Is Christmas Really Real?

Audio track did not appear to post. Please go to archives of December, 2015.

Today begins the reading of Christmas of Discovery.  

I invite you to come along on the journey to discover the real Christmas.

Here is the link.  Please share with anyone else who might want to come along.

We begin by considering whether Christmas is even really real.

Keep Watch With Me …

Sometimes we don’t want to keep a “stiff upper lip.”

Sometimes we don’t want to be doused with optimism and look on the “bright side.”

Sometimes we have trouble believing “it will get better.”

Sometimes we need to “wallow in our misery.”

Sometimes we need to cry.

We don’t need someone to try to solve things no human can solve.

We don’t need someone to try to distract us by talking about something else.

We especially don’t need to be left alone to battle alone.

We need someone to care. We need someone who is willing to help us carry our cross all the way down the road.

We need someone who will listen and support us while we work through the pain, the doubts, the fears.

We need a midwife who will stand strong with us, as we birth whatever needs to be delivered from deep inside us.

Jesus was honest with His Friends.

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
Matthew 26:38

And then He told them what they could do for Him.

“Stay here and keep watch with Me.”
Matthew 36:38

“Watch and pray.”
Matthew 26:41

Are you willing to be present with another, feeling all the powerlessness and pain, while you wait for The One Who is All Power to act?

Prayer For A Former Thief

At the end of last week, I discovered money, credit cards and ID were missing from my purse.

There were few times my purse had not been with me.  But there were some times.  I had gone to various appointments.  We had had multiple people in the house for our remodeling project.

We had welcomed them all as God’s Guests in His House, where God allows us to live.  We had treated all of them well, even sharing bits and pieces of our life with each other.

I did not want to even consider the thought that any of our guests would steal.  So Jay and I began an intensive search through our house, our cars, the yard, and the garbage.  It was not there.

We retraced my steps for the past couple of weeks, went to each location, but still turned up empty handed.

Finally we had to consider the possibility that someone had taken it.  My initial reaction was shock.   I had said this was God’s House and people come here at His Invitation.  Would God have invited a thief to come into His Home?

I asked Him.  He referred me to the story of Zacheus.  Jesus never called  Zacheus a thief.  But after spending time with Jesus Zacheus himself acknowledged if he had cheated anyone, he would repay it.  (Luke 19:8) 

Jesus knew all.  He could have called him a thief, an embezzler, a cheat, but He didn’t.  He called him by name.  And He went to his house and dined with him.

Jesus knew Judas.  It was said by some Judas was a thief.  John said, “He was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6)

But Jesus still let Judas manage the money for the group.  He still washed his feet.  He still dined with him.

Jesus taught what to do if people work against you.  

He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Matthew 5:44

He said, “If anyone wants to take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”

Matthew 5:40

Jesus took a man some considered a thief with Him to Paradise.  

The thief acknowledged his wrong doing.  He only asked Jesus to remember him.  

The one called a thief did not realize he was asking The Lord of The Universe for more than just holding him in His Memory.  

He was asking that The Lord put all the parts of his soul in the right places He had designed them to go.  He was about to be re-membered.

He had no idea how deep and wide God’s Mercy was.  He had no idea He would ever get to go Home with Jesus.

But he did.  Jesus told The Father He was bringing a friend Home.

We still do not know what happened to the items in my purse.  Perhaps they were lost, accidentally fallen out of the purse and now innocently lying somewhere waiting to be found.

But if someone took them, I would say this to that person.

I forgive you.  The temptation that drove you to steal is not big enough to snuff out God’s Grace.

God created you to do good things.  He has a Plan for your life and it is a Good Plan.

God does not see you as a thief nor do I.  We see you as The Perfect Creation He designed you to be.  

I pray that you will cast off anything that hinders you from experiencing the full Joy of The Lord.  I pray that you will trust Him to give you everything you need.

I trust you will be able to resist the temptation to steal what is not yours.  Should that thought ever again come to you, I pray you will resist it and instead thank God that whatever you need, He will provide.

I pray that you come to the knowledge that you have not taken from us.  Everything we have belongs to God.  So what you took was never ours to begin with.

I pray you will talk with Him about it.  You may be surprised to find He will not lecture you or condemn you.  

He will not condone what you did, but He will forgive you and love you.  Get to know Him.  He knows you very well.

When you find out Who He is, you will know who you are and why you are here.

We will welcome you into His House if you come here.  We will continue to see you as His Invited Guest.  We will be watching for God’s Glory to shine through you!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Who Owns My Things?

We said for many years that everything belonged to God.  However, we lived as if we owned our things.

Some years ago, God challenged us to begin living into The Truth that He really does own it all.  He is trusting us to manage it.

This shift in thinking proved to be very interesting.  

If it was really all His, then it meant we should be asking Him about every purchase we made.  Yes … every one.

And we needed to truly ask … not tell.  There is a difference in asking, “God, should I do this?” And saying, “God, I am doing this.  Stop me if it’s wrong.”

Our spending habits changed.

If everything belonged to God, then we realized we were driving Dad’s car.  We were wearing the clothes He gave us.

So if He wanted us to drive someone somewhere in His car, using His gas, then we needed to do it.

And if He wanted to us to help Him clothe and feed other people, then we were to do what He told us.

We realized we were living in God’s house.  He is graciously allowing us to live here.  The people who come here come at His Invitation and for His Purpose.

It is our mission to serve and not get in God’s Way as He carries out His Purpose.

He prepared this place for us, as He will prepare our future homes on earth or in Heaven.  

When we do things in this house, we should be mindful of the fact that God is allowing us to help Him prepare this place for those who will live here after He gives us a new home one day.

I invite you into The Wonderful Truth that God owns it all.  And He has chosen to share with you.

That is truly a reason to be thankful.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy!

Psalm 126:3

Wish List Or Prayer Of Gratitude?

Some time ago, I became aware of how many of my prayers and that of others were either a wish list or a to do list for God.

God, please do this.  God please do that.

God, please fix this problem.

God, please give me what I want.

Everything was something we wanted Him to do, including making other people do 

things.

Churches and prayer groups are always ready to receive prayer requests.  But often they do not expect praise reports.

I once was in a prayer ministry, where it felt like we were the post office.  People came to us and we agreed with each other and sent the request “up.”

Never did anyone come and ask us to praise God with them.  And in retrospect, I realize we never invited people to share their praises and thanks.

After this revelation, I determined to go for a period of time of limiting my prayers to only praise and thanks giving with no begging.

I dug deeper into God’s Word and saw what He had already promised to give me .  No matter how I felt, I began to agree with Him that I had it (because He said so).   

Agreeing with Him was much better than just getting as many prayer partners as I could to sign off on it like a petition.

I thanked God for what He said He had given me, like I was thanking Him for a Present received, but unopened yet.

While this changed my life, it is still a work in progress.  The temptation to beg God is still strong, especially when I realize the limits of my own power.

But for every need I have, I find He has already provided.

When I say, “God, please be with me or someone else,” He says, “I am.”

When I say, “God, please guide us,” He says, “I am.  I will.”

When I say, “God, please heal us,” He says, “I will, in My Time and in My Way.”

And the list of His Promises goes on and on.

If you feel led to join me, do this.

Become aware of how many of your prayers are wish lists or to do lists for God.

Search The Bible for anything God or Jesus promised.

Thank Him for it.

Look back over your life and reflect on how many different ways God has fulfilled His Promises.

Praise Him and thank Him for His Gifts then and now!

What Do You Need?

Do you have everything you need?

We used to get tickled at our daughter when she was very little.  If she wanted something and our answer was no, she would look up very pitifully with her eyes opened wide and say, “But I need it.”

Then one day we realized she had learned that behavior from us.  As we discussed purchasing something, the deciding vote was whether we really needed it.

We bought some real extravagances by coming up with pretty far fetched reasons we needed them.

I have had to ask myself recently whether I or anyone else I know is ever truly satisfied.  As I have gotten older, what I believe I need has changed.  I now believe I need more aging body restoration things than I need big screen TVs, or other material things.

But I still want.  I still think I need things.  I am not alone.  Even those of us who pray usually fill our prayers with a “to do list” for God.

However, David tells us,

“The Lord is my Shepherd.  I have everything I need.” (GNT)

Peter tells us,

“By His Divine Power The Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of The One Who called us by His Own Honor and Glory.”

2 Peter 1:3

Paul tells us,

“My God will give you everything you need because of His Great Riches in Christ Jesus. 

Now may our God and Father be honored forever. Let it be so.”

Philippians 4:19-20

Notice, all three scriptures tell us God gives us everything we need.  So perhaps, instead of asking God to give us things, we should begin by thanking Him for giving us everything we need.

And then we should ask Him to show us where it is and how to use it.

Be confident He will.  

Next comes our conscious commitment to choose not to want.

The King James Version says,

“The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not want.”

Thanksgiving points us in the right direction. We can begin a life now of thanks giving to God Who gives us everything we need!

I Prayed For You!

Another amazing report from God’s House today.

The painters returned and again worked solidly through the day.  Once again we were treated to upbeat Spanish songs, as they worked.

The window crew made a return appearance to fix a few left over things on the outside of the windows.

Our wonderful housekeeper bravely took on paint fumes and dry wall dust, working around the painters, and helped get our house back closer to its allergy free state.

The blinds lady returned from an out of town trip and we had a phone consultation with the noise of sanding tools and vacuum cleaner in the background.

When the paint duo was getting ready to leave, I felt the nudge from The Lord to give each of them copies of our books.

One of them told me he used to go to church, but he had gotten away from it.  He said he felt God had been calling to him in different ways.  He said, “Maybe this is another way.”

I then told them of how I had prayed in 1994 when the house was built for all who would come here one day.

I explained even though I did not know them then, God knew them wherever they were, and He knew when they would connect with us in His Time.

I told them I was praying for them in 1994.  I then asked the young man who was hearing God’s Call if he was even alive then.

With tears in his eyes, he said, “I was born in 1994.”  We both stood in awe of our Great God Who in an instant connected the dots He began in another time and place.

Never cease to pray in all ways and all times.  Be confident God is working out His Plan.  He has a beautiful picture in mind.  God is The Master Painter.

All Praise to Him!  It was another day of Joy in being in The House of The Lord!

Quietly trust yourself to Christ your Lord, and if anybody asks why you believe as you do, be ready to tell him, and do it in a gentle and respectful way.

1 Peter 3:15

Every day of my life was recorded in Your Book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:16

House Of The Lord

Today was another interesting day of welcoming guests into God’s House where He lets us live with Him.

Painters arrived early this morning and worked all day.  The house is filled with the not so fragrant smell of dry wall dust and paint.

But it is also filled with The Aroma of Christ.  

Paul says, “We are the aroma of Christ to God.”  

2 Corinthians 2:15

The painters were not alone.  They listened to what we believe was a Christian Bible study.  It was in Spanish.  I don’t speak Spanish, but Jay does.  So he could interpret part of it.

And then there was music, also mostly in Spanish, but somehow translated into the language of Joy to me.

The painters painted and unknown to them, I danced in the next room.

We had a little conversation before they left.  We spoke of the places where we grew up, all of us missing the warmer climates where we were first “imprinted.”

I came from South Carolina.  They came from Mexico.

After they left, when I was checking the bedroom where they had been painting, I found two scripture cards in the middle of the bed.

They were part of the stack of scripture cards I read each night before bed.  I had apparently dropped them and they were under the bed.  

I smiled as I realized perhaps those cards were not accidentally dropped.  They were seeds planted by God that grew into encouragement for weary painters on this day.

And then The Word returned to me as seeds to be planted again.  

God promises His Word that goes out from His Mouth will not return void, but will accomplish that which He desires and achieve The Purpose for which He sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

Today was another day when it was good to be in The House of The Lord!

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of The Lord.”

Psalm 122:1

It Is What It Is …

It is what it is.

We have heard the expression before.  

But it is not always easy to fully live into it.

When adverse things happen, we often spend a lot of time being angry about why it happened.

We Monday morning quarterback whose fault it is that it has come to this.

We blame ourselves for not making better choices so it would not come to this.

We retrace our steps a thousand times with loud lamentations.

And still … it is what it is.

When we fully realize it is what it is, and going back over how we got here isn’t helping, we often try to zip ahead.

We want to be sure that what it is now will not be how it is in the future.

So we plan defensively.  Even though we said we were not going back to the past, we do go back.

After all, to plan a better future, shouldn’t we learn from the past?

And so, the dizzying back and forth between past and future begins.

And we worry … a lot … about what is coming in the future.

We somehow missed avoiding what it is now.  What if we have not anticipated enough things about the future?

In the eye of this self made storm sits God, waiting for us to do the one simple thing He taught David.

Be still, and know that I am God;

Psalm 46:10

We need to be still.

We need to know He is God.

He has brought us to this moment and He is with us.

We do not need to figure anything out.

We do not need to try to put the puzzle pieces together.

We do not need to do anything.

We just need to be still.

We need to experience the blessing of this moment and hear God tell us how it is what it is.

I am The Lord and there is no other; apart from Me there is no God. 

Isaiah 45:5

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Hebrews 13:5

I have loved you with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself.

Jeremiah 31:3

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 31:3

I am with you always!

Matthew  28:20

This is The Way it is.

God Knows When!

My father was a man of strong faith. He noticed things and wondered about them.

Once during a particularly thought provoking Sunday sermon, he leaned over to whisper in my ear.  I was sure he was going to share some additional bit of profound wisdom.

He said, “Do you see that woman on the right on the back row in the choir?”  I did.

He said, “She has a really long neck.”

By now, my mother was giving both of us a look of disapproval.

But Daddy continued.  It turned out he was not just girl watching.  He was marveling at God’s Creation.

He said, “Isn’t it amazing how God made all of us so different!”

I don’t remember a word the preacher said that day.  But I do remember my father’s mini-sermon.  I began to look around and more fully appreciate God’s Creation.

When I sometimes dismissed some of the things Daddy wondered about, he would laugh and say, “Have you no curiosity?”

Sometimes his wondering about how God worked led him in the wrong direction.  Such was the case of his being sure he had figured out how God set the time for people to die.

As he read the obituaries, he noticed a trend.  He said, “Have you ever noticed how people die around the time of their birthday?”

After he noticed the trend, every time he found another thing to support his conjecture, he was sure he had figured it out.  People must have an expiration date, like milk!

However, his “discovery” had an adverse side effect.  Every year around his birthday, he would get very nervous.  He thought his time on earth might be drawing to a close.  He could never fully celebrate life because he was preoccupied with death.

After years of birthday nervousness, Daddy died at age 96.  His birthday was in May.  He died November 13, 2001, six months after his last birthday and six months before what would have been his next birthday.

I imagine God welcomed Daddy into Heaven with a smile, as He told him there were no clocks or calendars there … and from then on life would be one long birthday with plenty to celebrate.

God lets us admire His Creation.  He lets us wonder.  But all our wondering should never lead to wandering off the path only He knows.

He calls us to trust Him.  He has The Plan and it is a good one.  

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares The Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your Book . Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed!

Psalm 139:16