Last year, along with most of the world, I started a raised bed garden. This was new to me; I never planted a garden. Our raised garden bed is located in the back of our property, on the flat part of the hill, and honestly, I didn’t realize it was there until we were in the house for about six months.
Since we have bunnies and chipmunks, that live in our yard, I decided not to go with green leaf lettuce and reduce the temptation. The planting consisted of just peppers, green jalapeno, green sweet, and banana peppers.
It amazes me how a seed germinates, puts down roots and sprouts. With some water, sunshine, and a little time it starts to sprout little green stalks. It makes me think of the relationship we have with God, with time, energy, and being in the word, our relationship flourishes. Like the little green plant that burgeons from the fertile soil.
This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32
The best part of growing my garden, beyond the obvious fruits of my labor, was the time I got to spend with my 21-year-old son. Since we did not have a hose that could reach out to the garden bed, every other day, like clockwork, my son and I would haul huge buckets of water, up to the garden to water it. The conversations we had about his day and what was going on in the garden grew our relationship. What a special unexpected gift that I received as part of my new garden. I will miss those chats this year as he is graduating college in May and will be moving out of state. I pray that you can grow your garden in addition to your relationships and you too can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
In the morning I enjoy my quiet time with God. I start out at breakfast reading my devotionals and then move into my prayer chair, which resides in the bedroom. This is where I can look out onto our beautiful backyard, see the cardinals and blue birds sprint around, and the daffodils starting to emerge from the soil. During the summer months, when it becomes oppressively warm in North Carolina, I take our dog for a walk after breakfast, and I will pray during my walk. Either way I am looking at nature and speaking to God. It connects me to nature and all that God has made. I present my requests to God, then listen for what He has for me that day.
Everyone has their own pathway to God. I was always aware each person had their own relationship with God and had a preference on how to worship Him. Pathways are new to me. God created us with different gifts and talents, why assume we all come to Him the same way?
The podcast I am reviewing today is new to me, it is called “Confessions of a Crappy Christian” by Blake. She is interviewing Gary Thomas, a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others. They talk about his book “Sacred Pathways.”
Blake starts out the podcast giving an overview of pathways. “The different and unique ways we each experience God and how He created us individually to encounter Him in our own ways. Stop trying to fit into a mold and our relationship with God will thrive and flourish.”
Gary explains how he came up with the idea for this book. He grew up learning how to have quiet time with God. His teachers at church would say when you have quiet time you have to do it this specific way. “I realized that a one size fits all spirituality does not work. God did not make us as cooker cutter Christians. We relate to him in different ways. I found out through scripture and the Christian classics how people related to God in many different ways. Nine pathways or temperaments or devotional styles came out. I set people free, you can be who God created you to be. Pathways are the windows of how you see God most clearly.”
Gary goes on to explain, “It’s about at different times in life, what is best for you, given who you are and your situation; how you can best connect with God. I believe everything flows from being loved by God. 1 John 4:19: We love because He first loved us.”
Gary shares with us a time when he was growing up in the Washington DC area. He would go out to the battlefields in the Northern Virginia area and just walk in the woods for an hour or two. It was one of the best ways he could connect to God. He found that his pathway is a naturalist and this is how he best connects to God.
“When I spend time with the Lord and am convicted by Him. I am a much better husband, father, and driver.When I have that time with God, I am able to give more of myself to my family.” Gary Thomas
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29
The final question Blake asks Gary; “What is the next step, after you identify and understand how you connect with God differently with other people?” Gary responds, “every chapter has some tests so you can figure out, and you can do it numerically, to say this is who I am, and hopefully you will come away with two or three strong ones. The point is you can write your own spiritual prescription. You can identify why you are so angry, anxious, needy, or what your spiritual aliment is and you can say I have really been cheating my time with God. I am not receiving from God or hearing from Him. This is where I can be filled up or this is where I can meet God. At the end of each chapter, it has the temptations, if this is your pathway, be aware of this. The last part is planting your garden and finding your path or Gethsemane.”
This last statement from Gary encapsulates the meaning of a pathway; “Imagine that your relationship with God is the most life giving, affirming, strength building, inspiring part of your day. Then it completely takes it out of an obligation, to an invitation, and that is what I want the pathways to do. To make people jazzed about the fact that I can meet with God today, I can’t wait.”
When you find your pathway to God, it will bring you into closer relationship with Him. Then He will take you by the hand and lead you on the narrow path, which leads to life in abundance.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
If you listen to the entire podcast, they go into more detail about the nine pathways. It was enlightening and I would recommend it. The “Sacred Pathways” book is on my ever growing ‘to read’ book list.
Let me know about your pathway to God; I am interested to hear how you naturally connect with Him.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is “Rhythms for Life” with hosts Rebekah and Gabe Lyons. It was recorded pre-COVID and they talk about spiritual community, which I know many of us are missing now a days. I miss that fellowship time before and after church, to see what has gone on in the lives of the people I am supposed to be doing life with. I long for hugs from people I care about and going out in the community and actually handing out sandwiches to the homeless or enjoying a meal with our faith community. This brought about a realization, that God put us here to be in community together, we are communal creatures, and that is the reason we crave it. This is how we build each other up to become stronger Christians, serving each other, and serving the Kingdom.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:46-57
The guest for this podcast is Pastor Francis Chan, American Protestant author, teacher, and preacher. He is the former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA, which he founded in 1994. He also founded Eternity Bible College in 2004.
Rebekah questioned Francis “How has these last few years; rhythms for you, your intimacy with God, shifted in knowing His people more intimately?” Francis said “When I am with people who have a deep personal relationship with God and you gather for prayer together, you can sense God in the room. I do not like prayer meetings, I use to rather be alone with God than be in a prayer gathering. Now I actually prefer being with these people who have been on that mountaintop, that pursue God and now we are going after Him together.”
Rebekah recalls when her and Gabe moved to New York City and she states, “My prayer life grew when I was around people who were as desperate as I was. Who had a close relationship with God.” Francis responded “You are on a mission together.”
Rebekah asked Francis, “What would you say to someone who says this is prompting a yearning or wants to be known?” Francis states “There were things I knew God was asking me to do and I knew I had to take that next step. A big part of it is the mission, many people are just trying to get by. The mission is the biproduct and there is no way I am going to pull this off by myself. We need to be the light in the dark places and make disciples. You need to have a deep sense of the mission”
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
Rebekah posed this question to Francis “What does fruit look like in my relationships and community and serving?” Francis replied “I have to be alone in the presents of God. It is imperative, I fight for it! Otherwise, I am worthless to everyone. I must be connected to the vine, or I will shrivel up and die. To keep that relationship active and be in love with Him!”
Those last two sentences sum it up for me. If I do not have alone time with God, I feel like I am lost, I am hungry and thirsty and need to be fed. Falling in love with God brings us into a closer relationship with Him. We pine for that time with Him, to read the word and hear Him speak to us.
My hope for you is that you take away something that will allow you to spend more time with God. Remember it doesn’t have to be an hour a day, you can spend 5 minutes in the word and reflect on it for a few minutes. Pray in the car while you are dropping the kids off at school. There is time, you just need to find it, take hold of it, and God will take hold of you!
Many people are geared for the morning, they jump out of bed, stretch or exercise right away, ready for whatever may come their way. I on the other hand am not a morning person. If I had my druthers, I would go to bed at 11:30 and get up at 8 a.m.
When I was working a full-time job and had to be at work at 7:30 a.m. I would get up at 5:30 a.m. to arrive on time. Many mornings I would drive to work in the dark but occasionally I would drive in the summer and the sun would be coming up. Although living in upstate New York it was difficult to actually see the sunrise.
When we moved to Charleston, SC, nine years ago, that is when I could really drink in the sunrise. Mostly when I was dropping my daughter off to school. How spectacular the yellow and orange skies were. Being so close to the ocean you can watch the sun coming up over the water. Such wonderful artistry!
God’s creation is so beautiful and it is a shame when we do not appreciate it. When it becomes common place then what? Every day will be the same.
God speaks to us about waking in the morning in Isaiah 50:4. The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. If we are not grateful for what He is putting before us, are we listening to what He says? Are we being obedient?
Since I am more of a night owl than a morning person, I witnessed many more sunsets than sunrises. They were just as beautiful if not more so. It would seem like the colors were richer and more vibrant in the sunsets. I have included a couple of sunsets from our backyard in Charleston.
Hope that you can watch a sunrise or sunset and give thanks to God for all that He has created, that we get to be part of, on our journey through this life.
Have you ever watched a person do their thing, that they do exquisitely well, and say I wish I could do that? For example, watching Ina Garten make her delicious Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Arugula Salad Topping, or Joanna Gaines decorate a room with shiplap, rustic shelves, and décor that takes your breath away. Now go one step further and actually try to do it yourself and then totally fail? I have been there, trying to sew like my grandmother did on her machine making beautiful quilts. But alas, I inevitably get the thread from the needle caught around the bobbin and it is a mess! This week’s podcast guest can help you see another way around that “thing” you are attempting to do but were unsuccessful.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is “Jesus Over Everything”, or JOE for short, hosted by Lisa Whittle, author, speaker, podcaster. She is interviewing Kendra Adachi, author of “The Lazy Genius Way”.
Lisa begins the interview stating, “You are here to help us embrace what matters and ditch what does not, get stuff done.” Kendra enjoys making new systems for systems that do not work for you. She doesn’t necessarily hack the system but she will make a new system so it works for you. Kendra remarks, “Make a path for something to work, when something that could work for you as it runs, as it is created to be, is already there.”
There are processes that I can look back on and say yeah, I did not continue down that path because the way it was presented did not work for me. But is there another way, another path we can take that will make it work? This is Kendra’s gift.
Lisa brings up a good point, when we try to get tasks done that are not working, sometimes we either try harder or just give up.
Kendra’s reply to that was, yes, totally, we do try harder or give up. An example could be cooking homemade food. A woman who has a family and feels like she has to cook a homecooked meal every night. We think that to make it count we have to do it every night and by Thursday you resent it. Then you try all of these recipes and cookbooks and you say well I am obviously terrible at this so we are going to eat hot dogs, cereal and frozen pizza from now on. The next time you want to grill some chicken up you say no I cannot do that I am terrible at cooking. If we do that in every area of our lives, working out, cleaning, your job, parenting, whatever it maybe, becoming anti recall of these things, go big or go home, try harder or give up. That is why I wrote my book; it is not all or nothing. We need to create our own system that matters for us not something that works for the person who created the system!
Lisa reaffirms; this is great, there is a third option, and maybe you didn’t consider it. It is not all or nothing. Some people feel like they cannot hold two truths at the same time.
Lisa consistently ends all of her podcasts asking her guests the same question. I believe this part of the podcast is the milk and honey, or coffee and cookies, if that is your preference. “What is the last thing you would say about Jesus if could only say one more thing?”
Kendra’s reply: “That He loves me and how crazy is that? When I think about the title of your show and that concept of Jesus Over Everything, the over is the emphasized word for me. When I think about Jesus’ love for me, He is literally over everything. He is both, that there is a gift to my own life when I basically put that in the number one spot, because He is over everything. I can let the other stuff go. The pivot point, the fulcrum, of my embracing what matters and ditching what doesn’t, it is based on the fact that Jesus is over all of it. Because He loves me. Is to really experience and believe the beloved-ness of me to Jesus. That I have to do so much to get Him to love me, to get Him to like me, to be glad that I am around. Knowing Jesus loves me, if I were to never do another thing again. Knowing that He cares about everything that is in my life, not because I am poor and weak in spirit but He also created me to be strong and wise and all these other things that He is living out of in me in the world. It is the beautiful companionship. The mystery of Christ in me, that is the hope and glory. It begins and ends with love for me. If I forget that Jesus loves me, then it is all about me again, and then I swinging from trying harder and giving up. I keep trying harder and giving up and this middle is because of His unconditional love for me.It takes the pressure off of the all the doing and listing, optimizing my life, or the being this person that other people think I should be. Jesus loves me and it changes everything.”
That, my friends, is what we need to focus on, that Jesus’ love for us changes everything. Without Him we cannot do anything of real purpose. If we put the focus on us then we lose the connection that we have to the Father and we begin to make our work an idol. When we are weak,He is strong. Jesus is our other way when we are looking at ourselves and thinking how can I do this? His way is the only way that leads us down the right path.
For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 2 Corinthians 13:8-9
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7
I would recommend you listen to the podcast; Kendra gives a few examples of how to implement her method in your life. Plus, the small talk at the beginning of the episode gives you a glimpse into the beginning of their friendship.
I pray this has helped you in a small way. Let me know in the comments section what is the last thing you would say about Jesus if could only say one more thing?
You may be asking why do I need a word for the year? How will this help me in my everyday life and in my walk with God?
The podcast I am reviewing this week is all about that word of the year and how it can help you feel better and see where God is directing your focus. The name of the podcast is “More Than Small Talk” with Holley Gerth, Suzanne Eller, and Jennifer Watson. They are all authors and real-life friends who talk about conversational topics and faith.
“Many people are looking for direction from the Lord and having a word gives you that guidance”, Suzanne Eller.
Start by spending some time in prayer and asking the Lord if He has a word for you to concentrate on this year. Listen to what rises up in your heart. This will take time and you may have to come back to it more than once.
Eugene Peterson, author of the Message Bible, says “Faithful is long obedience in the same direction.” Faithful, is Holley’s word for the year. She states, “I am going to show up in my relationships and in faith. Continue to be faithful and not measure everything.”
Goals are great and they are what motivate us to get things done but if we put too much pressure on ourselves and don’t meet our own expectations, then we end up going down into this pit of self-criticism. God has a different plan for our lives, he sees us as fearfully and wonderfully made.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. Psalm 139:13
Forward, is Jennifer’s word. “Those small steps forward, toward progress, how powerful just moving forward can be. We don’t give ourselves credit, we are too hard on ourselves.”
I am extremely task oriented, give me a to do list and a few hours, I am happy. You should see what I can do with a pad of paper and a pencil. Turn that around, if I get nothing done because I had to help my daughter most of the day or I wasn’t feeling good, boy can I beat myself up, and end up in that pit! God does not want us to beat up on ourselves, He loves us and wants us to enjoy life to the fullest!
Here is a pivotal point that Holley makes, “Consistency is the secret sauce. Showing up and doing the small things over and over again adds up to a lot over time. Remember God is always faithful. This helps on the days when I feel overwhelmed or it is hard. I remember God is faithful.”
When you focus the word, that God leads you to, daily, and celebrate the small wins each day your mood will be buoyant. For example, my word this year is love. To show love and to realize God’s love in my life every day. The day I spend driving my daughter from one activity to another I am showing her love by being there for her, showing her support. It is important for me to come back to that word daily and see how it is fitting into my life. I can easily get frustrated at driving her around instead of perceiving it as an act of love.
I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:5-6
“Ask the Lord how can I partner with you today? What does it look like? It can be small. There is value in listening to the Lord and putting that in front of you. Be open to where He wants to take me next,” Suzanne Eller. For those who don’t have a word for the year, Suzanne is right there with you. Suzanne reminds us “That God knows the plans He has for us and He knows what tomorrow holds. Just being open and saying Lord whatever direction you want to take me next, whatever miracle you are trying to do inside of me, I am open.”
ForI 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
Jennifer asks, “What will help you move forward and tune into the Lord this year? Maybe it is taking care of yourself more. Take a nap in the afternoon or rescheduling your plans. Whatever will help you move forward and stay faithful and tune into the Lord this year.”
Once you have a word what is the best way to remember it daily? Placing it somewhere you would see it assists, a post it note on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, or on top your devotional that you open every morning. Some people get fancy and have a sign made with the word. Whatever works for you. I have incorporated mine in scripture that is part of my email signature.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17
These three ladies complement each other and their banter will put a smile on your face. I enjoyed their stories and how they apply their word of the year to their lives. This past year has been difficult, let’s give ourselves grace as we move into a new year, seeking to find God’s will in our everyday lives.
The link to this episode is below and the following podcast Holley hosted as a follow up called “A Little More: Our Plans, God’s Purpose.” I recommend listening to both episodes, Holley’s commentary is insightful and compliments this podcast nicely.
Happy 2021 friends! I know many of us, including myself, are happy to have 2020 behind us. Looking back on 2020 it was rough and if you lost a job, lost a loved one, or are just hurting I am so sorry. Let me know in the comments if I can be praying for you.
If you know me, I am a glass half full person and for the past nine months I kept looking to see the positive in the everyday. I walked, a lot, and on those walks I began to notice God’s creation so much more than I have in the past. The bright colors of the flowers and the deep greens of the grasses, the reds, burnt oranges, and bright yellows of the fall leaves. The beautiful song birds singing to their mates. I am not sure if it was a result of slowing down or if that is where my focus was this year.
I appreciated the extra time spent with my children and husband, especially since my son will be graduating from college this year and will likely move out of state. These times together, talking about our lives or playing a board game, are like gold pieces that I am collecting, holding onto to, and cherishing.
Moving into 2021 I am asking myself what needs to change? I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, over the past few years I have tried to focus more on where is God pointing me. What can I do to make a difference in my life and the people’s lives I touch? Beyond just my family and into my community. The word that keeps repeating in my heart is love. With the world being so divisive and visceral in 2020, love seems like the way toward healing, toward understanding, toward equality. Doing for others what you would want done for you. This can be difficult at times, to look past the beliefs or behaviors of those around you and just reach out. Lend a hand to those in need even if they voted for the other candidate or they don’t believe as you do, they are still God’s children and we are His hands and feet. Show God’s love and you will feel it reverberate back to you.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:19-20
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “Everything Matters” hosted by Kate Bowler. Kate is a Duke Professor, a podcast host, and author of Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lie’s I’ve Loved.The guest for this episode is Bishop Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and is an author, The Power of Love and Love is the Way: Holding onto Hope in Troubled Times.
In this episode Kate and Bishop Curry talk about how community love impacts people’s lives in such profound ways. Kate poses the question to Bishop Curry, “Maybe you could, explain how and why we don’t get more of the kingdom of God here on Earth? I’ve been a little disappointed to realize that in life we only get a glimpse, unfortunately.” Bishop Curry responds, “One of the things that occurred to me in writing this book that I actually hadn’t thought about before. I realize that a period of childhood trauma with the sickness and death of your mother, that goes on for a long period time. Part of what helped us navigate that, and I wasn’t aware of it at the time, was that my sister, my father and I, we were enveloped or part of a community that really did become a community of love.”
When Bishop Curry’s mother had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and had to be in a hospital hundreds of miles from their home in Buffalo NY, his father was a preacher and he would leave from their home in Buffalo on Monday to be with his mother for a couple of days. “He would take us to the home of family friends who were church members Dr. and Mrs. Bullock. And we went to their house which wasn’t that far from our house, but that’s where we stayed for a couple of days.”
Bishop Curry added, “That’s what faith community is. That’s what human community is. That’s what that’s about. It’s not schmaltz. It’s necessary for human growth in life to thrive.” Kate affirmed, “It’s not extra. It’s the thing. But I’ve chosen independence and I just want to have the internet and all my time alone. It does really, kinda open you up to the possibility that maybe we are made for togetherness.”
Bishop Curry continues, “You know there’s a passage in the New Testament it’s in 1 John, that just says God is love. If that is true, and I believe it is, that means God is the source of all love. And that also means that since we have been created by God, we have been created by the hand of love. We’ve been made by the God who is love, for love, to love and to be loved. That is as much a part of us, that is the essential core of us. “
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
Bishop Curry remembers, “What I realized, it was easier when I was growing up. It was a different world. It was it was almost intrinsically communal.” Kate replies, “Yes. And now we have to go out of our way to find ways to move emotion into action, because it is, it is hard. I mean, especially right now with a pandemic. It exacerbates our loneliness, our hyper individualism, our sense that we were we should be self-made. Man, our culture is so unkind when we feel dependent. Just totally unkind.”
Kate wraps up the podcast stating, “Bishop Curry reminds us that the way of love is hard won, but it is the only way if we are to remake the world around us. So, even when it’s hard, even when it costs something. Let’s begin right now by blessing six people who we think may not deserve it. I know you already have names in your head. Yes, that person who posts ridiculous things on Facebook or that neighbor who never takes care of their lawn or that family member who has been really hard to forgive. Bless them, love them. Even today, if it’s just in your mind. And maybe somehow in these little practices of loving and receiving, we and the world along with us ,will be changed by ordinary and extraordinary love.”
I really cannot say it better than that. If we continue to show love toward those around us, bless them, go out of our way for them, it has to bring us together. It is what we were made to be, in a loving community with each other, even with all the messiness that each of us bring to the table. I pray this has helped you to want to sit still for a little while, reflect on 2020, and consider how you can show love to the people you touch in 2021.
Heartwarming article about how 10 men, that are attending a drug and alcohol treatment center, started looming. They’ve made about 200 toques (hats), which have ended up as gifts to loved ones and as donations to a women’s recovery house. They want other toques to go to the homeless and to babies in hospital once the pandemic is over. Read about it here.
This time of year, is a catalyst of so many good memories and feelings. It is probably why I started listening to Christmas music in mid-November. If you know me, I have a hard and fast rule no Christmas decorating, music, or shows until Santa arrives after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. But this year is very different, not being able to visit with friends and family, no dinners out, and mostly staying at home, has put me in a melancholy mood.
What are those memories that bring such joy and elation? I remember from my childhood listening to Nat King Cole’s Christmas album with my mom and eating her delicious red and green Christmas shaped butter cookies warm out of the oven. I now make my version with my children. I have new traditions with my family of going to see the Christmas lights in the park or now that we moved to Charlotte we drive to “Christmas Town USA, in McAdenville, NC”.
All of these are wonderful traditions, our brains automatically click on the serotonin, and allow all those good feelings to flow. Really though what is Christmastime suppose to be about? Merriam-Webster defines it as: the time of year when people get ready for and celebrate Christmas : Christmas day and the days and weeks before it. So, it is preparing for Christmas, which as a Methodist we celebrate Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. We are looking forward to the coming of Christ, of his birth into our world, to be our Savior.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:4-12
When I think of this miracle it brings warmth and gladness into my heart. How much does God love us to send His only son as a gift for us, to redeem and give us eternal life.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9
I guess that is why the nativity scene means so much to me. It is a treasured part of my Christmas decorating.
Thinking back to when I was a teenager and my family went to church, at Easter and Christmas, I had that same feeling in my heart of warmth and gladness and at times tears would come to my eyes. I never shared this with anyone, probably as I didn’t understand it until recently. The tears in my eyes were an expression of the overflowing joy in my heart for my Savior, for what He did for me and for all of us who believe. What a gift! That is our one true gift of Christmas, that Jesus came as a child in the manger, our light in the darkness, to guide us toward love and forgiveness.
Even if there is nothing under that Christmas tree, we already received the ultimate gift from God in Jesus. Emmanuel, God with us.
The podcast I am reviewing today is another episode of “The Next Right Thing” with Emily P. Freeman. It is an older episode from December of 2018 called “Acknowledge Your Soul”.
Emily begins the podcast talking about how hectic the holiday season can be. “One thing that can get lost during the bustle of the season is our very own soul who we are at the core, what we most deeply care about and long for. We don’t want to wait until the other side of Christmas to finally pause and say, “Oh, hello soul. I’ve missed you this month”. No, instead, we work to create that space now, in the midst of the planning, the gathering, the list-making and pie baking, the gift wrapping and Advent waiting. For a few minutes today, we’ll make room, we’ll take a moment to acknowledge our soul and remember the miracle of God With Us.”
She wraps up the podcast with a brilliant message, “We show up even when we don’t know what’s going on and we make room for Jesus, even when things don’t make full sense. And if we’ll let him, if we’re paying attention, when he appears, a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices and our soul will feel its worth.” Are we not all feeling a little weary this year and need to sense the worth and love of Jesus?
I pray that during this Christmastime, as we wait in joyful hope to celebrate the birth of our Savior, that you will pause and remember all of those memories that remind you of Christmas, that bring your focus back to such joyful times with family and friends. In that time of reflection remember that Jesus came into the world to be with us. To be our comforter, our healer, our provider, and our salvation. As we enter into Christmas may your hearts rejoice for a baby that came down from heaven for all of us to be saved.
From my family to yours I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Gratitude, you hear a lot about this time of year, but how often do we contemplate it? Once a year, once a month, once a week, or daily? This year has been trying, long, and stressful, with COVID and a heated election, it is one many people have a difficult time finding the good in. Although it is there if you look for it.
When I reflect on the day it amazes me how many things, I could be thankful for but do not regularly say them out loud. How my husband will compliment how nice I look (in jeans and a tee shirt) or thank me for making lunch for him since he is working from home. He knows my love language is words of affirmation and he is showing his love. How grateful am I for this but do I tell him that? Sometimes but other times I don’t.
Or when my daughter’s room is picked up or she puts away the clean dishes from the dishwasher. To be grateful and express that gratitude with words is so important in our everyday lives. Even if the person’s love language is not words of affirmation, telling another person you appreciate what they have done for you is showing love! Isn’t that what we are called to do.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-35
Another way to be grateful and incorporate it in your everyday life is to start a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it could be a notebook, that you write in daily. Journal writing is not a rhythm I have successfully accomplished. In my thirties I use to journal at night before I went to bed but then found most evenings I was too tired to write in it. I started another journal this year and called it Gratitude and God winks. This one I do during the day at some point. When I do write in it, which to be honest is about once a week, I jot down what I am grateful for and anything that stood out to me where God was moving in my life.
Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
The podcast I am reviewing this week is a new one to me but it has an old release date, November 2018. When you hear them talking about travel, know this is pre-pre COVID. The name of the podcast is “Catholic Momcast” and the hosts are Danielle Bean and Lisa Hendey. The episode is called “Practicing Gratefulness”, they discuss ways to make gratitude a habit in your life and how to set a good example of gratefulness all year round.
From a high level what they talk about are these four concepts. 1. Say it; to others. 2. Write it down, a thank you note, email, or text. 3. Remind yourself, look for ways to add gratitude to your daily practices including prayer time and meals. 4. Look for the good, even in the tough situations.
Danielle states “Our words are powerful, both good and critical. We get in the bad habit of saying the negative. The more you practice saying the positive things the more real they become.”
Lisa goes on to mention that writing it down, in a journal or a written note, is a good practice. “It doesn’t have to monumental, being thankful for yummy vegetables or that it didn’t rain today. Also, a written thank you note holds a lot more meaning.”
Danielle explains that “Teaching yourself to pause, even during a hard or challenging situation, look at what you are grateful for, will bear beautiful spiritual fruit around me and the people around me.”
Reflecting back on this podcast I appreciated the four ways Danielle and Lisa gave us to incorporate gratefulness into our everyday lives. Simple easy actions we can implement that will pivot our attention to what is good in our lives, and let’s be honest many of us in the U.S. are privileged and have multiple elements of our lives to be grateful for. Even during these times of uncertainty and unrest we can look to the beauty in and around us and thank God for it.
I am grateful to breathe in the crisp fall air, to be able to walk and take in the beautiful blue sky, a child laughing in the yard, to love and to be loved, and to be known by a God who hears me, loves me, and walks with me in the good times and in the tumultuous ones too.
I pray this will help bring your focus more toward gratitude which in turn will produce more joy. Leave me a comment stating what you are grateful for today. Wishing you and your families a happy, joyful, loving, and peaceful Thanksgiving!
We can feel alone even when we are with other people. If you are a single parent working from home it can feel like you have no one to talk to. No one to chat with over coffee about how hard it was only getting four hours of sleep the night before or how the kids took all of their toys out and strewn them around the house for you to pick up later. That is after you make dinner, help with homework, cleanup the kitchen, put the laundry away, and answer a few emails. It can be very lonely but thankfully we have a God who is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23
And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”Deuteronomy 31:6
This season of COVID has made loneliness a more formidable mountain to climb. As much as I want to go out to eat with friends I am choosing to stay home and talk on the phone or over Zoom. As you know, it is not the same, Zoom is slightly better than the phone. At least you can see facial expressions and read some body language. It is still not the same as a handshake or a warm hug.
The podcast that I am reviewing this week is “Rhythms of Life” hosted by Rebekah and Gabe Lyons. They are interviewing the infamous Max Lucado; the episode is called “The Cure for Loneliness.” Max is a teaching Minister at Oak Hills Church, San Antonio, TX and is an author of many books, devotionals, and bible studies.
Gabe asks Max “Has COVID put a spotlight on loneliness? Has it made it more clear to people or has it helped people find those they love and start to rectify some of that?” Max’s reply, “What I have been surprised at the negative impact loneliness has on our physical bodies. Severe loneliness has the same impact as a pack of cigarettes a day. Depression is up.” Rebekah states, community support is not there anymore.
Gabe inquires “The gospel of John gets into this perspective. What is so unique about the gospel of John as you approach loneliness?” Max states “The unique feature of John’s gospel is he declares at the end of the gospel why he wrote it. He explains I collected these events so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that by believing you may have life in His name. Deep and abundant joy and life. What is it about this miracle that will help someone especially if they need life and feel lifeless?”
Rebekah points out that there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. “Solitude means you are still with the savior. Emmanuel, He is right there, sometimes that presents is more potent when you are quiet with Him. You can sense His nearness.”
Rebekah wraps up the podcast with asking Max for a parting thought. Max says he has a “hip pocket sermon” and it goes like this, “Let God love you, let God heal you, let God hold you, and let God have you. Be quiet before the Lord and let the Holy Spirit nourish your heart and soften it.”
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:16-18
When you are feeling lonely try spending some quiet time with God. He will meet you there, He will listen, He will love you, and He will send people to love you and be with you. If you are feeling overly anxious or depressed please see a professional councilor. I see one when it is needed and it is nothing to be ashamed about.
I pray that this has been helpful to you if you are feeling lonely. Leave me a comment if there is any way I can be praying for you.
This song was playing this morning and thought it was uplifting and appropriate for looking to God during the tough times. Lauren Daigle’s “Rescue”