Comfort and Encouragement for You This Christmas

*I am taking a blogging break the rest of the month. God bless you and yours this Christmas season!

For some of you Christmas may be different this year. Some of you are hurting. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially. I pray my words today will be a balm to your spirit and soul this Christmas season. And never forget—God sees you. He loves you and sent his Son to be your Savior and ever-present Friend.

And now, from my heart to yours:

I’m thinking of you this season, friend,
Knowing your heart must ache,
While others fill their homes with cheer
You must be struggling to just feel normal.
Life’s changes hit fast and hard sometimes
And often knock us to our knees,
It’s okay to take time to rest and heal
It’s okay whatever you’re feeling.
While in the midst of heavy-hearted days
May the joy of Christmas come through at times,
May Christmas peace surround and support you
May you notice things to be grateful for.
And with these thoughts I’m sending love
And hoping both offer some comfort and peace.
May God’s tender touches be yours this season, my friend.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 NIV

*Feel free to share with those you know who are hurting this Christmas but please include attribution “written by Cheryl Barker.” God bless one and all!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out in early February. Sign-up is free! Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*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 mseckingtonCreative Commons License

An Autumn Prayer

Friends, I pray that the following prayer will be a blessing to you and a joy to our heavenly Father this fall. May God bless each of you as you draw close to him!

“Father, as we enjoy autumn this year, may the delightful characteristics of the season also color other areas of our lives. May the refreshment and beauty of fall radiate from us as it does in the world around us.

Help us to inspire vitality and fresh energy and offer real refreshment to all those whose lives we touch. May we offer comfort to those in need and always provide a safe haven where they feel wrapped in love and upheld with understanding. May we shine for you with a brilliance and beauty that’s a natural overflow of our walk with you, and may the beauty of our lives draw others to you, Lord.

 Father, may your glorious autumn season be seen in our lives this year!”

 “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV

 *What characteristics of fall would you like others to see in you?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regular issue, 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! Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

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

*Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Surrounded by the Lord

“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” Psalm 125:2 NIV

I love this verse. After rediscovering it several years ago, I personalized it and made it part of my early morning prayer each day. Before even getting out of bed, I gave the Lord my day and placed my times in his hands. Then along with a few basic requests, I added, “And Lord, as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so surround me with your peace and your protection.”

Sometimes the thought of being surrounded brings up negative images, but that’s certainly not the case here. Not for me—not when it’s the Lord doing the surrounding.

I suppose if someone didn’t love the Lord or was trying to run or hide from him, it would be a frightening prospect to be surrounded by the Almighty. But for those who know and love him and look to him for help, great comfort lies in the precious knowledge of his surrounding presence and care.

The image of mountains, so strong and protective, surrounding a little town paints the perfect picture of what the Lord does for us, his people. The Lord stands guard, ever watchful, ever ready to protect and guide. He provides majesty and beauty, adventure and stability. He keeps us nestled in his peace as we look to him.

Each day let’s picture ourselves surrounded by the Lord. Let’s relax in his care. Let’s snuggle down into that place of peace he has reserved for us. Let’s fix our eyes on him. Let’s be surrounded by his peace.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
 My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121 NIV

*When have you felt supernaturally surrounded by God’s peace?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*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 It’s No Game, Creative Commons License

Let: Little Word with Big Impact for Fear and Worry

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 NIV

Have you ever noticed how “let” is one of those little words in scripture (or anywhere for that matter) that can have great significance? A couple of years ago I blogged about the giant impact of the word “us” in Hebrews 12:1. Today let’s look at John 14:27 and focus on the little word let.

When Jesus spoke the words above to the disciples, he had just shared the Last Supper with them and told them he would not be with them much longer. He then spent time comforting them and telling them about the Holy Spirit, whom he promised he would send to them.

Jesus’ reassuring words at such a critical time in their lives still hold great comfort for us today, but they hold instruction as well. He told the disciples then and is telling us now not to be afraid, not to let our hearts be troubled.

By using the word let, do you think Jesus might have been showing us that we have some control over our anxieties and fears? He exhorts us not to allow them to overtake our hearts.

Experiencing pangs of worry or fear about life situations is natural and happens to all of us. It’s what we do with those initial feelings that matters in the long run.

Do we dwell on our worries and fears and allow them to grow larger by the minute, or do we honestly acknowledge them and then take them to the Lord in prayer? Do we spend time and precious energy imagining worst-case scenarios and desperately trying to think of fixes, or do we relinquish our burdens into our Father’s capable and faithful hands?

We don’t have to let anyone or anything steal the peace that Jesus promised us. It’s as real and available to us today as it was to the disciples. Let’s listen to Jesus. Let’s not allow our hearts to be troubled. Let’s give our worries and fears to him.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

*Sometimes anxiety can be a symptom of a physical problem. If you suspect that at all, be sure to see your doctor.

*Do you have a favorite scripture about worry or fear that you’d like to share?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble 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! *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

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

Photo by Molnár Bálint on Unsplash

Ring Out, Ring On!

“The Lord’s message rang out from you . . .” 1 Thessalonians 1:8 NIV

If you’ve read my writings for any length of time, you know that I want my words—whether here or in other venues—to be a source of refreshment, encouragement, and nourishment for all who read them. I hope you’ve been blessed and have heard the Lord speak to your heart when you’ve read my blog posts or other things I’ve written over the years.

But you know what? That works both ways. Many of you have blessed me at different times by telling me that my words have touched you in some way or that God has given you—through my writing—just the word you needed to hear on that particular day. I can’t tell you what an encouragement that is to me. Those are the kinds of things that keep a writer writing.

In fact, your words—whether through blog comments, notes, messages on Facebook, emails, words spoken face to face, or your own writings if you’re a writer—have many times been just the words I needed to hear.

Sometimes it’s been a message of encouragement from the Lord to help me stay committed to the calling he’s given me, but many other times he’s spoken through you to give me strength, wisdom, or direction for any number of personal issues I’ve faced.

What it boils down to is this: You don’t have to be a writer or a teacher or a preacher for the Lord’s message to ring out from you. You can simply be you. All you need is a willingness to speak words of kindness, truth, inspiration, thanks, wisdom, comfort, or encouragement. So ring on, my friends, ring on!

“But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.” Job 16:5 NIV

*How have someone’s words been a message from God ringing out to you recently?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, comes out today. 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.) Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*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 alykat, Creative Commons License