December 12, 2017

Our Mighty God

I took this photo last December at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Being surrounded by all the twinkling lights on the garden pathways was a holiday mood inducer that made the Christmas season very festive. They also had the Twelve Days of Christmas Exhibits and I took many pictures of those but they did not turn out very well-although I am including one of the exhibits below. But this festive picture of the lit trees is one I enjoy a lot. And I knew I would want to use it somehow with a Christmas post here at Devotions from the Heart.

I decided to add this verse when I read it last year during the days leading up to Christmas while studying the Old Testament scriptures foretelling the coming of Jesus Christ.

Almost every time I read this verse in Isaiah, I remember learning to sing Handel’s Messiah in the choir of the small Christian college I attended in the late 1970’s. That memory has also helped tuck the phrases of this verse into my heart and mind. These descriptive phrases tell us more about this child who was born to us on Christmas day.

Each time I read it, I like to focus on one of the phrases that describe who we are reading about in Isaiah 9:6

Today, as I quietly contemplate this verse again, and as I am reminded that God came to us a child, I recognize and acknowledge this child is Mighty God

It was God’s Mighty power that brought Him to earth through a virgin birth, and was the same power that saw Jesus work miracles healing the sick, feed thousands from a few loaves of bread and two fish, and the same Mighty power with which He calmed the seas and walked on water. 

This child is our Mighty God!

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Seven Swans A-Swimming from the Twelve Days of Christmas Exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

December 10, 2017

Mom's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge

I can still remember my mom making homemade chocolate fudge each year at Christmas. Her fudge was a family favorite as far back into my childhood as memories go. It was the old-fashioned kind with just cocoa, sugar, milk, butter, salt and vanilla. 

My most vivid memory is how much my dad loved it and couldn’t wait for it to harden enough to have the first piece. I don’t have that many good memories of my dad, but this is one of them and it has a special place in my heart.
For some reason my dad, a man plagued with anger issues, seemed to enjoy Christmas and was on better behavior than usual for the holidays. I don’t remember him ever ruining Christmas with one of his angry outbursts or fits of rage.

After my mom died at the age of 71 in 2001, and I was still struggling to have a relationship with my dad, I would make mom’s fudge and send him some every Christmas. He loved it and eagerly looked forward to it. It wasn’t just a food gift at Christmas—it was a bridge to demonstrate love to a father who had never had a genuine loving relationship with me. He died in 2011 and I can honestly say I miss sending him his favorite chocolate fudge.

It may seem like an insignificant gift or a small gesture, but in light of the history and relationship we had and his severe treatment of me especially through my teen years, this fudge that I made and sent to my dad in the mail for ten years was a gift of love for a father who was difficult to love.

Up until the year my dad died, I was still trying to build a relationship with him. It was baby steps but each step counted. One of those significant steps was making him mom’s old-fashioned chocolate fudge every Christmas.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 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.

You can also read my devotion Where Can We Find God? at Thoughts About God by clicking on title. 

December 6, 2017

Two Strangers in a Long Line

It was a few weeks before Christmas several years ago when I stood in a long, long line at the post office with a smile on my face, remembering the previous evening’s enjoyment from the time spent baking and assembling two care packages for my daughters who attended college far from home. Soon they would be coming home for their Christmas break, but first they had to study for finals and finish all their exams.

I double-checked the address labels again and made sure the packaging tape was secure, then looked up to see if the line was moving again and caught the troubled expression on the face of the woman in front of me. I quickly glanced around to see if other people in the line were engaged in conversation. I noticed several people were on their phones and others were busy filling out forms. It appeared that no one was interested in attempting small talk with a stranger next to them in line.

The lady in front of me was still staring in to space with a sorrowful countenance, when I decided to say a warm hello in hopes that a friendly greeting might provide even a small amount of encouragement. I offered my warm hello and proceeded to comment on the long, slow moving line and shared that my packages were care packages for my daughters away at college. Her eyes instantly filled with tears as she spilled the words, “My son is in the military, he is in Iraq. I am terrified for him.”

I stood there feeling at a loss for words to say that would comfort her. The line was finally moving at a steady pace and I knew I didn’t have much time left to speak with her. I remembered a chapter in Psalms in which King David wrote about being safe even in the midst of a battle and began to tell her the story the chapter was written about. I tried to quote the verses about God keeping us safe in the middle of danger and reminded her that if it isn’t our appointed time to go, nothing can harm us. I couldn’t remember the passage word for word, but I saw understanding in her eyes, she knew what I was saying and I could see the truth of scripture reached her heart as her eyes filled with a look of hope.

She was next in line and was called to process her packages, and then it was my turn.  When she finished and I was still at my checkout station, she walked over to me, patted me on the back, squeezed my shoulder and said with a smile on her face, “You have a very Merry Christmas!” Her countenance had changed, she had been encouraged by God’s Word, because He is faithful, and His Word is powerful!

It was a tremendous blessing to me to witness how God met her need for an encouraging word that day through a stranger standing next to her in a long line at the post office. I exited the post office the same way I entered earlier, with a smile on my face, this time because I was amazed by the compassion I had just seen God demonstrate for one of His children.

Psalm 91:1-7
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.