by Tamera Lynn Kraft
There is a trend among Christians to try to make people feel guilty for being joyful at Christmas time. Some even say that we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, but I refuse to allow their naysaying to rob me of my joy. Here are 10 reason to feel joyful at Christmas without feeling the slightest bit of guilt for it.
10. We can be joyful even when things aren’t great. The Bible says we should count it all joy. In other words, even if we are going through a hard time because of a death in the family or because of hard times, we can still be joyful. The word count could probably be better translated command. We can command ourselves to be joyful. What if it’s is someone else who is going through a hard time? This is often an excuse for not being joyful at Christmas. After all, look at all the terrible things happening in people’s lives. I have a suggestion for you. Are you in the right frame of mind to help someone else when you are in a place of joy or a place of depression. I would suggest we are better equipped in a place of joy.
James 1:2-3 ESV “Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
9. We owe it to those around us to be joyful. Have you ever been around somebody who suck the joy of living out of everyone around him. Joy is contagious, but so is depression. That means if you decide not to be joyful, you affect everyone around you, and if you decide you will be joyful, it will also affect your friends and family. Refuse to allow someone’s bad mood to affect you. Instead be the one who heals those who don’t have joy.
Proverbs 17:22 ESV “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
8. Joy makes us healthy. If it’s true that stress and depression cause us harm physically, it’s also true that a joyful heart with make you healthy. That is why Proverbs 17:22 calls a joyful heart good medicine. Medical professionals have proven laughter is beneficial to our overall health. You can read more about it at this link.
7. Joy will give you spiritual and emotional strength. We receive fullness of joy in the presence of God, and His joy will give us the strength we need to do all the things that stress us out during the day.
Psalm 16:11 ESV “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
6. Who Want to Be a Scrooge? I sure don’t, but some Christians act like that’s exactly what they want. They claim they can’t celebrate Christmas because it’s too commercial and most people don’t celebrate it with the right motives. Who told you you can’t be joyful because other people have the wrong motives? That’s silly. Think about some of the people in the past who wanted to kill other people’s joy at Christmas: Scrooge and the Grinch. Do you really want to be like them? You may say they are mythical characters, and that is true, but they represent those who are like them.
The first man who wanted to destroy the joy of Christmas tried to kill Christ. His name was Herod, and he was not a joyful person. Herod killed his wife, two of his sons, and his wife’s extended family because he thought they were trying to usurp his authority as king. Talk about an unhappy person. He tried to kill Christ and Christmas by ordering all the male children of Bethlehem two years and under to be slaughtered.
Matthew 2:16 ESV “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.”
5. The angels were joyful at Chist’s birth. They sang and proclaimed how Christ’s birth brought great joy to the Earth. Truthfully, we don’t really know what day Christ was born, and there is controversy about how December 25th was chosen. I don’t care. I know Christ was born, and I don’t know when. So unless someone comes to me with a definitive answer about what day Christ was born, I’m going to celebrate His birth on December 25th with as much exuberance and joy as the angels did.
Luke 2:20.ESV “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
3. I’m happy because of presents. They don’t have to be expensive presents. They can be homemade. The thing is I love to receive presents, and I love to give presents because it reminds me of the joy the Wise Men felt when they saw Jesus and gave Him gifts. They were so joyful they worshipped Him. Our praise and worship comes from the joy we feel about Christ who is God’s gift to us.
2. I’m filled with joy when I hear Christmas hymns. Have you ever listened to the words of those hymns. They are songs of worship, and everyone sings them at Christmas – even heathens. What a great time to worship the Lord with songs.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Here are 10 of my favorite movies to watch on Thanksgiving Day.
10. Mouse On The Mayflower
Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Starring Voices: Tennessee Ernie Ford, John Gary, and Eddie Albert
This classic children’s cartoon movie about a mouse traveling on the Mayflower is a must if your children have never watched it.
9. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Directed by Bill Melendez, Phil Roman
Written by Charles Schultz
The best part of this movie is Linus’ Thanksgiving prayer reminding us of the true meaning of Thanksgiving.
8. Holiday Inn
Directed by Mark Sandrich
Starring: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire
This prequel to White Christmas cover all of the holidays including Thanksgiving featuring Bing Crosby singing I’ve Got Plenty To Be Thankful For.
7. Plymouth Adventure
Starring Spencer Tracy, Gene Tierney, and Van Johnson
Any movie starring these three giants of acting is worth watching. This movie tells the story of the voyage of the Mayflower.
6. Mayflower: The Pilgrim’s Adventure
Directed by Clarence Brown
Starring Jenny Aqutter and Tim Barrett. Anthony Quinn and Richard Crenna also have roles in this movie.
Another great telling of the crossing of the Mayflower.
5. A Man Called Peter
Directed by Henry Coster
Starring Richard Todd and Jean Peters
This story has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but it does tell a story of the spiritual heritage of our nation. Peter Marshall feels the call to be a preacher. He leaves Scotland and comes to America and eventually becomes the pastor of “The Church of Presidents” and the chaplain of the US Senate without ever becoming politically correct or compromising his faith.
4. The Wizard of Oz
Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring Judy Garland
This movie used to be showed on TV every Thanksgiving and reminds us we can be thankful for what we have. There’s no place like home.
3. Miracle On 34th Street
Directed by George Seaton
Starring Edwin Gween, Maureen O’Hara, and Natalie Wood
Although technically this is a Christmas movie, who can forget that it starts with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.
2. It’s A Wonderful Life
Directed by Frank Capra
Starring James Stewart and Donna Reed
This movie that used to be shown every Thanksgiving reminds us that sometimes what we consider hardship may be the very thing we can be thankful for because our lives matter to other people. It would be number one if it weren’t really a Christmas movie.
1. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Directed by John Hughes
Starring Steve Martin and John Candy
In my opinion, this comedy is the best Thanksgiving movie reminding us to be thankful for what we have and sharing our blessings with those who might have lost everything. I get a lump in my throat at the end every time I watch it. Get the TV version instead of the movie DVD, or it will have too much bad language. I believe there’s a DVD that takes out the language also.
by Carole Brown
Have you ever read a book that has the details wrong? And I’m not just talking about historical details, but mundane details that you didn’t catch when writing–even editing–your manuscript. Examples:
- You wrote that an event happened on Wednesday, but a couple chapters later, on that same Wednesday, you wrote a totally, and unusable, event happening at the same time?
- Or what about forgetting to finish a subplot detail by not following through with a satisfactory solution?
- Did you ever change a name and find out you missed a time or two where he/she’s referred to as the previous name? Ouch!
- Or start out with the main character’s eyes blue and finish up with a green-eyed protagonist?
If you’ve ever read about this happening and don’t want it to happen to you, or you know you’ve missed a few things in your manuscript, then may I suggest a couple ideas:
1. Choose a paid-for program that works for you. There are different ones that are available that can give you guidance and steer you in the direction needed to keep all your manuscripts details clear and in order. Depending on the money you want to invest, it can go from inexpensive to very expensive.
To those who like having it all set up for you in advance and have the money to spend, this is the way to go. There are all kinds of apps out there with varying prices. Google or ask other writers to find out what would work best for you.
I’ve heard good things about Evernote (basic is free; premium costs a decent price). Use it to keep track of your characters by using tags and keywords: eye and hair colors, photos of possible character look-alikes, clothes, styles, etc., and articles of research that you want to keep and refer to later in your work.
Scrivener: a writing software where you write without worrying about formatting. You also have the ability to use tags and keywords, clip websites, store photos and other research material. It can outline with text or a simulated cork board with index cards. You also have the added benefit of it tracking your daily quota of writing.
2. Create your own “program” where you keep a detailed list of what’s happening, when, where and who. This is the one I want to focus on today.
First: you’ll need to decide what you’ll use for your Details List: post it notes, whiteboard, index cards, spreadsheet, physical notebook, etc. Use these to help you:
- Keep track of all characters, including minor characters who may appear only as a mention or very little in your book. List their names, ages, looks, habits, character traits, quirks, relationships (past and present) and anything else you might want to attribute to them and that helps you understand them better. You may not use everything, but it’s valuable for you to determine why and how your character acts the way he/she does.
Example: It’s easier than some realize to forget a minor character’s name, what color of eyes you first used, etc. I changed a minor character’s name in one book and couldn’t remember what it was. Another time, I changed a pretty important character from one position to another, from one name to another, then back again. Details like this are so much easier to remember when you have your handy, detailed lists.
- Keep track of what happens in each chapter. Some events or thoughts or actions may need follow up in later chapters. This helps you to not miss anything that needs to be visited again.
Example: this saves tons of time when you need to double check something to make sure what you previously wrote vibes with what you’re ready to write (rather than having to scroll through pages trying to find that particular scene).
- Keep track of all major scenes in your book. This is a more specific listing that keeps you right in line to where you’re headed. You can follow the scenes and know whether you’ve left out any vital action, thought or words that would help clarify it or make it even more realistic.
Example: Recently, I wrote a scene of which I had that vague sense it wasn’t quite what I wanted. But in the push to finish the book, I went on writing. When the first draft was finished, I realized details weren’t as they should be in that one scene. I went back through and rewrote it twice before I came close to being satisfied with it.
- Keep track of timeline. Obviously, this is a biggie. Writers have to keep track of the time events happen, whether it’s minor or major. Readers are sharp. They can pick up a major error like this easily if they’re detail-oriented. It’s an author’s obligation to make sure their story’s timeline is “time-right.”
Example: Is it on Sunday morning before church or after an evening meal when the bad guy is taken to jail? Sometimes, especially when you switch viewpoints, you can overlap actions and times from various characters, but when it comes to certain actions or the same character, you have to consider that he just might not be able to scale Mount Everest the same time he’s eating luncheon with his girlfriend. Keep it straight with your list!
- Keep track of your plot. Make sure you’re headed in the right direction. There will be changes and sidelines that create an even better story, but you want to remember that by keeping track of your plot, it will help keep you in line for a satisfactory ending. Every line, every scene, every chapter should lead to the ending of your plot.
Example: In a couple of my books, I realized, the closer I got to the end, that the bad guy wasn’t the one I’d planned for when I first commenced writing the book. Because I kept track of my plot–which didn’t change–changing the character worked fine.
There are many other things that can be added to your lists, but the main thing is, keep track, however you decide to do it. I like simple and easy, so going my own way (preparing my own lists–usually with physical notebooks or cards) works for me.
However you decide to go, I think you’ll find this a great idea. Many times writers want to write and not be bothered or “distracted” with lists and such. But I encourage you to give it a try. I had the same mentality once I seriously began writing novels. It didn’t take long for me to realize I needed help…and lists was the way to go.
Questions? Ask. If I know the answer, I’ll be glad to respond. If I don’t I’ll try to find the answer. Best to you as you work on your manuscript!
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
It’s easy to thank God when everything is going right, but God wants us to have a thankful attitude no matter what because He has blessed us. At the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims had a feast to thank God for His many blessings when they were going through a difficult time. Half of the people who traveled over on the Mayflower died the first winter. Yet they still set aside time to thank God because they knew they were blessed by Jesus dying on the cross for their sins. Here are 5 things we can do to be thankful in hard times.
Bring our hurts to God. Everyone goes through hard times. The reason some people get though them relatively unscathed is because they bring their hurt and pain to God instead of worrying about them and trust in Him to heal them. God didn’t only promise physical heal but emotional healing as well.
Phi 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Rehearse the blessing of God. Use a journal to write what God has done for you. Go over it when you can’t remember the blessings of God.
Psalm 103:1-2 Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Take your thoughts captive. Joyce Meyer has a saying that you need to think about what you’re thinking about. That’s true. Many times we aren’t thankful because we dwell on negative thoughts that pop into our heads instead of focusing on the good things God has done for us.
2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Read God’s Promises in Scripture. The way to have enough faith to be thankful is to spend time reading the promises of God. He is faithful to His promises.
Isaiah 55:9-11 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Spend time praising God each day. In the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, he began and ended with praise. If we want to have a thankful attitude, we need to spend time praising God every day and not only telling Him our needs.
Psalm 148:5 Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.
Have a thankful Thanksgiving.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Veteran’s Day is November 11th. What better time is there to honor our veterans. Here are the ten ways to thank veterans for their service.
10. Visit a national park that commemorates veterans.
9. Fly the American flag.
8. Volunteer at a VA hospital.
7. Honor veterans in your church with special services.
6. Take a veteran or soldier to lunch.
5. Thank a veteran or soldier for his or her service.
3. Find a family of a soldier who is deployed and help however you can.
2. Donate to Honor Flight Network or another charity helping veterans.
1. Pray for active military and for our veterans.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Ephesians 6:2 Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise.
When we are young, our parents do everything for us. As we get older, their role of taking care of us lessens and eventually goes away. Usually somewhere in our 20s or early 30s, parents become more like friends and confidants.
Then the time comes when we notice our parents can’t do what they once did. They start to slow down and have health problems. At some point, we begin to realize that our parents have started to need our help occasionally. The longer our parent live, the more help they need.
Then the day comes when our parents are no longer there. If we have honored and taken care of them, we share memories about them and miss them, but we don’t live in regret. This is the goal. Here are a 7 things to consider about taking care of elderly parents.
Visit your parents regularly. As our children get older, we sometimes have such busy lives that we don’t take time to visit with our parents. Make a special point of scheduling a time to visit you parents every week, or if you live far away, at least every three months. This will mean a lot to them, but it will also help you live without regrets. We used to visit my husband’s mom every Sunday after church. Now that she is gone, we treasure those visits.
Go to doctor’s visits with them. Sometimes elderly parents get confused and don’t remember everything their doctor says during the visits. Other times, parents downplay the doctor’s advice because they have a hard time accepting they can’t live the way they used to or because they don’t want to be a burden. If you are with them, you can help them make the decisions they need to make.
Protect Your Parents from Scams. Scam artists prey on the elderly. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the elderly are confused easily or don’t understand the complexities of security in our technical age. The main reason is because as people get older, the part of their brains that warn of danger decrease. Have hard conversations with your parents about what to look for. Put safe guards in place. Do whatever you have to to keep your parents safe form these evil people. Your parents might be angry about you interfering in their lives, but it’s worth it if they aren’t scammed out of their life savings. Here’s an AARP article that might help. Keep Your Parents Safe from Scams.
Talk to siblings about who does what before the conversation is needed. There may be one sibling who lives closet to the parents and takes on more responsibility of hands on care, but that doesn’t mean other siblings should be out of the loop. They can help in other ways even if they live a distance away. They can help by providing financial support or investigating information like Medicare or care facilities. One sibling could take care of the elderly parents’ finances while another looks into funeral plans. It is important to discuss this ahead of time.
Take care of documents. Make sure your parents make living wills to let you and health care facilities know how they want to be cared for. Encourage them to place your name on their accounts. Discuss with them about when they would want to give you power of attorney over medical and financial matters. Make sure their wills are up to date and they have decided which sibling gets what – in writing. Ask them what they would like done at their funerals and if they would like to preplan them. These are morbid topics most people avoid until an emergency comes along.
Decide on long-term care. It is possible your parents can stay in their house until they die, but they might want to go to an assisted living facility when they get too old to care for themselves. Ask which they prefer.
Home Care: If you decide on home care, start looking into assistance you can bring into the home. This is what my mother-in-law decided, and she was able to stay at home until her last illness when she died in the hospital. At first, you will need someone to take care of the yard and clean the house. You’ll also want to set up a medic alert system so they can get emergency assistance if they need it. Later you might need someone to prepare meals. At some point, you might need someone to stay with them part-time or give around the clock care. Home health care workers and elderly sitters are cheaper than you might think and provide a way for the elderly to stay in their homes.
Assisted Living: If you decide to go this route, check into it early. There is usually a waiting list, and you’ll want your parents moved in before they need a lot of help. Assisted living facilities provide most services as needed for additional costs. So if they move in sooner, they can become comfortable in their new homes before they need to pay for the service available.
Nursing Homes: The day may come when you can no longer care for your parents, and a nursing home becomes the only option. When this happens, don’t feel guilty. The important thing is to your homework and find the right facility. Once you do, make sure to communicate with the staff often and visit regularly. Elderly patients with family advocates do much better in these facilities.
Hospice: If it ever comes time for hospice, decide ahead of time whether you will have home hospice of use a hospice facility. If you decide to use a facility, check them out and decide your top three choices before you need to make that decision. Not all hospice facilities are equal.
Be willing to sacrifice. You may have to sacrifice your plans at times, but God will reward you for every sacrifice you make. Remember how your parents sacrificed for you. It also might help you to thing about how you would like to be treated by your children in the same circumstances.
Set boundaries. Sometimes the elderly become demanding because they don’t feel good or because they become confused. In these cases, you may need to set boundaries. Remember that God wants you to consider the needs of your spouse and children first. Ask God to help you know when and where to set limits.
by Tamera Lynn Kraft
In the “Leave It to Beaver” days of the 50s and 60s, almost every family sat down to eat dinner at 6:00. Nobody would call or stop by during dinner, because it was the dinner hour. With the busy lives we live, dinner hour is a thing of the past. That’s sad because we need time each week for the family to get together.
When family nights done right, they help families stay close and connected, and create memories children will always remember. But if don’t set up some ground rules ahead of time, family nights can become disasters your kids will remember for the wrong reasons. Here are seven ground rules to help you establish quality time with your family.
1. Attendance is mandatory. Nobody is allowed out of family night, not even parents. Family night is sacred. You need this rule because if you start making exceptions, there will be no family night.
2. Activities are planned. It doesn’t matter what your family does for family night. You could play board games or go bowling. If your family is active, you could go rock climbing or bicycling. The important thing is to do an activity together everyone can participate in.
3. No together alone activities allowed. There are certain activities that don’t allow families to connect. This happens when the members of the family are together, doing the same things, but they don’t interact with each other. Among activities off limits for family night are television watching, going to the movies, and playing video games. Plan activities where everyone is engaged with each other.
4. No arguing allowed. Set up ground rules with kids ahead of time that during family night, no squabbling, arguing, or fighting will be tolerated. Parents, this goes for you too. Family night is not the time to discuss your children’s bad grades or misbehavior.
5. Let children talk. Many times, parents talk to the children, telling them what to do, without allowing the children to talk. Tonight is the chance for children to share what’s going on in their lives without a lecture.
6. Start with a devotion. This is the best way to start a family night. Let the children know that God is the center of your family. If you’re creative, you can plan family nights with activities that go with the devotion.
7. Have fun. If a child complains that he doesn’t want to do the activity or he’s bored, remind him no pouting or sour attitudes are allowed. Everyone is expected to participate and have fun. Be very firm about this. There is nothing that can ruin a family night like a child acting like he doesn’t want to be there. The attitude spreads like wildfire.