Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013: God With Us

"What, then, is the God I worship?
You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present among us,
the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring;
and yet we cannot comprehend you."
~ Saint Augustine ~ 
"The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look!
The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him
Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)."
―Isaiah 7:14, NLT

Each year as the Christmas season unfolds, I cautiously bring from our attic three large cardboard boxes which contain our mantle nativity scene. Throughout the season, those who visit our home are drawn to the beauty of these two-to-three-foot figures while the set’s primary placement upon the mantle helps us remember to keep Christ at the center of our hearts and holiday activities. Then on New Year's Day, the display is the last of the decorations I return to the attic.

As I contemplate my annual ritual, I regrettably surmise I sometimes deal with Christ in this same fashion—putting him on display for certain occasions, or during moments of hardship, and then, as soon as the occasion or situation passes, I carefully tuck him away again. How many opportunities to exhibit Christ do I miss simply because I return him to an obscure corner of my heart to await another season, another occasion, or another hardship?

Over 2000 years ago, Jesus came as the Light of the World. Today, believers carry his light. Demonstrating Christ in every aspect of our lives is vital to our relationships with God, our families, and our fellowmen. Hopefully his light, shining in us, will draw others into his presence and into a relationship with him.

Where have you positioned Christ in your life? Have you given him a place of prominence for all to see, or have you hidden him away? 

It is my prayer that the precious Christ of Christmas will remain in the most prominent position of my heart and yours, never to return to a place of obscure darkness again.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. ―Matthew 5:14-16, NIV


Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2013


With Winter Solstice comes the shortest day and longest night. For many experiencing difficulty, the days are dark, and the nights are even darker. Would you be willing to step into someone's darkness today? It is there your light will shine brightest.
 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16, NIV

Step into someone's darkness.
Please visit my devotional blog at the following link.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Star Search

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”
Matthew 2:9-10, KJV

The Magi were guided by what they believed in their hearts to be true. When was the last time you journeyed an unknown path by faith? Join the wise men on their arduous journey today at the link below.
Star Search

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Take time out to pause and reflect on the
One whose birth we celebrate.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Mary yielded completely to God's plan. 
"And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the servant of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.'
And the angel departed from her."
Luke 1:38, ESV

Oh, to have a Mary spirit!

According to God's Word, when we are faithful in the small things, God will entrust us with greater things (Matt. 25:23).
What is God asking you to do? Are you willing?  

Friday, December 13, 2013


And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes,
and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7, KJV
Welcome to Friday Friendly Focus. It is my privilege this week to feature a rising North Carolina novelist, Lisa Carter.
I met Lisa a couple of years ago at my first Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer's Conference. As a newbie to the writing world, I was probably as impressed as she was excited when she was awarded a three-book contract from Abingdon Press. Today, two of those books, Carolina Reckoning and Aloha Rose, are a reality and available for purchase through Amazon at the links provided below. 
In today's blog, Lisa recounts some of her favorite sights, sounds and traditions of this magical season—capturing the essence of a Carolina Christmas. We invite you to reflect upon the season with us by sharing some of your own Christmas memories and traditions in the comments section.

Mahalo, Lisa, for being my guest today.
A Carolina Christmas with Lisa Carter

I love Christmas. How about you? Here are some of my favorite things about a Carolina Christmas—

1.The Meaning of
Christmas—The Chrismon tree

Each ornament is symbolic of Christ and handmade for me by my mother. One of my favorite December activities is to do morning devotions based on the different ornaments and Scripture truths as I contemplate the real meaning of Christmas.

2.  The Sounds of the Season—Christmas carols

One day when my children were much younger, we were listening to Christmas songs on CD. What Child is This? was playing. One of my children looked up at me and asked, "Did they just say they're bringing the baby Jesus lard?"

You can imagine my confusion. Then I realized the carolers were singing, "Haste, haste to bring him laud."

 Not lard.

This kind of misunderstanding might only happen with a Southern child and a Carolina kind of Christmas. J

3. Time to Savor the Flavors of Christmas—And Visuals Feasts

I try to take the month of December off from my usual work-a-holic writer schedule. Instead, I sip my favorite Christmas Eve tea by Stash and read the Christmas books I’ve been saving till now. If I feel a little crazy, I may go fabric shopping. Some of us live life on the wild side. And I’ll probably watch/tape every new Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel, too.

4. The Tastes of Christmas—It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas at my house.

Spicy Cheese Straws are in the oven—my Christmas baking attempt for the week. Last week it was Sausage Balls and Toasted Pecans. Welcome to a Carolina Christmas.

5. The Heart of Christmas—Nativity Sets

I collect nativity sets from around the world. Here are a few:

A set from my oldest daughter’s mission trip to Kenya and an Aloha Rose Hawaiian nativity.

The beautiful textiles of Guatemala reflecting in this nativity from our family mission trip over the summer.

And lest you think a Carolina Christmas is without its humbug moments there’s this—

Decorating the house today.
Fa-la-la-la-la. La-la-la-la.
Prelit Christmas tree lights aren't working.
Fa-la-la-la-la. La-la-la-la.
Donned our Christmas sweaters though it's seventy degrees out.
Fa-la-la-la-la. La-la-la-la.
Why does it look so easy when Martha Stewart does this?

(Sing it with me.)
FA-LA-LA-LA-LA. LA-LA . . . LA . . . LA!

So I’m wishing you Mele Kalikimaka from Aloha Rose and Happy Yule to all Ya’ll from Carolina Reckoning. J

As a frequent speaker and vocalist at women’s ministry events, Lisa Carter shares her own journey of faith regarding the sufficiency of the cross and His grace in her life. She is the author of Aloha Rose, a contemporary romance in the Quilts of Love series, and Carolina Reckoning, a romantic suspense novel. Another romantic suspense novel, Beneath a Navajo Moon, releases in March. She and her husband have two daughters and make their home in North Carolina. When she isn't writing, Lisa enjoys traveling to romantic locales, quilting, and researching her next exotic adventure. www.lisacarterauthor.com

For behind the scene photos of Aloha Rose and Carolina Reckoning, visit http://www.pinterest.com/lisacoxcarter/boards/.


Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I found these winter beauties on the bush beneath my mother's bedroom window and placed them in a bowl which belonged to her mother. Amidst all of the Christmas displays, there is none more beautiful than the Empress of Winter.
In Chinese tradition, a camellia's perfectly symmetrical form symbolizes the expression of long lasting devotion. After the death of my mother, I was asked to recall one word that described her. The first word that came to my mind was "devoted." Mother always signed her cards to me, "Devotedly, Mom."
What a timely reminder these camellias are of my mother's long lasting devotion to me . . . not to mention that of my Father above.
Merry Christmas!
Please visit my devotional blog at the following link

Sunday, December 8, 2013

SUNDAY SOLACE: Do You Believe?

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Mark 10:13, NIV
Santa places presents under the tree.
Children believe.
God placed his presence upon the tree . . .
Come with childlike faith.
Simply . . . BELIEVE!
The true spirit and meaning of Christmas is alive and well deep within the heart of my friend, Santa Cliff. Yes, Virginia! There really is a Santa Claus, and he is praying for you.
In December 2012, fifty years after donning his first Santa suit, Santa Cliff was inducted into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame in Santa Claus, Indiana. http://ow.ly/ryxYG 

Congratulations and Merry Christmas, Santa Cliff!  

You can connect with Santa Cliff at http://www.cliffkringle.com/  His book, Santa's Journey, Sharing Christmas Year Round, can be purchased on Amazon. http://ow.ly/ryy0T
Top photo of Santa (not Santa Cliff) was taken at Four Seasons Mall, Greensboro, NC, 2011

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


The first ornament I reached for slipped from my grasp,
fell to the floor,
 and shattered. 
No big deal.  
I have another just like ita replacement.
 As I picked up the pieces,
I thought of how broken things are sometimes easily repaired,
but things which are shattered are hopeless.
God desires our brokenness. 
He does not intend for us to be shattered. 
He has no replacement! 
Give him your brokenness. 
For this
                 He came!
 "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted . . .
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes."
―Isaiah 61:1, 3, NIV

Sunday, December 1, 2013

SUNDAY SOLACE: Ever Thankful

"Thanksgiving was never meant to be shut up in a single day." 
~ Robert Caspar Lintner ~

 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
Psalm 100:4, KJV 

Please visit my devotional blog at the following link

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


"Even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you."
Psalm 139:23, NIV

Please visit my devotional blog at the following link
Photo was taken on Wendover Avenue, Greensboro, North Carolina 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

SUNDAY SOLACE: Morning's Song

"In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary."
~ Aaron Rose ~
"The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy."
―Psalm 65:8, NIV

Please visit my devotional blog at the following link

Friday, November 22, 2013


Welcome to Friday Friendly Focus. I am excited this week to introduce my friend and purveyor of hope, Kathe Wunnenberg.
Kathe and I met a couple of years ago when I attended  a writing conference in the Arizona mountains sponsored by her ministry, Hopelifters Unlimited. It didn't take long for me to note that Kathe wears her heart on her sleeve―a
heart of overwhelming
compassion which resonates throughout every fiber of her being.  I was privileged this summer to be included as a contributor in her latest book and continue to be inspired by her sincere example of being the hands and feet of Christ to those who are hurting.

Thank you, Kathe, for being my guest and for sharing your "recipe of hope" just in time for our Thanksgiving feasts. Kathe serves up a dish you will want to pass around.
by Kathe Wunnenberg

One Thanksgiving I surprised our neighbors with a gift I called “Hope Rocks.” It included: a bag of rocks, a sharpie, and a glass bowl. I could tell by their puzzled look I needed to explain. So I shared about our family’s outing the previous Thanksgiving when we exchanged formal dining for quad riding and a picnic in the desert complete with turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie. During our wilderness adventure I wanted to create a fun family activity to express our thankfulness. But what? As I pondered and prayed about what to do, the Lord brought to my mind the story of the Israelites trekking through the desert and the miracle Jordan River crossing.  

And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their parents, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground' " (Joshua 4:20-22).
That’s it! I thought.
“Gather rocks!” I directed.

Within a few minutes our family returned with their stone treasures and placed them in the center of our lawn chair circle. I handed each person a marker and asked them to write on their rocks what they were thankful for, share them with the group, and then place them in the bowl. Dad, mom, fire trucks, sunshine, baseball, Jesus and the police were a few “hope rocks” I remember.

After we returned home I placed our bowl of rocks on the kitchen table as a centerpiece. On days when I needed extra encouragement, I picked one up and remembered our circle of thanksgiving in the desert and hope returned.

The next time I saw our neighbors, they smiled and said, “Thanks! Hope rocks!”

What are you thankful for? Consider starting a new tradition to express your gratitude and remember what God has done for you. Grab a rock and a marker and start writing!
Kathe Wunnenberg lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a speaker, writer, and leader known for her creative compassion. She believes God can transform anything you offer Him-your possessions, people, places and personal life experiences-into hope to help others. Kathe embraces this daily hopelifting lifestyle and encourages and equips others to do the same as the Founder and President of Hopelifters Unlimited. Learn more about her and her newest book, Hopelifter: Creative Ways to Spread Hope When Life Hurts at www.hopelifters.com 

I invite you to  leave a comment for Kathe. We would love to hear about something you are thankful for, your Thanksgiving traditions and/or a creative way in which you choose to share hope.

Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Starr and Kathe

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


"Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the LORD."
1 Chronicles 16:33, NIV

Fall exits as leaves rain like colorful ticker tape

in celebration

of Old Man Winter's coming.  
Refusing to take its final bow until

it saturates

our souls with its jubilant song.
Drink it in. 

Winter is long.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


 "Yahweh my Lord is my strength;
 He makes my feet like those of a deer
and enables me to walk on mountain heights!"
―Habakkuk 3:19, HCSB 



Friday, November 15, 2013


The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, a 1968 movie based on Carson McCuller's acclaimed debut novel, was one of the first movies my husband and I went to see while dating.

Carson, a transplanted Georgia girl, finished her 1940  novel while living in Fayetteville, North Carolina. My mother worked as a young waitress there at the time and happened to live in the same boarding house where Carson and her husband rented a room. I remember my mother speaking of Carson's eccentric ways and of the fact that she dressed in boyish clothes, wore a man's watch, smoked and didn't hesitate to befriend blacks, which was frowned upon in the segregated South.  

Fayetteville residents had no clue this eccentric young  woman was about to become what publishers considered the "find of the decade." 
Carson McCullers
February 19, 1917 ~ September 29, 1967
Columbus, Georgia
Carson McCullers
 "I live with the people I create and it has always made
my essential loneliness less keen."

Carson McCullers, born Lula Carson Smith, was plagued with poor health for more than half of her life. A child musical genius, she began her formal training in piano at the age of ten. By thirteen, her passion was to become a concert pianist, but her intensive study was interrupted at the age of seventeen with a prolonged illness which would later be diagnosed as rheumatic fever. Too weak to play the piano, her father gave her a typewriter and she began writing plays that she cast, directed and produced at home before an audience of family and friends.
Though an ordinary student in high school, she was a prolific reader. She reasoned that to read was to prepare to be a writer, and where better to read and learn to write than in New York City. Convincing her mother she wanted to prepare for a concert career at Juilliard School of Music, she arrived in Manhattan during the grips of the Great Depression. In the evenings, she studied creative writing at Columbia University and New York University for two years while taking odd jobs to support herself and pay tuition. She was fired from time to time for daydreaming. Her study was regularly interrupted by respiratory ailments related to her still undiagnosed rheumatic fever. She often returned home to recuperate. It was on one such trip she met a Fort Benning soldier from Alabama, Reeves McCullers. They were married in 1937 and later moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where she worked on her manuscript for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. With an outline and six chapters, she entered a fiction writing contest sponsored by Houghton Mifflin and was awarded a $500 prize as an advance against royalties and the promise of publication if her work proved satisfactory. In 1938, her husband was transferred to Fayetteville, North Carolina, and it was there she finished her debut novel. She was living in Fayetteville when The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was accepted for publication and released in 1940.
Carson suffered three
crippling strokes before she was thirty, yet managed to write daily. In 1941, she completed her second novel, Reflections in a Golden Eye, but it was her third novel, The Member of the Wedding (1946), that was considered to be her finest work. Adapted for theater, it won most of the theater awards in 1950 and ran for 501 performances on Broadway. Her fourth and final novel, Clock without Hands (1961), climbed to sixth place on the New York Times best-seller list. Carson continued to write dozens of non-fiction essays, short stories, plays and poems leaving an impressive literary legacy before she died in 1967 of a massive brain tumor at the age of fifty. A movie based on The Heart is a Lonely Hunter was released the following year.

Please visit my devotional blog at the following link


Wednesday, November 13, 2013


 "Blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear."
―Matthew 13:16, ESV
Please visit my devotional blog at the following link