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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ending Year

Dear 2015,
 You are about to come to a close. You have given me so many surprises and joys this year. I recall the many blessings that God brought through you and the countless times I had reason to thank Him for something that happened. Opened-ending chapters that were resolved, questions that were given answers, faith that was strengthened in times of uncertainty. I've been humbled at the numerous occasions when God moved in a special way. I think back to the beginning of the year and throughout the months, the Lord showed His care and His provision time and time again...even when I lost faith that He would provide as needed. Never once in the last 12 months did God ever fail me. 
 While you gave me many happy moments, you also provided me with some sad ones as well. Starting with the loss of my sweet friend Katie to cancer, you sprinkled sorrow in amongst the joy. I watched friends lose loved ones to tragedies unexpected; I even had to let go of a friendship I had come to care deeply about. But this is life...and you offer what every year since the dawning of time has. Thanks to a fallen world, such griefs are part of us every day. We cannot pass through this earth without them as they create in us a longing for a better place where sorrow doesn't touch us anymore. I used to fight these tragedies. I thought they were my enemy instead of my friend. But past years and a faithful Savior taught me otherwise. I have learned to see them as my friend, my teacher. Adversity isn't something I fear because I know I can't escape it. 2016 will hold its share as did 2014. You were no different. But I'm okay with that. I have to be...because my joy in the sorrow depends on it. 
 I am grateful that during this year, you knocked my socks off more than once: with new friendships, unplanned experiences of wonder, and so many other grace-moments that I now count as choice blessings. God used you to help me become more content and less worried, to welcome sadness instead of resist it, to reach out in love to others more deeply and sincerely become richly blessed. As you near your end and fade into the annuls of time, I will always remember you with gratitude. You were a turning point in my life...a year to cherish and fondly recall. 
 Now, when you give way to your successor, I pray that the surprises may continue, that the love may grow, that the trust may deepen. I don't want what you started to end...but to keep going...and to increase. I am learning to start the new year planning less and hoping more. I am starting to gain a better grasp of the necessary need for me to have my mind blown. I have so little control over life that I find it easier to simply go from year to year believing more and fretting less. Living with an open heart, loving with an open hand. Knowing all along that, through it all, there is an unchangeable God caring for me in a changeable world. 
 So thank you special year for being what you were. You honestly went by too fast, and I wish I could've treasured the moments more fully. But I am glad you came and were here. Farewell.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My 2015 Inspiration Awards

 Last year, I began a year-end feature on my blog that highlights the stories and lives of people who inspired me in the past year and why. A long-time journalist has done a program called "10 Most Fascinating People." After being disappointed in their choice for the last few years, I decided, starting in 2014, to form my own list. In so doing, I hope you are introduced to the brave, daring, and kind-hearted individuals who have bettered the world around them by their actions and words. Here now are my 2015 Inspiration Awards:

Most Inspirational Service Member Award

 Alek Scarlatos and Spencer Stone share this award for Most Inspirational Service Member  this year. And the reasons are obvious. Alex having recently returned from a deployment,   he and his two childhood friends, Anthony Sadler and Spencer were on vacation to Europe for awhile. None of them could've anticipated what God had in store for them as they left.  On August 21, 2015 these three young men rocketed to international attention for their actions on a train from the Netherlands to France. When a young Moroccan man was noticed carrying an assault rifle and 270 rounds of ammunition and had begun to try to shoot those around him, Alek and Spencer, supported by Anthony, made their move to try to stop him from carrying out his devastating plan. Spencer got to the man first and was injured while trying to subdue him. Alex seized the man's weapon and began beating him on the head till he was unconscious in order to get him to be still. In the meantime, in spite of his injurious, Spencer saw that another man had been hurt by the one round that had escaped the gunman's weapon. He immediately began administering medical treatment to the man while still keeping an eye on Alek and Anthony's progress in subduing the assailant. Another British businessman joined the Americans in their efforts to stop the attack. Upon arriving at a nearby train station and security arriving, the three friends were questioned and taken to a nearby hospital for medial help for Spencer. When news broke of their heroic actions, France wanted to honor the young men for saving so many lives that day and awarded its highest decoration medal for valor: the Legion of Honor. Since that day, the three have lived far more public lives than they ever dreamed when they boarded that train in August. And yet, all of the United States, as well as France and the world, owe them a debt of gratitude for what they were willing to risk in order to save many lives. For this reason, I award Alek and Spencer my second, and shared, recipients of the Most Inspirational Service Member Award and honorably mention their civilian friend Anthony for his part in their efforts as well. Thank you fellows for allowing God to use you that day to spare so many lives! And I honor you for your service to our nation and to the world. 

Courage Award

 In one of the most selfless and chivalrous acts I heard of this year, La'Darious Wylie, an 11-year-old boy from South Carolina, made national headlines for sacrificing his life to save his sister. Thus, my choice for the 2015 Courage Award was an easy one. On October 27, he saw an oncoming vehicle at a school bus stop and pushed his sister out of the way, unable to move himself out of the way in time. Taking the full impact of the car driven by a drunk driver, La'Darious was immediately declared unconscious at the scene of the accident. The driver sped off leaving witnesses, a distraught sister, and an critically injured La'Darious to fend for themselves. He was rushed to the hospital where he was declared alive but essentially brain dead. The next day, his mother made the choice to pull him off life support, and he passed away. The driver of the car that hit him was later arrested and charged for her actions.  Not only, however, did La'Darious end up saving his sister's life but due to his organs being donated after his death, he will end saving countless other lives as well. He will be remembered by those who knew him as a charming young man who loved his family, football, and life and who was willing to risk his own safety to ensure that of his sister. It is for his unselfish actions that I award him this year's Courage Award. He is the first posthumous recipient of the award. Thank you, La'Darious for being a young man of bravery and selflessness. Even though you will be greatly missed, your courageous actions will continue to inspire us all. 

Perseverance Award

 Until recently, I was still trying to narrow down my recipient choice for the Perseverance Award this year. But when I received a "follow" from this young man on Twitter, I knew immediately who I would choose. Zerbin Singleton is not only an inspiring person but also one I can personally call a friend. Zerbin's start in life wasn't an easy one and, humanly speaking, he didn't have much going for him in the way of success. Born to a mother who was addicted to drugs, Zerbin did not know his father until he was fifteen years old. Home was Anchorage, Alaska where drugs, domestic violence, poverty, and occasionally homelessness were a way of life. At the age of ten, his aunt took him in and got him in touch with her daughter, his cousin. Shortly thereafter, he left Alaska for Georgia where his cousin and her family became the family he had never had. They instilled in him a love of God and a desire to pursue success in life, in spite of his challenges early on. But the hard times weren't over yet. One week before he was to graduate from high school as valedictorian, he was in a head-on collision with a drunk driver which broke his collarbone. His dream of entering the United States Naval Academy had to be deferred because of the injury. He enrolled at Georgia Tech where he began his college education and also played football. A year later, he was able to enter the Naval Academy where he enjoyed a standout career on the football field and also academically. His success wasn't without it's share of sorrow. As with much of his young life, Zerbin endured the sad news his freshman year of the suicide of his biological father, who he had recently begun to know for the first time. In spite of all of these difficulties, however, Zerbin kept his faith in God's plan and continued to push ahead toward the goals he set for himself. In 2007, he was awarded the Disney's Wide World of Sports Spirit Award: 

He was also awarded the FedEx Orange Bowl Courage Award - both given to the most inspirational college football player in the nation. During his time at the Naval Academy, he also achieved the rank of Brigade Commander, the highest ranking student at the Academy. Zerbin has since gone on to become a captain in the Marine Corps and a helicopter pilot. In his additional time, he does motivational speaking in hopes of inspiring others to become the best they can matter what trials may lie along the way. As he likes to describe himself, he is "a man of God, living a life characterized by perseverance, hard work, and overcoming adversity...a bio in the making everyday." Just this last weekend, I was honored to spend the afternoon with Zerbin and hear him share his story with me in person, and I can attest to the fact that God's grace and a great attitude have gotten this young man far in life. 

For his amazing positivity and faith in God, regardless of the obstacles he's faced, I am pleased to present my good friend Capt. Zerbin Singleton with the Perseverance Award. Thank you, Zerbin, for bringing hope to the world by your example and inspiring others through your story to pursue their God-given talents and dreams! I am blessed to have met you. 

Sportsman of the Year

 So far this year, what hasn't there been said about the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player?! Steph Curry has done nothing but wow people this year...even his opponents and former detractors. Nobody can deny that Curry has an amazing talent and an even better work ethic to go along with it. But these things alone aren't what make him my choice for Sportsman of the Year. The side of Steph that many people don't see is what makes him special in my opinion. He comes from a very grounded family who taught him the values that make for true success in life...not just on the court. He is married to the love of his life, Ayesha, and is the adoring father of two little girls. He has continued to speak out about his love for God...even when people told him that he was being "too religious" and should stop standing up for his faith. When he received the coveted MVP trophy earlier this year, his speech was filled with references to the importance of faith and family, drawing support from many people:

So far, fame hasn't changed who Steph is as a person and the priorities which run his life. He has continued to put others before himself and strives to be the best example for his Savior that he can be. Because of this, he is my obvious selection for 2015 Sportsman of the Year. Thank you, Steph, for impressing us all with your humility and your love for people and the game you play. More importantly, thank you for being a son, brother, husband, and father as well as a teammate anybody would be honored to have. It is my pleasure to name you my second recipient of this award. Keep shining for Jesus...and sinking those amazing three-pointers of yours! 

Team of the Year

 The Golden State Warriors are not receiving this award merely for the fact that they won the NBA Championship this year. While their playoff success was incredible and their subsequent performance in recent weeks has been nothing short of amazing, what made them my recipient of the Team of the Year award was their unselfish play and focus on faith and family in a sports world dominated by egos and selfish attitudes. Many of the team members attend Bible Study together and subdue their own egos for the betterment of the group and one another. Recently, I happened to meet the wife of the team's surgeon, and she told me that you will never meet a nicer group of men. The joy that they get out of one another's success and the love that they have for their team is unmatched. They are just regular guys who happen to play basketball for a living. This is a spirit that translates to incredible chemistry on the court and a willingness to give up shots for each other and help make the team a success in whatever way possible. In both play and attitude, they are setting the bar high of what a true team looks like. Thank you, Warriors, for being the men you are and for helping to re-define the word champion both on and off the court. 

Singer of the Year

 Aaron Shust was my clear winner of this year's Singer of the Year award. No artist has inspired me more or brought my soul more encouragement in 2015 than him. His songs, grounded in faith and truth, have spoken hope and life to me in both good times and bad. Having dealt with his own share of difficulties (his son having been born with Down's Syndrome), Aaron knows and believes deeply what he sings about. It is my pleasure to give him the Singer of the Year award. Thanks, Aaron, for using your gift of music to bless the world! 

Movie of the Year

This award ended up with a tie this year...because two movies came out and both were worthy of this. Both had meaningful messages of hope and inspiration which I felt were worthy of being highlighted. are my winners for Movie of the Year: 

 I first went to see "Beyond the Mask" last Spring and was incredibly moved by its message. William Reynolds struggles with a hidden past and he must face his real self thanks to the love of  and for his girlfriend. She introduces him to the redemption found in God's grace and William's life will never be the same again. This film causes anybody who sees it to ponder the importance of living a transparent life before God and others. 

 Later this year, I saw the highly anticipated "War Room," and I must say it did not disappoint. I loved its message of the healing power of forgiveness and prayer, that God will always work miracles through the willing hearts of those who are submitted to Him and His will. It is definitely one worth seeing, especially if you're finding yourself in a hopeless situation and you don't think that people can be influenced and changed for the better! 
I thank the makers of both these movies for taking the time and effort to make films that inspire and uplift! 

Book of the Year

 I stumbled on this book earlier this year as I was looking around my local bookstore. Upon reading this amazing story, I found myself wanting to live the best life possible: to make the most of everyday, to be thankful - even when circumstances dictate otherwise, to love others more truly, and to embrace afflictions as opportunities for growth and change. U. S. Navy SEAL Ryan Job met with unexpected tragedy when he lost his sight due to injuries sustained in Iraq. In the years that followed, Ryan went from strong "Navy SEAL to Christian neophyte to a walking inspiration." This story reminds the reader of the tangible presence of God in our suffering and the importance of being there for the broken. It also shows how not just the injured but even the physically whole among us can be broken...and healed by the grace and power of God. For this reason, this book was my hands-down choice for Book of the Year. I encourage you to get a copy and settle in for a long and worthwhile read! 

Song of the Year

 This song was one that I came back to time and again...whether in a time of personal peace and joy - or in the moments when worry or sorrow gripped my mind and heart. The words were a constant reminder to me of the hope that is mine because of my relationship to God. That nothing can shake my soul if I am walking closely with Him. Without a doubt, "My Hope Is in You" is the 2015 Song of the Year. Thank you, Aaron Shust, for penning this beautiful anthem of praise to God and helping me to recall to mind the amazing faithfulness of God at all times! 

 I trust that you were edified and blessed by my 2015 Inspiration Awards! I look forward to revealing my selections for 2016 around this time next year, and I pray that you will go forth inspired to live a better life of your own after seeing what God has done through this willing and humble people! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


 As Christmas passes, I must admit that this season was a test of faith for me. There were many things that threatened to take my peace and rob me of the joy of Christmas. It's been that kind of last few months for me. Nothing has come easy, and challenges have crept up unexpected. Illness, deadlines, travel, music recital, my phone nearly dying (with hundreds of unsaved stuff on it), church Christmas program's all added up and, at times, I've let the stress get to me. 
 But then God showed me another way...a better way to view such difficulties. One day it hit me: you're probably doing something right because nothing is coming easy. When you do what you're called to do, and you place God's work as your own, the enemies of that work will strengthen their attacks. These things? They are the joy-steelers. The rest-robbers. The thieves who come trying to take away my sense of grace and happiness in the One I serve and love. Even though such things must be dealt with anyway, somehow, they become more duty and less delight. They turn into mere projects. I become like Martha of old, "cumbered about much-serving," when I ought to have chosen "the better part" like Mary and savor end the grace-moments more thoroughly. How many times have I rushed through precious hours, worried about all the things which have yet to be accomplished when what God is really after is my heart-attitude and my frame of mind. What is pleasing to Him isn't how much I can finish on any given day but with what spirit did I approach my work?! 
I listen to the pastor preach on the topic of God's timing - and I agree with him fully. Sometimes it appears to cross our own plans and goals, to come in between us and our supposed achievement, but He knows what is best for us. He knows our needs, He knows what will grow our character, and He loves us enough to not always give us what we desire or seek...but in the end, to grant us something of far greater value. 
 The last several weeks have tried my faith and tested my trust in the divine plan. Many times I haven't understood the moves God has been making, and yet I also know that He has proven Himself to be too good a God to not answer rightly and provide in His way and His time. Believing Him when the winds of change blow is a choice - a resignation of my will to His, knowing fully that He has a right to dispose as He pleases and that if I am doing His bidding, He has the responsibility to provide what I need in order to accomplish it. It might not take place in the manner in which I think is right, but He will bring it to completion as He deems fit. There is no need for me to worry, to let these issues steal my sense of peace and joy! God is still on His throne no matter what and will always provide for and take care of me. I can make the decision not to live in fear and concern over what may lie ahead. Instead, I can embrace the opportunity to bless my Lord in the trials and delays, knowing that they are not denials of His love but simple withholdings for a greater design of His own! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Hidden Messages

 Throughout this Christmas season, the thought has occurred to me on more than one occasion that symbolism is a big part of God's Son coming to earth. It struck me as I listened to the pastor's Christmas Eve message that it wasn't a random thing that He chose to reveal Himself to lowly shepherds. Not only were they the least of society in a way, and it shows a picture of God not being afraid to enter into our shamefulness, but also wouldn't it make sense that the Good Shepherd would be greeted first by those who raised sheep for the sacrifices that would one day no longer be required because one Savior would sacrifice Himself?! They would acknowledge that the Lamb of God had come to earth as told to them by the angels.
 God chose a humble carpenter to be the earthly father of our Lord: a sign that one day Jesus would die on a cross of word for the sins of mankind.
 A humble teenage girl would be His selection for a mother, and the baby would enter the world on a bed of hay. No kingly arrival in a palace. Just a simple stable was all God needed to give our world the greatest gift of all.
 God doesn't always arrive in the way we expect. He doesn't appear with fanfare and announce His coming, although His second appearance will not be as quiet as His first. I marvel that God humbled Himself in such a way as to show His face to the least of these - first. No one else had seen Him yet except two teenagers, and some lowly shepherds. That is the way our Lord does things. We must look for Him in the unexpected. It is in this way that He reveals to us just how far He will go to identify with us and redeem our souls.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

 Okay, it's the day after Christmas...but I felt this song was a worthy wrap-up of sorts to the season and a reminder of the reason for why Christ came to earth. The fact is: mankind has hope because Love Himself, Jesus, came down to earth! 

"When love came down to earth,
And made His home with men,
The hopeless found a hope,
And the sinner found a friend.
Not to the powerful, but to the poor He came,
And humble, hungry hearts were satisfied again."
- Stuart Townend 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day

 Let there be joy in the world today, for the Lord has come! May your Christmas Day be filled with hope and love and your heart be open to One who stepped from His heavenly throne to dwell with mankind and be their Savior. From my home to yours, Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

"But peaceful was the night
Wherein the Prince of Light
His reign of peace upon the earth began…"
- John Milton

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

This Holy Night

This Holy Night

Darkness falls this holy night
As You enter this broken world;
No kingly pomp and circumstance
Announce Your plan unfurled.

So many turned away this night;
How ignorant were they!
No room was found to lay Your head
Except in a bed of hay.

Only a few were awake to see
As angels sang with mirth,
' Glory to God in the highest heaven
And peace to a longing earth.'

There You lay in a stable rude -
The sinless Lamb of God;
You made You kingly entrance
On a cold and filthy sod.

Perhaps this was to indicate 
You'd meet us in our shame,
So one day we would see the cross
And praise Your holy name.

Let me welcome You this night,
With the angels join my part;
Come; come, and lay Your head
In the manger of my heart.

As darkness falls this holy night,
Redemption's plan is born,
For quietly You usher in
The dawn of salvation's morn.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

 Only the God of Heaven would give so much to redeem His people! Some might offer to die for a good person but most wouldn't give their life for a person who had done so much to offend them. But God did...and we marvel at His act of unselfish love toward us! 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Moment of the Day

 I stumbled on this video the other day and had to share it with you! This is my Christmas moment of the day: a reminder (through the eyes of children) of the redemption plan of God to send His Son to earth to save His people from their sins. I promise you'll be chuckling through this...and your heart will be warmed! 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

"Peace is here;
Fear is gone;
Love has come;
Hope has dawned.

He will be our sanctuary;
Let our hearts not be afraid.
Dwelling here with us forever,
Jesus Christ is born today!"
- Aaron Shust

Friday, December 18, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

 Sharing this wonder as the U. S. Air Force Band hushes a crowd of Smithsonian Museum visitors with two flash mobs. We all need to be lost in beauty from time to time...

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

 Okay...I'll admit that when I first heard Aaron Shust sing, "Unto Us," I was hooked. Even though it heralds the Christmas message of God coming to earth in human flesh to redeem His people, I did indulge my musical listening and play this throughout the year. This message is the hope for mankind: that a Son is given to us and that, because of this fact, we can call the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God our own. This is the miracle of Christmas. And without it, there is no redemption. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Quote of the Day

 "How I am thinking of the shepherds and the angel's message: 'Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ' Jehovah. And now we can take up the song in nearer interest: 'Unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given.' Oh, it is 'an unspeakable gift,' a precious gift...That was a blissful day when, in the stable, the Lord of glory came forth in the prepared body - an Infant of days, and yet the Father of eternity. Profound mystery..."
                                       - Ruth Bryan in Seasons of the Heart

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

 A beautiful reminder of the blessings of the Christmas season, sung by one of my favorite acapella groups, Pentatonix. I am so thankful for the many gifts God has undeservingly granted me this holiday season and throughout the last year. What does Christmas mean to you? 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Christmas Moment of the Day

 Someone tweeted this video and shared it with me. Seeing the kindness of WestJet airlines makes me thankful that there are still people in the world who strive to make others' lives better. The spirit of kindness and giving is part of what makes Christmas so special. In the spirit of our Savior, who Himself was the greatest gift, let us seek those opportunities to bless others this season...when they least expect it! As the classic song says, "O that we could always see such spirit through the year!" 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

A few weeks ago, I bought singer Danny Gokey's latest Christmas album, "Christmas Is Here." Upon listening to it, I fell in love with this song, and it became a sort of theme song for me this Christmas. I hang on the words and the message of hope that shines through it, echoing in my own heart the call:

"Come and lay your offering at His feet,
Where the sons of earth and heavens meet;
Let the joy awaken in every heart,
Born into the night, the Morning Star;
Come and lay your offering at His feet."

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Quote of the Day

"When Christ was born, there was no room for him in the inn. Thus it fares with the Lord Jesus Christ in the world yet. Most of us lay him in the manger out of the way. How do you treat the blessed Jesus? Do you receive him into your hearts and affections?"
                                - Matthew Mead in Voices From the Past

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Meaning of Christmas

 Christmas. The older I get the more I fall in love with it. I've always enjoyed this special time of year. There are so many things about it that speak hope and joy to me: the music, the festivities, the decorations, the traditions…
 But recently, I've come to see a deeper meaning. A finer message. I've come to know a profound truth underlying this celebration. I've known all my life that Jesus is at the center of this season. But now I realize something else: the meaning of Christmas is that God gets down low. God enters our messy. God chooses to step down from His glorified state and embraces humanity and all its shame.
 Think of the stable. God didn't arrive into this world in a kingly manner. He didn't come in a palace grand, a stately manor, a castle strong, or any house man would consider fit for royalty. He arrived in a place where animals lodge. In the stench and mess of a barn, He slipped out of His virgin mother's womb and took His first breaths. He was fully God in human form. Born to carry out his Father's will and redemptive plan. For the longest time, only his youthful mother and father knew about Him.
 Think of Bethlehem. How many slept that night yet had no idea that their Sovereign Lord was in their midst!
 Think of the Innkeeper. Turning away the opportunity to welcome the King of Kings into the world! And yet, how often have I done the same?!
 Think of the shepherds. Treated as the lowliest in the society, they became the first outside of the immediate earthly parents of Jesus to be told of His birth! How I wish sometimes I could have been there to hear the angelic chorus singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!" Such a moment must've changed their lives forever. Can you even begin to fathom how humbling it would've been to kneel before the manger and realize that this baby would one day grow up to save the souls of mankind?!
 God, by design, chose to reveal Himself to the least of these - in the least of places. Because He wanted to identify with us. In our filthiness. In our unholiness. In our pain. Only on the cross did He fully take on all this to Himself to pay our price; however, He did live in and walk this fallen world. He did touch the broken and the sick. He saw what we see. Felt what we feel. And Who would know better how to touch and heal us still??
 Christmas is about more than just a baby being born. It's about a redemptive plan being put into action that would offer hope to a world lost in its own sin and messiness. God meets us in the places that are our soul's darkest. Those low depths where no human would ever trod. He goes there. He invites us to welcome Him to where we need Him the most. Christmas is about Emmanuel. God with us. God come to dwell with fallen men. Christmas is the truth that unto us, a child is born. A Redeemer is given. One who sets the captive free and whose love has no beginning or end. This is the meaning of Christmas. So let the carols ring out and the celebrations go long. I will rejoice in the fact that a holy God didn't leave humanity in their shame forever. I will thank - because He stoops down low in the stable places of the heart and takes residence there. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Quote of the Day

"He was created of a mother whom He created. He was carried by hands that He formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy. He, the Word, without whom all human eloquence is mute." 
                     - St. Augustine

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

One of the most beautiful Christmas songs I think I've ever heard! I was just introduced to this one a short time ago. A reminder that, because of what happened in Bethlehem on that holy night, "my soul can finally know the King of Heaven." 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Favorite Christmas Tradition

 So…I want to share with you my favorite Christmas tradition with you all! It's always fun to hear about the unique ways in which people celebrate this season. The ideas and traditions are as creative and special and the people themselves. 
 Ever since I can remember, we had a special "ceremony" of sorts for bringing in the Christmas tree. When we had brought the tree home and it was time to take it into the house, we would turn on a special recording (which could not be listened to at Christmas until the tree came home) of Christmas carols. It was an old vinyl record of the Boston Pops called "Glorious Sounds of Christmas." As my dad would bring the tree to the front door, we would cue up the loud strains of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!" and the tree would burst through the door! Every single year we have held to this small but meaningful family gesture. And I look forward to it every time. 
  What is your favorite Christmas tradition?? I love to know...

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Christmas Quote of the Day

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree."
              - Roy L. Smith 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Quote of the Day

"Finding the real joy of Christmas comes not in the hurrying and the scurrying to get more done, nor is it found in the purchasing of gifts. We find real joy when we make the Savior the focus of the season."
                      - Thomas S. Monson 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Christmas Song of the Day

Check out this very creative arrangement of an old classic Christmas carol and one that I call a favorite:

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Why We Need Christmas

 I think of the headlines that have streamed across our televisions recently, the news that has flashed "breaking" on our computer screens and smartphones in past weeks: the acts of terror in Paris, the shootings on college campuses, the murder of a pregnant woman who was a pastor's wife, the violence and rioting as black protesters line the streets. Sometimes it is too much for the soul to take. 
 In my humanness, I often ask: how can we be so terrible? We inflict such pain on one another in this world! In the name of selfishness, we take out our injustices and our anger on those who instead are in need of our love. Our war in the soul with God breeds an environment for us to be at war with each other. And now we find ourselves in this broken world, hurting and alone. For all of the resolutions we make to begin anew, we have failed to make the one resolution that will change the world, one life at a time: the resolution to become open to love! To open ourselves to the Grace and the Savior who can make all things new...even the things most injurious, most tragic, most hopeless. 
 I find it odd that all of this chaos has occurred leading into what many consider to be the most hopeful and special season of the year. There are some who are seeking to destroy the optimism that there can be peace on earth - because of Him. And I think God's enemies are truly out for the innocent's blood, doing all they can to stop His message from reaching the hearts of those who still seek Him. 
 For weeks now, I  have craved the spirit of Christmas. The lights and the traditions that speak of stability and hope in a world gone mad. I have wanted to break out the carols, sing of light and love and the King come to an earth in need of Him desperately. In recent days, I have come to realize that this year, we need Christmas more than ever. Not the holiday itself, not the shopping and rushing about, not even the decorations and traditions and all that make it what it is. No...we need Christmas because we need Him! Apart from Easter, it is the only holiday that directs us to the place where redemption occurred. Think about it: God could've ended human history as soon as our first parents sinned in the Garden of Eden. God could've said, "I'm done with the human race. My experiment of a paradise on earth did not work. That's it. No hope for you!" But instead, He immediately set in motion a plan to redeem that which did not deserve to be restored. To rescue those whose hearts were set against Him. Radical! The manger was only the beginning of that plan which would culminate in the death of sin and triumph of Jesus on the cross. Christmas reminds us of this story. It calls us to reflect on why we are even alive at all. In the midst of the craziness of the holidays, Christmas lures us to the fact that all this messiness, all this shame, all this sin-inflicted misery does not have to have the final word. We have hope that transcends this desperation. Because God was willing to step down into human flesh, to identify with our loneliness, our filth, and our brokenness, we were given a second chance at life and the enjoyment of beauty. The appreciation of His renewal. The reveling in His victory. Christmas is Jesus. 
 As Advent begins and the longing for the expected King fills the air, I pray that somewhere, somehow, He may find Himself a home in the hearts of those who need Him most this season. Just maybe we can dream big and pray for His peace to touch the hearts of those evil terrorists who think that they will gain His approval by their cruel actions; just maybe we can pray that forgiveness may be given to the one who took the pastor's wife's life and that of their baby on the way; just maybe we can pray that love be granted to the protesters lining the streets so that they may understand that hate does no good but love - His love - conquers all. Perhaps this Christmas season, we can ask God to send us the ability to see the hurting around us as He sees them, to love and reach out as He did. To be to a hurting world what He is to us. 
 God didn't leave this fallen earth hopeless. His gift of salvation is evidence of that. Let us then celebrate this glorious truth! Let us prepare Him room in our hearts that the Lord may enter. Let us not be as the cold-hearted innkeeper who turned away His chance at redemption but rather, let us throw open the door and say, "Come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee!" 
Fear and despair may attempt to ruin this time of year for all of us, angry mobs may try to destroy the life and the love we crave so greatly, but the Savior is bigger than all that. He will still come - even if turned away by some souls who know not their need. That is why we need Christmas: because we need Him to drive away the darkness and to bring the light. With open arms, I choose to welcome Him. I choose to say, "Hasten Thy coming, dear Lord, and let there be joy!" 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Kick-off 2015!

 Last year, I did a Christmas kick-off. With the arrival of December, I began a celebration of all things Christmas. All month long, I shared the songs, words, and grace moments that accompany the holiday that I cherish dearly. Because…Christmas is about more than just the gifts, the parties, or the so-called "spirit" of the season. It is about the accomplishment of a redemptive plan put in motion by the God of the Universe before time began. He knew we would leave the garden through the sin of our first parents. He knew there was no way for us to come clean and be made right with Him of our own doing. He knew we needed a Savior. And so He sent His son Jesus. This season is the honoring of One who stepped down into our broken world and took our sin, our pain, our curse, on Himself in exchange for our salvation. 
And so…Christmas rolls around once again. And I am ready to welcome Him. I am ready to throw open the door of my heart and let Him walk through this holiday season. Over the coming weeks, I will share my favorite Christmas music, memories, and moments…and I welcome you to share yours!! Together, let us join our lives in making room for the Savior to come!