A doctor had to give a painful shot to a four-year-old girl. When she learned what the doctor was about to do, her face showed anxiety and her body tensed. As the doctor picked up what looked to the little girl to be a needle large enough to kill an elephant, she turned her eyes to her father, who then took her hand and fixed his eyes on hers. An expression of confidence and calmness came on her face. She knew she was not alone and found comfort, not in her father’s spoken answer, but in his presence with her in her time of need. (1)
Dear friends, it is no surprise that we are living in difficult times. The burdens of life are inescapable. Our lives, careers, families, and faith are being tried and challenged daily.
But as the story illustrates, we are not alone.
Despite the painful shots of life that come and pierce our hearts, we have a loving Father who is by our side who is willing to take our hand and comfort us in our time of need.
“Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.”
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”
These truths are but a few of the many anchors that keep us moored when the burdens of life blow upon us. But they only serve their purpose when our eyes are fixed on the One who calms the waves of the sea (Mark 4:35-41).
“But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!”
God calls us to look to Him, trust Him, and lean on Him daily.
Let me ask, when trouble strikes, where do you go or to whom do you trust?
Do you trust in self-reliance or do you trust in the LORD who holds all things in His hands?
Do you seek shelter in self-pity or do you take shelter in the Most High?
When darkness falls, do you walk in the light of your own counsel or do you seek out the word of God to light your way?
Let us search our hearts and answer these questions because if we don’t, the burdens of life will come and they will answer them for us.
May the LORD bless you and keep you.
Jim is a former Marine and retired California police officer. He has a passion for sharing his love for Jesus through writing and teaching.
(1) Green, Michael P., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, page 21
She sat legs crossed in the middle of the sidewalk. Her two daughters’ chalk drawings encircled her. She was a young woman, possibly late 20s, cell phone in hand but her eyes, they remained lovingly focused on her girls.
As we walked passed, I complimented the children’s artwork. The oldest girl looked up and thanked me. I smiled at mom and that was all that was needed to start the conversation.
She shared she was laid-off last week due to the virus. She was a nurse at a local clinic but still, she was let go. At first, she was scared at the thought of not having a job, the uncertainty of no paycheck, the desperation that comes when your world is suddenly, uncontrollably turned upside down. But it’s been a few days, she’s had time to reflect, and today she counts it a blessing.
The virus has given her a chance to love on her girls, quality time to home school, draw sidewalk figures, and demonstrate for her girls how to stand strong in the face of an unknown future.
I will never look back at this time and wish I had worked more. I will always look back at this time and know it was the best for my children.
In late December, when the first words of Covid-19 were echoed, we thought it was a faraway illness. By mid-January, it had taken grip of the world and we, like this young mother, were faced with uncertain and fearful times.
But we’ve had time to adjust to our new reality. We’ve learned to navigate social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, financial downturns and upswings, even the closure of our favorite restaurants, bookstores, and movie theaters.
For some, you’ve had to navigate sudden illness and even the death of loved ones. It is so hard and please know that I’m not trying to minimize the pain of your current reality.
Perhaps, just as this young mom, it’s time for us to stop looking at this invisible enemy’s power for destruction and start refocusing on God’s continued blessings.
Maybe we can move from what we’ve lost, our pain and suffering and start looking for the unfolding of God’s miraculous purpose.
God’s power and strength are available to heal, restore, and provide the clarity we all need.
(1) … Don’t be afraid, for I have ransomed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. (2) When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up—the flames will not consume you. (3) For I am the Lord your God, your Savior, the Holy One of Israel…
Isaiah 43:1-3a Living Bible (TLB)
As we walked away from mom and her budding artists, she said,
There really is a blessing in the midst of all that is going on! I get time to spend with my girls, we can slow down, we have a chance to focus on what really matters.
I encourage you Sisters, don’t allow this virus, the world’s fear, or the devil’s lies distract you from the truth of God’s love.
You are not alone,
You are fearlessly loved,
You are God’s BeLOVED.
Please consider seeing this forced slow down as an opportunity. A chance to take walks hand-in-hand with those you love. A time to share your heart, encourage the weak, love on the lost.
Maybe we can view it as precious time, given to us by God as a respite to refresh our souls, grow our faith, and renew our strength.
Let’s take our eyes, our minds, and our hearts off the invisible enemy and get them keenly focused on the hope of our future, the provision of our lives – Jesus.
The line started at the front door and snaked into the parking lot. It crossed two rows of parking stalls and grew steadily as more cars filled the lot.
The store wouldn’t open for another 30-minutes but the crowd had formed, posed to rush the door.
The chatter in the line was somber, serious – food was running out, supplies were scarce; some shared their fabricated theories of an unknown future.
The virus had succeeded in capturing the world’s attention. Media inspired messaging had accomplished its task. Anxiety, fear, and panic controlled these shoppers, the larger community, the globe.
I spoke with the store manager and in addition to talking about his exhaustion, he commented,
I just don’t understand! Do we really need to stockpile food? Is there that much fear in the world that we have to push and shove to get the last package of frozen peas? It says something about who we are as a community, as people.
Fear is a compelling partner.
On one end of the spectrum, it provides the needed kick to infuse our bodies with adrenaline. Allowing us to outrun the aggressive dog, step on stage and share our hearts, or stand strong in the face of the bully.
But at the other end of the continuum, fear can incapacitate our lives. All rational thought and reasoning are overwhelmed by the possibility of an unknown event and as a result, we are enslaved, trapped in what could happen – may happen – what we’ve contrived to happen.
The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 31:8,
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.
New International Version (NIV)
In times of great uncertainty, one constant remains, one truth we can hold to, God will not abandon us.
In the face of a virus pandemic – God is the great healer.
During a free fall of the stock market – God remains in control.
When the grocery store shelves are empty – God provides.
And when anxiety overcomes you, keeps you awake at night, gnaws at your daily thoughts – God’s peace is available.
The world may feel unsafe and out of control but security, true security, is not tied to this world. Security comes from a personal intimate relationship with the God of the universe. The One who has promised, since the creation of the world, to love and provide.
(1) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. (2) Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (3) though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalm 46: 1-3 (NIV)
BeLOVED, I encourage you to cling to the only constant that can bring real peace in times of mass anxiety and fear – God.
Corrie ten Boom faced unimaginable fear. When the Nazis threatened to imprison her, she continued to help Jews escape the horrors of the Holocaust. And even after she was arrested and sent to a prison camp, she continued to serve God. It is said that Corrie and her family helped some 800 Jews in spite of their fear and the real threat of death.
Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.
These are certainly unknown times but…
You know God – rest in His faithfulness, His goodness, His mercy and grace.
You are known by God – you are His child.
Trust God – He loves you.
When you feel fear and panic rise, pray.
When the nights linger and you can’t sleep, read God’s word, listen to worship music.
When you are tempted to believe that God is not responding or He doesn’t care, remember that He sent His only Son to die for your eternity.
~ Please see the new posts on our Devotion and Favorites pages ~
Last week a friend invited me to join her on a 896-mile roundtrip journey from Oregon to California.
She was making the trip to care for a family member following surgery. I would have a chance to spend time with my sister and niece. We would have a chance to check off an item on our respective “To Do” lists – a road trip with a friend.
The trip would require us to spend 16-hours in a car together. But I knew the time would pass too fast. You see friends like her are sisters in disguise. And time spent connecting and sharing your heart is a gift.
We planned our departure, 7 AM sharp.
I picked her up at the top of the hour and for the next 50 minutes, we played tag trying to say goodbye to friends, leaving little tokens on doorsteps, sharing uncontrollable laughter as we navigated through roundabouts and expressway on-ramps.
Finally, we hit the open road, only to have to pull over 20 minutes out of town – the hood of the car had not been secured during a recent safety inspection. Disaster avoided, we were back on the road.
The roadway unfolded in front of us and with each mile came an invitation to discuss life, solve our most pressing dilemmas, and voice dreams we had never shared before.
There is something so special when you can have an authentic conversation – revealing fears, pain, and struggles and know that they will never go any further than the interior walls of the other person’s heart. There is a cleansing that happens and Satan’s lies and deceptions no longer have a hold on your mind.
Friendships are precious, honor them, and thank God for sisters of the heart.
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 tells us,
(9) Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. (10) If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. (11) Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? (12) A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
New Living Translation (NLT)
God never intended us to be alone, to walk through life disconnected. We need our husbands, our sisters (biological and chosen), we need our brothers, and we need God’s miraculous presence to make us whole.
Walking life isolated is dangerous. You have no accountability, no one to dispel Satan’s lies, no one to validate that you are precious and valuable in God’s eyes.
Sisters, please don’t try to do life alone. Reach out and take a step towards establishing some healthy friendships. Move beyond your fears and share your heart, be a friend – a chosen sister and experience the blessings of unconditional love and acceptance.
I want to thank the women in my life that I call “chosen sisters.” You are so special to me and I treasure our friendship.
I think of my sister often. Not because she’s passed away or we are estranged. I think of her because she showed me the face of courage. She taught me what it means to be brave.
When his hand slapped and beat her – she focused on her baby’s future. When he kicked her – she kept her eyes on the promise of a better day. When words cut deeper than her scars – she maintained empathy.
She chose love.
She endured the abuse of a mentally ill, drug-addicted husband – trapped by the fear of losing her daughter and her family.
Battered and bruised, she survived.
I was 5 when my sister married, she was 17. He was her hero. The focus of her naïve passion since the age of 15. The one she would share life with, experience love, and grow old with and then, he wasn’t.
My niece was 2 ½ years old when the abuse started. At first, it was possessiveness – flattering really, he wanted her all to himself. Then a hurtful word, a threat, a slap, soon escalating into indescribable violence.
Our parents often talked of rescuing, intervening, doing something but deep down they knew she would return. Her husband’s hold on her so deep – he had threatened to kill us if she left and she knew he was capable of doing it.
Researchers acknowledge that long-term repeated abuse can lead to Post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and for many women that experience violence they cope with their trauma by using drugs, alcohol, smoking, or over-eating. (For more information about the impact of domestic violence, go to https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety.)
Many women stay with their abuser, not because they don’t have support, but because they can’t see beyond their fear, the effects of isolation, the lack of self-esteem, and the decimation of their personal value.
But what the research doesn’t discuss, what the articles don’t share, and the support groups don’t address are those standing on the outside of the abuse looking in. We watch the person we love change; disappear in front of us. A young woman with dreams, goals for her future – gone, replaced by a shell of a person clinging to each second of every day. Working to survive, shielding her baby, protecting her family.
The research can’t prepare those watching from the distance for the unreturned phone calls, for the silence, for the void. And even when you know, the absence is a survival technique, questions come to mind – can I do more, should I do more, why didn’t I do more?
As a young woman, I understood in my head the impact domestic violence has on a person. I had reviewed the research, talked with the experts, and read the books. But in my heart, deep in my soul, I yearned for my sister. I ached for the holidays, the birthdays, her presence at my wedding. I longed to play with my niece, to be her aunt, share life, impart wisdom. So many absent moments.
But mostly, I regret I couldn’t be there. I recognize that I would not be able to stand between my sister and her husband’s violence. I didn’t have the tools to fix his illness or her brokenness. But if only I could have held her hand, touched her tears, held her bruised body. If only I could have provided comfort during the darkest time of her life.
My sister taught me so much through the distance. Through the silence and the void, she taught me to be courageous, to respect myself and to demand respect from others.
I was on the outside watching this grand story unfold.
I would catch a glimpse of her at the store, in a park, walking down the street and I watched how she navigated the world while living in a prison of fear. I saw her work to stay present, soft, a model for her young daughter even though she knew they would return home to a monster.
She helped me to become strong.
It had been decades of missed celebrations, years of watching from a distance when we received the call. My sister on the other end of the phone, her husband died suddenly. His addiction and mental illness taking its final toll. Through a devastating set of circumstances, she was free.
Our family longed to pick up the pieces, to make the past disappear. We are “fixers” and we had waited for what seemed to be an eternity to reach in and redeem the brokenness. But, the effects of a life of abuse are deeply ingrained in the brain – it takes time to reconnect, overcome the guilt, and wrestle with the shame. And as she worked her way back to us, we watched from the sideline, supporting when possible, comforting, loving her.
Standing on the sideline, sitting still when you want to run and save, praying and then praying some more – it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough when your loved one is being abused. There has to be more. More you can do.
But at times, all you can do is hold the image of your loved one as a precious gift. Gently placed in the palm of your hands, treasuring the moments, the memories, and looking forward to a time when you can be family.
I will never fully know the terror of her life. But I know today that through it all my sister stands tall. She is wrapped in dignity. She is a warrior and I am bolder, more confident, because of her example. She conquered the pain, overcame the fear, and rose above his grip on her life.
So, what do you do if you are standing on the sideline? You’ve watched your sister, mother, girlfriend vanish. You’ve tried to comfort, to encourage, to shelter them from the attacks, the abuse, the pain. But right now, you are waiting, paused, fearful that the next call will make your nightmare come true. While you are waiting,
PRAY – On your knees face to the ground pray. Intercede on behalf of the person. Pray for their safety, the spouse, children, ask for wisdom. Invite God into the situation and then pray for yourself. You need His strength and courage for this journey. It may be a long hard trip.
PREPARE– Find local agencies that help abused women – shelters, police, safe house locations, and educate yourself about their services, operating hours, and contact numbers. Research national and local websites that can provide accurate information about domestic violence, see the list below for links to national sites.
PLAN – Consider developing a practical escape plan with your loved one. A packed bag hidden in a safe location. A place of refuge.
PERSEVERE – I encourage you to come to grips with the fact that you can’t fix this. Your place, as hard as it may be, is on the sideline watching. Until the call comes, until they reach out – you are sequestered to the bench, waiting.
But when they reach out, then you have a chance to encourage, listen intently, and love unconditionally. Please resist the urge to blame or pour more shame and guilt on them. I understand you are frustrated and angry that you can’t change the circumstances. But they don’t need your sermons or why-nots.
They need you.
Perhaps you are reading this blog and are in the midst of this desperate journey. Maybe he’s only threatened you, or perhaps it’s the first punch and you are thinking it won’t get any worse. Perhaps you are looking for a way out but fear is gripping your heart and his words keep repeating in your mind – there is NO way out. Please know that help is available, reach out to someone, tell someone, you deserve more than the abuse you are experiencing. Your children deserve more.
Please find the strength, when it’s safe, to leave. There is life on the other side of the abuse.
The United States Department of Justice Domestic Violence -https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence
I was so excited this Christmas about the gift I selected for my husband! It was something he needed, unexpected, actually something he never considered.
His home office chair was made up of bits and pieces from his previous chair and parts found at a thrift store. It worked and he was excited about his creation.
Yet I noticed that as he spent time in the chair, he slowly lowered. The hydraulics no longer worked. And at 6’2”, you need a chair’s hydraulics to work. Otherwise, you look like a giant sitting in a child’s chair – his knees creeping close to his ears.
So, his present was a leather desk chair. Of course, it came unassembled in a box – a very large heavy box! And when you are trying to surprise a person, a large heavy box is an obstacle.
The store clerk loaded it into my car, it was unloaded at a friend’s house to wrap, reloaded by the same friends, and then I made my way home. Once there, I had this large wrapped present and no way to get in the house.
Standing at the tailgate of my car contemplating my challenge, my husband stepped out of the house. He asked, “Do you need help?” I reluctantly responded “yes,” but added, “don’t shake it” – as if he could really shake this thing.
We got it through the doorway, rested it on the floor near the Christmas tree and stood back to take in the enormity of the box. My husband turned to me and with his boyish smile asked,
What is it?
Is it for me?
I responded, “You’ll have to wait for Christmas day and yes, it is for you.”
For the next few days, he made statements about his present, speculated about its contents, and commented about the size and weight. I would catch him standing and staring at the box and then…
Christmas morning arrived.
He opened the big box last, still no clue about what was inside. His anticipation and excitement broke as he ripped open the wrapping paper to reveal his new office chair.
He was surprised. It was a practical gift; something needed, and quickly became his “best” Christmas gift.
God, in His goodness, gave us some amazing gifts.
He created us in His image, in His likeness – the gift of life. And even when we disobeyed Him, wandering aimlessly through a desert wilderness, He was sovereign. He sent His Son that Christmas morning making a way to reconcile us with God – the gift of new life.
You must understand that from the day God created us, He knew we would reject Him. He was never taken by surprise, never stunned by our actions. He has always known our disobedience would lead to the ultimate sacrifice, the life of His Son.
Hundreds of years before Jesus crucifixion, Isaiah prophesied,
(5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (6) We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
(7) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (8) By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. (9) He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
(10) Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. (11) After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. (12) Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53: 5-12 New International Version (NIV)
Take a minute to allow that to sink in. God never had a Plan-B, He has always known – Christmas would lead to crucifixion. A sacrifice that led to the best gift, the gift of eternal life!
Roman’s 5:6-8 says,
(6) You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. (7) Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. (8) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… (21) so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The greatest gift, our sins forgiven and eternal life with our Father.
As we close 2019, I encourage you to remember God’s great love for you. From the creation of the world and throughout history,
He remains close.
He loves you.
You are His BeLOVED!
If you’ve never received Jesus as your personal Savior. It’s a simple heart-felt prayer away (a conversation with Jesus). You can pray something like this,
I know that I am a sinner. Please forgive my sins. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I want to leave my old life and cling to you. Please come into my heart and direct my life. I trust you as my Lord and Savior. Amen
If you have prayed that prayer, please leave a comment and let me know. I would love to pray for you.
Christmas is 2-days away and I am so excited about sharing time with my husband.
We’ve celebrated with family and friends and now we get a chance to slow down, light a fire in the fireplace, cuddle together on the couch, and reflect on all the blessings, the gifts, God has given us this year.
You see it’s been one of those years that cause you to take notice. It forced us to take a deep breath. It tested our faith and it drove us to abandon our pride and self-reliance.
This year, God gave us an amazing gift, the gift of new life. Wrapped in the hands of a skilled surgeon, a new artery replacing the one that had blocked my heart.
I am grateful.
We are thankful.
I am forever changed.
Some 2000 years ago, a new life was born in a humble stable. Wrapped in cloth and placed in a manger, a baby – the Savior of the world.
His parents hovered close; they had encountered the angels and listened intently when told about His purpose. What a life-altering gift that first Christmas.
I doubt anyone witnessing this infant fully grasped the enormity of the event. Jesus, God’s own son, taking on human form to offer a broken world new life.
(4) But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. (6) Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (7) So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.
Galatians 4:4-7 New International Version (NIV)
Through Jesus’ birth that Christmas morning, we are heirs, sons, daughters, and a child of God. Our gift is a life transformed, becoming more and more like our Father. No longer enslaved by sin, controlled by our fears, confined to the world’s definitions, or imprisoned by unattainable expectations. Our faith and trust in Jesus bring newness.
This Christmas, I hope you take a few minutes to step away from the demands of the holiday and reflect on the gift God has given you.
The shopping, cooking, parties, cards, expectations, unmet expectations, and inevitable disappointments. All condensed into a 4-week period. There is just not enough time to make it all fit and sometimes not sufficient emotional capital to address all the needs.
Christmas can be challenging!
I think one of my challenges is finding the perfect gift. One that tells the person I have thought about you. I care about you. You are special to me.
Particularly hard is shopping for the young adults in my life and those that already have enough and have asked for “no more.”
This year, I tried to maneuver around the shopping trials and made most of the presents for family and close friends. And because family and chosen family live in other states, I placed my treasures in cute gift bags, packed them in boxes, drove them to the shipping store, and prayed they arrive before Christmas day.
During this season, I am drawn to the manger scene. Baby Jesus, shepherds, and that bright shining star. But long before the Wise Men offered their precious presents, before an untimely trip to Bethlehem, before Mary and Joseph, God gave us His first gift. The gift of life.
(26) Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and overall the creatures that move along the ground.”
(27) So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
(28) God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Genesis 1:26 – 28
God gave each of us an amazing gift – the gift of life. He chose us to occupy space and time with Him. He offered us intimacy, relationship, a garden filled with His created beauty, communion with our Creator. And then He offered us purpose – multiply, fill the earth, and rule over it.
Genesis 2:7 shares,
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Can you imagine the scene? God kneeling on the ground. He scoops dirt from the earth and forms a man. He then bends close and breathes life into his lungs. A creation of love – the first human. The origin of our lives.
(21) …God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. (22) Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
God fashioned you and me (woman) out of the man he formed, a single rib – our life.
This Christmas season let us not forget that we are God’s creation, shaped in His image, bearing His likeness. He gave us life that creation day and He continues to give us life today, directing our paths, providing for our futures.
Please don’t lose sight with the busyness of the Christmas season, the gift-giving, the parties, the expectations, and inevitable disappointments, that 1000s of years ago, God gave us the most amazing gift – the gift of life.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Sami couldn’t have been much older than 3, tugging at her mom’s hand and pointing in the direction of Santa’s workshop. Mom was trying to finish her conversation with the sales clerk but Sami would not be ignored.
They finally made their way to the end of the line and settled behind a snake of excited squiggling toddlers. Each made their way to Santa’s lap, a coaxed whisper in his ear, and a candy cane to complete their visit. Stepping off the stage, each running with excitement to the waiting arms of family.
Sami walked up the steps, mounted Santa’s knee and announced to the crowd what she wanted for Christmas. No whisper, no coaxed conversation – she shouted clearly for all to hear.
To the surprise of her mother, the list included a baby brother – his name will be James just like her Grandpa, a fairy doll set, and a new goldfish. Goldie, her previous goldfish, was found floating upside down in his bowl and was sent to heaven by way of a flush. The crowd chuckled and then froze at Sami’s next statement,
I need more JESUS!
Santa looked a little puzzled. What do you say to a child that wants more Jesus?
Sami smiled and scooted off Santa’s lap, collected her candy cane and made her way back to mom. Mom bent down and gave her a hug, then stood and clarified,
Cheez-Its, she loves them; we’ve run out!
The crowd let out a collective giggle, Sami walked away, candy cane in hand.
Sami was unaware of the truth she had shared with her sweet mispronunciation. But such a profound reality innocently spoken.
I don’t know about you but this Christmas, I need more Jesus!
Replacing the seduction of the world, with the satisfaction that He is enough. Substituting the hustle with the beauty of time spent in His presence, available to hear a Word, gain a glimpse of eternity. I need to move my attention off my expectations and wants, refocusing the minutes of my days on all He has done, His provision, His future promises.
What a perfect Christmas gift, more Jesus.
In Galatians 4:3-7 we get a glimpse at the gift of Jesus,
(3) And that is the way it was with us before Christ came. We were slaves to Jewish laws and rituals, for we thought they could save us. (4) But when the right time came, the time God decided on, he sent his Son, born of a woman, born as a Jew, (5) to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his very own sons. (6) And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father. (7) Now we are no longer slaves but God’s own sons. And since we are his sons, everything he has belongs to us, for that is the way God planned.
Living Bible (TLB)
That first Christmas God gave us the ultimate gift, His Son. And every Christmas since that day, His precious gift remains available to us.
For some, the gift remains unopened. If the truth were told, they don’t even see the humble package. They scan the stack of gifts, drawn to the shiny boxes, the fancy packaging, those that sparkle of gold and silver.
Some open His gift, trying it on to see if it fits, and later decide to re-gift it. They recognize it will require sacrifice. They can’t appreciate the value, the great price paid.
A few unwrap the gift and immediately recognize the treasure inside. They are overwhelmed by its beauty and value, moved to tears for being offered such a cherished present.
As you navigate this Christmas season, I encourage you to reflect on why you celebrate. Evaluate if you need more Jesus this year and consider slowing down a little to enjoy the extravagant gift you’ve been given.
My prayer for you is that you have received the precious gift of Jesus, recognize the treasure you’ve been given and share your gift with those around you.
Over the next three weeks, we will look at three gifts God has given us. We will take time to unwrap each precious package and discover the depth of God’s love and care for each of us.
As we focus on these extravagant gifts, I invite you to shift your focus from Christmas as it has been to Christmas as it can be. A Christmas filled with more of Jesus.
I am excited to unpack the gift of Jesus with you.
I was 17 the first time I married. He was the big man on campus and his attention made me feel special, important. We were married for just under 6-months – the marriage annulled, both of us going our separate ways.
My older sister was married at 17. Her marriage lasted some 20+ years, time devoured by mental and physical abuse. The cruelty ending with her husband’s death.
Our brother, the middle child, left the house at 17. A life of drug and alcohol abuse. He struggled until cancer took him home.
I look back at my 17-year-old self and wonder why my parents never asked, “Why are you getting married?” Actually, why didn’t anyone ask?
I’m not trying to shirk my responsibility but I was a naïve 17-year-old. I had no worldly experience. In fact, my ex-husband was my first love. I could have used some guidance, wisdom, a little direction.
If anyone had inquired, if anyone had questioned my decision, I would never have married. Even on my wedding day, I was confused and questioned if this was the right decision but…
NO. ONE. ASKED.
I recently talked to my sister about her experience. I wondered if our parents offered her advice when she decided to marry. Her response, no – not a word!
The pattern repeats.
Unfortunately, I was not able to pose this question to my brother. But observing the interaction between my parents and him, there was no counseling, no tough discussions, nothing as his abuse consumed him.
Today, I have the opportunity to mentor young people. It is one of my greatest joys and honestly a source of significant heartbreak. I have learned to probe. Even when it’s hard, I ask.
You never know how one conversation, or the lack of, can influence a person’s life.
Janice was excited about the birth of her second baby. She had been clean and sober during her pregnancy and commented often that this little one gave her a reason to stay clean. This baby saved her life.
For months following the baby’s birth, Janice was the model of motherhood. She read all the childrearing books, attended baby development classes, and safety proofed the house.
She adored her baby!
When her little one was nearing their first birthday, Janice shared with a friend she wanted to have a little fun. She was confident that a few days of drugs and partying wouldn’t hurt. She was convinced that she was strong enough, in control – returning to her addiction would have no effect.
Janice packed up her little ones, took them to a friend’s house, and left in search of her preferred drug.
Janice’s fun ended in an overdose.
No one asked. No one challenged her reasoning.
Please consider asking those you love, those you are close to, those you mentor, coach, and share life with the hard questions. Risk the possibility of rejection and embarrassment, lives are at stake.
And when you are brave and speak into another’s life, make certain you do so without judgment. Please don’t shame, demean, or devalue the person. More than likely, they have already placed themselves in a prison of guilt and remorse.
A hand on the shoulder, a gentle touch when the tears arrive, they need you present, engaged, available. They need you to listen, really listen, and present questions that help direct them to what they already suspect.
At 17, in my young adult years, even today, I need someone to ask. And if you are being honest you probably need someone to ask. Someone willing to love you enough to hold you accountable, challenge your decisions, comfort you when you’re confused.
Please be open to their love-filled enquires – no defensiveness, open, willing to receive.
And remember just as you remain open to the input of family and friends, stay sensitive to God’s whisper. He longs to gently direct. He petitions us to consider His ways, His thoughts, His motivations and when we do, He provides the clarity we need to navigate our journey.
I will instruct you (says the Lord) and guide you along the best pathway for your life; I will advise you and watch your progress.
Psalm 32:8 Living Bible (TLB)
BeLOVED, find the courage to ask those you love, those that cross your path, the difficult questions and as you walk through life, find the courage and humility to respond to the direction you receive.
Finding our true value and purpose in Christ – 2 Corinthians 5:17