December 2023 Devotional: Celebration of God’s Promises

By Captain Felicia LeMar
Hilo Temple, HI
Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

In the book of Zephaniah, we find beautiful promises that are worth celebrating who we are in Christ. These beautiful promises are so needed for us today, especially in the world we live in. With the demands of our daily lives, we can become easily overwhelmed. We find ourselves juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, which leads us to find validation and love from the world around us. This leads us down a path filled with insecurities and hurt. But in Zephaniah 3:17, we can celebrate the promise of knowing God is with us, He takes delight in us, He no longer rebukes us, and He rejoices over us with singing.

The Lord God is With You

As we celebrate the birth of our loving Savior, we can be assured that God is with us every day of our lives. Matthew 1:23 says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). God’s presence is always with us and is a reminder of His love for us through the birth of His Son Jesus Christ. This means no matter where we go, God’s presence is with us always. In fact, God is already there and waiting for us! We learn this through Psalm 139:7-10.

Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

Knowing God is always present, provides us with comfort through our joys and sorrows. Through these times, He is celebrating us in our joys and comforting us in our sorrows. As Christians, we can be confident in knowing we are always in the presence of God.

God Delights in You

The Creator of the Universe takes delight in us. What an amazing thought! Our Heavenly Father sees us as His beloved daughters and takes delight in us. We are all unique in our own ways. No one in the whole entire world is exactly alike! Psalm 139:14 says, I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Sisters in Christ, when we are feeling unworthy, celebrate the promise of how God takes delight in each of us individually!

He Will No Longer Rebuke You

Our God is a gracious, loving Father. We see this through the birth and death of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was born to redeem us from the sin and brokenness in this world. Isaiah 9:6 says, For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We no longer live in the darkness of our past mistakes, failures, and sins. These no longer define us, and we can celebrate the freedom we have in Christ. We are daughters of God who are forgiven, redeemed, and made new.

Rejoice Over You with Singing
Our God rejoices over us with singing! The meaning of the phrase “rejoice over you” literally means “dance, skip, leap and spin around in joy.” He loves us so much, that it brings Him all the joy that we are His daughters. I imagine God rejoicing over us, just as the angels rejoiced over the birth of Jesus in the book of Luke. The angels sang praises to God, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14) Today, let’s celebrate God’s rejoicing over us as His beloved daughters.

Dear sisters in Christ, let this verse be celebrated and remain forever in our hearts as a beautiful reminder of God’s promises!

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Dear gracious heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word. We are so humbled by your love for us and how you take delight in us. We praise you for how amazing your love for us is, that you will no longer look at our past mistakes and failures, instead you rejoice over us with singing! Lord, we ask in our times of doubts, feelings of unworthiness, and uncertainties that we continue to praise you as our Mighty Warrior who comes to save us! We love you! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

December 2023 Bible Study: The Lamb Who Was Slain

By Captain Victoria Mercer
Kaneohe, HI Corps
Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division

Before reading the passage of Scripture, it is always important for us to look at the context of the whole book of Exodus. We should look at who wrote it, why did they write it, to whom did they wrote this for, any key themes in the book and what was the culture like back then. The reason we should do this is because it can be very easy for us to look at a Bible passage and try to relate to it from our current culture and our own understanding, when really, back then, culture was very different, and this will help us to see why God did what He did and how it can relate to us today.

Exodus was written by Moses, whom God used when He set the Israelites free from their long 400 years of slavery to the Egyptians. The audience that this was written for was the people of Israel, and it was written to record the events of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and their development as a nation. It was written in the desert during Israel’s wanderings (somewhere in the Sinai peninsula). The key theme we see is Redemption in the book of Exodus.

God sent Moses and Aaron (Moses’ brother) to speak to Pharaoh and for him to let God’s people go (anyone else thinking of the movie Prince of Egypt and the song? No…just me…haha). Pharaoh’s heart becomes hardened, and he refuses. He refuses not just once, not just twice, but nine times! One, that shows how hardened his heart was and two, it shows how many chances God gave him. There were nine plagues that hit Egypt before our passage: the plague of blood, the plague of frogs, the plague of gnats, the plague of flies, the plague of livestock, the plague of boils, the plague of hail, the plague of locusts and the plague of darkness. This is a good transition for us to read our passage of Scripture for this study.

Read Scripture: Exodus 12

What about Jesus
You may be wondering what the Passover has to do with Jesus being born (it is Christmas time after all). Also, what does it have to do with the spiritual discipline of celebration that we are talking about this month? It has so much to do with it!

Our God is so amazing! Before He created our world, He knew His amazing plan of redemption. During the time of the Exodus when God saved His people from slavery to the Egyptians, He knew His plan of ultimate redemption from our sin. All along, He orchestrated every detail. How did He do that with regards to the Passover? Passover was a Spring holiday that took place between March and April and was followed by the Unleavened Bread Feast and the First Fruits Feast (all took place three days within each other). The way the blood was placed on the door looked something like this:

Blood was placed at the top and the sides of the doors, sort of looking like the shape of the cross (hmmm…I sense a foreshadowing coming on!). Passover took place on a Friday and then the other two feasts took place on Saturday and Sunday. How does Jesus fit in with this? He was the Passover Lamb for us! He was perfect, God Himself, and He willingly chose to come and be fully human (tempted as we are yet He did not sin) and die a criminal’s death, taking on so much physical, mental, and emotional pain on our behalf. It doesn’t end there. He also took on the FULL wrath of God against the sin of the whole world! And, as someone wrote on the festivals of the Jews: “…the Passover pointed to the Messiah as our Passover Lamb whose blood would be shed for our sins. Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover, at the same time that the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening,” (Holy Land Site).

Now we see how Jesus fits in with Passover, but what about our theme for the month on the spiritual discipline of celebration? Where does that fit in with all of this? Simply put, our God is a God of Joy and Celebration. He is the One who created it! It was His idea all along. The people of Israel had many holidays and feasts they were told to celebrate, and they always did it in community. The focus of all of these was God Himself, whether that meant giving to others, remembering all He has done for them or sacrificing sin offerings for the wrongs they have done. In Nehemiah, when the walls were built and he was leading the third group out of captivity, Ezra read the Law of the Lord and the people starting mourning and grieving: “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” …Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” …Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the festival for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly,” (Nehemiah 8:9-10, 18 NIV).

In The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, a quote that really struck me was this: “The world is filled with reasons to be downcast. But deeper than sorrow thrums the unbroken pulse of God’s joy, a joy that will yet have its eternal day,” (29). Throughout God’s Word, we see how delightful His commands are, how He gives abundant life, to rejoice always, to always give thanks, and to praise the Lord. The more we dive into His Word, the more we get to know His character and who He really is and not just what we think we know about Him.

Other Passages to Read:
Some other passages to read and dive into that discusses more on the festivals and holidays, delighting in the Lord and His Word, and rejoicing are these (this is not a full list of all that there are): Leviticus 23, Deuteronomy 16, Psalm 48, 106, 119 and 150, Philippians 4:4-8, and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Christmas can be a hard time for some of us who have lost loved ones and has been a time of grieving. For any of you reading this who have lost someone you love dearly, I am so sorry for your loss and know that you are not alone. When we look Biblically, the people celebrated together and not alone and we see celebration happening regardless of circumstances, such as Paul when he wrote the letter Philippians and was in prison (the main theme throughout it was joy). Here are some questions for all of us to ponder:

  1. Where do I see the character of God in the Exodus 12 passage? What characteristics do I see?
  2. What was the importance of Passover to the people of Israel?
  3. Why was it so important for them to observe Passover annually?
  4. Why was celebration a community thing and not to be done alone? What does this say of God’s heart?
  5. How do I see true joy found throughout the passages discussed above?
    Now, some personal application questions to ponder:
  6. Is my focus on Christmas on God and all He has done and celebrating Him, or is it about something else?
  7. Why is it important to celebrate with others? What good would it do not only for my faith, but also my relationship with others?
  8. Has the true Christmas story of Christ coming become habit and routine, or do I see the how amazing it really is? (Something that may be helpful for this is not just looking at the passages from the New Testament about His birth, but also looking throughout the Bible to see the whole picture and all God orchestrated for Jesus to come at just the right time and just the right way).

I hope and pray this was helpful for those reading and that God uses it to give all of us a deeper love of Him and His Word, and a deeper gratitude for all He has done for us. God bless.

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December 2023 Craft: Holiday Centerpieces

By Major Jasiel Tumale
Guam Corps
Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division


  • Pinecone (Big)
  • Christmas ornaments
  • Clear bowl
  • Tea light
  • Glue Gun with glue sticks

1.           Glue the pinecone in a clear bowl.
2.           Decorate the pinecone with assorted Christmas ornaments.
3.           Turn on the tea light (battery operated).

Find Joy

By Major Beth Desplancke

Every morning when I walk into Territorial Headquarters to begin my workday, I am greeted with these words: “Find Joy.”

What a great reminder as I start each day. No matter what the day holds -meetings to attend, emails to read, reports to generate, people to talk to -whatever I encounter that day, I need to find joy in all that I do. I am going to be honest; some days it is easy to find joy in what I am doing, and other days, not so much.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, so the Christmas song proclaims, but often during this season of rejoicing, that isn’t always true. With all the holiday hustle and season stress, comes the blues of busyness and instead of being filled with joy, our hearts are more pulled toward the words of Ebenezer Scrooge, “Bah Humbug!”

Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior. The birth of our Savior isn’t just joy but GREAT joy! The angel declared to the shepherds on the night Jesus was born:

Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:10-11

The shepherds heard this announcement of a baby being born that will bring great joy to everyone, and of course they must go and see for themselves. They must consciously choose to leave their routine and go and find this baby that would bring great joy to all. After seeing the baby, they leave and must share their joy with others. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told (Luke 2:20).

Later, when the Wise Men were searching for the King of the Jews, they followed a star that led them to Jerusalem, and an encounter with King Herod. They learn of a prophecy that declares this king would be born in Bethlehem. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where they child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed (Matthew 2:9-10).

We all know that the Christmas season is busy: Christmas shopping, gift wrapping, kettles, nursing home visitations, food drives, Angel trees, preparing toys and food for families in need, parties, baking, decorating, cooking holiday dinners… the list is endless. In all the busyness, we can miss the opportunities to find joy.

How do you find joy in it all? It is a matter of choice! The shepherds and the wise men had to consciously seek out and find the joy. Yes, the calendar is full, and there are lots of activities taking place. Yes, some things are non-negotiable and must be done, but other things we can choose to say yes or no to.

Finding joy might mean saying no to something so you can have one evening at home a week, where you sit down with the family and enjoy a home-cooked meal or spend the evening baking or watching a Christmas movie.

Finding joy could mean saying no to buying things on credit and only spending what you can afford.

Finding joy may mean driving home the long way after a busy day just so you can enjoy the lights of a beautifully decorated neighborhood.

In the busyness of the season, I must plan joy breaks once a week. I usually enjoy iced drinks (which I normally consume faster) but I find joy going to a coffee shop, ordering a hot drink and sitting at a table and savoring each sip. As I slow down, I listen to some of my favorite Christmas carols, or simply enjoy reading a book for fun. After a chapter or two, or after I finished my hot drink, my joy is restored, and I am ready to face the rest of the activities and things that must be done.

In addition to the once-a-week joy breaks, when I find my attitude is in need of an adjustment, and I am not able to find joy in the moment, I close my office door and listen to a favorite Christmas Carol that brings a smile to my face. One of my favorites (I think the video is what makes me smile) is Born is the King (It’s Christmas) by Hillsong Worship. Another favorite of mine (not a Christmas song but is sure to put a smile on your face) is Joy by For King and Country.

In all of the busyness of this season, may we seek out and find the joy that comes through a child’s smile, a thank you for your service, or baking homemade goodies to bless someone else. Challenge yourself to find joy in each day. This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24 NLT).

May you have a joyous Christmas and a joy-filled New Year!

Territorial Project 2023-2024

Every year the women of The Salvation Army USA Western Territory are always so generous in raising money for our Territorial Project.  This year we are raising money for:

Nuuk, GreenlandGroup Participation Meetings & Weekend Camps for Women & Children
Ensenada, MexicoShelter for Victims of Violence
Las Vegas, NevadaSEEDS of Hope Anti-Trafficking Program for Women

Watch the Rooted in Christ video which gives details of our project.

Other resources for your use:

Download the video

English Territorial Project Brochure


English Logo

Spanish Logo

November 2023 Craft: Gratitude Cards

By Captain Jennifer Swain
Administrator of Program
San Diego, CA Adult Rehabilitation Program


  • 8.5x 11 watercolor paper
  • Crayola watercolor palette
  • Blue painters tape
  • “Thank you” stamp
  • Ink pad
  • Glass of water
  • Paper towel
  • Plastic tablecloth

*Most supplies can be purchased inexpensively at Amazon or the Dollar Tree!

How to…

Cover your surface with a plastic tablecloth to ensure paint does not get on your work surface. Cut watercolor paper in half (vertically or horizontally) then fold in half to give the look of a greeting card. Open paper and lay flat. Place a piece of painters tape along the folded seam to ensure paint does not bleed.

Pick a color from your color palette. This will be your focus color. Wet your brush and dip it in the color you’ve chosen. Once you’ve wet the paint, make three matching paint puddles on the inside of the lid. Rinse your brush and add a small amount of black to one of the color puddles. Rinse your brush again and add a lighter color of paint to one of the two remaining color puddles. At this point you should have three shades of paint.

Starting close to the painters tape, and using the darkest shade of color, brush the paint left to right. You’ll want cover about one-third of the card surface space. Without rinsing the paint start using the next lightest shade of paint on the middle third of the card. You will want to blend the colors together where they meet to create the effect of shading. The lightest color should be at the based of the card and be blended with the center color.

Allow the paint to dry, gently remove the painter tape, and then stamp with your “thank you”. Write a personal note inside and give to someone who blessed you! This kind of tangible gratitude blesses the one who receives, and the one who gives, it!

“In everything give thanks…”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 TLT

November 2023 Devotional: Live Simply – Remain Grateful

By Major Linnea Desplancke
Administrator for Program 
Canoga Park, CA Adult Rehabilitation Center

Live simply – Remain Grateful

I was walking by this shop, and this sign caught my eye. I stood there thinking about how true it is for us to live as simply as possible and more importantly, remain grateful. When ingratitude remains in our hearts, it is not possible for us to live a life of victory and serenity. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they were full of joy and gratitude to God for saving them from their captivity. But they consistently lost hope when the journey took too long, when Moses was on Mount Saini too long, and when they complained about the food God provided them. Not to mention, their shoes and clothing never wore out. One day Moses had enough of their complaining and said, “Quiet!” Moses replied. “Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?” (Exodus 17:2b)

So often we too complain to God about things and situations when something does not go our way. We question God asking where He is and why is He not answering our prayers. We start to think that we can take care of ourselves better than He can. Going back to the way we used to live seems like a good idea. But we are only fooling ourselves. Trying to do life without God will most certainly end in disaster. We will fall back into our old sins and many even start committing new ones. Failing to see the things in life God has given to us, makes us truly ungrateful. If we want to have gratitude in our lives, we need to let go of our ingratitude, ask forgiveness from God, and immediately start to look at the things God and others have done for and given us. Psalm 92:1-4 reminds us to give thanks to God and praise Him for all He has given us.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High. It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by the ten-stringed harp and the melody of the lyre. You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.

As far as living simply, this can more difficult. We fill our lives with stuff, spending exorbitant time on our electronic devices, and other things that distract or take away from time with our families and more importantly, God. We spend money we do not have trying to keep up with our neighbors or to get the latest gadget. It is hard to slow down, check out our lives, and see where we can live more simply. We can fill our boredom with reading the bible or in prayer. We can call up a friend or take a walk. Being grateful is a great way to live simply. When our hearts are full of gratitude, there is no room for living large. The Beatitudes say it simply, “God bless those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:5

You may be thinking, that’s easy for you to say. But once I was in a place in my life that my gratitude slowly slipped away. Before I knew it, I did not think God was working in my life at all and all I could see what He was not giving me and I was not getting what I wanted. This was a dark season for me. I was not a nice person to be around nor was I engaged in the ministry I have always loved. Like a bear with a sore tooth, I snarled and growled at anyone that dared cross my path. I started getting more involved with things, outside my ministry and family, that were not good and not helping me or others. Soon all I could see was what other people had that I did not, and this made me very angry. I started doubting my calling. Of course, my husband noticed this and asked me what was going on. I looked at my life and saw how far I had fallen from where I was meant to be. I did some soul searching with God and saw I had not been grateful for what He had done for me and given me. I also realized that my life was very worldly and that was a problem. So, I prayed, sought forgiveness and starting to live simply and grateful again. Since that point I am at peace, loving my ministry wholeheartedly, and full of fresh love and vigor for His people. Daily I remind myself to live simply and remain grateful. It is a whole new and fresh world for me.

In case you were wondering, I went back to the shop and brought that sign.

November 2023 Bible Study: Gratitude

By Major Kim Williams
Administrator for Program
Phoenix, AZ Adult Rehabilitation Center

Read Daniel 3:1-30 NIV

Question: How did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego show their faith and belief in the God they served?

How many times have you heard, “Have an attitude of gratitude?” Is that before or after morning coffee? Is it even possible to have gratitude in all situations? I have a friend that is now with the Lord, and she would give praise to God for the “Good, Bad, and Indifferent.”

It is so easy to praise the Lord when all is going your way. The coffee is perfect, the bills are paid, little Johnny got all A’s on his report card, and you just lost another 10 pounds on your diet. I don’t know whose life this might be, but it sure isn’t mine.

Mine is more like I set the coffee pot before going to bed but forgot to turn it on, little Johnny has detention and I gained 10 lbs. on the diet.

We can find it in our relationship with Jesus through the Holy Spirit to have a heart of gratitude when the good seasons seem to be in the distance and the bad is like a dreary cloud hanging over us for a season. You get bad news from the doctor, children are having difficulties, grandkids are being too exposed to worldly decay, the car breaks down, or you’re having personal relationship problems.

Is this the time we reflect and give thanks in all circumstances? Are we rejoicing always? What is our prayer life like at this time? (see 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Here is the thing – life is going to happen, the good, the bad, and the indifferent!

The Good News

No, the great news is that we have this amazing gift as followers of Christ, that in spite of the chaos, hurts, and thunderstorms of life, we can still be filled with gratitude and joy because of the abundant love God has for each one of us.

It is His mercy that God shows our broken selves and the grace that He pours into us is reason enough to dig deep in those valleys of life and be able to live with a heart of gratitude. When we take time to be mindful and see the amazing works of God, we can be prompted by the Holy Spirit to overflow with gratitude, joy, grace, and mercy.

Question: What can you do to begin the daily process of recognizing the goodness of God so you can life with a grateful heart during the good, the bad, and the indifferent?

Start a Gratitude Journal. Here are some ideas of what you can include:

  • Write your prayers of thanksgiving.
  • Contemplate the chorus, “Count your blessings, name them one by one and you will see what the Lord has done.”
  • Look up scripture about rejoicing, gratitude, mercy, joy, etc.
  • Read Galatians 5:22-23. What fruit of the Spirit is evident in your life? What fruit of the Spirit do you need more of right now?

Learning to live with sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading and embracing a life of gratitude in the good, the bad and the indifferent is not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. This is a gift and treasure from God that comes through His Son, Jesus, when we seek to follow Him and His word found in the Scripture.

We may not receive all the answers we want, the way we want them answered, but we can still be filled with a grateful heart through anything, if we have the same attitude as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had along with the confidence they had in God Almighty.

Daniel 3:14-18
And Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Question: Are we so firm in our relationship with Christ, that when the indifferent comes, we are able to enter the blazing furnace with gratitude, joy and confidence in who we are in Him?

We can have that attitude of gratitude because of our relationship with Christ.

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November 2023 Flourish Newsletter

We continue our series on being “Deeply Rooted in the Spiritual Disciplines.” For the month of November, we are focusing on the spiritual practice of Gratitude. In her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transforms Us, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun defines gratitude as, “a loving and thankful response toward God for His presence with us and within this world. Though “blessings” can move us into gratitude, it is not at the root of a thankful heart. Delight in God and His good will is the heartbeat of thankfulness.”

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.
1 Chronicles 16:8

Inside you will find a devotional, conversation starters, a prayer idea, a monthly Bible reading plan and other resources to help you incorporate the spiritual discipline of gratitude in your walk with Jesus.

Download this month’s issue: