Christmas Celebrations + Body Life

Dear friends,

Are any of you like me, with grand plans for all the things you’d like to accomplish for the Lord?  I love Jesus so much and want to do ALL the things.  But, I’m just one person with just 24 hours in a day and those days are already full.  So, when God began impressing on me to reach out to the ladies in my neighborhood, I began to pray for God to send someone to work alongside me.  He did.

Through the wonders of Facebook, I found a fellow Christ-follower who also wanted to reach out to our neighbors.  She offered to make and distribute flyers to invite the ladies over, while I opened my home to host it.  Debbie even went so far as coming over 3 hours early to decorate and set up!

God blessed me with this passage conveniently scheduled that morning in my Scripture Typer app.  1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ” Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”

I love to talk, to pray, to share the good news of the love of Jesus.  And I got to do just that within the comfort of my beautifully decorated home.  Thank you, Jesus!  And thank you, Debbie!  And thank you to my 2-dozen neighbors who stopped by!

Friends, God didn’t design His body to operate as cut-off individual members.    We have different gifts, different passions, different ways to serve.  We need each other on purpose!

Heart-check: What God-sized goal is in your heart that you need someone to partner with you?  How are you trying to operate in your own strength, separated from the body of Christ?

Let me leave you with something I wrote several years ago, but seem to revise every year!

Keeping Christ in Christmas – Every Day of the Year

When a friend posted this question on an online forum, “How do we keep Jesus Christ and His birth at the center of our Christmas celebration?” I gave a lot of thought to my answer. This question is particularly important to me because I wasn’t raised in a Christian home, and yet, my family celebrated Christmas. We hung stockings, decorated a Christmas tree, exchanged gifts and played Santa, just like every other red-blooded American family.

By the time I was a teenager, I was an outspoken atheist who loved to argue with my Christian friends, and yet, I had little understanding of the Christian faith. I did not understand that Christians believed that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and that Christmas was celebrated to remember the day He was born on earth to live as a man. It was not until I was 21-years-old and had many heated debates with a Christian young man (who later became my husband) that I heard the good news of the gospel – that I could be forgiven by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, turning away from my sin and following Him.

So, with that background, let me encourage everyone how truly important it is to keep the birth of Jesus at the focus of your Christmas celebrations. In response to the question, “How do we keep Jesus Christ at the center of Christmas?” the answer is to intentionally seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, setting your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)

Yes, we festively decorate our home and Christmas tree. Yes, we buy gifts for our children and other members of our family. Yes, we drive around town and look at pretty Christmas lights. But, no, we don’t spend days and weeks putting up and taking down decorations. We refuse to go into debt feeding our kids’ appetites for stuff and our own appetite to impress others with our earthly possessions. And, no, we do not pack on December with a dozen holiday events because, truthfully, they take our family’s eyes off the true gift of Jesus and just add busy-ness to our already full lives.

After following Jesus for over twenty years, though, I have learned that the Christian life is so much more than a list of do’s and don’ts. It really is a living relationship with the great Creator, Ruler of the Universe, and Lord of my soul, so please do not see my suggestions as added rules and burdens for you to follow. Evaluate your own advent activities to see whether they are drawing your family to a closer relationship with Jesus or pushing you farther away. Truly, when you seek the Lord with all your heart, you will find Him. Jesus is truly our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His Word is a light to our feet. You can trust Him, and you can trust His Word.

With that said, here are some choices we’ve made to help us not lose Jesus amidst our Yuletide celebrations –

  • We taught our kids from a young age that playing pretend is fun, but it’s just pretend. God is real. Santa is pretend. The Bible is real. Fairy tales are pretend. Yes, we put out cookies for Santa. Yes, we stuffed stockings. It was fun! But our kids knew the truth. I decided that God wanted us to be truth bearers and I wanted my kids to trust that Mommy and Daddy always speak the truth. That didn’t mean we couldn’t play pretend – but they knew we are pretending.
  • We try to have most of our gifts bought by December 1, so our minds are not consumed by shopping. The stress of finding “the perfect gifts” is not good for the “Christmas spirit.”
  • We limit ourselves to three gifts per child. This limits not only the money, but also the time and energy, we spend on Christmas gifts.
  • I force myself to go to bed at night. If it’s not done by 10:30, then it doesn’t need to be done. Tomorrow is another day. A tired mommy is a cranky mommy.
  • Each of our four children chooses a gift for each of their siblings and parents and they use some of their own money to buy them. This helps them focus on giving, rather than just receiving.
  • When it’s time to open gifts, we each take turns giving our gifts to the recipients, rather than the recipients taking their gifts.
  • We enjoy a daily time of prayer, scripture reading, and discussion for the 25 days of advent.

Which leads me back to the original question: “How do we keep Jesus Christ and His birth at the center of our Christmas celebration?”

This certainly is a good question to ask, but may I suggest that the better question is this:  “How do we keep Christ at the center of every single day of the year?”  365 days-a-year we can choose to seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, setting your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. I’m praying that this holiday season, and for all the days of our lives, that we would, trust in the LORD with all our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding, acknowledging Him in all our ways. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

You can download your own copy of Keeping Christ in Christmas here:
Keeping Christ in Christmas 2018

Thank You, Father, for the Cold

Thank You, Father, for the winter.
Thank You, Father, for the cold.
The cold drives me to snuggle in bed, cradling the Word of Life in needy hands.
The cold drives me to stay warm inside with my family, bundled in blankets, drinking steaming cups of hot chocolate.
Without the cold, I wouldn’t appreciate the warmth of the spring.
Without the cold, I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of fresh, white snow.
Without the cold, the tulips wouldn’t bloom and the wheat wouldn’t grow.
Thank You, Father, for the winter.
Thank You, Father, for the cold.

Dear Lord, Your Word tells me to give thanks in all circumstances, but some circumstances are easier to give thanks in than others. It’s easier to give thanks for prancing through fields of blooming flowers, than slogging through snow-soaked soil. I’m beginning to see, Father, that I’d never have the spring flowers without the winter cold.

It’s like some kind of crazy, divine geometry proof: If X, then Y. If not X, then not Y. If I hadn’t broken it off with Eric, I wouldn’t have married Bill. If Tommy hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have Nick. If Bill hadn’t lost his job, I wouldn’t have moved to Memphis. I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today were it not for the times of bitter cold. I am who I am exactly because of the hard things I’ve gone through. You’re teaching me faith and grace and perseverance and forgiveness and humility through those refining trials.

So, today, I say, “Thank You, Father, for the winter. Thank You, Father, for the cold.”

The strength of meekness

In case you’re hungering for more, after my last post’s look into the verse, Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”   That adjective for meek (or gentle or humble), the Greek word praÿs, is found in three other places in the Bible.

  • Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
  • Matthew 21:5, “Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”
  • 1 Peter 3:4, “but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

Jesus Himself was gentle and humble.  And God wants our hearts to be filled with gentleness and quietness.

This brought to my mind, Galatians 5:22-23 which lists the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  So, yep, I looked that up, and in fact, that word gentleness has the same Greek root as “meek” in Matthew 5:5.   (It is the noun form of the adjective.)  This Greek word for meekness/gentleness is found in:

  •  Ephesians 4:1-2, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…”
  • Colossians 3:12-13, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

God wants us to be compassionate and kind, humble and meek and patient, and forgiving – and He is all of these things toward us.  He is not asking us to do anything that He didn’t do first.  He modeled it for us.  He loved us first, while we were sinners – and now He’s telling us to go and do likewise.

  • James 1:21, “Put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls,”
  • James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you?  By his good conduct, let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

James is pointing out (1) that we should receive God’s Word with meekness and (2) the meekness that wisdom gives us.

In our modern American society, meekness is too often seen as weakness, rather than strength.  Yet, I have learned from the struggles of my daily life what strength it takes to be meek and gentle, that it is actually weakness that causes me to give way to all of those Colossians 3:8 deeds of the flesh (anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk).

Would you join me in praying that God would strengthen us as women, wives and mothers, to have the strength to be meek, and the power to be gentle?

TWIG

Blessed are the meek

When my nephew, Brady, passed away on May 5, 1997, at 16 months of age, God showed Himself so mighty and real and present in a myriad of ways – one of which being in the words of Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”

You can watch my testimony video on YouTube for a deeper explanation of God’s great ministry through this great tragedy.  (My nephew’s story is told from about the 16-minute to 23-minute mark, if you don’t have time to watch the entire thing right now)

For 21 years now, Matthew 5:4 has been a very special verse for me.  But, this year, on May 5, the anniversary of Brady’s death, I decided to do a little study into Matthew 5:5 which reads, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  Initially I didn’t see any relevance in this passage to Brady’s death, but as I continued to search and study and meditate on this verse, I’d like to share with you what I’ve found.

That word, “meek,” is the Greek word praÿs (Strong’s G4239).  It is an adjective meaning, “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit.”  On BlueLetterBible.com they have a feature called “Outline of Biblical Usage” for many of their Greek words.

Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time (Isaiah 41:17, Luke 18:1-8). Gentleness or meekness is the opposite to self-assertiveness and self-interest. It stems from trust in God’s goodness and control over the situation. The gentle person is not occupied with self at all. This is a work of the Holy Spirit, not of the human will (Galatians 5:23).

God had indeed comforted my sister, in giving her a second son just one short day before her older son’s passing … and even more so by sending her His Holy Spirit to be her eternal comforter …

But, God has also given her the ability to be meek, to learn to rely wholly on Him, trusting in His perfect goodness and His control over every situation, accepting His dealings with us as good.  Praise His Name.  And Thank Him for His living and active and true and good Word.

TWIG