Wednesday, December 31, 2008
(Photo Source: www.freefoto.com)
The Last Cigarette
My daddy stopped smoking on a Sunday morning in winter.
Standing by the wood heater that warmed our three small rooms,
He smoked the last cigarette down to ashes.
Inhale, exhale. The smoke spiraled up into the air
And we all breathed it in as we waited for Mama
To get our coats and her Bible.
The last cigarette burned down to Daddy’s fingers that had hung
Years of sticks strung with tobacco into rented barns.
Tobacco fed us ‘til Daddy gave up the farm
And moved us to a better life in town.
Inhale, exhale. A final smoke ring circled in the air above our heads.
Daddy opened the heater door and dropped the last cigarette
Into the fire.
Ashes to ashes, the past went up in smoke and a shower of sparks.
Then, bundled up against the cold, we began the walk to church—
Our breath like smoke on the frosty air.
Resolution: a decision to do something or to behave in a certain manner; to make up one’s mind.
“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank.” (Daniel 1:8a, NASB)
By Hazel King
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
(Photo by Hazel King)
Just after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and gave them a challenging assignment. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 15:16) Their mission—if they chose to accept it—was to make Jesus known to all the world. At that time, the extent of the world was not completely known and the disciples must have felt overwhelmed at the magnitude of their task. Do you think they succeeded in their “mission impossible”? I think so. With “word of mouth” their only advertising tool, the name of Jesus is now more recognized than the world’s most famous celebrities. Even with all the electronic communications available to us today, word of mouth remains the most effective means of spreading a message. People respond more readily to a message delivered by someone they know, especially if it is based on personal experience. The message is heard because the messenger is known. You may think that everyone in your personal world has heard the gospel story. That may be true, but have they heard your story? Will 2009 be the year you accept the mission to tell others what Jesus means to you?
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7, KJV)
By Hazel King
Friday, December 26, 2008
The baby in the photograph has obviously just had a sour experience, one he doesn’t care to repeat. A little lemon in a tall glass of sweet iced tea is good. Lemonade is a treat provided enough sugar is added to prevent lockjaw. Lemon by itself can be hard to swallow. The saying “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade” may be good advice but it isn’t always easy to do. So how can we deal with the lemons life throws at us? For one thing, we can look for the lesson. There is always a lesson in every experience. The sooner the lesson is learned, the less likely we are to make the same mistake again. Someone once said, “I may get bitten twice, but not by the same dog.” Bad experience plus lesson learned equals fewer repetitions. On the other hand, if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always gotten. In the spiritual realm, each of us has particular weaknesses or sins that may be hard to overcome. We keep making the same mistake, or committing the same sin, over and over. God is loving and forgiving if we ask him, but each time we give in to sin we become less able to overcome it. Likewise, each time we resist temptation, we grow stronger and more able to resist the next time. Like the little fellow above, we can learn that some things in life are not as good as they look and just refuse to try them again.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, KJV)
By Hazel King
Thursday, December 25, 2008
He was finally here, the baby God had promised her. A baby like any other baby, yet like no other baby for he was God’s own son. A miracle—and she was part of that miracle. So was Joseph, for he had chosen to trust God and her that this baby was indeed a miracle and not cause for shame. Together, they marveled at all that had come to pass since the angel had told Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. And now here they were in Bethlehem and Messiah was here, just like the prophets had foretold. There were other prophecies, too, and they frightened her now as she held the baby close. He was so perfect, so tiny, and she loved him with all her heart that she was sure would one day be broken. But for now, he was hers to care for and watch over and love, and the joy of his coming overwhelmed her. She whispered his name—Jesus!-- and her heart was at peace.
By Hazel King
(Photo by Hazel King)
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
(Photo by Corliss Sinclair)
It was a night like any other night. The sheep had been fed and watered and were settling down. Occasionally a young one would bleat, briefly disturbing the quiet. The shepherds sat by the fire talking softly about this and that, nothing in particular. Just an ordinary conversation about ordinary things. Then, suddenly, the night sky was lit up like day and was filled with beings of such terrible beauty and brightness that the shepherds were terrified. Then the being spoke: “...Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger”. (Luke 2:10-12, KJV). And the sky was filled with even more angels, all singing praises to God. When the light faded and the angels disappeared, the shepherds were no longer afraid. Instead they were filled with great joy about the good news and went to find the baby of whom the angel spoke. As they walked toward Bethlehem, they spoke excitedly among themselves about what they had seen. It was a night like no other night. It was the night before Christmas.
By Hazel King
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Two more shopping days until Christmas. Too much left to do before the day arrives. Hurry, hurry. There’s no time to waste. Drive to Walmart, to the post office, to the shopping mall, and the supermarket. Hundreds of hours and dollars invested, hundreds of miles driven. Two more days until Christmas; then it’s all over for another year. Whew.
Contrast that image with this one. It has been estimated that it took Joseph and Mary approximately three days to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a distance of about 70 miles. It must have been slow going, with Joseph leading the donkey while Mary rode. I wonder what she and Joseph talked about as the donkey plodded slowly onward. They must have felt anticipation and perhaps a bit of anxiety as they continued toward their destination, the place where the prophets had predicted Messiah would be born. Yet they walked in obedience, believing in the promise of God. Two more days to Bethlehem. Two more days until Christmas began.
“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” (Luke 2:4-5, KJV)
By Hazel King
Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
My mother was four years old in 1929 when Wall Street fell, causing the Great Depression. Hard times? She’s lived them. She remembers Christmases when she and her six siblings received pencils for school and maybe an apple or an orange and a few pieces of hard candy. She does not remember such times with regret or bitterness. Those are good memories because the family was sheltered and fed and loved and together.
The current economic outlook is gloomy, with dire predictions that “it will get worse before it gets better.” We may face some hard candy Christmases of our own. And someday we, too, may look back and remember days of deprivation with something like fondness. There is something liberating about getting back to basics, lightening our loads, living life at its core. Food, shelter, clothing: What else do we really need? The Bible says if we have food and clothing, we should be content (1 Timothy 6:8). True contentment lies not in having what you want, but wanting what you have. Be thankful for hard candy. The taste can be very sweet.
By Hazel King
Friday, December 12, 2008
8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.
10 But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
She was walking down the sidewalk as I crossed from the other side of the street. Tall and slim with her dark hair in corn rows, she glanced my way and slowed her stride. As I drew closer, she said, “Ma’am, can I speak to you?” She’s going to ask me for money, I thought, and she did. “Could you spare fifty cents?”
My answer was to ask how just fifty cents could help her. She replied that she asked only for fifty cents because most people weren’t willing to give much, if anything at all. She then told me her story about not being able to get a job and her health problems. She volunteered that she did not use drugs or alcohol and promised me that she would not use any money I gave her for that purpose.
Was her story true? I have no idea. Did I give her money? Yes. I had only a few dollars in my purse at the time, barely enough for a loaf of bread, but I gave it to her in the name of Jesus. I would rather be conned out of a few dollars than to turn away someone in need if I have the means to help even a little. It was not my responsibility to judge her, nor am I accountable if she bought alcohol or drugs with the money I and others gave her. I am responsible only for what I do. She thanked me with a hug and said, “When you go to church, will you please pray for me? Pray for Desiree.”
It was only later it occurred to me that this encounter with Desiree happened the same day The Christmas Guest devotion was published on this website. Isn’t it just like God to see if we really mean what we say? If this was a test, I hope I passed because I felt the love and compassion of Christ himself flow from me to this woman, my own “Christmas guest.” Will you, too, please pray for Desiree?
“… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. ...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” (Matthew 25:40, 45, KJV)
by Hazel King
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
During the Christmas Season we can get so busy that we realize we have left Christ behind. What should we do? There are three things
1. Realize that Christ is missing.
2. Remember where you left Him.
3. Go back and get Him.
Usually we realize he is missing when we stop reading our Bibles, stop praying, and neglecting Church attendance. Something happens to let us know Christ is not present anymore. We left Him behind. Go back and find Him, it is not hard. Resume your daily devotion, begin to pray again, and find a church where you can attend and be involved. He is there patiently waiting or you to return.
Monday, December 8, 2008
When soft in the silence a voice he heard,
"Lift up your head for I kept My word--
Three times My shadow crossed your floor--
Three times I came to your lowly door--
For I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet,
I was the woman you gave something to eat,
And I was the child on the homeless street.
Three times I knocked and three times I came in,
And each time I found the warmth of a friend.”
God doesn’t always appear to us as we expect. The Jewish people did not expect their Messiah to come as a baby in a manger or riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. As Christians, we expect our Lord to return in the clouds with great glory and someday—maybe sooner than we think--he will. In the meantime, however, he may also come to us as someone in need, someone we can help or encourage. The Bible says that whatever we do for others, it is as though we do it for Christ himself. Let us watch for his appearance and ways we can serve him and others during this holy season.
By Hazel King
Photo by Hazel King
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
There is no how-to manual for life. We learn on the job, so to speak. We prepare ourselves as best we can, within the limits of our human understanding and knowledge. But things don’t always turn out like we planned. Moses was groomed to be a pharaoh but God called him to lead the Israelites out of bondage. Moses protested that he was unsuited for the position but God overcame all his objections. And Moses led the Israelites to the promised land.
We don’t see ourselves as God sees us. We may think we’re unsuited for the plan he has for us. We may protest out of fear of failure but we need to remember that God makes no mistakes. If he chooses you for a particular task, he knows that you can succeed. Never let fear make your decisions or hinder your growth. When God nudges you to do a work for him, take that leap of faith.
“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?” (Isaiah 43:19a).
By Hazel King
Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The traditional American dream is home ownership, a house with a white picket fence and climbing roses, a loving family inside. In today’s society, home sales are falling, the divorce rate is climbing, and the rose bush seems to have more thorns than roses. Some American families are more like the Osbornes than the Waltons. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we seem to have been caught in a whirlwind that has whisked us away from everything that is safe and familiar. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.
With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season upon us, we long to return home to our families, however fractured they may be. We dream of warm kitchens, tables spread with good food and plenty of smiles and hugs to go around. We yearn for the true definition of home and family, a place where we are welcomed and loved. In this modern world, is there really still a place like that? Maybe, maybe not. But if we know Christ, we have a home in heaven that is beyond our most fantastic dreams. There is a table spread and a mansion ready. Best of all, there is Someone waiting for us with open arms. We don’t need the power of a fictional wizard to grant our heart’s desire for a real and lasting home. We simply need to “come home to Christ.” Truly, there is no place like home.
“However, as it is written: No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1Corinthians 2:9, NIV)
By Hazel King
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
My daughter Tara sent this to me on the Internet and I thought it was worth sharing.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Matthew 9:36 And seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.
This week has been difficult so far. Many of my friends are dealing with great loss. People who are close to them have died or are dying. Sometimes it breaks our hearts to watch people go through hard times because we want to help and are not sure what to do. If we could take away their pain and suffering we would but many times all we can do is be there and let them know how much we care. If we feel that way what must it be like for Christ to feel the pain and hurt of people all over the world who are struggling. This verse reminds us that Christ has such compassion. If love is such a great thing then loosing someone we love has to hurt. Jesus compared many of the hurting to sheep without a Shepherd. Without a Shepherd they have no hope. How long do you think these sheep would survive without a shepherd. They wouldn't. The Bible compares us to sheep. It is not a very flattering comparison. Let's face it sheep are just not that smart. They wonder off, get in trouble, can not fend for themselves and are the worst fighters in the animal kingdom. You have never seen a football team with a sheep as a mascot. Sheep strike fear in the hearts of no one . They are very timid, shy, defenseless. Jesus feels great compassion for us. The best decision we can make is to allow Him to be our Shepherd. I hope each one of us can say, like King David, " The Lord is MY Shepherd." I find great comfort in that during times like this week.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
These two pictures represent the extremes in our lives. Sometimes it is very peaceful and calm and other times we are being tossed about by the storms of life. When the going gets difficult you want someone at the helm who has been there before. Someone who has experience navigating the storms. When the clouds of difficulty and depression begin to gather, when the winds of adversity start to blow, when the waves of financial hardship and broken relationships come crashing down on you make sure you have Christ standing at the helm. He has been there before, knows what to do, never panics, focus on Him and not the storm and you will be OK. I promise.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Of all earth’s wonders, the oceans remain one of its greatest mysteries. Scientists are still exploring the depths of the sea and the myriad creatures and plants found there. In truth, there is an entire world under the surface of the water that most of us will never see and cannot imagine. No one but God could create the ocean, set its boundaries, and sustain its tides and waves. The ocean is an awesome exhibit of God’s power and majesty.
When we gaze upon the ocean, it goes on as far as the eye can see, to the horizon and beyond. Yet it is not without end. Waves from the same ocean crash upon the shores of a distant country. If we set sail, like Columbus in 1492, we will eventually reach land provided our boat is seaworthy and the winds are favorable. John Shedd once said, “a ship in harbor is safe—but that is not what ships are built for.” Surfers like to ride the biggest waves, so they head for the ocean when a hurricane is brewing. Why should we desire a haven of rest when we could have the excitement of an ocean crossing? If we remain on shore and gaze across the water, our view will never change. It is only when we launch out into the deep that we experience new adventures.
In the same manner, it is only when we commit ourselves completely to God that we experience the fullness of his power to change our lives. If we allow ourselves to be frightened by the vast unknown or fearful of the obstacles in our path, we miss the joy of the journey. Is God calling you to do a special work for him? If we allow him to chart our course and pilot our vessel, we are assured of his protection and blessing. So go ahead. Push off from the shore. Launch out for God.
“Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go” (James 3:4, NIV).
by Hazel King
Friday, November 7, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Like the radio test that startles me every Wednesday, we are sometimes surprised by the storms that occur in our lives. God isn’t. We may quake and cower in the face of such natural disasters as the illness or death of a loved one, divorce, or financial crises, but God is never caught by surprise. Jesus slept in the bottom of the boat while a sudden storm raged on the Sea of Galilee. When the disciples panicked and woke him, he simply said, “Peace, be still.” His words calmed not only the wind and waves but the disciples’ fears.
When life’s trials catch you unaware, remember the words of Jesus and rest in the knowledge that he is with you and will see you through the storm.
By Hazel King
Friday, October 31, 2008
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.
For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.
Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?
And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
We must work together . In order to do that there must be two essential ingredients...Trust and Respect. These two things must be present in marriage, friendship, business, and our Church Fellowships. Together we can accomplish great things. Love is important but I do not believe any relationship can survive without Trust and Respect. Pray that God will help you develop these characteristics in your life, and that you will be able to recognize them in others. The guys in this picture seem to have figured it out.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Canadians: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid collision.
Americans: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No, I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS LINCOLN, THE SECOND LARGEST SHIP IN THE UNITED STATES' ATLANTIC FLEET. WE ARE ACCOMPANIED BY THREE DESTROYERS, THREE CRUISERS AND NUMEROUS SUPPORT VESSELS. I DEMAND THAT YOU CHANGE YOUR COURSE 15 DEGREES NORTH--I SAY AGAIN, THAT'S ONE FIVE DEGREES NORTH--OR COUNTER-MEASURES WILL BE UNDERTAKEN TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THIS SHIP.