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.