The theme of Christmas is “Giving” We spend a lot of time and money shopping for the perfect gifts for our loved ones. Giving makes us happy. We are taught to be givers and not to worry about what we are getting. Right?

Wrong. Well, kind of.

Of course, Jesus is the reason for the season, but that sounds cliche and even if we know that, then why does the Christmas spirit seem fleeting? Why don’t we discover true peace at Christmas that sticks with us longer than the buzz from the egg nog?

Maybe it’s because we don’t focus on the receiving part.

Yes, receiving.

It’s all about you. Yes, you.

So what is this gift we should receive? I found it in five words in my favorite Christmas Hymn, “O Holy Night.”  Reminding myself of these five words has had a huge impact on my life.

…the soul felt its worth. 

That’s It. Think about it.

Here’s the context in the song:

O holy night the stars are brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth

Till He appeared and…THE SOUL FELT ITS WORTH!

Christmas is all about Christ but Jesus says it’s all about us. He’s the True Giver. And He came into the world so that we would know the worth of our souls…so that we would FEEL the worth of our souls.

Here’s more of the lyrics to the song…

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn

A new and glorious morning. A fresh start. A new beginning. It’s that simple. This Christmas, receive the gift that God gives: knowledge of the true worth of your soul. 

FEEL the worth of your soul. Know what God thinks your soul is worth and not how you’ve been judged by others or what you’ve convinced yourself of your soul’s worth. Once you know and feel what your soul is truly worth to your Creator, to Jesus, everything changes. Christmas Peace arrives in your heart. Lasting peace. No matter what our circumstances, nothing can take away the knowledge of the worthiness of our souls.

Here’s the rest of the song…

Fall on your knees
O hear the angels’ voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine o night
O night divine

O Night Divine… Christmas Eve is almost here. My prayer is that you will receive the knowledge of the worth of your soul…or remind yourself what you already know. Just ask the Christmas Giver, Jesus Christ, to show you what your soul is worth to Him. Be a Christmas receiver this year.

Really listen to the words to this song…


Laboring for Love

Christine Sunderland

Writing2We celebrate Labor Day tomorrow, a national holiday honoring the Labor Union Movement and the contribution of workers to our country. But we all labor in different ways, unionized or not, and it is good to consider the place of work in our culture.

Work may be defined in many ways. There’s working to pay the rent and put food on the table. There is volunteer work, actively helping others without payment. A mother’s work is never done, it is said, and probably true. Most of us wake with the first cry of our children and work for their well being on and into the night. They may grow up and leave home but will always be our children. We will always be their mothers. And so it ever shall be.

There is the work of those lucky few who have found joy in their calling, especially those who are…

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Off Season

During this football off season while working on finishing my sequel to Crooked Lines, I’m happy to share an excerpt from Jake Byrne’s devotional book: First and GoalWhat Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up

Off Season

The period of time between the Super Bowl and the beginning of the next football season.

On California’s Bear Mountain, my friends and I decided to have some fun and dress out of the ordinary one day while we went snowboarding. I was an American cowboy in jean shorts, wearing an American flag sleeveless shirt, and a red-white-and-blue bandana. I figured if I wrecked, someone would save the guy dressed in the American flag first.

Chris Marsh had the same idea and wore short shorts and red-white-and-blue suspenders. Max Craddock, a friend from Los Angeles, was rocking a majestic lion suit on the slopes and singing songs from the The Lion King.

1966906_10152587235384942_1626613125_nOur flashy costumes and endless laughter gained us a lot of friends that day. Parents with kids approached us with cameras and asked for photos. Men handed out business cards, offering free places to stay. One guy gave me his daughter’s phone number. Our contagious joy and happy personalities even earned us kisses on the cheeks from elderly ladies.

I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun (Ecclesiastics 8:15).

In the NFL, the regular season is more mental than physical. The game plan changes every week, so we have to adjust the plays for different defense. Every week is a different learning process. Off season is a break from the mental process, but athletes must work hard at getting their bodies in prime shape for the upcoming season. Breaks now and then, especially ones that involves physical activity, are well earned and appreciated. On the slopes, my buddies and I—serious football players, not serious snowboarders—wanted to have a good time, make friends, and be the party.

While working hard toward your goals, take time to cut loose and have fun. King Solomon, who probably wrote the book of Ecclesiastics, was known as the wisest king. If he’s on board with having a good time, we ought to take his advice.



Jake Byrne grew up in Rogers, Arkansas. A type 1 diabetic since the age of fourteen, he has since been proactive combating the disease and mentoring diabetic youth. He played football for the University of Wisconsin as a tight end, and went on to compete in the NFL. Originally an undrafted free agent who signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, he has also been a Houston Texan, Kansas City Chief, and San Diego Charger. Jake lives in Dallas with his wife, Emma, and two four-legged kids: Duke the Dogo Argentino and Yeti the Great Dane.

Jake blogs at He can be reached through the following social media:

Facebook Page (Type Won):

Twitter: @sugarfreejb82

Instagram: Jakebyrne81



Coach Kubiak-God Sends Leaders


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With the Super Bowl coming up, I’d like to share excerpts from the most amazing football devotional! Jake Byrne’s FIRST AND GOAL – What Football Taught Me About Never Giving Up.  Denver Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak is taking the team to the Super Bowl! The devotional shares one of Jake’s experience under Coach Kubiak 


Coach – The coach is the man in charge, the guy responsible for the entire team. When the team wins, every fan boasts that it’s because of the coach. When the team loses, fans and media blame him. He is motivator, teacher, and leader. The coach sculpts players into the best athletes they can be in order to win games. He’s also the guy who calls the plays.

 Playing for the Texans against Indianapolis in 2013, we were up by three touchdowns after a few weeks of losses.

images-1 copyAt halftime, our morale high, we headed toward the locker room with Coach Gary Kubiak behind us.


Texans vs. Colts photo by Holly Michael

Nearing the tunnel, a collective gasp rose from the stadium. My teammates and I stopped and turned. Our leader had fallen onto the ground! Medical staff rushed to his side and officials cleared the crowd away from the scene. An ambulance soon hauled him away. Without the rock that held us all together, without our leader and play caller, we didn’t score again and lost that game.

Later, we discovered our head coach had a ministroke. Already dealing with a losing season, the team’s morale couldn’t get much lower. Then, more bad news. Coach Kubiak was let go. The one man in the organization who was loved by all, the one we trusted and respected, was gone. I’d never seen lower spirits in any team or group of people. The Texans didn’t win another game that season.

Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said.” Deuteronomy 34:4-5

Moses—the leader of the Israelites for 40 years—was not allowed to take the people into the Promised Land because he disobeyed God.

When Coach Kubiak was with the Texans, he was a well-loved coach—like Moses was for the Israelites—always taking care of the team and putting players’ interests first. Like Coach and Moses, even beloved leaders can fall or fail unexpectedly. Either way, the team suffers. Our hearts went out to the revered man, but we also worried about what would happen to us. Who would lead us?


Has someone you admired fallen, failed, or suddenly disappeared from your life? That makes for tough times. You wonder if you’ll pull through. After Coach Kubiak was fired, Wade Philips, defensive coordinator was named as the interim coach that 2013 season and the remainder of a shaky team ambled through a losing season.

God sent Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Later, in the fullness of time, God sent Jesus, His Son, to earth—as God and human—to live among us and be our Savior. When we’re in need of a leader, we don’t have to worry. God always sends someone. We must regroup and move on but never give up.



Coach Gary Kubiak was hired as the Broncos head coach on January 18, 2015. This Super Bowl Broncos’ Head Coach, Gary Kubiak is the 1st person in NFL history to make a Super Bowl as both a player and head coach with the same team.

12592553_971975222892063_5929848364222004930_nJake Byrne grew up in Rogers, Arkansas. A type 1 diabetic since the age of fourteen, he has since been proactive combating the disease and mentoring diabetic youth. He played football for the University of Wisconsin as a tight end, and went on to compete in the NFL. Originally an undrafted free agent who signed with the New Orleans Saints in 2012, he has also been a Houston Texan, Kansas City Chief, and San Diego Charger. Jake lives in Dallas with his wife, Emma, and two four-legged kids: Duke the Dogo Argentino and Yeti the Great Dane.

Best cover.jpgBack Cover Blurb for First and Goal:

Jake Byrne dreamed of playing professional football. He had the size, the talent, the drive…but at age 14, he found out he also had type 1 diabetes.

Still, Jake was determined to reach his goal. And God was determined to guide and empower him all along the way.

Jake’s journey to the NFL is the backdrop for this collection of inspiring devotions based on nearly a hundred football terms. Jake takes you to the weight room, practice field, and even across the goal line. You’ll feel as if you’re lined up next to him, facing a very large defender you’re about to take down. He also includes Scripture and then ties up each story in a way that feels real and encouraging. You’ll discover…

* what to do when God calls an audible in your life

* how to respond when God puts you on special teams

* why prayer is never an incomplete pass

These quick daily readings will help you press through your own difficulties and experience God’s dream for you.

Jake blogs at

He can be reached through the following social media:

Facebook Page (Type Won):

Twitter: @sugarfreejb82

Instagram: Jakebyrne81


To Purchase First and Goal



Don’t Look Back

I loved this!

Karen Jurgens

The door of our house shuts with a slam. I stop kneading dough in my porcelain bowl and look up as my husband runs into the cooking room.

“Quick, woman, where are our daughters? And their fiancés? ”

He pulls me by the wrist to the living room where two men stand. Tall, handsome, and with shining faces, they greet me with a nod and a smile.

My husband makes introduction. “These are angels sent to us by God Himself.”

I start in shock. Angels?  I’m puzzled until I hear the shouting, cursing, and loud knocking on our door. I know the men of our city are rioting again, and as I regard the angels, I know why. The pounding grows louder, and I fear our door will break.

“Yes, ever since these two arrived in our city, the Sodomites have become violent, demanding that they have relations with our…

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Last Day of Advent – Christmas Eve



The church is about ready for our Midnight Mass service. I love that we, at St. James Anglican Church, have a midnight, candlelight Mass (beginning with Lessons and Carols @ 10:30 pm).

To me, the Anglican Mass is the most beautiful (Downton Abbey style) reverent worship experience. Our cantor is amazing and our small choir makes a big, beautiful sound in our little church. It’s an “old school” type liturgical service, but one that resonates with the way I’m spiritually wired..liturgical and traditional.

Such a lovely way to celebrate the birthday of our Lord. Thanks for joining me on this Advent blogging journey. Merry Christmas. May the peace of the Savior be with you during this season and always!


Advent Day 24 – Give


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Many say that giving is better than receiving. It is reported that America is the most giving country when a disaster strikes or a when a need exists anywhere around the globe. During the Christmas season, we shop till we drop, buying gifts for loved ones.

Giving comes from the heart. We love to give. It’s a good thing. If our giving alleviates troubles, lightens hearts, of just brings a smile to someones face, we feel great.


But what do we give God?

This is His birthday celebration after all. Christmas would not exist as a holiday if not for the birth of Christ.

Though many would like to consider Christmas a “secular” holiday, you can’t. Sorry. Doesn’t work like that.

One can secularize Christmas in their heart, stripping any thoughts of the celebration of our Savior’s birth…but that doesn’t cease to make December 25th a religious “holy-day” any more than declaring that the Fourth of July is not about celebrating, in the spirit of freedom, our country’s independence.

So, given that Christmas is the celebration of our Lord’s birth and we all love to give, again…

what ARE we giving to God this Christmas?

That begs the question, what does God want? After all, He has everything. He says, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” Psalm 50:10 (NIV).

But…there must be one small gift we can offer the Lord on His birthday.

Though there’s no Christmas list from God, we do have Holy Scripture as a guide. I found a few verses in the Bible regarding giving:

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; Proverbs 3:9

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you. Deuteronomy 16:17

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. Malachi 3:10

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. Luke 6:38

Those verses speak about our tithe and how we should give it, but let’s look further…what does God really want from us?

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” Revelation 4:11

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1

“He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23

Getting closer…but this one really nails what I think God wants from us: 

Give me your heart, my son, And let your eyes delight in my ways. Proverbs 23:26

God wants our hearts! Whew! But maybe that’s a big thing, a tough thing to give. Maybe it’s too hard to consider giving our guarded hearts to God. Maybe we feel let down by God in the past, hurt, wounded. Maybe our hearts are just to fragile to give away…what if they break…what if God doesn’t love us?

Take a look at the manger scene and from there raise your eyes to the cross. God does love us. He gave His son for us, born as a baby from a virgin. Mary said yes to Angel Gabriel and by the power of the Holy Spirit, The Word Made Flesh and dwelt among us. God offered His Son as a Sacrifice for our Sin. He does love us.

This Christmas, let’s consider one specific offering…even a small one, from our hearts. Not sure what to give, specifically? Pray. Ask Him. Seek Him and what He would like from you for Christmas.

It can be anything, even giving up a bad habit, or beginning a new practice that honors Him, or whatever you feel God would like as a gift from you…maybe even taking a small step toward giving your whole heart to Him. He does promise that by doing so, we will “delight” in His ways.

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; Hebrews 12:28

Sometimes, even showing up is a gift, the beginning of giving God what He truly wants from us–our hearts.

So this Christmas, show up in His Holy Temple, in His Church and kneel before His Presence and lay down your gift at the Altar.

At St. James Anglican Church, we celebrate Christmas with Lesson and Carols at 10:30 pm and then we have the celebration of the Christ Mass at midnight. I pray that many will come..and lay their gifts before The King.


Advent 23 – Surrender



What do we have to surrender this Advent?

A Sacred Conspiracy


 To give control or use of something to someone else(Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary)

“…But you don’t know what he did to me…”

“…move again?”

“…my kids…”

To give (oneself) up to some influence, course, emotion, etc… “He surrendered himself to a life of hardship. (

“…actions speak louder than words…”

“…my boss…”

“…the weather…”

“…my church…”


A very simple word with unimaginable implications.

I never understood just how big the word surrender really was until this morning. I was passing by my little table top nativity scene and pondered the little empty space among the sheep, waiting to be occupied by my little ceramic baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.

An infant. A tiny, helpless, vulnerable infant.

film_nativity_sceneIt hit me like a spiritual truck.

Picture it – The creator of the entire universe, the God over all of eternity, the infinite, majestic Now who is beyond human comprehension…

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Advent Day 22 – Light


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Below is my mom’s Christmas card that she painted. Isn’t it beautiful? She does a fabulous job with light in her watercolors.


We focus on “light” during Christmastime. Kansas City kicks off the Christmas season with the lightning of the Plaza lights on the Thursday, Thanksgiving Evening.

IMG_0684 At St. James, we light candles before each celebration of the Holy Mass, and we light a candle on the advent wreath each Sunday during Advent. We always have a light nearby the Tabernacle in our churches or home chapels to signify the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. IMG_0720 3Jesus Christ is called the “Light of the World.”
The Holy Spirit came down as “tongues of fire.” They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. Acts 2:3

There are so many references to God as “light” in the Bible. Here are a few more:
Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. Psalms 119:105

The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. Matthew 4:16

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Matthew 5:14

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. John 1:5

Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:12

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

Then Jesus said to them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come on you: for he that walks in darkness knows not where he goes. John 12:13

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. Revelation 21:23


4th Sunday in Advent – Rejoice


Today is the 4th Sunday in Advent…Christmas eve is just four days away. And we REJOICE!

Today, at St. James Anglican Church, we celebrated the 4th Sunday in Advent and lit the fourth candle.

FullSizeRenderC. Behold, the Desire of all nations shall come…
R. and the house of the Lord shall be filled with glory, Alleluia.

Scripture Reading…. Baruch 4:36, 5:1-4

O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God. Put off, O Jerusalem the garment of thy mourning and affliction, and put on the comeliness of the glory that cometh from God for ever. Cast about thee a double garment of the righteousness which cometh from God; and set a diadem on thine head of the glory of the Everlasting. For God will show thy brightness unto every country under heaven. For thy name shall be called of God for ever The Peace Of Righteousness, and The Glory of God’s Worship.

C. Christ, arise, help us.
R. And deliver us for thy Name’s sake.
C.. Come and save us, O Lord God of hosts.
R. Show the light of thy countenance, and we shall be whole.
C. The Lord be with you ..
R. And with thy spirit.

C. Let us pray. Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the coming festival of our redemption may bring us aid in this present life, and bounteously bestow the rewards of eternal blessedness. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord, R. Amen

THE EPISTLE: Philippians 4:4

Brethren: Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord.

And a reflection about Rejoicing:

Fanny Crosby (Mrs. Frances Jane Van Alstyne), a blind poet, wrote thousands of gospel songs including “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing” and “Saved by Grace.” Here’s a story about her from, Our Daily Bread (August 12, 2003):

Fanny Crosby lost her sight when she was only 6 weeks old. She lived into her nineties, composing thousands of beloved hymns. On her 92nd birthday she cheerfully said, “If in all the world you can find a happier person than I am, do bring him to me. I should like to shake his hand.”

What enabled Fanny Crosby to experience such joy in the face of what many would term a “tragedy”? At an early age she chose to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). In fact, Fanny carried out a resolution she made when she was only 8 years old: “How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t. To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t.”

Let’s remember that “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). Let’s also take comfort in the teachings of Jesus, who in John 15:11 said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” When faced with the choice of self-pity or rejoicing, let’s respond with rejoicing.