Bright Christmas Wishes

I’m ready: the Christmas story sits beneath my chest like a slow swinging Sunday church bell. The presents are wrapped, the food is prepared, and the cookies are stacked oh-so-neatly on the tray.

But something is missing.

Truth be told, this hollow feeling blew in with Old Man Winter. It’s odd, you know, to have both longing and satisfaction at the same time. This longing: the waiting and hoping and anticipating for that which is lost to be found, the wrong to be made right, and the healing to finally come. And yet, still, I am overshadowed by a powerful peace.

How can this be?

Truth be told, this is the story of Jesus: an upside down Kingdom that ushers in a new world order. He is the fulfillment, deliverer, and healer. I can know the whole story, but miss it completely when I’m preoccupied with those gapping holes in my life. This season the Spirit has encouraged me to focus on the Star. Doing so causes me to look up. Doing so reminds me that a bright shining light, that never ceases, leads me.

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I may know the whole story, but peace prevails and joy is strengthened when I choose to Believe.

Merry Christmas, friends!

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A Christmas Gift For You

I’ll be the first to admit that I get a little geeky about Advent. I LOVE this time of year! Truly. I know, there is so much extra going on. Things we normally wouldn’t do or be or buy seemingly band together during this monumental month. Although, when it comes to the Christmas season, we ought to admit that we are one INTENTIONAL culture.

And so, I want to challenge you this Advent season to take an ounce of that INTENTION and simply pause: think, ponder, and reflect on the greatest story ever told. The real Christmas story.

I have a gift for you!

TEN DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: A BAKER’S ADVENT DEVOTIONAL

Yep, that’s right. A ten day Advent devotional paired with ten scrumptious recipes contributed by a few of my favorite writers. It’s a free gift, for you. 

DevotionalCover copySubscribe {CLICK HERE} for your FREE Advent devotional.

Traditionally, in our culture today, Christmas is considered prime baking season and a time when we tend to be more INTENTIONAL about gathering with family and friends. It is my hope and prayer that this Baker’s Advent Devotional will preheat your heart to receive the gift of joy that only Jesus, the lowly babe, can offer.

May we be intentional with our time to seek Him first.

May our created goods, given in love, delight the One who created us.

May our sweetest treasure this Christmas season be found in You, oh King Jesus.

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Dreary Days Ahead: A Foggy Muse

Imagine the dreariest of days. The sort that make you scramble for wool socks and slow stir the evening soup, placing yet another chunk of wood atop the dwindling ash. Time to hunker down. It’s best to lay low. This is the life.

Imagine driving through the dreariest of days. The bleak sort that makes you long for the comforts of home. But home, if only. As you drive further and further, you watch the sun sink to rest. Home; you’ll get there, just keep truckin’. Then, quite unexpectantly, a feathery fog crawls across the track before you. It swirls and curls and climbs like ivy. It grows and surrounds and soon you’re covered. Immersed in a world that is surely not your own. The good life exists beyond the blind bend. Just keep truckin’.

Two worlds:

One evokes contentment. It’s simple, easy. Living under swaths of fleece and cotton stifles movement.

The other, radical resolve. It’s impossible, hard. Living by faith is a bewildering adventure.

 

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Where are you? First, become aware.

 

“Awareness is the choosiest gift. Hard to find and nearly sold out; a gift worth scouring and begging and groaning for.”

 

Foggy ventures open eyes wide. A braced back holds still. Loose the grip. The unseen road ahead is for your good. It’s always for good, don’t you see? The Uncle of dependence wants it all – every single speck.

Time to leave the house and go for a drive?
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When We Want A Harvest Blessing

Looking back on this young life of mine, I can already see a multitude of redefining moments.

It was the summer of 2004. Standing among a sea of concertgoers at an outdoor music festival, worshiping together as we sang the popular Christian song “Blessed Be Your Name” by Tree 63. It was there that I felt a shift. Well, first, it was a nudge. Followed by a simple prayer. Then came the shift.

The nudge was this prompting by something bigger than myself to surrender control over my life, my work and my finances.

So, I prayed that God would bless my family. “Bless me,” I prayed. “Bless my work. Bless our finances. Oh Lord, bless us! I’ll do anything. I’ll go anywhere. I’m yours.”

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I felt it, then, right there; a slight shift. I think I had to shuffle my feet a bit because I felt the earth tremble a little beneath me.

Within a few short months, my world flipped. Soon, pretty much every area of my growing family, self-employed business and oh-yeah-that-thing-called-money was turned upside down. Devastated by the seemingly ruin of run amuck circumstances, I turned back to God in desperation.

This time I pleaded, “Oh Lord, this is not the blessing I’d hoped for. This is not a blessing at all.”

But surrender and transformation are faint companions. Like fraternal twins who do not look like they’ve come on the same ship, they assuredly are born together under the same moon.

And what I’ve learned is this: the harvest takes time.

The surrender is never forsaken.

A yielded heart will be transformed.

The harvest blessing eventually comes.

 

Friends, though your heart may feel faint today, do not grow weary from doing good. Remember, (I am speaking with tender affection) that a pure spiritual harvest is rarely instantaneous. The seed of your prayer takes time to grow. And in due time, eventually, the harvest blessing will come for those who do not loose heart.
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The Day You Meet Someone And Fall In Love

Have you ever met someone and fallen instantly in love? I have.

Today, in fact.

I was speaking at a quaint women’s luncheon in the basement of a church; covered by the tall Colorado Pine, on the edge of a quiet town. She walked into the room framed like the stem of a dandelion; spangled leggings tucked into cowboy boots, a slouched over shirt as vivid as blue corral waters. Her face: bright, smooth, and happy.

“Hello, you can call me Grannie. I’m only 92,” She announced, “I’m passionate about health and wellness and I love Jesus, oh, He’s the one true Healer.”

And instantly I knew that I loved her.

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Grannie is a certified massage therapist. I kid you not! I moaned, explaining a nagging ache in my back going two months strong. She placed her journeyed hand upon my side and squeezed, “here?” I nodded and smiled.

“Perhaps… I wish I could…” Grannie looked over her shoulder towards the restroom. “Would you mind if I gave you a quick adjustment?”

I looked at the clock, ten minutes shy of my introduction, and then looked back at Grannie, “Sure!”

Ten minutes of magic: I emerged like new, shaking my head, grateful for the gift.

Besides the fact that this story absolutely delights my heart, I tell it because Grannie is a living, breathing example of what it means to use your gifts and passions to impact the Kingdom of God. What? Wait? So your saying a 10-minute restroom massage is Kingdom work? Um, yeah, I am. Because I believe that any time you are doing a good work, in the name of Jesus, pouring yourself out through the expression of your gifts and talents, you’re leaving an imprint on those around you.

So, will you do me a little favor?

Ask yourself:

What are my gifts?

What am I most passionate about?

The unique combination of these things is where you’ll discover the most power to influence what the world sees, thinks and knows about our God. This is Kingdom Living right here.

And this is the sort of stuff that causes hearts to draw near in love.

Go forth, and do your thing… just like Grannie!
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Stories Change Stories

Esther Havens has the best job ever. Or so it seems. As a humanitarian photographer, she travels the world capturing pixilated stories of people. Her work of storytelling through the lens has inspired Westerners to gain a cross-cultural perspective like none other. For many, we yearn for this sort of adventurous life style.

A classic case of, “If only I had your life…”

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Photo Credit: Esther Havens

Last year I met Esther while attending the Allume blogging conference. During her storytelling session she shared a few lessons she’s learned about her line of work and her heart behind sharing someone’s story with the world. As she spoke, I watched a young woman in the audience raise her hand and ask, “How do you suppose I go about finding inspiring stories to share? I mean, I’m a stay-at-home mom who drives a mini van all day. I just don’t have the life that you have…”

I caught up with Esther after her session and an interesting thing happened. In response to the woman’s question she shared with me that one of her deepest desires is to be a mother, at home with her children.

And so, I thought to myself, what a curious thing. Here you have two women, each doing two different kinds of work, each carrying around different desires for a future hope. It made me wonder how often we look at another person’s life, their work, and wish we could do what they do or have what they have.

For the past three years I’ve been working on my first novel. Of course the writing journey, once immersed in the work, looks and feels completely different than I’d once imagined. Today, my love and passion for writing remains the same. But holy smokes, it’s a lot of work. Through the years I’ve therapeutically shared bits and pieces of this process on my blog. One time, after announcing my book would be published, I received a poignant message from a reader friend. She began by saying that she needed to be honest with me. She explained that my work, this book coming into fruition, was causing her to feel jealous. You see, one of her greatest desires has always been to write a book. In fact, she already has her story idea. She just hadn’t set to the work, yet. My friend concluded her message by thanking me for inspiring her to begin writing the story she’s been holding onto all these years.

Her letter helped me to recognize two ways in which these bursts of longing, if handled in a proper manner, have the potential to work themselves out for good.

Confront it.

Nothing smolders the fire of envy faster than speaking the truth in love. Being honest with our feelings, speaking it out, whether with God or man helps us bring light to those sheltered corners of our heart. Careful though; we need to remember to guard our words from spiteful gossip. Speaking it out means, go to the source!

 

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

 

Stories inspire stories.

To desire actually means to suffer or ache for the coming of something to pass. We were born for longing; it’s our eternal quest. This is good because if we didn’t desire, we wouldn’t be alive.

Be encouraged.

Never underestimate the power of living in the present. Your work right now is leading you towards those desires you hold dearly to your chest. Believe it! It’s about the journey. I firmly believe that your God breathed story to-date is just the thing another person needs to hear. Share. Give. Tell. Stories change stories!

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No Small Snakes: Overcoming Crappy Circumstances

“Look out!” My husband tugged on my arm just as my foot was about to strike the tail of a squished snake on the road. I screamed bloody-murder, naturally, until I realized that the creature was already dead. But three more times, thereafter, I nearly stepped on the heads’ of snakes slithering across my path.

Why so many snakes, all at once, I wondered?

A snake, clearly defined throughout history, has been a symbol of poison, danger, suspicion or trouble. This stepping on snakes scenario brings me back to a distant time in my past. A time of trouble and confusion; a time when it felt as though, at every corner, I was being attacked by circumstances that intended to do me harm. I felt swallowed up and I didn’t trust my own feet to move…for fear.

We’ve all encountered snakes on the road. Our path. Our life. Obstacles that drive fear, cause us to take a wide detour or keep us from finishing the race.

“Look out!” I’m tugging your arm, to help you shift your gaze. Do you know that your snake-like circumstance is merely a pawn? A disguise intended to cause you look down, run away, flail your arms, side step… anything to keep you focused on seeking truth by looking up. Listen, friends, there is a real Snake in this world, indeed! This snake-like Devil, he is not for you, he is not in favor of your best laid dreams and he has been creating strategies to throw you off since before you we’re born. It may seem as though THE CIRCUMSTANCE (insert name of person or people group or issue) is the real and present danger but I’m urging you to consider looking at your present struggle through a different set of eyes.

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Sometimes, there is so much confusion in our layered troubles that it can be hard to distinguish the real enemy, right? Oh, I know what your thinking. If only I knew about that one person, the one whose eyes glow neon when you lay awake at night. If the world only knew the things they’ve done, to you.

But I’m not talking about that one person or group or thing that’s got you all tangled up inside. Nope. THAT’S JUST THE CIRCUMSTANCE. Consider the master-mind, the invisible player pulling the strings of human hearts and minds. Remember our REAL enemy, the one who is looking to devour us.

If we are to grow deeper in our faith, we must give pause to these patterns that cause such a ruckus in our lives. We must give pause and consider the present darkness. And look to do battle against the REAL enemy. So, PRAY, dear people. Here is some TRUTH to send you on your way:

1) No weapon formed against you shall prosper. -Isaiah 54:17

2) In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world. –John 16:33

3) And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. –Ephesians 4:32

4) Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. – Ephesians 6:14-18

PRAYER: Help us, oh Lord, to have eyes to see the snakes and the circumstances before us! Grant us perspective into your work in our lives. Help us to stand firmly planted in your goodness. We give to you this day, may our weakness be perfected by your strength. Thank you for the breath in our lungs on this day. May we give you honor and praise for the victory that is ours in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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For the Haters; The Power of Prayer {Repost}

A few years ago my good friend was diagnosed with cancer. It was a horrible and scary time. I prayed like everyone else, delivered a few meals, and visited her during a round of chemo. I did everything I knew to do, still I felt helpless.

Until one day, while doing my regular kickboxing routine, I did something radically different.

I’ll call it Spiritual Kickboxing.

What is kickboxing? It’s a power-packed routine where you shadow box, kick, punch, and move. It’s sweaty, down and dirty, and it is for haters.

 

 

You see, on that day in the privacy of my living room, I discovered the hater in me. The hater of sickness and disease, the hater of brokenness, sin, and those trapped in darkness. I realized that I’m done with the Devil’s death schemes. So, this is what I did:

1. I closed my eyes and pictured my disgusting cancer spreading opponent. Boy, he was ugly- and easy to hate!

2. I put up my guard and spent the next 30 sweaty minutes, with my friend in mind, defending her in prayer.

3. I beat with clenched fists, crushed with Words, and kicked fatal blows in the Name Above All names; Jesus.

This may seem like a wackadoodle concept but here’s the truth friends; the real battles we face in life are not ones that we can see with our eyes. The real battle is invisible; brought forth by an oppressor (the devil) who’s mission is to hurt, maim, and destroy your life (Ephesians 6:12).

Scripture declares that we are to fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12). So, let us do so with the weapon of prayer. The mission of Jesus was to destroy the works of the devil (1John 3:8) and rightfully we, as sons and daughters, should adopt the same mission.
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called…”
Time and again I will enter into a session of kickboxing and use it to pray and defend those in need. Life is hard. At times we all need someone to help us carry our burdens. For this reason, I will put on my gloves and fight. Victory awaits for those who will stand up and claim it.
Will you rise up, generation?
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Why Doesn’t God Answer My Prayer

Recently I discovered a sore spot in my heart with God. I’m being honest with you here. Don’t worry, we’ve worked it out (for today) but something was revealed to me in the process that I want to share.

This tender spot centers on unanswered prayer.

Mine is an age-old prayer. Which basically means that I’ve been praying this same prayer for ages and now I feel old and tired. Thus, an age-old prayer. My guess is that you have one too. While other prayers have come and gone, been lifted up and returned with rich, tangible blessings; this big elephant continues to sit on my heart. Sometimes I forget just how long I’ve been praying. Really, I do!

Last week I received two of the most encouraging messages from a few friends. Each independent of each another, and sharing with much celebration that God had answered their prayer. Amazing! I rejoiced with them because I too had been rallying on their behalf. God heard our prayers and delivered. Praise be!

And then shortly after the confetti fell I felt this little sting. It’s not like me to get all pouty with God but for some reason I did. I’m not gonna lie. In this moment I seriously asked God why he can’t just answer this one…the age-old. Don’t get me wrong, I mean, I get the fact that there can be reasons for our unanswered prayers.

  • Sometimes it’s a test of our faith.
  • Or it’s an issue of repentance.
  • Maybe we need to forgive.
  • Perhaps it’s the motive of our plotting heart.
  • Have we dealt with our unbelief.

All of the above, right? I can tell you that I’ve traveled to All of those places on this age-old prayer journey. Yet, unanswered still remains. But it’s going to be all right. Everything will be okay. Because the truth came to me in a single word:

 

Humility.

 

A state of being low, bent, and powerless. To remain humble means that I’ll be kept small so as not to live and reign in the kingdom of me.

Humility is the resource God uses to draw my cupped hands Heavenward time and time again.

And so, the Lord brought about this word into the swollen chamber of my heart and I think I get it – I mean, I really get it. I know that WHEN the healing comes it’ll be grand and His timing will be perfect but, for what it’s worth – and to me it’s worth my EVERYTHING that I’d remain low all the days of my life. That I might demonstrate Christ and His Supremacy in me. That I might remain low means that He holds all the power. So I say, Praise be!

Until the age-old crumbles, I’ll stay low.

I’ll stay humble for you, my King.
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Jimmy Fallon and Discovering Your High Calling

Do you know what your calling is?

It’s a question that rumbles through me every so often. Sometimes I respond with a definitive nod. It depends on my current state of affairs, I suppose. Mostly though, the question feels like a hard-to-reach itch. And no matter how hard I try to ease the underlying prickle, full satisfaction is nearly difficult to attain.

This “calling” I’m referring to is one that relates to our life work through the various gifts and abilities God has given. This is my wrestle, and although I may not understand this “calling” by a specific title I have learned a few things about the means God uses to draw us into Kingdom work.

Our calling rests in the place where we’ve experienced deep suffering or adversity.

Jimmy Fallon made a proclamation about his calling the other night. Did anyone see it? After nearly loosing his finger, enduring a six hour reconstructive surgery to save his finger, and then ten days of healing in the hospital he emerged with a deeper understanding of what on earth he was made to do.

 

 

How?

He experienced deep suffering. And he used that time and space for healing to consider the meaning of his life. {Watch the video}

For me, one of the deepest valleys in my life was when God wooed me into surrendering the monster of alcohol. Since that time, my passion for writing and speaking Truth and Christ-centered stories of hope emerged.

Why?

Because of God’s grace {favor}, His gentle hand of bringing me back in line, His showing me that He is love and sovereign and mighty to defeat the greatest monsters and yet, draw me into that perfect love again and again. This, my friends is what I desire to tell you. This, my friends is what I pray that you will seek for your own life. That you may really know God and allow Him to enter into your life and allow Him to radically transform you into His likeness.

“Consider if pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.” {James 1:2-4}

Carry on, friends. Trust that this great suffering is developing your character so that you may enter into your predestined work, for His glory. Yes? Yes!

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