Free Christmas Gifts for You


I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. (John 15:5, The Message)

In the U.S., the Thanksgiving holiday is over. Yet my thankfulness exceeds a five-day weekend feast.

I am incredibly thankful for the peace-filled place I am in, joined with Christ who led me into my Father’s embrace. God’s arms are full of unconditional love, extravagant compassion and outrageous grace and mercy.

My mission as a follower of Jesus is

to bring others back to Him. It is central to our good news that God was in Christ making things right between Himself and the world. This means He does not hold their sins against them. But it also means He charges us to proclaim the message that heals and restores our broken relationships with God and each other. (2 Corinthians 5:19:20)

I subscribe to this mission and to Christ’s directive, from our Father, to love each other, love our neighbors, and yes, love our enemies. I believe this is the only effective and provable way to lead people to our faithful and loving God.

It is one way as a branch of Christ I live out my faith. It is one way I can reach out and offer my gifts, received through God’s Spirit, to you.

After an 8-year journey of writing, editing and re-writing, today I offer to you free, my Branches Devotional Workbooks.

All five. All free. All year.

As a favor, would you please reblog so this gift reaches as many brothers and sisters as possible?

Thank you.

To receive one or all, and read more detail about these devotionals, visit Branches Devotionals.

Forgiveness – God Broke My Abacus

Matthew 18:21-22     New American Standard Bible (NASB)


21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.


[But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”] In Context | Full Chapter | Other Translations

Once upon a time, I used to get ticked off when someone stole from me, accused me of something I didn’t do, lied about me, lied to me, broke a promise to me… etc. etc.

Then… *sigh*… God would prompt, and I would have to “forgive” them.

That is, I’d have to refrain from hitting them, cussing them out, telling everyone I knew what a worthless piece of trash they were… etc., etc.

Then… *sigh*… God prompted further, saying that wasn’t enough. I was constraining my “reaction” to their offense, but I still held that “score point” in my heart. I knew, deep in my heart, that they “owed me”! And one day, whether here or in the hereafter, I expected them or God to “make good” on the I.O.U.

That is, I had to “forgive them from my HEART”… I had to stop clinging to that precious I.O.U. I had to take my spirit strong box of stored up I.O.U’s and chits that I had so carefully preserved across the years, and burn the lot of them. That strong box and its contents were “binding” my own offenses in the memory of Our Father.

Well… drat! I really LIKED my strong box and my collection. I’d worked really hard across the years to make sure my “intake” was vastly greater on those I.O.U’s than my “output”. And now… I had to burn them! Drat!

Then… *sigh*… God prompted further, saying that wasn’t enough. I had to throw away the strong box, and “learn to burn” the chit, the I.O.U., the very next moment after it was written. I could “feel” the offense, and “flare” with my reaction of indignation… but then I had (as instantly as possible)… to release it, and let the moment float off into the Cosmos, restoring the relationship as quickly and totally as possible. Drat!

So, across the years, my “adrenalin fix” reduced. My righteous indignation quotient lessened, and somehow… right about here…. Jesus was finally able to make Himself “utterly heard” in my heart with “Love others as I love… and, by the way, what did *I* forgive… how much, how many, how completely?” Drat!

And then one day, unexpectedly, I awoke in the early morning hours inside the body of Jesus as He hung on the cross, just minutes from expiration. As I struggled to breathe, I felt Him… from the inside. Alongside the (fairly) obvious discomfort, the struggle just to take in air, breath by shuddering breath, I remember looking up… looking out… at the crowd… jeering, mocking, spitting, waving fists and sandals, some (very few) weeping… and I remember suddenly feeling a rush of love, of concern, of protection FOR them… as a parent feels for their baby child. I remember the words parting His cracked lips… “Father, forgive them! They don’t know… they don’t know what they do.” And then, a brief time later, “It is finished!” And there was no more struggling for breath.

There are no words, Gentle Reader… no words at all for the condition in which I returned to my own easy breathing, my own ability to sit upright and see my own room, that morning. But beyond all that…

God Broke My Abacus!

Finally, totally and completely, beyond all words and meaning, my heart was now permanently emblazoned with…

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” [1 Corinthians 13:4-7]

From that morning to this, um… I seldom even notice “offense”, and it’s almost a joke with those among whom I walk that to “offend” me you really have to be trying. Further… I am SO TOTALLY aware, that not only am I NOT the Holy Spirit (so far above my pay grade…), I am not and cannot play the role of anyone else’s conscience… (I would so totally mess up the job)… that I “discuss the sins of other specific people” only with THAT person, and only when THEY ask me something about “life, the universe, and everything”.

“Why?” you may ask… “How?”… “What in the world entices anyone to discuss their sin or discomforts of conscience with you?”

It’s a secret. A secret Jesus taught me. You just “love them as if they weren’t sinning”. You love that person as if they were sacred, special, and beloved. You love them as if you had respect and regard FOR them. In fact, you treat them as “holy”, as if they were the very person Jesus came for… lived for… died for… rose for…

Love people as if they COULD NOT offend you, because their sins were forgiven by the power of Jesus’ words to the Father AT the Cross…

Do that, and  you know what happens?

You don’t have to keep counting anymore. You don’t have to count up to 490… anticipating that, “By gum, when they get to 491.. ‘WHAM!’ are they gonna get it!”

You don’t have to keep score, collect chits, box up treasures that bind and chain you…

You set them free. You set the Holy Spirit free. You don’t have to “forgive” nearly so often, because you don’t get wounded and hurt in the first place.

Oh… and you set yourself free to be forgiven by Our Father as well!

Yup, I’ve never missed my Abacus!

Grace to you!

The Little Monk

A Moment of Worship

This song came across my worship time this morning, and captured me. I looked it up, and have been captivated by it. I’ve repeated it many times, as it has aided my prayer.

Thought I’d share it for your joy… Don’t even watch the video… just close your eyes and let the music do what music does.  It may not affect others as it has me, but grace to you nonetheless…

The Lyric? “By your cross and passion, you free us O Lord. Lord…”

Saved From… Marley’s Chain

Charles Dickens“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”
“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I recently had a conversation and was asked why it seemed that so much of Scripture speaks of being “saved”. Saved from what? Is it all reference to hell, to burning flames and eternal damnation? It seems SO central a theme that there must be more to it than that, but if so… what? In our lives here and now, being “saved” or “rescued” doesn’t seem a central theme and need, and clearly Scripture is to address our lives now as certainly as in those times, so… what’s up with this?

I didn’t have “good” reply at the moment. I could sense that in the times Scripture was written down, “slavery”, “bondage”, and the ownership (or long term lease, due to debt) of other human beings was a real, relevant, immediate truth in life. “Bondage” means something vastly more significant when it surrounds you every day and war could place you into it with no notice whatever.

For those of that time and place, the Incarnation of Jesus “setting free from the bondage” of sin and evil was an extremely clear and relevant paradigm. Today? Not so much.

Today, while kind of “free worshiping”… this line from Dickens came to me. “I wear the chain I forged in life.”

I sense the immediate, relevant, truth of this in my own life.

Jesus “freed” me, not only from the very common-sensical fear of “hell” and “eternal punishment” that would be a “just” consequence of my own violation of clear precepts of right and wrong that have dwelt deep in my heart since my youngest years…

But Jesus’ Redemption, the power of His shed blood on the Cross… not only “paid the price” of all my own crimes, failings, violations of other sacred people…

Jesus not only fulfilled the foreshadowed role of the First Goat (in the Day of Atonement Sacrifice)… But He also fulfilled the mission of that Second Goat (the “Scape Goat”) as well. Jesus has “carried away” my sins from me, and from “the people”, and the “church”, and even… Our Father.

Jesus not only made the “sacrifice”, but having “made purification of sin” He sat at the right hand of God the Father.

THAT’s the relevance, for me… of “saved”, “rescued”, or “salvation”…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s all about “Marley’s Chain”, you see.

All through my life I have made choices to harm, rather than nurture, others from time to time. To desire or take what is theirs. To offend them. To attack, ignore, belittle them. One way or another to wound them.

In such moments, I ignore and hold Our Father in contempt. I presume upon the grace and love of God. I yield to temptation and derive pleasure and satisfaction from it. I drink from a poisoned well, knowing it is toxic and not caring.

All that wounds ME!

We are all connected! Me with every other. Me with God. God in and through every other. God in me. It’s all one in Him. We are all One Family in Him, we are not members of separate tribes! For me to wound another is to be a “cutter” in the metaphysical sense. It harms me… injures me… scars me.

Such moments forge a link of chain… a wound… a guilt… a shame… a regret… a bad memory… a bitterness… a misunderstanding… a dark mote. And each of these I forge across life, used to link together… dragging me back, dragging me down, pulling me into a shadowy morass without love, joy, beauty, or truth.

What is “Salvation”? To me?

It’s the Glory of Jesus’ coming to “set free this captive”! It’s His heroism and sacrifice to pull that hideous chain off of me (and everyone else, who will release their grasp of it)… lay all of that across His Own Shoulders… and drag all those links to His Cross with Him, to die under their weight and dispose of them totally and finally… as far as east from west… in the deepest abyss of the sea.

I am, once and forever, freed of the weight of “Little Monk’s Chain”… and I for one, am glad that He has rescued me from its dreadful burden.