This Christmas season, my wife and I went to the beach, a post-Christmas, Merry-Christmas-to-us present. We arrived on Friday afternoon and talked about what we could do and where we could go for our fortieth anniversary in 2021. We continued the discussion the next morning until we received a series of text messages. They came from our middle daughter, whose family was staying with us. A tree had fallen and wiped out our power line.

Pictures depicted how the line had bent the mast pole, yanked the lines out of the meter box, and fried the inside to the point the metal leads had burned all the way through and separated. I called our daughter, and she said somehow there was still partial power to the back of the house. I then instructed her on how to shut down the main breaker. And hurry!

We spent the majority of Saturday—from our hotel room—calling the power company, calling electricians, calling family members who could help get all the food out of our two fridges and find a home for the stuff, and make sure nothing else needed to be done (Hurricane prep in action!). Needless to say, it wasn’t how we planned our weekend, and it did put a damper on things.

However, we were thankful the house did not burn down. Had our daughter not been there, it probably would have.

Later that Saturday evening, feeling bummed, I watched the LSU/Oklahoma game from our hotel room. When I heard the heartbreaking news about Steve Ensminger’s daughter-in-law and the plane crash, I felt horrible for them and a little ashamed that I thought our circumstances were so bad.

God has a way of crashing your pity party and allowing life to reorient your perspective, doesn’t He (cf. Matt. 6:25-34)?

C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

Kevin Thompson is an ordained minister, and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge – A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, the first in a continuing series. His latest novel, The Letters, will be released Feb. 18, 2020.

Website:                                  www.ckevinthompson.com/

Kevin’s Writer’s Blog:            www.ckevinthompson.blogspot.com/

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It’s almost time for a New Year—and a new decade! How will your life be better in 2020 and beyond? What choices will you make to do things differently?

Most New Year’s resolutions come and go like snowflakes on hot sand. They don’t seem to last. Instead, why not take time to reflect on and reevaluate your life so you can make better choices next year? Here are some ideas to get started:

Reflect. Review the past year. What went right? What do you want to improve?

Pray. Take time to get away by yourself to think and pray for a bit. Ask God what is on His heart for this new year and the future. Take time to be still and listen. This will be foundational and time well spent for the months ahead.

Plan. Think about the various areas of your life. Jot some notes about what you’d really like to do in 2020. Even one or two things in each category can be a start. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Here are some ideas.

Spiritual Life – I want to find (or lead) a small group or Bible study. I want to pray bolder prayers.

Relationships – I want to spend more quality time with my close friends. I want to really listen to my spouse and kids.

Health and fitness – I want to walk every day for at least 15 minutes. I want to find recipes that are easy to make and healthy.

Emotional life – I want to be more joyful. I want to let go of the past. I want to live a life of gratitude.

Finances – I want to get out of debt. I want to start saving or saving more. I want to be a generous giver.

Writing life – I want to finish the book proposal and sample chapters I’ve been working on and submit them to my agent by March 1. I want to attend at least one writer’s conference.

Believe. Lastly, believe that things really can be better. That God has a good plan for your life, not just everyone else’s. He knows and loves you so, and wants His best for you.

My prayer is that 2020 will be a positively amazing year for you. Here’s to believing for the best!

Jackie M. Johnson

Jackie M. Johnson

Jackie M. Johnson an author, blogger and freelance writer who inspires readers worldwide to grow a better life with hope-filled, encouraging content. Her books include, Power Prayers for Women, the breakup recovery guide When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty, and Praying with Power When Life Gets Tough. Jackie blogs for singles at “Living Single” on Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk website and at the “Growing a Better Life” blog on her website, www.jackiejohnsoncreative.com. “Goals 2020” photo credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay. 

 

 

 

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In Sara’s Surprise, a Bûche de Noël cake became a special Yule Log wedding cake. For Sara, it was the perfect cake for her Christmas wedding. But where did the Yule Log tradition come from?

The custom of the Yule Log goes back to before medieval times. It was originally based on the Nordic tradition of Yule, a Winter Solstice festival. Burning the Yule Log was one of the most widespread Christmas traditions in early modern Europe, with the first recording of its appearance dating to 1184. For the Christian feast of Christmas, the Yule Log symbolizes the battle between good and evil. “As the fire grows brighter and burns hotter, and as the log turned into ashes, it symbolized Christ’s final and ultimate triumph over sin.”

The traditional Yule Log was originally an entire tree carefully chosen and brought into the house with great ceremony. The largest end of the log would be placed into the fire hearth while the rest of the tree stuck out into the room. The log would be lit from the remains of the previous year’s log that was carefully stored away. Then, the Yule Log was slowly burned throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas.

As Christianity spread through Europe, the Yule Log tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations of mead, oil, or salt. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from evil spirits. On Christmas morning something green, a leaf or the like, was brought into the house before anything was taken out. A piece of the Yule Log was then saved to light the next year’s log.

In Provence, France, the whole family helps to cut the log down and a little bit is burnt each night. In the Netherlands, the leftover log is stored under a bed. In some eastern European countries, the log was cut down on Christmas Eve morning and lit that evening.

The custom of the Yule Log spread all over Europe and different kinds of wood are used in different countries. In England, oak is traditional; in Scotland, birch; in France, cherry wood is sprinkled with wine before it’s burned so it smells nice.

In Devon and Somerset in the UK, some people use ash twigs instead of a log. This comes from a local legend that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were cold when the shepherds found them on Christmas Night. So the shepherds collected twigs to burn and keep them warm. In Ireland they use a large candle instead of a log that’s lit on New Year’s Eve and Twelfth Night.

In France, the Yule Log is bûche de noel where a custom required that peasants to bring a log to their lord. In Burgundy, gifts were hidden under the log. In Brittany and in Provence prayers were offered as the log was lit, a custom still widely observed called cacho fio (blessing of the log). The eldest male parades the log around the house three times. Then it’s blessed with wine and lit with the ashes of the previous year’s log.

Susan G. Mathis is vice president of Christian Authors Network and a multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Katelyn’s Choice, the first in The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, is available now, and book two, Devyn’s Dilemma, releases in April, 2020. Learn more about The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise at www.SusanGMathis.com. Susan is also author of two premarital books with her husband, Dale; two children’s picture books; stories in a dozen compilations; and hundreds of articles. Susan lives in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling globally and Skyping with her four granddaughters.

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“At that time the deaf will hear word-for-word what’s been written. After a lifetime in the dark, the blind will see” (Isaiah 29:18 The Message).

My husband Patrick has a little spot below his jaw line that he invariably misses when he shaves. Sometimes he misses it two or three shaves in a row, and then it isn’t just beard, now it looks like hair. That little patch of hair seems to hide in the shadows, difficult to detect, and then all of a sudden there it is.

I began thinking about those little spots in my life that hide in the shadows, difficult to discern, until they take over some area of my life, and I have to go in and hack them off.

Frustration, loss of peace, making excuses, defending myself, occasional slothfulness, tendency to gluttony. All of these are areas of my life usually under control, but they still show up occasionally. When I least expect them. When I’m least prepared for them.

I praise God for being willing to take me, unworthy as I am, and make me into His image. This week, as you seek God, ask Him to reveal those blind spots you may have in your life, and then to cause them to evaporate. Gone!  So that all that is left is Him reflected in you and your life and words and actions.

Leeann Betts

Missing Deposits cover

Leeann Betts writes contemporary romantic suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical romantic suspense. In the Money is the tenth title in her cozy mystery series, and together she and Donna have published more than thirty novellas and full-length novels. They ghostwrite, judge writing contests, edit, facilitate a critique group, and are members of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters in Crime, and Christian Authors Network. Leeann travels extensively to research her stories. Receive a free ebook by signing up for their quarterly newsletter at www.LeeannBetts.com.

Blog: www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com

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The Christmas season is upon us, and with it comes non-stop shopping, gift-giving, and entertaining. Not to mention baking, bow-making, and balancing the checkbook. No wonder it’s hard to find peace in the hustle and bustle of what should be one of our happiest times of the year.

Often, in the midst of our hurry, we forget to count our blessings. One of the best ways to do that is to look around us and find someone with a greater need. Most likely we won’t have to look too far. It’s not just the poor, but the poor in spirit, who need a reason to celebrate life. Or, at least, life in the moment. We can help give them that reason with the gift of our time.

Angel trees, red kettles, and food kitchens are great places to lend a hand. But we should also minister to the widower in the back pew, the single mom who lives around the corner, and the frazzled caregiver whose elderly parent is lost in dementia.

The holidays are particularly difficult for someone who is already lonely or grieving. A smile, a hug, or a plateful of homemade cookies can go a long way toward making their day. An offer to clean their windows, or an invitation to dinner—even if it’s just to the fast-food restaurant down the street—can go even further.

Take a look around you this Christmas and count those to whom you can be a blessing. It will help you count your own.

 

Kathy Harris

Kathy Harris

Kathy Harris is an author by way of a “divine detour” into the Nashville music business, where she has worked for thirty years as a marketing director. Her latest novel, Deadly Commitment, released on October 14. Read Kathy’s blog or follow her on Facebook,  Twitter, and/or Instagram.

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