Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Young Shepherd's Story

A Young Shepherd's Story
fictionalized by Anita Mae Draper

On a hill not far from Bethlehem, fifteen-year-old Nathaniel knelt beside Nimbles, his favorite ewe and calmed her with his whispers. The sheep were restless, more so than usual. Sounds carried far in the still night and it had been hours since he heard the wolves howling in the wilderness miles away.

With ten years of experience, Nathaniel knew not to trust the silence. On a night such as this as an eight year old boy, he’d had his first run-in with a wild animal. He’d awoken to the sound of a bleating lamb and had rushed over to see a huge black shadow swing it’s massive paw and bat the lamb away like a fly. The shaken lamb stood by the side, quivering while its mother took a couple steps and stumbled. The bear had stripped four slices of flesh from her side and the sight had made Nathaniel tremble with rage. Sling-shot in hand, the young shepherd had reached in his pouch and snapped pebble after pebble at the huge beast, hitting its eyes, nose and even its teeth before it finally turned and bounded away, braying its displeasure. Nathaniel still remembered the rush of pride when Josiah and the other shepherds slapped him on his back and said he’d been of great service. It sure offset the sadness he had felt at losing the ewe.

Over the years, Nathaniel had faced many beasts including lions, wolves, jackals and hyenas when the beasts came up out of the Jordan River gorge looking for a fresh food source. He knew he shouldn’t gloat about his successes at defending the flock but it was hard to be humble when God had blessed him with the most accurate shot of all the shepherds.

Nathaniel looked up at the heavens and marveled at the brilliant light hanging like a beacon in the eastern sky. Unlike other stars, this one grew in radiance, even outshining the moon. Nathaniel looked over his shoulder to check Josiah’s reaction but the older shepherd just leaned on his staff and stared. When Nathaniel looked back at the star, he saw it shooting a gleam of light right into the town below. He’d never seen such a sight yet he knew from stories passed down through the generations that God had appeared in different forms to convey a message to His people. Nathaniel felt his chest expand at the thought he would be the receptor of such a message. Surely it proved God, too had heard of his bravery. And so he stood, feet planted in a wide stance, sling shot tucked in his belt, hands hung at his sides, waiting. Within minutes, a man garbed in white appeared before them, his robes flowing from an unseen wind. Nathaniel knew without doubt this man was the angel of his forefathers. Yet even as he straightened to his full height with his chin jutting out, his insides twisted as if the hand of God Himself was wringing the sin right out of his body.

And then the angel said, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Nathaniel cocked his ear toward the angel. Surely he had missed something. Instead of giving him instructions, the angel only spoke of a babe’s birth. But before he could raise a question, the heavens erupted in a dazzling light and a whole choir of angels appeared singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

On and on they sang, their perfect voices building with such magnificence and timber they covered Nathaniel in awe and set his knees trembling. The power behind the spectacle seeped into him and he knew one whisper from the Almighty could blow him over like a grain of sand. And then the words of the choral jubilation sunk in and the young shepherd understood the proclamation. The Messiah had come at last! The beautiful star pointed the way to the place where God’s own son awaited them. It was true. It was true! Nathaniel had been chosen to serve God’s son.

In a heady daze, Nathaniel heard Josiah say, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

Nathaniel took a step down the hill then stopped and looked back at his flock. He had never left his sheep unattended and yet, as he watched the others rush down the hill, Nathaniel knew on this special night, God would not let any harm come to them.

The shepherds raced, stumbling and jostling down the stony hill, through the narrow streets and around the public wells until they stopped before a stable. With shoulders shrugging and questions on their lips, they stood confounded until finally Nathaniel with his youthful curiosity stepped inside the tiny building and stared in awe at the light which drove right through the roof and shone down upon a babe in the manger. Barely clothed, the infant lay asleep with his mother resting nearby whilst his father stood guard. Here in this dirty, shelter amidst the animals, hay and manure the angel’s song rang strong in Nathaniel’s ears. This was God’s son. Nathaniel didn’t understand how a tiny human could be God’s own son, but in his heart, he just knew it was so. This was the task set forth for him. He was the one chosen to spread the news. The Messiah had been born!
When I started writing about the young shepherd, I only wanted to portray the fear he felt as he faced the multitude on the hills however the more I wrote, the more Nathaniel's personality came out until I ended up with a proud young shepherd who realizes the Messiah is coming from the most humbling of beginnings.

Serious Question: How often do you start out on a course of your own choosing only to find God has led you down a different path?

Fun Question: Did you get what you wanted for Christmas?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Overcoming Fear in a Fear-Okay World

by Gina Welborn

In the last eight years, since moving to Virginia, we've taken family vacations each summer. Virginia Beach. Kill Devil Hills, NC. Myrtle Beach, SC. Pigeon Forge, TN. DisneyWorld, FL. This past year's vacation was to Souix Falls, SD by way of LeRoy, Illinois, where we visited hubby's cousin and family. For the sake of brevity, I'll sum of the trip by describing the states: Virginia--beautiful, West Virginia--mountainy with practically no bathroom rest stops, Ohio--corn fields, Indiana--corn fields, Illinois--corn fields with an occastional windmill farm, Iowa--corn fields, Minnesota--corn fields, and South Dakota--corn fields, pig farms, and one wheat field that we might have imagined because we were sick of corn fields.

Cousin Mike's house was the halfway point between home and my grandma's house in South Dokata. While I do enjoy staying in hotels, staying with family makes for a fun time. (A loud time, too!)

Three summers ago, a family from church loaned us the use of their beach house located where the Rappahannock River dumps into the Chesapeake Bay. I was three/four months pregnant with chiltlin #5 at the time. Let's see. Four bathrooms, six bedrooms, and thirteen people related by marriage or blood. Sounds like a fun time.

One afternoon hubby, me, our two boys, and hubby's dad (FIL) decided to go riding explore the river on our Sea Doos (personal watercraft). Oldest son (12) rode with me. Younger son (6) rode with my FIL. Hubby knew I don't like riding in rough water so we took a tributary of the Rappahannock. After a bit, hubby told me to take the lead because the Sea Doo I was riding had a depth sensor.

I freely admit I'm fine with not having depth sensor reading skills.

Anyhoo, the sensor showed three/four feet so I knew I was okay, but the water around me looked like an oil spill, I slowed a bit and looked around. Something wasn't right. Since hubby was waving frantically like he wanted me to stop, I did. Apparently his "get out of there" sign is the same as my "stop" sign. Whoops!

Oil sludge? Nope.


Ever heard a pastor quote a scriptures about the mirey pit? Well, I have, although I never really understood what a mirey pit was/is. What we were in was...well imagine a bucket of water with the bottom half mud sludge, the top half muddy water.

Needless to say, once I retarted the engine, I couldn't go anywhere. We were stuck. So was my father-in-law. Hubby who wasn't stuck tried throwing us a rope. Sadly, not long enough. Ended up hubby said we were gonna have to walk the Sea Doos out. Uggh.

I tried sticking my feet in the mire. Totally freaked out. If anywhere is the best place to have a panic attack, this was it. No matter how many times I said to myself, "you can do this, Gina," I couldn't do it. Prayer did not help. At least I didn't feel it helping, but pain medication doesn't always feel like it's working until we no longer feel the pain.

Oldest son Matt told me to stay put. He'd gone with his sixth-grade class that past spring to a marsh land south-east of Richmond near the James River, which made him an "expert" on mire. He walked about 20-30 feet through the sludge to my FIL, who was unable to walk in the icky stuff. Then Matt and his younger brother, Jadan, pushed my FIL and his Sea Doo far enough for them to reach the rope so hubby could pull them out. Then Matt walked back to me. He insisted I could stay on the Sea Doo and he'd push me out.

Well, despite my utter fear and my understanding the my little boy wanted to be my rescuer, I knew I had to get off the boat. Only not one itty bitty part of me wanted to get off.

I was fear's willing captive.

Still, I backed of the back of the Sea Doo and slid down. My feet sank until I had sludge up to my thighs and muddy water up to my chest. While tears poured down my face, while I repeatedly prayed "Oh, God, help me," and while Matt kept telling me how proud he was of me for getting off the Sea Doo, I trudged through the mire until we reached (mostly) clear waters. Matt told me to climb back on (and I did) while he pushed/swam me and the boat out to deeper water. My hands shook. My heart raced. My eyes woundn't quit watering, although I'm sure that was because it was so sunny.

Once we reached hubby in the mire-free zone, Matt told me snakes live in murky depths. I laughed hysterically...and then threw up. I could have been eaten by a snake. Uggh. Certainly not one of my top ten ways to die.

Looking back, I see that day as the moment in life where I started my journey of learning to stop letting fears rule me. (More on my fear confrontation in February during our Sing a Song theme.)

So why did I choose to slide off the boat into the mire when I didn't have to I need to. For me. For my boys because I know I set the example for what they're gonna look for in a wife. I want to be a godly woman of character, of courage, of convictions. I want to be strong enough to go on an adventure with my boys yet honest enough to cry in front of them and tell them I'm scared. And I most certainly was scared.

Yes, I still feel rather stupid for leading us into the mire, for not recognizing what mire was, and even for stopping. (Although I did later recommend to hubby that he work on his hand signals.)

As we approach the beginning of a new year, let's all take inventory of our lives. What fears hold you back? What fear holds you in bondage? More so, why do you choose to stay in bondage to your fears, worries, "what ifs" when you know what a lack of peace you have?

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. ~2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

In scripture when an angel of the Lord appears, he tells the person(s) he's visiting to "Fear not." Sure that's probably because angels are pretty visually intimidating. No cherubs are they. I like how D'ann so excellently introduced this theme by mentioning the rest of the story, rest of the angel's message beyond the "Fear Not," but I can't help but focus on the middle of the message.

Fear not FOR BEHOLD I bring you good tidings of great joy.

Why "for behold"? My translation of the middle part of the angel's message is "Hey, stop focusing on what it is that you fear because when you do, you're too busy to hear what I have to say next. God is at work, in you, in the world around, in your circumstances. He has a purpose and a plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. How can you have any hope when you're focusing on what you don't know, don't see, don't know how to solve? Listen. Yes, listen to the message God sent me to tell you, but listen also for God's voice."

If an angel were standing before you and said, "Fear not for behold ____________," what would he finish the sentence with? Or answer it this way:

*I can only fear not and behold what God has for me IF I __________.

*I will only be able to fear not and behold who I can become WHEN I __________.

*I need to fear not and behold how much BIGGER GOD IS THAN __________.

*I must fear not and behold that I CAN TRUST GOD TO ____________.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fear Not!

by D'Ann Mateer

I once wrote a whole novel about fear. In first person. Does that tell you anything about me? Throughout the book I referred to the voice of fear in the main character’s head as everything from an annoying yap to a ferocious, Doberman-like bark. Because that’s how fear had been for me—an ever-present noise in my head.

Fear not, for behold.

Though we proclaim Christmas to be about peace, the holidays often bring out our fear. When the angels spoke those words to the shepherds on that dark and lonely hillside. Whether they were prone to fear or not, the appearance of the heavenly beings in their splendor must have made even the bravest shake. But for those, like me, who lived with fear on a daily basis, the words “fear not” probably didn’t even penetrate to their understanding. For you see, a person living in fear can’t just “fear not.” There has to be something to replace the fear, something stronger than the fear itself.

I bring you tidings of great joy.

Several years ago, Beth Moore wrote a Bible study called Breaking Free. In one of the videos she asked the question I will never forget: Do you really believe God? Not did I believe in God. I knew the answer to that one. But did I believe God’s words were true—about me, for me. I went home that day and wrestled on my knees. Because believing God meant letting that belief replace all my fears. And while my fear wasn’t always comfortable, it was familiar. But that day I had to decide which voice would live in my head—faith or fear. In the end, I chose faith.

Which shall be for all people.

Do you struggle with fear? The good news is that the Truth is stronger than fear. The Truth sets us free while fear holds us bound. And I’m a walking testimony that the freedom from fear offered to us in the person of Christ is available to everyone.

The Lord has put all of us here to help each other walk the journey of life, to help each other grow to maturity in Christ, to give and receive comfort from each other. So can you share with us? What fear do you need deliverance from? What fear has the Lord delivered you from?

Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. (Luke 2:10)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas! Now Comes the Tricky Part...

from Susanne Dietze

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
Romans 8:22-25.

Advent CandlesImage by zizzybaloobah via Flickr
Merry Christmas! Yes, I do own a calendar and I know what day it is, but in my liturgical parish, we’re still celebrating Christmas today. In fact, we keep on celebrating right until Epiphany on January 6 (that makes today Day 3 of the Twelve Days of Christmas. You know -- just like the song, minus the milkmaids, musicians, and various fowl, of course!). Therefore today, all of the fragrant greenery remains in place in the sanctuary; the Nativity scene is fully stocked with angels, animals, shepherds and the Holy Family; and the advent wreath hangs in its prominent place, with the large white Christ Candle lit in its center (the four advent candles in purple and pink are lit, too.). This morning, we’ll be belting out “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Joy To The World” just as loudly and joyfully as we did during Thursday night’s and Friday’s Christmas services.

Christmas Day may be officially over, but I’m sure that no matter what our church backgrounds, most of us still have our decorations up at home – some of us until New Year’s Day, perhaps (my hand is raised!). Christmas is fun, and many of us yearn to make it stretch as long as we can. We don't want Christmas to end.

I imagine that Mary, the mother of our Lord, might not agree. She was probably glad to have Christmas over with. Like any expectant mother, she’d probably yearned to see the face of her precious baby – her son and her Lord. My favorite Christmas hymn, “Of The Father’s Love Begotten,” describes it like this:
bundled.Image by capturedbychelsea via Flickr

O the birth forever blessed, when the Virgin full of grace,
by the Holy Ghost conceiving, bore the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer, first revealed His sacred face,
ever more and ever more!
His face, His sacred, glorious face, must have looked so sweet to Mary after nine long months of waiting…and who-knows-how-many-hours of labor endured in a stable.

The labor which brought forth Jesus ended, of course, but the passage from Romans tells us that the world is still “groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." The world is aching for redemption, for things to be made right and for all of creation to know God’s love and transforming power. Every person who doesn’t know Jesus as Lord is lacking the most important gift they can ever know, the most life-changing relationship they’ll ever have. And the fall-out from living in a world infected by sin is obvious: millions of the world’s children go hungry, lack medicine or clean water, and human beings suffer under horrible conditions in every country on earth, including our own.

We may not live in neighborhoods rife with malaria, diphtheria, or crime, but our neighborhoods, and our neighbors, are fallen nonetheless.

In light of this need for redemption, CS Lewis reminds us of our responsibility. Each person we meet is an immortal being, headed toward one of two destinations. Heaven or hell, one or the other.

Are we treating each other like immortal beings? Are we helping lead others heavenward by our acts, prayers, and words, or are we standing idly by while they perish? Because of Christmas, we as Christians have faith, “for in this hope we are saved.” But how many people in our lives (our co-workers, neighbors, or families, no matter how much we like them or we can’t stand them) are hopeless?

One of the truths of Christmas is that Jesus came to give hope to the world. To save the world.

As joyful as Christmas is, it is also a painful reminder of how much we need a savior, how broken we are as sinners, and how loving and giving God is to send His son to dwell among us. The world He came to save and redeem is broken, and needs the healing help only Jesus can provide.

Astonishingly, He’s called us to be part of that task, to be on His team. He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Paul reminds us to “hope for what we do not yet have”… the Gospel message to be spread to every heart, God’s love to be presented to all.

So as you pack up your Christmas decorations this week, don’t pack away the best thing about the holidays: the love Jesus has shown you in coming to dwell among us, to save us and redeem us. My goal is to cling tight to that hope, and then go and share it with those immortal beings I meet who are heading toward one of two destinations. I hope you’ll cling to it, too.

The work of Christmas is begun!
Speaking of packing up ornaments... Do you have a favorite ornament, something you treasure from year to year? Where did you get it? What's it like?
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Some Parting Words for 2009

Wow, where did that year go?
As we bid a fond farewell to 2009
we know good things are ahead...
Join us next week
for more fun!

Putting an Ink on Scripture

Monday - Friday
Monday - D'Ann
Tuesday - Gina
Wednesday - Anita Mae
Thursday - Jill
Friday - Debra

An Inkalicious Review
Debra (because she's good enough
to hear from twice in a row!)

Hope to see you all around the Inkwell!

Book Review: A Forever Christmas

A Forever Christmas by Missy Tippens (Steeple Hill Love Inspired) Nov 09

Reviewed by Anita Mae Draper

This is Missy's 2nd book set in Magnolia, Georgia with their commonality of The Forever Tree. I find this concept fascinating. In each of Missy’s books, the couples who hold hands around the Forever Tree as youngsters find themselves drawn together as adults and the local myth is proved true. At least it did in the last book.

In A Forever Christmas, Sarah Radcliffe returns home for the Christmas holidays earlier than normal because of a tragedy. Disillusioned and angry with God, she’s hoping to find peace and renew her spirit but instead she’s thrown into community service when her friend’s advancing pregnancy means they need a director for the local church pageant. Sarah accepts the task when it becomes clear there’s no one else to take the job. After all, she has time on her hands and as a kindergarten teacher used to handling young children, there’s no real reason for her to refuse.

That is until she interacts with two endearing boys and discovers they belong to Gregory Jones. Every other time Sarah’s come home, she’s managed to avoid Gregory, the young man she held hands with around the Forever Tree. Sarah may still be single but it doesn’t mean she wants to renew a relationship with the man who betrayed her in high school.

Gregory can’t believe the new pageant director is Sarah Radcliffe who apparently still has the power to render him speechless. As a young man from the other side of the tracks, Gregory had been awed by Sarah’s status and the mansion she lived in. At the first sign of adversity, it hadn’t taken much to break the fragile thread holding them together.

Now, over ten years later, Gregory is a divorced father with two small sons who depend on him. Already deserted by their biological mother, the marriage and subsequent move of Gregory’s sister away from the boys have put them in a state of depression. Gregory feels the answer to their happiness lies under the Christmas tree and is working extra hours to provide material gifts for them.

Because of the recent loss of one of her own small students, Sarah knows Gregory will regret not spending quality time with his boys if anything should happen to them. She’s determined to make workaholic Gregory see what he’s missing even if it means spending more time with him herself.

What Sarah doesn’t realize is that maybe her parents had something to do with Gregory’s betrayal way back when and if she finds herself falling for him again, the old circumstances may still be in effect.

I cried several times while reading this book. From the sorrow of her lost student to the desertion of the boys’ mother, Missy went deep into the emotions of her characters and made me feel what they were feeling. Seeing how easy it was for Sarah to allow the actions of her parents to screw up her life made me realize how easily it could have happened to me. Not that my parents were well off, but they certainly didn’t agree with my choice of a life mate.

I believe this is Missy’s best book so far. When I closed the back cover, I was satisfied at having been part of an inspiring story. Missy doesn’t designate A Forever Christmas as part of a series and I don’t know if there will be any further Forever Tree stories, but no matter what she writes, I’ll be standing in line to buy it.

Here are Missy’s books which use The Forever Tree:

Jun 09 – His Forever Love
Nov 09 – A Forever Christmas

You can find out more about Missy’s books at

Up here in Canada, it's Boxing day today which equates to big shopping sales. But I think I'll huddle in my prairie home and spend some time with my children.

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? Care to share?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Let's Keep the Christ out of Xmas.

by Wenda Dottridge

There is irony in my drawing Christmas Day in the blog schedule. You see, I'm not much of a Christmas person. I even flinch as I confess this, because being anti-Christmas is like being, I don't know, anti-Mom or anti-chocolate or something. Look at our anti-Christmas headliners: Scrooge and Grinch. We all know they hate Christmas because they are ba-a-a-a-d people - er - or green (uh) ish Suesslings. But here's the thing. The rest of the year I don't live like a hermit in a cave and abuse my one and only pet. I don't turn my back on love in favour of money or work my staff to the utter bone while I hoard my cash. (Much) (Kidding, really.)

No, my less than excited attitude to the Christmas season is more tied up in all the stress it seems to bring. Year after year.

In the past week I've had dozens of conversations that go like this:

"So, have you done your Christmas shopping yet?"
"No. Between music concerts and basketball tournaments and swim meets we haven't managed to get there yet?"
"Have you? Done your shopping?"
Heavy sigh. "I'm trying. Only fifteen more gifts to go and stocking stuffers to buy. Merry Christmas."
"You too. Merry Christmas."

Or there's the so-are-you-going-anywhere-for-Christmas-conversation that usually involves more sighs over extended family visits and quips about in-laws. 'Nuff said. That's a whole topic in itself.

Added to an already packed family schedule comes the frenetic year-end activities in which every club, group, workplace, church, or school feels obligated to host an event, several with additional planning meetings, home-baked donations, or rehearsals.
Then there's the shopping for gifts which always cost more than has been hoarded (or NOT) all year. Plus gift wrapping, the tree, outside lights (the one part of Christmas I LOVE because in our dark winters it adds some joy to the landscape), the baking (or NOT), the housecleaning in preparation for houseguests/parties (or NOT). Whew. I'm tired just writing about it.

Is it any wonder depression spikes at Christmas. Family crisis centres are inundated. Suicide rates go up. What has all this got to do with celebrating Christ's birth?

The simple answer is nothing.

All the trappings, all the gift giving, lights, trees, turkey aren't Christian in origin and have little or nothing to do with our faith. They are a cultural celebration adopted from our pagan European cultural roots as part of  annual winter solstice celebrations. Santa Claus is a corruption of an actual Christian saint who gave charitably to the poor, his modern incarnation a marketing tactic brought to us by the Coca-Cola company.
And speaking of marketing, our minds are bombarded with advertisements and secular or Christian entertainments promoting the Spirit of Christmas and other sweet, saccarine, or heart-tuggy (remember, it's almost Christmas, and I'm too busy with Christmassy things to come up with a real word) messages.

And so because of all of the above and more, people of faith have launched various campaigns to reclaim Christmas from the secular, humanistic, greed-fest it has become. There is a popular you-tube video by a Christian band protesting the generic "Happy Holidays" message by insisting it's "Merry Christmas." Or a popular slogan splashed on church signs and gracing car bumpers reads "Keep the Christ in Christmas."

That's fine. Really. For them. For me, I'm content to leave Christ out of what we call Christmas.

But what about celebrating the birth of Christ, our Lord and Savior, you ask.
Well, believe it or not (you will, because we've already established my anti-Christmas tendencies are unnatural) I have an axe to grind with what I jokingly refer to as the cult of Baby Jesus. Nobody says it better than Ricky Bobby in Tallegeda Nights. I say this with a discalimer. I couldn't finish the movie, but did happen to catch the snippet where Ricky Bobby is with his family at the table and bows his head to pray. He starts, "Dear Baby Jesus." An arguement with his wife ensues over his praying to Baby Jesus in which he asserts that he likes his Jesus soft and cuddly and sweet. He resumes his prayer with something like this: "Dear sweet little eight-and-a-half pound Baby Jesus...."

And I laughed and laughed. Because that is how most of us like our Jesus. As a helpless babe. What better way to round out the gathering of friends and family around a Christmas tree than the story of Jesus' birth? The hostile innkeeper, the inhospitable surroundings, and then a sweet baby to gather around and worship.

One secular author I read writes the most fabulous Christmas stories. She often places a child at the centre to bring the adult characters together. Her interpretation of the Christmas message is that a child's innocence redeems us.

And yet our redemption was not won by the Christ child. The miracle of the birth of Christ relayed in the events of Luke 2 is the fulfillment of prophecy in which God becomes incarnate. The miracle is that God, immutable creator, became human in the flesh, in all our frailty and brokenness. He came not as a king, but in the humblest of circumstances. For that we gather to celebrate the Christ mass. For that we worship God, and yes, we worship him in the form of the infant Jesus. Wholly God. Wholly human. A miracle!

But if we leave him in the manger, as so many of us do when the wrapping paper and gift packaging is landfill and the leftovers are finished, we miss the greater miracle. We miss the message of Christ's life. The temptation faced in the wilderness. The bonds of love with his disciples and followers. The power of his miracles. The challenge of the Beattitudes. The lessons in his parables. The confrontation of the religious people who placed law before love. The acceptance of the dirty, sinful, and fallen. The prayers in Gethsemane. The obediance unto death. The resurrection and ascencion.

If we worship him only as the child, we embrace a faith in which nothing more is required of Jesus than his unsullied innocence, and worse, nothing more is required of us.

On Easter morning we greet each other with, "He is risen!" And reply, "He is risen, indeed!" This Christmas morning as you enjoy the company of your loved ones and all the trappings of Christmas that are still pretty wonderful when all is said and done, I encourage you to add a footnote to your Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas Two Weeks Before Christmas - A Poem

A Poetic Offering from Jen AlLee

I love Christmas. I love the spiritual aspect of Christ entering the world as a baby. And I love all the fun, frivolous stuff, too.

Every year, I write a Christmas newsletter. When the spirit moves me, I try to include a poem. Here's one I wrote in 1994. We were still living in Southern California and my son was just over a year old. One of our favorite things to do was head to the mall, eat at the food court, and then wander around. But this particular evening was unlike any before or since.

'Twas Two Weeks Before Christmas
by Jennifer AlLee

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas
and as I recall,
our family decided
to go to the mall.

We put on our sweatshirts
and bundled up Billy.
In our Honda we drove
to the mall willy-nilly.

We ate a good dinner
and then walked around.
When we grew tired,
we were then exit-bound.

But to our amazement,
our shock and dismay,
we found big metal doors
were blocking our way!

And then, from the depths
of the mall came a booming,
a rumbling bass of a voice
that was calling.

We looked over the railing
to the bottom floor
to try and discover
what the commotion was for.

And what did our
wondering eyes then see,
but Santa Claus
declaring an emergency!

“Move to the northern exits,”
he called.
“There’s been a bomb threat,
get out of the mall!”

We turned on our heels
and made our way out
while Santa continued
to gesture and shout.

We jumped in our car
and drove away quickly,
with thoughts of explosions
making us feel slightly sickly.

I’m happy to say
it was all just a prank,
a threat made by someone
dumber than an all-beef frank.

So when you’re in the mall
this holiday season,
if Santa starts shouting
he might have a good reason.

A merry Christmas to all our readers and your families. May your holiday be blessed, joyous, and bomb-scare free!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Different Sort of Christmas Story

by Dina Sleiman

As we passed through the walls of Bethlehem, I felt the first tightening tug at the base of my belly, ripping me apart. I was too tired to gripe at Joseph about his poor planning, so he dragged me around town, until finally I lay in that prickly hay-pile in the stall next to an old spotted brown and white cow.

By then the pain was shocking, starting with that sharp piercing claw beneath the weight of the baby and radiating out in heated waves, circling my body, pressing my spine, struggling to break it in two. During those short pauses I tried to breathe steadily, to save up some air, and to swallow back my fear, wishing I had known, that I knew now…wishing my mom…

I stared into Joseph’s eyes looking for sympathy he couldn’t possibly feel, and then past to my only other comfort on this chilly, pain-wracked night. Could a “father” possibly understand? As I gazed beyond the braying donkeys and dusty sheep to the deep blue sky with that strange blaring star, I sensed maybe He did know something…about birth…and then the next sharp crest of agony hit.

There were no breaks now. They crashed one after another, until I felt the shock of virgin flesh opening…the tear…the press of a soft skull against my skin. Stretching, burning, and finally…a release. I heard a soft cry as air hit his lungs for the first time. I giggled through the haze of pain and joy. Joseph told me to push again.

As the squirmy body slid out of mine, as our flesh parted, I reached between my legs, scooped him to me, pulling up my robe, laying him against my damp chest, wanting him to know that this was life, not merely fetal death.

So this wrinkly, pink person covered in goo would be a king? I guided his lips to my nipple, an age old ritual I knew well, and he sucked with newborn vigor, happy to be reattached and drinking me, feeling my heart pump, my warmth, feeling almost at home. When I thought it was over, there was one last gasp, but I was lost in the silken touch, in the scent of his tiny body. Marveling at minuscule fingers and toes.

Then Joseph took him to wipe him, as well as he could, with some rags from our pack. Surveying our surrounding I just had to think, what a crummy place for a king.

What if there had been…some mistake…it was too much to consider, and I focused on Joseph searching the stable for tufts of wool, lining the manger, of all things. Once he was finished, I thought it might do, as he laid the baby down.

Finally able to relax, feeling like I had run for days and days, I looked outside, thought I saw in the sky…a burst…of delight?

A flowing, swirling, I could almost hear…singing?

And then some shepherds showed up. Why not? I figured, what’s a few more lambs. They looked cleaner than these mangy animals. The shepherds had come to worship the king. Something about angels, they said, and I felt an icy unnamed lump in my chest melt.
I looked down towards the wise baby eyes, and dreamed that perhaps he would not be another king of carved armor, glinting swords, and spiked chariots, but a king…of growth, of life. A shepherd, maybe, like these, and that I…woman…might be free.

God births his blessings onto the earth through his children. Take a moment to consider what God desires to birth in your life. Many of us dream of birthing stories and books. You may long to birth a ministry or a relationship. Ponder the agony and wonder of pregnancy and childbirth, and contemplate what God might speak to your situation through them today.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Special Guest: Author Sandra D. Bricker

It’s the week before Christmas
and all through the house
are notes taped on desktops
and my click-clicking mouse.

I’ve always been such a fan of Christmas. Well, almost always. We had a huge extended family when I was growing up, and the holidays were jammed with all the traditional stuff. Ohio snow flurries, a Christmas Eve luminaria in the neighborhood, big family dinners, Christmas carols and eggnog, presents stacked to the rafters, and the most horrendous Christmas sweaters! Oh, how I loved Christmas back then.

In my late 20’s, reality started to bite a little. I was always such a Daddy’s girl and, on my second Christmas away from home, my Dad had a massive heart attack. I flew from Los Angeles to Florida to be at his bedside, and I was given the gift of eight amazing days where time stood still. While he healed, I got to be Daddy’s Little Girl again, and we spent the most wonderful time together. On the morning that I was due to fly back home, however, his big old heart gave out once again and, this time, he wasn’t revived.

The following year, my Mom flew out to L.A. to spend our first Christmas without him together. The only trouble with that was … Dad was just about the only thing we’d ever seemed to have in common. What in the world were we going to talk about for two straight weeks? That Christmas, we started down a road without the very large personality of my father to fill up our lives and … what do you know?! My mom and I became friends.

When she became ill, many years later, I left Los Angeles and moved to Tampa so that I could provide care for her. They told me I’d be fortunate to have her with me for three more months … but she didn’t pass for three more years. And by the time she went to join the love of her life (and truthfully, the love of mine, too) in a much better place, my mom was one of my best friends. But, like my dad, she left me right after Christmas.

I tell you all of this so that you’ll understand (and forgive, if necessary) the following statement: I really don’t like Christmas any more.

I know, I know. But at least you understand why, right?

Christmas is no longer wreath cookies, family dinners and presents under the tree. I’m a diabetic with a weight problem, so sugar cookies and fruitcakes … not so much! The family dinners I attend these days are with other people’s families, and don’t get me started on the pressures of Christmas shopping! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the actual holiday that I dislike. How could I?

In March of 1987, I came to terms with the true reason for the season, and I haven’t been the same since. So celebrating the incredible blessing and absolute privilege of what Christmas morning actually means is one of the greatest joys of my life. But what we’ve done to distort it, distract us from it, color over it … well, that just adds to my lack of euphoria each year as the holiday season approaches.

So a few years ago, I started making a conscious effort to de-commercialize my own personal Christmas. I cut back on my card list; I got a small (but stunning!) Christmas tree, and I made a few dozen clay angel ornaments that I use every year. I started broaching the subject of not exchanging gifts with my inner circle of friends, and instead I began funneling the money I would have spent into the hands of a couple of needy charities I’ve supported over the years.

This year, I requested some extra time off from the day job, and I’m doing something really exciting for Christmas: I’m closing myself away in my house with my dog and my little Christmas tree, and I’m starting a new book. A comedy. About a girl who hates Christmas.

If my dad were still with me, he’d surely point out to me (between versions of Jingle Bells and O Holy Night on the stereo) how things always seem to come full circle. My mom would ply me with sugar-sprinkled Christmas tree cookies and pumpkin pie, interrupting my writing flow every 20 minutes or so to tell me how proud it makes her that I’ve followed my dream. All these years later, they are still the voices in my head, especially at Christmas.

No matter how we spend it … whether there are stockings hanging by the chimney with care, or if the glow of the luminaria has been replaced by the vibrant hum and glow of the laptop … it’s still a time to remember the true reason for the season.

The teenager in my head just whispered that it has something to do with chocolate-dipped coffee cookies. But we know the truth, don’t we?

Sandra D. Bricker has been publishing in both the Christian and general markets for years with novels for women and teens, magazine articles and short stories. With 10 books in print and 3 more slated for publication through 2010, Sandie has carved out a niche for herself as an author of laugh-out-loud romantic comedy for the inspirational market. Last year’s Love Finds You in Snowball, Arkansas garnered three readers’ choice awards, and this year’s Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida, as well as the devotional she co-authored called Be Still … and Let Your Nail Polish Dry, has them lining up at bookstores and author signings. Sandie was an entertainment publicist for 15+ years, an experience which fuels her penchant for promoting her books with flare and creativity. She currently writes for Summerside Press and Abingdon Press while working a day job as a content editor in Tampa, Florida, where she resides with a free-spirited collie named Sophie.

All graphics except the header are from: (the header is designed by our own talented Lisa Richardson)

Monday, December 21, 2009

History of the Candy Cane

Look at the Candy Cane
What do you see?
Stripes that are red
Like the blood shed for me

White is for my Savior
Who's sinless and pure!
"J" is for Jesus
My Lord, that's for sure!

Turn it around
And a staff you will see
Jesus my shepherd
Was born for Me!

Many years ago, a candy maker wanted to make a candy at Christmas time that would serve as a witness to his Christian faith. He wanted to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus. He began with a stick of pure white hard candy; white to symbolize the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus; hard to symbolize the solid rock, the foundation of the Church; firmness to represent the promise of God.

The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. He thought it could also represent the staff of the Good Shepherd, with which he reached down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received, by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.

Unfortunately, the candy became known as a candy cane - a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time.
But the true meaning is still there for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Behold the Babe! Rejoice! by Patti Lacy

Put down the gift wrap. The mug of hot chocolate.

Turn off the caroling CD. Mute the Christmas special.
Retreat to a lonely place. A closet. Your study. Bow your head and behold…

The tiny babe, lying in a manger, who brought salvation through grace by faith.
Tiny hands. Tiny feet. As helpless as every newborn since the beginning of time.
Yet supernaturally, unutterably different.
The babe you behold is Christ the Lord. Part of the Triune God.

“The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became…a baby, and before that, a fetus inside a woman’s body.

If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab” (Mere Christianity, Lewis, 179).

For you, for me, Jesus Christ allowed His glorious attributes to be imprisoned in human flesh.
Allowed men to scourge Him. Slander Him. Hang Him from a cross.

In your lonely place, behold that babe! Touch His downy cheek. Hear his mewling cries.
And treasure in your heart the knowledge
That for you, He was born to die.

May the inconceivable joy of the Newborn King set your soul ablaze as never before.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jingle All the Way Through the Week

December has been inspiring and we're not done yet!
Christmas is just around the corner,
and what could be more inspiring than celebrating
the birth of our Savior?

Join us next week
for more fun, prizes, and posts

Putting an Ink on Scripture
Patti - Behold the Babe! Rejoice!

Monday - Friday
A Blessed Christmas to All!
Monday - Connie shares the history of the candy cane
Tuesday - special guest Sandra D. Bricker
Wednesday - Dina brings us a different kind of Christmas story
Thursday - lighthearted Christmas poetry from Jen
Friday - Wenda takes a unique look at Christmas

An Inkalicious Review
Anita Mae


Hope to see you all around the Inkwell!

The Christmas Lamp lights the way out of the mubblefubbles

by Niki Turner
I have to confess, I haven't felt very “Christmasy” this year. Chalk it up to tight finances, or that this is the first year my oldest child is married and out on her own, or just call it a bout of peri-menopausal hormones... We can blame almost anything on hormones, right?
Whatever the cause of my lack of Christmas motivation, Christian author Lori Copeland's romantic holiday novella, The Christmas Lamp (Zondervan, 2009), provided a perfect boost out of the mubblefubbles. (Isn't that a charming way to describe a melancholy mood?)
In The Christmas Lamp, the tiny town of Nativity, Missouri, prides itself on its Christmas spirit. But the town's tourist-driven economy is swiftly going the way of old wrapping paper. When Jake Brisco is hired to save the community from financial destruction, no one is pleased with the way he sets about trimming the town's budget by NOT trimming the town tree, canceling the rental of the artificial ice rink, and doing away with the holiday home decorating prize. Town employee and lifelong resident Roni Elliot is frustrated and furious. She knows Jake's there to save the town, but she hates the loss of the traditions that have made Nativity her home.
While Jake has made a tradition out of avoiding the usual Christmas hullabaloo, Roni has clung hard and fast to every tradition she's ever known, almost as a shrine to the memory of her mother and grandmother. In spite of Jake and Roni's physical attraction, coming to terms with the changes Jake wants to make, and the past Roni wants to protect, generates conflict.
Jake and Roni's struggle with tradition is something many of us experience when the winds of change blow into our lives. A birth, serious illness, death, marriage, divorce, cross-country move, or an upheaval in our financial situation all tend to muck up the observation of our traditions.
In response, we might chuck all our traditions out the window to avoid the pain of change, but then we lose the depth and richness of our memories and history. On the other hand, we might grasp and guard our traditions like a dog with a meaty bone, threatening anyone who suggests, implies, or offers any kind of alternative, or even an upgrade, to our traditions.
Traditions—whether it's which ornaments go on your tree or what songs you sing at church—become meaningless when we keep doing them just because “that's the way we've always done things.”
Like prayer, poetry, and music, traditions have to come from the heart if they are to bring life to the soul. Sometimes that means we have to step out of our comfort zone, away from the status quo, and begin something new. And sometimes it means resurrecting a tradition we've left behind at the bottom of a dusty box of Christmas decorations.
In her Author's Note, Copeland writes:

“Tradition doesn't have to be logical;
it only has to emphasize the light of Christ
and his everlasting love.”

The Christmas Lamp is available on in both the hardcover and Kindle editions, and at Whichever book format you choose, paper or electronic, The Christmas Lamp is a sweet, romantic story that's just the right length to fit in to a busy holiday schedule and lift flagging spirits.

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