When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. Psalm 94:19 (NIV)
At a time, several years ago, when I felt weighed down by the grunge of this world, God provided a reminder of His presence at a Chicago airport.
As I waited to board, an elderly woman sitting alone on the row in front of me attempted to stand. Half-way up her foot became entangled in the strap of her purse, causing her to fall. A nearby desk attendant immediately came to her rescue. This kind young man carefully helped the shaken and upset woman back into her seat.
Awestruck by his compassionate and caring manner, I could hardly take my eyes from the beautiful scene unfolding in front of me. As he spoke with such tenderness, her frantic spirit began to calm. He gently patted her arm, and the contrast of his black hand against her white skin touched me in a way I cannot explain. I don’t recall ever having seen the character of Jesus so clearly displayed.
Turns out she was at the wrong gate for her flight, but I feel sure God put her there for a reason.
In a world so full of despair, the Spirit of God still shows up in unexpected places, just as He did so long ago in the unlikely place of a grungy stable, offering hope to a hopeless world.
Father, Help me shine Jesus to a lost and dark world.
How can you bring the joy of Jesus into someone’s life this Christmas season? It can be as simple as stopping on the street to talk to a neighbor or leaving cookies/flowers and an encouraging note at someone’s door.
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Psalm 32:7 NIV
Six years ago, one malnourished, tiny nine-month-old baby boy was rescued from the streets of China and dropped off at a hospital. Through a series of providential events, he became part of our family.
We can’t imagine our lives without our little Huddy Buddy. He practically levitates off the floor with pure delight when anyone enters the room. He idolizes his family and they adore him. Although at seven our grandson can’t walk or talk, he dispenses joy to everyone he meets with his sweet disposition and ear-to-ear grin. We have no idea what the future holds for this boy but know that God will use him in a mighty way.
Joy and gratefulness should be our mantra this season as we reflect on:
the birth of a tiny baby, called Immanuel (God with us.)
a God-man whose cruel death on a cross brought new life to all who believe.
Our Father has rescued and delivered us from the dangerous “streets” of an evil world. He surrounds us with a hedge of protection. We have every reason to shout hallelujah as we spread the marvelous joy of our Savior, not only this Christmas season, but every season!
Father, in all circumstances fill our hearts with the joy of your love and let it be evident to all.
Definition of Expat: shortened form of expatriate, referring to anyone who has chosen to live away from their native home country, either permanently or with the intention of returning to their own country. Often a person is offered temporary change of employment. It first meant “one who is banished,” and later “one who chooses to live abroad.”
Life in a new country offers both opportunities and challenges. Stepping into the unknown can be a huge leap of faith, especially in a country where no one speaks your language. Making friends with expats in similar circumstances eases the transition and loneliness. With no close family or friends, the need for relationships to fill that gap is vital.
The Vienna, Austria United Nations Women’s Guild (UNWG) weekly activities provided the perfect avenue to meet other women. In a group of people, for various reasons, we are often drawn to certain ones.
My first time at the UNWG quilting group I immediately gravitated toward Barbara from Maryland and Christine from Canada.
It wasn’t long before we pulled our spouses into the mix for an evening out. Our scientist husbands quickly found common ground in each of their fields of expertise. Conversation flowed easily as the women, eager to begin taking in all the “Vienna experience” we could work into our days, proceeded to made plans to visit coffee shops/cafes, museums, and markets.
As couples, we traveled together, mostly by train, to places in Vienna, as well as neighboring countries. We biked through the countryside and along the Danube River, stopping to visit old castles and places of interest. And, of course, coffee breaks took top priority. As a result of the excellent Viennese coffee, I unfortunately became a major “coffee snob.”
This past weekend we gathered at our house for our first reunion since we left Vienna eight years ago. We reminisced of our Vienna days, recalling places we frequented, such as ancient castles, re-telling stories of the history of families who occupied them so long ago. We marveled at our stamina to complete long bike treks and walk everywhere in the frigid cold, pulling carts loaded with groceries on and off the ubahn (city transportation.)
Then the women shared pictures of both our finished and unfinished quilt projects, told funny stories of our grandkid’s shenanigans and of course, made time for lots of coffee breaks.
The men joined us to a quilt hand stitch art exhibit at UTSA. I think they may have enjoyed it as much as we did.
The men reveled in the fact that they had someone to converse with who understand “their language” as they discussed the different roles they each held in keeping the world safe.
None of us may have been close friends in our own countries, but thrown into a strange place, focusing on things we had in common, it became easy to look past our differences. The encouragement we offered one another kept us focused on the positive. Even though we each possessed very different personalities, we instantly became close friends.
As Christians, we also exhibit distinctive natures and hold personal preferences, but our one thing in common, Jesus, allows us to overlook differences as we focus on Him.
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25 MSG
This present world, wherever we live, should never feel like home. Our gracious God has blessed us with a community of brothers and sisters to offer encouragement while we travel in a foreign land. As we make our way through this momentary world, let’s never ever forget the final destination.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philippians 3:20 ESV
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
I Peter 2:9 NIV
As I write this today, September 11th, I am reminded of the desolation and destruction of seventeen years ago, perpetrated on our nation by evil men.
We are bombarded with distressing news each time we pick up a newspaper or turn on the television.
On the night of Jesus’ birth the state of the nation was grim, suffering oppression by a ruthless, pagan empire. The musty odor of a straw bed in a dark and dreary stable and the stench of manure further intensified the bleakness of the setting in which He was born.
His arrival illuminated a messy, struggling world.
Ready for some GOOD NEWS?!
Jesus voluntarily entered a world of darkness to bring hope and light.
The true light which illuminates every human being was coming into the world. John 1:9 NIV
We hold the incredible promise that God’s love is more than able to overcome any obstacle Satan puts in our path.
Lord, remind us daily to place our hope and trust in You so we can brightly shine your light to a dark and hopeless world.
“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
And on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2: 13,14 NIV
From wee toddlers, our girls loved to sing. If given a choice, our evening devotionals would consist solely of their favorite songs. Their angelic voices rang loud and clear throughout the walls of our tiny home.
As they grew older and began playing piano, their mini-concerts became a regular part of our Christmas ritual. Joy to the World and Silent Night, two of the first songs they learned to play, provided accompaniment for their sweet, tender voices as they sang together, often breaking out into three-part harmony.
The tradition continues today with their children. Observing the beaming faces of our grandchildren as they sing their little hearts out to Jesus often brings us to tears.
This past Christmas our family, once again, caroled Silent Night; this time accompanied by cello, flute, piano, and guitar. As we lifted our voices in worship, my mind wandered to the night Jesus was born. I realized we were doing just what the angels did at His birth. How astounding for those in attendance to have actually heard those angel voices! God’s blessing of music allows us just a little taste of heaven here on earth.
Lord, may your gift of music draw us closer to You this Christmas.