Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Our Unusual Christmas" by Eddie and Sylvia Knox

We had a Norwegian exchange student in 1978-79. The Christmas after she went home, Eddie and I, along with our son and daughter, were invited to spend Christmas with Grete's family. Her dad was an army general in command of all of north Norway. That put us north of the Arctic Circle for the holiday. We participated in their traditions at home, church, and on the army base. Since her dad had access to the King of Norway's cabin when the king wasn't there, that was where we slept. It was an unforgettable Christmas with a wonderful family.
To make it even more unusual, it all took place where it was dark except for two hours of twilight each day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

"More than Just Ornaments" by Sherry Glenn

 For more years than I can recall, every year my mother has made Christmas ornaments for the Bible Study Sunday School Class, my sister’s elementary school classes, and for her grandchildren.  When two of her granddaughters began teaching elementary school, their classes also made the list for the handmade treasures, and their second- and third-graders drew sweet construction paper thank you notes for Gram.

        Recently the mother of one of those elementary school children from many years ago sent a picture of his ornament hanging on the family’s Christmas tree.  That photo and my mother’s 91st birthday inspired my sister to post a request on Facebook for those who have one of Gram’s special ornaments to respond with a comment or picture.  To date, she has received over 50 replies.

        This week while sharing homebound communion with a long-time Saint John’s member, I noticed on her tree several of Gram’s ornaments including a pair of bells made of communion cups.  Faithful sharing of our love, gifts, and time make this season so special, and I have been touched by how these small ornaments lovingly crafted of yarn, pearls, and crystal beads have brought joy to hundreds of children and adults all over South Carolina for so many years. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Teach Us to Give Freely: A Prayer" by Sharon Mitchell

Dear Father,

I can always, without failure, count on you to give me daily bread to sustain my needs. Please use me as a disciple whose heart will be formed to reflect the character of your precious son, Jesus. You teach us to give help to the needy and give freely all of the resources, love, and kindness that you have shown me. Help me to always serve you and to value your great gifts. As Jesus teaches, the heart is where the treasure is. Thanks and praise to you, Father, always.

Monday, December 12, 2016

"A Daily Prayer" by Ron Weitze

Heavenly Father,  

As I try to live according to your will, help me to understand your love and grace.  
God, please use me as you need. In Jesus name I pray. 


Friday, December 9, 2016

Keeping Christ in Christmas by Dana Hamilton

When I first told my husband my title for this post, his response was, “isn’t that conversation played out.”  Funny he said that because I felt the same, but I also felt it still is an issue each and every year. I love this season. I love everything about it and having small children makes it even more exciting!
“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” ~Norman Vincent Peale
I noticed early on that my kids were very specific about their wants this Christmas and very vocal about it. I completely understand their sweet minds and those bright eyes looking in amazement at the latest toys. However, our job as parents is to allow them to see beyond the excessive commercialism of Christmas. I keep a Nativity Scene in our home ALL year. A few Christmases ago I went to put away the decorations, and I felt that the Nativity had no place in the attic.
Our family is blessed to participate in Journey to Bethlehem at St. John’s this weekend. This is always a special time for our family and now that our children are getting older they can experience it with more understanding.
I’m thankful for a Christian mate who also wants to make our children aware that Christmas is not their birthday but Jesus’ birthday and we begin our Christmas morning by singing Happy Birthday to Jesus before going downstairs. I love that we do that and aim to limit the gifts.  I’ve heard of others having a birthday cake for Jesus and a special seat for him at dinner.
We will continue to learn how to make Christmas special in our own way and to keep Christ present in our home during a time that is easy to become distracted by the search for the perfect gifts and doing all the things we “should” do as a family. God wants us to live happy lives and sometimes that just means being present with those around you and loving one another in the simplest ways.
We look forward to church on Christmas Eve each year and this year two of our children will be a part of the nativity scene that evening. All of these opportunities for our children are one of my biggest praises to St. John’s. I love that the children, the future of the church, is our number one focus. That is evident in all we do as a church family. 

The Hamilton Family hopes everyone has a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"I just want to ride my tricycle and other things said in Book Club" by Lacy Ngo

How to describe the gift the St. John’s women’s book club? We have read many different books and learned so much about God and ourselves through the process. As I was reading the last book, “For the Love,” I realized just what a gift the St. John’s women’s book club has been to me. When the author, Jen Hatmaker, talked about how important her supper club friendships had become, I thought to myself, 'I want something like that.' Then it occurred to me that I have THAT with the ladies of the book club. They have become such a treasure and blessing in my life. Whether the ladies come for the first time, every time, or come whenever they can, I enjoy spending time with every one of them.

I love that everyone is so honest. All comments are accepted. We are learning and thinking with each other. The words form these ladies are so thought provoking that I always wish I had taken more notes after the book club is over. I get so into our talks that I never write down as much as I wanted. So here are just a few words of wisdom, my book club friends have shared throughout the year:

“Sometimes we feel guilty about saying 'no' to anything. Instead of trying to do everything, we need to try to focus on what God is calling us to do.  If you say, “yes” out of obligation or guilt instead of saying "yes" because God is calling you, then you could be taking away someone else’s call. I find that God provides a way for you to help in areas in which you have a passion or interest." Beverly Marks

“We live in a “right now” culture. We want God to tell us now, but sometimes God wants us to be patient. While we wait, we grow.” Lollie Haselden

“It is not always about overcoming, it is about learning.” Betsy Woodlief

 “It is okay or your kids to see you struggle and lean on God” Beverly Marks

“When you really devote your life to prayer and being in the word, amazing things happen. If you don’t take the time to listen, you may not hear Him.” Elizabeth Morgan

“Sometimes we fill lead to go somewhere to serve, but sometimes you bloom where you are planted.” Beverly Marks

Okay here is one more actual quote from Book club just for fun:

 “I just want to ride my adult tricycle, go get on the treadmill, and go home and clean. It's a perfect day!" Lacy Ngo

Friday, November 18, 2016

"I'm a Little Scared" by Lacy Ngo

“Can we read some stories before I go to sleep?” Hilt asked. “Of course, let’s read the ‘God and Me’ book first, I replied as I snuggled my 6 year old. I always cherish those rare moments when he wants to snuggle. This particular night was the night before he had one of his lung procedures at the Children’s hospital. The next morning, Hilt, who has a condition called bronchiectasis, would be put to sleep so that the doctor could suck the mucus from his lungs. I could tell Hilt was a little nervous as we opened the “God and Me” book to the page we had left off. “God and Me” was a daily devotional book for kids. Sometimes God seems to find ways to speak to us and to let us know that He is with us; this particular night was one of those nights.  The devotion for the night was amazingly about going to the hospital, and God giving us doctors and nurses to help us feel better! As I was reading along, Hilt noticed this coincidence and exclaimed, “How did God to that!” I just smiled and said, “I don’t know how He does things like this, Hilt, but I am so glad He does!”

The following morning we were headed to Charlotte for the procedure. My little tough boy timidly said, “Mommy, I am a little scared.”

“I know sweetie,” I replied, why don’t we pray.”

Hilt sweetly prayed, “God, will you cuddle me?”

That simple prayer was one of the most beautiful prayers I had ever heard. It was so genuine and shocking coming from my little high-energy boy who always says, “I don’t know?” when I ask him to pray or says, “Noooo cuddles!” on most days.

Thank you God for comforting us when we are a “little scared.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When Spouses Get the SAME Call by Lacy Ngo

On one busy Sunday morning, my children and I hurried into church ready to find our seats for the service. My husband, Chad, who sometimes plays guitar for the service, was already at church. As we walked into the church, I noticed a large table filled with pictures of adorable children from all over the world. I made a mental note to check out the table later. After church, I went to the table and learned that the children pictured were children in need of a sponsor. Once you signed up to sponsor a child, you would send the child’s family much needed money as well as notes and letters of encouragement. I was immediately drawn to a little boy named Matt. I wanted to sponsor him, but knew I needed to see if my husband would want to sponsor someone as well. I asked Chad if he wanted to go over to the table and check it out. I didn’t want to pressure Chad or convince him to choose Matt. When we walked over to the table with probably 30 to 40 children’s pictures, Chad picked up Matt’s picture and said he would like to sponsor him. I ecstatically exclaimed  "He is who I chose!!" I couldn’t believe it! We both chose Matt on our own! We knew Matt was the child we should sponsor. We still continue to sponsor and pray for Matt and his family today.