Category: devotional thoughts

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Susannah was baptized into the family of faith this morning at Immanuel United Methodist Church.

Every time I hear the baptismal vows, I get choked up. Tears well up in my eyes as the enormity of the task before us parents hits me again. “Will you nurture this child in Christ’s holy church, that by your teaching and example she may be guided to accept God’s grace for herself, to profess her faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?”

We were blessed to have two of Susannah’s five grandparents, and one aunt, uncle, & cousin present today. I feel so grateful that our kids are growing up surrounded by an extended family that isn’t just joined by blood, but by our saving belief in the power of His Blood. Sometimes I worry about this sacred duty – to teach them in every word, every action, about God’s amazing grace – about Christ’s preeminence in our lives – but it’s comforting to have the support of our fellowship of believers. And that’s why I love the last part of our baptismal covenant: the congregational pledge. “With God’s help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that this child, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”

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When we lived in Florida, we participated in an awesome Sunday School class led by Gay Robinson. One Christmas season, she gave us all a handout with information about Jesse Trees. A Jesse Tree is a simple tree (often just a bare branch anchored in a pot of sand; but it can also be a fabric “tree”, or a real or artificial Christmas tree) that is decorated with one ornament each day during Advent. The ornaments represent characters and themes from the Scriptures.

The thing I love about the Jesse Tree is that it’s not just a “chocolate-a-day” Advent countdown. It’s a way to focus on the great truth of the Bible: that God loves us and that He sent His son to save us. The story of Christmas doesn’t occur out of the blue, you know. It’s not like one day God suddenly thought, “Hey, that Mary chick looks cool. I’ll send an angel her way and see what happens!” No. He had a plan all along, from before the world began, from the moment that He breathed life into Adam. The Jesse Tree makes it clear and poignant that the entire story of Scripture points toward Christ and the salvation we can only receive through him.

From the research I’ve been doing, it appears that Jesse Trees can either emphasize the lineage of Messiah from Adam to Christ; or they can emphasize Old Testament themes, events, or covenants; or they can trace Old Testament prophecies about the First Coming of the Messiah.

This list is slightly modified from the one that Gay handed out. I wanted to primarily trace the members of Christ’s lineage who are mentioned in Matthew 1 (#1-14, 20-23); to fill out the list and have one ornament for each day of Advent I added the Old Testament prophets (#15-19).

Day

Ornament Character/Meaning Scripture
Jesse

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Every Sunday night after church, a pastor and his wife have the same snack. He makes two slices of cinnamon toast, and every week he brings her the heel of the bread. One Sunday, after years of this snack, the pastor’s wife bursts into tears when he hands her the slice of toast. “Honey, what’s wrong?” the pastor asks. “Every week you bring me cinnamon toast on the worst slice of bread! What an insult!” she sobs. The poor, confused pastor stammers, “But, but, but honey… the heel is my favorite piece!”

Sometimes, when you think a person isn’t showing you that they care, they actually are showing you love in the only way they know how.

And sometimes, when you think you’ve done everything possible to tell someone how much they mean to you, it turns out that they haven’t been picking up on your message.

Love speaks so many languages. Make sure that you’re speaking the same language – or at least find some subtitles!

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A’ight, y’all – we’ve got some great advice happenin’ in the comments section and a grand total of, like, 3 votes in my totally unscientific polls. You guys!!! This is a serious plea for help! :-S Help a sistah out, get your little tuchus to the comments, and drop some wisdom on me. ….seriously…. help….

I did my first Blogger poll off to the right (for Kari, that’d be your other left….) and it looks like at least a few of you would like to hear from Chris once in awhile. I’ll see what I can do to get him blogging for a little of the male and/or medical perspective. The rest of you seem pretty happy with the status quo – more pictures! more writing! more pictures with writing! No problem. I have you covered.

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I am so incredibly frustrated. I didn’t get Jonas in for his 15-month Well Child Checkup before we left Nashville, thinking that I’d just get him in a little early for his 18-month WCC and it would even out. When we got here, I found a D.O. in Family Practice that’s pretty near to our house and called to see if she is accepting new patients. She is – but she won’t make your first appointment until she has all your medical records. So her receptionist or office manager or whoever sent me those HIPPAA forms to fill out and mail to our old doctors. I got the one for Jonas’ pediatrician in the mail asap…. and yesterday it was returned as “undeliverable as addressed”. Well, for Pete’s sake, I sent it to the address on their website! Monday morning I’ll call them and find out the proper address. Or maybe I can fax this to them, which would speed the process a bit. At any rate, I’m starting to worry that Jonas won’t get that 18 month WCC until he turns 2!

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New Poll starts today, and I’ll leave it up for a couple of weeks. Actually, there will be two versions: one for parents and one for non-parents. My current quandry and heartache has to do with Church Nursery. Most of you know that we didn’t take Jonas to the nursery when he was little. It was easy to wear him in a sling or carrier, let him nurse and snooze during our Sunday School and worship service, and that was that. Plus, my ideals for Attachment Parenting included not handing him off to strangers during his first year of life. Fast forward – when Jonas was about 14 months old, we started taking him to the nursery at Bellevue United Methodist in Nashville. While we were there, Chris and I never got involved in an adult Sunday School class. (I know, I know… terrible.) Anyway, so Jonas only had about 50 minutes in the nursery without us each week, and every single week it was like I was torturing him. He would burst into tears as soon as we

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We heard a wonderful message at church this morning and I just have to share some of it here – partly for anyone who missed it, and partly for myself to come back and be reminded.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth. And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if [he ask] a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? Luke 11:5-13, KJV

There are books and videos and preachers out there, telling us they have the secret to “more successful” prayer. “More effective” prayer. There is this screwed-up understanding of what an effective prayer really is. Is a prayer only “effective” if you get what you selfishly want from God?

God has not called us to be successful as defined by the world. Instead we are called to be faithful.

We have come to expect a very narrow definition of what is “good” from God. We expect that if we pray for health and wealth and worldly success, we’ll get it. We forget that we’re already healthier, wealthier, and far more fortunate, than millions of other people around the globe. Does that mean we are more loved? Does that mean that North Americans are better pray-ers? Hardly! We need to change our attitudes and expectations about prayer.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 6:33, ESV

We just don’t get it. How many of us think that if we “seek first the kingdom,” we then have gained license to pursue whatever it is we really want from God. If we really understood what it means to seek first the kingdom… we’d be trying to love what (and who) God loves. Value what He values. We’d be trying to follow His will for our lives. If

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My child,

You are never alone. My hand is on yours, my arm is around your shoulders. You are never alone.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you
nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I know that you are tired, that your body is weary. Your rest is in Me – the truest renewal and refreshing comes from My Spirit.

but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar
on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and
not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

You can sleep tonight because I am watching over you and your household. You are my beloved child, and I will keep you from harm.

I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O Lord,
make me
dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8)

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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