Silent Night

I woke up remembering the song my four year old sang under the leadership of the Vickers and her dad playing guitar. Many years have passed, and God still remains faithful. May we feel the beauty of the silent and sacred night.

ARRESTED BY GRACE

Valentina singing Silent Night at 4 years old.  Daddy on guitar.  Director was sweet Kaye Vickers.

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The Perfect Christmas Gift

It’s Christmas Eve and all the shopping is done. The stores are closing early, and you can’t express order at this point.  Then it comes, that gnawing feeling of “Did I do enough?”

If you then, imperfect as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11

Our Father in Heaven will give good things to those who ask Him!  After reading this verse, I began to shift my mindset to the good things of God. Things that money can’t buy and Amazon can’t deliver overnight.

I pray your Christmas no matter what gifts you’ve purchased, and the boxes you open, you’ll find the perfect Christmas gift.

The love of Christ.  His peace in the busy. The acceptance of His love for you–just the way you are and where you are in life’s journey.

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I pray in the middle of it all, His presence will overwhelm you, and in some concrete way you’ll smile and say, “Yes, Jesus, I know you love me.”  The bird singing, the smell of food, the smile on a child’s face, a baby crying, music playing, a warm shower, a hug, a picture, a pregnant belly, naps, old movies, a tear, a memory of a loved one, a favorite book, water to drink, the sun rising– His world all around you saying I love you…..

On a personal note, I had written on the prodigal son yesterday.  In a difficult moment, I heard my phone buzz.  I looked and my “word of the day”  App and the word was “prodigal”.  Thank you Jesus. Nothing is coincidental.  Every nudge or obvious circumstance acknowledge Him and His love.

Merry Christmas…

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Imagine more than enough: Simple Grace

When I was around 12 years old, I fell in love with the music and artist Olivia Newton John.  I had all her albums, and I knew, not only the songs that hit the charts, but also the obscure songs no one really listened to.  One of the songs I enjoyed singing was “Never Enough”

Why must we want so much more than we have?
Will we never be satisfied?
Just look around
How can we feel so denied?

But it’s never enough, never never enough
Why is all that we have simply never enough?
No, it’s never enough, never never enough
It’s so sad
Is anything ever enough?

At 12 years old, I am sure my love for the song lacked depth of understanding and was more me pretending to be Olivia belting out the song.

At 50 years old, I understand.

The years go by and the unpredictability of life as well as choices you made are played out, and they create a story line with chapters and trilogies.

Imagine more than enough.

Honestly, the older you become the more you fall into the trap of comparison and envy. I know it’s wrong, causes stress, and hurts not only you, but those you love.

God, why does so-and-so seem to have it all together, and I can’t even keep up laundry?

God, how do they afford such luxuries?

God, why does their marriage, parenting, job seem so easy?

Imagine more than enough.

I’ve heard the Prodigal Son parable in Luke so many times I’ve lost count.  Countless sermons with different thoughts on the parable have touched my heart and brought wisdom.  Yesterday, in my devotional book, Simple Grace, the highlight was the Prodigal Son, and the title was “Imagine more than enough”.  

Our tendency to rush to judgment of others is understandable given your underestimation of your Father’s mercy and might. We question our worth.

The Holy Spirit brought to my heart “who” was in the audience when Jesus shared the parable–the Pharisee and Sadducee leaders.

They were angered that Jesus would offer spiritual blessings and love to all men and women. Spiritual privilege belonged to them based on their heritage, schooling, and Old Testament laws.  They suffered from understanding that Jesus was more than enough for all His children.  In some way, they represented the older son in the story who was angry that the father would welcome home the wayward child who squandered all his inheritance. Jesus said to them:

“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.”

The religious leaders needed to embrace the love of Jesus not only for them, but share in the goodness of God for all mankind.

You are always with your Father and there is enough of His love for all of you…in fact, there is much more than enough….Thanks to His grace, you’re always enough and there is always much more than enough. Simple Grace, pg. 103

We are never to judge our place with Jesus by earthly standards such as position, power, material objects, our health, wealth, poverty, state of our marriage, success of our children, or the opinions of others.

He is more than enough, and because of His love, so are we.

Don’t make up stories to describe your life based on your comparisons, shame, or insecurities.  Step inside God’s story for you and know you are worth it!

I heard a sermon on comparison and envy by Ed Young.  He asked, “Do you think when you see Jesus face-to-face, that He is going to ask you if you lived your life being “John Doe” or “Susie”? No!  He will ask–“Did you live your life living out MY plan for YOU?” (paraphrased from Life’s Too Short to be Envious).

Be the YOU, God created YOU to be.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10

 

Misfits find an Open Door

Belonging.

The simplest of clubs have a set of qualifications or bylaws in which you follow to belong. If you don’t have the qualifications then you don’t belong. Most of our lives we either belong, or feel out-of-place–“misfits”. We don’t fit the mold or expectations.  In some cases, we are okay with the lack of our name on the roll, but in some cases it stings. You may experience feelings of loneliness, shame, or unworthiness.

“The clubs range from informal to formal in gatherings. But the one thing they have in common is the principle of exclusion. Identity or worth is achieved by excluding all but the chosen…but with God there are no outsiders.” (The Message, Book of Luke Introduction, pg. 1404)

We often read from the book of Luke during Christmas.  His detailed description of the birth of Jesus is often read in our homes and places of worship. On Friday night, my Bible study group concentrated on the relationship between Jesus and Mary as we celebrated the mother/daughter relationship.  On Sunday, our pastor spoke on the Christmas story and had this picture of Mary and Jesus.

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We were running late for church, and I walked into the above picture displayed on a large screen.  When I sat down and began to read Luke while gazing at Mary and Jesus, I felt overwhelmed with the desire to hold Jesus, kiss His face, and tell Him how much I love Him.  We often pray for Jesus to hold us, but I wanted the time and space to worship Him and give back to Him in gratitude and resolve.

I love you Jesus.

When you read the book of Luke, you will see how Jesus loved the outsider.  He ministered to women, common laborers (sheepherders), the racially different (Samaritans), the poor.  All of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus. (The Message, pg. 1404)

I sent this message of love to a sister in Christ who confirmed Jesus’ love:

“Oh what an honor to be in a position to lean in and kiss the face of God!!!! I am overjoyed to see this image.  It makes me think of all the women in the Bible who “touched Jesus”: The woman with blood issue, the sinful woman, and of course Mary Magdalene at the day of Resurrection.  I am reminded of how God always allowed women to be in that unique position to be closest to Him. Praise God for His mercy on us!  How can I get closer Lord?!”  Dr. Kim Lemite

I’m not sure of your circumstances today as you are reading this post. God does. He desires to lift you and guide you.  Through the work of Jesus–His birth, His ministry, His death, and His Resurrection, the door is wide open.  His love is a free gift that lasts for all eternity. You will not need insurance, a lawyer to review the bylaws, or to be set up on payment plans–His love is free.  You only need to walk through the open door.

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  John 10:9

After writing this post I worshiped with this Compassion Hymn by Keith and Kristyn Getty.  OH PRAISE GOD–SPEND TIME WITH HIM…..LISTEN…CLOSE YOUR EYES AND WORSHIP….

“He pardons the scoffers and gives grace to the thief.”

God’s Love Wins

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

Christmas is a time of remembering.  We reflect back on the years as we engage in traditions and in the making of new traditions. I am watching my oldest navigate and enjoy her first Christmas in marriage, and her excitement reminds me of my first Christmas.

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Parish and I often reflect on our first Christmas in our trailer on the York river with Victoria.  She had just turned a year old that July, 1999.  We pinched every penny, and we shared a car.  With no money to buy a Christmas tree, we went “shopping” in the field next to our home and pulled up the closest resemblance of an evergreen.  With a gaping hole in the front of the tree, we filled the spot with her favorite stuffed animal at the time. Our tree stand was an old crab basket washed up from the river.

Through the years, God’s love has never given up on us.  He has remained the ever faithful One in all our circumstances.

God never gives up on us.  

Take time this Christmas to acknowledge God’s faithfulness.  Perhaps you are in the middle of a circumstance that’s keeping you from enjoying rest and peace during this Christmas season.  It’s okay.  God is faithful even in our restlessness, sorrow, and unanswered questions. The absence or presence of suffering is not our measuring stick for our Joy, or God’s favor.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

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In My Daughter’s Eyes

Mother:

Looking into the manger of baby Jesus, It makes me wonder about Mary as a mother. When Jesus searched His earthly mother’s eyes for the first time, did Mary weep? Did she, like all mothers in that bonding moment, cry tears of joy?

Gertrude Käsebier, The Manger, 1899; Gift of the Holladay Foundation – See more at: http://nmwa.org/works/manger#sthash.Ys2vUC2F.dpuf
Mothers, go back in your mind to that moment in the hospital when all the labor was done.  Your little girl was whisked away to be cleaned up.  You laid there in awe and exhaustion.  When all the guests have gone, and it’s just you and your baby girl you looked deep into her eyes, and you see her searching your eyes with such intention.  Her little mouth puckering and forming what will soon be her way to eat and talk to you. If I close my eyes, I can go there in a minute and weep. Maybe you are a grandmother and you are remembering your grandchildren and that moment.  Maybe some of you are thinking about your mother who has gone on to be with Jesus.  This Christmas is filled with a longing to look into her eyes again.

 

Daughter:

Mom, I don’t remember that moment, but because you loved me so much and cared for me, it began a journey of attachment to someone who loved me beyond my comprehension.  As I grew, I realized that In my mother’s eyes I could see acceptance, concern for me, love, a sense of belonging, joy, tears when I hurt, anticipation, pride, expectation, and, yes, the occasional: “You are in trouble young lady!”

Mother:

My eyes have changed over the years.  My eyes have seen much, experienced much, and there is a depth found in my soul work with Jesus that altered my “20 something eyes”.

Daughter:

Mom, maybe your eyes have more tears, more wear and tear, and unexplainable joy, but they have pointed me to Jesus who is my perfect parent.  It’s okay.  In fact, I bet Mary and Jesus often looked at each other, and Mary was overwhelmed with her “humanness”. You’ve taught me mom to look into the eyes of Jesus and for that I’m grateful.  Remember the hymn we use to sing?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus! Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace….

Daughter:

Mom, here I am with you, my future child’s great grandmother, aunts, and my spiritual family.  What great joy and anticipation!  Let’s celebrate Christmas with anticipation just like Mary awaiting Jesus’ birth. Let us prepare our hearts and anticipate not only the Christmas morning, but His coming again.

Mother:

I love you.

Daughter:

Mom, I look forward to my time alone in the hospital with my child—that mother/daughter moment in the dark, and quiet of the night. I will love, remember, and just like Mary  “treasure these things in my heart”.   Just like I found in my mother’s eyes a reflection of who I am and what will be, I hope my sweet baby will find that same reflection in my eyes, and most importantly the eyes of Jesus.

 

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Victoria and Anna singing In My Daughter’s Eyes in 2011 at a Christian Woman’s Club Meeting.  I loved closing our presentation last night with this duet.  Through the years, this song has brought new meaning and great joy!

 

Mother Daughter Woman of Worth Mentoring Ministries Christmas Party,  December 18, 2015

What a sweet night with Jesus and our daughters. Ladies–the night brought great joy!  This season we are encouraged to celebrate JESUS and share His love.

Don’t forget to have your mother/daughter Bible study time with yummmmmmy hot chocolate. The Bible Study is below if you need it.

  

BIBLE STUDY LINK:
Mother Daughter Christmas Memories

 

 

Bankrupt without love

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. (I Corinthians 13 The Message)

…unless we be animated to these sufferings by a principle of true devotion to God, and sincere love to his church and people, and good-will to mankind. The outward carriage may be plausible, when the invisible principle is very bad.  Matthew Henry’s Commentary

We are bankrupt without love.  Bankrupt is defined as “declared in law unable to pay outstanding debts”.  God’s Word reminds us that “God IS love” (I John 4:8).  We are unable to pay our debts so Jesus came to pay the price of our debts through His love in a manger, death on a cross, and Resurrection from the tomb.

As we begin this Advent season on December 1, let’s put down all ceasing and striving and rest in God’s love for us.  We truly are bankrupt without Him, and His love will bring purpose, meaning, and direction.

Lord, may Your love be my sole purpose to fill my heart and mind during this busy season.  Lord, bring us back to love.  Help us to truly believe that “the greatest of these is love”.