Today is the Day

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Good morning.

Today is an unusual day; a day you don’t get very often.

Today you get to start over.

Today is the day that starts with many of your Yes’s being No’s and many of your No’s being Yes’s.

Today is the day you begin breaking habits, and creating new ones.

Don’t underestimate the importance of today.

If you’ve resolved to read a chapter in a book every day, today is the day to start.

If you’ve resolved to pray every day this year, then do it. Today.

Five years from now, you have the chance to look back and see a clear line drawn in the sand of time and you can say, “I haven’t smoked since the last day of 2013. 2014 was the start of my best year ever.”

If you’ve resolved to exercise this year, today is the day to start.

Because if you don’t, you likely never will.

Today is the day to say no to what you said yes to yesterday.

No to the carbs, to too much TV, to porn, to sarcastic comments, to bad attitudes, to cursing, to honking too much, to raising your voice in arguments, to arguing for arguing’s sake…

Today is also the day to start saying yes to what you said no to yesterday.

Yes to exercising, to smiling, to laughing, to giving, to singing, to dancing, to writing that book you’ve been meaning to write, to reading, to hugging your spouse, to hugging your kids, to counseling, to applying to better jobs, to getting those paint canvases, to starting that business…

Today is much different from yesterday.

Yesterday was the end of a long string of failures and upsets.

Today is the beginning of good choices and a better attitude.

Nothing changes over night, but change can begin in one day.

One January day.

One day like today.

Don’t miss it.

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My New Year’s Resolution

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2013 may have brought a lot of tears for you.

Maybe it brought a lot of prosperity and happiness.

Maybe it was the year you met God. Maybe it was the year you fell from Him.

Maybe you got married, had kids, got a promotion.

Or got fired.

2013 means different things to everyone.

For me, though, whether it was a good year or a bad year, I resolve to let 2013 be the worst year of my life.

I lost my temper one too many times this year. I snapped at my wife too often. I yelled at God.

A lot.

We also got a new puppy this year, and we upgraded most of our electronics. I read 30 books and discovered a bunch of new music.

We visited Nashville, Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, and other states.

We attended no weddings, but also no funerals. And we celebrated the birth of several friends’ babies.

But regardless of all that, I resolve to let 2013 be the worst year.

And 2014 is going to be the best. Because I will snap at my wife less, date her more, and although I don’t care much for Louisville, Kentucky (compared to other parts of the country), I will live like this is our last year here and we have to see and do everything.

So come on, 2014. Bring it on.

The apocalypse may happen this year, whether by biblical proportions, or by zombies, but 2014 will still be the best.

Why?

Because of two things.

My attitude

and by praying more.

Share your New Year’s resolutions below and encourage all of our readers to make 2014 the best year ever.

Win a free autographed copy of my suspense/adventure novel, The Man in the Box. Click here for details. (“There was no going to bed until I’d reached the end. The suspense had me on the edge of my seat with worry … heart thumping out of control the whole time, except for that one minute where it almost stopped.” -Danielle E. Shipley, author and blogger)

Linus Nails It

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“Remember when we were all sitting around the Christmas tree, opening our presents? That’s when you said it.”

“That’s when I said what?”

“It was beautiful. You said, ‘Why do we have to be nice to each other only on Christmas? Why can’t we be nice to each other every day?’”

Lucy then storms off, shouting, “You drive me crazy!”

And Linus, having won more TV and beanbag time, concludes in It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, “Joy to the world.”

Linus seems to nail it every time, doesn’t he?

So, brothers, sisters; husbands, wives; mothers, daughters…

The next time you grow impatient with your loved one, think back to two days ago – the look on their face when they watched you open that Wii console, or that rare edition of your favorite book.

I’ll think about how self-sacrificing my wife was getting me that 40″ LED Smart TV I’ve been bugging her about for over a year. And that ice cream maker. We don’t have room for an ice cream maker in the kitchen, but she knows how obsessed I am with ice cream, so she got it for me anyway.

I think that’s one way we can keep Christmas in our hearts all year long.

Remember December 25th, and how loving our family was in getting us things we don’t need or deserve.

But they went out of their way to get us those things anyway.

Because they love us.

Yes, that’s right, Linus: Joy to the world, indeed.

Win a free autographed copy of my suspense/adventure novel, The Man in the Box. Click here for details. (“Expect dinosaurs and giant creepy-crawlies. And if that kind of thing scares you, then you’re like me, which means you’ll go ahead and read the book anyway, with no one to blame but yourself for all the flinching you’ll do…” -Danielle E. Shipley, author and blogger)

Christmas – A Time to Reflect and Anticipate

sky-night-theme-from-here-this-has-a-static-wallpaperSome people are off from work today, some work half days, and others – well, it’s business as usual.

But today is a very unordinary day – a day that stands out from any other day of the year.

Today, the world holds its breath for those brief moments that bridge the gap between today and that oh-so-special tomorrow.

Many children will try to stay awake all night casting their eyes to the stars, hoping to catch a glimpse of one shooting across the sky.

Some people will make a mad rush to the mall or the nearest Target to grab those last minute gifts – praying that they’re not closed yet.

Families will be gathering around a roast beast tonight, or sitting closely together on church pews, singing about the holiest night in the history of mankind.

The night a baby was born. A baby that created the world.

And a baby that would grow up to change the world.

And we look forward to that grown baby returning once more soon to transform the world.

Christmas is a holiday that is unique.

Whereas other holidays celebrate or remember the past, Christmas extends its arms backward in time and forward.

We pause and reflect on the wonder that was, and anticipate the wonder that will be.

If the candid birth of a king that would not be recognized on His time on earth is so catastrophic, so pantomime – imagine His return when not a single person, loyal or not, will be unable to not bow their knee in utter reverence to Him.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Earth’s king, while it cranes its neck forward, leaning in, and begs that king to reclaim His throne and reign supreme forevermore.

Christmas celebrates the past and the future.

But in the present – from midnight tonight to December 26th – what are we to do? How do we reflect and anticipate? How are we to both remember and long for?

By pausing.

Simply pausing. For one meal of the year, let the meal itself last longer than the scrubbing of the dishes.

Put work aside, if you have a choice, and know that money can always be made for the next 364 days.

Laugh with your kids, embrace your wife, tell your husband you love him.

If you’re still awake at midnight tonight, keep those eyes in the sky, but look not for eight reindeer – but imagine a star once shone brightly on a manger showcasing the birth of God whose reign would extend much past his three-day death.

And when the wrapping paper is in the trash and the last spill of Egg-nog has been cleaned up, and the last Christmas show has been watched on the eve of December 25th, stop.

Don’t think about the mundane 26th – that most dreadful and dreary of days where Christmas has passed and winter remains.

But think beyond that day. Think future-ward to the day when the Christ-child will return, not in a bed of straw, but on a flaming chariot.

That night, when He returns will not be so silent, but oh, will it be holy! That triumphant night, that holy night, that night that wipes away every December 26th, and does away with lingering winters, and every day, from that day on will be like Christmas for those who believe; remembering the past, and living in the future.

Merry Christmas.

Win a free autographed copy of my suspense/adventure novel, The Man in the Box. Click here for details. (Toy’s debut novel will leave readers talking and will make them instant fans of his storytelling abilities. -Nicole McManus, reviewer and blogger)

Unmet Plans

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I just turned 30 this year, and it was a difficult milestone, as I’m not yet the self-made millionaire I was supposed to be by this time.

I’m a tricky guy; I eat cookie dough and get giddy over a tacky Christmas light displays with all those cheap plastic light-up Santas and snowmen. But deep-down I’ve been a Scrooge. (I turned off the Christmas music a couple of days ago because it was just too much.)

But 2013 has been a difficult year.

I had high expectations to be met by this time.

We were supposed to have a kid by now, be financially stable – no, comfortable, and  have my book be a New York Times bestseller.

But with just thirteen days left of the year, it’s not likely my plans will come through, and my resolutions must be delayed another year.

But, hard as it is for me to admit, God’s plans are right on target.

And, honestly, I hate that.

It’s true that His ways are not our ways. And sometimes I just want to scream, “Why don’t You just make Your ways MY ways?!”

Maybe I’m not alone. Maybe you had big plans for 2013, too. Maybe you were expecting a promotion by now, or hoping to see a friend or family member come to salvation by this point, or… I don’t know, hoping to finish that book, or go on that vacation.

But the December 31st deadline is crushing in on us.

Something I have to realize and come to grips with is that everything’s on schedule according to God’s watch.

It’s easy to write that, and say it. But darn near impossible to believe.

Or if I do believe it deep down, it makes me angry.

Conform your ways to mine, God. You know?

One of the greatest lines of all time is from the movie Fiddler on the Roof. It’s the last verse in Tevye’s song, “If I Were a Wealthy Man”:

Lord who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.

And here it is:

Would it spoil some vast eternal plan?
If I were a wealthy man.

It’s meant to be humorous, but it chokes me up every time.

I’m not trying to sound wise or profound here, but I think the answer to that question, as hard as it is to admit, is yes. Yes, if God were to “smite me with money” (or happiness, or wishes-come-true), it would spoil His eternal plan for my life.

I wouldn’t have to work at my day job, and, who knows, make friends with the people I work with; listen to them, laugh with them, witness to them, pray for them. (Not that I’m great at the latter two, but the opportunity is there, nonetheless.)

When self-made deadlines approach and when our dreams fall through, these are truths that are hard to face, but face them we must.

If I’ve learned anything from the Christian life, it’s that hardly anything in it makes sense. And nothing is fair.

But you know what helps? To know that others have been in your place. And they’ve made it through, alive, well, joyful, and healthy.

I guess it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun.

But you know what? I may not have everything I want, but if I did, what would there be left to fight for?

I want happiness for my wife. I can fight for that.

I want financial comfort for my family. Bring it on.

On my good days, I want my coworkers to know God. Let’s do this.

This is all easy to say and creatively write this in a blog post, but it’s another to believe it.

But, traditionally speaking, Christmas is the time for impossible belief, isn’t it? The miracle at the year’s midnight? The mustard seed planted in the eleventh hour?

And maybe – just maybe – from that seed can sprout a little hope, a little faith. Just enough to start things off for next year. A better year.

A hopeful year.

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Gladdest Noel

I’ve been posting the best unheard of Christmas songs. But this one deserves to have a post all its own. If for some reason, you’re unable to listen to this lyrical song by Evelyn Brush featured on the Christmas CD “Ring the Bells” I have taken it upon myself to write the lyrics out for you below the video.

In a lowly, lonely corner of a dark and dismal earth

What man once lost was found again - hope was given birth.

Calamitous our condition under judgment from the fall

‘Til the gladdest brightest Miracle came down to save us all.

He heard us crying in the night, dying in our sins

So in unblemished love, God slipped into our common skin.

And the Word became flesh and the greatest became least

And swaddling clothes were wrapped around Heaven’s highest Priest.

In teeny, tiny fingers, and teeny, tiny toes

Baby soft and sweet to kiss lay Sharon’s tender Rose.

Desire of all nations, spreading His rich perfume

As morning sheds her glory across the shimmering dew.

Oh, holy night! God of virgin born, prophecy fulfilled! Fathomless… alone.

But the serpent of Eden hissed heinously and groaned!

For the Savior had returned to claim back His rightful own.

The snake, he slid and slithered in reviling rant and rave

For men’s life was not his purpose… he was hellbent on their grave.

So, besniveling from the manger in green-eyed insanity, he crawled off to hew a rugged Cross

From just the perfect tree in search surpassing sinister, yet sovereignly allowed.

He also plucked the perfect thorns  for Rose of Sharon’s brow.

And in these things he had his way but only ’til the stain

Of Jesus’ blood had washed away our sins ’til none remained.

And the wrath of God was violent, and the terror cruel and raw

Not at all the thing we want to see while looking in the straw

At an Infant pure and innocent.

But we must reconcile with this Truth:

The price to set men free was held within this child,

The Lion of Judah, who died for us our death.

Whose throne can be our very hearts whose breath can be our breath

Whose Life can be our life for all eternity.

If we will but accept the gift He sent for you and me

Jesus is His name

Noel!

Noel!

Messiah, Deliverer, Emmanuel, Holy One of Israel!

The Prince of Peace!

Almighty Counselor!

Our sinless high Priest!

God of all gods!

Light of all light!

Joy in our sorrow, rest in our nights.

Blessed Redeemer.

Bright Morningstar!

Wonder of wonders,

What a wonder you are!

Comforter, Helper, faithful friend,

Promise keeper of Bethlehem.

King of all kings!

Lord of all lords!

Ancient of days!

Forevermore!

Immortal, invisible, merciful One.

Forgiver of every vile thing we have done!

Righteous, victorious, our all in all.

And yet… His eye sees when a wee sparrow falls

And when are weak,

He is Strong.

And when we are wandering, His arms are long.

And when pain runs deep

His love’s deeper still.

If we will but ask Him, He’ll save us, He will.

Beautiful Savior!

Bethlehem’s bloom

Hope for the tiniest forms within the wombs!

Loving, kind rescuer of helpless man,

No one can steal us out of Your hands!

Noel

Noel

Gladdest Noel

Jesus is born

All is well!

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The “Real” Santa

Everyone pulls out all their favorite Christmas movies this time of year, and it’s not a Christmas movie without some appearance of Santa. But we’re torn between so many different versions of him, it’s hard to decide who we want to most represent him. So I leave the choice to you. Comment below to leave your favorite Santa persona. 

You’ve got your choice of:

Tim Allen

You wouldn’t think divorced, workaholic, estranged father Scott Calvin would be capable of filling the big black boots, but when he’s given the job, he certainly gets it done. His movies may get worse and worse, but try to resist the temptation of leaving him soy milk, if you can – even if he does tell you he’s lactose intolerant! 

edasner

Ed Asner gives us a different take on Santa Claus in the movie Elf. He’s kinda mean and grumpy, and doesn’t hesitate to shoo prying kids off with a stick. But you’ve got to give him a break – I’d imagine it’d be tiring being jolly and giddy for so long. But, he’s kind of absent-minded here as well. I mean, was the orphanage really the last place he visited that Christmas Eve when Buddy crawled into the bag? If not, how did he miss the wriggling, crying baby stowaway in his bag the rest of the night? 

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In Arthur Christmas, Santa-ing is a job that is passed down in the St. Nicholas family. Malcolm, the man that’s been Santa for the last 70 years, is ready to let one of his sons, Arthur or Steve, take the reigns. (Spoiler: Arthur wins.) So you’ve got your tech-savvy Steve, the inventor of the S-1; Malcolm, who lived to see the crossover from the out-dated sleigh and reindeer; and Arthur, who realizes it doesn’t matter how the gifts get delivered – just that they do. All in all, it’s refreshing to see that Santa’s family is as dysfunctional as the rest of us. And even Santa needs help to pick up the slack for just one missing child.

KRIS KRINGLE

Who’d have known Santa had red hair? And isn’t it a bit misleading to say that it’s claymation, when clearly they’re all made of wood? Nonetheless, it’s nice to see that even in Santa’s humble origins, he still had a heart of gold. 

Vote for your favorite Santa below, or add your own favorite. 

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