While not a coffee drinker, I have recently have started liking tea. The desperate times of a sore throat call for the desperate measure of a hot beverage, I suppose. The first time I tried tea, I believe it was of the peppermint variety, it lacked a certain sweetness to which I had grown accustomed. So, naturally, I swore off tea, until the hot springs of my heart began bubbling vanilla chai. Anyone who drinks such nectar is familiar with how difficult it is for one's love for it to grow cold. However, time passed, and probably about a hundred cups later, I found myself looking to mix it up. Present Day. I'm drinking the stuff sans sweetener, dumbfounded at who this person is who is waiting for the pot to whistle. I used to be so afraid to try new things, like tea, but what I have discovered is that just because I didn't understand tea didn't mean it was something to be afraid of.
This got me thinking. Perhaps the elusive "fear of the Lord," the origin of wisdom, is not this nebulous thing I so often make it out to be. Could there actually be some sort of practical, tangible way to fear Him?
It's almost like He can read my mind or something, or like He knows my thoughts, because He showed me this the other day:
"[speaking to those who were serving other gods]'You shall not fear other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, but you shall fear the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. You shall not fear other gods, and you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear other gods, but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.'" 2 Kings 17:35-39
It seems like the first step in fearing the LORD is to REMEMBER WHO HE IS AND WHAT HE HAS DONE. In their case, he had plucked, rescued, took, delivered, relieved, recovered, SAVED them in a powerfully mighty way. They chose to reject His mercy and grace toward them; we know that God does not handle rejection well, and rightfully so since He is the Creator and Sustainer and Giver of all things. He urges us plenty of times to remember Him, but we insist on rejecting. Sure, we can argue that we are merely forgetting what He has done as other things come to the forefront of our minds. Other prayer requests, other "pressing matters." We minimize and justify, while the reality is that we are actively rejecting Him by choosing anything other than Him.
By the way, every time the word fear is used in this passage it means to reverence him as the avenger of wrong. This is the way of godliness.
To fear Him is REMEMBER Him. So, I ask you: what keeps you from remembering Him?
Want more? I would also encourage you to make two lists that you can keep handy or post somewhere so you will see it and REMEMBER Him. In the first list, write down all you know about His character. Feel free to use verse references or personal experiences (Example: Faithful-2 Thessalonians 3:3-He didn't abandon me when I moved to California). In the second list, write down what He has done for you with a similar format (Example: Set me free-John 8:36-I was enslaved to the sin of discontentment, and He freed me from that to live a contented life in Him). There can be overlap, or if you prefer to make only one list, that is fine too. You can even make it look artistic! Maybe you want to print off a copy for every room in your house!
The Thief is often after the Spirit's fruit in our lives, trying to pluck peace right off the branches. He's sneaky too, as I well know. As soon as this baker turns her back, he, like a conniving child, deftly approaches the window to swipe the cooling pie. Before I realize what is happening, my peace is gone and I am left rather twisted up inside.
Breathing in and out only seems to go so far as I prepare to face the day with this contorted pretzel of a heart. When it is 7 am, and I am already asking 'How fast can I get through the day so I can start all over tomorrow?', something has gone seriously awry.
An Imitator knows what to do though. An Imitator hears the whispers of the Spirit, "Be anxious for nothing" and her frantic fingers frolic to Philippians 4 so she can see the words she has read a million times. An imitator reads about the "guarding" nature of the peace of God. The kind of militant guarding that protects the heart and the mind from enemy attacks as well as keeps her from wanting to flee from what should keep her safe--i.e. the peace of her God. She begins to understand that His peace is about remaining in close connection with her Protector.
Ah, the List. Yet another familiar verse boldly leaping off the page telling her that the way to rid herself of "pretzel heart" is to think on the Far Better, the Greater Eternal things. How many are there? Eight...the number of hours in a typical work day. It doesn't escape her that she knows she needs Him every hour. What if each hour of this Everest-sized work day was spent thinking on each of those different things?
What is true? God is good, sovereign, holy, righteous, loving, gracious and true. He never fails or forsakes. His Word is The Truth in a world of falsehood. He whispers those truths.
What is honorable? Prayer for those saints that need it. Noble actions I can take even this hour that put another above myself.
What is right? The Biblical calls to justice. Fighting for the weak, encouraging the fainthearted, Valiant ways of upholding God's standard. The zeal of the Lord to protect the innocent.
What is pure? Void of lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride in possessions. Conversations free from gossip, slander, malice, coarse joking, complaining. Filled with holiness and clean motives.
What is lovely? All the lovable things God has made from nature to laughter.
What is commendable? Gracious thoughts towards others which can start by dwelling on the gracious nature of God Himself. Forgiveness. Favorable thoughts toward God, others, and even self.
What is excellent? Ethics, virtues, morals. The power of God.
What is worthy of praise? Why, none other than God Himself and His deeply diverse character.
There isn't much room for empty calories when her thoughts can feed on such valuable nutrition. When she takes all of "these things" into account, how can every passing hour not be fully satisfied in His rich peace? If this is what brings the "peace that surpasses understanding," then oh! may she willingly choose to set her mind on things that are above and not on things that are on earth.
For that will make any Imitator a better copy of the Original.
Anyone who really knows me can tell you that I love making lists. Some of the best gifts I've received have been pads of paper which seem to be waiting to be blessed by my next bit of brilliance or, more often, by strokes of the mundane and material that crowd my mind like...errands. I'm not sure why detailing brings me such delight but it does. The funny thing is that I still nearly always forget something, and it is usually the most crucial of all. Isn't that how it goes?
There is not much I can say that I have "mastered." Okay, maybe only one thing that would even come close, but trust me, "mastery" is the poorest of words to describe my fumbling attempts. Despite years of studying Spanish, I lack the fluency that would shock a native speaker, unlike my Dad and Grandpa. I remember being close once, and I could tell it was within my tongue's grasp when my dreams began to take on the dialect, albeit at a snail's pace. But alas (or was it hallelujah?), my family returned to the United States, and I was free from having to actually integrate the idiom of the island into my interactions.
In case you haven't figured it out, I am an artist. Now, I can't speak for all artists, but for myself, the idea part of the whole process actually yields the greatest joy. Then, comes...well, quite honestly, then comes torture. The torture of execution (Enjoy that wordplay for a moment. I did. ). In order for the vision to become a reality, certain actions must be taken. If I do nothing, well, then I have sent the idea straight to the grisly guillotine. And yes, my mind has many a tombstone marked "Died Before It Saw Light."
So, why am I telling you all of this? Because I see how often I fail to be thorough. I carry so few things through until completion. I fail to remember and recall details, and the only thing I suppose I am absolute about is truth. No matter how hard I try I just keep right on being imperfect, less than, sub par.
But then I look at HIM.
My God is so thorough that He always finishes what He starts (Phil 1:6).
My God is so thorough that He covers my sin completely at the cross(Heb. 2:17).
My God is so thorough that He saves to the uttermost because He continues forever (Heb. 7:25).
My God is so thorough that He satisfies like the richest of food (Ps. 63:5).
My God is so thorough that His death abolished sin forever (1 Cor. 15:56-57).
My God is so thorough that even His PATIENCE is perfect (1 Tim. 1:16).
My God is so thorough that no detail escapes His attention (Heb. 4:13).
And that is just the beginning. My God is the Master because He literally invented everything; so of course He masters it (whatever it is) like none other, and because even death had no dynamite power over Him (Acts 2:24).
Can I get a hallelujah?!!!!!
So guess what, this THOROUGH MASTER lives IN me. When His DEFT SKILLS reign in me, what could not be accomplished? I mean, seriously, IF GOD IS FOR US, WHO CAN BE AGAINST US? Is not my heart safe in the hands of such a MASTER ARTIST who will mold it after His own heart? His thoroughness proves He will never leave or forsake because IT IS LITERALLY AGAINST HIS NATURE.
What a mighty God I serve!
Amen and amen.
"How are things going over there?" "How long are you back for?" "Is it good to be home with your family?" These loving questions have been haunting me the past couple of weeks. It's difficult to explain the taste of this strange elixir I've been drinking as it is part joy, part sweet, part insert-negative-emotion-here. Skipping past the happy moments I've been privileged to participate in, I cannot help but share its purgatorial similarity to The Twilight Zone.
In some ways it makes me miss all of those delightful diagrams that filled the pages of my grammar notebooks once upon a time. Every word had its cozy little corner where the parameters were defined. It is even kind of like those times I had to burn various verb tenses into my corneas so I could pass the Spanish test. That is where I'm sitting. Stuck between present/future and present/past tenses. Saddened by those I observe changing negatively, burdened by the sinful guilt of not somehow being able to prevent it from happening, discouraged by the connections I am missing at my new "home," overjoyed by the blossoming I am seeing in other people and relationships, honored to witness once-in-a-lifetime, cherished moments, filled with eagerness to return to my regularly scheduled program.
What is He possibly teaching me in all of this? Is it all just a series of gibberish with no sentence structure?
Guys, sometimes writing is the only way to arrive at the Bermuda Triangle of Conclusion.
What if He has sent my organized language into this chaos because I was building a monument to myself with bricks labeled "My Way," "I Don't Need Him," "Pride," and "Self"? What if this all a parallel to my relationship with Him? He brought me back to reconnect with others, while also desiring that I reconnect with Him. He has been walking with me in this present progressive perfect tense. He started a work in me, and He continues to transform even now. He will have been with me in my future progressive perfect tense because His nature is faithful and He will finish what He started. See, my God is even in the in-between, and will do what it takes to connect with me there. Whoa. Does He ever LOVE me!? He must desire to be moving me forward in relationship with him (progressive) all the while making me more complete (perfect). Like, His Word is true (Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 15:49, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
So He isn't wasting this time; maybe I shouldn't either. Maybe I should leave my building tools behind and start living focused and connected with Him once more. My arms are certainly tired from building my own kingdom.
There was nothing I could do because clearly her mind was made up. All that was missing was our chaps, holsters, and cowboy hats for this to be an authentic Western duel. Yet, she seemed to possess a greater grip on her goal of defeating me, her perceived enemy. And all because I was denying her a purple pinwheel that she was dead set on obliterating. She hopped on the suitcase, climbed onto the chair and if she wasn’t so attached to her arm, she would have successfully snatched it from its position. I moved it farther; she frowned at me, retraced her steps and tried another route, still with no purple pinwheel. She went back to her original plan, frustrated but determined. After many (as in the technical term of five or six) attempts, I safely secured the object so another child would be able to enjoy it one day. A moment later she was on to another colored object, while I remained struck by her fixated determination. Have I lost that? Have you?
What do we do with this word “resolve” in light of the bad rap it’s gotten since Grace showed up and eliminated our need to live by the law? Things are different now, but where and how does Resolve play itself out?
I've been chewing on Proverbs 31:14-15 this month: "She [the valiant woman] is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens." My ignorance nearly got the best of me, and I thought I was doomed unless I became an early riser. I decided firmly on a course of action to start getting up before the sun....and failed the first day and the second day and well, you get the idea. I just set myself up for failure in part because of a misinterpretation of Scripture. If you're like me, you shudder at the concept of failure and avoid it at all costs, thus not taking any risks at all. But hello, it is the Year of VALOR, I'm supposed to be doing crazy things like...getting up early. If the excellent wife is doing it, and I wanna be like her, then I should be setting my alarm for 4:30, and not taking "snoozy" way out.
Thankfully, getting up early is not what those verses are about. It's about this woman's resolve, and the lengths she will go to for what is important to her and with what she has been entrusted. She very practically makes the necessary adjustments to ensure victory and success. She goes the distance (go ahead, sing the song, you know you want to), and she sacrifices. No one would ever associate her with laziness or sloth. And THAT is what makes her valiant.
(Side note: See how He likes to teach us things in themes? I like to think of them as "spiritual arches." You will see this start to happen when you choose a word for the year, but even THAT gets broken down into other lessons that circle back around to the WOTY (what I am not calling "word of the year"))
I don't want to lose my focus. I don't want to be lazy. And I certainly don't want to punt to another capable follower if the Lord has chosen to use me for something.
"work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Phil. 2:12b-13
BEST. NEWS. EVER. I can't actually have resolve on my own! AND the work that I do is a RESULT of his work in me. He is my motivator, He KEEPS ME GOING. He STRENGTHENS MY RESOLVE. He enables me and reminds me it is a BRAVE and COURAGEOUS thing to be resolute. Hallelujah, I cannot continue in obedience without Him. There is rest in that, there is peace in that. And you know what there is not? Fear. As He works in me, fear has no room, and I can keep getting up after I fail because I am fixated on Him, like the girl after that pinwheel.
Oh, may I let nothing keep me from fulfilling my calling!
(I'm not one for hokey Jesus pictures, but today I needed to see this one. )
Most of the time I write about my struggles in general terms, in the hopes and prayers that others will find it relatable and ultimately encouraging. But remove those expectations because this may be a post of a different kind.
Today I'm having one of those dark days. If you've never experienced one, seriously, just stop reading. If you have, you know how low you can feel. My version today was a deadly concoction of depression, sadness, loneliness, anger, frustration, weariness, disappointment and downright melancholy. Brutal and ruthless, my "flesh" was on this war path against my "spirit." It may or may not have been a legitimate attack of the Thief (as I officially now call the Cretan, the father of all lies), but whether it was my flesh or the enemy, I still felt...well, crappy (for lack of a better term). My spirit was putting up a good fight, countering negativity with truth like, "God is good." Yes, I know that, spirit. "HE has not abandoned you." Yes, I know that too. I'm supposed to be this ever-rejoicing Christian, Lord. But somehow it didn't matter to my flesh who just continued bemoaning, and my bag of spiritual tricks was failing.
It's raining today. I could've kissed God for at least allowing the weather to match my sentiments. I don't think I would've handled a sunshiny day very well. I sat outside and smelled it for a while, that wet earth in a place where those scents are rare. It was oddly comforting being reminded that falling water can elicit an aroma from dust. I am dust. Maybe all of these tears competing in a race down my face are doing something like the rain. Unlikely, I think.
Anyway, these tears are different than others. They seem to be coming from somewhere deeper as though the proverbial dam had burst despite all my handy patchwork of each and every hole. Maybe I should "phone a friend," dismissing that though as quickly as it came. "There's too much water and my filters need to be changed before I could do that." What else is there to do but talk to the only One who can do something with this Mess? "But if I talk to Him, He's just going to make me feel better and I think I'm rooting for my flesh this time." Misery and Agony are starting to get cozy. The Spirit starts to whisper things to my weary soul (Hey, when did I invite Him to this party?), "He gives power to the faint, and to Him who has no might He increases strength" and "Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest." But, I don't want to spend time with you, Lord, or did you miss that? Just leave me be. Although if you had an urge to let me fast-forward past all of this gruesomeness, I'd be much obliged. Yes, I said, much obliged...smh. I mean, even Paul who knew it was better to stay rather than to depart and be with You felt that way because he had purpose, like You were using Him to actually affect people. You shut yet ANOTHER door yesterday where I could have impacted lives for Your Kingdom. This hallway that I'm standing in grows darker by the day with all that You've closed recently. I guess You just don't want to use me, and if that's the case, which I would COMPLETELY understand (I mean, listen to me), just take me home to you. I'll make a fantastic heavenly Janitor. I'll even whistle while I work. But at least I'll be free.
Fine, I'll read, but I'm not going to like it, and it's not going to apply anyway.
"he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him." Daniel 2:22
Huh. I am most definitely in a dark place. Yeah, and You are Light. Uh-oh, there's some cross-references.
"[He] declares to man what is his thought,
[he]makes the morning darkness." Amos 4:13
Why would you make the morning darkness, if You're the Light? Aren't you all about bringing Light TO darkness? Maybe you reveal these deep hidden things when I am in darkness by your Light?
"He uncovers the deeps out of darkness
and brings deep darkness to light." Job 12:22
So apparently You can do both things since You're the Creator of both light and darkness. You're trying to show me something in this dark place that I'm in, aren't You? Something that can only be seen by Your light? I can't deal with that stuff unless you show me, Lord.
Enough of this, I'm just going to return to my regularly scheduled Bible reading, it's not like He could have any more to say.
"You have kept count of my tossings,
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?...
You have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life." Psalm 56:8, 13
WHAT. IS. HAPPENING. You're telling me you keep these tears? You actually store them in a bottle and record them in a book??? Why? Why would you do that? You would deliver me so that I can walk in the LIGHT? Like this is actually why you have delivered me? So that I would no longer walk around in darkness?
I don't know, Lord. I'll admit You are certainly striking a chord here. Okay, just one more.
"With my voice I cry out to the Lord;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
You know my way!...
There is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, 'You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.'
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!....
Bring me out of prison
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me." Psalm 142
FOR. YOU. WILL. DEAL. BOUNTIFULLY. WITH. ME. David wrote this while he was where? IN A CAVE.
Okay, Lord, okay. I get it. You SEE me. You GET me. You KNOW me. And you know what you did for me today? You CARRIED me. Even in this dark pit, Shepherd, You picked me up like this helpless lamb and held me close as I was trembling.
I think I'll stay here and make my home here with You, Refuge. No one ever cared for me like Jesus.
I don't know if Leo DiCap (as I affectionately call him) is still hooked up to the machine or what, but I must be. Lately ideas have been bombarding my brain showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. My environment may be a factor. Certainly being around another creative type has some sort of stimulating effect on my own mind. Additionally, all this "free" time allows for many mental "Sunday afternoon" strolls, as it were. I'm also not shoulder-deep in snow or in core-chilling temperatures as the rest of the country seems to be right now which prevents that proverbial black cloud from hovering over my being. There is some sort of unique shrouding happening not just with my environment but with my soul. Yes, a "soul shrouding."
Pathetic though it my seem to certain ones of you, readers, I have desired to find myself in such a circumstance. It has its obvious disadvantages, as I've mentioned in previous posts, but the advantage of mental and physical space to dream is RARE. Never do I want to discard such an obvious present, if not for myself then for those who yearn for yet cannot have it, for one reason or another. I recently watched someone make those giant bubbles with a large ring and some soapy water. He handled the ring with such care so as not to lose the water prematurely. If he executed his task correctly, the wind helped create this floating iridescent orb of beauty. The good ideas look like this. And, incidentally, I FEEL like that bubble in the graceful and playful dance my mind does with that moment of brilliance.
But sometimes, actually most times it seems, along the way, that bubble, and all its colorful vividness bursts. Reality burdens those light, exciting ideas to the point that they gain girth and deep discouragement sets in, the kind you can feel in your bones. And why? Because of those lousy limitations of time, money, human resources, and my own lack of ability and skill. It becomes painfully clear that I've been deceived. They wore a beautiful veil, but behind was this obese darkness. They looked like they were floating, but were woefully stagnant. Their masks belied their true nature: only murky potholes riddled with despair, interrupting my life because they hinder pleasant passage and progress. On days when my ideas look like this, I weep. I weep because I am convinced they are a curse, and nothing like the blessing of which they boasted. Those irritating restraints make me feel that it is pointless to even have the ideas in the first place.
And then I remember something significant. I remember SomeONE pretty significant. Someone who came to bring me LIFE, in whose presence there is fullness of JOY, THROUGH Whom and FOR Whom all things were CREATED. I remember someone else who comes to steal, kill and destroy, who prowls around like a roaring lion, not to nibble, but to DEVOUR.
So when all is stripped away, what remains? What is the TRUEST nature of an idea? Is it the bubble or the pothole?
Or is it something else entirely? What if ideas are not merely delightful beautiful bubbles of joy but powerful pockets of grace? And if I am to extend His love and His grace to others, is that in some way accomplished when I SHARE ideas? Almost like a detergent gel pack that unleashes this incredible power on all those dishes. What if the Thief's tactic is to annihilate, darken and defeat that idea so that not only am I crushed but so is the opportunity for another to enjoy God's grace? That is one crime to which I do NOT want to be an accomplice.
Finally, what if God has been purposefully sheltering me under those wings of His ("soul shrouding") so that He might flood me with His own creativity? Maybe the source of ABUNDANT life, also desires to bestow upon me grace upon grace. (John 1:16) Hallelujah, it is so.
I praise you, ETERNAL FOUNTAIN OF CREATIVITY for sharing all that you are and have with me, your wretched servant. May I not trample on the grace you continue to show me even after you have already shown me the greatest grace by giving me a future in heaven with you, where we'll have eternity, and your endless resources to actualize all YOUR ideas. Thank you for letting me borrow them so I can come to know who you are even more by the ideas that you give. Amen.
Maybe ideas aren't your thing. Maybe this makes no sense to you at all. But what GRACE pockets does He give that are as endless as He is?
Set Jaw. Furrowed Brow. Focused Eyes. That's exactly what I picture when I think of the word: VALOR. It's my word of 2014, and I am working my way through Proverbs 31, in a quest to be worthy, excellent, honorable, and yeah, valiant. I mean, who wouldn't want to be those things? In theory, though, right? It definitely sounds like a lot of work and sacrifice. It sounds like pain. And not like hangnail pain. Like there will be bruising, the kind that makes you wince. Like there will be blood and war wounds. And for what exactly? That's the question.
In stories where VALOR is involved, behavior that is classified as such is motivated by love or loyalty, by obedience, and/or by service. Inherent in the word is some sense of purpose and reason. These are my first impressions of the word. And guess what? They're already being modified by the One who DEFINES valor. This description isn't wrong, but it needs, as Tom Hanks would say in You've Got Mail, tweaking.
One of the first verses I've been focusing on this month is "The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain." (v. 11) Now, I'm not married, but I hope to be one day, and I want to be someone who's worthy of being confided in, worthy of trust. As I've been chewing on what that means, I read this verse today, "Saul went to his home at Gibeah, and with him went men of valor whose hearts God had touched." (1 Samuel 10:26) Then I REALLY started to get excited because what if being a trustworthy person means that you have a heart that God can touch?! And THAT is precisely what MAKES you trustworthy! So, by being that malleable clay in the Master's hands, by being sensitive to the leading of His Spirit, being REACHABLE by my CREATOR, I am capable and worthy to be relied upon because I am in HIS hands!!!! And this should strengthen my relationship with both God AND others. And if there is strength involved, that almost looks like...could it be?...yes, I think maybe that's a glimmer of VALOR.
So, are YOU trustworthy according to how we defined it? Do you have a heart that God can touch thereby making you more valiant?
Something pretty powerful occurred to me today. Have you ever had that happen? Where your jaw drops in realization of this awesome thing that has been there all along but you are beholding for the very first time? I've had the privilege of being in a creative environment lately, fostering ideas that are ripe for the picking. But this one today was a by-product of none other than the Holy Spirit Himself revealing deep truth to my heart.
I've been overwhelmed lately with our GENEROUS and GRACIOUS God who apparently cannot help but GIVE. It seems that every time I open my Bible I read something like, "And the Lord GAVE..." Over four hundred times in Scripture giving is associated with God!!!! That is seriously significant. It's almost like it's central to his character or something.
Christmas spiritually (I won't say naturally because that just isn't true) brings out this concept especially when we consider the Gift of Jesus Christ. We reflect His Gift in giving gifts to others. What occurred to me today is that EVERY SINGLE GIFT IS DIRECTLY CONNECTED TO SOME SORT OF SACRIFICE. When we give to others, we sacrifice our time, our money, our talents, sometimes our sanity for that one moment of appreciation or at least acknowledgement by the ones we are desperate to show our love toward. Show me a gift and I'll show you the sacrifice. Giving always costs something. I know, I know, call me Captain Obvious. But this should make a difference.
Isn't it embarrassing when you leave the price tag on a gift you've given (or worse on one you've received)? We feel that the sacrifice should be kept a secret because it somehow suggests the value we've assigned one we love. In the case of our GIVING GOD, the price tag left on His gift is "My Son, Jesus Christ." Only He left it on His gift so we would know; He was not keeping it a secret. Do we appreciate this Gift, this Sacrifice in the same way we receive a gift from a friend or family member? We appreciate it for this one moment in time, during this season of the year but seldom show our joy and thanks at any other moment. Don't you want things to be different? I do. I want to enjoy the thrill of opening up His Gift every day so His sacrifice is ever on the forefront on my heart. It's hard to keep His sacrifice a secret when it resides on the tip of my tongue. Some days I might open it up slowly, savoring the pleasure of His grace. Other days, I shred the paper like many kids will do over the next couple of days to get to it as fast as I can so I can begin enjoying it ASAP. However I open it, the point is that I do. I want to remember, delight and revel in His Gift. For His Gift(Read Sacrifice) SAVED MY LIFE.
This idea of sacrifice leaves me speechless when I stand before GRACE Himself in the same way that my worthlessness makes me kneel in light of His HOLINESS.
Take time this year to be still and know that He is the GENEROUS and GRACIOUS GOD, who offered the willing SACRIFICE of His Son for you, undeserved one loved by a KIND and LOVING FATHER.
Last year around this time I was holed up in my room putting finishing touches on one gift while brilliantly plotting a solution to another present that wasn't quite turning out how I originally envisioned. My little workroom was buzzing as though it had were guilty of drinking the espresso that I should have been. During each break, I would work on picking the hardened hot glue off the tacky countertops in my room that was once a kitchen. Admittedly, I went to bed physically exhausted but kept my focus on the joy each act of love would bring the recipient. And, I figured, even if they didn't appreciate it, it was still worth the thrill of the process.
True confession: I think I've had a lot of pride over being the best gift-giver. I mean, I created powerpoint slides with a friend's name as a header followed by extensive bullets on what would make them happy. If there were prizes for such a thing, I'd be a contender, or so I internally boasted.
Then came Christmas 2013, the strangest Christmas of my life so far. My nights are not consumed with crafting since resources are scarce. I never realized how much of my identity I had tied up in what I could DO. Maybe I was seeking affirmation from others with every project; maybe "gifts" really is my love language and so not giving gifts this year is comparable to telling people I don't love them anymore. Or maybe I was getting swept up in the "spirit of Christmas" rather than in the SPIRIT of Christmas, the Spirit who reminds me to worship the King. I was blocking out His voice.
This year is different not just because of what I'm not creating, but because of what I am GIVING. I want to be the one who falls at the feet of the King offering the only thing I have to give. It isn't gold, frankincense, myrrh or a beautiful handmade scarf, it's me. I don't feel like I'm very much of a worthy gift these days. But thankfully (oh so very thankfully!), the ONE who receives my heart is thrilled with this offering. It delights him to see a heart that is fully committed to Him so He can do His God-thing and strengthen the heck out of it. Christmas really is totally about worship and worship is about making myself a living sacrifice to the One I adore, who came here for me, so that He could have my heart. I haven't always taken advantage of this seasonal reminder to give Him my heart, which is a shame because by this time of the year I've usually tried to take it back for myself again.
Don't waste any more time this year. Stop what you're doing and spend the rest of this beautiful season worshiping the King with all you have to give.
Brittany Van Ryn
Working out thoughts with HIM.