Photo by Mark Reed Butterfield

“Be still and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10)

Even if it’s only for one minute, stop awhile today and ponder the wonder of God. 

A Game for All

Adapted from the recently released book, Mama Was the Queen of Christmas
by Linda Gilden

How will all the little holiday extras ever get done? I ask myself that question every year. And as much as I enjoy the holidays, there seems to be so little time.xmas queen

One year I decided to let go of expectations and concentrate on celebrating Jesus. I came up with a plan to accomplish a lot of the extras in a very short time. I created a game!

“Come on, everyone,” I said. “We are going to play a game.”

There was minor grumbling but in the end everyone agreed a family game would be fun. And I was so excited about the end result!

“Just give me an hour of your time,” I said. “Then you can get back to your homework.”

I found a cute Christmas container and deposited little slips of paper, each describing a job.

“I am going to set a timer for twenty minutes,” I said. “When you draw a slip of paper, you have twenty minutes to work at your job. When the bell rings, you will choose another job and change what you are doing. In an hour, you will have helped me with three pre-Christmas chores.”

The papers in the container had jobs like:

  1. Position the electric candles in the windows.
  2. Put the greenery on the mantle downstairs.
  3. Wrap presents. (Not your own, although most were willing!)
  4. A smile face. This job was really important. The person who got the smile was to circulate, serve refreshments, and make sure everyone was having fun.
  5. Address Christmas cards.
  6. Plan a family activity that will help us concentrate on the real meaning of the season such as memorize the Christmas story from Luke, find someone to share the season with who hasn’t yet met the Savior, concentrate on a different aspect of Jesus’ birth in daily devotions, etc.
  7. Make a Christmas goodie or edible treat. My family favorite is “Rocks!”

Christmas music playing in the background created a festive and jovial mood.

As it turned out, everybody was a winner in this game. The family gathered in the kitchen for a sample of “rocks,” pointing out that we had become happy little elves, proudly creating an atmosphere of merriment for the holidays.

Are there things you can do to make this holiday season less stressed for you and your family?

RECIPE: Rocks – Favorite Holiday Treat!

2 cups chocolate chips
1 ½ cups dry roasted peanuts
½ cup peanut butter
(1) 12.3 oz. box Crispix cereal
Confectioners Sugar

  1. Melt chocolate in a large bowl in microwave oven. Heat on high for 1 minute. Stir well. Heat 30 seconds more or as needed to melt chocolate. Stir until smooth. (Chocolate could also be melted in a double boiler over low heat on the stove.)
  2. Add peanut butter and stir until well blended.
  3. Add peanuts and cereal and mix until thoroughly coated. A wooden spoon works best for this.
  4. Put confectioner’s sugar in a plastic bag. Add cereal mixture, close bag tightly, and shake gently until mixture is coated with sugar. If you do a third of the mixture at a time, it is easier to handle.
  5. Makes a lot! Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Linda GildenAbout the Author: Linda Gilden’s favorite season is Christmas. But, truthfully, she and her family like to celebrate all year long, so can it really be called a season? Growing up in a home where the spirit of Christmas prevailed throughout the year, she knows she is blessed to have married a man who shares the same philosophy—Jesus is not just for a season but for a lifetime! Linda is the author of over a thousand magazine articles and several other books, such as Love Notes in Lunchboxes, Love Notes on His Pillow, and Mommy Pick-Me-Ups (all by New Hope Publishers), but Mama Was the Queen of Christmas is one she has wanted to write for a long time. Her heart’s desire is to see families enjoy each other and make memories no matter what the season. Linda lives in South Carolina with her husband, three grown children and children-in-law, four grandchildren, and a granddog, all of whom love Christmas as much as she does!

ABOUT THE BOOK: Do you love Christmas but feel the real meaning of the season is lost in the busyness? Do you breathe a sigh of relief when the last holiday guest is out the door, the last gift unwrapped, and the last ornament put away? Do you struggle with balancing the preparation and celebration with honoring Jesus? After all, it is His birthday!

Mama Was the Queen of Christmas is a collection of stories highlighting “Mama's” role in the season as well as quotes, Scripture, and practical suggestions for keeping the holidays focused on Christ. Mama presents creative ideas to plan a meaningful holiday season.


  • “For the Queen” helps the reader focus on the truth of each story. This feature includes suggestions for the reader to implement that truth in his or her life.
  • “For the King” points the reader to the One whose birth we celebrate through a personal activity.
  • “For the Court” suggests family activities to apply the truth in each story.

Hijacked Holidays

By Debra L. Butterfield © 2012

As we enter the season of holidays, our celebrations and gatherings can divert our focus from the purpose for the holiday. Family gatherings, festive holiday parties, scrumptious food, and gift buying are not bad things. These activities help us enjoy the cold and snow of winter. They also help us forget the fact that it’s dark when we get up to go to work and dark when we leave to go home.

All these things can also become a burden. According to an article in the Detroit News today, the National Retail Federation forecasts the nation will spend $586.1 billion on holiday shopping during the months of November and December. They expect the average shopper to spend $749.51. Many will do it using credit. Our society’s need to impress our family and friends has hijacked our holidays!

How can we enjoy the holidays when fabulous feasts, pretty parties, and plentiful presents demand our attention? How can we truly celebrate when added financial burdens weigh us down for months afterwards? Consequently, we lose sight of all the blessings we do have and become focused on what we don’t have.

What are your motives for the spending the money you do for your Thanksgiving meal and the presents under your tree?

  • Do you do it because you feel it’s expected of you?
  • Because you need to impress others to be accepted by them or to feel good about yourself?
  • Do you buy all those presents to silence the clamor of your children or to assuage the guilt you feel for not spending time with them?
  • Or do you do it purely because you love your family and want to bless them from the bounty God has brought?

What I remember most about Thanksgiving and Christmas isn’t the food or how many presents I got. I remember the hours of fun we spent together around the table playing cards and board games. (Mouse Trap was the most mechanized game of my childhood.) I remember playing fox and goose out in the snow with my siblings and neighborhood friends. I remember the beautiful candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve.

It’s the time and love we share with family and friends that we remember most as the years fly by. We don’t have to spend money to give thanks and share our faith and hope in God.

Before we get too far into the holiday season, let’s take a moment to reflect and refocus. What are your motives and where is your attention?

The purpose for this season is to give thanks for the blessings God has brought throughout the year. Even Christmas is a holiday of thanks, a celebration of the amazing gift of his Son who came to earth as God With Us, and paid the price for our sins so that we might be reconciled with him, and share in the glorious eternity of heaven.

Have Thanksgiving and Christmas become a burden to you instead of a joy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


A Journey Through Alzheimer’s, Reader Q&A

I hope you have enjoyed our time with author RJ Thesman and her character Reverend G. As promised here are readers’ questions and RJ’s answers.

Q: You mentioned trauma-induced dementia, which I assume is referring to some physical trauma that caused the dementia to begin. Is there such a thing as emotional induced dementia?
A: Yes. Psychological and emotional stress can lead to an increased risk of dementia. Stress affects the adrenals which help to protect us from illness, so emotional stress can greatly affect our immune systems and our cognitive functions. Although no definite stats are available, my research has shown that emotional stress sets up more of an inclination for dementia. And all caregivers know that long-term stress can make them sick.

Q: Do you have any tips for those researching assisted living facilities?
A: Get all the info you can by talking to staff and other families who have loved ones there. Visit on different days of the week and at different times. Think of the life story of your loved one. Would she enjoy this place if she could choose it? Are there thingsRev_G_Cover about this place that would make her/him feel peaceful and at home? Does it smell clean and are the furnishings in good shape? Nobody wants their loved one in a sub-par facility.

Q: When did Reverend G's relationship with God begin and how did she grow so close to Him?
A: She became a Christian at church camp when she was 13. Her parents were not Christians, but they thought it would be a good diversion to send her to summer camp. She became close to God because she had to be independent about her faith, and she was discipled (somewhat secretly) by the woman whose house she cleaned on the weekends. Her parents decided she needed a little job and they had no idea that in between the toilets and the dusting, the future Reverend G was learning about spiritual disciplines. When she was 18, both parents were killed in a car wreck. That's when she started hearing from God. He became her Abba Father.

Q: At the end of the book, why doesn't Reverend G just stay with Chris? Where's the resolution of the love story?
A: Stay tuned for book 2.

RJ ThesmanBIO: RJ Thesman has been a writer since she flipped open her Red Chief tablet and scribbled her first story. Thesman is a Biblical Counselor, a Stephen Minister and a Certified Christian Life Coach. She enjoys teaching writing workshops and helps beginning writers birth their words. She enjoys reading, gardening and cooking and lives in the heartland of Kansas with her son and an elderly cat.

The Unraveling of Reverend G, published by CrossRiver Media Group, is available in both paperback and on Kindle. Put the title in the Amazon search box on this site and you’ll help support the ministry of Glory and Strength through our affiliate program with Amazon.


A Journey Through Alzheimer’s Part 2

RJ ThesmanToday we continue our interview with RJ Thesman, author of The Unraveling of Reverend G. To recap, RJ’s father battled trauma-induced dementia for 10 years. He died in 2008. Doctors recently diagnosed her mother with Alzheimer’s. This life experience inspired her book about Reverend G.

If you have a question for RJ, post it in the comments or send an email to admin [at] On Friday, I’ll post RJ’s answers to readers’ questions.

Let’s dive into today’s questions and answers.

Debra: A cat that forecasts death?How did you come up with an idea like that?

RJ: Many years ago, before there was even an inkling about Reverend G, I read an article about a cat that was on staff in a nursing home in the Northeast. He visited the rooms of people who were about to die, because he had the uncanny ability to sense the toxic chemicals that the body gives off when it dies. The staff then called in the families for their last good-bye.

Since then, I have talked to many health professionals who have seen this happen, not only with cats but also with dogs. We know that animals have an extra God-given sense to relate to their owners, feel our pain, and know when to comfort us.

So it was just a natural part of the plot line that one day I was typing along and there was Gabriel, the cat at Cove Creek who knows how to forecast death.

Debra: My parents decided for themselves to move into an independent villa of an assisted living community, thus sparing me and my siblings that difficult task. Researching and choosing an assisted living facility can be hard. Where did you get the model for Cove Creek, the assisted living facility Reverend G chooses?

RJ: Cove Creek isn’t any one model, but a composite of all the places my dad and I served together. Every Sunday afternoon while I was in high school, we visited nursing homes and presented a program of music and faith. I saw people in their last stages of life, listened to funny stories, and held aging hands.

Since then, I have worked in an organization that sends chaplains into care facilities, and I have visited many places as I completed research and spoke to family members and staff. The staircase at Cove Creek comes from one of those beautiful places. Reverend G’s apartment is from another place. The dining room is from the facility where my mom now lives. And everywhere I’ve visited, I’ve found incredible staff people like Roxie – who truly love their residents.

Debra: What happens next?Rev_G_Cover

RJ: I’m completing the editing process for the 2nd book and doing research for the 3rd. I’m itching to get into the 3rd book to continue the story. I now have people stopping me in the grocery store and asking, “Do they get married?” or “What would Reverend G do about …” (whatever situation they are going through).

I usually answer by saying, “I can’t tell you,” or “I don’t know yet. Reverend G hasn’t told me.”

Debra: RJ, thank you so much for sharing the Reverend G with us this week and being so honest about your struggles as you journey through your mother’s Alzheimer’s. What top 3 tips do you have for caregivers?

RJ: Keep Laughing – find the humor so that you won’t become bitter.

Take Care of Yourself – if you don’t, you’ll wear down from the stress and you’ll be sick.

Pray – for patience, perseverance and for someone to discover a cure.

The Unraveling of Reverend G, published by CrossRiver Media Group, is filled with comfort, insight, and humor for all readers, but especially for those whose loved ones are battling dementia or Alzheimer’s. It is available in both paperback and on Kindle. Put the title in the Amazon search box on this site and you’ll help support the ministry of Glory and Strength with your purchase through our affiliate program with Amazon.

Be sure to leave your question for RJ in the comments below.

BIO: RJ Thesman has been a writer since she flipped open her Red Chief tablet and scribbled her first story. Thesman is a Biblical Counselor, a Stephen Minister and a Certified Christian Life Coach. She enjoys teaching writing workshops and helps beginning writers birth their words. She enjoys reading, gardening and cooking and lives in the heartland of Kansas with her son and an elderly cat.

A Journey Through Alzheimer’s

An Interview with Author RJ Thesman and Glory and Strength Editor Debra L. Butterfield

Rev_G_CoverThis summer I had the pleasure of meeting RJ Thesman at a workshop in Kansas City. RJ is a life coach and program director at GateWay of Hope in Olathe, Kansas. She’s also a writer, and her newest book, The Unraveling of Reverend G, had released a few short weeks before I met her. We had some time to get acquainted before the workshop began and so I asked her about her book. After learning that Alzheimer’s unravels the reverend, I asked RJ if she would consent to an interview for Glory and Strength. She graciously agreed. Therefore, this week we’re taking a journey through Alzheimer’s. Both RJ and the Reverend G have insight and comfort to offer.

Today and tomorrow is our interview. RJ has also offered to answer reader questions. Here’s how the Q&A will work: Submit your questions no later than 11:59 p.m. Tuesday via the comments below, or email admin [at] RJ will answer as many questions as her time permits. I'll post the Q&A on Friday.

Now to our interview.

Debra: Rebecca, Reverend G is an absolutely delightful character. I love her sense of humor, and I’m impressed by how well you’ve balanced humor with the severity of Alzheimer’s. What was your inspiration for the book?

RJ: My dad was involved in a tragic fire at our farm. He was severely burned and spent four months in the hospital, but mercifully – didn’t remember any of the horror. The doctors diagnosed him with trauma-induced dementia. For ten years, he gradually disappeared while Mom, a registered nurse, took care of him at home. Dad passed away in 2008.

Now Mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She is currently in an assisted living facility where she begs every day to go home.

Initially, the book just happened. I woke up one morning with a story in my head. But as I began to work on it, I used my family’s experiences to enrich the story and give it credibility.

Debra: In chapter one, we experience Reverend G’s response to her diagnosis. Her words are poignant as she seeks comfort in the Psalms and speaks of trusting God. There’s so much comfort and peace as she seeks God, yet here’s a heaviness, too. We know the severity of Alzheimer’s. But you don’t leave the reader in that heaviness. In one bright sentence you bring a smile to the reader and lift us out of the solemnness of that moment.

Hearing a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia is heartrending. What was your initial reaction to your mom’s diagnosis?

RJ: Truthfully, I didn’t react like a peaceful, wonderful Christian. I was mad! It seemed like such a cruel twist of fate that a woman who took care of her husband for ten years and prayed every day that she wouldn’t get any type of mind-altering disease – was now facing the worst. Although I believe strongly that God is sovereign and that He can use anything that happens to us for an ultimate good purpose, I’m still a bit angry about the whole situation. As any family member of an Alzheimer’s patient can tell you – it’s an incredibly sad and difficult diagnosis.

Debra: How have you adjusted to the changes?

RJ: Every week / day / month represents a change. As Mom regresses, then our reactions to her must change. We have to be incredibly creative and alert for how to deal with her. I now drive to Oklahoma about once a month, which is a five-hour trip and costly both in time lost at work and in gas money. Every week, I send Mom a card, usually something funny from the children’s cards. She loves the little animals. Every week, I call my sister who is the primary caregiver and hope to encourage her. I call my brother for his take on things, because he has a gift of wisdom. Then I hang up the phone and cry.

I have also talked at length to my son about my wishes for my last days, and I’ve documented everything in my will. The medical community, because of their Hippocratic Oath and their compassion, tries to do everything to keep people alive. I no longer think that is best either for the patient or for the families. So I have instructed my son that there will be no life-saving measures, no procedures, etc. The best way he can love me is to let me go.

Debra: That can’t have been an easy decision to arrive at. Has writing the book has helped you deal with your situation? Did it bring you any insights?

RJ: I’ve learned a great deal about dementia and Alzheimer’s, even more than I have observed with my family situation. When I visit Mom, I get ideas for new plots and new characters. When I do research, I learn things that help me deal with Mom. So it’s been a give and take situation. Plus, I’ve learned how important it is to somehow find the humor and keep laughing. That’s one reason why I’ve tried to include so many funny elements in the book.

On the positive side, I try to just enjoy every single day. Life is so incredibly fragile. I tell my son each night that I love him. I talk candidly to people about the importance of sharing love while you can. One of the saddest moments in my life was when my dad forgot who I was, and I know that moment will also come with Mom. I want my son to always know that somewhere in my soul – I still know him and love him.

That’s all for today. Return tomorrow for the second half of my interview with RJ Thesman and to learn more about The Unraveling of Reverend G.RJ also has some tips for caregivers to share. If you have a question for RJ, be sure to leave it in the comment or email it to the address above.

The Unraveling of Reverend G, published by CrossRiver Media Group, is available in both paperback and on Kindle. Put the title in the Amazon search box on this site and you’ll help support the ministry of Glory and Strength through our affiliate program with Amazon.

RJ ThesmanBIO: RJ Thesman has been a writer since she flipped open her Red Chief tablet and scribbled her first story. Thesman is a Biblical Counselor, a Stephen Minister and a Certified Christian Life Coach. She enjoys teaching writing workshops and helps beginning writers birth their words. She enjoys reading, gardening and cooking and lives in the heartland of Kansas with her son and an elderly cat.


The Sacrifice of Praise

by Kristi Bothur © 2012

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name." Hebrews 13:15

I learned this verse a long time ago and sang about it eagerly during worship times in college. I wondered sometimes about the phrase "sacrifice of praise" and assumed that being believers in Jesus, it was because we no longer need to make sacrificial offerings, but can simply give our praises to God.

It wasn't until several years ago, walking the road of the loss of our unborn daughter, that I began seeing that Bible verse in a different light. I saw how the very act of praise can be, not just a substitute for the Old Testament sacrifices, but an actual sacrifice itself.

Praising God is a sacrifice when it's the last thing you want to do because you're hurting from something that God could have prevented, but didn't.

Praise is a sacrifice when you are angry with God for allowing a painful trial in the life of a loved one.

Praise is a sacrifice when you are afraid to trust God with your future because of what happened in the past.

Praise is a sacrifice when tears are near the surface and joy feels hypocritical.

Praise is a sacrifice when we choose to trust God even when we don't understand Him.

Praise is a sacrifice when we do it because of what we know to be true about God - that He is good, and strong, and loving - in spite of our circumstances.

Praise is a sacrifice when our feelings - which are legitimate and honest and understandable and normal and human - do not dictate our worship.

Praise is a sacrifice when Jesus asks us, as he did His disciples, "You do not want to leave, too, do you?", and we answer, even through tears, as Peter did: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God" (Luke 6:67-69).

Praise is a sacrifice because it requires us to lay down our lives along with our feelings and desires and "rights" in order to sing out the praises of the One who laid His life down for us.

Are you unsure of your footing with God right now because of the circumstances of your life? Are you having a hard time as you approach this season of Thanksgiving? Tell Him that. Pour out your heart to Him. Then offer Him a sacrifice of praise in the midst of your uncertainty, speaking to yourself and others about His goodness and love.

Father, I don't feel like praising you right now. The songs we sing in church feel fake and hypocritical. Please help me. Show me what is true and unchanging about you and help me worship and praise you because of who you are in spite of my circumstances. I believe, Jesus. But help my unbelief. Amen.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristi Bothur is a pastor's wife, teacher, and mother of five - two on earth and three in heaven. She has a heart for other women who have experienced the loss of children during pregnancy or in early infancy, and she has a passion for sharing the truth of God's word in a way that makes sense in everyday life. She and her husband are the founders of "Naomi's Circle", a ministry for parents of babies in heaven ( You are welcome to contact her at Kristi lives in Columbia, South Carolina, with her husband, daughter, and son.

Living in the Light/Dwelling in His Presence

by Rhonda Rhea
excerpt from Chapter 14 of How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person? Rhonda Rhea

I admit it, I’m a cruise fan. I love everything about it. Especially the food. A cruise and overeating go together like a hand in glove. Well more accurately, they go together like a size ten hand in a size two glove. All the gourmet food you can eat, for crying out loud! I guess I was just asking for a trip back to maternity pants. I now refer to myself as “17 years post-partum.” The staff on the ship said the average person gains seven to ten pounds on a seven-day cruise. But then, I’ve always considered myself an overachiever.

On prime rib night, my husband and I were walking out of the dining room and, even though he was about to let his belt out a notch, Richie said he was thinking of ordering yet another prime rib. Another one! I figured that could cost him at least another two belt notches. I told him I thought that would be a mistake.

Get it? Prime rib? “Mis-steak”?

Anytime we’re going to overdo, though, it’s good to make sure we’re “overdoing” in all the right areas. First Thessalonians 4:1 talks about living right to please God and then it says, “Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more.” To do and to overdo. It’s an encouragement to keep growing. Not so much growing in the “bring on the elastic waistbands” kind of growth. But growing in maturity.

We grow as we seek to stay in the light, dwelling in the presence of the Lord, making sure our lives are for Him and all about Him. Our growth is not an option. It’s a command. Verse 7 in that same passage in 1 Thessalonians says, “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

Rejecting His instruction? Rejecting the Father Himself? Mistake of the highest order.

Growing in Him and dwelling in His presence results in a life in which growing “a notch or two” spiritually is a regular happening. The good kind of growth. And seeking that consistency in growth diligently.

There’s a lot at stake. Sometimes also a lot at steak.

Rhonda Rhea is a radio personality, humor columnist, conference/event speaker and author of eight books, including I’m Dreaming of Some White Chocolate, High Heels in High Places, and her newest, How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person? She is presently working on her ninth nonfiction book, scheduled to release in early 2013. Rhonda is a pastor’s wife and mother of five mostly grown children. She chuckles through the hubbub with pastor/hubby, Richie Rhea, near St. Louis in Troy, Missouri. Website:

About Rhonda's Latest Book:

RR bk cvrHow Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?—Bright Ideas for Delightful Transformation (New Hope Publishers, 2012). Author and speaker, Patsy Clairmont, calls the book “high voltage humor along with a biblical charge.”

In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays, “that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.” One version calls it “light” that will “flood your hearts.” God shines so much of His light through Scripture so that we can see—we can have understanding.

For every person longing for a change, for everyone who is getting weary in a grisly struggle to make a particular change, God-given enlightenment makes possible real change in every way. Lasting change.

The God who is powerful enough to create light, then create the sun—the God who keeps the sun blazing and the stars and moon reflecting—that same God is powerful enough, caring enough, and detail-minded enough to light our way. He wants to show us the path of change, and He longs to light the way for us in His magnificent plan for our lives.

How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person is a laugh-along-the-way journey into that light through God’s Word. His Word? Now there’s some enlightening! And I hear enlightening has even been known to strike twice in the same place.

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