Tomorrow, January 6th, the western Church celebrates the season of Epiphany which begins with the Magi bringing gifts to the Baby Jesus. The Eastern or Orthodox churches celebrate the day after sunset as the beginning of their Christmas because of the Gregorian calendar. Their gift giving coincides with the Magi’s.

 

When a friend’s child was two years old, she stood in front of the present-crowded tree and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. How surprised she was to find out the presents weren’t for Him!

 


Julie B Cosgrove is an award-winning author and also a faith-based freelance writer who writes devotionals for several publications and websites. She is an editor and  writer for the digital ministry Power to Change, sponsored by Cru Canada and is supported by prayer and financial partners.  Visit her website www.juliebcosgrove.com to learn about her ministry and preview her books.

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By Susan G Mathis

My 94-year-old mother’s years of wisdom and experience always seem to balance me and help me reorient myself in this busy world. Now that she’s in heaven, I miss those wise words.

Before she passed, I mentioned how fast this year is flying by and how busy my schedule is. She just smiled, shared her wisdom, and aligned my thinking.

I thought you might enjoy hearing that wisdom, so here are her secrets to making your days count.

  1. Keep God First. Start every day with prayer and surrendering your day to His plans. Entrust that day into His hands for even when times are tough, He will guide you through every situation.
  2. Stay healthy. Each of us knows what unhealthy habits we might have. Too little sleep? Too much junk food? Too little exercise? Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.
  3. Know why you do what you do. Look at your schedule and assess why those items are on your calendar and/or if they need to be a part of your day. Whatever it is, it needs to be important to you, enough that you will be glad you did it when the day is done. Life is too short to waste time on non-profitable things.
  4. Just say no. Learn to say no to things that waste of time and don’t reasonably fit into your schedule. There are so many time wasters, including people who can waste your time. I must admit that too many lunch dates, social media, and searching for the best shopping deals can be a few of my time wasters.
  5. Make calendar corrections. When you turn the calendar to the next month (or even to the next week), take time to review the past week/month and make corrections to the upcoming week/month. Did you have too many lunch dates? Too little workout time? Watching too much TV or movies? Going to too many social events? Tweak your schedule to correct such slips.
  6. Discourage distractions. What are your three worst time wasters? How can you shorten that wasted time or eliminate it altogether? Write them down and be careful not to get caught up in those distractions. I actually set an alarm when I get on my social media accounts so I don’t get swept up in them.
  7. Eliminate negativity. Most of us have that little voice nagging at us, telling us all the things we do wrong, all the ways we’ve failed at this or that, or all the weaknesses we have. Fix what you need to fix, but reject that critical voice inside you—or those critical voices from others who just can’t keep their own negative opinion to themselves.

Susan Mathis is the author of The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy and four other books. She is the vice president of Christian Authors Network, founding editor of Thriving Family magazine, and former editor of 12 Focus on the Family publications. She has written hundreds of articles and now serves as a writer, writing coach, and consultant. For more, visit www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

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I was an aggressive young journalist chasing the big story.

A young woman had come from Nazareth to Bethlehem with the man she’d pledged to marry. Obviously pregnant, she hadn’t let rumors about her unusual circumstances keep her from making the journey to register for tax purposes.

I always did extensive research before an interview, and I’d tracked every tip about these two individuals, Mary and Joseph, unexpectedly cast in the most significant drama in human history.

A relative, Elizabeth, confirmed Mary had visited her following a strange occurrence. An angel had appeared to Mary, a virgin betrothed to Joseph, announcing she would become pregnant by the Holy Ghost, and the child would be the Son of God.

How could that happen? A baby without a human father? Son of God? Could a skeptical journalist believe such preposterous claims?

In Bethlehem, humanity flooded the streets—droves pouring in from surrounding provinces to pay taxes. I overheard anxious conversations about a young woman who appeared ready to give birth. An innkeeper said the husband had asked about a room.

“No vacancy!” he said. He’d directed the weary travelers to a stable nearby but still seemed frustrated that he couldn’t provide a comfortable room.

Weaving through the commotion, I located the place and paused to consider how this incredible story might impact my career. I sensed an award-winner.

Without being offensive, I’d ask tough questions, starting with Joseph.

What were you thinking, making this journey with Mary so close to giving birth?

There’s a rumor that you did not father this child. Any comment?

Why should anyone believe that outrageous story about how Mary became pregnant?

I’ve heard the baby is the Son of God. What do you say?

Reviewing my notes I started to speak then seemed frozen in time.

Something about that historic night—dark yet bathed in brilliance. Something about that young mother—pained yet radiant with joy. Something about that adoring husband—humble yet exploding with pride. Something about that modest manger—rugged yet strangely reverent. Something about that holy child—helpless yet having authority.

An infant king lay wrapped in swaddling clothes. Enveloped in awe, I slipped away without disturbing the royal family.

Centuries later in my reality, I’d bow before that King, claiming him as Savior and Lord.

“…Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

(See Luke 1:26-45; Luke 2:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25, John 1:14 NIV.)

(First published December 17, 2015 Christian Devotions. Revised and reprinted by permission www.christiandevotions.us.)

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned. She began writing at 18 when she landed her dream job, writing for her local newspaper, and wrote her first book at 24. She’s a member of Christian Authors Network, Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

 

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Muse: Help?
Writer: (Doubled over laughing.) You’re wearing a Santa hat?
Muse: Really? That’s your question?
Writer: At least it’s not a string of lights. I mean, the grandkids might have plugged you in!
Muse: Are you going to help me?
Writer: Hang on, I need the picture.
Muse: I can’t wait for you to go to sleep. You never know what you’ll find in your stocking.
Writer: Uh…one pic is enough. Here, let me help you. 

Angela Breidenbach writes romance through the ages, hosts the radio show Lit Up, and is in college to get her genealogical studies degree. She’s the president of the Christian Authors Network. Angie lives in Missoula, MT with her hubby and Muse, a trained fe-lion, who can shake hands, lay down and roll over, and jump through a hoop. Surprisingly, Angela can also. Her latest book is Worthy to Write—30 devotions for writers.

http://AngelaBreidenbach.com

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest: @AngBreidenbach

iTunes: Lit Up With Angela Breidenbach

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Have you ever wondered what it was like that first Christmas? Let your imagination wander.

A young engaged couple have to go to Bethlehem and register to be taxed. When they arrive, there’s no place to stay. Finally, they find a stable to bed down. Then Mary goes into labor. What obstacles!

(Did Joseph find a midwife or did he help Mary himself? In those days, men didn’t attend a birthing, so what did Joseph think?)

Then after all that excitement dies down, shepherds show up saying they heard the news of the birth from angels singing in the sky. Angels. Not just one—a choir!

I’d be overwhelmed and groping for answers, as I’m sure Mary and Joseph must have been. But God didn’t leave them out in left field without any help or forewarning. Mary had received a visit from Gabriel (not just any angel). Joseph had a vision reassuring him everything was all right. They might not have understood in the beginning, but God had prepared them.

What situation are you facing right now? Think back and see how God has prepared you for the challenge. For me, it’s a second round of cancer. I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma before. Now it’s non-Hodgkin’s.

I think of the blessing I’ve been given through these trials. With the first round of cancer, I had no grandchildren. Now I am blessed with two little bundles of joy one year apart.

There is nothing too hard for our God. So give the gift of your smile and heart to those around you. It’s the gift they will cherish for years.

Leann Harris, an author and a teacher of the deaf, has always had stories running around her head. She started writing when her youngest child started school. Her first book was published in 1993. She’s published Harlequin through her eighteenth book. She’s written romantic suspense, inspirational romantic suspense, futuristic and inspirational romance. She has also ventured into Indi books. Her series Legacy of Lies includes The Last Lie and The Last Truth. A cancer survivor, she rejoices in each day.

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