Friday, December 22, 2017

Do you think God speaks to us in dreams? by Carol Ford

As I was reading the first and second chapter of Matthew today and I noticed how God spoke to Joseph and the wise men around the time of Jesus’ birth.
Matt 1: 20 ...behold an angel of the Lord, appeared to him in a dream, saying “Joseph, son of David do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”
Matt 2:13 angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you....”
Matt 2: 19-20 “....behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel....”
To the wise men after their meeting with Herod.
Matt 2:13 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Each of these dreams gave assurance and direction.
I had a dream like that and I have wondered if it would seem strange to include it in my memoir. My dream happened at a time when I had been reading everything I could find about adoption reunions and searching online for additional information about my birth family. It was a strange, bizarre and emotionally disturbing dream.
In the dream, I was standing in the midst of a crowd of people and a large helmet with curled horns on the top was placed on the ground in front of us. The crowd was told that whoever put on the helmet would be destroyed—killed. No one moved. I felt compelled to step forward. I tentatively put on the helmet. My heart was pounding. But nothing happened.
I woke up abruptly!
“What was that about?” I whispered out loud.
My night clothes were drenched in sweat and I was shaken by the experience.
I couldn’t go back to sleep.
Quietly I slipped out of bed and went to my reading spot in the family room. I picked up my daily devotional and decided to read the previous day’s devotion which I had missed. The scripture at the top of the page was Matthew 25:31-34 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’”
The words ‘sheep’ and ‘take your inheritance’ jumped out at me. I had just dreamt of a helmet with horns that resembled those of bighorn sheep; I had stepped into the unknown.  I had risked the consequences. What did this all mean?
Feelings of fear and apprehension had been my companions during those past few months of searching, and I often asked myself, “Should I, or shouldn’t I, take the risk?” Was God using this dream to show me that He knew my fears? Was He offering me reassurance that I should continue to search and “take my inheritance”? I knew it was a stretch, but there in the middle of the night, I claimed the dream and scripture as a sign to continue searching.
I did proceed with my search and a few months after that dream, in a remarkable way, I found my birth family. It happened less than a week after I travelled to the city of my birth.
Here is a picture of my grandson reaching to touch the angel. It is a good reminder that we need to be sensitive to God’s leading and presence in our lives. We never know when or how God will speak to us.

You can hop over to this link to read the back story to my first Christmas in my adoptive home. btw did I mention I was born on Christmas Day?
 I wish you all a blessed and joyful Christmas season.

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Love/Dislike Relationship With Christmas-by Heidi McLaughlin

I’m not a Scrooge. If you drive by my house you will see the Christmas swag on my front door and planters filled with decorations. I love sitting in a beautifully decorated restaurant and sharing stories and a meal with friends. I gasp with delight at the festive city streets canopied with twinkling lights and banners.  Then at dusk you will see my house blazing with outside Christmas lights.

What you won’t see is me walking through the mall laden with bags and boxes.  I haven’t bought wrapping paper or bows for umpteen years because our family keeps re-using and re-gifting.  That is the part of Christmas that hurts my heart and I’m trying not to dislike. The money and time spent to buy the perfect present that says: “I love you.”  Or the extravagant guilt gift that says: “Sorry, I didn't take you to Mexico with me.”

I’ve been trying to simplify Christmas for years, and even though it gets a little better each year, I still want to put a smile on someone’s face on Christmas morning. But after spending two weeks in Romania my heart has once again been wrecked, yearning for simplicity. The landscape and poverty of Romania took me back to my growing up years in Prince George.  Christmas was about going to church on Christmas Eve and hoping for the brown paper that held the classic mandarin orange,  candy cane and the hard rock candies. Waiting for a pair of skates to show up under the Christmas tree was all I could think about for weeks.If Santa didn’t bring it I would never have it.  Those were the years where things we needed came in a box with simple paper and a bow.

Having both my husbands die before Christmas also takes the holly, jolly out of the season.  It’s hard to sing, “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer” when all I want to sing is “Silent Night, all is calm all is bright.” I want to take time to reflect what actually happened that “silent night” to bring forth a Christ child that would change our lives and world forever.  Have we lost Him in our hurried distractions and endless lists to create the perfect Christmas? 

Yes, Christmas is the most magical time of the year. With the softly falling snow, twinkling lights and candy cane lattes, expectations are high for the perfect Christmas morning. But lets not get jaded when the t-shirt is too small, the ear buds are not right, or the Star War figure is the wrong one.   After all Christmas is not about the perfect gift or Bűche de Noël, it’s about the simplest and hardest gift ever given…Love.  How will you wrap up love this Christmas?

I’m still trying to find my place in Christmas.  After being in Romania and still grieving my beloved Jack, I am so grateful for the love of my family.  I’ll be sitting and sipping by the fire with my children and grandchildren.  Putting together a 1000 piece puzzle and playing Apples to Apples is our family’s default button.  This year we will be in Montana where the snow is magical and sledding is free. I hope in the midst of the wonderful noise and clutter, I will be able to find all that is “calm and bright” and receive the free gift and love of Christ. My heart is full of wonderful expectation.

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. Heidi has been widowed twice. She is a mom and step mom of a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 12 grandchildren. When Heidi is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book, or golf and laugh with her family and special friends.
Her latest book RESTLESS FOR MORE: Fulfillment in Unexpected Places (Including a FREE downloadable Study Guide) is now available at;, or her website:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Is it X or CHRIST? by Susan Harris

Our Sunday School Christmas concerts in Trinidad were highly anticipated events that drew large audiences annually. The merrily-decorated church was packed year after year with members and well wishers who came out to enjoy the songs, poems and drama presented solo or in groups. The skit from the Teens Class was the highlight that never failed to thrill, and as the final item on the program, it brought a bright and memorable year to a close.

One December, I donned pink and stood on the pulpit with heels together and toes out, my hands clasped on level with my waist, my shoulders squared. I bowed to the crowd, and upon standing erect again, with every ounce of energy in my tiny 12 year-old body, belted my monologue:

Here’s a question, tell me pray,
Should we call it Xmas day?
Or is it Christmas we should say?
Is it X or Christ?

The audience waited with bated breath as I replied to the rhetorical question posed by a poet whose name I did not know and which an Internet search in 2017 still did not reveal. Xmas was a short and convenient word of the season. It saved ink and space when signing postcards. Was it really a big deal if it’s X or Christ in the “Christmas” word? But in Christian circles it mattered. It mattered immensely, even to this day, and I too was convinced by the proof I delivered that night.  

Who was He of matchless birth?
Heaven’s glory left for earth,
Coming here with lowly birth,
Is it X or Christ?

Who was He that wise men three,
Travelled from afar to see,
Bringing gifts so liberally,
It wasn't X but Christ.

A few “amens” had rung out from the senior ladies, their hatted heads bobbing up and down.

Who did travel through the land,
Always with a helping hand,
Healing folks at His command,
It wasn't X but Christ.

Who did die upon the tree?
Suffered there for you and me.
Bore our sins on Calvary,
It wasn’t X but Christ.

The nodding and bobbing had continued though the church was quiet, conviction heavy as my high-pitched tones commanded the night air:

Let us then with one accord,
Honour give unto the Lord.
Call it CHRISTMAS, that’s the word!
For it isn’t X but Christ.

The verdict was delivered in crescendo, with passion that still marks my person to this day. The poem, executed with the intonations and flourishes in the manner my principal had trained me for choral speaking when I represented my school at age 9, accrued a level of sacredness tantamount to the Holy Scripture. I bowed, acknowledged the thunderous clapping and cheers by making eye contact with the crowd from right to left as he had demonstrated to me, before exiting the stage through a side door.  

Decades later the question resurrected as I wrote my Christmas alphabet books. Words beginning with the letter x are often challenging to find, but it was easy this time. Both An Alphabet of The First Christmas and Christmas A to Z  contains Xmas, although the other 25 words used in each book are different. 

It was during the research for the books that I came across the knowledge that X means Christ in the Greek language. X comes from the Greek letter Chi which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, which in English is Christ. Therefore Xmas was derived by interchanging Christ with X to give us Xmas. ( this context then it is not sacrilegious to use Xmas, for it is in fact Christmas in a combination of letters from two languages. The wisemen did bring gifts to X. Friends on social media, teachers, media personnel and adults in general have observed to me that the origin and meaning of Xmas is new to them, and they discovered this knowledge through my alphabet books. 

It is not unlike the Latin inscription on the Canadian coins as I discovered while researching Little Copper Pennies in 2012. The effigy of the reigning monarch appears on the coins, and in our day it is that of Queen Elizabeth II. Her effigy first appeared in 1953 and in the coin pictured here was used until 1964. Note the inscription: ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA, which means, "Elizabeth II, by the grace of God, the Queen."

Copyright The Royal Canadian Mint 2017

Now examine the updated effigy of Queen Elizabeth II from 1965-1989. The inscription ELIZABETH II D. G. REGINA is a shortened form of the original. D.G. replaced DEI GRATIA but the meaning is the same, albeit it is an abbreviation of one language (Latin) and not two as in the case of Xmas (Greek and English) [although it is easier to make the connection between Xmas and Christmas than it is to link D.G. and Dei Gratia.]

Copyright The Royal Canadian Mint 2017
Interestingly, my awareness of both Christmas/Xmas and Dei Gratia/D.G. surfaced while writing books, and this encourages me to want to write and research more. I am pleased that "elementary" alphabet books have brought enlightenment to adults and it is my prayer that I will inspire and educate all the days of my life. 

Explanation of D.G. on page 114

It gives me peace to know that the Bible tells us that any who calls on Jesus Christ shall be saved, and this means "Christ" in any language. 

I still wear pink but as an adult I have a different and definitive answer than the preteen in the little church. X or Christ is good for me. 

Merry Xmas. Christ is born. I wish you a happy and holy season.

SUSAN HARRIS  is a speaker, former teacher and author of 12 books.

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