The Constant of Christmas Plus A Blogging Break

The holiday season can be a difficult time for many. Heartaches hurt more, burdens feel heavier, and changes can be more challenging to accept. Loneliness looms larger and disappointment runs deeper. At times, Christmas joy can be hard to find. And of course, this year we have the added challenge of the ongoing pandemic impacting our lives—and our joy—as well.

Where do you find your Christmas joy? If you search for it in people—family and friends—those can change or disappoint. If in new possessions or extravagant treats, those can be stripped away or give only short-term fulfillment. If in well-laid plans for the perfect Christmas, a winter storm or unexpected illness can topple those in an instant.

Only in the manger can we find unchanging, unfailing Christmas joy. Sure, we can and do experience holiday joy with our families and friends, with our activities and traditions, with music and feasting. But the deep abiding joy of Christmas—and of our lives—that no circumstance or human failing can touch can only be found in the constant of Christmas. Only in Jesus.

Let’s look to the manger this holiday season. Let’s let Jesus anchor our Christmas joy. For he is a rock like no other. He is the constant of Christmas.

“‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:20 NIV

*What is most challenging about your Christmas season this year? How can you let Jesus bring you joy in the midst of it?

*Friends, I’ll be taking a blogging break until the first of the year. I pray that God will bless you with a joy-filled Christmas season and a hopeful and happy New Year. See you in 2021!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early February. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by jeffweeseCreative Commons License

God’s Unchanging Word: A Cause for Thanksgiving

“Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” Psalm 119:89 NIV

Our lives can change in a flash. Ask those who’ve contracted a serious case of COVID or lost a loved one to its fury. Or ask those who’ve lost their jobs in the multitude of lay-offs this year or who’ve been told they’re no longer loved or wanted in their marriages. Yes, this world is full of shifting sand.

So what can we count on today? The verse above from Psalm 119 holds the answer.

When we can’t bank on anything else, when sure things even crumble and fall away, we can be confident that God’s word will endure. More than that, it will not only endure but will stand firm as well. And of course, if God’s word endures and stands firm, it follows that God himself will be the unchanging rock and sure foundation that we all so desperately need.

I’d say that kind of unchanging blessing is all the reason we need to give thanks during Thanksgiving week—and beyond. Some of us may have many things working against us right now, but we all have our eternal and steadfast God loving us and working for us each day of our lives. Let’s never forget that God is for us.

May God give you a Thanksgiving holiday filled with the knowledge of his unchanging love and goodness, and may your hearts overflow with the peace that comes from trusting in the One who never leaves us or forsakes us. Our God—an unchanging blessing indeed!

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 NIV

*What are you especially thankful for this Thanksgiving season?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out early this moonth. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by felipe_gabaldonCreative Commons License

Guest RJ Thesman: The Invisible Women of Genesis Excerpt

We have only her name, but we know she was a daughter of Ishmael. Esau married her to appease his mother, Rebekah. But what were some of Esau’s mental demons, and how did Mahalath steer her husband toward hope? This is a portion of her story.

I made it my goal to help Esau succeed — to leave his past in the dust of the desert and find joy in the treasures around us.

The children we bore together soon crowded the camp, so Esau and his men moved us to the heights of Mount Seir. From there we watched the sun rise in spectacular texture, heard the bleating of our sheep  and watched our boys cavort among the rocks.

Before she died, Rebekah did relent toward Esau. “You have given me armfuls of children to gladden my heart. I am proud of you, my son.”

Still, the melancholy hung on Esau like moss clings to rocks during spring rains. Every day, I met Esau for an early morning prayer. “What are you grateful for today, my husband?” I forced him to think positive thoughts and focus on what was good in our lives.

He quickly learned how to play our game. “The sunlight in the threads of your hair, the abundant harvest of lands and animals, clear and sweet water from the stream.”

Gradually, happier and gentler thoughts replaced Esau’s nightmares. He awoke with a smile, and I often heard him whistle as he hurried off to check on the flocks.

Then came a message that threatened to change everything. Jacob was advancing, with hordes of oxen, sheep, and a great crowd of pilgrims — presumably, his family.

The old patterns recurred as harsh words spilled from my husband’s lips. “What does he want now, Mahalath? This is the brother who stole so much from me. Will he also steal my goods, take my wives and children?”

It took all my mental strength to devise cunning ways to turn Esau back to hope. “Perhaps God has sent him with a message of cheer. He wants your opinion on land in the area, so he can settle with his people. Jacob will see what a great man you are and how prosperous you have become. He will be the one who feels jealous this time. He will be sorry for the sins of the past.”

All that night, I stayed awake and prayed for Esau. I could feel his trepidation and spoke gratitudes to the Creator God. Surely the Almighty would keep my husband safe and thus secure the livelihood of us all.

The next morning, we watched as the two brothers — both mighty men — rode toward one another and then dismounted. A few seconds passed while my heart thundered. Then, a miracle. The brothers advanced toward each other and embraced. The years of emotional struggle fell away and only a bright future remained.

*If this excerpt from RJ Thesman‘s The Invisible Women of Genesis encouraged you, find the book on Amazon and be blessed by the rest of it!

 

 

 

With her 17th book, RJ Thesman digs deeply into the book of Genesis to discover the invisible women hidden in scripture. Writing coach, editor and author — Thesman is also a trained biblical counselor and a Stephen minister. She writes from the heartland of Kansas where she lives with her adult son and a spoiled cat. Other books Thesman has written for the Christmas market include The Women of Christmas and Holiday Tips for Caregivers. Connect with RJ Thesman on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and her YouTube Channel: RJ Thesman – Coaching for Writers.

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out yesterday. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Top image from Pixabay

The Glorious Sounds of Fall

I don’t know what fall sounds like in your corner of the world, but fall means music in the air to me. And I mean that literally.

Since we live just a few blocks from our local high school, the marching band has jazzed up my fall mornings for years with its lively, high-stepping melodies. They’re carried to me loud and clear by the autumn breezes.

The staccato beat of drumsticks readies the band for action. The syncopated rhythmic boom, boom, boom of the bass drum provides the cadence the whole band needs as they march in unison. The blare of the horns energizes the very air around me, and their crisp cut-offs add the perfect punctuation to a fall morning’s melody.

Even though this year is slightly different because of COVID, in years past the band has busily prepared to perform at football games and march in area parades. As they’ve done that, I’ve gotten to enjoy a sound that transports me back in time not only to my high school and college days but also to childhood memories of going to homecoming parades with my parents and grandparents. Larger-than-life days, for sure. The band helps me taste them again.

What does fall sound like to you? Maybe a fire crackling in the fireplace or a flock of geese honking high overhead as they fly south for the winter? It might be leaves skittering across the driveway or crunching underfoot, or it might even be the sound of someone splitting wood nearby. Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s music in the air to you.

Let’s thank God today not only for the beauty of the autumn season, but also for giving us ears to hear the glorious sounds of fall. Truly music in the air!

“‘But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.’” Matthew 13:16 NIV

*What are your favorite sounds of fall?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) p.s. If you sign up after Oct. 30th, you will be included in all future Life Notes giveaways but not in this current giveaway.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Chandler AbrahamCreative Commons License

Prayer Can Transform Faces

As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.Luke 9:29 NIV

We’ve all heard that familiar saying that prayer changes things, but can prayer actually change our faces? I think it can.

The Bible gives us examples of faces transformed by prayer. The scripture above refers to the day Jesus took three of his disciples—Peter, James, and John—up onto a mountain to pray with him. Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined what was about to unfold. As Jesus prayed, his face changed and his clothes turned bright as lightning. A transformation (known to Christians as the transfiguration) took place and the disciples were allowed to see Jesus in his glory. Just thinking of it leaves me in awe.

Moses’ face was also changed by spending time with God. After God met with Moses on Mt. Sinai and engraved the Ten Commandments on stone tablets for the Israelites, the Bible tells us that “[Moses’] face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:29 NIV)

Think of Paul and Silas. After they were severely flogged and thrown into prison, they prayed together and even sang hymns as the other prisoners listened to them. Scripture doesn’t mention the expression on their faces, but it’s safe to assume that as their prayers gave way to hymns, the distress on their faces must have been replaced by peace and even joy.

Yes, our faces often reflect what’s going on in our hearts and lives, don’t they? When we pray and tell God our burdens and hopes and as we give him our thanks and praise, our faces will indeed show the peace and comfort, joy and refreshment, and even strength or determination he’s imparted to us.

So is prayer transforming our faces today, this week, this year? Can people see God’s love and care reflected there? Oh, may it be so! Let’s allow prayer—time we spend with God—to change our faces!

“Those who look to him are radiant;” Psalm 34:5 NIV

*When was the last time you felt your face change as you prayed?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) p.s. If you sign up after Oct. 30th, you will be included in all future Life Notes giveaways but not in this current giveaway.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash