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