Friday, December 16, 2016

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!



From our hearts and hearth
to yours ~
May you have a very Merry Christmas
filled with joy, blessings, and love!

Danny and Martha

See you in the New Year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year


Psalm 28:7
The Lord is my strength and shield.  I trust him with all my heart.  He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.  I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

"My favorite definition of joy is someone is glad to be with me." ~Christa Black Gifford, Heart Made Whole

Christmas, we are told in the Andy Williams' classic tune, "is the most wonderful time of the year . . . the hap-happiest season of all."  The twinkling lights, the sweet aroma of gingerbread, the pungent odor of freshly cut evergreen, the gaily wrapped gifts nestled under the tree, carols in the air, the exuberant laughter of children, family gatherings - what's not to like?

But for some of us, Christmas is anything but merry and bright.  Perhaps this year has seen the loss of a loved one, chronic illness, an unexpected lay-off, or any host (not heavenly) of troubles weighing heavily upon your heart.

Where's the joy in that?

I recall, as if it were yesterday, my first Christmas after my husband, John, passed away.  I take my children, then ten and thirteen, to my parents' home to celebrate together.  Since nine months have gone by since we lost John, I mistakenly think I can emotionally hold myself together.

But the moment my children begin unwrapping their presents, tears spring to my eyes.  A vivid memory of John and me exchanging gifts the Christmas before flashes before me like an unwanted newsreel.  We were so glad just to be with each other!

Now all that is gone.

Yes, I have my family and friends.  I'm not alone, I reason.  But still, this pain.  This excruciating hurt.  Dear Jesus, will it ever go away?  Will I ever know joy again?

In the last chapter of her book, Heart Made Whole, Christa Black Gifford writes:  "Jesus' intention for us as believers is never to suppress the truth of our emotions and put on fake religious smiles, attempting to deal with very natural feelings on our own.  When life hurts, we hurt just as He did - and that's simply okay.  He never wants us to beat up our hearts as they bleed, kicking our emotions to the side, quoting Scripture at them in anger, or willing ourselves to change . . . Feeling our pain doesn't prove we lack faith - it proves our need for constant connection  with God."

Constant connection with God . . .

As I struggled along those many years ago, I wish I had had Gifford's words to guide me.  How much quicker I might have healed, opened my eyes to the constant promise of joy in Jesus, if only I understood that He wasn't feeling sorry for me from afar, but weeping along with me, holding me close in His comforting arms.

If only I had known, as I know now, that Jesus, my Lord and Savior, is always glad to be with me.

And He is only too glad to be right there with you, this Christmas and for all the Christmases yet to come.

If you are struggling, my friends, may this knowledge give you peace and hope and joy at this most wonderful time of the year.

Love and joy come to you,
And a Merry Christmas, too!
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Amen!

~



This post concludes our book discussion of Heart Made Whole by Christa Black Gifford.  Thanks so much for joining Jason StasyszenSarah SalterGlynn Young, and me as we journeyed together through this inspirational book.  
May God bless!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Rudolph With Your Nose so Bright


Romans 2:12
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

This post first appeared on Meditations of My Heart in December of 2012.  As I have many new and amazing followers here at the blog, God prompted me to share this Christmas cheer with you all once again.  Enjoy!

To those of you who regularly visit Meditations of My Heart, this confession may come as a bit of a surprise - I love watching Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer every year at Christmas.  It's been one of my favorites since I was a girl (yes, the show is older than dirt - lol!).  Why?  Because it's a heartwarming story with a Christian message.

What???  Really?  Surely, you must be joking, Martha!  It's a story about Santa and reindeer, the North Pole and elves, jingle bells and ho, ho, ho.  Where is Jesus in THAT?

I'll tell you.

First, I see the Lord in the willingness of both Rudolph and Yukon Cornelius to sacrifice their own lives for their friends.  Did Jesus not say, "Greater love has no one than this:  to lay down one's life for one's friends."  (John 15:13)  And in His great, infinite, wondrous love for us, did Jesus not make the ultimate sacrifice when He hung on the cross?  Bore the sins of everyone - you and me?  Died that we might be free?  Risen that we might have everlasting life in Him?

That similarity alone in Rudolph's story would be enough to argue in favor of a Christian message.  But there's more.

Rudolph, with his nose too bright, and Hermey, the elf who would rather be a dentist than make toys, are misfits.  They are persecuted and shunned by their friends and family.  But instead of conforming to the demands of the society in which they live, Rudolf and Hermey decide to be "independent together."  They leave the North Pole and set out to make their own way in this world.

As Christians, who are in the world but not of it, don't we all have a bit of the misfit in us, too?  Aren't we often scorned and ridiculed by those who consider themselves wise in worldly ways?

And wasn't Jesus considered a misfit by the Pharasees and teachers of the Law?  Certainly, our Lord did not fit any religious mold considered righteous by the establishment.  Instead, they declared Him a blasphemer, and turned Him over to the Roman authorities.  We know the rest of that story . . .

No, being a misfit isn't safe.  But when it's for Jesus' sake, it is worth everything.

On the Island of Misfit Toys, King Moonracer tells Rudolf and his friends, "A toy is never truly happy until it is loved by a child."  That very Christmas, Santa collects all those sad, not cherished toys and delivers them to boys and girls who will love and appreciate them.  The very boys and girls who will make them happy forever.

And isn't it the same with us?  We can never be truly happy until we understand how much we are loved by God.  Misfits, in all our brokenness and frailties, trials and troubles, loved.  By the King of the Universe.

Loved!

Unconditionally.

And because of this incomparable love, like Rudolph leading Santa's team through the murky fog, his red nose glowing, we can shine God's light into the darkness.  Bringing hope to others.  Showing them where true joy and happiness begin.

Misfits, you and I.

We can lead the way.

Amen!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Weathering the "What-ifs"


Matthew 6:25-27
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

The majority of the "what-if" scenarios that we allow to roll through our brains never come close to happening, but these imagined scenes are so powerful, they end up dictating our responses and actions and ruining our present moments with unnecessary emotions.  ~Christa Black Gifford, Heart Made Whole

Are you a worry-wort?  When stressful challenges present themselves, are you more prone to imagine a whole bunch of negative "what-ifs" instead of calming your imagination, and turning to God for guidance?

In my novels, Davy's mother, Kate, struggles with being able to let go and let God, especially when it comes to allowing her children out of her sight.  Although we certainly see her making progress, with husband, Jim's, help throughout the book series, her son, Davy, has caught the "bug."  When he perceives his beloved Old Ones could be in jeopardy due to the untoward public appearance of Racer, True Squirrel of the Old Ones, twice in one week, Davy can't help but let his imagination run rampant with those detrimental "what-ifs."

Here is what transpires when Davy's sister, Anna, and Racer get tossed into the Nantahala River while rafting, and Jim, once again, makes a positive intervention.

When Anna finally stopped crying, Jim gave her a smile and a loving tug on her sopping wet braid.  "You've had quite the adventure today, Miss Priss.  We're all so proud of the way you stayed calm through it all."

"That was because of Racer," Anna said softly.  "I could see and hear him.  He told me not to be afraid."

"Anna," Davy said with a most serious look on his face, "you're not the only one who saw and heard Racer.  Everyone did."

"Everyone?"  she asked in alarm.  "I know Pastor Mike and Miss Abby saw him, but I thought that was because Racer chose to be seen."

Davy shook his head sadly.  "Remember what Racer said about becoming visible when he gets wet, Anna?  It looks like my worst fear came true today."

"Cheer up, Davy," Mike said encouragingly.  "Good ol' Racer made a successful escape.  And what an absolute pleasure it was to see him again."

"And to meet him for the first time," Abby chimed in.  "What a thrill!"

"I'm glad you two could see him," Davy said sincerely.  "It's the other people who were there who worry me.  The ones I saw taking photos."

"But we took photos of Racer just the other day," Anna said, "and he didn't show up in any of them."

"That's because he was invisible to everybody but me," Davy told her.  "What if he can be seen in these photos?  What if someone puts their pictures of Racer on the internet?"

Jim took Davy gently by the shoulders.  "Look at me," he said comfortingly.  "If I saw a photo of a giant squirrel showing up on the internet, you know what my first reaction would be?"

"No, what?"  Davy asked.

"It's been photo-shopped," Jim answered, "pure and simple.  So let's not allow our 'what-ifs' to run away with us right now, okay, son?"

What Jim does here for his stepson, Davy, echoes what Christa Black Gifford states in Chapter Eight, Your Heart-Brain Connection, in Heart Made Whole:  "If all of us are already using our imaginations every day, many times to envision negative things, shouldn't we learn how to use them in a sanctified way to draw close to Jesus?"

While a vivid imagination is a potent gift, especially for writers and artists, it is not without fault when it fails to stop and rest in the very source of that imagination.  Gifford challenges us with this question:  "How could you use your imagination to encounter God instead?"

Such wonderful advice for weathering all of life's "what-ifs!"

(I hope Davy and Kate are listening.)

Amen!

~



I have been discussing with fellow Christian bloggers, Jason StasyszenSarah Salter and Glynn Young, Christa Black Gifford's book, Heart Made Whole.  Next Wednesday will be our last installments.  I do hope you will visit their blogs and see for yourself the uniqueness each author brings to the table.
God bless!

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Princess and the Pipe


Psalm 46:1
God is our refuge and our strength,
and ever-present help in trouble.

On Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, I pick up my oldest granddaughter, Virginia Rose, and embark on the long, back-roads journey to my mother's home in Oxford, Georgia.  It is the first time Virginia will be spending the night at her great grandmother's, and she is beside herself with excitement.  I, too, am elated by the prospect of having my special little lady with me for a few days, and looking forward to helping Mom with Thanksgiving dinner.

We land at the house mid-afternoon.  As the weather is unusually balmy, Virginia wants to go out on the spacious screened porch on the side of the house.  (You can just glimpse it in the photo above.)  We are not out there more than five minutes, when an unexpected visitor shows up, meowing and begging for attention at the porch door.  Virginia is enchanted and enthralled by her new friend, and promptly dubs her "Princess."









Princess, obviously enamored by Virginia's attention, visits us multiple times the following day.  No matter where we walk in the yard, the kitty stays close on our heels.

"I have an idea, Virginia," I say when we've tired of tossing the bouncy ball back and forth.  "Why don't we take a walk down the road to the Old Church?"



"Okay, Gammie," she says, "but do you think Princess will come, too?"

"She just might," I affirm.

We start off and, sure enough, Princess is faithfully trailing, albeit at a greater distance than she had in the yard.  Virginia keeps looking over her shoulder to check the cat's progress and calling out encouragements to her to keep up.  But as soon as we reach the grounds of the church, Princess is nowhere to be found.

"Here, Princess!"  Virginia cries worriedly.

I try to reassure her.  "Maybe she got tired of walking, honey, and just turned around to go home.  We'll see her soon.  I promise."

Virginia is anxious for her friend, though, so we don't linger at the Old Church for long.  It's back we go, eyes peeled for Princess, and Virginia calling her name.  As luck would have it, we spy her little head peeping warily out of a drain pipe.  In a moment, we know exactly why she is hiding.



Turkey vultures!!!  An enormous flock has appeared above us, swooping and gliding ominously, some even landing on the road in front of the Old Church!

"That's why Princess is in the pipe," I tell Virginia.  "She is afraid of those turkey vultures; I don't think she'll venture out until they've flown away."

Wanting to offer her scared kitty some comfort, Virginia slides down the shallow ditch so she can reach into the pipe and stroke Princess' head.  "It's going to be okay, Princess," she says soothingly.  "We won't let the big bad birds get you."

We wait there for what seems an eternity before the worrisome vultures decide to depart as quickly as they came.  Seeing at last that the coast is clear, Princess ventures out from the refuge of the pipe and faithfully follows us all the way back to the house.







~

Princess knew instinctively where to run for cover when danger threatens.  When we are waist-deep in trials and struggles, is our first impulse to seek God, our refuge and our strength, or do we strive to go it alone?

I hope and pray we all remember God's ever-present help in times of trouble.

Amen.

Birds of a Feather

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in...