Angels & Shepherds, the Expressive Ones

imagesRead Luke 2:1-20.

We live in a “PC” world. Oftener and oftener the Christian’s worldview is shushed in deference to the agenda of the moment. My husband and I were talking just this week about the big divide we’ve seen this holiday season. Currently there is a media-driven rebellion against wishing someone a “Merry Christmas,” even though the malls are packed with Christmas shoppers and Amazon is busily delivering packages in time for Christmas morning. “Happy Holidays” is the new trend and to wish someone a “Merry Christmas” is unbelievably considered offensive.

The thing is, what is considered “PC” is ever-changing. It’s tough to keep your finger on the popular pulse at any given moment these days. I think that’s why the response of both the angels and the shepherds of the nativity stand out to me so much this year in particular –

Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”  vv 13-14

the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. v 20

These last few days of the season, I want to challenge myself to live expressively in light of Emmanuel (“God with us”), the One for whom Christmas was named. I want to live uncensored in my praise of Him. I want my words and actions to express my beliefs. Like the angels and shepherds, I want glorify Him in an expressive way, that those around me may know the reason for the season by what I say and do.

On that note, I wish each of you a heartfelt Merry Christmas!

Joseph, the Contented One

I love this image of Joseph, freshly awakened and ready to obey the Lord's command. I found the image here.
Annunciation to Joseph by LDS artist Joseph Brickey, 2000.

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

I like Joseph. In my head, he was a quiet thinker. He was happily content. He was the kind of guy that kept his nose clean. He was responsible. He was dependable. When we’re introduced to Joseph, things are going pretty well for him. He is able to make a respectable living working with his hands as a carpenter. He was soon-to-be wed to Mary, a chaste and God-fearing young lady in the village. Before long, God would surely bless them with children to run and laugh around their happy home. Life was good.

Until it wasn’t.

His beloved fiancé…was pregnant? Who was the father? What should he do – expose her? divorce her?

He must have wrestled for hours over where it all went wrong and what he should do about it until finally – mercifully! – Joseph fell into what I imagine to be a hard-won sleep.

In the wee hours, Joseph finally lay sleeping quietly. It was then, as Joseph was still, that God whispered through Gabriel. He spoke to Joseph’s fears. He answered Joseph’s groanings that were too confused – too hurt – for words. He calmed the chaos that robbed Joseph of his prior contentment. And in response –

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” (v 24)

As you navigate this second week of the {chaotic} Christmas season, begin by pondering what has robbed you of contentment during past holiday seasons? Is it the hustle and bustle of making lists and checking them twice? Is it holiday entertaining? Is is the constant strain from an overly committed calendar? Is it crowded stores? Financial stress? The self-imposed pressure of making this the “best Christmas ever?” Joseph’s contentment was found in living in obedience to God’s Word. What about yours?

This week, prioritize being still with God daily. Spend your time with Him listening more than speaking. And then, like Joseph, obey.

Ministry in the Menial

Joseph and Potiphar's Wife, Rembrandt, 1634, Rembrandt House Musueum
Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, Rembrandt, 1634, Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam

Wrongfully despised.

Wrongfully enslaved.

Wrongfully imprisoned.

Wrongfully forgotten.

Joseph’s life didn’t start off on easy street. It would have been understandable if he had thrown up his hands in defeat by the time he was behind bars in Egypt. Instead, Joseph walked the bumpy road of his life focused on serving, not on self.

  • When enslaved in Potiphar’s house, Joseph served righteously.
  • When imprisoned for doing right by his master, Joseph served faithfully.
  • When the cupbearer forgot him, Joseph continued to serve in prison steadfastly.

Joseph purposed to serve as working for the Lord, not for human masters – wherever he was.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. – Colossians 3:23

Through his serving, through the thousands of menial tasks he performed as a slave and prisoner, through the faithfulness of whatever he did, Joseph added to his good reputation one faithful day at a time.

PONDER: What difficulties in your life focus your attention on self rather than the Savior? What menial, daily tasks of yours could be turned into ministry if your focus was on serving God instead of serving man?

PRAYER: Father, thank You for giving me something to work with my hands every day. Thank You for the countless opportunities you have granted me to serve those around me. Thank You for every job I have that goes unthanked, unappreciated or unnoticed. Help me to praise You with my hands as I do my work unto You, every day. May I seek to serve You, wholeheartedly, all the days of my life.

The Upstairs Toilet – a short devotional

Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.


One ordinary day years ago, I decided on a whim to go upstairs to see how the younger kids were progressing with learning to do their new chores. It had actually been a couple of months since I had been upstairs (gasp!), so the time was ripe.  I was happy to see that their bedrooms were passable. The hallway was vacuumed. The shelves were in order. I was pleased with what I saw – until I went into the bathroom.  In the bathroom, I was greeted by this ghastly sight –

Okay, full disclosure - this isn't my actual toilet. I did text a pic to my friend, Anne. I did not keep it for obvious reasons. The toilet up there DID have the same unidentifiable crusty stuff, the same yellowed ring around the rim, and I did have the same vomitous reaction you are having right now in seeing it.
Okay, full disclosure – this isn’t my actual toilet. I did text a pic to my friend, Anne. I did not keep it for obvious reasons. The toilet up there DID have the same crusty contents, the same yellowed ring around the rim, and I did have the same vomitous reaction you are having right now in seeing it.

Truthfully, I wanted to replace the toilet on the spot!  My stomach turns even now at the memory of it.  After much soaking, many chemicals, long sessions on my knees hunched over the toilet with my hands inside that awful abyss (ew!) expending way more elbow grease than I thought I had in me, the toilet was clean.

We are like the upstairs toilet.  We are dirty. We are stained with sin. We are unable to make ourselves clean. The Good News is that we don’t have to be! God didn’t wait for us to be cleaned up, sparkling & white, before He reached out to us.  He did it while we were still sinners through His one and only son, Jesus.

PONDER: Have you been made clean or are you waiting until you’ve cleaned up your life before turning to God?  


The Upstairs Toilet is one of thirty devotionals I’ve been asked to write this year as part of a friend’s year-long devotional project.  You can read more short devotionals like this by clicking here or the Devotionals tab at the top of this page.