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Howdy everyone. From our house to yours, best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year filled with God's blessings.

I received the following inspirational message about Christmas from Steve Hall and wanted to share it with you.

Take care and God bless,
Your brother in Christ,
John

aka Jack Christian SASS 11993 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
aka w30wcf
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NOTES FROM THE VALLEY
December 29, 2002

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil for you are with me." Psalm 23.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well, here we are. Christmas day has come and gone and a new year is about to dawn. Over the next several days, most of you will begin taking down the tree and decorations and packaging everything away for another year. I don't know about you, but I always find myself reluctant to begin that process. The child in me loves the bright lights, vibrant colors, and warm feelings of Christmas. No matter how
tough times were for me as a child, Christmas was always a special time when things, if only for a few days, were so much better. My Dad was the same way. No matter how tight the budget or troubled our lives were, it all got set aside for the celebration of Christmas. Neither one of us wanted that celebration to end. We used to drive my Mom crazy. Ever the practical one in the family, Mom wanted the tree down and the house cleaned and restored to proper order by New Years Day. Dad and I were never very cooperative with her.

Each day between Christmas and New Years she would assign us tasks to complete and each day we would find some reason or excuse not to complete them. Not really a contest of wills as much as a good natured "game" we played with each other. And not because Dad and I were lazy, though Mom often swore (with a smile on her face) that Dad and I were the two slowest men she'd ever encountered. No, it was just that Dad and I hated to let go of Christmas. To our way of thinking, if the tree was up, the nativity scene on the hearth, and the colored lights brightly shining, then Christmas wasn't over. Wouldn't it be great if that were true?

As a child, I dreamed that leaving the Christmas decorations up would keep the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts. That seeing them would remind me and others of the gift that was given to us by our heavenly Father, of the love expressed in the birth of the baby Jesus, and enable us to give that same love to each other the whole year
through. I haven't let go of that dream, but I know that bright lights and decorations aren't the keys to making that dream come true.


Christmas celebrates the ultimate gift of love from our heavenly Father. Out of His love, He put everything on the line to recover us, His lost children. He sent us His only Son. Jesus gave up His position with the Most High God to be with us. He went from being all powerful to being powerless, totally dependent upon Joseph and Mary. He went from being immortal to being mortal, subject to the same limitations and temptations as we. And He spent 33 years with us in His journey from the manger in Bethlehem to the Cross at Calvary.

I think all of us can agree that finding a gift from a friend or loved one under the Christmas tree is a special blessing. The mere presence of that gift shows that they cared for us on a deep, personal level. But if that gift remains unopened, we never experience it's full value. There is excitement in the opening of the gift and discovering what is contained inside. There is pleasure in using the gift, whatever it may be, and remembering the one who gave it to us each time it is used. And there is joy in thanking the one who gave us the gift; joy for us and for the one we give thanks to. The same is true of the gift given to us on the first Christmas, so many years ago.

This year, as we put Christmas things away and begin looking towards the New Year, I pray that all of us will be able keep the spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts and minds throughout the coming year. We can. But it will require us to take a few moments each new day to reopen, discover, remember and give thanks for full gift of Jesus Christ. The gift, wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in the
manger. The gift that gave us hope and healing through the 33 years of Christ's time with us on earth. The gift that was finally opened and revealed in all it's glory on Easter morning.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2

I remain sheltered under His wing and overwhelmed by His love,
Your brother,

Steve

I suppose when we wake on January 1 the world will look the same. But there is a reminder of the Resurrection at the start of each new year, each new decade. That's why I also like sunrises, Mondays, and new seasons. God seems to be saying, "With me you can always start afresh." Ada Lum

I'D RATHER SEE A SERMON
(Author - Edgar Guest)

I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear;

And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds, For to see good put in action is what everybody needs. I soon can learn to do it if you'll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.

And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I'd rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advise you give,
But there's no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.

And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way. One good man teaches many, men believe what they behold; One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told.

Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language which to every one is clear.
Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say, I'd rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.



1 CORINTHIANS 13 - CHRISTMAS VERSION
(Author Unknown)

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.


If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties and sing in the choir's cantata, but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.
Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can't.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Happy New Year!

________________________________________________

Copyright © 1998 - 2002 by Stephen J. Hall - Weekly letters of encouragement to Christians written by Stephen J. Hall unless otherwise indicated. Notes from the Valley and Humor from the Valley are meant to brighten your day and encourage you along the way. Most of "Notes" and
"Humor" are a collection of items provided by subscribers and friends.
Credit is given to both the contributor and to the true author, where known. If you are blessed by them, please feel free to make copies and pass them along to others. If you have something you'd like to contribute to a future edition, would like to ask a question or make a comment, please contact us at:

[email protected]
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