Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Free Gift at Christmas

Christmas gifts

When I was a child, Christmas was mostly about toys and games. I knew the Christmas story and God was a part of our family get-together, but my excitement came from the presents and the hidden treasures inside.

Even as I grew older (beyond the childish years), Christmas was sometimes still about what I’d get. And so often, I’d be disappointed.

I think that’s because what I really needed and wanted couldn’t be bought.

Then we had our first child. Christmas was suddenly about her joy, about sharing the time with her—the three of us.

The more our family has grown, the more this is true. Christmas is about family. About spending time with our children. Seeing the delight on their faces. Sharing laughter of family stories and shared values. Enjoying a meal together.

Sharing Jesus together.

When it comes down to it, it’s not the gifts and gadgets, the trinkets or toys. It’s Jesus we want at Christmas. We were made to want God in our lives. We were made to need Him.

The One who brings us peace. (A rare commodity these days.)

The One who loves us unconditionally. (Who knows better than we do how hard we are to love?)

The One who grows our faith. (He’s the Author and Finisher of our faith.)

The One who grants us joy. (Despite whatever isn’t going right.)

Jesus is what we need at Christmas. More of His presence and peace. More of His words in our lives. His voice. A deeper revelation of His love.

And He gave Himself freely so we could know Him, love Him, hear His voice, be with Him. He has made himself accessible to anyone, everyone. He is the greatest gift. 

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: 
and the government shall be upon his shoulder: 
and his name shall be called 
the mighty God,
the everlasting Father,
the Prince of peace. 
(Isaiah 9:6, KJV)

Has Christmas ever left you feeling down, like you didn’t get what you really wanted? (Yet, if you were asked, you wouldn’t be able to express what you wanted—it’s too elusive, even to you.) This year, look to Jesus to fill you up. To satisfy those deep places in your heart and life. And not just at Christmas, but all year long.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Breathing at Christmas

Are you doing things differently this Christmas? I’m determined to keep things simple. I used to send out a thick stack of cards. I used to slave over Christmas letters, or stress about having photocards printed. I used to get anxious about postage and correct addresses and timing. We used to travel, but this year our schedule's a little different. This year, with all these things, we'll keep things simple. Just enjoy each other. Just breathe.

I like lighting candles in my home office on dreary late fall days like today. One deep breath in here and you’ll smell pumpkin and cinnamon from two burning
candles. Their fragrances are relaxing in the midst of the busy-ness of work deadlines and expectations. Soothing.

Sometimes you just have to stop and breathe.

Our children have always loved taking a drive through the city streets and pointing out Christmas light displays this time of year. The shorter days give us lots of opportunities. And those lights are a feast for the eyes. It’s important not to miss those moments of shared family time, of awe and delight.

Here are some specific seasonal delights we should try not to miss:

Family. Appreciate those hours together. Like the presents under the tree, they’re a gift. I’m looking forward to dear family time during the Christmas season.

Peace. No matter what’s happening in the world, God gives inner peace. Peace that doesn’t make rational sense. Peace that stills the soul.

Joy. Jesus came to us so humbly, so tenderly, when He arrived as a tiny baby. He appeared to set us free, to lift us from darkness. Rejoice! Your Savior has come!

Love. Because Jesus came, we can know God; we can love Him, know that we’re loved, and share that love with others.

Hope. The tough “stuff” of our lives doesn’t have to remain the same, doesn’t have to continue to hold us back or hurt us. Because of Jesus, we have hope that change is coming. He will get us through.

Life. A new life in Him. That’s His promise when we say yes to His gift of salvation. He moves into our hearts and changes us from the inside out. Praise God!

I was watching a television show today where the hero risked his life to save a roomful of people. He went down. While the crowd was gasping, someone called out, “He saved us. Did you see that?” And the others looked on in awe of such a selfless sacrifice. The show’s hero stands up moments later, none the worse for wear. Reminded me of Jesus, only in His heroic act to save us, He did give His life. I stopped watching the show for a minute to praise Him, to worship Him—my Savior.

This season, don’t miss Him.


Enjoy this Christmastime, dear friends. Let Him minister life, joy, peace, love, and hope to you and your family.

Delight in the Savior this season.

Just breathe…

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In the Morning

We’re in the rainy season here. It’s that time of year. A time for plants to go dormant (or die) and for refreshing waters to go deep into the soil and nourish the trees and fill the reservoirs.  

Yesterday, we had a deluge of rain coming down, for hours. Very dark, gloomy, windy. Rain fell in sheets and the wind blew it sideways, threatening to twist umbrellas and soak anyone caught outdoors. But this morning, puffy clouds at sunrise. Patches of blue skies. Beautiful. Hopeful. 

Sometimes life can feel like a stormy day—gloomy and uncomfortable. Challenges and disappointments get us down. Delays can bring confusion and frustration. Waiting is hardly ever easy. It helps to remember life is seasonal. God is working in our lives, yes, bringing death sometimes. He's working to prepare us for new life. 

This season is also a time for rest. Sunset falls before dinnertime. We feel sleepy earlier in the evening. We might choose to stay home from after-dinner meetings because it's stormy, icy, or dark. Embrace rest! God commands it; He knows we need it. The maple tree will leaf out after several months of rest. Flower bulbs will bloom after resting first.

Some truths to hang onto in the tough seasons:
  • When God gives you a word, He’ll fulfill it.
  • When God’s word says joy comes in the morning, He means it.
  • When God promises release, He brings it. 
  • Every season comes to pass.
You’re almost there. Almost to the breakthrough. Almost to the release. Hang on. 

His answer may be there in the morning!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This is Amazing Grace!

Music and worship are such a big part of my life. Recently picked up the latest Bethel Live CD: For the Sake of the World. This is one of my favorite songs on the album--This is Amazing Grace, led by Jeremy Riddle. If you buy the actual CD, a DVD comes with it. Enjoy!

Just in case:      

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Lose Myself to Find You"

I love new music! We recently picked up Toby Mac's latest CD, Eye On It. So many of the songs on this one speak to me. They relate with living for God, turning our lives and careers over to Him. Yeah, relatable.

Check out this song about losing ourselves to find Him.

He who finds his life will lose it,
and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.
(Matt 10:39 NKJV)

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Jerusalem

Be encouraged! 

Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, 
so take nothing for granted. 
Stay wide-awake in prayer. 
(1 Peter 4:7 MSG) 

This song has really blessed me lately. It's entitled New Jerusalem and was written and performed by Matt Gilman from International House of Prayer Kansas City at OneThing 2011. If you're interested, you can buy/download the album via the link below.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Not For A Moment

Every now and then a new worship song comes along and really blesses me! Here's one from Vertical Church's recent debut release (Live Worship from Vertical Church). I highly recommend the whole album!

Title: Not For a Moment by Meredith Andrews. Check it out. Be blessed!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


We’ve had a lot of butterflies visiting this season. White ones. Yellow ones. So lovely and graceful. They flit about the yard, high over the hedges, touching down on flowers and then launching off again into the sun-drenched summer air. They have the best view of the neighborhood from up there. And they’re so graceful. 

But they weren’t always that way. 

Just a few short weeks ago, they were caterpillars, crawling along the ground or on branches. Lowly. Humble. Unnoticed. Their view was that enormous ant hill in front of them. Or that colossal tulip stem in their path. They couldn’t possibly imagine the grandeur that awaited them after their transformation. 

Like people.

God reminded me the other day that I’m not the person I used to be. I’m not the woman I used to be. I’m not the mother I used to be. I’m not the Christian I used to be. I’m not the wife I used to be. I’m changed. He has changed me. I’ve come out of the chrysalis of change (time and process and the miracle of God creating me as a new person in Christ) to become a new creature. Sure, I make mistakes. Butterflies aren’t perfect. They’re just more graceful. They have a better view from up off the ground. They’re “closer” to their maker (i.e. they fly). 

I wonder if caterpillars know their future.

I wonder if they know they’d due for some huge changes, not only physically, but also where perspective is concerned. 

I couldn’t have even guessed I’d become the person I am today, and I can only imagine who I’ll be as God continues His work in me. 

And like the butterfly that came from a caterpillar’s cocoon, I can’t take credit for the changes. The transformation is for God’s glory. I drew near to Him, by His grace, and He changed me. 

And, oh, the butterfly’s new freedom! Where before the caterpillar’s life was limited to the plot of ground she could cover in her caterpillar days, as a butterfly she can see for miles, land on treetops, soar on warm breezes. So free! She’s living her calling, flying about and pollenating flowers and fruit trees. 

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore,
and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 ESV)

Jesus sets believers free for His glory, His purposes, His calling. What a delight to serve Him and fulfill one’s calling. We’re free from the dark confines of a limited space. Free to influence others and change the world through prayer and actions. Free to glorify our Savior, like a lovely butterfly beautifies the garden. 

Free. New. Saved. Purposeful. His. 

How has God changed you over the course of your new life in Him? And how can you glorify Him today?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Leanness of Soul

Now, vigilantly guard your souls: 
Love God, your God. 
(Joshua 23:11a MSG)

13 They soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
15 And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul.
Psalm 106:13-15 NKJV

“Leanness of soul.” Is there a more hopeless phrase anywhere? There’s a lot here in this passage. The psalmist is revisiting the Israelite’s time in the wilderness when they lusted for meat (see Numbers 11). They were demanding of God, even though He’d done so much for them… Convicting, isn’t it? And then, when God did capitulate and give them what they wanted, they got sick on it. But worse than that, God gave them leanness of soul—He let their souls go hungry. But, how much of that was God’s doing? 

It’s a progression. The people had forgotten to “feed” their souls on God and because of this, they were drifting from Him, even as they physically followed Him through the wilderness. They became more focused on the things they had to complain about than the fact that God was right there demonstrating His power, His “other-ness” in front of them daily. They also let their stomachs rule them. That’s always a mistake—whenever we let our physical selves rule our spiritual selves. Our spirits are what live on through eternity. By focusing on their physical lusts, they neglected to minister to God and let God minister to them. 

This verse vividly displays their fall to temptation:

Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat?" (Numbers 11:4 NKJV)

People were created to delight in God and so God could delight in them. Leanness of soul is not the preferred way to live. How does one avoid “leanness of soul?” Here are a few ways:

Keep God first. Prioritize God in your life, in your day, in your heart. 

Desire God’s will. This is a tough one. Do we really always want God’s will? Sometimes God’s will involves pain and suffering, and even death. That’s a challenge for us to embrace. Perhaps, in denying the Israelites meat, God was calling them to fast so they could focus again on Him and not their stomachs and their lusts. God’s will involves denial sometimes. Humility and brokenness help us embrace God’s will. 

Seek God. This ties into the first one above, about prioritizing God. But, as the Israelites demonstrated, God can be right with us, moving and displaying His acts of power and lovingkindness, and we can miss Him. By seeking Him, reading the Word, worshiping, and praying, we won’t “miss” Him. And we’re less likely to get caught up in our own lusts and our own will. 

Live God's Way. Find out what God's will is and do it. Live as His Word commands. Follow His directives. Micah 6:8 tells us: "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [our] God."

Here's some good news: God wants to fill us up. Look at these Scriptures of promise and instruction where our soul’s satisfaction is concerned:

Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And let your soul delight itself in abundance.
(Isaiah 55:2 NKJV)

9 If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
(Isaiah 58:9-11 NKJV)
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
(Psalm 63:5 NKJV)

In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul. (Psalm 94:19 AV)

Watch this: God's eye is on those who respect him,
      the ones who are looking for his love.
   He's ready to come to their rescue in bad times;
      in lean times he keeps body and soul together.
(Psalm 33:18-19 MSG)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Warning: Some Adjustment Required

Jesus came to help. To bind up the brokenhearted (aren’t you glad?) and free captives. You’d think that would always be a good thing. Who doesn’t want to be free? Or healed? Hmm… have you always wanted to be healed? At first, we say “absolutely!” But the next time you aren’t feeling well and it gets you out of working on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, you may not agree. I mean, who doesn’t like a nice four-day weekend. We can tolerate a little head cold if we can be at home an extra day, right? We might even be able to head out on the boat, or skip out of town a morning early.

There are other reasons people might not want to get free, or to be healed. 


When you’ve come to live with something for a while and it’s “normal,” if that “norm” is changed, everyone around you is affected. Your friends and family doesn’t know what to expect anymore. You don’t know what to expect. 

Check out this passage from John 5 where Jesus finds the man sick for nearly 40 years near the pool of Bethesda. 

When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool
and knew how long he had been there,
he said, “Do you want to get well?”
(John 5:6 MSG)

What Jesus is really saying is: Are you ready for a whole slew of changes in your life?

And deeper: have you used your sickness to: just get by, or to get away with laziness, or to earn sympathy or attention? Have you used it as an excuse? Are you ready to take on more responsibilities? To get a different job (or any job)? To work hard(er), to work long hours? Are you ready for no more excuses? 

The man Jesus is addressing had been suffering with his ailment for close to forty years. That’s a lifetime in some eras. There were implied changes in the implication of Jesus’s question: “Are you ready for some changes? Think about this. Do you want healing? Come into agreement with My good plans for you.

“Are you willing to change?” 

Sometimes changes are all about freedom.

Good health.

Being well. 

Freedom from pain.

But there are some adjustments required.

Like adding a new baby to the family. Whether it’s the first or a subsequent baby, it’s a tough, tough season. No sleep. Older siblings feel left out. Walking hallucinations. Pain. But it’s a good change. It’s just challenging. And it won’t always be so difficult.

It’s about learning a new way of life. 

Sometimes we aren’t assured that the change we’re enduring is for the better. We certainly don’t always have that guarantee. So, what do we do then? We trust God has something good for us. 

I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord.
They are plans for peace and not disaster,
plans to give you a future filled with hope.
(Jeremiah 29:11 GW)

Is God taking you to or through a change? Do you know the outcome will be worth it? Even if you don’t, trust that God is faithful. He will not let you down.