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Christmas Thoughts—2013

Cover of "Peace on Earth (Holiday Greetin...

Cover of Peace on Earth (Holiday Greeting Cards)

Christmas Thoughts —Each year I seem to develop a newer, deeper appreciation for that first Christmas. The faith Mary and Joseph had to believe and obey God is inspiring. I imagine some people of that day didn’t believe Mary’s story and their opinion of Joseph wasn’t any better than their thoughts of Mary. What suffering that must have been for the young couple who didn’t deserve it! But in spite of the disbelief of others, they put their faith in God. Joseph believed God, took Mary and the babe into his care. He obeyed God and escaped with them to Egypt when Herod wanted to kill Jesus.

God entrusted Jesus to humans. That’s scary! But God knew the hearts of Mary and Joseph and found them trustworthy. Wow. I want to be that dependable!

Besides faith and trust, peace is one of the great messages of Christmas. God sent the best of Himself, His much-loved son. The Bible said, “Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men.” In this day and age when the buzz around us can become so negative about God, I think about that first Christmas, and the fact that God sent the message of peace toward mankind! He sent Jesus as His answer to the ills of society. When God is blamed for death, war, and suffering, I remember that He sent the dearest, most precious part of Himself, Jesus the Prince of Peace.

God’s message to mankind that first Christmas is still as powerful and true as if it happened yesterday—He gave His best gift, an all-encompassing, loving outpouring. He opened His heart to us, and I, for one, don’t want to reject such an amazing gift. I embrace and hold His Gift to my heart.

Leave a comment on your thoughts this Christmas season.

Love and Merry Christmas!

~ Karen Gaus ~

Karen Gaus, Author & Speaker

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The Missing 250 Dollars

Dollars

Dollars (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

The Missing 250 Dollars … The lady was holding up the line. At first I felt only irritation. Then the word spread, “She lost $250 in cash.” Not only had she lost her money, but she had no other way to pay. I felt terrible for her. She stuck her hands in all her pockets and came up empty. Her food had been scanned and bagged but nothing. The manager came and offered to put her cart into a walk-in refrigerator until she could come up with the money. The cashier called the service center and asked if someone had turned it in—no, they said.

The lady hurried off to look, but it seemed pretty hopeless.

I began a silent appeal to God. Lord, you see where the money is. Help her to find it, or have an honest person discover it and turn it in.

Seconds later another grocery store employee walked up smiling. “We found it,” she said.

“I’m so glad,” I said, “I was even praying.”

The customer in front of me turned my way. “Me, too.”

“I know. It was just too hard,” I said.

She nodded in agreement.

The lady returned to a smiling group of customers and employees.

“Wow. My faith in humanity is renewed,” said the cashier.

On the way home I felt lighter. The lady received her money back—I bonded with a stranger who also prayed—an honest soul returned $250.

~ Karen Gaus ~

Karen Gaus, Author & Speaker

Three reasons I love Christmas Eve…

christmas paint

christmas paint (Photo credit: cassie_bedfordgolf)

Three reasons I love Christmas Eve—

Christmas Eve is special to me for a number of reasons—the first one, of course, is because of the celebration of the birth of Jesus who came to save the world. This year one of my thoughts regarding Christmas is the scripture in Luke 2 that says, “Peace on earth—good will toward men.” I think it is so wonderful that one of the first messages surrounding Jesus coming to the world is that God wanted peace and goodness for mankind. By giving His Son, God the Father was achieving this goal.

Another reason Christmas Eve is so special is—it’s my birthday! I used to love hearing my family tell small details about the Christmas that I came unexpectedly one month before I was due. My grandmother told me I was born ten minutes before midnight, barely missing Christmas day. My oldest sister said the doctor had to leave a Christmas Eve party and delivered me while he was still in his tuxedo. She asked, “Why do you have to do everything first class?” (o: My daddy and four older sisters went to my mother’s family to open gifts while Mother and I were in the hospital.

That brings me to another reason Christmas Eve is so extraordinary—the Christmas Eve I turned thirty-four years old, I left the hospital carrying my two-day-old infant daughter in my arms, thinking, “This is amazing. What a special gift for my birthday!” The whole world was doing Christmas that year, but my husband and I were enjoying a new baby.

Yes. Christmas Eve is a very special day for me, and Jesus makes it all deeper, richer, and more amazing than words can convey.

I hope this Christmas, that the Christ of that first Christmas lives in your heart and brings you joy, peace, and goodness.

Merry Christmas!

Karen

Road Rage—Up Close & Personal

TrafficRoad Rage—Up Close & Personal … It was a mistake—I knew it when it happened. But it would save time. I had to change lanes or miss my turn. So I pulled in front of a fast-moving truck and turned the wheel to enter a parking lot, barely missing a collision.

The person blasted his horn, and a quick glance in my rearview mirror told me what I didn’t want to know—he had followed me into the parking lot. When I parked, the driver stopped directly behind my car, blocking the way out.

I stepped out of my vehicle to face a scowling young man in the driver’s seat with a couple of his buddies, all directing fury my way. He shouted, “What do you think you’re doing pulling in front of me like that?”  If rage could be charted, it would be in the red danger zone. My heart pounded in fear, and I was afraid it could turn violent.

Then I remember two lessons I had learned—one was from the Bible. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) The other teaching—“people like to hear a sincere apology.”

So I answered as sweetly and gently as I could, “I apologize. Will you forgive me?”

The response was gruff but positive, “I guess so.” And then he drove off.

Relief coursed through me—my heart slowly resumed its normal pace.

God’s Word and his lessons proved to be the answer against road rage, and wow, am I thankful. (o:

~ Karen Gaus ~

Karen Gaus, Author & Speaker

The Dog that Saves the Day

Rover The Dog that Saves the Day …

I’m a cat person. Dogs are okay, but I’ve always been a bit afraid of them. That is, all but one dog. He was special. We adopted him when I was eight years old. He was a stray who followed my three older sisters home from the city swimming pool in our small town of Bartlett, Texas.

My mom fed him the scraps from our table, and the poor thing was so hungry he would lick up tomatoes off the front porch.

I liked him from the beginning. He was ugly but docile and had a sweet personality. His brown fur had black strands mixed through his coat that looked like coarse horse’s hair.

Daddy called him “Rover.” Not a very original name, but we loved him. Humble, lazy Rover didn’t have a mean bone in his body.

One day, after we’d move to Clifton, Texas, my brother, a neighbor friend, and I were riding our scooters outside when two boys we had never met before approached us with three German shepherds walking beside them. The dogs looked lean and fit.

For some reason, the boys took an instant dislike to my brother, John, and one told him he was going to sic their dogs on him.

We froze, not sure what to do.

John stared at the boys but remain silent, looking small in comparison to the bullies the tension mounted.

One of the boys mumbled under his breath, “Attack.” One of the German shepherds started a slow, menacing walk toward John. The front dog bared his teeth, and a low growl came deep from his throat.

Clearly, the dogs intended to attack. What should we do?

It was then that I heard a dog’s low growl from behind me. Rover raced out from between John and me at top speed.

He charged the three dogs like he would fight to the death. His hair stuck up on his back, his teeth showed full force, and he growled like a ferocious mother bear protecting her cubs.

Rover was far from docile—he transformed from a mild-mannered mongrel into Super Dog. Amazing and fantastic.

The three other dogs knew Rover meant business, because they turned and ran the other way. Not far behind, the two bullies followed. Rover pursued them with all his might—I’d never seen him run that fast.

He chased them about half a block, than turned around and loped back to us. His fat belly swayed as he trotted. I never knew a dog could smile, but Rover was smiling broadly—he was so proud of himself, and we were thrilled.

I knelt down and let him run into my arms. I gave him a hug and kept telling him what a wonderful thing he’d done, and he seemed to understand.

Rover remained part of our family for many years and never lost his charm or intelligent insight into being a great friend to our whole family.

~ Karen Gaus ~

Here I am with Rover (right) and our neighbor's dog.

Here I am with Rover (right) and our neighbor’s dog when I was about ten years old. (o:

Inspirational Story: Fire!

Flames

Flames (Photo credit: Velo Steve)

Fire! … Every night my prayer was the same. God, place a hedge of protection around my family. In the past my family had experienced some setbacks, so I prayed daily. One night in middle of the summer, I prayed as usual then fell asleep, not realizing my family was in danger.

Two hours later something woke me. Darkness surrounded me except for the moonlight that peeked through the top of the curtains.

My husband, Evan, stirred in the bed next to me.

“What is that smell?” I said, exhaling a breath.

Evan touched my arm. “Let’s check the house.”

We walked through the house turning on lights and checked computer equipment, careful not to wake our then 20-year-old daughter who was home from college and our 16-year-old son. I stood at my daughter’s doorway. Only the scent of her perfume wafted to my nose. I stepped over to my son’s door and inhaled. No burning smell came from there either, and nothing in the whole house explained the odor.

Going back into the master bedroom, we climbed back under the covers, ready to go back to sleep.

Evan slipped his feet out of the bed. “Maybe we should check outside.”

“Okay. I’m wide awake now anyway.” We searched the house again. My husband stopped at the front door, while I walked into the kitchen and opened the door from the kitchen to the garage.

A haze of smoke hovered in the air. Shock jolted through me. “Evan, come look.” My voice vibrated with panic. I stared, knowing we must find the source.

Evan opened the garage door and pulled the van out. The smoke dispersed, and we found no trace of a fire in the garage. We had to find the cause.

I moved from my frozen position in the doorway and walked outside, looking along the wall. To my astonishment, a flame leaped out from behind the electrical meter. The wall glowed orange with fire an arm’s length in all directions.

“Evan, get the fire extinguisher!” I stared at the fire and willed the blaze to remain dormant. If the flame continued to gain momentum and reach the roof, it would take over our house. Helplessness weighed at me.

Evan came running out of the house with the fire extinguisher in his hand. Rushing to my side, he pointed the extinguisher at the flame, but no spray came out. He knocked at the nozzle. “It’s not working. Call 9-1-1! It’s an electrical fire. We can’t use water on it.”

I ran into the kitchen to find the house pitch black. I wasn’t sure if the power was off because of damage from the fire or what. I picked up the telephone. No dial tone. My mind whirled. I couldn’t think straight. Not wanting to take time to figure out which telephones worked and which ones didn’t, I retrieved my cell phone from my purse in the dining room and dialed 9-1-1.

The 9-1-1 operator answered.

“Our house… our house is on fire.” I struggled to form coherent words. Finally, I gave her our address. My hands shook. I hurried to my son and daughter’s doorways and took a deep breath. I forced my voice to sound calm and unhurried, not wanting to alarm them. “Jessica. Wesley. I need you to come outside. We’ve discovered a fire in the back wall of the house. I need you to wait outside until its safe.” I pushed down the sense of panic and danger that ran wild through my senses and threatened to take over my emotions. I found no need to traumatize them.

Seconds ticked off as my husband and I paced the front yard while Jessica and Wesley sat wrapped in their blankets on the grass. I pictured the flame running along the wall of our house and ran back to look at the fire’s progress. I sucked in a breath of relief that it had not changed. The stench of the fire filled my senses, reminding me that the danger wasn’t over. A feeling of urgency had me clenching my hands into a fist at my side. Soon we heard sirens draw close. The first person to arrive in response to the 9-1-1 call was a female police officer.

“We have a fire on the back wall of our house, and our fire extinguisher is broken.”  My voice quivered in distress.

“I have one.” She ran to her police cruiser and pulled out an extinguisher.

“Follow me.” Evan sprinted to the back of the house. The officer and I followed close behind. The fire radiated bright orange but cutting the electricity had slowed the progress and provided us time. The officer lifted the extinguisher and sprayed. Smoke billowed from the wall. Relief whooshed through me. Moments later, firemen leaped from their truck and accessed if any fire remained. Soon the sound of axes hacking the wall reached me. I walked away unable to bear the thought of someone hacking away at the wall of my home. They put out more embers hidden from our view. “How can I be sure all the fire is out?” I asked one of the firemen.

“Don’t worry, ma’am. We got it all,” the lead fireman said. Then he listened to our story and said he needed to find the cause of the fire before leaving.

Within a few minutes, an electrician arrived and inspected the results of the fire. “Good save! The fire started due to loose wiring. This sometimes happens in old houses.”

The next day, a carpenter friend of ours from church was amazed when he saw the charred wall of our home. “You could all have been killed.” He stood, gaping at the wall.

Regardless of the close call of that night, in two days we had a new wall rebuilt and electricity back. The incident was so minor our local newspaper didn’t mention it. But for me it was huge. In my heart I had seen how close our safety and security had been threatened. A small flame could have become a large one. We were literally seconds from a serious catastrophe. I saw how fragile life is as well. We could have easily lost everything, including our lives. For days I felt God’s presence with a love that was personal—like that of a parent or spouse who loves in a special way, yet closer and deeper. Joy and comfort filled me at the thought of His nearness. God had heard my prayer.

For me, what is most special in the whole experience is the realization that if the fire had gone out of control and caused our family great loss, God would still be with me, comforting me with His love. He is greater than all that happens to me. If I have troubles and heartache, I will look for Him because I will find Him right there beside me.

Serious Reflection: The Last Day of High School

Serious Reflection: The Last Day of High School … On the last day of high school for my son, I woke up from a dream that remained vividly etched in my mind. The dream transported me back to a time when he was still light enough to carry. Exhaustion had taken over my little one, so I held him in my arms. As my son rested his head on my shoulder, his adorable hand reached out toward my face, so I held his hand in mine. At that moment I woke. That image of his small hand lingered in my heart and mind. The sweet reflection followed me as I went about my day, bringing tears to my eyes.

This segment of our lives has ended. My son will soon leave for college and go to make his own way in life. With that thought, a prayer forms on my lips. God, bless and keep my son. May each step he takes be ordered by You. Make a place for him in this world that he might thrive and grow in you. Give him laughter and joy. May he be ever before You and in Your care, God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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