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The First Noel Was Just the Beginning!

Noel
It’s a Christmas carol, right? Most people have sung, The First Noel, but I wonder how many have considered what the word, Noel, actually means. My curiosity was piqued this year since we had chosen Noel to be the theme for our annual Women’s Christmas party at church. Interestingly, the definition wasn’t just a simple answer and so my search began.
Perhaps we don’t quickly know the definition of the word, Noel, because it has multiple root meanings. The French root comes from the word, nouvelles, which often translates into the word, news.From the English root we get the word, nowell which means ‘shout of joy.’And, the root word in Latin brings us to the word, natalis, which means birth and has often been associated with our word, nativity.
News, Shout of Joy and Birth!
If we consider just those simple words from our modern English language, they actually sum up a big piece of the Christmas story. It’s found in Luke 2, but not the part that begins “In those days Caesar Augustus issu…

But, We Always Do It This Way!

Christmas lights, trees and traditions. It's that time of year again, and this week I went back in time and shared some of my childhood traditions with my 8-year old grandson. He was working on a homework assignment in Social Studies and wondered if I could help him out. He was supposed to interview a family member and find out what Christmas traditions they celebrated when they were children. Soon memories, long forgotten, were flooding through my mind.
The first tradition I shared with him was about making our favorite Swedish cookie. It is a spice cookie called pepparkakor. It’s similar to a ginger snap, but much milder and thin - with cardamom being one of the essential ingredients. Oh, their sweet and spicy goodness just melts in your mouth when they are rolled out super thin. They've been a family favorite for at least four generations, and just last year my 4-year old grandson was caught with a fistful of cookies while grabbing for more. Oh, such fun!
Another Swedish trad…

Learning By Doing

There are several things in ministry life that I have had to learn simply by doing. One of those things involves praying and altars. One would assume that a pastor’s wife wouldn’t be awkward in prayer, right? And, she likely would at least know what to do at an altar, or at least what an altar is? Well, for me, I was simply lacking in both areas as I stepped into the unknown world of pastoral ministry.
Prayer, that I wasn’t a foreigner to. But, praying out loud or in front of others - now that was cause for my heart to race! My thoughts would get all into a jumble and my sweet communion with God was quickly melted away by fear. What will I say? How will I say it? Will I speak clearly? How long should I pray? In a matter of a few seconds my private prayer life was turned upside down. Yet, my desire to be a witness to others of my fellowship with God spurred me on. I can do this. Just speak your heart. After all, it’s not about what others will think. It’s about God and those you are pra…

Freedom to Live in Christ

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, I’ve been pondering life and counting my blessings a bit more than usual. Then, on the radio today, I heard the song, “No Matter What” by Ryan Stevenson. It tells a faith story that some believers have been tangled up in for years. It begins with this thought -
A lot of us grew up believing At any moment we could lose it all And at the drop of a hat God might turn His back and move on A lot of us feel like we blew it Thinking that we're just too far gone
We have likely all felt that we've blown it from time to time. After all, we each have a unique life story and faith journey - with plenty of ups and downs. How we were raised and what we were taught impacted our lives tremendously too. No one’s story is better than anothers. Just different. But, for those who live daily with the fear that they might not measure up or that they are just one step away from being rejected by their Savior is heart-wrenching. To live in a constant state of striving…

Walking Each Day by Faith

What a blessing it is when God opens our eyes to understand more and more of his Word! I love it when another piece of the puzzle fits together. When the passage you’ve read for years suddenly makes sense. We see the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts and minds, and we finally get it. Perhaps there is even rejoicing in heaven when God’s truth is seen more clearly by one of His children!
Just recently, I had two of those ‘aha’ moments. The first one is simple, but I now have a deeper confidence in my understanding. Whenever I would teach John 1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” to kids in Sunday School, they would often ask, Who is the Word? What is the Word? We’d continue on further in the passage, and I’d explain that the Word is another name for Jesus. We know this because John 1:14a says “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” This explanation would satisfy them, and we’d move on with our lesson.
But, boy, I wish I woul…

Peek A Boo, Pink or Blue?

Everybody loves a baby in some form or fashion. You don’t even have to know the child, but their chubby face – or even a picture - will almost always bring a smile and a cooing “Aw” to express our wonder at all their cuteness! Little fingers, little toes. Soft skin and fuzzy hair. Such fun little packages to cuddle and adore!
Before I get too carried away and ignore the flip side of life with a baby, I must also acknowledge that babies are a lot of hard work. Dirty diapers, spit-up, fevers, belly pains and sleepless nights are all more common than not. Babies are utterly dependent on their grownups and aren’t afraid to cry out loudly to get their attention!
Baby days are pretty much behind me - unless I sign up for the nursery at church! I thank God that He brought me through all the unknowns of carrying, birthing and raising three little girls. There is absolutely no way I could have done it on my own. In recent years, I’ve lent a helping hand to care for and love on our grandbabies, a…

It’s Always Worth The Wait!

We plant seeds in the spring and bulbs in the fall. In the spring, we get a quick return on our labor. In only a few short weeks, and sometimes days, we see little green shoots of new growth peeking up out of the soil. In the fall, we have to have a bit more faith as we plant bulbs into the ground that will sleep all winter long. Then, when they burst through the soil the following year, we rejoice in the new life. New growth is always exciting and inspiring!
Sometimes, the winter months in our lives are long. We plant seeds over and over again in the hearts and minds of those we teach in Bible School, Sunday School, Life Groups and Children’s Church. Week after week, we invest in the lives of those who attend our churches – and those we touch in our communities with the love of Christ. We try our best to uphold the hurting and share a listening ear with the lonely. We sacrifice time and money in so many different ways. The goal, to spread God’s love and the amazing story of salvation …