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.


Happy is the man that findeth wisdom …. -Proverbs 3:13 (KJV)
My career in wealth management, my community, activities, and my family involvement have opened many windows into the world as it unfolds around me. I see people who seem to have everything and others whose possessions are meager. Some almost drip with awards and accolades, while the goodness of others is never publicly recognized. I see people who shine with happiness and others who spread misery. People who are generous beyond measure and a few who cling to the first dollar they ever made.
In all of this, sizing up a successful life is more than a little elusive, and when I reflect on how I want to live my life, my thoughts fly to my father.
My dad served as a minister at the same church in Nashville, Tennessee, for thirty-eight years. Even though he was offered positions at bigger, more prestigious churches from all over the country, he felt called to remain where he was.
I can’t count the number of people who consider my father “the smartest man I’ve ever known.” In addition to his unparalleled intelligence, he forgives without hesitation and radiates a kindness that draws people to him.
I guess he’s a bit like King Solomon who, when given a choice, looked beyond wealth, power, and prominence. My dad’s choices, like the great biblical king’s, radiate wisdom. If a contented life is a measure of success, Dad rises to the top.
So as I gaze at the panorama of life that my particular windows offer, I try to look first for the people who wisely chose happiness, generosity, and fulfillment, no matter what their position in the world happened to be. Like my father, they are God’s people, and I want to be counted in their number.
Father, my earthly father reflects Your wisdom. Let me be like him.
-Brock Kidd
Digging Deeper: Proverbs 16:16, 18:19; Ecclesiastes 8:5


NASA was interviewing professionals to be sent to Mars. Only one could go and couldn’t return to Earth.

The first applicant, an engineer, was asked how much he wanted to be paid for going. “A million dollars,” he answered, “because I want to donate it to M.I.T.” The next applicant, a doctor, was asked the same question. He asked for $2 million. “I want to give a million to my family,” he explained, “and leave the other million for the advancement of medical research.” The last applicant was a lawyer. When asked how much money he wanted, he whispered in the interviewer’s ear, “Three million dollars.” “Why so much more than the others?” asked the interviewer. The lawyer replied, “If you give me $3 million, I’ll give you $1 million, I’ll keep $1 million, and we’ll send the engineer to Mars.”


Thursday, November 29
The Lord will settle international disputes; all the nations will convert their weapons of war into implements of peace …. -Isaiah 2:4 (TLB)
Sometimes it’s hard for me to love my neighbor. Especially the cranky lady downstairs who won t speak to any of us and who continually fires off nasty letters to the management. But when I see her out back,
trimming the bushes, pulling weeds, and trying to make our backyard beautiful, I am reminded that I must love her in spite of her crankiness
Loving my neighbor brings to mind one of my favorite pieces of art.
It sits at the United Nations Building in New York City: a colorful mosaic, nine feet by ten feet and weighing twelve hundred pounds. It was created by Norman Rockwell and is titled The Golden Rule. Across the front are these words carved in gold: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The mosaic shows the faces of twenty-eight people who represent all the different people we must love: black, white, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, atheist, racist, addicted, imprisoned, gay, homeless, young, old, sick … the list goes on.
When I saw Rockwell’s mosaic for the first time, I was stunned by its intricate beauty and even more so by the variety of people depicted in the work. The piece has since been restored and will remind visitors
for generations to come that we must love, accept, and respect our neighbors-all of them.
This year, for Christmas, I’m giving my cranky neighbor a gift of one of my small paintings. It isn’t much, but she is, after all, part of the mosaic of our community.
Lord, help me to love, accept, and respect my neighbor, and thank You for the variety of people You have put in my life.
-Patricia Lorenz
Digging Deeper: Hebrews 13:1-3; 1 Peter 3:8-12; 1 John 3:11-24


Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter? A: Pumpkin pi.
Q: What is a pumpkin’s favorite sport? A: Squash
Asked to write a composition entitled, “What I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving,” Little Johnny wrote, “I am thankful that I’m not a turkey.”

Knock Knock. Who There? Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving for what? Thanks giving us this turkey.


And Jesus said, “Come.” Then Peter got out of the boat and was walking on the water toward Jesus. -Matthew 14:29 (CEB)
They’re my favorite socks: blue, gray, and black, with a little bit of writing on the bottom. They’re warm, wooly, and I always search tor them on each first cold day of the year. You can’t really see the most significant thing about them unless I take off my shoes and show you the bottoms of my feet. But there, on each sock, is a bluish puddle labeled the Sea of Galilee. My friend Edward bought them for me on a trip to Israel, a fine souvenir.
“You gave them to me because I can walk on water?” I suggested.
“Because I thought you’d like them,” he said.
I don’t walk on water. Don’t even come close. If Jesus asked me, as He asked Peter, to step out of the boat and walk with Him on the Sea of Galilee, I would surely sink at the first step, faltering in my faith, not even hearing Him call out, “Be encouraged! It’s me” (Matthew 14:27, CEB). And yet I love having something on my feet to remind me, ever so subtly, to walk in Jesus’s footsteps.
That cashier who was so rude to me, couldn’t I have been a little nicer to her? That guy who cut me off as I tried to move into the right lane on the highway, did I really need to shout at him from behind the wheel of my car? That sympathy note I’ve been meaning to write, the check for the worthy cause, the get-well card: it’s time to get to them tonight.
Most important, the fears that prevent me from trusting, why not give them up?
“I’m wearing my favorite socks today,” I tell Edward at the office.
“Glad you like them,” he says. “Nice to feel like a disciple, with the Sea of Galilee at your feet.”
“Come, ” You said, and I come, knowing that as long as I keep Your gaze, I can walk where I never expected to go.
-Rick Hamlin
Digging Deeper: Luke 5:11; Romans 15:5


Q: What was the turkey suspected of? A: Fowl play
Q: What smells the best at a Thanksgiving dinner? A: Your nose.
Q: What do you wear to Thanksgiving dinner? A: A Har-VEST.
Q: What do Thanksgiving and Halloween have in common? A: One has gobblers, the other goblins.


Tuesday, November 27
Be clothed with humility …. -1 Peter 5:5 (KJV)
A new grandbaby! When Tom and Canay shared the news, I swung into turbo-grandma mode, buying baby clothes and enthusing over knitting projects with my sister-in-love, Dana. Of course, I’m not much of a knitter, but my enthusiasm outraced my ability.
First, we ordered fine merino yarn from Peru. Dana, a knitter with some experience, would craft a sweater and booties from variegated blue and green fibers. The parents-to-be wanted “something different,” so I would knit a fine-gauge stroller blanket in sunset colors: indigo, coral, and violet. After all, the pattern was just an enlarged dishcloth, all knit stitches and one yarn over. How hard could it be?
Once I had knit the first six inches, I knew my piece would have many “spontaneous design elements,” as the knitting circle women generously called them. To me, they looked like holes, lumps, and repair jobs. I suppose I could have started over, but I stubbornly plowed on.
By the time I finished the blanket, Baby’s arrival was still five months away. I certainly could have redone my project perfectly with time to spare, especially now that I had seen the layette whipped up by Baby’s other grandma, a knitting whiz. Should I scuttle my embarrassing blanket, thirty hours, and nearly as many dollars?
At the baby shower, I shall offer my lumpy, love-filled artwork as a metaphor for parenting. The card will read: “This blanket is not perfect, yet I give it to you as a reminder that parenting isn’t about perfection. Baby won’t care about your flaws and inconsistencies when he’s wrapped in your warmth and love. “
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us, flaws and all.
-Gail Thorell Schilling
Digging Deeper: Proverbs 10:12; Matthew 18:4; 1 John 4:17


Q: What do you call the age of a pilgrim? A: Pilgrimage.
Q: What do you call a pilgrims vocabulary? A: Pilgrammar.
Q: What was the turkey looking for at the Toy Store? A: Gobbleheads.
Q: What’s the best way to stuff a turkey? A: Serve him lots of pizza and ice cream!


Monday, November 26

Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.   -Psalm 119:18 (NKJV)
Want to see something weird?”
The bus driver stopped. We were at an airport, being transported from the parking lot to the terminals. She invited us to look out the front window at a sight that made us gasp.
“It’s been like that all morning.” There was a skunk, wandering the parking lot, its head stuck inside a yogurt cup. It ambled in circles, bumping into parked cars and heading off in random directions, its tail standing tall at the ready.
A Good Samaritan stood by, trying to figure out what to do. My kids offered to run out and yank the cup off the skunk’s head, but my wife and I persuaded them to let the gentleman have a try first.
I watched the poor little creature and commented, “I feel like that sometimes.” I can’t see where I’m going. I don’t know what’s ahead. I’m not sure of my direction. At times, I’m not even sure about God. “I get you, little one,” I said. My family smiled.
Finally, the Good Samaritan made his move. He made sure the skunk’s business end was pointing away from him. Then he reached out his hand, grabbed the yogurt cup, yanked it off while jumping as far away as he could, and ran.
So did the skunk … in the opposite direction, as if to say, “Thank you, sir, for rescuing me.” It was a bona fide feel-good moment. We sat down, the bus resumed its route, and I thought of how privileged I am whenever I see the blessings that God has prepared for me.
Gracious Father, please yank away the blinders that keep me from seeing Your everyday, everywhere gifts of grace. Amen.

-Bill Giovannetti  

Digging Deeper: Ephesians 1:17-18


Q: Why did the turkey cross the road twice? A: To prove he wasn’t a chicken!
Q: What did the mother turkey say to her disobedient children? A: If your father could see you now, he’d turn over in his gravy

Q: What happened when the turkey got into a fight? A: He got the stuffing knocked out of him!


Then Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it …. -2 Kings 19:14 (NAS)
Shortly after I sold my mom’s place, the new owner called, saying, “There’s a disintegrating trunk in the corner of the shed. It has some letters in it.”
The trunk turned out to be filled with my grandmother’s last possessions. Priceless for me were those letters-written from my mother to her mother when I was just a one-year-old.
I kept them to read on the first anniversary of Mom’s death. Hearing how she felt as a young wife and mother more than sixty years earlier gave me back my mom that day. I savored each word, sorry to come to the last one.
In two of her letters, Mom revealed my toddler personality. One said I’d been sick and was feeling better-“Carol is back to her usual cheery self.” I sucked in a surprised breath. Mom and I had talked often about my being her “song of joy” -the meaning of my name.
Another stated, “Carol sure does jabber a lot. I think she’ll talk before she walks.” How I laughed. I am a talker-much more than my mother, who was always an excellent listener. It comforted me to know
that verbal expressiveness was in my makeup from the beginning- something to monitor but important to who I am.
I thought I’d known most things about Mom. But the unexpected gift of the letters in the trunk revealed more. They spoke to me of the strong tie between us that would always be there. On what might have
been a despondent day, they helped me find my “usual cheery self.”
Jesus, Lord of deep bonds, I offer gladness for my bond with Mom and our bond with You-an unbreakable union among us.
-Carol Knapp
Digging Deeper: Jeremiah 31:25; John 14:16-21; 1 Corinthians 13:11


Q: What did the turkey say to the computer? A: Google, google, google!
Q: Why did the turkey cross the road twice? A: To prove he wasn’t a chicken!


Do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? -Proverbs 25:8 (ESV)
My dog was gone.
We had searched everywhere-driving up and down neighborhood streets late into the night, scouring the neighbors’ yards, trekking into the woods to see if he had wandered too far and gotten lost. But my precious, thirteen-year-old golden retriever, Jack, was gone.
I was devastated. I called every animal shelter in town asking about him, praying that somehow, somewhere, someone had found him.
Then a glimmer of hope: A woman posted on the neighborhood boards that she had a sweet elderly dog in her possession. My Jack had been found!
And then the bad news came: The woman, seeing that my old, beloved dog was scraggly and thin and that he had trouble walking, turned him over to the city animal authorities, filing a report of animal abuse against us.
Talk about a flood of emotions! Relief mixed with frustration. Anger mixed with hope. Tears followed by more tears. We did get Jack back. Our wonderful vet came back early from a family vacation to make a full report, sending all of his previous veterinary records to the city, showing the officials that Jack was, in fact, well cared for, albeit old and partially lame. Charges were dropped. Fines were excused. Jack came home to a jubilant welcome as three kids surrounded him with hugs and beef strips.
And my neighbor? Well, I’ve forgiven her. It took a while. I went from frustrated to angry to finally recognizing that her reaction was a well-intentioned attempt to protect a precious animal. I now know that she meant well. And that’s all we can ask of our neighbors.
Lord, give me the ability to assume the best in people.
-Erin MacPherson
Digging Deeper: 1 Corinthians 13:7


Q: What do you get if you divide the circumference of a pumpkin by its diameter? A: Pumpkin pi.
Q: Why did the police arrest the turkey? A: They suspected fowl play.
Q: What key won’t open any door? A: A turkey!
Q: What did the mother turkey say to her disobedient children? A: If your father could see you now, he’d turn over in his gravy


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