5 Steps for Charitable Giving this Christmas

How to give to “the least of these” this Christmas. A guide to creating stocking stuffers for kids in need.

December is a flurry of giving and receiving. It feels good to have that balance. To give gifts and receive thanks. To get gifts back in return.

But Sunday’s readings challenge us to do more. They might even make us a tad uncomfortable.

Whatever we do to the least of God’s people, we do to Him. And whatever we don’t do for the least of these, we didn’t do for Him. (see Matt 25: 40, 45) Continue reading “5 Steps for Charitable Giving this Christmas”

Life without You: Advent, BFFs, and separation

Absence makes the heart grow fonder: an Advent reflection inspired by my daughter.

My 4 year old daughter Princess and her cousin are best friends.

She sees her cousin almost every day. And when they don’t get together, she spends all her time talking about what she wants to say to her cousin or play with her when she sees her next.

But Princess’s cousin and her family went on vacation recently. For the first time, the two girls were separated by time and distance.

Life without her best friend is hard. Continue reading “Life without You: Advent, BFFs, and separation”

How to Upgrade and Preserve Your Mosaic Jesse Tree

*Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase through any of these links, I make a small percentage at no extra cost to you.

Hi friends!

I’ve had a lot of questions rolling in about my Mosaic Jesse Tree. Some of the most popular are:

  • How/where do we hang them?
  • Can we laminate them?
  • What’s the best way to preserve them?

Continue reading “How to Upgrade and Preserve Your Mosaic Jesse Tree”

A Prayer Guide for Advent

How to have a prayerful Advent.

I love the anticipation of Advent. The joy and excitement. What I don’t love is the commercialization that threatens to distract me.

The gifting and spending make me cringe. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against giving and receiving gifts. I don’t hate the idea of generosity. I just get stressed out from the pressure of mandatory giving.

So, while it’s a tempting proposition for my wallet, you won’t find me writing a gift guide. I won’t tell you what to buy for your mother, father, aunt, spouse, or children. Because 1) I have no idea what my own loved ones want, let alone yours and 2) that would bring me more stress than joy.

But instead of a gift guide, how about a prayer guide? Continue reading “A Prayer Guide for Advent”

Send a flood of prayer.

We’re all familiar with the Noah story. People were wicked. God sent a flood to destroy them. Then He promised never to destroy the earth by flood again.

Why the sudden change of heart? We look around today, and it seems like wickedness still abounds. Every news outlet is filled with stories of hate and hurt and tragedy. Why doesn’t God send another flood? Why doesn’t He just take out all the bad guys?

God, what were You thinking when You made that covenant?

He told us exactly what He was thinking… “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

Mankind doesn’t have a gun problem. A porn problem. A drug problem.

Mankind has a heart problem.

And it won’t be healed by melting down all the guns. People have been murdering each other since before guns ever existed. It won’t be healed by outlawing pornography. People have been taking advantage of each other before the world came online. It won’t be healed by wiping out the druglords. New ones are ever ready to rise in their place.

The evil in man’s heart can’t be wiped away by a flood.

As we mourn the lives lost in the recent Texas shooting, we long for quick solutions. We long for a way to eradicate this evil off the face of the earth once and for all. But as God the Father pointed out to us in the story of Noah, evil can’t be stopped by brute force.

How can it be stopped?

By love. By prayer. By sacrifice.

I think of the Crucifixion. I think of Jesus, offering Himself freely in our place. To redeem us from all our own evil. From the darkness that resides in the corners of our own hearts.

How much He loved us that day! How He prayed and wept for our salvation in the Garden of Gethsemane!

It’s almost like God switched tactics here. Sure, He did what needed to be done to stop the evil in the moment. He sent that flood to obliterate the evil. But He knew that, although it would help for a short while, it’s not enough in the long run.

He knew that the world needed more. That we needed, not just laws and heavy handed enforcement, but a Redeemer. He knew that He couldn’t scare the evil out of us. No, we needed more than that.

So He decided to love the evil out of us.

He sent His only Son. To teach us. To minister us. To heal us. To die for us.

And our brothers and sisters in that Baptist Church in Texas have followed right in His footsteps.

They got up on Sunday morning, and they went to Church to love on Jesus. They went their to worship their Savior. And they paid the ultimate price. They gave their lives for Him.

They could have stayed home. They could have slept in. They could have chosen self.

But they chose God.

It was the last choice they made. And their lives were taken from them so suddenly. They had no way of knowing what was in store for them. They were the victims of a terrible act of violence.

And their sacrifice calls us to action. Their sacrifice calls us to do something to stop the evil in this world.

Sure, go ahead and enforce all the laws you want. Go ahead and rid people of convenient means of violence. It may slow them down. But it won’t stop them.

If we truly want this to end, we need to turn to Jesus. We need to give ourselves to the cause of peace through prayer and sacrifice.

We need to minister to the world like He did by proclaiming all that’s good and right and beautiful. We need to heal the world like He did by sharing His abundant love. We need to die to ourselves like He did. We need to live for others like He did.

We need to pray.

Like He did.

Brute force won’t eliminate evil from this world any more than that big old flood of destruction did in Noah’s day.

If we want evil to stop, we need to be the change we want to see.

Have we given our hearts to Him fully? Have we devoted ourselves entirely to prayer and sacrifice? Have we embraced a life of truth and virtue with our whole hearts? Do we live for Him alone?


Then we’re part of the problem.

Today, I pray for myself. For the grace to turn from my evil ways. For the grace to let go of my evil, violent inclinations. To turn from anger and impatience. To act with love, humility and meekness. To be the change I want to see in the world.

And I pray for all of you. Everyone who feels lost and hurt and hopeless. That you’ll lift your eyes up to heaven and pray. That you’ll do all you can to promote a culture of peace.

I pray for all those who commit acts of violence. That they turn from all the hatred and hurt that’s in their hearts. They they my open themselves up to the love of Jesus. That they find their redemption.

And I pray for all those who mourn the loss of their loved ones in the wake of this tragedy.

As I remember the Christians that we lost that day, I keep thinking of the Flyleaf song “Beautiful Bride.”

When one part hurts the whole body’s sick.
When one part mourns, we all mourn with it.

Though we may not be fully united, we’re all part of the Body of Christ. We all love Jesus. We’re all doing our best to follow our Savior and to be holy people.

Our brothers and sisters who gave their lives that day, gave them for Him.

And we mourn their loss. Their their community is hurting. And we hurt for them too. We feel it throughout the entire Body of Christ. Any time there are Christian martyrs, that’s not a regional thing. It’s a whole body thing. It affects us. We shake and we cry and we weep for them.

Rejoice and we’ll sing with You:

But… at the same time, we rejoice with them. For them. They’ve seen Our Savior face-to-face. They made the right final choice. They gave up their Sunday morning for Him. They gave their lives for Him. Their last moments were spent loving and worshiping Him.

This whole song reminds me of the bittersweetness of death. And it calls me to do something about the tragedy that brought this about.

Train your fingers for battle.
Fighting this violence with your feet wrapped in peace.
Sad tears and silence, now screams of joy: victory!

This tragedy, like all others, is a battle. A battle fought in prayer. A battle we can only win through peace. Like the recent tragedy, this battle will involve tears and sadness and also victory.

The victory of the Cross.

Jesus’ battle over sin was fought the same way. With prayer and peace. With genuine tears and sadness. With great tragedy. But ultimately with great victory.

As Sean Forrest says, “As believers, we can cry with hope in the Resurrection.”

He made a promise to me: He’d be with me in eternity.
Though you can’t see me now, I’m right here above the clouds.
As I look in His eyes and I see all His love and His majesty,
I know I’ve come home.

And so, as I cry for those members of our Body, the Body of Christ, whom we’ve lost this week, I also hold onto hope. I lift my heart to Jesus in prayer. And I ask the souls of our recent martyrs to pray for us too. To pray for an end to violence. To pray for the unity of the Body of Christ. To pray for peace.

By their sacrifice, they’re changing the world.

Let’s join them and do our part too.

Let’s change our hearts. Let’s reach out to change the hearts of others. Let’s move forward with peace and hope. Let’s begin healing the hurts of this sinful fallen world with the love of Christ.

Let’s send a flood, just like in the days of Noah.

But this time, not a flood of destruction. A flood of prayer. Not a flood that wipes out, but a flood that transforms. A flood of healing waters. A flood of mercy.

Let’s send the flood that ends this evil once and for all.

One drop at a time. One prayer at a time.

Let the flood begin today.

Songs to help you through this time of tragedy:

“Beautiful Bride” by Flyleaf (if you like your music loud)

“He Made a Promise” by Sean Forrest (if you like your music soft)

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great post

Continue reading “Send a flood of prayer.”