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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday Sermonette - Advent: Joy to the World!


It isn't long now--God's promise is about to be born! Five days! Can you feel the stir of excitement in the air?

This is what Advent is about--anticipation of the joy!

Now, a lot of kids might think it's anticipation of Santa coming--but there wouldn't have been a Santa if it hadn't been for Jesus being born.

If it weren't for God giving His first (and only begotten) Son to this world, I wonder where we would have been. One Man made more difference to this world than had ever happened before or has happened since.

I think about where I was before I met Him, and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have liked or respected me much. I know others in the same situation. I see the difference between those who know Him, and those who don't.

And then I think about my first Christmas after being born again. Wow! I hope you have experienced this too. The Christmas songs I'd sung the words to for the previous 29 years--suddenly the words took on meaning. "Joy to the World," "Little Town of Bethlehem," "Away in a Manger," and, of course, "Silent Night."

It would be a dull, cold winter without this mid-season burst of happiness. Faith grows. Hope blooms again. Love, generosity, and grace are revived.

Advent. It even feels joyful on the tongue. Thanks, Lord, for entering our lives two thousand years ago!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Review: SOMEHOW, CHRISTMAS WILL COME by Peggy Blann Phifer



Oh, goodness--a story that will make you laugh, cry, and cheer out loud. Excellent job, Peggy Blann Phifer!

The story begins in the spring with the wedding of Molly Dugan's best friend, Amalie, but quickly moves from the wedding in St. Paul, MN, to Las Vegas, NV. Molly couldn't go when her dear brother Patrick's wife Jaime had been killed in a boating accident. Now that the wedding is over, she's hurrying to Las Vegas to offer consoling hugs to her brother and his darling little girl, Bethany.

What she didn't realize until then was that her brother had begun drinking. Not just socially, but heavily and every day. It was also a shocker to find out his wife had died while cheating on him. If it weren't for Jaime's mother, Jessie Baker, taking care of Bethie...well, it could have been a worse disaster than it already was.

Attempts to talk to Patrick about getting into AA or some kind of treatment only resulted in angry arguments, and then the day came when Patrick's best friend, Trace Whitcomb, arrived at the door with news Molly should have anticipated--her brother, drunk as usual, had been hit and killed in a collision with a cement truck.

Trace steps in to help and becomes....

Oh no you don't! You're not tricking me into giving away the rest of the story! Go find out yourself by buying from Amazon (e-book HERE or paperback HERE), Barnes and Noble, or CreateSpace.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: A CHRISTMAS CHANCE by Laura Hodges Poole


Laura Hodges Poole has a way of tugging at your heartstrings. Christmas, an orphan (Chance) living with his grandma (Eleanor Simmons), and a husband and wife wanting children--what will happen when all these factors begin multiplying?

When a sweet little old lady enters Maddie Oliver's bakery with a cute little big-eyed boy salivating for a cookie, what's Maddie to do? Why, hand him a cookie--with his grandma's permission, of course. She never could resist children.

Maddie and her husband Justin have wanted children for as long as they've been married, but they have not been successful in either having any of their own or in adopting. First Maddie and then Justin fall in love with this little guy, Chance.

Mrs. Simmons is not in good health, but she's made arrangements with a maiden aunt to take Chance when she's no longer able to take care of him. Maddie and Justin fear the little charmer will be out of their lives before he's really in it.

Heartache, yearning, hope...all three tangled up in one novella. A great read just in time for Christmas! Available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Morning Devo - Advent: Prayers: Joseph


Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV)

In Jewish tradition, a betrothal was as binding as a marriage; the only way you could end a betrothal was by divorce. And if a woman was released from her betrothal (divorced), people usually assumed the worst--that she had gone to bed with another man. It would have been considered adultery, a crime punishable by stoning to death.

Joseph really didn't want that to happen to her. He was one of the nice guys, through and through. But he also didn't want to marry her and raise her child. What could he do?

He must have fallen asleep, because the angel of God spoke to him in a dream.

There was an alternate to the formal method of marriage. I'm not sure why Joseph chose the alternate (unless it was per the angel's instructions)--they were already betrothed, and they could have had the formal, one-week ceremony. Instead, it appears he took her into his house as his wife.

It doesn't talk here about what Joseph said in his prayer, but it's obvious he must have prayed. Have you ever been in a quandary, not knowing that to do, which way to go? So you pray, "Lord, what can I do?"

Almighty Father, You know all things. When we are troubled and don't know what to do, help us make the wise decision, the one You would make. The one that will further Your will and not our own. The decision that will make a difference for the better. Thank You, precious Lord. In Jesus Name and For His sake. Amen.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Release - A FURRY CHRISTMAS


The next installment in the Once Upon ... Series, the ongoing saga of the Mullens family.

In this one Jillian's grandmother is awakened on Christmas Eve morning by a thunderstorm and her quivering miniature dachshund, Fidget. Abby gives up on sleep.

She lets the dog out to do his morning ablutions, feeds him, and begins to build a pot of coffee, when suddenly Fidget alerts her to something scrabbling around outside the front door.

It's something small and furry--but what? Turns out the little wet furball has awakened nearly the entire neighborhood, but no one has been close enough to it to determine what it is or catch it. The neighbors congregate at her house for coffee.

Jillian and her dad bring over breakfast, and afterwards she and her friend Sammie go looking for the furry thing again. Only Sammie gets distracted by her boyfriend and the "present" he brings her.

Oh, no, not another round with Meth!

Now what? The short e-story is available from Amazon.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday Sermonette - Advent: How?


How does a person  celebrate Advent?

In our church, we have an Advent Wreath, a typical evergreen-branch circle with three purple candles and one pink one on the circle, and one white one in the middle. Each Sunday, a family group reads something that has to do with expectantly waiting for the Lord's birth, and one of them will light one or more candles.

On the first Sunday in Advent, one candle is lit; on the second one, two candles; and so on until Christmas Eve when all are lit, including the Christ candle in the middle. Each of the candles is representative of something special.

The first candle (one of the purple ones) is called the Candle of Prophecy or Hope. We reflect on the many times the Old Testament of the Bible talked about the coming King of Kings, the Savior.

The second one (another of the purple ones) is the Bethlehem Candle or the Candle of Preparation. We think about how we can prepare ourselves for the coming King. We sweep out jealousies, offences, and bad habits that separate us from not only God but from each other.

The third is the Shepherd Candle or Candle of Joy (the pink one). What a joy this season can be if we truly celebrate the coming King. The shepherds were given the message to not be afraid and that great joy was theirs in the form of a tiny Baby. Is He your joy too?

The fourth is the Angle Candle or Candle of Love. There's a song we enjoy singing during the Advent season in our church called "Love Came Down at Christmas." This is such a reminder that God the Father loved us so much He sent us His only begotten Son. Think about it--would you have given your first child into the hands of people who didn't have a clue how special He was?

And the fifth is the white candle, the Christ Candle, lit on Christmas Eve when Jesus's birth is traditionally celebrated. It always fills me with awe to think that God the Son gave up His throne and came to earth as a helpless Babe, unable to feed, clothe, bathe, or speak for himself; He came from untold riches and comfort to a scratchy bed of hay to parents who had little but a donkey to their names. Talk about humbling.

Stay in this groove during this Advent. Think about His coming, make His way straight to your heart, and take on His humility and love.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review: A CHRISTMAS GIFT by Kathi Macias


Another winner by Kathi Macias! I love the way this woman writes, don't you?

Julia Lawson Bennington had lived the dream life up until the time her husband, Tom, passed away two years earlier. Now she couldn't get herself out of this black depression. She couldn't stop crying, and she could see no purpose to her life--not even for her children.

Then her mother let slip how some friends had gone to southern Mexico to teach at a remote mission. That's when she made that huge life-changing decision. She would also go for one school term--much to the dismay of her parents and her two college-age children.

Time and time again, the Padre and the Barnes had cautioned her to never go outside the compound by herself, but just after Thanksgiving, she had ignored their advice. Just once shouldn't hurt.

Except that that one time was enough for her to be spotted and kidnapped. T,e man demands one million dollars from her family. If they don't pay, the evil man would deliver her in several pieces.

You simply must help her. Hurry--go buy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble!