A Breath of Fresh Air
A Merry Heart
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Just Between Men
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Parents'
Survival Guide

The Treehouse
Through Their Eyes
'Tis the Season
The Joy of Family
The Rhythm of Life
We Are the Church

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The Missing Christmas Gifts
By Bill Shurkey

"What did you get for Christmas"? This is perhaps the most often asked question between Christmas and New Year's Day. I'm sure the combined lists would make fascinating reading. Of course, for the men, socks are a no-brainer, with wallets and after-shave close behind. Jewelry is a sure bet for the ladies and kitchen appliances (ladies always love that personal touch!) probably running a close second. And of course, for the kids it was toys, toys and more toys. Most of us spent more than we should have on Christmas but felt the expense worth it.

Contrast this Christmas with one from a more simpler time. I'm reminded of one celebrated 150 years ago in Victorian England. It takes place in Dickens' fictional home of the Cratchits. A good Christmas for Bob was a day off spent with his family and a hot meal, while his children were satisfied with oranges and nuts in their stockings and a warm fire to sit by. Even then the little they had for Christmas cost them dearly, but they too thought the expense worth it. It seems that no one was a Scrooge back then, except, well Ö Scrooge himself.

Now that you've had a quick glimpse of a Christmas past and present letís look at some things you didn't find under the Christmas tree.

You didn't find God's love though you did see the evidence of human love. You didn't find God's grace, though you used what you did have, to keep from telling Aunt Mabel what she could really do with her sweet potato casserole. I doubt you found unity under the tree and it's highly doubtful you experienced it around the dinner table. And I know the peace that the angels proclaimed on that first Christmas morning was missing from under the tree. The only peace most of us experienced was when the last guest put on the last coat, got into the last vehicle parked in our driveways and drove out of sight.

As you go through 2005, remember not only the nice gifts you received on Christmas Day; remember too the things you didn't get but desperately need, to have a truly happy new year.

Do you want God's love? Then love others.

Do you want and abundance of God's grace? Give what you have already to someone else. Overlook faults, show mercy, encourage those around you.

And if you want unity in your families and congregations, begin to concentrate on each others similarities, not on differences. Avoid needless disputes and forgive freely.

The poems offered in this issue by our talented poets speak of love, unity, grace and peace. Let them be an inspiration to you in the coming months. As you dismantle the Christmas tree, look ahead to the Easter tree. It's under that tree where you will find what's really important for a happy and prosperous new year. Weave these newfound gifts into the rhythm of your life and the true Christmas spirit will remain in your heart the entire year. All your future Christmases will be better, because along with the gifts, you'll have a closer relationship with the giver.

Love, unity, grace. I pray you have an abundance of each. And what about peace? If you have the others, you have peace.

May each of you have a truly happy and prosperous new year and along with Tiny Tim, I'd like to add, "God bless us everyone!"

* * *

Circle of Love
By Bill Shurkey

Lord, you have called us your brethren
and friends, though we are all different;
Committees and ministries mean nothing
to you, in position and honor we are

equal, servants unfit to serve the King.
You prayed to the Father that we'd be
one as You and He are one. You commanded
your bride to love much, so the world could

see You in us. It seems so simple, yet we
have failed you miserably. Why do we struggle
so? Our pettiness is nothing compared to the
cross, the thorns, and the spear in your side.

Help us, Lord, to remember where we came from
and where we're going. Let us feel, once again,
the love we had for all people. Ignite in us
your holy fire; restore the joy of our salvation.

Then Lord, let us join hand-in-hand, and
come boldly before your throne of grace;
an unbroken circle united in one purpose,
to seek forgiveness--our love offering to You.

Bill Shurkey is the editor of The Rhythm of Life. He has published over 100 poems in various publications, as well as short fiction, short nonfiction and a nonfiction book. His two passions are poetry and teaching children through fantasy and humor.

I learned that when fellow Christians who love to write, at all levels, are drawn together in technological cyberspace ways that I will never even remotely grasp, it is a fine thing. It makes my heart sing. It is like coming home... (Linda Germain)

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