Did you have a good Christmas? Were your expectations met? Or, did you come away from the holiday feeling as if something was missing?

In spite of all the planning and preparations, we can end up experiencing a sense of vague disappointment. We may have tried to focus on spiritual things but for some reason it just
didn’t happen.

Of course, the world is counting down the hours until the New Year, as if some magical transformation will alter their lives into something better.

I think we look at the new year as a way to bring about an extreme life makeover. If only it were as easy as the home makeover shows on television. In one week, a ramshackle building is transformed into a place of beauty, designed specifically for those who reside there. Lately it seems that most of these houses need to be completely demolished because they are irreparable.

Everyone uses the coming new year to look back as well as forward. If Christmas wasn’t quite what we thought it would be, maybe reflecting on where we’ve been this past year will give us better perspective on where we want to go this next year.

If God is not the center of our life, maybe we need an extreme makeover down to the very foundation. If He is, perhaps some renovations are in order. The truth is that unless we are rooted in and with our Creator, our lives always leave something to be desired.

If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock. When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last. Luke 6:48, The Message

For no one can lay any other foundation than the one we already have – Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:11, NLT

Blessings, Francine

The Christmas Story

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:1-20, NIV

Christmas Blessings, Francine

The Hope of Christmas

I think we come closest to realizing the true meaning of this season on Christmas Eve. In the quiet stillness of this night, my prayer is that you will discover the Hope of Christmas. My words pale in comparison to those given us in the Bible. So, I leave you with two scriptures that have carried me through the circumstances of life and given me a most precious gift.

But those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint,
Isaiah 40:31, NIV

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit, Romans 15:13, NAS

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Going Home

Some people go to extraordinary lengths to get home for Christmas. It’s as if we have some inner homing instinct that draws us there.

Right about now, thousands have left or are preparing to travel across the country or maybe across town. A number of victims from the hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast have returned to the area to spend Christmas with friends or family.

Yet there are many who can’t or won’t go home and others still who have nothing to return to – and it has nothing to do with natural disasters. Sadly, empty old cars and shadowy city canyons are the only homes they have. They huddle in the dark, almost always hungry and often with children. Then there are those who’ve experienced different kinds of human disasters of the mind and heart, leaving them isolated and alone in the most boisterous of crowds.

Carols ring out, “Peace on earth, good will to men … Joy to the World.” But these are as elusive as the wind, as slippery as ice, and as invisible as the air we breathe.

It is our belief in something good – something better – that inspires and strengthens people to pursue these things. The world would be a horrible place without the peacemakers and the philanthropists.
But, circumstances change and it’s impossible to hold onto something intangible.

True joy exists when we allow the Savior to dwell within our hearts and spirits. There is a sense of going home when we kneel to the tiny baby and recognize the purpose of His birth. He came to show us how to find a joy that no one can ever take away.

“These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:11, NAS

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Shepherds and Wise Men

Have you ever thought about those who showed up at the manger so long ago?

Shepherds and wise men.

One group followed a star and the other followed the announcement made by angels.
They were being obedient to the Heavenly Realms.

Shepherds were on the bottom rung of Jewish society. They were both physically and ritually dirty, which kept them isolated – outcasts. They couldn’t even testify in a court of law and had nothing to give. The wise men, on the other hand, are depicted as respected and wealthy and came with lavish gifts.

The disparity between a wise man and a shepherd was more than just life style or ethnicity yet the differences actually show
the vast expanse of God’s invitation – it truly is for all.

Regardless of their diversity, they were obedient to the call – from a far off place and from around the corner, so to speak.

We sometimes become uncomfortable with the word obedient. I think we make it complicated when it’s so simple.

Anyone can take one step. And the truth is, the most amazing journeys all begin just like that. A more wondrous truth is that when we seek Him, God is faithful in leading us to find Him.

…He rewards those who earnestly seek Him,
Hebrews 11:6 NIV

Christmas Blessings, Francine

A whisper of wings and other amazing things

Isn’t that how we look at that one night so long ago?

There is an element of the extraordinary, the inexplicable, and the most astonishing surrounding the announcement of a baby’s birth.

It would seem the supernatural world came down and danced with us mere mortals.

The true wonder is that the same miraculous things happen today. I’m not talking about angelic beings or spiritual anomalies that sometimes capture our attention.

Our Savior’s birth was just the beginning of the eternal love story between the Creator and His creations.

Oh that we would awaken Christmas morning to the true gifts Jesus wants each of us to have … to supernaturally love, forgive, sacrifice, and believe so that we may grow in our faith and obedience … to look to the heavens in wonder and awe of the
most perfect love story every created.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them … “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone!” Luke 2:9-10, NLT

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Living the gift

Contentment, joy, and peace cannot be bought, made, or just believed in to be experienced. As I think about the coming celebration of our Savior’s birth, these most precious things become more real. And yet, I believe the world has a false sense of their source.

We probably will spend more than we intended in giving gifts we hope will bring pleasure and delight to family and friends. I have no doubt our Creator intended for us to experience joy in loving others. And yet, I think we too have a false sense of how to do that.

There’s nothing wrong with giving gifts. I love choosing things that I know will be enjoyed. Unfortunately, we sometimes fail to see those things that cannot be bought, made, or believed in. The warmth of an embrace, tender words of love and caring, laying aside some preconceived ideas to understand the struggles of others cannot be wrapped up in bright paper and shiny ribbon.

The truth is, actions like these are the way we can convey our own gratitude for the birth of Jesus.

Yes, He came to redeem us, but to keep that gift to ourselves may be the most selfish thing we can ever do. I’m not talking about involvement in some ministry or church project. I’m talking about touching others in all kinds of ways that express Jesus’ love.

God gave us a priceless gift, but if we do not express that same kind of unselfish and sacrificial love to others, we really are the ones who lose. For it is in giving in this kind of way that we live our faith. It’s one thing to say you love God but it’s quite another to love others.

If you sincerely want to experience the joy of Christmas, live the gift throughout the year.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The Second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” Matthew 22:36-39, NAS

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Christmas Memories

Holidays always hold memories for us. From our earliest years, we’ve stored up scenes in our hearts and minds of Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Nostalgia burns deep in our hearts.

There’s a bittersweet feeling during the holidays. Some from remembering how it used to be to maybe how it never was. Regardless of what those memories are filled with, they come unbidden.

What’s your best Christmas memory? Is it wrapped in sparkling tinsel and scents of turkey and cranberry sauce? Is it busting with energy as gifts were exchanged and excitedly opened?

My best memories are those filled with less rather than more. There was the time when we didn’t have much money, had a small artificial tree, and few gifts. Yet my family remembers that Christmas as a special one.

The very best Christmas memory is more recent and more poignant.

It was our first Christmas here in Germany. Our spindly tree could almost pass for Charlie Brown’s. It had few decorations, a small number of lights, and even fewer gifts. Packages from family didn’t arrive. There would be no rush on Christmas morning, no merry phone calls, no family dinner.

And my heart was breaking. For the first time in my life, I found myself without the sound of children’s voices, laughter, and love. Regardless of how we celebrated the holiday, there’d always been children. Not this year.

I sat alone in front of our tree wishing only for Christmas to be over. In the darkness of midnight, bells chimed throughout the small farming community I lived in, and I lifted up a prayer to God. I admitted that all my memories couldn’t satisfy the emptiness within me. I knew there was something more and I whispered that He reveal it to me.

Then God helped me see that yes, there were no children this Christmas; there was One Child, and I was invited to spend Christmas with Him. I knew then that I’d discovered a truth that may have eluded me the rest of my life. A truth I’ve wanted to know and feel for so many Christmases.

It took one silent night alone, but for the presence of my Father, to truly understand.

Sometimes it takes losing our most treasured things to find the most precious gift.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12, NIV

Christmas Blessings, Francine

More than a gift

Here in Germany there’s a popular item sold in many of the Christmas markets called a nesting doll. It appears as one doll but actually it is usually a set of five or six wooden dolls, each nesting inside the other. If you don’t know it opens, it’s difficult to see the seam.

One beautiful doll with hidden treasure.

Sometimes we only see the baby in the manger. We understand the true gift that the Creator of the universe gave His children. The sacrifice and atonement Jesus made gives each of His followers eternal life.

But just like those nesting dolls, we never see what’s inside. We can love and cherish it and do everything in our power to make it part of our lives. If we don’t know there’s more, we are missing the supernatural experience of an intimate relationship with the Savior.

Like the many facets of a diamond sparkling in the light, Jesus meets our every need.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6, KJV

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Light a Candle

Have you ever awakened from a nightmare and struggled in the dark. You wrestle with the panic and fear, trying to shake off the ghosts haunting your dreams. You know turning on a light would help. Even the tiniest glow helps banish the darkness.

Too often, fear prevents us from doing anything.

At times, our lives are the same. We’ve gotten lost in the dark. Shedding light on the demons that pursue us seems impossible. Sometimes we don’t even realize that there is a light that can illuminate the darkest of nights or hearts or minds.

I think we’ve become so comfortable with the shadows that to do anything else goes against everything we know. It’s easy to become complacent.

But there is a Truth shining in the darkness. It was born one Christmas night more than two thousand years ago. And this light of the world came specifically for what you might be going through. You see, darkness must flee the light.

As you seek to bring new meaning to your holidays this year, think how one candle eliminates the blackness of night.

If you light a candle this year, think about how Jesus came to light up your darkness.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12, NIV

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Children and Christmas

Children and Christmas – the two are irrevocably tied together with ribbons and bows, sleeping cherubs, and bright, sparkling eyes wide with wonder.

If you are surrounded by children during this time of the year, it may be hard to see beyond the clamor and glamour of corporate America’s marketing campaigns. Children too are easily caught up in the frenzy of gift giving and getting.

If you can remove the layers of holiday-induced excitement, it’s kind of like removing the layers of tissue paper from a very special gift.

Here are some very simple truths about children:

They believe what they are told.
They are usually unaffected by the world.
They are joyful.
They easily show love.
They quickly forgive.
They implicitly trust.
And they are sincerely heartbroken and remorseful when they disobey.

God, through His word, has told us to be like children. I think we’ve become so sophisticated that we’ve forgotten how simple that can be.

Maybe we need to start looking toward our Heavenly Father through the eyes of a child.

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3, NLT

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Silent Night

In the silence of a wintry night, snow falls and softens the hard edges of broken dreams and empty promises. The soft sigh of a midnight breeze across the desert valley cools the heat of electric emotions that time and again are short-circuited by circumstance.

Within each lies a mystery clothed in beauty, speaking to our hearts in the language of nature’s extremes, whispering to us.

Sometimes the extremes of God can only be heard in the silence of our souls. Too often, the rumble and commotion of life distracts us, forcing us to be in almost constant motion. As long as we move in cadence to the world’s rhythm, we will find it difficult to hear the voice of the Creator.

Simplicity sometimes speaks more loudly than sophistication.

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10, KJV

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Music is part of Christmas celebrations everywhere – from the ridiculous to the magnificent.

For me, music has always been something that seems to go straight from my ears to my mind. I hear a few strains of a popular song from forty years ago and I can usually identify the title, the performer, and the words. It helped calm my fears and alleviate adolescent worries. It’s helped mend my teenaged broken heart, given me ways to express joy or sadness, and provided me years of entertainment.

It can somehow reach past the chaos of our emotions and soothe us. Often, it’s a profound message that we needed to hear.

What is the music of Christmas? Is it in the commercial songs played on radio stations around the world? Is it the hundreds upon thousands of church programs played out in small towns and large cities? Is it the boisterous voices of carolers gathered outside homes? Certainly, it can be all these things.

The true music of Christmas is how God speaks to us if we choose to hear Him. The glory revealed this one night can dramatically move us. Yet, hearing an awesome message once a year won’t do much the other three hundred and sixty-four days.

Hearing God isn’t just something we check off our to do list of how to grow spiritually. It can give us a supernatural peace and take us to new levels of understanding and blessings.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.

For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Proverbs 2:1-11, NIV

Christmas Blessings, Francine

No Room

No room at the inn. We’re all familiar with this statement. Jesus was born in a stable amidst farm animals because there was no warm room for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem that night.

No room in your life. I’ve been writing about how we sometimes have no room in our hectic schedules this time of year to welcome the true gift of this season.

No room in your heart. A deeper truth may be that we have no room in our hearts.

In order to obtain a personal relationship with God, we not only need to invite Him into our lives, but we also need to make room in our hearts.

If we value other things more than knowing God, then it’s hard to have any kind of relationship with Him. Many are so involved in church, they miss the simple knowledge that all we really need is to seek God above anything else. That includes family.

Sometimes I think family may be our most attractive diversion. It may be as destructive as obsessive relationships or as innocent as doing for those we love. Too many times we step in, thinking we’re helping them when, the truth is we may be hindering them from drawing closer to God. We cannot be anyone else’s savior. If we are, then Christmas has no real meaning.

If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple, Luke 14:26, NLT

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Say a Prayer

The days of December are quickly slipping by. Have you gotten everything done yet? I would think mos of us would answer no.

As Christmas nears, there seems less joy.

I’m sure we’ve all run into someone who is constantly whining or complaining. It doesn’t matter what might be going on in their lives, they can’t seem to find anything good to say.

True, their circumstances may be difficult. Still, they focus on the negative and refuse to look at anything positive. It’s frustrating to continue encouraging them. Whatever you say, they’ll answer with “Yeah, but …” or ignore your words.

It’s especially difficult during the holidays. Those expectations and misplaced holiday cheer run rampant and that seems to dishearten those already discouraged.

Sometimes, offering the Hope of Christmas to them isn’t enough.

How do you handle that? True, you could go out of your way to ignore that person. You could let them affect your own sense of peace. But what if that person is someone you love or someone you live with?

Too often, we so easily say that the least we can do is pray for someone. The truth is, it’s actually the best we can do for them. And we can continue to just keep loving them. After all, it’s what Jesus would do – for both those whom we love and those who treat us badly. If we do, then we are living the reality of Christmas. If we’re ever going to reach others, it’s through our actions. As the scripture says: Live generously and graciously toward others.

I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. Matthew 5:44, 47-48, The Message

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

The words from one of the most loved Christmas songs are familiar to thousands. But have you ever slept in heavenly peace?

Sleeping like a baby is something many will do just about anything to obtain. For those of us who have a worrying heart and a troubled spirit, sleep is almost as illusive as peace.

Medication is the popular remedy, and sometimes even that doesn’t work.

For many, the problem is neither physical nor mental, but instead is more about spiritual things. Fear, anxiety, and worry wreak havoc on our ability to experience any sense of peace. Those still watches of the night are usually filled with turbulence rather than tranquility.

God gave us provision for all things, including sleepless nights and worrying hearts. And, if we know the Creator’s promises, we can sleep in heavenly peace.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9, NIV

Christmas Blessings, Francine


Have you ever imagined the Christmas story from the angels’ perspective?

While we can only surmise what the angels thought, it’s hard to ignore that they were active participants in the whole thing – from the announcement made to Mary to their proclamation to the shepherds in the fields.

Reading something repeatedly, regardless of its importance, can sometimes become routine.

If you’d like to discover a truly supernatural vision of God’s gift to His beloved children, I’d like to recommend a book by a highly respected Christian author.

An Angel’s Story,” previously published as “Cosmic Christmas,” by Max Lucado, offers a more spectral version of how Mary came to be the mother of Jesus. While we are all familiar with the shepherds, the angels, the nativity filled with animals, and one tiny babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, have you ever wondered just how God might have accomplished it all.

In his book, Lucado offers up supernatural sights and sounds of majestic warrior angels, heavenly singing, sulfur-spewing demons, and a meeting between Satan and God. If you think of a quiet, star-lit night as the focus of our celebrations, you just might want to imagine how it all happened.

In the original publication, the author includes an afterward about how he came to write the book. He’s creatively woven his imaginings with the truth we find in the Bible, and the hope that readers will see truth.

It’s a small book with a powerful vision that can encourage us. While it can be read in one evening, I would encourage you to take your time. The majesty and glory of God’s plan unfolds in an overwhelming realization of just how much our Creator loves us. It will captivate your heart and spirit.

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God: Glory to God in the highest … Luke 2:9, 13-14

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Gift of Faith

Some of us struggle most of our lives with faith. We want to believe. Yet, we try in our own power and strength to have the faith of Job. Well, maybe Job’s life isn’t something we would willingly pursue.

Job was a man who had everything and then lost it all. His neighbors gave him all kinds of advice yet they thought his losses were the result of sin in his life. His wife suggested he curse God.

Someone once told me to never pray for patience and used Job’s life as an example of what could happen. And so, for years I didn’t. It wasn’t until I was experiencing great disappointment and heartache that I realized something. I needed the patience of Job to help. How silly of me to not pray for something I desperately needed.

It’s the same with faith. The truth is, faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8). We scramble around in our circumstances looking for faith. That’s the problem. We can’t get faith on our own. It’s a gift from God. And sometimes, we refuse to receive it even when God has already given it to us.

If we honestly look at our lives, we’ll begin to see that we have faith in so many things – like faith in our country, in the laws, and in people. We even have faith in things we don’t understand. We have faith that our cars will start when we turn the key. We even have faith in strangers. Think about that the next time you drive on a crowded interstate or board a plane. We have faith that the drivers around us will drive responsibly. We have faith that the pilot can fly that airplane and get us safely to our destination. I think our general understanding, knowledge and experience provides the basis by which we live our lives in the physical realm.

It’s the same in the spiritual realm. The more understanding and knowledge we have of God, the more we trust Him. Yet there are times when nothing makes sense and it feels as if we’ve lost everything. This may be the place where we find a most precious truth. Our lives may resemble Job’s, but if we have God, He is more than enough.

Maybe this Christmas, we’ll open the gift of faith and step into realm of spiritual understanding.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, Hebrews 11:1, NIV

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Desperately Seeking Christmas

Do you think Mary and Joseph were desperately seeking shelter on that first Christmas?

After all, Mary knew she would deliver soon – very soon. And Joseph – well, thinking about what little we know about him, it appears he was older than most new husbands and expectant fathers. What must’ve been going through his mind?

I wonder how the couple felt as they sought a place to stay and were turned away. Was Mary having labor pains? How difficult was it for her to walk or stay astride a donkey? Did Joseph wonder how he might have to deliver a child? Let’s face it, back then fathers didn’t participate in helping their wives give birth. Jewish custom required them to be absent.

As the night grew colder and darker, did their desperation mushroom into hopelessness?

I don’t think so. Even three years ago, I wouldn’t have answered so firmly. But God is teaching me much in my own journey of obedience to seek His will above my desires. And therein lays the reason I can respond so strongly.

Both Mary and Joseph were obediently following God. In spite of the awesome knowledge the angels had relayed to each of them, they truly had to deal with something much more down to earth.

Consider what their family and friends must have thought – apart from the heavenly host’s messages and guidance. Mary was pregnant and unmarried. There was no formal betrothal and no wedding celebration. By rights, meaning Jewish law, Joseph could have had her stoned to death.

Ignoring these things, the two obediently submitted to God's will. Instead of furtively setting up house and preparing a place for the baby, they took off into the desert to travel to a small town with throngs of strangers. No reservations for a nice room at the inn. No recommendations for a mid-wife. Nothing but God.

I believe that rather than desperation, Mary and Joseph experienced a quiet sense of peace and anticipation because of their obedience.

Are you desperately seeking Christmas this year? Desperation can set us up for despair and confusion.

You can choose to begin a most wondrous journey with the assurances Mary and Joseph found that Christmas night beneath a blazing star – and accept the gift of the One born in a manger.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16, NAS

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Keeping Watch

Christmas can be a lonely time.

Many of us place our faith, hope, and trust in things that will eventually fade away. Some of us already have felt painful disappointment and heartache, and we’ve given up.

Discouragement and depression are unfortunate companions during the holiday season. Regardless of how hard we try to cling to the Truth of all God’s promises, they seem to slip through our fingers. No amount of holiday spirit improves our frame of mind. Often, "Merry Christmas" evokes nothing but an unexplainable sorrow.

One of the greatest examples in the Bible of anguish and joy is David – the shepherd boy who became a king. I identify with him because his mistakes were BIG ones. The other reason is the legacy he left us recorded in many of the Psalms.

Psalm 34 is one of my favorites because it shows some of God’s promises and blessings that are often hard to see in the darkness of our despair. God will deliver us from fear and anxiety, guard us, show us goodness, and meet our needs. According to the Life Application notes, “God pays attention to those who call on him. Whether God offers escape from trouble or help in times of trouble, we can be certain that He always hears and acts on behalf of those who love Him.”

Unfortunately, even if we understand, either we don’t believe it to be true or we don’t ask. Instead, we are so weighed down by our circumstances, it’s almost impossible to see anything other than our loneliness, our heartache, our fear, or our grief.

God knows the suffering of His children, but He can only help when we have a relationship with Him. It isn’t difficult to invite the Creator to become actively involved in our lives. One of the blessings of Christmas is a gift that is given to all if we choose to accept it.

There will always be suffering and hardship in this life, regardless of our faith. The difference is, as believers, we have a supernatural Shepherd constantly keeping watch over us.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit, Psalm 34:18, NLT

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Tinsel and lights and reindeer, oh my!

Looking for ways to enrich our relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean we ignore the more worldly traditions of Christmas. After all, how can we be a light to the world if we insulate ourselves from it?

Just look on any residential street shortly after Thanksgiving, and you see a magical transformation. Dark houses suddenly twinkle with lights – sometimes hundreds and even thousands of them. Displays adorn rooftops and yards. Have you ever thought about how much time it takes to decorate so lavishly?

In some states, entire communities dedicate themselves to creating displays that dazzle the eyes and bring out the child in each of us. Scenes play out before us in a blur of light as we race through the season.

While our focus should be on the true meaning of Christmas, I sometimes think we miss opportunities to just enjoy the amazing spectacles in our own back yards.

One of my fondest memories is driving through our city, enjoying all the tinsel and lights and reindeer with my children, accompanied by singing Christmas songs – usually sung loudly and off key. It’s become a tradition that my grandchildren now enjoy.

We’ve also participated in our share of Christmas presentations. One year, our church decided to create a living nativity. Invariably, the three nights chosen ended up being the coldest and wettest in our small desert town. We were all overwhelmed with the community response. Traffic backed up on one of the major thoroughfares as people flooded the area. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything.

Our town also has the longest running Christmas parade in Arizona. Each year, thousands line the street to enjoy floats and bands. It snarls traffic and makes getting there and leaving a challenge even for the most patient. It too has become a tradition for our entire family, despite broken bones and loved ones no longer with us.

The point is that merriment and excitement are all around us. All it costs is a little time.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, NIV

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Anticipating Advent

Anticipation. We see it everywhere. It’s probably most alive and sparking in children as they anticipate absolutely everything about the holiday – vacation, cookies and candy, parties, pageants, and Christmas morning. We sometimes see it in the tired faces of merchants, teachers, and parents. It’s also seen in the care-worn lines and wrinkles of those who’ve lost much over the years. We all anticipate something.

For many, yesterday was the beginning of Advent.

Dictionaries define advent as “the coming or arrival of something important, the period of preparation for Christmas, the coming or birth of Jesus Christ.”

The Holman Bible Dictionary notes the celebration dates back to the fifth century, soon after the origin of the celebration of Christmas, but its primary definition states, “Advent designates the coming or second coming of Christ.”

How often do we relegate Advent to just Christmas?

As we anticipate celebrating our faith on a day-by-day basis, what better way to begin than by remembering Advent as looking toward the second coming of Christ? That should give us more than a small measure of joy, not only during December but also throughout the year.

For as the lightning lights up the entire sky, so it will be when the Son of Man comes. And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with the sound of a mighty trumpet blast, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven. Matthew 24: 27, 30-31, New Living Translation

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Keeping Christmas

Keeping Christmas in our hearts all year long is as unadorned as a manger filled with hay, as natural as a mother giving birth, and as down-to-earth as shepherds keeping watch over their flocks. It’s unpretentious and clear-cut. These are the ordinary things God used on one extraordinary night to bring forth the Hope of the world.

We try to glamorize the holidays when we should simplify our lives. Sometimes I think we are much like the Pharisees. We’ve added so much to this celebration that we’ve lost the wonder and glory of it all.

If you are looking for an awesome and moving presentation of how ordinary becomes extraordinary, you might want to find a special episode of Touched by an Angel, called “A Christmas Miracle.” It not only gives viewers a glimpse of a heavenly touch, but it also shows how easily we can be led astray when we focus on anything other than our Lord.

The goal isn’t to put Christ back into Christmas, but instead put Him back into our hearts. Imagine the remarkable lives we would live if we remembered the extraordinary images of that one ordinary night.

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men “with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:13-14, New American Standard

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Simplicity at Christmas

Christmas pageants, addressing cards, office parties, shopping, baking cookies, relatives visiting, decorating the tree, meal planning, church services, work, more shopping, choir practice, school programs, movies and television specials, wrapping presents, stringing up lights, caroling, visiting friends and family, grocery shopping – just looking at the list is exhausting.

For most us, these time-consuming activities don’t begin or end with the holidays. It’s life. While the holidays may be filled with a few more parties and a few more relatives, we’ve become a society that barely has time to breathe.

The truth is that it’s hard to have clarity when there’s chaos all around us.

To begin celebrating our Savior, we don’t need anything other than God’s word and our time. Regardless of how busy we are, we can make time to focus on Jesus. You see, when we begin to do that, we've begun a relationship. That’s how we celebrate every day.

The more we seek Jesus, the more of Him there is in our lives.

“As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand. The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it – it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-41, The Message

Commentaries tell us that Martha worried a lot. She wanted to please and serve others – in other words, she was focused on doing. Maybe, as the oldest, she was concerned about meeting certain expectations. Rather than relax and enjoy the presence of the Master, she was fussing around and obviously frustrated that her sister wasn’t helping.

If only we could have Mary’s priorities in this Martha-like world, we’d be enjoying the presence of the Master.

Christmas blessings, Francine

One Perfect Gift

Has there ever been a Christmas morning when you received that one perfect gift? It was the one thing you most wanted, never expected, and certainly didn’t deserve. But there it was, wrapped in shiny paper and topped with a magnificent bow.

Or maybe there is a memory of some grand toy – a wagon, a doll, or a bicycle – standing before the tree as twinkling lights cast a soft glow.

Remember how that felt?

In order to understand the magnitude of God’s gift of His son, it might help to understand the nature of God. Wait … I’m not going to expound on all God is. First of all, I doubt I could. Second, that’s not the point.

God’s nature is sinless. In simple terms, that means he cannot look on sin. And, that being the case, we cannot be reconciled to God because we have all sinned.

The Creator, in His infinite love and mercy, prepared the way by which we could experience His presence, both now and for eternity. You see, God’s nature requires atonement for sin. You can find the Creator’s guidelines throughout the Old Testament.

But He also knew his creation. As always, we had to put our spin on things. We put certain guidelines and regulations into the law – in other words, we complicated something simple.

God changed all that with Jesus.

And you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins, Matthew 1:21, New American Standard

Christmas Blessings, Francine

Endings and Beginnings

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God, Matthew 5:8

While the teaching in this beatitude seems a lofty goal, the promise is even loftier. Some would say, “Only the pure in heart can see God.”

But I think that the blessing and the promise are intricately woven together, and the obedience of our hearts brings a continued blessing of seeing God.

Some might think this a promise only fulfilled when we come face-to-face with our Creator. I don’t.

I think, in this teaching, seeing means experiencing God’s presence.

In order to allow God to totally and completely have His way with us, regardless of the outcome, we seek Him above and beyond anything else. Through reading His word, prayer, worship, praise, and obedience, our focus is both magnified and refined. When we do this, God’s spirit will speak to us and give us new insight and revelation of His word. As we are attuned to God, it’s as if He lifts a veil and reveals new truths to our circumstances.

Have you ever read a familiar scripture and found new meaning that undeniably applies to your circumstances? I’m not talking about picking up your Bible, allowing it to open at will, and then, with eyes closed, place your finger on the page and look at the words for some revelation.

If we are pursuing God, we read His word out of only one motivation – love, rather than seeking an answer or quick fix to a situation. This is where the promise is tied to the blessing. In our obedience, God speaks.

To experience God’s presence is an awesome thing. Sometimes a pastor’s sermon will touch our spirits in such a way that we know God is speaking to us. Often times, we see God in the beauty of His creation, be it nature or through unselfish acts of love. Sometimes it’s in the darkness of heartache, when we hear God’s whispers of comfort and hope. Or maybe, through music and song, our spirits sense our Creator’s presence.

God is available to anyone who seeks Him. It’s our choice. I pray that if you don’t know Him, you will choose to accept a heavenly invitation to allow His son into your heart and life.


While many commentaries and bibles define the Beatitudes within the parameters of Matthew 5:1-12, I’ve chosen to end with verse 8. My goal has been to address those teachings that could be applied on both a spiritual and personal level as they relate to how we grow spiritually and show how we can live out that teaching. While verses 9 through 12 are not any less important, my deepest desire is that readers might receive a new insight into loving God and loving others. I believe verses 1 through 8 are a point from which to begin.


As to beginnings, many are focusing on Christmas. Celebrations range from mild to chaotic and from excess to naught. In the midst of tradition, seasonal hustle and bustle, and meeting others’ expectations, we too easily forget the significance of the reason for the season.

Oh, we remember the baby in the manger and the Christmas story. However, I think we too often forget that Jesus was God incarnate. Think about that.

How can we possibly incorporate the truth of Christmas into just one day? To even imply it can be done in these twenty-five days is presumptuous. The truth is, if we could but capture a glimpse of our heart-felt desire to focus on the true reason for the season every day, we might encounter Jesus rather than Santa Clause as church bells proclaim Christmas morning.

I would invite you to return each of these twenty-five days. Maybe some verse of scripture or song will touch your life. That is my prayer.

There is a most wondrous scripture with which to begin.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

Even in the most imaginative minds, who could have known the eternal ramifications of this prophecy and promise? God’s gift would shake this world from top to bottom and
irrevocably bind us to the Creator of the universe.

Blessings, Francine

Where is your security?

It’s been a tumultuous couple of weeks for all of us as we watched Hurricane Katrina and we now await Hurricane Rita. Regardless of what was and wasn’t done and what will or won’t be done in the future, the bottom line for many is that we truly have little control over any of the storms in our lives. Mother Nature, other people, even our government will fail us. But we aren’t left alone to face adversity.

We all have plans, hopes, and dreams and we all should hold fast to them. But, times will come when we must let go of some things and look to new horizons. That can be hard to do when dark skies close in on all sides.

I know I had good intentions of picking up and continuing the commentary on the Sermon on the Mount. But, sometimes life gets in the way.

Of course, for me, it’s been a matter of trying to organize my time between finishing touches on my book and spending time with family and friends while I’m visiting in Arizona. I believe if we follow God’s lead and allow Him to balance the demands on our lives, we will find calm in the midst of the most threatening storms.

It’s not easy, but I can’t help but remember the disciples’ concerns when they were with Jesus in a boat in the throes of a sudden storm. He calmed their fears just about as easily as He calmed the wind and the rain.*

We can find assurance in that scenario because He does the same thing for us if He’s in our lives. The key is to look to Him rather than the tempest raging around us.

I hope to return to the commentaries next week. Until then, my prayers are that, in spite of the impending storms we all face, Jesus gives each of us that perfect calm. If He can control the winds and sea, He can calm our doubts and fears.

Blessings, Francine

*And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Matthew 8:24-27, New American Standard Bible

If only you had told them

I had a rather unpleasant experience at a home improvement store recently that left me upset and, quite honestly, angry. I’m visiting my home in Arizona for a month and planning for much-needed improvements on my permanent return in a few months. The plan was to visit some stores and get remodeling ideas. Since my husband is back in Germany, I was going to take photographs of items we hope to purchase and/or install. I’d visited one small business and decided to check out a huge chain that guarantees customer satisfaction.

I began taking photos and my daughter over heard some rather loud whispering about how customers weren’t allowed to take photos. I approached the supervisors clustered together and asked if there was a problem. I was told I wasn’t allowed to take photos. I explained what I was doing and why and was told they would need to call for approval. I asked them to do so.

As I waited, I heard a request over the PA system for security to call the Home Furnishings section. I was in the Home Furnishings section but decided I’d done nothing wrong and waited.

Ultimately, I was told I could take pictures only of specific items and would apparently need individual approval for each different type of item. It was obvious that I would get no assistance from the supervisors, and I didn’t have hours to spend. I left and immediately called the corporate offices. The person I talked to was apologetic when I told my story and impressed upon her that not only had I been treated rudely, but also that there were no signs posted telling me photography was prohibited. The explanation was that since September 11th, security measures prevented photography. Upon further conversation, I was again told I could take specific photos but there was a concern over proprietary issues.

As I thought about this later, I thought to myself … if only I’d been told.

And then I wondered how many folks might spend eternity separated from God because no one ever told them. That is the reason I do what I do. God, in His gracious mercy and love, has taught me so many things through difficult circumstances. My heart’s desire is to let others know that there is a light in the darkness of adversity.

Of course, I do know that there are times when people are told things and they refuse to listen. Yet, I wonder, do they refuse to listen or are they unequipped to follow the words they’ve heard. I think about the residents of New Orleans. They were told to evacuate. They knew Hurricane Katrina was a powerful storm. In other words, they had the information they needed. Unfortunately, for many, they didn’t have the means by which to follow the warnings to evacuate and many died.

We do have a responsibility to tell others about God’s love for them. But, we must look and see how each of us can help them fully understand. We can show them the path but sometimes, we must take their hands and walk with them.

I think of the millions of people who haven’t heard the truth of God’s words and I don’t want to stand before the Creator and hear Him say, “If only you had told them.

Blessings, Francine

Light a Candle

In the days after September 11, 2001, our nation mourned the unbelievable loss because of the terrorist attacks. Maybe we were even mourning the loss of our sense of innocence. While this country has fought in wars and survived the terrible attack on Pearl Harbor, this was the first time we collectively felt vulnerable.

Homes in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area began putting candles in the windows as a symbol of their compassion and concern for the victims of September 11. While I’m not sure if this was a national trend, I know for those of us so close to the Pentagon, it was comforting.

Each of us could show our support for victims, survivors, and people involved in the tremendous humanitarian effort because of Hurricane Katrina by doing the same. The suffering is really only beginning for many who, now safe, begin the long journey to rebuilding their lives. They need our support and our prayers.

President Bush has declared Friday, September 16 a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance with a call that “the people of the United States and places of worship” mark the day with memorial services and other appropriate observances. The President’s proclamation states: “I also encourage all Americans to remember those who have suffered in the disaster by offering prayers and giving their hearts and homes for those who now, more than ever, need our compassion and support.”

In the past weeks, we’ve discovered a new vulnerability that, while caused by natural disaster, has shown us that we still remain vulnerable. It doesn’t take much to imagine how our enemies could use these weaknesses in their desires to cripple our country.

Can something good come out of something as devastating as Hurricane Katrina? We’ve already seen the people of the United States contribute millions of dollars to aid strangers. Maybe we can use the obvious problems we all saw broadcast around the world to better plan for future disasters.

What better way to support the President’s proclamation and remind us to pray for our country than to light a candle.

Blessings, Francine


I would think that many of us have gone through numerous changes in the last week and a half. Our hearts have been broken – either in suffering the loss or from the compassion we feel when viewing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. Our country is exhibiting care for the millions of poor in spirit.

We see people from all walks of life alongside huge corporations and foreign countries putting forth a monstrous effort in donating money, needed items, and services. Around the world, prayers are being lifted up.

To use an often-quoted expression, “Nothing is as constant as change.”

I don’t know of too many people who enjoy change. It’s usually unexpected and, even when it’s planned, it’s fraught with uncertainty. The unknown can be frightening.

Regardless of all the unknowns in this world, we can cling to the assurance God is in control. We may never know all the good that comes from catastrophe, but one thing seems clear – in the midst of destruction, hearts open to those less fortunate. We really do strive to love our neighbor as ourselves – we treat others as we would like to be treated. It’s unfortunate that it often takes tragedy to bring about this kind of transformation. Still, it is a reason for hope.

If we take time to prepare, then neither changes nor the unknown will damage or destroy our spirits.

As I prepare for a trip back to the United States on September 11, I realize that our country never expected to experience something greater than the events of that day. Certainly, there are important differences in that the attacks on September 11 were deliberate and intended to wound and kill. Yet I know many recognize, both as individuals and as a nation, we are vulnerable. Again, I can only find strength and comfort through the awesome power of the great I AM.

I’ve come to understand that those two words imply much more than they appear. God didn’t use the past or future tense when telling Moses who He was. We find the Creator in the here and now. He alone possesses eternal power and unchanging character in a world of constant change. I AM is the security and stability we can cling to.

Blessings, Francine

*Exodus 3:14

Note: Monday’s entry will be delayed a day or two as I adjust to jet lag.

SPECIAL NOTE: I pray that each commentary I write here will bless you but please understand that each is built on previous entries. I’ve tried to build a Biblical basis from which my thoughts are developed. It’s important that you understand “my words” aren’t the end of the story, so to speak. I would encourage you to check out previous entries if you have questions concerning what I’ve written. Also, I’ve included links to several web sites that can provide much more detailed guidance than I’m able to do here. Check out “Running Empty” or “Power to Change” (see list of links to the right). For more in-depth study, you can visit “Now Try God” at or “New Christian Life” at as additional resources. The bottom line – don’t accept what I say as gospel. That’s what the Bible is for. As always, I welcome your comments or you can contact me at


Sometimes God's provision overwhelms me. Even in something as insignificant as the words I post here – He is so involved in my life. Nothing catches Him by surprise. He weaves Himself intricately into the lives of those who love Him and seek to do His will.

It would seem that He couldn’t possibly be concerned with each of us – especially in the wake of tragedies. Yet He is – but only if we let Him. If we refuse His offer to guide and direct us – which comes with our submission and obedience to not just follow but do – then He whispers our name and murmurs the things we need to hear, be it words of comfort or guidance.

Taking a break from the Beatitudes wasn’t an easy decision – from my human perspective. I’m so thankful that a spiritual perspective guides my life because I was available for God to use me in the wake of so much heartache our country is now mired in. Yet, to remain caught up in these things, particularly if we aren’t directly involved in them, hinders God. We can use the compassion He fills us with in so many ways to reach out to others. But we must be prepared.

The spiritual sequence to these most recent posts gives a deeper appreciation for all the blessings and promises of the Beatitudes. No, it’s not a perfect world. And once we understand that Jesus is constantly overcoming the world, we can look at spiritual preparation. Don’t be deceived … there is a spiritual battle in the heavenly realms and it’s a battle for not only your soul, but it is also a battle for your peace. If you aren’t prepared, you will be wounded. (See July 29 entry, Dress for Success).

But how do we prepare for the battles of the heart and spirit? Certainly, we can follow Paul’s words in putting on the Armor of God. However, there is such simple yet powerful meaning in the words Jesus gave prior to His crucifixion.

I wonder what was going through His mind on that last evening with His disciples. He knew what was ahead, yet despite the swift-approaching agony, He took no thought for Himself. Instead, he left words for his disciples*. And if we have accepted him as our savior, then these words are for each of us as well. It’s up to you to find time to allow them to penetrate your spirit.

You can find hope and assurance in Jesus’ words. He’s proved it repeatedly to millions who’ve fallen in love with Him.

Blessings, Francine

*John 16

It's not a perfect world

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33, NAS

As a final note about the devastation and heartache surrounding Hurricane Katrina, I can’t help but think about the words Jesus spoke to his disciples the night before His crucifixion.

As the relief effort pours into the Gulf region, folks are asking many questions, all beginning with the word why. Over the next weeks, months, and probably years, the reactions, both good and bad, to the hurricane will be examined. There is something in human nature that desires to find an answer and place blame. I leave that debate to others.

The truth is that bad things happen. We don’t live in a perfect world. And regardless of all the should’ves, would’ves, and could’ves, tragedies happen. If we look to the things of this world to bring us comfort and security, we will always be disappointed and come up wanting. If we place our trust in things, then when those things are lost, we too seem to be lost. Even if we find security in neighborhoods, friends, or our families, we will come to some point when they won’t meet whatever needs we might have.

Jesus told us we will have tribulation. It’s a truth we sometimes forget when we are caught up in all the pretty things of the world. And it’s something too many people have forgotten. Instead of asking why us, maybe the questions is, why not us? Who are we to think that we are immune to heartache and pain?

We consider ourselves the greatest country in the world but we still must succumb to Mother Nature. Have we become so sanctimonious that we believe we can control nature? Unfortunately, we seem to believe we can control everything. If anything shows us we can’t, it is Hurricane Katrina.

As the world and the rest of America open its arms to survivors, maybe we should re-focus. Jesus has overcome the world but if we begin to understand that this is not a past event, but instead, an ongoing action, then we find something more real and more powerful than any catastrophic event, any army, or any force on earth. I’d much rather trust in the Creator’s control of His universe than anything man or nature can offer.

Please continue to pray for victims, survivors, and everyone reaching out to help.

Blessings, Francine

Biblical Proportions

I’ve joined a tremendous group of bloggers who have connected to blog for victims of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not something I would normally do, but I am so moved by the magnitude of need.

All of us can see what’s happening. Unfortunately, the most news worthy stories are also those showing what I described Wednesday as the diabolical. I truly believe that when we are able to take a retrospective look at this disaster (and disaster seems almost too mild of a description), we will see that the divine will prevail.

It is devastating to watch how some people react in a state of lawlessness. It is shocking to see how society can quickly disintegrate without the normal infrastructure we usually take for granted. It is horrific to look in the face of evil. Yet, we must remember that our society has continued to, or is trying to, take God out of every aspect of our lives.

Thankfully, there are many more stories of normal folks acting heroically to help their neighbors. There are major efforts being made by corporations and organizations. Many humanitarian groups are there now – we just can’t see them. Strangers, friends, family, and even cities and towns are opening their homes and hearts to assist these refugees. These are part of the good that will prevail in the next weeks and months.


I wrote the above words yesterday, intending to post them here. Instead, all I saw, heard, and read overwhelmed me. One person was quoted as saying, “This is a disaster of Biblical proportions.” Since hearing those words, I’ve come to realize that is true and that recovering will encompass the same.

If we look at the situation, we can see only hopelessness. As riveting as the images are that tumble across our screens, we must take our eyes off the circumstances and put them on God.

Pray. Only a recovery of Biblical proportions can solve so much pain, suffering, hunger, homelessness, and grief.

I’ve heard that there have been many requests for Bibles. I ask each of you to pray and then look to how we can put God’s truth in the hands of these who’ve lost everything. We can give them new hope.

But make no mistake – God is in control. He can still transform lives.

Blessings and prayers to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.


Living the Beatitudes

If ever there were poor in spirit, I believe those affected by Hurricane Katrina qualify. In reaching out to those victims, we have the opportunity of living out the words Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount.

God is in control.

It may be hard to see evidence of His presence in the midst of the unfolding story taking place in America’s Gulf Port and neighboring states. Even here in Germany, the images weave and bob across our television screens. The devastation is almost too much to comprehend.

A husband whose wife slipped from his grip in the surging floodwaters of New Orleans is probably one of the faces I will most remember. His hopelessness broke my heart. I know there are more stories that will never make the news as thousands of lives are irrevocably changed.

There are the accounts of courageous rescues – children swinging in baskets dangling from helicopters, everyday folks using boats to look for those stranded on rooftops or within dark attics, and still more risking their own lives to help reach those unable to help themselves.

Unfortunately, there are the images of looters. The first reports seemed to be of desperate people seeking food and water in a city that cannot provide either. But, as is the case with the human condition, the looting has gotten worse as people grab anything of value.

Tragedy seems to bring out the divine and the diabolical.

It’s hard to watch the pictures or hear the bottomless pain in the voices of survivors. For most of us, the natural tendency is to help. There are many ways to do that and I’m sure those so moved to do so will.

I can only think of one thing we can all do – pray. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco has asked residents to spend today in prayer. While many so easily say it’s the least they could do, I believe it is the best and most we can do. As you watch the news, hear a radio report, or peruse the internet, stop and pray for those folks.

The residents of these states have months of struggles ahead. Yet the urgency to just find the living and provide basic human needs for them seems most critical right now.

Each of us can live out the beatitudes. It shouldn’t take a disaster to do so. I praise God that while the diabolical stories will surface in the floodwaters of this tragedy, the more divine examples of doing what Jesus would do will emerge, attesting to the Creator’s presence in His children.

My prayers are with all those whose lives have been touched by this tragedy.
“There is power in prayer.”

Blessings, Francine

Listening to God

When I first began Words from the Heart, I was committed to doing two things: always pointing to God and being real. I did not want this blog to be about me but instead, all about God. He began this journey for me and it’s been beyond what I could’ve possibly imagined. But more about that next time.

One of the things I’ve learned from God is that there are times we all need to stop and breathe. Now is one of those times for me. The human side whispers that I should forge ahead in this current commentary on the Sermon on the Mount and ignore everything else.

God knows our lives are filled with … well, filled with living. And so, over the next few weeks, I have some of that living to do.

I am preparing for a trip from Heidelberg, Germany (where I temporarily reside) to my permanent home in Arizona to enjoy my family, share in birthday celebrations, and begin my new journey as a published author. Fortunately, through the wonder of the internet, I’ll still be posting here. But I think smaller chunks of commentaries might work well for both me and those of you who take the time out of your busy days to visit.

While I believe the commentaries on the first three beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-5) are really worth more than a cursory glance, I thought I’d do a recap here and list previous entries by date, title, and scripture reference. Since much of what I write is based on previous writing, this gives a pretty clear picture of my beliefs and a brief idea of how I got to this point in my spiritual growth.

One thing I can say with certainty – God is faithful even when we aren’t. I’m living proof.

Here’s the list. I know that God has directed my thoughts and my path, so I’m praying for those who might need some words of encouragement and that they find those words in these previous commentaries.

May 3 Beginnings
May 4 What’s Peace?
May 13 Defeating the Darkness of Depression
July 8 Getting it Right
July 11 Who is in Control?
July 13 Giving up Control: 2 Timothy 3:1-8; Romans 1:21-32
July 15 A Word of Caution: Romans 2:1-4; Psalm 18
July 18 Recognizing God’s Control: Matthew 11:28-30; John 10:38; 14:6
July 20 Priming the Pump: John 4:9-15
July 22 More than Entertainment
July 25 What Are You Thinking About?: Proverbs 27:7, Philippians 4:8
July 27 The Battlefield of the mind: 2 Corinthians 10:5
July 29 Dress for Success: Ephesians 6:10-17
Aug 1 Building Blocks: Matthew 7:24-27
Aug 3 Who Is this Guy?: Matthew 22:36-39; Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:42, 46
Aug 5 Speaking to the Heart: Matthew 5:2-12
Aug 8 When Is It Good to be Poor?: Poor in spirit, Matthew 5:3
Aug 10 Needing and Giving: Poor in spirit, Matthew 5:3
Aug 12 A Grand Inheritance: Kingdom of Heaven, Matthew 5:3
Aug 15 Looking at Ugliness: Mourn what?, Matthew 5:4
Aug 17 What About Me?: Those who mourn, Matthew 5:4
Aug 19 I Can’t Do This: They shall be comforted, Matthew 5:4
Aug 22 Father Knows Best: Blessed are the meek, Matthew 5:5
Aug 24 Meek isn’t Weak: Matthew 5:5
Aug 26 Eternal Vision: They shall inherit the earth, Mathew 5:5

Blessings, Francine

SPECIAL NOTE: Here are those links to several web sites that can provide much more detailed guidance than I’m able to do here. Check out “Running Empty” or “Power to Change” (see list of links to the right). For more in-depth study, you can visit “Now Try God” at or “New Christian Life” at as additional resources. The bottom line – don’t accept what I say as gospel. That’s what the Bible is for. As always, I welcome your comments or you can contact me at

Building Blocks

Have you ever played with blocks – when you were young or maybe with one of your kids or grandkids?

Children love to build things and their excitement shows as they hurriedly stack those blocks. All they want is to build something spectacular, but in their rush, they don’t spend much time on the foundation.

It’s the same with our faith. Many hear the word and set about to build their faith with good intentions, but we all know where the road that’s paved with good intentions leads. They begin a faith built on works rather than a faith built on the word. They preach, they minister, and they do many things. However, they don’t lay a solid foundation – and don’t even realize their errors until the faith they’ve built crumbles.

Children easily go back to their pile of blocks and begin again – they don’t mind starting over. Eventually, as they grow, they learn the secret to a beautiful creation is building a strong foundation. Too bad we don’t have their imagination, spirit, and persistence. Sometimes I think that’s why Jesus used references to children.

If we want to grow strong in our faith, we need to learn from Jesus, and not only through His teachings but through His living examples.

After calling His twelve disciples, Jesus began teaching and healing. Large crowds began following Him. His longest recorded sermon is the Sermon on the Mount given on a hillside to enormous crowds and probably lasting several days. It summarizes Jesus’ ethical teachings for every day life.

If we are to know Jesus, we can begin here, but I’d like to suggest looking at the end of this teaching first because it gives a vital truth we should strive towards as we seek to learn.

“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not collapse because its foundation was on the rock.

“Everyone who hears these words of mine and doesn’t obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and battered that house, and it collapsed, and its collapse was devastating.” Matthew 7:24-27, International Standard Version

The world has seen enough disasters to understand the importance of a solid foundation that will withstand nature’s fury. What are you going to build your faith on?

As always -- blessings, Francine

Dress for Success

It doesn’t matter where we go or what we do, we need to figure out what we are going to wear. If we are professionals who work outside the home, then our wardrobe reflects appropriate attire. Most jobs have a dress code of sorts, some less formal than others. Still, certain professions require specific dress because lives depend on it – both theirs and ours. If a fireman doesn’t have the appropriate gear, he can’t enter a burning building. In fact, depending on the conflagration, he might not even be able to get close enough to help douse the flames. An astronaut’s need for appropriate gear is understood.

We try to take good care of ourselves as well – eating properly, living healthy lifestyles, and exercising. We take precautions based on the weather and other elements of our environment. Drink plenty of water when it’s hot, dress warmly in cold weather, wear sunscreen – all meant to protect.

However, based on the previous entry, if the mind is a battlefield, then how do we dress or protect ourselves? We may try to do it through our own strength, but it isn’t enough.

Since we are engaged in a spiritual battle, God has provided us His spiritual armor*. If you have ever watched movies about knights in battle, you know how important it is to be protected.

God’s armor protects us against the rulers, powers, and world forces of darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Satan doesn’t fight fair, but he’s smart enough not to engage in a full-blown attack. Instead, he prefers small skirmishes that assault our emotions and our beliefs. Once those are vulnerable and weak, then we begin to doubt.

The amazing thing is that this armor protects us from head to feet. If every action begins with a thought, then the helmet of salvation is vital, protecting our mind and our thoughts.

Second to our minds, our hearts are at risk and the breastplate of righteousness protects that place where our emotions, self-worth, and trust reside.

It’s important to understand that Satan attacks with lies – oftentimes sounding like the truth. God has provided us the belt of truth, for God’s truth defeats the devil’s lies.

When we are weary and feel like giving up, we can put on the shoes of peace, which motivate, strengthen, and encourage us in spite of Satan’s assaults.

Two more items complete the armor. The shield of faith keeps us from getting stuck in our own circumstances and allows us to see our victory. Finally, the sword of the spirit, God’s Word – the only weapon of offense –will ward off temptation.

It may not be easy to understand or accept why God’s armor is so important. The biggest mistake we can make as believers is thinking Satan is a little guy in a red suit with a pitchfork. Isn’t it better to be prepared than to be caught defenseless in the battles that will come?

Blessings, Francine
*Ephesians 6:10-17

The Battlefield of Your Mind

Consider this: every action begins with a thought. While that may seem a simple statement, it really should be a warning to us about how we think and what we think about.

It’s easy to tell folks to think good thoughts as I did in the last posting here. Sounds like a line from a fairy tale, doesn’t it?

First, we need to understand that when God created us, He gave us freedom of choice. He does not force us to do anything. Too often, people like to use the excuse that someone made them do something. That’s simply not true. I may choose to do something in order to avoid the consequences. Personally, I prefer to avoid physical pain. I know that if I touch something hot, I’ll get burned – so you won’t find me holding my hand too close to a fire’s flame.

I am amazed to hear former prisoners of war talk about the military code of conduct and how they clung to those beliefs even though it meant pain and sometimes death.

However, the consequences of most actions aren’t so black and white. There are many gray areas in our lives.

Most believe that if you commit a crime, you’ll be caught and punished. The reality is that while our justice system is a good one, we all know that many who are caught aren’t punished. Further still, many are never even captured. After all, how many criminals do you think committed crimes with the idea they would actually be caught and punished? They believed they could get away with it. Their actions began with a thought.

It’s really the same with our thinking. And that is Satan’s best kept secret. His battlefield is our minds. If he can worm his way into our thinking, then he can distract us from the Truth. He can also rob us of our peace.

I know this is true because of how my mind wandered as I was seeking to know God’s will for what I was to write. Instead, my mind overflowed with other thoughts and worries.

Maybe God is using me because I’m such a good example of how imperfect and human we all are. Personally, I don’t mind if he does, because I want to convey the reality of being a believer. It’s one thing to admit you aren’t perfect. It’s another to lay out your imperfections for others to see. Yet, if just one person reads something here and is encouraged or discovers the life-changing experience of God’s forgiveness, then I’m content.

Once I realized how Satan was trying to sidetrack my thoughts, I immediately prayed. Paul tells us in the last half of 2 Corinthians 10, verse 5, that we are to stand against Satan's deception by taking every thought captive in obedience to Christ.

For me, that meant taking my focus off myself and placing it on Jesus. It also meant understanding my thoughts weren’t where Christ would want them to be and using God’s truth against Satan’s lies. In other words, we don’t have to live with the lies Satan whispers in our ears or places in our minds. We can change how we think and, in doing so, change our beliefs and our behaviors. But, we can’t do it alone.

I believe the best defense is a good offense. Next time, I’ll share how God has a place from which to begin.

One more thing – please know that I am praying for you. No, I don’t know your name but God does, and He has brought you here for a reason. My prayer is that you will find the freedom in the truth of God’s word.

Blessings, Francine

Note: If you’re a new visitor here, welcome. You might want to check out the entry for July 18 – it will give you an idea about the basis for my beliefs.

What are YOU thinking about?

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase, “you are what you eat.”

There’s another phrase that many have come to realize is true: “you are what you think.”

Even the Bible declares in Proverbs 27:7: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. KJV

The thoughts that enter our brain seem to come from everywhere – our memories, photographs, what we watch on television or see in movie theaters, conversations, what we plan to wear to work tomorrow, how that special dish is going to taste, songs on the radio, how we are going to pay our bills – in other words, the world around us.

Our brain does a wonderful job at filtering and cataloging all the incoming data and making decisions as to what is placed aside and what is consciously thought of.

However, I believe we can make deliberate choices as to what we think about. Some would argue the opposite – they have no control of their thoughts.

There are other times when we aren’t necessarily focused on anything. It seems, the more time we have on our hands translates into more time when our thoughts randomly march through our mind. In other words, we are caught up in worry.

Conversely, when we are focused on a task – cooking, working, interacting with others – we are capable of thinking about what is going on at that moment. Although our attention may occasionally wander, for most, the activity at hand usually holds our interest.

Ask anyone who has a problem going to sleep at night. Many times, they can’t seem to turn their mind off. If you’ve ever experienced that kind of insomnia, you know how devastating it can be.

I battle anxiety. It’s an insidious thing. I can literally make a mountain out of a molehill, and do so quite easily. In all honesty, I can tell you that those things I’ve worried about to the point of distraction have never happened.

There are many ways to combat anxiety, but unless you totally numb yourself out with drugs or some other substance, you cannot turn your brain off.

My solution is to choose what I think about. To some, that may sound easy but it isn’t. It takes a concentrated effort to focus our thoughts on something other than an object of worry or obsession. Of course, the question might be asked – what should a person focus on? God has given us guidance throughout His word, but there is one scripture verse that could give us a general idea of where we can begin.

Philippians 4:8 says: “ … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” New International Version

When I began this blog, my intent was to provide words of encouragement without compromising the truth. This month I began by laying a foundation of sorts, based on my own beliefs and experiences. I believed it was important for readers to know what I trust in but more importantly, the Truth of God’s word.

My heart’s desire is to provide ideas and thoughts that provoke pondering.

So, think about things that are true, noble reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious … in other words, as The Message says – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

It’s your choice.

Blessings, Francine

More than Entertainment

So many different types of music and artists have played in the background of my life. Songs seem to document the best and worst of times for me. I like listening to the melodies of happier times. They bring back sweet memories and make me smile.

Music also plays a big role in our worship. The old, standard hymns are so much a part of my church services and I love the way they seem to anchor the reverence I have for God.
Yet, contemporary Christian music is something that speaks to me in a more intimate way. It can lift me up in a spirit of praise and adoration of my Lord, or it can sing a song of healing.

I’d like to share a few special artists who have made a difference in my life. Their messages are more than entertainment … they sing of our joys and struggles in the “reality of living our faith.”

Sometimes, Christian artists never become mega-stars with numerous music awards. Yet, there are some who touch more hearts and lives because of their message and their commitment to a ministry that extends beyond music. David Meece is just such an artist. I first became familiar when David performed at our church in southeastern Arizona. His lyrics and music spoke to a broken area of my life and I realized this guy was for real. His first music was released back in 1976 and he’s been recording ever since. His distinguished career actually began at the age of 10, when he began touring as a concert pianist and distinguished child prodigy and, as such, performed all over the world. Some may be familiar with his more popular songs, “We are the Reason” and “One Small Child,” a Christmas classic. But, the song that most touched my heart is, “My Father’s Chair.” David grew up in an abusive home and this song is autobiographical. You can visit his web site and discover how talented and dedicated this Christian man is. And while I don’t have all his CDs, I can recommend Once in a Lifetime, which includes “My Father’s Chair,” and Odyssey. The thing I like most about David is that he has such variety in his music you’re bound to find something you like. David’s website is

If you’ve never listened to Kim Hill, you’re missing a wonderful opportunity to just worship. She too is another one of those real people, singing about real life.” After two years of participation in Focus on the Family’s Renewing the Heart national women’s conference, Kim, along with participants Lisa Harper and Eva Whittington Self, continue to teach and lead services through their own concert series, “Every Woman’s Hope." She’s been nominated for a Grammy and received multiple Dove Awards with her distinctive voice. If you are looking for renewal of your spirit from a realistic perspective, her two CDs, Arms of Mercy, and The Fire Again, will leave you more than satisfied. One song in particular, “I Can’t Believe,” speaks to the human side of being obedient and faithful. Visit her website and find out more about appearances and conference schedules,

With the hit song, “I Can Only Imagine,” which garnered several Dove Awards, the group MercyMe, was one of Christian’s fastest selling bands in 2001. This particular song illustrates what happens when we take the focus off our circumstances and place it on Jesus. Some of you may be more than familiar with their music but their CD Almost There, really touched my heart. And apparently, I’m not alone. The group appeals to both devout Christians and young teens. While their more upbeat tempo may not appeal to some, their music really has been a blessing. When Christian artists can reach outside the Christian arena, then they are making a real difference in the world.

There is one artist whom I can’t leave off this list. Rich Mullins. If you know the song, “Awesome God,” or “Step by Step,” then you know Rich Mullins because these have become popular songs in praise and worship services. He wasn’t your ordinary kind of person – certainly not when it comes to successful musicians. Instead, he took a vow of poverty and taught music to children on a Navajo reservation until his death in 1997. I still remember where I was on that evening when the news hit that he’d been killed in an automobile accident. Because he was a wonderfully prolific songwriter and performer, I’m only going to mention two CDs, The World as Best as I Remember It, – volumes one and two (released in 1991 and 1992, respectively). Within the twenty-one songs on these CDs, Rich paints pictures that stick in your mind. Pictures of the badlands and deserts, Jesus, friends, and a deep devotion to God. I think his words and music can be summed up by something he said: “Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken.” That’s about as real as you can get. There are various sites about Rich Mullins and his ministry on the internet.

Finally, if there’s one thing we as Christians don’t do enough, it’s taking the time to laugh. And, there’s one man who can do that with wholesome, realistic humor that will leave you rolling on the floor. Mark Lowry has been in the business for more than twenty years and has been performing since he was eleven. Not only is Mark a gifted comedienne, he’s also a talented singer and songwriter. If you are familiar with the Christmas song, “Mary Did you Know,” then you “know” just how gifted he is. And, if you watch any of the Gaither Vocal Band’s “Homecoming” videos or television programs, you’ll see how God has perfectly meshed Mark's gifts into a wonderfully mischievous package. Just visiting his web site at makes you laugh.

I do pray that you might find encouragement in these dedicated Christians and something more than just entertainment in their words and songs.

As always, blessings, Francine
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