For Such A Time As This

Maximizing everyday moments to glorify God

Immanuel – God With Us

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Did you know that from the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, 400 years passed without a single word from God? 400 years! That’s a really long time for complete silence. It’s hard to imagine what people must have thought. Did God die, was He angry, or did He just stop caring? Generations passed with nothing but silence.

And then it was time to reopen the communication lines. He was sending His one and only son to the Earth to take human form to become the gift of all gifts. A Savior for mankind.

He could have shaken the foundations of the earth to announce Jesus’ arrival. But, no. Instead it came in the form of the sweet, soft cry on a newborn. Incredible. Can you just imagine what that must have been like for Mary? As a mom, I know the overwhelming surge of emotion that came with giving birth. But, can you even fathom knowing that you are carrying the Son of God?

blue nativityAnd to know that the cry of her newborn baby was the announcement to the world that the silence was broken! Think about that for a bit – I have, and I still can’t seem to think anything but pure amazement. And the news was spread when the angel of the Lord said, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) He was here. Our gift of salvation in the form of a tiny baby.

It makes me think about the gifts and blessings in life that I know I take for granted. Breath, our senses, quiet, the beauty and wonder that surround us every day. There are so many subtle, but incredible things that are so easily overlooked, we may not even think about them being gifts from God. God doesn’t have to loudly announce anything. Small, soft whispers are more than sufficient for the Creator of the Universe.

The soft cry of a baby. In a manger. In a stable filled with animals. Where no one could make room. The Savior of the earth. The One who created the stars, yet chose to come and live among us with one purpose. To save us.

As I think about Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in all the mayhem of the season. Presents, decorating, baking, parties, cards, shopping and everything else. It seems everywhere we turn there are distractions the world is throwing at us. But the best gift is the one we cannot give. The one we don’t deserve. The one we can’t repay. The one we simply receive.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” Ephesians 2:8

Jesus

He chose to come to be the Way. Without Him, we have no hope. Without Him, or future is dark. But, if we choose to accept and receive His gift of salvation, we are secure. There is hope.

Every year about this time, I try to get away and relax with Him. Even if it’s just for an hour or so, stepping out of the hustle and bustle of the commercialized Christmas activities keeps me focused on the true meaning: His unbelievable gift of salvation for all eternity. His choice to humble himself to a life of poverty and scorn, only to die a death He didn’t deserve and pay the price for all sins past, present and future. In order that we might spend all of eternity with Him…

…He loves us that much!

No store gift could ever compare.

And, He knows that there is nothing I say or do could earn His gift. I simply have to receive. Lay down my pride, my fears, my doubts, my control and anything else that my hands might be grasping on to hold. Empty them, so that I might receive the best gift ever.

Jesus.

This Christmas, I pray we all pause long enough to sit in absolute wonder at the greatest gift of all. Jesus in our midst. Jesus, the giver of the ultimate gift. Salvation.

Everything else, no matter how spectacular, pales in comparison and is simply pointing us to Him.

Merry Christmas.

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Be a blessing

Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.

Blessing others doesn’t have to make a big dent in your day or your pocketbook. I have been guilty of thinking things like:

  • If I had more time, I’d…
  • If I won the lottery, I’d…
  • If I can just pay off this bill, I’ll…

Each of those statements means I am choosing NOT to trust God with my finances, my time or my generosity.

I admit, I waffle on this so stinking much, it makes me crazy. I will feel the nudge to help someone and ignore it because I need to go to the grocery store and buy food for my own family. Which means I am not trusting that God is already abundantly providing for our needs.

But then, we will pull names off the giving tree at church and be so blessed by the opportunity to help those in need at Christmas.

See, waffling.

The Bible is crystal clear, we are to be generous. With our time, talents and treasures. The irony is that the Bible not only specifies what we are to do, it specifies that the Lord blesses those who bless others!

Where I get tripped up is that I often equate that to helping financially. That can be the case, but it doesn’t always have to be. Making homemade gifts for people is an inexpensive, thoughtful way of blessing them. So is volunteering for things like running errands, taking kids places, cleaning, etc. These things don’t require a lot of effort, but the results can be quite impactful.

This morning, in line at the store, I felt the nudge to bless the person in front of me because they are in an often thankless and underappreciated profession . Again, the internal wrestling match went on. But this time, I listened to God. It didn’t require a lot of money, but it required a little boldness. He provided it. Honestly, I don’t write this in hopes of a return blessing. I share it to be honest. Often, making the effort to offer to do things for others is uncomfortable. But God sees our hearts and when He ordains it, it is received.

This morning, I know it made someone’s day brighter and made them feel appreciated for what they do. That gives me more blessing than they know.

Maybe if we all carry out a little random act of kindness, the world will be a whole lot brighter this Christmas. Are you with me?

 

 

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Christmas Hope

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:11 (NIV)

I absolutely love Christmas. There is a certain giddiness that I get when decorating the tree, setting up lights and wrapping presents. Growing up, I remember hanging out in my mom’s bedroom with her and watching Christmas specials while she slid piles of boxes over so that I could help wrap them to put under our tree.

Now that I have a family of my own, I’ve tried to bring some of that excitement into our home. With teenagers, that can be tricky, but generally speaking, I think my kids share my love of the season.

But the hard part of the season is being very far away from many of the people I care the most about. My side of the family and many of my closest friends are thousands of miles away, so we don’t get to share the magic of the season with them. We do a really good job of communicating, sharing pictures and videos, and now, even video chatting, so they don’t feel as far away. But not seeing them in person does make me sad.

Our church does a service this time of the year called “Blue Christmas.” It’s done to recognize that not everyone is joyful at the holidays. It’s designed to offer a little comfort, and a lot of hope. People struggle and life is hard and the holidays can magnify pain, loss, struggles and other sadness in our hearts.

I attended that service this weekend. And while generally speaking, life is pretty good for us, I know that there will be trouble at some point. During the service, my thoughts drifted to missing my family. But more than that, my heart tugged at the idea of someone, perhaps even someone I love, not having the greatest gift – the hope that comes with Jesus.

Whatever this life throws at us, we can be assured that without the hope of a future in eternity with Jesus, this life on earth is the best there is. That is a sad thought.

Just think about it for a minute. For a non-believer, this life, no matter what it looks like for them, good or bad; is the very best they will ever have. Because eternity in hell is going to be unthinkably awful.

But.

For the believer, this life, no matter what it looks like for them, good or bad; is the very worst they will ever have. Because eternity in Heaven with Jesus is going to be unimaginably good – beyond anything we can comprehend or imagine on this earth.

wrapped-christmas-presentAt that first Christmas, over 2000 years ago, Jesus chose to put on human skin and experience life in order to offer Himself as the sacrifice required to make us right with God for the punishment of our sins. It is a gift that no amount of money can buy. It is a gift that none of us deserves. But it is a gift that He freely offers us.

I pray that if you are reading this and you haven’t yet fully accepted that gift, please consider it. It will be the best and most beautiful decision you will ever make.

Because when I think about Christmases here on Earth separated from friends and family that I love, it does hurt. But it hurts nothing like the thought of any of them spending eternity separated from God.

Accept the gift. Merry Christmas.

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Giving Thanks

Note: This is a repost, but the message hasn’t changed! It’s easy to be thankful when things are good, when we have plenty and when circumstances are going in our favor. The real test is when life seems to be dealing blow after blow. But what I have experienced, and am slowly learning, is that being thankful in ALL not only makes the challenging times more bearable, it shifts my focus away from the issue at hand, and opens my heart and eyes to the greater purpose and blessing that God has for me. On this Thanksgiving, I pray to be thankful and joyful in all things – and that is my prayer for you as well. Blessings.

A Thankful Heart

Thankful:  conscious of benefit received (source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

thanksgiving-prayerTo express thankfulness requires us to realize that something has been done for our benefit, on our behalf.

Its Thanksgiving, and our “thankfulness radar” is heightened. We pause to reflect on the many blessings in our lives. That is a good thing. It’s only right to consciously acknowledge those things in our lives for which we are grateful.

But, what about those things in life that are hard? Can we be thankful for them, too? I say yes. Not because it’s something I want or prefer, but because the Bible tells us to, for a reason.

“And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20 (NLT)

Paul’s letter doesn’t say to give thanks for some things or for the good things.”  He tells us to give thanks for everything.

Being thankful, to me, means that my perspective is on a higher level than the everyday circumstances in my life. It means that I can see beyond what is happening in the moment and recognize that God is at work, using it, and all my circumstances for good in the end.

When I think back on the past few years, I can trace a path of God’s hand in my life. He was there through some really hard times. As I reflect on them, I can honestly thank Him for those times. Because not only did I grow closer to Him, I learned what it really means to be obedient. I learned that even in the good times, the only true, steady thing I can count on is Him.

It makes me begin to see the blessings in life like ornaments on a Christmas tree – they are nice additions; appreciated, cherished and enjoyable, but not necessary for the tree to survive. If I can begin to see the blessings in my life in that light, I will appreciate and cherish them, but not need them more than I need Jesus.

What I am most thankful for is that He chose to come to Earth and die in my place in order for me to have a place to call home for eternity, with Him. There’s nothing, no blessing or circumstance here that could compare with that.

And that, is, as the dictionary puts it, the “benefit received” of all benefits received.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Safe for all eternity

crossFor I 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

We all like to feel safe. I know I do. There’s a sense of security in thinking that since the doors are all locked and we’re all snuggled into our beds, we are…safe. When we all buckle up and the car is full of gas and equipped for all weather conditions, we think we are…safe. When the “right” people are governing us, we think we are…safe.

The truth is, safety is fleeting. This world is full of evil and wrong choices. So our safety – here – is always compromised.

I’ll be totally honest, I have gotten caught up in the emotion and divisiveness of this election. I get pretty passionate, especially when I see the slippery slope our country has been on for a while, and continues to slide down. It puts a laser focus on the prophecies of the Bible, seeing the demise of the world and all the elements aligning signaling Jesus’ imminent return.

But, when I spent my time discussing and reading, and posting on social media, there was no peace. However, when I have stepped away from all the noise, and really prayed about it, God whispered to my heart: I am in control. Ahh, peace.

He will accomplish His purpose here on earth, AND for all eternity, no matter what.

When I fix my eyes on the eternal picture, true safety comes into focus. Knowing that whatever happens to us in this life, there is a welcoming and perfect reality in Heaven that is forever painless, peaceful, and…safe. There, evil is crushed and Jesus is triumphant. There, nothing can separate us from Him. There, no tears will fall and no hearts will be broken. There, only paradise and praise.

As I look up at the wall above my computer, the words of Jeremiah 29:11 beckon me. “For I 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.” Those words apply here and now, and forever. This life is but a fraction of eternity. Because of His Word, I have to believe that no matter what we endure here on Earth, we will be immeasurably overjoyed in Heaven.

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Lean towards the Son

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

sunflowersThere is nothing like a field of blooming flowers to capture my attention and take my breath away. When I see all that beauty leaning towards the sun, it paints a vivid picture for me of how I should be leaning in towards the Son.

As the flowers tilt towards their source of sustenance, so should I. Depending on anything else only brings disappointment. If I lean on my own abilities, I’m bound to slip up and feel failure and guilt. If I depend on another person, I’m bound to feel let down and disappointed. If I look towards the government, work, or some other entity, I’m bound to feel disconnected, unappreciated or unheard.

The flowers also remind me that weakness is beauty. When I recognize my own weakness and let go of the need to fix it all, do it all, be it all – I let go and let God. In recognizing my own limitations and pressing in to Him to allow Him to work, His strength is evident. And, isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?

There have been so many times in life when the only way something could be accomplished was if God’s hand was on it. And, when I’ve let it go to Him, I’ve been amazed by the outcomes.

Whatever we are facing, He’s big enough to handle it. Whatever challenges we see over the next horizon, He’s already been there and overcome it. Whatever setbacks that seem to be taking the breath right out of us, He’s already walked through. Letting that truth sink in to my heart builds trust and hope.

Like the flowers in the field, leaning in to God is the way to not only survive, but thrive. By doing this, we will begin to accomplish the work He has set out for us to do, and bring Him glory in the process.

 

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Leaving things better

 

“When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.” Hebrews 6:7-8

graduation

In this season of graduation, big changes are in store for those celebrating commencements, as well as their friends and family. I was reflecting on this and thought back to when my daughter “graduated” from fifth grade a couple years ago. Her principal delivered a speech to the kids. He challenged them to leave the world a better place. Bringing it down to their level, he asked them about going camping and finding a messy campsite. The answer to “how would you leave it better” was pretty simple.
What about our lives as Christians? What can we be doing that will leave the world, or at least the little slice of life that is within our sphere of influence, a better place? Is that even a conscious thought for us on a daily basis?
As Christians, we are called to “bear fruit.” If we accept Christ and live a life that honors Him by showing others how He has impacted us, loving others and helping where we can, our life will produce fruit. Living out our faith is what sets us apart. We make a difference in the lives of those whom we come in contact with. I want people to encounter Jesus when they are around me.
The writer of Hebrews vividly describes what happens to seeds that are sown and those that are ignored. Sown seeds grow into vibrant, healthy plants that produce bountiful crops. Seeds that are scattered and ignored are overtaken by weeds, choked of life and wither away.
Each of us is blessed with certain gifts (think: seeds). How we use those gifts is critical. If we use our gifts to sow into the lives of others, a “good crop” will result. If we squander our gifts, use them for selfish gain, or worse, don’t use them at all; then like weeds, we choke the life out of ourselves and are useless.
As the kids heard that message, and I hear the words of God, I pray, “Lord, let us use our gifts wisely and be Jesus with skin for those who so desperately need to experience you in this world.”
Leave the world a better place. It’s really a simple task

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Breaking the approval cycle

“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.” John 15:16

“I wonder if he’ll notice,” I thought, wondering if my husband would comment on the clean floors as I was yet again sweeping up the massive amounts of dog hair our pets shed all over our house. Almost as quickly as the words formed in my mind, they were answered by a thought. “Why do you need so much approval when you already have mine?” God was speaking and I needed to listen.

For too many years, I was caught in a cycle of approval and rejection. Rejection had peppered so many of my close relationships that I began to doubt my own worth and value. Which then cycled into a need to seek approval. I think you get the picture.

Reading through a list of truths about our Heavenly Father, my eyes settled on one in particular. “He loves you completely and unconditionally and will never let you go. So submit to God. (Beth Moore’s James-Mercy Triumphs).”

I needed to let those words cover me and remind me that I don’t need the approval or acceptance of anyone to prove my worth. No one can fill the place in my heart that God can and does.

As I was reading through the list in the study, the hard question followed. Which point struck a chord with you the most and why? I don’t really have to answer that, do I? Yes, actually, I do. The pain of the past and rejection I’ve allowed myself to feel is something that needs to be dealt with and literally, given to God. Just as we learned in James 4:7, “Submit to God.” If we will truly and honestly do that, He will fill us with His grace.

Meditating on this, I remembered John 15:16. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit…” HE chose ME! Before I ever knew Him, He chose me to be His. I don’t know where you are in your walk, but for me, those words were like bright sunshine washing over me on a warm summer day.

The work I have been given to do on earth is to bear fruit for Him. Rejection and approval don’t factor into that equation because I already have the ultimate approval.

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Immanuel – The Greatest Gift

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Did you know that from the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, 400 years passed without a single word from God? 400 years! That’s a really long time for complete silence. It’s hard to imagine what people must have thought. Did God die, was He angry, or did He just stop caring? Generations passed with nothing but silence.

And then it was time to reopen the communication lines. He was sending His one and only son to the Earth to take human form to become the gift of all gifts. A Savior for mankind.

He could have shaken the foundations of the earth to announce Jesus’ arrival. But, no. Instead it came in the form of the sweet, soft cry on a newborn. Incredible. Can you just imagine what that must have been like for Mary? As a mom, I know the overwhelming surge of emotion that came with giving birth. But, can you even fathom knowing that you are carrying the Son of God?

blue nativityAnd to know that the cry of her newborn baby was the announcement to the world that the silence was broken! Think about that for a bit – I have, and I still can’t seem to think anything but pure amazement. And the news was spread when the angel of the Lord said, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) He was here. Our gift of salvation in the form of a tiny baby.

It makes me think about the gifts and blessings in life that I know I take for granted. Breath, our senses, quiet, the beauty and wonder that surround us every day. There are so many subtle, but incredible things that are so easily overlooked, we may not even think about them being gifts from God. God doesn’t have to loudly announce anything. Small, soft whispers are more than sufficient for the Creator of the Universe.

The soft cry of a baby. In a manger. In a stable filled with animals. Where no one could make room. The Savior of the earth. The One who created the stars, yet chose to come and live among us with one purpose. To save us.

As I think about Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in all the mayhem of the season. Presents, decorating, baking, parties, cards, shopping and everything else. It seems everywhere we turn there are distractions the world is throwing at us. But the best gift is the one we cannot give. The one we don’t deserve. The one we can’t repay. The one we simply receive.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” Ephesians 2:8

Jesus

He chose to come to be the Way. Without Him, we have no hope. Without Him, or future is dark. But, if we choose to accept and receive His gift of salvation, we are secure. There is hope.

Every year about this time, I try to get away and relax with Him. Even if it’s just for an hour or so, stepping out of the hustle and bustle of the commercialized Christmas activities keeps me focused on the true meaning: His unbelievable gift of salvation for all eternity. His choice to humble himself to a life of poverty and scorn, only to die a death He didn’t deserve and pay the price for all sins past, present and future. In order that we might spend all of eternity with Him…

…He loves us that much!

No store gift could ever compare.

And, He knows that there is nothing I say or do could earn His gift. I simply have to receive. Lay down my pride, my fears, my doubts, my control and anything else that my hands might be grasping on to hold. Empty them, so that I might receive the best gift ever.

Jesus.

This Christmas, I pray we all pause long enough to sit in absolute wonder at the greatest gift of all. Jesus in our midst. Jesus, the giver of the ultimate gift. Salvation.

Everything else, no matter how spectacular, pales in comparison and is simply pointing us to Him.

Merry Christmas.

 

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An Angel in the Night

“May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.” Psalm 20:1-2 NIV

The other night, my son got food stuck in his esophagus. He could breathe, but he couldn’t get the food to go down and he couldn’t eat or drink anything. Frantic, I posted on Facebook, hoping someone might have a suggestion that would work, but to no avail. After trying everything we could think of, we headed to the emergency room. It was 9:30 p.m.

As we sat in the ER, my phone was buzzing with well wishes and prayers in response to my post. I updated to let those praying know that we were being sent to the Children’s Hospital 30 miles away to have a scope done to remove the food – it had to be done in surgery. I was scared and feeling quite alone. I kept praying for calm and peace – I didn’t want my son to get more upset than he already was.

Then, all of a sudden, my messenger app dinged. I read these words: “Patti, I’m a trauma/ICU nurse. I’m awake and at work, so feel free to PM me if you have questions or concerns. I assist with conscious sedation on kids for things like this all the time.”

This note was from a woman I barely know, I’ve seen her in person only a couple of times. We are both part of a team of nearly 300 people who raise money and run races to help fight human trafficking. Oh, and she lives 2,000 miles away and two time zones ahead. So it was the middle of the night where she was.

I needed an angel to keep me calm, and God sent me one! We went on to text back and forth for the hours we were in the hospital. Can I tell you how very empty and alone it was in that place? When they took my son into surgery, I was brought to a waiting area that was huge, but completely empty except for me. There weren’t many lights on, so I found a spot that had the most light I could find and sat down. It was 2 a.m. The hospital cafeteria wasn’t even open! I sat there and prayed, reading the Bible on the app on my phone. This verse in the Psalms brought me peace.

Every so often, I would get another message from my friend. Thanks to her, I had communication and encouragement, along with prayers, to sustain me while my son was in surgery.

What a tremendous comfort that was! Once again, God showed me that He has his hand in all aspects of my life. He put us together and knew that in that situation, she would be willing to go above and beyond the call to help someone in need, me. I greatly appreciated it! I can also say that I had a tremendous sense of peace during the procedure. And, my son came out the ordeal just fine, and is doing much better.

He cares. He listens. He answers.

Praise God.

 

 

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