Today is a choice. Yes, today seems to happen and we do not control it happening but we do control what we do with it. Do we engage with today or do we roll over and hide or find an escape to numb out today? Do we engage with meaningful work, whether that be out in the world or with in the home? Do we treasure the time and make it count?
My girlfriend sent me a video of a physicist explaining his science things of how we are assembled. I did not agree with his “how” but I agree with his thought that we are “temporary structures that can think, feel and explore….we have a little window we can observe this magnificent universe.” The older I get, the more I feel how short our time is here. I see and feel my limitations instead of the invincibility of my youth. Ten+ years ago, I did battle stage 4 breast cancer which was the accelerated class on learning to number and enjoy your days. By God’s grace and miracles, I am here today to contemplate the same lesson.
One would think I would be a pro at this by now and engaging in every moment, instead I am regrouping and prioritizing. As I enjoy the sunshine and white snow out my window and ponder; What needs to be cut? What needs to move up? What am I missing? What stresses am I holding on to instead of releasing to God? Where do I need to slow down? Where am I being lazy? Where do I need help? Where do I need to extend a hand? Where do I need to give more grace? Where do I need to love more?
We have a short time here friends. Don’t miss out. Get a pen and paper or just with your thoughts in a quiet space and let’s get better at being intentional.
Advent Week 4: LOVE
As a child, if you attended Sunday school, CCD, kids church, VBS etc, at some part of the lesson, the leader would ask questions and all the little hands would shoot into to the air hoping to be picked. Every church kid knew they could confidently shout-out JESUS and the probability of being correct was high. Even if it wasn’t the answer they were looking for, no one could say it was the wrong answer.
Instead they gently steered you to the point of the lesson, which did always lead back to Jesus. Yes, I’ll take the candy bar or book mark prize now.
Today life is complicated and confusing. It is even hard to stand up for what we know to be true. We are told truth is no longer truth. We are told people have their “own truth” and they should “speak their truth”.
•in accordance with fact or reality.
“a true story”
•accurate or exact.
Our culture is shifting and facts and reality are debated every day. There is a war on truth.
Christ followers, your faith is under attack BUT we MUST do better.
When Jesus walked the earth, his way was under attack then as well. He did not follow all of the church laws. Jesus was under attack for “working” in a Sunday because he performed a miracle healing of a man. He didn’t hang with the church crowd, instead with the sick, poor, tax collectors, the sinners. He was not interested in being seen with important people instead, he was interested in helping the lost, the hurting, the broken, the broken-hearted. Jesus called out for us to bring him our burdens in exchange for rest. He taught we should love one another.
Jesus spoke truth but he lead with love.
How do we do better?
We lead with love.
As a girl I was taught, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” I would tweak this for today, “if you can’t lead with love, keep your words until you can.” (This goes for words coming from a keyboard or screen as well.)
Lead with love. Love is a BIG thing. So big, in our dating years it is even called the “L-word”. (I remember my mom asking me if I was in love once and I quickly admitted that I was definitely in LIKE and not the L word.) Back to love. Love is BIG.
I think we need a reminder what love IS…
patient and kind
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.
It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.
Love never gives up,
never loses faith,
is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT
Love is no easy road. Love is
not oogly eyes and butterflies. Love is not just a feeling. Love is a choice. We choose love.
No matter where you are in your journey, you need more love. We never “arrive” when it comes to love. There is no graduation nor award. You keep going and strive to be better every day.
Think back to that classroom and this time I am going to give you the answer to todays’ problems. You are going to shout the answer. Okay? For reals, I do want you to at least say the answer out loud.
The answer is LOVE. Ready?
My neighbor is a jerk, what do I do?
What if I don’t agree with my child/sister/friend/co-workers’ lifestyle choices?
My coworker is rude? LOVE
My friend lost a loved one, what do I do? LOVE
I detest my friends political party? LOVE THEM ANYWAY
Great job! Y’all earned a bookmark today.
Why is this love thing so important?
Because it is EVERYTHING. If you don’t get this, nothing else matters. We must fight for love, every day.
People close to us and far from us matter. People who look like us and don’t look like us matter. People who believe what I believe and don’t believe what I believe matter.
All the colors, all the thicknesses, all the personalities, all the jobs, all the countries, every side of the tracks. We all matter. We all deserve love. Start with your family and then your neighbors and keep extending your own borders. (Borders are different than boundaries & that is a different convo. Don’t excuse toxicity with this message- talk to a trusted friend please)
LOVE -THIS IS the message of Jesus. LOVE. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.
Friend, YOU are loved by the God of this universe. He created you for a reason and his plan for you is good. Seek Him out. Learn to love. He loved you so much, God sent his son, Jesus to be born in an unwelcome time and place to walk this earth to teach love and ultimately pay price in his excruciating death for our brokenness.
The reason for the manager is the cross. Go love well, friends.
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
1 John 4:7-12 NLT
Advent Week 3
Joy makes my head scramble. It is week 3 of advent, day 3 of focusing on joy. Joy seems so big and also daunting as questions circle; Am I joyful? Where do I see joy? How can I tell people to focus on joy in the midst of health issues/finals/ divorce/uncertainty/war/scandals/death/lies…STOP….Insert screeching halt sound here or maybe old school vinyl record pull back stop 😬. Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. (Yes, you may sing that line .)
We need a word study.
the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation:
For me JOY would then be ocean waves, skis on snow, sunshine, puppy kisses, babies after bath time, girl friend laughter, spouse encouragement, warm homemade bread, lemons and my children smiling or enjoying anything, a good meal with my people, hope & peace.
These things are all good. Each are a gift from God. I feel good. I feel joyful after creating that list but in this life THIS joy is not enough, there is more. The joy that advent wants us to focus on goes deeper and eternal.
The Bible Project explains Biblical joy as “ an attitude God’s people adopts not because of our circumstances but because of our hope in God’s love and promise. “
The Bible teaches us of this joy in the wilderness. it is a joy with hope. God proves himself faithful over and over in our lives and in the stories of others. When we are in the wildness of the hard things in this life we must hold on to that hope and know that the story is not finished yet. God’s promises are true which means He will work all things for good for those that know and love Him. God is for us and not against us. His plan for us is good. God provides and is with us everywhere we go.
My favorite explanation of joy came in the form of a 5 min sermon by theologian John Piper. He explains joy as “a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”
Now that we know what joy is, I can answer the question and my scrambling mind and settle.
Am I joyful? Yes but I do forget that it is a feeling but also a choice.
Where do I see joy? *see my list above AND in the Bible/Word of God because it gives me hope in the dark places of life. It gives testimony of those who have gone before me , trusted in God and He was faithful to them.
How can I tell people to focus on joy in the midst of …(insert your stresses here)? Because my life is proof that God is good and is faithful to those that know and love him. Because joy is a bundle of good feelings and also a choice. We must choose to live in hope and gratitude.
Interesting how gratitude just snuck in there. Gratitude and joy are besties! I read my Joy List again. The JOY in each of these things comes from the GRATITUDE I have. Oh, God is good!
So How do I get/keep/choose Joy? Stay grateful, make your joy list and repeat & add to those items, remember everything on your Joy list is a gift from God so that you may know Him, stay in prayer and the Word which is hope+peace= Joy
Joy & Peace to you & yours,
Hey friends in the valley right now..
I have an Insiders tip when you’re in the dark valley—seek 1 thing to be joyful about each day, even if it is a tiny small thing and a 5 word prayer, “God I need you.Amen”. You’ll be amazed what it can do!
In my 20’s I took ski lessons for a boy. He had a skiing family and after day 1 of everyone zooming by me, it was clear I would need lessons to keep up. I had skied before but there was something I was missing. I ended up loving lessons and went back again after my required 1 lesson. I liked it so much a younger brother suggested they needed to spy on the instructor 😉, but really I love learning. I loved going back and accepting the next challenge and learning I was strong enough for that skill. I could repeat it. My lessons went on for several years and yes, I did marry him, no not the instructor- my best friend/boyfriend. The lessons grew me, not just my ski level. I grew in confidence.
One lesson early on an instructor told me that I would know that I “made it” or was ready to tackle anything when I could see an upcoming lip and keep going. I’ll explain for the non-skiers. On the mountain there are many lips, dips and curves and many times at a lip you will see people stopped. They stop at the top of the lip to look down and assess the terrain. They are determining their line down the hill. They want to know what to expect and plan a route. The more confident skier you are, the less lips you need to stop at. Instead you go up and over and drop into the powder and tackle what comes. The runs are rated by difficulty so have an idea of what could be so it is a matter of your skill level and whether you trust your equipment. Have you been practicing? Have you kept your gear tuned up? If so, you just keep going.
I remember the day I first cruised by all the looky-loos up and over with out a pause. I was confident. I had done the work and my skis were good. I blindly went up and over with the confidence that I could tackle it.
Well friends, this is faith.
Have you done the heart & soul work to trust God and know that his plan for you is good? We do this by reading the Bible and learning the life of Jesus. Also by trusting God with decisions and seeing how He shows up and works in our lives.
Have you tuned and tested your equipment? We pray and see answers to prayer. We pray for others and see how it changes them. We show up to church, small group, Bible study and be the light for others. We keep doing the things that grow our faith. Use your tools so they stay sharp and not rust away—read, pray, praise, serve & gather.
Faith is keeping your mind and skills healthy & growing while keeping your tools in tune and ready. It is remembering that God has been faithful to you in the past and trusting He will be again.
You can not see what is over that lip but know you are not alone and God’s plan is good. Will you prep for it?
It is definitely worth it.
Advent Week 2, FAITH
HOPE⚓️ advent week 1
We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure.
This is the first week of advent where we focus on hope. There is no hope outside of God. Jesus walked this earth to be our Hope. Hope changes everything.
Many asked me how I smiled and kept going & doing while I was walking, or crawling, through Stage IV Breast cancer. The answer, hope. I didn’t listen to the stats instead focusing on hope & healing.
I was scheduled for surgery the next day instead found myself meeting my oncologist and learning I’d be starting chemo first because cancer spread to my liver and ribs. What I thought was a quick surgery & done had just become complicated & bleak. My thoughts was spiraling down as my doc left the exam room. A few minutes later he poked his head back in the doorway and said he almost forgot to give me a message from my other doctor, the surgeon. “Dr Wit wanted you to know, We GOT this, kid!” My mind stopped swirling & a flood of relief came. It was the first of many assurance & I knew God was with me.
Just as I had wrapped up hearing some of the stats on metastastic cancer, I was given an ounce of hope and everything change.
I’ve learned whole lot of grit & grace and a speck of hope will get you to some amazing places.
An Advent Practice to learn of the Hope I have—Read 1 Chapter of the book of Luke every day this month
Today we mourn the crucifixion of Christ on the cross. If you are like me, you don’t want to sit in the pain of this history. I’d prefer to skip to Sunday, the celebration. I want the joy, the hope, the promise that the resurrection of Christ brings us all. I want the family time, the sharing and caring, the dinner, the chocolate. I want the celebration!
But, with out Friday there is no Sunday.
With out Friday, there is no resurrection, no atonement for our sins, no forgiveness, nor eternity with our Heavenly Father. So, in order to feel
the fullness of the celebration we must understand the fullness of the cost. Jesus death was for you. You are worthy and a high price was paid so you may live in peace and joy, a life of freedom if you accept it.
Do not be tempted to gloss over today. Take some time to sit in the pain and cost of the crucifixion. Read Mark 15- Think about the suffering that Jesus went through for all of us. He paid the price so we don’t have to. All our sin and shame, all the ugly we do is forgiven because of Jesus’ death, ALL BECAUSE GOD LOVES YOU.
So, read Mark 15 with an open mind, soul and heart. Pray. Cry. Be grateful because SUNDAY is coming! Peace to you & yours, A.
• other suggestions for today: Watch the movie, The Passion of Christ or The Bible Series. Also, I love the Bible Project, below is a link to their short video, Sacrifice & Atonement.