not a clue, as usual

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The Gift of Joy


The first two weeks of Advent are devoted to Hope and Peace. The third week of advent celebrates Joy.

Joy as I am getting ready for Christmas? Seriously?  I’ve got a pile of gifts hidden in various closets around that house that still need wrapping. There’s still a few more gifts to buy even though I am dangerously close to the financial limits I had set for this year. I have enough cookie dough ready to make an army of gingerbread men, but still have to bake and decorate them. The tree is waiting for ornaments, maybe there be some time tomorrow for that. And just before the kids come home from college and adult lives, I’ll have to get all the stuff that I have been storing in their rooms put away so they have somewhere to sleep. Then there’s grocery shopping for their favorite breakfast foods and …have I forgotten anything? I forgot to that this week should be joyful, not overstressed with last minute plans to celebrate Christmas. In fact, joy is seeming pretty far away as I look over my to-do list.

So I started small. Maybe not full-blown joy but just the things that make me happy. The little things like when my husband gets up from the table and starts washing the dishes after dinner. Or when my daughter texts me to ask for cooking directions. When I see my son’s car pull into the driveway as he returns from college. How about sharing a glass of wine at sunset after a long day. Remember watching the sandpipers playing tag with the waves on the beach last summer? These are happy thoughts. These are things that bring a smile to my face when work is stressful and my family life chaotic.

You start to realize that there are lots of things that can make us happy. Things that are grand. Things that are humble. But what makes us feel joy?joy4

Not a thing. Things do not make us joyful because joy is not something we feel. It is a gift that we receive. It is God’s to give and ours to receive. (Gal 5:22-26)

Hope began to flicker somewhere in the back of my brain when I first heard about the forgiveness that was offered in that little baby born in Bethlehem.

Peace began to seep around the edges of my fears as began to put my trust in that forgiveness and the One who forgives.

And through Hope and Peace, we can know Joy. Joy to the world, Joy for the world, Joy in spite of this world. The joy of knowing that I am never beyond His reach, never without His eyes upon me, never without His path before me.

This is the essence of joy.


joy 2




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The Coming of Peace

peace on earthIt’s an interesting paradox that the ability to give something away ultimately gives you mastery of that thing. So to claim a mastery over fear, you have to stop clutching your fears so closely to your heart. Not a simple task, to be sure, but I am finding my grip loosening on all the things that cause me fear and anxiety through simple acts of obedience.

There have been major upheavals this past year in my church and at my job at that church. It has left me feeling anxious, a bit scared and a lot confused. But my prayer for the past six months has been, “Lead me on, Lord, I will follow”. This is a very scary prayer because He will lead you to where you need to be which is not usually where you want to be. Yet, through obedience I have allowed God to lead me to an unlikely new church home and found that I have a new found ability to roll with all the uncertainties of changing job responsibilities. Lately, I have been experiencing peace that has allowed me to let go of all the fears and anxiety that I had been holding onto. I’m not sure when this sense of peace started, but I am living out what is described in Philippians 4:7, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Though the same issues surround me, I am coping much better simply because I asked God to lead me. I did not ask for the problems to be solved, just for the strength to follow and peace entered into the picture.

Peace often feels like a distant dream that we will spend our lives reaching for. The world that we live in has always been a cause for anxiety and always will be. Can you imagine the fears and doubts felt by Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Magi 2,000 years ago? The job before each of them was daunting.

An unwed motherjesus_mary_joseph

A man told to take in that unwed mother

shepherds-1Illiterate peasants told to deliver a grand message

Wealthy kings told to cross a dangerous desert.

All were being asked to leave their comfort zones, and they all did. Relying only their obedience to God through faith, they changed the world in those long ago years. And in their obedience, they found peace. Considering their circumstances, I can only think that they must have been as surprised by the appearance of peace in their lives as I have been. This is a peace that has the ability to steady knocking knees and shaking hands, allowing you to move forward into an unknown future.

Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace in Isaiah 9:6 and promises to give that peace away freely (John 14:27) to all who ask for His leadership in their lives. Your fears and doubts will still be there. His peace helps you to gain mastery of them and in that process – let go of what you once held, mistakenly thinking that those fears were security for you.

But even with an inner peace that is spreading within me, where do I see the peace of Christ in the world today? Can we have peace in a world at war? Or in a life in turmoil, in hurting hearts or misspent lives? Yes. That peace is available to all through that little baby born in Bethlehem. I’ve found that the more that I trust Him, the more I am able to be obedient; the more I ask for guidance, the closer I am able to follow and do it all with a growing sense of His peace. I am not saying that I have become a better person (not even close!) but I have become a more dependent (upon God) person.star

We all struggle but as you continue to struggle through this fallen world, reach for Christ and feel that inflow of peace. Let that peace be like a river (Isaiah 48:18) that flows over all the rocks in our riverbed and gives us a smooth surface to float on.

This is true Peace that will give you mastery to let go of all the anxieties that come with the problems of our lives.

True Peace gives you the ability to give away the things that fear made you clutch so tightly – old habits, prejudices and prideful attitudes.

Peace in our hearts will lead us to peace with our world.

Peace while here on earth comes from peace with God.

This is the essence of Peace.

peace of Christ

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To Be Led by You


It’s a simple prayer really

I’m not asking for power or wealth

Not even asking for wisdom or health

Just asking to be led by You


Of all the things that I think I need

I just need to ask for eyes that can see

And hands and feet to follow faithfully

And just let me by led by You


I wish I could live in a world at peace

But I can’t even find peace in my heart

Feeling in need of a little head start

In just being led by You


Maybe I just take a single stepp1010195

then someone else comes along

We’re walking your path and humming your song

Just learning to be led by You


There are those days when I dare to think bigger

I ask that the guns be laid down

I ask that a cure for pain be found

I just want to be led by You


Those are the days that I realizep1010205

War will not stop because of a president’s hand

An executive order won’t heal the land

But only when we let ourselves by led by You


So, today here’s what I’ll pray

Lord, take my anger and pride and fear

those things that get in the way and hold me here

And I cannot be led by You


Take me from valleys shadowed by doubts

And take me to a shining hilltop place

Where I can run through rivers of grace

And only then be led by You


Just let me be led by You.










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That time I went apple picking with Santa

christmas-lightsAs my husband and I were putting up Christmas decorations yesterday, I was humming songs to myself and remembering when my kids were young and I would take them to see Santa. They would be so excited. Then I remembered an unusual Santa sighting I had about five or six years ago. My kids were high school age so they were way too cool to believe anymore but this Santa gave me pause to think.

It was late September and the apple trees on my property had produced some beautiful looking apples that fall. I still wouldn’t eat them, though. You see, the trees are about 60-70 years old and hadn’t been properly trimmed or pruned in at least 50 of those years. Apple trees only produce quality fruit for about 20 years and as the tree ages, the fruit loses its taste and crispness. Our trees had never been cut back so they were full grown trees rising 30 feet or so in the air. Though they looked beautiful in the spring, they are a pain in the fall. Dropped apples have to be raked off the ground so we don’t attract bees. When we first moved here 20 years ago, I had baked some pies with the apples and though the fruit was tasteless for eating, you could make a decent pie with them if you added enough sugar and cinnamon.


That fall, the trees looked incredible with large heavy apple hanging from them. One afternoon, I heard a knock at the door. When I opened the door, I saw an elderly gentleman with wavy white hair and a full white beard. He had those crinkly blue eyes that make him look like he is always smiling.

“Good Afternoon, Madam” he began. I was staring at his t-shirt which had a picture of Santa in his sleigh with his reindeer swooshing across the sky. I looked at the t-shirt Santa and then looked up at the man’s face and thought, “No, couldn’t be”, but the resemblance was uncanny.

He laughed and pointed to the word “believe” written on his shirt, nodded his head and said, “I’m not in my usual work clothes today but you can believe what you are seeing!” I took a step back into the house while closing the door a bit for protection. “Can I help you?” I asked cautiously.

“Just saw those beautiful apples and wanted to ask your permission to come on your property and pick some. I can make some wonderful apple pies for some people who would appreciate them”, he said.

I kept shifting my eyes between the santa on the shirt and the Santa standing in front of me. Fearing retribution on December 24th, I didn’t want to take the chance of giving Santa old, tasteless apples to bake with. “They are not very tasty”, I warned him. “The trees are very old and the apples have no flavor anymore. They just look good but don’t taste very good, I’m afraid”.


He crinkled up those blue eyes and let out a Santa laugh. “Don’t worry about that. I can work some early Christmas magic.”

Now it gets really strange because the next thing I know, I’m getting out the long apple picker from our garage and offering to help him. He didn’t want to be a bother and just applesaccepted the apple picker and went to work. He gathered about 2 baskets of apples, returned the picker and thanked me. I watched him drive off wondering what had just happened.

That was probably the last year that our aged trees produced any real apples although they bloom beautifully each spring. I never saw the man again and always wondered how those pies turned out and if the people he made them for truly enjoyed them. I don’t doubt that his “early Christmas magic” worked and he was able to make something tasty out of tasteless apples from old trees.

When I was very little, I used to think that Santa and God must be related somehow. They had so much in common. They both loved me and brought good things into my life. After the apple picking episode, I learned another similarity.


God can take the junk in our lives and make the most beautiful art out of it.

God can take all the junk in my life, all my fear, doubt, anger and anxiety that hold me back and make a glorious painting that is the me He has always intended me to be. If Santa can make delicious pies out of inferior ingredients (and I have no doubt that he did), imagine what God can make out of us. If only we trust Him, If only we turn to Him in faith and stop trying to control God. Unlike Santa where we tell him what we want and expect him to bring it, God tells us to come Him with all our cares and worries and then step back and watch Him work. It may not always be brought to our homes with sleigh rides, jingling bells and flying reindeer but God will deliver what we need. And not just on Christmas Eve, but all year round.

So that’s my story of apple picking with Santa and all the strange ramblings of thought that came with that visit.

May your Christmas season be magical.

May your apple pies be flavorful.

And may the peace of Christ rule in your heart.


Merry Christmas!

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A Day Off


I’m enjoying having a day off on Martin Luther King Jr. day. As I eat lunch I am watching a documentary about this man and his amazing vision for our country’s future. A commercial comes on and I really don’t care how nice my laundry can smell so I direct my attention out the window at the bird feeders in my backyard.



There hasn’t been much activity there this winter due to warmer than normal temps but we had some snow yesterday and the thermometer has been dropping.


Here they come! It’s hard to get a decent shot from my kitchen window but I’m seeing sparrows, finches, juncos and one big fat mourning dove peacefully mingling together to share a meal. There were some cardinals, nuthatches and wrens but I think they are camera shy, or I don’t have to patience to wait for them to pose, more likely.


They seem to get MLK Jr’s message but we are still confused about it. Sad. Things have changed but much is still the same.


My command is this: Love one another as I have loved you.”

John  15:12

Think Peace, Live love.

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Immanuel – God With Us

peace for paris



This world has always been a scary place but it feels like things are escalating on a global scale. The news reports out of Paris this weekend have been beyond tragic and fear is spreading. People are asking “Where is God?” But He is here, rest assured, He is here. Even his name – Immanuel – means “God with us”.

Why are the nations so angry?

Why do they waste their time with futile plans?

The kings of the earth prepare for battle;

The rulers plot together

Against the LORD

And against His Anointed One.

Psalm 2:1-2 NLT

…Do not fear, for I am with you;

Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you

I will hold you up with my victorious right hand

Is 41:10 NLT

I searched for the phrases “do not fear” and “do not be afraid” in Scripture and found them mentioned almost 90 times. In each case, God or one of his angels was giving instructions to someone who had turned to Him for help. The phrase was often coupled with the words “be strong and courageous”, which tells me that God had a tough job for them. A job that would require the person to work hard and struggle through much difficulty and/or danger. We see God speaking these words to Abraham, to Hagar, to Joshua and so many others whose stories are chronicled in the Old Testament.  Many times we see the words, “God will be with you” connected to “do not be afraid”. In the Christmas story Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and shepherds were told not to fear. Even the women at the tomb after the Crucifixion were given the same comforting words through angels. Jesus, himself, tells us in John 14:27, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…

Isaiah 9:6a NIV

…and they will call him “Immanuel” – which means “God with us”.

Matthew 1:23a NIV


I think there is something here that we are in danger of forgetting. We need to remind ourselves of God’s message to His people not just in Biblical times but also to his church today. Before we panic, let’s remember that He has promised to be with us in all things. He didn’t promised to make it all happy rainbows but He does promise to be with us in this fallen world and to help all who call to Him. I don’t know about you, but I find that very comforting.

 It means that I will have both good and bad days…

…but God will be with me.

 I will see both great joy and great evil in this world…

… but God will be with me.

I can call for help and He will respond.

He promised.hands1