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Following God One Step at a Time

Prayer Changes Things

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My motto is “Prayer changes things”. 

Having grown in my faith, and grown in my prayer life over the years, I see how they interplay.  As faith grows, we turn to prayer; as we receive answers to prayer, our faith grows.  They build on each other.

For several years I led the prayer ministry at a Christian church.  During that time I bought some books on prayer.  Two of them I still have on my bookshelf.  They were instrumental in my own prayer life, and in leading the prayer ministry.  I want to share with you why I am recommending these books.

One is a classic, “What Happens When Women Pray”

by Evelyn Christenson.

The other is a prayer powerhouse, “Let Prayer Change Your Life”

by Becky Tirabassi.

The subtitle of this one by Becky is “How You Can Release God’s Power”.  That summarizes this book quite well.

Evelyn’s book “What Happens When Women Pray”, covers topics you would expect in a classic on prayer.  Here are some of the chapters:

“Prayer is the answer”I love this chapter.  Some people make fun of people who say, “I will pray for you.” But I agree with Evelyn that prayer is THE answer to any problem!  I cherish the people who have prayed for me through Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, divorce, and cancer.  I am alive today and happily married because of those prayer warriors.

“Forgiven as we forgive”.

“Praying in One accord”.

 “How to pray in God’s Will”.

“God never makes a mistake”.

“Where, when, and to whom we pray”.

“Results”.

“Telephone prayer chains”.  I don’t know if you are familiar with prayer chains.  I’m not sure if churches are still using it.  To begin with the prayer ministry I led consisted of a telephone prayer chain with several groups of women on a list.  When a prayer request came in, one person was called in each group, and then she called the next person on her list.  In this way, many people were praying for the same prayer request the same hour, and even more during the rest of that day.  We were a small church, so this was effective for the few prayer requests we got. 

In addition, I had each group pray regularly for one of the ministers at the church and one of the elders.  Each group had a minister and an elder to pray for.  In that way, all the ministers and elders were prayed for throughout each week and each month, all year.  I also added an annual prayer retreat, and a 24-hour prayer sign-up for The National Day of Prayer.  Basically, I had led a classic prayer ministry.

Becky’s book, “Let Prayer Change Your Life”, ramped up my belief in prayer.  My eyes were opened to the power of God that is released through prayer! Please don’t let anyone tell you that prayer is not important.

For example, Becky tells a story about prayer that she experienced.  She was on her way to lead a prayer workshop The location was far enough away that she had to fly there.  At the airport she found out that the airport was shutting down for a couple hours because of construction on the runway.  She called to tell the host for the workshop that she would be arriving there a couple hours later than planned.  The person on the line prayed while they were on the phone.  Becky then went through security, and then heard that the construction was cleared and the plane would leave on time.  She then made a quick call to the host again and told her of the quick answer to her prayers.  Only later did she find out that the delay was not construction, but a bomb.  A local sheriff had decided to remove the bomb himself, instead of waiting for a bomb squad.  Talk about answered prayer!  Not only was the plane on time, but no one was injured by the bomb!

Please don’t ever let anyone tell you that prayer is not important!

Becky’s book chapters include these insights about Prayer:

“Prayer fuels faith”.

“Prayer teaches trust in God’s Plan and our purpose”.

“Prayer releases God’s power”.

And “Prayer unleashes love for God”.

And all that is in addition to the chapter “The Blessings and Benefits of Prayer”.

If that list doesn’t get you eager to read a book on prayer, then maybe I can encourage you by asking you to —

>click on one of the links below to read more about these two books.

Purchase one or both, or find them in your local library. They don’t cost much, and they could change your life, because I believe that “Prayer Changes Things”.

>“What Happens When Women Pray” at Barnes & Noble both new or used plus shipping.

>“What Happens When Women Pray” at Amazon both new with Prime free shipping and available used with shipping.

>“Let Prayer Change Your Life” at Barnes & Noble online only used for $1.99 plus shipping.

>“Let Prayer Change Your Life” at Amazon, available used with shipping.

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Can We Move Forward ?

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I am talking about the anger and blame we have been pointing at each other over the Presidential election this year in the U.S.A.  We are all pointing fingers at somebody else.  It is their fault, not our fault.  Whether we blame Republicans or Democrats, whites or blacks or immigrants, Christians or atheists, those who voted for Trump or those who voted for Clinton or those who did not vote —  in every case we are blaming the wrong people.  Let me say that again, “We are blaming the wrong people”!

Who is to blame? 

Ultimately the blame goes to evil.  The start of every evil is the devil.  He has been stirring up a lot of anger and frustration and suspicion.   He has gotten us all angry at each other, blaming each other.  If we keep arguing and pointing fingers, we can’t get anything good done.  We are caught in a whirlpool of anger, frustration, half-truths, indignation, self-righteousness, and blame.  I have been caught up in it too.

What can we do to escape this whirlpool of evil? 

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We have to stop.  Stop yelling.  Stop blaming.  Stop arguing.  Stop spreading rumors.  Stop pointing fingers.  Stop defending ourselves.  Then look at the mess the whirlpool is causing.  It doesn’t do any good to stay in that whirlpool.  We are caught in endless circles.

How do we stop? 

We listen to what Jesus said in the middle of the evil of sin that put Him on the cross.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) We need to forgive.  We need to forgive anyone we are blaming. 

That takes a change in attitude. 

This is what I did.  I stopped my thoughts of blame and anger.  I just stopped thinking them.  Then I looked at the people I thought were to blame, and I chose to say, “They are not mean.  They are not trying to do the wrong things.  They are trying to do what’s right.  They are doing the best they can.”  Realizing that this is true for them and for me, I can accept that they are not the problem.  So then I choose to think, “Yes, I can forgive them.  They just don’t know what they are doing.”  If I am honest, I don’t always know what I am doing either.

Can you do that? 

Can you accept that whoever you are blaming, they are not trying to do the wrong things? Can you forgive them?  If you can, you will be able to stay out of the whirlpool. You will find peace and quiet. 

What is next? 

Once we forgive those people we were blaming, we can start to move forward.  We can focus on doing useful things.  Moving forward is so much happier than getting dizzy in a whirlpool.  Moving forward is the only way to make any progress.

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After the Hurricane

My husband, I and our home were in the path of category 4 hurricane Matthew!

We were 5 miles away from the mandatory evacuation area.  We had been through two other hurricanes before, so we knew we would not be flooded out.  What we didn’t know was whether a tree would fall and smash our roof or break windows.  We had never been in a category 4 storm before!

We prayed for days before.  We prayed for the people of Haiti, because we know missionaries there, and the people in Haiti mostly live in shacks, not able to withstand a hurricane.  We prayed more, and we discussed our options.  We felt it was safe to stay in our home, but we did prepare, and we planned to ride out the worst of the storm in our downstairs bathroom, because it was small and had no windows, so it should be the most secure part of our home. 

Friends on Facebook offered to pray for us, so I asked them to pray for the hurricane winds to slow and move away from the coastline, out into the ocean.  We watched the storm make its way through Haiti, where hundreds died, and 100,000 were left without a home.  We watched the storm go through the Bahamas, and head toward Florida.  Hurricanes take days to complete their path of destruction.  This hurricane was moving less than 10 miles per hour, giving it more time to cause damage and flooding. 

We continued to pray, and counted on many others to be praying too. 

When I heard that the hurricane was now downgraded to a category 3, I cheered and thanked God!  I knew the prayers were being answered.  The next good news was that the storm had moved about 10 miles off shore!  I jumped for joy!  We still had a rough storm to ride out, but we knew that we and our home would survive it.

After the storm was past us and several towns north of us, we dared to look out and see what the storm had done.  Our neighborhood streets were clear and there was no flooding there.  There were several trees down in our yard, but none had hit our house.  There was debris everywhere, and we had no electricity, but we had water, and we praised God, because it could have been so much worse.

On the news the reporter was interviewing a woman who had evacuated and returned to find her house smashed by a tree.  She said her life was over.  But no, her life was not over.  Now she had a chance to rebuild, clean up, and find a closer relationship with God.  She was hit hard, but her life was not over.  If she believed in Jesus, she would know that.

Every day since the hurricane, I have been praising God!

So many people are saying they are so happy, because the storm could have been so much worse.  I spent Sunday reading the Bible, listening to Christian music, praying, and thanking God for answering prayers and keeping people safe.  There were very few deaths in the U.S.  I also prayed for Haiti to get needed food and water and shelter to the people in need there. 

I know a missionary couple (Sarah and Kivins) who live and work in Haiti. 

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They have a school and church that is still standing.  Although they and all the people from the school and church are alive, only the missionary’s home survived. They need shelter, water, and food.  The people of the town of Jeremie have nothing. If you can donate please send checks to Jeremie Christian Mission, P.O. Box 273, Scottsmoor, FL 32775 .  In the memo write “Hurricane Relief”. 100% of the donations will go to those in need. Thank you for your mercy and generosity.

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Reasons for Prayer

Many of us pray when we or family, or a close friend, are upset, hurt, sick, or unemployed. But God wants to hear from us during the good times too.

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Prayer should not be just “Help me” prayers. If a friend only hears from you when you need something, you may lose a friend, or they might just avoid your phone calls.

If you don’t want God to “avoid your phone calls”, by not answering your prayers, then you need to pray even when you are not desperately in need.

Prayers of thanks can be a daily time to appreciate all God does for you.  I pray every day, but saying “thank you” to God actually makes me feel happier.  A prayer of hello every morning puts God first in my mind and in the start of my day. Both of these prayers let God know that you are listening to Him.

I believe that with so many serious problems in the world today, that we all need to be praying beyond our family and friends.  Pray for your neighborhood and the people who live there.  Pray for your city, and the decision makers in city government.  Pray for your state, and the state government

Pray for your country, the leaders, the military, and the Supreme Court. 

When we complain about government decisions or lack of action, we need to pray about it.  Complaining does not change anything.  I know this, but I still find it hard not to complain.  I wonder if I can remember to say a prayer over each complaint. That’s a good challenge for me, because complaining is just a waste of time, but prayer changes things!

Be patient waiting for God to answer your prayers. 

Don’t lose your faith just because the answer takes a long time.  I have felt great joy when a prayer is answered even if it took several years to see the results! It is helpful to remember there may be other factors and other people delaying the results.  God won’t force people to do something they don’t want to.  He may need to nudge people several times if they are procrastinating or reluctant to comply.  There may be a series of events that must happen before your request can be granted.  Be patient with God; He is always patient with you.

Even if God answers your prayer with a “no”, thank Him for listening, and ask Him again if it is very important to you, or ask Him to help you accept the “no” answer.  Yes, I have gotten my share of “no’s” from God, but I have also had many prayers answered, some in amazingly awesome ways that I never could have expected!

How much time do we need to spend in prayer?

Most of us do not pray enough.  I know I don’t.  So I think we all need to pray more.  There are some people who spend 3 hours praying on certain days, like Saturday or Sunday.    Most of us can’t pray that much at one time, but we can pray more than we are now.  For example, if you add 5 minutes in the morning when you wake up, 5 minutes during lunch, 5 minutes while driving, 5 minutes before dinner, and 10 minutes before bed.  That alone, adds 30 minutes of prayer to your day. 

So I am giving myself the challenge to stop and pray for 5 minutes several times each day.  I challenge you to do the same. 

The amount of time we pray is not the issue.  What is important is that we take the time to pray at various times each and every day.  God needs to be on our mind and in our heart every day.  You just might get more results from your prayers.

If you want something to encourage you to pray more, I highly recommend the movie “War Room”.  It is now available in DVD and Blu-rayMy husband and I saw the movie at the theater, and liked it so much, we bought a DVD copy.  The movie is about a family falling apart, and about the battle all Christians fight.

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Worship is not about us

Worship is not about us.  Worship is all about God!

We owe it to God to worship Him.

To worship God we need a relationship with Him.

We can get a closer relationship with God by reading the Bible, and through prayer.  I am talking about prayer where we seek to know Him and hear His voice, to thank Him, not to ask for things.

How do we worship God?

  • We can praise Him with our words of thanks.  We can praise Him with song. 
  • We can praise Him with our hands raised in awe or in surrender to Him.
  • We can honor Him by reading Scripture out loud.
  • We can honor Him with gifts of donations.  We can honor Him with our service to others. 
  • We can bow low or kneel in submission to honor Him.
  • We can dedicate to God, something we create, like a song or painting or poem.
  • We can jump or shout with joy from the goodness of God.  Shout “hallelujah” or “praise God”.
  • We can glorify Him through all these ways of worship.

I dedicate the comments section below for worship of God.  Please add your praise and worship comments.

Since this is the 4th of July weekend, here is a patriotic song.  We can give thanks to God for our “one nation under God”.  Please listen to Canadian Brass playing, “The Star Spangled Banner”.

Happy 4th of July!

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A Christian’s Next Step

What makes a Christian different from other people?

Many people say they believe in God.  Jewish and Muslim people believe in God the Father from the Old Testament of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.   So do Christians.

BUT …

Christians also believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, their Lord and Savior! 

Boom!

That is a huge difference!

The Bible says Christians are set apart, that they are to love one another.  In short, Christians are to be disciples of Jesus, following His example and His teachings.

Jesus was baptized, and He prays to God His Father, so we should also.  Jesus taught about the Bible, so we should study the Bible, and teach others about the Bible.  Jesus taught that His followers should take care of the poor, widows, and orphans.

That is the next step I am talking about today.

The preaching minister at my church said, “Every Christian, living in a first-world country (such as the USA, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada…), should be sponsoring a third-world child” (living in Central or South America, anywhere in Africa, India, Haiti…). (I added the lists of countries.)

Sponsorship of a child who is poor, a child of a widow, or an orphan, is easy to do even if we don’t know any children in these situations.  There are many Christian organizations that give you the opportunity to sponsor one of these children in need.

In order to take this next step, all you need to do is pray to find a way to set aside $20 – $50 per month.  Give up one restaurant dinner per month, or give up three or more specialty coffees per month, or sell things you don’t need and pay for one year all at one time.  It really isn’t so hard to do, because people in first-world countries like the USA, are some of the richest people in the world.  We have grocery stores filled with food; we have cars for transportation; we have clean water to drink and bathe in; we have indoor plumbing for kitchens and bathrooms; we have a closet full of clothes.  Once you know where you will get the money, you are ready for the next step.

Find a Christian charity to work with, and choose a child to sponsor. 

Sponsorship provides things like health care, education, clothes, food, and teaching about Jesus.  You can’t provide these things for so little money here in the United States, but in third-world countries, you can!  You can give one child a miracle. 

You can change one child’s life!

To make it easy, I have a short list of Christian organizations where you can sponsor a child

When you sponsor a child, let me know what country they live in.

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Choose One Wish

If God promised to give each of us one wish, what would your wish be?

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I thought about this awhile and first thought I would ask for World peace, no more wars.

But then I thought more, and finally decided that my one wish would be –

that everyone would live by the Golden Rule!

If we lived by the Golden Rule, all our lives would be better in so many ways!  Of course God does not force us to do things we don’t want to do. He gives us free will, so He probably would not make everyone follow the Golden Rule.  That should not stop us from choosing to follow the Golden Rule.  It is in the Bible.

Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (NIV)

If you think about it, it is amazing how this short sentence could change our lives!

It would affect every part of our lives.  It would affect how we treat people in our family, and how we treat strangers, and friends, and our spouse.  We can easily understand it and know what we should do, simply by asking, what would I want?  Would you like a hug?  Do that.  Would you like an apology? Do that.  Would you like to be forgiven?  Do that.  Would you like everyone to smile and say hello? Do that. 

This seems so much easier to understand than “Love one another” (from John 13:34), which leaves me wondering how do I do that?  The Golden Rule is easier to follow.

Let’s look at another Bible translation of Luke 6:31

The Message says, “Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! “

How easy is that to understand!  I know it is harder to actually do it.  We have a tendency to say, why should we treat them so nice, they never treat us nice.  But that is exactly why the Golden Rule is so important, it can first change our behavior, and then it will change the behavior of some other people.  I know some people will still not be nice, no matter what we do.  Let God deal with them!

And here is a version that uses the word “wish”, The English Standard Version (ESV) —

“And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”

I really love this one verse!  No wonder parents have been repeating the Golden Rule to their kids for so long.  It is amazingly good advice!

So wish away! What would be your 1 wish if God would give you one?

Please share in the comments below.  And pray that God does give you your one wish.  He hears every prayer.  I will pray for your wish too.

I used Bible Gateway for the Bible quotes.  They are found at www.BibleGateway.com

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10 Ways to Make Feb 29 Special

Monday is February 29.  This extra day only happens every 4 years, so don’t waste it!

You have been given the gift of 1 extra day this year.

What will you do with it?

I plan to make it a special day, so it won’t get lost in the everyday tasks.  Many of us are working today, but you still have some hours to spend as you choose!

 Here are 10 ways to make your February 29 special –

  1. Read a book you have been wanting to read.  This is a special one to me, because I love to read, and I am a Christian book reviewer.  If you don’t know what book to read, just check out the book reviews on this blog (click on “book review” under the Select Categories list, or look at my Good Reads list on the right side of this page).  Here are a few book recommendations from my blog —  a book for the guys,  from a Blue Bike, and some of my favorite women authors.
  1. Plan a special dinner. Make a new recipe.  Don’t just eat the same old thing.  I am planning to make a new recipe for Acorn squash, and serve it with Italian sausage.
  2. Get outside. Go for a walk in the park.  Being outside in nature is very healing physically and emotionally.
  3. Spend some time thanking God for all the good things in your life. I thank God for my wonderful husband, for our home, for our church, for the ladies’ Bible study group I have been a member of for 10 years, for our friends…  I could go on all day.  Giving thanks is also healing physically and emotionally.
  4. Play some music that you enjoy. Sing along.  Dance or clap with the beat.  Music is also healing.
  5. Get some exercise that is fun! Pick something you enjoy doing!  Ride a bike, or swim indoors, play basketball or just shoot some hoops, go roller skating….
  6. Write a letter to a friend you have not seen for a long time, or call them instead.
  7. Do something for a neighbor. Offer to shovel their sidewalk or rake their leaves.  Or bake some brownies and share them with a neighbor.  Or invite them over for coffee and dessert and some conversation.
  8. You and your spouse or significant other can give each other foot massages or back massages!
  9. Pray for our country, for the homeless, for orphans, for people who will go hungry today…. Prayer is so important, but many of us don’t take the time to pray much.  You can pray at work, during your lunchtime, before you go to bed.  Take the time today to pray for those in need.

So pick 1 or 2 or more of these ideas, and go make your February 29 special!

Share in the comments what you plan to do on Feb 29.  We would love to know!

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When the Unexpected Happens

We have all experienced when something unexpected happens.

It could be something good, like a surprise visit from a dear friend or relative.

It could be winning big money in a contest.

It could be landing that super job that you thought you had no chance to get.

There are also times when something bad happens.

It could be a devastating accident, or tornado.

It could be the death of a close relative from a heart attack.

You could lose your job, or find out you owe a huge amount on back taxes.

Whatever happens unexpectedly, how do we typically react?

1 — Many people would scream and cry first.  For most people our emotions jump in first, before clear thinking.

2 — After a quick text or phone call to your spouse or significant other, agreeing to talk more later.  That long talk with our spouse or significant other is very important to our decision.

3 — Next, many people want to tell their friends and relatives.  Our phones will be busy for hours sharing the news, and asking some of these people for advice what to do.

So where do many of us go for real advice, the kind we will likely use to make our decisions?

4 — For many unexpected events, we are left clueless about what is the best thing to do, so we contact a professionalDepending on what happened, we would talk to a lawyer or doctor or financial advisor. 

5 — And it should be no surprise, that surveys show many of us still go to Mom for advice!  Mom remains a big influence in difficult decisions, even more than Dad.

6 — So who do we often leave out?  Our best advisor, who cares the most about us, is usually not thought of until after all the others are contacted.  Our best advisor, and where we should go for advice first, is God.

I bet you knew that. Right?  But most of us don’t go to God first.  I know that I didn’t.  When I first found out that I had cancer, I went to my husband first, then we went to a doctor specializing in the type of cancer I had.  When everything was confirmed, and we had advice from the doctor, then I told my family (parents, children, aunts and uncles) and friends.  Then yes, I went to God, and my church, and put myself on as many prayer lists as I could. 

After more than a year of battling cancer, I was reading the Bible, and was struck by a verse that I had never used before, James 5:14.  “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

 

I read it again.  I knew that God was bringing this Scripture to my attention.  I then did what I should have done sooner, I called the elders and set up a time for them to pray over me and anoint me with oil.  This proved to be a turning point in my battle with cancer, although the battle continued for several more years, and I had the elders pray over me a second time, and had everyone I knew praying for me, when finally God healed me of cancer.  I have been cancer-free for five years now. (If you want to read more about my cancer experience, click here.)

The important point here, is that God should be our first consultation.

Why? Before you tell anyone else what happened, God already knows!  In fact, God already knows what your future holds.  He certainly can give you the best advice! 

So how do we do that?  How do we go to God first?  We always think of the important people in our life first, our spouse, our mom, our good friends, our children (especially if they are over 21); however, God is the best advisor we have, and God loves us more than anyone, and He knows everything about us.

This is what I do now—

 I learned an important lesson when battling cancer.  Now, I go to God first every morning.  It is as simple as that.  Since I pray with God every morning, that gives me the opportunity to ask Him for help, for guidance, for answers.  When I don’t have any big, important questions, I still pray with God every morning over a list of friends and relatives and church ministers, and all the families of these people too.  Although it is simple, it does take discipline to pray first every morning.  I pray before I eat breakfast, because otherwise I have found that I get busy and distracted and either don’t remember to pray, or just can’t find the time.  For some people, it might work better to pray before you go to bed at night. 

What is important is that you make it a rule, so it becomes a habit –  pray before you eat breakfast every day, ( or before you go to bed every night).  Choose what works for you, and stick to it. Every day!  That is the best way I have found to make sure that you go to God first when the unexpected happens.

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Christmas in Bethlehem

Shepherd’s Field is where shepherds tended their flocks in Jesus’ day, (as in “The First Noel”) where, according to tradition, the angels appeared and proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will to men.” The field is gone, replaced by parkland with beautifully tended flowerbeds and several churches, including a shepherd’s cave converted into a chapel.”  (Description taken from post by Barbara A. Noe on December 21, 2010, a books editor with National Geographic)

Wikipedia states that the holy site known as the Grotto, which sits under the Church of the Nativity, is today associated with the cave in which the birth of Jesus happened.   The site of the birth of Jesus is described by the Christian apologist Justin Martyr (c. 100 – 165), who noted in his “Dialogue with Trypho” that the Holy family had taken refuge in a cave outside of Bethlehem.  The quoted line is “Joseph took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him.”

Bethlehem SilverStarJesusBirth (the silver star marking the spot of the birth of Jesus)

The Church of the Nativity is a basilica located in Bethlehem. The church was originally commissioned in 327 by Constantine and his mother Helena, and completed in 339.  It sits over the site that traditionally marks the birthplace of Jesus Christ.  It was destroyed by fire during the Samaritan Revolts  (between the Jews and Samaritans) in the 6th century.   A new basilica was built in 565 by Justinian, the Byzantine Emperor.  The site of the Church of the Nativity has had numerous additions since then. Due to its cultural and geographical history, the site holds a prominent religious significance to those of both the Christian and Muslim faiths.  The site of the Church of the Nativity is a United Nations’ World Heritage Site.  (This paragraph is summarized from Wikipedia.)

Below is a picture of The Church of the Nativity.

Bethlehem ChurchofNativity

The Holy site is in danger due to both religious and political disputes in the Middle East and from lack of repairs.  Shortly after the visit to Israel of Pope Francis in 2014, the cave beneath the church was set on fire by an unknown arsonist.  The church is administered jointly by Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Apostolic authorities.  Only about 20% of Palestinians are Christian.  All three traditions maintain monastic communities on the site.  As a result, there have been repeated brawls among monk trainees over quiet respect for others’ prayers, and even the division of floor space for cleaning duties.  The Palestinian police have been called to restore peace and order.

 The church is in major disrepair. Many roof timbers are rotting, and have not been replaced since the 1800s. The rain that seeps into the building accelerates the rotting of the wood, damages the structural integrity of the building, and also damages the 12th-century wall mosaics and paintings.  In 2010, the Palestinian Authority announced that a multimillion-dollar restoration program was imminent.

To read the entire Wikipedia post, click here.

Below is a summary of conditions and activities this Christmas season:

–Christmas in Bethlehem 2015 –

A large paved courtyard in front of the Church of the Nativity is the site where crowds gather on Christmas Eve to sing Christmas carols while waiting for midnight services. The Mass service is led by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem.  Each year, thousands of Christians make a winter pilgrimage to the holy city of Bethlehem, following in the footsteps of the biblical Magi (three wise men). (The Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches do not celebrate Christmas on December 25, but rather January 6th and 7th. They hold services in Bethlehem on those days.)

On Christmas Eve there is a parade through the town.  There are bagpipe bands in the parade, which you might not expect.  Playing the bagpipes is a tradition left over from when the British army occupied the area between 1920 and 1948. People also dress up as Santa Claus and give out sweets.  The streets and main square are all decorated with lights.

To find information on Christmas customs in other countries around the world, click here.

Usually this time of year, 60-70 buses would arrive every morning in Bethlehem, but now there are maybe five. Bethlehem is in Palestine, about 6 miles south of Jerusalem, which is in Israel.  A wave of violence and protests has kept many tourists from making the annual pilgrimage, though much of the trouble has occurred away from Bethlehem.  Because of Israel’s West Bank separation wall, all visitors and tourists from nearby Jerusalem, where the only nearby airport is located, must go through a military checkpoint to get to the town of Bethlehem.  Now the army has increased the number of roadblocks around Bethlehem in response to the violence that erupted.  At least 126 Palestinians and 19 Israelis have been killed since the beginning of October, 2015. The Israeli army arrest-raids in the refugee camp near Bethlehem have increased since the start of October. Troops now conduct four or five raids every month, usually around 4am. Because peace seems so far away, Palestinian authorities have now drastically scaled down Christmas festivities this year.

“Before the world came to rejoice and sing with us in Bethlehem. Today (in December 2015) there is nothing,” said tour guide Khamis. “This year, Christmas in Bethlehem is sad and depressing.”  On December 5th of 2015, the star at the top of the Christmas tree in Manger Square in Bethlehem was lit, signifying the start of the festive season.  “We had a message to give to the world,” says Vera Baboun, a Christian, and Mayor of Bethlehem since 2012. “When we lit the tree, we gave a message that we cannot be without hope. We have to be with hope, despite everything surrounding us… This political situation cannot take away the joy for the children, nor prevent us from celebrating.”  There were no fireworks, which traditionally marks the lighting of the Christmas tree.  Instead, the Mayor looked for a different method to mark the season.  Churches around the world were invited to ring their bells at the same time, as a symbol of peace and solidarity. “Sixty nine churches rang their bells when the Christmas tree of Bethlehem was lit,” says the Mayor. “If humanity remains silent, let the bells of Bethlehem speak instead.”

Later in December, Mayor Baboun returned from a memorial service for a teenager killed by Israeli soldiers in a refugee camp just south of Bethlehem.  Her voice echoes sadness and frustration. “This is the reality that we live, the challenge that we live,” she says. But there is hope. “We have to keep on the message that we carry (of peace).”  It is difficult, since 82% of Bethlehem falls inside Area C, which is territory under direct Israeli military and administrative control. In the Mayor’s 2015 Christmas message, she writes: “True peace can never prevail in the world as long as the city of peace does not live in peace. We remain hopeful that the star of Bethlehem will be forever sparkling.”  The residents of Bethlehem say that their slogan this year is “Pray for peace in the Holy Land, pray for justice.”

To read the entire news article go to The Guardian.

I would agree that only God will be able to bring peace to the Son of God’s birth place, Bethlehem.  Please pray for peace.

The Christmas tree in Bethlehem, beside the Church of Nativity. Photograph: Abdelrahman Younis/Reuters (photo below)

Bethlehem ChristmasTree

To listen to the traditional Christmas song “The First Noel”, that sings of the shepherds in their fields click here.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this post on Christmas in Bethlehem as much as I enjoyed researching it.  I pray you find love and joy this Christmas, and I pray for peace for Bethlehem, for Israel, for the world.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

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