Karen's Devotions

This is a selected collection of my devotions e-published on Daily Devotions, Journey Christian Church, Irvine, California; George Bragg, Editor. To join the mailing list, email George, gbragg@cox.net.

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As a 25+ year homeschooling vet, post-cancer, math prof, mother of five, master's track and field athlete, and certificated private pilot, I have a lot to share about what God has done in my life. In 2000 I began writing devotions as something to try when it seemed like accoustic pianists were becoming an endangered species at church. I have since found great blessings from writing and sharing. God is good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Bells

First Published December 22, 2006
Proverbs 150

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
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One of the highlights of a trip east with my husband was visiting the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Along with a wonderful tour, Jeff arranged for us to have high tea in one of the towers. While we were enjoying scones, crumpets, and tea the church bells rang. Their sound was strong, pure, and resonating; signaling the o’clock. It was beautiful and exhilarating. I was reminded of what it must have been like hundreds of years ago, when church bells were common. Not only did they signal parishioners that services would begin soon, but they also announced special celebrations, like Christ’s birthday.

An article by Rev. Lewis H. How says that large bells appeared in church towers in around A.D. 400. He further describes church bells as being an instrument of praise, dedicated to serving God and cites today’s text. While many bells now-a-days are rung electronically, most in England are rung by hand. The practice and art of hand bell-ringing is called campanology. “Change ringing” is a particular branch of campanology where the bells are rung in a mathematical sequence.

“Carol of the Bells” (Ukrainian Carol) captures the essence of church bells on Christmas morn.

Hark, how the bells, sweet silver bells, all seem to say, throw cares away
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer, to young and old, meek and the bold,
Ding dong ding dong that is their song with joyful ring all caroling
One seems to hear words of good cheer from everywhere filling the air
Oh, how they pound, raising the sound, o'er hill and dale, telling their tale,
Gaily they ring while people sing songs of good cheer, Christmas is here,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas,
On, on they send, on without end, their joyful tone to every home
Ding dong ding... dong!

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Map and GPS For Life

First published December 10, 2007

Psalms 119: 105-107
Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. I have sworn, and I will confirm it, that I will keep Thy righteous ordinances. I am exceedingly afflicted; Revive me, O Lord, according to They word.
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A few years ago my husband and I traveled throughout the east, including our nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C. To help find our way around we brought our laptop computer with a map program and a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver installed. The GPS receiver is a cool piece of technology that uses four satellites, multi-spatial geometry, and a navigation technique called triangulation to tell the receiver where it is on the globe. Jeff had set up our itinerary ahead of time, so all we had to do was follow the instructions.

Every so often, we came across a problem. Perhaps street and highway names were not clear or non-existent as was the case 50 miles outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In D.C. we encountered construction and heavy traffic which forced us to take a detour. When we found ourselves off the planned route we relied on the GPS receiver to tell us where we were and the map program to tell us how to get back on track.

Here is an interesting observation. Evidence of God and his handiwork is seen everywhere. From DNA to the stars and planets, from close relationships to whole civilizations, the amazing proof of God cannot be missed. However, the only way to learn of his plan of eternal salvation is through his inspired, written word, the Holy Bible.

Today’s verses teach us a lot about what to do and what to rely on in life. Familiar to many, verse 105 says that the word is our modern day map and GPS program. It tells us where we are and how to get to our destination. Verse 106 is evidence that the writer of Psalms is confident in God’s word. And finally, in verse 107 we learn that when we are lost or off the path through our afflictions and trials, the word of God will restore us and set us straight.
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Thank you Lord, for providing your written word. It tells me where I am with respect to your plan. It tells me that I can trust in you through it. And it tells me that when I stray, it help guide me back to you. Help me to focus on this lesson and to always rely on your “map and GPS” for life! Amen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Gift From The Heart

Originally Published December 21, 2005

Every good thing bestowed and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights… James 1:17 (NAS)

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Like many of us in this modern day generation, I grew up bombarded with commercialized “Xmas.” Sure I was taught that Christmas was a time to celebrate the birth of Christ, but I truly thought the main purpose of the holiday was to present a list of demands to a fat man in a red suit at the department store. I would stand in line wondering how a guy who had a job two weeks out of the year could pay for gobs of toys my hard-working parents could not pay for. And of course all that wondering didn’t stop me from asking for lots of toys. Fortunately, there were others besides my parents who taught me about real gift giving.

It was Christmas time when I was about seven years old. Things were tight at that time. My father was very ill with pneumonia and bed ridden. My mother worked full time as a registered nurse, plus took care of my father and a household of five children. (And, boy, was she strict!) I saw that our tree that year was a smaller silver artificial variety instead of the giant hand chosen flocked tree as in years past. I didn’t get to go to Macy’s and sit on Santa’s lap and ask for what I wanted that year. We didn’t bake any goodies, listen to Christmas carols on the record player, or buy any new decorations.

Still, I was blind to the full emotional and financial impact of the situation. I was focused on getting the ultimate big girl gift, a Barbie Doll! She was glitz, glamour, and beeeeeoootifullll! No more toys for babies. After all, I was seven! Then my excited anticipation crumbled before my eyes a few days before Christmas. A stranger came to the door in the evening claiming to be a neighbor who heard that our family was experiencing rough times. He had some gifts for us kids. O boy, I thought! Maybe I would get a Barbie doll early! But when the old man handed me a wooden bed with a homemade rag doll in it, my heart sank. This was no gift at all. It was nothing.

Christ came to this earth in of one of the most humbling ways. No one could guess that the Prince of Peace would be born amongst the herded animals. Even the wise men of the East went to King Herod’s palace searching for the “King of the Jews.” Though God’s gift to Man seemed very lowly and insignificant, it was the perfect gift, the ultimate sacrifice of love.

The man and his wife gave my siblings and me precious gifts from the heart. They cared about us and acted upon their concern by making a sacrifice. My true gratitude of receiving the rag doll and bed was belated several years, but it helped me to realize just how wonderful the birth of Christ truly was. Let’s not forget that his seemingly “nothing” gift was really the most perfect gift of all.

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Dear Lord, this is the time of year that we acknowledge the birth of your Son, Jesus. Most of us have been programmed to look for the spectacular gifts, thinking that they will truly satisfy us. Your gift of your son and his giving of his life on the cross was straight from your heart. Help me to remember and know this, not just today, but every day. Amen.