The Christmas Feels and the Christmas Fills

by Rhonda Rhea

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot

That Christmas feeling. All year long. Because Christmas movies. All. Year. Long.

I have a high threshold for these things. I watch them all. So when Christmas rolls around for real, I get excited. Christmas movies—at Christmas!

I’ve seen enough of them to know that to experience the season well, you have to fill it with the proper Christmas components. Christmas cookie-baking (spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is love), decorating the tree while singing loud carols (possibly falling off a ladder), ice-skating, brushing something off someone’s face, and of course, making snow angels. We don’t always get a good Christmas snow outside of the movies. For the record, dirt angels are not the same. And Christmas laundry could also become a thing.

I had a little trouble last year. Not with the dirt angels, but with the tree-decorating/ loud singing part. A dozen extra packages of tinsel and too many extra-loud choruses of “Joy to the World” and I got the worst sore throat. Pretty sure I had tinselitis.

There’s a different kind of loud message around this time of year though. It’s both loud and subtle—and not funny. It’s a message to fill the season. Fill it with stuff. Fill it with busy and merch and different kinds of hustle and bustle—and the fullest lists. Lists on lists on lists. Fill it with chaos and stress and nary a silent night, much less sleep in heavenly peace.

I’ll tell you exactly what I do not want my season filled with. Regret. That’s what happens when we let our focus drift to the wrong fillings. There’s a beautiful filling that happens, however—as weird as it sounds—in the proper emptiness. An appreciation of Christmas, and life itself, blossoms as we fill life with…sacrifice. Fill it with surrender.

As we surrender to Jesus, life is filled with purpose. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-25 CSB).

I can fill up with the temporary—money, fame, success, power—whatever this world might offer. Gaining it all. Losing myself. The ultimate regret. But surrendering to the Lord, holding nothing back, opens the door to full life. Joyful. And joy-full.

We were never meant to fill ourselves with joy. We weren’t built to wrangle purpose out of our existence. Trying it leads to joylessness—and regrets on regrets on regrets. 

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King.”

Jesus came to bring joy to this world, fully knowing what it would cost Him. What a glorious example of sacrifice. He set aside heaven and His rights as God-King, trading them for suffering—and all for the joy of closeness with us.

We can trust that when He asks us to abandon all and follow Him, He does it with our good in mind. If we let go and grab on to Him, we will always find that His plans for us are bigger and better than anything we could’ve dreamed up. This is a King I can follow without reservation.

That thought fills my heart with singing. Year-round. Though from here on out, I might do the actual singing (with a bit more reservation).

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

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

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Got baggage? Ever find yourself lugging around messy spiritual baggage like so much purse clutter? Rhonda’s latest release, Messy to Meaningful: My Purse Runneth Over, will help you stop holding on to what you don’t need and start fighting for what you do. Learn to walk out your faith life less weighed down, lighter, and freer that ever!

Join the conversation: How do you keep yourself from regret at Christmas?

The Only Celebrity Who Matters

by A.C. Williams

Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? Does he need instruction about what is good? Did someone teach him what is right or show him the path of justice? No, for all the nations of the world are but a drop in the bucket. They are nothing more than dust on the scales. He picks up the whole earth as though it were a grain of sand. Isaiah 40:14-15 NLT

Do you know any celebrities? I’ve met a handful of famous authors, but for the most part, I just watch celebrity interviews on YouTube like everyone else. 

I follow a few actors on social media who I truly believe are the real deal. They live out a true, authentic faith, and from what those around them say, their faith has had an impact. They are great people. 

When I hear about someone who is great, I like to spread the word. Watch this movie. It’s great. Read this book. It’s great. Listen to this speaker. He’s great.

When you encounter greatness, don’t you feel the need to share it with others?

So… when was the last time you told someone how great God is?

I’m asking myself, too. Because I’ll be the first one to help promote a book or an entertaining movie, but when it comes to shouting about God’s greatness, I often get really quiet.

I don’t like conflict. I don’t enjoy rocking the boat. So I generally avoid topics that can potentially cause a stir. And God is really good at causing a stir (Luke 12:51). 

I won’t hesitate to tell someone I just met about the great book I just finished. But can I tell that same person that God put air in my lungs this morning, gave me taste buds to enjoy my coffee, legs to walk around and marvel at the beautiful autumn weather? Can I tell that person that God made the sun, the moon, the stars, caused the birds to sing and wind to blow (Isaiah 40:26)? That He keeps the Earth spinning like He keeps my heart beating, and that He cares about them both (Psalm 8:3-8)? 

You guys. God is great. He’s the only one who truly is. I apply the term too liberally. Only God deserves it (Mark 10:18).

Do you ever stop to think about His greatness? Do you ever take time to tell Him, to acknowledge how great He is? Do you ever marvel at His endless creativity, His unconventional sense of humor, and His relentless love? 

I don’t. Not as often as I should. And that’s got to change. As the times grow darker and the end draws near, the louder we need to be about His greatness. That doesn’t mean we should be obnoxious. But we also shouldn’t cower like trembling, fragile flowers. 

Christians, we are daughters and sons of God. He has redeemed us. He has given us a new life, a new hope, and an everlasting future. He knew my worth before I knew my name, and He’d already decided to do whatever it took to save me (Isaiah 53:10). 

God is great. In Him, I have all I need, and He wants a big family. That’s the thing about great people. They’re always looking for folks they want to bless. The doors to God’s house are wide open, and He wants everyone to experience the peace and joy that we can only find in Him. 

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

About the author: A.C. Williams is a coffee-drinking, sushi-eating, story-telling nerd who loves cats, country living, and all things Japanese. She’d rather be barefoot, and if she isn’t, her socks won’t match. She has authored eight novels, two novellas, three devotional books, and more flash fiction than you can shake a stick at. A senior partner at the award-winning Uncommon Universes Press, she is passionate about stories and the authors who write them. Learn more about her book coaching and follow her adventures online at www.amycwilliams.com.

Join the conversation: In what ways is God great to you?

Two Things

by Dana Peters Colley

At churches I have visited in my area, I have heard needs shared, both big and small. One pastor proposed beginning a center to help children in the foster care system and the needy. At another church, a lady shared her woes with me in the parking lot. She’s sixty and was married long ago for a short time. She just needed an ear, another believer to walk with her. She had reached out at that church and was directed to counseling she couldn’t afford. Now, the Lord gave me a meeting with her in the parking lot at the end of service.

In these times, when so many are struggling, with so much scary news, some days it’s a wonder any of us slap two feet down on the floor in the morning. Yet, our instruction from the Lord is not to hide in bed but to occupy until our Savior comes. We’re to put on the whole armor of God and be love to a chaotic, dying world. That world may come at us in our families, our churches, our jobs, or wherever we are.

What has helped me in my times of loneliness and struggle are two things. You possibly already know what I’m talking about. You’d think I’m going to say prayer, right? Of course, we need close contact in prayer. Oh – I LOVE to pray. It’s what we are instructed to do. Submit all our requests to the Lord.

But what I’m suggesting is something beyond prayer. It’s to find two things we love to do. For me, it’s to write and paint. Those two things have saved my life more than once.

Do you have two things beyond your close encounters with our Savior that you enjoy?

I found, years ago, at the beginning of a prodigal season with my two youngest, that working on a story where the characters were wholesome and loving to be immensely helpful. That book, after years of writing, is close to finished. I also reworked a book that had loads of Scripture in it.

Eventually, I picked up my paintbrush. Where I found I needed the right head space to write, I could caress a canvas under all sorts of duress. I began to revel in the joy I found taking brush to canvas to create beautiful scenery. The Lord knew where to meet me, how to strengthen me, and bring me further. He wanted me to experience “life and life more abundantly.” He wants that for all of us!

Remember that woman in the parking lot? I asked her about art. It turned out she had had other believers speaking into her life about her doing just that. It took her mind from where she is to what the Lord wanted her to experience. She opened up a bit, and we had a few moments. Not sure what my next steps will be with her: a meal, paints, or to listen again. But it’s so important for each one of us to find the love of Jesus each other. So, go forth, my friend, and think about two things you can do to celebrate this life Jesus died to give us. And search for the ones God wants you to love as well.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. James 1:27

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

About the author: Dana Peters-Colley is a creative who loves Jesus. She has been tucked away developing a brand of Christian parable books, faith-based fiction, and inspirational books as well as screenplays. Dana holds a B.A. in journalism, studied screenwriting at U.C.L.A., and is a former long-time Disney creative leader and producer. When the Lord got ahold of Dana everything marvelously changed. She is developing a heavenly-inspired brand line that brings stories to build family, inspire discovery, and teach kingdom ways. See danapeterscolley.com to connect to her spiritual blog and gaze at her adventures.

Do you have a friend you want to receive Jesus into their lives? Do you want to receive how much God loves and values you? Do you want to be empowered to do the impossible? Then, you have to know who you are! Treasure will take you into the realization of God’s love for you as you discover you are His treasure.

Join the conversation: What are the two things you enjoy the most?

What Makes You Smile?

by Shirley Quiring Mozena

…The Lord made the heavens. Strength and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are in His place.  1 Chronicles 16:26-27 NASB

A couple of days ago, Jim and I were on our usual morning walk. Our usual path takes us along a busy railroad track. The tracks often hustle with Amtrak trains that zip by with passengers peering out the windows. Freight trains move slower with long loads of oil and coal. We say to each other, “Let’s wave to the engineer!” Sometimes he acknowledges our wave with a wave back, but on Monday, when we each gave a vigorous wave, he rewarded us with two short beeps in the familiar triple tone whistle. I was as excited as if I’d hit the jackpot. He honked! We smiled for the remainder of our walk. 

Often in early evening, we stroll our front and back yard to check new growth, pull a few stray weeds, and admire our plantings. “Look here,” I might say, “The Hyacinth has another bloom!”

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all splendor was dressed like one of these (Luke 12:27 NIV).…their glory is like the flowers of the field” (Isaiah 40:6b NIV).

Jim says,“That’s great!” with true excitement in his voice. That makes me smile. Joint joy in simple things. But what happened next really made us smile.

We finished “inspecting” the front yard and turned to walk into the house when right above our heads, a bald eagle slowly wheeled his wings through the skies, most likely looking for prey. He was low enough we KNEW he was an eagle. His white head and tail assured us he was for sure our national bird. Big smile! “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint “(Isaiah 40:31 NIV).

I’ve been thinking about those brief smile moments that produced bits of joy into my life. All of them were part of God’s creation. The human encounter with the train whistle. The beauty of a flower. The soar of an eagle soaring confidently in the air with scarcely a ripple of his wings. God is an awesome Creator!

Human contact is a beautiful thing. A smile lifts our spirits. A touch brings joy. And the train whistle? It makes our hearts beat faster.

What makes you smile? Keep your eyes open for the little things that will bring you joy, too.

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

About the author: Shirley Quiring Mozena is a writer, blogger, and national speaker for Stonecroft. She has written three books, Second Chances, Beyond Second Chances: Heartbreak to Joy, and recently published, Second Chance at Love: Navigating the Path to Remarriage. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines.

Join the conversation: What has made you smile recently?

Blessed

by Susie Crosby

adj: enjoying happiness; favored, privileged, fortunate

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope…” Matthew 5:3 MSG

Religious-sounding words make me cringe sometimes. Maybe it’s because they get overused, or can seem insincere. Or maybe it’s because I haven’t understood their true meaning.

Blessed has been one of these awkward words for me.

“Bless you.”

“God bless.”

“Blessings!”

Everything in me feels weird when I say or hear or read words like this. I can’t help it.

Years ago, I impulsively bought a beautifully framed wooded sign that states: “We are so blessed.” It fits beautifully above our dining room mirror and works with the decor. But I can’t look at it without an uncomfortable feeling–wondering if it comes across as prideful or self-righteous or possibly inauthentic to people who visit.

But Jesus said, Blessed.” Many times, in the Beatitudes part of the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew. The upside-down truths that He shared that day surprised the crowd and brought them to cheers. They make me want to know more about what Jesus meant when He used this word.

When Jesus spoke on that hillside, He said we are blessed when we’re at the end of our rope, blessed when we’ve lost what is most dear to us, blessed when we are humbled, blessed when we have worked up a good appetite for God, blessed when we care for others, blessed when our hearts are pure, blessed when we work for peace, and blessed when we are left out and lied about–mistreated for doing what is right.

When Jesus calls us blessed in the midst of suffering or working or trying to do good, it doesn’t sound contrived or fake. And it doesn’t sound like pride. It sounds like he’s giving us something we desperately need but cannot earn.

Beatitude: a feeling or state of well-being and contentment; blissfulness, gladness, joy.

Blessed.

Maybe it means taken care of. Not simply happy or lucky, but attended to and held close by God Himself–our loving Father, by Jesus–our savior and friend, and by the Holy Spirit–our strength and comfort.

Every Sunday at the end of the church service, our pastor prays this blessing over us that God gave Moses and Aaron to bless the Israelites:

The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face shine on you

And be gracious to you;

The Lord turn his face toward you

And give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 NIV

If it means that God will keep us, make his face shine on us, be gracious to us, turn his attention to us, and give us his peace; then maybe “bless you,” isn’t such an awkward thing to say after all.

Sit with Jesus on your own hillside for a moment. If you are at the end of your rope, look into His eyes. Invite Him in. Let Him bless you with His attention, His peace, His strength, and His grace for the struggle you face. He sees you, He knows you, and He will honor and take precious care of your heart for Him.

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

susie crosby

About the author: Susie is a grateful mom of two (almost) grown boys who currently live and go to school in Honolulu, Hawaii. She and her husband live in a seaside town in the Puget Sound region called Mukilteo. They love to hike and kayak, they are huge Seattle sports fans, and they mostly love hanging out at home with their little dog Koko. Susie teaches P.E., Art, Technology, and Music at an all-kindergarten school which keeps her busy full time. Her passion and joy is sharing encouraging words with the people she loves. She is an active blogger and speaker, and she is the author of Just One Word: 90 Devotions to Invite Jesus In. She is always on the lookout for fun coffee shops, inspiring books, remote beaches, and farmers’ markets. Connect with Susie at www.susiecrosby.com.

Join the conversation: How has God blessed you recently?

Everything to Lose/Everything to Gain

by Rhonda Rhea

Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it. Matthew 10:39 CSB

I’m always so sincere when I say I’m only going to eat one of your fries. Like, I really do believe it. I think I believe it right up until I grab that next fry.

Most of the time, I don’t blame myself. Is it okay if I blame the fries? French fries are almost obnoxiously good. Cupcakes? Same thing. So it’s not my fault.

Saying no to fries and cupcakes is not my best thing. But yesterday I stepped on the scale and the scale hurt my feelings really badly. So I’m pondering the need to get better at it. At least a little more balanced. Or perhaps I should just cut off any dealings with the scales. Those mean, mean scales.

It’s probably not helping that my favorite diet routine is the one where I pin a couple of salads on Pinterest and then eat half a chocolate ice cream pie.

I don’t blame the chocolate ice cream pie either. I can’t think of any time it’s ever been anything but sweet.

As followers of Christ, we have the sweet life available to us. Sweet, sweeter, sweetest. Real life. We can grab it all. Life abundant, full, and satisfying. Ironically, we get in on that life as we willingly give up…everything. It’s the strangest balance. Or is it the absence of balance? I’m not sure. Because in giving up that…everything, we gain more than everything. We gain joy, purpose, hope, direction, peace, satisfaction, and love. More! There’s freedom. Freedom from emptiness, guilt, unrest, and discontentment.

As He was commissioning His disciples to proclaim the message of this abundant life, Jesus said to them, “Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 10:39 CSB).

Six chapters later, Jesus told His disciples again, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25 CSB).

Want to find life? Lose it. Want to have it? Give it away.

Real life is not found in possessions or fame or feelings or the most obnoxiously good earthly treat you can think of. We find spiritual life that transcends all that as we give all to Christ.

Give Him everything—when circumstances are great and you’re on top of the world, and give Him everything when it’s a mess and life is hard.

Those messy circumstances will not be able to touch the joy and satisfaction you’ll find in that place of surrender. And frankly, the glory you might experience when you’re on top of the world is not glory at all—not without The Glorious One.

So give it. All. You can do it as He empowers it. Sometimes surrender is about saying no to self. I don’t just mean the fries. I’m talking about saying no to anything in this life I might be tempted to hold onto tighter than I hold onto Jesus. Belongings, esteem, relationships, habits—He gives grace to let go of those things that hold us back and that keep us from experiencing the sweet, abundant life He has for each of us.

By the way, I’m still working on balancing the sweets on the physical side. Well, sort of working on it. I recently set a goal to lose 10 pounds in 60 days, and guess what! I only have 12 more pounds to go.


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

rhonda rhea

About the author: Rhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and an award-winning humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLifeLeading HeartsThe Pathway and many more. She is the author of 17 books, including the Fix-Her-Upper books, co-authored with Beth Duewel, and the hilarious novels, Turtles in the Road and Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated, both co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea.

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated: A Novel by [Rhea, Kaley, Rhea, Rhonda]

Rhonda and Kaley have a new novel, Off-Script and Over-Caffeinated. When the Heartcast Channel Movie division announces they’ll briefly be allowing submissions for new Christmas movies, Harlow finds herself paired with a reluctant co-star. Jack Bentley may be the biggest Heartcast Original Movie name in the business, but he is anything but formulaic.

Rhonda lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children. You can read more from Rhonda on her website or Facebook page.

Join the conversation: What does the word surrender mean to you?

Watch the Children

by Nan Corbitt Allen

He called a small child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3 CSV

I hear this verse a lot.  But I’ve personally never used it in regards to babysitting or keeping children. Watching them was not something I considered the essence of the assignment. But recently I heard the phrase again, and so I decided to really watch children to see what Jesus is talking about.

One group of kids I observed, obviously on a school field trip, seemed to find joy in something as simple as walking. Even in a straight line. With the teacher leading like a mama duck, the little ones were following in single file. However, each “duckling” had his or her own style of walking. Some skipped, some twirled, some stepped over cracks in the sidewalk. Some even walked backwards. I remember asking myself.  When did I lose the sheer joy of just…walking? At my age, I consider walking a chore rather than a pleasure.

In this group of children, I saw no one who seemed to be anxious about who was going to pay for the outing or who was going to transport them safely home. Someone older, and perhaps, more responsible, had made all of the arrangements. The leader’s main chore was to keep up with her charges, often counting heads and reminding them to stay with the group. This configuration had incorporated a buddy system, giving each child a little responsibility, but only for one other person.

Paul wrote to ancient Corinth, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things” (1 Corinthians 13: 11 CSV). Here Paul is alluding to childishness as immaturity and carelessness. An unsavory trait.

But Matthew recorded this: “[Jesus] called a small child and had him stand among them. ‘Truly I tell you,’ He said, ‘unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:2 CSV). The innocence and trust of a child will usher one into the Kingdom of God.

Childish behavior is wanting our own way, dishonoring those in authority, and dismissing the consequences of our actions. But childlikeness? Oh, this involves trusting Him who is in charge and finding joy in everyday things.

A few years ago I wrote this.

Of Such Is the Kingdom

He dances with joy on a summer day

He sings with “heart” the songs of play

He laughs at every rhymes he makes

Because he is a child….

She skips to tunes she feels inside

She patiently counts the stars at night

She never tires of asking why

Because she is a child….

So I wanna dance

I wanna sing

I wanna laugh

I wanna be

Like the little child again.

I wanna run into my father’s arms

The one I trust with all my heart

Of such is the kingdom

The Kingdom of God.

Watch the children. They might teach you something that will change your life, or it will at least remind you of things you already know.

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

Nan Corbitt Allen

About the author: Nan Corbitt Allen has written over 100 published dramatic musicals, sketchbooks, and collections in collaboration with Dennis Allen, her husband of 45+ years. A three-time Dove Award winner, Nan’s lyrics and dramas have been performed around the world. Dennis and Nan have sold almost 3 million choral books.

Nan and Dennis retired in 2020 from full time teaching at Truett McConnell University. They now live south of Nashville. They have two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren.

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Nan’s book, Small Potatoes @ the Piggly Wiggly, is a collection of devotionals that reveal the great impact seemingly insignificant, routine experiences can have in our lives. She describes what she learned of God’s providence and wisdom while growing up in the Deep South in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Join the conversation: What have you learned from watching the children?

Honored, or Forgotten?

by Candy Arrington

But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. 1 Peter 3:15a AMP

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that it is a lot more fun to select, set up, and decorate a Christmas tree than to undecorate and dispose of it. Similarly, emotions of Christmastime: the excitement, joy, and anticipation, can be difficult to maintain after the fact, especially when a year is full of challenges.

One year, as I sat in the sunroom, I noticed our Christmas tree standing tall and erect in a secluded corner of our deck. There was nothing unusual about this, except it had been three months since Christmas. We pulled the tree out onto the deck early in the new year, intending to dispose of it later, and then forgot about it because it was not in a location easily seen.

Looking at the tree, I thought how it was a focal point in our home just a few months before. Selecting the tree was an anticipated family event, its decorating a family activity. It was a central part of our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Now it languished on our deck, forgotten. Although no longer ornamented, it was still beautiful, retaining its green color and shapely branches. The tree was a reminder of the joy and focus of the Christmas season.

Seeing the tree, I thought about how we sometimes push Jesus aside, out of view, in the same way. On Sunday, we honor Him with our time and attention in worship. We sing songs of praise and offer reverent hearts. Then, for the rest of the week, our Bibles are tucked neatly away somewhere, to emerge again the next sabbath, an ornament to our Sunday attire.

In the midst of our busy lives, we sometimes relegate Christ to a secluded corner of our hearts, while we frantically engage in the urgent, forgetting he is the source of wisdom and strength. Some nights, we fall into bed exhausted without spending time in Bible study or prayer.

Perhaps this year has made it even more difficult to maintain proper focus, giving Christ due honor. A pandemic has kept us away from places of worship for many months. What felt odd at first now seems commonplace. Fear and frustration seeped into our lives, diverting our attention. Yet our Creator and Sustainer patiently waits for us to seek him, to turn our attention toward him, and honor him with our time.

Decide today to make Jesus the focal point in your life every day, not just on Sunday, or at Christmastime. Commit to time alone with him each day and keep the joy and peace experienced at Christmas alive in your heart year-round.

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

Candy Arrington

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: How do you keep Jesus front and center every day?

The Plenty Nests

by Doris Swift

There’s something about children in the house at Christmastime that adds an extra measure of joy to the season. My heart yearns for those crack-o’-dawn Christmas mornings when jumping beans would shake us awake, their Christmas list items wrapped and waiting beneath the tree. This late-night-wrapping mama would roll out of bed and make those littles wait while I “put the coffee on” and popped cinnamon buns into the oven. I’d light the tree and give the okay, standing camera-ready as they rushed by like the wind, wide-eyed and giggly, the likes of which you only experience once a year.   

Oh, for just one more glimpse of that sparkle in their eyes, smiles a mile wide as wrapping paper flies. Where did the time go? Our seasons change, don’t they? Time moves on, our littles grow up, and we mama birds must teach them to fly.  

While some may say our nests are empty, God encourages us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV).

And whatever the status of this mama bird’s nest or yours, we can choose joy, and we can choose to be glad. For although we may miss the seasons of old, God brings new seasons of life to experience. We can take comfort in remembering that those old seasons were once new, too.

In John 15, Jesus prepares His disciples for what was to come. He was leaving, and He knew it would be hard for them to bear. He told them what it meant to abide in the vine, bear much fruit, and how much He loved them. He told them all those things so His joy would be in them; that their joy may be full—because He would never leave them empty.

That is true for us, too: Jesus will never leave us empty when we abide in Him. His joy remains in us throughout the seasons of our lives, even the hardest ones. We are full of Jesus- joy. What could be better?

So young mamas, enjoy every moment and know this: Sleeping-in on Christmas morning is overrated, even if you just went to bed an hour before. Be careful not to blink—because all that talk about time going by quickly? It’s not a cliché. Savor every moment, and don’t sweat the lack of quiet time. Your home will be quiet soon enough, so invite your littles into your moments with the Savior.

And they-say-your-nest-is-empty mamas, your nest is full. We can hang onto memories, but let’s not miss the new ones waiting to be made. This is not the end of the story, because the old story is not gone, it is just stretching and growing and becoming something beautiful in its time.

So how about we change that phrase empty nest to plenty nest? Our plenty nests, where abundance flows with the fullness of love, peace, and joy. Where loving arms of sweet grandchildren wrap around us like a warm blanket. Where the Holy Spirit dwells and Jesus is Lord. Praise God, our nests are plentiful!

May your plenty nests be blessed this Christmas as you celebrate the Savior, who makes our seasons beautiful and our joy full.

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)

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

About the author: Doris Swift is an inspirational blogger, speaker, author, and host of the Fierce Calling Podcast. In ministry for more than thirty years, she is passionate about helping women study God’s Word, walk in their calling, and use their gifts to impact the world for Christ.

How would your life change if you discovered your past has purpose? In Doris’ book,

Goodbye, Regret: Forgiving Yourself of Past Mistakes, you’ll take a journey into the life of a woman who came face to face with her past. A woman who was set free when her ordinary day intersected with her extraordinary destiny. A woman with a history of past mistakes.

Join the conversation: How would you describe your nest today?

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?