Over the years I’ve heard the saying, “Giving is receiving.” This is something I’ve experienced as I’m sure many of you have.
The fact our giving doesn’t have to be extravagant to have an impact is an added bonus. Sometimes all we need to do is show up. Our time is valuable and giving it freely to someone shows a commitment to that person they may not have experienced elsewhere.
Acts of service show we understand the needs of another and are willing to help fill those needs. In order to recognize them, we need to pay attention.
My husband is a master at this. He quietly takes care of things around the house to give me time to spend writing. By giving me the gift of his time he is also valuing mine. There is no way to put a price on this kind of gift.
His example makes me strive to cheerfully give my time and attention to others. By doing so, I am giving one of the most thoughtful gifts possible. No lineups to purchase are required. No fancy wrapping is needed. The ripple effect is far-reaching and can enable me to experience a little of Christmas in any month of the year. This may be the most perfect gift idea ever!
“It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you. Yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand.” Mother Theresa
My favourite Christmas concerts are the ones put on by children. They have several things in common with the first Christmas – music, drama, God, and the element of surprise! You never know quite what to expect at a children’s performance. I think the mistakes in the program provide some of the most memorable moments.
The Christmas I was six years old, I was given a major role in the school concert. I was to recite T’was the Night Before Christmas. My mother helped me memorize the poem. By the day of the concert I had it word perfect. That is, until I stepped up on the stage in front of an audience!
Part way through, I forgot my next line. I paused and then started again, unaware that I was repeating a previous line. Suddenly my three-year-old brother yelled out from the audience, “You already said that part!” My mother was embarrassed at his outburst, I was embarrassed by my mistake and my little brother stole the show!
Now I can look back and realize that mistakes actually help teach us the real meaning of Christmas. They allow us to see that true joy comes from being loved by God, no matter how many mistakes we make. That’s what God’s love was telling us more than 2,000 years ago with the arrival of Jesus. He’s still telling us that today.
His love is there when we follow the script and when we get mixed up. He’s there cheering us on, just like the loving parents watching their children in the concerts. When we make a mistake, he picks us up and encourages us to try again. He delights in our enthusiasm and rejoices with us in our accomplishments. His unconditional love always meets us exactly where we are.
Not only at Christmas but throughout the year, I want to be like a little child, basking in the love of my Heavenly Father.
I was drawn to the lighthouses we saw on our travels. From the shores of the Great Lakes in Ontario to the coastline of the Maritime Provinces, every lighthouse was photo worthy.
There was something about these structures that captured my imagination. Most were operational but I also wanted to stop and admire ones that were purely for decoration.
The distinct tower shape, topped by a lantern area at the top is easily recognized as something to help ships navigate safely through treacherous waters.
The symbolism in this runs deep. To many, lighthouses are seen as showing us how to navigate through the rough waters of life. They speak of safety and security in the face of adversity and challenge.
Maybe that is why I was drawn to them. Even the well-weathered structures with peeling paint held an attraction.
They reminded me that, no matter my age, I have the ability to make a positive impact. A lighthouse doesn’t rush around, attempting to save people. It stands still and shines a beacon of light to illuminate the darkness. That is its great power.
Jesus is my personal lighthouse. He keeps me safe and secure no matter what storms challenge my life. I never have to walk in darkness when I can look to Him to guide me. His light fills me and equips me to reflect that to those around me. In that way, I can be a beacon that points people to Him.
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 NIV)
Today’s story in honour of Remembrance Day appeared in my book Dragonflies, Snowdrifts and Spice Cake.
November 11 is known as Remembrance Day in Canada. In other countries, it is called Armistice Day or Poppy Day. This date marks the anniversary of the official end of World War 1, November 11, 1918. As a holiday the day commemorates the sacrifices made in armed conflicts. Countless numbers have given their lives. Many more have suffered serious injuries and great emotional scars.
The sacrifice that so many have paid to ensure a better life for those who followed is overwhelming. That’s why, on this day and for weeks before, people wear artificial poppies as a symbol of remembrance. There’s also a period of silence at the eleventh hour to remember these sacrifices. Many areas have commemoration ceremonies and military parades.
Those who made the sacrifices are remembered and appreciated. Among those I honour are my father and father-in-law, who both fought in World War 11.
While I’m remembering those sacrifices, I need to remember the greatest sacrifice of all. Jesus gave his life so that I may have the opportunity to spend eternity with him. He paid the penalty for my sins so that I may be forgiven. He knew what the outcome would be but carried it through because of his great love. This is something I didn’t deserve. This gift is something to thank him for each and every day.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16 NIV)
It had been an incredible travel adventure. Our trip was much more than we had imagined or hoped for.
Now, after almost eight weeks on the road, it was time to start the long drive home. As soon as our van was headed west again, I just wanted to get home. And get there as soon as possible. I was anxious to return to the comfort and familiarity of my family and my permanent address.
One day before we were to arrive home, the conflict set in. Although I wanted to be home, maybe I wasn’t quite ready. There was still so much to see and do. I was weary of the travel yet not quite willing to give it up.
This change in attitude was confusing me. How could I reconcile my mind being pulled in two opposite directions?
On the radio came a song that spoke about resting in heaven when our work on earth is done. My conflict made sense when I could relate travel to my life on earth and going home to eternal rest and peace in heaven.
I wonder if I will experience any of this same conflict when that day comes to say goodbye to loved ones and enter my heavenly home. Will I feel ready to leave everything and everyone I know?
With only a few hours to go, I received a message from my son, asking if we would make it home that day. As soon as I read it, the earlier conflict disappeared. All I wanted was to see and hug my family.
I’m sure it will be the same when God’s son, Jesus, calls me home. There will be no hesitation as I hurry into His open arms.
“When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:3 NLT)
I saw a small boat grounded on a rocky area at a bay we visited. It appeared to have been there for quite some time. The name written on its hull was Freedom 55.
This seemed ironic as Freedom 55 was the familiar slogan for being able to retire early and enjoy the so-called good life.
Many people put their trust and hope for the future in monetary investments. They think if they have enough money they will be happy and secure.
These same people find their lives on the rocks when the stock market takes a downturn and their hard-earned investment portfolios fail them. The assurance they counted on for a comfortable future is now gone.
I don’t want to imply that money isn’t necessary but I do know from firsthand experience that it can also promote a false sense of security. Been there, done that, have the battle scars to prove it. My goal is to never be a slave to money again.
My security is not determined by the amount of assets I hold. My freedom comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My hope for the future is rock solid because I know Jesus will never turn his back on me. He sees my true value and I am guaranteed to spend eternity with Him.
Do you have that security? It’s the only one that won’t leave you stranded.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV
I am drawn to campfires. Sometimes I roast marshmallows and other times I am content just to sit near and appreciate the beauty a fire has to offer. I like to watch the flames lick and dance and when they have burned down, I’m enthralled with the glow of the embers.
Our eleven-year-old grandson, Logan, also has a love of campfires. Unlike me, he is not content to sit idly beside one. Instead, he wants to tend the fire, turning over and rearranging the burning logs.
He joined us for a fire recently and, poker in hand enjoyed rearranging the burning pieces of wood. When the flames died down, he used his poker to break up the glowing embers and move them away from the rest of the fire.
It didn’t take long before the glow left these embers, making them look like lumps of coal. Logan commented on this and we told him to move the dark pieces of charred wood close to the larger ones still showing the red and orange of fire within. Pieces recently removed ignited quickly; ones that had grown cold took a little longer. Some needed to be completely surrounded by the pieces with fire still alive inside them. Eventually, all of them burned brightly again.
I have had experiences where the flame of passion for life has died down. Just as an ember removed from the fire grows cold, the same happened to me when I distanced myself from other believers. I discovered the colder I became, the longer it took to reignite my spark.
This is a good reminder to surround myself with positive, encouraging people. Together we can fan the flames of potential each of us carries. As followers of Jesus, we can be the spark that points others to His love and light.
(Jesus said) “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV)
The worship leader was having a rough morning. First, his microphone didn’t work and a substitute needed to be found. Next, his keyboard started flashing a strange message.
This gentleman doesn’t take himself too seriously, so instead of pretending all was good, he kept up a commentary with us while the problems were being addressed.
He told us he was going to follow the advice younger people have given him regarding technology issues. When his phone or computer aren’t performing like they should, he’s been told to shut them off. It seems they get overloaded and tired and need a break.
The keyboard was turned off for a minute or two. When he turned it on again, everything was fine.
I’ve used the same tactic with electronics. The example in front of me, however, caused me to think how helpful it would be in life situations.
When I am feeling tired and overloaded, my life is not working as well as it should. Before the warning signs start flashing, I need to shut down the activity for a time. In essence, my life needs a reboot.
I have found the best way to do this is to spend quiet time with Jesus. He restores me and helps me figure out my priorities. My mind and body are refreshed and I become more efficient. That, to me, is the optimal reboot.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NLT)
The decision was not easy. Two of our nine-year-old granddaughters wanted to spend the night in our camper van. The dilemma came when they told me they could sleep there without me. I didn’t like this idea at all. Who would protect them or comfort them if they became afraid?
We were in a gated, secure family RV park and my husband and I would be mere steps away in our trailer. Somehow this didn’t make me feel any better.
I turned to the girl’s parents for guidance. Truthfully, I was willing to let them be the bad guys who said no. They had no concerns so reluctantly I agreed.
One of the first things I did was to ensure they could open the door to get out of the van on their own. No problem there. I must have forgotten they are nine and not two!
When the girls were tucked in for the night, we let them know the lights on the outside of the van and the trailer would be left on. That way they could easily find their way to us in the dark of night.
A light in the dark brings comfort. That is why Jesus told his followers to let their lights shine before others. We can do this by walking with God and letting His Spirit shine through us.
In this way we are able to shine a comforting, joyful light to people we come in contact with. And, as I learned with my granddaughter’s camping experience, a little bit of light dispels a lot of darkness.
Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)
A heavy rain had fallen overnight. We woke up to the promise of a brighter day and headed outside to breathe in the fresh, clean air that follows a summer rain.
While the ground was still damp, my husband started pulling weeds that had sprung up in our flower beds. I tackled the ones growing between the paving stones. It didn’t take long to appreciate the difference damp soil makes.
When I gently tugged, the entire root of the weed emerged from the ground. I was happy to know my efforts were eliminating the problem and not just a temporary solution.
Previous weeding experience hadn’t gone as well. When the ground was dry, often only the portion above ground broke off. Things would look better for a short time until the root produced new growth and the weed once again became visible. Hard, unyielding soil gives those kinds of results.
The analogy was not lost on me. When my attitude is hard and unyielding, the root of bitterness and discontent grows. I may be able to hide it for a short time, but it keeps reappearing.
Jesus is the master gardener who is able to get to the root of the problem. His tender loving care softens my heart so the once flourishing roots of my unhealthy behaviour can be eliminated.
When I submit fully to Jesus, there is no risk of one of these roots being left behind. He is the one who can probe to the depths of my heart, remove my sins, and give me a clean start.
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” (Romans 4: 7-8 NLT)