Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas to All!


We wish you a Merry, Merry Christmas and God's blessings in the New Year!

Martha and Danny Orlando


Meditations of My Heart will be on hiatus until Friday, January 3rd.  See you then!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Birthday!


Luke 2:10-11
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord."

My father was born on Christmas Day 85 years ago.  I'm sure his coming into the world brought great joy to his mom and dad, aunts and uncles, siblings and grandparents.  What birth of a healthy child doesn't?

But, on Christmas Day?  When everyone is receiving presents anyway?  When the celebratory birth of Jesus overshadows the day?  

How do parents make this day extra-special each year for the birthday child?

Dad's parents tried.  They really did!  Always giving little Billy that special gift above and beyond what brother, Phil, and sister, Mary Jane, enjoyed beneath the Christmas tree.

One story Dad told us when we were growing up was the Christmas/birthday when he, and only he, got a brand new bicycle.  Oh, how the paint gleamed and the chrome shone!  It was hard for Phil and Mary Jane not to feel a wee bit jealous.  As for Billy, he was thrilled and couldn't wait to take it for a spin!

Bundled up against the cold, Billy mounts his treasured bike at the top of their steep driveway and hurtles down without a moment's hesitation.  Wind whips his face.  Frost reddens his cheeks.  It's full and exhilarating speed ahead!

Until, the unthinkable happens.

Billy's bike tires hit a slick of black ice.  He loses control.  The front fender careens into the curb.

Feeling as bent and forsaken as his now damaged bicycle, Billy limps home with tears in his eyes and an ache in his heart.  Phil and Mary Jane are so livid about their brother's carelessness, they refuse to speak to him for the rest of Christmas Day.  It was a memorable Christmas, to be sure, but not because it was a joyful one.

In all the years I can recall since childhood, our family has always given my Dad those extra-special gifts at Christmas.  We've faithfully held a party in his honor on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and have continually celebrated his privilege of sharing in the Lord's birthday.

If Dad has ever been let down on any of these Christmas birthdays, he's never let on.  Not once have I know my father to be discontented with what he has or who he is.  And, through his example, I have learned so much about what it means to truly live a fulfilling life.

And, now that Dad is in the last stages of Alzheimer's, this may be the last Christmas/birthday card I choose for him and the last special gift I buy.  I stand before the reams of cards which tout the exemplary qualities of fathers and thankfulness for their gifts of wisdom and love.  Can he read this?  Will he understand?  Does he somehow remember in his heart and soul all the cards with similar sentiments sent on birthday past?

My tears flow.  My heart breaks.

This is the hardest birthday.  The hardest Christmas.

But, in the harsh reality of now lies the everlasting hope.

Hope, born in a lowly, smelly, miserable manger.

Hope, which understands the lowliest, smelliest, and miserable parts of our lives.

Hope which conquers all our fears, our doubts, our sins because it invites us to look beyond the present circumstance to see the everlasting promise.

The promise Jesus made to be with us always.  Not just on His birthday.

With us always!

Happy Birthday, Daddy!  Happy Birthday, Jesus!

~

Do you know someone who shares a birthday with Jesus?  Will you send them an exceptional gift or greeting today?

Will you pray with me?
Loving Father, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Your Son, our Savior, Christ Jesus, let us not forget those whose birthdays may be overshadowed by all the activities this holiday brings.  May we make their birthdays ones to remember and cherish; ones that remind them how much they are loved as Your precious children.  Amen.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

God of the Impossible

 Photo taken by Danny Orlando at Fontana View 2 cabin in the Nantahalas

Isaiah 11:1
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a branch will bear fruit.

Pastor Wallace tells us the story of his visit years ago with Jim, one of his church members, who recently purchased a farm.  As he turns his car from the main road onto the long, gravel driveway which winds its way to the house, Wallace is duly impressed by the expanse of the place.  Acres and acres of fenced pastures sprawl on either side of the road where cattle, too numerous to count, graze peacefully.

When Wallace finally pulls up to the farmhouse, Jim is sitting in a rocker on the front porch.

"Quite a place you have here, Jim," Wallace calls as he exits the car.  "Hope you're planning to give me the grand tour."

"Sure thing, Preacher," Jim assures him.  "But, there's something I want to show you first.  In all my born days, ain't seen nothing like it."

The two men stride to the pasture gate with Jim leading the way.

"It's a bit of a walk, Preacher, but I promise it's well worth it.  Just watch where you step.  Cow dung."

Wallace doesn't need to be told twice to keep his eyes peeled for that pitfall.  They stroll in companionable silence through the seemingly endless sea of grass.  Cows pause momentarily in their cud-chewing to eye the men as they pass by.  But, unruffled by the unexpected company, they quickly and calmly resume their dining routines.

"Not much farther," Jim says.  "It's just over that rise yonder."

When Wallace and Jim reach the top of the hill, the spy the fence not 20 feet away.  

"Do you see it?"  Jim asks.

"See what?  What am I looking for?  You haven't told me."

Jim grins broadly and points to a fence post.  Wallace's jaw drops.  He can't believe his eyes!  Rising up from the supposedly treated lumber is a living shoot, a small branch green and supple.

"Well, I'll be," says Wallace in amazement.  "I've seen shoots spring up from stumps, but never anything like this!"

"Kind of a miracle, don't you think, Preacher?"

"A miracle it is, indeed, my friend.  And, what a wonderful reminder for us that with God, nothing is impossible."

~

During this season of Advent, will you let the God of the Impossible work His miracles of new growth in you?

Will you pray with me?
Father, as we celebrate Advent, graft in our hearts the growing, thriving branch of Your peace, Your love, and Your hope.  May we all bear good fruit and spread Your good news of great joy to all we meet, not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.  Amen.


Friday, December 6, 2013

The Twelve Pathways to Christmas, Again!


Last year, about this time, I shared the review of my friend, Andy Wood's, beautiful and inspiring book, The 12 Pathways to Christmas.  Today, I'm sharing this once again with my readers.

As 2013 has progressed, I have found new friends and new followers.  Advent would be remiss if I did not share this splendid book once again with you.

I hope you will enjoy the post here, and order Andy's e-book.  It will make your Christmas season merry and bright, guaranteed!

Love and blessings to you all!

Meditations of My Heart will be on hiatus the week of December 9th through December 13th.  Personally, I will be internet-free from the 9th to the 13th of December.  However, I will be spending some of my vacation time rereading Andy's book.  Can't wait!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Walking in the Light of the Lord


Isaiah 2:5
Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Last Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, a season in the church year of hope, love, joy, and peace, but most of all, expectation.  As Christians, we not only look forward to the celebration of Jesus' birth on Christmas Day, but cherish this time in which we prepare our hearts for His coming again in glory to redeem this world once and for all.

In his sermon, Pastor Wallace focuses upon the light which has come and is coming into the world once again.  And, he reminds us, most importantly, of what Jesus told us:  While He is the Light of the World, He grants this same blessing to us.  God gives us our own personal, unique, and irreplaceable light which we can shine into hearts troubled and torn by the darkness of this world.  A world devoid of hope, love, joy, and peace.  A world desperate and longing for the light of Christ.

At home Sunday evening, we light our Advent wreath's first candle after praying together.  As we do so, I relive Pastor Wallace's words from that morning.

They hit home.

And, I ponder . . .

What can I do this Advent season to truly shine "this little light of mine?"  How can I "let it shine, let it shine, let it shine?"

With this year declared "Love" drawing to a close, I think I know.  At least, for me.  But, what about you?  In what ways, during this Advent, can you shine your God-given light upon others?

Can you give to a local charity?  Volunteer at a homeless shelter?  Spend time at an assisted living home?  Babysit for free while your neighbors go Christmas shopping?  Take an elderly friend to the doctor?  Donate a toy for children in need?  Let someone ahead of you when traffic is a snarled standstill?

The list goes on and on and on.  So many ways and opportunities to shine our lights!  

~

How will you share your light with the world this Advent season?

Will you pray with me?
Father, it is with great joy and anticipation that we prepare to welcome Your only Son into this world.  May these weeks of Advent be filled with Your blessings, guidance and love.  Help us to reflect the Light of the World into the lives of others.  Amen.

Interested in receiving daily devotions for Advent?  Click here to sign up!

He's Waiting for You

Luke 5:16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. This week has been a hectic one for me.  I babysit the grands three di...