Saturday, December 30, 2017

Getting Ready for 2018

This week we've been talking about prepping for our best New Year's yet. If you've been busy, tired from chasing kids home from school, had company for an extended stay, or just been needing sleep, you can catch up on what you've missed.

On Tuesday we talked about selecting our words for the year. You can read that post at The Power of Words.

On Wednesday we talked about getting our hearts right and asking God to show us what needs to be changed. You can read that post at Putting It On The Line.

On Thursday we talked about what worship is. You can read that post at A Life of Worship.

On Friday we talked about how to track our progress, a new perspective on when we fall short, and why our dependence on God must increase as we grow in Christ likeness. You can read that post at Tracking.

If you are looking for one of the resources I mentioned this week, they are here:

2018 Chronological Bible reading plan

One Word

Emily Ley weekly planner

New Year's Blessing

Friday, December 29, 2017


Okay, as we continue this New Year theme, the obvious question becomes how do we track our progress. Because the truth is, we are all still five-year-olds on the inside and we want sticker charts that aren't missing any stickers.

First, we have to address our imperfection. We can all seem to quote that His mercies are new every morning and desperately want the next day to dawn. We do something off-track early in the day, figure the day is lost, and just proceed down that same course until tomorrow comes. But what if we looked at morning differently? What if instead of thinking of it as 7:00 AM when the sun is rising, we look at morning as a figurative awakening to see.....oh, shouldn't have done that....and then start over, now.

Second, instead of looking for just for measurable progress, we have to look at what are typically called non-scale victories. If you are trying to lose weight, a non-scale victory is something that has nothing to do with the number on the digital display. It's hearing a comment about your appearnce, what you are about to consume, or knowing it's okay to eat dinner at 6:30 instead of 5:30 because timed eating is a prison, and moving forward not being bothered by it. In the instance of a life of worship, a non-scale victory might be not over-reacting when your two-foot tall budding artist decorates their play table with glitter or decides that a glue stick is the best adhesive to put a picture on the front of the fridge. Or maybe using less agressive words to the person in front of you that doesn't turn left when the arrow is green and leaves you stuck at the red-light. Again.

Third, for those of us who like to measure progress, we can do it in a more God-honoring way. At the end of every day, we could actually pray and ask God to show us where we did well and where we need more work. As a bonus for those who are really brave, we could even throw in the why do I do things like that and ask God to reveal what's in our hearts. As someone who has been asking that last question a lot, it has revealed so much more of how I perceive God and myself than anything else. And let me just say, when those long believed lies hit the light of day, you get hoppin' mad at the devil.

Fourth, we have to accept that the more we grow in Christ likeness, there has to be a proportionate increase in our absolute dependence on Him. He has to be the one that sustains it. Why? Because we get arrogant. A quick read of Deuteronomy 32 is enough to sober us up to our human condition. Israel had it all and then....grew fat and kicked, became heavy and sleek, abandoned the God who made them, rejected the Rock their Savior, made God jealous with foreign gods and angered Him with detestable idols. Think we don't do that? Guess again. God shows us His way, we think we can customize it, adjust it to our preferences, and end up exactly where we started or in a worse place than before. Comfort + Complacency = A recipe for disaster

Fifth, and most importantly, a life of worship is doing what God has called us to do individually. Yes there are mandates of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, but what your life of worship looks like and what my life of worship looks like are not going to match. Worship is about obedience. If we do what God is telling us to do, even when someone else thinks we should be doing something else, more, or less, we are living a life of worship. To allow the pressure of someone else's perception (or our own self-inflicted perception) of what obedience is supposed to look like in our lives, is to make them, or us,  the god we are trying to please. Sound harsh? It is. But as one who has lived this way for a long time and is really exhausted from it, I have to say it. I know I'm not the only one.

And here's the kicker. As we move through the New Year like this, the evidence of it will become blatantly obvious. How? We will see an increase of every blessing that truly, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, and faithfulness. When we walk in obedience with the Lord, the one thing that is sure to grow is our contentment with exactly where He has us.

My sincere prayer is that we will go into this New Year filled with the hope of all Jesus wants to do in our lives. We are made for so much more than we realize and are meant to have far reaching impacts. No, we probably won't see how the work of our hands prospers. But if we are doing what God asks, He will bless it and multiply it, even if we don't know how, when, where, or why. And honestly, that's what matters most. Let's move forward in worship because above all us, we know that He is good, faithful, and fully aware of what He is doing.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Life of Worship

The first time I heard someone talk about living a life of worship, I completely dismissed the thought because I had no idea what that meant. To be honest, I don't remember who I heard say it or when, but I can promise you it wasn't recently at all. Sadly, I didn't start to even remotely comprehend it until the past couple of weeks. What's worse, even though I've started to get it  as much as my limited human mind can, I've been delaying it. Why? Because New Year's is coming and my very fleshy tendency is to have a marked starting point so I can monitor my progress and growth from a given beginning. Pathetic, I know. But if I were the only one that did that, diets wouldn't never just start on a Monday.

So, despite our natural inclination to think that a life of worship only has to do with the music we listen and raise our hands to, worship is more about what that music ends up causing. A spark. Something that moves us to change, adjust, or alter our perception and way of doing things.

Worship is simply doing what God asks and tells us to do whether it makes sense or not. Worship is about putting what He says front and center and deciding that His name, fame, and glory are more important than our comfort, preference, or logic. Worship is all about trusting that God knows what He is doing even when it doesn't make sense to us and goes against the grain of all that we've known and been doing up to this point.

So, if our highest aim is to do things God's way, that means we have no choice but to read His word, listen for His voice, and act accordingly. That is worshp.

The problem is we have an obstacle: humanity.

See, just like I've said many times before, we like the idea of God telling someone else what we should do because we don't want to hear it for ourselves. We are more than fine to let pastors, leaders, and great teachers lay out the road before us. And it's not that they can't give us sound Biblical wisdom, but we are selling God way short of what He's capable of doing and telling us when He gets us alone.

Plus, when you consider what I mentioned yesterday about wanting to go on auto-pilot and cruise control, we are setting ourselves up for a disaster. Why? Because we would prefer to stay the same course we know rather than adjust because adjustment takes time, effort, and a huge learning curve. We really do like the idea of one and done.

But what if we were to plan our entrance to 2018 with a wildly different perspective? What if we went in knowing that we want everything we do, say, dream, or plan to only have one explanation: Soli deo gloria. To God alone be the glory. What if we truly sought Him and needed Him for everything we've ever dreamed of accomplishing and then proceeded with knowing that none of it can possibly happen without extreme dependence on Him? As Michelle Myers so eloquently puts it, if we can do it without God, it's not a goal, it's a given.

Just like I talked about One Word on Tuesday, this new year I am entering with one goal: That everything I do is filtered through God's design for my life. As scary as this is to admit, it's why I bought the planner I did. It's set up as daily, not weekly so that I can't plan a week at a time. I want to seek God first and foremost, trust that He will tell me how to fill in the time-slots, and allow Him to adjust as things need to be adjusted.

I'll be honest, it's freaking the hell out of me. Because in order for this to work, I have to be honest with God and myself about what my thoughts are so that He can prune and trim the things He says need to go. I have to acknowledge the way He has created me to know what causes me to thrive and what sucks the life out of me, and I have to be willing to let go of things that aren't necessarily bad.

But if we do this, if we truly seek a life that gives glory to God alone, how much could He use our lives to make a difference? And if we were to tell people that He really did plan out our days for us and we ended up less stressed and more ready to bless, wouldn't that speak volumes?

For some of us, this might end up meaning we stay the course we've been on. But it might also mean that we have peace with it instead of constantly planning all the things we'll do when the next season comes. For some of us it might mean some pretty radical changes. And either way, as long as it's the life God has created us to live, He will still be the only one to get the glory.

My prayer is that if we pursue this, even with the massive amounts of imperfection we are sure to include, that we will see God work miracles in our hearts and minds and the hearts and minds of those around us. And, as He continues to get glory despite where we may fall short, we'll not only realize it's worth it, but we'll begin to see just how much He truly cares for us even in what we consider the smallest acts of worship.


Daily Simplified Planner from Emily Ley

Picking One Word

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Putting It On The Line

When it comes to goal setting it's incredibly easy to get overwhelmed. We have so many things we want to do, dream of doing, stop doing. And when it comes to the motives behind those goals, things get even trickier. The reality is, we can sugarcoat anything we say we want to accomplish and say that we are doing it for the Lord, but He knows the depths of our hearts and what is really driving us to reach whatever benchmark we are setting for ourselves.

Personally, the majority of my goals have been selfish. Not that they wouldn't benefit others, but that they would benefit me the most and actually serve to decrease my need of God. And yet I wonder why they have remained elusive and unattainable.

I think it's quite possible that our goals gear us towards auto-pilot, cruise control Christianity. We want to figure out the problem, identify the solution, apply it, and never have to return to it. The problem is that the majority of areas in our lives where we desperately want the change are the exact same areas God has blessed us with as weaknesses to magnify our need of Him and His intervention.

Of course the only way to get to this point is that word we all love so much: Surrender. We have to be willing to lay down what we perceive as our rights in order for God to completely circumcise our hearts of the baggage that keeps weighing us down. And it's quite simple to pray a prayer of surrender. And it's even easier to say we believe the words we are sending up to heaven. What's not so easy is to actually do it.

But what if it's not really within our control? (Go figure.) What if it's more about God knowing that we do want things to be different but we don't actually know how to let go? What if instead of just a radical change, He truly is more interested in taking us through the process by which we decrease over time so that He can increase in proportionate amounts at the same time?

There are those who have amazing transformations in Jesus. People cured of addictions that turn into testimonies that are used to reach massive amounts of people for Jesus. But if we can name 2 of them, we can also name the dozens that are different from the time we met them in 5th grade to our 25th high school reunions. That is more the norm whether we like it or not.

The most encouraging (and yet frustrating) Scripture about this is Deuteronomy 30:6: The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendents so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. Talk about a blow to our participation. We simply can not circumcise our own hearts. Why? Because like Saul who decided not to annihilate everything even when he was told to, we'll leave remnants of what must be destroyed.

So if surrender is difficult and we can't perform the circumcisions we need on ourselves, what do we do?

Accept that the grace, mercy, and compassion of God really will come our way.

I've been thinking a lot about what this looks/feels like because of what I have been experiencing. It seems to me, that just like desire gives birth to sin, desire can also lead to life. We can actually get to the point where we are so sick of things, that the weight of God's glory and who He is starts to bend our knees for us. And while it might take a little while to be fully humbled, He takes us through this process gently because He wants us to genuinely change, not just modify our actions and thoughts temporarily. Essentially, who God is becomes so clear in our minds that our only optioin is to repsond in worship.

The hardest prayer I've ever prayed was given to me as a challenge a little while ago. It comes from Psalm 139. Verses 23 and 24 are a plea to God to search us, know our hearts, test us, and reveal our anxious thoughts. And then comes the invitation to see if there is anything offensive in us so that we can be led in the way everlasting. While I haven't consciously prayed this every day, I have prayed it on most. And let me tell you, this is a prayer God responds to. Even when the information is hard for us to hear.

However, I am finding that if we're willing to put it on the line like this, He will show us the areas He is trying to access that we keep putting no trespassing signs on. And if we will give God the all access pass He needs to truly redeem and restore us (stupid free-will), I believe we'll finally be able to wrap our heads around Paul's declaration of loss and gain.

Up next:

Tomorrow we're going to look at what worship really looks like and then be honest with ourselves about whether or not we've really been living a life of worship. My hope is that if we can start to wrap our heads around this now, and then progress through it in 2018, we will see God not only move in radical ways in our own lives, but we'll see how He uses our lives to impact those around us.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Power of Words

I know I'm not the only one who has started thinking about all the things they are going to start next Monday or stop forever next Sunday. There is something about the birth of Jesus that sparks a desire to change for the better. We think about new ways to eat, exercise, experience life, etc.

For a few years now, I have been trying to focus on one word for the year. Typically I start out pretty strong and then by the time Easter arrives or just after it passes, I lose all steam and motivation. I am not really sure why, but that seems to be my pattern. It's kind of like the school year. I'm really good until December, on top of keeping up with all the happenings and then by the time February 1st hits, I'm over it completely and start counting the days until summer break.

Anyway, if this is not something you have ever done, it's something to consider. And while you can just pick a word out of a hat or your dictionary, the best option is of course to listen for God to speak. As I shared the other day, my word for 2018 is breathe. (On a funny side note, in 2012 my word was healing. I thought it would be emotional healing more than anything else. And then by the end of February, I'd had abdominal surgery and my husband had knee surgery. We were off to a great start.)

Why breathe.....

1. I was considering a book purchase that I haven't made and while reading the first few pages, the author put forth that life begins in Genesis  when God puts breath into us. This was a spark.

2. Realizing His breath gives us life, I also know that without Him continually putting breath in our lungs, our life would not be sustained.

So now, through breath, God starts us and sustains us.

3. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we find that all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness so that the servant of God is equipped for every good work. (Just so you know, I believe whole heartedly that the teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training is meant to reach our own eyes and hearts first before we ever even think about pointing something out to someone else. #divineplankremoval)

4. Therefore, it is only through God's word that we can go from existing to actual living, because even though breathing might be an 'automatic' function of the body, breathing ≠ living.

5. Additionally, I have begun to wonder if when I feel overwhelmed it's because I am trying to catch my own breath instead of turning to God's Word to let Him put His breath fully in me, a kind of holy CPR. Why? Because Ezekiel 37:5 says, This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life, which can't happen unless I am constantly turning to His Word to let His breath enter my lungs, heart, and mind throughout the day, not for just an hour in the morning.(I think that last part is a misapplication of collecting our manna for the day before 7:00 AM and actually believing we can eat it all at once and be good until the next's supposed to be for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.)

If selecting a word for the year is not something you have ever heard of, done, or considered, you can learn more about the idea at My One Word.

Now, something I am doing new this year is reading through the Bible chronologically. What's so interesting about this is that if we do in fact select a word, going through the Bible chronologically, is going to give us our words from start to finish. If this sounds intriguing, you can download the plan I am using here. And I know some days have what seems like an overwhelming amount to read. My plan is to focus on reading through chronologically, not necessarily finishing it in exactly 365 days. I might, I might not. Either way, I am releasing my perfectionist tendancy on this. I can check the box for the day when it's done whether the date matches completion or not.

I hope you had an incredible Christmas filled with memories to cherish through the years. Now as we watch 2017 come to a close, I pray that the anticipation of what God will do before it ends and the mighty things we will witness in 2018 fill us with joy at the wonder of who Jesus is and why He came.

Friday, December 22, 2017


Do not have two differing weights in your bag - one heavy, one light. Do not have two
different measures in your house - one large, one small. You must have accurate and 
honest weigths and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God
is giving you. Deuteronomy 25:13-15

It is so often tempting to breeze by a verse like this and think it has no relevance today. I know of no one who carries weights around in their bag and I have never been in a position where I needed to measure something out that I would have used the wrong amount purposefully. I mean if someone needs to borrow a cup of sugar, I'm going to give them a cup of sugar. that the same way I measure out what really matters? The things like love, grace, forgiveness, mercy, compassion? Or do I do the exact opposite of what Moses prescribed when he said to show no partiality? Am I more willing to give grace to one over another or let an offense go based on who the offender was?

It's sometimes a little too easy to look around and think that God really does play favorites. But the truth is, just like the parable Jesus told, if you are forgiven a debt, a debt has been forgiven. And if one is bigger than the other, it doesn't really matter because both have received the same grace. The fact that one was perhaps a little, or maybe a lot, larger doesn't matter. Same God. Same action. Same result. Debt free living.

And the same is true for the baby that came for you, me, and everyone else on this earth. Regradless of how great our sins or the sins of another may seem in comparison, He came for one and He came for all. No one more than another. He loves us all the same but uniquely and reaches out into our hearts equally. We are all given the same invitation to turn to Him.

As we are what seems like moments away from celebrating the birth of our Savior, let's think of all the ways He has shown His great love for us over the past year, and then worship Him in the way He both deserves and is worthy. I pray that His peace fills our hearts to overflowing as He pours out equally on each of us.

Merry Christmas!

Take the time to unplug this weekend or catch up on posts
you might have missed since December 1. See you back here
on Tuesday, December 26.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Just Breathe

When the angel had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to 
one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which 
the Lord has told us about." So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph and the 
baby, who was lying in the manger. Luke 2:15-17 (emphasis mine)

A little over a week ago, I saw this meme posted on Facebook from Emily Ley.

While I smiled when I read it, I also realized the truth that was in it. Because that's exactly how I live my life. I move at warp speed from one thing to the next trying to get as much done in as short a time as possible so that I can rest when I am done. BUT, I am never done. Ever. Because when you're brain is moving ninety miles an hour, something else always comes up, shows up, or reappears.

Granted the shepherds that left to go see what the angel of the Lord had told them about the Messiah being born lived a very different life than you and me. But if we are honest with ourselves and one another, how quickly would we hurry off to see what we'd just been told?

Knowing myself as well as I do, I would:
~make sure the dirty dishes were taken care of
~make sure everything was unplugged that needed to be unplugged
~double check my purse to make sure I had house keys, car keys, my phone, and my wallet
~email my husband to let him know where I was going and how long I'd be gone
~check facebook one last time to make sure I didn't get a message from someone who needed a reply
~verify how close it is to school pickup time to know if I should take my book, ruler (b/c girlfriend does not believe in messy underlining) and a pen
~check the status of my library requests to see if I need to stop there when I am done
~make a cup of coffee or get my water bottle for the trip

And while it might be tempting to believe that if the angel of the Lord specifically spoke to me about something I needed to see that I wouldn't go through this list, these are the more likely scenarios:

A: I would go and be anxious the entire time about what was left undone
B: I would do a few things then go and still feel anxious because I delayed going
C: I would fight my flesh not to do anything and take just as long to get going

Laugh if you must because of the absurdity of it all. But that doesn't make any of it less true. And please, don't give me more credit than I truly deserve to think that in the moment I would respond exactly the way I should. Because I wouldn't. We don't suddenly become super spiritual in the moment and automatically do the right thing without a lot of practice an intentionality.

Yesterday I read a post in the swHw App about the reality of shepherds. Lowest of the low, not trusted, and often accused of thievary. And while I don't think anyone would assign those specific classifications to you or me, the reality is they were probably so desperate for the reality of the Savior to come knowing He was coming for people like them, they were more than willing to drop everything and run. And if anything, if we are running around like our hair is on fire, the mention of the Savior should put us in hyperdrive at warp speed to get to Him, too.

We can't make the next four days go faster than they will. But we can intentionally slow down, see what's in front of us, and be present in every moment that God may be speaking to us or through us. And let's realize that whenever we need to see that baby wrapped in clothes, lying in a manger, all we have to do is open our Bible and realize He is always there waiting with open arms to remind us that He came once and He'll be coming back again soon. 

Bonus Track
Jonny Diaz

Full Disclosure:

Yesterday morning, I got up at my normal 'insane' time. I read my Bible, did my workout, took a shower, got the kids breakfast, threw in two loads of laundry, ran to Target, Trader Joes, got air in my tires, and made it home by 9:10 AM to fold the clothes, put the groceries away and get to my neighbors by 9:20 AM. I can write about this, because it's how I live. And frankly, it's exhausting and something needs to give because my hair is getting singed and I'm starting to smell like smoke. As my word for 2017 has been GRACE, my word for 2018 is BREATHE. Because clearly, it's something I need to learn how to do.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wish List

I remember when I was little that I was always excited for Christmas. As I got older, the excitement remained but was about different things. It wasn't so much about the presents (although presents are great), it was about being with family, laughing, and making memories.

But the problem with experiencing a lot of Christmas's is how the table changes. The people that aren't there because now they celebrate Christmas in heaven or the geographical distance, weather, or work schedules that have become a barrier. And it's not that Christmas isn't wonderful, it's that what you want most, what matters most, isn't always a Christmas wish that can be granted.

When I was younger I would write down typical things....clothes, specific toys like a Cabbage Patch Doll (when they were the new hot toy circa 1983), and stickers. Stickers were all the rage when I was a kid. You collected them, traded them, scratched and sniffed them. And while I can still manage a Christmas list to give to my husband and kids to decide what I might unwrap, the real list is in my heart.

1. I wish that all people would know just how much Jesus loves them.

2. I wish that no one ever felt alone, helpless, or hopeless.

3. I wish that any time any person needed a hug, someone was there to hold them close and tell them it will be okay.

4. I wish that no one would say hurtful things that they think are harmless or funny.

5. I wish that everyone knew that the lies they believe about themselves were in no way true.

When Jesus was presented in the temple as a baby, a righteous and devout man named Simeon was there. He spoke these words to Mary: This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." (Luke 1:34-35)

And so my greatest prayer and wish this Christmas is that this baby will continually reveal what is in our hearts, heal what is not of Him, and cause us to rise up in His Name. He came to give us life, hope, and a future. May He pierce our souls to move us to do what He created us for.

Bonus Track
Amy Grant
Grown Up Chirstmas List

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


I don't even have words today. Sometimes you hear something before you put your head down to go to sleep that so shakes you to your core, you wake up with feelings you can't even describe. And in that case, you have a one best option. Jesus says Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. And because He came to this earth, we can do that at any time for any reason. Let's never forget that one of the greatest gifts He's given us is the gift of His constant presence where we have access to the comfort we so desperately need when the world doesn't make sense.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Q and A

In Saturday's post, I mentioned that I started a new practice of writing out questions for myself in a journal based on what I am reading whether it's in a book or in my Bible. Yesterday the questions were coming so fast my brain actually started to hurt. And not just because it was working hard but because the questions were pretty raw.

While I am not going to share them all because I believe they are going somewhere, I do want to share one. Now remember, even though this says you this is a question I wrote directed towards myself.

If you are always begging others to just make up their mind when a choice is involved,
why do you so adamantly resist seeking God's direction for your life and not let Him
make every decision that presents itself in yours?

There is nothing, nothing, I can not stand more than indecision. If I ask my better half (and he certainly is my better half) or my children a question where they must make a choice (like what do you want for dinner), all I want is an answer. And while I am thrilled that my opinion is sought on a semi-regular basis, I really don't want to be responsible for deciding what someone else is going to wear because they aren't sure what they want to wear. I have a hard enough time figuring that out for myself.

BUT.....the question I wrote for myself remains. If I am so averse to making decisions for others and I am exhausted from trying to make decisions for myself, why on earth do I so adamantly resist seeking God's direction for my life and allow Him to make every decision that presents itself? Because the truth is the way I answer that question reveals a lot about what is in my heart and what I most believe about myself and God. And a lot of my answers weren't really pretty and they certainly weren't super spiritual. And fyi, this doesn't just apply to the big things, this applies to the little things, because it's the little things that always seem to trip me up the most. Typically I don't trip over a boulder but can absolutely faceplant over a few pebbles that make me lose my footing.

As I was mulling this over last night, I kept thinking about the fact that the Messiah was prophesied to be called Wonderful Counselor. (On a side note ~ thank you to the amazing friend that got my text and told me where that verse was in Isaiah because I was going nuts without internet trying to find it. I knew it was in Isaiah but I swear it kept moving on me and with a 66 chapter scavenger hunt underway, I really thought I was going to lose my mind.)

If Jesus is really our Wonderful Counselor, and we were to acknowledge Him as such, what does that look like in a job description?

A quick google search says counselors offer guidance to people who are dealing with issues that affect their mental health and well being.

A little further searching reveals that a counselors strong sense of compassion and commitment to helping people are the most necessary qualities for a successful career as a counselor.

And finally many counselors approach their work holistically, using a "wellness" model (as opposed to an illness one) which highlights and encourage's clients strengths.

And this is where the palm of my hand ends up on my forehead.

If Jesus was prophesied to be the Wonderful Counselor, why would we not approach Him as such? I know why I don't. Quickly it's because I am afraid He's going to say something I don't want to hear. But that reason alone is enough to make a girl realize that she knows what's really going on in her heart and what the Spirit of God is leading her to discover about herself that she doesn't want to face.

Years ago there was an episode of Saturday Night Live where Phil Hartman played Jesus and Sally Field was praying about everything. And while Sally's desire to pray about every.little.thing (including not letting her rice burn) seems a bit over the top, the fact is, if we wanted Jesus' counsel on the best way to cook rice, He would give it. Because if it's something that is affecting us, He cares about it. Even rice.

We are one week from Christmas. One week from the celebration of the baby that would be called Wonderful Counselor. He's the one with a sign that always reads The Doctor Is In. And unlike Lucy, He doesn't charge a nickel for every office visit. (although that would be a welcome co-pay these days) Let's not take for granted that we can approach Him with everything, for everything. He wants to help, He has a a strong sense of compassion and commitment, and He wants to remind us of who we are in Him to help us grow in His likeness.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Thank God for Jesus

When we read our Bibles, it is so easy to want to skim over the things that just don't seem relevant to our lives today. Like most of Numbers and a good part of Leviticus. But regardless of whether the information seems slightly out of sync with our current reality, the principles are still there and they never stop applying.

It only takes a hot minute to realize that Jesus should never have been convicted of anything when you read Deuteronomy 19. Between a desperate search for false witnesses and what can only be described as incredibly biased judges, He couldn't have gotten a fair trial to save His life.....literally or figuratively. But He knew that would happen and He came anyway. Why? Because He loves you and He loves me just that much.

But what's so interesting is that the words of Deuteronomy 19:15 are words that we ignore. Repeatedly. And we do the exact opposite of what they declare constantly.

One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime 
or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established 
by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 

And by the way, I am not talking about gossip, idle chatter, or the whispers that circulate a room faster than the smell of burnt popcorn. I'm talking about the voice in our head. The one that has us in a jail cell before we can even defend ourselves.

When I started reading She Is Free by Andi Andrew earlier this week, I began a new practice. I read, I underline, but now I take notes, write out my little truth bombs (which pretty much always blow up my life), and write out questions to God knowing that when the time is right, He will answer them. 

Two truth bombs from earlier this week include:

The truth that I believe is evident by the choices that I make and is manifested by the fruit my life produces.

What I most believe in my mind results from the words I speak to myself which originate and overflow from my heart. 

Yep, those were fun.

But then the other day while I was doing my workout, I really started mulling those things over while I was listening to a playlist created by Stacey Thacker on Spotify that correlates with her book Is Jesus Worth It? When I was done, I wrote this:

The lies and perceptions I accepted as truth led to decisions that put on the altar of sacrifice my dignity, self-respect, character, integrity, worth, and value. All of this was done seeking what I wanted and was willing to try to keep regardless of the cost. However, what I was trying to attain, retain, and maintain was still a knock off version of the designer original unconditional love and acceptance of God.

And that my friends, sums up my late teens to early twenties.

The fact is, we ignore Deuteronomy 19:15 because we take what we see about ourselves from our own perspective as Gospel truth. But the Gospel truth is that Jesus didn't come to condemn us, He came to save us. That tiny little baby, left His heavenly home to be born of a woman and die on a cross so that we would stop being our own worst enemy and the biased judge and tainted witness in our own lives. As much as we might have a propensity to act like the pharisees, saducees, and keepers of the law towards others, we are the absolute worst of those to the person we see in the mirror.

It is December 16th and Christmas is coming in nine days. Nine. And I pray that between now and then, we will start to realize just what the birth of Jesus means for us as individuals. Yes, we absolutely need to focus on what it means for the world and our purpose on this earth, but unless we truly, really, and deeply fall madly in love with Him for what He's done for us, we can not give the world what we don't have for ourselves. Can we wake up Christmas morning and with absolute conviction declare I know You came for me and that I alone would have been enough reason.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Way in a Manger

We know that hope does not disappoint. The question is do we believe it.

When push comes to shove, and things are hard, and we don't know when they are going to change, and we are done, over it, and absolutely desperate for it to be different, do we believe that our hope will not be disappointed in the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. And if we aren't absolutely convinced that it won't be, what do we do.

We talk so much about taking all of our cares, anxieties, worries, and fears to the foot of the cross and laying them down. Why? Because we know the cross wasn't the end of the story. Despite death and burial, Jesus didn't remain in a tomb. 

But what if we took a slightly different approach and took all of those same things to the manger. To the place where it all began. It seems kind of strange in a way to give every thing that is weighing us down, making our heads pound and muscles ache from tension to a baby. I mean a baby can't feed itself, give itself a bath, or give us wise counsel on what we are supposed to do. Babies are completely and totally dependent on their care givers. 

But maybe that's the point. Maybe that's the first lesson a baby can teach us.

A baby in a manger can teach us that God will give us the perfect people in our lives to help us along the way.

A baby in a manger can teach us that we are best able to flourish when we are not dependent on ourselves.

A baby in a manger can teach us that despite what is working against us, as long as God is on His throne, nothing can thwart His plans.

A baby in a manger can teach us that sometimes the best thing we can do is allow ourselves to be held when all we want to do is run and hide.

And a baby in a manger can teach us that in time, at the proper time, we will see evidence of growth.

There just seems to be something about this time of year that not only fills us with incredible hope, but also reminds us of our unmistakable humanity. The humanity that says we really can't do it all, that humbles us enough to remember our foucs can easily be on the wrong things that seem like the right things, and that we are in desperate need of rescue, mostly from ourselves. Yes, we need to lay things down at the foot of the cross, but before we do that, let's start at the manger and joyfully declare Hallelujah, Light has come, a Savior who will set us free, a promise for those who believe.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Like Mary

True Story: Almost every day I manage to look at a clock, whether it's the one on my living room wall, the one in the car, on the stovetop, microwave, or in a store, at 9:11. Mostly AM, sometimes PM. When this started I just thought it was funny. Then I thought that I would look to see what Psalm 9:11 says on a whim. It says: Sing the praises of the Lord, enthroned in Zion; proclaim among the nations what He has done.

Throughout the year, I have periodically written about the things that God has done because I am all about giving credit where credit is due. But in the midst of Advent and reading the accounts of the birth of Christ and the events leading up to it in the Gospels, I never once considered adopting Mary's philosphy that from now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me. Why? Because I'm not Mary and I certainly didn't participate in a miraculous birth. Or did I?

Did I by the grace of God become a mom and have I been blessed to be called mom by them since 2003 and 2005? Yes.

Has God done great and wonderous things for me that I would have not expected and certainly didn't deserve? Something like a surgery that put my mind at ease before I had to go back on a medicine I don't particularly like? Absolutely.

Should I be considered blessed? Without a doubt. And so should you.

It's easy to look at someone like Mary and her calling to carry Jesus and elevate her to a level that puts her above us in the heirarchy of people. Heck, it's tempting to do that with the female spiritual giants of our day. (Y'all now how I love Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Rebekah Lyons, Holley Gerth, Bianca Olthoff, and Ann Voskamp just to name a few.)  But the reality is they are no better than us, and we are no better than them. God made each of us uniquely and He has done incredible things for all of us.

And truthfully, if we aren't talking about what God has done for us, how can others have permission to see and tell what God has done for them? Why do we minimize what has happened? Do we think it wasn't that big of a deal? Do we attribute it to our hard work or determination? Do we think it makes us sound prideful? Talking about what God has done not only increases our faith and the faith of others because faith comes by hearing, but also acknowledges to our hearts and minds that God is mindful of us and our circumstances. And I'm pretty sure we all need that reminder.

So here's the challenge. If we were to sit down over the next several days (or perhaps on Sunday which might be a really good day to do it), how many things could we list in the past year that God has done for us? Think of all He has taught us, all He has revealed to us, all the ways He has lead us, every circumstance He changed for us, the surprises, unexpected periods of rest, blessed subtractions, and so much more.

As women, we are so much more like Mary than we think. And like her, we can stake our claim on being labeled blessed because God has been mindful of us. As Chrsitmas is quickly approaching, let's really begin to magnify the Lord and fully engage as our spirits rejoice in God our Savior. It will be worth it. I promise.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Guilt 101

When I got pregnant with our son, it was shortly after what was called a 'chemical pregnancy' that didn't take. I knew I was pregnant for all of 24 hours but was still devastated when I found out that I wasn't really pregnant. Not that we had been trying for years or anything, I just so badly wanted to be a mom and it wasn't happening at that moment.

When I got pregnant a couple months later, I was on top of the world. I enjoyed every moment, every craving, and thankfully very minimal morning sickness or aversions. And if you ever wonder about the incredible grace of God, I couldn't stand coffee when I was pregnant. The girl who can consume cup after cup was free from any type of longing for something she couldn't have.

I often joke that cows were sacrificed for me....both male and female alike. I could have kept the beef and dairy industry going myself. I wanted steak and burgers and consumed obnoxious amounts of milk.....among many other things. Just ask the people I worked with. The joke was you had to get to the potluck before me.

Ninety pounds of love later, I delivered (well he was removed surgically). And he was perfect. Minus a small bit of jaundice. And then it started....a downward spiral that I am still working to climb up.

I blamed myself. If I had eaten healthier, exercised more, gained less, rested more often, etc. It was completely and totally all my fault that my baby had to come home wrapped up in a light blanket that my dad said made him look like a gloworm. Remember those?

I think it took half a second to go into a complete hormonally charged crying fit over what I had done to my baby. Needless to say, 14 years later he is healthy, strong, and perfect. At least from my perspective.

The point is, as women, we question so much of what we do, is it good enough....was it enough....does it even matter.....could I have done more......did it have make a difference? And believe me, even now those questions rattle around in my head and heart. And they go far beyond motherhood to every friendship, endeavor, and dream that turned out to be an epic fail.

And while I don't think guilt is anything new to women in general (remember Eve?), there is no evidence in Scripture that Mary felt guilty about anything. After giving birth to Jesus, she used what was available....cloths and a manger. There is nothing that suggests that she was shamelessly berating herself for not being more prepared with supplies. 

When the shepherds spoke the words they did to her about what had been told to them, she treasured them up and pondered them in her heart. No mention of hating herself for not having the baby book ready to go to record everything so that she'd have a record for Him when He turned married....or became a father Himself. (you know what I mean)

And when He got lost as they traveled back from the Festival of Passover, she simply said they were anxiously searching for Him, not that she was the most irresponsible mother of all time that she couldn't even manage to make sure her child was within arms reach at all times.

The point is, like Mary, we can rely on the grace of God to give us what we need. Whether it's cloths and a manger, the ability to remember, or the realization that something is missing and the ability to find it, God's grace reminds us that we aren't perfect and we don't need to be. We might expect ourselves to be, but we certainly don't need to be.

This Christmas, let's diligently seek to trust that even though we might be inclined to believe we didn't find the perfect gift, prepare a gourmet meal, or even decorate enough, that God has chosen each of us in the time and space we occupy to be the perfect person to be around those with whom we spend our time.  Let's choose to believe that because Jesus came, we are now, and always have been, enough.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Go and Tell

If we were told by a friend that they had driven by the most astounding display of Christmas lights in a nearby neigborhood, would we go to see it?

If we were told by a co-worker that they had been in a store that had a display of a manger scene that took their breath away, would we take the detour to behold it?

And if we were told by a neighbor about a song they'd heard sung at church that overwhelmed them with the truth of Jesus, would we search itunes to listen to it?

On the night of Jesus' birth, the shepherds were out among their flocks and of all things, an angel appears to them and says: "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. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Unlike us with busy, over-committed schedules hoping someone will post a picture or link on facebook, instagram, or twitter, they decided to go and see what they had been told about. It would have been easy to just assume the information they had been given was true because well, an angel appeared and told them and shortly after a company of heavenly host appeared and broke into song. But still they chose to leave their current location to find what they were told they would. And find Him they did.

This deposit of faith was returned with interest and caused them to return glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. And I can't help but wonder how often we do this.

When God speaks to us through His Word and we then find what He says to be true, who are we telling? When God shows us something about Himself through the ordinary things of our days, who are we encouraging with our experience? And when God opens our eyes, removing the veil over what has blinded us, how many people are we showing our freedom to?

These shepherds could have easily taken the angels words as truth and stayed put but they didn't. Something compelled them to seek it out and see it for themselves. But once they did, they didn't keep it to themselves. They couldn't because it was too much to hold inside.

I am not saying we should drive around with a bullhorn in hand shouting out our car windows while stuck in traffic or that we should position ourselves in the center of the busiest shopping centers in our towns unless God would truly compel us to do so. But I am saying we need to start talking about what God has done, what He has showed us, and what His love has done in our lives. Jesus isn't meant to be like the best kept secret ingredient of grandma's homemade chocolate chip cookies that's a guarded family secret. He's meant to be known, deeply and personally by us, and then shared with everyone we know.

Chris Tomlin featuring Lauren Daigle

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Mother's Heart

The last words the angel said to Mary before he left were, "For no word from God will ever fail." I can't help but wonder if Mary had heard Joshua 21:45 echoing in her mind as those words were spoken: "Not one of all the Lord's good promises to Israel failed;  every one was fulfilled." And I can't help but think that at some point, she started asking a lot of questions.

There is a joke among mom's about the abilities of the CIA and FBI. Nothing that shed's a negative light on their duties or job descriptions, but that if it were run by mom's.....and I do mean just average every day mom's.....we could totally handle the job. Why? Because hands down, we can do the most excellent research on any 'thing' or any 'one' that we feel might pose even the slightest threat to our children.

Granted Mary did not have access to google search engines while she was pregnant. But there is a part of me that wonders once she agreed if she started asking questions about everything that was prophesied about the Messiah once she had consented to God's request. And while I am reasonably certain she never regretted her decision, there is a part of me that absolutely believes she had moments of doubt and possibly even moment she hoped a first time was approaching.

I can not imagine the anguish she felt upon discovering the words of Isaiah, "But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed." As a (slightly) recovering helicopter mom, the thought of knowing something painful or frightening is in the future of my children terrifies me. I know I can not protect them from every wound, every harsh word, and every disappointment. But just think what that would have been like for Mary once she fully grasped what was in her child's future.

Did she begin to realize what it all meant when He was in the temple teaching at twelve? Was she hopeful when He reached twenty-one and nothing ground shattering had happened yet? When the first miracle was performed did she get a bit nervous? And what was her response when she heard the chatter and rumors of the religious leaders determination to stop Him?

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can prepare a mother's heart for the pain her child will endure, whether it is experienced through choices of their own or the consequences of actions of those around them. And I can only surmise that she might have had a verbal tirade at one point in time or another that Jesus stepped in and calmed her fears much like He calmed Peter down after he drew his sword to defend Jesus from those coming to arrest Him. Did He look in her eyes? Did the tone of His voice soothe the weariness in her soul at the thought of His pain? Did He just simply say, "I promise that even though you don't understand, I know what I am doing and it is for your benefit and the benefit of all."

None of these questions are answered for us in Scripture. But in the wonder of the miracle that happened all those years ago, it's difficult not to speculate from a mom's perspective what this might have felt like for her.

We will never be able to wrap our mind around what Mary endured during her pregnancy, those first days with a newborn, or what it was like when Jesus finally passed her in height. But we can take courage from the road she has walked ahead of us and intentionally invest ourselves in the opportunities God puts in our lives that call us to sacrifice pieces of our heart for the sake of others, whether we have given birth to them or not. 

As Christmas approaches at what seems like the speed of light, let's not forget that those last words spoken to Mary, while at one point must have felt like the weight of the world, lifted that same weight off her shoulders and on to Jesus. And let's wait in joyful anticipation to arrive at Christmas morning knowing that He came to fulfill all the promises that have been spoken to us as well.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

In Her Heart

There are people we learn lessons from that stick with us throughout our lives. Granted some of them are defintely better than others, and a few we probably need to unlearn, but I would venture to say that the good ones are in the majority.

At this time of year it's easier to read the Christmas story with a bit more intention, seeking to find new and previously undiscovered truths. And much to my amusement, the other day on K-LOVE they were talking about the questions we would ask Mary given a chance. I had to laugh because I thought a lot about that this week. Made me want to call and mention my cravings and labor pain ponderings.

However, there is a lesson we can learn from Mary that we can put into practice and were actually called to put into practice from Moses. In Deuteronomy 4:9 Moses says ~ Only be careful, watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. (emphasis mine)

Did Mary know this? I think so. Why? Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

My question is do we do this? I mean really do this. My fear is that the answer is no. Maybe not always, 100% of the time no, but enough of the time that it matters.

As Christians, we know that two things we are supposed to do are read our Bibles and pray. But if all we are doing is reading our Bibles and praying, are we making the time and space God needs to show us what He wants us to know or are we on a time limit to get to the next thing on our checklist?

I'm not talking about spending uninterrupted hours lavishly pouring over God's Word (that would be lovely though). I'm talking about reading and stopping reading when we get to something that we know God is trying to tell us and spending some time on it rather than finishing our assigned reading for the day. Don't get me wrong, I am all for a good reading plan, but I am also realizing that we have to be flexible with the timeframe. We can't be afraid of getting behind at the cost of missing what God would like us to treasure up and ponder in our hearts.

In Unseen, Sara Hagerty writes, "I had approached parts of God's Word as if they were merely platitudes and rules for clean living." (p.147) Let me tell you first hand, platitudes and rules for clean living do not give unrestricted access for God to change our hearts. All they do is hope to adjust our behavior temporarily.

But what if we did what Mary did? What if we took all the wonder of the things God is showing us and actually took our time with them. Re-read that one verse again and again and again knowing that God is trying to tell us something. What if we actually opened our Bibles with the knowledge that while everything has a contextual meaning, it really is the living breathing Word of God and that these promises are for us in our current context? No, we can't take I can do all things and take it to believe that we can go out and run a marathon tomorrow without any training or even having walked half a mile; but, if we have been training for months or are thinking of doing one next year and the enemy is working us over telling us we are going to fail and that our fundraising efforts to run it to bring awareness are in vain, you can sure as shoot bet that God can use I can do all things to get you past the enemies taunts.

Mary knew that what the shepherds were recounting to her and others about what the angel had told them was important. She knew that she had to take these words and put them someplace for safekeeping. Let's use this season of waiting to purposefully slow down and treasure up all that God's Word is revealing to us, heed the words of Moses, and follow Mary's example to never let them fade from our hearts as long as we live.

Mary Did You Know

Friday, December 8, 2017

Practicing What You Preach

When I shared the resources I found for Advent on the 28th of November, one of them was titled Loving My Actual Christmas. And in an expected/unexpected turn of events, I am now forced to do just that.

On the opening pages of her study, Alexandra Kuykendall writes this: "God doesn't force us to stop, but He certainly invites us to."

Tuesday of this week, I had my labs done again. I knew that the numbers weren't improving because if I sit down in my bed just to 'rest' before bedtime and unwind for what I hope to be a good night's sleep, I am out rather quickly. Like before 7:00 PM.

As I've been doing my hair in the morning, it feels like I am removing more than I am pulling back into a clip or a ponytail.

When I wake up in the morning or from an afternoon nap after sleeping on my side with my arms bent like I think most people sleep, my elbows are so tight it hurts to straighten them.

And, as expected, the lab results are consistent with my reality. Because now the only number I care about has gone up. Again. A lot.

And so if I am going to Love My Actual Christmas, it means I will have to be okay with waiting for help to make the cookies I want to make for my husband and kids.

It means I am going to have to give myself more time to do things than I already have been and be willing to spread some of them out over days not just hours. (like cleaning.....I hate doing a little bit each day, I want it all done and over.)

And it means I have to stop pushing through because pushing through is not helping. Do I know for a fact that it's hurting? No, I can't know that. But stopping and forcing myself to rest more are certainly the two things I haven't put my heart and soul into trying. And honestly, when I have, it's been more like reluctant, whiny, but I have so much more to get done laments.  #MomProblems

But isn't this, regardless of the 'personal' season we are in, the perfect time to find out exactly what we believe about Jesus? If we say He came to rescue us, are we willing to let Him rescue us from ourselves when it means doing the exact opposite of who we've always made ourselves to be? #ProductivityAddicts Are we willing to lay down our pride and become as vulnerable as a baby in a manger who must rely on others?

What if instead of focusing on all we can't do for whatever reason, we actually took the time to ask God why it bothers us so much, and then let Him show us how Jesus, the one is is everything, is the answer?

I don't know what walls we've all been running up against. I would imagine there are others that are health related and a lot that are relational. (the holidays always seem to magnify those) But instead of trying to power our way through, let's look at our manger scenes at all the different people, backgrounds, and experiences, and realize that just like Jesus met each of them where they were and what was hindering them at the time, He will do the exact same for us. We just have to look to Him and at Him so that we can see Him move.

Bonus Track
Shoulders by For King and Country

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Writing In The Margins

I don't know if you write in your Bible, but I write in mine. It took me a long time to get comfortable doing that because perfectionist. True story: I have pages torn out of journals because I didn't like the way I wrote something and my acutal 'journaling Bible' has some lined side margins missing because it didn't look right. Yes, I know I have issues.

But once I found a pen that makes my writing look neater (truly, pens make ALL the difference in the world), I started to get more relaxed. I don't write extensive notes. A Strong's number here and there, a question, a comment, a date, a title and page number from a book. Nothing major, just enough of a reminder.

Of all the things I have written in the past year the most challenging is next to Matthew 11:20-24. My question in the margin: How many miracles must you see before you turn and repent? I know, light-hearted.

Have I seen someone lame walk? Figuratively. Have I seen the dead rise? Figuratively. Have I seen waters part? Figuratively. Have I seen the blind see? Figuratively. You get the point.

When we see the word miracle we tend to think of the bigger things, the more newsworthy, Hollywood adapted movie things. And while those things are great, if that's all we classify as a miracle, we are missing some pretty huge stuff in our every day lives. 

In Deuteronomy 10:21, Moses says of God: "He is the one you praise; He is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes." (emphasis mine) Nothing about the things we've witnessed are accidental, because of a bribe, or because God shows partiality. They were all for our benefit, to see and believe, to turn and repent. Question is, are we aware enough to recognize them.

When we think about the fact that Jesus left heaven to come to earth, the pat answer to why is to rescue us from the hand of our enemies and enable us to serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness. (Luke 1:74-75) But if we dig further into His mission, we can see evidence of miracles overflowing every step of the way.

To seek and save the lost relative or friend we didn't think would ever be receptive to Jesus.

To heal the sick loved one that was so deep in addiction that is now free from bondage.

To reveal the thoughts of our hearts so that we could turn to God in untold and unprecedented ways.

To forgive us when we fall flat on our face for the hundredth time and show us grace to try again.

To calm the storm that rages in our heart over the unexpected phone call that rocked our world.

To challenge our motives to do things for the right reasons even though we started out with the wrong ones.

Clearly, it would be easy to go on and on.

As we inch ever closer to Christmas Day and the miracle of the birth of Christ to become Immanuel, God with us, let's take the time to think about all the miracles we have seen Him perform since last Christmas. They weren't done out of boredom or just to display His power to feed His ego, they were done so that we would see them, praise Him, and lead others straight to His heart.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Presence > Presents --> Obedience

During a recent sermon, I learned a few interesting things.

(1) The Magi were pagans
(2) They were probably more in number to that of a band of merry men than three. Apparently the popular thought is three, because three gifts.

As I read the account in Matthew 2 of the Magi, the question they ask and the reason they ask stood out. "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star and have come to worship Him."

The word worship is the Greek word proskuneo (Strong's Number 4352) and means I go down on my knees, do obeisance to, and worship. Basically, they were going to bow or get down on their knees to adore Him.

And all the readers said, "Tell me something I don't know."

It doesn't say anything about giving Him gifts.

Upon arrival it says: On coming to the house, they saw the child with His mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. THEN they opened their treasures  and presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (verse 11)

You and I know that if we were going to meet a baby for the first time, the chances of us showing up empty handed are not likely. But if the Magi were pagan, and their initial intent was to worship, why did they get there, do what they planned, and then decide to give gifts? And, what happened to the gifts? Mary and Joseph were poor and they certainly didn't start living the highlife after being given gold.

Unfortunately, those aren't questions we can answer because Scripture doesn't address them. But I wonder if there is a much deeper lesson we can learn from these men.

Their first priority was worship. Is it ours? I can honestly say that I think I try to do more offering of myself in His Name as if it's a gift Jesus needs me to give than I spend time just worshiping Him. And while He graciously accepts our gifts, He surely doesn't need them. And while we're at it, He doesn't need our worship either. I'm pretty sure He's fairly certain and confident in who He is. BUT, He does desire it. Why? Because He can do more with our heart than with our money, talents, gifts, or anything else we might bring Him.

I am truly convinced that if we were sold out for Jesus because of His great love for us, our hearts would so desire to do anything He asked us, and that any type of limitation we see (particulary financial) woudln't even cross our radar. He can multiply anything to be enough to do whatever He intends. I mean, if He wanted us to start some type of charitable organization and all we had was $3.00 in pennies, He could move the heart of someone who is looking for a huge tax write-off to underwrite the entire thing if He wanted. And boom! Our $3.00 in pennies is now $300,000. Quite a return.

In Unseen (p.134-135), Sara Hagerty writes:

"My resources are at God's disposal......But I err when I think of resources as merely
transactional. As if meeting needs alone is the only thing, or most important thing, God 
desires of me. If meeting needs is my primary focus, I've missed a foundational step:
friendship with the King.

We often assume that God, however, is somehow pining away for just one thing: our 
A+ effort so this broken world can finally be fixed. As if He is anxiously waiting
to see which one of us will respond and how well we will do.

We make our worth dependent on our ability to meet the needs around us.

My greater need is to interrupt this kneejerk cycling between the cries of the world
and my response so that I can cultivate friendship with God. It's there that I learn
that it's the friends of God who truly change the world. It's there that I have the depth
of friendship that informs the way I respond to the world's needs."

What if we truly learned this lesson.....worship first and respond second. What if we didn't just automatically jump in because we think it's what's expected and we actually let God inform us about what we are to do? 

So much of this goes against our nature. Part of it is cultural and part of it is pride. We see everyone else doing something and we want to jump in regardless of whether or not we feel called. We have a fear of missing out or being judged by not participating. But if we don't listen to God on which needs we are to meet, we won't be able to meet the needs that He's specifically planned for us.

My hope and prayer as that as the season moves toward the birth of Christ, we will keep our eyes fixed on worshiping Jesus and allowing Him to direct our attention to the things that He is pressing on our hearts. He created us uniquely and has given us the experiences we have had to move our hearts in certain areas. Let's do what He asks in response to the love and friendship we have with Him, not in an attempt to gain His affection or attention.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Unasked and Unanswered

I am very much a Type A personality. I like to to think I'm in control (even though I know I'm not). I am now willing to accept the things I can not know, but sometimes pursue them until I hit a wall, or cause myself great distress. (Learned that lesson the hard way which is why I've improved.)  But the reality is, I like it when decisions are made, plans are in place, and things go smoothly. While I can adjust at the drop of a hat without incident, I like going into things with as much information and as little anticipated surprise as humanly possible.

So, as we are now in the full swing of Advent, I've been re-reading everything related to the birth of Christ in the Gospels, looking for things I hadn't before noticed. And true to Himself, God showed me a huge contrast between Mary and myself.

Luke 1:30-34

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will
be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord will give him the throne of
His father David, and He will reign over Jacob's descendents forever; His kingdom
will never end." "How will the be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

Girlfriend is sitting by herself, an angel tells her she's going to have a baby, and her first question is how will it happen? Um, no, what you really meant to ask is "WHEN" will this happen because HOW doesn't tell you when you have to have everything ready and done by in order to be most prepared to become a mom.

No lie, both of my kids, the minute I found out I was pregnant, I went into hyperdrive trying to plan everything. And the closer I got to delivery, the crazier I felt trying to be completely prepared.

And here's the hardest part for me to wrap my head around. She is never told 'when' it was going to happen, just that it was. 

Was it as soon as she voiced informed consent? (Luke 1:38) Did she know the moment it happened? Or did she realize it must have already happened as soon as Elizabeth said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!" 

But there's so much more as a woman that I want to know.

Did she have cravings?
Did she have morning sickness?
Was she spared the painful birth that the curse brought on because she was giving birth to Jesus and did that give her false hope for future deliveries?
Did she talk to Jesus while He was growing and what did she say or sing to Him?
Was she extra cautious during her pregnancy?
Did His peace, clearly a part of her, keep her calm? 
Was she less prone to hormonal mood swings?

When I shared this with my husband yesterday, I asked him if he'd ever thought of these things. He said no one thinks of these things.

None of these answers (as far as I know) are in Scripture. Or at least I've never found them. But they're almost fun to think and wonder about because they so clearly illustrate the level of trust and faith Mary clearly had in God. Why? Because she didn't ask the angel any of them, she just asked how will it be?

I don't know what Mary was thinking specifically before her recorded response to Elizabeth. But if I had to guess, I'd think it was something like this:

I don't know where this season of Advent has each one of us. But it would seem to me we are all anticipating something whether it's good or bad. But regardless of what we think is coming our way, let's remember that Jesus came for us. He came because He loves us. And He came because He wants us to give Him control.