Christmas

The Jesus Thing

Now that we’ve entered December, the Christmas festivities are in full swing.  There are parties to attend, cookies to bake, packages to wrap, trees to decorate, concerts to enjoy, potlucks to cook for, school programs to assist with, . . . .  and it seems to me that the list is endless.  The truth be told, when I hear the word, “Christmas” it makes me tired before anything starts, maybe like Pavlov’s dogs who salivated when they heard a bell chime.   To make it more challenging for me, I have lots of friends and family members who love the Christmas festivities and countdown the days until the frolicking can commence.  I watch my friends and family with curiosity, perplexed and awed by their ease and grace to enjoy this season.

From their point of view, sometimes they think I’m like the Christmas Grinch, as it may seem like I’d prefer to find a quiet cave and disappear from the noise, obligations, hubbub and seasonal delicious treats.  And it’s not that I don’t like the yummy food, beautiful music or serene snow that can christen this season.

My deal is that it’s easy for Jesus’ birth to get swallowed up in the season’s bustle, hustle, duties, celebrations, cookies, wrapping paper, gifts, decorations, glitz and glam.  So I find it challenging to stay focused on Jesus in the midst of this hectic season.  In the past, I’ve tried to keep this season less hectic so I could focus on Jesus better.  That’s been a really constructive tactic to help me keep Jesus in the Christmas crosshairs.

For whatever reason, this year seems different.  I was looking at my December calendar to find some empty space for lunch with a friend and I was disheartened to see almost every day booked.  How did I let this month get away from me and it’s just the beginning of the month?  Where did Jesus go for me in this month?  Maybe I should call this month my Jesus Month instead of Christmas, as a purposeful reminder for my focus.

And maybe it would be helpful to think about Mary, Jesus’ mother, this month as we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  She was obviously the key player for Jesus’ birth, after she was overshadowed by Holy Spirit, nine months earlier.  So when I think about Mary giving birth to Jesus in this month, I’m reminded about what it was like for me in the last month of pregnancy with my three kids.  I was tired and trying to keep my focus on the finish line of giving each of my babies a healthy and safe delivery / introduction to their separate existence.

I suspect that Mary, being away from her family to register in Bethlehem with Joseph her husband, maybe she was a little jittery or possibly overwhelmed with the unknown (child birth) looming in her immediate future.  Or maybe Holy Spirit helped her all the way through her pregnancy, so that she didn’t deliver Jesus in a completely frazzled and unraveled experience.

So when I think about Holy Spirit helping Mary through her pregnancy to deliver the only begotten Son of God, it encourages me to focus on Holy Spirit to help me through this season to stay focused on Jesus.

This is my prayer for you, as you finish this blog.  May Holy Spirit overshadow you throughout this season so that Jesus’ birth is fresh in your heart and outlook, not just on Christmas day, but for each day that leads to December 25th.  Let’s remember that Christmas is the Jesus thing 🙂

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by sarahbowling in busy, Christmas, cooking, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

I’m Convinced

It’s interesting to think about the things that people are convinced about. For example, lots of people are convinced that the airport in Denver has secret underground bunkers to protect the President in the event of an enemy attacking our nation. Other people are convinced that America is declining because of the entertainment industry eroding the moral underpinnings of our nation. And some people are convinced that we should vigilantly expel illegal immigrants from our country to safeguard our economy.

Personally, I’m convinced that I should eat more nachos and March Madness is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year and not Christmas.  🙂

I think it’s very important for us to sit with our convictions and think about what we believe and why. I say this because we might be convinced that the American economy is in a downward spiral for the simple reason that we lost our job and we’re struggling to land a new job with a viable income for our needs. Or we might be convinced that guns should be outlawed in America because we live in Riverdale, IL, a massively violent neighborhood in Chicago with an incredibly high crime rate. To this end, lots of times our environment and experiences shape and even define our convictions.

It’s important to consider that many of our convictions are grounded in real life, have strong empirical data support and / or can be validated with real observations in the world around us. Having said that, let’s be very purposeful to accept and embrace convictions that are grounded in the Bible and not only in our feelings, environment or experiences.

So here’s a helpful example of being convinced with the Bible as the premise for conviction. In Romans 8:38-39 it says:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord

In these verses we read that nothing can separate us from God’s love for us, literally nothing! And I think it’s an important question to ask ourselves: are we really convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love? Is it possible that we might think that God doesn’t love us because:

  • We’re going through a difficult season?
  • We lost our job?
  • We received a bad diagnosis from the doctor?
  • We’re going through a marital struggle?
  • We don’t have enough money for Christmas?
  • Our struggle with depression seems endless?

How do we reconcile the experiences, events and emotions in life with Paul’s words? The Greek word Paul uses for convinced is used in the perfect tense which means that the results of the activity in the past continue into our present. It’s the same idea that I tied my shoelaces and they stay tied now. So when Paul says that he’s convinced, it’s with the idea that the convincing happened for him in the past and he’s still convinced now.

I love this idea because it can help us remain anchored in our conviction that no matter what happens or what hardships we go through, God’s love for us never changes. I also like this word in the Greek because it carries the idea of being persuaded. To this end, nothing can persuade us without our permission or agreement. So this means that I allow God’s love to convince or persuade me even more than my feelings, experiences of circumstances.

I pray today that you would be convinced of God’s never changing and ever steady love for you!

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in busy, Christmas, Genuine love, listen, living, prayer, thought life, values, 0 comments

Not Ready

The week between Christmas & New Year’s feels like a “not ready” week, maybe because of all the festivities, bustle & frenzy leading up to Christmas, . . . . . And then we pause 🙂

And for such a pause, I’m abundantly grateful. I don’t have to get ready for anything – no dinner guests, no events, no sermons, no parties, no gift wrapping or last minute presents to buy. In this week, it’s ok to be “not ready.” So I appreciate the opportunity to lounge in pjs, take time for reflection, watch birds and squirrels eat berries off the tree outside my window, get my vacuum into the shop for a much needed tune-up, sleep in a little bit and be entirely comfortable with being “not ready.”

Maybe this idea goes back to the concept of Sabbath, when we pause from our work and take a day of rest. I sincerely believe that such a pause is an essential ingredient for growing in our intimacy with God 🙂

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in busy, Christmas, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Finding Jesus

In that today is Christmas Eve, or maybe Christmas when you read this, we might be thinking about Jesus’ birth 🙂

And in the story of Jesus coming to live among us, there are some interesting things we can consider for our daily living.

*Unexpected Coincidence: the shepherds in the field were doing a normal night of shepherding when there was a supernatural interruption. Let’s be mindful that a supernatural interruption can sometimes be dismissed as an unexpected coincidence, causing us to miss something God wants us to know or experience

*Inconvenient Journey: the wiseman took the Star as a signal to go on a journey to seek out something unknown but important. Let’s be mindful that what could be inconvenient and unfamiliar has the potential to lead us to know Jesus more deeply and in a richer experience.

*Unconventional Relationship: Joseph decided to keep Mary as his fiancé even though she was pregnant out of wedlock. Let’s be mindful that being merciful, gracious and generous can position us to bring Jesus to people in meaningful and life-giving experiences.

Let’s keep finding Jesus and helping others experience genuine love through finding Jesus!

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in Christmas, enemies to intimacy, family, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Holy Spirit, listen, living, nightcare, prayer, relationships, saving moses, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Not Yesterday

The past is a really interesting thing to consider. Like me, you likely have some very fond memories as well as some experiences that you’d rather forget. And today is a new day, with new mercies, new experiences, new people, new minutes, new activities, new adventures, . . . . lots of new for new days!

And may we never forget that God’s mercies are new every morning because the faithfulness of God is infinite. Let’s allow each day to be new & have a fresh start. Yesterday is over & today is a new day 🙂

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in busy, Christmas, enemies to intimacy, family, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, saving moses, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

What Do You Hear?

“That’s not what I said.”  A lot of times when I listen to someone talk, I have to realize that I don’t always hear what’s being said. And I don’t hear what’s actually being said because of my own perspectives / filters that obscure what is said. Consider that the religious leaders in Jesus’ day couldn’t hear His words because of their own filters. They were concerned about their position & power more than hearing Jesus’ truth & genuine love.

With this reality, we would be wise to consider what may be our filters. Here are some examples for your consideration:

Fear: failing & bad experiences can skew our ability to hear stuff clearly

Scarcity: lack skews our ability to hear clearly 

Shame / Embarrassment: when something has terribly wrong in our lives we can easily feel shame

Jesus tells us to be careful what we hear & we would be wise to consider what filters we might have that could be muddling what we hear!

Happy Advent!

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in busy, Christmas, enemies to intimacy, fellowship, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, travel, uncertainty, values, watch, 0 comments

Un-Conditioning

Conditioning has lots of different usages such as: air conditioning, conditioning for health purposes and conditioning to acclimate to various climates or humidities, to name a few.  But I think we should also consider that we have been conditioned through the human experience to think of love in very transactional ways.  In our childhood, it’s likely that you received positive affirmation for good behavior & achievements and negative feedback for things you did that weren’t so whippy.  Maybe such inputs have shaped your perceptions of what love is & is not.  While cause and affect are definitely part of the human experience, I think we should sit and think about God’s “unconditional” love for us.

There’s a good possibility that we both struggle to receive and sit in unconditional love, given the conditioning we have lived in through human transactions.  Let’s take some time this weekend to reflect on God’s unconditional love for us, appreciating that this genuine love can never be increased or decreased by our behaviors 🙂

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in busy, Christmas, enemies to intimacy, family, fasting, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, saving moses, spiritual, thought life, travel, values, watch, 1 comment

Toxic Desires

Recently, I went snowboarding with the men in my family and had a wonderful time, minus the crowded lift lines.  The sun was out, snow was pretty good, it wasn’t too cold and I stayed warm throughout the day (except for getting some snow down my pants).  The toxic desire part, however, happens for me when I want to keep the same speed as my teenage sons.  They have been skiing for more than ten years and they’re very proficient and fast.  The problem is that I also like to go really fast and watching them jet ahead of me, is like throwing down the gauntlet with an irresistable challenge.  But alas, from innumerable injuries that need no details here, I’ve concluded that snowboarding as fast as my teenage sons isn’t good for my health, regardless of what I want.

So let’s remember that not all of our desires come from God (Ps 37:4) and let’s stay mindful not to allow the toxic desires to override common sense and obedience to God’s Word 🙂

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in busy, Christmas, enemies to intimacy, family, fasting, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, travel, values, watch, 1 comment

Wrapping Presence

It’s defintely true that I can struggle with the right spelling of words from time to time.  But in this situation, the title for my blog isn’t a misspelling.  Instead, it’s an intentional play on words to catch your attention & maybe challenge you to some ongoing generosity with Jesus.

How so?  What Jesus likes more than your words, money, service, clothing, church attendance, etc. is your self.  When we give all of ourselves to Jesus, it seems to me that this gives Jesus the greatest pleasure!  So here are some wrapping ideas for your presence with Jesus:

  • time:  we can give Jesus time in all kinds of ways – as we drive, in those unexpected moments of pause with a cancelled appointment and in the morning / night to be present
  • words:  it’s always good to give thanks to Jesus (for daily things, miracles, unexpected blessings, rich conversations, etc ), as well as some worship for who Jesus is
  • attention:  let’s ask the Holy Spirit to increase our awareness of Jesus’ presence, since He said He’d never leave nor forsake us.  I ask, throughout the day, for help with my focus and attention to sense Jesus

Be sure to wrap your presence with time, words and attention, to give your self wholly to Jesus!

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in Christmas, family, Genuine love, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, seeing Jesus, spiritual, thought life, values, watch, 0 comments

Late Wrappers

Wrapping Christmas presents isn’t in my top 5 thrilling adventures. So I’m a late wrapper. In addition to being a late wrapper, I’m also not a very good wrapper. I have the “get ‘er Done” mindset. But lest we miss the whole point, keep in mind that we’re endeavoring to express genuine love & generosity, regardless of the wrapping or when we wrap our presents
I’d propose that our Heavenly Father wants to let us a know a few things this Christmas to reinforce His genuine love & generosity to us:

  • Wrapping: Jesus, the Fathers ultimate gift to us, came wrapped in human garb, as a newborn
  • Timing: Paul says that in the fullness of time, Jesus became flesh to live among us. God’s timing is perfect!
  • Spectacular: despite being wrapped in human garb, Jesus’ arrival was announced with splendor, grandiose display & jubilant celebration.

It’s ok if you’re a late wrapper, a crummy wrapper or if you’re a timely & spectacular wrapper! No matter what, let’s keep genuine love & generosity our primary goal!

CONNECT WITH ME ON:
Posted by Sarah in busy, Christmas, enemies to intimacy, family, Genuine love, grow, Heavenly Help, Holy Spirit, listen, living, prayer, relationships, spiritual, thought life, values, watch, 0 comments