What are you celebrating?

One of my grandsons celebrated his birthday this month. I was out of the state that day and missed the cake and ice cream celebration. But on his birthday morning, I sent him a text that said, “I’m glad you were born!”

Birthdays are a celebration of who a person is, of what God added to the world and to our lives at the moment of one person’s birth.

What do we celebrate this Christmas? That a baby was born thousands of years ago? Why? What difference has the birth of that baby made for you? And what might our lives have been like if that baby had never been born?

As my Christmas greeting and gift to you, I offer seven short meditations. Let’s take a few moments on each of the next seven days to celebrate and rejoice at the birth of a Man who changed our lives forever.

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the paths of peace.
Luke 1:78-79

Writing. New strength. Hello again.

A writer’s work is never done. I think forms of that proverb have been used to describe many jobs. And true to the proverb, just when my first Hope Knows book is about to be released, I’m shown a much better way of writing one chapter.

Yes, it happens all the time. Writers go back to what they’ve written and revise, revise, revise. We’re never “done.” We always see a word, a thought, a paragraph that must be deleted, added to, or tweaked. Mark Twain wrote that once your article is finished to your satisfaction, that’s the time to begin writing. By that time, you’ve finally sorted out exactly what you want to say and how to say it.

Today, I’m thinking about a chapter on finding new strength. I have occasion right now to need and seek new strength, a power beyond myself that I haven’t known before.

I did include one chapter on that subject in my soon-to-be-released book, Getting Through Today. This morning, though, I feel as if I should rewrite that entire chapter. I know more about new strength today than I did two weeks ago, because I’ve experienced it.

However, the book’s already printed, waiting for its big debut.

So I’d like to pass this on to you here: If you’re also needing new, beyond-yourself strength to get through today or this week, I’d like to offer three Scriptures that have taken on even deeper meaning for me:

Hebrews 12:1-2:  “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion…”

2 Timothy 4:16-17:  “No one came with me… Everyone abandoned me… But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength.”

Psalm 89:17:  “It pleases you [God] to make us strong.”

God is delighted to make us strong! Today, put yourself in the 2 Timothy picture: with Jesus, our champion, standing with you!

In the last two weeks, I’ve been changed by these promises.

That’s the Spirit of God using His living Word to mold my life. His work, too, is not yet done!


Hello again to my cyber friends. I am back, after a hiatus of two years during which I was working on putting the Hope Devotionals (which appeared here throughout 2015) into book form.

One book turned into four. Yes, amazing. That’s typical of what God does. He keeps going beyond our expectations. And because all of our hope is grounded in the living Word of God, it keeps growing and growing—and we never come to the end of it. We’re always discovering more reason to live with great expectation.

The first book, Getting Through Today, will be available by the end of this week! It can be ordered directly from the publisher at www.jpvpress.com. (If you pre-order now from the publisher, I’ll sign it if you make the request.)

Once all the details are in place, it will also be available through Amazon.


See a more detailed preview of all the books by clicking on the Hope Knows Books tab above.

And… Live with great expectation!


A word for a pilgrim’s heart …

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Do I hear shouted amens around the world? That’s from Psalm 116:1,2, a psalm with some of my favorite passages because they describe my life. I’d love to quote them all here, but I won’t … I often am brought to tears by the chapter.

Death wrapped its ropes around me…I saw only trouble and sorrow…

Then I called to Him.

How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful …

Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me…

And so I walk in the LORD’s presence as I live here on earth!


All of that to preface a story that fits well with our series on hope.

Five friends were vacationing in Maine back in October. One of the ladies gave each of us a gift before we ended the week. She had purchased small pewter scallop shells, each imprinted with a single inspirational word. The words were all different; we drew our shells at random.

Yes! A scallop shell. I’d just finished the edit of a book by a pilgrim who walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain (Stuck in the Weeds, by Paul Stutzman), and from his experiences I’d learned that a scallop shell is the symbol of pilgrimage on the Camino. I liked the idea of a daily reminder of who I am in this world, and so I’d been looking for a scallop charm to wear on a chain. This little pewter shell cannot be put on a chain, but it does the job of reminding me, lying on my kitchen windowsill, looking up at me each day with its Word.

Well… well. That’s about all I want to say about the last two weeks since Thanksgiving. Holidays. (When I say “holidays,” does that conjure up stress and emotional turbulence for you?) Called for jury duty. A computer that one day decided to go on strike. Illness. Oh, my. As my mom used to quote, “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley (go often awry).”

That’s from a poem by Robert Burns, written way back in the 1700s. He was ploughing, and his plough destroyed a mouse’s nest.

Ah! doesn’t that happen to us? Just about the time we have things in life arranged comfortably … then something ploughs through. A plough breaks everything up. Turns everything upside down. The poet’s line concerns the mouse, but it could be describing us: “Oh what a panic is in your little breast!”

Yes, my plans for the whole month of December 2015 have been ploughed through…

So … as you have probably noticed … we are not yet done with our hope meditations!

But back to the scallop shell.

The word carved into it is RELAX.

Now, when I drew that shell, I was delighted it was a scallop shell since I’d been looking for one. And that word on it? Well, okay, the word was nice. But I was pretty relaxed at that time, and I didn’t think much of it. I was just happy to have a scallop shell to remind me I am a pilgrim.

Now, though, RELAX is going to be my Word of the Year.

At the end of two weeks of turmoil came a short little blurb a local businessman asked me to edit. The subject was on choosing a Word of the Year instead of making New Year’s resolutions. One word. A word that requires you to both change your thinking and your behaviors. A word to think about and put into practice every day of 2016. I’ve never been a resolution-maker or keeper…but a word of focus and action? That intrigued me.

And here’s my word on my kitchen windowsill! Looking at me every day. Carved into the symbol of who I am!

Yes, every day, this pilgrim is determined to relax. I think back over all of the hope we’ve discovered this year. All the promises given to us by our Creator, our Father, the one who saved us and saves us every day.

The one who the psalmist spoke of… This God, our God, who makes it possible for our souls to be at rest as we walk in the presence of the Lord every day.

Why would I not RELAX in the journey ahead, knowing who is walking with me and has made all these promises?

The scallop shell will stay on my windowsill for next year.

And the word is now carved on the heart of this pilgrim.

How kind the Lord is! How good He is to me!

And lest you think this is all coincidence…

Yesterday I got an email from a friend in another state. She knew nothing of the scallop shell or the suggestion of a Word of the Year. She knew only that the last two weeks a plough has gone through my life.

Her email included this line: “I will pray for both of us to relax in the Lord…”

Come and Join Us

Two weeks ago, I extended “An Invitation that Could Change Everything” — an invitation to join a group scattered around the globe, unified by one Spirit and one purpose — to read the Bible through in four months, from January to April of 2015.

Our small group was prompted to do it last year by Keith Ferrin, who billed the Bible Read-Thru as a “Challenge that could change everything.”

We did it — in four months! — and it did bring great changes to my Bible reading and my devotional time.

The invitation to the Bible Read-Thru 2015 is still open. Get two or three friends together, and do it. You won’t regret the decision.

If you let Keith know you’re “in”, he’ll welcome you to a private Facebook group where readers connect and you’ll get encouraging emails from him every now and then. He also does live conference calls during the four months, and anyone can join who wants to talk in person about the read thru.

You don’t have to get involved with any of that if you’re not into social media — but DO get involved in reading (with some friends). Really. It will change your year.

After I finished Read-Thru 2014, I wrote about the surprises — read the guest blog over at Keith’s website today.

I’m all set to start again in 2015!



What hope do Christians have? Is there any hope in this world?

You’re also invited to HOPE 2015, a new series of devotionals that will focus our thoughts on the great inheritance of hope we have as children of God.

It starts here, tomorrow.

New Beginnings

I know what you’re thinking … I’ve got my posts mixed up, and I’m posting a New Year’s meditation on Christmas Day.

No. This is a Christmas reflection.

A quiet morning, this Christmas morning. A little time to read by the fire. And here I find the Christmas story.  This is from The Hawk and the Dove, a novel by Penelope Wilcock. One of her characters reflects:

‘It’s a funny thing. The thing life is fullest of is the thing we find hardest to believe in. New beginnings. The incredible gift of a fresh start. Every new year. Every new day. Every new life. What wonderful gifts! And when we spoil things, and life goes all wrong, we feel dismayed, because we find it so hard to see that we can start again. God lets us share it too, you know. Only God can give life, it’s true — make a new baby or a new year — but he gives us the power to give each other a new beginning, to forgive each other and make a fresh start when things go wrong.’

The story of Christmas — a fresh start, a new beginning, new hope for God’s creation.

He gave us that gift one night in Bethlehem.

As His children, living by the power of His Spirit, may we give the gift as generously to others.