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
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