Truly I’ll tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” -Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
When I saw her, I knew something wasn’t right. She was wearing a school-uniform shirt at least two sizes too small. She had to keep pulling down her shirt, which kept riding up above her waistline,and every time she tugged at her shirt, it tugged at my heart.
I got busy, though, directing my staff as we taped the girl’s classroom for a story we were producing for the TV station where I worked. I thought about her again over the next week but would quickly dismiss
  1. It was nearing Christmas, and there was lots to do. But then I began hearing about helpers.
First, my daughter Misty shared how she was leading a project at church to collect donated Christmas gifts so that single parents who needed help could shop for their children at no cost.
And there’s my colleague Inkie, who reaches out to a local school to find a student in need whom she can help. Sometimes the request is for I hike. Once it was to buy letter jackets for two student athletes who’d earned them but couldn’t afford them.
I knew what I needed to do. I e-ailed m principal and offered to purchase the child I’d seen some new school uniforms. I asked her to find out what else I could do to help. The principal responded quickly.
“Thank you! Her mother will be so grateful for your help.”
I smiled, recalling a quote from Mr. Rogers, a favorite TV personality, who’d said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Thank You for giving me an opportunity to be a helper, Lord
-Melody Bonnette Swang
Digging Deeper: Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:3-4


The top 18 ways to confuse Santa Claus
  1. Build an army of mean-looking snowmen on the roof, holding signs that say “We hate Christmas,” and “Go away Santa”.
  2. Keep an angry bull in your living room. If you think a bull goes crazy when he sees a little red cape, wait until he sees that big, red Santa suit!
  3. While he’s in the house, replace all his reindeer with exact replicas. Then wait and see what happens when he tries to get them to fly.
  4. Leave him a note, explaining that you’ve gone away for the holidays. Ask if he would mind watering your plants.
  5. While he’s in the house, go find his sleigh and write him a speeding ticket.

And the number way to confuse Santa Claus

  1. Instead of milk and cookies, leave him a salad, and a note explaining that you think he could stand to lose a few pounds.


Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” -Matthew 7:7 (NRSV)
It seemed so unfair to be in the midst of heartache from a recent breakup while everyone else was fa-la-la-ing all around me. Quite frankly, I wasn’t in the mood. I wanted to stay in New York City, in my pj’s and in my feelings, watching TV and crying, But my trip to Indianapolis had been booked for months. So though my heart felt empty. I put on the bravest face and brightest smile I could muster and went home for the holidays.
By the end of the trip I felt exhausted, sad, and depleted. The night before I flew back to the city, I finally confided in my brother. “I really needed someone to be there for me this time,” I told him. I had been waiting for someone to care for me. Why hadn’t anyone done that?  I felt like I was always the one present for others while no one could be bothered to be present for me.
My brother asked, “Why didn’t you tell me what you needed? I’ve got many talents but mind reading is not one of them.” I chuckled and considered what he had said. Though I had told him and a few others
about the breakup, I didn’t ask for what I wanted or needed. But  once it was clear, he was there. He then listened and let me cry. And it was just what I needed.
God, thank You for the reminders that I don’t have to wait for what I want or need, but can simply ask. Thank You for those who practice Your presence and patience with me.
-Natalie Perkins
Digging Deeper: Matthew 7:7-11


The top 18 ways to confuse Santa Claus
  1. Leave out a copy of your Christmas list with last-minute changes and corrections.
  2. Take everything out of your house as if it’s just been robbed. When Santa arrives, show up dressed like a policeman and say, “Well, well. They always return to the scene of the crime.”
  3. Leave a plate filled with cookies and a glass of milk out, with a note that says, “For The Tooth Fairy.” Leave another plate out with half a stale cookie and a few drops of skim milk in a dirty glass with a note that says, “For Santa”.
  4. While he’s in the house, find the sleigh and sit in it. As soon as he comes back and sees you, tell him that he shouldn’t have missed that last payment, and take off.
  5. Set a bear trap at the bottom of the chimney. Wait for Santa to get caught in it, and then explain that you’re sorry, but from a distance, he looked like a bear.
  6. Leave a note by the telephone, telling Santa that Mrs. Claus called and wanted to remind him to pick up some milk and a loaf of bread on his way home.


If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:2 (NIV)
My colleague’s sabbatical is coming up. During our weekly prayer time, Jonathan worried out loud that, instead of working on the academic writing he’d planned, he should spend his semester off on a time-intensive training program for his nine-year-old son, who has autism.
Somehow, Jonathan’s quandary brought to mind a Gospel story I’d read that morning. In it, Jesus asks two blind men who’ve come after Him if they really believe He can heal their blindness. When they say yes, He says, “According to your faith, let it be done to you,” and they can see.
l read the story out loud to the group. Evidently, I concluded, our faith shapes God’s answers to our prayers. Everyone but Jonathan nodded. He understood me to be criticizing his faith, compounding his conviction that he was the source of his son’s problems, and he became even more distraught.
Later, I remembered feeling exactly the same way about others’ well meant parenting advice. Indeed, though my daughters have no disabilities, I’ve worried Jonathan’s worry throughout their development: that if I could just be the perfect parent, my girls would have no problems.
“God picked you as your girls’ mom,” a friend said. “He had exactly you in mind.”
That’s the most comforting but hardest-to-believe lesson of parenting-and of life in general-I’ve ever learned. God chose us for the jobs He’s given us.
” “God chose you as Logan’s dad,” I e-mailed Jonathan later. “Whatever you do in love is the right thing.”
Father, banish my worries about doing the right thing and replace them with pure love.
–Patty Kirk
Digging Deeper: Luke 15: 11-32


The top 18 ways to confuse Santa Claus
  1. Instead of ornaments, decorate your tree with Easter eggs. Dress up like the Easter Bunny. Wait for Santa to come and then say, “This neighborhood ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
  3. Paint “hoof-prints” all over your face and clothes. While he’s in the house, go out on the roof. When he comes back up, act like you’ve been “trampled.” Threaten to sue.
  5. Leave out a Santa suit, with a dry-cleaning bill.
  7. Leave Santa a note, explaining that you’ve moved. Include a map with unclear and hard-to-read directions to your new house.
  9. Leave lots of hunting trophies and guns out where Santa’s sure to see them. Go outside, yell, “Ooh! Look! A deer! And he’s got a red nose!” and fire a gun.
  11. While he’s in the house, cover the top of the chimney with barbed wire.


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.


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