Archive for December, 2010

December 27, 2010

From the Desert, With Love

Have you ever found yourself in a spiritual desert or in one of life’s many ruts wondering how you got there? Our “do-it-yourself” culture would tell you to get yourself out of the wilderness and do something new, find joy, and make yourself happy. But what happens when your attempts are thwarted? Could it be that there is a greater reason for your time in the wilderness?

Back in 2007, I stumbled upon Alicia Britt Chole’s book, Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours, on a whim during a trip to a local bookstore. I treasured this book on my first read through. Jesus spent nearly 33 years in anonymity before his public ministry officially began. Yet, God the Father had a purpose for those years. I recently re-discovered this book on my bookshelf and decided to refresh my memory and maybe to try to make sense of my own time in the desert (surely there has to be purpose, right?).

Chole referenced Deuteronomy 8:2-5 which reads:

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” Deuteronomy 8:2-5

“In the desert, the Israelites had to completely rely upon God to supply food day by day. Provision would literally fall from heaven, but God did not permit the people to produce food for themselves. They were entirely dependent on him, and that helplessness tested them. Being powerless revealed what was in their hearts: would they, or would they not, obey God? From Father God’s perspective, utter dependence, not self-reliance, is the true friend of our souls.” Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours by Alicia Britt Chole p.71

After reading this, I am more convinced than ever that there is a purpose for those times in the desert. Thwarted attempts to get out of the desert only increase feelings of helplessness which also increases our dependence on God. The question then becomes – will you let him take your heart and refine it? Let Him show you what’s truly in your heart? It may not be pretty – I can almost guarantee you’ll see something you don’t want to, but what will you do with what you find? Will you obey Him even in the desert? Don’t fight Him there; lean into what He has for you. He will teach you, love you, and provide for you regardless of how long your time is there.

December 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Jesus

This Christmas season has been a bit different from years past – not necessarily because anything has really changed but because my perspective is changing. December began and shortly after I learned about The Advent Conspiracy (see earlier post) – a deliberate challenge to decrease consumerism and focus on relationships and Christ. The message of The Advent Conspiracy “struck a chord” with me and I found myself thinking about it all month. This past year I transitioned from near-destitute-graduate-life to near-destitute-non-profit-life (yes, I exaggerate but I do not live a lucrative life at the present). This reality was difficult for me to face in light of the Christmas season. I love buying gifts for the ones I love. However, the reality of my wallet made me realize the way I usually show love, appreciation and gratitude for those in my life just wasn’t possible. I’ve also been seeing how these exuberant gestures weren’t necessary and I too was fueling the consumerism of Christmas and minimizing the true focus. Because I had a smaller budget for gifts this year, I tried to seek other ways to show friends and family how treasured they are to me.

But the best part of being “poor” this Christmas is that I had to stop and think about what Christmas was all about! (You’re thinking, “duh, so simple!” And you’re right but we all need to be reminded don’t we?) Christmas music seemed sweeter this year. The snow looked whiter. I didn’t spend hours at the mall but enjoyed baking cookies with my family and spending time with friends. I mulled over Jesus’ birth and life – not just the scene at the manger but the implications of the cross. Because he was born, I have a healer, a counselor, sweet freedom and magnificent grace. Jesus came and gave me unmerited mercy! Sweet mercy that I do not deserve. He came to die. That’s not something I’ve often thought about when I set out my nativity or even sing Christmas songs. He came to die. Whoa.

Tonight as I sent off the last child from my church’s nursery after our Christmas Eve services, a little boy proclaimed proudly that tomorrow is Jesus’ birthday. Jesus, who once was a little boy just like this little one, came with much to accomplish, to love, to heal, and to redeem. Celebrating him on one day with presents to each other barely seems enough. As Christmas day quickly approaches, I hope that we all can pause and think not only of Jesus’ birth but of his death. He came to die – so that we might live. He gave us the ultimate present of forgiveness and eternal life when he was born so many years ago.

So, happy birthday Jesus! I am forever grateful that you were born and that through your life and death I can live. Merry Christmas!

December 15, 2010

Crooked Little People

I just finished Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible about a missionary and his family in the Belgium Congo in 1959 for my book club. The novel portrays a missionary so bent on his own way that he is insensitive to the culture and customs of the native people and ultimately devastates his entire family. The story is told from the perspectives of his wife and four daughters and how each of them copes with the weight of life in the Congo and tragedy. I borrowed my sister’s copy of this book. Lucky for me, she wrote her junior research paper on the book many years ago. Her tattered copy still has its highlights and numerous post-it notes. It’s always interesting to me to borrow a book and note what the previous reader thought was profound as made evident by the bent pages, underlined portions or highlighted passages. As I was nearing the end of the novel, I found the following quote:

“Tall and straight I may appear, but I will always be Ada inside. A crooked little person trying to tell the truth. The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.”

I loved this quote. But maybe what I loved more was that my sister wrote “Christian” below the passage. Aren’t we all just “crooked little people” trying to tell the truth? We may portray an image to the world but on the inside we are ourselves. God sees that. Truthfully, don’t we want Him to know us? At heart we are sinful and evil but it is the balance that Kingsolver wrote about that is the key. If we focus too much on our injuries or sins we neglect to rejoice in our successes which fuel us to continue to move forward with whatever God has called for each of us individually as well as corporately (sanctification and proclaiming the Gospel). We must keep trying to tell the truth and find power in the balance of all the injuries and successes – even if we are “crooked little people.”

December 5, 2010

Refuel, Energize, and Inspire

In a previous career life I had the opportunity to be exposed to great Christian resources. Some might benefit you in your ministry or personal spiritual journey. Here are just a few of my favorites. Visit. Explore. Refresh.

Personal Life

Boundless Webzine – A ministry of Focus on the Family for young adults. Read articles on a wide range of topics from relationships to career to theology.

Relevant Magazine – You may have heard of the magazine but explore the website for additional articles not found in print. Up for another challenge? Sign up for the “Deeper Walk” devotional emails.

Christianity Today – Browse the main website for articles and inspiration. Explore sister websites for ministry help, training and more.

Christianaudio.com – Podcasts, audio books, sermons and more to help you grow.

Ministry Life

SmallGroups.com – Find help and inspiration to create life-changing small groups.

UniqueComformity.com – Check out this new resource dedicated to make disciples and remove financial obstacles to ministry.

Kyria.com – A resource for women on topics from marriage and family to spiritual formation.

SermonSpice.com – Get loops, backgrounds, countdown, video illustrations for church services, outreach events, and general ministry use.

Know of other great resources? Let me know. I would love to feature quality Christian resources to help others grow in faith, live out the Gospel, and rejuvenate their souls (books, websites, ministry, music etc).

 

December 1, 2010

The Advent Conspiracy

It’s officially December and the Christmas season is here. Before we get too far ahead I wanted to share with you a compelling message I heard on the radio the other morning. I tuned in to hear about the Advent Conspiracy. This ministry challenges us to look at how we spend Christmas. Jesus came with a message of hope and love. How did we get so wrapped up in the commercialism of Christmas? What if we spent less time buying gifts (often out of obligation) and spent time with each other? What if we used that time and money to help someone in need? Think of what would happen if we all just bought ONE less gift? Just one. I think we would all be amazed by what could be done with the extra time and resources.

And, what about our time? Doesn’t it mean more to give the gift of time to our loved ones rather than a wrapped package with a pretty bow? One story I heard told of a man who bought his father a pound of coffee beans for Christmas. But the coffee beans weren’t really the gift. It was the note attached. The note told his father that he wasn’t allowed to use the coffee unless the son was there to drink it with him. Over the many cups of coffee, the son wanted to hear his father’s life stories and how he grew into the man he is today.The son spent less money on the gift but it meant more because of the time invested in it.  Now that’s a gift I’d like to get!

This Christmas consider giving the gift of your presence not your presents. Visit the website for more information: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/


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