Free Christmas Gifts for You

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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.

Love is Not a Metaphor

©susanirenefox
©susanirenefox

The Lord was drinking some water out of a glass. There was nothing wrong with the glass, but the water tasted terrible. This was in a white building on a vast wasteland. The engineers within wore white uniforms and bootees on their shoes and gloves on their hands. The water had traveled many hundreds of miles through wide pipes to be there.

What have you done to my water? The Lord asked. My living water…

Oh, they said, we thought that was a metaphor. (*(©2016, Joy Williams)

Love can conquer fear and hate if we allow ourselves to love.

At the same time, love will cost us something.

Agápē love is the highest form of love. It is the kind of unconditional love which comes from God –a love that transcends behavior or circumstance.

It is the love the apostle Paul described in his first letter to the Corinthians. He urged them to use their Spiritual gifts from this place of agápē love, and explained to them if they did not, their gifts would be useless and bankrupt.

Love is patient; love is kind. There is no arrogance in love. It’s never rude or crude; its not self-absorbed, easily upset or keep score of wrongs. Love doesn’t celebrate injustice, but truth is love’s delight. Love never gives up, never looks back and never loses faith. Love is always hopeful endures all things through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

As my focus becomes more about following Christ and pointing to him as a loving, compassionate and inclusive God, some of my own brothers and sisters in Christ have denounced me for this focus and said, “You are not my sister.” Some have even defended Christ, saying, “Jesus wasn’t a weakling!”

On the contrary, our God is powerful; Jesus is powerful and does not need defending. Agápē love is powerful. Agápē love is courageous. Agápē love is dangerous.

You cannot be a weakling or timid or a coward to love like that. It takes being filled with strength, fearlessness and sacredness to bestow agápē love.

Conversely, if you are unwilling or unable to love like God, you have not let go of powerless, fear and disapproval. You have not yet allowed the fullness of agápē love to replace those other things that choke out the love of God.

God is love is not a metaphor.

Love God is not a metaphor.

Love your neighbor is not a metaphor.

Love each other is not a metaphor.

They will know you are My disciples by your love is not a metaphor.

Love your enemy is not a metaphor.

Perfect love casts out fear is not a metaphor.

I am thankful today for my Father’s love, for the love of Jesus Christ. I will be thankful tomorrow for the fullness of His unconditional love, grace and forgiveness. I am thankful He has taught me how to give agápē love.

I pray this day that tomorrow you pray a humble and sincere prayer of thanksgiving and choose agápē love.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18:21, The Msg)

 

*(©2016, Joy Williams, Wet, from ninety-nine stories of GOD, Tin House Books)

Thanksgiving

©susanirenefox
©susanirenefox

When the world seems to be shrouded in chaos,

When a hurdle on the road in my privileged life

Seems too much to bear,

When my emotions threaten to crush me,

I take a breath

And turn to Him

The One who took me in His arms

And forgave everything,

Who gifted mercy when I didn’t deserve it,

Who flooded me in grace when I did nothing to earn it,

Who, even today, loves me with a love so high,

So deep, and so wide I will never understand it.

 

Sometimes I feel it, cloak myself in it, abide in it.

So I give thanks,

Not just today

But every day

To Him who changed my mind,

To Him who changed my heart,

To Him who transformed my life

Because His love is in my bones,

In my thoughts, in my words, in my feet, in my hands.

 

I am His daughter, never again alone,

And when I allow His Spirit to lead me,

To work in me, to remind me

Of the words of Jesus,

My heart is full of His love,

My eyes are full of His tears,

And the chaos and the hurdles

And the crushing burdens

Which threaten to destroy me

Seem to float, seem to lighten

As He lifts them and takes them on

And replaces them with

His lighter burden,

The only one He asks me to carry.

 

To love. And show others His.

 

Thankful

This coming Thursday, in the USA, is Thanksgiving Day.  It represents the beginning of the Christmas season and a day to be thankful.

Most seem to celebrate by gathering with loved ones and feasting on a wonderful roasted (or fried or tofu-ed) turkey with stuffing and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and gravy and cranberry sauce and pies and rolls and………. whatever food you love.

Others celebrate by shopping for Christmas.  I did the major day after sale thing (aka Black Friday) only once.  I. Will. Never. Do. That. Again.

I’m not a great shopper.  That means that the task is not pleasant to me.  Online shopping is wonderful.

Back to Thanksgiving.  It is a time to be thankful. Well, it’s always time to be thankful. But this is the season that more people give thanks than normal.

Today I am thankful for my relationship with Jesus.  He is my best Friend and always good.

I am thankful for my Family, and that includes the Friends that have become my family also.  I have the best sons and daughters and grandkids a person could possibly ask for.  I am thankful for my husband – even though he broke my favorite mug – he is the best for me.

I am thankful for my health and for my future.  I am expecting mighty things to come to pass.

I am thankful for the one daughter I gave birth to and lost too early in life.  BUT – I truly am thankful to have been her mom and known her.  The memories I have are amazing.

Giving thanks, in general, brings smiles and peace to your heart.  It’s a good practice and I believe opens the windows and doors to a better life no matter what your circumstances.

May your mouths and hearts be full of thankfulness this season and always.  Give it a go!  You may be surprised how your perspective changes over time.

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Enjoy!

Cate B