The Deep Magic of Christmas

My daughter made a comment, during a Hallmark Christmas movie, that they seem to be more religious-inspirational this year. That struck me because I happened to be thinking about Christmas and how sad it is, for the most part, that everyone is trying to erase what the Holiday (“Holy Day”) is about. Whether you love or hate Hallmark Christmas Movies, they do celebrate love, traditions, compassion, family, community and more.

Christmas is a great time of celebration, but if it’s just about presents, and cookies, food and eggnog, and two hour start-to-finish relationship building, then when it’s over, and even for some during, it can leave a feeling of emptiness until the next big party day.

Celebrate however you like, trimming a tree – live or artificial, ginger bread houses, festivals and pageants, big and small family dinners, cookies and candy exchanges, fellowship and parties… but take time to celebrate the “Hidden Magic” of Christmas. I use that term loosely- taking it from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia where the evil White Queen thought she had won when Aslan traded his life for Edmond’s and she killed Aslan. She did not know the deeper magic of Aslan’s perfect sacrifice from which he rose again and saved Narnia.

There’s deeper magic for us, too. The Christ child who grows up and becomes the sacrifice for all mankind so that we can live with hope everyday and life everlasting. He’s the One who shows the world what it means to really be accepted, to be loved, to show kindness and compassion, and mercy to those like us and unlike us.  He gives us the gift of Himself. If we keep that deep hidden ‘magic’ within our hearts, we will always have joy in the season, whether we are visiting the mountaintops of our journey or living in the valleys of this life. 

The true deeper magic: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Valerie ⭐️

Pace Yourself

Pace Yourself

I want to get back “in the race” now- but it may take six months to year. The reason why: nerve damage and back surgery which has kept me pretty close to home and is slow to heal.

I want to be well now. (I always picture my granddaughter’s book, The Pout Pout Fish, when I say that.)

Truthfully, this time of healing is a part of my race, which is a marathon and not a sprint ( I’ve been quoted that numerous times).

I have to remind myself, constantly check myself, and slow down the pace for a while. No “BLT” is the doctor’s orders- no bending, lifting or twisting. Harder to do than say. On the upside, I have more time to write, reflect, pray for others and read. My daughter said, “I think it’s all a matter of perspective mom 🙂 Jesus has physically slowed you down so that you can be still in the presence of God. Who knows how many more times in your life that you’ll have the chance to just “be” with Him like you can be now?” That is the truth! (Oh and she also reminded me that we have two weddings coming up.)

We live very fast pace “ought to do“ lives. And it is now November and the holidays are coming. There’s lots to do: holiday shopping, cooking, decorating, parties, family gatherings, traveling and all on top of the normal business of our lives.

Pace yourself. I’m speaking to myself as well as everyone else. I will be learning to pace myself at a whole new level over the next few months, still keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus -who loves us just as we are and who is at work in our lives every day. The race is day to day, a daily choice to persevere and I pray that we all will take time to focus on the Lord during these busy holiday months.

Hebrews12:1-2 “… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

The God Who Hears!

Do you wonder sometimes if God is listening to you?. If our prayers aren’t answered in the time frame we have asked for, or if we ask to hear from Him but only get silence, it’s easy to go down the path of worrying and thinking “does He really hear me?” I believe God is always listening to us, even if we don’t hear Him or can’t figure out what He is up to. More often than not it’s because the Lord’s timing is not ours. I am amazed myself, how many times when I look back at life, I realize that the Lord has answered my prayers but it looks different than what I thought, or I realize that He has been protecting me.

Even when we don’t see, hear, or feel God’s response, He is always present. One of my absolute favorite scriptures is Revelation 8:5 that says: “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. He keeps all our prayers and that is an awesome thought! Trust in Him!

If you’ve been talking to God and your faith is being tested, here are scriptures to remind you that He is the God who hears and He is answering prayers in His time, all the time, and in a way that is accomplishing His purpose in our lives.

1 John 5:15 – And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 John 5:14-15 – This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

1 Peter 3:12 – For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Matthew 21:22
And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

1 John 5:14-15
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Mark 11:24
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

John 14:14 ESV
If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

John 16:24
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

James 1:5
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Matthew 7:7
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

God be with you and have a good week!

God’s Plans, In His Time

This time of year there are always several graduations, weddings and retirement celebrations to attend, and, as always, many other life changing events happening. Sometimes it’s things we didn’t “plan” to experience. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, the Lord is with us every step of the way. Take to heart this great scripture and chapter in Jeremiah.

“For I know the plans I have for you” —- this is the Lord’s declaration—- “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”

Jeremiah 29 was a letter written to displaced Jewish captives living in Babylon. While other prophets were claiming a miraculous rescue by God…. Jeremiah did not. “Our sins have alienated us from Him and only His judgement is left”. But God is rich in mercy, even in His judgement. It may take a while but, as author Robert Morgan says, “His purposes are stubborn things and His ultimate plans are undeterred”

Here is what Jeremiah advises the refugees.

1) Make the best of things (vv. 4-6) Settle down, go with life, build houses, plant gardens, bloom where you are planted. You may not be where you want to be but make the most of where you are. As Tolkien says through Gandalf and Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, “I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given to us.”

2) Pray where you are (v. 7) Pray for the country that you are in, pray for peace, pray for your family. Make your request known to God, with thanksgiving, and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

3) Listen to the right voices. (vv.8-9) Listen to God’s message… not the world’s message, not Satan’s message of false hope that leads to discouragement. Trust me … he has considerable expertise in that field!! Rather listen to the true word of God. Remember, we wrestle not against flesh and blood….

4) Take the long view (v. 10) Think vertically, not horizontally. Look to the heavens for your answers and make your viewpoint eternity. Keep your moorings in His word and your compass on True North.

5) Remain hopeful in God’s plan for you (v.11) Make this a life verse. He has plans for you, He has a future for you, He wants you to have hope in Him. Make it a point to remember that your Hope is in Him.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a powerful verse …. embed it in your daily thoughts. Our Redeemer is Faithful and True!

(Thoughts by Larry May, J R R Tolkien, and Robert Morgan included.)

Jesus, the King of Glory 🌅

Today, Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, begins Holy Week. This day is commemorated in Christianity as the day when Jesus of Nazareth presented Himself to His people, and the world, as their Messiah, Savior and King, by riding into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.

As Jesus rode a donkey into the town of Jerusalem, scripture tells us that a large crowd gathered and laid palm branches and their cloaks across the road, giving Jesus the royal treatment. The hundreds of people shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Christ’s procession was a type of victor’s procession. It was a procession indicating the victory to come. Typically a victor’s procession comes after the victory is won. This was the way the Romans hailed their victors in battle, just as we have victory parties after a big football game or other sporting events like the recent Masters in golf. Yet, because God lives in eternity, even though ‘in time’ the victory had not yet occurred, in God’s eyes it was completed before our timeline began! So Christ allowed this procession to occur telling the people that their King and Savior had come. Matthew 21:4

We have so much to be grateful for this week. As we celebrate this Holy Week, may we constantly be reminded of its significance and value for our lives today and for our future! This same Jesus is coming again! Ps.24 asks: who is the King of Glory? We know who! It’s Jesus and we are not only celebrating His death and resurrection this week, we are celebrating that He is coming again!

Jesus Christ fulfilled over 300 prophecies from His birth to ascension. Trust Him that all His promises for us now and the future will happen, too!

A summary of the Passion Week is as follows:

Sunday: Jesus enters Jerusalem and cleanses the temple. Mat 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-48; John 12:12-50.

Monday: Jesus curses the fig tree and gives many discourses in the Temple, emphasizing His authority, Mat 21:18-25:46; Mark 11:12-13:37; Luke 20:1-21:38.

Tuesday: Preparation of the Sacrifice and Judas conspires with the Pharisees, Mat 26:1-16; Mark 14:1-11; Luke 22:1-6.

Wednesday: Jesus celebrates Passover in the Upper Room and is betrayed, Mat 26:17-56; Mark 14:12-52; Luke 22:7-53; John 13:1-18:11.

Thursday: Six Trials leading to Crucifixion and burial in the Tomb for three days like Jonah being in the whale for three days, Mat 12:40, Mat 26:57-27:66; Mark 14:53-15:47; Luke 22:54-23:55; John 18:12-19:42.

Friday: In the Tomb

Saturday: In the Tomb

Sunday: Christ’s Resurrection, Mat 28:1-20; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-25

During this Holy Week, may God fill our hearts and minds as we ponder Jesus Christ our King. Let us choose to focus on worshipping our Savior and Lord, thanking Him for the gift of His sacrifice, celebrating the power of His Resurrection, and the new life found in Him alone.

He is Risen!

For Such A Time As This

I have always looked at the story of Esther as some day there will be a “for such a time as this”. When thinking about it lately, I realized that every moment of everyday is a “such a time as this” for us. Every time we make a choice to make a difference for someone in the world, we are following the steps of Esther. 

When you bring a meal to someone, or call a sick person, or someone who can’t get out much, you do not know the kind of hope you are giving to him or her, or what kind of light you are spreading. Do you pray for missionaries? Or support them? You are making a difference in the world. Some folks get to do ‘a one significant thing’ in life, but most of us live life in the valley in the ordinary world and sometimes the harder walk is living everyday for ‘such a time as this’.

Are you wondering why difficult or trying circumstances are happening around you? At some point, you may be the one who has the answer for ‘such a time’ that may make a difference in the lives around you. You may never know the affect of your kind word or action this side of Heaven. But in the meantime, just don’t forget who you are, one of God’s own. You don’t have to shout it from the rooftops or rub it in anyone’s face: NO ONE knew Esther was one of God’s chosen people, but she handled herself well in the life she was given. Be wise, don’t compromise where you know you shouldn’t and be ready to give an answer when the time comes.

We don’t know what the future may hold but we do know today and we do know that God encourages us to live ‘in the day’, and we can make a difference in each day. One day at a time. So live everyday in the same spirit as Esther did.

Here is the story of Esther in a nutshell: Esther was a Jewish girl, an orphan and was one of the Jews that were taken into captivity by the Babylonians/Persians. An older cousin, Mordecai, raised her.. To make a long story short, the king held a beauty contest to find his next wife and Mordecai entered Esther in it and she along with several other women in the kingdom were chosen to be groomed for a year before they would be brought before the king, one at a time. The king chose Esther to became Queen. You should read how wise she was in what she did and asked for and how she prepared. Fascination. Anyway the second in command hated Mordecai because he didn’t bow down when Haman was riding by on his chariot and so he decided he would talk the king into slaughtering all the Jews. (Talk about going overboard!!)

When Mordecai found out He said the famous words to Esther: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I, and my attendants, will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” And she was wise in how she approached the King and eventually got a decree where her people could fight back! AWESOME Story!!!

Have you lived for a good while without joy?

Have you lived for a good while without joy?  
Keep walking toward Him…. it will come.  It came to Mary Magdalene.  She came looking for a dead Jesus.  She came in the dark, not knowing what she would find, full of sorrow, confused, stumbling…. but she came anyway.  She was surprised by joy.  Morning broke.  Darkness disappeared.  Joy came.
It will come to you. 

There is no tomb so dark, no pit so deep, that His love is not brighter or deeper still.  Has He felt dead to you?  Keep walking toward Him.  One day, my friend, you’ll be surprised by joy.


“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning. Great is thy faithfulness”

Joy comes in the morning.

(My husband Larry posted this and I thought I would share it with you all.)

God Bless!

Peace on Earth-Good Will Toward All

For many, the holidays are a time of joy and merry-making with family and friends. We all have our own traditions. What are some of yours? Christmas programs and choirs, gifts and cookie swaps and don’t forget the food. We love to consume some seriously good eats. Christmas cookies are my absolute favorite!

And would it be Christmas without watching the classics? My daughters and I traditionally sit and watch White Christmas after the Christmas tree is up and lit. I also love Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life and Elf is even starting to grow on me! I discovered a new one this year: Max Lucado’s, The Christmas Candle! It’s really good! And of course I’ve watched my fair share of Hallmark movies! I love happy endings.

But Christmas is not just about the happy ending, and gifts under the trees and lights and baubles. It’s about so much more. There are no happy endings for so many and most everyone is dealing with problems that we just put aside for the Holiday season and then they are right back staring us in the face on January 2nd! Also, not everyone’s traditions and family time are joyful, either. It may be the first holiday season after the loss of a loved one. There may have been job layoffs, loss of income, divorce, or it may be one where children are with the other parent; or maybe the family gets together but it’s guerrilla warfare.

What if Christmas isn’t very merry? What if you don’t feel very hopeful? 

I would like to draw us back to WHY we celebrate Christmas: A Prince of Peace has come!

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Hear the word of the Lord in Isaiah 9:6-7,

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

A child was born who brings peace. God offers terms of peace that He meets in the arrival of His Son. Isaiah, as we read, calls Jesus the “Prince of Peace” (9:6). I love the KJV: “On earth peace, good will toward men.” There’s expectancy. We know that peace comes through knowing Jesus Christ, by looking to Jesus, learning and following His way, meditating on His word, trusting in His promises. God is at work – always. Trust Him implicitly. Hang on to Him at all times, giving thanks, for He cares for us!

Philippians 4:9 says: Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The beauty of God’s peace is that it’s not just an individual thing. This peace also forms a community of people who have received peace and who can share that peace with others: Peace for the lonely, the hurting, the despondent. There’s the Peace that passes understanding, not peace like the world gives, but the peace of God, knowing that there is more than what we see, that this is not all there is, that God is at work in all our lives!

I love this by Charles Spurgeon: ” “It is a strong consolation that can deal with outward trials when a man has poverty staring him in the face, and hears his little children crying for bread; when bankruptcy is likely to come upon him through unavoidable losses; when the poor man has just lost his wife, and his dear children have been put into the same grave; when one after another all earthly props and comforts have given way, it needs a strong consolation then; not in your pictured trials, but your real trials, not in your imaginary whimsied afflictions, but in the real afflictions, and the blustering storms of life. To rejoice then, and say, ‘Though these things be not with me as I would have them, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure;’ this is strong consolation.” (Spurgeon, Sermons: vol. 36). Seek the Lord and Savior who is with us in the real things that happen in our lives.

Take time in life to discover this Peace and then let us be keepers and spreaders of peace this season and always. Pray and trust that His peace will be with you and that others might see and receive this during this Christmas season and know that there is Hope in the New Year. And this Hope is Jesus. Come alongside those who are hurting, those who need Hope. Spread peace. As Luke says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

Prayer Instead of Despair

belief bible book business A.W. Tozer says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” What comes into your mind when you think about God? I think it has great impact on how we look at prayer.

“Pray without ceasing… My house is a house of prayer: Not sing without ceasing or study without ceasing.” I heard these phrases in a Max Lucado devotional earlier this year and they have stuck with me.

How much does anyone really know about prayer? Apparently a lot of people are trying to figure it out. Just do a search on the subject.

o Over 10,000 books on Prayer on Amazon, alone.
o Mentioned in the Bible 245 times.
o Herbert Lockyear’s book, “All the prayers of the Bible,” lists 650 prayers and approximately 400-recorded answers.
o Jesus prayed 25 different times.
o Paul mentions prayer 41 times.

Obviously prayer, like so many other topics in the Bible, is very important. I am reminded of a scene in Kung Fu Panda (a movie my 2 year-old granddaughter has watched numerous times) where Master Shifu tells Poe, the Panda, after he was humiliated when he tried to teach a class and failed miserably at it, that “incredible power awaits you .” He then tells Poe, “If you only do what you can – you will never be more than you are“ Poe says, “I don’t want to be more. I like who I am!“ Shifu answers, “You don’t even know who you are.” Poe says, “Of course I do! I’m the Dragon Warrior!”

Don’t we also say we know who we are? “We are children of God.” But do we really know who we are in Christ? We won’t know until we strive to know Who He is and how we are transformed more and more into His image as the children of God.

Incredible power awaits us and I would say to us all that that power — is the power of prayer- when we connect to the Omnipotent source. There is an old song, “Little is much when God is in it“, and the truth is that it doesn’t matter who we are, it doesn’t matter how small we feel, it’s because of the God we serve that we can pray and know that incredible things can happen. Pray.

Phil. 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Where is Your Treasure

Where your treasure is, your heart will also be.

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Halloween is so much fun. I know there can be a lot of mixed feelings on the holiday and its’ origins but that aside, for me it’s a time of fall festivals, imagining up fabulous costumes where we can dress up like anything we dream to be… and sugar- lots and lots of sugar. I also love this season- when the cool crisp fall air finally settles in and, on our little corner of the Earth, the leaves start this magical transformation, dancing in the wind in a fury of colors, decorating our land like confetti, celebrating the last months of another year.

As I looked through a month of pictures last night before bed, the one that stuck with me the most wasn’t one of my daughter in her beautiful pirate princess costume. It’s also not the adorable one from the pumpkin patch that took 15 snaps to get or the one of a classroom full of darling toddlers at their fall brunch party. It’s this one. My pirate princess’ was done trick-or-treating after about 6 houses, and this was all she had to show of her plunder. Yet she victoriously carried that buccaneer bag back to the house and would periodically take each piece of candy out to count and then put it back. She sat on her knees like this marveling at her candy last night before bed. This was HER treasure. I thought about this for a while after she fell asleep; when she wanted to head back to the house so soon my adult brain thought, I don’t know, maybe we need to get a bit more… she might be disappointed when she realizes how little candy she got. Truthfully, it’s not just about how few pieces of candy she got, it’s about how much more she could have had.

For this new season of Thanksgiving, I want to let the Lord take me back to this child-like place of gratefulness. I want for my heart to be in Him but when my treasure is something that’s always just one grasp away, it’s hard to focus on the truly important things in this life; the things that I have been blessed with; the people that I cherish; the time that I have. Those things are my rewards here on Earth and it’s my prayer right now that the Lord give me eyes to recognize those things and a heart to praise Him for it too. May I find myself many times this month in a prayer of Thanksgiving over my bountiful Earthly treasures. It’s not an easy or natural thing for me to do, but I know where I want my heart to be.

In the end, I find that when I stop thinking about the things that I don’t have and am purposeful about saying thanks for all that I do have, my heart is glad. And I want to live with a glad heart.

Happy November everybody.

Written by my daughter, Tiffany Noel
Scripture Ref: Matthew 6:21