The Beginning

chalkboard Christmas

It is early.  Was very hard to get out of bed this morning.  My wonderful husband encouraged me to get up.  I fought it, but here I am.  And as I sit here this morning, there is quiet.  The Christmas Tree is lit.  My coffee is hot. How did we get here already?  Where has this year gone?

Today is the first day of Advent.  The word ADVENT comes from the Latin Adventus, meaning “the approach” or “the arrival”.  The verb is advenio: “I arrive.  I come.  I am coming.” I can’t help but think about that as I sit here.  Seriously, it is Christmas Time.  The most wonderful time of the year, right?!  Yes.  It is!  And this morning I am reminded of why.

It may be the end of 2013, but here, right here, is where it begins.  Here is where He comes.  Jesus.  Prince of Peace.  Emmanuel.  How do I prepare for His arrival?  What will the next 24 days hold for me?  Will I take the time to be still or will the hustle and bustle overtake me?  Here is where I sit.  I pray.  I prepare my heart to stay focused.  I commit.  I listen.  I allow myself to be filled with the Spirit, to be filled with wonder and awe, thanksgiving and praise.  He is here and He is coming again.  Let’s not miss it.  Let’s not get to 2014 and ask,”Where did December go?”

Let’s find that quiet place as often as we can.  Light a candle, turn on the Christmas Tree in the dark, sit with steaming coffee or tea or cocoa, and let us enter the Story.  Today, let’s  start at the very beginning…

“God wrote, “I love you” – He wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea.  He wrote his message everywhere!  Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror – to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing.  The way a kitten chases her tail.  The way red poppies grow wild.  The way a dolphin swims.  And God put it into words, too, and wrote it in a book called “the Bible.”

Now some people think the Bible is a book of rules, telling you what you should and shouldn’t do.  The Bible certainly does have some rules in it.  They show you how life works best.  But the Bible isn’t mainly about you and what you should be doing.  It’s about God and what he has done.

Other people think the Bible is a book of heroes, showing you people you should copy.  The Bible does have some heroes in it, but (as you’ll soon find out) most of the people in the Bible aren’t heroes at all.  They make some big mistakes (sometimes on purpose).  They get afraid and run away.  At times they are downright mean.

No, the Bible isn’t a book of rules, or a book of heroes.  The Bible is most of all a Story.  It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure.  It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne – everything – to rescue the one he loves.  It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!  You see, the best thing about this Story is – it’s true.  There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story.  The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them.  

It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story.  And at the center of the Story, there is a baby.  Every Story in the Bible whispers his name.  He is like the missing piece in a puzzle – the piece that makes all other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture.  

And this is no ordinary baby.  This is the Child upon whom everything would depend. This is the Child who would one day – but wait.  Our Story starts where all good stories start.  Right at the very beginning…”

– Taken from The Jesus Storybook Bible introduction; The Story and The Song

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Attack

Attack – to set upon or work against forcefully – to assail with unfriendly or bitter words – to begin to affect – to set to work on – to threaten…  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

“Often, they have attacked me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me.”                         – Psalm 129:2

During my morning quiet time, I usually begin by reading the Daily Text and Jesus Calling which then leads into prayer time.  Today, however, I felt compelled to begin to pray.  So I did.  As I began to pray, I felt an urgency, a need to pray for protection.  I prayed for my kids, my family and those around us, as well as those I do not know.  Then I read today’s Daily Text from Psalm 129.

Lately it has felt like everyone around us is struggling deeply.  Whether it be in health or relationships or loss…it feels like we are constantly being attacked.  There is so much to pray about.  Sometimes it feels like I don’t even know where to begin.  Have you ever been there?  Some days there is just so much swirling around us, so much heaviness, so much darkness.  These winter days that bring shorter hours of daylight seem to allow the darkness to invade our space more than we like it to.

So where do we begin?  I know one thing is for sure, to go out into battle, I do not want to enter into the heat of it without protection and ammunition.  I want armor.  I want a sword.  For without those things, I do not stand a chance.  Ephesians 6 lays out the Armor we are to put on so that we can stand against the flaming arrows that are shot at us.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God,so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-17

Did you catch all that?  There is so much in those few verses!  Friends, we live in a world where darkness creeps and the evil one prowls looking for someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8)  Attack comes in the things we read, hear, see.  Our mind is constantly bombarded with the purpose to break us down and take away our hope and joy.  That is where the devil wants us.  When we are weak, he has a chance at victory.    Oh, but when we are weak, God’s strength is made perfect! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Look again at Ephesians, friends.  In this Armor of God there are many pieces to protect us.  God wants to protect us.  But that is not all.  He also wants us to fight with Him.  Amidst the protective gear, there is a weapon.  Do you see it? There is a sword! Praise God!  He does not call us into this battle to simply stand behind Him as He fights.  Don’t hear me wrong, He fights hard to protect us.  He does not want us to be wounded. But more than that, He calls us to stand with Him.  He equips us to fight.  He gives us all we need.   The Sword of the Spirit!  The Word of God!

Where do we begin when darkness is invading?  Where do we go when we are feeling the weight of grief, pain, suffering, hopelessness?  We take up the Sword.  We reach for the Bible.  We open the Word.

Friends, the power of the Word of God is mighty!  Seek Him there.  Ask Him.  Listen for Him.  And stand.  Our enemy and the darkness he prowls in can not stand against the Light!  When you wake up in the morning, when you head out your door, when you settle in for the evening, put on your armor.  Take up your sword.  Face the battle, knowing that the God of Angel Armies is by your side. He is fighting for you AND with you!  He does not leave you defenseless.  Nothing can stand against the Word of the Lord!

Today, as I begin a new day, I pray for my family and my friends.  I pray for you.  Wherever you are in your journey of life, God is with you.  He is already victorious.  Even when we are wounded, even when we experience loss, Jesus has already won.  Grip that Sword, friends. Hang on to Jesus.  He is our Hope. He is our Joy.  He is our strength.

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Picture

My mind can not comprehend a lot at once, at least that is what my human self believes.  Most of the time, one piece at a time is what I think my mind can handle and what I think I need to do to put the puzzle together.  But that doesn’t always work, does it?  Especially if the puzzle has 500 + pieces.  I often have to look at the big picture on the box to get a sense of where each specific piece might fit.  Even then, it still takes time to allow the pieces to come together to complete a picture.  During this process there are moments of excitement and anticipation as the pieces come together.  At other times there is a feeling of frustration and exhaustion because I just can’t seem to understand how a piece fits with the big picture.  It’s quite a process.  Ever have this experience?

This morning I found myself taking a moment to look at the big picture.   For the past 5 years or so, life has felt like a lot of little pieces that just don’t seem to fit.  Many times I found myself asking the Lord, “Why?”.  “What was the purpose of this experience, that situation, that year?”  I was struck today, thinking about the next couple of weeks, thinking about where we (Brian and our family)  have been, where we are and where we seem to be headed.  Out of the blue, I looked up from the pieces laying in front of me and glanced at the big picture.  There they were, all the pieces, a part of the whole.  It struck me; how often I forget to look up, to step back, to allow the big picture to emerge.

The truth is, myself, my husband, my family… we would not be where we are now if it was not for the pieces of the past several years.  We could not be who we are without those experiences.  It has been through this journey we have been on; the joys, the heartaches, the mountains, the valleys… all of them; the good, the bad, the ugly… that has brought us here, that has shaped who we are today and how we live our lives as a Family on Mission.  Everything we have journeyed through, God has used to teach us, mold us, cleanse us, reshape us, discipline us and free us to be who we are today.

Don’t get me wrong.  We have no where near arrived to any kind of finish line.  We are disciples; learners, always on a journey, always growing, always changing.  We have much still to learn and polish.  We are not perfect and never will be until we arrive at Heaven’s gates.

But for today, I am humbled and grateful that the Lord of Heaven and Earth can see the big picture.  Although I don’t always have clarity on how each piece of my life fits into the big picture, He does.  And if I can remember to step back sometimes, to be still, to turn toward Him, He will give me glimpses of that big picture and every now and then I see how the piece fits into it all.

Have you glanced up lately, to catch a glimpse of the big picture?  Even if it is still a blur, don’t stop glancing.  He will reveal how the pieces fit.  It might take time, but the picture will begin to come together.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  That He promises!

Dearest Lord Jesus, God, Father, Savior, Friend!  On this journey of life, the road will sometimes be smooth and sometimes be quite rocky,  but we walk with confidence, hope and joy, for you have overcome this world and no matter what it hands us, you walk with us, molding us, teaching us, changing us and growing us into the people you desire for us to be.  Thank you.  Help us to trust you.  Remind us to keep our eyes on you, as you reveal to us the picture you see.  We love you so.  Amen.

No Favorites

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.  “

– Colossians 3:24-25

There are some harsh words in these verses that are easily emphasized.  I mean, it is really easy to be drawn to the “repaid for his wrong“, and to dwell on that, preach it and let people know that they are to be careful, not to mention feeling guilty ourselves for the mistakes we have made.    Don’t get me wrong, there is great truth and importance in that verse and how we live our lives.  I am so thankful for the promise of  grace and mercy in  Jesus.  When I stumble, sin, do wrong, I know I can come back to Him, ask and receive forgiveness and grace.  Praise the Lord for that!

This morning, however, I am drawn to the latter part of this verse.  “there is no favoritism”.  Oh how good that Word does for my soul today.  It seems in this world we are so quick to compare ourselves with others.  We so easily lift others up on  pedestals, wishing we could be like them.   It is easy to wish I could be a mom like her, or a spouse like them, or parent like them, or successful like him, or…  I could go on and on.  Can you relate?  I compare myself all too often.

The good news for today;  God has no favorites!  He loves each of us the same, with a “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”! (Jesus Storybook Bible)  

We are children of God, sons and daughters of the King!  He does not compare us to each other.  He does not love one more than the other because of their success or good deeds…  He loves us each deeply and desires for us to live a life of love.  He sees our hearts.  He knows our hearts and He pours himself out to fill our hearts.

Thank you, Jesus for the reminder today that we are each unique and dearly loved.  Reach into our lives today.  Meet us where we are and renew us, forgive us and assure us that we are loved for who we are, children of God.  Amen!

Is there anything you need to lay down at the feet of Jesus today?  Any part of you that compares yourself to others?  Lay it down and allow Him to fill you with his “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love”! 

Stillness

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5 AM is early.
My alarm goes off almost every morning at 5 AM.
I say almost, because I do give myself a couple of mornings to sleep in.
But usually 5 mornings out of the week, 5 AM interrupts my sleep.
It’s still dark.  I am still tired.  And the bed is cozy and warm.
Yet I do my best to drag myself out of bed, wake myself up with a shower and a cup of coffee.
I admit I am not always successful.
Today as I read  “Jesus Calling” and dug into scripture,
I was given a gift, a reminder, a reassurance of how precious this time can be.

Psalm 143:8
“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,  for to you I lift up my soul.”

It is dark outside.  The sun slowly creeps into the morning sky.
All is quiet.  All is still.
And it is in the stillness that I seek Jesus.
I seek His love, His forgiveness, His encouragement, His wisdom.
I seek reassurance. I seek direction.
My world is rarely still.
Is that just me or can you relate?
2 kiddos, homeschooling, housekeeping…along with everything else,
does not add up to a lot of stillness and quiet.
And that is ok.
I love my family, and my life, even if it is messy and loud sometimes, ok, a lot!
But it is in the quiet, the stillness that I find strength to face each messy day.
It is in His presence in the early morning hours where I am reminded
Who I am and Whose I am.
I can think of no better way to begin my day.
So I will continue to do my best to drag myself out of bed in the dark morning hours.
To be still and know that He is God.
To be filled and strengthened  for each day.

May you hear His still small voice today reminding  you of
Who you are and Whose you are.
You are a child of God and you are dearly loved.

Thank you, Jesus, that you walk with us in every moment of every day,
but how precious it is to sit in the quiet stillness with you, before the day stirs.  
Speak to my heart and grant me grace to face whatever this day brings.
Amen.