December 6, 2018

Savoring Christmas

Curled up in my favorite comfortable armchair and carefully sipping a cup of hot spiced tea, listening to carols on my favorite Christmas cd in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, is the way I most enjoy the season of Jesus Christ’s birth.

In the glow of those sparkling tree lights is the Nativity that sits on our hearth, that small and cherished visual of the Christmas story which has graced our home for over twenty five years. Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus are surrounded by animals, shepherds, wise men, and angels.

Above the hearth hang the stockings for our family. All our names are monogrammed in a stylish script on these beautiful stockings that invite us to fill them with goodies by Christmas morning.

Traditions are a treasured part of our Christmas celebrations each year. The cookies we bake, the candy we make, the cards we send, the gifts we buy, the Christmas Eve service we attend, and the family gatherings and parties we go to are the activities we participate in to enjoy and observe this special time of year. Much time is spent furiously rushing from one Christmas activity to another - between school, work, church, and home.

Somewhere in the mix of all these obligations and activities, we find our schedules growing fuller and our days busier and busier. Next thing we know, each Christmas season becomes a time of stress and overwhelming busyness and we can feel like we are on a fast, spinning merry-go-round that won’t slow down.

If we are going to savor and reflect on the meaning of Christmas as we should, we must slow down.  We will enjoy our celebration of Christmas more when we find a balance between activity and Nativity. I have learned that I cannot be involved in every program, activity, and every party, and must make choices to limit the busyness by only selecting certain ones.

The Christmas season becomes the most difficult time to be still. If we don’t intentionally take the time to slow down and be still, Christmas will pass by in a flurry of activity, and not enough Nativity.

Will we take the time to pause and with awe remember this miracle of Christ’s birth?  Will we make the time to rejoice in knowing God’s plan to come to earth in the person of His only Beloved Son Jesus, was for me…and for you? Will we think about that Holy night in Bethlehem while we sit in our comfortable chairs listening to carols in the glow of the Christmas tree lights?  Will we open our Bibles again to Luke 2 and read how a Savior was born?

If we want there to be more Nativity than activity, we will pause…and savor Christmas.
     
Luke 2:11-12
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

December 4, 2018

Faith That Grows At Christmas


There was a lady in my Sunday school class years ago whose ex-husband was in jail and she was severely struggling financially to provide for her two sons. I saw Melinda wrestle with her faith to trust God to take care of them.

I often encouraged her because I sincerely believed God would meet her needs and provide for her and her two boys. She would tell me that she wanted to trust God but the whole situation just looked so impossible.

One Sunday she came in especially discouraged because a car repair had emptied out her checkbook and she desperately needed groceries. What she didn’t know was that we had already decided to fill her pantry and every lady in our class had brought in a bag of grocery items and we had hid them in the classroom closet. We were able to surprise her with this blessing of groceries and see the joy on her face when she saw what we had done for her family.

We definitely saw her faith begin to grow after that. She still struggled but now she would say, “I know God will provide!”

At Christmas she worried she would not be able to buy any presents for the boys, but what she didn’t know was that several men in our church had taken on the project of collecting money to buy two bikes and other presents for these young boys. Melinda was right. She didn’t have enough money to buy gifts that year. But she didn’t have to because they were bought by others in our church who knew she was in a very difficult situation and wanted her boys to have a good Christmas.

When I urge someone to trust God and to have faith that He will see them through a difficult circumstance, these are not empty words. They are words to live by because I have seen God grow my own faith and trust in Him throughout the days and years of my life, and because I have witnessed it in the lives of others who have also seen God work in amazing ways to demonstrate His loving care for them. 

Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.


Faith That Grows is an excerpt from my book, First Breath of Morning: Where God Waits For You Every Day - A 90 Day Devotional

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December 2, 2018

The Little Orange Tree

Philippians 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 

Last year, I saved some orange seeds from a really sweet orange I had for lunch one day. I put them in a small pot of dirt, and a week later two little leaves pushed up through the potting soil. A few more leaves grew and then it seemed to stay the same size for a very long time. It didn’t appear to be growing much at all.

I brought it in from the patio for the winter months, and as you can see in the picture, I decorated it for Christmas and it looked very pretty and petite on my kitchen counter. 

When spring came, the little orange tree went back outside, still in this small container and I watered it and watched it very slowly grow and I mean seriously slow. 

I stopped paying much attention to it. It just blended in with the other plants on a table on the patio. And then one day, it was taller, much taller! My little orange tree had a huge growth spurt! I had to buy a new pot and give it room to grow.

Now, it doesn’t seem to want to stop growing. I am going to have to transplant it again! More was going on than I could see and the result is a larger orange tree.

This is how our spiritual growth is. Maybe I don’t see the growth, but God is working in me! 

We know that God works in us, changing us and growing us. Maybe we haven’t learned to recognize some of the outward signs of the work God is doing in our lives because we don’t notice some of the slow changes that have developed in our lives.  

Think back a year or two ago and consider areas you have improved in over that time period.  Are you nicer to people in your family or at work than you used to be?  Are you reaching out and helping someone in need that you would have normally passed by not that long ago? These are behaviors that are outward signs of the inward work the Holy Spirit is doing in your life. He is changing you and making you who He wants you to be.  

One of the changes He works to make in our lives is teaching us to be more patient.  Were you more patient with a spouse or child this week, a sibling or parent?  Developing patience and kindness towards others is one of the best measuring sticks of growth and progress in a Christian’s life. These are the kind of changes others will notice and will become a testimony of the work God is doing in your life.

Sometimes this growth that produces maturity is a slow process and other times we might have a sudden growth spurt as my little orange tree eventually did. God will bring about needed change in our lives as we continue to surrender our hearts to Him and allow Him to work in us and lead us. 

Philippians 2:13 For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.