In Need of a Silent Night

Final exams.

Dinner to make.

Children to bathe.

Dog chewed the steak.

Laundry to fold.

Papers to grade.

Lord why did I think I could do all this today?

Floor is filthy.

Classroom’s a mess.

Lab exploded.

Broken glass creates a mess.

Christmas décor blew away.

My Olaf popped on a thorn in the fray.

The last child tucked in; dog collapsed by the fire;

I knew I better sit down or retire.

My heart’s heavy, my mind just wouldn’t quit.

It was then I realized I needed way more than St. Nick.

I needed peace.

I needed slumber.

I needed quiet, unencumbered.

I needed more warm moments.

I needed less cold thoughts.

I simply needed something that just couldn’t be bought.

This time of year it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But somehow, I don’t think Jesus would desire for us to feel frantic celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace.

Jesus came to give us life and give it abundantly.

Today.

Everyday.

It’s we who overfill the moments.

It’s we who try to create grandiose nostalgia when the most meaningful memory would be the moment of comprehension of our greatest gift.

God has blessed us with the gifts of life on earth, and of eternal life through His Son.

God is blessing us with the gift of time of today. He lets us choose how we will spend todays’ hours and minutes. What will we choose?

Although they are pretty, the packages do not contain the gift of happiness.

Although they may fill (and overfill!) our stomachs, the delicious traditions of our family feasts will not quench our heart’s desires to know and be known by our Creator.

Although the parties and festivities are fun-filled social events we don’t want to miss, they could never take the place of that one deep relationship Jesus desires to have with each of us.

Maybe you’re like me and must force yourself to just sit and be still. Even if it’s late, I hope you can take the time to truly rest in a dimly lit room, enjoying the unencumbered, unimaginable joy of Christmas as God intended: a sincere celebration of His great love for each of us.

I pray this holiday season we can each and all discover the true joy of Christmas.

 

No worries?

“Daddy, do we have enough money?” asked the sweet seven-year-old when she heard of her father’s job loss.

“You don’t need to worry about that; Daddy will take care of everything,” he replied, rubbing her shoulder. Giving him a quick hug, she bounded off to play with her dolls.

When was the last time your worries and  concerns were so easily relieved? Once anxiety grips us, it can be difficult to disentangle its claws from our minds and our hearts.

God tells us nothing should make us anxious. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6, NIV

Instead, He’s telling us what to do with our concerns: Pray about them. Bring them to God joyfully and with thanksgiving.

When a burden of the heart disturbs our sleep, disrupts our days and consumes our consciousness, we honestly don’t need to deal with it alone.

We should give it to God. Joyfully give it to Him. With thanksgiving give it to Him. Because He will take care of it and it does not need to burden us any longer.

Sometimes, we are like the little girl worrying about her family’s financial plight. Sometimes, we take on things that are just way beyond us. Our heavenly Father has it all worked out. Will we relinquish it to Him?

He wants us to allow Him to handle it, and for us to run off and do whatever He’s given us to do. He doesn’t want us burdened and consumed with His work.

When we allow Him to lift our burdens, we experience first-hand His promise of the next verse, “And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Unlike what the world has offered us, we are promised peace.

Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety?

A Step Further: Why would we willingly trade His peace for anxiety? If you are like me, there are times it’s just hard to let go. I carry something to Him, then take it back seconds later. I bring it to Him again, and later my mind works overtime, trying to figure it out.

God knows us. He knows our minds are willing, yet our flesh is weak. He knows when we want to give something over to Him, yet, seemingly can’t.

He also provided for that.

When we feel like we can’t let go, He is willing to meet us there and supply what we need. Whatever it is we need, right there in that moment, He will supply it, if we ask. And, He’ll meet us in the next moment, and the next. Eventually it won’t be so difficult.

If you find Philippians 4:6-7 challenging to live, please feel free to ask for prayer in the comments below. My team and I will lift you in prayer.

Committed To Christ

“I truly believe in Jesus, I just want to wait to be baptized,” she quietly confided, “I want to make sure I understand what I’m promising.”

I stared in amazement at this twelve-year-old girl.

I knew she believed. She truly studied her own Bible and her life mirrored a heart on fire for Christ.

At twelve, she “got it.” Faith is not a feeling.

Faith is a commitment.

She knew Jesus was committed to her. Now, she wanted a chance to read through the Bible so she knew how she should commit herself to Him.

Luke 14:33 instructs each of us to give forethought to our faith. “In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say goodbye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.”

That does not necessarily mean we need to literally get rid of all our material possessions, although we could. It does mean nothing else can occupy the greatest portion of our heart and mind.

Christ comes first. Always.

Is that easy?

No.

But with Christ, it’s doable.

As that sweet girl learned many years ago, before her baptism, it is possible to investigate and understand what Jesus wants from us.

He wants us to give some forethought to our commitment to Him.

And He wants us to realize we can count on Him to help us stay committed to our faith throughout our lifetime.

 

You Are His Masterpiece, Part I

The above picture was painted by one of my daughters. I am the delighted and proud mother of several talented artists. One daughter in particular must paint to relieve stress and quiet her soul after a season of busyness.

Watching her take a blank canvas and deftly apply color to create a picture depicting beauty, depth of feeling and a sense of wonderment is truly inspiring. She seemingly adds a little of this, and some of that, and voila! She has created a masterpiece!

Do you think of yourself as God’s handiwork? I usually do not. Yet, God fearfully and wonderfully knit each of us together in our mothers’ wombs, (Psalm 139:14 ) Just as an artist carefully considers which colors to combine; God also thoughtfully takes talents from His storehouse and doles them out generously to His children.

We are His created masterpieces.

Do you, like I, ever feel the need to demurely reject that title?

Ephesians 2:10 instructs us on how we ought to view ourselves,”we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Just as I am so awestruck and proud of what my daughters create, God looks at us the same way. Isn’t that fact just mind-blowing? God looks at us with pride!

That alone should boost our self-esteem!

When we downplay our gifts and talents we are downplaying God’s goodness. We are effectively telling Him, “It’s nothing.”

While we don’t wish to sound arrogant, we can politely say “Thank you.” At least in American culture that is socially acceptable. Then we can take the focus off us and our gifts and highlight the giver of that gift: God.

You are God’s masterpiece. He delights in His work, and He certainly delights in you! Relish in that revelation! Because He certainly treasures you and me!

Finding Faith to Ask

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Mathew 21:22 NIV

I read the above verse, wishing it applied to me. Closing my eyes, I willed to experience first-hand the promise it contained.

But I had already resigned myself to lesser things.

Life in this world can be tough. I was overwhelmed, plain and simple. There was a mountain waiting to be accomplished and not only was I lacking the time, I was lacking the necessary knowledge. And, I wasn’t sure where to find either.

I bet you’ve been there.

“Lord, I need help. I can’t successfully be the person you’ve called me to be when I’m this overwhelmed and stressed. I try to be positive. I try to smile. But, there’s just no end in sight.”

Over the next three days, something unexpected took place.

I began learning what I needed to know. And, amazingly, it was not actually all that hard! It slowly began to enter the realm of “doable.”

Then, some unanticipated time descended upon me. I awoke well-rested and realized we had a delayed start at work; two whole extra hours which I put to good use!

By the end of the week, the deadline loomed just hours away, yet I was pretty certain I’d not only meet it, but excel at it- something I’d imagined impossible just days before.

Most of us know theoretically God can do anything. After all, He made everything. He can do anything, right?

Maybe you’re like me and need a gentle reminder of His power. Maybe there’s a history of asking and not receiving yet  that can jade even a seemingly simple request.

We don’t always get the inside scoop of why we might need to wait, a very long while at times.

But we shouldn’t let that halt our faith, or requests for other things.

He loves us more than we can imagine.

He loves you more than you can imagine.

Maybe like me, you need to try trusting Him again. Not misinterpret His silence for apathy. Because nothing could be further from the truth.

If you’re feeling short on faith, ask for it. He will provide.

He always does.

Prepare Before Battle

“I signed up for a marathon in six months, I’ve got to get training,” Sami said as she pulled her hair from her face, “but it’s been a long day and I feel so tired.” She glanced around at the mess in her room. “I’ll start tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was born a crazy day. The alarm somehow didn’t go off early, as she’s planned. Rushing out the door, her thoughts rushed ahead to the evening, I will make time then.

That evening, her workload stacker higher and she knew she couldn’t possibly take the time.

By the end of the next week she had not started. Nor by the end of the next month.

Time for the marathon came and Sami thought, “Well, it’s for a good cause, even if I only go partway, I’m doing something.”

Three miles in she was out of breath and in significant pain. It was time to quit.

Why did I never make the time to train?

Maybe like me, you can relate to Sami. I meant to start this good habit. I knew I would reap many benefits, but somehow I just never found the time.

I have done that with Bible Study. Yes, I want to know God better. Yes, I want to know what His word says. Why can it be a hard habit to start? Why does it seem that everything goes wrong, preventing me from having extra time, extra energy, extra determination needed?

“I can all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 promises.  Did that promise only things which required physical strength? Emotional strength? Spiritual strength? Organizational strength?

It says all things…

All things.

Christ knew what it was to walk this earth, to live with earthly demands. He also knew what was important. He called on God’s strength to steal away and spend time with His heavenly Father.

We need to follow His example. At some point in this life, we very well may be called to run a spiritual marathon. That marathon jut might be the toughest situation we never could have imagined, never could have possibly prepared for. Yet, by getting to know God and His word in a regular routine, when called upon to run that marathon, we just might be ready if we start today.

Pause, Pray

End of the day,

but not the list,

Burnt meal narrowly missed,

Pause to pray

 

Piles of laundry,

dishes to do,

A dear little girl sporting a boo-boo,

Pause to pray.

 

Thunderstorms,

Electricity out,

Repair truck on the long route,

Pause to pray.

 

Drop dead tired,

the house to clean,

Confronted by a girl who is mean,

Pause to pray.

 

Angry at life,

frustrated and sad,

refusing to find a reason to be glad

Pause to pray.

 

Crunchy, brown earth

dry as a bone,

the drought and fire endangering homes.

Pause to pray.

 

A dad out of work

who doesn’t know what to do;

how much he is loved, he hasn’t a clue

Pause to pray.

 

A soul longing for God

But certainly can’t see

just how much He loves humanity.

Pause to pray.

 

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasion with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Ephesians 6:18 NIV

 

“Pray continually.” I Thessalonians 5:17

 

 

 

Navigation Desperation

Panic seized me as I desperately glanced from the GPS to scan the street signs.

The GPS did not know where I was! The connection icon swirled endlessly, indicating not only was I lost, but there was little hope of pinpointing my location anytime soon.

That thought terrified me as I followed traffic, frantically searching for a place to pull over, pause, and regroup.

Why isn’t my phone working? What is wrong with the connection? Do you ever feel that directions from God are not clearly coming through? Are prayers seemingly not heard? Have we lost that connection?

Even a long-time Christian can suddenly feel stranded on occasion.

But the  Lord promises to never leave nor forsake us.

So how can we reconcile that lost feeling with the promise of Deuteronomy 31:6?

God is there, always even when we can’t discern Him. (Joshua 1:9)

Feeling lost provides us with an opportunity to grow our faith as we witness His faithfulness. (John 14:23)

Cherish the thought that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. When we are lost, He is already coming to find us. (John 10:27-30)

Those three truths can alleviate the anxiety that can creep into a lonely and lost heart.

When we find ourselves lost, we need to find a quiet place to pull over and pause, pinpointing our present location and desired destination.

Sometimes, our usual communication seems to break down. My GPS wasn’t working and Siri was not telling me turn by turn where to go.

However, the Maps app was working. while parked in safety, I navigated through the app to turn myself around.

If prayers don’t seem to be providing answers, checking in on God’s map, the Bible, may clarify a direct path to your destination.

Getting lost can be terrifying and humbling. Once we’ve found our footing in familiar places again, we may see God was leading and teaching us every step of the way.

 

 

Keys

Samantha gazed adoring into her darling daughter’s face. This perfectly beautiful baby slept so peacefully, not a care in the word.

Samantha began a prayer she would pray over all her children the rest of her life, “Lord, may this beautiful child love You and serve You all the days of her life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Who will she become?

What will her personality be like?

What gifts will she possess?

What challenges will she face?

In that hospital room, holding her newborn baby in her arms, Samantha knew tomorrow she would carry her home.

What is the most important key to life I can teach her?

How to stay safe?

How to love?

How to be kind to all?

Psalm 27:4 provides a weighty answer: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only so I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.” NIV

 

The Message version of Psalm 27:5 further explains, “That the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, the perfect getaway far from the buzz of traffic.”

Being held securely in a parents’ arms feels safe and secure.  Going out into the world doesn’t always leave us with the same warm fuzzies. Every parent knows this vast world can be wonderful, and it can also be heart-breaking.

The best tool we have to offer our children, our friends, and even ourselves for navigating life is to introduce him to the Lord.

When we do life with the Lord, we are not alone. He’s not the magic genie in the sky who suddenly makes it all better. However, He does promise:

– to stay with us always (Deut 31:6)

– the pain has a purpose (Romans 8:28)

– He will redeem everything we go through. (Romans 8:28)

Samantha knew the proper order of things. As she watched the infant’s chest rise and fall, she knew mothers should not outlive their children.

Chances were, she would not always be there. However, if the baby grew up with a foundation of faith laid on her heart, she might choose to love God with all her heart, soul and strength.

She would have courage in scary scenarios. She would find wisdom when she felt clueless. And, even if she lost everyone she knew, she would know the Lord, and never, ever be alone.

 

Waiting for Grace

Waiting.

Forever. Or so it seemed.

“God, it’s difficult to do the “right” thing, especially when I don’t see Your mighty hand sweeping away the sadness, the agony, sometimes found in this life.”

Silence.

Sheila huffed and reached for her beloved Bible. She picked it up tenderly, as the binding sometimes lost pages and the covered sometimes slipped off.

She recalled when it was new, and her faith fresh in a wonderful world.

Shaking her auburn hair away from her eyes, she settled back onto the plush, green couch.

No, it appeared God hadn’t moved on this, yet she knew His promises could be trusted.

She opened her bookmarked page and reread what was already etched on her heart. “But the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.” Psalm 37:28

She reflected on David’s life, the author of many of the Psalms. If anyone knew the frustration and weariness of doing right yet being persecuted, David did.

How long did David, God’s anointed run for his life, waiting for God to change his circumstances? And yet, David didn’t strike out on his own, taking matters into his own hands.

“How long, Lord?” She sighed, resting her head on the back of the couch, lifting her eyes to the ceiling.

The Lord will not forsake his faithful ones.”

In the end, David was king. His time fleeing from a madman who wanted him dead was redeemed.

His time hiding in caves, protecting his life, was redeemed.

His time refusing to seek revenge, was redeemed.

God is always faithful. He knows what happens. He doesn’t always prevent the hard stuff, the stuff we think He should edit right on out of our story!

But He is faithful, thought Sheila again. As hard as it is, I must be faithful to Him, trusting His word, His promises.

Lord,” she prayed closing her eyes against the frustration she felt, “please help me to be faithful to You. Please help me to patiently wait…”