Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Last night we went caroling, but you'll never believe what happened next!!

I have this friend who is always thinking of ways to make me to step out of my comfort zone. She is bold and loves Jesus and quite naturally comes up with ideas to serve God and others. About 4 years ago, or more, she decided our home school co-op needed to go caroling. My first thought was, “People still do that?” and my second thought was, “AWK-ward” But just like everything else she dreams up, I went along with it, and even agreed to go in my families neighborhood, where people know me. 

I was nervous. After all, there is a war on Christmas, right? I mean, if you watch the news, they would have you believe that 90% of people in this world are horribly offended by all things Christian, and especially Christmas. So what, pray tell, would we encounter? Would they slam the door in our faces? Call the cops? Throw eggs? I steadied myself for the worst and held on to the thought of hot chocolate with friends when it was all over. Between our four families we had about 12 kids. So we bundled them up and headed out. 

As we approached the first house, I still couldn't believe we were about to sing on someones door step. And yet with all my preconceived notions, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. House after house we got such similar reactions. First there was shock. I mean, think about it. When is the last time someone showed up on your door step to sing to you? I can tell you with certainty that I have no recollection of this ever happening to me!
 Next came the smiles. These huge soul moving smiles that came from a place of hope and love. Then there were thank you's. Repeated and heart felt thank yous. Many joined in song with us, and some even responded with tears. I don't know where those tears came from, whether loss or nostalgia, but they were way more beautiful than what I ever imagined our little singing troupe would see.

This year we were at it again. Yet this Christmas, our family is in a different place in life. My husband Paul is now the pastor at Calvary Chapel Midtown, a regional campus, near Fort Lauderdale, a little ways away from where we normally go caroling. Yet despite the distance, instead of going to one of our own families neighborhoods, our sweet friends decided that they would like to make the trek with us to a neighborhood near our new church to invite those neighbors to our very first Christmas service. I knew that we had had great responses in years past, but Fort Lauderdale? Or more specifically, Wilton Manors? That would likely be different. Surely they would balk at our lyrics of silent nights and angels singing? I mean, this is offensive stuff people! There is no way that they would tolerate our songs to a newborn king.

And they didn't. Tolerate it, that is. They embraced it! The first house was a sweet lady and her ninety year old mother. Upon hearing why we were there, they came outside and sat down in their wicker chairs to get comfortable as they soaked it all in, smiling from ear to ear. They joined in singing, eyes brimming with tears. Our first song, she told us, was her late fathers absolute favorite. House after house we were received and welcomed with love. There were more tears. So many thank yous. And one sweet lady was noticeably overcome with total shock that we were doing this, this small thing.”But it's just me here” she explained, sure we needed a bigger audience. Oh and the silly little candy canes we handed out garnered even more gratitude.

I need you to know, however, that this is not me saying “Wow, we changed the world tonight with our humble hearts and awesome vocals. Aren't we great?” No, not one bit. Especially because our hearts are likely not very humble, and our voices certainly not great.....except the kids. Oh man they are adorable and cute!! But I digress...This is not about what we did. This is about what HE did. The reason I am sharing this is in the hope of reminding you that our world actually really needs more of Jesus. But not only do they need Jesus, a staggeringly large number actually really wants more of Him..Even though we are being told that nobody wants Him anymore, and even though a select, albeit noisy, few tell us that His words are offensive and His truths un-welcome, it is often not the reaction we get when we approach with love! This world is hungry for Emmanuel, God with us. I am so thankful for the boldness of friends, who encourage us along, year after year, to share the love of Jesus, invite a stranger to church, and watch the world change from the inside out.

Let's pray together for more sweet divine appointments as Christmas draws near. Let's pray for boldness and wisdom with our words everywhere we go!
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:19


Monday, December 8, 2014

Strength for the Season- Psalm 18

I will love You, O Lord,

The first time I read this verse I missed one simple word that changes everything.
I will love you.
That's different.
Just this morning my sweet littlest child told me he loved me. In fact, he loved me super duper much. And my heart melted. Like it does every time.
I am not sure, however, that I would have had the same reaction if he would have said “Mommy, I will love you.”
You will? Like, when?
This whole passage is future. You will do this, and I will do this.
And that is so good. You may not feel it now. But take hope. God is going to deliver you, and you will love him.

my strength.
2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;

We all need supernatural strength. All of us. For different reasons. But none of us can do it on our own. If you think you are doing fine on your own, I guarantee you the people around you might beg to disagree. But this is the good news. He is our rock. Our strength. In whom I will trust. 
My God, my strength, when I blow it again.
My God, my strength, when my will is weak. 
My God, my strength, when the answer isn't clear.
My God, my strength, when my doubts are overwhelming.
My God, my strength, in WHOM I WILL TRUST!

My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I will call upon the
Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

The action is simple, but the result is profound.
I will be saved from my enemies.
We all have enemies. Can you think of any?
No, not your boss. Not your ex. Not your (fill in the blank.) Don't be confused. Our battle is not against flesh and blood. Sometimes we can feel like people are against us. But the Bible tells us in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood. This is the most exciting news. If we can remember that, we are so home free. The devil's best offense is to set us against each other.  You see, we cannot change people. We try. We manipulate. We punish. We conspire to get people to change their offensive ways but all to no avail. Here is the good news though. Despite what you may have been told, you CAN change people. Namely, but not limited to, yourself. Prayer changes everything. And everyone. Can you change someone by nagging? Not likely. With passive aggressive behavior? Doubtful. On your knees with humbled prayers ? Oh yes! But be forewarned, if you truly spend time on your knees with a humbled heart, the person that will be changed the most is you!
So shall I be saved from my enemies? Yes, because oftentimes, our greatest enemy is our own self.
Ok, now read the next part slowly, and drink it in because it is so good. And it is all for YOU!!

For You will light my lamp;
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by You I can run against a troop,
By my God I can leap over a wall.
30 As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

31 For who is God, except the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
32 It is God who arms me with strength,
And makes my way perfect.
33 He makes my feet like the feet of deer,
And sets me on my high places.
34 He teaches my hands to make war,
So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation;
Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.
36 You enlarged my path under me,
So my feet did not slip.

The Lord lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let the God of my salvation be exalted.

That portion needs no commentary, but it probably needs to be read again. Slowly.
FOR BY YOU, I can leap over a wall!!




Alright that's it. This one is going on the wall. I just love it!! Who is God, except the Lord? Not me, that is for sure! His gentleness has made me great! Let Him enlighten your darkness!

This time, this season, although it brings great joy, for some, it actually brings great pain. My prayers are with you. My heart is holding you up. I bear these burdens with you and bring you before my God. I pray that you would feel His support, that you would feel His right hand holding you up, and that your feet would not slip. This is a great time of year to meditate on a verse that can hold you up and this passage is full of great ones. Choose one, write it down, hang it up and hold on to it.
The Word of God is proven!!  

And tell someone! Allow them to bear your burdens, share in your story, and be Jesus' arms around you.
What verse do are you needing to meditate on? Tell us in the comments :)
My verse,hands down, is "My God My Strength."  Because I blow it a lot. Like even moments after typing "Publish" on this blog. And I need to know that it is His strength, not mine. And He is proven! Amen!!