Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Resolution to Truly Bless My Man

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

Even if I remain my single all  the days God has for me in this lifetime.

Certainly, you may be thinking that I have no business talking about marraige or may even have an idea what it takes to be married. But, even in my single state, I’ve learned that I need to seek answers and learn from my peers before I take that step…hopefully, sometime in the future.

Someone needs to ask the hard questions and we single women need to heed to the advice of those who have traveled down that road.

Questions like – Am I ready (or will I be ready) to fully and completely invest myself into that union (marriage)? How will I serve him? How will I esteem him? Build him up? Honor him? Am I or will I be ready to give the time and energy, the emotional effort and attention that would be required to keep myself contented and my husband satisfied even when I didn’t or don’t feel like it? How about when he doesn’t deserve it? Am I or will I be sure?

Have I even considered the selflessness that would be required of me to fulfill my husband and assist him in accomplishing the work God has put him on earth to do? Will I be ready to do this that honors God in a biblical way?

In reading the next section of The Resolution, I’ve rediscovered things that I know (and we all tend to forget). Men possess two great fears:

  • The fear of being found inadequate
  • The fear of being controlled by a woman

My brothers both deal with this…as they’ve ever so lovingly remind me. (I’ve seriously considered the thought that they’ve been given to me for practice…blessings as they are.)

They long to be the hero. They want to feel like they are worthwhile to us women and needed by us. Any husband longs to see a look of love and admiration in your eyes. He wants to know that you celebrate him, depend on him, feel privileged to be married to him, and expect great things from him.

Priscilla Shirer points out that in spite of man’s fear for inadequacy, we must remember that our husband is capable, honorable, and worthy of our attention and admiration. He is fulfilled when he senses that we believe in him. Take the steps to pray for him, root for him, assure him that he still has what it takes rather than cut him down.

We must remember that people are not defined by their imperfections. Men, in particular, were divinely wired to be leaders, fathers and providers. Granted, in this fallen world, the characteristics that make a man great are hard to come by.

Let me ask you this: What would a man do differently if he knew he couldn’t lose his wife’s love and respect, no matter what he did?

Shirer also reminds us that at Creation, we were all created equal; not one above the other value-wise. This addresses the man’s fear of being controlled by a woman. We both hold equal value, but we are not the same. His way of doing things is not wrong. It’s just different.

We women tend to complicate them. Men, as complex as they are, are simple and uncomplicated. They aren’t turned on by a demanding, screaming wife who doesn’t recognize their value and significance.

Men will never get over these fears without us woman. But with us…God created you to be a suitable helper (Genesis 2:18).

There is nothing happier (or more attractive) than a man who actually feels like one.

In the next section, Shirer points to Peter’s words in 1 Peter 3:1-5:

Wives…be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands. NIV

Gentle.

Quiet.

Gentle in this sense means to be humble, considerate, meek. It means being kind to our husbands the way we want them to be kind to us. (I can’t help but think of the phrase “Kill them with kindness”…it brings a small smile to my face).

Can I resolve to do that? Can you? Can you stop and think before you blurt our another criticism, whether you’re communicating kindness to him? If not, could you keep your opinion to yourself?

What are some ways that I could proactively express kindness toward my future spouse? Is there something that I could do, even as a single woman, that would show my desire to think of my husband’s need above my own?
This is something we all need to seek out.

Quiet. Meaning well-ordered (not silent), to lead a peaceable and discreet life, thus lightening the task of the one in authority…lightening the load of your husband.

This is how I, as a single woman, should approach marriage. I need to be asking myself how I can be a load-lifter and a burden lightener instead of a needy woman looking to be served, coddled, and made content by her man. That is what God calls me to do and it would be wise that I seek and heed this advice now, before I walk down the aisle.

Will I resolve to do this, not just for my sake, but for my husband’s? For God’s call on my life?

My heart resounds: YES!

Keeping Jesus at Your Center

In wrapping up my 25 days of Christmas, I would like to propose a thought to you all with the coming new year.

I, for one, do not make New Year’s resolutions. If I call it that, I never end up keeping them. I’m always in a constant state of bettering myself, wanting to excel in everything I do. I choose healthier eating options, go to the gym five days a week, do yoga, spend time with God, spend quality time with friends and family, become a better musician and writer…and the list goes on.

Most of us even end up re-prioritizing our priorities at the end of the year…saying that next year will be the year that we will keep Jesus in first place…leaving our lists looking more like this:

1. Jesus
2. Family, friends and others
3. Career
4. Volunteer
5. Music and writing
Etc…

This year, I’m choosing to not just have Jesus first, but keep Him in everything on that list.

Prioritizing the list that way seems to remove Jesus from the majority of your life and gives Him an  island all His own, making it a rather ineffective list when you get down to the grind of every day life. Jesus should be infused into every nook and cranny, rather than given a separate time or section of it.

After all, the scriptures repeatedly tell us that Jesus is first before and over everything; all things were created through and for Him; in Him all things hold together; the goal of the cross was to reconcile all things to Himself (Colossians 1:15-20).

Jesus is first.

First in order.

First in importance.

He is so because He is the center of everything.

That’s what He should be in your life. And consequently, the thing that is the center of your life will automatically be first in your life.

That priority list should instead look more like this:

Jesus in my family, friends and others.
Jesus in my career.
Jesus in my volunteering opportunities.
Jesus in my musicianship.
Jesus in my writing.

Jesus in in my everything.

This year, instead of worrying about putting Jesus first in your life, what if you concentrated on making Him the center of every area of your life? Not just the top priority in front of every other priority, but the top priority in every priority?

We’d probably be a lot more successful in actually keeping Jesus at the top spot on our list. And we’d be much more likely to do an exponentially greater job at accomplishing our other goals and maintaining our priorities.

That is my prayer for you, not only with the company year, but for your life. May He be the center of everything.

Week 42: Remember

“Remember, LORD, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old.” Psalm 25:6 (NIV)

I sometimes struggle to see how God’s Word applies to me and my life. You see, I’ve been waiting for what feels like forever. For a walk down “the” aisle. For a cradle and arms full of soft cooing. For hearts of loved ones to fully turn to Jesus or even to return to Him. (Some days: for my life to start, even though it already has.) For manna to rain from heaven.

The funny thing about waiting is it can be all-consuming. It inhales my attention, chews my focus and swallows my thoughts, leaving me in a place of uncertainty and doubt. I forget God’s power to fulfill my hopes for a husband, children and prayers answered.

Last night, I met with my Bible study girls. We’re a small group and we intend to keep it that way. Being small gives us the opportunity to be real with each other rather than hide behind our insecurities and intimidations. Being small gives us the freedom to really pray for each other and be involved in each other’s lives.

We’ve been walking through Beth Moore’s So Long Insecurity. That book has evoked more emotions than I care to review (happiness, agreement, disagreement, anger, self-loathing…even the whole you’re-wrong attitude). I’ve wanted to keep reading it. I’ve wanted to slam the cover shut, hopefully ripping it off, and toss it back on the shelf to collect dust. But these women won’t let that happen. We’re digging it through it, one painful thorn at a time, whether we want to face it or not.

And I’ve discovered: I’m. A. Mess.

But – that’s okay.

We’ve just completed the second chapter and that section alone removed the dust and cob webs from some pretty dark areas of my life; rooms I haven’t visited in years or even returned to after the fact. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid of not measuring up. I’m afraid of not being good enough; or even enough, for that matter. I don’t feel adequate or equipped for what God has in store for my part in His will. I don’t feel that I will ever measure up relationally/socially to the point that I’ll be ready to have the true desires of my heart finally met.

One of my girls pointed out a thought/stated a compliment that I hadn’t even thought of last night – perhaps God has kept me single all this time so that He can prepare the heart, mind and character of the man I will one day meet and marry so that he can stand by me in regards to my past, my family, and all the other junk this world throws our way.

I’m still struggling to find words.

I tend to forget…

…forget what God can do. Its then, when I can’t see how He’s going to bring these things to pass, I have to rely on His faithfulness in the past.

Remembering God’s faithfulness in other’s lives in Scripture, reminds us of His faithfulness in our own.

When the waters rise, you’ve waited long for rescue and you feel God’s forgotten, remember… Genesis 8:1*: But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

When dust and debris threaten to replace passions, dreams and callings and you feel God’s forgotten, remember… Genesis 9:15: I will remember my covenant between me and you.

When the pitter-patter of little feet is silent and you feel God’s forgotten, remember… Genesis 30:22: Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive.

When fear, worry, doubt and anxiety enslave and you feel God’s forgotten, remember… Exodus 2:23a, 24a, 25b: During that long period…The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out…God heard their groaning and he remembered… and was concerned about them.

When you can’t sleep and restlessness sets in, remember… Psalm 63:6-7: On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.

When guilt consumes and you fear God will never forget your sins, remember… Isaiah 43:25: I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

When all hope is lost, remember… Luke 24:6a-7: He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you…’The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’

When your marriage comes back from the brink of despair, remember… Deuteronomy 8:2: Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness.

When dreams come true and you’re thriving in your calling, remember… 1 Chronicles 16:12a, 15: Remember the wonders he has done… He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations…

Recalling these accounts in Scripture helps me remember His goodness in my own life. When I can’t see how He is moving on my behalf, I choose to remember that He promises to be just as present and faithful to me and you today as He was for others in the past.

When joy surrounds. When sorrow clobbers. When all’s right in our world. When the bottom drops out. When insecurities roar. When we feel loved and cherished. When we feel abandoned and alone, let’s remember… They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. (Psalm 78:35)

Remember times God has been faithful to you. Recount those out loud today.

Focus on the everyday miracles that remind us of God’s faithfulness like waking up and breathing.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been, Thou for ever will be
Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me. ~Thomas Chisolm

God’s Story is Your Story

Read Luke 1.

Why is Christmas such a magical time of year? I think its because everyone is expecting a miracle at Christmas. Consider all the popular movies. Each one has a miracle as it’s central plot. Whether it’s a boy hoping his parents get back together, a shop-owner hoping he can keep his business running, or a town who needs a new hero to help “save Christmas.”

You might be reading this and wishing for your own miracle this Christmas. It’s probably much smaller than what makes a holiday movie. But it no less important to you. 

Maybe you’re hoping our prodigal comes home. Maybe you’re wishing for a job. Some are yearning for a special someone to sit next to you by the fire. 

2,000 years ago, there was a couple who hoped for their own miracle. But like many, they had long given up on this dream. Zacharias and Elisabeth prayed for a child, but year after year, that prayer went unfulfilled. So, they gave up on the dream. 

But this couple didn’t give up on God. They stayed faithful. Then, one ordinary day, the extraordinary happened. Zacharias, a priest in Israel, was chosen to give the incense at the altar. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, a rare honor for such a common man. Then, as he performed this sacred duty, an angel of God appeared, breaking God’s 400-year silence with Israel. 

The angel told Zacharias that he and his wife, Elisabeth would have a son after all. He would have a special purpose an would prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus. 

This all sounded impossible to Zacharias. Not the miracle itself—that Jesus would come, that John would be the forerunner. Zacharias, as a believing Jew, knew the Scriptures and believed this. 

He just had a hard time thinking God could use silly old him. After all, he and his wife were well past the child-bearing age. But, true to His word, God performed this miracle in the lives of Zacharias and Elisabeth. You know the rest of the story. John the Baptist led revival in Israel and would later baptize Jesus Christ, the very son of God. 

But let’s focus on Zacharias and Elisabeth. They were faithful people in a time of unfaithfulness. And yet they had given up on the dream God had planted in their hearts—the dream of having a son. What’s interesting is that Zacharias had no problem with the big miracle: God sending a Son to be born of a virgin and be the Savior. It was the little miracle he had trouble with, the miracle in his own life. Even though God had done a similar thing in Sarah and Hannah and Rebekah and Rachel, Zacharias refused to believe his wife, Elisabeth could bear a child. 

He did something we often do. We believe in the big things of God—sending a son to be our Savior, Creation, Heaven—but when it comes to littler miracles, we limit Him. It’s as if we say, Yes, God can create the earth in six days, be born of a baby, and send us to Heaven, but He can’t possibly change me, fix a relationship, get me a job. 

And God’s answer is Yes I can. You see, the biggest miracle has already been done—Jesus. Everything else is small to God. 

So maybe today, like Zacharias, you’re letting God know that there is something too big for Him. Something even He can’t fix. 

And the story of Zacharias tells us that there is nothing too hard and that God is still in the business of doing miracles. Even in your own life. 

Embrace it.

A Resolution to Do Justice, Love Mercy and Walk Humbly with my God

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NASB

I’ve been searching throughout my near-27-year existence. I chose to follow Christ at the age of four while sitting on my mother’s lap reading a bed time story and since then I’ve been searching. What did it mean to be a Christian? I know I have a purpose and a place; what is it? Even as a young adult, I still have questions. What should I study that would make an impact in my world? What opportunities should I accept? Which direction should I pursue? Should I go back to school? And for what?

I want to be in His will, but I’m not sure what that looks like in my life. I want to be a part of something that will make an impact for His kingdom…not one I construct out of the temporary materials of this life. That doesn’t mean anything. That doesn’t leave a footprint.

Then I read the following questions:

 

What if the discolusure of His continued purposes for your life is at least partly dependent on your obedience to what He’s already set before you? What if He wants to see your level of faithfulness in responding to what you do know before He fills you in on what you don’t?

 

Micah 6:8 states that God has shown us.

This much I do know:

  1. Do justice.
  2. Love mercy.
  3. Walk humbly with my God.

Justice. A woman resolved to do justice doesn’t take advantage of people even if she has the means and opportunity to do so. She determines instead to act rightly – to pursue a just solution – to deliberately consider the best way people or circumstances could be served in a particular situation, even if at her own expense. Her primary interest is seeing justice done, seeking solutions that are fair, reasonable, objective and, most importantly, expressive of the love of Christ.

I want to be that type of woman.

Mercy. To “love mercy” means to have a hearty interest in doing things that bless and impact others’ lives. It means considering their needs above your own, not because they necessarily deserve it but simply because you “love” doing it for them.

That what God’s mercy looks like toward you and me. He has chosen to give what we don’t deserve. Like Christ, we should be willing to do gracious things for toherseven when their actions and past choices don’t necessarily warrant it.

Just because.

Humility. Combine justice and mercy. What do you get? Someone who walks humbly with their God. She continuously puts the needs of others first. Correctly assesses her own value. She doesn’t see herself too hihgy, of course, but not too lowly either. She just pursues the will of God daily, faithfully trusting that what He’s said and commanded of her is worth her doing her very best. And when He’s ready to share more, she’s ready to receive it and respond.

Wrap all three together and you get a full life.

So why am I still searching?

Is it because it messes with the American dream that our culture attempts to brainwash us in?

Am I concerned about being uncomfortable?

This is at the very heart of the gospel I claim to believe. It is what God requires of me. How can I say that I want to be a part of God’s will and ignore this very vital part?

Gary A. Haugen writes, “Christians…seem to have the amazing ability to say the most wonderful things without actually believing them…(i.e. blessed are the poor and humble; it’s better to give than to receive; just not, lest you be judged; love your neighbor as yourself, etc.)…and examining, one by one, how differently I would live my life if I actually believed such things. The sayings of Christ coexist passively in their minds, producing hardly any effect beyond what is cause by mere listening to words so amiable and bland.”

Challenging and true.

If we really believed the gospel that we’ve been called to live, don’t you that we would then live like it, even it meant dealing with the discomforts His commands may cause?

My heart burns.

Compassion is rising.

Who is God calling you to seek justice for? To show kindness toward?

The woman who lives under the overpass you see every day on your way to work.

The neighbor who’s soldier-husband recently came home wounded from war. She’s now a caregiver not only for her three young children but also for her disabled partner.

The teenager, pregnant for the second time, whos’ been ostracized by her family and really needs a shoulder to lean on.

All of these require time, energy and resources; gifts and extras that we may feel like we can’t give.

But know this…

If God births in you the compassion to help, He will also multiple in you the means to handle it.

Obeying Him is the key that unlocks that door.

Take each opportunity to know His will and do it without reservation.

Walk justly, mercifully and humbly with your God.

God’s Kingdom

He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end. -Luke 1:32-33

Christmas represents a beginning that only makes sense if we comprehend the end. The beginning is a child-a humble birth in an earthy stable. But the end… The end is an explosion of divine glory bright enough for the whole world to see-like the birth of new star. The end is a kingdom. Jesus came to forward the kingdom of God, to open people’s eyes to the power of God, to make it the central reality of their lives. “His kingdom will never end.”

Contrast this with King Herod, who sought to protect his kingdom by trying to eliminate any potential rival to his throne. What Herod didn’t understand was that by killing all the baby boys in Bethlehem, he was not protecting his kingdom, but showing its weakness and fearfulness. In the wake of God’s kingdom and power, all human power is simply water dribbling through cupped hands, no matter how steadfast the grasp.

The kingdom of Christ is different; it will never end. There is no rival to his authority, though unbelievers will always abound. There is no one sitting at the right hand of God except Christ. No other authority was present when the earth was created, and no other will be there when the final judgment comes.

Christmas is a celebration of the coming of a kingdom. Powerful. Life-changing. Overwhelming. Don’t ever think that Christmas is a way for us to wrap God up in a package, put a bow on it, and keep the whole thing under our control. A way for us to avoid God except for those extra-special religious seasons.

The first Christmas was the arrival of a king. Rulers from the east knew it, so they came to present gifts. King Herod knew it, which is why he ordered all the baby boys in Bethlehem to be killed. It is the Battle of Bethlehem, the beginning of a war in which the King of Kings is intent to take back territory that belonged to him all along, and to sweep people like us into a new benevolent kingdom.

Day 25: Keeping Christ

As I prepared for the holidays, I noticed something different this year. Retail stores always try to stock their stores with things they think will sell well. This year, they did something different. In years past, one could always find an aisle devoted to Nativity scenes, angels and things of that nature, including wrapping paper with words like Peace, Noel, et on them. Instead the shelves are stocked with color coordinated ornaments, colorful trees and LED lights. Wrapping paper has Santa and Frosty frolicking in the snow. What happened? Why are we taking Christ out of Christmas? Are we forgetting what Christmas is all about?

Christmas is not about the latest gaming system or the largest flat-screen TV ever made. Christmas is not about competing with your neighbor for the biggest and brightest light show on the block. It’s not even about colored trees, LED lights and coordinating ornaments. Christmas is about that baby in a manger. Christmas is not about the decorations, the food or the gifts. Christmas is about Christ, the ultimate gift of God’s love for all mankind.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17) (NIV)

Isaiah foretold about this baby long before He entered the world.

“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.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

It’s easy to forget that as we rush around during the holidays. Our schedules get so busy with holiday functions, church fellowships, office parties and school performances. There’s much to be done: shopping, cooking, baking, decorating, etc. Yet, no matter how busy the season gets, take time each and every day to stop, pray and meditate on God’s Word and the real reason for the season. Keep Christ in Christmas and may you keep Him all year long.

A Resolution to Care

Note to reader: The following is the result of further study, research and reflection after reading a portion of The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer, a book written upon the influence of the movie Courageous, which hit theaters nation-wide in September/October of 2011.

Look…! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days – you would not believe if you were told. Habakkuk 1:5 NASB

Have you ever wanted to turn away from a story pictured on the news? Or an episode of 48 hours? Or leave a classroom because the topic of the class did not jive with you? Made you uncomfortable? Or even turn off your Wednesday night run of Criminal Minds because of the horror displayed?

I have. Many times.

Let me ask you this: are you concerned with the hearts of those dear to you? How about the girl in the cubicle next to yours? Or the man who just lost his home to a fire? Or even a family member; a father; a mother? A sibling?

We live in a fallen world. We need to see pain to know that it’s real and to believe that God can do anything with a single touch or even you.

Shirer states that if God didn’t show us, our hearts would not be moved. If He simply told you what His plans were or how He was going to use you to solve them, you wouldn’t be able to grasp the full depth and height of the problem or what the touch of His supernatural care, kindness, and wisdom could accomplish through you. If He allowed you to turn your face away and remain unaware of the situation, you’d never know the outworking of compassion the Spirit of God is inviting and empowering you to experience.

God has decided to show us instead. He is preparing us to envision how stunning His work can be, even through ordinary people like you and me.

If we were truly concerned with helping others get to heaven, we’d better be equally concerned about the quality of their existence in the here and now.

I love the bridge to Hosanna by Hillsong; the part that goes like this: Break my heart for what breaks Yours :: Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause :: As I walk from earth into eternity.

The first time I heard those words, my heart fell to its knees. What kind of supernatural power are we choosing to avoid experiencing by not having a heart broken for the plights of those around us?

I needed to have a heart that was broken. We all do. We need to not only allow it to break, but ask God to break it. We need to be offended and heartsick over the same things that shatter His heart. We need to pray that He’ll break our hearts.

What example do we have? Jesus.

Scripture is full of the portrait of the Man who didn’t walk blindly down the dusty, ancient roads of His day, bypassing human devastation and need without a second glance. He paid close attention. He was moved with compassion. He stopped to care for those who were disenfranchised and distressed.

His heart was broken when He saw the hungry (Matthew 15:32).
…when He saw the sick (Matthew 14:14).
…when He saw the emotionally devastated (Luke 7:13, John 6:35).
…when He saw the lonely and spiritually lost (Matthew 9:36).

When He wasn’t extending compassion, He was talking about it. Showing mercy toward others was an important part of the gospel He came to offer. He didn’t turn a blind eye to people’s physical needs in order to get to the more important spiritual one.

He took His broken heart as a sign to do something; to act in accordance with the Father’s will.

He went.

He served.

He listened.

He healed.

Jesus didn’t just preach a gospel; He lived one.

He saved you for many reasons, but one of them is so that others can sense His compassion manifested toward them through you. Not just in words, but in action. You are His hands and feet – hands that are for more than writing personal checks, feet that are for more than walking to church aor to the mailbox so that someone else can be resourced to go.

Light is brightest against the backdrop of darkness. Be the light.

Diamonds are most brilliant against a backcloth of black velvet. Be the diamond.

Look. Again. Allow yourself to feel. Allow your heart to be broken.

Until what takes your breath away or breaks your heart is not the gravity of the problem but the power of God to heal it – one touch, one person at a time.

Day 24: God with Us

Emmanuel

God is with us—God came to us. What a staggering thought!

God is with us – the essence of the Christian faith and the Christian life. All other religious ideologies essentially tell you that you must do something: Do this, and you will find inner peace. . . . Do this, and you will reach nirvana. . . . Do this, and maybe you will make it to heaven. But Christianity says it is done—done for you at the Cross, paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Being a Christian is not merely following a creed; it is having Christ himself live in you and through you, giving you the strength to be the man or woman He has called you to be. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20) and “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

The message of Christmas is God with us. That is important to know, especially during those times when we are going through great difficulty. The psalmist said, “If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9–10). It is great to know that God is with you wherever you go.

The Bible never teaches that we will have problem-free lives as followers of Christ. But the Bible does teach that we never will be alone. And because of that, we don’t have to be afraid.

That is the message that this sin-sick world needs to hear: Immanuel—God is with us.

Who are we, that You would be mindful of us?
What d You see that’s worth looking our way?
We are free in ways that we never should be
Sweet release from the grip of these chains.

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing.

All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified
Emmanuel, God with us
My heart sings a brand new song
The debt is paid; these chains are gone
Emmanuel, God with us

Lord, You know our hearts don’t deserve Your glory
Still You show a love we cannot afford.

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary
Nevertheless, we lay it at Your feet

Day 23: Better to Give Than to Receive

Erma Bombeck, an American author and humorist, once said, “There’s nothing sadder than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” I’m sure that when she said that, she was thinking of the joy and wonder of a child opening presents on Christmas morning. I experienced such a Christmas in 1991.

It was the year I wanted a dollhouse for my Barbies to live in. My sister and I usually got similar gifts (a new doll each year) and we would play to our hearts’ content for hours afterwards, but out dolls didn’t have a place to live.

We made do by tipping chairs over and putting blankets over them, fort/tent style, and used our imaginations. Maybe they were on a safari!

That year, I asked my parents for dollhouse. I could barely hold my excitement for Christmas.

Christmas Eve, when my father finally came in from working outside, we got to open our gifts. I will never forget the giant gift with my sister’s and my name on it. The package was twice my size!

When our turn came, we both ripped the wrapping off, creating more of a mess than anything. Underneath was a two story dollhouse. The main level consisted of the living room and the dine-in kitchen. There were counter tops, cupboards that actually opened, a mock sink, door frames, miniature light fixtures, carpet and tile. One wall in the living room had a fireplace on it…granted it was one of those mural stickers that you could get at Hobby Lobby, but it gave the room a warm glow.

There was a set of stairs in the living room leading up to the second level where there were two bedrooms, both contained two different types of carpet. The roof actually had shingles and there was even a chimney. All it needed was our doll furniture and a little life!

I couldn’t wait to play with it and neither could my sister.

I’m sure Erma Bombeck was thinking of such precious moments when she made her comment. The wonder and joy doesn’t have to stop when we grow up. I still get that when I give. I don’t expect anything in return. I’d rather see the smile on a kid’s face or hear a thank you from the young woman struggling to make ends meet.

The wonder and joy I experienced when I found that dollhouse under the tree was a self-centered joy of having my dream fulfilled. There is nothing wrong with that. However, part of maturing is growing out of our self-centeredness. As we mature, we learn to rejoice with those around us and share their joy.

There is even greater joy and wonder to be the one that brings joy to others. I can imagine that my parents were overflowing as they watched me with that dollhouse. It really “is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). If we want more joy at Christmas, it’s amazingly simple. All we have to do is give more joy to others.

The late American newscaster Eric Sevareid seemed to understand our need to give to others. He said, “There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”

Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” (Luke 6:38). The truth applies all year long, but maybe Sevareid is right. Maybe it is a good thing we have one day a year that encourages us to practice it. Maybe seeing it prove true in December will encourage us to put it into practice all year long.

May your Christmas and New Year be filled with joy!