Have you found the perfect gift yet?

I get amused with the Christmas shoppers in the Riverside Gift Shop I am managing at the retirement village.  They will come in and say they’re looking for the “perfect gift” for someone and they’ll “know it when they see it.”

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This month of Christmas music, programs, parties and shopping can become stressful to some people.  We have been made to feel guilty if we don’t give extra to the needs of those less fortunate.  There are the lonely people who actually hate this time of year.

But wait…..what is it really all about?  And I mean more than remembering a miraculous virgin birth of a baby 2000+ years ago.

The miracle of Jesus the Christ…..the Anointed One, is that He is fully God and fully human!!!    The doctrinal word for that is Incarnation……….and I don’t mean a flower!!!

This is one of the mysteries of Almighty God.   In His Son, Jesus, God became a human man to save us ultimately by shedding His blood on the cross, dying and arising from the dead, without ceasing to be God.

Philippians 2:5-11    Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

WOW!!!  That’s quite a bit to comprehend.  It’s so “far out there” our human minds cannot figure it out……not possible….don’t go there!!!

It is child-like FAITH which is a GIFT from God to receive THE TRUTH.

If you are struggling with the reality of who Jesus is, and that He is more than a baby in a manger, ask God to give you the faith to believe.  Be honest with God, He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart anyway.  Don’t try to figure it out…..just know that God loves you with unconditional love.  Once you realize that great love through Jesus Christ you will never be the same again!

The celebration of Jesus’ birth this week will give you JOY and an INNER PEACE that is unexplainable.

JESUS CHRIST IS INDEED THE MOST PERFECT GIFT TO YOU!!!

Romans 6:23  The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Make Each Moment Count

I cannot believe another year is coming to a close! In a few days we will celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then in a week we will start 2016!

As I reflect on the past year, one thing stands out to me.

Being present.
Here. Now.

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I am trying to learn this skill. It takes some of us more practice than others.

As a society we are all so caught up in our schedules, phones and devices that we tend to only be “half-present” when we are in the actual company of other human beings – thinking about what we have to do next, or what is happening on social media. Studies even show that having a phone, even when it is off, sitting on the table when you are dining with others or having a meeting makes the other person(s) feel as if you are not fully present with them.

I have a friend in stage 4 breast cancer. 3 1/2 years ago they gave her 6 months, and she is still with us even though the cancer has spread to her bones and now into her liver. She continues to defy everything the medical community has said to her. She still jogs, swims, leads a Bible Study group,  does her hobbies, and remains positive. She continues to try new treatments to hold the cancer back as long as possible. She is an enigma to her doctors.

I have visited with her a couple times this year. And here is what I have learned from her about being present and making each moment “count.” I believe this is why she is still thriving despite the cancer cells present throughout her body. She wakes up every morning appreciating the fact that she has been given another day to make a difference in someone’s life. Somehow, without being morbid, she impresses on each person she comes in contact with that we are not promised tomorrow. None of us are. We are in fact here on this earth for a purpose, and only God knows the number of our days, hours, seconds. Our job is simply to live in the moment we are given. To share our faith, joy and love with everyone we meet. To be grateful for each and every second given us. She uplifts every person she meets by being 100% “present” in that moment – her focus is entirely on that person and their interaction.

Apparently many people with terminal illnesses say that they have actually enjoyed life much more than they did prior to being diagnosed. This is a story I’ve heard many times, both from people who have been diagnosed early and are beating cancer, and from people like my dear friend who one day had a pain in her shoulder, and the next learned that she was already in stage 4. She tells me often that cancer is not the enemy, Satan himself is the enemy. She challenges me to remember this as difficulties come up in my life. He wants us to be distracted by ill health, gossip, disappointment – but these things are not our enemy, for we do not fight against flesh and blood.

So, it is up to each of us to gain a new perspective on life. Will we be those who are constantly feeling defeated by life and its trials? Will we be those so caught up in what’s happening next or the notifications on our devices?

Or will we be those, like my friend who continues to defy all human logic knowing God can heal her completely if He chooses to do so, and live a life of gratitude and triumph in every moment we have? Will we be those who fully engage with the people in our presence?

So, as you enjoy Christmas, the last week of 2015, and bounce your way into the New Year – remember to be present. Savor each moment with your loved ones. Make sure each of them feels that you are 100% “there” with them. This means more than all the presents, goodies and smiley photo posts you can make. For we truly do not know what day will be our last. All we have is now.

Rejoice and be glad IN THIS MOMENT and treasure it! Celebrate this life God has given you, and Jesus who died to give you eternal life as well. Share life, joy and love with all you meet!

Here’s to 2016!

THE BEST GIFT OF ALL

Last night I sang in a vocal group that performed for the local Rotary Club’s Annual Christmas Dinner.  The members brought their families, including children from infants to 18 years of age.  A local Pastor dressed up like Santa and, after a delicious meal and entertainment, arrived with a loud “Ho Ho Ho!!!”  The youngest children were delighted, and each one was called up to receive a gift and get their picture taken with Santa.  This was a fun evening, and we brought in the message of the birth of Christ in our music.

But, with all our busyness at this time of year, it is so important to teach our children that the baby Jesus in the manger grew up to die on a cross and shed his blood for our salvation.

He really was BORN TO DIE.  Whoa…you say…that is a morbid thought.

You see, God had a plan from the beginning of time to reveal Himself in human form by sending His Son into the world as a baby, born of a virgin.  This is one of the mysteries of Sovereign God.  One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel which translated means “God is With Us.”

The God-Man Jesus, who was without sin, shed His blood on a Roman cross to cover all sin before and after his death and resurrection.

Wow….that’s so difficult for our human minds to comprehend!  That’s where faith comes in.  Child-like faith…which is a gift from God.

If you are struggling with the reality of who Jesus is, and that He is more than a baby in a manger, ask God to give you the faith to believe.  Don’t try to “figure it out”…just know that God loves you with unconditional love. Once you realize that great love through Jesus Christ you will never be the same again!  The celebration of Jesus’ birth will give you joy and an inner peace that is unexplainable!

JESUS THE CHRIST IS INDEED THE GREATEST, MOST LASTING GIFT OF ALL!!!

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“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

‘Tis the Season to be…

Christmas is a season of many things.

Busyness, people are running in and out of stores trying to find gifts and going to holiday party after holiday party (those are fun don’t get me wrong).

Stress, they don’t have everything ready for Christmas. Presents aren’t wrapped and it is only a week and a half away. Or they have deadlines that need to be met before the year is over.

Excitement, they are traveling or seeing loved ones.

Holiday cheer, decorations are up and lights are on the tree.

One word I see often during this time of year is JOY. A 5 year old girl asked me what J-O-Y spelled because she was seeing it written everywhere. It made me stop and think about this word and the meaning of it.

Joy is the “feeling of great happiness and delight.” There are songs sung during this season with the lines “ ‘tis the season to be jolly…” and “Joy to the world the Lord has come!”

Where does this jolly and this joy come from?

It comes from giving to others out of selflessness. It comes from loving each other not because we have to but because we want to. First and foremost it comes from God.

God gave us his son as a baby on this earth. He brought JOY and HOPE into this lost, busy, chaotic, selfish world. Because God loves us so much he was separated from his son and gave him to us as a gift.

What are you going to do with that gift?

Are you going to keep it for yourself?

Sure you can have Jesus, but don’t keep him all to yourself. God intended for us to share the gift that we have been given.

Isn’t it more enjoyable to share a gift you have been given with a friend or two or more? Well that is exactly how it is with the love of Jesus. Share it! Give it to everyone!

In all the chaos, let’s not lose sight of the true gift of Christmas and the reason we celebrate. Don’t get lost in the presents and the wrapping paper. Enjoy the love and the joy and the hope that is all around you even if it’s hard to see at times. Stop and look for it, because it is there. Look for the signs that say JOY. They are good reminders how Christmas is supposed to be. God is all around you no matter where you go. And this is a gift that keeps on giving, not just during the holiday season!

 

You are loved.

Merry 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. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'”                                                                                  Luke 2:10-11

“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”        John 3:16-17

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You are Enough

It’s an epidemic, really. There’s never enough.

Never enough money.

Never enough time.

Never enough energy, space, food, love… Pick one.

In our daily lives, we are constantly bombarded with more, more, MORE! It’s never enough. We have conditioned ourselves to be unsatisfied and always longing for more. And in doing so, we are also in danger of turning our dissatisfaction inward and thinking, “I am not enough.”

There are probably a million reasons why we feel we are not enough; we are less than.

There’s always more to do, more to say, more to accomplish. More than is humanly possible. And so, when it isn’t accomplished we are left with our own notion that there is something inherently wrong with us. That we are not enough.

This is an especially poignant concept this time of year, when we saddle ourselves with extra burdens and impossible intentions. Unfortunately, the Christmas season has become a springboard for feelings of inadequacy.

But you know what? It’s all a lie.

Jesus declares to us that his power is made PERFECT in our weakness.

Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

YouAreEnough

I don’t know about you, but all this striving to be perfect has me thinking: what if we gave ourselves permission to just BE this Christmas? Let a few things go, be late for (or even miss) an event, not buy a new outfit when we can’t afford it, maybe even skip baking those perfect cookies in favor of a walk with a friend or a stroll hand in hand with a child. What would happen?

If  I’m reading it right, the worst that could happen when I allow myself to show weakness… to be enough, is PERFECTION. “…My power is made perfect in weakness.” Let your mind roll that around for a bit. In our need to be perfect and not show weakness, are we keeping ourselves from the perfectly powerful life He longs to give to us?

Perfect power from my weakness? I could live with that.

So let me ask you this, what permission do you need to give yourself in order to embrace your worthiness? His GRACE is sufficient for you.

You are ENOUGH.

 

 

Food and Presents, is that it?

Christmas has come and gone.

What happened?

Did your family gather together? Eat tons of food? Open presents?

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This is what my family did. It was nice to gather together, but have we forgotten the reason we celebrate Christmas? In all the chaos do we stop to think about what Christmas really is? It was the day over 2000 years ago when God sent his son from his glory in heaven to earth to be a helpless baby. He was born to die for us.

Can we sit and think about that for a moment? Think of how God must have felt knowing he was sending his son to earth to die. Think of how Jesus felt to leave his throne in heaven in all his glory to become a baby knowing he would grow up to die 33 years later for the people of this earth.

It’s not all glitter and ribbons, is it? We take this for granted. We sit around eating until we cannot eat anymore. Opening presents we don’t even need, and complain of the things we don’t have. That’s not what it’s all about!

We should be celebrating that we have been saved by the birth and the death of Jesus. Christmas is where it all begins for us.

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I couldn’t help but think of the places I have been and the people I have met this past year. God gave me the opportunity to go to 11 different countries and meet his children all around the world! As I sat there in my parent’s living room watching my cousins and siblings open the presents they received, I couldn’t help but think of the bar girls and prostitutes putting on a fake smile for customers, the kids living on the streets, the orphans without families. I got an overwhelming feeling and my heart was breaking for this world.

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(Orphans in Swaziland)

Have we missed it? We are so consumed with ourselves here in America; we have lost sight of what is going on around us and who Jesus is.

I have been praying to see people the way God does and to have his heart, and on Christmas that is what I got. God gave me a glimpse of what he was seeing and his heart was broken. It was broken for the people who have nothing, and for the people who have everything. This was so overwhelming I began to cry. This isn’t even half of what God sees; I can’t even imagine.

I don’t want to make you feel bad for all you have; it’s a blessing, but take that blessing and use it.

In this next year let’s change something. Let’s open our eyes to the things and the people God has placed around us. Let’s love without an agenda. Let’s give without wanting something in return.

 

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah 9:6

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Present over Perfect

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Christmas is less than a week away. Are you ready?

I hear this almost daily. And the truth is, I’m not ready. Gifts are not all purchased, cards are not addressed, and cookies are not baked.

And I’m okay with that.

It’s been coming on for a while, I suppose. At Thanksgiving, I amazed myself by using disposable plates so we would have more family time instead of doing dishes. Nikki had just returned the night before from 11 months of ministry on The World Race & I didn’t want to miss a minute with her. The difference did not go unnoticed. We ALL were relaxed and enjoying each other’s company. I chose to be present with the family over having a perfect table. Present over perfect.

As the days fly by, choose to be present over perfect this holiday season. For some of us, that is extra difficult. We want to appear perfect at this festive time – the perfectly trimmed tree, beautiful greeting cards and lovely decorations…. when in reality, that often just produces days filled with empty busy-ness and neglected families.

We are so caught up in the appearance of a happy holiday, we forget what it means to be present.

We believe the lies that

1) EVERYTHING is important. (Truth: You get to dictate what’s important.)

2) My possessions are adding value. (Truth: most likely, your possessions weigh you down.)

3) If I’m busy, I’m important. (Truth: If you’re busy, you’re making yourself unavailable.)

4) Achievements will bring me fulfillment. (Truth: God has already spoken fulfillment over you.)

5) I don’t have a choice. (Truth: It’s OK to say NO.)

6) I am needed. (Truth: The situation will be just fine without you.)

7) Quietness is laziness. (Truth: Quietness is necessary.)

Yes, Christmas is 4 days away. And I’m not ready.

As I write this, I’m sitting with a loved one in the hospital. Present over perfect.

My Christmas cards will most likely be mailed on December 26th (or later), because I want to enjoy my family to the fullest. Present over perfect.

Not a single gift is wrapped and under the tree. This will surely be a gift card year. Present over perfect.

Let go of your need to be perfect & see how it frees you. You may cringe a little (I know I have), but you will not regret being Present over appearing Perfect.

And it will be okay.

(7 lies introduced by Joshua Becker of the Becoming Minimalist blog, as told to me by an attendee of Storyline Conference 2014 Chicago)

Generous Giving

It’s two weeks until Christmas! People are running around like crazy buying gifts and going to parties and figuring out how to split their holiday time between family, extended family and friends. It’s partially controlled chaos!

Sure, it’s the “merriest” time of year for many of us despite the stress we create for ourselves. But, for others, the merriness surrounding them only accentuates their sadness, loneliness or poverty.

Statistically, we are more generous at this time of year. More of us give to charities. Many of us volunteer for a few hours at a shelter. This is so amazing, and it is a great way to collectively end a calendar year and move into the next. Being mindful of our fellow man.

However, once January rolls around we generally get caught back up into ourselves and we tend to forget about the sad, lonely and poor until the holiday season comes back around. This is easy to do, and most of us are guilty!

Sharing our abundance of resources with others should be a lifestyle. A daily thing.

You and I have more dollars than most people on the planet, even if we live paycheck to paycheck. Think about who you can share with. I think that in general we feel that if we can’t share “a lot” then it is not worth sharing. This is false! To someone without a dollar, a dollar is a huge blessing!

You and I also have more spare time than we think we have – no matter how busy we are. Think about those single people that you invite to your holiday parties. I challenge you to remember those people the rest of the year. Even the ones who turn down your invitations consistently. Don’t stop. The gesture never goes unnoticed. That little bit of reaching out may be just what that person needs at that time – the boost they need to keep going.

The Challenge: To give as much as we can to those in greater need this holiday season, AND to continue to be conscious of how greatly we are blessed and our ability to share our blessings and time with others throughout 2015.

MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY, HEALTHY and PROSPEROUS 2015!

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“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” Proverbs 3:27

“Peace, man……….”

During the hippie era, that was the greeting from one person to another. In other words, stay cool, calm, don’t stir up strife; love everybody.

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Still today we see the peace sign displayed on car bumpers, t-shirts, jewelry, etc.

Peace is that elusive “thing” we all want but can’t make happen in our world of wars, our homes of strife, our government of lies.

How do you grasp peace?

You can’t hold it in your hand; you can’t meditate enough hours to make it stay with you in your spiritual self to last indefinitely.

What is the answer for the heart of mankind the world over to receive peace?

You say that to receive Jesus,The Christ, in your heart is the answer!

I say YES to that, because peace is not a thing, not an “it.”
PEACE IS THE PERSON OF CHRIST!

But, we are just human after all, and life is hard. Even those of us who believe totally in God and His plan for our lives struggle sometimes with life issues and decisions.

When the angel of the LORD appeared to the shepherds the night of Jesus’ birth, he said, “”Do not be afraid (as in the absence of peace), I bring you GOOD NEWS of GREAT JOY that will be for ALL THE PEOPLE. Today in the town of David (Bethlehem) a SAVIOR HAS BEEN BORN TO YOU; HE IS CHRIST THE LORD.”
Then suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE to men on whom His favor rests.'”

Since that time we haven’t done very well with the concept of peace in our world, our homes; even in our hearts and minds.

But that kind of peace is offered to us in the persons of God the Father, Jesus, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All we have to do is take it by faith.

In John’s Gospel, chapter 14, verse 27 we read Jesus’ words, “Peace I leave with you, MY PEACE I GIVE TO YOU, NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES, GIVE I UNTO YOU. DO NOT LET YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED AND DO NOT BE AFRAID.”

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, The Author of Peace, in a couple days, may we be reminded that HE IS OUR PEACE!!!

Take His Peace unto yourself moment by moment every day.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Be still and know…

Christmas.

Love it or not, it will be here in a matter of days.

Normally, I’m all about the Christmas season.  I make my lists and check them twice.  I shop and wrap and bake.  I was geared up to jump in with both feet this year, too.  The magic of Christmas was mine for the making.

And then, on the 4th of December, I zigged when I should have zagged while skiing with my kids.   A pop and then a zip from my calf up to the back of my knee.  I instantly knew what had happened.  And that I was in for a backwards and head first ride down the mountain via the ski patrol sled.

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Muscle torn.  Pain.  Crutches.  Life slowed to a crawl.  And the Christmas I had envisioned was altered.

For two weeks I have pieced together what little Christmas magic I can muster.  I haven’t been able to go to the mall to participate in the crazy hustle that is Holiday Shopping.  The baking hasn’t materialized.  There has been no caroling.  The gifts ordered online aren’t wrapped.  And while my husband says, “Hey, at least I got the tree up,” all I can see is that it needs more lights.  About five thousand should do it.

I’ve viewed the Season these past two weeks through a different lens.  Keeping a slower pace has forced me to be introspective.  And in the quiet of my days, I heard something extraordinary.   Be Still.  Know.  I AM God.

I think sometimes God allows these little hiccups in life to bring us back to basics.  Christmas will happen whether I hobble through the mall or not.  The truth behind that old cliché “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” has been pushed to the back of our consciousness, even in the midst of the well-meaning religiosity of the holidays.

The lights, the fanfare, the pageantry, the gifts, even the music – it’s all fluff.   When that is all stripped away we are left with the realization that the baby’s birthday we celebrate each year is God incarnate.  And He wants us to know Him.  Without the fluff.

Let’s get back to basics:  the incredible act of God sending his Son to be born and live here on earth so that we ultimately can know what the words grace and peace truly mean.  That’s it.

You may not have an injury or illness that makes you slow your pace, but I’m challenging you to do it anyway.  Even for a few moments at a time.  Listen.  Can you hear Him?

Be Still. Know. I AM God.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)