making fresh egg nog for my family during the holidays.  It was made from fresh, raw eggs – cream, sugar and nutmeg.  Occasionally the adults would add a bit of brandy to spice it up.  That doesn’t happen now, because of the danger of salmonella poisoning.

Traditions come and go, but the message of the season should never be clouded by a change in our lifestyle.  Jesus came to us at Christmas.  He was born of a virgin – conceived by God Himself – became our brother.  That isn’t tradition.  It’s a fact and one that will never change.

As we prepare for the advent season, let’s take time to look at some of the old-fashioned traditions, but not forget the One that never goes out of style – JESUS!

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I love the old movies about Christmas.  You know the ones that make you feel all soft inside – cause you tear up – strike a familiar nerve.  Movies like, “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas.”  These movies are packed with family values, love for one another, charity, peace on earth and all the good things associated with Christmas. The strand that ties them all together is that life isn’t always perfect.  Life for most people has its glitches and roadblocks.

To find the true miracles of life, we often have to dig deeper than the gifts of “The Christmas Story.”  Ralphie’s dream of getting a Red Ryder B.B. gun, in spite of his mother’s objections, is simply the happy ending that doesn’t always occur.

I think the true miracles of Christmas can be found in the simplest of things. Memories of those simple things are alive in my brain, more than any of the gifts I’ve ever received.  I couldn’t tell you one special gift I asked for and got for Christmas, but I do remember the old scraggly tree we got at the last minutes in order to save money.

I recall my dad spending lots of extra hours working, so we could have special clothes to wear.  I remember my mom spending hours curling my sister’s and my hair with rags.  I think about the Christmases where homemade ornaments, knit scarves, mittens and doll clothes were all we had to give.  The smiles at receiving whatever was given always outweighed the gift itself. The time spent together is a miracle in itself.

Other miracles occurred only this past weekend as my husband, daughter and granddaughter joined a group of singers and went caroling t shut-ins from our church.  Paul related one of many miracles that occurred..  An elderly man of ninety something,  didn’t answer his door, but peeked through the window as he heard the joyous voices.  Almost like a little child, he pressed his nose against the pane and a small smile curled the edges of his mouth.  He looked down to open the window slightly, so he could hear better. When his face reappeared, small tears had formed in the corners of his eyes.

Sometimes we have to search hard for miracles.  Maybe you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one this year.  Perhaps you just lost your job and your debts far outweigh you assets.  You might be struggling with addiction and feel there is no way out for you.  There are many who are homeless, living under bridges with no warm blankets or clothes to push out the winter’s cold.  How can there be even the tiniest miracle in any of that?

The most unlikely place for the King of Creation to make His human appearance, was in a lowly stable.  Everything about that first Nativity of our Lord, was inconceivable – a virgin birth – born in Bethlehem as foretold by the prophets – true man yet true God- born to deliver the entire world from the chains of sin, guilt and death.  None of it made sense, but these miraculous events were tucked away in Mary’s heart and undoubtedly remembered as they occurred.

I love those old movies, but I think Linus expressed it best.  In “A Charlie Brown Christmas,”  these were the words he recited:

“And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ, the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” 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, and good will toward men.”



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You could have come in glory, in purple robes and crown,
You chose a life of poverty instead,
Your bed was once a feeding trough, your palace now a barn,
A perfect place for you to lay your head,
You came to be my brother – to bear my every pain,
So I could share your glory. Your life is now my gain.

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When we look at our politicians today, what do we see?  We’re pounded with stories of indiscretion, sexual harassment, corruption, undignified behavior and evil occurring all over the place. We’ve the ‘benefit’ of receiving all this juicy gossip daily – even taking precedence over a terrorist attempt in NYC.  The news media has become nothing more than sensationalism and pulp fiction at its worse.

In Jesus time, there was corruption in government, but it wasn’t restricted to politics.  The common folks of that time had better things to do than read twitter accounts, listen to tainted, one sided reports.  They didn’t care what happened in that realm.  They were too busy eeking out a living and trying to get through another day without dying.

However, there were some really bad dudes running the country at the time of Jesus’ birth.  Herod was charismatic, ruthless, paranoid and maniacal. What a guy!Born an Edomite, he was a Jew like his subjects. In his lifetime he built Judaea into a thriving metropolis. One of his projects was Masada, a heavily protected fortress.

He was one of the movers and shakers of his day, but he had a dark side. He had 10 wives, one which he killed in a jealous rage. He had two of his sons murdered, because he feared they were plotting to kill him. The man had no real.  It had been vacuumed up like someone falling into quicksand.

The Jews had been promised by the government that they could worship outside of the Roman religions, but they had to pay for the privilege. Herod taxed them heavily and used the revenue for his massive construction plans. We all know what happened when he found out that another King was born to take his place. The murder of the innocents had to be one of the most horrific events of this time period.

Yet our Savior was born and spared by God, because He had a mission for the baby, Jesus.  It was the perfect point in history for Him to be born.  The census would lead His family to the city of Bethlehem (the city of King David) to fulfill another prophecy about the Messiah’s birthplace.

King, Jesus will come again and rule with power unseen by humankind.  He defeated our greatest enemy.  He conquered death and gave all who believe in Him, eternal life.  He is a just king – a loving king – One who took our place so we wouldn’t never again suffer the chains of sin or death.

As we look at our own political scene, sin is alive and well.  The devil still roams the earth and shoots his evil darts at us daily. He lives in Washington.  He works in the everyday world as well.  He entices, lures and tempts us constantly.

When we walk with Jesus, we can be assured that He has chosen a perfect place for us.  He is our perfect ruler and He has chosen us to be part of His eternal kingdom.


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When troubles surround me, and fear lies within,

When anxious thoughts linger and turn me to sin,

There’s one thing to count on, of that I am sure,

My God is there with me, His love will endure,


Your Word, Lord, is perfect. Its teachings are true,

By faith we accept it, not by what we do,

Your words can give strength to our weak minds each day,

Our path is made straight by the things that you say,

You reach out your hand and you touch me with love,

I long for the day when I see you above.

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