Advent – Joy

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“What happened to your joy?” – Galatians 4:15

“…now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” – John 16:22

This Christmas season as I have thought about joy; I have seen those things which give great joy and on the opposite hand those things which just as easily can take it away.

Have you ever thought about who or what it is that steals your joy…?

A harsh word

Comparison (“the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt)

Envy

Conflict

Focusing on self

Jesus warned us about one who steals. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” (John 10:10) He also told a story of a farmer, a seed, and the evil one who wanted to steal the seed. (Matthew 13:1-23) Jesus was speaking of stealing the message of our salvation, but the evil one is also one who steals our joy and will use whatever means he can to do it.

If we were to consider our joy as something that could be taken away or stolen, we might treat this joy differently. In the same way, we guard and protect our material possessions (we lock our houses, our cars) against thieves, we might strive harder to protect our joy, a pearl of great worth.

So how do we protect our joy?

It could be guarding our heart against things which would want to steal it away. For me during this Christmas season, it was taking a break from Instagram and the comparison Instagram was feeding in my life. For you, it might be something else. When you begin to give it some thought, you can start to pinpoint those thieves of joy circling your life.

Protecting joy might also mean adding things into our lives which create joy. This holiday season Christmas music has brought me much joy (“…the best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” – Buddy the Elf) bringing a smile to my face and leading to kitchen dance parties with my girls.

Here are a few of the songs I’ve been listening to…I dare you to just try and not dance 🙂

Noel – Hillsong Young & Free

Better When I’m Dancin’ – Meghan Trainor

and then my favorite…

Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas 

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.’ ” – Luke 1:10

Jesus, God Emmanuel  – our joy.

 

Advent – love

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

If you have ever traveled, you know how wonderful it is to be away, but even better is the feeling when coming home. It is the familiarity, the comfort, and the sense of belonging greeting you at the front door. You are home.

Some days our home is that restful place. A house my family wants to come home to after a long day at school or work. This is how I want it to feel. But more often than not, this home can instead be filled with tension, criticism, or nagging. Hardly the place of refuge I picture:)

This physical image of coming home, of belonging and rest, is a good representation of what our true home will be …eternity with God.  But as we go through our days and are faced with critique, selfishness, comparison, rejection, or other things weighing us down; home can seem like a far away place. And we find ourselves longing, longing for that place of rest, longing for home.

So if this is you today…

I pray you will find grace in the tension of waiting.

I pray you will come home to Jesus,

and to the body of people He intended to be our home.

I pray if you have already found your way home,

you would notice the ones who have not,

and you would be home for them.

For, isn’t this why Jesus came?

His love leading us home.

 

 

Advent – Peace

Last week I went on a search for peace, knowing peace would be the focus of our advent series at church this past Sunday and here on the blog this week. I also went looking, just because I was longing for a little peace in my own life.

When I started this page, I was not sure what I was going to write, because I am still learning what it means to live with peace. Yet as I dug deeper, I did start to see some little signs, these little guideposts God leaves along the way to show us just where His peace can be found.

God’s peace – born to this earth in the lowliest of places. His peace birthed through His written and living word. The peace mankind was longing for had come at last. It is no wonder the angels shouted out to the shepherds…

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” – Luke 2:14

So today I am looking for peace

and finding it

when I let go of…

stuff –

The one who received the seed among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. – Matt. 13:22

If anyone would come after me he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me, will find it…” – Matt. 16:24

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it.” – 1Tim. 6:6,7

control –

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” – Psalm 20:7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5,6

comparison –

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” – Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

the past –

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing…I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” – Colossians 1:20

…and grab hold of Jesus and only Him.

Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” – Psalm 119:165

His written and living word – our peace!

 

Advent – Hope

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Have you ever spent time waiting for something? I do not mean packages from amazon, or a call from a friend. I mean waiting, really longing for something; waiting for the right one to come along, or waiting to be healed,  waiting to get pregnant, or waiting for a loved one to know Jesus. A waiting or longing that sits at our very core and the marrow of who we are.

Over 2000 years ago, the Israelites were waiting. They were waiting for deliverance, deliverance from oppression, from living under rulers who did not share the same beliefs they did. For 400 years they waited. And when their deliverer finally did come, some did not recognize him and some were possibly a little disappointed over what the deliverance looked like. I can imagine during those 400 years and even after there was  a little disappointment, a little hope deferred…

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

I thought of this verse recently as a friend was sharing their journey of waiting, and as I thought of my own prayers awaiting answers. What does it mean hope deferred, or to defer hope?

Defer: to put off (an action or event) to a later time, postpone. 

Looking at this verse, I see when I push hope off or stop hoping; it leaves me with a heavy heart. When I can instead hold on to hope, and choose to trust even when I do not see the outcome, this hope will eventually bear fruit.

“But blessed is the man who trusts (to be confident or sure – be bold (make to) hope (put make to trust)) in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when the heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8

We like the Israelites are still waiting, waiting for answers to prayers and even more, waiting for Jesus to come again. If we can trust Him to be our  deliverer, Jesus to be our hope, He will make sure our trust and hope bears fruit in Him.

Jesus –

“All our hopes and fears are met in Him tonight…” – Peace, Peace by Sara Groves

Advent – Joy

I pray that you and I would know God’s joy this New Year. May the same message of joy the angels brought to the shepherds, reach deep into our hearts and change the way we live. May we give room for God to be our Savior, saving us from ourselves and the many things which weigh us down. May we know we are not just saved from these things, but saved for and to someone.

And this someone is waiting for you…waiting with joy.

Advent – Love

This is for you this Christmas.

For those of you who feel

little,

passed by, or forgotten.

For those whose hearts are filled with doubt or shame.

And for those of you who are waiting, waiting to be chosen.

This Christmas I seem to be playing one song over again and again, Francesca Batistelli’s, “Be Born in Me”.

“…Trembling heart, somehow I believe that you chose me.”

Out of the many God chose Mary, to carry His son.

From the very beginning this has been our hope and our longing, to be singled-out and picked for the team. Or have you already forgotten your elementary school years? Two kickball captains standing in front of you, ready to choose their teams?

We are not so different from Mary. And God is still choosing.

Out of the many He chooses you and chooses me.

We carry His son with us – Immanuel.

“They will be called the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, and you will be called sought after, the city no longer deserted.” Isaiah 62:12

Advent – Peace

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Smokey our puppy has found a new love…paper products. Anything he can rip apart and tug on, he does. His favorite seems to be the toilet paper roll. I walked out of the kitchen the other morning to see a long trail of white streaming out of the bathroom. At the end of the trail, there was a blizzard-like mess. White crumpled paper was everywhere.

Some days this is amusing, and other days the amusement just feels like chaos. My heart longs for a little stillness, for a little peace. My guess is this time of year, I am not alone. You may be longing for a little peace as well?

“…and he will be called wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace, of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…” Is.9:6

Peace came to us that day in a manger. His life, his sacrifice is the peace we so desperately need and want. Yet how do we receive this peace He has for us?

And I read again in Isaiah…”You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Is. 26:3

Last week  – Hope and trust.

This week – Peace and trust.

Like hope, peace seems to come to us in the trusting.

Trusting,

God will provide. He will care for. He will heal. He will give the grace needed for a situation. And He will make all things right, if not in this life most definitely in the one to come.

It is in the trusting…

we find peace.

Advent – Hope

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As I slow down this week, I am remembering hope.

Hope for me is one of those tricky, abstract words. What does it really mean? Merriam Webster defines hope this way: 1. to cherish a desire with anticipation 2. trust 3. to desire with expectation of obtainment 4. to expect with confidence: trust

This time of year when I think of hope, I think of a childhood Christmas. The waiting, the expectation, the paging through toy catalogs, the writing and rewriting of the sacred wishlist, the sleepless night before Christmas, and the trusting, trusting in the magical appearance of packages in early morning light.  All this waiting and hoping for what Christmas morning would bring.

Somewhere though between the Christmases of childhood and adult, the hoping, waiting, and anticipation seem to slip away. Hope, which came so easily as a child, becomes increasingly difficult as the years pile up. Why is it so easy for children to hope and for adults not to?

The answer may lie in hope’s definition. Within a word so closely intertwined.

Trust.

Is this the part of hope, as adults, we keep tripping ourselves up on? Trust for a child comes easy. There are no experiences yet which prove just how untrustworthy trust really is.  An adult on the other hand carries an experience or two of pain which affects the ability to trust. Trust becomes tainted and hope is difficult to find.

Hope.

The reason for Christ’s birth.

Trust and hope. Verse after verse declares if we trust in Him, He will do this. (If we) “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, ” (He will do this) “He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5,6 Trust gives way to hope. The one gives birth to the other.

This week as we focus on the Hope of Advent, I pray you will remember trust, hope’s stepping stone. And may you have grace to release those things difficult to trust, and find hope as you find Him.

How are you trusting and hoping this season?