Our annual church Christmas pageant gave me the impression the humble barn where Jesus was born was a quiet setting. The Nativity scene was the crowning moment of each extravaganza. Dressed in bed sheets and their fathers’ bathrobes, the children sang Silent Night.

Then I moved to the country, got a barn, and had my own birth in the stable.Kissing a Horse

Drought forced a farmer to sell a soft-eyed, pregnant mare.
 “She’s like Mary,” my teens implored. “She needs a place to have her baby.”

So this innkeeper found room in our stable. A baby monitor let us hear what happened in the barn at night. Birds in the rafters supplied a cacophony of twittering and mice scampered through hay. Once asleep, the horses passed gas so loud we thought the mare was giving birth, and dashed to the barn at 3:30 a.m.

Following weeks of false alarms, the baby was born on a night I was too sleep-deprived to tiptoe to the barn. What an exquisite wonder that morning to discover a newborn in the stable.

That’s why this year’s Christmas pageant is my favorite. “Let’s have live animals,” the music director crowed.

Opening night staging was elaborate. “Joy to the world,” the audience joined the choir as words appeared on the overhead. “Let men their sons employ.”

Choreographed to mask the noisy rearrangement of animals on stage, the pianist’s solo was a wasted effort. The keyboard was unplugged. From behind the curtains, the audience heard the trainer smooching at the donkey who was reluctant to come on stage and more reluctant to leave. The wise men bowed before the wailing Christ child. Mary and Joseph tried to look holy while goats nibbled their robes.

Suddenly, a runaway sheep dashed about the little town of Bethlehem. Engrossed by the drama, the drummer forgot to drum. The conductor looked up and paled as the speeding sheep fairly leapt into his arms.

By the second performance the “g” was added to sons, the keyboard found the plug, and fencing was added for the sheep. The rest of the pageants were without hitch, but my favorite was opening night. It seemed a better reenactment of what probably happened years ago in that starlit stable.

PeggySue Wells

PeggySue Wells

PeggySue Wells has two horses (because horses are like potato chips and your can’t have just one). She is the bestselling author of 28 books including Homeless for the Holidays, and Chasing Sunrise. Connect with PeggySue and find her books at www.PeggySueWells.com.

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While simplifying your holiday season, take time for relationships to thrive, not just survive the holidays.  Keep those relationships balanced with your holiday planning. People ARE more important than things at this time of year.  Here are some relationship principles using one of the familiar words of the holiday as an easy to apply acrostic:

 

  1. C enter your heart on the true, deeper meaning of the holiday season (Thanksgiving through New Year’s.) This will help everyone become easier to get along with because the heart of the holiday will remain intact.
  2. H ear what your friends and family are voicing as their stress, and listen carefully to them—a gift that will lower their stress.
  3. R each out as a family to help others in order to keep the proper perspective on what is really important in life.
  4. I nvest in memories, not material goods. Make time for family baking, tree decorating, or board games.
  5. S peak your love in words. The best gift you can give is for a person to hear their value and worth from your lips.
  6. T ake time for romance. The greatest gift you can give your spouse, children, and friends is a happy home.
  7. M ake time to reach out to extended family. Visit or call grandparents, aunts, and uncles. If possible, use modern technology like a Webcam to connect.
  8. A ssume nothing; ask those who are celebrating with you what their expectations are, and communicate the plan clearly so people feel informed.
  9. S tay flexible. Don’t be a Christmas Scrooge, ordering family around. Instead slow the pace, gather consensus, and give options so that you create an environment of connecting and sharing.
  10. ! Exclaim your joy with music, memories and by making the most of all your relationships!

 

Pam and Bill Farrel are relationship specialists, international speakers, and authors of more than forty-five books, including best-selling  Men Are like Waffles, Women Are like Spaghetti.

Visit www.Love-wise.com

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“…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10 NIV).

I can’t imagine losing one of my children. A friend recently lost her adult child and to see her grieve ripped my heart out of my chest.

Christmas should be a time of joy. After all, God sent His son that He might save us, and for the most part the season is joyful. Still, when I turn my Christmas tree on at night, and listen to the sweet sound of the nativity music box play Silent Night, I find my heart ripping in two.

The birth of Christ changed the world and eternity as we know it. God gave of Himself, the ultimate Lamb – a living, breathing child. So many lives were impacted by this birth. Joseph’s life was turned upside down. His bride- to-be carrying what the world called “illegitimate,” but what the angel called a miracle. And Mary, a child herself, chosen to bear the Son of Man.

Though His birth was nothing short of miraculous, His death tore a hole in the world. Mary sat at the feet of her dying son as the blood puddled around her knees and God Himself, looked away, heartbroken. All this…to show His love. To save us.

Christmas is a joyful time for family and friends, but for me, it’s also heart wrenching. I am grateful for the “gift that keeps on giving.” Just knowing the magnitude of the sacrifice humbles me every time I think of it. A child was born to carry the weight of the world. And though we know the end of the story, it didn’t change the loss of a child.

As Christmas nears, reflect on the child who gave His all that we might have life to the full.

Cindy Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is managing editor for Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, as well as executive editor for www.christiandevotions.us and www.inspireafire.com. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.

 

 

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Speaker, Pam Farrel, author of 45 books

I often give Christmas messages for women’s ministries, and one is entitled “Christmas Joy”. Joy is the beautiful result of Christ coming at Christmas.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luke 2:10)

In my book, LOL with God,  (co-authored Dawn Wilson) we chronicle just a few of the over 350 verses that speak to joy:

  • 1 Chronicles 16:27“Strength and joy [are] in his dwelling place.” (Dwell with God and find joy!)
  • Job 33:26“He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy.” (Pray, and joy will be reignited.)
  • Psalm 5:11“Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.” (Hide your heart in God, and joy will erupt in song.)
  • Psalm 35:27“May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, ‘The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.’” (Rejoice in God’s righteousness, and justice and joy will return.)
  • Psalm 71:23“My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I, whom you have redeemed.” (Worship God for his redeem­ing love, and joy will naturally evolve.)
  • Psalm 92:4“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.” (Review the goodness of God, and joy will fill your mind and roll off your lips.)
  • Psalm 118:15—“Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!’” (Review God’s victories, and joy will accompany the rerun of love.)
  • Psalm 145:7“They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” (Throw a party to celebrate God’s provision, and joy will be the centerpiece of your life.)
  • Proverbs 21:15“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righ­teous.” (Do the right thing, and joy will stick.)
  • Jeremiah 15:16“When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight.” (Get into God’s Word—joy is there!)

Which one of these pathways to joy can you take this holiday to hold on to joy?

Discovering Joy In Philippians

(Coming in May: Discovering Joy in Philippians: A Creative Bible Devotional Experience – by Pam Farrel, Jean E Jones, Karla Dornacher from Harvest House Publishers )

Pam Farrel, international speaker, author of 45+ books, Co- Director of Love-Wise. Join the #LivingLoveWise community

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CHRISTMAS!  The word evokes many feelings, depending on our experiences. For some, Christmas is a happy time, filled with beautiful memories and joyful expectations. For others, Christmas is a depressing time, a season one wants “to get over with” as quickly as possible because of bad memories associated with this time of year.

Having ministered to people for many years, I have come to the conclusion that depressing memories at Christmas time are most often related to problems of unforgiveness. Hurts from the past become more pronounced during the Christmas season, but the reason those hurts still affect us is that we have not let go of the bitterness associated with them. In short, we have not forgiven the people who have hurt us.

Why do most people have such a difficult time forgiving? I believe the main reason is that they do not understand what forgiveness really means. If you are one of those people, what follows may help you:

LET’S LOOK AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT:

  • Forgiveness is NOT letting someone off the hook.
  • Forgiveness is NOT condoning evil.
  • Forgiven is NOT being a doormat.
  • Forgiveness is NOT having to trust again the person who hurt you.
  • Forgiveness is NOT a feeling.
  • Forgiveness is NOT an option.

NOW LET’S LOOK AT WHAT FORGIVENESS IS:

  • Forgiveness IS taking the person who hurt you off of your hook and placing him on God’s hook, then praying that God will have mercy on him.
  • Forgiveness IS acknowledging that evil was done but choosing to bear the consequences of that evil without retaliation.
  • Forgiveness IS taking charge of your emotions.
  • Forgiveness IS setting boundaries with the person who hurt you, even refusing temporary or permanent interaction with that person, if necessary. An example would be a wife who is being beaten by her husband.
  • Forgiveness IS a decision.
  • Forgiveness IS obedience to God’s commandment to forgive.

No matter how badly you have been hurt, choose to forgive. It’s the best thing you can do for your own well-being. Unforgiveness chains you emotionally to the person who hurt you. Forgiveness breaks that chain and sets you free.

What better time is there than the Christmas season to forgive those who have hurt us? The very essence of Christmas is the truth that God forgave humanity through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Who are we not to forgive when God has forgiven us?

So this Christmas, forgive! But don’t just forgive. Ask to be forgiven. As the Word of God tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All of us need not only to forgive but also to be forgiven.  And as long as we are on this earth, it is never too late to forgive or to be forgiven.

For a heartwarming, compelling story on the power of forgiveness, you may wish to read my new novella entitled A Christmas Homecoming.  It is available in electronic format for your Kindle, Nook, or iPad.  To view the beautiful book trailer of A Christmas Homecoming, click hereLast, but not least, may you forge happy memories this Christmas season as the power of forgiveness sets you free!

Reprinted by permission of Dr. MaryAnn Diorio.

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio

The Italian Chronicles cover

The Italian Chronicles

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is a widely published, award-winning author of compelling fiction that deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. Her latest work of fiction is a trilogy set in 19th-century Sicily and titled The Italian Chronicles. MaryAnn and her husband Dom reside in New Jersey. They are the blessed parents of two adult daughters and the grandparents of six rambunctious grandchildren. In her spare time, MaryAnn loves to paint in acrylics and oils.

 

 

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