A Child Is Born

I was delighted to run across a meditation I wrote five years ago. I wanted to create a collection of seasonal meditations and managed to write a few before life took me on another writing path.

The writer’s life can be that way, and that’s okay. As long as we are following God, we are moving forward, but the path can meander. God has amazing treasures in store for us on each trail. It’s most important to be present and take in whatever is in front of us in each season.

Whether I will go back and continue writing these meditations in this new season, I don’t know yet. Right now, I’m just enjoying having unearthed them.

These meditations start out in a way similar to devotionals, but with some added steps. Kind of like guided devotionals with a response and an activity, so readers can be not only inspired but also can dig in a little, get some dirt under their fingernails while they experience God’s presence in their midst.

I’m always interested in ways to create deeper studies and experiences that build on the basic idea of a devotional. As writers, we have so much creativity available to write in ways that encourage people to interact with God in His Word. I hope this devotional meditation for the Christmas season will help you reflect on creative ideas for your writing. Be blessed!

Winter Meditation

A Child is Born

Scripture

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined. Isaiah 9:2 (NKJV)

Reflection

I love when the warmth of Christmas meets the cold winter landscape. I didn’t grow up in a cold climate, like the one where I live now. But there was still something about the warmth of Christmas … the light shining in the darkness. Something that welcomed every heart to respond with joy: our Savior is born!

Over the years, that message has never failed to move me. Through every Christmas Eve service of the nearly five decades of my life to date, I have felt the warmth of the presence of Jesus in a way so sweet it makes my heart weep.

This year, the Christmas message was sweeter than ever as it poured its warmth and love into an aching heart. I’ve experienced so many losses over the years, and Christmas is when the remembrance of all of them comes bubbling to the surface.

As I prepared for our Christmas Eve services this year, I had a revelation. God reminded me that despite all the lost relationships in my life, I never lost the one He offers. I confess there have been times when that offering hasn’t satisfied the pain in my heart. There is a season of grief and it is vital for healing. God knows that. But there are times when I chose to carry my sadness of loss much longer than I needed to. I wanted to hold onto my sense of injustice for all that those losses had taken from my life. I refused to exchange that pain for the comfort, healing, and peace He offers.

This Christmas Eve, I decided to let go of my pain. There are losses I will still grieve, as memories surface. But I choose to come out of agreement with a spirit of heaviness that has spent too many Christmas Eves, and all the days in between, in my heart. My heart belongs to God. I choose to let Him come in and dispel my sadness and my sense of injustice and of a life “incomplete.” He is my justice, my wholeness, my joy, and my peace.

As I watched the children of our church family put on a Christmas Eve pageant that included a live baby Jesus, and listened to the words of a song that asked if my Lord Jesus knew, from the first moment He opened his infant eyes, that He would be my Savior, I wept. These were not tears of grief, pain, or loss. They were tears of joy, that this tiny infant’s love for me was greater than all my losses. The life I have in Him is so filled with love and peace that I have yet to fully receive.

I choose to lay down my sadness, to step away from the bleak landscape I’ve inhabited in my thoughts and emotions, and receive the warmth of Christ’s love into my whole heart. Thank You, God, for the warmth of Christmas.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for coming into our lives – to save us, to lead us, to transform us, to redeem us. Thank You that Your love is stronger than death, stronger than loss, stronger than all the things the enemy throws at us. Thank You, Lord, that You know You’re our Savior, and that it is Your greatest desire that we receive that good news in every part of our hearts. Thank You for bringing the warmth of Your love into our lives. We love You! It’s in Your precious name we pray. Amen

Thoughts

Are there parts of your heart where you haven’t yet received the warmth and fullness of Christ’s love? Will you invite Him to show you what stands in the way … and to help you lay down those things at the Cross, so He can enter into those parts of your heart that you’ve kept locked away?

Is there a loss in your life – a loss of any kind – that you still struggle with? If so, talk to Jesus about that right now. Ask Him to help you find healing and peace through His presence in your heart.

Do you know the difference between healthy, healing grief, and an unhealthy spirit of heaviness, sadness, and despair? Ask the Lord to show you the difference. If you are grieving a loss, ask Him to help you grieve in a way that is healing, and to lift your despair.

Activity

Take a walk or drive to look at Christmas lights. If you drive, if at all possible stop and park your car, so you can spend some time looking and reflecting on the warmth of the Christmas lights. Ask the Lord to join you. Reflect on how those beautiful lights demonstrate the way His light shines into your heart.

Close-Up

For the next five minutes, sit quietly and invite the Lord to sit with you. Do nothing; say nothing. Simply enjoy His presence.

Journal

In a journal or notebook, share your thoughts in a letter to God about what it means to let the warmth of His love fill your heart. Listen for His response and write what you hear.

God’s Invitation to You

Do you know how precious you are to Me? Do you know the depths of My love for you? Do you feel My love in those parts of your heart that have been hurt? Will you allow Me to come in and bring peace?

Your Response to God

God, thank You for loving me with Your whole heart. Help me to give my whole heart to You. Sometimes the thought of opening my whole heart scares me, or feels overwhelming, or seems too much to ask of You. But I want that. I want a heart that is full to overflowing with Your love. God, forgive me for [tell God what you would like forgiveness for, and know that He will forgive you]. God, thank You for [tell God the things you’re thankful for today]. God, I need You. Please help me with [tell God how you would like for Him to work in your heart and life today]. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sensing God’s Presence

Where do you sense God’s presence?

I sense God’s presence in the scent of the Christmas tree that He lovingly raised in a pine forest and filled with His presence just for me.

I sense God’s presence in the warm smells that come from a Christmas kitchen and in the memories of childhood Christmas meals with family and friends.

I sense God’s presence in the beautiful face of a baby that reminds me of the infant Jesus, and in the sweet chorus of children’s voices as they proclaim His holy birth.

Share with God some examples of where you sense His presence.

God bless you. He loves you so much.

If you enjoyed this meditation, you might like to read two of my spring season meditations:

First Planting – available to read on my blog.

Blanket in the Shade – this link will take you to Reflections Christian Online Magazine, where you can read this spring meditation online.

Advent Is a Great Time for Writing Devotionals

The Advent season will be here soon. A wonderful way to celebrate is by writing devotionals. There are so many creative possibilities to explore. You can write Advent devotionals personally, as a family, or as a church.

Personal Devotionals

Advent is a great season for writing creatively and for reflecting on scripture in your writing. You might enjoy writing your own personal devotionals.

You can take a scripture verse and write a devotional for each week of Advent. If you feel like really digging in, you can write a devotional every day. When the season is over, put your devotionals together as a collection and save them to read each day of Advent next year.

You can also write devotionals as Christmas gifts. Pray for a Bible verse that is meaningful to a family member or friend. Then write a devotional with that person in mind. Give it as a gift. You can also write a devotional as a prayer or blessing for their new year.

Family Devotionals

Writing devotionals together as a family can be a wonderful way to celebrate the Advent season.

On one Sunday of Advent, you can spend family time together writing a devotional. Think about which Bible verse you’d like to share with each other and what story you want to tell to illustrate that verse.

Or maybe take each Sunday to work on one part of a devotional that will be ready by Christmas. Then you can read and pray through the finished devotional together on Christmas Day.

To create your family devotionals, you can choose a scripture verse and decide on a theme. Have each person write a paragraph or even a sentence, then piece those together like a beautiful quilt. You can even write the words on pieces of colored paper and glue them on construction paper – and maybe add some artwork.

Or your family can all pitch in with their thoughts, and you can write them down and weave them into a devotional message.

You can also divide up the parts – one person chooses the scripture verse, another person (or two!) tells the story, another writes the prayer, and someone else chooses the closing thought for the day.

Whichever way you choose to write your family devotional, the important thing is to spend time together, reflecting on what it means to each of you that Christ is born.

Church Devotionals

I enjoyed many years of editing church devotional collections. Each year, I offered a workshop to help people learn devotional writing. Then we would choose our theme and scripture verses. Each person at the workshop would write a devotional – sometimes they would take it home to work on it, but they would start it that day at the workshop and we helped each other.

If other individuals or families wanted to write but couldn’t attend the workshop, I would email them a devotional writing guide, let them know what the theme was, and assign them a scripture verse.

Usually we would have an overall Advent theme, and then a more specific theme for each week of the season. We had enough writers that we wrote a devotional for every day of Advent. But if that’s too many, it would be a blessing to write a devotional for every Sunday in Advent.

Then we would create a PDF file and upload it to the church website. We would also print a few booklets for shut-ins and people who didn’t have internet.

When you are preparing a devotional collection for your congregation to use, it’s important to have pastoral oversight and guidance. Sometimes a devotional writer might inadvertently take liberties with scripture. Your pastor can help you find a loving way to edit the message so it lines up with God’s Word.

The devotional for Christmas Day needs to have a joyful impact. Sometimes the pastor might want to write this one. Or whoever writes it, be sure Joy is the theme and that it really takes readers through a celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Wishing you and your family a very creative and blessed Advent season!

 

First Planting

Spring Meditation

Bible Verse

“Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Reflection

I had come through the hardest trial of my life. Uprooted overnight, I watched the New York City skyline fade in the rearview mirror. Hours later I arrived in north Georgia. I was scared to put down roots. The echoes of trauma and abuse kept me awake at night.

Then a friend coaxed me on a journey to the garden department of Home Depot. A sea of color, fragrance, and shapes stretched before me. It was a gift I had not known since I was a child: a chance to wander and breathe in the goodness of spring, and to smile with delight.

Such joy bubbled up inside me later that afternoon, as I ran my fingers through the warm dirt, as I gently, lovingly placed my new garden family in a variety of pots. Hostas, vine tomatoes, and a little clump of border greens that I put in its own pot, just because it said, “Life” to me. The first planting of spring. The first planting of my new life.

Prayer

God, thank You that the first planting of spring reminds us that Your mercies are new every morning, and that new life awaits us on the other side of trial – here on earth and in our eternity with You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thoughts

Has God recently shown you that His mercies are new every morning? How has He shown this to you?

What does the first planting of spring mean to you?

Do you have a favorite spring flower? What is it? Why do you love it?

Activity

Go to a garden center or to your own backyard and look for a flower you have never noticed before. Look closely. Do you see God in that flower? What can you learn about God from that flower?

Close-Up

There is nothing quite like the feel of potting soil between your fingers. The soft earth, rich in nutrients, the promise of new life. How wonderful for each plant to take hold, to dig deep, to draw water and sunlight, to spread its green stems and leaves, and to blossom into the beauty God created it to be.

Journal

In a journal or notebook, share your thoughts in a letter to God about what the first planting of spring means to you. Listen for His response and write what you hear.

God’s Invitation to You

God’s message to you: Do you know that My mercies are new for you each morning? Every day when you wake up, and all day long, you can receive from Me all that I have in store for you. Will you open your heart to receive the fullness of each moment with Me?

Your Response to God

God, thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. Please help me open my heart to receive from You. God, forgive me for [tell God what you would like forgiveness for, and know that He will forgive you]. God, thank You for [tell God the things you’re thankful for today]. In Jesus’ name. God, I need You. Please help me with [tell God how you would like for Him to work in your heart and life today]. Amen

Sensing God’s Presence

Where do you sense God’s presence in the first planting of spring?

I sense God’s presence in the earthworms He created to enrich the soil.

I sense God’s presence in the invisible nutrients that cause plants to grow.

I sense God’s presence in the riot of color in the garden shop at Home Depot.

Share with God some examples of where you sense His presence in the first planting of spring.

If you enjoyed this meditation, you might like to read two of my other seasonal meditations:

A Child is Born – available to read on my blog.

Blanket in the Shade – this link will take you to Reflections Christian Online Magazine, where you can read this spring meditation online.