Unwanted

While watching the Muppets A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is described as “unwanted.” His facial expression went from hopeful to crushed in a moment. It is the first time we see his character has feelings. Yet, we don’t fully embrace him as a person who matters. It isn’t until the end of the story, when he kneels in front of his grave stone and realizes his lonely, empty life and wants a different ending that we find ourselves caring about him.

What is it about us as human beings, that keeps us from finding value for the sake of value in another person? We are not the scale against which all things and all people should be measured.

Mary and Joseph experienced this lack of value when they were in search of a place to stay in Bethlehem. The innkeeper didn’t see value in this young couple and the impending birth of their child. Would he have changed his mind if he knew that God Incarnate was about to be born in his dirty, stinky barn? Would he have given them the best room in the inn– if he had known??

There is a place in our hearts set aside for the same God Incarnate born in that stable. Our hearts and dirty and stinky and full of sin (Jeremiah 17:9). All we have to do is make room for the Son of God in our hearts and He will shine His “everlasting light” in our lives.

It’s our choice. Will Jesus remain unwanted in our lives or will we embrace Him in our hearts?

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight

For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Lyrics by Rector Phillips Brooks

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Settling

I am wrestling with a spirit of discontentment this morning and the more I try to make sense of it, the more agitated I become. Why, why, why, do we settle for something else when we were meant for so much more??

We settle for a guy/girl, instead of the right man/woman to be a part of our lives. Why?

We settle for a job, instead of the career we’ve dreamed about for years. Why?

We settle for a house, instead of looking for the home in which we want to grow our family. Why?

Settling comes from a feeling of fear and lack of faith. A fear something will never happen so “I may as well accept this (situation, person, job, whatever) because I won’t ever get (the better thing/person).” A lack of faith that God’s plan is the best plan for your life.

Abraham waited twenty-five years for Isaac, God’s promised child through whom an entire nation would be created. What if Abraham decided to settle for Ishmael, instead of trusting for Isaac?

What if Joseph decided to give up on God’s promise for more when he was thrown into prison?

What if my husband didn’t wait the three and a half years it took for me to say “yes” to his proposal?

Waiting for the best, instead of settling for something else, makes the statement, “I am worth more than the world says I am.”

My love, my time, my family and friends are worth more– YOU are worth more.

We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). God says clearly that He “knows the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

We quote these verses often– but do we believe them? Do we live them out loud? Do we treat others in the same way?

My Christmas presents to family and friends are often homemade. Not because I am cheap, but because when I give a present to someone I want them to see that they are worth my time, my effort, my heart. They matter to me.

I don’t want anyone to believe that they have to settle for less than what they are worth, in my eyes or in God’s eyes.

God says in Isaiah 43:4, You are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,” He loves us. Let us show worth and value to others– not just this Christmas season, but always.

Don’t settle.

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Courage anyway

Poor Joseph.  He is so often a supporting character to the Christmas story when he should be seen as the one of the main characters.  Joseph had every right, according to Jewish law, to surrender Mary to be stoned to death for her “infidelity.” She brought shame to her family and in this case, she brought shame to Joseph.

People whispered to be sure, in that tiny village where they lived.  Their neighbors definitely whispered about Mary, but they probably whispered about Joseph too.  Hushed tones, pointing fingers, conversations that suddenly stopped when Mary or Joseph walked by.

Joseph decided not to publicly humiliate Mary, but instead to divorce her quietly.  And then God stepped in and changed the outcome of what seemed more like a soap opera story line than the lineage of God Incarnate.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21.)

Can you image how Joseph felt when he woke the next day?  His whole worldview was different.  He saw the sky differently, children differently– he saw Mary differently.

He had the courage to love her anyway, to publicly declare her as his wife- anyway, to bring her to his home anyway.  To marry her anyway.

There is an incredible courage in the man who does the right thing– the thing they are called to do– the very thing that God designed and planned for them to do.

Joseph stood by Mary for the long view, instead of running away because of the shortview so many others had about his and her perceived behavior.

Joseph was the “Father with skin on” for Jesus.  Joseph is the one who taught his first son how to hold the hammer and the chisel, how to build something that would last for years to come.

Little did Joseph understand that the very thing Jesus would build would not be with tools, but with His very life, a bridge from Heaven to Earth that would stand for all eternity.

All because Joseph had the courage to stand for what was right- anway.

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Love came down

It is less than ten days until Christmas.  I don’t feel particularly “Christmas-y” this year– there is no snow on the ground, I haven’t watched my annual Christmas movies, or even gone Christmas shopping.  I don’t feel like Ebenezer Scrooge, but I am certainly not like Linus from the Peanuts either.

And yet, our faith isn’t based on our feelings, or it shouldn’t be.

Hebrews 11:1 says it best, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

We have faith in what we cannot see, we place our hope in it.  My faith is based on that night so many years ago, when Love came down.

Jesus came as a helpless baby, dependent on his parents for protection, survival, and love.  In many ways it is the same with us.

I am dependent on God for everything.  My protection from fear, doubt, even the enemy.  I need God as I face trials, troubles, struggles, and difficulties– I would not be able to survive without Him.

I am dependent on God for love.  Not the cute Hallmark card commerical warm fuzzies kind of love, but the deep, never ending, unconditional, no-matter-how-bad-I-blew-it-today-there-is-a-new-opportunity-tomorrow kind of love.  This is the kind of love that came down from Heaven.

This is the love that came down for you and for me.

Love came down, wrapped in a baby, full of the very love and grace from Heaven itself. It is the blessing I look forward to not just in December, but all year long.

 

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A vs. The

In the last week my extended and immediate family have faced some serious medical issues and some potentially serious issues. I have spent a lot of time praying and trusting God.

It mattered a lot to me, knowing to Whom I was praying during this past week. I knew I was praying to The God the One who created all of the Universe out of nothing. I was praying to The God who led Moses and the Israelites through the wilderness to the Promise Land. The God who sent His Son to die for you and me. The One who sent the Holy Spirit as a Comforter for us after Jesus ascended into Heaven.

I knew that God was big enough, strong enough, capable enough to handle my concerns and worries in the past week.

But what if I was praying to a god? A god is of my own making. It would not have the power to bring peace to my family, to bring comfort to them and to me. A god would be as good for my situation as a marionette is to the puppeteer. Except, I would be the puppeteer. Where is the comfort in that?

It is crucial to know Who you turn to in crisis. In crisis you don’t discover God, you turn to the god you know.

An article makes all the difference, do you seek “a” god or The God when times are difficult? Who do you praise when blessings come your way?

The God I seek, the God I love, the God I serve, is the One who is called the Ancient Of Days, the Alpha and Omega, and YHWH.

I know The God of the Universe hears my prayers, my praise, and my heart.
For this I will continue seek the God who sought me.

Who will you seek?

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you have arrived

I had to use the GPS app on my phone to find an office today and when I pulled into the parking lot the voice on the app said, “You have arrived at your destination.”  How wonderful would it be if we could hear a voice like that when we accomplished a task, met a goal, or advanced in a position?

On my Faith journey I don’t think I have ever heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “You have arrived.”  I don’t ever recall hearing I had “arrived” and was now complete in the skills of being full of grace, or merciful, or even better– being patient.  I sometimes wonder if I ever will.

This Faith journey has been one continuous hike. Sometimes the trail is smooth, sometimes it goes up a rocky trail, and sometimes it goes into a valley.

Beth Moore once said, ” When the God who was, and is, and is to come sees us, He sees us as we were, as we are, and as we will become.” So in a way, God sees me as a brand new hiker, a seasoned traveller, and a world traveller who has hiked the Andes and Mt. Everest.

And it gives me hope.

Someday, hopefully when I am old, with lots of white hair and wrinkles, God will tell me that my trail has ended.  I will walk the last steps on the trail and finally hear God say, “You have arrived at your destination.”

Until then, I will continue to lace up my hiking boots, pick up my backpack, fill my canteen with the “Living water” and keep moving.  I don’t want to stop until I reach the ultimate destination.

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Without ceasing

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1Thessalonians 5:16-18).

The verses above are the kind Tom Sawyer might memorize for Sunday School credit. They are short, easy to remember and hey, that’s three Bible verses for credit! But beyond the brevity of the verse length runs a depth many believers are uncomfortable to dive into for long.

Rejoice always. Really? So I am supposed to be happy when bad things come my way? That sounds just wrong. What it means is “have joy always” which is different than happiness which can be fleeting. Joy is from a deeper root, tapped into the abundant waters of the Holy Spirit. It’s coupled with hope.

Without ceasing. . This one used to really scare me as a new believer. How was I supposed to go about my day if I was always praying? It’s simple. It’s an attitude of prayer. Keeping a reflective mind, focused on God’s plan, not man’s plan. That’s how to pray without ceasing.

I’ve been in this state of prayer for a while now. Dear ones have been very sick, in the hospital, and it’s been hard since I’m not able to visit them during this time. But I can pray. Prayer doesn’t need time off from work, gas money, or to arrange household activities while it’s absent. Prayer just goes. It covers, it comforts, it heals, it moves.

Give thanks in all circumstances.. This one is similar to the “rejoice always” verse. It doesn’t mean to be thankful you’ve lost a loved one, or a job. It means to recognize God has all things under His authority and control. That is enough for me to say thank you to Him all the time.

So, thank you God for a deeper joy,
The ability to be mindful in prayer–even as I go about my day,
And thank you for being the God who is in control, so I don’t have to be
.

Amen. But without ceasing.

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Comfort

During the Christmas season, as the air grows colder, nights come more quickly, the conversation often turns to things of comfort. Comfortable clothing, big warm sweaters, cozy fires, comfort foods. The images that come to mind are of curling up in a big chair with a blanket by the fireplace with something warm in a cup, and a good book to read.

The reality is though, that while these things bring comfort in the long run they are temporal. Things get lost, we out grow them, times change. They don’t last.

The only real comfort that has eternal standing is Jesus. He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). We are His beloved, when we hurt or worry, or feel lost, He is there to bring us comfort. To encourage us, to hold us, and help us in our times of trial.

My mom often talks about her relationship with her father growing up. He would come home from work and she would climb up into his lap and curl up against his chest. She felt secure, protected, and loved.

I realize not everyone had a dad like she did, but our Heavenly Father has a “lap” that we can crawl up on and feel safe, secure, and comforted.

There are some days when the image of doing that brings me the best comfort in the world. Better than any big sweater, comfy chair, and good book ever could.

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:13).

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When

When times are tough and you don’t know where to turn, turn to Jesus.

When there is nothing that you can do on your own power, turn to Jesus.

When you feel lost and alone, frightened or uncertain, turn to Jesus.

When your heart is so full of joy that you feel like it could sing, turn to Jesus.

When you need direction, wisdom, clarity, turn to Jesus.

When you have so many blessings in your life that your heart and hands can’t contain them, turn to Jesus.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
there’s just something about that name.
Master, Savior, Jesus,
Like a fragrance after the rain.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Let all heaven and earth proclaim,
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away,
But there’s just something about that name.

(lyrics by Gloria Gaither)

Amen.

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Hmmm

Have you ever noticed: it’s not what you say so much as how you say it? We have become a society full of sarcasm, put-downs, and verbal slams against something, usually someone, with whom we disagree. Why?

When did kindness become a sign of weakness?

While watching a daytime television show one of the hosts commented that with our social media availability, people have the potential to write horrid, cruel, demeaning comments to others they have never met. The host made a point to say the anonymity gives the commenter a brazen voice.

What happened to the idea that if you had nothing nice to say you didn’t speak? When did shocking and hurting someone with your cutting remarks become the norm?

A dear aunt of mine has chosen a response to those around her who may speak rudely. She simply says, “Kindness, please.”

That is it. It says it all.

Scripture is clear– we are commanded in Ephesians 4:32 to “Be kind to one another, forgiving each other as God in Christ Jesus has forgiven you.”

Gentleness and kindness are not a sign of weakness. In many ways they are a sign of strength. Choosing to respond to someone in a way contrary to the way they have spoken with you shows a strength in character. In simple terms, it shows the person responding has manners.

We need to not just teach our future generations science, technology, engineering, and math. We should also be teaching them social graces, thankfulness, encouragement, and manners.

Kindness is as necessary to our world as air and I am sad to see how short we are on supply.

It’s enough to make you say, “hmmm.”

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