Christmas Presence

For Ashley, a post from Christmas past…


“Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me,” Psalm 51:11 NKJV

Many people who celebrate Christmas and even some who don’t find themselves rushing around with too much to do and too little time to do it this time of year. A few are stressing over hosting duties. Others have parties they must attend. Still, more are in a frenzied search to find the perfect gift. If retailers had their way, we would all be enticed to buy more presents!

However, I challenge you to breathe a little and focus instead on God’s presence.

God is ever waiting for us to come before Him, worship, talk with Him, and listen to what He would say.

If some of us would only slow down, we could enjoy the goodness of God instead of falling into the trap of running ragged to meet the expectations of others. If only we put that much effort into pleasing God.

 If you want to truly embrace the reason for the season, come into God’s presence. Slow down. Sit down. Bow down. Allow God to enter in your spirit and your space.

Christ’s birth and death provides us not only salvation but also the privilege to connect with God without the need for a mediator, high priest or intercessor. Jesus Christ left and ascended so that the Holy Spirit could be available to us. Such a perfect gift our Savior gave us, yet we often fail to “enter in” and appreciate the comfort and peace only He can provide.

The pursuit of things and our attempts to please others can often leave us with little time for God if we aren’t careful.

So, if you are in a continual state of chaos this holiday season, I implore you to run toward His presence. God can calm, refresh and restore. Allow Him to dictate your Christmas season and prompt you to be a blessing instead of constantly stressing.

Choose to end this year seeking God with a renewed passion. Allow each gleaming light to remind you of His Light. The best gifts can’t be placed under a tree. Only God can provide peace, joy, and unconditional love.

May you be overcome by God’s presence this Christmas season.

“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

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,”
Acts 3:19  NKJV

Goodwill to Men…Crossing the Bridge with Susan and Andy

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:16-19 NIV 

Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
John 4:9 NIV 

As we celebrate this Christmas season, we would all do well to ponder “goodwill to men.” 

Merriam-Webster defines goodwill as a kindly feeling of approval and support:  benevolent interest or concern” It is also defined as “willing effort.”

In one of our Friday letters on race,Tom who blogs over at realchange4u reminded me about the relationship between the Jews and Samaritans.

“Relationship” may be an overstatement because the Jews did not mingle with Samaritans.

Yet, Jesus went about “doing good” and regularly connected with those who were considered the fringes of society. Swearing fishermen, tax collectors, crippled beggars, and the infamous woman at the well were just a few.

Jesus made a “willing effort” to minister to those unlike himself.

“But He needed to go through Samaria.” John 4:4 NKJV

Jesus did not confine himself to “Jews like him.” He did not segregate Himself the way many of us intentionally and often unintentionally tend to do.

 “And he was a Samaritan.” This account of Jesus healing the lepers is miraculous without these five words.

However, I believe these words were included to demonstrate that Jesus did not differentiate between the Samaritan and the Jews. I suspect there is an even greater message in the fact that only the “foreigner” returned to thank Him!

The divide between people will only close when people choose to close it. Doing this requires a conscious decision act differently. It demands a willingness to renew the mind daily and submit to the Holy Spirit.

I would have missed out on so many blessings had I not been receptive to the kindness of people unlike myself.

We tend to prematurely judge people based on what we learn from family and friends, or worse, misinformation in the media. Our personal experiences either affirm or defy our preconceived notions.

Still, when we broaden our vision and view people as God sees them, we can acknowledge each person’s individual merit instead of categorizing someone and hastily applying a label.

If we remain stubborn and defy the Holy Spirit we will always miss out on God’s best. Our blessings are often disguised in the people we would least expect to deliver them.

goodwill-to-men-12-2016-b-is-for-blessed-devotional This Christmas, don’t speak of “peace on earth, goodwill to men,” but live it.

May we be peacemakers, willing to extend ourselves beyond our usual boundaries. May we make the effort to connect with others. Those first tentative steps may very well bridge the gap between where we are and the blessings we seek!

And speaking of bridges, Susan, Andy Oldham and I will continue our conversations into the New Year under a new category titled Bridges.

It is our desire to include more people and topics in our conversations. We welcome your comments and are grateful to you who have joined us on this journey. If you care to contribute a post please let us know! Andy adds his voice to the conversation next Friday and we will begin anew in January.

As this year ends, may we all give glory to God in the highest, promote peace on earth and extend goodwill toward men.

Merry Christmas!


The faded hydrangea is no longer the dewy sweet pink of weeks ago. It is drier, faded and splotchy. When faded and speckled they have a different kind of beauty all their own.

Imperfect devotional b is for blessed 7-2015  Our society would have us yearn for perpetual youth. However, like the faded hydrangea, I’m still hanging on!

How many times do we casually toss things aside or fail to appreciate things and people after the “newness” has worn off. Everyday routines and obligations can make us take for granted those dearest to us after their “shine” has long worn away.

How is it even blessings we ask God for and receive, we can so easily become bored with, dissatisfied or make last on our list of our priorities as we search for the next new “thrill?”

Relationships are never perfect as they are composed of imperfect people, but often our flawed (not destructive) relationships are more satisfying than having none at all.

Too many times we stare at the flaws instead of being in awe of the perfect people for us that God has gifted into our lives.

I dare you to look at those old and familiar things in your life with a fresh perspective.

imperfect 2 devotional b is for blessed 7-2015  Even though we may not be what we once were, we still have the potential for beauty in new and different ways.

The hydrangea pictured above reminds me that my flaws are part of who I am.

I don’t always have to war against them. I can learn to accept them, as God has accepted me.

God used many imperfect heroes in the Bible to execute His will. Most of the “major players” in the most familiar chapters had “major issues.” Jesus would go on to keep company with and use some the very “flawed” individuals of their day to preach the Kingdom of God.

The harlot.

Tax collectors.

Religious hypocrites.

As Jesus used them, God can still use us.

Flaws and all…

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,  I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV

Dead Wood, New Life!

It dawned on me just recently why I love spring so much. I certainly enjoy the beauty of flowers and fresh green leaves. Warmer temperatures are also a plus. Yet, since I’ve learned to make gardening less of a chore and more of a joy, it is the promise for new life that makes me appreciate spring the most.

One of my favorite southern staples is the hydrangea. I love it because in most varieties, new life for each spring comes from its dead wood. I’ve found the same is true with some of my roses. The dead wood is the skeletal remains left when the first freeze zaps those green leaves right off. Without the leaves, my plants look less suited for the garden and more apt for a haunted house.

I learned the hard way that when the dead wood was cut, there would be no blooms that spring. Green leaves eventually emerged, but no flowers.

Not even one.

Those awful looking dead stalks laid bare by the cold of winter are necessary for later blooms!

If God does that much for my garden, how much more is He doing for me?

Our dead wood can produce new life as well. Those times when we feel like we’ve been stripped bare actually teach us what we need to manage our new beginnings. I believe it is far easier for us to appreciate some facets of life after we’ve experienced loss. Our “dead” situations can impart wisdom, compassion and knowledge that we can later access when God ressurects our dry bones!

I’ve experienced a few “resurrections” for which I am very grateful. There were times I felt dead, dry and brittle. I probably looked the part as well.  It felt like my “winter” would last forever. But I clung to hope and continued to pray. I’ve since learned the absence of a “yes” isn’t’ necessarily a “no.”

Sometimes God’s silence simply means, “Not now.”

I think some of us become so disheartened with our defeats/death that we lose hope for future blooms and fruit yet to come. So much in the garden has to “die” before it can ever produce again. There are things in each of us that must die if we are ever to grasp hold of the blessings our Father would give us.

old wood blessed devotional 2015  If you have a “dead” situation or simply feel like all the life has been sapped out of you, fear not! Our God specializes in resurrecting the dead.  With God, there is always hope for a new and victorious life.

Even here on earth.

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. John 12:24 NKJV.

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NKJV

Give It Up!

Give up self-sufficiency

Give in to Christ and be set free

God knows our faults, yet loves us still

Our hurts and pains are His to heal


Give up your sorrows, give up your fears

Look back no more on your lost years

Give up dwelling on past mistakes

Enjoy life! Give yourself a break!


Look up to God, enjoy His wealth

Give up the focus on yourself.

Christ paid the price that we may live

Eternal life is God’s to give


Our spirits ache and yearn for God

Accept His gift, it’s not that hard

Don’t die a death brought on by stress

You’ve tried all else; Trust God, Be Blessed!


Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,  casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7 NKJV

Survive or Thrive?

Winter is very much underway. Still, I am ever hopeful and looking forward to spring.

The transition to my “personal spring” will require me to cut off a few “dead things,” and work a bit harder.  The promise of renewal encourages me to look forward to good things in my future.

Do I know what my good things are?

I haven’t a clue.

I do anticipate the best from a God Who is faithful.

Many of us merely survive. Periods of icy dormancy leave us barely making when it appears nothing productive is happening. To simply exist during those times when our winters wear us down is quite a blessing!

Yet, one thing I’ve noticed is that even after their season changes, some people fail to change with their season.

We can become so accustomed to struggling we fail to let go of our harsh past which is necessary to open ourselves up to a sun filled (Son filled?) future.

If we become stuck in a winter mentality, we can’t move forward into opportunities to thrive. New experiences that challenge us to bloom, grow or expand are dismissed because we fail to step out of our doldrums.  Some people habitually live in a mindset of winter dormancy long after that season has come and gone.

I’ve been there.

I readily admit it took effort and repetition on my part to finally move out of the dark and into the Light!

Today I was reminded of a goal I tossed aside years ago. The harsh reality of one particular “winter” buried not only my aspiration but my inspiration as well.

I felt like I was running on empty. Looking back on it I was carried more than I ran. Regardless, today God led me to give that opportunity a second look. The season for this particular goal may have come once more.

Very few of us will bloom all the time. That just isn’t the way life happens.  We must stay mindful and Spirit led to act when it is time to get moving. Doubt, fear and insecurities will keep us “stuck” if we allow it.

Our “winters” are as unique as we are but winter eventually yields to spring.

It may be the frustration of finding a job. Strained relationships. Family responsibilities. The death of a loved one. Financial burdens. Yet, when the “odds” are stacked against us, whatever the situation, we must dare to make a move. God’s blessings aren’t based on odds or luck!

Our first step of faith can move us into a new season! The decision to thrive instead of survive mandates we enjoy the journey instead of fighting to reach a destination.

We may not like those first vital steps. There may will be some discomfort. We may be forced to interact with people unlike ourselves. It can be frightening.

It may very well be exactly what we need.

What about you?

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:”  Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV


What Are You Searching For?

Seek good and not evil, That you may live; So the Lord God of hosts will be with you, As you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Amos 5:14 NKJV

Seek good, not evil.”  We are implored to seek good.  Seek God?

I had a trying experience yesterday.  I could have allowed one customer to destroy my entire day.

See, I’m still honing the ability to hit my OFF button. I somehow allow evil thoughts to find my mental space. Anger festered inside of me. I continued to think about this customer long after she was gone. Long after I’d gone home. She even haunted my dreams!

All this did was make me tense, angrier and opened the door for more negativity to venture in.

However, I was also approached by two of my “good” customers yesterday. Both of them had very kind words for me. They appreciate what we do for them.

Their words were not loud like the hurricane customer who stormed out only to return and shout some more before finally leaving. Their words of appreciation were soft-spoken, understated yet sincere.

Sometimes we must seek good.

I could have allowed the “evil” to blind me to the good. And I would have not that long ago.

“That you may live.”

We must actively seek and magnify the God/good to stay sane and stable amidst all the “crazy” running amuck.

Preoccupation with “evil” make us stressed, tense, and angry. I recognize how dwelling on “evil” things affects my health.

Anxious mind. Queasy stomach. Fear.

These ailments are often manifestations of allowing the negative or evil in life to supersede the good and Godly right in front of us.

Not exactly living as God intended.

Seeking the good in all situations, allows us to truly live and not just exist.

I believe God sent me encouragement because “crazy” was on the way! Thankfully, I recognized the “God/good” in my workday!

Whatever we strive to “seek” we will find. 

When we look for the best in even the worst of situations, I believe God meets our level of faith and expectation. If we constantly complain about our trials, even with due cause, what display of faith is that?

I don’t pretend seeking good is always easy. It takes diligence. It can be difficult. But in the end, definitely worth the effort.

“So the Lord God of hosts will be with you,”

The spiritual maturity necessary to seek the good enables us to direct our thoughts instead of our thoughts dictating our behavior.

If we can do just this one thing, the other areas in our lives will be that much better. 

“It may be that the Lord God of hosts Will be gracious…”

“So, I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 NKJV

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things [are] noble, whatever things [are] lovely, whatever things [are] of good report, if [there is] any virtue and if [there is] anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 NKJV

One Last Look…

We tend to begin the New Year with resolutions, proclamations, and prayers. My usual pray more, eat less, blah, blah, blah, makes me mindful of what is possible in 2015.

I’m all for looking forward to new and better, yet I do think it’s wise to reflect on the things in last year I am grateful for. I believe you can’t know where to go if you don’t know where you’ve been. Here are a few of mine…

I am grateful to see the end of 2014. I don’t mean this negatively at all. Working in health care makes me very aware of people who did not live to see it. It certainly puts whatever issues I may have had with 2014 into proper perspective!

I’m grateful both kids did really well in school. If you have ever read my other blog God, autism and me, you know this has not always been the case. My youngest has always struggled in school.

However, both boys pushed themselves beyond their usual “boundaries” and obtained extraordinary results. My prodding was not in vain. I wonder if I will break a few of my  limitations, but that’s a topic for another post!

I did not die from stress. Stressful jobs cause their fair share of heart attacks. My co-workers make my job a lot easier. I should tell them more often. I am very grateful for all they do.

Good health!  Last year I ended and began 2014 quite ill. I am grateful to be healthy today.

My mother. I lost my dad at Christmas over ten years ago. Each year I get to spend Christmas with her makes me appreciative of my parents and all they did for me.

My family. Needs no further explanation.

Watching other people find success. Nothing moves me like a good testimony. You don’t have to “preach” to have one. Watching how God intervened for others  fills me with peace and hope for the things I’m waiting for.

Friends on the net!  Now I know there are cynics who think you can never really have online relationships but I beg to differ. People I haven’t seen in decades I’ve been able to reconnect with, pray with and vent all through the internet! Who would have thought it? Certainly not me!

And last but certainly not least my fellow bloggers on WP!

You have encouraged me, challenged me, prayed for me and inspired me. Taking your valuable time to stop by and comment or “like” a post is always appreciated. When I began this blog I didn’t have a clue! But you found me.

And I am grateful.

You’ve given me good reads, good laughs and different viewpoints. Your words and photos provided answers when I didn’t know I had questions.

Thanks for dropping by in 2014. I hope to see more of you as I attempt a regular blogging schedule (yep, that’s a resolution!) as we enter 2015.

Oh, I almost forgot…

Happy New Year!!! 

Burning Bush!

And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush [was] not consumed.  Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”  So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
Exodus 3:2-4 NKJV

“Here I am.” 

God called Moses by name and revealed Himself.  God does the same for us. We may not experience anything quite as spectacular as a burning bush yet God calls us just the same.

God knows our names. We were born for a purpose. We can choose to obey the call He places on us or we can turn a deaf ear and go about our way.

We may feel ill-equipped or unsure of God’s plans. Moses had doubts even as God clearly gave him instructions.

“Who am I that I should go?” was Moses’ response to God’s command.

Now, if Moses can doubt his abilities hearing God clearly, is there no wonder we tend to feel overcome as well?

We can over think and reason to death why we can’t possibly do the things God prompts us to do, especially when the task looks daunting if not impossible

Unlike Moses, God lives within us. We have the Holy Spirit to prompt us and guide us.

We don’t have to go to God. God dwells in us.

It is up to us to tune out distractions (always plenty of those) and “mental noise” that keeps us from hearing God.

When doubt rises up, we need only remember Moses wasn’t perfect. He had flaws just like us.

Moses felt inadequate because he was “slow of speech and slow of tongue.” His excuses angered God. Still, God equipped Moses for the task set before him. God made Aaron available to help Moses.

Furthermore, God declared “And I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and I will teach you what you shall do,” Exodus 4:15 NKJV

God is glorified using flawed people (Moses, David, Noah, Rahab to name a few) for His purposes. We are all flawed. We don’t have to be perfect, just willing.

When Moses asked, “Who am I?” God’s response was “I will certainly be with you.”

God is with us as well. No burning bush required.





Turning Points!

We all have times in our lives when we can look back and reflect on events or places where our lives took a specific turn in a singular direction. For some people this turning point is a positive, maybe a birth, a marriage or a graduation. Or perhaps it is directly related to a person who was influential in good choices made such as coach, a teacher, or even a spouse.

Then there are other turning points such as the death of a loved one, an illness, a job loss or unexpected tragedies that seemingly crush us under their weight.

Our experiences, whatever they are, help mold us into the people we become. Hopefully we learn to appreciate the good and endure the bad, gaining wisdom and strength from these lessons life has to offer.

Yet, we aren’t relegated to circumstances dictating our ultimate destination. Our experiences indeed impact the people we become, but they don’t have to define us.

God allows us to decide if the experiences we are forced to endure will wear us down or build us up.

Our lives have many roads to the same destination. Sometimes we take the scenic route. At other times we may be relegated to a few detours.  A few people even reach their goals with a straight sprint from point A to Z. However, most of us will sometimes walk, sometimes crawl but as long as we’re still moving, that’s all that really counts.

As we transition from one season to another, allow your turning points, whatever they are to turn you in the right direction.

Sometimes we need to turn away from people, places and even our own thoughts and habits.

At others, we may need to turn toward our God if we find ourselves lost, disoriented and lacking the direction we need to fulfill our purpose.

Take some time to look back on the good and give thanks. Reflect on the negatives and know that they too can serve a purpose.

Make the choice to reassess who you are and what you choose to do.  The change you seek begins with you.

If you’ve given up on a dream, maybe it is time to take another look. You may be closer than you ever imagined if you can simply hold on and don’t give up.

If you’ve made some mistakes along the way that’s fine too. Simply acknowledge them and learn from them. It often takes the very worst of times to drive us toward God’s very best.

If you are seeking to turn yourself around, take this time to turn away from what was and look toward what can be.

Turn toward the Light.

For He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit.  Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.
1 Peter 3:10-11 NKJV