The Sacrificial Leaf


 by Lori Wildenberg

It would be easy to miss the small number of yellow leaves scattered among all the green leaves in the mangrove. But our captain made certain to point them out.

My daughter, Courtney, and I were on an Eco-Cruise while on a family vacation in the Florida Keys. Our boat launched from the north side of Islamorada. This Key is situated between the Everglades National Park and the deep blue waters of the Florida Strait. The Atlantic was to our south, while the gulf waters lapped the north shore.

The saline or brackish water near the shoreline is home to the mangrove forests, a type of tropical or subtropical vegetation. Mangroves, along with sea grass beds and coral reefs, create a system that keeps the coastal zones healthy while providing habitat for a variety of species.

The green mangrove forests look like shrubs on stilts. They randomly and plentifully pop out of the water. By design, they support each other.  Their tangled dense roots allow the trees to hold firm to the muddy soil during the daily rise and fall of the tides.  

A variety of birds like brown pelicans, blue herons, and great egrets nest in among the mangrove forest. Many other species of birds depend on the mangroves for their seasonal migration. The mangrove system provides shelter to a wide range of living creatures from deer to honey bees.

The forests stabilize the shoreline, prevent erosion, protect the land, filter nutrients and pollutants from storm water, and reduce the chances of flooding. Our boat hugged the shoreline and slid through the narrow channels created by the mangroves.  We moved effortlessly through the backcountry shallow waters and pockets of mini-islands created by mangrove trees and shrubs.

While cruising the bay, we saw lots of tropical birds, plants, and a few crabs. The intricate and strong root system was the first thing I noticed about the mangroves. However, the thing that made the biggest impact was the smallest thing we saw, the thing our Captain pointed out. “Notice the yellow leaves. They have a specific and special purpose. There is one yellow leaf on each tree. These leaves are an integral part of each mangrove tree’s salt filtration system.”

According to our guide, this leaf soaks up the salt water the plant’s roots take in. This absorption allows the tree to survive, even thrive. That one leaf makes the difference between life and death of the mangrove tree. Its sole purpose is to take on the salt and die so the rest of the tree can live.

It is appropriately called the sacrificial leaf.

God often uses nature to reflect His glory and to draw us to Himself. The Lord wants to be known and wants us to know His son. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 NIV).

I have shared the story of the sacrificial leaf many times since Courtney and I took that Eco Cruise. I thank God for the sacrifice His Son made for me while he hung on a tree. Jesus sucked up all my salty sin so I could live.

Jesus, like the sacrificial leaf, sacrificed his life for me, my family, and for you. He died for me; I will live for Him.

Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:29 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Helping families create connections that last a lifetime is Lori Wildenberg’s passion. Lori, wife, mom of 4 plus 3 more, and Mimi, shares her stories of failures and successes to encourage and equip parents. The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connectionsis Lori’s fifth and most recently published book. As a national speaker and licensed parent and family educator, she leads the Moms Together Facebook group and co-hosts the Moms Together Podcast. For more information or to connect with Lori go to www.loriwildenberg.com .

Join the conversation: What does the sacrifice of Jesus mean to you?

Unique Perspective

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

When we lived in Alberta, many friends and family from the southern United States visited us. It probably had more to do with the beautiful Canadian Rockies and the great city of Calgary than spending time with the Howards, but we enjoyed every minute.

These visits often required me to do a little “interpreting” and even “interceding.” I helped Americans figure out their Canadian currency. I converted from metric measure to US measurement and back again. I explained that toboggans are sleds and toques are hats. I played interpreter for a Canadian dry cleaner and one of my very southern speaking visitors. And I even put a very egocentric American teenager in her place for mocking a Canadian teenager’s use of the French term “serviette” in referring to a napkin. (Canada has two official languages – English and French.)

I had a unique perspective. As an American who grew up in the south, I understood the “language,” the culture, and the customs. And, since I had lived in Canada for a number of years, I also had a good grasp of the culture and customs of our northern neighbors. I could appreciate both sides. I had been north of the border long enough to teach the Americans what they didn’t know. And since I am an American, I could also gently put one in their place when necessary. I made the perfect American/Canadian intercessor.

Jesus Christ is our perfect intercessor with God. He has a unique perspective. Jesus is fully God and fully man. Although divine, Jesus had the full scope of human experience. He suffered through the trials and hardships of this life. He experienced everything from head colds and skinned knees to loss and betrayal. He knows both the pain and joys of humanity.

But our Savior is also God. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal. He not only knows our needs, He has the capacity to meet them. Jesus not only understands our emotions, He is able to comfort our hearts. He not only experienced the same temptations we do; Jesus can also extend the strength we need to resist them.

Only Jesus is qualified to be the Intercessor we need with the Father. He is our perfect High Priest. In the 4th chapter of Hebrews, the author reflects on the uniqueness of Jesus’ position and the benefit to us:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16, ESV

Our perfect High Priest intercedes with the Father for us. He has prepared the way for us to draw near, to enter the very presence of God. Let us step in with boldness and wonder.

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Unique Perspective – thoughts on Jesus as our Intercessor from @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: A former “cultural Christian,” Bible teacher and speaker Kathy Howard now lives an unshakable faith for life and encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God. The author of eight books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education. She and her retired husband live outside the Dallas/Ft Worth area with their miscellaneous assortment of dogs. Find free discipleship resources on her website, www.kathyhoward.org and connect with Kathy on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest. Kathy’s latest book, “30 Days of Hope When Caring for Aging Parents” combines Scripture, biblical insight, personal experience, reflection questions, and prayer prompts to provide spiritual and practical encouragement to those caring for aging or ill parents.

Join the conversation: How does knowing Jesus has gone before us in temptation and trial affect your relationship with Him?

You’ll Never Attend This Kind of Wedding

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy. Zephaniah 3:17 NASB

You are at a wedding. After the bride and bridegroom are pronounced husband and wife, the groom turns and with a solemn face announces, “Now we all will mourn. Don’t expect any food at the reception, because we will be fasting.”

You look around to see confused and sad looks on the guests’ faces. A dirge fills the church as the bride and groom drag themselves down the aisle. After the dreary reception where there’s no food, dancing, or singing, everyone is given a little baggie of dirt. As the newly married couple leave the reception, everyone throws dirt on them.

No way! And yet the metaphor is a modern explanation for what John the Baptist’s followers want when they arrive at a party Matthew is hosting (Matthew 9:9-17). Jesus, his disciples, and other party guests are feasting and having a great time. Even those terrible “tax collectors and sinners” are joining in—at Jesus’s invitation. Can’t you just envision Jesus having the biggest smile of them all?

But the disciples of John the Baptist aren’t rejoicing. They look over the crowd with a judgmental scowl and demand, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” (Matthew 9:14 NASB). Wow, they are on the prowl to let others know everyone should follow the rules as they do.

We can understand the question considering their teacher is in prison, and they are mourning. They could be thinking everyone should be mourning along with them. They might be thinking Jesus should especially be concerned, because John is his cousin. Plus, John was the one who launched Jesus’s ministry as Messiah with an announcement as he baptized Him. Might they even be thinking Jesus wouldn’t have been successful without John? We don’t know.

Jesus interjects, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” (Matthew 9:15 NASB). Jesus reminds them who he is. He tells them that while He is with them, everyone should rejoice. He completely trusts his Father’s plan for his cousin. Plus, Jesus wants to enjoy the party because he is truly joyful in nature.

For many years, starting in childhood, I never pictured Jesus laughing, partying, and having joy. I believed he was a demanding taskmaster who was always on the prowl to squash any fun.

But as I began studying Jesus’s attributes in the Bible, I realized he is joyful. After all, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 includes joy. It’s impossible for Jesus to not be joyful since the Holy Spirit and Jesus are one along with the Father: the same in essence and character. As I realized this, my perspective began to change and I could actually visualize Jesus having a great time—with the biggest grin!

Adapted from God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature, copyright 2020, Kathy Collard Miller.

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You’ll Never Attend This Kind of Wedding – insight from @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to study God’s attributes. As a result, her latest two books are devotional books about God’s nature: God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature and God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature. These are co-authored with her husband, Larry, and make a wonderful couples’ devotional study. Kathy is also the author of 55 other books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 35 US states. Check out her website: www.KathyCollardMiller.com and YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03 or Facebook.

Kathy’s most recent book is God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature from which this devotion is excerpted. Kathy and her husband, Larry, of 50 years, co-wrote God’s Intriguing Questions.

Join the conversation: What other words would you describe for Jesus’s joyful nature and is it easy or hard for you to envision Jesus as joyful?

What are You Seeking?

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

Picture for a moment you are at a large conference. You are hungering to speak with the famous speaker who has already made a difference in your life through one presentation. During a break, you fearfully head to the front of the auditorium. You’re thinking, What do I say? Am I intruding?

We can assume Andrew and John had similar feelings the day they first saw Jesus, recorded in John 1. They had been standing with John the Baptizer, who, upon seeing Jesus, announced Him to them by saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” Upon hearing who Jesus was, they began to follow Him.

Jesus turned and saw them following. He asked them, “What do you seek?”

John the Apostle uses the Greek word theasamenos for “saw.” This word indicates more than a disinterested glance. It means looking closely and perceiving. Put another way, Jesus’s eyes bore into them. Both men must have felt like their souls were revealed and known.

Then Jesus asked, “What are you seeking?”  Again, the wording is so powerful. In our world, this word “seeking” would be like asking “What are you searching for? What do you think will meet your needs? What are your expectations? What do you value?” Such words pointed to a heavy-duty examination of their motives. Jesus knew His Father had chosen them for the kingdom, so He went deep.

They replied, “Where are you staying?” “Stay” means remain or abide. They wanted to get to know Him and spend time with Him. Ironically, it would be a two-way street. Abiding with Him now would mean He would abide in them forever (through the Holy Spirit). But that indwelling would come after the resurrection.

Jesus welcomed them warmly, seeing that they were in touch with their deep needs. Unlike so many who might come to Jesus looking for instant gratification through healing or solving their problem, these men were looking for a long-term relationship. In an approachable manner, Jesus answered, “Come and you will see.” The theme of “seeing” continues. They are seen, and now they will see.

Jesus does the same for us. He initiates an awareness of our need, and as our spiritual eyes are opened, we “see” the need of continuing relationship. He welcomes us in order to reveal the longing of our hearts. We yearn to be loved, appreciated, approved, and respected. No one but God can fill that hole. He welcomes our quest to “see” and looks for us to surrender to the ways He wants to meet them.

During times of need, I love to meditate on this story which points to Jesus’s close attention to His loved ones’ inner beings and the longings only He can satisfy. In response, God often directs His people to minister to us. How wonderful we are assured heaven will meet all our needs, because we have been welcomed by Jesus. Even when He sees and totally knows us, the good, the bad, and the ugly, He will not turn us away.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28 NASB

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Kathy C MillerAbout the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to assure God’s people of His welcoming nature. Her own experience of being overwhelmed by abusive anger toward her toddler convinced her Jesus could no longer “welcome” her as His daughter. But God pursued and persevered the healing of her heart and her family. Kathy has more than 55 published books and has spoken in more than 35 US States and 9 foreign countries. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.comGod's Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature by [Kathy Collard Miller, Larry Miller]

Kathy’s most recent book is God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature from which this devotion is excerpted. Kathy and her husband, Larry, of 50 years, co-wrote God’s Intriguing Questions.

Join the conversation: In what recent way did God reveal He knows you from the inside out? Or what Scripture assures you of that?

What Impact Is Your Faith Having?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death … the world was not worthy of them.                                                      Hebrews 11:36-38 NIV

Have you ever met someone whose presence changed you?

My husband and I once had the privilege to eat lunch with the late Romanian pastor Richard Wurmbrand and his wife, Sabina. Mrs. Wurmbrand’s radiant smile still lights up my mind. I believe her countenance would have glowed in the dark like a full moon at midnight. This is amazing when you consider what they’d suffered for Jesus.

When the Communists took over Romania, they held a special meeting for pastors, filled with brainwashing and propaganda. Wurmbrand said: “My wife and I were present at this congress. Sabina told me, ‘Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in his face.’

I said to her, ‘If I do so, you will lose your husband.’ She replied, ‘I don’t wish to have a coward as a husband.’”

Pastor and Mrs. Wurmbrand were Messianic Jews. They suffered under the Nazis and the Communists. Pastor Wurmbrand spent fourteen years in Communist imprisonment—three of those in solitary confinement, where he saw only his Communist torturers. His body never fully recovered from the abuse.

His persecutors drugged his food. They regularly beat him for preaching to fellow prisoners. In his drugged state, the only Scripture he could recall at one point was, “Our Father.”

He shrugged, “It was enough. I knew I had a Father.”

Sabina suffered greatly too. The Nazi Party murdered her parents, four siblings, and five children, yet she showed no bitterness or resentment. She continued to show God’s love to all. She nurtured the underground church her husband had started and spent three years working in slave labor after being arrested for subversive evangelism.

One of her greatest burdens must have been having her nine-year-old son Mihai, left to fend for himself while both of his parents were in prison. Because it was against the law to help families of the imprisoned, the women who did try to help him were beaten so badly they were left crippled.

Our language barrier kept me from talking with Mrs. Wurmbrand, but her countenance communicated more than words. How could she smile after suffering such loss? How could she forgive the years spent in poverty—starving and not knowing if her husband was alive? Her youngest son was a boy when the Communists took his father. He was a man when Richard was finally released.

How did she hold such composure among tragedy? She knew Jesus was worthy of any sacrifice. She “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10 NIV).

None of us knows what trials we’ll face. But we know we will be tested (James 1). Someone once said we are either coming out of a trial, in the middle of one, or headed into to one. Faith in Jesus prepares us and leads us triumphantly through any challenge. The Scriptures build our faith and equip us for life because they testify about Jesus (John 5:39).

The purpose of Bible study isn’t primarily to expand our knowledge (1 Cor. 8:1). The purpose is to open our eyes to our glorious Savior. Jesus is the object of biblical faith. Knowing him kindles a hope that won’t disappoint. The better we know him, the more radiant our faith and witness for Christ will shine in a dark world. Just look at the Wurmbrands.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV)

Adapted from Little Faith, Big God Copyright © 2020 by Debbie W. Wilson

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What Impact Is Your Faith Having? – encouragement from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debbie wilsonAbout the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]February 2020. She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Are there people in your life that have had a big impact on your faith?

Love in the Age of Suppression

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.                                                                                                                                                   Matthew 24:12 ESV

If you’re looking to the Bible for morality stories, it will leave you frustrated.

Oh, it’s loaded with stories and occasionally there’s a person in that story making a right choice, but three stories later, that same person may be choosing the wrong way. In fact, in many biblical stories, everyone is wrong.

That’s because the Bible is a book of truth, not fables written to teach children to stay out of the woods.

God’s not into heroes. Our faith isn’t built on the notion that there’s a group of us capable of living properly if we just have the right role models, education, and information. It’s not designed to promote a fear-based morality, or a moral-of-the-story method of soul-control.

The Bible is a mirror into the human soul, designed to reveal the truth of our glorious design, the truth of our fallen nature, and the truth of God’s loving, redemptive plan. It’s frustrating if you’re hoping for a “nice read.” There are down-right ugly stories told within its pages.

Which makes it the perfect book for our times.

We live in the age of suppression. The times when lawlessness is so rampant, we’re tempted to let our love grow cold.

Romans 1 explains that when people choose to live exactly the way they feel like living, regardless of how that lines up with the plan of their Creator, their actions suppress truth. When truth is suppressed, deception seeps in over the transom like a toxic gas. Lies create a climate hostile to love. And love cannot be divorced from truth or it has no spine. Hence, the danger of our times.

The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is that among humans, there is no one righteous, no, not one, and the only way of salvation is through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It is life for all who believe it.

The gospel doesn’t make us heroes or good guys or moral kings—it makes us recipients of grace, living by faith in Jesus, until He returns. Our salvation doesn’t rely on right living but on the person of Jesus, and only Jesus.

Which brings me to love in the age of suppression.

Jesus continues to call His followers to love, even when truth is suppressed, and deception is the visible king. How can we be expected to rise to this calling? Isn’t it impossible to love when everyone is doing whatever they want?

It is. Without Jesus, that is. Don’t try it without Him. That’s like wandering onto a battlefield without armor.

If we attempt to love with our own resources, they’ll deplete in a heartbeat. We’ll wind up dead on the doorstep of false religion, cut into pieces, a signal to other fools that they should send their own hearts into a deep freeze.

Instead, we must follow the way of Jesus. Lay our lives at the cross. Immerse ourselves in His story—His truth. Through His power, empty our minds of hatred and fear. Open our hearts to His Holy Spirit who will love others through us with a love that can withstand the times.

There’s nothing easy about loving in the age of suppression. Wounds are a near certainty, but we can resist growing cold because we were designed and equipped for such a time as this.

In times of immorality and deception, truth must marry love and give birth to life. That’s Jesus. Even when other hearts grow cold, He will warm ours with His own blood, poured out for us, and we’ll find courage to love even against the icy, prevailing wind of the age.

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Love in the Age of Suppression – insight from @LoriSRoeleveld on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

lori Roeleveld Headshot 2015About the author: Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored four encouraging, unsettling books. Her latest release is The Art of Hard Conversations: Biblical Tools for the Tough Talks that Matter. She speaks her mind at www.loriroeleveld.com.

Join the conversation: Have  you been wounded while trying to love?

Yes, Brenda, There Is a Real Jesus!

by Brenda Poinsett

 The Word became a human being and, full of grace and truth, lived among us.                                                                                                                                                    John 1:14a TEV

When I was around eight years old, a classmate informed me that Santa Claus wasn’t real. There’s probably not an eight-year-old alive now that believes in Santa, but I did back then. My mind began working furiously trying to sort out the truth. Santa Claus? Not real? Dear wonderful Santa had to be real.

I had to admit I had been suspicious. How could Santa get down narrow chimneys with his round belly? How did he get into homes without fireplaces? As I thought about all this, I realized my classmate was right. There was no real Santa Claus.

I was disappointed and angry. I thought, Maybe this means baby Jesus isn’t real either. If one was a made-up person, then the other one probably was, too.

I didn’t want to be caught unaware again, so I began observing adults to see if the baby Jesus story was also a legend. Like Virginia, the famous little girl who wrote to a newspaper to see if there was a Santa Claus, I wanted to know if Jesus was real. I didn’t write to a newspaper, but I watched and listened, especially at church. If Jesus wasn’t real, then surely there would be clues. Some adult would slip with the evidence. As carefully as I listened, I didn’t pick up any clues. Everybody at church talked and acted as if Jesus were real.

Our pastor said, “Jesus forgives sin, and everyone sins.” I recognized that as truth! I knew that I had done some wrong things. The pastor encouraged us to confess our sins to Jesus and proclaim faith in Him. The thought of doing that in front of the church scared me, but eventually I did. I asked for forgiveness and confessed my belief in Jesus.

Then I experienced something that has been the hallmark of my relationship with Jesus ever since. He responded. He forgave my sins. One has to be real to respond!

Jesus continued to respond as our relationship grew and developed through the years. I could count on a good conversation with Him any time. He responded to my concerns with understanding and guidance. Sometimes when I was lonely and thought no one liked me, He assured me that He was my friend. He gave me courage to leave home, strike out on my own, and become an independent adult. He led me to a mate and helped us raise our children. Even at times when I wasn’t as faithful to our relationship as He was, I knew I could call His name and Jesus would answer.

Over and over as He verified His realness, an inner voice bubbled up within me, saying “Yes, Brenda, there is a real Jesus. He is ‘the Word of life’ (1 John 1:1 TEV). That’s why I exclaim with the apostle John, “We have heard it, and we have seen it with our eyes; yes, we have seen it, and our hands have touched it. When this life became visible, we saw it; so we speak of it” (1 John 1:1-2 TEV).

I may not see Jesus in the literal flesh the way John did, but I see Him operate in my life and in the lives of others. I hear His voice; I feel His touch; I sense His realness. That’s why, like John, I have to say, “What we have seen and heard we announce to you also” (1 John 1:3 TEV). I announce to you this Christmas season that Jesus is real! I write this as a reminder so “that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4 TEV).

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Yes, Brenda, There Is a Real Jesus! – encouragement from Brenda Poinsett on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

brenda poinsett (2)About the author: Brenda Poinsett works with women who want a new lease on life and with adults who want to know Jesus better. She does this through writing, speaking and teaching. She’s the author of more than 20 books.

The Christmas season can often be a time of great stress and pressure for women feeling the weight of expectation for a “perfect” holiday. This can overshadow the spiritual joy that can be found at the feet of Jesus. The 25 reflections in Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas will help the “Martha” in each of us realize that she is entitled to the “Mary” time with Jesus that He desires. Focusing on Christmas themes in a lively and amusing manner, this book ministers to any Martha’s emotional and spiritual needs.

Join the conversation: How do you know Jesus is real?