A Stone of Faith

Sometimes in life, our faith in God waivers in and out. We might roll our eyes when confrontation is before us and shun the real strength we prayed for in difficult times. But then we return to the very spot we waivered from in the beginning. Our Almighty God always remains with us, though, with welcome arms and forgiveness of our bad decisions.

Last night my eyes were opened a little wider by a word God whispered to my conscience. I woke in fear of trying to comprehend His message. So I picked up my Bible for protection and tried to find the meaning of the word He sent me. As many knows, I’m a man of great faith. I’m not a Bible scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but I do my digging when times like this are derived from God.

Before I tell you what the Holy Spirit spoke to me, you must know this word is written in scriptures only three times. It was used in the Old Testament in 543 B.C. by Samuel. He, too, was a man of great faith who led the Israelites to a battle with the Philistines for over forty years. The Israelites lost twice, but then Samuel looked to God and set up an Ebenezer between two mountains. He said, “Lord God, You are my stone of faith, my rock I shall not break.” (1 Samuel) Scriptures say, “The Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines that day and threw them into such confusion that they were defeated by the Israelites.” From that day forward, Ebenezer became the name of an altar for God to protect the Israelites.

So the bigger question is, why did God send me the word Ebenezer? Is it because I, too, am fighting two personal battles, and God came to tell me it will be Ok? Is it to inform you that your struggles are being watched over by the Lord? Yes, all the above is true! Remember, your enemy is not greater than God. He can make miracles occur with a stroke of His hand.

My word for the day, Ebenezer, is the moment you realize you could not have made it through the fires without God’s help. Your faith is like a stone, and only God can bring you through these impeachable battles.

Ebenezer is as powerful of a word today as it was with Samuel in the Old Testament. We all bear our crosses, and as Christians, we must realize it is only God who protects us. Our awesome Father will come to our rescue in times of need. All you have to do is humbly pray for His help. May your Ebenezer be an altar as it was for Samuel. God bless.


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Entitlement

Today’s society is bombarded with many slogans that portray us to be “deserving” of something. Such self-focused messages are:

            “You deserve a break today…” used by McDonald’s

            “You owe it to yourself…” used by cruise lines

            “Treat yourself to take the break you deserve” used by Hilton HHonors

In the dynamics of families and relationships, how many times have you graciously gave a gift and never received a “thank you” of any kind? How often have you heard the stories of parents passing away, and the children fought over the estate and money? If a sibling or parent is near their deathbed, do they deserve to be treated with respect if they never reciprocated love to family members in a state of healthiness? What if a husband and wife purchase a home with their hard-earned money – should their children feel entitled to the parent’s assets?

Within the business world, employees arrive late and perform their duties with little ambition. They demand pay raises and better benefits. Are they really deserving of it? Or, a parent scrapes and works hard to grow a business, and their grown children now believe they’re entitled to run it when the parent is deceased.

Churches also run into the same dilemmas when the congregation feels entitled to receive answers from their pastors or to hold positions within the house of worship. And, while I walk down the path of religious connotations, many believers feel deserving of God’s blessings. Speaking of this, do you know why much of humanity walks away from God and stops believing in Him? They prayed for an answer they wanted to hear and didn’t receive it. He was a means to get what they felt entitled to in life! Ironically, I believe our church leaders are responsible for this incorrect train of thought. They stand on the pulpit and preach God will meet all our needs and give them their desires if they pledge their soul to Jesus. The fact is our sin separates us from the Lord.

Entitlement is a dangerous walk in life – it’s Godlessness. Let me be frank here – God, parents, and employers owe us nothing. God blesses us with things because He wants to – an unconditional love of grace. A selfish demand for His generosity will reap no benefits. It’s that simple!

Jesus’ ministry spoke of loving others with a grateful heart. This includes treating each other with respect, even amidst our differences. The well-being of gratitude promotes healthy relationships, both in our walk with the Lord and relationships with others.

In the subject of parenting, fewer children today respect their elders. They ignore the recognition parents deserve for years of hard work and dedication to their families because they live in the “gimme, gimme” world. These generations are gifted with their heart’s desires, and they expect it from the parents. Thus, the slogans I mentioned at the beginning of the message above, come into play. As the children grow older, they feel entitled to life. Little do we know, it promotes laziness, ungratefulness, and the subject of this blog – entitlement. What are we teaching our children and others?

So, how can we live a life feeling less entitled to things and people?

•          Humbly give thanks to God for all we receive. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

•          Remember the grace of God, for Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We do not deserve to be treated with graciousness for our sinful attitudes, but the Lord’s love and grace reaches out to us, anyway. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” Titus 3:3-5

•          Set your mind on eternity with the Lord and not on this world. Money and physical possessions mean nothing, for they cannot be taken with you to heaven. “But, as it is written, what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him…” 1 Corinthians 2:9

•          Continuously pray for discernment of entitlement. Why do I feel entitled, and how can I change this train of thought?

In summary of today’s message, expect little, receive with a grateful heart, and always give thanks. Give God the glory for your unexpected blessings!

Written by Anne Bicks, Editor and Marketing of Bicks Books LLC


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In The Spirit

So often we look over the obvious and miss the big picture in life. We become wrapped up in living for the moment and cannot see the signs. Let me connect some dots and bring you the wisdom God revealed to me today about being in the spirit. Do you think this may not apply to you? Think again, for it applies to everyone who walks the earth.

Have you ever watched four or five-year-old children put their little hands over their hearts and fumble through the Pledge of Allegiance? How adorable this is to witness! As they grow, they find other activities to cultivate their minds, such as Cub Scouts, Brownies, and sporting activities. They are living… in the spirit of competitiveness and good citizenship.

Some mature young men and women take an oath to defend our country. Do you know why? They are entrenched… in the spirit of preservation, duty, and honor.

Doctors and nurses work endless hours hustling and bustling among patients. Their high energy is formidable and do you know why? For the love of people… they live in the spirit of caring.

Christmas is a wonderful time to give to others. This past holiday season, the Saturday before Christmas, was the largest shopping day in history. Why? Because shoppers were in the spirit… the love of family and friends.

Let’s take a second and think about the thirteen men who, in 1787, wrote the guidelines of the U.S. Constitution. They were not making a grocery list; in deep Christian faith, they carried their pens and drafted this American historical document. Only five men had a formal education, so how could they skillfully devise a draft to protect a nation for years to come? Our founding fathers were in the spirit… their beliefs led them to write collectively and defend the principles of God’s chosen people. Ironically, other than adding the Bill of Rights, it has never been changed or contested.

Now, I’ll turn my thoughts to the greatest book ever put together, the Bible. Some of it was written five hundred years before Christ, such as the Book of Job. Other books were written during Jesus’ life of thirty-three years on earth and before His crucifixion. But most of the Bible was written many years after His death. Who were these scholars of great wisdom? Who was on their Board of Education and honored them with a Ph.D. to write these sacred and everlasting scriptures? The Bible was written in the spirit… mostly men, but also by some women in love with the Holy Spirit and His greatness. God divinely visited them and ordered their thoughts to be placed in writing for future generations. Spiritually grounded to Jesus Christ, they endured the wrath of all those who did not believe in our Savior. Those who could write did so… in the spirit.

Paul, the Apostle (or Saul from Tarsus), never met Jesus while He was alive, but God’s spirit confronted him on the road to Damascus. As a result, Paul wrote almost half the New Testament, and with no education. He was in the spirit… so, God gave him the strength and guidance to deliver His Word throughout the land.

Conversion of Paul, the Apostle courtesy of Sweet Publishing/Freebibleimages.org

Every one of us can be in the spirit. Life is a journey, and we must follow God’s lead when He gives us a nudge. We will become the bearer of the Holy Spirit’s fruit if we pay attention to the signs.

I look back on my own spiritual walk. God awakened me in the middle of the night and told me to write His messages. I challenged His request but in the spirit… my award-winning book, “There in God’s Grace,” graced every brick-and-mortar store. My strong Christian beliefs led me on a path I can never deny.

Those who walk in the Spirit are united with Christ. Do you have the spirit too? It will fill you with thankfulness, joy, and a life of righteousness. Trust this promise!

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:22-25


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Eve

The festive season is over and a new year launches our homage. But outside my castle lies a moat where defense lines conquer nothing. Blown away in the warm offshore winds are the battle lines drawn in the sand. The swells of threats and betrayals swallow the shoreline. Glaring editorials make one wonder if life is worth living. But it’s the eve of a new beginning…

I pray, as morning arrives, for it’s the start of a new day. Though some may pass on in the light of this bright sunny morning, the Lord shall exonerate the living. Are we to judge if a leafless tree is dead or not, or shall we give praise and walk on in the eve of everlasting life?

I listen to the blustery winds swirling through the air. Little lives when nature goes into hibernation. But look… what’s that? Is that a pink bud, perhaps? I suddenly realize it is the eve of life! In the dead of winter, God anointed me with a Camellia flower about to open its delicate petals. No matter how destitute life looks, you see, God is always on the eve of greatness. Patience for me is next to impossible, so I, too, must wait to see the flower bloom.

It’s the eve of another morning. I’ve witnessed two days of torrential rain. God’s light, though, is in a horizontal shaped rainbow, which tells me His reign is never-ending. Life with Him and through Him will eternally mystify the mind. Every day you’ll be introduced to some kind of eve. Opportunities will open doors for those who feel stagnant, and faith will bring a light on the eve of darkness.

To Christians, eve is defined as a darkness that started in the Book of Genesis. Eve, however, is the beginning of life in God’s realm, just as the eve of “Christ-mass,” Jesus’ birth. We do not celebrate the eve of Easter for there is life in the everlasting love of Jesus Christ. Let Jesus begin to recreate your life this year, for it’s the eve of a season with new beginnings!

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A Heart of Gold

Have you ever wanted to reach out to a stranger and give a gift of appreciation? My mother, God bless her soul, had one bright spot I will always remember. At Christmastime, she purchased gifts for those who only came around periodically, such as the trash man and the meter reader. She even snuck a little gift in the mailbox and addressed it “to Mike,” the guy who delivered the mail no matter the weather. With a broad smile, he gave her a big “thank you.” During sweaty, hot, and humid days to the bitter arctic winds swirling over the icy bay, Mike never failed to check on my mom when she was housebound. Her heart of gold made a friend for life.

A notion overcame me derived from my mother’s uncanny disposition. What a wonderful time of the year for random acts of giving! Moments of undying love and appreciation will reach the hearts of the unexpected. So, I thought I’d try it this year too. I can’t tell you the end results yet, but deep inside my soul, God thanked me – that’s all I need to know. There must be a little of my mom in me, as I reciprocated my gratitude.

I mailed a gift to a talk show host who I’ve grown to identify with through the radio. I admire his reputation and Christian walk in life, which he occasionally shares with the listening audience. The other recipient, I can’t hold a candle to… right or wrong, we’ve become friends. We’ve shared correspondence, and I’ve come to know his heart – not his reputation. He is our President of the United States. Few could envision giving either of these gentlemen gifts of adoration, but then again, I’m not a normal man.

My address, you see, is not written on a box, but somewhere outside the box. I live and breathe God’s given air. As our Lord expects of me, I think of thoughts that would please others. Those random acts of kindness should follow throughout the year, but many only surfaces when we reach into our spirit at Christmas.

I deeply thank the men and women who unselfishly devote their time to giving to others – not just a politician or a minister but ordinary folks with a heart of gold. It’s so easy to be appreciative when you walk with the spirit of God.

To all the many Christians I have grown to know and connect with over the years, let Christmas never leave your soul! Show adoration and excitement year after year with a heart of gold. The random act of giving will bless you and change you for the better.

May your faith in friends and family be a tribute to your own random acts of kindness which comes from God. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

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Are Christians wrong about Christmas?

Many Christians today refuse to celebrate Christmas. I’ve heard all their rationales and why it is wrong to observe this holiday. Here is my selection of the top five reasons:

(1) “It’s not biblical, for Christ never sanctioned it.” “It is a pagan holiday”. (Based on Jeremiah 10:2-4 and Isaiah 44:14-15; 44:14-17, and Colossians 2:16-17)

(2) “It promotes lying to children.”

(3) “Historically, Jesus was not born on December 25.”

(4) “Jesus never taught us to acknowledge His birth day.”

(5) “The Christmas tree represents idolatry.” (Based on Jeremiah 10:2-5, Isaiah 40:19-20, and Isaiah 44:14-17)

Are Christians wrong about Christmas based on these statements? Let’s visit each of the comments and discuss them a little more in depth.

#1: Christmas Is A Pagan Holiday; Never Sanctioned by Christ

Many call Christmas a pagan holiday based on Colossians 2:16-17, which warns us not to observe any special months, seasons, days, or religious festivals.

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Colossians 2:16-17

This Old Testament passage was written before the birth of Christ, and by Paul the Apostle, who was referring to the Old Testament festivals. It did not pertain to today’s holidays. The issue which Paul describes is not the observance, but the reason, attitude, and spirit in which a celebration occurs, even the Christmas holiday.

Paganism, spoken in the Old Testament, was lost centuries ago when most of Rome became Christians before the year 391. December 25 was the date Romans celebrated the sun god. The Roman emperor, Constantine, converted to Christianity in 312 A.D., and he wanted to alleviate the worship of false gods to acknowledge Christ. Christian leaders accepted his conversion as a means to convert the pagan world. Pagan temples changed over to churches, and persecuted Christian martyrs replaced the idols of pagans. Christianity remained with the promise of a Savior through a virgin birth. Rome became the hub for Christianity.

There are no biblical passages that point the way to not celebrating the birth of our Lord out of love, devotion, and joy of the season. Furthermore, the Bible speaks of the angel who came to announce Jesus’ birth and the men who came bearing gifts. Such an announcement was a celebration.

If we honor Christmas with a lack of Christian connotations, this would be sinful. Scriptures give Christians guidelines to follow so as not to distort this joyful season:

Do not attend wild parties with large alcohol consumption. Little regard for the birth of the Lord is present in these gatherings.

Do not overspend money on gifts.

Teach children about the reason for the season – not how many gifts they will receive.

#2: It Promotes Lying to Children

Santa Claus originated with St. Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra. (See my blog, Before There Was Santa). I believe Santa should be approached as a fairy tale and spoken with caution. However, salvation in Christianity is based on good deeds, and the Bible promises eternal life for obedience to the Lord.

#3: Jesus Was Not Born on December 25

Discrepancy of this date is not on the year of Christ’s birth, but the month. The earliest mention of December 25 came from a fourth-century Roman almanac, which lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.” Eastern churches use January 6, and it is known as the Feast of the Epiphany – a celebration of the magi’s arrival.

In either case, both dates occur in the winter. People who dispute the month of Jesus’ birth base it on the sheep who were being herded in the fields. They claim sheep are taken into enclosures November through March. It may be true, except there is no fact to confirm pens were built for sheep in that century, and too, it could have been a mild winter. Luke’s version of the nativity night tells us the shepherds were near Bethlehem and not in the fields, which also indicates it was the winter months. Bethlehem’s winters encouraged heavy rain and thick crops of new grass, best suitable for sheep. Therefore, December or January would be the most likely months for Jesus’ birth.

#4: We Were Never Taught to Acknowledge Jesus’ Date of Birth

I want to say there are two ways of observing Christmas. We can look at it as a commercialized party and gift-giving spree, or we can view it as a recognition of Jesus’ birth. In the Book of Luke, appearances of angels announced the birth of a Savior. First one, and then a multitude of angels told the shepherds of Jesus’ birth, and they asked the sheep herders to announce it to the world.

“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told” Luke 2:20

Should we not do this too? Praising God is glorifying His name, so why not use Christmas for this specific reason? It is the perfect opportunity to tell a non-believer of the reason God came to earth – to guide us to salvation. The promise of the angel — “for He will save His people from their sins” — are the greatest words of the entire Christmas story. Use this holiday to spread the Good News!

#5: The Christmas Tree Represents Idolatry

Christianity adopted many pagan components to Christmas such as the lighting of candles, exchanging of gifts, the Christmas tree, holly, and mistletoe. Some link the paganism of the Christmas tree to Jeremiah 3:6, 13, but in fact, it denounces the use of a grove of trees as a place for idol worship. If you read beyond these two brief Bible verses, Israel was using the woods to hide and commit adultery. These passages are taken out of the original context of their meaning and applied negatively to Christmas trees in homes.

Second, Jeremiah wrote this passage hundreds of years before Christmas trees became adopted into our holiday. Yes, the Christmas tree began with pagan roots. However, through the developing years of Christianity, the tree obtained many connotations and symbols of the Lord. It can now show the Star of Bethlehem, nativity scenes, red and green colors representing the blood of Christ and green for the life given to us through the birth of Jesus.

Christmas trees, like the holiday itself, is a matter of personal conviction. Where is your heart on this tradition? Is it with pagan thoughts of adoration for the tree and parties, or will it represent Christian values? It is your choice and personal conviction.


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The Three Ghosts of Christmas

Behold, the joy of the holidays – giving and receiving, is upon us! It was just a week before Christmas that Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in the year 1843. The many books this author wrote reveals his deep Christian faith and the principles of a moral life. His most infamous character, Scrooge, is the story of a heart transformed, or should we say re-born? It’s no wonder Dickens called this work-of-art his “ghostly little book,” for Christ reflects all over the pages.

If we analyze the character of Scrooge, like ours, we see the light and darkness of life, salvation, and a second chance of God’s blessings. Three spirits visited him: The Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Let’s begin with the first spirit…

Our Ghost of Christmas Past

The Ghost of Christmas Past reflects on Scrooge’s younger years. Similar to us, there is happiness, sorrows, and perhaps even regrets. We struggle to find the true meaning of life. Where do we fit in, and what is our purpose? We work so hard to achieve comfort, security, and the American dream. However, we avoid suffering and challenges to preserve our dignity and self-worth. Soon, it becomes clear those ghosts will eventually reappear to haunt us later in life. Just as Scrooge learned, bad decisions leave us fearful, confused, shaken, and empty, and we carry them into the rest of our years.

Our Ghost of Christmas Present

Scrooge is now absorbed by the worries and burdens of wealth. Consumed in running his business and providing for his own needs, he cared little about others. His happiness equated to money and possessions, but ironically, he is the most unhappy character. Our Ghost of Christmas Present opens the door to glimpse how quickly we alienate friends and family with self-centered actions of greed. The lack of helping others in need placed Scrooge in the category of being a miserly, old man. How would others see us too?

Many characters in The Christmas Carol opened their hearts to Scrooge. His nephew, Fred, encouraged him to be a part of his life and home, even at Christmas. Scrooge grumbled, “Bah humbug.” His employee, Bob Cratchit, wanted him to participate in fundraising for charity. Still Scrooge quickly snubbed such a crazy idea. Cratchit tried to make him see that joy should come from our treasures – family, friends, life, and love – not material goods.

The characteristic of imprisoning ourselves with possessions, if we don’t share with our neighbors, is synonymous with a lack of love and compassion for others. Jesus warns us in the Bible we can’t take earthly things with us when we pass from this world. So what’s the point of it all?

I have a revelation to ponder… what if God only gave us our blessings to give to others who really need them? What if they were not meant for your exclusive pleasure?

The joy of Christmas should reflect a smile of happiness when someone receives a gift of love, yes? I know many say that presents are not what the reason for the season is about, am I right? Jesus was our gift from God. He walked the earth to teach us how to live graciously, godly, and always to serve others. What better time than the season of giving, to follow in His footsteps?

Scrooge realizes his selfishness and sins, and a change soon comes.

Our Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

Scrooge’s “conversion” points to finding his salvation based on redemption and charity. He walked the streets with a smile, greeted everyone, helped beggars, and glowed the love of God. Though many were apprehensive of his attitude change, they discovered some significant event, indeed, altered his life. Isn’t this how everyone, one day, falls into God’s grace? We realize this life is more comfortable in a relationship with our Savior. When we break our own mortality, our hearts soften for others.

Christ gave Scrooge a second chance to make it right, and He does this for us too! Our life should be a journey of service to the Lord.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

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May everyone be blessed with a beautiful Christmas! Give and receive with a gracious heart to your family, workplace, and community. It is the three ghosts commandment – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!


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The Light of Saint Lucia

I love learning about holiday traditions, especially when they’re linked to our ancestry. Last year, I did a Christmas blog on the German ritual and southwest U.S. practice of placing a pickle on the tree. This year, on December 13, the light of Saint Lucy shines on Scandinavia and Italy. It is Saint Lucy’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Lucy, signaling the arrival of Christmas. Though her personal story is quite sordid, Saint Lucia shines the light of Christ for all Christians. So, let’s bundle up and get ready to visit the countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Italy!

Who was Saint Lucy?

Image courtesy of catholicsistas.com

Once coinciding with the Winter Solstice (shortest day of the year), the Feast of Saint Lucy has become a Christian festival of light since the 4th century. Lucy was born in the year 283 to very wealthy and noble parents. She was a devout Christian who promised her virginity to the Lord. Her father passed away when she was five years-old, but as she reached her teenage years, her mother arranged an engagement with a man who was a pagan and paid him a handsome dowry. Against her religious beliefs, Lucy was not interested in a relationship not condoned by God. She prayed He would spare her the marriage.

This young lady worked to help Christians hiding in the catacombs during their persecutions conducted by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. She brought them as many supplies as she could handle, wearing a wreath on her head. It had candles attached so she could see in the darkness of the caves.

Image owned and courtesy of The Tour Expert

It devastated Lucy when her mother came down with a long-term illness, shortly before her wedding. She went to the shrine of Saint Agatha to pray for her mother’s health and was told by the saint her mother’s illness would be cured through faith. Lucy returned home and convinced her mother to cancel the wedding and donate the dowry to the poor.

Furious at the snub, Lucy’s fiancé reported her to the governor for being a Christian. She was arrested, tortured, and threatened to be taken to a brothel if she didn’t renounce Christianity. But, something divine occurred…

When the prison guards tried to remove her, she was a dead weight. No one could budge her away! So, they built a woodpile around her, instead, and lit it afire. In the name of God, she kept denouncing their horrific acts. One guard stuck a spear through her throat, but she didn’t stop speaking, and another gouged out her eyes. Miraculously, her eyes were restored. It is said Lucy could die only when she was given the Christian Last Rites. Saint Lucy’s death, on December 13, 304, is celebrated with a feast and different rituals by each country.

Croatia and Hungary

A popular tradition on this day is planting wheat grains, which will be full grown on Christmas. It symbolizes a new life born in Bethlehem. They also place a candle next to the plant for the Light of Christ.

Sweden

Though not an official holiday in Sweden, St. Lucy’s Day has been a special occasion since 1764. Formal dinner parties are the protocol. In the school system, students choose someone to be Lucy, and she dresses in a long white robe, red sash, and a wreath with candles are put on her head. Then maids are chosen who dress in white robes. They even hold regional contests for the best Lucy.

Saint Lucia Island in the Caribbean

Boys also dress up in several attires. Some wear a long white robe with a cone-shaped hat, or a Santa elf costume with a lantern, and some don gingerbread men outfits.

Everyone snacks on Lussekatt, a special  baked bun made with saffron. Early on Lucia morning, Swedish television airs a procession and concert, which features a different choir in a different church each year.

Finland

St. Lucy was first celebrated in Finland in 1898, and Helsinki Cathedral crowned her St. Lucy of Finland in 1949.

Denmark

In Denmark, the Day of Lucy was first celebrated on December 13, 1944. It is a yearly event in most churches at Christmas. Candles stay lit all night, representing the light of Saint Lucy.

Norway

The modern-day celebration of Lucia in Norway was adopted after World War II but it only remains popular in kindergarten and middle schools. They, too, dress in the white robes with wreaths and candles on their heads.

Saint Lucia (Caribbean)

This Caribbean island was named after Saint Lucy and is celebrated as National Day. They hold the National Festival of Lights and Renewal the night before the holiday, and the capital is covered in lights and decorated lanterns

Italy

The roots of this holiday are originally traced to Sicily, Italy. Lucy was born, lived, and died a martyr in this city, and today, it points to the arrival of Christ, the light of the world. Italians gather on December 13 to light candles and torches, and to eat, drink, and be merry. Many religious parades and feasts permeate the cities.

As the darkness falls upon Northern Europe on December 13, let us help our ancestors to celebrate Saint Lucia’s Day. Though not observed in the United States, we can pray for a message of light and the hope of Christ in our hearts.


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An Acceptable Christogram

Three weeks before Christmas, I can remember the annual ritual of watching my mother write her holiday cards to friends and family members. She’d sign our name and below that she wrote, “Merry Xmas.” One year, I asked her what “Xmas” was, and she told me it was short for Christmas. She used to mail about 60 cards, so I could understand why she shortened it – I’d have writer’s cramp too!

I grew up seeing both written versions of this holiday name and never thought twice of any Christian implications; after all, my mother was a devout worshipper of God. But, this Christogram (an abbreviation for Jesus Christ) became a secular upheaval called the “War on Christmas.”

Many Christians take great offense to the use of the Greek word “Xmas” instead of Christmas, for they feel it takes Christ out of Christmas. Some call it blasphemous and disrespectful to the Lord, making Him anonymous. Modern etiquette discourages using the word as an abbreviation in formal writing. Style guides for some publications such as The New York Times, discourage using Xmas unless writing space is limited.

Well, a surprise to all Christians – “Xmas” has impeccable credentials! The “X” in this Christogram  represents the Greek letter ‘Chi’ which is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Christos. The English translation for Chi is “X,” and it represents the Messiah. Xmas’s second half, “mas,” means mass; thus, the whole word means Christ’s Mass. In Hebrew, Jehovah also has an abbreviation.

The Christogram, Xmas, has been abbreviated for at least 1,000 years. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle reveals “Christ” written as “Xp” or “Xt” as far back as 1021. So, how did this word become so prevalent in today’s times? I think we have the world of advertising to thank for this transition as Xmas fits perfectly in the narrowest of leaflets or shop windows. And it’s no coincidence the “X” looks similar to the cross. I think it is acceptable for Christians to write “Xmas” on their Christmas cards or social media sites. If faced with objections, explain why their criticism is unfounded, according to Christianity. Blaming the secularization of a religious holiday on the misconception of “Xmas,” reflects a misunderstanding of our history and language, don’t you agree?


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Low Octane

Certain formulas just make sense, as in the Hi-Performance engines of my younger days. We raced muscle cars every Friday or Saturday night if the weather cooperated on those days. Low octane fuel was for little less-powered engines. But, if we wanted great strength and power, high octane gave us a much better performance. Our health and well-being run on the same performance factors, and it’s equated to the relationship we have with God.

I’m sure some of us have observed people who sat in the back of a church and appeared as though they slept in their clothes. Some believers come to take up space and really don’t take part in the songs of praise. But in the front pews of God’s church, sat the brilliant Christians, praising the Lord, and magnified by God’s glow. Those beautifully dressed believers in the front rows, with their hands held high to receive God’s word… need I say more? They are full of high octane. Then, I examined those of ill-faded color, dull complexions, blemished, and disheveled, and it was apparent their spirituality may be (or was) filled with low octane. Their engine’s performance could be directly related to the quality of octane they put into their bodies.

“If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:17

Though a remarkable difference in the congregation is clear, there appears to be a more profound correlation not so noticeable. My theory is purely hypothetical, so I did some research to discover the accuracy of my prognosis.

“You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.” Exodus 23:25

Jesus proved in His healing work that it is God’s will we have good health. Many examples in scriptures reveal the miracles of Jesus healing those with ailments. Our health is the inevitable result of knowing God and living a life filled with His love and direction. Let’s look at a few of these examples.

My wife’s mother was a devout, God-fearing Christian who lived her life by God’s commandments. When she passed away at ninety-five years old, she barely had a wrinkle on her face. She glowed in God’s spirit, and He took her from us peacefully, without pain and struggle. I have a high school friend who has not had a natural heartbeat since 1995. Pacemakers have been the source of her existence, but she praises the Lord for her health and life. Looking at her today, she is the epitome of health – glowing skin, smiling ear-to-ear, and shiny, beautiful hair. She runs on high octane and lives every day to the fullest. God bless her heart!

On a more notable scale, the evangelist, Billy Graham, was ninety-nine years old when he quietly passed away. He struggled with cancer and eventually died of pneumonia, but until the day he died, he looked healthy. He had God’s glow of high octane. The late Bishop Eddie Long, head of one of the largest mega-churches in the U.S., is another example of one who passed away from cancer. He maintained his youthful appearance and high octane looks until the day he left us.

Our health is a gift to all of God’s children. We can overcome disease and sickness, in some sense, by living a faithful life to Christ. Now do not misinterpret my words to mean we will never get sick or recover from terminal conditions if we live on high octane. God doesn’t promise us life with no pain or sickness. But one has to wonder… why are those with spiritually low octane, appear not so healthy, yet those who run on high octane rarely show any illnesses? Pay close attention to those around you who are suffering ailments and tell me if my observation isn’t correct.

The principles of well-being are not only our mental health but the condition of our physical health too. It’s simple – God is the highest octane you can receive for your body. Where can you get it? We obtain it through prayer and living a godly life. The more the Lord resonates in your life, the better you will look and feel. Let the love of God be Your octane bust!


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