Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Ruby Christmas contest photo

If you've been reading A Ruby Christmas, you know the publisher is hosting a contest. Every day she's posted a picture to go with that day's chapter, with an altered photo on the author's page. Here's the altered version of today's photo. Go to A Ruby Christmas contest to see the original.

(Shhh. If you know Guatemala, you know this isn't the lake that Ruby visited, but we won't tell.)

La Posada

Today is my day. My chapter of A Ruby Christmas is out on the publisher's page. (See the bottom of this post for the link.) Ruby is traveling around the world, so of course, I sent her to my favorite country - Guatemala! In honor of her trip, I've asked my father, John Shackelford, if I could post a story he wrote about a posada we all saw while we lived there. Enjoy it.


We had spent the day shopping in the capital city, and didn't start that long drive home until late in the afternoon. As we descended from the high peaks of the cordillera about 9:00 P.M. we came into Totonicapán, a Mayan Village with cobblestone streets. It was nice to get away from the dusty dirt road for a little while, even though the stones were quite rough, but it meant we were getting closer to home. The kids were asleep in the back seat, but suddenly they were awakened by a large procession marching along the main street filled with people. The people were all dressed in their Mayan costumes and marching along very slowly carrying a statue of Mary and Joseph on their shoulders. Even with the windows closed against the cold mountain night air, we could hear their native drums made from hollow tree trunks and sheep skins. One man played his homemade bamboo flute. They chanted weird tunes developed over the centuries by their Mayan culture. A strange hollow sound, which is characteristic of the posada, was the clicking sound from the striking of a turtle shell.

Of course they didn't move over for a lonely car, for this was a very important occasion, so we just followed along. The posada consists of villagers carrying a statue of Joseph and Mary on their shoulders and chanting that they are looking for a place for the baby Jesus to be born. This religious custom is taken from the story of Jesus being born in a manger.

 And Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that while they were there the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 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 2:4-7 (KJV, italics added)

This is the setting for the posadas. The men carried a platform with the life size statues of the sacred couple, and called out at every home, "Does anyone have room for Joseph and Mary, a place where they can spend the night, where the baby Jesus can be born?" They stopped at several houses and asked, "Is there room for the baby Jesus here?" No one seemed to have a place for Him. After about 15 minutes, they arrived at a pre-selected home and the owners ran out and invited Joseph and Mary to come in. They had room in their home! Room for the parents of Jesus and a place for Jesus to be born. They invited those carrying the statues, as well as the whole crowd, into their home. We probably would have been welcome too, but didn't ask because we wanted to get home.

But that is when the whole event lost its sacred significance. The statues were placed in a dark corner with one lighted candle, no longer important and completely ignored. The table was set with tamales wrapped in banana leaves, which is a great delicacy and eaten with bread and coffee and replaces the regular menu of tortillas and black beans. Lots of festivities followed with heavy drinking and partying. The poor holy couple and their son Jesus were inconvenient and pushed off into a dark corner. It didn't take long for our children to comment that it didn't seem to them that there was any room for Jesus at that Posada.

Now the road had cleared and we were on our way. As we drove home, the chorus that we used to sing in Christian Endeavor came to our minds, and we sang it together as we drove off into the lonely night, "Into my heart, into my heart, come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in today, come in to stay, come into my heart, Lord Jesus."


You can read about Ruby's trip to Guatemala here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Babies at Christmas

When Zoey was two, her favorite of my Christmas ornaments was a large snow globe with the nativity scene inside it. It stood on a musical stand where camels rested after their long trip. The music box played “We Three Kings” and the camels rotated slowly underneath the globe. I placed it in the middle of the table where Zoey’s little hands couldn’t reach it, so she sat in a chair that brought her eyes up level with the camels and watched and listened. As soon as the music ran down she would laugh and say “again.” And again. And again. I thought there would never be anyone as precious as two year old Zoey.

Of course, three year old Zoey was just as precious – and she still is.

There’s something really special about having a baby around at Christmas. We often think that Christmas is for the children – the lights and music and presents and cookies . . . Or that all those things bring out the child in each of us. But Christmas is about a child too young to appreciate those things.

If you’re blessed, you’ve had an infant in your arms on Christmas. For me, it was a two month old niece. I felt her tiny body snuggle up to me, smelled her baby smell and saw her little mouth pucker. For a brief moment, I could picture my Creator like this. Really.

Okay. I couldn’t.

But God uses real life situations as metaphors to make His message clear. Holding a baby at Christmas was one for me. It was overwhelming to hold a tiny, helpless baby and consider that the Sovereign God gave up His glories in Heaven and was born like this baby into a helpless world.

I can’t grasp the enormity of it, but I am humbled by it. And just a little bit afraid.


Today Ruby goes to South Africa, where I had the privilege of holding a different niece, although it was closer to Easter than it was to Christmas. You can read her adventure in chapter eight here.

Meet the author, Debbie Roome.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Light Overcomes the Darkness

Today I welcome another of my fellow authors, Marji Laine:
In my chapter of A Ruby Christmas, Ruby visits Paris, “The City of Light.” You know light isn't seen very well unless it's surrounded by darkness. In fact, my favorite satellite pictures are the ones taken at night that show the countries lit up like a Christmas ornament. I think of them as a spiritual interpretation. Imagine each little pinpoint of light as a heart for God holding the flame of His Spirit. What would your “neighborhood” look like? Would your light shine bright and inspire others to light up? Would it attract those already glowing or does it barely flicker in the darkness surrounding it?

Spiritual Darkness can take many forms:

Self-Deception  This takes the form of the lie that everyone’s going to heaven because God loves us. Or  “I’m a Christian because I go down to the church on Sunday.” This is a particularly dangerous darkness because those who suffer from it have heard the Word of God. They just haven’t listened to what He says.

Apathy  This is another dangerous version of darkness. People who suffer from apathy might be willing to believe in God, but they don’t want to put any effort into living their lives for Him. Their likely response is, “Let me think about this for a little while.” (That’s a seed waiting to be smuggled off by some conniving bird!)

Hostility  This can be painful to the believer, but a person passionate about his opposition to God can become an amazing proclaimer of truth after realizing Christ’s love.

Ignorance  We suffer from more of this particular darkness in America than we realize. The people with this blindness have no idea of their malady and just wait for someone to enlighten them.

Religiosity  This darkness bears such bondage. Those chained in the shackles of this type of lifestyle are begging for the freedom that Christ offers, and they don’t even realize it.

What type of darkness do you see most often? What type did you or do you most suffer from? What can you do to dissolve it?

Marji is a homeschooling mom of 4 with the oldest working in the mission field in Africa. She spends her days transporting to and from volleyball, teaching writing classes at a local coop, and directing the children’s music program at her church. With decades of leading worship, directing and performing in theatre productions, and script-writing, Marji took the plunge to creating scintillating Christian romance and romantic suspense novels with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

You can read her chapter here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stupid Sheep

Every nativity scene has sheep in it, but, within the story, the sheep aren’t very important. On the other hand, the Shepherd is the main character, although no one knows Him as the Shepherd yet. But, if you’ll allow me to mix metaphors a bit, if Jesus is the Shepherd, we’re the sheep. And we do have a role in the story. We’re the recipients of the love and grace that sent the Shepherd.

The reason the Shepherd came was because the sheep were lost and needed a savior. When the Shepherd came, He searched for His lost sheep and called them by name. 

He found us. He saved us.

So when you look at your nativity scene this year, after you thank God for the Baby, remember that you’re in the story too. You’re that little lamb off on the side. You’re the recipient of the good news that brings great joy. 


This week, Ruby's search takes her outside of the United States. Enjoy.

Learn more about the author, Jennifer Fromke.
If you enjoy here writing (and of course you will), I recommend A Familiar Shore.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Angels Didn't Sing

I know what you’re thinking. “Of course the angels sang. Everyone sings about it.”

“Hark the herald angels sing”


“Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the plain”

I’m sorry to disillusion you, but the carols got it wrong. Look at what the scripture actually says:

Luke 2:13-14 “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

Yup. They said it, not sang it. This quote is from the New Living Translation, but all the others I checked also use saying, even the King James.

Okay, so the angels didn’t sing to the shepherds, but Isaiah and John saw them singing in heaven, didn’t they?

Nope. Both men saw angels praising God with the words, “holy, holy, holy.” But Isaiah heard them calling out to each other (Isaiah6:3) and John heard them say it (Revelation 4:8).

Maybe I’m right (and maybe I’m wrong – there must be a reason everyone thinks angels sing), but so what? Did I just ruin your Christmas with my pickiness about words?

Here’s what I think. There are lots and lots of occasions in the Bible where people sing, from Moses and Miriam to David to Paul and Silas. There are even people – not angels - singing in heaven (Revelation 5:8-10). So I think singing is one of God’s special gifts to people. I think it’s a very particular way He has given for us to praise Him. In fact, I think it’s one of the ways we’re made in His image.

I found one place in the Bible where God sings.

For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
Zephaniah 3:17(NLT)

This passage is talking about Israel’s rebellion against God and God’s redemption of His people. God celebrates His salvation by singing over His beloved. He’s singing over us. We are the ones He came to save. We are the ones He came to live among. We respond by singing with joy.

The angels aren’t singing, because they’re not the ones He came to save. We should be the ones singing.

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King.” 

Guess what Ruby Joy (isn't that appropriate?) finds in chapter five of the book.

You can meet the author, Jerusha Agen, here.