But I say unto you, Love your enemies … and pray for them which despitefully use you …. -Matthew 5:44 (KJV)
A friend called with shocking news. “I ran into Mark at the doctor’s today, Roberta. He was bent over double with nausea and pain.
Said it was either his liver or his pancreas.”
“Mark” could only be one person: my ex-husband. We had divorced nearly two decades ago after twenty-five years together. My friend didn’t utter the C word, but the nurse in me fast-forwarded to a diagnosis is of either liver or pancreatic cancer. In my mind’s eye, I saw Mark living out his last days in excruciating pain, jaundiced, and with a distended abdomen.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “I ran into Mark’s girlfriend the other day,
She didn’t say he had been feeling bad or anything.”
“Not that Mark,” my friend corrected. Then she provided the last name of a mutual friend.
All afternoon I replayed our conversation and the specifics of my troubled marriage. I’d had to start over at midlife because of Mark’s shenanigans. Relinquish a beloved home. Face a painful, catastrophic illness alone.
I thought I despised Mark for all of those wrongs and more. How was it that I still cared about what happened to him?
There was only one explanation: God. The Author of Love was moving me toward love for someone who had hurt me. It would never be the romantic love of my youth, but it could definitely be caring for another human being. A child of God every bit as cherished as I am.
Thank You, Lord, for stretching my heart in unexpected ways.
-Roberta Messner
Digging Deeper: Luke 6:27; Ephesians 4:32


Shortly before Christmas, a business man was anxious to get home. The business trip had been grueling and he was not in a particularly good mood. The airport loudspeakers blared Christmas carols he was sick of hearing. He thought their decorations were tacky. The worst decoration, he thought, was the plastic mistletoe hung over the luggage scale.

Being in a grumpy mood, he said to the woman at the counter, “You know, even if I weren’t married, I wouldn’t kiss you.”

“That’s not what it’s there for,” said the attendant. “It’s so you can kiss your luggage goodbye.”

  Q: What goes Ho, Ho, Swoosh, Ho, Ho, Swoosh?

A: Santa caught in a revolving door!


Lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt …. -Matthew 6:19 (KJV)
In 2011, I jammed all of my belongings into a storage unit in Wyoming, then raced to New Hampshire, where both of my parents had landed in the hospital. Dad died within a year, but my resilient mother lived another fourteen. I stayed close to my family, cobbling a home from mismatched silverware, freebie furniture, and yard-sale dishes, while my own earthly possessions languished in storage.
Now, years later, I begin the dreaded task of clearing out my dusty unit. Over seven days, I open every box and evaluate the contents. Decisions! Household items are easy; donate to the college apartments.
Some books are easy too; donate to the new kindergarten teacher. But some items, like the jelly-bean holder Tom created from a cement block, tug at my heart. Yes, he has just graduated with his Phd, but. ..I photograph the relic and let it go.
By the time I finish, I have salvaged mementos like baby books and shoes for my children. Most of my treasures, aside from a few cherished photographs, books, letters, and kid art, I relegate to the landfill. Why had I felt compelled to save so many reminders of happy times anyway? Didn’t I trust the future?
My children assure me they enjoyed happy childhoods and stay in close touch with me and with each other and friends in Wyoming.
Now I no longer need to trap memories in a storage locker. My children, and their families continuously generate more.
Lord, how few possessions I need when I feel loved.
-Gail Thorell Schilling
Digging Deeper: Matthew 6:21; Luke 2:51


Christmas Carols for the Psychiatrically Challenged
Schizophrenia — Do You Hear What I Hear?
Multiple Personality Disorder — We Three Queens Disoriented Are
Dementia — I Think I’ll be Home for Christmas
Narcissistic — Hark the Herald Angles Sing About Me
Manic — Deck the Halls and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Busses and Trucks and trees and Fire Hydrants and……


He has made everything beautiful in its time …. -Ecclesiastes 3: 11 (ESV)
I placed the wooden dog on wheels under the Christmas tree. Even though Micah was now a preteen, I still used her cherished gift from my grandmother as a decoration.
Shopping was Grandma Caryle’s passion. She traveled the world and gathered souvenirs to give as gifts. She had a knack for choosing just the right presents for the people she loved.
The year after I graduated, there was a gift under the tree for “Stephanie’s baby.” But I didn’t have children. I wasn’t pregnant It’ even married. For years, my nonexistent child received presents from my eccentric grandmother.
By the time I finally married and had a child, Grandma didn’t now it. Alzheimer’s had stolen her memories. Right before Christmas, I took one-year-old Micah with me to visit.
“Merry Christmas!” I called, kissing her cheek.
“Is it Christmas?” she asked. “Have I shopped? I need to get the baby something.”
I changed the subject. Some days Grandma didn’t know who I was, I doubted she understood that this was her great-granddaughter, this child she’d so desperately wanted for me.
That afternoon, I dug around the closet for extra wrapping paper while Micah napped. Buried deep on the bottom shelf, I came across a dust-covered box. Slowly, I lifted back the worn flaps. Could it be?
I gently lifted out a wooden dog on wheels from Denmark-the first gift to “Stephanie’s baby” nearly twenty years earlier! It was perfect for thirteen-month-old Micah.
Once again Grandma was right on target with the perfect gift.
Lord, thank You for my dear grandma who loved giving gifts, and for Your perfect timing.
-Stephanie Thompson
Digging Deeper: Habakkuk 2:3; Galatians 4:4



  Q: How come you never hear anything about the 10th reindeer “Olive” ?

A: Yeah, you know, “Olive the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names”

  What do lions sing at Christmas?

Jungle bells!


I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit. -Ephesians 3:16 (HCS)
Seven ways Alcohol May Be Good for You! That was the subject line of an e-mail from a medical Web site that popped up on my screen today. I guess they don’t know E. Grinnan quite as well as they think.
There isn’t a single way alcohol is good for me. The first time I held a bottle of Old Grand-Dad bourbon up to the light of a full moon and tipped it back to my doomed thirteen-year-old lips, I was an alcoholic.
I was probably an alcoholic before I took that first kiss of whiskey. I had all the attitudes in place-fear, arrogance, pride, shaky self-esteem, and  a screaming genetic predisposition. The booze was just the icing on the cake. The bourbon burned all the way down, like an electrical current, hut when its effects hit my brain a few seconds later a light went on: I want to feel this way all the time.
And, oh, how I tried relentlessly through the next several decades of my life until the choice finally became a binary one: drinking or dying. I’d lost everything else … relationships, jobs, friends, homes,self-respect, and faith. I only had faith in the bottle
When all else had been stripped from my life and I was naked before God, it was His hand that reached out to mine, the only force in the universe more powerful than my addiction. I liked the way God’s love made me feel. I wanted to feel that way all the time, a day at a time.
After I got sober I was humbled to learn how many people had me in their prayers, people I scarcely knew. In the many years since, I have never doubted that those unknown prayers helped get and keep me sober.
Today and every day, Lord, let me not forget the addicted.
Let me pray for all the suffering addicts, those I know and those I don’t.
-Edward Grinnan
Digging Deeper: Exodus 20:1-3; Jeremiah 31:3

  Q: What’s a good holiday tip?

A: Never catch snowflakes with your tongue until all the birds have gone south for the winter.


Christmas tag-sale. Handmade gifts for that hard-to-find person.


What do you call the fear of getting stuck in a chimney?

  Q: Why is Christmas just like a day at the office?

A: You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.



Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.-Hebrews 10:24-25 (NRSV)
My friend Peter is the oldest of eleven. He has two sisters and eight brothers. There aren’t many families like theirs anymore.
Most amazing to me, Peter and his siblings are close to one another in every possible way. They were born on average about eighteen months apart; they all still live within a two-hundred-mile radius of each other: they spend Christmases and Fourth of Julys together in their living rooms and on their back decks, which are the envy of the rest of us we who wish that we had friends and families so devoted.
I grew up in a small family. One brother, two parents. My brother and I jumped into careers and moved for jobs, and now he and I and my parents live in a triangle, and each side of that triangle is about  a thousand miles long. We rarely see each other. We don’t know each other in the way that more traditional families, I suppose, do. That is why I envy Peter.
But some of us find our “family” in other places. We make friends who become family. We live in others’ homes and in each other’s lives like Peter and his siblings do. Today, I’m grateful for Judith, for Michael, for Nancy, and for Debra Ann. They are my brothers. My sisters, my neighbors, my family.
Lead me today, Lord, to those whom I am to love like family.
-Jon Sweeney
Digging Deeper: Ecclesiastes 4:9-10


  1. How is the Italian version of Christmas different?
  2. One Mary, one Jesus, and 32 Wise guys.


  1. What happened when the snowwoman got angry at the snowman?
  2. She gave him the cold shoulder.



Last week I attended a class that included an interesting aspect of Eastern church icons. The leader explained how a physical act can  take on spiritual meaning. “The icon artist layers paints-first a base tone, then increasingly ornate and golden-to represent a progression

from the earth below to the heavens above.”
When I got back home, I wearily assessed the burdensome progress of a craft project, instigated by a young neighbor. She’d begged me to makea pinata for her upcoming birthday. “It’s easy. Please?” she’d implored.
She named a few basic supplies: a balloon, flour for homemade glue, newspapers, and decorative tissue paper. She’d cut a bagful of strips even before I’d bought a balloon. Her enthusiasm was hard to resist.
“We can try,” I finally said.

Well, what a gooey mess! By the time we’d finished plastering layer one of bits of paper to the round rubbery frame, our forearms were flecked. Two days later, we added layer two. That’s what I saw drying on my splattered dining room table when I came home from the class. But now I recognized something new in the encrusted ball. Later in the week, as we stirred up more glue and laid down more pasty strips, I envisioned that our hands were building a well-rounded life-maybe mine, maybe my young friend’s, maybe a blend of both- with layers of goodwill and peace. A final fringe-bright red, yellow, orange-s-set my spirit soaring beyond the earthy mess, singing an

ancient song about the heavens above: “Glory to God in the highest.” 
Lord, may the work of our hands and the meditations of our hearts lift us and others to new heights.
-Evelyn Bence
Digging Deeper: Matthew 6:9-13


Christmas Gifts for men
Do not buy men socks. Do not buy men ties. And never buy men bathrobes. I was told that if God had wanted men to wear bathrobes, he wouldn’t have invented Jockey shorts.


You can buy men new remote controls to replace the ones they have worn out. If you have a lot of money buy your man a big- screen TV with the little picture in the corner. Watch him go wild as he flips, and flips, and flips.


Do not buy any man industrial-sized canisters of after shave or deodorant. I’m told they do not stink – they are earthy.

  Buy men label makers. Almost as good as cordless drills. Within a couple of weeks there will be labels absolutely everywhere. “Socks. Shorts. Cups. Saucers. Door. Lock. Sink.” You get the idea. No one knows why.


We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. -Romans 8:26 (CEB)
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. -Luke 2:14 (KJV)
I pray a lot,” my friend Sharon said after we’d shared concerns about our grandsons. Kale, her youngest, was playing basketball that night even though he had a broken foot. My David, a marine, was training to swim a mile in the ocean off Pensacola, Florida, wearing a sixty-pound pack.
Praying for Kale and David was simple. Intercessory prayers for family and friends came easily because I knew their needs and pictured their faces while I prayed. Intercession for governing authorities and leaders was more difficult, but I usually had some specific information to guide my prayers. Every day brought reports of disasters-eight dead in floods; forty thousand displaced by civil war; over two hundred dead following an earthquake-and I struggled for a meaningful way to pray for victims and survivors.
Then I watched a news clip featuring a woman who fled for her life when terrorists attacked her remote village and slaughtered men, women, and children alike. She was able to save only one of her children. “We just ran,” she told the interviewer. “We didn’t even have time to cry.”
Now, when intercessory prayer is my only gift to those who have experienced tragedy and loss, I picture that grieving woman. For me, her face symbolizes all who suffer. I rest in knowing that my prayers join thousands of others, that the Holy Spirit supplies the words, and that our compassionate God is present even in tragic situations.
Lord, help me to faithfully pray for all the people who don’t even have time to cry. Amen.
-Penney Schwab
Digging Deeper: Nehemiah 1:1-11; 1 Timothy 2:1


Christmas Gifts for men
When in doubt – buy him a cordless drill. It does not matter if he already has one. I have a friend who owns 17 and he has yet to complain. As a man, you can never have too many cordless drills. No one knows why.


If you cannot afford a cordless drill, buy him anything with the word ratchet or socket in it. Men love saying those two words. “Hey George, can I borrow your ratchet?” “OK. Bye-the-way, are you through with my 3/8-inch socket yet?” Again, no one knows why.


If you are really, really broke, buy him anything for his car. A 99-cent ice scraper, a small bottle of deicer or something to hang from his rear view mirror. Men love gifts for their cars. No one knows why.


For he took notice of his lowly servant girl . . . . He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.   Luke 1:48, 51-52 (NLT)
I pulled a glossy catalog from my mailbox. Flipping through it, I saw lofty Christmas trees awash in luxurious ornaments. For a moment, I wondered whether I should replace my motley assortment of ornaments amassed over the years.
My collection includes a Popsicle-stick, pipe-cleaner, and felt skier;  a white paper-plate, glitter-encrusted angel with a loose head; a yellow and black clay creation resembling a cross between a blowfish and a finger-imprinted whale; and a red construction paper heart emblazoned with “Mery Chirstmas” in blue crayon. Yes, many of my ornaments were made by our children when they were young. Some we purchased to commemorate a special trip, event, or memory. Others are from friends and remind me of fun times together.
All in all it’s quite a hodgepodge. And you know what? I’ll continue to choose them over the gleaming uniformity and polished precision of the ornaments in the catalog. My ornaments aren’t perfect in the world’s eyes, but in mine they are.
As I threw away the catalog, it dawned on me-that’s how it is with God, Who chooses the lowly and humble over the proud and haughty.
And He’s got quite an assortment of us humans! We aren’t perfect, but in God’s view we are.

Thank You, Lord, for choosing me with all of my flaws and failings and for loving me despite-

maybe even because of-them.
–Kim Henry
Digging Deeper: Psalm 149:4; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29;
2 Corinthians 5:21; James 2:5, 4:6

  Dear Santa, Please give me a doll this year.  I would like her to eat, walk, do my homework, and help me clean my room. Thank you,


  Dear Santa, Thanks for the race car last year.  Can I have another one, only this time one that is faster than my best friend’s race car?


  Dear Santa, I wish you could leave a puzzle under the tree for me.  And a toy for my sister.  Then she won’t want to play with mine and I can have it to myself. Merry Christmas,



LIGHT IN OUR DARKNESS: “Be still, and know that I am God! … “-Psalm 46:10 (NRSV)
I am in a doctor’s office, waiting … again.
This has become my life. What started as an injury to my left hip has escalated into injuries all over my body.
Some of it is my fault. I keep trying to return to exercise too soon. But I was also originally misdiagnosed, and the first physical therapist prescribed exactly the wrong course of treatment. Now I live every day in pain and weakness.
Just months ago, I was strong, vigorous, running and swimming each day and playing outside with my kids. I feel diminished, half a person.
I spend a lot of time waiting-to see doctors; for signs of healing; for the day to end, so I can go to bed and pretend that none of this is happening as I lie and wait for sleep.
I abhor waiting. I especially dislike being sick and unable to use my body as I want to. I keep reminding myself that God has His own timing, that He works all things for good for those who love Him. So far there is little good for me to meditate on as I sit in the office.
Then I remember a prayer recommended to me by a friend. “At night when you can’t sleep or whenever you find yourself with quiet time, say: ‘Be still and know that I am God.'”
I begin saying the words over and over. They don’t crowd out all of my anxious thoughts or make me better instantly, but their deep truth sinks in.
When I am in pain or distress, God, I will remember that You are God no matter what and You are with me.
-Jim Hinch
Digging Deeper: Romans 8:24-30; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5

  Christmas Karaoke

Sing along with these new takes on old favorites:


Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly
We three kings of porridge and tar
On the first day of Christmas my tulip gave to me
Later on we’ll perspire, as we dream by the fire.
He’s makin a list, chicken and rice.
Noel, Noel, Barney’s the king of Israel.
With the jelly toast proclaim
Olive, the other reindeer.



And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. -Luke 2:7 (NAS)
Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. Our home is decorated with five Christmas trees, one for each family. It takes an entire week to get everything set up and ready. In addition to the trees, I have collected well over fifty Nativity sets. There are mangers in very room of the house. I like to say you can’t even use the guest bathroom without the Baby Jesus watching every move you make. These nativity sets are important because I don’t want anyone who visits to think I’ve forgotten the reason for the season.
However, it was from a sermon that I only recently learned something about the birthplace of Christ that I never knew before. Scripture tells us, that Jesus was placed in a manger. What came as a surprise was to realize this wasn’t just any ordinary stable or barn, This was a special stable, reserved for the lambs that were to be sacrificed in the temple.
I let that sink in: Christ, the Lamb of God, chose to be born in a stable only for sacrificial lambs, foreshadowing His death upon the cross for my sins, for yours.
Now, when I look at the Nativity sets around my house, I’m reminded even more of the reason that Baby Jesus came-to grow into the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world,

Father God, You gave us Your Son, sending Him into the world to be an atonement for sins, Your mission statement to the world.

May my mission statement be to live for You.
-Debbie Macomber
Digging Deeper: Isaiah 53:7; John 1:29


How to Tell if You’re a Grinch
 This is a set of essential personality tests to prepare you  misfit readers for Christmas and your New Year’s resolutions:
  1. You reuse last year’s Christmas cards and send them out under your own name (5 points).
  2. You steal light bulbs from you neighbor’s outdoor display to replenish your own supply (5 points, 10 if neighbor’s whole light sets or lighted Santa goes out).
  3. You have dressed a dog or cat as Santa Claus, elf helper,or reindeer.(10 points for each; if you dressed an endangered species, 5 extra points).
  4. You put out last year’s stale candy canes for children (1 point for each piece of sticky candy). If you put out a chocolate or marzipan Santa also, add 10 points.
  5. You enclose a shoddy and inferior gift from Target, Walmart, or K-Mart in a Bloomingdale’s or other prestige box to impress your friends (5 points for each infraction).
  6. You make collect long distance phone calls to your family on Christmas day (5 points, 10 if from a cell phone), claiming you are stuck in a phone booth.
  7. At the office Christmas party, you horde huge stockpiles of goodies for later consumption at home (5 points; 15 points if you use this stuff for your own party).
  8. You steal the wreath from a parked car to use on your own (Southern California only, others ignore: 5 points).
  9. After an invitation to a friend’s house, you bring a commercially produced fruitcake and try to pass it off as homemade. (5 points; 15 points if the fruitcake is from last
  1. Any stealing from the Toys-for-Tots collection bins is a definite no-no (20 points).
 Evaluate your score on the “Grinch Scale” from 20 to 100.

  20-30:  You are just a cheeseball.  30-50:  You are an apprentice in Yuletide larceny and are probably wanted by the police for overdue parking tickets.  50-100: Grinch, move over. The Meyer Lansky of Christmas crime has arrived.


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