Excerpt from Christmas Charity by Susan G. Mathis:

Mabel opened the door and noticed the darkening sky. “Come in, Susan. Looks like a Nor’easters a building. Might have snow by nightfall.”

Susan entered the elderly woman’s abode. Neat and tidy with lots of memorabilia, just as Susan had imagined. Mabel led her into the kitchen. “I was just making tea. Care for some?”

“Yes, please. How are you, Mabel?”

“I’m just fine. Been praying for you and that girl of yours a fair bit. How’s it going?” Mabel stopped pouring the tea and stared into Susan’s eyes. “Tell me truthful-like, ya hear?” She tilted her head to accentuate her command.

Susan dropped her eyes to the oilcloth-covered table. “Not good. She won’t let me in. Patrick says to give her time, but…”

Mabel sat down next to her and rubbed her braid like her mama always did. Susan turned to make sure she wasn’t dreaming that Mabel was her mama just then.

“But what? Her father let’s her get away with too much? She has free rein to be prickly?” Mabel grunted. “My brother did the same thing when his wife died, and now my niece is unbearable. I know the signs.”

Susan nodded. “So what do I do? I love Patrick. He’s a kind man but he’s too kind sometimes.”

“Pray, dear girl, and pour on the charity.” Mabel sipped her tea before continuing. “Thomas Aquinas said that only God gives us power to show charitable love to another. He says that it’s the most perfect way to love. It’s love that’s given by choice, by your will, not expecting anything in return. True charity not only touches the heart of another but once you pour it out, joy and peace will also fill you up.”

“But…if I can’t even talk to her or touch her or interact with her in any way, how can I show her charity? I don’t understand.”

Mabel gazed at the wall for several moments before answering. “God has to show you the specifics, dearie. The love chapter in Corinthians gives us some ideas. Part of it is having faith and hope that God will give you the answer. It has nothing to do with her accepting you or even liking you. You can talk to her all you want, but if you don’t show her charity, it’ll sound like a noisy, irritating gong. You have to choose to pour on the charity expecting nothing in return.”

Susan felt her brow furrow. She bit her lip until it hurt, trying to understand Mabel’s words. Mabel patiently sipped her tea and let the sounds of silence fill the room. Susan heard the wind howl and the clock tick, until the quiet comforted her. But she still had questions.

“So, it has nothing to do with her? I have to choose it, no matter what she says or does?”

Mabel smiled, patting Susan’s hand. “Exactly. But you can’t do it in your own strength. You have to let God fill you with charity and then you pour it out. Like this pitcher.” Mabel took the little, white creamer and demonstrated as she poured a little cream into her tea. “Just like that. You don’t make the cream. You just pour it out. You’re a vessel, girl.”

Susan G. Mathis is vice-president of Christian Authors Network. She’s a multi-published author of stories set in her childhood stomping ground, the beautiful Thousand Islands on the St. Lawrence River in upstate NY. Her newest novella, Christmas Charity, her first novel, The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, her Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, and her novellas will take you to a time and place few have gone. Susan is also author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale; two children’s picture books, seven stories in compilation books, and hundreds of articles. Visit her at www.SusanGMathis.com.

 

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When one of my publishers asked me to add a Thanksgiving book to my holiday board book series, it took a while for me to decide what to write. The story of the Pilgrims on the Mayflower would be too long to squeeze into twenty-four lines!

I considered what Thanksgiving means to young children and the answer was obvious. Young children celebrate Thanksgiving with family, and it’s a time to thank God for our blessings. The text became a simple prayer, thanking God for food, family, mountains, birds, bumblebees, and more.

Thanksgiving is a day to thank God for his provisions throughout the year. It’s a time to reflect on the past, present, and future with grateful hearts. Having a designated day to express our thanks to God is something to celebrate. But of course, we can remember to say thank you anytime we talk to God.

When we thank God for something specific, it allows us to give God credit for his activity in our everyday lives. Healing a grandchild’s illness, restoring a friend’s marriage, getting an opportunity we were hoping for—the list is endless. I’ve even thanked God for a good parking spot on a rainy afternoon! Being grateful not only honors God but also helps us focus on our blessings rather than our problems.

If God surprises you today with an unexpected blessing, or if you simply make it through another day, spend a moment with him and just say thank you.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever (1 Chronicles 16:34 ICB).

Crystal Bowman is an award winning, best-selling author of more than 100 books for children. She is a speaker and mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and teaches at writers’ conferences throughout the U.S. She is a monthly contributor to Clubhouse Jr. Magazine and writes lyrics for children’s piano music.

 

 

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Lord, today and every day,

spark my writing;

Make it electric.

Inject it with life,

and infuse it with flavor.

Make my thoughts clear,

my ideas sharp,

my words strong,

and their impact life-changing,

in Jesus’ name, amen.

Bob Hostetler is the author of fifty books, including The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional, and Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (coauthored with Josh McDowell). He has won two Gold Medallion Awards, four Ohio Associated Press awards, and an Amy Foundation Award. He is the founding pastor of Cobblestone Community Church in Oxford, Ohio. He and his wife Robin have two grown children, Aubrey and Aaron, and five grandchildren. You can find out more on his website: http://www.bobhostetler.com.

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Have you ever had a dream that just wouldn’t let you go … but it didn’t go anywhere, either?

I’m a freelance writer, and long seasons of waiting for dreams to become reality just come with the territory. But sometimes those waiting periods can feel like an eternity. Even if you’re not a writer, I’m guessing you can relate.

About twenty years ago, I had the idea of doing a devotional for people who love fiction. Since I’d been teaching at writers’ conferences for years, I’d connected with authors at all levels, including well-known best sellers. So there were a lot of people I could ask about submitting stories.

Since I’d been a professional freelance editor for several years, I could edit the submissions I chose without losing the authors’ voices. And I’d developed a strong social media presence, so I could get the word out to other writers who might want to be included in the compilation.

I started pitching the idea to the publishers I met at writers’ conferences. Some were excited about the idea, but the proposals never developed into a contract. In spite of numerous rejections, I knew God had a plan for this concept, so I kept pitching it—working on other books (and my editing business) in the meantime.

Finally, BroadStreet Publishing caught the vision I had—and offered me a four-book contract! They created these devotionals as beautiful hardcover gift books, with full-color interior pages, even ribbon page markers. They were so gorgeous, I was actually glad the other publishers turned me down!

I’m glad I didn’t give up on this dream. I know God made sure these books got published in just the right way and at just the right time … according to His plan. He is making sure they get into the hands of the people He had in mind when He called me to do this in the first place.

Have you harbored a dream in your heart for a long time? Have you begun to disparage of it ever becoming a reality? Don’t give up.

Trust God to come through—in His time and in His way.

Kathy Ide is the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and editor/compiler for the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. She is a professional freelance editor, director of the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference and the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and co-owner of the Christian Editor Network. You can read her blog on her website.

 

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Have you felt bogged down…stuck…frozen in a place you’d rather not be? What led you here? Who’s idea was it to follow this path? Was it your plan or did the Lord send you? Was it your dream or his?

When feeling stuck, those questions bring clarity.

If the Lord sent me—if this is a dream he put in my heart—then he’s with me in this place…and I can trust him to show me what’s next.

The life of Moses encourages me.

Remember the burning-bush encounter? God initiated that whole bringing-my-people-out-of-slavery-in-Egypt thing. That was an overwhelming assignment, especially considering Moses wasn’t the most popular man in Egypt. He’d fled for his life after impulsively murdering an Egyptian for mistreating a fellow Hebrew.

After hiding out forty years in the wilderness, Moses heard the Lord speak in a flaming bush, assigning him a huge mission: “…I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

Moses said, “Who am I, that I should go…?”

God said, “I will be with you.”

“What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” God gave him miraculous signs to convince the people.

Moses objected that he was “slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Moses ran out of excuses. “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Have you ever had that conversation? Lord, it’s too big! I’m inadequate. Send somebody else!

God allowed Moses’ brother Aaron to go with him and promised, “I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do.”

Take time to read the full account beginning in Exodus 3. Notice how God repeatedly assured Moses he wasn’t doing this on his own: say to the Israelites…go to Pharaoh and say to him…

Moses had one responsibility: to follow instruction. God told him what to say and what to do. Moses just obeyed, and God took care of everything else.

It was God’s idea!

Early on, Moses asked the Lord what to tell the Israelites if they asked who sent him. God told him to say, “I AM has sent me to you.” Simple meaning: I am everything you need.

When he sends us, we can go confidently because it’s his idea and he’s everything we need.

Decision is the cure for stuck. “I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only” (Psalm 71:16).

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s secretary of Christian Authors Network and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

 

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