Season of Anticipation

5387409984_a2e741f923_z*Giveaway winner announced below!

Ah, the days leading up to Christmas… Such a season of anticipation. We find ourselves looking forward to many things with excitement — visits with family and friends, giving our loved ones special gifts, indulging in our favorite holiday treats, helping make Christmas a little merrier for a hurting soul, or carrying out our well-loved traditions. We each could add our own personally anticipated events to the list, couldn’t we?

I pray that reflecting on the coming of our Savior and time spent worshiping Him will be at the very center of our season of anticipation this year. Let’s take time each day to celebrate the fact that our Savior was indeed born so many years ago. Let’s not wait until Christmas Eve to begin our Christmas worship.

One good way to do this is with music. As you sing the carols of Christmas this holiday season, truly think about the message of each verse. With songs that have become so familiar, it’s easy to merrily sing along but fail to actually hear the messages of the carols with our hearts. Let’s not miss those messages this year. Let’s sing with our hearts.

There’s no better time to start than now. Join me in hearing afresh the message of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” as we sing our worship today! (This is one of several versions of the Latin hymn, author unknown.)

“O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Oh, bid our sad divisions cease,
And be yourself our King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!”

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:23 KJV

*What special things are you anticipating this Christmas season?

*The winner of the Kick Off the Holiday Giveaway is . . .  Joanna! Congrats and Merry Christmas, Joanna! I’ll put your copy of Mother of the Bride along with the Starbucks gift card in the mail today!

*Hope you enjoyed this encore presentation of one of my December 2010 blog posts!

*Flickr photo by johanneschnelldorfer, Creative Commons License

Kick Off the Holiday Giveaway!

11377205686_d2fd287fe8_zNow that Thanksgiving has come and gone, let’s kick off the holiday season with a little giveaway. You may remember that I’m doing most of my giveaways through my Life Notes newsletter now (sign-up is free on the right sidebar), but I can’t let the Christmas season go by without playing Santa here on my blog. It’s just part of who I am! :)

This Christmas I’m giving away a $15 gift card to Starbucks as well as a signed copy of my book Mother of the Bride: Refreshment and Wisdom for the Mother of the Bride. Most everyone enjoys getting a gift card to Starbucks, and if you’re not a mother of the bride, you can give the book as a gift or donate it to your public or church library. I would love to see the book make its way into more libraries!

To be entered in the giveaway, leave a comment on this post by noon (CST) next Monday December 5th. I’ll announce the winner the next day in my regular Tuesday blog post. (Because of high shipping costs, you must have a U.S. mailing address to be eligible to win.)

Any comment will do, but maybe you could tell me what you will do with the book if you win. Are you a mother of the bride who will hang on to it for dear life? Will you give it as a gift? Will you donate it to a library? Maybe you will keep it for future use. Or maybe you just want a copy of my book and don’t have one yet. Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a mother of the bride to enjoy reading it! Lots of personal stories included and wisdom that can be applied to a variety of situations.

You may earn an additional entry if you’re a current or new Life Notes subscriber (sign-up is free on the right sidebar), and you can earn another entry if you Like (or have already Liked) my Cheryl Barker, Writer Facebook page. Just mention if you’ve done these things in your comment to get your extra entries!

Now here’s to a blessed holiday season to one and all. May you each feel our Savior’s presence in a wonderful way this Christmas season!

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 NIV

*Flickr photo by Daniel Y. Go, Creative Commons License

An Overflowing Heart for Thanksgiving

3339606759_265dc7c515Aren’t you thankful for a month when we can celebrate thankfulness? A month when all across our vast nation we each remember the blessings we have and offer God thanks for them?

The details of our thanks may vary from year to year, but the underlying truth remains the same—the countless gifts God gives fill our hearts with thanks and praise.

 I originally shared the poem “Overflowing Heart” on my blog in November 2007 (the first Thanksgiving after I started blogging), but it’s filled with even more truth and meaning for me today as God has continued to pour blessings into my life. Yes, today my heart overflows even more.

May my “Overflowing Heart” give rise to your own this holiday season. And may God continue to bless you all richly, my friends!

Overflowing Heart

On this Thanksgiving Day
My heart is overflowing,
The blessings in my life, dear Lord,
Just seem to keep on growing.

How can I ever thank you,
Where can I begin,
To show my appreciation
For the forgiveness of my sin?

Apart from you I am nothing,
No glory is my own,
From your hand comes all I have,
Your goodness I’ve always known.

My health, my home, my family,
You’ve given me by grace,
Help me, Lord, to give them back
To serve you in life’s race.

Oh God of all the universe,
I will ever sing your praise,
I will forever thank you,
I will honor you all of my days!

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life . . .” Psalm 23:5-6a NIV

*What blessings are you especially thankful for today?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out early this month. It’s not too late to receive it. I feature a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue so don’t miss out. Sign-up is free on the right sidebar!

*I won’t be posting during the holiday week next week. See you back here on the 29th!

*Flickr photo by Sangre-La.com, Creative Commons License

Waste Nothing

3910415397_5974dca644_z“When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.’” John 6:12 NIV

Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5,000 is one of the most well-known stories and miracles recorded in the Bible.

We remember the massive crowd of people who followed Jesus to a remote area. We remember the worry expressed by the disciples over how to feed such a large crowd. We remember the boy with five loaves and two fish and how Jesus gave thanks for the food and then had the disciples distribute it to the people. And we remember the twelve basketfuls of food that were amazingly left over. But do we remember what Jesus said (as recorded above) when everyone had had enough to eat?

Jesus said, “‘Let nothing be wasted.’” We don’t know exactly what Jesus had in mind with this instruction to his disciples. Maybe he wanted to provide the people with a powerful visual of his abundant provision and power as the leftovers were placed into baskets. Or maybe he wanted to teach his disciples to fully use all that he provides.

Whatever the full intention of Jesus’ instruction that day, we can apply the lesson of “let nothing be wasted” in our lives today, can’t we?

On a physical level, we can all use a reminder to be good stewards of God’s provision. Unless we’ve known poverty and extreme hardship, most of us occasionally—or even regularly—waste the resources at our disposal. Food gets tossed out, water goes down the drain (literally), electricity flows when not needed, and money gets spent on foolish things at times. So yes, we need this reminder today.

Let’s also consider how this important “let nothing be wasted” lesson can apply to other aspects of our lives as well. What about trials? Let’s not let the hard things in our lives—the pain, losses, disappointments, challenges, injustices, etc.—be wasted. Let’s learn from them or grow in character. Let’s be moved to some positive action.

And what about the blessings in our lives? Let’s not waste an ounce of the goodness God lavishes on us. Let’s fully enjoy and utilize and share them. And let’s continually give God praise and glory for all the wonderful things he does for us.

So friends, whatever comes into our lives, whether good or whether bad, let’s heed that same instruction Jesus gave to his disciples so many years ago: “Let nothing be wasted.”

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.” Ecclesiastes 7:14a NIV

*When have you grown through a trial? How have you fully used a blessing God has given you?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. I feature a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue so don’t miss out. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by K.Hurley, Creative Commons License

Live the Moments

8479559443_6ab58e2e01_zIf you’re like me at times, you may be rushing through life at such a frenetic pace that you miss some of the treasures along the way. Sometimes I need to slow down so I don’t whiz by the moments of my life, and other times I just need to be more aware of them, more deliberate in experiencing them.

I love what author and minister Frederick Buechner has to say about being more mindful of the moments of our lives in his book Now and Then: A Memoir of Vocation. See if they strike a chord with you as they did with me:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because, in the last analysis, all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”

I wonder what key moments I’ve missed because I wasn’t listening to my life. Do you, like me, need to listen to your life more? Need to remember that each day is a gift of grace? Let’s notice more of our lives from now on, let’s live the moments.

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NKJV

*When has an ordinary moment turned into more for you?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter comes out tomorrow. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*Flickr photo by JGSpotOn, Creative Commons License