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DIRTY SANTA

 
And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.
Ephesians 5:2
 

DIRTY SANTA

 

crystal_crossAll eyes in the tightly packed game room gazed intently at the heap of brightly wrapped Christmas gifts in the middle of the floor. In the background, Christmas tree lights twinkled as the aroma of chocolate chip cookies and hot wassail hung in the air. All 40 of us waited patiently for our turns to choose any gift we wanted from the treasure heap.

Anticipation mounted as the first person opened his chosen treasure. “Oh boy,” he shouted. “A tackle box!”

There was only one problem with getting such a highly sought after gift. The game of Dirty Santa allows the next person to choose a gift from the unopened pile or from any of the gifts already opened, taking it away from the one who held it. If your gift is confiscated, you can then choose again from the pile or from all the opened gifts.

Clearing his throat, number five stood for his turn, speaking crisply. “I’ll take the tackle box, please!” Shouts of laughter ensued as a loud groan escaped the lips of number four. Choosing again, number four opened a beautiful crystal cross, generating oohs and ahhs all around the room.

All of us opened gifts and jockeyed for position to obtain the greatest treasures in the room. Gifts like the tackle box were confiscated all three of the allowed times before finding a permanent home. Each time a person stood to choose a gift, the owner of the crystal cross held out his treasure offering it to anyone who would take it.

“No thank you, I’ll pass on that,” said one after the other. “Are you sure?” said its owner.  “Come on, I want that 20 quart cooler to take fishing!” Hoots of laughter echoed around the room as he whined, “Anyone else want this? Going once, going twice …”

As I sat there watching the crystal cross face rejection time after time, I couldn’t stand it anymore. “I want it!” I shouted. Silence filled the room as every eye turned to see why I was shouting. After all, it was just a game and everybody was having fun. No one meant anything by it.

But all I could think about was what that cross represented.

Christ purposefully left the grandeur of heaven to come to this violent sick earth, all because He loves us so much. Coming here represented how dedicated He was, and still is, to our rescue.

Jesus gladly sends His message of peace and goodwill to you on His birthday again this year! I pray you’ll take advantage of it and accept His cross as your most valuable Christmas present ever! As we play our games and enjoy the most beautiful time of the year, I pray we’ll all be careful to remember and respect the sacrifice it took to bring the blessings of Christmas.

Merry Christmas friends! I pray the Lord’s richest blessings upon you!

Until 2015,

Your Traveling Partner,

Brenda

Gifted To Give

 
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!  
2 Corinthians 9:15
 

Gifted To Give

 

soup-kitchen-300x180Everywhere I look, I see the same message.  Every song, every sermon, every blog post, every article seems to shout the subject of giving. Well, of course, you say! It’s Christmas! No, it’s November 1. Doses of Encouragement are written and submitted weeks ahead of time so our incredible staff—editor Betty and uploader Janice—can make sure they appear in your inbox on time!

As I’ve journeyed with the Lord for some thirty plus years now, I’ve noticed a pattern in His teaching style with me. First, there’s the Word from the Word approach; next, there’s the Word from everywhere else approach; and finally, there’s the Word from the woodshed approach. Personally, I’d like to get the lesson BEFORE going to the woodshed! Therefore, my ears perked up as soon as the subject of giving became obvious. Maybe yours will, too!

The Lord asked me questions like this:  Do you embrace giving as an act of worship, obedience and faith? Or do you view it as generosity prompted by feelings of love, compassion or even obligation?

Think with me for a moment.

The problem with the second question is that feelings come and go with the wind!  You’ve had it happen, I know! One minute you’re ready to open up the coffers and lavish your most treasured possessions on one of your children. The phone rings. They answer. They give you the cold shoulder and BAM! No special gift for you, Sweet Thing!

How grateful I am that God’s love isn’t withheld because we ignore, embarrass or even disappoint Him. He has lavished His love on us and His love is spelled G-I-V-E! You know the verse—“For God so loved the world that He GAVE … ” He gave His best: Jesus. And we’re never more like Jesus than when we are moved by His Spirit to meet other humans in their moments of need.

The Apostle Paul commends the churches of Macedonia because they gave beyond their ability, of their own accord, and out of their poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Why is it that we so often struggle to give out of our prosperity, yet they gave BEYOND their ability AND out of their poverty?  That brings conviction to my heart.

Let’s not get so caught up in the merriment of this Christmas season that we miss real opportunities to respond to God’s indescribable gift through worship, obedience and demonstrative faith, which produce a wealth of generosity!

From my heart to yours,

Tami

When God Speaks: When Words Don’t Come

 
“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
―Isaiah 55:11, NIV 

In the Scriptures, God expressed the fountain of His heart through prophetic scribes. Their writings continue to stand as a witness of His everlasting love and promises to humanity. Due to the faithful diligence of a few, the written Word of God speaks to and transforms the hearts of humankind to this day. This week, we’ll talk about hearing the voice of God through His Word and through the practice of journaling.

 

When Words Don’t Come

 

I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me.” Habakkuk 2:1, NIV 

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAStaying in tune with God can be difficult. Especially when we don’t hear anything.

As I drove my daughter, who has Down syndrome, to an appointment, she listened to her favorite station through her headphones like she normally did. Before long, she huffed and began thumping on her radio.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She gave no reply as she continued to thump her radio in frustration.

“What’s wrong? Isn’t your radio working?”

“No.”

“How long has it not been working?”

No answer.

“Did it work yesterday?”

“No.”

“Did it work the day before?”

“No.”

“Did you wear your headphones at work anyway?”

“Yes.”

My heart broke.

After my daughter’s appointment, I stopped at the store for batteries, replaced the old ones in her radio, and drove her back to work. When I left, she was wearing her headset and was working to the beat of the music once more.

As I took my seat behind the wheel of my car, God whispered: “She didn’t hear anything, but she kept on listening. You should too.”

Once again, my daughter was the teacher; I was the student.

Day_5,_Photo_2,_Girl_in_PinkSometimes, God is silent. During those times, the temptation to change the channel is great. We want to remedy the situation ourselves: search in other directions, fill the dead air with the sound of our own voice or the voices of others, or simply “thump” in frustration.

Although the words of today’s text may not be the words we want to hear, they do give us some much-needed insight: Listen. Keep watch. Remain steadfast. Live in expectancy.

God will speak. He won’t remain silent forever. Although He may not rush in with His answer as quickly as I supplied the batteries for my daughter’s radio, His timing will be perfect.

So don’t grow weary and lose heart, my friend.  Keep. On. Listening. God’s words will come, and you’ll be dancing to the rhythm of their beat once more.

“If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, 
for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.” 
Habakkuk 2:3, NLT  

In His Love,

Starr