Our Place in the Christmas Story

I am so thrilled the very talented artist Mary Morganelli gave me permission to show off her beautiful “On High’ angel painting in this dessert plate I designed. I just love it! It feeds my eyes and heart with joy, peace and beauty.

Mary Morganelli 'On High' Dessert Plate - Coffee for Your Heart Cafe

It also takes me to that first Christmas when the angel visited the shepherds with the good news found in Luke 2:8-14

 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.  Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified,  but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 

That hallelujah scene is a favourite nativity moment for many of us. The choir of angels bursting in praise moves us to lift our hands to heaven with overflowing joy. Our saviour has come! Along with the promise of peace, great joy, and hope.

What happens next is what spoke to me louder than ever when I read the account of that night the other day.

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.  After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished

The shepherds  went to Bethlehem. You mean they weren’t already there, just around the corner, a few minutes away from the stable? They hurried. At night. With flocks of sheep. To see a baby. Dropping everything to behold the lamb of God.

As I pictured those shepherds on that holy night I saw their presence in a new light. I saw a place for us in the Christmas story. Like them, aren’t we called to respond in the same way with the good news the Lord has told us about? To go the distance to meet our saviour face to face. Seek God in flesh who came down from heaven to bring peace on earth. Then go tell everyone about this child who will bring joy to all people. The astonishing story of  love born in a manger long ago and choosing to live in our hearts this very day.

If you’ve ever wondered what ‘glory to God in the highest’ really means you’ll love this post by Holley Gerth . It’s amazing! She also shares why you don’t have to be on the ‘nice’ list in this week’s link-up. So let’s head on over to her site for some Christmas cheer and enjoy lots more encouraging Coffee for Your Heart together.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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Even though…

They sure know how to light up a room no matter how dark it is. Those incredible people who take hard knocks as an invitation to open the door to let inexplicable, unspeakable joy come waltzing in.

Joy to the World Dessert Plate
They are my heroes who bring joy to the world…and to my life. The ones no one would blame if they were a tad bitter, angry or discouraged. Instead, they are beacons of gratitude and love, a light that radiates joy. The losses, disappointments, betrayals, set-backs, illnesses no match for their unwavering faith and endless hope.

They are people of strength and courage, my inspiration. Shining role models who live out one of my favourite verses:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the  vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the Lord of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! You make me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. ~ Habakkuk 3:17-19

Even though life has assaulted them with the bad, the ugly and downright dirty their hearts overflow with boundless joy. Joy that’s contagious and spreads wherever and everywhere they go.

I can’t explain it completely, but can tell you this. I am so grateful for each and every one of them. They show me how to bring joy to life so I can do the same. No matter what. Even when it seems impossible.

Because of them I know we can choose joy and find it. Even on coldest nights and darkest days. So, if this Christmas you’re feeling a little not so holly jolly, I believe there’s still room for joy to light up your heart and brighten your days.

Even though your load may be heavy or your hurt deep, I pray you never lose hope or doubt what you are capable of. The warm glow from your firecracker joy just might be that much-needed spark that ignites someone’s life with a blaze of crackling joy. A joy that fires up way beyond your immediate striking distance. Probably in more ways than you’ll ever know.

One of the brightest lights that has brought me so much joy over the years is Holley Gerth. That’s why I’m so delighted to link you up with her again this week to share a cup or two of encouraging Coffee for Your Heart.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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Branching Out from God’s Family Tree

The New Testament opens with the genealogy of Christ beginning with Abraham the father of the Jewish race. Luke goes even farther back in his account of Jesus’s ancestry, tracing His heritage all the way to Adam, father of the human race. Erasing all doubt that the babe born in a manager is indeed the long-awaited Messiah. The promised One who came down from heaven to save all people everywhere.

This year, I made a surprise connection with a branch in Jesus’s family tree. We get giddy that the humble carpenter’s son stems from the royal lineage of great King David, the mighty warrior who slayed a giant with his slingshot. The anointed one after God’s own heart. Did you realize that as a descendant of the tribe of Judah, the King of Kings also came from the bloodline that began with Leah? Leah, the rejected wife, not so beautiful or desirable like Rachel, Jacob’s chosen one. She was unwanted by her husband, but not abandoned by God. Not even for a moment.

Shoot Growing Out of Dead StumpA shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. – Isaiah 11:1

The tree of Jesse rooted in neglected soil. Out of a what seemed like dead wood emerged the saviour of the world. The seed of redemption sown in the brokenness of a woman who questioned her worth. Her blood beating through the heart of God Incarnate.

Got me thinking about how the Lord uses and redeems us. Are you feeling shunned, forgotten, passed over, unloved? Not capable enough, pretty enough, clever enough; not enough of this or that, too much of something else? Hold onto this truth. The God who lifted Leah out of obscurity to become the Queen Mum to the King of Kings is looking out for you.

You can hold your head up high because you are a precious child of His Majesty God Almighty, co-heir to His kingdom with the Prince of Peace. He has crowned you for a glorious life in His service. Your value is beyond measure.

The hope of Christmas means you can take your rightful place in history. Our Lord plans to accomplish great things through you as you live out the distinct purpose only you can fulfill. Rejoice! The difference you are making here and now will branch out and extend beyond your lifetime. Beyond your wildest dreams. More than you can imagine.

You really are God’s gift to the universe. A gift that comes to life every time you open up and shine the light wrapped inside your heart. The light that no darkness can conceal. The light of goodness, patience, generosity and faith. The light of love for all the world to see.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory
of the Lord rises upon you. ~ Isaiah 60:1

Yup, we are all part of God’s great big family and it’s so grand when get together. Like we do each week at Holley Gerth’s site for great company and the best Coffee for Your Heart this side of heaven. :)

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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Light of the World, Shine in our Hearts!

Advent is almost here and my favourite time of the year is fast approaching. Christmas. Emmanuel, God with us. Time to celebrate. Time to prepare. Time to make room for the reason for the season.

Jesus light of the world shine in our hearts

I love that during Advent our church sings “O Come Divine Messiah” and “O Come Emmanuel”  in anticipation, holding on till Christmas for the holly jolly and Christmas is here carols. The wait makes Jesus’s birth sweeter and more meaningful.

In a way, it may seem somewhat odd. Shouldn’t Christ dwell in my heart every day of the year? Besides, the born in a manger story is over 2000 years old! Why would anyone prepare now for the arrival of something way back in the past?

I can’t explain how it happens. Getting ready for Christmas like it’s the very first time works wonders in me. I wake up every December 25 with outstretched arms and heart wide open to receive Jesus in a profound and humble way. Yes, the Light of the World occupies my heart 365 days of the year, but somehow I find there’s always room for more of Jesus.

As I walk through Advent I come to know and love my savior a little bit more. Focusing on the meaning of Christmas, I search deep inside the heart of God and pray mine will become more like His. I find myself thinking more of others and soaking up the goodness in people that gets magnified at this time of the year. I love a little better and give a little more.

I am so grateful for the many wonderful books and resources available to light up the Advent journey that leads to making Christmas merry and bright. These are a few of  my perennial favourites for you.

Blue Angel Ornament   Come Let Us Adore Him CD   Love Found a Way
God’s Message of  Christmas Love   The-Crippled-Lamb

…and two new ones from Ann Voskamp that caught my attention this year. I haven’t finished them yet but what I have read so far is so inspiring I didn’t want you to miss out on hearing about them.

The Greatest Gift   Unwrapping the Greatest Gift

Would love to hear what you do to prepare for Christmas. In the meantime, here is an Advent prayer we can say together.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Light of the World, shine in our hearts so we can be a light for others. Wonderful Counselor show us the way to love like you do. Mighty God, open the floodgates of heaven to help us build your kingdom on earth where peace, love, joy and hope reign.

Come Emmanuel, rule in our hearts this Christmas and always.

We hear a lot about peace on earth during Advent. It can begin by linking-up with Holley Gerth where she inspires us to “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” While we’re there I invite you let’s pull up a chair and share an encouraging cup of Coffee for Your Heart with others on-site.

Photo Credit – The beautiful picture of this winter scene was taken by a friend who prefers not to receive public credit.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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God is Watching Over You!

I know, pictures can’t talk but when I came across this photo the other day the words “God is watching over you” spoke to me. Considering the kind of week I was having, the thought could only be God-ordained. Isn’t it just like Him to knock me off my self-defeating perch and land on this timely truth? Something told me the message was also meant to be shared. 

God is watching over you - downtown Toronto skyline - original photo by Mary Morganelli

He really is watching over you and me.

When life’s got us tied up in a tangle of frustrating, convoluted knots, it hard to look beyond the mess and see the lifeline pulling us loose. We come to the end of our rope and gasp until we look up and discover God’s hand reaching out to us. It’s true you know. We are never out of His sight. Or far from His protective shield.

Just when we feel ourselves sinking quickly and it seems like all hope is gone, he pulls us out and carries us above our circumstances. Sometimes with the words of a friend, the just-right scripture, the song we needed to hear, the kindness of a stranger, the affirmation of a loved one.

You find something you need on sale on a day you hadn’t planned on shopping. There’s only one left and it fits! The person seated next to you just happens to know a doctor who can help. You get stuck in traffic long enough to not be there at the scene of an accident. The storm comes after  you make it home safely. Out of the blue, unexpected good news.

Little things and big things that show us God is looking after us. Always watching over us and watching out for us.

While I was thinking and praying about what to say to you in this post, I was lead to Psalm 121. And it’s no wonder – the word “watch” appears 5 times!

He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. ~ Psalm 121:3

The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. ~ Psalm 121:5

The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.  The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. ~ Psalm 121:7-8

We can count on it. No matter what you’re going through. No matter how deep your pain or huge the loss. God is watching over you and He’s got you covered. Now and forever.

Trust and believe. He will see you through everything every single day. It’s a promise!

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.
~Genesis 28:15

 I have often felt God’s watchful touch in-site the words of Holley Gerth. That’s why I love linking ya’ll with her each week. So let’s head on over for some encouraging Coffee for Your Heart with Holley and friends.

Photo credit – the beautiful Toronto skyline photo was taken by the talented photographer and artist Mary Morganelli.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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CATch the meaning of Christmas!

The Christmas Cat - Melody Carlson

Sure, he had severe cat allergies, but how could he refuse the dying wish of the angel who took him in when both parents were killed in an accident? The woman who arranged a reverse mortgage on her home so he could go to college. His solid rock. The fountain of love that never gave up on him.

Garrison Brown’s grandmother was known as the Cat Lady who doubled as a “magnet for abandoned and abused cats” that get crazy attached to her. Naturally, she would want to make provisions for the critters who were like family to her. A wish for a good, loving refuge to curl up in. But with such specific stipulations, Garrison wasn’t so sure he could pull it off. Could he really find caring families for his grandmother’s feline friends? It seemed impossible.

The first cat Viola was easy to place. Gram’s next door neighbour and best friend Ruby already had a heart for that furry creature and their compatibility was perfect. One down, five to go. Maybe, just maybe, Garrison might find a home for all six and then head back to Seattle to the promised job and fresh start after malaria benched him from his well-digging mission in Uganda.

Like matches made in heaven, one by one, the cats were taken care of. Furball and new owner fit exactly like they were hand-picked and meant for each other. As if Gram was orchestrating the whole thing from above. Even more fascinating were the new kitty guardians introduced through the one person who didn’t qualify. Sweet, beautiful Cara would have made an excellent cat-mom and Garrison really want to give her Harry, the most darling of the bunch. The one she really wanted.

But he couldn’t depart from his grandmother’s instructions. Not even for her. Then again…it’s that time of the year. If God found a way in a manger to save the world, could He not make a way to bring the two of them together? Miracles do happen. Especially at Christmas.

The Christmas Cat was shaping into a warm and fuzzy, feel-good story that left everyone purring contentedly. Including this reader. But then. Just as I was settling in for a predictably smooth trip to a happy ending, the unexpected jolted me into “oh, no!” turbulence.

When things didn’t go quite the way Garrison hoped, he was faced with the same questions and challenges that tore at my heart too. “Where is your faith now?” asked the troubled young man who was helping fix up his grandmother’s house. “In my heart, I am sure you’re making a big mistake” concerned Ruby protested.

Could playing Santa Claus delivering the last piece of his grandmother’s cat adoption package turn things around for Garrison? Would it be a Merry Christmas after all? Wouldn’t dare spoil it for you, but I can tell you this. Like the true meaning of Christmas, it ends with hope. The story of selfless love and a promise for the future.

The Christmas Cat is a heart-warming story with endearing characters tucked inside humour, romance, and life lessons. It was a hot chocolate wrapped in a cozy blanket kind of read I didn’t want to see finish.  Plus, while following the storyline that traces Garrison’s placing his grandmother’s beloved cats, my heart got scooped up in the arms of compassion for the quirky felines and the human lives transformed. The widowed, divorced, emotionally shaken, socially challenged, financially strapped, childless, never married, and ah yes, those orphaned kitty cats all touched by the offering of a generous, loving woman.

I like how Melody Carlson sews up the novel on a satisfying happy note with a whispered hint of what’s to come. An open door for imagination to step in…or perhaps a sequel waiting to make an entrance. Now, that would be purrrrrfect!

The line in The Christmas Cat that says it all for me is “God will provide.” In everything. Always. And sometimes he uses us to provide for each other. Like we do each week when we link-up at Holley Gerth’s for an encouraging Coffee for Your Heart.

Disclosure: I’m delighted to be on board The Christmas Cat Blog Tour with Revell who generously sent me a copy of the book in exchange for this unbiased review.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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Like Stars in the Sky!

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This greeting card was inspired by the Everlasting Light Jewelry and Decor Collection that has captured my heart and imagination. With its beauty and message there’s so much I love about this new product line from DaySpring. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I invite you to see for yourself what’s got me so excited. I’m sure you’ll be touched and delighted!

You are also invited to join us at Holley Gerth’s today for some encouraging Coffee for Your Heart. You’ll feel right home connecting with other bright twinkling stars that shine God’s light through their hearts and words.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

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