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Posts Tagged ‘Blessings’

 

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery.

Today is a gift which is why we call it the present.”

–Bill Keane

(creator of the comic, Family Circus)

 

During my years as a fourth grade teacher, I used this Bill Keane quote to review with the kids the basic three tenses of the English language. The humor added a bit of fun; the truth of Keane’s statement added a bit of wisdom.

Even nine- and ten-year olds can benefit from the realization that:

Yesterday is past. We’re better off if we choose not to hold on to the hurts and disappointments of days gone by.

Tomorrow is a mystery; ‘best not to dwell on worrisome possibilities that most likely won’t happen.

Today is a gift from the ultimate Gift-Giver, God himself, and there is much to savor and appreciate.

 

 

The problem is, I forget. Those moments when I’ve marveled, laughed, or sighed in contentment are lost by day’s end in the blur of busy-ness.

So over the last few months I’ve been recording small blessings worthy of celebration—at least one per day, sometimes more.

For example:

  • While I was exercising, a bustling little wren nodded and bobbed from her log-perch outside the window. She cheered me on.

 

 

  • A glowing pink sunrise in the east greeted a crescent pearl moon to the west. Beauty shouting praise into the silence of dawn.

 

 

  • Our four-year old granddaughter, Elena, found an instant friend at the playground. The two girls gleefully ran back and forth several times across a field, holding hands. They perfectly illustrated Celeste Palermo’s observation, “Children are high-energy guides from Heavenly Tours, Inc.” (1).

 

 

  • A woodpecker extravaganza occurred in the backyard when three different species congregated at the same time—a flicker, a red-bellied, and a hairy.

 

(Hard to tell this guy is a red-bellied woodpecker.)

 

  • I spent a quiet hour reading on the deck one evening, reveling in heavenly weather and a bowl of sublime strawberries. All senses were happily engaged—mind and spirit, too.

 

 

You’ll notice there’s nothing particularly exciting on this list. No exotic locations, no momentous adventures.

Just affirmations that right now is good and quiet moments afford their own distinctive treasures.

It’s been great fun collecting these small snippets of surprise, exhilaration, and solace each day. I’m learning to carve the extraordinary out of ordinary and find the holy among the humdrum.

The Gift-Giver himself resides among his gifts. And as I savor selected moments of my days, I taste and see that he is good (Psalm 34:8).

 

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for this moment, right here, right now, that includes happy trees outside my window, clapping their hands in praise to you. I thank you for the soft cloak of quiet around me, and the nest of memories surrounding my desk, woven from things old, bestowed, and beloved. “The earth is full of your loving kindness, O God”—even in my little office.

(Isaiah 55:12, Psalm 33:5b)

 

What moment from today will you savor?  Tell us about it in the comment section below!

 

Note 

  1. Celeste Palermo, The Coffee Mom’s Devotional: A Rich Blend of 30 Brief and Inspiring Devotions, (Revell, 2009), 154.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pexels.co; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Say the word, blessings, and our minds turn to the many ways God continually bestows good things. The more attentive we are, the more blessings we notice.

But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described eight blessings that sound quite bizarre at first hearing. For example:

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.” (Matthew 5:3a, MSG).

 

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Surely his listeners blinked in astonishment and thought, There’s no happiness at the end of that rope!

Jesus continued. “With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (v. 3b, MSG). Some may have nodded in agreement at this statement, having experienced profoundly God’s help in time of trouble.

Others may have wondered, More of God sounds good, but if I’m still at the end of my rope, where’s the blessing?

At least a few probably misunderstood the word, blessed. It’s more than happiness; it’s deep down, untouchable contentment. No matter what might happen, the blessed person remains confident in his God, hopeful in his outlook, and peaceful in his spirit—despite the turmoil of circumstances.

 

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In the ancient Greek of New Testament times, blessed was not a word spoken in sedate, pious tones. It was a shout of overflowing joy. And in the Be-Attitudes of Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus announced shout-worthy blessings—satisfying consequences of embracing God’s way of thinking and living.

“You ARE blessed,” Jesus taught (emphasis added). Notice he used present tense verbs. These statements were not hope-filled platitudes for the future; they expressed conditions for the present, available immediately.

Notice, too, that such overflowing joy is not procured through the acquisition of material goods or the experience of pleasure. King Solomon found that out long ago. He had it all, only to discover that everything was meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Countless others have tried the same route; each one has failed.

In the face of so much evidence, why do we expect self-indulgence to provide deep satisfaction?

On the other hand, Matthew 5:3-12 is just the beginning of blessing-instruction, presenting God’s guarantees for soul-happiness. If Jesus had preached another sermon of Be-Attitudes (Maybe he did!), our wise Savior/Teacher might have included these:

 

Blessed are the stretched and overwhelmed,

for they shall discover strength (Isaiah 41:10).

 

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You probably know heroes of the faith who have proven: “God gives unexpected strength when unusual trials come” (Charles Spurgeon). That strength isn’t just for heroes; it’s available to us all.

 

Blessed are the disappointed,

for they shall be transformed (Romans 12:2, NLT).

 

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As God leads us toward a new focus, a new perspective, we find our minds renewed and our spirits uplifted.

 

Blessed are the shaken,

for they shall experience the security

of the Lord, the Rock (Psalm 27:5).

 

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Praise God he is reliable, immoveable, and firm! We can confidently depend upon him now and forever.

 

Blessed are the confused,

for they shall receive wisdom (James 1:5).

 

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God never turns away from a sincere heart seeking his guidance.

 

Blessed are those who celebrate God’s blessings–

even in the midst of difficulty–

for they shall find contentment in gratitude (Philippians 4:6-7).

 

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We can follow the example of Jean Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808-1890) who said, “Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”

Know this, too: We can humbly and resolutely expect such blessings as these. God doesn’t make such promises lightly; He fulfills what he says:

 

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“God is not a man, that he should lie,

nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Does he speak and then not act?

Does he promises and not fulfill?”

–Numbers 23:19 NIV

 

No indeed.

‘Care to give God a shout-out for joy (Psalm 95:1-3)?

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.askideas.com; http://www.lifemoreabundant.me; http://www.pinterest.com (5); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Say the word, “blessing,” and what immediately comes to mind?

For me, it’s happy events and lovely gifts, engineered or bestowed by God out of his loving kindness.

But James, the brother of Jesus, saw a different side of blessing: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides” (James 1:2, MSG, italics added).

Tests and challenges as gifts?! Sounds a bit daft—until we consider:

 

What-Seems-To-Us-As-Bitter-Trials-Are-Often-Blessings-In-Disguise

 

Take, for example…

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF WANT

Do you wish you had a bigger house? A newer car? Better furniture? Consider yourself blessed, that you’re not like King Solomon–the wealthiest person who ever lived. For all his striving to achieve and accumulate, Solomon discovered that when every desire is gratified, the end result is nothing but meaningless smoke (Ecclesiastes 1:2, MSG).

The blessing of want protects us from the pit of depression caused by self-indulgence.

The blessing of want fosters contentment, as we learn to enjoy and be grateful for what we already have.

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF DIFFICULTY

Difficulties provide a surprising number of positive opportunities. Here are ten:

  • To press in closer to God and trust him more completely.
  • To experience the adventure of God’s sufficiency (Philippians 4:13) as he enables us to endure—in ways we never thought possible.

 

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  • To see how God will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • To discover more of who God is.
  • To witness the fulfillment of his never-failing promises.
  • To present a sacrifice of praise to God, beginning with the affirmation that he has our best interests at heart—in spite of what we see.
  • To be prepared for greater usefulness for God (John 15:2), which fosters greater fulfillment and satisfaction in our spirits.

 

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  • To have a compelling story to share, as encouragement for others. Years ago I heard a speaker say, “With no test there is no testimony.” In the final analysis, I’d rather have the latter. You, too?
  • To become mature, complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That doesn’t happen without trials.  As Thomas Carlyle wrote:

 

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(“No pressure, no diamonds.”)

  • To love our Savior more passionately. Josif Trif, a pastor from Romania during the days of Communism, said, “If it weren’t for Communism, I would not have loved our Lord as much. I kissed the cross the Communists gave me” (1).

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF FAILURE

If failure served no purpose in our lives, God would not allow it to happen. But since he does, we can know that failure is either for our benefit or for God’s glory—often both.

Failure is the soil from which great success can grow, beginning with a crop of positive character traits, such as perseverance, humility, and greater reliance upon God.

 

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Out of failure comes experience; from experience comes greater wisdom; and wisdom leads to a godly life.

“How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6, ISV)!

*    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Crazy as it sounds, I want to praise you, Father, for the blessings of challenges and tough times. Thank you for your loving attention that carries me through, transforming me and makes me a better version of myself.  I also praise you for the glorious promise that through trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain–“overwhelming victory is ours through Christ” (Romans 8:37, NLT)!

 

What crazy blessing have you experienced in the crucible of trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(1) His Imprint, My Expression, Kay Arthur, Harvest House, 1993, p. 135.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.imagesbuddy,com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.izquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.harvesttotable.com.)

 

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No, that’s not a typo in the title; I intentionally chose rust. However, that parody on an old hymn actually did result from a typo years ago.

Steve was just a few months into his first pastorate in St. Petersburg, FL. The mean age of the congregation was somewhere in the 70s. When the church secretary typed the opening hymn title for one Sunday’s bulletin, ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, she accidentally omitted the “T” in trust.

But there was a whole lot of truth in that typo-title. Many saints of that congregation could testify, even into old age: “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4).

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And just what might those blessings be? A few possibilities quickly come to mind. When we put our trust in God, we enjoy:

  • Peace of mind (Isaiah 26:3-4)
  • Guidance (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • Help (Isaiah 41:10)
  • Strength (Isaiah 12:2)

But there are many more blessings that come to those who trust in God—some of which are quite surprising. The following is undoubtedly just a partial list:

Intimacy with God–not just acquaintance. The more we exercise trust, the more we recognize his involvement in our lives. With David, we can affirm: “All those who know your mercy, Lord, will count on you for help. For you have never yet forsaken those who trust in you” (Psalm 9:10).

Hope. Praise God for his hope that fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in him (Romans 15:13)! I can’t imagine going to bed at night without hope for tomorrow—much less for eternity.

Joyful Expectation and Quiet Confidence. Our lives are in the hands of an absolutely perfect, all-powerful, loving God. We can count on him to see us through every situation. So with great delight we can say, “I don’t know what God’s up to, but I know it has to be good!”

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Life above the Fray. Like Paul, we can learn to be content in every situation (Philippians 4:12), knowing that God will give us the strength to endure (v. 13). A heart full of trust has no room for worry or stress. (Remind me of that when the challenges pile up, will you?)

Adventure. Think of the adrenalin rush these Bible heroes must have experienced, as they placed their trust in God:

  • Joshua fighting the battle of Jericho—with trumpets and loud shouts!
  • Elijah praying for fire to consume a drenched offering to God, in front of 450 prophets of Baal
  • Nehemiah watching the walls of Jerusalem reconstructed, after the Israelites had been held in Babylonian captivity for seventy years

Are we going to sit on the sidelines of life and miss the miracles, because we’re afraid to trust? Perish the thought!

Influence. The Light of Jesus shines most brightly through those who demonstrate trust in the midst of dark circumstances. People remember those saints who maintain a positive, faith-focused outlook in spite of trials.

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For all these reasons and more, it is indeed sweet to (t)rust in Jesus–to rest secure in the loving, everlasting arms of our Heavenly Father.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *   *     *     *   *

I praise you, Lord, with all my heart,

for being a trustworthy God who never fails his children.

How glorious to know

I can trust in your unfailing love!

(Psalm 9:1; 13:5; 52:8)

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.pixgood.com; http://www.masterfile.com.)

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inspire

Dove chocolates come wrapped in foil on which are printed positive and encouraging statements. Recently I found this one:

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

A positive attitude of praise and celebration, even for the little blessings, does contribute to a sense of well-being.  But there’s an important omission in this quote–the cause of all those blessings.  Perhaps the sentiment might be worded like this:

“The more you praise and celebrate God in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

Now a pleasing sentiment has become solid truth, because with God in our lives, joy is our constant companion.

“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord;

I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

(Psalm 92:4)

 It requires such a small effort, really.

 Sometimes, all we need to do is focus on the pleasure of ordinary events:

  • Water vapor curling up from a cup of coffee
  • Sunbeams finally breaking through, after three days of unrelenting rain
  • The first butterfly of spring dancing among the daffodils

Sometimes all we need to do is change our perspective.  We can choose to:

  • Get depressed over the huge stack of dirty dishes in the kitchen, or reminisce (while we clean!) over the delightful meal just enjoyed with family and friends
  • Grumble that vacation is over, or celebrate that two weeks out-of-town makes even our scuffed-up, well-lived-in home look mighty inviting
  • Sigh with dissatisfaction that personal goals have not yet been reached, or take note of how far we’ve come

Sometimes all we need to do is make a celebration out of a small moment.

I had been shopping at the mall for several hours, scouring the sales racks to no avail. Suddenly I looked down at my purse on which I had draped my light jacket and sweater. The sweater was gone. It was one of my favorites.

So not only did I not purchase an addition for my wardrobe that afternoon, I had subtracted a piece of clothing I already owned.  That sweater had just been dry cleaned, too. “Insult to injury,” as they say.

Retracing my steps seemed pointless; I had been in so many stores.

Not long after realizing my sweater was gone, it was time to meet Steve for dinner at a restaurant attached to the mall.  We ordered our meals, and then I told him what happened.

“I’ll check the mall lost-and-found after we eat,” I said. “By then maybe someone will have found my sweater and turned it in.”

So that’s what we did.

No sweater.

Steve suggested we stop at the stores where I’d shopped, as we made our way back to the car.

At the very first store the eyes of the young sales girl lit up when I asked about a lost sweater. “What color was it?” she asked.

“Red,” I told her.

“We did find it! It’s right back here!” she enthusiastically replied, walking to the back of the store.

Sure enough, there it was. Someone had even put it on a hanger.

Well! I thanked her, and the manager behind the counter, not knowing which of them had found it and been so thoughtful.

One of them jokingly said something about doing good deeds for chocolate.

As it happened, just two doors down was the Godiva Chocolate Shop. Steve and I popped in, bought two little boxes, and went back to the clothing store.

When those two girls saw the Godiva bag they whooped in surprise and delight. Steve and I laughed, too.

“God blessed me through you by returning my sweater; we wanted to bless you,” I said.

“Oh! That remark about chocolate was just a joke!” the salesgirl cried. “But you have no idea how much I needed this. Today has been especially rough.” She started around the counter with her arms outstretched. “Come here! I need to give you a hug!”  Then she added, “Look!  I’m crying!”  I had tears in my eyes as well.

The level of endorphins was so high in that shop the lights shone brighter, the air smelled fresher, and the atmosphere crackled with joy.

And all because we took a small moment and magnified its significance, and we gave God the glory as we celebrated a God-orchestrated event.

Truly, “The more you praise and celebrate God in your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.”

And God celebrates, too.  After all, he loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), right?  Surely that includes givers of chocolate and hugs.

(Photo credit:  www.inhabityourmoments.com.)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What are you celebrating in life today?  Share your joy in the comments below!

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Ec3.11

“Everything is beautiful in its time,” Solomon wrote (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

That means today is beautiful—in spite of the long to-do-list, the stress, the mess, the frustrations, the disappointments, the uncertainty, the pain.

How can that be?

Because the negative aspects of our lives do not need to supersede the positive.

God’s glory—his splendor, his creative genius, his love—is being expressed all around us, every day, as…

…pinpoints of sunshine glimmer on a fresh dusting of snow.

…cups of hot tea warm the hands and spicy citrus flavors warm the spirit.

…the baby squeals with delight while chasing bubbles in the kitchen.

…the mail includes a handwritten note.

…a song on the radio speaks encouragement, perfectly suited to a current situation.

…the fire crackles merrily, enticing one to sit and rest in its glow.

The question is, am I aware of the God-infused beauty around me? Am I pausing from my work every now and then to look for it?

Sometimes my vision is clouded by the past. Guilt over poor choices and hurt over unfair treatment can interfere with the enjoyment of now. Even past blessings can be a distraction, if my attitude is, “Oh, if only I could go back to __________. Those were the best years of my life.”

Not that the past doesn’t serve us in the present. Experience is an important teacher. But when I keep looking back with longing, I miss the present.

On the other hand, a preoccupation with the future (the way I would like life to be next month or next year) can also interfere with my full participation in the present. Wishful thinking can easily slip into covetousness.

“Watch out!” Jesus said. “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Would I be stretching the truth of his statement to say: A beautiful life does not consist of the perfect spouse, perfect children, a perfect house, and a perfect job—even if such perfection existed.

A joy-filled life comes from embracing the gifts of each day. “We should make the most of what God gives, both the bounty and the capacity to enjoy it, accepting what’s given and delighting in the work. It’s God’s gift! God deals out joy in the present, the now (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20a, MSG).

I need to train myself to stay in the present, to enjoy the beautiful moments God is granting me now—to the fullest.

If the to-do list is long, I want to invite God to set the priorities and help me accomplish what is needful for that day. Those items that must be held over to another day may be postponed guilt free, because “there is a time for everything” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). A simpler, slower-paced life will certainly be a more beautiful life.

If uncertainty plagues my thoughts, I want to embrace the truth that God is in control, including the timing of events. He will keep me in perfect peace when I keep my mind steadfastly on him and trust in him (Isaiah 26:3). Trust is at the heart of a beautiful life.

If Plan A (that I was counting on) suddenly becomes Plan B (a debilitating disappointment), I want to accept and even appreciate the change of plan as an opportunity to grow. After all, Plan B did not catch God by surprise. There will be beauty in Plan B, too.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Dear God, I thank you that you have made everything beautiful in its time. May I rest in the knowledge that this season of my life, with its particular challenges, was appointed by you. On this day may I:

  • embrace the blessings of NOW,
  • celebrate the completed tasks you gave me to do,
  • handle the challenges with grace and trust in you,
  • grow to be a little more like your beautiful Son, and
  • behold your beautiful glory, on display all around me.  

(Art credit:  www.biblia.com.)

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Christmas. The first syllable surely needs no explanation of origin. It speaks of the One we celebrate.

But what about the second syllable, -mas?

Christmas is a term that has been around for nearly a thousand years, coming to us from Old English. Cristes Maesse meant “Mass of Christ.” It was established by church leaders to disconnect the church celebration of Jesus’ birth from pagan holidays and customs—holidays such as Winter Solstice. (Even before the birth of Christ, Romans were celebrating the shortest day of the year, in anticipation of the sun’s gradual return.)

As a matter of fact, as early as the fourth century, Christians were creating their own wintertime celebration. One theologian pointed out in 320 A.D.: “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

Yet there are those who wish to keep the customs of Christmas without including the One being celebrated. Seems they’d like to take away the first syllable, Christ. But then all that’s left is –mas.

Sounds like mess.

Indeed. I am confident that without Christ, my life would be a mess. 

A mess of fears.

A mess of brokenness.

A mess of worry.

A mess of guilt.

A mess of dissatisfaction.

It’s possible that for a long while I’d be able to hide the mess under glittery packages of stuff, noise and distraction, busy-ness.

But eventually, a body must stop and rest. That’s when my mind would kick into high gear and the mess would wreak havoc in my soul. Chances are I’d develop sleep problems, depression, or perhaps even physical manifestations like ulcers. Stress can do that to a person.

Shouldn’t I at least consider the alternative? What if I do allow Christ in my life?

Oh, my. The list of precious gifts He bestows is astounding and practically endless. To begin, he provides:

  • Calm in place of fear.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1), Jesus said.

  • Restoration in place of brokenness.

 “Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message)!

  • Peace of mind in place of worry.

 “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met…God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:33-34, The Message).

  • Forgiveness in place of guilt.

 “Everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

  • Contentment in place of dissatisfaction.

 “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 And among his many other gifts to us, Jesus grants us the incredible privilege of eternal life (John 3:16)—with him in heaven.

But how will I be able to enjoy all these gifts if I don’t give Christ a chance?

I really have nothing of value to lose. Just the mess.

 

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)–the Christ of Christmas!

 

(Art credit:  www.emblibrary.com .)

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