Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent Fun 2016

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."  Oh how I LOVE Christmastime.  #1, my Lord and Savior's birth is celebrated with gusto for an entire month!!!  #2, the hope and love for a full season pours out from even the most unexpected places springing life which lights a path well into a new year.  #3 gift giving, I LOVE giving gifts for any reason or occasion and Christmas is my favorite.

Even now that all my children know who is eating the cookies and stuffing those socks, they (and I) relish the timeless tradition of waiting for Santa.  My Parable in Modern Form article touches on my heart in this matter.  Part of this tradition includes a count-down to Christmas, something I shared in depth about last year in the article here.  I prepared a new advent calendar for this year and thought of you, my faithful reader, in the event you might like to join me!  You can click on the image below to download and print.

There is a second page with directions included in the download.  Last year we colored the bells yellow as we did one activity a day.  We did not follow the list top-to-bottom, rather, we picked an activity we had the ability to do on each day.  We used stickers placed in each square of the calendar to count-down to Christmas. This advent calendar balances the holiday fun as a family with holiday fun in serving and thinking of others; something my family has come to look forward to most during advent each year!

Also in the article from last year, referenced above, is a link to a Bible advent I developed on our old ministry website.  Walk through scripture as you count down to the celebration of Jesus' birth!

I pray your Christmas season is full of Christ and hope and joy that comes in knowing a baby in a manger paved a path that we all might meet Him in heaven one day!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Forgiveness and a Path to Gratitude

There it was.  This GREAT BIG opportunity, a choice, to give grace or condemnation after a HUGE disappointment.  Not to mention, it was on the heals of a month filled with opportunities to express deep-heart forgiveness for others in our circle in moments when demands and expectations could have legitimately been made.  The crooked form sitting before me, afraid to look at me, expecting what was always expected and received from others in the form of ridicule and berating... my heart broke and gushed and the cross never felt so close as it did at that moment.


What I thought would be difficult to give, simply flowed out.  How could I not give it and spread it abundantly.  No wrong was so wrong that I couldn't.


The hardest simplest thing to do in our lives is to forgive, especially issued to the worst in a situation. Among the biggest most powerful concepts, right up there with love and grace.

As I look ahead, after a month of roller-coaster heartache and unbelievable travesty,  I can't help but see the tie between gratitude and forgiveness.  Like the blinding brightness of light when one has sat in dark, is the paramount of gratitude once forgiveness has been gifted and graced.

God through Paul commands:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
- Ephesians 4:32

Jesus himself provides a staunch warning which should make even the most devout, shutter and take stock:
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours. 
Matthew 6:14-15

How do we do this thing called forgiveness?  Don't we have every right to be hurt, to feel betrayed, to want to hold on and expect reconciliation or recompense?

Sure, but, didn't Jesus also?  He was lied to and about, he was betrayed, he was mistreated and deceived, he was beaten and tortured for crimes he did not commit and, ultimately, he died a gruesome and tortuous death he did not deserve.  His only response? 

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 
- Luke 23:34a 


So, what exactly has any one person done to me that I just can't forgive?  Um...... yeah, I can't think of a thing which deserves my time, energy, or heart to harbor.  Suddenly, forgiveness and grace become much easier.

I love how God puts it through Paul:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 
- Colossians 3:13-15

After forgiveness we get dressed!  We put on love and we let peace of Christ RULE and then?  Be thankful.

We may not be thankful that we were hurt or betrayed or let down or... pick your verb.  However, we can have gratitude in lessons learned, gratitude things weren't worse (they can always be worse), gratitude Christ teaches us grace and forgiveness, gratitude that we are just sojourners and this is not our home, gratitude that suffering and hurt will not last forever.  If you have put on love and LET the peace of Christ rule in your heart, you will find gratitude for something!

I pray, no matter what you are walking out today or may be walking out ahead, you will find deep-heart forgiveness for any and all actions which may have taken stabs at your heart and that in the practice of forgiveness, you find deep gratitude you can live in and walk out.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Dear Weary Christian

Dear Weary Christian,

Life is tough.

I know prosperity gospel preachers will tell you if you do "this" or act "that" way, God will bless you and it will all be great.

But that is just.not.true.

Look at Paul.  Sold out, turned around and laid out for Christ.  Yet, he was nearly stoned to death, beaten, persecuted, chased away, imprisoned and ultimately (it is presumed) executed.  He consistently referenced a "thorn", he had a hard time seeing, he spoke hard truths and lived with great abandon.  Many Christians quote Paul's words in Philippians 4:13 as a battle cry before they charge in to their own high hopes and desires from this life...

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. 

I despise that.

I have come to loathe the random quoting of this passage as Christians claim a share in glory and a right to do their will because "Christ will give them strength".  The greater truth is one verse before...

I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation—to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need.
- Philippians 4:12

Paul isn't saying, in verse 13, that he can do ALL things as he determines.  No, he is reflecting that through all of his ups and downs, it was Christ who strengthens and sustains.

Oh, dear, weary Christian, what a beaten path we walk.  One where persecution still runs rampant.  One where family turns on family.  One where darkness seems to close all around and the air grows thin.

But reach out, weary Christian,  reach out and feel.... you are not alone.  Many walk this path with you... or have gone before you on this beaten ground.  Christ is next to you... often carrying you... and your brothers and sisters in the faith are all about you.  When the darkness clears, you will see.  Weary Christian, you are not alone.  Jesus knew...

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  
John 15:18-19

These heavy burdens and dark places are a part of our walk in Jesus' footsteps.  He beat down that path before we ever did.  He knows our hearts and our worries and our troubles. Many times the hard truth is, He doesn't plan to remove them from us... instead, he uses them, uses the broken, fallen, state of this messy world to GROW us. 

I heard it said recently that you can't be brave without being afraid.  A hard, simple truth.  I have also observed over the years how you can't know how truly bright Light is, until you have experienced absolute dark.

Oh, dear, weary Christian.  My heart aches for your dark places right now.  I know, because of all the dark places I have walked, yes, I know.  But I would walk through those dark places again and again and again for all the powerful and wonderful things God has shown me and grown me in through them.  I believe with all my heart God will do this for you too.  Draw strength and comfort from Christ...

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 
- John 16:33

Be reminded and empowered by God's Word through Paul...

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
- Romans 5:3-5

...and don't give up.

Keep your eyes on the Cross and keep marching ahead.  No matter how dark the night gets, light will come and you, dear, weary Christian, you will claim VICTORY over the enemy and joy as the result of obedience.

I pray for you today, weary Christian, if this is you, be strong, have courage, believe Christ and not the mesh-up of the world (and even a few "well meaning" Christians) around.  And if this is not you right now, dear Christian, I trust it has been at some point.  I pray you will reach out to someone in your life right now who this is for, someone who needs to know this path has been beaten and the light will be magnificently bright when the darkness fades.