This is Christmas

A sanctuary overflowing with standing room only…families gathered, young and old…a spectrum of anticipation ranging from reverence and thanksgiving to cherub glee, as Christmas Eve can only mean that the magic of Christmas morning is but moments out of reach.  Candles lit, the praise team’s instruments fall quiet as the congregants finish the final verse of Silent Night, a cappella.  Yes, this is Christmas Eve.

Among the commercial grandeur and holiday haste, it’s easy to fall victim to distraction.  A secular approach to Christmas is laced with excitement and anticipation, but…of what?  True Christmas has nothing to do with shopping malls, Amazon, or a jolly sleigh pilot from somewhere north of Cleveland.

“Advent” means “coming.”  In this Advent Season, we celebrate the coming of Jesus.  And it is not so much a simple celebration of His birth as it is a recognition of the miracle of His birth – and with anticipation of His promised return.

You see, had it not been for Christ’s miraculous birth to Mary; had He not lived as He lived; and had He not died and risen as He did, there would be no Christmas.  The true faith, hope, and promise of Christmas is that God saw fit to give of His only Son, sending Him here to walk among us and be persecuted for our sins, so that we may find eternal life in Him, follow Him, and await His return.

And so, consider that the greatest gift we celebrate each Christmas is the gift of our savior, Jesus.    And once the wrapping paper is nearly destroyed and discarded, the feast is over, and it’s time for the many lights and decorations to come down, the holiday may be over, but the promise of His gift endures as unconditional love, world without end.

Merry Christmas to all.


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Peas & Carrots


Re-posting my Thanksgiving 2017 message below, with thoughts and prayers for the Moran family, all who loved Lelia, and all who were as touched and inspired by her story.  May we all be so fortunate as to favorably impact so many.

Parents, hug your children.

I’ll be reminded of Lelia’s impact whenever I have peas and carrots, for sure.

Lelia Winsboro Cross Moran.  Eloquence, indeed.  God bless her, she was just 4.



About peas and carrots


Albert Schweitzer said, “At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

Thanksgiving started as an annual celebration of gratitude for the blessing and bounty of the harvest.  In today’s world, perhaps it is more of a ritual celebration of the practice of gratitude; a brief pause in an otherwise frenetic world where family and friends gather, feasts are shared, and some take the opportunity to “give back” in service to others.

Entering into Thanksgiving 2017, I’m thinking of those for whom I, as Schweitzer observed, have deep gratitude for – those for whom I am grateful, as they rekindled my own flame within.  To me, it’s particularly appropriate to think of these spiritual torchbearers, as the pause of Thanksgiving always seems to arrive just in time amid weariness and smoldering optimism.

Yes, I’m thinking of family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  Likewise, I’m thinking of the homeless I am privileged to serve, as the time invested with them always provides very personal returns – and in spades.  And I’m thinking of our military and public servants who stand selflessly for me, their unmet protectee.  For each of them, I am thankful.

There is one, though, for whom I am particularly thankful this Thanksgiving.  She’s one who has rekindled my own flame within with the subtlety of a flamethrower.  Let me tell you a bit about her…

  • She has reconnected family and friends long disconnected and separated by miles;
  • She has confronted fear with the courage of a decorated warrior;
  • She has smiled through unimaginable discomfort;
  • She has refocused our priorities and reminded us of what truly matters;
  • She has brought strangers together in a time when unity and common purpose are more often than not difficult to fathom, much less to realize;
  • She has filled rooms with laughter when they may otherwise seem so hollow and dark;
  • She has renewed purpose for those called into her path to provide care and counsel;
  • She has brought countless people to prayer including, perhaps, some who would otherwise remain disengaged in their conversation and detached from their relationship with Him; and
  • In doing so, she has renewed hope in many, while ultimately…
  • She as served and pleased Him.

Indeed, she has “lighted the flame within us.”  And she is just four years old.

Today, friends, I am thankful for young Lelia and her example.  As she continues her battle with cancer, my prayer is that Lelia and family feel the gratitude and thanks of all who are blessed to know them, to pray with them, and to walk with them.

As we give thanks and “practice gratitude” today, consider…beyond material bounty, the protection of a secure home, and the comfort of a great meal, what are we truly grateful for?  Who has ignited the flame within each of us and how will we continue to use that flame to bring light and warmth to others…in keeping with Lelia’s example?  For a child to be born into this world and to bring such light with her is, perhaps, about as Christ-like as it gets.

And I wonder…what if we paused a bit each day to “practice gratitude” – not just the fourth Thursday of November…annually?  Think of the possibilities if each of us could emulate a little bit of Lelia’s courageous example, daily.

Keep it Lit, indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.  My prayers are with Lelia and her family – Rebecca, Mike, Brendan, Micah, and Lelia, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all who are warmed by Lelia’s light.  Yesterday we prayed that our children’s light may be a shining example of His glory; today our prayer is affirmed by Lelia’s example.

And my prayer for all today is in Numbers 6:24-26.  Grace and peace be yours.


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Day 30: Trust, Love, Wisdom

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

Simply…TRUST Him.  He LOVES you.  Look to Him for WISDOM.

M46 Challenge:  Talk to your children about always trusting God.  Share how that even when it may not make sense, God’s will always directs their path with love and wisdom.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for always leading me and my family with your love and wisdom.  We rest in knowing that we don’t have to understand everything.  We simply need to hear and obey your voice and direction.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thoughts:  Is it better to be wealthy, or wise?  What is the attitude of wisdom?  Check Proverbs 16:16 and James 3:17.

And so, here ends our walk through the M46 Project Challenge together  – yet, I hope that you will continue to find use for these lessons as you continue your walk with your children.  I appreciate the notes and comments from many of you and am grateful to have had this opportunity to share this experience and my thoughts with you.

Special thanks, again, to our good friend Freddie Scott II, as he so generously agreed to let me use his M46 Project Challenge here.

Continued prayers for each of you and your children.  God bless you.

Keep it Lit,


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Day 29: Righteous Strength

“The way of the Lord is strength to the upright:  but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.  The righteous shall never be removed:  but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.”  – Proverbs 10:29-30

In other words, God’s will provides protection from evil for those who follow, yet, those who reject His teachings have no protection from evil or reprisal in judgment.

M46 Challenge:  Talk to your children about how God gives you the strength to do His will.  Share how God will always be there for them.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me and my family strength to do your will every day.  Thank you for always being there for me and my family.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thoughts:  Days 9, 15, and 16 help us find our own righteous strength.

Tomorrow marks Day 30 – our final day of the M46 Challenge.  We will wrap up our series with a bit on trust, love, and wisdom.  Until then, grace and peace be yours.

Keep it Lit,


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Day 28: Refuge & Fortress

“The fear of the Lord prolongeth days:  but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” – Proverbs 10:27

M46 Challenge:  Talk to your children about how God will protect them and lengthen their days by respecting God and His Word.  Talk about how much God loves them, and how He will always protect them as they stay under His loving arm of protection.
Psalm 91

Psalm 91 teaches that those who live a quiet life of pursuit of His will are protected from evil, while those who pursue worldly priorities of pleasure and self-fulfillment are subject to greater pressures and anxieties and more prone to fewer days.  To doubters I’d ask, “if we commonly accept the correlation of stress and mortality, why not then as readily accept a correlation between peace and longevity?”  After all, do we not associate being at peace as His follower with the path to eternal life?

And so, do not confuse the promise of longer days in just this earthly life, rather, consider our opportunity to be eternally delivered from evil.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for always protecting me and my family.  I stand on your promise that a thousand can fall at my side, and ten thousand at my right hand, but it shall not come near my dwelling!  Thank you for blessing my child with long life, and a life full of peace and prosperity.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thoughts:  “…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…”   See Matthew 6:5-14

Tomorrow we’ll continue with Proverbs 10 and consider “righteous strength.”

Keep it Lit,


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Day 27: First Fruits, Cheerful Stewards

In Deuteronomy 26, we are taught to give of our first fruits to our local priest.  “First fruits” are the initial proceeds of the soil of the land that He gave to us.  And so, perhaps we are not so much giving what is ours, but we are returning a portion of what we have made of what God has given us.  Perhaps we are not so much a giver as we are a steward of God’s generous provision.  We don’t give or provide; He does.

Today’s M46 passage is Proverbs 3:9-10, which says, “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase:  so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”

M46 Challenge:  Talk to your children about giving tithes and offerings.  Discuss the benefits of honoring God with their money and the importance of being a giver.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that we’re considering the lesson of first fruits on what the proverbial Hallmark Nation celebrates as “Giving Tuesday.”  A modern era commercial concoction dating back to 2012, it’s typically the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.  A cynic may even observe that it’s a day of giving that follows a day of feasting and 2+ days of marathon shopping – something of a “Last Fruits Day” if sequence indicates priority.

I don’t know that I’ve ever had anyone tell me that they’re short because of their first fruits tithe, though I’m certain that many have said at one time or another that they’ve little to give after first satisfying all else.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for always providing for me and my family.  I thank you for your promise that as I honor you with what you bless me with, you always provide all that my family has need of.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Thoughts:  First fruits, tithing, and stewardship are easier and best learned early in life.  As our children begin to experience opportunities to earn money and receive gifts, we have an opportunity to teach them about tithing their first fruits and saving the next 10%.  If hard-wired early, these habits will reap benefits for their lifetime.

We will go to Proverbs 10 tomorrow for a bit on a long life of peace and prosperity.  Make it a great day.  I’ll see you then!

Keep it Lit,




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Day 26: A Fool’s Mischief

“It is as sport to a fool to do mischief:  but a man of understanding hath wisdom.” – Proverbs 10:23

To be a fool takes little effort or exertion, though understanding requires effort, study, and reflection.  Mischief will find us, while we must seek understanding.  Even Bob Marley noted that we should “flee from…mischief…”

M46 Challenge:  Talk to your children about the consequence of doing the wrong thing, and associating themselves with others who like to do wrong things.  “Birds of a feather flock together.”  Talk to them about who their friends are.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, THANK YOU for giving my child wisdom in choosing her friends.  I ask that you bring friends across her path who love and honor You, and will be a reason why my children fulfill your purpose in her life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thoughts:  Take inventory of your child’s friends.  Can you name the three friends s/he is closest to?  What are their interests outside of school and what do you know of their family?  Is s/he choosing friends wisely?  Now, same questions…regarding your own friends that s/he sees you associating with as you demonstrate your own wisdom.  (Hmm) And what are the potential consequences of mischief, versus wisdom?

On to Proverbs 3 tomorrow, with a bit about first fruits and cheerful stewards.  In the meantime, have a great day!

Keep it Lit,


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