ETERNAL INK +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The articles within this publication remain the copyrights of the authors. Any permission to reproduce any article, in any format, must be granted by the author. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Editor-in-Chief of Eternal Ink - Mary-Ellen Grisham - meggy88@... Administrative Editor - David Davis - fishercaster@... Devotions Editor - Annettee Budzban - ahrtwrites2u@... Features Editor - Carl Phillips - CarlPhil10@... Special Materials Editor - Ivie Bozeman - ivie@... Poetry Editor - Elizabeth (Betty) Pearson - roybet630@... Eternal Ink Web Site - www.eternal-ink.com ISSN#: 1528-9605 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Table of Contents 1) Mary-Ellen's Note 2) Christmas Devotion 3) Seasonal Prose - First Place Prose Contest Winner 4) Seasonal Feature 5) Poetry 6) Christmas Moments 7) Prayer Requests 8) Seasonal Story 9) Christmas Meditation of the Heart 10) Memorable Words/Closing Words ISSN#: l528-9605 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 1) Mary-Ellen's Note About this time of year, some people begin to feel that if they have to read or see one more sentimental story, they just won't be able to stand it. Others cannot get enough of inspirational stories and seasonal charm. They love the pre-Christmas time and its stories. No matter where you are on the spectrum of appreciation, I think you will find a bit of spiritual treasure in all our devotions and stories. Perhaps you will devour this issue in one fast reading, or maybe you will select one or two sections to read with your private devotions each day for a week. Still others may find some of our materials appropriate for sharing with an organization or group. However you read this issue of Eternal Ink, we hope that it becomes a part of your Advent preparation for celebrating the birth of Jesus. While there is scholarly debate about the time of year in which Jesus was born, there is no dispute for Christians about the joy His birth brings to mankind. When we worship in spirit and truth, our Season is bright with hope and love. We would like to wish you and yours a most blessed Christmas season. May the love of Jesus be in your hearts now and throughout the coming year. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 2) Christmas Devotion Be sure not to lose your spiritual focus during the holidays By Annette Budzban For Christ's love compels us. . .-2 Corinthians 5:14 (NIV) Each Saturday after Thanksgiving I recall my favorite holiday tradition which started in my childhood. I waited at the bottom of the ladder while my mother retrieved the boxes containing the seasonal decorations from the attic. I was excited as I removed the dust and cobwebs from the boxtops, so I could open them up and see the contents inside. One box held our large green Christmas tree. Others contained dozens of ornaments. Some were made of fragile glass. Others were covered with shining glitter. Many were wrapped with colorful silk twine. When the bulbs on the tree were all lit up, the glass and glitter sparkled with a special beauty unique to the season. Besides the tree decorations, glass hurricane lamps that held red and green candles were placed on top of the piano. Other decorations of snowmen, winter scenes and the glorious manger setting adorned their places throughout the living room. The windows were covered with glass wax stencils and fake snow. The house had the look of a winter wonderland with reverence for the celebration of the Christ child's birth. This holiday season many will celebrate with their favorite Christmas traditions. The aroma from cookies will flow from ovens. Cards and special well wishes will be penned to friends and loved ones. Many will partake of traditions that are unique to their family. The festivities of the season can, oftentimes, cause us to take our eyes off the true reason for the celebration. Christmas is a time to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. It is not a time to celebrate material items. Keeping our spiritual focus in the midst of the celebration is important. Some of the ways we can accomplish this are by daily prayer or reading a daily devotional throughout December. Reading the story of Christ's birth from the Bible can make it a reality, as well. Playing Christmas Carols while we partake of our festivities, and treating others with love and respect will help us to keep our focus and display the fact that Christ is the true meaning of Christmas. (c)2004 Annettee Budzban ahrtwrites2u@... +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 3) Seasonal Prose - First Place Prose Contest Winner The Gift By Roger Allen Cook It was our 5th annual Christmas party for needy families, and the gymnasium was packed. Seventy families from our church had each adopted one of these families and purchased gifts for them with special emphasis on the children. There was food, music, games and even one of those bouncy, air-inflated, moon-walk toys on the balcony. Inside the locker rooms were bags of gifts, numbered for each family involved in the program. Sometimes unexpected families would arrive who were not on the official list. Amos, the director of the project, always planned for this contingency by arranging for extra "just-in-case" gifts to be donated. When unregistered families arrived, we scrambled and put together a gift assortment that met their particular needs. Just prior to the presentation of the gifts, our pastor had everyone stop their activities while he told them the story about God's special gift of His Son. About a dozen adults and numerous children raised their hands indicating that they had prayed with Pastor Tom and invited Jesus into their lives as their Lord and Savior. That was a wonderful blessing, but the night was not over. The signal was given and the bags of gifts were delivered to their intended families. The sounds of tearing paper and squeals of glee filled the gym. One of the volunteers informed Amos that an 11-year-old girl had unexpectedly come with a family as a guest; and when everything had been passed out, she had not received a gift. After checking, he found that every spare gift had been needed and was previously distributed. The extra gift cupboard was completely empty. Amos told the volunteers that there was nothing we could do to get her a gift at that late hour. The idea that she was having a good time with the food and the activities of the evening would have to do for the time being. We would all have to trust that God was at work in all the details, even when it seemed that things were not coming out right. At about that same time our pastor was circulating through the crowd enjoying that tremendous scene, when this same little 11-year-old girl tugged at his sleeve. "Would you say that again?" she asked him. "Say what, Honey?" he replied. "Would you tell me again about how the baby Jesus was God's special gift?" Pastor Tom had the privilege of sitting at a table with her and telling her again the story of God's great love for her. Within a few minutes, she bowed her head and asked God for the gift of Jesus in her life. With tears in her eyes, she told our pastor, whose tears were also freely flowing, that she had gotten the best gift ever this Christmas. She had gotten Jesus. Concerned people were troubled that there was no gift left for this child that night, but sometimes we just don't see the big picture. We had done our best, but just didn't have a gift for her. At that very moment, in another area of the gym, God moved in and provided several special gifts for her. He gave her Jesus, the Holy Spirit, a new heart, and eternal life. Isn't God's grace a wonderful thing? (c) 2004 Roger Allen Cook rkcook@... +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 4) Seasonal Feature MEMORY MAKERS BY IVIE BOZEMAN We were asked at a Christmas Gathering to share a memory of Christmas. The leader continued: "We mothers and grandmothers here today are the memory makers for future generations. The things we do at Christmas are the memories our children and grandchildren will carry into the next generation." We all knew this, but it took her verbalizing to really activate our thoughts. I listened intently as the various ladies shared their memories. One shared how at Christmas time all the cousins came to her grandmother's house. All twelve of them slept on blankets on the floor in the room where the Christmas tree stood. This was the only time during the year, she saw her cousins. Even though it meant sleeping on the floor, being with them was the most cherished memory of her childhood Christmases. Another shared a memory of attending midnight services at church with her grandmother. It was the only time of year she was allowed to stay up beyond nine o'clock. Being outside, with the open sky above, made the story of Jesus' birth real. She could visualize the shepherds on the hillside and activities taking place in the manger on that long ago night in Bethlehem. One lady said she had played the role of Mary in a church play when she was a little girl and the memory had remained with her through the years. She remembered fondly her teacher telling her she looked like Mary. Through the years she had held on to this memory and it had influenced her life. She thought Mary's face reflected innocence and purity, so she had striven to let her face also reflect these characteristics. Someone recalled the decorations on the Christmas tree. Each ornament had a story behind it. Her mother would share these stories with her as they decorated the tree together. She was attempting to recall these stories and write them down for her children. One mother said her son had been born on Christmas Day. She talked about how special this experience was to her and how she related her baby's birth to the one of the Christ Child in Bethlehem. Another remembered the rich, spicy smells from the kitchen and the pickled peaches that were a specialty for them at Christmas time. One lady shared how her family had a manger scene in their front yard one Christmas with hay in the stable. On Christmas morning, a mother dog had six baby puppies in the hay. The poem "The Night Before Christmas" was the memory one person recalled. Her mother would read it just before bedtime on Christmas Eve night. She and her siblings lay in bed with visions of reindeer and a jolly fat man with a sleigh full of toys, trying to find his way down the chimney. She never remembered going to sleep, but when they awoke next morning, the toys were under the tree and the milk and cookies left for Santa were gone. Some mentioned Christmas music that was played in the home or how the family gathered around the piano and sang songs together. This year, I've given more thought to the celebration at my house. What will my grandchildren remember? Will it be the ornaments on the tree with their pictures? Will it be the decorations in the yard Grandpa struggles with each year or the wreaths I hang on the door? Will it be sleeping on the sofa in the living room with their cousins? It might be the turkey or pecan pies mingled with other rich, spicy smells in the kitchen. Will they remember the Santa who smiles down at them from the mantle or the array of Christmas cards on the wall? I hope they will remember the manger scene. They spend a lot of time rearranging the animals in the stable around Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. I hope they will remember that I told them "the baby in the manger is the reason for the season." Maybe they will remember the Christmas stories I've told them or the live nativity scene I took them to see at the church down town. I have no control over what they will remember. I can only plant the seeds and hope the memories will sprout and grow. Somewhere, down the path of the future, at Christmas time, they too, will recall their memories of Christmas. I can only hope they will have good ones. (c)2004 Ivie Bozeman ivie@... +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 5) Poetry THE WONDER OF By Gary James Smith What wonders to be in the fields that day When Shepherds watched their sheep at play To hear the heavenly angels sing The glories of their Heavenly King Where Virgin Mary in yonder stall Gave birth unto the Lord of all How prophets, priests, and earthly kings Would crown Him Lord of everything What wonder to be in the fields that day What wonder to be in the field this day Where people hurt and need to pray Where lives are lost because of sin And Jesus seeks to live within Souls at stake in this battle sure Our Victory, oh, so very near Deep joy and compassion the Christian's trait To help the lost in their estate What wonder to be in the field this day What wonder to be in His field that day Where the lion and lamb lay down to play Where sinner's redeemed make haste to praise That Saviour, Who from death was raised Who's given new life to everyone Who've believed in Jesus as God's own Son Hark the herald with angels we'll sing Glory to God and to Christ our King What wonder to be in His field that day! (c)2004 Gary James Smith birches@... +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 6) Christmas Moments Santa & Grandma I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!" My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her "world-famous" buns. I knew they were world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true. Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me. "No Santa Claus?" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go." "Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun. "Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. "Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's. I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself. The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for. I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class. Bobby Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but we all knew that Bobby Decker didn't have a cough; he had no coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat! I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and I thought he would like that. "Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down. "Yes, ma'am," I replied shyly. "It's for Bobby." The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas. That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons. (A little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible.) She gave me a Christmas tag and told me to write, "To Bobby, From Santa Claus" on it. Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers. Grandma parked down the street from Bobby's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going." I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby. Fifty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said; they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team. I still have the Bible, with the tag tucked inside: $19.95. Author unknown Shared by Ivie Bozeman and her friends +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 7) Prayer Requests Let's renew our prayers for peace in the Middle East and for guidance of the leaders of the United States. Please also remember Carl and Ronalyn Stevens, missionaries to the Philippines, because there has been violence in their part of the country, incidents in which even children have been injured by stones thrown along the road that many of their congregation travels. They have also had much sickness and injury within their congregation and a recent accident which damaged the mission van. Also, please extend prayers for Roujee and Juliet Morris in Ivory Coast. They are Christian missionaries in Abidjan, and they and other Christians have had to stay indoors and be very careful. The violence in that country because of the fighting between the Muslim rebels, the Ivory Coast government, and the occupying French troops has made a tense and difficult situation in that country. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 8) Seasonal Story So often, like small, selfish children, we view this holy season as a time for the fulfillment of our own desires and wishes, dreams and fantasies. We look for storybook settings and rich gifts. We look for self-gratification and material things. Then, suddenly, the Lord sends us an experience which forever alters our "childish" notions of Christmas and directs us toward the true contentment of friendship and love it can bring. A Story Book Christmas By Mary-Ellen Grisham Like many children, I yearned for an old-fashioned storybook Christmas. While every child has a different idea of that holiday, mine was comprised of fuzzy notions of snow, huge Christmas trees in warm two-story Victorian houses, sleigh rides, colorful presents with large bows, iced cookies, and other Christmas goodies. It also included children, many children, to play with during the day and a gathering in which "the welkin rang"--whatever a welkin was. My mom and dad were wonderful about preparations for Christmas, and our holiday time was very special. The day itself was usually celebrated at a large family gathering at one of the relatives. The year we were to go to one of my well-to-do Aunt's I was less than enchanted. They lived in a gentile apartment in a ritzy neighborhood in accommodations that were as large as a small house. There were four such small "houses" in their apartment building, but the whole notion gave me the presentiment of crowded, hot, boring and long. After a too-big dinner, as the only child in the family, I was more or less relegated to a back room where I was dozing off when I heard one of my Aunt's say, "Where's Mary-Ellen?" I was summoned to the front door where Susan the girl from the apartment upstairs stood wondering if there was a child who would like to come upstairs to play games. My mouth dropped open. I could not believe my good fortune. And play we did--in one of the most special days of my childhood. I was introduced to her pretty, gentle mother and her younger brother, John. Her father was away in the Army. Susan, John, and I played board games and pretend games and even hide n' seek, making use of the huge closets and nooks in the large apartment. When we needed a rest, her mother had us come to the kitchen where we were served hot cocoa with tiny marshmallows. A large tray of the most beautiful cookies I had ever seen was placed on the kitchen table, and we were allowed to choose two. The sugar cookies were decorated with red and green icing; the peanut butter cookies had chocolate kisses at the center; the molasses cookies were bright with sugared cherries in the middle; and the chocolate chip variety had tiny pieces of pecan and white chocolate along with the usual chips. After wrestling with my decision, I finally chose a sugar and a molasses cookie. We made the cookies last as long as possible, drinking down the cooling cocoa as if kids in a dream. I dimly knew even then that this afternoon was the mother's gift of love to her lonely children, and I will always be thankful that I was on my best behavior. I even sang songs so that "the welkin would ring." When we left the cozy kitchen, we circled around the old piano and sang Christmas carols while their mom played wonderful arrangements, with "fancy stuff" (embellishments) included. We smiled and sang for all we were worth. Soon my mom was at the door to collect me to start home. Reluctant to leave, I thanked them all and hugged Susan, giving "manly" John a friendly pat. Susan's mother gave me a small pouch of cookies and candies to take with me. Then we were out in the old black Plymouth riding in the dark and falling snow. I smiled with glowing pleasure as I sat quietly in the back seat savoring the day the Lord had sent just for me--my storybook Christmas. I knew I would remember Susan and John and their gentle mother for so long as I celebrated Christmas--and even beyond. (c)2004 Mary-Ellen Grisham meginrose@... +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 9) Christmas Meditation of the Heart God lights the way this season and always By Annettee Budzban The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.- John 1:9 (NIV) Just a few short weeks ago, I looked out the window at the vast darkness that covered my neighborhood. "It's only 4:30 and darkness is already covering the sky. God is sure pulling down His shade for the night and bringing these fall days to an early ending," I thought to myself. But today, I see light as I look out my window. Not daylight- but row on row of colorful Christmas lights, lighting up each house on my corner block. They are strewn across the peaks of houses and adorn evergreen trees. Many sit twinkling on garland as they light up porch banisters. The light of Christmas time is bringing joy to neighborhoods throughout our community. Some shine a brilliant white, while others sparkle color to all who pass by them. Men, women, and children behold their beauty and splendor as they light their way onto familiar streets and highways. As the Christmas season approaches we love the sight of the magnificent lights. Just basking in the joy of the Christmas light brings warmth and happiness to our worn and weary souls. But do we enjoy the true light of the world? Without God's light, nothing else in the world would matter. God sent His son, Jesus, to the world to light up our hearts with peace and joy through a relationship with Him. It makes our hearts lighter when we cast our sins on Him and receive forgiveness for them. It brightens our spirits when we learn to turn the guilt we are carrying over to Him and leave it there. This season, let's give our burdenss and our grudges over to the only One who has the power to forgive. Then our hearts can light up with peace and joy over the true beauty and grace of Christmas. (c)2004 Annette Budzban ahrtwrites2u@... +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ 10) Memorable Words/Closing Words The prophecy and preparation for Jesus began long before His birth. The following passage from the Old Testament, in Isaiah, foretold the wonder and beauty of the coming of Jesus, Prince of Peace: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9: 2, 6 (NIV) The special nature of Jesus and the spiritual joy of Christianity make this a season for celebration! If you have found inspiration and blessing from this issue of Eternal Ink, please share a copy with a friend or neighbor. To subscribe to Eternal Ink, send a blank email to eternal_ink-subscribe@... To unsubscribe, send a blank email to eternal_ink-unsubscribe@... Until our next issue, may the joy of the Lord be your song! Mary-Ellen +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ WE ARE PROUD TO BE PARTNERS WITH TEENS4JESUS AND WITH LIVING2SERVE. -- To unsubscribe, send ANY message to: eternal_ink-unsubscribe@... A proud member of the ArkWebs<http://www.arkwebs>ministry team.